From the conclusion to Comedy of Errors:
//It was good to be home, even good to be back at the SGC. Jack walked toward the briefing room, a smile on his face, his step light. There was no doubt that he was a changed man. Daniel in your bed could do that, and he was infinitely grateful that it was his bed and not Jim Ellison's.
God, so close. Too close.
He ran up the few steps and burst through the door, eyes going unerringly to Daniel, who was already in his seat, a cup of coffee in his hand.
"Hey, back," Daniel said with a grin he managed to hide with his coffee cup.
Teal'c looked up, his inscrutable gaze flicking from one man to the other. One eyebrow rose before he smiled.
Sam entered just ahead of General Hammond and managed to take the seat next to Teal'c as the General said, "We have a problem with the very delicate negotiations on Mayara. It seems that SG-5 can't hear the Mayaran Council."
Jack and Daniel looked at each other before Daniel said, "Sir? Can't hear them?"
"You heard me. When we opened the negotiations for the rights to mine the Naquada, it was with a young man named Juneuo, and SG-5 had no problem hearing him. But now, in the city, pleading our case in front of the Council, nothing. Their -- mouths -- moved, but SG-5 couldn't hear a thing. And having seen the Mayarans, well, you know that lip reading is out of the question. We've tried amplification, various hearing aids, but nothing's worked. Juneo is mystified as to why we can't hear them, but he's prevented by Council law to tell us what's being said. It's as if this were a test -- and we're failing badly. That's why I'm handing this one over to you, Colonel."
Jack and Daniel looked at each other, and with a slight nod from Daniel, Jack said, "Sir, I think we might know someone who can help--"//
And now - onto our sequel - Measure for Measure
//Our doubts are traitors and makes us lose the good
we oft might win by fearing to attempt - William Shakespeare//
Jim was drifting in that special sentinel state that allowed him to remember, and re-experience through his senses, the last few incredible hours of his life. He was warm and comfortable, halfway between sleep and wakefulness. Blair was dead to the world, an arm and leg slung over Jim almost as if holding him down. Jim could still feel the movements of making love with Blair, and his cock hardened in response. He ran a hand down Blair's back to the swell of his ass and -
The jangle of the phone ended his sense memories and the real time exploration of his bedmate. He cracked open an eye and turned his head to glare at the offending technology. He was about to answer it when Blair lifted his arm and reached. He fumbled a bit but the receiver was finally captured and Blair managed to croak out, "Speak or die."
//"Blair? It's Daniel. How would you feel if I told you that we need you and Jim?"//
Blair lifted his head from Jim's chest, eyed his partner and quirked an eyebrow. Jim covered the mouthpiece and said, "Tell him we're not into foursomes."
As soon as Jim removed his hand, Blair smiled and said, "Jim says to tell you that we're not into foursomes."
//"O--kay, let me try this: Blair, your country needs you and Jim."//
This time it was Blair who covered the mouthpiece. "That's pretty impressive, Jim."
Jim lifted his head and kissed Blair before saying, "Been there, done that, have the magazine cover and war wound to prove it."
"Daniel? Jim says; 'Been there, done that, have the magazine cover and war wound--'"
Blair chuckled and said, "Can we go back to sleep now, Daniel?"
//"Well, if I were joking, the answer would be yes, but I'm not. I'm serious. We have a real need for ... you know. We'd really like to send a car for you two. Flight arrangements have already been made."//
Both men quickly sat up and readjusted the bedding as Blair said, "You're kidding."
//"No, I'm not kidding, Blair. A jet is waiting for you two now. Calls have already gone to Jim's boss, Captain Banks, as well as the powers that be at Rainier. It's all arranged, Blair."//
Frowning, Jim took the phone from Blair and said into it, "And if we say no, Daniel?"
//"Please don't, Jim. And please don't misunderstand this. We've simply done our best to smooth the way should you say yes."//
Jim cocked his head at Blair, who nodded.
"Okay, what time is our flight?" Jim finally said.
"General, we've got a message coming in from SG-5," Davis said, his eyes on the screen before him.
Hammond stepped up behind the man as a face appeared on the screen. It was Captain Evans, SG-5's anthropologist.
//"Sir, things have gone down hill fast here. The Mayarans have made it clear that if we can't negotiate with them within the next forty-eight hours, not only will we lose the treaty, but our lives as well."//
"You're going to have to explain that to me, Captain. I can understand if this is some kind of test to ensure our worthiness, I know their history, but to threaten your lives? That makes no sense."
//"General, our failure to communicate with the council indicates to them an untrustworthiness. To them, this is a very simple test that we're failing in a major way. They're already highly suspicious,, and given their history with the Goa'uld and the Chacs, well, I can almost understand it."//
Hammond pinched his nose and gave a small shake of his head. "Understood. We have someone on their way now, someone Doctor Jackson and Colonel O'Neill say can help. They'll be here in a few hours. Just ... hang on, Captain."
The transmission ended and Hammond lifted his eyes to take in the 'Gate. He was not going to lose a team because of some God-damned test.
Blair looked around the plane and whistled. "Wow, this is what I call first class."
Jim tossed their overnight bags into the overhead compartment and, after closing it, took his seat opposite Blair. "Our very own jet, Chief. Not bad, not bad at all."
"I can't believe how accommodating Simon was. Man, the Air Force must have done a real number on him, not to mention my department head," Blair said as he put on his seat belt.
"Yeah, well, I still think that was pretty high-handed of them. And just what could they possibly need us for anyway?"
Blair looked at Jim in disbelief. "Oh, please. First off, it's not us they need, it's you, and second; while you are a tall, cool drink of water, I doubt that's why they want you. Capice?"
A half smile playing about his lips, Jim said, "Tall, cook drink of water, Chief?"
"Hey, if the shoe fits, man."
"Yeah, well, I prefer my drinks in short tumblers."
"Damn right you do."
They smiled at each other, both still basking in the newness of their relationship.
Blair finally looked out the window as the plane taxied down the runway. Without taking his eyes from the view, he said, "I wonder why Daniel thinks he needs you?"
"Gee, Chief, doesn't everyone?"
Chuckling, Blair said, "They better not, Jim. I'm very possessive."
"Are you now?" Jim asked, his eyes crinkling in humor. "I never noticed that with your parade of women."
"First off, that was my parade of women, not that there really was a parade, and second, love changes everything."
"Wasn't that a song title?"
"From the 'Parade of Women' soundtrack," Blair shot back.
"So I have a possessive partner, is that what you're saying, Chief?"
Blair touched his nose. "Got it in one."
"I'll remember that."
"So we're really under the gun now, Sir?"
"We are, Major." Hammond looked over at Jack and Daniel. "This changes things a bit, Colonel. Given this new information, I'm not thrilled with the idea of sending another team, let alone two new civilians, through the 'Gate."
Daniel leaned forward and rested his arms on the table. "General, I really believe that Detective Ellison, and his partner, Blair Sandburg, will be able to communicate with the Mayarans. Detective Ellison's rather ... unique abilities makes him perfect for this particular situation."
"Not to mention that we'll give them both all the information and, ultimately, it will be their decision, General," Jack added.
"Why doesn't that reassure me, Colonel? I've read both men's files and there was nothing in them that would lead me to believe they'd say no. And from everything you were able to put together, Doctor Jackson, Detective Ellison might not even be able to say no."
"Sir, we're not his tribe. I think he'll weigh the risks and decide accordingly," Daniel said.
"Not to mention," Sam said as she leaned into the conversation, "that the whole territorial imperative theory put forth by Mister Sandburg is just that; a theory."
Hammond sat back, a clear indication that he'd withhold any decision until the two men in question arrived. "Colonel, Doctor, hadn't you best get going if you're going to meet our guests?"
"Yes, Sir," Jack said as he and Daniel pushed back their chairs. "On our way, Sir."
Jim stood up, grateful that they were finally on the ground. He'd become increasingly edgy the closer they got to Colorado. He took down their bags and stepped away so that Blair could move into the aisle. As they walked to the exit, Blair said, "Am I the only one who thought it was weird to be on a private jet - alone?"
"Oh, I don't know, Chief. I kind of liked the company and the fact that I didn't have to share."
"Man, we are so in the honeymoon stage," Blair said with a roll of his eyes.
Laughing, Jim let his partner precede him out and down the steps to the tarmac. An official-looking black limousine with the Air Force insignia on the front door was a few yards away, and leaning against it, Jack and Daniel.
"Oooh, look, a welcome committee," Blair noted.
"We're so lucky."
They walked over to the car and the four men stood for a moment, staring at each other and smiling. Finally Jack said, "Long time, no see, guys."
"You haven't changed a bit, Jack," Blair observed with a grin.
"Daniel, handsome as ever," Jim said just before Blair punched him in the arm. "OW!"
Ignoring his partner, Blair smiled and said, "Did anyone just hear that harpy-like sound?"
"Now that you mention it, Blair, I did hear something faintly harpy-like," Jack agreed.
"Okay, okay, so how's this," Jim said. "Daniel, long time no see."
Daniel gave a little tap to his ear. "Funny, now I hear it."
Jim made a motion of slapping his hand. "Okay, message received. Anyone want to fill my partner and I in on why we're here?"
Jack opened the back door. "Slip in and, on the way to Cheyenne Mountain, we'll do just that."
Chuckling, Blair canted his head and said, "Age before beauty, Jim."
Jim ducked into the car as he huffed, "Good thing I'm such a patient and understanding man."
"No comment," Blair and Daniel said in complete unison.
Jack, settling in opposite Jim, said as he removed his hat, "We really have our hands full, don't we, Ellison?"
Daniel pulled the door shut behind him and sat next to Jack, and thus opposite Blair. "Hands full? Such dreamers."
"And we're here, why?" Blair asked.
"Right. Reason. Okay," Jack said, the humor gone, "we're in negotiations with a people called the Mayarans. Their planet, designated P... Daniel?"
With exaggerated patience, Daniel said, "P3Y-399."
"Right. P-whatever. Anyway, their world is chockfull of something called naquada, which is a damn important mineral--"
"Which doesn't happen to exist on Earth," Blair observed dryly.
"No, it most certainly doesn't," Jack agreed with an appreciative grin. "Anyway, the Mayarans have been badly burned in the past and are very skittish. Thanks to Daniel, we entered into negotiations for mining the naquada. Earlier this week, one of our SG teams went back for the final treaty talks. That's when things went south. The team went before the Mayaran council and while the council spoke with them, the team couldn't ... how do I put this?"
"They couldn't hear them," Daniel provided.
Jack snapped his fingers. "That's it, they couldn't hear them."
"But they could hear these Mayarans prior to the final negotiations, right?" Blair asked.
"Well, the majority of the talks took place between us and a young man named Juneo. He's the council's advisor and prime negotiator. There has never been any problems communicating. In fact, no problems with any of the Mayarans we've met. Not until facing the council itself. Apparently this is a test and we're supposed to figure out how to communicate with them ... but so far, it's been a bust," Daniel concluded.
"So you think Jim, with his unique talents, will be able to hear the Mayaran council," Blair stated.
"Exactly," Jack agreed. "That's what we're hoping, anyway."
"But you've tried other methods, right?"
"We have. ALD's, of course, but we also tried a few other tricks devised by Major Samantha Carter, my 2IC."
Daniel leaned forward almost excitedly and added, "Sam theorized that they might be speaking on a level that obviously the human ear could not perceive so she tried various ranges--"
"The whole dog whistle thing?" Blair asked.
"Basically, but a bit more advanced." He shrugged. "But nothing worked."
"So with all the technology at your disposal, what makes you think I'll be able to hear them?" Jim asked, finally entering the conversation.
Daniel looked at Jack, who looked at Daniel. Worried, Daniel finally asked, "So you don't think you will?"
"Wait," Jack interrupted, "it only makes sense. God, we're stupid. How could we think that Jim could do what the best of Sam's machines couldn't?"
Looking rather smug, Blair asked, "Can your machines hear what someone's saying on the other side of say, Colorado Springs?"
Daniel and Jack looked at each other again before slowly shaking their heads. Jack then said, "There is technology--"
"The parabolic mics," Jim offered up.
Jack nodded even as he kept talking. "... that allow us to hear conversations from the air, in helicopters; from parked cars, and we tried them all--"
"But how close do you have to be? For instance, let's say you have the Dan Gibson--" At Jack's stunned look, Blair explained, "Come on, I've been working with cops for three years, okay? Anyway, so you're up in a helicopter with the Gibson. How far we talking?"
"I'd be able to hone in on conversations in the cars below me, in any building the chopper approaches and I aim--"
"Jim would be able to hear a conversation on the other side of the city," Blair said as he sat back and crossed his arms over his chest. "Where Jim's eyes can go, so goeth his ears. And vice versa." Blair grinned.
This time it was Daniel who snapped his fingers. "The whole piggy-back effect you wrote about."
"Okay, so all hope is not yet lost," Daniel said, encouraged. "Jack, you'd better tell them the rest," he added.
"The rest?" Jim asked, suspicion evident in his tone.
"The Mayarans have added a new wrinkle. They've told our team that if we can't solve this - test - their lives will be forfeit and we have to assume that would go for anyone else who--"
"Travels to P3Y-399 and attempts the test. Yeah, that would make sense," Blair said.
Jack rolled his eyes and said, "I really hate geniuses. How the hell did you remember the planet designation?"
Looking surprised, Blair said, "It's only a short series of letters and numbers, Jack."
Looking smug, Daniel drew an imaginary one in the air.
"I reiterate: I hate geniuses."
"Liar," Daniel said.
"Okay, so if Blair and I do this, and I fail, we'll probably die. Do I have the gist of things?" Jim asked in an attempt to get everyone back on the subject at hand.
"Uhm, yeah, that about says it all," Jack agreed.
"So, there's no question. We know one team will die if we don't. Besides," he grinned, "it sure beats drug runners, bombers and people who hate elevators and the Makarena."
Jack shared a look with Daniel, who said, "We probably don't want to know, Jack."
"Daniel, I'm positive that I don't want to know anything about elevators and the Makarena."
"You don't know what you're missing, Jack," Jim said with a teasing grin. "Put my partner in an elevator with a few bored people and--"
"Oh, yeah, they were bored all right," Blair interjected.
"You know what I'm wondering," Daniel mused.
"As a matter of fact, I do," Jack said.
One challenging eyebrow was Daniel's answer.
"You're wondering how the Makarena would go over with the Goa'uld."
"God, I'm predictable and boring already," Daniel complained.
"Not hardly," Jack said with a wicked grin.
A phone next to Jack buzzed and, with a surprised look, he picked it up.
"Yes? Ah, thank you." He put his hand over the mouthpiece and said, "It's the driver. We're here, meaning Cheyenne Mountain. You two have the facts now. Should I tell him to take us back to the field?"
"No," Jim and Blair said together.
"That was a no, Jack," Daniel said with a triumphant grin.
"Jacob, fancy meeting you here," Jack said as he walked into the briefing room. "Whose butt do you want us to kick so that later you can tell us we're doing more harm than good?"
"Actually, sir, dad is here because the Tok'ra have an interest in the Mayarans."
Jack took his seat next to his 2IC, and after taking a sip of his coffee, said, "Oh, really?"
"The history of the Tok'ra and the Mayarans were, at one time, entwined. You know how strong the Mayarans are, so perhaps you can imagine how they'd make excellent hosts for the Tok'ra. Unfortunately, a century ago, they cut themselves off from all their allies after being betrayed by the Chacs. We have been unable to reach them in all this time. Now, suddenly, you stumble upon them--"
"Whoa," Jack said as he shot forward in his seat. "Stumble upon them?"
Jacob smiled rather enigmatically. "Perhaps that was a poor choice of words."
"Colonel, might we allow Jacob to finish?"
"Sorry, Sir. Of course." Jack settled back, not looking the slightest bit chastised.
"There isn't much more, George. The Tok'ra, as represented by me, wish to once again work with the Mayarans. I'd simply like to accompany SG-1 when they return to their planet."
"You know, I'm confused now," Jack said. "The Mayarans aren't human. You can hardly infiltrate a Goa'uld stronghold disguised as one."
"True, but they have an ability you've yet to experience, Jack. And that, combined with their strength, makes them truly excellent hosts."
For the first time, Daniel spoke up. "Not to mention their independence and intelligence." His eyes narrowed. "I can see where a certain faction of the Tok'ra would want an alliance with them. Especially since we haven't been able to provide them with enough hosts."
Jacob was clearly taken aback by Daniel's words. He smiled wryly. "I keep forgetting just how observant you are, Daniel."
Jack looked at Sam, who gave a shake of her head indicating that she didn't have a clue what her father and Daniel were talking about either. He turned his attention to his commanding officer, who looked equally perplexed by the exchange between the men.
"Okay, you two, care to let us in on your conversation?" Jack finally asked.
"It's simple, Jack," Daniel said after a nod from Jacob. "The hosts of the Tok'ra come from years of slavery and know no other way. They may be free and willing hosts, but they still submit to the Tok'ra symbiote. The council has been split for some time, with Jacob one of primary chess pieces in the battle. He's as strong as his symbiote, and together, they create quite a Tok'ra, but that also means, in some council members eyes, that he can't be trusted."
"Dad, you never--"
"I didn't want to worry you, Sam."
"Just how bad is it, Jacob?" Hammond asked, his concern evident in his worried expression.
"We're maintaining the status quo for now, but yes, there is an internal power struggle, and yes, an alliance with the Mayarans would prove very beneficial. We need new blood; strong, independent blood."
"I'm sensing... another problem. You know, the elephant in the room that no one will talk about?" Jack said.
"Worst case scenario, Jack," Daniel said, not taking his eyes off of Jacob, "is that without an equally strong and intelligent host to balance their decisions, many of the Tok'ra could easily slip into a mode that makes them little better than those they fight."
"Jacob, is that accurate?" Jack asked.
"Actually, Daniel said it very well. That is the fear that exists."
There was silence around the table as everyone digested the information. Finally Jacob said, "When do you plan on returning to Mayara?"
"Our ... specialist... is undergoing the requisite physical right now," Hammond answered. "I believe he and his partner have already filled out all the paperwork. As soon as Doctor Frasier gives them the go-ahead, SG-1 will be departing. I'm sure Colonel O'Neill has no objection to your traveling with them."
"No, Sir, none at all." Jack looked at Jacob. "I'm assuming you understand the risks?"
"Then as soon as I hear from Doctor Frasier, you have a go, Colonel."
"Okay, that was a ... physical," Blair said as he tried to pull the edges of his gown together in the back. He walked over to the bed Jim was sitting on and debated jumping up and joining his partner, but Jim was sitting smack dab in the middle, which left very little room. It was also obvious that Jim had no intention of moving over. Somewhat puzzled, Blair looked over at the bed opposite.
Jim gave him a little shove and said, "Go on. The only person who'll see what that gown doesn't hide is me."
Grinning, Blair faced Jim, gave a little jump, and sat down on the other bed. "These things weren't made for short people," he noted as he swung his legs.
"You know, I'm kind of surprised they didn't run more tests on you, Jim."
"So am I, Chief. So am I. But grateful it was only a few."
Blair was kept from saying anything else by the reappearance of the woman who'd been introduced as Doctor Janet Frasier, CMO of the facility. She was a pert, lovely lady who made Blair look tall. She walked over, a couple of charts in her hands. Smiling, she said, "You two seem to be the picture of health."
Blair wiggled uncomfortably and said, "If anyone should know, it would be you, Doctor Frasier."
Her smile widened. "Sometimes, I truly love my job, gentlemen. Right now, I need to report to General Hammond. In the meantime, you two can get dressed. You'll find the appropriate uniforms on the bed behind you. Standard issue for the SGC."
As she disappeared around the curtain, Jim easily reached back and snagged first one set, then the other. After a quick inspection, he tossed one to Blair, who lifted the shirt and started to check the label for size.
"Don't bother, Chief. It'll be too big. This is the military. Just do the best you can and be prepared to cinch the belt tight."
"Gee, thanks," Blair said sarcastically.
Grinning, Jim quickly got dressed, Blair taking a bit longer as he inspected the clothes. Holding up the blue jacket, he said, "Mom would have a fit, man."
"What mom doesn't know, Chief."
"We're talking Naomi."
Jim paused in the act of zipping up the pants. "Damn, she'll know," he finally said.
"Yes, thank you. On the other hand, what would you give to see her storm Cheyenne Mountain and take on the guy in charge?"
"The 'guy' in charge is General George Hammond."
Blair, with his arms in the shirt and ready to pull it over his head, stopped. He arched an eyebrow. "Jim, it could be the President of the United States and he couldn't top Simon."
"Good point, but I think this is one time where Naomi would lose."
Blair did an exaggerated double take.
Laughing, Jim said, "Okay, maybe not. It might be fun to see her try."
"Nice save, man." Blair slipped the black t-shirt on and jumped off the bed. He shook out the blue pants and looked askance. "Uh, Jim?" He held them up for Jim's inspection.
"Whoa. A slight mistake there. I don't think a belt will cut it. Let me see what I can do. Be right back." Jim slipped on his jacket, grabbed the pants, and headed toward the outer area of the Infirmary while Blair remained where he was, wearing only boxers and the black shirt.
"Detective Ellison? Is something wrong?" Doctor Frasier asked as she looked up from a chart she was reading.
He held up the pants. "Do you think we can get a pair a couple sizes smaller?"
Janet took them and said, "Sorry about that. I'll take care of it."
Jim gave her a dazzling smile. "Thanks. My partner will appreciate not having to walk around in nothing but a shirt and his boxers."
Grinning back up at him, she said, "My nurses wouldn't mind a bit, Detective."
Laughing, Jim headed back to Blair.
Five minutes later, a very perky nurse walked around the curtain, a new pair of pants slung over her arm. "Here you go, Mister Sandburg."
A very red-faced Blair took them and with an expectant look, waited for her to leave. Finally getting the message, she winked and walked away. He sighed, pulled the pants on and, while fastening the belt, said, "You'd think the nurses were starved for men or something. I mean, this is a military base, you know? It's crawling with big, hunky guys, yet she looked at me like a spider eyeing a fly."
Jim watched Blair a moment, took in the tied-back curly hair, the muscles nicely emphasized by the black t-shirt, and shook his head in disbelief. The guy just didn't get it. He took his arm and led him over to a chair. Placing a hand on each shoulder, he pushed until Blair was seated. "What you don't understand, Chief, is that nurses in military facilities know a good thing when they see it. Not to mention a military haircut can't compare to this." He tugged on Blair's ponytail.
"I knew it. It's the hair. It's always the hair."
Jim couldn't help but enjoy watching Blair as they were escorted to the briefing room. His partner was taking everything in, eyes curious and wide. Jim had half expected a lecture on the military mind-set when dealing with something as top secret as the Stargate, but Blair was so bug-eyed that speech was lost to him. They entered the briefing room and, for the first time since leaving the Infirmary, Blair smiled. He moved quickly over to the two seats on the other side of Daniel and sat down, leaving the end one for Jim.
Jack was getting coffee and he held up another cup. "You and Blair want some?"
Jim joined him and immediately started fixing coffee for he and his partner. Adding sugar, he said, "Where is everyone?"
"General Hammond got a call from the President. He'll be right back. My team should be here any minute as well."
The two men walked to their seats where Jack handed Daniel a cup and Jim handed Blair one. A few moments later, Sam, Teal'c and Jacob walked in, all three talking at the same time.
Blair's eyes widened with his first look at Teal'c while Jim's mouth dropped open. He immediately leaned in toward his partner and whispered, "There's something... I can hear it moving, Sandburg."
Blair tore his eyes from Teal'c to look at Jim. "What do you mean?"
Jim didn't answer because he was now looking at Jacob. His senses were confused to the point that he was getting very uncomfortable. Nothing he was registering could be true or accurate. He could feel his shirt clinging to the sweat on his back, while at the same time, his mouth had gone dry. Behind his left eye, the throbbing that signified an encroaching migraine made itself known.
He had to get out and now.
He pushed back his chair so hard that it skittered back and hit the wall.
"Sandburg, I have to... I need to...."
Blair was up instantly, a hand on Jim's arm. "Jim? What is it?"
Jack was up a moment before Daniel. "What's going on?" Jack asked, worried.
Daniel followed Jim's gaze and it hit him. "Shit, Jack, we forgot to explain about Teal'c and Jacob. Jim must think he's going crazy."
"Daniel, maybe now would be a good time to explain what you forgot?" Blair demanded, his fingers gripping Jim's forearm.
"Can ... Jim, can you sit back down? There is an explanation for what you're sensing," Daniel said quietly.
Jim finally tore his gaze from the two men giving his senses such trouble and looked at Daniel and then at Blair, who nodded encouragingly.
Uncertain, but trusting of Blair, he said, "O-kay." He sat down slowly, Blair's hand on his arm the only thing keeping him from bolting.
Daniel motioned for Teal'c, Jacob and Sam, all of whom were still at the entrance and clearly either confused or concerned, to take their seats. They moved in - cautiously - and sat down.
"Okay, let me explain," Daniel said. "This is Detective James Ellison of the Cascade Police Department and his partner, Blair Sandburg. Detective Ellison is a ... sentinel."
He stopped because Jacob's eyes had widened in recognition of the word. And he wasn't the only one to catch it. Blair leaned forward, looked at Jacob, and said, "You know what it means, don't you?"
Jacob looked from the man identified as a sentinel, to the younger man by his side. "I do. Or I should say - Selmac does."
Blair looked at Daniel and cocked his head.
"Right, okay. Let me start again. Jim, Blair, let me introduce you to Major Samantha Carter, a member of SG-1. She's also Doctor Carter as she has a PH.D in Quantum Mechanics. Next to her is Teal'c. Teal'c is a Jaffa and is from a world called Chulak. What Jim is sensing is Teal'c's symbiote. Next to him is Sam's father, Jacob Carter. Jacob is a Tok'ra. He is human, but has blended with a symbiote called Selmac. He might be the reason for the rest of Jim's ... difficulties."
Blair looked up at Jim, who shrugged helplessly. "Yes, well," Blair finally said. "That sure cleared up a great deal. Don't you feel tons better now, Jim?"
Clearing his throat, Jim said, "Uhm... not really, Chief."
"All right, Daniel. You told us about the Goa'uld, the snake thing, and now you're telling us we're in a room with two men who have these snakes inside of them, yet they're not Goa'uld?"
"Er, no. Actually, Teal'c is carrying a Goa'uld that has not yet matured, meaning it's not ready to claim a host. There's no danger. In fact, Junior, as Jack likes to call it, has saved Teal'c's life on several occasions. And the Tok'ra are different from Goa'uld's as they take on those hosts who are willing. They blend together, but one does not control the other. Jacob is his own man, as is Selmac. Or rather, he's his own... symbiote, so to speak."
"Right," Blair said. "Jim, you okay now?"
"I'm... better, now that I know what I'm sensing."
Teal'c bowed his head and said, "I am very sorry if I have caused you any discomfort. If my symbiote bothers you, I can take my leave."
Jim held up a hand and shook his head. "No, no. It's all right. Just... you know it moves ... and stuff, right?"
Teal'c smiled. "I do indeed. I carry it within a pouch here," he indicated his stomach, "and I do feel every movement. But I am used to it."
Blair, stunned, sat back and said, "Wow. That's amazing. But how has it saved your life? Does it have abilities to heal? What?"
"That is precisely what it can do. With a larve Goa'uld, we Jaffa live longer and are rarely ill. Our injuries are healed rapidly and we have many immunities."
Blair turned immediately to Jacob. "Is it the same once the symbiote matures and blends?"
Smiling at the gleam in Blair's eyes, a gleam he was more than used to seeing in both his own daughter and Daniel, Jacob nodded. "Very much so. In fact, I'm here, alive, because of Selmac. I was dying of cancer when Sam came to me and told me about the Stargate and a people who could save my life." He looked at his daughter, took her hand, and added, "I wanted nothing more than the opportunity to have more time with her. Blending with a Tok'ra gave me that time."
"Cool," Blair said, the excitement dancing in his eyes. Turning back to Teal'c, he said, "So when yours matures, you'll blend? No, no, Goa'uld aren't like that, right? So what happens to you when it does mature, Teal'c?"
"That's something we'd rather not think about, Blair," Jack said.
"It will be some time before my Prim'ta matures. Hopefully, there will be an alternative by then," Teal'c said.
Blair sat back, stunned. "Wow," he said again.
Before anything else could be added, the door to General Hammond's office opened and he stepped out.
"Sorry for the delay. Colonel, if you'll introduce me to our guests?"
"Sir, this is Detective Jim Ellison and his partner, Blair Sandburg. Guys, meet General George Hammond, keeper of the zoo."
With a little shake of his head at Jack's so-called introduction, Hammond said, "Gentlemen, I take it Colonel O'Neill has filled you in?"
Jim nodded. "He has, Sir. And before you say anything else, Sandburg and I have already decided to help in any way we can."
"You understand the risks?"
"I'm glad to hear that. I should tell you that the President would prefer that you, Detective, be reactivated, albeit temporarily. As of now, you once again carry the rank of Captain, with all the appropriate--"
"Wait a minute," Blair interrupted. "Jim said that we're willing to do this, but if Jim is suddenly in the Army again, I want certain assurances." He never skipped a beat as he added in a firm voice, "First, when this is over, Jim is free to go. Second, there'd better not come a day when a dark van shows up and Jim goes missing. Third, who and what he is stays buried forever. I don't want the information about Jim to fall into the wrong hands, like some weird shit section of the government that thinks they're above the law, you know? I know Jim can help you guys, but damn it, not at the expense of his freedom and well-being. Is that understood?"
Jack blinked several times before looking over at Daniel, who was smirking. "Daniel, I don't think I can handle two of you," he finally said.
"You? What about me?" Hammond added, barely hiding a grin.
"Actually, Sir," Sam cut in, "I think Daniel's a piece of cake ... comparatively speaking."
Blair looked at Jim and said, "I think I was either just insulted ... or complimented."
Jim rolled his eyes.
"Mister Sandburg, you have my assurance - and the President's - that Captain Ellison will be completely safe. Right now, he's not even a 'he', he's a secret weapon, code name--"
"Jaguarundi," Blair interrupted again.
"Sandburg," Jim warned.
"Yes, well, code names can be changed," Hammond conceded. "As of now, Captain Jim Ellison is code named 'Jaguarundi'."
Blair elbowed Jim and whispered, "See? You're a secret weapon now. Cool, huh?"
"Sandburg, you're unbelievable."
"I take it the mission is a go, Sir?" Jack asked rather pointedly, his gaze still on the remarkable Sandburg.
"It is. Twenty-two hundred hours."
Blair whispered sentinel soft, "That's what time again, Jim?"
"So we leave at ten?"
"We leave at ten."
"So why couldn't the general just say ten?"
Jim rubbed his jaw and contemplated his partner. Blair Sandburg and the military - this could be -- fun.
"Chief, this isn't new to you. Sure, you ignore military time at the station, but still - it's not new."
"I just think it's unnecessary, that's all. I mean, I understand the need to keep from making a mistake on times and all, but how hard is it to say 'you have a go for ten tonight', huh, Jim? How hard is that? Takes less time to say that than it takes to say twenty-two hundred hours."
They were sitting in the commissary waiting for Jack and Daniel, both with slices of pie and coffee in front of them. Blair had been talking non-stop even though his eyes were a traveling circus as he tried to take in everything all at once.
"Sandburg - live with it," Jim finally said just before taking another bite of his pie.
"I'm just saying, Jim."
"Just saying what?" Daniel said as he sat down next to Blair.
"Don't ask," Jim answered with a grin.
Jack took the seat next to Daniel and said, "Don't ask what?"
Blair rolled his eyes and said, "Don't ask when we're going to get to see this famous Stargate." He paused for a beat and asked, "So when are we going to see this famous Stargate?"
Daniel looked at Jack and arched an eyebrow.
Catching his partner's message, Jack said, "Okay, okay, how 'bout now? No reason not to see it before you actually have to walk through it."
"Wait, let me finish this," Jim said as dug back into his pie. "I'd almost forgotten how much I loved the military version of chocolate cream pie." He tapped the top of the chocolate layer, which didn't budge an inch, and said, "I could balance my truck on this thing."
"Stick to the blue Jell-o in the future," Jack advised with a knowing look. "It's safer."
The huge doors opened and Jack led them into what they called the 'Gate room, or as Daniel said while making little quote marks in the air, "The Embarkation Room, and we're walking, we're walking...."
Jack laughed and said, "You had to be there."
At that moment, both men stepped aside and let Jim and Blair get their first look.
Jim took it all in quickly and just as quickly said, "Big. Round. Lots of symbols."
Blair, on the other hand, immediately moved up the ramp and to the far right side. He touched the surface of the Stargate and then tapped it with his finger. "Wow, this is incredible." He ran a hand upwards, feeling the raised surface and then moved to the left side and repeated the motion. He finally turned and said, "So we're actually going to walk through this and onto another planet?"
Daniel joined him and nodded. "Yep. It's a wild ride, but I think you'll love it, Blair."
"I'm sure I will, but my concern is Jim. You're going to have to tell me everything you feel, hear, see, sense - if anything - so I can prepare him."
"Damn, I never thought about that and I should have."
Blair smiled up at his friend. "Why?"
Chuckling, Daniel said, "Good point. Okay, let me marshal my thoughts here a moment." He turned to Jack finally, and said, "We need to fill Blair in on everything we experience when 'Gating. How 'bout we use the briefing room? Bring Sam and Teal'c in on it?"
Frowning, Jack said, "Why? They're just going to walk through like all of us--"
"Jack? Not quite like all of us," Daniel said with a pointed look at Jim.
The light bulb went on for Jack. "Ah, got it."
"I guess for me, it's all about noise," Sam said as she watched Blair take his notes. "I hear this kind of whooshing sound, and sometimes I think I hear voices but nothing is clear. It's more a sense of voices than actual words or anything. I also feel cold and kind of... disjointed. But not in a bad way. It's kind of like a when you're under the influence of pain meds, you know?"
"What about your skin? I mean, I know when we enter, we'll be nothing more than matter, that our molecules will be literally disconnected before re-integrating when we pass through the other side, but if you feel cold, there must be a sense of skin?"
Sam thought about it for a moment, and finally said, "Yes, yes, there is. I feel as though a cool breeze is brushing my skin. And a kind of tingling. But again, it's not a bad feeling."
Blair nodded and wrote some more on the pad Daniel had provided. When he finished, he asked, "Anything else you can think about?"
"No, not really. That about covers it for me."
"Okay, great." He looked at Jack and cocked his head.
"That must mean it's my turn. Okay... I have to agree with pretty much everything Carter said. But I also get this pressure in my ears. I'm used to it now, but in the beginning I'd exit the 'Gate and it was like I needed them to pop, you know? Like a drop in elevation."
Blair looked at Sam, who shook her head. "Nope, no plugged ears for me."
"I believe I am next, ChiefBlairSandburg."
Shocked, but grinning like a loon, Blair said, "Chief Blair Sandburg?"
"Is that not the title Captain Ellison has used when addressing you?"
"He's got you there, Chief," Jim said with a smirk.
"Uhm, Teal'c, Jim likes to use nicknames for people and at some point, he kind of christened me 'Chief'. It doesn't mean anything."
"Then you are not his chief?"
Blair rubbed his chin and looked up at the ceiling. "Well, now, that's different, Teal'c. I'd have to say that," he looked back at Teal'c, "yes, I'm definitely his chief."
"Yeah, Chief-Pain-in-the-Butt," Jim muttered.
"Ah, then ChiefBlairSandburg is to you, Captain, as DanielJackson is to Colonel O'Neill."
Jack held up his hand, palm facing Jim, who responded in kind. They high-fived each other as Jack said, "Oh, yeah."
Sam suddenly had a coughing fit, and while Jacob, hiding his own laughter, patted her on the back, Blair said with total ease, "That sounds about right, Teal'c. But oddly enough, I rarely hear Jim complain about the pain. Moan, yes, plead, definitely, but complain? Never." He smiled brilliantly and promptly high-fived Daniel.
Suddenly Jack and Jim were coughing up a storm.
"So you really feel nothing then?"
"I do not. I step through and it is as if there has been no passage of time. There are no sensations."
"Do you suppose your symbiote protects you?"
"It is possible." Teal'c turned his head to look at Jacob. "Do you experience anything, Jacob Carter?"
"No, not any more. Wait, that's not exactly accurate. There is a brief moment of ... a kind of shift. That's the only way I can explain it. But I can tell you that when I walked through the 'Gate the first time, before the melding, it was a shocker. I felt stretched out, hazy, and then the haze dissipated and it was like dropping from the top of a high roller coaster ride. But I was pumped full of chemicals at the time, so who knows?"
"All right, all right," Blair said enthusiastically. "What time do we go again?"
"That would be twenty-two hundred hours, Sandburg," Jim said. He counted to ten and pointed a finger at Blair.
"Okay, so that gives me," Blair checked his watch, "four hours."
Blair looked up. "What?"
"Twenty-two hundred hours, Chief."
A small furrow appeared between Blair's brows. "O-kay, so I take twelve from twenty and add two... ah, right. Ten. Got it. So I have three hours. Cool." He bent down over the pad and started scribbling again, completely unaware of all the eyes on him.
"Uhm, Jim? What did he just do?" Jack asked, incredulous.
Smiling proudly, Jim said, "That, my friends, was a taste of the infamous Sandburg Zone. A great place to visit, but it's the rare individual who can handle living there."
Keeping his head down as he scribbled, Blair reached over with his left hand and patted Jim's. "But oh, the joys and rewards for he who can."
"Oh, man, your lab is awesome, Daniel." Blair walked over to the bookshelves, eyes wide with wonder. As he touched each beloved book, he said, "And I thought I had a great collection. This is just--"
Laughing, Daniel said, "Let me guess - awesome?"
"That works." Blair spotted one of Daniel's artifacts and, with a stunned expression on his face, said, "My God, Daniel. This is a Tiquisate ballplayer vase. How the hell... I mean, I've seen a few at the Museo Popol Vuh, but this is exquisite. And it's actually a depiction of the decapitation ritual."
"That was a gift from Doctor Petan--"
"Doctor Rodrigo Petan?"
"You know him?"
"Oh, yeah. I worked on a dig that he was supervising," Blair rubbed his chin, "back in... ninety-four, I think. In Guatemala."
"Great man. Of course, today, he'd give me the finger," Daniel said with a wry grin.
"Hey, buddy, he never believed in my sentinels either. And we both turned out to be very right, so who the hell cares."
Daniel got up and walked over to Blair. Hand on his shoulder, he said, "Right. And here's to us. The two greatest men--"
"In our own minds--"
"... that no one will ever hear about."
The two scientists started laughing.
Coffee in front of both of them, Jack looked over at his newest teammate and said, "So, is life with Sandburg as fun as it looks?"
Rubbing the Air Force mug between his two hands, Jim nodded. "As a matter of fact - yes. There's no one like him in the world, in all honesty. I still don't understand how he instinctively knew so much about sentinels, let alone about me and how to help. He's pretty much a miracle man."
"Not that you'd tell him that to his face, right?" Jack said knowingly.
"Hell no. The last thing in the world I want is a Sandburg with a big head." It hit Jim what he'd said the second the words left his mouth. His lips twitched as he said, "Okay, I should probably rephrase that."
Chuckling, Jack said, "Nah, I know what you mean. I know exactly what you mean. We're here right now because of Daniel, because of his intelligence and ability to see what others will never see in a million years. I'd say we're both pretty damn lucky."
"Amen." They smiled at one another over the rims of their coffee cups.
Eventually Jack gave a kind of cough and said, "You might want to remember, however, that you're back in the military and we still have certain... policies, if you get my drift?"
Jim, seeing his friend's discomfort, understood exactly what he was saying. He nodded. "Drift received and understood long before now. You forget, I'm a cop. Things aren't much better in that environment, Jack."
"So how hard was it to adapt to all of this," Blair asked with a sweep of his arm, indicating the military in general.
"Jack would tell you that I never have and that the Air Force has adapted to me, but it's a lie. I not only carry a gun, but I know how to use it. I can fire a P-90 with the best of them and I now have muscles I didn't know a guy could have. Oh, and I'm also way more familiar with 'Don't ask, don't tell' than I ever thought I'd be. Or need to be."
"Okay, I hear that. Jim always says that Major Crime has adapted to me, but between the two of us, I don't see it. They still call me Hairboy and Simon still pats me on top of the head as if I were Jim's pet poodle or something."
"Oh, I don't see Jim with a poodle at all. A big lab, maybe, but a poodle?"
Blair pulled a chunk of curl out from the leather tie. "Poodle."
Daniel laughed and nodded. "Poodle."
"But no matter what, I'm not cutting until I turn thirty-five. That was the promise I made myself."
"Why thirty-five? What's so magic about that particular birthday?"
"Nothing, really. I've just always considered it to be the real age of grown-ups. Until then, we can still get away with stuff, you know?"
"Okay, I never thought about it that way, but ... you're right. Thirty-five seems to be it. At thirty-four, you're still young. Although, I thought thirty sounded -- and felt -- ancient."
"Hey, I'm thirty!"
"Yeah, but you'll never be old, Blair. There's a ... I'd better not say it. I might insult a great friend."
"Would that be me or... Peter Pan?"
Shock registered on Daniel's face as he asked, "How did you know I was about to--"
"You wouldn't be the first to compare me to that particular fictional character. Believe it or not, my mother used to introduce me as her little 'Peter Pan'."
"Dear God," was all Daniel could say.
"I know. I had chest hair at fifteen and she was still doing it. I mean, come on, Peter Pan with chest hair?"
"And a five o'clock shadow," Daniel added with a grin.
"Try a two o'clock shadow," Blair said as he ran his fingers over his chin and jaw. "Peter Pan, my foot. Besides, it's a short thing." Obviously resigned to that fact, Blair shrugged.
Chuckling, Daniel said, "Whatever you do, do not tell Jack about the Peter Pan thing, okay? He'll never let you live it down and it'll be all over the base in nothing flat."
"Hell, Jim doesn't even know, and if you tell him, you're so dead."
"Tell me what?" Jim said as he and Jack walked in, the latter whistling innocently.
Blair buried his face in his hands.
"I can't believe you never told me about the whole Peter Pan thing. I'm ... insulted. Yeah, that's what I am - insulted. You know how many damn hairs I have on my head, yet I didn't know this? I may never forgive you."
Blair looked up from his writing, dropped his glasses down on his nose, and glared at Jim.
"Yes, well," Jim huffed. "I'm still insulted."
"Quiet, I've got work to do," Blair commanded as he went back to his notes.
"Jim, you mention Peter Pan again, at any time in our lives, and I will leave you so fast, you'll doubt that I was ever there. Got that?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jim wisely said.
"Good. Now give me another minute. I have to get this all straight in my head. Major Carter gave me a helluva lot of information."
Banishing Peter Pan from his brain - although, it fit his partner - in a weird kind of way --Jim sat back in the chair and went back to Blair-watching, the only thing he'd be allowed to do as long as they were on the base. They'd been shown to a VIP suite to rest up and allow Blair to figure out the process - if one was needed -- for getting a sentinel safely through the Stargate. After they'd left Daniel's lab, Blair had interviewed Major Carter, or "Please, call me Sam" for over forty-five minutes, finding out as much as he could about the precise workings of the 'Gate. He'd been hunched over his notes ever since.
"She's something else, isn't she?" Jim suddenly asked.
Without looking up, Blair said, "Yeah, but she's a blonde and definitely not criminal, so not your type. She's got the legs for you though."
"Shame on you. I have only one type and you know it. And you weren't exactly shy on the tall, leggy, female-types yourself."
"Good come back. Swift, cutting, and to the point."
Laughing, Jim picked up another magazine and started thumbing through it. Fifteen minutes later, Blair sat back and dropped the pen. "Okay, I think we're set."
"Okay, you. I'm thinking you dial down everything but touch. And by dial down, I'm thinking two notches below normal."
"Because I said so?"
"And you said so ... why?"
"Look, what happens once you're in the stream isn't what worries me. I think that physically you'll be fine. BUT, based on the information Daniel gave me, which was by far the most helpful, I think you'll subconsciously raise your senses the minute you start to pass through. It's seems like normal curiosity, you know? As Daniel said, he was eager to experience it, and no matter how blasé you appear about this, you know damn well that your excited and curious and can't wait. So, when you first start through, you'll crank it up a notch."
"Okay, I can buy that. So why keep touch up?"
"Well, you'll need to feel me because once in the stream, what was vague sounds to Major Carter, will be real, and probably distinguishable to you. You'll need to be able to feel me to ground yourself."
"Who says I use you to ground me?"
Blair did his classic, exaggerated, double-take, even to the point of allowing his mouth to drop open. He snapped it shut, added fuel to the Sandburg double-take by rolling his eyes, and finally said, "How long have I been working on your senses, man? Why the hell do you think you touch me so much? And," he held up his hand to stop Jim from saying the obvious, "I don't mean now that we're doing the horizontal jig. I mean from the moment we met. You and I both know that until I came along, you and touchy-feely were barely speaking. You instinctively use me to ground yourself, Jim. I'm not sure what that says about me, other than people should be safe plugging into me...."
"Hey, no one plugs into you but me--"
"And that's only on alternate Wednesdays, when I let you top," Blair interjected with a waggle of his eyebrows.
"Watch it, Petey-baby." At the killer look from Blair, he raised his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay, so I keep a hold of... what, your hand? A chunk of hair? Your dick? What?"
"Hey, if you want to walk up that ramp with your fingers wrapped around my dick, go for it. It's only a top secret military installation, full of honking huge marines and whatever. Personally, I think grabbing my arm would be more... you know, military-ish, but hey."
"So I hold your arm and we walk through and I'll be fine, right?"
"I think so, yeah."
"Okay, so we're set."
"Well, don't let go when we step through on the other side. You may need to acclimate yourself so--"
"I ground myself with you. Or I grind myself into you. Or we grind--"
Blair's laughter cut Jim off, and he grinned. As Blair went back to his notes for a final check-through, Jim's smile faded. He'd allowed himself to forget the video camera.
He had to find a way to have a small talk with his partner. He wondered idly if the bathrooms were under surveillance. He was pretty sure they were, damn it.
At first glance, the 'Gate room had been full of mystery and allure, but now, filled with soldiers and movement, it was like the biggest macho locker room in the world.
Blair had never been comfortable in locker rooms.
He was usually the shortest, and often the youngest, so consequently the butt of many a joke and wet, snapping towel. In this particular "locker room", Blair was also aware that every single person had a purpose - a contribution to the program - other than him. And no, he didn't count the fact that Jim needed to touch him to stay grounded.
At least the backpack he was forced to carry - like he were a real soldier or something - was lighter than his own. Hell, this was a breeze compared to a grad student's backpack. The boots were a real pain, though. Heavier than any he'd worn on expeditions. He knew that later, his legs were going to be sore. How the hell did soldiers march forever in these things, anyway? Oh, damn, one shoe-sorry-boot-lace was undone. He quickly bent over and his backpack immediately popped him in the back of the head. He heard sniggering behind him and just knew it was from one of the soldiers on the team that would be accompanying them.
Before he could straighten, Jim was there, holding his pack down while he re-tied his bootlace. Embarrassed, he stood back up and held still while Jim correctly secured the damn thing. He didn't dare make eye-contact with anyone, not even Daniel. This was suddenly so much like every bad moment that he'd ever experienced in high school that he wanted to run out the doors and straight out of the mountain.
But he didn't. Instead, he did what he always did in such inevitable situations. He grinned and said to no one in particular, "Just thought someone needed to take the macho quotient down a notch."
At that moment, they started the 'Gate sequence and his attention was fastened on the Stargate. He missed the thumb's up sign that both Jack and Daniel gave Jim, and he definitely missed the smile Teal'c shot his way.
Blair watched, mesmerized, as the 'Gate turned and, what looked like steam, rose from the sides. He couldn't believe that in a moment, he'd be walking through what looked like water only to emerge on another planet on the other side. Man, this was so totally cool.
"Colonel O'Neill, you have a go."
Jim looked down at Blair, who grinned and held out his arm. "Captain Ellison, may I be your escort through the Stargate?"
"Why, Doctor - in all but dissertation - Sandburg, I'd be delighted."
Jim placed his hand on Blair's arm and both looked expectantly at Jack, who gave a little shake of his head and, with Daniel, started up the ramp. Sam, grinning, held out both her arms and said, "Master Teal'c, Dad, I'd be delighted to escort you both through the Stargate."
Nodding slightly, Teal'c said, "I would be honored, Major Carter."
"As would I, Sam."
They followed Jim and Blair up after Jack and Daniel, but at the wormhole, Jack paused when Daniel touched his arm. "Jack, I'd be honored--"
Jack held up a hand. "Daniel, say it and you're dead meat."
Laughing, Daniel gave Jack a slight push and followed him through the wormhole.
Jim stopped just short, the plopping sound freezing him in his tracks.
"Jim? My arm, just ... concentrate on my arm."
"Right - arm."
Jim put his hand back on Blair's arm, but with his left, he reached out and gently touched the shimmering blue. He tapped it with his index finger and shocked, turned to Blair. "It's like... it's like...."
When he could find the words, Blair touched the blue and grinned like a loon. "Wow," he said.
"Yeah, wow," Jim agreed with a soft smile.
With a final look at each other, they walked through the Stargate.
Neither man really had a vision of what the planet they were 'Gating too would look like, but they sure didn't expect a carbon copy of Washington. As Jim stepped out, he gripped Blair's arm tighter, a sense of vertigo striking him. He could just hear Blair's voice, soft and low, so he concentrated on it and -- a moment later - his world righted itself. He blinked in the sunshine and could see Jack and Daniel, both worried and both watching him. He smiled and moved down the steps, Blair on his heels, Sam, Teal'c and Jacob right behind them, SG-9 on their heels.
"Gosh, Jack. Trees. Sandburg and I came all this way for trees?"
"I swear, Jack," Daniel said, "You two had to be separated at birth."
"Oh, please, he has at least ten years on me," Jim groused as he and Blair came abreast of Jack and Daniel.
Ignoring the jibe, Jack looked at Blair and asked, "So? How was the ride?"
"Totally awesome, man. Totally awesome. The whoosh of my life."
Laughing, Jack said, "Been there, done that. And it's still a great whoosh, even after all this time."
Before anyone could say anything else, Daniel pulled at the material of Jack's jacket and pointed to a cloud of dust of on the horizon. "I think we're about to have visitors."
Jack took out his binoculars and started to adjust them when Jim said, "Four riders leading several ... animals. One of the riders is wearing an SGC uniform. The other three are... they really look... okay, I think it's safe to say that while this planet looks just like Washington - it most certainly is not. I can't begin to describe the other three riders. But green with scales seems to fit."
While Jacob and all four members of SG-1 stared at Jim, Blair realized that knowing Jim was a sentinel, and seeing him in action were two very different things. And while Jack had been privy to seeing Jim in his "I can hear a bird fart on the other side of the city," mode, that clearly had not prepared him for this.
"Sandburg, you're about to see real aliens," Jim commented dryly.
"What's Teal'c, chopped liver?"
"I most certainly am not chopped liver. I am Jaffa."
Looking triumphant, Blair said, "See?"
"Teal'c, you may be a Jaffa, but you look just like us... well, except for the tattoo--"
"Speaking of which, and now that Jim brought it up, please tell me you were unconscious when they did," he wiggled his finger at the tattoo, "that?"
"I was not. That would not be the warrior way, ChiefBlairSandburg."
Blair gulped. "So ... you were completely aware?"
"I was. It was most painful."
Blair subconsciously rubbed his own forehead as he winced in sympathy. "I can only imagine. Meaning I can't imagine at all and anyone will tell you that I have a great imagination."
"I believe it is a good thing that in this instance, your imagination fails you," Teal'c said solemnly.
"Head's up, people," Jack said.
The riders were now close enough to make out and Blair's mouth dropped open. Jim reached over and tapped it shut. "Decorum, Sandburg, decorum."
The riders came to a stop a few feet from where SG-1 and SG-9 stood. As Blair took in the mounts, he could only think that with a good imagination - which he had - they could be very strange relatives of - nothing on Earth.
One of the Mayarans jumped down and strode over to Jack and Daniel. He bowed low, giving Blair a chance to really look at him - assuming he was a him - he - whatever. The Mayaran, like the two not in SGC uniforms, appeared reptilian in nature, and yet human too. Their scales were thin and almost luminescent, making their skin look actually beautiful. The one approaching them moved with grace and fluidity, his expressions mobile and clearly showing his joy at seeing Jack and Daniel. His face was smooth, no scales, and was tinted a pale blue, reminding Blair of the sea. He also had hair - in this case - blond, which was rather disconcerting. One just didn't think of lizards with hair, let alone blond. The one odd thing - other than the scales and tint of his skin, was the mouth. It was... round, no lips, and Blair was shocked when he spoke because he sure as hell couldn't see any movement of lips - er, mouth, just a kind of vibration.
"Welcome, SG-1. We hope you have discovered a method of communicating with our Council."
Daniel, clearly used to how the Mayarans looked, and just as used to their lack of a traditional mouth, bowed and said, "That is our hope as well, Juneuo. I would like to introduce you to Captain Ellison and Blair Sandburg. We believe that they will be able to ... guide us ... in our negotiations. I would also like to introduce an old friend of the Mayarans."
Jacob stepped forward, bowed his head, and when he looked up again, his eyes glowed brightly. "I am Selmac, of the Tok'ra." The glow faded. "And I am Jacob Carter. It is our wish that once this treaty with the Tauri has been finalized - and we are certain that it will be - negotiations with the Tok'ra might be re-opened. We are eager to once again partner with the Mayarans."
Juneuo, if his expression could be believed, was clearly surprised - and delighted - by Jacob's words. He nodded and said, "I will take this to the Council. Of course, nothing can be done until," he glanced over at SG-1, "after the Tauri meet with the Council."
"Naturally," Jacob agreed. "And again, I have every confidence that the meeting will go well."
Blair listened to the exchange and wondered why no one was even looking at the SGC member that had ridden out with Juneuo. And while it was obvious that the other two Mayarans were guarding him, he wasn't tied up, in chains or anything else. In fact, he looked pretty damn good for being a prisoner.
Juneuo chose that moment to indicate the man in question. "As you can see, Major Edwards was allowed to accompany me in greeting you, such is the faith of the Council in SG-1."
"It is our prayer that such faith is not misplaced, Juneuo," Daniel responded.
The Mayaran nodded and waved at his two companions, one of whom immediately rode forward, leading the other animals. Blair quickly concluded that they were supposed to ride them. Oh, joy. He watched as everyone started to mount, noticed that Jim was still standing next to his ... horse, for want of a better word, so he grinned as if this was the most normal thing in the world to him. He gripped the reins, gave a little hop with a his leg, and was surprised when his foot slipped into the stirrup. He managed to hike himself up but he had to use the ... fur ... that passed for a mane, to do it. Once up and settled, Jim grinned and clapped lightly before turning his mount around and falling in next to him.
"You think you can... steer... that thing?"
"Oh, such a wit," Blair responded with a grimace before pausing for a beat and adding, "Does it steer?"
Jim chuckled and said, "Just dig in lightly with your heels against its side. If you want the animal to go left, pull left, yadda-yadda."
"You mean I don't have to say giddy-up?"
At that moment, Jack said, "Giddy-up," and kicked his animal lightly in the side. The animal moved forward and Blair shot Jim a disgusted look.
"Didn't I mention the part where you say 'giddy-up'?"
The ride to the city of Orego, the capitol of Mayara, was just long enough to drive Blair crazy. His butt was totally numb and riding the ghorus, which was the name of the animal, was a lot like riding a camel - on a merry-go-round that needed oiling.
Up and down, up and down, bump-bump, followed by up and down, up and down.
He was damn glad he hadn't eaten before they'd left. Of course, at the time, the decision had been based on not wanting to embarrass himself by tossing his cookies when he'd stepped through the Stargate. Who knew it was really because he was riding a merry-go-round animal that bumped?
Bumping along side Jim, he couldn't help but think of their friends back home, of Simon and the rest of the gang at Major Crime and how far away they seemed at that moment. He also thought how incredibly right Jim looked since donning the uniform of the SGC. Was it at all possible that a sentinel like Jim, one who'd been through what he had and passed with flying colors, was actually supposed to be the sentinel of ... the world? Was it possible that his tribe, as represented by the SGC and the Stargate, was Earth?
And that would make him ... what?
He suspected that would make him... superfluous.
He had absolutely no doubt that the SGC could handle a sentinel way better than he could, and that someone like Major Carter could help Jim in ways that Blair would never think of in a million years.
Damn, he was the last person who should be here - but ultimately, he was here and he was going to make the most of it. This was a once in a lifetime adventure and he was going to absorb every last minute of it like the anthropological sponge that he was. At that precise moment, sponge that he was, he caught a glimpse of something in the trees, something with glowing eyes and a grin. He pointed wildly and said, "Jim, Jim, check it out, man. What is it?"
Jim looked, did a double take, and said, "You're not going to believe me, Sandburg."
Blair was turned almost all the way around in his saddle, trying in vain to get a better look at what had appeared to be a grinning cat of huge proportions, when Jim added, "Does a giant Cheshire cat ring a bell? Even down to the stripes?"
Blair started bouncing. "Oh, man, I just knew this trip was going to be incredible. I just knew we'd see way more than pine trees."
"What, riding a cross between a camel and a horse isn't good enough for you? Not alien enough?"
"Somehow riding through the alien version of the Pacific Northwest kind of blunts the effect of riding a ghorus, you know? And Juneuo is starting to look normal to me."
"I swear, Sandburg, you are such an anthropologist."
"Well, duh." He looked back at the cat, which was still grinning at him, and said, "Do you suppose Lewis Carroll was a 'Gate traveler?"
"According to Daniel, every Egyptian god you ever studied was a Goa'uld, so why not believe Carroll was an alien who ended up on Earth?"
"Damn, you're being awfully accepting here, Jim. This is so not like you."
"Sandburg, I'm making nice with a guy who has a snake in his stomach, and an ex-general that voluntarily melded with another kind of snake, and then I walked through a freaking ring of water and came out on another planet. Now, how can I not be accepting?"
"Good point. So the next time ghosts talk to you, you'll listen to me, right?"
"I never said that."
The city of Orego glistened like the most beautiful body of water Blair had ever seen. The tall structures that rose amidst the pine trees were all shades of blue and seemed to almost sway and ripple in the late afternoon sun. He glanced over at Jim and saw the same wonder mirrored on the older man's face. He was curious about what else Jim could see and was about to ask when Jim said, "There are about three dozen Mayarans on the steps in front of what appears to be the primary building of the city and I sure hope they're waiting to welcome us, as opposed to something else."
"Wow," Blair breathed out. "A welcoming committee. Cool." At Jim's look, he added, "Or not."
"There's a platform to their left. It looks very much like the kind of place you'd build for a public execution."
"I could've gone all day without hearing that, Jim."
"I'll second that," Daniel said.
They were led into the heart of the city by Juneuo and ended up dismounting in front of the steps Jim had described. Juneuo spoke to the crowd of Mayarans but in a language - no, in a sound -- that meant nothing to Blair. He glanced over at Daniel and watched as he whispered to Jack. He quickly looked up at Jim, who said, "Daniel understands them."
"Ssh... Juneuo is explaining us... we're going to be ... presented to the Council tomorrow morning ... and if we can't... understand them ... we all die. Honorably, but we die."
"Oh, well... honorably. Makes all the difference - NOT."
"Ssh... Juneuo is going to show us to our quarters," Jim hissed out.
"I'm just hoping we get the whole 'Eat and be merry for tomorrow you die' shit, you know?"
"Gee, you're usually so positive, Sandburg."
"There are three bedrooms," Juneuo announced as he led SG-1, Jacob and Major Adams into the large room that would serve as their home - for how ever long they'd be there.
"SG-9 is next door, and on the other side, as the good Major can tell you, is SG-5. You will be left at peace tonight, and may go anywhere in this wing of the building that you choose. Food that we pray will meet with your approval will be delivered in two hours, and in the morning, at sunrise, you will be taken before the Council. You will have two minutes to answer a question asked by the Council in order to determine if you have, indeed, found a way to communicate with them for the negotiations. Until then, your every need shall be attended to."
"Thank you, Juneuo. We're most appreciative of both the hospitality and patience of the Mayarans," Daniel said.
Juneuo nodded and literally backed out of the room. Once the door was closed, Major Robert Adams moved quickly to a door on the right and opened it.
"Hey, guys, get in here."
The other three members of SG-5 walked in, all with huge, relieved smiles on their faces. They slapped their leader's back in welcome and turned to Jack.
"Great to see you, Sir. I hope you've figured out a way to get us out of this," Captain Mark Schwimmer, the team's cultural expert, asked.
"We think so," Jack said with a glance at Jim. He looked back at Robert Adams and said, "So, bring us up to date, Bob."
Three rooms meant that Jim and Blair shared, as did Jack and Daniel, with the third room going to Sam. Which left the two "couches" for Jacob and Teal'c. The Mayaran version of a couch promised little sleep, but then, Jacob no longer required the kind of rest he'd needed before melding with Selmac.
When Blair checked out the couch and compared it to Teal'c, he shook his head. "Oh, man, there's no way you'll fit. Look, you can bunk in with Jim and I'll sleep out here."
Before Jim could pinch him, Teal'c said with a slight smile, "I do not require sleep, ChiefBlairSandburg. I will sit on the floor and enjoy kel-no-reem."
"Damn, you had to ask," Jack groused.
"Ignore him, ChiefBlairSandburg. We often do. Kel-no-reem is the process by which I renew myself through a form of communication with my prim'ta."
"Ah, a kind of meditation, then?"
Teal'c nodded. "That is what DanielJackson calls it as well."
"Is this kel-no-reem something that you have to do alone?" Blair asked as he fairly bounced on the balls of his feet.
"Not at all. DanielJackson has joined me on several occasions. I would be honored to have you join me as well."
Jack leaned into Daniel and said, "A shorter version of you."
"I was never that--"
"You were, and you are. You're just taller."
"And older," Daniel said with a smile.
"And older. Although...."
"Don't you dare say it, Jack."
The evening meal over, the enlarged SG-1 sat down around a small table out on the lovely, secluded patio with Jacob. Blair looked at the empty plates and said, "That was pretty good food considering it consisted of items I doubt I'd have wanted to eat if I'd seen them before being cooked."
Jim put a hand over his stomach and said, "Thanks, Sandburg. I didn't really need a reminder of just how foreign that dinner was."
"Jim, how do you want to handle tomorrow?" Jack asked a few moments later. "You've seen the Mayarans and you can see now why reading ... lips ... isn't on the game card."
Blair sat on the edge of his seat and said, "I have to say - their voices are strange. Lovely, but odd. Which begs the question; is what we hear for our benefit when they speak English? I mean, I certainly couldn't make out a language when Juneuo spoke to the other Mayarans. Speaking of which; Daniel, how could you possibly understand him?"
"It's like music, Blair. Their language is a mixture of pitches, and once you attune yourself to it, it's actually fairly easy."
"Ah. Sure. I see." Blair clearly didn't. He tapped his chin and said thoughtfully, "Is it possible that... the Mayaran Council weren't speaking at all when the negotiations began? Could this be a trap?"
"No," Jacob said immediately. "The Mayarans are very honorable. They were speaking, and in English, I would swear to it."
Blair wasn't convinced. He had a bad feeling - a very bad feeling. "What if," he continued, needing to put words to the feeling, "they're needing us to have some kind of ESP? What if it's mental telepathy? What if they're communicating on some other plane?"
"You sure ask a lot of questions, Blair," Jack noted. "Got any answers if you're right?"
Blair, feeling thoroughly cowed, sat back. "Guess not," he finally said. He made a motion of zipping his lips and said, "This is me, shutting up now."
"Dad, you said back at the SGC, that the Mayarans have some ability we've yet to see. Don't you think now is the time to share? We got Jim and Blair into this mess, and if Blair is right, we've led them to their deaths."
Jacob gave a small shake of his head, indicating not indecision or a negative response, but rather uncertainty. "Sam, their abilities... damn, how do I--"
His head lowered and when he looked back up, his eyes were glowing. "Samantha, I believe it will be easier if I answer. To put it simply, the Mayarans have the ability to alter their form. But there is nothing to indicate they have mental communication skills. Nothing."
The glow receeded and Jacob was back. "Yeah, what he said," he added with a grin.
"All right, so ESP is out," Sam said.
"Why? Just because the Tok'ra don't know about it, doesn't mean it isn't there," Blair said reasonably.
"You do not understand," Selmac spoke again. "The history of the Mayarans is such that trust is number one with them. They do not hide who and what they are."
Completely forgetting the shut-down of moments before, Blair leaned forward. "What history? Fill me in."
"They once entered into an alliance with a people called the Chacs. The purpose of the alliance was to help fight off the Goa'uld."
"Wait - the Chacs?" Blair looked at Daniel and said, "Chacs?"
Daniel gave him a "What?" look, so Blair said, "Maya rain god?"
"Of course. I never made the connection before. But then, I'm an Egyptologist," he added with a smile.
"You two want to fill the rest of us in?" Jack suggested - strongly.
Blair ignored him and said to Jacob-Selmac, "Tell me more about the Chacs."
"I am not certain of how this will help," Selmac said. "It is only important that you understand that the Mayarans put truth above all else. They would not have hid any skills from us."
"Look, this is getting us nowhere," Jack said. "We can't do anything now, anyway. Tomorrow, Jim either pulls the rabbit out of the hat, or ... not."
"I don't agree," Blair said. "We need to go in there with all possible information."
"Why?" Sam asked. "Jim will either be able to hear them, or not. If not, how--"
"Look, I don't know, I just know that neither of us would go into any situation without knowing everything there was to know."
Jack looked at Blair and said gently, "You don't really have any say in that, do you? Jim's the expert, the cop. And here, we're the experts. And believe me, we go into situations where we have very little information all the time. It's the nature of what we do now."
Blair waited for Jim to speak up, and when he didn't, Blair sat back as nonchalantly as possible and said, "Hey, when you're right - you're right. Sorry."
"Hey, no problem. We'll just have to trust that tomorrow, it's as simple as we think it's going to be."
Blair walked into their room ahead of Jim and immediately took off his jacket and sat down on the bed, which he'd bet bore no resemblance to anything the Mayarans slept on. He quickly took off his boots and sighed with the only pleasure of the evening.
"You okay, Sandburg?"
"Why do I not believe you?"
Blair got up and stretched. "I don't know. Look, I'm going to see if Teal'c will let me join him in this kel-no-reem thing of his. I'll be back later."
He headed for the door but Jim reached out and snagged his arm. "Blair, you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine, man. Go to bed. Tomorrow promises to be ... different. And perhaps very short."
With that, he walked out.
Once in the main room, he noticed immediately that Jacob was nowhere to be seen, but Teal'c, wearing only his boxers and black tank, was setting up candles around a small area on the floor. Seeing Blair, he nodded and said, "Would you care to join me in kel-no-reem, ChiefBlairSandburg?"
"Uhm, where's Jacob?"
"He is with Major Carter."
"Oh." Feeling suddenly uncomfortable, he shifted from socked foot to socked foot, and finally said, "Actually, I'm going for a walk. Unless you think I shouldn't?"
"O'Neill took a walk earlier, so I see no reason why you should not as well. If you are certain you do not wish to join me?"
Blair wanted to - very much, but felt it would be too much of an imposition, especially since he really had no place with these people. He smiled and shook his head. "No, thanks. I'll just," he hooked a thumb in the direction of the door, "head out. See you later, man."
"Indeed you will, ChiefBlairSandburg."
A literal man, this Teal'c. Grinning, Blair walked out.
Jim pulled the covers down on both beds and thought it was nice that the room was so ... "human" oriented. The furniture might be small, over all, but the beds looked extremely comfortable. Too bad sleep wasn't about to come. He somehow felt as though he'd let Blair down earlier - even though Jack had simply been speaking the truth. The painful reality was that even if the Mayarans would be communicating through ESP, knowing that would do nothing for them. They would fail, and die.
Still - the feeling of having failed Blair persisted.
Blair walked the long, cool halls, unable to get over the sense of being underwater. The color scheme was reminiscent of being below the surface of the water in Hawaii. All blues and greens, with splashes of color in the form of vases, masks and other adornments that were in alcoves and niches along the walls. He was drawn to the colorful masks, but figuring out what they represented was damn difficult. They seemed very abstract to him. He turned a corner and noticed immediately how much darker this hall was. The blue had deepened, as if a swimmer were diving deeper. He paused suddenly, because the corridor was becoming ... claustrophobic.
A few feet further along, he noticed another series of masks, but these were darker as well. And ... more familiar. He hurried over.
My God, he thought. These were... they were... he was looking at Maya artwork. On the walls of the ... Maya... ran.
What the fuck?
And they'd had a problem with a people called the Chacs.
What was going on?
He backed away and into the other hall. Breathing easier, he closed his eyes for a moment and debated what to do. Maybe... Daniel would... he should tell Daniel.
Blair entered quietly, not sure if Teal'c would still be involved with his kel-no-reem. The room was alight with the glow of the burning candles and Teal'c sat in the middle of the circle he'd created with them. He sat cross-legged, eyes closed, arms resting on his thighs. He looked incredibly peaceful and, for a moment, Blair wished he was deep in something himself. Anything to avoid what he was about to do. But, chin high, he walked over to the door Jack and Daniel had disappeared behind. He knocked softly, heard someone muttering, figured it was Jack, and a moment later, was relieved when Daniel opened the door.
Blair motioned him out, and once Daniel was standing next to him, and the door was closed, he whispered, "You've got to come and check this out."
Daniel, hair mussed, and wearing only his black t-shirt and pants, held up a hand. "Hang on, let me get my glasses. Be right back."
Grateful that Daniel wasn't questioning him, Blair nodded. Daniel disappeared, but a moment later was back, glasses in place. "Okay," he whispered. "Where to?"
Blair led him out and once in the hall, said, "Maya artwork, Daniel. The Maya rans have Maya artwork."
Frowning, Daniel said, "I've seen a great deal of their art, but never any--"
Blair took his arm and started leading him down the hall. He retraced his steps and when he reached the second "T" intersection, he went left and stopped in front of the wall of masks.
"Holy shit," Daniel breathed out.
Several moments passed as Daniel studied the masks. Finally he said, "I've never been down this hall." He looked around, and added, "It's different."
"What does it mean, Blair?"
"Like I know? I just figured... you should see it. You know more about these people than I do."
"Our partners won't be impressed," Daniel mused. "And I can't say that I would disagree, within the facts as we know them. Whatever this means, it won't necessarily impact tomorrow... probably won't. And yet...."
"It's the 'and yet' part that's getting to me. This is all too much of a coincidence, Daniel. They had a falling out with a people called the Chacs? Their own name, Mayara. These masks. It's all too much. But you're right, it has little to do with tomorrow, ultimately speaking."
"Look, why don't we see if we can't track Juneuo down and ask him about these?"
"At least I'll feel like we're doing something."
Juneuo stood before the masks as he listened to the young Taur'i. He was puzzled by his excitement, but as his words penetrated, he realized their significance.
"Are you saying that on your Earth, there was once a Mayara?"
"Not exactly. We call their civilization, Maya, and they exist in a somewhat altered form today." Blair pointed to one of the masks on the wall. "This has a duplicate in a museum in Guatemala."
Juneuo looked truly mystified as he stared at the young man before him. "What can it mean?" he finally asked.
"Do you have an historian?" Blair asked. "Someone well versed in your history?"
"Yes, but you would not be permitted to speak with him until after the meeting with the Council. He is a prominent member."
"And you have no explanation?" Daniel asked.
"I do not. There are aspects of our history that are - not known to us. Dark periods that only a few are permitted to retain."
Everything in Blair told him that these "dark periods" would offer up the solution to tomorrow. Feeling defeated, he listened as Daniel thanked Juneuo and they made their way back to their quarters.
Approaching the door, Daniel said, "You're still uneasy about all of this, aren't you?"
"And you're not?"
Daniel stopped, hand on the doorknob. "I guess... I am. That mask really spooked me. When I combine that, with the Chacs, yeah, I'm not feeling good about tomorrow at all."
He opened the door and they walked quietly in. Teal'c was still on the floor, eyes closed, and Jacob was nowhere to be seen. Daniel gave Blair a small wave and a look that told Blair just how miserable he was now that they both had this new information. Blair gave him a helpless shrug and moved toward his door.
"You had me worried, Sandburg," Jim said as he towered over Blair.
"Did not. You were tracking Daniel and I all the way," Blair said easily as he dropped onto the bed.
"Well, that's true, but still."
Blair put his hands behind his head and asked, "So what did you think?"
"Sandburg, I have no idea what the significance of this mask thing is, but if you think it's worrisome, that so do I. Unfortunately - there isn't much we can do, is there?"
"No, not really. I just wish I could get a handle on this, that's all. I think it has a great deal to do with the success or failure of tomorrow."
"So you don't think my hearing is going to cut it?" Jim sat down next to his partner and laced his fingers with Blair's.
"Honestly?" At Jim's nod of encouragement, he said, "No. I don't think this is about 'hearing' them, per se, Jim. I think this has everything to do with their past, and with the Chacs."
"Okay, tell me about these Chacs. Why is this so important?"
"You have to understand the Maya history and culture, Jim. They believed that the Earth was flat and four-cornered. Each corner had a color value: red for east, white for north, black for west, and yellow for south. Green represented the center. Now some Maya also believed that the sky was multi-layered and that it was supported at the corners by four gods of immense physical strength called Bacabs, but others believed that the sky was supported by four trees of different colors and species, with the green ceiba, or silk-cotton tree, at the center.
"Earth in its flat form was thought by the Maya to be the back of a giant crocodile, resting in a pool of water lilies. The crocodile's counterpart in the sky was a double-headed serpent - a concept probably based on the fact that the Maya word for "sky" is similar to the word for "snake", and I hope you're seeing a pattern here."
"I kind of... am, Sandburg. We have snakes, we have certain colors which seem to be reflected throughout this city, and yes, I noticed the green tiles in the center of the city."
"Exactly. It didn't mean anything to me then, but now?"
"Okay, so go on about the rain god guy."
"Right. So the Maya culture was very advanced, you should remember that from all my lectures." He grinned. "They basically developed astronomy, the first real calendrical systems and yes, even hieroglyphic writing. They were also known for their elaborate and highly decorated ceremonial architecture, including temple-pyramids, palaces and observatories, all built without metal tools. They were skilled farmers, weavers, potters and road builders. But for all their advancements - they believed in human sacrifice, Jim. And even though they usually sacrificed their enemies, they actually preferred," he grimaced, "to sacrifice children. Orphans and illegitimate children were often purchased for the express purpose of sacrificing them. This is where the chacs came in. They were the priests who controlled the sacrifices, and blood-letting, another favorite Maya custom."
"Okay, that doesn't sound ... fun. Shit, Sandburg, I've seen your exhibits at Rainier, listened to you practice lectures on the Mayas, and I've never sensed this about them. They sound far more primitive than all their accomplishments would lead one to believe."
"Bingo. Amazingly enough, and this is what I find so scary, the Maya really stole a great deal of their advancements from the Olmecs. And by the way, most anthropologists don't call it stealing. They'll use words like 'building on inherited inventions and earlier civilizations'. Bunch of hooey is what this anthropologist says. But anyway, now can you see some similarity to the Goa'uld?" He paused, and finally added, "Anyway - with all that information, doesn't it just beg the question: who the hell were the Chacs of this world?"
"Scoot over," Jim said. When Blair did, he dropped down next to him and immediately took back his hand, which he'd released during the move. Once settled and fingers entwined again, Jim said, "I'm betting you have a theory, Einstein."
"I have a vague thought, but theory is way too strong a word."
Jim wiggled the fingers of his left hand. "Gimme."
"Okay, here goes. I think it's possible that the Mayarans of here, were, in part, the Maya of our world. I think the Goa'uld took them, as they did so many others, and relocated them. But... the Goa'uld didn't know about their abilities and I'm thinking... the Mayarans ultimately defeated the Goa'uld."
"And the Chacs?"
"An offshoot of the Mayarans. I'm thinking once enslaved, they split. It's possible though, that they came together long enough to defeat the Goa'uld. But once that happened, the Chacs turned on the Mayarans. Or maybe it could be that the Chacs, once split, then betrayed the Mayarans to the Goa'uld. And all of this is nothing more than a bunch of what-ifs put forth by a quasi-scientist who often masquerades as a cop's partner and doesn't help me help you for tomorrow."
"Wow, where did this self-deprecation come from, Sandburg?"
Blair rolled away from Jim and climbed off the bed. Standing up, he said, "Maybe because you haven't called me anything but Sandburg since we arrived at the SGC? And maybe because I am nothing more than a quasi-scientist who follows you around while pretending to be your partner, and here, I'm surrounded by either brilliance or military greatness and I'm a short geeky guy who plays at anthropology. How 'bout that?"
Jim was up and standing next to Blair almost immediately. "Blair, none of that is true. None of it. You're the smartest man I know--"
"If you don't count Daniel," Blair interjected.
"I'm counting Daniel. He's smart, no two ways about it, but he could never in a million years have figured me out. And you have an instinct about people that I'm constantly in awe of, Blair. I'm a cop, and a sentinel, but ultimately I trust those instincts of yours. Depend on them. And all the knowledge you have stored," he knocked on Blair's head, "up there. And as for the calling you Sandburg part - I admit to being nervous around the military. I don't want some jerk-ass jarhead getting it into his head that you're a problem. I worried about it and decided that calling you Chief - the way I call you Chief, would be a dead give-away."
Blair blinked up at him and finally said, "Oh."
Jim ran the back of two fingers along Blair's jaw line and added, "Don't let a few PH.D's and some guys with more muscles below the neck than above, do this to you. There's no one in the world like you... Chief. No one. Naomi once told me that she knew when you were barely three that you'd grow up to be a very special man, and she was right. And if that weren't enough, you lucked out and got... me."
"You should have been Irish, Jim. The blarney is flowing tonight, but as it happens, it's exactly what I need."
"Then take my advice," he leaned down, "and kiss this blarney stone."
Jack rested against the headboard and enjoyed the feeling of Daniel. It was moments like these, moments with just the two of them; sated and sleepy, Daniel sprawled between his legs, head resting on Jack's abdomen, that he lived for, that made everything else in his life acceptable. He rubbed Daniel's head and let the spiked hair flick across his palm - and grinned at the ticklish pricks before smoothing the hair back and pressing his hand against Daniel's cheek. He leaned over and whispered, "I love you."
Daniel's response was a raspberry planted just below Jack's navel. Jack's payback was to lightly spank Daniel's ass.
"Romantic sap," Daniel shot back.
"Guilty as charged."
"Guilty as charged," Daniel repeated with a grin.
"So," Jack said as he rubbed the soft, sweet skin he'd just swatted, "you going to tell me about this mask thing?"
"I'd rather not. I'm still wrapping my head around it. It was one hell of a shock, Jack. But for what's it's worth, I think Blair's right. That mask, and the history Juneuo doesn't know, is the key to tomorrow - a key we don't have."
"So you don't think this is about being able to hear the Council anymore, is that it?"
"That's it. Something else is going on, Jack. I just wish I knew what it was."
"Well," Jack said as he squeezed Daniel's right ass cheek, "then I say, tonight we love, for tomorrow we may die. Not that I believe that, mind you. SG-1 is rather famous for avoiding death--"
Daniel lifted his head and eyed Jack.
"... okay, so we die fairly regularly, but I don't think we'll die tomorrow. I have faith in our sentinel and his guide. We're in their hands, and while that feels weird, I kind of think we're going to be doing this again tomorrow night."
Chuckling low, Jack slid his hand under the sheet and wrapped his fingers around Daniel's awakening cock. "This," he whispered huskily.
Jim felt ... disconnected. Which was pretty strange considering the way he and Blair had just made love. All right, he didn't feel disconnected from Blair, but from... the world? A world? His world?
For the first time since leaving Cascade, he felt ... foreign. Strange, dislocated... alien. His life seemed to be on hold, while at the same time, so distant from who and what he was now as to be a past life. He convulsively tightened his hold on Blair; his anchor to whatever life he was leading. At least he knew that no matter what happened here, or back on Earth, he had this man by his side.
Jim smiled in the dark. Suddenly he wasn't feeling so alien after all. He trailed his hand down Blair's bare back, felt the warmth of his partner's skin, the small hairs tickling his own sensitive skin, and his smile widened. He didn't give a rat's ass for the fact that he was on an alien world - he had Blair. And he had complete confidence in the younger man. Tomorrow - they'd succeed. He could feel the truth deep in his soul.
Blair would succeed.
Scooting down a bit and allowing his head to hit the pillow, Jim knew he could sleep now. Cascade might be billions of miles away, but Blair was here and in his arms.
Damn, he was a sap.
Grinning, he closed his eyes.
Blair was bouncing - but not in manner of his younger days. This bouncing was nerves, pure and simple. He and Jim stood in what he was calling the ante-room, waiting for the moment when they would be escorted into the Council chambers for their... what, meeting? Sure, why not. Okay, their meeting with the Mayaran Council.
SG-1 was next to them, but Jacob had not been allowed to join them. Neither had the other two SG teams.
The ante-room was cold and Blair was regretting his decision to leave the heavy jacket behind. It had been so warm when they'd been awakened, even though it was still dark outside. Now he realized that the temperature in and around their quarters had been maintained for them specifically, and that normally, the Mayarans kept their homes and businesses cool - okay -- cold. Very cold.
Blair turned and looked up at Jim, who was looking worriedly down at him. He shook his head even though he knew Jim knew.
"Nervous," he finally said.
"Yeah, me too. But it's going to be all right, Chief, I'm sure of it."
Blair stared at him for a moment, and had to admit that the only thing swimming in Jim's beautiful, pale blue eyes - was truth. For some reason, he felt instantly better. He smiled almost shyly, but before he could say anything, the doors to the chamber opened and Juneuo stepped forward.
"They are ready for you," he said quietly. "But I'm afraid that only two of you may go in." He turned to Daniel. "You, Daniel, and of course, the one you have chosen."
"No, that won't work," Blair said instantly. "I must accompany Captain Ellison."
Juneuo looked confused for a moment but Daniel quickly said, "That is correct. We believe these two will be able to converse with the Council and have chosen them to represent us."
Juneuo looked at Jim and then at Blair. He gave a small shake of his head but said, "I will explain to the Council. I will return."
He went back inside, closing the door firmly behind him.
"Jim, you can't go in there alo--"
"I know, Chief. I know. It's you and me all the way."
"They don't get it, don't understand that you're Jim's guide. But don't worry, Blair. We'll make them understand," Sam reassured him.
Blair looked at her strangely and repeated, "Guide?"
"Well, sure. Isn't that how you think of yourself? In reading all your material, it seemed fairly obvious," Sam said.
"No-o... not at all. I'm just... you know, I just... help. I'm kind of his back-up - sort of. In a non-carrying kind of way."
"But you also guide him through the process of being a sentinel, do you not, ChiefBlairSandburg? And you teach him, which is to say - you guide him."
"I have to agree with them, Chief. You are my guide in all of this."
Once again, Blair was kept from saying anything more by the entrance of Juneuo.
"The Council will allow Captain Ellison and Blair Sandburg," he said with a nod.
Blair breathed out a relieved "Thank God," before following Jim and Juneuo inside. He gave Daniel a last look and received four thumbs up from SG-1. He smiled and kept going.
"What do you really think, Daniel?" Jack asked as the door closed on Jim and Blair.
"I think it's weird to have our future in the hands of two men who aren't alien," Daniel said with a grin. "They're not Tok'ra, Tollan, Nox, or anything else."
"I would not be too sure of that, DanielJackson. You have told me that Jim Ellison is the only known sentinel - so, based on all that we have seen, would that not presuppose alien intervention?"
Jack's mouth dropped open even as Daniel said, "Good god."
Blair should have been surprised by the appearance of the Council Chamber - but he wasn't.
The room was a perfect square. It was, like almost everything in the city, painted blue, this one a soft, shimmering, pale, almost-not-there shade. The floor was tiled, the layout of the tiles creating a gigantic circle in the middle of the room. There was absolutely no art anywhere in the Chamber, but there was color. In the tiled floor and in each of the four perfect corners.
As he would have expected in one of the great temples of the Maya, the eastern corner was red, the western corner - black (the one jarring note in the room), the southern corner - yellow, and the northern corner - white. And of course, the tiled circle was the now-expected Maya green.
"Jesus, Jim, it's just like--"
"I know, I remember. Just like you said last night."
"Yeah," Blair said softly, his voice full of amazement.
Juneuo led them close to the center of the green-tiled circle and, after indicating that they should remain there, moved to stand to the right of a slightly raised platform. A moment later, and to the astonishment of Jim and Blair, four Mayarans appeared on the platform. Out of nowhere.
"We forgot to tell them about how the Mayarans tend to travel from space to space, Jack," Daniel said, worried.
"Well," Jack checked his watch, "they're finding out right about now."
"I do not believe either man will be easily shocked," Teal'c offered.
"Nor do I. Amazed, but not shocked," Sam added.
"I'm just saying - we should have told them," Daniel said with a worried look at the door.
"Too late now, Danny boy," Jack said with a reassuring pat on the arm.
"Okay, that was... different," Blair whispered at sentinel level.
"Yeah, I think Jack and Daniel forgot to fill us in on all aspects of Mayaran modes of travel."
One of the Mayarans, the tallest and, Blair assumed, the leader, spoke to Juneuo in the same 'tones' that they now knew represented the Mayaran language. When he stopped, Juneuo turned and said, "It will begin when I exit. You will have two minutes, as measured by your time devices."
Jim looked at his watch; six thirty-five. Juneuo walked passed them and exited the doors they'd come in.
"This is it, Blair," Jim said when the doors closed.
The four Mayarans spread out, almost as if each were taking one of the corners. The mouth of the one Blair had dubbed the leader, opened and Blair immediately sighed in relief.
Juneuo joined them in the ante-room and all four SG-1 members looked at their watches.
"Two minutes," Jack said.
"Yep, two minutes," Daniel agreed.
"Damn," Jim muttered.
"What?" Blair asked, not taking his eyes off the four Mayarans.
"I can hear something, a sound, but ... no words, Chief."
That got Blair's attention. He whipped around and faced Jim. "Wait, you can't hear him speaking?"
Jim shook his head and mouthed, "No."
"But, Jim, man... I can."
"I can hear him. The words. I just haven't figured out the answer yet."
Jim gripped both Blair's arms. "You can hear what he's saying?"
"Yeah, I can."
"Do I have to pry it out of you, Chief?"
"He's saying, 'Ye gods, ye rulers! Make answer to my words. After all, I am nothing in myself alone.'"
Jim let go of Blair and let his arms fall to his side. "Chief, tell me that makes sense to you? And ... I didn't hear a question, so how can you figure out an answer?"
"It's part of the Maya religion called the Ritual of the Angels. It's too complicated to go into now, not to mention it would bore you stiff, so let me just ... you know, think."
"Right - think. You do that damn well. Think, Blair. Think."
Smiling, Blair turned back around and faced the Mayarans. He took a step forward and said, "Your words are from a book called 'The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel. On my world, many men who study the culture we call Maya, argue as to the meaning of such great words. Some believe that they were spoken by the sixth grace to the newly created sixth katun."
//And what do you believe?//
"Uhm, I believe that it was spoken by the first grace who became man, and that he spoke to a part of himself, that which had become the sixth grace, and that it was in preparation to receive the one true God."
//How do you know of this most sacred of writings?//
Blair understood that the question had a much deeper meaning - so it would probably be good if he could figure it out. He studied the Mayarans before him and then looked around the room. He thought of the mask and everything else he and Daniel had discovered... and slowly ... an idea began to form.
"I believe I know of this most sacred writing because your people left the manuscripts on my world centuries ago. I believe ... a faction of the Mayarans escaped the vile Goa'uld, encouraged by the knowledge - somehow gained - that another race had been successful in driving them from their world. So your ancestors traveled to that world - to my world - and started over."
//Go on, young one.//
Blair refrained from rolling his eyes. When was thirty going to be old? Would he still be the "young one" when he was thirty-five? He mentally slapped himself and got back to the subject at hand.
"I think... your new world gave you much, but something happened. Your beliefs were ... somehow twisted, subverted, and the blood flowed and the chacs took over, so you fled again, leaving those of your people behind who had succumbed to the blood.
"On my world, we have discovered your architecture, your incredible advancements, and we strive to understand your culture. I have studied the Maya way for many years. I am, on my world, a scientist devoted to studying our history, other cultures, and trying to understand ... man."
//Do you understand the power of Chilam Balam?//
"I believe ... I do. He was a great shaman -- the great shaman. He was often called the Jaguar Priest. His was the prophecy of, again, the appearance of one true god. Of... God."
//Can you explain 'Ye gods, ye rulers! Make answer to my words. After all, I am nothing in myself alone'?//
Religion - organized religion - had never been something that Blair had subscribed to, but God - yes, in God he believed. The question was - did the Mayarans? He'd seen no crosses, no churches, nothing that hinted that these were a people who followed a one God. But truth was all he had to answer with, so he used it.
"I believe man, as reborn into the fourth angel, was saying that he could not go it alone, that he - man - needed God's strength and that God resided within him."
//You are wise for one so young. We would wish to believe your knowledge springs from a quest to learn, rather than from a source evil. There is a wisdom in your eyes, and you can hear us, understand our words. Your companion can hear something, and we are curious about that as well. However, young one, our suspicions make us cautious. Who are you?//
Not sure how to answer, Blair opted for the unvarnished answer.
"I am Blair Sandburg and I'm an anthropologist. I study and learn at a place called Rainier University in Cascade, Washington. I have been to Tikal in Guatemala, and Tulum in the Yucatan. I have been to Chichen Itza, and to the Temple of the Great Jaguar as well as the Temple of the Sun." He looked over his shoulder at Jim, took a deep breath, and added, "And I have been ... to the Temple of the Sentinels." He reached back and snagged Jim's arm, bringing him forward. "This is James Ellison and he is the Sentinel of the Great City. The jaguar is his spirit animal. He is the most powerful sentinel of all time. He has seen the Eye of God, but turned away from the evil power that succumbing to the knowledge that was revealed to him would have given him. He chose the path of light. He protects his tribe with all that he is."
Three of the Council members moved to stand with the fourth and even Blair could tell that they were surprised by his words, by all that he'd just revealed. He waited.
//Who is his chalim?//
Surprised himself now, Blair had to do some quick thinking. Finally he said, "His shaman, Incacha of the Chopec tribe of Peru, no longer resides in this world."
//But surely he passed the way of the Chalim on to another. He would not leave a great sentinel unprotected.//
"I... I... Incacha knew that Jim... that--"
Seeing Blair struggle, and having been able to follow only his end of the conversation, Jim pulled him to the right so that they faced the doors. "Chief, talk to me."
"They... want to know if Incacha passed the way of the Shaman onto anyone."
"Then tell them."
"No, you don't understand... this might not be a good thing. There were good chalims and very bad ones, Jim. I'm not one at all, but if they think Incacha--"
Blair got no further as a hand landed on his shoulder. Both he and Jim whipped around to find themselves facing the leader, who now stood in front of them
//He passed the way to you, did he not, young one?//
Looking into those eyes, Blair couldn't not tell the truth. He nodded. "He did. But--"
//You doubt. I understand this. You have not yet been tested as your Sentinel was. He chose -- and now - you must. And we will then know the results which will determine if we are to enter into a treaty with those who we once shared Earth.//
The Mayaran leader stepped back and indicated the circle that represented the center of the room.
//Simply sit there, young one.//
"They want me to sit in the circle. They think... I don't know what they think, but hey, we're still alive and I probably need to do it, you know?"
Jim looked at the four Mayarans and then back at Blair. "Do you trust them?"
"Yeah, yeah, I do."
"Okay, then. I'll be right here, Chief."
Blair smiled tenderly. "I know. Like always." He moved to the center circle and sat down, crossing his legs and resting his arms on his thighs.
Jim started to move closer, but the Mayarans moved backward and indicated that he should do the same. Once all five of them were no longer in the green - something strange happened.
Jim blinked, looked, blinked again. He could see a shimmering curtain that now seemed to surround his partner. It was golden yellow and caused him to actually shield his eyes.
"You can see it, can't you?"
Jim looked at the Mayaran next to him - the Mayaran he could now hear as clearly as he'd been able to hear Juneuo.
"You can see the curtain that separates this dimension from the spirit plane."
"I... can," he said with some trepidation.
"We can not, but we trust that it is there. I am Dorno, and I too am... a sentinel. I protect my tribe, yet can not see what I know is there." He reached for the man both Jim and Blair had assumed was the leader. Bringing him closer, Dorno said, "This is Itzamna, my shaman and our King. Do not worry about your shaman, James Ellison. I see his spirit animal and I know he is a good chamil. But we must have proof for all."
"I see." Of course, Blair would know that he didn't see at all. But he trusted.
Finally - he trusted.
The jungle was strangely cool on Blair's bare skin.
He looked down.
Oh, yeah. Bare. Very. As in... all skin and nothing else, if one didn´t count the body paint.
"The Eye of God will reveal all, young Shaman."
Blair looked up and found himself staring at what looked like a Chopec warrior standing on a set of steps. He recognized the Temple of the Sentinels. A shiver ran through him as he thought of Jim at the mercy of Alex.
"Enter, young Shaman. The pool awaits - as does choice."
Knowing he had no choice, Blair walked up the steps and entered the very Temple where he and Megan had been prisoners, on their knees, and also at Alex's mercy.
Inside, he walked over to the first pool, the one Jim had been in, and without thought, lowered himself into the water. A moment later, he was floating on his back, eyes closed - and waiting for anything that came.
"Well, Doctor Sandburg - how does it feel?"
Blair smiled contentedly. "It feels damn fine, Jim. Damn fine."
"So what now?"
"Actually - a friend of mom's is going to ... well, believe it or not, I'm about to be published. As in major published."
Jim leaned forward and rested both arms on the table. "Published?"
"Yeah, just like a dream come true. This guy, Sid, he thinks it's going to be a bestseller, man."
"So the book deal, the movie rights, the brass ring - it's all gonna really happen." He sat back and lifted his wine glass to his partner. "Here's to you, Sandburg. Congratulations."
"You don't sound all that excited, man."
"Wrong. I am. But I'm also curious about... well, about us. Our friendship? Partnership?"
"What, you think that's going to end just because I end up on the Oprah Winfrey show? Get real. You're my friend, Jim. I love you, man."
"So what, you'll get her autograph for me?"
Smiling, Blair nodded. "You know it."
In the pool - Blair smiled.
"The good news is - we're still alive."
"Thanks for that update, Jack."
"You're welcome, Daniel."
Both men looked over at the doors and back at each other.
"It has been much longer than two minutes, O'Neill."
"I am very proud to introduce our next guest. He's the bestselling author and recent Pulitzer winner; Doctor Blair Sandburg."
Blair heard the applause - not just polite, but excited applause. He double-checked his reflection in the glass in his hand. Sighing, he put the glass down on the small table and walked out onto the stage.
Cameras started clicking and he waited at the podium for a few moments until the flurry of flashbulbs subsided. With both hands on the edge of the podium, he grinned at the people he couldn't see ... and launched into his talk.
"Jim, is that you?"
//Who else would answer my phone, Sandburg?//
"Good point, man. You sound so far away."
//Ummm, let me see... Cascade versus London - yeah, I'm far away all right.//
"Good point number two. How are things going? How are your senses?"
//Blair, everything's fine. Crime is fine, Simon is fine, senses are fine. How's the weather in London?//
"Foggy, what else?"
Blair could hear Jim's laugh and it sounded so good and so real, that for a moment, he could almost see him, probably leaning against the counter, long legs crossed at the ankles. Damn, he missed him.
//So when you coming home?//
"That's why I'm calling. Professor Elkins has asked me to do a series of lectures at Oxford, and if I do - we're talking another six weeks."
//Ah. A lecture series at Oxford, eh? That's pretty important. And don't think I don't know about the Nobel rumors floating around. I'm impressed, Chief.//
"Actually, I've been asked to go to Sweden the middle of next month. Something about a series of interviews. This could really happen, man."
//Middle of next month? So... right after the lecture series, then?//
"Oh, yeah, I guess so."
//So we're talking at least another three months. No problem, we can manage, Chief.//
"Uhm, Jim? Remember the invitation to Yale? It's for February. And then it's to Chicago for the taping of the Oprah Winfrey show."
//Right, almost forgot.//
There was a long pause and Blair was about to say something when Jim spoke again.
//Well, you're gonna miss a great Thanksgiving, Chief. Simon is doing the turkey himself. I'm thinking of having an ambulance parked out front, just in case. And I'm guessing you won't be able to wing in for Christmas or any of Chanukah either, right?//
"No, no, I don´t see how. Naomi will be meeting me in Paris - Jim, is there any chance you could do the same? Christmas in Paris, man."
//'Fraid not, Chief. Crime and Simon wait for no man. And you know how the holidays are - all the married guys taking time off and all.//
"Right - right. Well... okay. I guess that's it then. I'll call again later in the week, okay?"
//I'll be here, Chief.//
The water was cold and Blair, eyes still closed, began to shiver. The words "I'll be here, Chief" seemed to float above him, and the sadness he'd missed first time around, was now painfully obvious in Jim's tone.
He was torn. There were feelings of justification in becoming a doctor. For one thing, all the nay-sayers he'd had to listen to over the years were now eating crow. And of course, there was fame and obviously fortune. Everything he'd ever dreamed. And there was Jim. But he seemed so far away - too far away.
The lights behind his eyes changed and a new picture started playing. There were first class flights all over the world; students filling lecture halls to listen to him; learned and experienced men and women filling similar lecture halls to hear his words; banquets in his honor; a cold, blustery night spent in a huge hall with royalty, he with the Nobel Prize around his neck, and cameras clicking. There were expensive restaurants and First Nights, as well as book signings; there was a two story apartment in New York with huge windows on one side that overlooked Central Park, and equally large windows on the other that overlooked the lights of the magnificent city.
The flickering pictures changed again... and Blair could see Jim running from reporters who were interfering with cases and sticking microphones in his face. Then he saw himself in the squad room while people bowed to him. He frowned because it didn't make sense, but then there was another shift in the weird movie he was suddenly watching and now he was just entering the squad room when something thudded into the wall next to him and Megan fell to the ground, blood spreading across her chest. Then there were reporters around him, and he was saying the impossible - he was telling the world that Jim Ellison wasn't a sentinel, and that his dissertation was a fraud.
Strange scenes followed, a sense of whooshing, color bursting behind his eyelids, jokes traded, and more violence then he could ever have imagined. There were strange weapons that did indescribable damage, and suddenly he felt something burn his chest and watched as he fell to the ground, but Jim was there -- holding him close and telling him not to leave him and he could smell the scent of burning flesh and knew it was coming from him, but... he stayed. The whooshing continued, and there were moments of incredible violence contradicted by quiet halls, gray walls, and wonderful moments of incredible peace and quiet in an airy room with several windows...
//It's time to chose, young chilam.//
Funny - there was no contest. None at all. There was pain and near death and violence on the one hand, and all the fame and fortune he could ever have imagined on the other -but he'd take those few moments of peace and quiet with Jim long before all the first class restaurants, prizes and television appearances in the world.
The thin veil that kept him from Blair - was suddenly gone. He watched, shocked, as Blair slumped forward. He hurried to his partner's side, grateful that the Mayarans didn't try to stop him.
"Blair? You okay?"
"He has chosen wisely, Sentinel. And with no question or doubts. He is a true White Shaman. The treaty shall go forth."
With an unconscious Blair in his arms, Jim couldn't have cared less at that moment. The four Council members disappeared as easily as they'd appeared, and Jim was alone with Blair.
"I'm getting ready to storm the Bastille, Daniel. Just so's you know."
"I'll be right behind you, Jack."
"As will I, O'Neill."
The three men looked at Sam.
"Oh, all right, all right. I'll be right behind you, Sir."
//JACK! DANIEL! GET IN HERE - NOW!//
"So we storm," Jack said even as he was reaching for the door.
"It will not open," Juneuo said as he moved to stand in front of them.
Jack was quicker - and the door opened. Juneuo, looking surprised, stepped in, SG-1 hot on his heels.
Inside, they found Jim on the floor, an unconscious Blair in his arms. SG-1 moved as one unit.
"What the hell happened in here, Jim?" Jack asked even as Carter checked Blair's pulse.
"I don't know. But we need to get Blair back to the room. He's all right, just needs to rest, sleep this out, so to speak."
"If you don't know what happened, how do you know he's going to be all right?" Jack asked.
"I know what happened to him, just not... what happened. Blair was on a spirit walk."
"Of course he was," Jack said dryly.
Teal'c began to lift Blair into his arms, much to Jim's surprise, and he found that he could do nothing but follow the Jaffa out of the Council Chamber.
Jack looked up and said, "Hey, he said that just like you do, Daniel."
"Shut up, Jack."
"Still - headache," Blair said as he rubbed his face.
"I know, Chief, I know. Here, drink this." At Blair's look, he added, "It's just tea."
"Gimme, gimme," Blair said as he reached out.
Jim put the cup into eager hands and sat down on the edge of the bed. Blair sipped greedily before looking around and saying, "So, it's an event - to watch me sleep and drink tea?"
Sam grinned and said, "You look good sleeping, Blair."
Jack nudged her and said, "He's too young for you, Carter."
"He's taken, and he's not too young for anyone," Jim said.
"He's right here, so cut it out," Blair said as he handed the now empty cup to Jim and sat up. "So... why are we all in this room, watching me?"
"Because you've been out of it for about two hours and we're all dying to know what the hell happened with the Council, that's why," Jack said as if it were the most obvious reason in the world.
"Oh, sure. Of course. Silly me. And what council?" Blair asked, confused innocence personified.
"Blair? Don't tell me you don't remember the Council," Jim said as he stared at his partner.
"I don't remember any council, Jim."
"Damn, I asked you not to tell me that."
"Could you guys quit with the Get Smart routine? This is important," Jack said in his best colonel voice. "Now, Sandburg - what do you remember?"
It was clear to Jim that Blair was actually debating the idea of stringing Jack along a bit longer. He gave him a nudge in the side.
Blair rubbed his ribs and muttered, "You're no fun at all, Jim."
"Blair? I hate to use these words, but you're forcing me." Daniel took a deep breath and said, "The fate of the entire world depends on what you remember."
Everyone stared at Daniel, who finally shrugged and said, "It sounded pretty damn good, you have to admit."
Jack swatted the back of his head, causing him to say to Blair, "Oh, the abuse we take from our muscle-bound partners."
"Amen, bro," Blair said. Then he held up his hand and added, "And before anyone else hits me or Daniel, the treaty is a done deal, everyone is free to go, the leader of the Mayarans, Itzamna, is actually a guide, and one of the other Council members, Dorno, is a sentinel, although not as complete a sentinel as Jim."
"Is that all?" Jacob said with a grin.
"Well, no," Blair said thoughtfully. "There's actually a great deal more, but it would be pretty boring to everyone but me and Daniel."
"Oh, I like this man," Jack said. "Doesn't bother us with a bunch of stuff, just gets to the meat and potatoes of the matter. Blair, you're okay in my book, no matter what anyone says."
Jim put his hand on Blair's forehead and said, "You're sick, aren't you? Or the real Blair is back in La-La Land and you're a fake, right? Because the real Blair never once spared Simon and I a lecture about, as Jack so eloquently put it - 'stuff'."
Blair pushed the offensive hand away and said, "Stuff it, Ellison. Now that I've found someone who understands what I'm saying, why should I share with you morons?"
While Daniel did everything he could to keep from laughing out loud, which is what Jacob was doing, Jim slapped his hands over his chest and said, "Mortally wounded. I've been mortally wounded."
"Why?" Jack asked. "He was clearly referring to--"
"To?" Teal'c asked dangerously.
"Why... to me, natch," Jack said with a placating grin.
Blair swung his legs over the other side of the bed and started to rise, but was immediately assaulted by a wave of dizziness, and if not for Teal'c's quick thinking, would have dropped like a stone.
"I believe you should remain on the bed, ChiefBlairSandburg."
"I believe ... you're right," Blair said as he sat down again. "My head is this," he pinched two fingers together, "close to falling off."
"Look, why don't we leave you two alone for a bit. We can sort all of this out later," Daniel suggested.
He got up and headed for the door, his fingers wrapped around Jack's jacket, forcing him to follow, Sam, Teal'c and Jacob on their heels.
Once the door closed, Jim looked at his partner and, leering, said, "Alone at last."
Blair punched his arm and said, "You old romantic, you."
In an unusual gesture, Jim ran the back of his hand down the side of Blair's face and said softly, "No thoughts of romance here, Chief. I'm worried about you. What happened?"
"The weirdest spirit walk ever, I think.
"I'm all ears, Chief."
"Jim, this isn't ... going to be easy." Blair squirmed a bit and finally said, "I think it's better said with me standing. Or... pacing." He got up slowly, and once convinced he wasn't going to fall back, he started walking the length of the room and back, knowing that a very worried Jim was watching every move and cataloging everything from his breathing to his heart rate.
"Blair, take your time. I'm not going anywhere."
"I went to the Temple of the Sentinels, Jim," Blair said simply.
"And I did the same thing you did - I was told that the Eye of God was waiting for me and that I needed to choose - that you'd already done so and now it was my turn. So ... I did."
"You actually got into one of the pools?"
"And... did you see the Eye of God?"
"If you mean - did I see a future, then the answer is yes, I did. I saw two of them, actually. And I ... it was odd, really, but in one of them, I had everything - and nothing, while in the second future, I had nothing - yet had everything."
Jim got up and pretended to fuss with the bed as he asked, "I assume you had to chose one of them."
Blair stopped pacing and watched Jim straighten the pillows. Smiling, he said, "Yeah, I did. I chose the Nobel prize for literature, the Oprah Winfrey show, a huge apartment overlooking Central Park, and a bank account that would stun you."
Jim froze in the act of smoothing the top cover. After a heartbeat, he straightened. "The Oprah Winfrey show?"
Blair, smothering the desire to laugh, nodded.
"You went on the Oprah Winfrey show during a spirit walk?" Jim sat down on the just-straightened bed. "I never got the Oprah Winfrey show on my spirit walks. Just jaguars leading me nowhere, and Chopec warriors asking me what I was afraid of. I'd have given anything for Oprah."
"What can I say? My spirit walks are just way better than yours."
Jim looked up at him. "An apartment overlooking Central Park?"
"That was the view from the bedroom windows. The living room windows looked out over the Manhattan skyline."
Blair took the few necessary steps to bring him to Jim. He shoved the older man's legs apart and slipped in between them. "I had all of that but you were back in Cascade so I had nothing." He took Jim's face between his hands and said, "So naturally, I chose ... you."
Resting his hands on Blair's hips, Jim said in a husky voice, "You could still make the Oprah Winfrey show, Chief."
"I know, and I plan to. But you have to call months in advance for reservations."
"So, first thing we get home, we call."
Blair bent slightly, licked Jim's ear, and murmured, "Sure. Call. Oprah. Top of my list."
Suddenly Jim pulled him in close and rested his head against Blair's chest. "Thank you, Chief. I don't deserve you, but God bless that I have you."
Blair chuckled. "Oh, you deserve me all right."
Jacob entered the room looking none too happy. Sam was up and by his side in an instant. "Dad?"
"They're interested in opening the doors to another alliance with us, Sammy, but evidently, things have changed, and those changes make such an alliance - less attractive to us."
She walked him over to the couch and as they both sat down, Jack asked, "What do you mean?"
"They are no longer willing - or able - to change their appearance. It was something they apparently gave up when they came to this world. They felt that it was dishonest and was responsible for many of their problems. And while they would still be willing to host a Tok'ra, they are no longer physically able to do so."
"Dad, I understand your disappointment, but your expression says this is a much harder blow than--"
"How many of the Tok'ra leaders are nearing the end of their life span, Jacob?" Daniel asked.
"Three, but Ornell is dying now and there is no host for Palam. And if we lose him, I fear the balance of the council will change ... and not in a good way."
Jack had already reported the good news to General Hammond, and now he, the rest of SG-1, Jim and Blair, and the other two SG teams stood in front of the Stargate with Juneuo and Dorno.
"We will welcome the diplomats that follow you," Dorno said. "We believe we have learned much in the generations since we resided on your Earth, and can now interact in a way that will benefit both our worlds." He looked up at Jim and added, "Your path has not always been easy - this I understand. But never doubt that you are needed and, I suspect, in ways you've yet to discover. Trust your guide, Jim Ellison, and understand his purpose in this journey you have undertaken, for it is his journey as well."
Jim looked down at the man by his side, and nodded solemnly. "I will."
For Blair, it was as if... as if... Dorno had just married them. He bit back a grin at that thought, ridiculous as it was, and found himself nodding just as seriously.
Dorno stepped back and Daniel began to dial home. When the Stargate opened, Daniel clasped his hand over his heart and bowed at Dorno, who did the same.
It was time to go home.
Jack didn't walk down the ramp, he strutted. A peacock had nothing on him as he jauntily saluted General Hammond. "Mission accomplished, Sir."
"Well done, Colonel." Hammond's gaze drifted past Jack to land on Jim and Blair. His expression changed and Jack knew in that instant that the news on Jim and Blair's home front was not good.
"Captain Ellison, I'm afraid that in your absence--"
Jim stepped around Jack, Blair right behind him. "Who?" he asked.
//Will heaven forgive him and forgive us all - William Shakespeare//
Jim looked through the glass that separated him from his friend. Simon was hooked up to a respirator and other assorted tubes and wires, all either helping to keep him alive, or monitoring his condition. Simon knew nothing because he was in a coma.
"Jim, drink this." Blair put a cup of coffee in Jim's hand.
"Thanks, Chief. How's Daryl?"
"I finally got him to sleep. Daniel's sitting with him. Rafe and Joel just got back and Megan's asleep in the waiting room."
"It was nice of Jack and Daniel to come back with us," Jim said tonelessly.
"I know." Blair ran a hand up and down Jim's back, and after a moment, said, "He wasn't even on duty, Jim. You couldn't have stopped it. Nothing could."
"I know, I know. It just seems so... pointless. He goes for something at a goddamned store and runs smack into a robbery in progress and gets a bullet to the brain for his effort. So damned pointless."
Jack stepped into the darkened room and walked up behind Daniel. He put his hands on his shoulders and started to kneed the tense muscles. After a few moments, he leaned down and whispered, "You need to eat, Daniel."
"I don't want to leave him," Daniel whispered back. "His mother's been sedated and I don't want him to wake up alone."
Jack sighed and pulled up another chair. "Daniel, I know what you're going through--"
"And you? How easy is this for you?"
Jack couldn't deny the parallels between what had happened to Jim's boss ... and Charlie. Nor could he deny that they were both sitting with a boy... all right, almost a young man... whose father was in a coma ... and not likely to recover - let alone live -- and thus Daniel was reliving a few past memories of his own.
Jack took Daniel's hand in his own and settled in for the wait. He was therefore very surprised when Daniel suddenly said, "Come outside for a moment."
Hearing something in Daniel's voice, Jack got up quietly and followed Daniel out into the deserted hallway.
"You heard Jacob tell us about Ornell, right?"
"Daniel, tell me you aren't suggesting--"
"I am. Look, we've come up damn short on human hosts for the Tok'ra, and here's a good man, and a good friend to Jim and Blair, and he's dying. Isn't it worth bringing up?"
"Daniel, are we forgetting the reason we've been unable to give the Tok'ra what they needed? The soldiers and SGC team members that might have been suitable, had families and were unwilling to... even to improve their own lives. And Simon Banks can't speak for himself, and he has family. A family which consists of a seventeen year old boy who would, in all likelihood, have to be told more than any teenager on Earth knows about the Stargate program if he's to be able to make an informed decision."
"I'm not disagreeing with anything you're saying - but shouldn't we give them this as a possible option?"
"Give who? A seventeen year old boy? An ex-wife? Who?"
"Look, let's at least check with Hammond, have him check with Jacob. If we get the go, at least we can broach the subject to Jim and Blair, all right?"
"As if I could stop you?"
Daniel gave him a soft smile even as he pushed Jack toward the exit. "Go, call. I go back in with Daryl."
"You're joking, right?" Jim asked, astounded by Daniel's suggestion.
"Look, I know what I'm saying sounds like something out of... but you heard Jacob, you know how his life was saved - isn't it worth thinking about with your friend?"
Blair had listened to Daniel's idea and had felt the first stirrings of hope since he and Jim had spoken with Simon's doctor. But the obstacles were ... perhaps... too many.
"Daniel, you've heard the doctor. Are you saying that a Tok'ra symbiote could undo the damage done by the bullet? That Simon would be whole? Mentally and physically undamaged?"
"According to Jacob, yes. Simon's condition will actually be easier to reverse than Jacob's cancer. Jacob has explained the need to find a host for Ornell to General Hammond and he's authorized us to tell Daryl what we need to so that's he's completely informed. The decision now is - do you tell Daryl and give him this choice?"
"NO, absolutely not," Jim almost shouted.
Blair grabbed Jim's arm and started pulling him to the corner of the small room Daniel had brought them to. He gave the older man a hard shake and said, "You need to stop reacting with emotion, Jim, and think this through. You need to think about Simon and what he would want, all right?"
"I can tell you he wouldn't want ... what Daniel is suggesting. I can damn well tell you that. And what happens to him after, huh? Tell me that? What happens to Simon after?"
"Ornell is a member of the Tok'ra council, but Jacob believes that it's possible that Simon could actually serve as the Tok'ra emissary to the SGC. In other words, he'd be influencing the council, yet remain with us," Daniel reassured Jim.
"He's never been anything but a cop - and a damn good one. Are we being fair to him in this?"
"Jim, I think Simon and Jacob are very similar. Jacob was willing to do it so that he might have more time with his family. I think Simon would do the same for Daryl. But just as important is the fact that Simon has always had one driving force: the need to make a real difference in the world. Yes, I think we're being fair to him. But ultimately - this is Daryl's choice, not ours."
Jim closed his eyes and turned away from Jack, Daniel and... Blair. He couldn't... didn't want to... God, this was too much. He started shaking his head again and finally said, "No, Chief. Just ... no. I'm not going to be responsible - or allow Daryl, a kid - to decide to put some snake--"
Blair, face red with anger, pulled Jim around to face him and planted a hand on his chest as he hissed out, "So if I were lying in that bed and Daniel came to you with this suggestion, you'd be just as stubborn? Just as ... prejudiced? You'd let me die or remain in a coma for the rest of my life because of said prejudice?"
"It is. Plain and simple. You're squicked so you're not going to even think about this possible solution."
Eyes bright with unshed tears, Jim's face flushed a deep crimson. He clenched his hands into fists until Blair reached out and took each one. His anger gone as quickly as it had flared, he said gently, "Jim, it may not even be an option because Daryl might say no, but don't we owe it to Simon to make the offer?"
"We're playing with life and death here, Chief," Jim said brokenly.
"You've done that before, remember? This is just another way."
"Aw, God, Chief," Jim said as he took the younger man in his arms. "Tell me what to do."
Daryl listened to Blair, his eyes growing wide as the full import of Blair's words finally sank in. For a moment, he couldn't speak, couldn't move. Blair took his hand and said, "Do you understand, Daryl?"
The young teen looked over at Daniel and Jack before coming back to Blair. "I get it. I ... get it."
"We won't do this unless you give us the go ahead. I know you're only seventeen," at the expression on Daryl's face, Blair raised a hand, "I know, I know, but no matter how old you feel, you're still a teenager in high school and you're being asked to make a decision that no other teen in the world would - or should -- be asked."
"What about mom?"
"What do you think?"
Daryl chewed his lower lip and finally shook his head. "No, this really has nothing to do with her anymore. Even I can see that. And it's not that she doesn't care because she does, but in a different way. Even now, she's more worried and upset for me than... and they were married for fifteen years. No, this is about what's best for my dad."
Daryl walked over to the chair in the small waiting room and sat down. He noticed that his hands were shaking and he stared down at them and tried to will them to stop, but they wouldn't listen. He felt the burning in his eyes and tried to envision a world without his father - but he couldn't do it. Didn't want to do it. And wasn't that the answer? A world without his father was not going to happen.
"Yes," he said softly. "Do it."
Simon's transfer was made remarkably easy. Joan Banks didn't question the move, not once she witnessed the hope in her son's eyes, but neither did she go with her son to the airport.
The rest of Major Crime listened to Blair explain about the Air Force and some new technology that might help, and they too heard the hope - but unlike Joan Banks, they also heard the lie. But this was Jim and Blair and miracles seemed to happen around them, so they clung to the hope - to the fact that if they said there was a chance, then damn it, there was a chance, even if that chance came in a way they'd never understand. So Joel, Henri, Megan and Rafe followed the ambulance to the airport.
They watched their captain loaded onto an Air Force hospital plane and Megan then kissed Daryl on the cheek and told him to call them as soon as they knew anything. Joel shook the tall teen's hand before hugging him, and all of them begged Jim and Blair -- with their eyes - to keep their captain safe.
As Jim and Blair followed Daryl, Jack and Daniel up the steps and into the plane, the four members of Major Crime remained on the tarmac and watched the door close. Finally Joel pulled them all back and they went inside to watch the plane take off. Standing at the large window, all four had the feeling that nothing would be the same again.
In the end, Daryl couldn't watch the action that was supposed to save his father's life - and ultimately change it forever. Jim found himself sitting outside the Infirmary with Daryl - also unable to watch. Jack sat with him, as did Sam and Teal'c.
Blair found that he couldn't not be with Simon. The man was the closest thing to a father that he'd ever had and he intended to be next to him at the moment he became something other than what he was. He looked around the small, private room and knew that next door, a man - a Tok'ra - also lay dying. Daniel stood behind him, offering as much support as he could, while next door, Jacob waited with Ornell. Two doctors, Janet and a neurologist, had just completed their examination of Simon and had, unfortunately, agreed with the doctors in Cascade. It was unlikely that Simon Banks would ever regain consciousness - and that if he did - he'd be paralyzed from the neck down -- and the damage to his brain would leave him in a vegetative state. Now they were waiting for Ornell to be wheeled in next to Simon.
Eyes on Simon, Blair gripped Daniel's hand and said, "Explain it to me, please."
Daniel took a deep breath and said, "They'll bring Ornell in and place him next to Simon. The Tok'ra enter their hosts through the mouth, not the back of the neck. That's just one of the ways they're different from the Goa'uld. Jacob told me that when Selmac entered him, it was odd, but not painful - not that Captain Banks will feel anything. It took Selmac several hours to heal both himself and Jacob but once the healing process was complete, Jacob was as you see him now."
Blair nodded, his body numb. Intellectually, he understood, but emotionally, he could admit to a certain resemblance to a basket case. He'd been so sure back in Cascade, so positive when talking to Jim... yet now - he's legs felt like jelly and all he could think was what if Simon hated him? What if this was so wrong as to be - criminal? Were they playing God or simply taking advantage of a gift?
Would this be something Simon would have chosen on his own? Or was Blair stamping his own feelings onto what he thought Simon would want? Suddenly he felt tears prickling and he closed his eyes tight, squeezing hard, squeezing the tears back, squeezing the emotions away. God, what were they about to do to Simon?
//You're about to give him life and the chance to see his son grow to manhood. You're about to give him the opportunity of a lifetime - and for all of Simon's distaste with the whole sentinel business - he admired Jim and was in awe of his abilities. He felt a deep sense of pride that he could play even a small part in what Jim did for Cascade.//
Blair opened his eyes and gazed down at the still form of his friend. He couldn't argue with his second voice, spirit guide or split personality - whatever it was. Simon might have spent a good deal of his time grousing, but in reality - he'd understood and accepted all that Jim was.
But would he accept what he was about to become? Which was as different and unrelated to Jim's sentinel abilities as it was possible to get?
//He will serve Earth as he never dreamed - and see his grandchildren.//
And see his grandchildren die while he goes on.
//You underestimate Simon and his family, Blair. What makes you think Simon will be the only one to take this step? Trust in the future, Blair. Trust in the future.//
Now those were words he could live by. At that moment, the door opened. Janet and Jacob wheeled in a gurney and placed it next to Simon's bed and Blair had his first look at ... Ornell.
The man was big, even as ill as he was, Blair could see this. His hair had once been red, but was now mostly gray with a few hairs of ginger to remind people of its original color. His face was pale and waxy, his skin loose. Ornell's eyes - which were green - were open but seemed unfocused. Blair watched Jacob helped Ornell move as close to the edge of the bed as possible and then turned him over onto his side facing Simon. He looked up and said, "Blair, I'll need you and Daniel to help me turn Captain Banks on to his left side."
Nodding, and knowing that this was really going to happen, Blair moved to the middle of the bed, Daniel to the foot of the bed while Jacob moved to the head of the bed. On the count of three, they carefully and tenderly rolled Simon onto his side.
Ornell's gaze seemed - finally -- to focus and he coughed twice before asking in a weak voice, "He's a good man?"
Blair looked over at Jacob, who nodded encouragingly. He turned his attention back to Ornell and said, "He's a very good man. Strong and kind. He's fought prejudice all his life while striving to make a difference in our world. He has a wonderful son, Daryl, and good friends who care what happens to him."
Ornell smiled almost sweetly. "I too had a son. The Goa'uld took him from me. We should have had many years together. A father should never outlive his child."
Daniel winced at that, and was immediately grateful that Jack was sitting outside with Jim and Daryl.
Blair glanced at Jacob and murmured, "Is he talking... or is it Palam?"
"They share their lives - does it matter?" Jacob answered gently. "What one has lost, so loses the other."
There was no answer to that, so Blair said nothing. Ornell looked at the unconscious man and said, "So much will depend on your friend. Is our faith well placed, young man?"
"I believe so. I must be honest with you - I don't know how he'll take this... change, but I believe that ultimately, he will accept. He's ... stubborn."
Ornell smiled weakly. "Then he and Palam will get along very well. There is none more stubborn, although Selmak loves to test Palam in that arena." Ornell paused to take in much needed oxygen and Janet moved to help him. He waved her off with a feeble hand and said, "You will help him?"
Blair knew Ornell was talking to him even though the question would be better directed at Jacob who would understand what Simon would go through. He nodded and said, "Yes, in every way I can."
"Good. Then it is time. Do you understand what you're going to see?"
Again the question was directed at Blair and again, he nodded.
"Then so it happens." Ornell glanced briefly at Jacob, they smiled at one another and Jacob moved into position to control Simon's head and jaw.
"Good-bye, old friend," Ornell said, his voice barely there.
Jacob nodded, too choked up to speak. He gently opened Simon's mouth and Ornell leaned in with the last of his strength, and touched his lips to Simon's.
Blair had the ridiculous thought that of everything that was about to happen to Simon, the one that would get his goat the most - was being kissed by a man.
Suddenly Simon's body jerked and a monitor started pinging. Janet rushed over and, after a look at Jacob, who simply nodded, she turned it off. A moment later, Ornell fell away from Simon and Blair knew he was gone. He turned to Daniel and said, "What now?"
Daniel looked at Janet, who was staring at the EEG results. She gave a small shake of her head and said, "His brain waves have increased to almost normal. This is amazing."
Blair felt the tears that he'd been holding back for what seemed like forever - begin to fall.
Ornell's body had been sent back to the current Tok'ra world and Daryl was now sitting next to his sleeping father. Blair found himself out in the hall, shaking, Daniel on one side, Jim on the other. The last few days were finally catching up to him.
"Jim, why don't you get Blair back to the VIP suite and let him get some sleep? We'll let you know when anything changes," Daniel suggested.
"Good idea." Jim led an unresisting Blair away from the Infirmary and to their room.
Once inside, he got him down on the bed, undressed him and, worried about the still-lack of resistance, got him under the covers. The lighting in the room was very muted so Jim left it on, pulled one of the two chairs over, and sat down next to the bed. Blair was staring up at the ceiling, one hand lying limp, the other worrying the blanket and causing small tufts of material to rise up. Jim reached over and took Blair's hand in his. "You did right, Blair, and if you'd seen Daryl's face when he saw Simon, sleeping peacefully, breathing without aid, you'd know it."
Eyes still on the ceiling, Blair said, "Simon still has to wake up ... and he'll know right away. He'll know."
"I'm not worried. Not any more. According to Jacob, everything Palam is, everything he and Ornell experienced, will immediately be known to Simon. He'll need help absorbing it all, but the knowledge he'll gain will tell him we did the right thing. Not to mention waking up and seeing his son's face."
Jim squeezed Blair's hand reassuringly and waited for some kind - any kind - of response from his partner. When Blair said nothing, Jim asked, "Would you really have wanted me to do the same for you, Chief?"
Blair slowly turned his head and met Jim's worried gaze. He nodded. "Yes. I'd share my body with almost anyone if it kept me with you."
And just like that, Jim knew exactly what to say. "Me too, Blair. Me too. Remember that, okay?"
The dazzling smile that greeted his words told Jim Ellison that he'd finally said the right - the very right - thing.
Simon's throat hurt. Which was odd. He swallowed, winced, and licked his lips. He immediately felt something cool on his cheek, and then, by some strange miracle, heard his son's voice.
"Dad? You awake?"
Okay, now Daryl should be with his mother... he remembered that much. It was not his month to have him on a weekend. And what the hell had he done last night, anyway? Man, if he'd tried to drink Sandburg under the table again... no, no, Sandburg and Jim were in Colorado Springs. Couldn't have been that.
"Dad, please? Open your eyes?"
Damn, Daryl sounded worried. Maybe he'd better....
//You probably should. We've been sleeping long enough.//
Everything froze for Simon in that moment -- until his mind screamed, "WHAT THE HELL?"
//Relax, my friend. I will help by funneling in the memories you need to understand....//
//Simon needed beer. He checked his watch and figured he had just enough time to get to the liquor store before the gang arrived for the Friday night game. They'd all debated playing without Jim and Blair, but in the end, had decided that they deserved the chance to win without Card Shark Sandburg around. Simon grabbed his keys and hurried to the car.
Ten minutes later, he strode into the Dry Spot... only to come up short astwo men at the cashier turned around, both with guns in their hands. Behind the counter, the manager, Lee Negrano, stood with mouth open, eyes wide with shock, and literally shaking in his boots.
Simon slowly raised his hands into the air and said, "All right, I seem to have come at a bad time, but let's not do anything we'll regret, okay?"
One of the two men was clearly on the edge of withdrawal from something;his bloodshot eyes were darting all over the place, he was jittery and sweating profusely. But it was the other one Simon was worried about. His eyes were dark and deadly cold.
"I don't like you," the man with the far too steady gun hand said. "I don't like the way you look."
"If I could change, I would, but I can't, buddy. I'm no threat to you. Just... do what you came to do and walk out, okay? No harm, no foul."
The man narrowed his eyes, and his arm, which had started to lower slightly, came back up. "You're a fucking cop. I can smell it."
In that moment, Simon knew the truth. He was going to die.
The man pulled the trigger.
He felt the bullet as it hit his head and his last thought was of Daryl.//
//He was drifting, pain free. There was a light, a small pinprick of brightness, up ahead, far up ahead, but he had no desire to go to it.
"There's nothing we can do, Daryl, Joan. I'm sorry."
"But there's always a chance, right?"
Simon could hear the pain in his son's voice and he hated the fact that he might be the cause of it.
"There's minimal amount of brain activity, Daryl. Technically--"
"Don't say it. It's not true. As long as--"
"Ssh, Daryl, honey, ssh."
He could see Joan take Daryl into her arms, and Daryl pull away, face pale, eyes dry, body language telling his mother to stay back. "NO! He's NOT dying! He's going to wake up and he'll say my name and he'll be FINE!"
Sounds faded... and so did his son's voice.//
Simon's eyes popped open.
"Dad? Dad, it's me, Daryl. Look at me, please?"
Simon turned his head, blinked, and slowly his son's face swam into view. "Daryl?"
And just like that, he had an armful of son. And his son was crying.
//Now you know why your friends chose to allow the melding of two souls in order to save your life, Simon Banks. I am Palam. And Blair was right - you are a good, strong man.//
And suddenly, in his mind's eye, he could see another man, his arms full of a boy; a dead boy. He felt anger and rage, and even as he commiserated with the unknown man, knowledge began to filter in - slowly - but unending.
Years and years and generation upon generation of slavery and battles; of deaths and births and meldings, and of love, happiness and success. But horrible failures paired with deep sadness were there too, along with a word -- Goa'uld. It was only one of many foreign words that now filled his brain - words like "Tok'ra" -- but he understood the horror in "Goa'uld" in a way he'd never understood the criminal minds he'd spent so many years fighting.
Simon closed his eyes and held onto his son. He didn't mind the voice that now spoke to him - in fact, he found it comforting, but he had a feeling he was going to have to give Blair Sandburg a piece of his mind later on.
//He will win. From what I have learned since the melding - he always does.//
Simon opened his eyes, stroked his son's hair, and laughed. A deep, rich, belly laugh.
His arm around Daryl, Simon stood in front of the Stargate - at the wonder that was the Stargate - and said, "So you guys go through this, do you?"
Jack laughed and nodded. "We do. On a fairly regular basis. We have loads of fun too."
Simon turned away from the sight and looked at Jack. He grinned. "Sure you do."
Simon looked over his son's head at Blair and Jim. "I suppose you two think you can just go back to Cascade now?"
"I don't think we've thought that far ahead, Simon," Jim said, still in a mild state of euphoria at having his friend back.
"Maybe it's time you did. I think you need to seriously consider this your new home, and Earth, your tribe, don't you?"
"Damn, Jim, he has gotten smarter since the melding," Blair said with a grin. "I don't think he's safe to play poker with anymore."
Simon's head dropped for a moment, and when he looked back up, his eyes glowed briefly as he said, "I look forward to this game called poker. And Simon looks to... clean up the ... floor with you, Sandburg."
The glow faded and Simon said, "I really like Palam. A man after my own heart."
Blair gave a little huffing sound and said, "Even with Palam's help, you'll never wipe up the floor with anything but a mop, Simon."
Jim grinned and made a "1" in the air over Blair's head and said, "Game to Sandburg."
"Yeah, well, there's still the match and I'm no longer in this alone," Simon said with a superior grin.
During the entire exchange, Daryl had been whipping his head back and forth, a silly grin on his face. Everyone else had been content to listen, knowing that somehow, Jim, Blair, and Simon were reconnecting, testing the waters, and finding the swim to be just fine.
"Captain Banks wasn't wrong, Captain Ellison. You two do belong here and I believe that with everything I am. We've already made the necessary calls to Captain Banks' boss, explaining that the procedure worked but that he won't be able to return to such a ... demanding job, and that we've offered him a consultant position with us, based on his experience and training with terrorist activity. From your files, it seems the three of you make a very effective team. I'd hate to see the set broken up."
Hammond sat back in his chair and regarded the two men across from him. He'd made his offer, an offer that had come straight from the President, and now all he could do was wait for an answer.
Blair could see Jim's indecision and he figured he was probably the reason for it. He turned his attention back to General Hammond and said, "The offer is ... pretty terrific, especially the opportunity to get my doctorate, but how do you keep us - Jim -- a secret once he's on board permanently, Sir? How do you explain the fact that you're suddenly adding two men - one a civilian with absolutely no qualifications, to one of your teams?"
"Captain Ellison will be protected just as Teal'c has been. He will be safe here. And you underestimate yourself, Mister Sandburg. One of Daniel's biggest complaints has been that he didn't really have an expert in Maya culture, which is so heavily tied to Egyptology and all we've learned so far of the Goa'uld and the Ancients. The closest individual his department had, Doctor Robert Rothman--"
"Robert? I know him. Don't tell me he's here?"
"I'm afraid that Doctor Rothman was killed in the line of duty."
"The line of duty?" Jim asked, shocked. "What kind of duty gets a scientist killed?"
Blair, even more shocked than Jim, nevertheless gripped his arm and squeezed. "Jim, you know what these people do. That was probably an unnecessary question."
Jim shook off Blair's hand and rose quickly to his feet. "I think... I think Sandburg and I need some time, Sir. Time away from here."
"Do I need to arrange transportation back to Cascade?"
"No, we don't want to be that far from Simon for awhile. Just let us get a hotel room in town. We need to ... we need to talk."
"I understand, Captain."
Blair had wisely stayed silent once they'd left the General's office, and remained quiet as they, along with Jack, Daniel, Simon and Daryl, were driven to the Hilton Garden Inn, which was only minutes from the Air Force Academy. But once they were in their room - Jim was going to get an ear full. Fortunately, reservations had already been made and the key cards delivered to Cheyenne Mountain, so the four guests of the SGC wouldn't even have to check in, which meant that Blair could let Jim have it all that much sooner.
Once at the hotel, Jack and Daniel led them up to the third floor and the two reserved rooms. Simon and Daryl went into theirs, a call to Joan in Daryl's immediate future, and a call to Major Crime in Simon's, while Jack and Daniel joined Jim and Blair in theirs.
When Jack closed the door on the outside world, Blair went immediately to the bed. He didn't miss Jim's whispered, "He's gonna bounce on it now."
Jack and Daniel watched, amazed, as Blair sat down and did exactly that.
Jim looked at his friends and shrugged. "It's what he does in a hotel room. He has to test the bed."
Jack rubbed his chin and said thoughtfully, "I usually like to test the bed too, but... I personally use an ... alternate method." He shot a wicked look at Daniel and said, "Right?"
Daniel's response was to give him a little shove.
"I swear, I'm the victim of spousal abuse."
Figuring it was time to give Jim his ear full, Blair stood up. "Could we stop tap dancing and get to the issue at hand?"
"And just what would that be, Chief?"
"Your misgivings about joining the SGC, which you'd do in a shot if I weren't around."
"Oh, I would, would I?"
Blair walked over to stand in front of Jim. He tugged on the older man's shirt and said, "Yes, you would."
"Okay, so you caught me being worried about you. Sue me, but while you're finding a lawyer, let's take a minute and be honest here. What you risk at home is bad enough - but if we join the SGC--"
"The risks will be the same."
"Okay, how do you figure that, Sherlock? Last time I looked, there were no Goa'uld walking the streets of Cascade."
"I'd say you don't know that for sure, but if anyone would, it would be you." Blair stepped back, took in a deep breath, exhaled, and said, "Jim, this can't be about me. It has to be about what's right and about where you're needed the most."
He turned away and ran a hand through his hair. Walking over to the window, he stared out over the view of Pike's Peak and said, "A sentinel for Earth, Jim. That's what we're talking about."
Daniel decided it was time to balance the scales. "Blair, a sentinel and a shaman. This isn't just about Jim or what he is. It's about the two of you. Don't you get it? Sentinel and shaman working with one of the smartest women in the world, a Jaffa with knowledge of the Goa'uld we wouldn't have access to otherwise, and someone who speaks fluent Goa'uld - along with a few other languages. We're an unbeatable combination, Blair."
Looking hurt, Jack said, "Hey, what about me?"
"Oh, yeah, sorry. And Jack."
It was Jack's turn to give Daniel a little shove.
Jim decided to take control. "Look, why don't you two go downstairs and we'll meet you for dinner in about an hour, okay? Blair and I need to talk."
Daniel grabbed Jack's arm and got the door open. "Right. Downstairs. One hour."
He started to pull Jack out, but the older man resisted long enough to wag a finger and say, "Talk, boys. Just... talk."
Daniel gave a hard yank, pulled Jack out into the hall, and shut the door behind them.
Simon watched Daryl replace the phone. "You okay, son?"
"Yeah. Mom's a little freaked, though."
"I noticed. But a happy kind of freaked. Like Joel and the gang. He's about to be quite surprised when the Commissioner calls him up to his office and offers him Major Crime."
"They're going to miss you, Jim and Blair. A lot."
Simon knew what Daryl was really saying. He patted Daryl on the side of the face and said, "We'll probably see each other more than before, Daryl. Your mom is thrilled that I'm about to become a," he made quote marks in the air, "consultant. And she loves Colorado."
"So do I, Dad." Daryl looked away for a moment and said, "You'll be careful, right?"
"You know I will." He tried to see the expression on Daryl's face and finally asked, "You really okay with this?"
For an answer, Daryl threw himself in to his father's arms. "I'm more than okay, Dad. You're alive."
Simon held him for several minutes and was briefly transported back to a time when a frightened five year old held onto his father after a particularly bad dream. Resting his chin on Daryl's head, he said, "You were very brave to make the decision you did, son, and I'm very proud of you."
Daryl's arms tightened around his neck in answer. After several minutes, Daryl murmured, "They'll let me go through the Stargate someday, won't they?"
Huh-oh. Why did he have the feeling that the police academy was about to be scrubbed for the ... Air Force Academy?
"Well, we're alone," Blair said.
"Blair, I just don't know. This is a big step and it will change our lives forever."
"We did that already. The night we made love, remember? It's uphill now, Jim."
"It means leaving Rainier, Chief."
"A political hotbed of professors - no loss."
"We're in Colorado, not Timbuktu."
"Sandburg, we could end up walking through that Stargate and out and onto the real Timbuktu."
"Now that's real possibility. I can hardly wait."
Jim could see the excitement in his partner's eyes and could literally feel his body vibrate with same said excitement. Suddenly he realized that this was the answer to both their lives. His as a man who needed to protect - and Blair's as a man who was also a scientist.
The SGC was the best of both their worlds. And they could have it together.
And could Blair be any better protected? Damn, he'll be surrounded by soldiers with P-90's. Even Sandburg would find it hard to get into trouble under those conditions.
"So we're really going to do this, Jim?"
Jim and Simon sat at the bar, their drinks in front of them.
"I'm thinking ... yeah." He took a sip of his scotch and water, something he hadn't had in quite a while, and added, "The Lone Ranger, his faithful companion, Tonto, and--"
"I am not Silver, Jim."
"... his faithful horse, Silver--"
"You're a stinker, Captain Ellison."
Jim clinked his glass to Simon's. "Here, here."
"Hey, guys, our table is ready and you'd better hurry up because Daniel has Daryl spellbound," Blair said as he came up behind Jim.
"Why do I see the Air Force Academy in Daryl's future?" Jim asked.
"You are going to die for that, Jim. And I was there an hour before you."
"Six weeks? We have to have six weeks of training before we can go through the 'Gate again? But we've already gone through - AND were responsible for a new treaty! This makes no sense, Jim, and yes, I know I'm... like... whining, okay?"
"Sandburg, what you know about the military could fill a thimble and that's why we have to do this."
"At least it's we," Blair said grudgingly.
"Of course it is. I'm used to fighting run-of-the-mill criminals, not Goa'uld. We both have a lot to learn in six short weeks. Besides, they'll be testing my senses as well, and that takes both of us."
Blair suddenly grinned. "Oh, yeah. Just remember - you are a sentinel and they're the enemy in this, okay?"
Looking with suspicion at his partner, Jim said, "Sandburg?"
"Just go with the flow, man. Just go with the flow."
Jack walked into Hammond's office and, without preamble, sat down.
"They've beaten us at every turn, Sir."
Hammond bit back his grin. "Who would they be?" he asked, even though he knew damn well who they were."
"Jim and Blair. If it's not Jim's senses, it's Sandburg's ability to read us and out prank - er - out smart - us. It's damn spooky, if you ask me."
"What about the white noise generators Mister Sandburg told us about?"
"They don't interfere with Sandburg - or Jim's ability to smell - or feel."
"So you're saying they're ready, then?"
"They were born ready, Sir."
"What about Mister Sandburg... weapon-wise?"
"He's actually a much better shot than Daniel was in the beginning. I have no concerns regarding his ability to watch our sixes--"
"Although that will be your job where he's concerned."
"Then I suggest you give them the good news. Briefing at eight sharp tomorrow. SG-1 has a new mission."
~ and for a name now puts the drowsy and neglected act freshly on me. 'Tis surely for a name - William Shakespeare ~
Blair followed Daniel into his lab and couldn't help wondering what had put the huge grin on his friend's face. When Daniel threw his helmet down and started laughing, Blair had to ask.
"Okay, fill me in on the joke, Daniel."
"Oh, you just don't know, Blair. You just don't know."
Blair scratched his five o'clock-shadowed jaw and said, "I know I don't know, which is why I'm asking you to tell me - because then I'd know."
Still laughing, Daniel sat down and put his legs up. He picked up the helmet so recently used in the final set of "war exercises" Jack had put Jim and Blair through, and twirled it on his finger. "You totally bamboozled Jack, Blair. You turned the tables on him, got the better of him, pulled one over on him--"
"Okay, okay, I get the drift. Jim and I made your day by taking Jack to the cleaners."
"Oh, yeah. But that's not all. Oh, no - there's more. Thanks to you, there will now be someone on the team that is shorter, younger, and more ... civilian ... than I am. You're going to bear the brunt of, 'Blair, don't touch that,' and 'Blair, don't make nice with men who want to eat you for supper', and let's not leave out, 'Blair, she's a snake. A beautiful snake, but still - so back off because she wants you for dinner too'. Oh, yeah, my life is going to be so nice now."
Blair groaned and said, "So I'm to live a new version of 'Blair, stay in the truck,' right?"
"Oh, yeah. And me? I'll be investigating pyramids and caverns and temples to my heart's content." He gave Blair a huge grin. "I'm so glad you're here."
"I think I hate you."
Daniel just kept grinning.
Blair finally gave in to the curiosity he'd experienced almost the moment they'd walked in and he'd spotted the box on Daniel's worktable. He walked over and peered inside.
"Items I need to look at from PY3-343. They were found in a cave," Daniel offered.
One of the items caught Blair's attention immediately. Frowning, he moved two other artifacts and slowly lifted the one in question up and out. As he turned it in his hand, something happened. The edges of his sight darkened, light narrowed to a small pinprick, his breathing quickened. His hand felt suddenly heavy, as if the small artifact weighed several pounds instead of a few ounces.
The lab faded... and he was standing in a steaming jungle, eyes still focused on the small figurine. The artifact seemed to change even as he continued to hold it in his hand. Instead of carved rock, it seemed to take on flesh and... feathers. The face became mobile as the beak opened - and it spoke.
//How do you come to me?//
Damn, he hated when this happened. Not that it ever did. Well, once, when he ate one of Mary Lou's brownies, but hey, that was ten years ago and he still suspected her brownies had a little pharmaceutical help.
"I have no idea. How do you come to me?"
//Wise response. You have the aura of a shaman. Would this be accurate?//
"Either that... or I didn't use my Dial today."
//This is a new shamanistic term?//
"Why don't you just answer the question?"
//I came to you because you have the way and I have the power.//
Blair refrained from rolling his eyes. If this ended up being that "who do, you do, voodoo" joke, a small figurine was going to end up smashed against one of Daniel's walls.
"Maybe you'd like to be a bit more clear?"
//Because you have the way and I the power, I can warn you of an impending evil.//
Damn, that just sounded so... SGC. So Daniel.
"Okay, warn way."
//Do you really think it's that simple?//
"In a word: yes."
//Ah. You are a modern shaman.//
If Blair didn't know better, he'd think his little buddy was being facetious.
//Look closely, young one.//
What is it about his looks that everyone was making such a big deal out of it? Hell, he was thirty. Wishing he had his glasses, he peered at the bird - no, Phoenix -- in his hand.
"Blair?" Daniel swung his legs off the table and sat up. "Blair?" he asked again, now worried. Oh, shit. He was up and by Blair's side in an instant.
Oh, this was not good. Blair was staring, unfocused, at the bird carving... Daniel looked more closely ... and recognized it. Blair was holding an Egyptian carving of a phoenix - one of the symbols for Ra.
What the hell was going on? And maybe it was time to call in the troops. Daniel rushed to the phone on his wall.
"So... what is this?" Jack asked as he stared at a non-responsive Blair Sandburg.
"Another spirit walk?" Daniel asked.
Jim shook his head. "I don't think so - at least not in the traditional sense."
"Is it dangerous?"
"I don't know," Jim answered, his voice tight with worry. "But don't touch him. I think that could be harmful."
Jack pulled his hand back - fast. "Okay, so just how many times has this happened, anyway?"
"Counting this time?"
"And the last time?"
Twice?" Jack repeated, stunned. "Would that be two other times, or ... twice altogether?"
"That would be... twice altogether."
"This can't be good," Jack muttered. "Or very good."
"That was ... helpful," Daniel said.
"You want helpful? Watch this." Jack walked over to the phone, picked it up and punched in the Infirmary. When Janet answered, he said, "We have an emergency in Daniel's lab, Doc. How fast can you get down here? That'll work."
"I don't get this. Why show me?"
//You are one of the white shamans. I am the Phoenix. I serve the light, although was once harnessed by darkness. One such as yourself freed me and, for a short time, balance was restored. It is a truth that for light to exist, there must be darkness, but it must not be allowed to overshadow the light. Unfortunately, darkness has gained great power, but I can show you how to defeat it, how to once again bring balance to the worlds.//
//One who was two became One until she who is nature understood the evil and cast him out. Now he bides his time and hunts the eyes. Once collected - his power will know no bounds.//
Blair had a headache. He suspected these spirit walks worked better when the shaman was under the influence of some jungle weed. Bet no headache then.
"Okay," he said, his voice betraying his exhaustion. "So you're not going to tell me who this 'one that was two that was cast out' person is, are you?"
//Look around you, Shaman.//
Frowning, Blair did as instructed, and was shocked to find that the jungle had disappeared and he was in a desert. Several feet in front of him, a black jackal stood, body very still, ears back. A breath of a moment passed and, to Blair's amazement, the animal slowly rose up on its hind legs.
Proud and haughty, it seemed to be daring him. Only problem was ... Blair had no idea the nature of the dare.
Suddenly he was falling back and the sky disappeared until there was only blackness.
"Blair!" Jim just managed to catch his partner as he crumbled. He went down to his knees, Blair in his arms.
Janet chose the right moment to arrive.
"Okay, what happened this time?"
Jim sat on the edge of Blair's bed, the younger man's hand clasped tightly in his own. "You went to La-La Land again. I'm beginning to think you've got a tall, leggy something-or-other on the side, Chief."
Blair gave Jim a wan grin and said, "Tell me Incacha had better control of his spirit walks than I have. Just tell me that."
"I never saw him take one, so no clue."
"Swell." Blair sat up and was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no dizziness. In fact, he felt pretty damn good. "Hey, I'm think I'm okay."
"That's debatable, Chief," Jim said with a fond grin.
Janet pulled the curtain aside at that moment, and seeing her patient awake, said, "Well, you look much better than the last time I saw you, Mister Sandburg."
"Gee, Doc, don't you think we're familiar enough now that you could call me Blair?"
Giving him a perky smile, she said, "I have a fast and firm rule: No first names until I've given the first shot in the butt."
"Wait, didn't you--"
"Not yet," she said cheerily. "But since you've been inducted into SG-1, it won't be long." She patted his arm. "Just let me check a few things and then you and Captain Ellison can meet the others in the briefing room. General Hammond is waiting for news of your condition."
"Do your thing, Doc."
Blair was getting used to this briefing room. He kind of wished Simon were here, but he was with Jacob and the Tok'ra, meeting his new "relatives".
"Well, Mister Sandburg, I understand you have something to tell us?"
Blair met General Hammond's steadfast gaze and, with the phoenix in his hand, said, "Yes, sir. I'm just afraid it won't make any sense."
Giving a nod to Daniel and Sam, Hammond said, "We're used to that around here, son. Go ahead."
"All right. Basically, this," he held up the bird carving, "is an Egyptian rendering of the Phoenix--"
"The bird that burns to death, only to be reborn?"
"Jack, everyone knows that the Flight of the Phoenix is your favorite movie," Daniel said."
"But I was right, wasn't I?"
The use of his rank by Hammond was warning enough. Jack sat back and shut up.
"Anyway, when I touched this, I did the whole spirit walk thing and it kind of came...."
He stopped, looked around the room, and said, "Okay, you really don't need to know all that - besides, you won't believe it."
"Son, you'd be amazed at what we'll believe now, and we need it all."
Blair nodded, took a deep breath, and told them all that had happened on his walk.
Blair finished and sat back. He set the phoenix down and looked somewhat expectantly over at Daniel. Who was staring hard at the carving. When the silence continued, Blair said, "I didn't ... help... did I?"
"Yes, you did, Blair," Daniel answered. He reached over and picked up the carving. "From what you said, the Phoenix of mythology was somehow harnessed by... Ra. A shaman found a way of releasing him, which undoubtedly happened before Jack and I encountered Ra."
"Well, duh," Jack couldn't help adding.
With a look that spoke volumes, mostly threats of death, Daniel went on. "I think the one the Phoenix spoke of 'she who is nature' might be Oma Desala." He exchanged looks with Jack and added, "We kind of ran into her a while back. I believe she's an Ancient." At Blair's confused look, Daniel said, "Remember when I told you of the four races?"
"Damn. Right. The Nox, the Furlings, The Ancients and the Asgard. The Ancients actually built the Stargate system, right?"
"Right. Anyway, I'm thinking your Phoenix was talking about Oma."
"Okay, what about the jackal that Blair saw?" Jim asked.
"Well, the jackal represents--"
Blair snapped his fingers and said, "Anubis."
Smiling, Daniel nodded. "Anubis."
"Don't tell me," Jack groaned. "Another system lord we need to be worried about."
"I do not believe so, O'Neill. Anubis was destroyed by Yu many centuries ago."
Jack looked surprised and started counting on his fingers. "Ra, Hathor, Seth, Sokar... nope, no Anubis."
"Not you, O'Neill. Yu."
"He knows, Teal'c," Daniel said.
"Look, let's take this one step at a time," Blair said as he got up and walked to the board. He picked up a piece of chalk and started writing.
One who was two became One
Blair tapped what he'd just written and said, "This certainly points to either a Goa'uld or a Tok'ra. One who was two? Meaning one with a symbiote?"
Daniel jumped up, took another piece of chalk, and did some quick writing of his own.
until she who is nature understood the evil and cast him out.
"And this is clearly Oma, who discovered that somehow a Goa'uld had joined her? And so cast him out?"
Blair wrote a bit more and stepped back.
Now he bides his time and hunts the eyes. Once both are collected - his power will know no bounds
"Daniel, could this refer to the Eye of Ra and Thoth?"
"Of course, that has to be it." He turned to the others and said, "Mythology tells us that of the right eye of Horus represented the sun and was always associated with Ra. It was considered to have incredible healing powers, but was also often thought of, and called, the all-seeing eye. The Eye of Thoth was the left eye of Horus and represented the moon. Together, the two eyes represent the entire universe."
Seeing the puzzled expressions around the table, he chewed his lower lip a moment and finally said, "Look, think of them as the yin and yang, okay? The right eye is solar, masculine, and governs energy, reason and even mathematics. The left one is more feminine and represents intuition and... magic. Supposedly, if combined, they harness all the power of the universe."
Blair looked back at the board and said softly, "Once both are collected, his power will know no bounds."
"So we need to find these eyes before this Anubis?" Jack asked.
"I'm thinking... yes," Daniel said.
"Where do we even start looking?" Jim asked.
Daniel stared hard at the phoenix on the table as he said, "Ra couldn't have had both Eyes, or he'd have been the most powerful Goa'uld - the most powerful anything - and we'd never have been able to destroy him. But I'm betting he had one of them." He looked over at Jack. "And where better to hide it... then a desert planet rarely visited?"
Jack snapped his fingers. "Abydos."
"Abydos," Daniel agreed.
//Pattern in himself to know - Grace to stand, and virtue go - William Shakespeare//
The 'Gate room seemed oddly quiet to Blair as he stood next to Jim, waiting for the go ahead from General Hammond. People were moving about, checking... things ... but they were moving silently and efficiently. Daniel was making a few last minute adjustments to his pack, something Blair understood from Jack was SOP for his friend, and as Jack had said, "Done due to an obvious subconscious hatred for said pack."
Blair nudged his partner and said, "You really okay with this? Being a part of SG-1?"
"Yes, but that doesn't mean you really are."
Jim smiled down at him and said, "Yes, Blair, it does. This feels incredibly right. As though we've both been moving toward it from day one. And this support group knows everything there is to know about us - and they like what they know."
Jack entered the 'Gate room at that moment and slapped Blair on the back. "You ready for your first trip through the Stargate as a member of SG-1?"
"I don't know, Jack. Are you ready for your first trip through the Stargate as an official resident of the Sandburg Zone?"
Jack glanced over at Jim and asked, "Would that be a good thing... or a bad?"
"For me - good. For you - Goa'uld's are going to be a piece of cake, comparatively speaking."
"Colonel O'Neill, you and your team have a go," General Hammond announced from the control room.
The wormhole was sparkling in front of them, and as Sam and Teal'c walked up the ramp, Jack said, "So... Goa'uld or the Sandburg Zone, eh? Whoa, boy, this is going to be fun."
Laughing, Daniel, Jack, Jim and Blair walked up the ramp and through the Stargate.
The End - for now.
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