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Scorpions

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Scorpions

by Lady Ra


It all belongs to whoever the heck owns Sentinel and Stargate. And that's not me. Except when I go off my meds, then I'm sure they belong to me. Don't they?
Thanks to my vunderbar betas. My stories are always so much better for their hard work. For this story that includes: Jenn, Trish, Hawthorn, and Morr. Betaing long stories is a chore. So many, many thanks. Special kudos to Hawthorn and Morr who read this story three times, every time I rewrote it (of course it was their fault I had to rewrite it so many times but still--). And a nod of thanks to Sideburns who gave me a two-thumbs up review.
Big old AU story, alternate reality story, parallel universe story, you name it, it's happening here. Oh, and worry not, everyone ends up with the person they're supposed to, I promise. And as far as Fahraj goes, I am not an historian, nor have I ever been to Fahraj or anywhere in the Middle East. I picked and chose facts that made my story work, but I don't promise they fit together or represent anything real. Apologies to those of you who know the area, and I mean no disrespect to the people there. For those of you completely unfamiliar with Stargate, I suggest going here: www.Scifi.com , and looking up the Stargate site.


Scorpions

Jim leaned against the doorjamb to Blair's small room watching his soon to be ex-partner pack. "I don't want you to go." Typical understatement, Jim thought to himself. He felt nauseated just at the thought of Blair even talking about leaving, let alone actually walking out the door.

Blair ran his hands through his hair and then fisted the ends, pulling at them as if he might rip some out. He let out a loud breath. "I know. I don't want to go either, but I don't have a choice."

"You do have a choice. Simon offered you a badge. You can stay and be my official partner. I thought that's what you wanted." It's what Jim wanted, what he needed.

Blair sank down onto the bed and buried his face in his hands. Boxes surrounded him, some closed and taped up, more still half empty. Finally he looked up. "It is what I want. There isn't anything I want more, but it won't work. You know it won't work. If I stay, it will undo everything I did."

"A couple weeks from now, Chief, no one will be talking about this anymore. I don't mean to make it sound like it wasn't a huge thing; it was, for you and for me, but it's small potatoes compared to the rest of the shit going down in the world."

Blair lay back on the bed, his feet still on the floor. "I know. I know that." Then he stared sadly at Jim. "And mostly you're right, but not where it matters." He sat up again. "Is there any beer left?"

Jim nodded and disappeared, returning in only moments with two opened bottles. He handed one over to Blair.

Blair took a long swig, giving Jim a tired smile. "Thanks."

"What did you mean, not where it matters?"

"If I stay, if I become your partner, and you act like I did nothing wrong, there's going to be a certain number of people who will start to rightly assume that maybe the lie I told was at that press conference."

Jim waved off his concern with a flippant wave of his hand.

Blair glared at him. "This is a big deal, Jim. Not to wax poetic on the subject, but I gave up my fucking life for you and I'd like it to mean something. I'd like to think that maybe what I did was to keep you safe. To keep every Tom, Dick, and Harry out on the street from trying to take down the big, bad Sentinel."

Jim frowned at Blair as he took a swallow of his own beer. "Somehow I don't see that happening."

Blair shot Jim an incredulous look. "It already has, and that was before anyone had any idea of who you were. Or maybe you've forgotten Brackett? You really think there're no other criminals out there who won't think taking advantage of you is the best idea to come along in a long time? Right now it's a dead issue. But it won't be if I'm back at your side."

"So we'll deal when it happens."

"No, we won't deal, because it's not going to happen. I'm going to leave, and you're going to have as normal a life as you can. It's what you want; it's what you've always wanted."

Jim could feel the muscles in his jaw tighten up as this now very familiar argument continued to have no resolution. "I don't want you to go."

Blair scrubbed his face with one of his hands. "Okay. Okay. Let's put that reason to the side and pick up another one." He stood and pointed at Jim. "You be me, and I'll be a brand new lawyer, public defender. Wait, not even a lawyer yet, an intern. First case, ever. All right?"

Jim scowled. "Sandburg--"

"Just humor me." Blair paced around his small room, dodging boxes. "So, Mr. Sandburg, it is Mister Sandburg, isn't it? Not Dr. Sandburg?" He prompted Jim to speak. "Come on, man, you're me. Talk."

Jim didn't say anything.

"Fine, I'll just keep going. 'So, Mister Sandburg, you say that the defendant was seen by you going into the liquor store on Chandler Street on the night in question?'"

Blair glanced up but Jim only clenched his jaw tighter.

"Don't remember your lines? No problem, I'll play my part, too. 'Yes, sir, I saw the defendant go into the liquor store'." Blair turned his body a little to differentiate between the two characters he was playing. "'Mister Sandburg, have you ever knowingly lied?'" He turned back. "'Excuse me?'" Turned again. "'Have you ever stood in front of a group of people and declared yourself a fraud?'"

Jim wanted to throw his beer against the wall. "Shut up."

"'Please, just answer the question, yes or no'."

"Blair."

"Jim, the first time one of my busts goes to court I'll be completely discredited as a witness. And the next step will be yanking me off the PD roster. You know it, I know it." His eyes were sad and weary. "It won't work."

Jim closed his eyes and rolled the cold beer bottle along his forehead hoping it might help with the headache looming just around the corner. The one with the sledgehammer attached.

Blair moved closer to him. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you and Simon are doing. How you've gone to bat for me. Hell, the fact that you forgave me at all. But both of us need to face up to the consequences of what I did and how I chose to solve it. And that means I have to leave."

That wasn't even remotely okay with Jim. "Then I'll go with you. We'll find a new place to live." Still ashamed of it, Jim knew that he'd been ready to throw Blair out of his life when he first found out what happened. But he hadn't really meant it. It was just how he reacted to stuff like that. Shoot first, ask questions later. Most of the time he could handle the corpses. But not this time.

Blair gave him a sad smile. "And do what? Find a new PD to hire you, one where you won't have a boss who knows what you are and what you can do? They still won't let me ride with you; they'll do a check on me and find the press release. I can't be a cop." The smile grew sadder. "Right now I don't have any idea what I can do or how I'm supposed to make a living. I need to figure that out."

"So stay here until you do figure it out. I'm gonna pay the bills whether you're here or not. Just stay until then. We'll come up with something." Jim couldn't remember the last time he'd argued so hard for something. Maybe it was because he'd never had so much riding on the outcome.

Blair moved back to sit on the bed. "Jim." He hung his head and let out a sigh. He started again. "Listen, you're used to me now. You're used to having someone around and you like things to stay the same. You hate changes. So I know it will suck for a while after I'm gone, but you'll see that once you get to live your life without me around, you'll be okay. You'll probably really like it."

Jim didn't know what else to say to convince him. He felt a fresh surge of anger and found himself hating his Sentinel skills with a passion. They had done nothing but fuck up his life. And despite the fact that they had brought Blair into his life, now they were taking him away. Needing to be alone, Jim pushed off the lintel, slammed his beer down on the kitchen table, grabbed his coat, and stormed out the door.


Sergeant Davis' voice came through the speakers. "General, I think
you need to see this." The klaxon suddenly started blaring.

Jack gave Hammond a look. "Anyone expected in?"

Hammond shook his head. "There's no one off-world right now." The two of them got up and quickly made their way down to the control room. Hammond spoke to Davis. "What is it?" Without waiting for a response he called for an armed squad to the Gateroom.

Jack was glad to see that the iris was closed nice and tight. If someone was trying to get through the Stargate it was going to be a short and bumpy ride for whoever was coming through.

Davis shook his head. "I don't know. I just started receiving a signal as if someone were trying to dial in." His brow furrowed suddenly. "Wait, the signal is changing."

Sam entered the control room and moved to Davis' side, leaning over his shoulder to look at his computer screen. "It looks more like an oscillating wave form than an energy spike."

Jack frowned. "Which means--?"

Sam moved to a different console and her fingers flew over the keyboard. "I'm not sure. It's like it's a wormhole but different."

"That's helpful. Not."

Sam pushed more buttons. "Wait, I think I recognize this. Part of the wave is the same signature as the quantum mirror."

Jack grimaced. "The alternate reality thingy?"

Sam nodded.

Davis pointed. "Look."

In front of the stargate a shape was forming. It took a few seconds but it finally took on the rough dimensions of a door. The rim looked to be made out of the same material as the stargate, and the area inside the rim shimmered like an event horizon.

Jack took off at a run for the Gateroom, the rest of the team right behind him. As he entered the room, just as a man came barreling through the wormhole door, Jack heard ten rifles lock and load. Batting at himself like he was on fire, the man yelled, "Don't shoot, don't shoot!"

Jack pushed his way through the soldiers. "Doesn't work that way, buddy. You gotta give us a reason not to shoot."

The man continued to move, hopping on one foot and then the other, stripping off his outer jacket, while trying to hold up a warding hand. "Don't come too close."

Jack rolled his eyes. "That's not helping your case."

"Scorpions."

Jack searched his memory for the word, thinking it was code for something but he drew a blank. It was Sam's gasp that drew him back to the disconcertingly large black insects with vicious looking stingers at the end of their curved tails the man was flicking to the ground with loud sounds of disgust. Jack took an involuntary step backwards. "Ugh. If you're thinking this is gonna keep you from getting shot, you're out of your mind. What the hell--?"

The only thing that kept Jack from encouraging the soldiers to open fire was that the man started stomping on the scorpions with his heavy boots. Wincing at the crunching sound, not convinced the little suckers couldn't sting right through the sole, Jack gestured at a couple of the soldiers to help with the pest control problem.

He recruited Sam to help him look for any more of the buggers. Jack knew that one was going to spring at him at any moment. When one ran over his boot, he shook it off with a curse and stamped it flat. He hated scorpions. A couple of bad stings in Iraq had taught him that a healthy distance was the best policy.

Jack also kept one eye on the man who stripped off his outer shirt and shook it out. One more scorpion fell to the floor and Sergeant Hansen took it out with a loud stomp. Their visitor turned around, his back to Jack. "Are there any more on me? Can you see any?"

Jack could understand the tense tone. One crawling over his foot had raised every bug phobia he had, let alone the thought of them crawling all over his body.

Not getting too close, Jack inspected the guy's back closely. He was in light camouflage BDUs so it was easy to see that there were no three-inch black creatures crawling anywhere. "You're clean."

The man gave an overall shiver. "I hate those things." He patted himself down again, as if he didn't quite believe he was bug free. "It feels like they're still crawling all over me." He ran a hand through his hair quickly, untucked his t-shirt and shook it out, then checked his pockets.

He staggered. Jack instinctively grabbed for him.

The guy found his feet again. "I'm all right. I think I got stung a few times."

Jack made sure the guy could stand on his own before backing away again. "That the only reason you stopped by? To drop a few bugs?" Jack grimaced. "Thanks for that, by the way. I'll sleep great tonight."

The man disregarded Jack's sarcasm, and looked around almost desperately. "Does Daniel Jackson work here in this reality?" While waiting for an answer, the man made an entry on a piece of equipment around his wrist, and the door vanished.

Jack went on instant alert. And not just for the fancy technology. He hated it when someone just popped in looking for Daniel. It always meant bad news. "Why?"

His efforts at protecting his archeologist were thwarted when Daniel forced his way through the soldiers still on guard. "Yes."

The man closed his eyes and hung his head, as if in gratitude. It was when he opened them again that Jack noticed they were the most amazing shade of blue. "I need you to find Blair Sandburg for me."

Daniel's eyes opened wide. "Blair? The Blair who's an anthropologist? What do you need him for?"

Jack frowned at both men, finishing with Daniel. "You know this guy?"

Daniel frowned back. "Blair?"

"No, this guy. The one with the bugs." Jack pointed at the floor and corrected himself. "Dead bugs."

Daniel took a look at the crushed bugs on the floor and scrunched his face up in disgust. Jack wholeheartedly agreed with him, even as he waited for his answer.

Daniel took a look at the man. "Do I know you?"

Jack rolled his eyes toward heaven, looking for strength, then glared at Daniel. "I take it that's a no?"

The man staggered again and fell to one knee. Jack could see that he was perspiring, and saw at least two red welts on the man's forearm. "We need to get him to the Infirmary. He was stung by a couple of the scorpions."

The man reached out for Daniel, but Jack moved quickly and pulled Daniel away. The outreached hand turned into a symbol of entreaty. "Find Blair. He can cure me. I need your Blair to help me find my Blair. And you need me alive to help you get to him."

Jack's brow furrowed. "I'm confused. Who are we finding?"

"Ahriman. Goa'uld. He has my Blair."

Jack didn't like the look of consternation that washed over Daniel's face. Whoever this Ahriman guy was, Jack didn't think he'd want to meet the guy over a cup of coffee and a donut.

The man's other leg gave out and he landed on his second knee hard enough to make Jack wince in commiseration. The guy gasped, "Tell him Jim Ellison needs his help. He won't understand, but he'll come." Those startlingly blue eyes pleaded with Daniel. "Were you friends here, in this world?"

Daniel nodded. "We were. Are."

The man gagged a little, then choked out, "Then he'll come just because you ask." He vomited all over the floor.

Jack sprinted out of the way. "Jeez, bugs and vomit? Remind me not to get on this guy's Christmas list." He glanced anxiously at the door, looking for the medical team, relieved when they came running in accompanied by Janet.

Sweat was pouring off the guy's body as he gagged again. When Janet reached the sick man's side he looked up at her, gasping out a few last words. "Just keep me alive 'til Blair can get here. He'll take care of the rest." His eyes rolled up in his head and he pitched for the floor.

One of Janet's orderlies caught him before he hit the ground, and they manhandled him onto a stretcher and hightailed it back to the infirmary, Sam, Daniel and Jack right behind them.


General Hammond looked at the papers in front of him and then frowned
up at SG1. "I'd like your opinions regarding our visitor and his
request."

Daniel was shaking his head. "I don't believe this. Not for a minute. The Blair Sandburg I know would have never committed fraud. Never."

Jack picked up the news release. "Black and white, Danny."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Oh, and we know that makes it gospel. The things people were saying about me were just as derogatory."

"How well did you know him?" Sam inquired.

Jack watched as Daniel dropped his eyes, and prodded the papers in front of him. He scowled as Daniel's face reddened, letting Jack guess that his archeologist knew Blair a little too well. The thought of Daniel with another man did weird things to Jack's stomach.

"We were, uh, we were close. I knew him really well. Know him. We still keep in touch. We took some classes together and spent almost a year on the same dig. He was brilliant in his area of study."

Jack's eyebrows rose at that. Sandburg must be something special to get such a ringing endorsement from Daniel.

"What area was that?" Sam asked.

"Tribal structure, indigenous people, sociology, the way people function together."

The general tapped the papers in front of him. "So what's this about, then?"

Daniel shot a nervous look around the room, one Jack interrupted as his I-don't-expect-you-to-believe-me look. "I think the press release is a lie. I think Jim Ellison really is a Sentinel and Blair was doing what he could to protect him from exposure."

Teal'c blinked. "You believe such a person exists, one with enhanced senses beyond those of the average human?"

Daniel flashed him a brief grin. "My ability to believe impossible things has grown a bit since coming here."

Teal'c gave him a nod, his expression full of gracious acceptance of the truth of Daniel's words.

Jack chimed in, "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." That got a blink out of Teal'c. With a short hand swipe through the air Jack non-verbally told Teal'c to forget it. It was too early in the day to be explaining about rabbits in waistcoats.

The general cleared his throat, attempting to bring them back to task. "What about our visitor? Is he a Sentinel as well?"

Janet closed the file in front of her. "It's hard to say. He did tell me that the lights were bothering his eyes and to please turn down the volume on the monitors--which I could barely hear--but that could be due to his overall condition from the venom in his blood."

"What is his prognosis, Doctor?"

Janet gave the general a serious look. "Not good. I can keep him alive for another day or so, but he was stung six times by--" she opened her file again, "by an androctomus mauretanicus, one of the more venomous scorpions that exist today. There is an antitoxin but the only available serum we've located is in Iran, and getting it here is proving problematic. I'm working on it."

Daniel played with the corner of his closed files. "I know we don't know why this particular Jim Ellison wants our Blair Sandburg, but I'll vouch personally for Blair. He's as good as they come, and I'd trust him to keep his mouth shut."

Jack pursed his lips and nodded. "I'll vouch for our Jim Ellison. He's army; was a ranger for years. He's now a police detective with the Cascade PD. His security clearance has never been compromised, and it's high enough to bring him here. Maybe not to the Gateroom, but to the complex."

Sam frowned. "This Jim Ellison has already been here for four hours. He has less than 48 before the quantum cellular tremors set in." She glanced at Daniel. "Doesn't give us a lot of time to get your friend here."

The general glanced around the table. "Assuming we decide to bring them here, leave that to me." He got Daniel's attention. "What about this Ahriman Goa'uld he was talking about? Is the possible danger worth the risk of bringing in two civilians?"

Daniel winced and the wince made Jack nervous. Daniel went into disclaimer mode. "Every Goa'uld we've met has taken on some characteristics of the god they claim to be, although they all have their own quirks as well. So, I can't speak specifically to this particular Goa'uld, or how far he's adopted this particular persona."

Jack made a spinning motion with his hand. "Get to the good stuff."

Daniel nodded his head quickly. "Right. Bottom line, Ahriman is another incarnation of the devil. He's believed to be the first personification for Satan. There's several legends that account for his existence but every one says Ahriman completely embraced evil."

"I thought we already met the original Satan. That Seth guy."

Daniel gave him a small wincing smile that scrunched his face up. "Yes, well, apparently this is another one. With extras."

Jack sat back in his chair. "You mean the scorpions?"

Daniel nodded.

"Great. Satan with scorpions. My day just went to hell in a hand basket."

"His attendant animals include the scorpion, the ant and the snake. Historically, all his servants were demons." Daniel pulled out a piece of paper from the stack in front of him and read from it: "'He created the serpent in the river, and Winter, the locust which brings death unto cattle and plants, plunder and sin, the ants and anthills, the sin of unbelief, tears and wailing, the evil work of witchcraft, the cooking of corpse, abnormal issues in women, and barbarian oppression. He also creates 99,999 diseases.'"

Daniel dropped the paper as if it were dipped in poison, grimacing. "That's a direct quote from the Vendidad, a section from the Avesta, a sacred book of Zoroastrianism."

Sam bit her lip. "Abnormal issues in women? Holy Hannah."

Jack whistled. "Oh, I can't wait to meet this guy." He leaned back on his chair so the front two legs came off the floor.

Even Teal'c looked concerned. "I have not heard of this Goa'uld, DanielJackson, nor have I heard of any Goa'uld who could control insects."

Daniel twirled his pencil in his fingers. "There are mythological records of ancient gods and goddesses having animals as part of their entourage. I know we never saw any, but most of the old records show Ra with cats. There was a cobra goddess named Renenet, Aker was often depicted with lions or--"

"Yadda." Jack snapped, not really in the mood for a zoology lecture. "Is this guy here? How could we have missed someone like that?"

Daniel shrugged. "We didn't know Seth was here until Jacob told us about him."

"It is also possible that Ahriman does not exist in this reality," Teal'c advised.

Sam leaned forward, elbows on the table. "Do you think he's come to our Earth from a different reality, and Ellison is chasing him?"

Jack scowled. "Whatever Ellison was doing, he got close enough to pick up a few pets." Jack was nowhere near ready to forgive Ellison that, no matter who he was chasing.

A soldier entered the room and gave Janet a message. She passed it on to the group. "He's awake." Standing, she collected her papers. "I think I better get back there."

The general nodded. "I agree, Doctor. Thank you for your information."

She smiled tightly and left the room.

Hammond glanced at them all, focusing on Sam. "Your opinion about the equipment he brought with him, Major Carter?"

Sam's lips tightened in frustration. "It's made of Naquada, and I assume it's what allowed him to make what's essentially a portable quantum mirror, but once we got it off of him, it stopped doing anything. I don't get any readings from it and I can't get it apart. I just don't have anything to report."

The general gave her a commiserating nod. "Well, keep working at it."

"I will, Sir."

Hammond addressed Jack. "Your conclusions, Colonel?"

Jack let all four of his chair legs hit the ground. "I say we get those two guys here, and in the meantime we go down and have a chat with our visitor."

Hammond nodded. "I agree. I'll need to clear it with the Pentagon, but assuming I can convince them I'll make the arrangements. Dr. Jackson, perhaps you'd like to accompany the escort to pick up your friend?"

Daniel nodded. "I think that's a good idea."

"Very good. I'll let you know as soon as the arrangements are made. Dismissed."

They all rose and left the room, Sam to her lab, Daniel following the General, and Jack to the infirmary.


Blair taped the second to last box shut, leaving only one to put his
few remaining belongings in come morning. Deciding he needed another
beer, he headed for the kitchen. He opened a bottle, tossed the cap
in the garbage and slowly walked around the loft, running his hands
along the walls and furniture.

He'd found a home here. Unexpectedly, and not without some trials and tribulations but it had become home. Jim had become home. Blair couldn't imagine anything he wanted to do less than leave. He didn't want to think about waking up in the morning and not having Jim nearby, not having someone to call who would care. He'd be losing it all. Feeling safe. Having a home. Jim. Leaving felt like he was ripping out the best part of himself, but Blair truly didn't know what else to do.

Jim would let him stay for free, let him loaf around the apartment until he figured out what the hell to do with his life, but it would still end up at the same place, with his boxes packed and him walking out the door. Blair was relating to the word sacrifice in a whole new, cutting-to-the-bone kind of way.

Blair took a last swallow of beer and set the empty bottle by the sink. Suddenly exhausted, he walked back into the living room and leaned against the couch, pressing the base of his palms against his eyes to stop the sting of tears.


Jim hesitated at the bottom of the stairs, not wanting to go up,
knowing that the worst thing he could imagine happening to him was
about to happen right upstairs. Blair was going to leave him. They'd
fucked things up so bad there was no fixing them.

Jim knew Blair was right. He couldn't be a cop. Not that he wouldn't be a good one--he'd be one of the best, had been one of the best--but all it would take was one court case and it'd be all over.

Jim didn't know how to deal with this. Blair was wrong. Jim's life wouldn't be better without Blair in it. Jim didn't even want to try it on for size to see. He wanted Blair here. He wanted Blair. In every way. And he was not prepared to lose the one person who'd come to mean everything to him.

His chest felt as empty as his life was soon going to be, and he didn't know if he had enough pride to walk up those stairs and face the packed boxes and the sterility of his apartment and act as if this wasn't ripping his heart out. Ricocheting between the need to harden his heart and the need to simply weep, Jim slowly began to climb the stairs.

He opened up the door and saw Blair leaning against the couch. They stared at each other for a long minute and finally Blair let out a mirthless laugh. "This sucks."

Jim walked over to him. "Yes, it does." He stood next to Blair, the left side of his body gently pressing against the right side of Blair's.

Blair let out a sigh and relaxed against Jim, his head dropping to the taller man's shoulder.

Jim tried to imagine his life without Blair's warmth in it and felt a shiver go down his back. He turned toward Blair and pulled him into his arms, holding him tightly. "Don't go."

Blair's arms held him back just as tightly.

Now that Jim was holding Blair, he wasn't in any hurry to let go. Blair fit against him perfectly. Jim took a long sniff and allowed himself to wallow in his Guide's smell. His hands started wandering up and down Blair's back, reveling in the compact shape.

Blair's arms tightened around him hard enough to almost hurt. Jim couldn't have cared less about the pain. All it told him was that Blair didn't want to stop this hug either. Jim pressed a kiss to the top of Blair's head, and Blair let out a soft moan. Jim begged again, "Please don't go."

Blair pushed away far enough to look up at Jim, a deadly earnest look on his face. "We can't do this." He didn't make any move to step away.

Jim's hand lifted to comb through Blair's hair. The other found the small of Blair's back and prodded him closer. Jim could feel the proof that Blair wanted this as much as he did pressing against his thigh. It matched his own erection. "Why not? We obviously both want it."

"Because it won't change anything and it will only make it even harder to leave. I can't stay, and you can't go."

Jim fisted both hands in Blair's hair. "I can't let you go. I can't. I don't know how to do this without you anymore."

"You haven't zoned in months, Jim. You'll do fine. You'll see."

"I don't mean this Sentinel stuff. I mean--" Jim interrupted his words abruptly, listening intently. "There's someone here."

Blair furrowed his brow. "Someone bad?"

"I don't know. Two of them are waiting downstairs and two of them are on their way up. They're looking for you."

Blair shot him a nervous look. "Me? Who'd be coming for me? They're not here to arrest me or something, are they?"

Jim pulled out his gun and stood to the side of the door. When a knock sounded he snapped out, "Who's there?"

"It's Daniel Jackson. I'm looking for Blair Sandburg."

Jim looked at Blair to see if he recognized the name. He wasn't expecting the brilliant smile on his friend's face; Blair was almost bouncing. "Let him in. He's an old friend."

Jim wasn't too happy about letting anyone in who put a smile like that on Blair's face, but he opened the door, making sure that the guy on the other side saw the weapon before he put it away.

Unfortunately, the guy on the other side of the door only had eyes for Blair. He walked swiftly into the apartment and Jim scowled as the two of them embraced one another. Blair let out a laugh. "Daniel, how the hell are you? I haven't seen you for way too long."

Daniel smiled back. "It has been too long. You look good. Are things good?"

Blair scrunched up his face and let out a sigh. "No, they're not too good right now. But knowing you, you probably already know that. Right?"

Daniel nodded sympathetically.

Jim pointed at the man in an Air Force uniform standing in the doorway. "Friend of yours?"

Daniel gave the uniformed man a smile. "Friendly escort service." The man didn't smile back as he kept a close eye on the three of them.

Blair looked impressed. "You must be doing all right for yourself if you rate an escort."

With a wincing smile, Daniel let out a short rueful laugh. "Well, it's not really for me."

Jim gave both Daniel and the Air Force grunt a scowl. "Who the hell is it for, then?"

"Well, it's for Blair."

Jim moved quickly to Blair's side, angling him away from Daniel. "Would you like to explain that?" He noticed the Air Force guy resting his hand on his pistol, and Jim itched to pull his gun again.

Daniel turned to his escort. "Stan, could you wait outside please?"

Stan didn't look too happy about it, but he moved back out into the hallway and shut the door behind him. Daniel sent Blair a beseeching look. "I need you to hear me out. I need you to trust me."

Blair put a hand on Daniel's arm, or he tried to, but Jim pulled him away. Blair rolled his eyes. "I do trust you." He glared at Jim. "I trust him. Back off, okay?"

"Not until I know what's up with the escort." Glaring at Daniel, he said, "Suppose Blair doesn't want to go with you? Does the escort stop being friendly at that point? Does Blair have a choice in this?"

Daniel nodded. "Of course. He's not in any danger. Neither of you are. A, uh, a situation's come up that requires Blair's help."

Jim got completely between Blair and Daniel, looming in Daniel's space. "He's not going anywhere without me."

Daniel flashed him a wry grin. "That's what he said you'd say." When Jim opened his mouth to demand an explanation, Daniel held up his hand. "Look, let me show you something, and then Blair can tell me if he wants to come with me or not."

"He's not going--"

"I know, I know. He's not going anywhere without you. You can come too."

Jim allowed himself to infinitesimally relax. He still wasn't sure he could trust the guy, or believe what he was saying, but the right words were starting to come out of his mouth.

Blair glanced back and forth between them, frowning. "Can I see what you're talking about? Especially as this is supposed to be 'my' decision?"

Daniel pulled out a small video camera from his pocket and turned it on. "This is going to prompt a lot of questions, most of which I won't be able to answer unless you agree to come with me. And even then I won't be able to answer most of them until we get to where we're going and you sign some confidentiality agreements."

Blair moved to the couch and sat, a completely mystified expression on his face. Daniel sat down next to him while Jim perched on the couch arm, hovering over Blair.

Daniel opened up the small screen and hit the play button. In an instant, a weary and clearly ill Jim Ellison appeared on the screen.

Blair let out a small gasp. "Jim, it's you."

All three of them listened in silence. "Blair, I'm making this tape in the hope it will convince you to come and help me. I'll die if you don't. I know you don't understand who I am, or how you can help, but it's something only my Guide can do."

Jim growled at the screen. "He's my Guide."

Ellison continued. "And while you're not actually my Guide, you're identical to him. I need your assistance to find my Blair. His life is in danger and I won't survive long enough to help him without your help. I'm pretty sure I'll be unconscious by the time you get here, so if you come, you'll need to touch me in these four spots. That should get things going, and if you're like my Blair, you'll know what to do from there." Ellison demonstrated by touching himself on the top of his head, on the forehead at the point of his widow's peak, on the inside edge of his right eyebrow, and the inner corner of his right eye.

Blair's brow furrowed. "What's that supposed to do?"

Ellison's lips formed a tight smile. "You may already know all this stuff, depending on your training, but if not, it will all make sense once you do it." He stopped, exhausted, sweat dotting his forehead, and all three men could see the tremors shaking his body. Then his smile grew more genuine. "I'm going to assume your Jim Ellison is right next to you, and if he's anything like me, he's not gonna let you go anywhere without him, so you better bring him along."

Blair looked up at Jim, as if to assure himself that his friend was all right. Jim was immensely gratified when Blair grabbed his hand and held it tightly. It was disconcerting to watch a tape of someone who looked just like him being at death's door, and he was glad to have his Guide's touch. He also wasn't crazy at the mention of another Blair being in mortal danger.

Blair tugged on Daniel's arm. "What's wrong with him?"

Daniel paused the tape. "He's dying from several scorpion stings."

Blair gripped Jim's hand even harder. "How did that happen? And why does he think I can do anything to help? And who is he?"

Daniel shook his head. "I can't answer any of those questions, except that I can tell you that he is Jim Ellison, just not the one sitting next to you." He hit the play button.

"Blair. If for some reason you can't come, don't feel badly. I know this is a lot to ask. But if you are going to come, come quickly, because I don't know how much time Blair has, and I know I don't have long to live myself." A look of tremendous sadness crossed Ellison's face. "Besides, if my Blair dies, I'd just as soon die myself. Maybe you already understand that, you and your Ellison. Hopefully you already know that you need each other to survive." He lay back, even shakier than before.

Blair shot Jim a worried look.

The Ellison on the tape waved a weak hand in front of him at someone none of them could see. "That's it. I'm done. Either he'll come or he won't." All the life seemed to leave him as he closed his eyes.

A woman in a lab coat came into view, checking his pulse. "He's unconscious. I don't think he has long."

A voice asked off-screen, "How long is long?"

"I don't think he'll last through the night. The toxins are overwhelming his system."

A hand came over to cover the lens. "Shut that off." The tape abruptly ended.

"When did that tape get made?" Jim asked Daniel.

"About three hours ago."

Blair turned to Jim. "I have to go. I don't understand any of this, but he's you, and if I can help I have to try."

"He's not me, Sandburg."

Blair gestured at the video camera. "You saw it. He's a version of you, and he thinks I can help him. I can't just let him die, anymore than I could sit by and let you die."

Jim could see Blair's mind was made up, but Jim wasn't ready to just trust his doppelganger on the tape or Daniel without further assurances. He glared at his Guide. "How do we know this isn't some sort of elaborate trap? Some way for the government to use you to draw me in."

Blair looked over at Daniel. "It's not anything like that, is it, Daniel? This is on the level, right?"

Jim shot Blair a disgusted glance. "You really expect him to tell you the truth if this is a scam?"

Daniel put a hand on Blair's shoulder. "Blair, this is exactly what I showed you. But just to be on the level, I do know what your friend here can do, and what he is. I saw the press release, and I know you'd never present a fraudulent dissertation."

Jim stood. "Is that what this is about? Who do you work for? The NID?"

Daniel looked horrified. "Good God, no." He took them both in with an earnest look. "I don't know if this is about what Jim can do as a Sentinel, or what Blair can do as your Guide. All I know is what you saw. We're hoping if you can help that Jim Ellison, that he can explain it to us."

Blair stood quickly. "We need to go now." He looked up at Jim. "You can come or not, but either way I'm going."

Jim let out a soft curse and then shot Daniel a look. "If this hurts him in any way--"

Daniel cut him off. "I'd never do anything to hurt Blair."

Jim saw the sincerity in his eyes and accepted his words as truth. Not that Daniel couldn't be an innocent pawn in someone else's game. But short of knocking Blair unconscious, Jim's only choice was to go with him and at least offer what protection he could. "What do we need to bring with us?"

"A few days' clothes, just to be on the safe side, toiletries." Daniel grinned at Blair. "Your laptop. I know you never leave home without it."

Jim frowned, feeling a jealous sting at how well Daniel seemed to know Blair. He patted Blair on the arm. "Come on, Chief, let's pack."

Blair nodded and raced to his room.

Daniel called after him, "I'm gonna call and tell them you're coming back with me."

Blair yelled from his room. "Okay. Use our phone if you want."

Daniel just pulled a cell phone out of his other pocket and hit a speed dial button.

Jim listened in as he threw stuff in a bag. Thinking about the other Ellison, he threw in a few extra articles of clothing.

"O'Neill."

"He's coming back with me."

"You better hurry. Janet says he's slipping into a coma."

"We'll be out of here in a few minutes."

"Is the other Ellison coming with him?"

Daniel let out a soft snicker. "Oh, yeah. I don't think I'd have made it out the door alive if I tried to take Blair without him."

There was an hmph, and then, "I'll tell Janet you're on your way."

"Okay." Daniel disconnected.

Jim zipped his bag shut, relieved that the phone call hadn't revealed any sort of hidden agenda. Grabbing his bag, he walked downstairs and hollered to Blair. "I'll grab the bathroom stuff."

"Thanks, Jim."

Jim could hear Blair frantically rip boxes open, searching for clothes. Some of what he found landed in the bag though most of it was landing on the floor. Jim liked the idea of Blair being spread out all over his room again. He smiled when he heard several books being sifted through. God forbid Blair go anywhere without a book. Shaking his head he caught Daniel's attention. "How're we getting there?"

"Air Force. Chauffeured car, private jet."

"Where are we going?"

"Colorado. That's all I can tell you right now."

Jim thought about it for a minute. "Cheyenne Mountain?" Daniel's eyes opened wide, eyebrows high, and Jim grinned and headed into the bathroom to collect their toiletries.


Jim signed his confidentiality agreement and watched as Blair signed
his. Despite his concerns that this was still going to end up as
something he'd be sorry for later, he had to admit his curiosity was
aroused. All he needed now was for someone to tell him what it was
that made the agreement necessary.

After they were done, Daniel escorted the two of them to the infirmary. As they walked, they passed armed guards and sealed doors, everything painted the obligatory steel-boat gray. Jim wrinkled his nose as he began to smell the typical odors associated with a medical area. Another guard was standing in front of the door that kept them from their goal.

The guard snapped to attention. "Dr. Jackson." He gave Jim and Blair a studied look.

Gesturing at the door, Daniel said, "May we go in? They're with me, and I think we're expected." As the guard complied, the easy entrance told Jim that Daniel was trusted around here.

The guard nodded and opened the door. Standing right inside was a sizeable black man, with an odd raised gold tattoo on his forehead. He sketched a slight bow, his speech pattern formal as he said, "I am glad to see you, DanielJackson. It appears you have successfully completed your mission."

Daniel smiled at him. "Hi, Teal'c." He turned to his guests. "This is Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison. Jim and Blair? This is Teal'c. He's a member of our team."

The man bowed his head. "I am pleased to meet you. I have heard much about you."

Jim frowned but nodded back. Something was peculiar about the large man. His smell was off, different. There were noises going on around the man's abdomen. Disconcerting noises. He could hear something moving, swishing. He raised his eyes and found Teal'c observing him.

Teal'c gave him the smallest of smiles. "I am curious about your Sentinel abilities. Perhaps we could meet and discuss them at a later time."

Despite the fact that his senses were alerted, Jim felt oddly comfortable with the man. "Sure."

He got another formal head bow and then the large man looked at Blair. "I suggest you attend to the other JimEllison. I do not believe he is doing well. DoctorFrasier has expressed concerns about his ability to live much longer."

Blair moved closer to Jim, as if to once again assure himself that it wasn't his Sentinel in danger. Jim flung his arm around his Guide to reassure him and to keep him close as they moved forward. Although nothing untoward was threatening Blair, it was too soon to relax. "Let's go, Chief. Let's get this done."

Blair gave him a nervous nod and moved in the direction Daniel was indicating.

A woman's voice called from behind a cubical curtain. "Is he here?"

Daniel stepped ahead of Blair and peeked around the curtain. "Yes, he's here."

Janet pulled back the curtain, her face a picture of concern and weariness. Her eyes widened when her eyes locked on Jim. She opened her mouth to talk but then stopped, as if realizing that now wasn't the time for conversation. Her gaze slid to Blair and she gave him a tight smile. "I hope you know what to do. He's dying and has slipped into a coma. There's nothing else I can do for him."

Blair winced. "No pressure, huh?"

Jim squeezed his shoulder. Hearing footsteps coming down the hall he turned and saw a man in his forties, Jim's height, if not a little taller, gray-haired, with a razor sharp look to him. Jim guessed by his bearing that he was a high-ranking officer, even though there was no insignia on the light tan camos he wore.

"Hey, it's Jim Ellison number two. Welcome to Wonderland."

"Hey, Jack," Daniel said in greeting.

"That's Colonel Jack to you, Danny boy."

Daniel rolled his eyes and, ignoring Jack, crooked his index finger to encourage Blair to move into the cubicle. Before Jim could stop him, Blair had slipped away and was moving with Daniel, with Daniel's arm around his shoulder, the taller man whispering in Blair's ear.

Jim had to forcibly stop himself from grabbing Blair back. He glanced at the man now known to him as Colonel Jack. From the Colonel's expression, it didn't seem as if he was any happier about Daniel being with Blair than Jim was about Blair being with Daniel. The fact that the two of them had a past together was painfully clear by their comfort level with one another, not to mention the--in Jim's estimation--completely unnecessary touching.

His eyes met the Colonel's and a silent communication took place between them, assuring each man that they were of like minds on this. The man held out his hand. "Colonel Jack O'Neill. Feel free to call me Jack."

"Jim Ellison."

"Well, one of them anyway. There seems to be a blue light special on them at the moment."

Jim frowned at the truth of that. "Is any of this going to be explained to us?"

Jack shrugged. "That depends on how successful your friend is."

His words were an impetus for Jim to check on Blair. Blair was staring down at the man in the bed. Jim looked down as well and experienced a moment of disorientation when he saw himself lying there.

Blair looked up at Jim. "He looks just like you."

Jim knew it was more than that. He could tell that for all intents and purposes, the man lying in the bed was him. He couldn't imagine how it was possible, and he suspected he'd never know if his double died. Jack didn't seem the sort to share classified information just to satisfy someone's curiosity. "Chief, let's get this show on the road."


Blair nodded and stepped closer, near the other Jim's head. He was
trying not to panic at having the responsibility for this man's life
essentially foisted onto him. Not to mention that the aforementioned
man was another Jim Ellison. Or that he was being observed by his Jim
Ellison and a past lover and a few other people he didn't even know.
He felt like he could barely draw a breath.

He sensed someone step behind him and felt a familiar hand on his shoulder. Jim's whisper ghosted across his cheek. "Sandburg, breathe. Just do what he showed you."

Blair nodded, threw a faint smile over his shoulder at his Sentinel and, as directed in the video, used his index finger to press against the four spots. When he touched the last one, Blair felt an unexpected rush of energy enter his hand and it made him take a step backward, right into Jim. "Whoa." His eyes were riveted at what he'd unleashed.

Streams of energy were cascading through the body lying on the bed. Blair could see it move, like rivers of light running from Ellison's head to his feet, down his arms, out to his fingers; every part of his body connected together in what was clearly a channel of pathways, interspersed with key clusters, four of which he had just touched.

"Man, do you see that?"

Blair looked at the others standing around the bed, only to be met by blank stares. Jim leaned close again. "See what, Chief?"

Blair gestured at the bed. "All the light. It's running all through his body." Suddenly he knew exactly what he had to do. "We need to get his scrubs off and--," Blair glanced over at Janet. "Can we tip him over a little? I need to see his back."

Janet gave Blair a considering look. Blair felt like he was being judged, and hoped he'd be found worthy. After a few moments, apparently having made up her mind that he was on the level, she called for an orderly and together they gently lifted Ellison on to his side.

Blair's eyes widened. "Man, this is amazing. I think this is his meridian system. It's a Chinese medical belief system that the meridians are conduits that help chi circulate through the body." At the raised eyebrows around him he tried again. "Chi, it's vital energy, it's what connects everything. It's the basis for acupuncture and acupressure. When the meridians are clear, the body is supposed to be balanced and healthy, but if they're blocked it means that, well, the opposite. Bad chi, bad news."

Blair gave Ellison a once over. "Man, his are all screwed up." With a wave of his hand, he indicated that they could let Ellison down.

Jack gave Blair a skeptical look, which didn't faze him in the least, because he got those looks on a regular basis from Jim. The question from Jack that followed was imbued with a very Jim-like disbelieving tone. "Meridians?" It sort of made Blair feel right at home.

Blair ignored the tone, like he always did, and went into teaching mode. "Just because the mainstream medical community in the United States chooses to write this stuff off as a way to practice medicine, it doesn't mean it doesn't work. They've been practicing this way for thousands of years in China, even with all the advances in medicine. They just use western medicine in addition to it because they believe in it. In fact, more and more practitioners in the western world are embracing it."

Jack scrunched up his face in dismay. "God save us. It's like another Daniel."

Daniel gave Jack a sideways disapproving glance and then flashed a quick grin at Blair. "I think you should take that as a compliment."

Blair grinned back. "I intend to."

Jack rolled his eyes. "Great." He made a rolling gesture in the air, as if to hurry this all along. "So can you fix him?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah, I think I can." He turned to Jim. "I think I can do this for you too. I mean think about it. A Sentinel's chi has gotta be way above normal, on a hyper setting, because of everything you take in. So, the meridians probably get out of whack really easily. That could explain all your headaches and back aches--"

Jim gently turned Blair's face back to the matter at hand. "First things, first."

"Yeah, right." Blair rubbed his hands together. "Hmm. I really think we need to take his scrubs off. The fabric makes it harder to see."

Janet nodded. "Okay. Everyone else out."

Jim shook his head. "I'm staying."

Jack agreed. "Me, too."

Janet glared at them both but then, clearly deciding neither them, nor Daniel, was budging, acquiesced. She pulled the privacy curtain, and between the five of them, they got the scrubs off the man, leaving Ellison naked. Blair tried not to notice what a beautiful body he had, although it was very hard to ignore. Very hard. Very beautiful. He knew his Jim would look just like this.

Blair gave himself a mental shake to pull it together. He started concentrating on the channels of light, taking note of where the flow seemed constrained. There were nine sluggish areas, and Blair could see that six of them congregated around the stings. The other three were over his bladder, all the way down his right arm, and his right shoulder.

Even though his knowledge of specific meridian channels was pretty sketchy, Blair knew exactly where to apply pressure. It just made sense, the lights providing him with an exact map. Taking a meridian at a time, he started exerting pressure on the acupressure points.

Blair started with the four he'd already pressed and then as Jim, Jack and Daniel held Ellison on his side again, he started pressing on the back of his head, along his spine all the way down his right leg and foot. Going up to his neck again, Blair started another line down his back that finished behind Ellison's right knee. Janet watched him like a hawk.

There was a cough. "Blair?"

At Blair's direction, the three men lay Ellison back down. His eyes were opened and anxious until he spotted Blair. He gave Blair a loving smile and spoke his name again. "Blair."

Blair couldn't help but smile back. He loved that smile of Jim's. It changed his face so much, made him so approachable, so gorgeous. "Hey."

Jim walked quickly to Blair's side, putting a proprietary hand on his shoulder.

Ellison saw the hand, saw his double, and a look of despair crossed his face. "Ah, your Blair." He struggled to sit up. "We need to go find my Blair."

Jack and Janet pushed him back down. "You're not in any shape to go anywhere," Janet snapped. Daniel surreptitiously pulled a sheet up to cover the lower part of the man's body.

Ellison flashed him a tight smile, then refocused on Blair. "I take it you figured it out?"

"It's your meridians, right?"

Ellison nodded. "Have you worked with them on your Sentinel?"

"No. I had no idea. But I can, right? I mean, this is a Sentinel/Guide thing, right?"

Ellison nodded again. "Yes." He closed his eyes as a spasm of pain crossed his face. "Can you finish?"

"Oh, man, yeah. I'm sorry." It took a while, but Blair slowly made his way through each of the affected spots, delighted as each sluggish area began to flow freely. He could see it in Ellison's face, the relief as the pain decreased and the toxins were released.

Janet was shaking her head in disbelief. "That's amazing. I've never seen anything like it." She glanced up at Blair. "Could you do that for anyone?"

Blair shrugged. "I don't know. I've never done it before." He glanced down at Ellison. "Can I?"

"Sort of. It works best on me. Or, on him," he amended ruefully, off what Blair was sure was another territorial look from Jim. "You also can treat other Guides pretty well. But, you can always help a little. Help decrease their pain, help the body's natural healing processes speed up a little, keep someone alive until you can get them back here."

Blair took another careful look at Ellison. Everything was flowing evenly, the pulses of light almost too fast for his eyes to follow. The rhythm of it was captivating. "How's that? Did I get it all?"

Ellison stretched, seemingly completely uninhibited about his nudity. Blair took full advantage of the opportunity, trying not to drool. He felt Jim's hand drop back on his shoulder a bit possessively and bit back a grin. He did flash a grin at Daniel who had taken the opportunity to sneak a look himself.

Ellison smiled. "I feel great." He flashed Blair a grateful look. "Thanks. That was a close one." He sat up and reached for the scrubs that were in a pile near the foot of the bed. "Unfortunately, that's not all I need from you. I can't get to where I need to go without you, and once we get there, I'll need your help healing my Blair if he's hurt." He swung his legs over the side of the gurney, making motions to stand.

Janet put out her hand. "Where do you think you're going?"

Ellison patted her hand. "I'm fine, Doc. No offense, but with the exception of broken bones, decapitation, and a direct staff weapon hit to a vital organ, Blair can pretty much take care of everything." He pulled on the scrub pants, standing to hitch them over his hips. Blair was sorry that perfect ass was covered so fast.

Then the words sunk in, and Blair widened his eyes. "I can?"

Ellison grinned at him. "You heal the Sentinel, Blair. It's in your Guide job description. All part of the package."

"Wow." Then Blair wrinkled his nose. "Is there a way to shut off this stuff? It's a little distracting." The meridian channels were still brightly making their way through Ellison's body.

Ellison handed his arm to Janet. "Could you take out the IV?"

Janet frowned at him. "I think I should be the one to decide that."

Ellison let out a sigh, coupled with a grin. "My Janet is just like you. We argue about this stuff every time I get sick."

Janet let out a satisfied nod. "As she should."

Ellison just kept holding out his arm. "I'm fine."

Janet gave him a narrow-eyed glare and then, capitulating, proceeded to take out the IV.

Ellison waited until she placed a small band-aid at the entry site and then put on the scrub shirt. Turning to Blair he said, "Close your eyes."

Blair did as directed.

"All I can do is tell you what my Blair does, and hopefully it will work."

Blair nodded, his eyes still closed. "Okay."

"Just imagine them gone."

Blair waited for more instruction. "And--?"

"That's it."

Blair let out a noise of frustration. "That's it?" At the grunt of agreement he got from Ellison, Blair let out a sigh and did his best. He imagined the light gone. Everything back to normal. Then he opened his eyes and grinned to see it had worked. "That is so cool."

Jack knocked on the bed frame. "Hate to break this party up, but I think it's time for a few explanations." His gaze shifted to Ellison. "Especially from you. And the less time spent on scorpions and vomit, the better."

Ellison got to his feet. "You got it, Jack. The sooner the better." He glanced at his watch and scowled. "I've already wasted too much time."

Jack glared at him. "You call me, or the other me, Jack?"

"I'm a Colonel, too."

Jack scrutinized him. "You work at Stargate Command?"

"I do."

"Do you lead another team?"

Ellison shook his head. "Nope, I'm on your team. Blair and I both are."

Jack pinched the bridge of his nose. "And this is okay with me? I mean, two civilians--," he stopped to glare at Blair, sharing his grievance. "I'm sure you don't do anything I say either, do you?" he directed at Blair. "I mean, the other you."

Blair wasn't quite sure how to answer that.

Daniel glared at Jack. "If he doesn't, it's for the same excellent reasons that I don't."

Jack flashed Daniel a disgruntled look that he then shared with the group. "Two civilian know-it-alls, someone who shares my rank, an alien who only obeys my commands when he agrees with them, and Carter? How do I stand it? Did I at least get a medal or something for putting up with all of you?"

"You love it. It's the best team there is. Bar none."

Jack almost growled at him. "I already have the best team there is."

Ellison glanced at Blair. "We make it better. Trust me on this."

Jack shook his head. "I don't think so. Not quite ready to trust anyone who throws scorpions at me." He frowned at Ellison. "So why don't you have your own team?"

"I, we--" Ellison let out a sigh and started again. "It's too much. It's too hard to be responsible for the team and in command and at the same time be fully tuned into my senses. That's what we're good at, what I'm good at, so it didn't make sense to stifle them so a Sentinel could lead a team. Plus, it's almost impossible for a Sentinel to be objective about putting his or her Guide in danger."

"Let me guess, they'd promoted you to Colonel so you could lead a team."

Ellison nodded. "Yup."

"So, I got stuck with you, another Colonel on the team."

Ellison snorted. "You were ecstatic to keep me on the team. You'd fought my promotion with every sneaky trick in the book, in your own inimitable way." He glanced at his watch again. "Can we get things rolling here?"

Jack considered Ellison for a minute and hmphed. Just then, Janet opened the cubicle curtain only to find Carter, Teal'c and Hammond standing there.

Hammond spoke to Ellison. "How are you feeling, son?"

"Great, Sir, thank you."

"Ready for a debriefing?"

"Yes, Sir. Time is of the essence."

Hammond glanced at his watch. "I'll expect to see you all in thirty minutes."

There was a general murmur of respectful agreement, with the exception of an impatient look from Ellison, who clearly wanted the debriefing now. As Hammond left the Infirmary, Ellison looked around. "Were my clothes salvageable?"

Janet shook her head. "Sorry, they went to decontamination."

Ellison let out a sigh and sent a hopeful look Jim's way. "Don't suppose you brought enough clothes for me to borrow?"

Jim nodded. "As a matter of fact, I did."

Janet handed Ellison a pair of slippers for his feet. Ellison grimaced but slipped them on. "I'm ready."

Blair watched them standing side by side and shook his head. "It's amazing. Besides the clothes, you guys are like twins."

"Ah." Janet raised a finger. "That reminds me. With your permission," she directed at Jim, "I'd like to draw some blood to match against his DNA."

Jim nodded and held out his arm. It only took Janet a minute to obtain her sample. When she was done, and a band-aid applied, Jack and Daniel escorted Blair and the two Jim Ellisons back to the guest quarters.

Blair felt a bit crowded with a Jim on either side, and the fact that they both seemed to want to be as close to him as possible wasn't helping. When they got to the door to their quarters, it took on all the earmarks of slapstick when neither Ellison wanted to give way to the other.

Blair rolled his eyes, shot a look at Daniel, and smartly took a step back, leaving them on their own. When they both looked back at him in surprise he shooed them into the room.


Jack didn't miss the look that flashed between Blair and Daniel and it
bothered him. Hopefully the two Jim Ellisons would take most of
Blair's attention which would in turn help keep the guy away from
Daniel. Even Jack could see his charm and if Jack could see it, it
wasn't any wonder that Daniel had been, or possibly still was,
attracted to it.

Not that Jack had any excuse to keep anybody away from Daniel. He just didn't like it. Never had, never would. The reasons why weren't important. He just didn't and that was good enough for him.

And it had nothing to do with the fact that Blair was a man. Jack guessed a long time ago that Daniel would have a flexible sexual orientation. He had never met anyone so willing to look beneath the surface to the worth that lay within. Daniel would never let color, age, gender, or even species get in the way of love. It was one of the things Jack admired most about his friend.

Jack himself had a fairly flexible sexual orientation, but it wasn't for any of the altruistic reasons he'd ascribed to Daniel. He just liked sex. Not that he ever got any. Or even looked for it these days. But, nevertheless, he liked it, wanted it. His eyes wandered over Daniel and he sighed. Having proof front and center that Daniel swung both ways offered up some intriguing new possibilities that were sure to complicate everything in his life.

He watched as Jim number-one handed Jim number-two some clothes, and Jim number-two headed for the bathroom to change. "One of you needs to be Jim and one of you needs to be Ellison, or my head's gonna explode."

Jim pointed at his chest. "I'm the one who belongs here, so I'll be Jim." Jim flashed Jack an anxious look, one he tried hard to keep from showing. "I am the one who belongs here, right?"

Jack nodded, almost feeling sorry for the man. It wasn't fun to be a control freak and then be confronted with a dozen things that were completely outside your control. Jack knew this to be true; it happened to him at least once a day. "Yeah."

"Do we get our explanation now?"

Jack hesitated and watched as Jim's eyes grew flinty. He didn't let it matter. "When it's the right time, you get explanations."

"And if it's never the right time?"

"Then you don't get an explanation."

Daniel and Blair, who had been chatting on their own, joined them. Daniel frowned at Jack. "Could you try and not act like such an complete ass?"

"Daniel--"

"Jack."

Jack rolled his eyes at his friend, hiding his grin. As much as it annoyed him, he had to admit he liked it that Daniel felt free to give him shit whenever the urge struck. Sometimes he thought it was the only thing that kept him from turning into the worst sort of military man.

The other Jim joined them. Jack pointed at him. "You're Ellison. He's gonna be Jim. Okay?"

Ellison nodded.

Blair looked at the two men, his head shaking in disbelief as his eyes finally landed on Ellison. "Now that you're dressed like that I can barely tell you apart."

"Yes, you can," Ellison disagreed. "Or you should be able to. You should be able to pick out your Sentinel blindfolded in a crowded room."

Blair furrowed his brow. "I should?" He flashed Jim a look of apology, as if he'd somehow slighted his Sentinel.

Ellison pursed his lips as he considered Blair. "I'm betting you can. I'm betting you're a lot more tuned in to your Sentinel than you think. Close your eyes," he directed Blair.

Blair looked a bit bewildered but obediently closed his eyes.

Ellison said, "We'll leave the room for a second. Keep your eyes closed. When we come back in, we'll stand in front of you, close enough to touch. Keeping your eyes closed, choose which one of us is your Sentinel."

Blair bit his bottom lip and nodded his acquiescence to the exercise. "Just as long as there's no booby prize if I pick wrong."

Jack watched as the two Jim Ellisons stepped outside the room and, after a few seconds, came back in. They immediately moved to stand in front of Blair who still had his eyes tightly shut. Jim stood there casually, but Jack--being a long-standing member of the 'don't let them see you sweat' school of survival--could see right through his charade. This mattered to Jim. He needed Blair to pick him.

Blair stood there for a few seconds and then, after blowing out a quick breath, he reached out and touched the man standing towards his right.

Jack saw the intense relief flash across Jim's face. Blair opened his eyes and looked equally relieved to see he'd chosen right. Jim smiled brilliantly at Blair, and Blair returned it with a smile of such sweetness it clenched at Jack's heart.

Ellison moved to Jack's side of the room, letting out a snort of laughter at, Jack could only assume, the look on his face. "Between his smile, and Daniel's guilelessness, they're like a one-two punch that no one can resist," Ellison explained.

Jack could see that. Daniel's rare smile was hard enough to resist, and considering the impression Blair's smile had on him, the two of them together would be something to behold. He watched as Blair and Jim continued their little private love-fest.

He caught Daniel's gaze and after giving Daniel a smile, got one of his aforementioned rare smiles that never failed to make Jack feel like a first grader who'd just gotten a gold star.

Jack arched an eyebrow at Ellison. "So, explain to me just why the hell I--or the other me--has you on his team. What's so great about you?"

"I'm the sentry for the team."

Jack shrugged. "And that's special because--?"

Ellison looked at his watch, frowned and then answered. "Because I can set up an immediate two-mile perimeter. I can see, hear, and smell anything that's going on when it's still a long way away. Long enough to keep the team out of a lot of trouble."

Jack pursed his lips. "Sweet." Then his brows furrowed. "Two miles?"

Blair tuned into the conversation and whistled. "Two miles? Man, that's incredible. I've measured Jim's senses, and I've only clocked him about half that distance."

Ellison amended his statement. "That's if you're helping me. I can only do a about a mile on my own." His eyes were bright with affection as he gazed at Blair.

Blair couldn't help but smile back. Then he glanced at his Jim. "That's not much less than what Jim can do with my help." Blair frowned. "Is it me? Am I doing something wrong?"

Both Jim and Ellison said, "No." Jim moved to stand a little behind and to the right of Blair, putting his hand on his Guide's shoulder as if daring anyone to disagree with his taciturn opinion.

Ellison nodded in nonjudgmental agreement. "Blair, my Blair, was trained to be a Guide. I'm guessing that you weren't. Right?"

Blair nodded anxiously. "Right. I sort of taught myself. Trial and error, you know?"

Jack watched as Jim squeezed Blair's shoulder and could see Blair relax a little under his touch.

Ellison glanced at his double. "Who trained you?"

"Blair."

"There wasn't anyone before Blair?"

Jim shook his head. "Not really. When I was stuck in Peru, a shaman named Incacha worked with me a little, but what I can remember of it wasn't half as much as what Blair's come up with."

Blair looked up at him with a grateful smile.

Ellison frowned. "Incacha? What happened to Ananaki?"

Jim scrunched his face up in thought and then his eyes widened in remembrance. "He was the shaman before Incacha. I remember the tribe speaking of him, but he was dead by the time I arrived, and Incacha was the shaman."

Ellison chewed on his bottom lip for a minute. Then he gave Blair an admiring stare. "I'm impressed that you were able to keep him from going nuts. While you have a lot to learn, I can see that you're as strong in this reality as you are in mine. One of the strongest Guides there is."

"Can you teach me more? I mean that meridian stuff was awesome, and if you show me what other things I can do, I can help Jim get stronger."

The hand on Blair's shoulder was used to harness him in this time. "Hang on there, Darwin. I've already got more than I can handle now."

Ellison disagreed. "Only because you're not fully trained."

Jim's eyes narrowed. "I do just fine."

Ellison snorted. "You've barely scratched the surface. The stuff Blair and I can do together would blow your mind. It goes way beyond just what you can see or smell."

Jack watched as Jim's gaze grew challenging. "I said I do just fine."

Blair put a consoling hand on Jim's arm. "Jim, relax. Let's listen to the guy."

Jim pulled away from Blair's touch. "I don't think so. All these senses have done for me is fuck my life up. And in case it slipped your mind, Chief, just a few hours ago, you were packing up with every intention of walking out on me." Jim's voice was like ice.

Hurt flashed over Blair's face. "Man, that's harsh. You know why I'm leaving, and you know it's not what I want."

"If you're still planning on leaving, why bother to learn anything more?"

Blair shrugged unhappily, staring up at his Sentinel. "I don't know, I just--." He shook his head, looking away. "I don't know." His whole body radiated despair.

An uncomfortable silence filled the room.

Daniel cleared his throat. "So, ah, Jim--," he pointed at Ellison, "what are we like in your reality? I mean, it's nice to know I'm a part of an SGC somewhere. The two realities we know about, I wasn't even there."

Jack silently commended Daniel for switching the subject. He suspected the conversation between Jim and Blair wasn't done, but guessed they'd both rather have some privacy for it. "Yeah, are me and Carter married in your reality, too?"

Ellison flashed him a surprised look. "You and Carter?" He shook his head. "Nah, you and Daniel are together." He took another look at his watch.

Jack's jaw dropped. "Excuse me?" He flashed a look at Daniel and saw that he was looking just as dumbfounded. Jack was strangely proud that a version of himself had had the balls to go after what he wanted.

Daniel's eyebrows almost rose off his face. "Me and Jack? We're, uh, we're, are you saying that we're--?"

Ellison gave them both a cautious look and slowly nodded. "Yeah, that's what I'm saying. I'm guessing you're not in this reality?"

Jack found himself reluctant to deny that they had a relationship. They did have one; they just hadn't finished figuring out what it was yet. And maybe, someday soon, it would be a lot more than what they currently had.

Ellison spoke again. "Is homosexuality still taboo here?"

Blair's eyes were wide. "You mean it's not where you are?"

Ellison shook his head. "No. We've moved past all that. Gender, race, it all becomes small potatoes when there's suddenly a whole universe to worry about."

Daniel caught on before Jack did. "You went public with the Stargate?"

Jack winced as he watched Jim start to pay very close attention to information he should not be hearing about.

Ellison nodded. "Right from the start. There is no greater unifying force than a common enemy, especially one like the Goa'uld. The Earth's a pretty peaceful place now."

Jack needed to stop any further talk of the Stargate. "So why aren't I with Carter? I was in both of the other realities."

Daniel frowned at him. "You got a problem being with me?"

Jack had no idea how to answer that so he decided to ignore Daniel's question, even as it gave him a shot of hope he couldn't decide whether to be encouraged by or terrified of, and looked back at Ellison, his eyebrows up.

"I can't speak for every reality, but out of the fifteen that I've been to, you and Daniel are paired up in every one except when there are two variables present."

"Which are?" Jack queried.

"If Daniel's not a part of SGC, you end up with Carter. Or, if Blair doesn't meet me, Daniel's with Blair. Otherwise, it's you and Daniel all the way. So to speak." He sent Jack a wicked grin. "Out of the fifteen realities I've been to, you've been paired with Daniel nine times. This is the first reality where you aren't paired with either of them." He frowned. "Or are you and Sam an item here?"

Jack shook his head in alarm. "No, no iteming going on. None at all. Of any kind." He glanced at Daniel and Blair, saw them flash each other a look with small grins attached. Jack wondered if they'd still be together if Blair hadn't met Jim. He felt a blinding relief that they had met, that Daniel was currently unattached leaving him, therefore, attachable. Just in case Jack decided to do something about it.

Jack shot Daniel a look only to find Daniel looking back at him, although the archeologist's eyes quickly looked away. Jack found himself grinning.

Ellison looked at his watch again. "Time to go."

Blair fell into step with Ellison, Daniel on his other side. Jack guessed he was still unhappy about Jim's earlier remarks. Jim didn't look too happy to have Blair defect to the other Sentinel, and Jack watched as the muscle in his jaw clenched and unclenched. Trying to save the guy some dental work, Jack asked, "So why's he leaving?"

"It's a long story." Terse and uncommunicative.

Jack could handle that.

"Stargate?" Apparently Jim had decided a subject change was in order.

"Pretend you didn't hear that."

"Just like I'm supposed to pretend I didn't hear about a universal common enemy?"

"Yup."

Jim let out a derisive laugh. "Can I just walk out of here right now if I want to?"

Good question. "Not sure."

That ended the conversation.


Ellison wanted to smack his double against a wall. How could he be so
stupid? This Blair was so much like his own, so much like the one he
was madly in love with, who completed him, the one person in the
universe that Ellison couldn't imagine living without, and Jim was
letting him slip through his fingers.

Ellison didn't have all the information about what was going on with them, but what he did know was that the thought of separation was taking a toll on both men. The problem was that Jim was doing everything wrong to stop it from happening.

Jim had to prove to Blair that they were meant to be together, destined to stand side-by-side. And that was not going to happen if every word out of Jim's mouth was focused on either denying his true nature, or making Blair feel worse than he already did.

Ellison swung into the briefing room and saw that Carter, Teal'c, Janet, and the General were already seated. Wanting to get under Jim's skin, he put his fingers on Blair's arm and directed him to the far side of the table to sit by him.

His face looking explosive, Jim followed them and sat on Blair's other side, placing his chair as close to his Guide as possible, then glaring at Ellison.

Ellison smiled grimly, satisfied he was making his point.

Once everyone was seated, General Hammond looked around the table, then centered his attention on Ellison. "Colonel Ellison, before we move forward, I need to know if it is necessary to keep our reality's Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg at the table. I have no doubt that the proceeding conversation will be highly confidential and I'd just as soon not bring civilians into it unless there is a high need."

Ellison knew the simple answer to Hammond's question was no. But, nothing about this was simple. The team could manage this without Jim and Blair, but he'd get to his Guide faster with their help and that was of paramount importance.

Of secondary importance was the goal that he and Blair had committed to, getting Sentinels and Guides involved with the Stargate programs in the alternate realities now accessible to them through the MG. This was where they were needed, protecting the tribe by protecting the Earth. "I'll be able to better answer that in a moment." Ellison glanced at Janet. "Did you find anything?"

Janet nodded and picked up a piece of paper sitting on the table in front of her. She introduced the subject saying, "At Colonel Ellison's request I've been searching for medical reports on scorpions." Holding the paper up as evidence she said, "I found this an hour ago. For some unknown reason, there's been a significant increase in the scorpion population in Iran, centered around Yzad. In the last 24 hours ten people have been hospitalized with stings in an area where ten a year is more common."

Ellison looked around the group. "That confirms that he's here." Now he could answer the General's question. "If Ahriman is here, you need me. And I need Blair. I don't necessarily need your Jim Ellison." Ellison could see Jim readying himself for an argument and cut him off at the pass. "However, if Blair stays, Jim stays."

General Hammond gave Ellison and Jim a sharp look. "And why is that?"

Ellison smiled. "Because Jim won't let his Guide go without him. And if you force him to leave, seeing as the mission's here on Earth, with his skills and the clues he already has, he'll simply track us and show up anyway. Better just to include him." Ellison decided to go for broke. "Besides, I think once you see what we can do, you'll want to keep them as a part of SGC." Ellison glanced at his counterpart and his Guide to find a frown on Jim's face and rapt curiosity on Blair's.

Jack scowled. "No offense, but why do we even need you? It's not like we haven't killed our share of Goa'uld on our own. Now that we know where he is, SG1 can go and take care of it."

Hammond nodded and looked at Ellison for his response. "Because he stole one of those." Ellison pointed at the piece of equipment sitting in front of Sam. "And I need to get it back. With that, once he figures out how it works, he can go anywhere, in any reality, without need for a Stargate."

Sam eyed the gadget, looking like she was going to burst if she couldn't ask about it, but she kept quiet.

Jack shrugged. "So we'll get it back for you."

"Not good enough."

"I'm thinking that's not your call."

Ellison gave Jack a studied look. "First of all, he's got Blair. Nothing you say or do, short of locking me in a cell, will keep me from trying to rescue him. Then, there's the small matter of transportation. Even with Air Force transport, it will be difficult to get in and out of Iran with a team without attracting the wrong type of attention."

Jack leaned back in his chair. "And you can get us there without attracting that kind of attention?"

Ellison pointed at the gadget again. "I can with that."

"Teach us how to use it, then."

Ellison shook his head. "I can't. Or, more specifically, I won't. And there's a reason for that, but I can't say anymore until the General decides what he wants to do."

Hammond gave him a brief nod. "Understood. Perhaps you gentlemen could step outside for a minute while we discuss it."

Ellison gave him a wry smile. "Unless you're going to send me and Jim a good distance away, there's not much point. You might as well say what you want to say."

A small frown graced Hammond's face, but he conceded the point and looked at Jack. "Jack?"

Jack squinted his eyes with a telling look at the gadget and said, "Will we get to learn how that thing works?"

Ellison nodded. "Yes." He bit back a grin at the tightly reined avaricious gleam in Sam's eyes. No matter what reality he was in, get Sam Carter near a new piece of equipment, and she was exactly the same.

Jack nodded. "I can't say I'm crazy about the idea, but he's got some good reasons as to why we should use them." His eyes were on the MG, letting all and sundry know that as far as he was concerned, it was the device that was the good idea, not necessarily Jim and Blair.

Jim frowned.

Ellison grinned. He knew Jack would soon be singing a different tune.

Hammond glanced at Sam. "Dr. Carter?"

Her fingers inched toward the piece of equipment. "This technology is far advanced of anything we have now. If we can learn what it is, and how to use it, I think it's a powerful argument for having them be a part of this mission."

"Dr. Jackson?"

Daniel gave the general a small smile. "I vote yes."

"Teal'c?"

"I agree with DanielJackson. I believe a Sentinel would be an asset to our team."

Blair smiled at Teal'c, and Teal'c almost smiled back.

"Dr. Frasier? Your opinion?"

"All I know, General, is that this man was dying, and Blair Sandburg saved his life using nothing but pressure points. If he can offer that assistance to everyone on the team, I'll rest a little easier."

The General flashed the team a tight smile. "Agreed. Consider yourself a part of the team for this mission." He nailed Jim and Blair with a serious look. "You both understand that anything you hear while at Stargate Command, and anything you learn while helping on this mission is strictly confidential?"

Jim nodded, frowning. "I understand, but I think we have the right to know what we're getting into before we agree to anything."

Daniel shot Blair an amused glance, his eyes mischievous. "You are not going to believe it."

Blair grinned back. "I already don't believe it."

Looking at the General for permission, and after receiving a nod, Daniel gave them a thumbnail sketch. "We found an alien artifact that creates wormholes that lets you travel to other planets."

Blair's mouth dropped open. "You're shitting me." Glancing at the General, he pasted an apologetic look on his face. "Sorry."

Jim leaned forward. "Excuse me? Other planets?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah, other planets, all over the galaxy. And there're good guys out there and bad guys. The one we're looking for is a bad guy."

Blair was almost bouncing in his seat. "You go to other planets?"

Ellison needed to get things back on track. "I know you need more explanations but the longer we wait here, the more damage Ahriman may be doing to my Guide." Even the thought of it made Ellison's chest ache. "If Jim and Blair are willing to participate, I suggest we save further explanations for later."

Blair didn't even wait to be prompted. "Man, I totally want in."

Jim shook his head. "Sandburg, this isn't some adventure ride."

Blair turned to Jim, putting his hand on his Sentinel's arm. "I know that. I also know I have to do this." He glanced over his shoulder at Ellison. "He needs my help, so I'm staying." He grinned. "Besides, other planets? Come on, Jim, I don't think adventure rides come much bigger than this."

Jim rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath. But not so quietly that Ellison didn't hear the softly uttered curse. He kept his comments to himself, knowing that as long as Blair was staying, Jim didn't have much of a choice.

Blair's grin grew and he shared it with everyone at the table. Ellison watched as they all fell under his charm. Including him, and it made him miss his own Blair fiercely. Please stay alive, Blair, he thought. Just stay alive.

Sam gestured at Ellison. "What about the quantum tremors? Won't you start having problems being in the same reality as another Jim Ellison?"

Ellison shook his head. "Ordinarily yes, but Blair can keep it from happening. I'll show him how to monitor me, so he can keep any of the side effects at bay."

"Can he do that for us, if we go to other realities?"

"Yes, but not as effectively. A Guide is connected to his or her Sentinel. There's a cellular recognition that enhances all of a Guide's capabilities when they are working with their Sentinel. But he can stave them off for a number of days."

Sam looked impressed, but then got sidetracked by the equipment. "And this is a portable quantum mirror? Why couldn't I get it to work?"

Ellison begrudged the time it would take, but knew he had to share this information to get them fully hooked. "It's also a portable Stargate."

That got Jack's attention and he pointed at the gadget. "That's a portable Stargate?"

Ellison nodded. "It will take you to any planet you have an address to and any reality of that planet, once you're there. It can also transport you around any version of Earth, if you know where you're going. Now you see why we have to get it back from Ahriman. With that, he can go anyplace, literally."

Sam stared at the gadget. "Holy Hannah."

They all looked at the small device with some serious respect. Finally Hammond said, "And you'll share this with us?"

"Yes. If we recover the other one from Ahriman, I can leave one with you. I can also tell you what it's made of and how it works. That's something else I can do with Blair's help."

Blair's eyebrows rose. "What do you mean?"

"With you guiding me, so I don't zone, I can see down to the atomic structure of objects."

Blair's eyes grew wide. "Whoa. I can help you do that?"

Ellison gave Blair a smile. "There's so much you can do, so much I can teach you."

Blair smiled gratefully at him. "That would be great. I can't believe I finally found someone who can teach this stuff to me." He glanced quickly at Jim as if to share his delight. At the stony look on his face, the smile turned tight and sad.

Ellison decided he'd nudge Jim again in a big, completely un-ignorable way. "Hey, there's a lot of Jim Ellison's out there, including a few who have lost their Blair. I'm sure they'd love to have you come and be their Guide. Not to mention all the other Sentinels that don't have Guides. There's always a shortage."

Jim stood and moved between him and Blair so fast that even Ellison was impressed. Jim had his fist wrapped around his shirt and was lifting him out of his seat before Ellison realized he'd gotten the reaction he wanted, big time. Getting in his face, Jim hissed, "Don't even think about it. He stays here, with me."

Only the sincere fear in Jim's eyes kept Ellison from decking him. Instead he hissed right back. "Then stop being an idiot." Then even softer, Sentinel soft, he said, "Love him. That's what he needs now." It made Ellison crazy that Jim was letting any distance grow between them, when all he wanted to do was hold his Blair and never let him go.

Jack pushed them apart, glowering at them both. "This stops now, or you're off the team."

Jim glowered right back. "I never asked to be on your damn team in the first place."

Jack gestured toward a guard. "You want me to ask him to escort you to a cell? I'd be glad to. Really, really glad to."

With a look of regret, Jim let go of Ellison and stepped back to his chair, carefully not looking at Blair.

Jack asked again, mock disappointment in his voice. "Are you sure? I really wouldn't mind."

Sam changed the subject by holding the now clearly revered gadget aloft. "Where did you get it?"

"You designed it, Sam."

Sam looked stunned. "I did?"

"With a little help from the Tollan, Narim specifically, and the Nox," Ellison amended.

Even Jack looked surprised at that. "The Tollan and the Nox? Why would they give us--you--any of their technology? They told us to take a hike." He didn't look happy that another SG1 team had succeeded where they had failed.

Ellison held out his hand towards Sam, and Sam reluctantly handed the device over. "I told Jack earlier that we went public with our Stargate as soon as Daniel got it open. None of us knew then that it had been opened before."

Daniel's eyebrows lifted. "Ernest's planet?"

Ellison nodded. "We went back, Daniel."

A look of yearning passed over Daniel's face. "In our reality the Stargate fell into the ocean."

Ellison held up the device. "We went back with this. You went back with Ernest, leading a team of the best and brightest scientists and linguists the world had to offer to work on deciphering the secrets left there."

Daniel's look of yearning grew even stronger. "We could use that to go back there?"

Jack interrupted. "Down, Daniel, down. Let's get back on track. Why did the Tollan and the Nox change their mind?"

"When we went public, and when both the threats of the Goa'uld and the promises of technology and medical advances became clear, as well as the lure of discovering the secrets of the universe, every continent on Earth sent the best soldiers, the best scientists, the most educated, most experienced men and women they had to be a part of the Stargate program."

He continued. "I don't mean to make it sound like it was easy. There were several attempts to sabotage the Stargate; some key politicians in support of the program were assassinated. And some splinter terrorist groups tried to use the world's unrest to try to assume power in parts of the world. But, like I told Jack, there is no unifying force stronger than a common enemy. Through the use of propaganda, news of this new enemy, the Goa'uld, was spread, and support for the program grew."

"How did you and your Blair end up in the program?" Blair asked.

"We volunteered. After talking about it, it seemed the best way to use my senses. Once they saw what we could do, SGC started searching for more Sentinels. We were shocked at how many there were. After a while, every SG team had a Sentinel/Guide pair. It makes for larger teams, but casualties have gone way down with the new set up."

Jack pointed at Ellison's hand. "And the gizmo?"

"When we met the Nox, they took to Daniel and Blair in a big way. And they were fascinated by the way the Sentinel/Guide pairing worked, through use of the meridians. It's not that far off from how the Nox manipulate matter; it's all ultimately about energy. They also saw that our planet was well on our way towards a truly peaceful existence for the first time in our history. But even with all of that, they were still reluctant to share any of their technology with us."

Jack snorted. "Welcome to the club."

Ellison ignored him. "Then we met the Tollan and introduced them to the Nox." He glanced around the room. "You saw the devices they used to get through solid matter?"

Everyone but Jim and Blair nodded their heads.

"The Nox loved them. Not that they needed them. They can manipulate matter just with their thoughts, and create wormholes the same way. But they saw the device as something we could use that could aid us in our quest for peace and exploration. They somehow harnessed the meridian energy and combined it with the Tollan device, and then enhanced it so it could create wormholes. Then Lya gave it to Blair, showed him how it worked, and told all of us that she hoped it would keep us children busy."

"Why did she give it to Blair?" Sam asked, puzzled. She was doing a terrible job hiding her envy.

"Because it won't work without him," Ellison explained. "Or without a Guide. He or she has to sync the person's meridian channels with the energy output of the device before you can even turn it on. I think Lya liked the idea that it only worked through cooperation."

Blair looked fascinated. "How am I supposed to make it work?"

Ellison shot him what he hoped was a reassuring look. "I'll show you."

"So what do you call that thing?" Jack asked.

Ellison snorted out a laugh. "You named it. You call it the MG. Stands for meridian gizmo."

Sam stifled a laugh.

Ellison stood up and moved away from the table, crooking his finger for Blair to join him. Jim didn't look very happy, but he didn't try to stop Blair. Ellison strapped the MG to his own wrist and looked down at the younger man. "Can you see my meridians now?"

Blair shook his head.

"Touch the four main pressure points again."

Blair did as told, reaching up to touch Ellison's head. Ellison knew he'd been successful when Blair let out an excited yelp. "That is so cool."

Ellison held out his wrist. "Do you see what the MG is doing to my energy?"

The room was silent as Blair investigated his wrist, hand and arm closely, nodding. Then, without any further prompting, Blair began to press points on Ellison's arm, from the side of his thumb up to his armpit.

The MG began to hum and Blair stepped away. "Did I do it? Is that right?"

Ellison nodded. "You did great." He turned away and holding his arm up, he pressed a button on the side that lit the device up. Then he punched in some numbers and in a few seconds a wormhole appeared, just like the one they'd seen in the gateroom.


Blair took a step toward it, but Jim was suddenly there, holding him
back. Blair took the restraint in stride and asked, "Where does that
go?"

"Peru. Don't worry. It's not anywhere anyone will see it." He pushed another button, and it shut off. Ellison gestured at Sam. "Come here."

Sam practically ran to him. Ellison unstrapped the MG from his wrist and put it on hers. Then he turned to Blair, and said, "Touch her four main pressure points."

Blair glanced up at Sam. "Okay with you?"

She nodded emphatically, looking like she could hardly wait.

Blair reached up and touched the same four points. Then, with a clinical eye, his eyes moved over Sam. "I can see them, but they're not as clear as his."

"No, they won't be. But it's enough. Do the same thing for her that you did for me." Then he cautioned Sam, "Don't push any buttons until I tell you to."

She nodded and held her arm out to Blair.

Blair studied her arm, and then, more cautiously, began the same process he'd done on Ellison.

Sam let out a gasp. "I can feel it, I can feel what you're doing."

Blair gave her arm one more look and then backed away. "I think I did it."

Ellison nodded and pointed at the MG. "You did. You can tell it's functioning by the lights on the side."

Sam turned her arm a little so she could see. "How's it work?" she nudged.

"The first thing you have to do is turn it on." He gave her a wry grin. "It would not be a good thing to have it throw open a wormhole because you accidentally bumped one of the buttons on the MG."

Sam winced and nodded.

"They're all coded. This one is 05241969. Push that small button and an LCD keyboard will show up. Use that to punch in the numbers."

Blair interjected with an enthusiastic, "Hey, that's my birthday."

Ellison grinned at him. "Yes, it is."

Blair looked up at Jim, still grinning, only to find Jim not grinning back at him. Blair shrugged and grinned at Daniel, who gave him a quick reassuring grin back. Ellison noted that that little interchange put an even more sour expression on Jim's face.

He continued his instructions. "The first button cycles through the cartouches very much like the dialing computer you have now. The second button cycles through the different realities, although that's a little trickier, and I'll show you how to do that later. The third and fourth buttons allow you to put in longitudes and latitudes for places on Earth."

Sam stared at it. "This is amazing." She glanced at Ellison. "Can I try it?" As if realizing she was asking the wrong person, she turned toward Hammond. "General?"

"Go ahead."

Sam grinned and, after thinking for a minute, selected seven cartouches. There was a soft whoosh sound and a wormhole appeared in front of her. She gestured at it. "How do I know it's really going there?"

"Where did you select?" Ellison held up a hand to stop her from answering. "Wait, let me see." Ellison approached the wormhole and then cautioned Sam, "Please don't touch any buttons." Sam nodded and Ellison stuck his head through the event horizon. In a moment he pulled back. "Land of Light?"

Sam grinned delightedly. "It is. That's what I dialed." Then she looked puzzled. "How did you do that? Stick your head in and see? With the Stargate it takes time to travel between destinations." She grimaced. "Would it hurt you if the program shut off while part of you was here and part of you was there?"

Ellison answered the last question first. "No, it doesn't hurt, but it's pretty uncomfortable. It's like that part of you sort of snaps back into place." It was hard to explain what an odd feeling it was. Directing his attention back to the MG, he said, "In answer to your other questions, this device functions more like a door. The Nox were able to cut the travel part out of it. Your destination is right on the other side." He shrugged. "Even my version of you couldn't figure out how they did that."

Sam turned to Hammond. "This is incredible." Including Jack in her excitement she added, "If we had one of these, we'd be able to make an immediate tactical retreat if a mission went badly and not have to fight our way back to the Stargate." Following Ellison's directions, she shut down the wormhole.

Jack was nodding, but then he looked confused. "How is Ahriman using it? If only a Guide can make it work, how did he get from where you were to here?"

Ellison blew out a breath. "He took Blair. We've been after Ahriman for months now. He'd been sighted on PX2-773, and SG1 had gone to do some reconnaissance."

Jack pursed his lips. "I'm guessing something went wrong?"

Ellison felt a surge of hatred for Ahriman, and had to take a moment to control it. "We miscalculated and one of Ahriman's Jaffa saw us arrive. When they started to attack, Blair tried to get the MG gate open, but before anyone could go through, Ahriman showed up, and--" Ellison swallowed and found himself shivering.

Jack grimaced. "Oh, I know this one. Scorpions."

Ellison grimaced back. "Yeah. Scorpions. Because of his symbiote, he's immune to their stings. They're all over him. He didn't even bother to call for help, just started flinging scorpions at us, laughing at us." He shivered again. "There were too many. We all started getting stung and I could hear more of his followers coming, alerted by our cries."

"Did your Blair get the MG thing to work?" Blair asked.

Ellison nodded. "Yes, but Ahriman saw what he was doing and, no doubt hoping to get the technology for himself, and being the fearless son of a bitch that he is, he grabbed Blair and jumped through."

He looked down at his body, still seeing all the scorpions. Ellison's heart started to race as the sense memory of being covered by them grew stronger. Suddenly he felt Blair's hands on him, touching him, and he could feel a sense of calm flow through him. Closing his eyes for a second to savor it, he smiled. "You're getting good at that."

"I wish I'd known how to do it when I first met Jim. I could have helped so much more than I did."

Ellison opened his eyes, defensive on Blair's behalf, and was relieved when he saw Jim touch Blair's arm. "You did just fine, Chief. I'd be in an insane asylum if it hadn't been for you."

Hammond spoke up. "What happened next, son?"

Ellison went back to his story. "The MGs leave a trace behind that another MG can pick up on for a few seconds. I set mine to follow him, but then adjusted it so I'd go to that Earth's version of SGC, hoping I could find some help. There was no way I'd be able to deal with Ahriman on my own, especially having been stung so many times."

Jack scowled. "And so you decided to share all your scorpions with us, thank you so much."

Ellison smiled ruefully at Jack. "I am sorry about that. If I'd had time, I would have gone back to my Earth, and let another Guide cure me. Then we could have brought a team to Earth to try to deal with Ahriman without any of you even knowing we were here."

"So why didn't you?" Jack sounded like he wished Ellison had done just that.

"Unfortunately the MGs can only hold an alternate reality heading for a short while. Well, that's not completely true. They can hold it indefinitely, but we learned the hard way that it's not safe to do it."

"Let me guess," Sam interjected. "The energy leaks through and causes quantum tremors."

Ellison smiled at her. "Exactly. We had three quarters of the base practically convulsing before we figured it out. So, we put a fail safe in the MGs to only hold an alternate reality heading for five minutes. That's enough time to get everyone through a wormhole and shut it down."

"Couldn't you have locked in the address and followed him later, after going home first?"

He gestured at the MG still wrapped around Sam's wrist. Ellison figured he'd have to tranquilize her to get it back. "The MG can't always deal with an alternate reality. You have to actually go there to lock in a destination, so you can go there again. If you don't do that, the MG won't hold the address for more than a minute or two, almost as if it can't sense that it's real unless you're there. Does that make sense?"

At their nods, he continued. "It's why I had to follow Blair. If I hadn't, I'd never have known where he'd gone. I needed to move fast, so I left Jack and the rest of the team to get back to SGC using the second MG or the Stargate and I followed Ahriman to your Earth. And here I am. Right now, he's probably trying to torture the information out of Blair about how the MG works. As long as Blair can hold out, Ahriman is stuck here."

"How do you know your Sandburg is all right? Wouldn't the scorpions have stung him, too?" Blair questioned cautiously.

"It's possible, but I do know he's alive."

"Is your ability to know he's alive part of your Sentinel skills?" Teal'c inquired.

"Yes. Just as he can tell if I'm alive."

Jack leaned forward. "Did he take anyone else besides him and Sandburg?"

Ellison shook his head.

"Okay. So, correct me if I'm wrong, but how hard can this be? He's by himself, no Jaffa, no ship, no way out of here unless he figures out how to use the MG. He's sort of a sitting duck, right?"

"Scorpions," Daniel reminded him.

"Well, yeah, there is that. And I know it's a rescue mission and things can always go wrong, but still, one Goa'uld against all of us. How hard could that be?"

Daniel sighed. "It probably would have been easy, except now you've completely jinxed us."

Jack scowled at Daniel. Only Ellison noted that his eyes lingered on Daniel a little longer than usual.

"What happened to your team? Are they all right?" Blair suddenly asked.

"I don't know. I hope so. I imagine Jack's waiting for me to contact him and give him a report."

"So why haven't you?" Jack asked.

Ellison looked around the room. "Because it's not just my decision anymore. And I don't think it's a good idea to bring your doubles here now. Or at least not all of them. It's distracting and could be deadly on a mission."

"How so?" Jack snapped.

"Who'd be in charge of this mission, you or my Jack?"

"Me."

"Who's gonna tell him that?"

"Me."

"Who's gonna stop him from instinctively barking out an order in the middle of the mission if things start to go bad? Orders that might be counter to those you're giving."

That stopped Jack. "Good point."

"You need to let your team know you're all right," Blair said earnestly.

Ellison nodded. "I do need to do that, but I didn't want to do it without your knowledge. I need all of you to trust me."

Hammond gifted him with a small smile. "We do, Colonel. Why don't you let your people know you're all right, and then you can fill us in on everything we need to know to put an end to this Goa'uld and get you and your Guide back to your own reality."

Ellison nodded and took the MG back from an unwilling Sam. In seconds, with Blair's help, he had a wormhole open and, looking back at the group sitting around the table, said, "I'll be back soon." With that, he stepped through the wormhole and it closed behind him.


Even though Jim was still in a room filled with people he wasn't sure
he could trust, not counting Blair, and deep within the bowels of a
military institution Jim wasn't sure he'd be walking out of, he still
felt an inordinate relief when his doppelganger vanished.

It had been unsettling to see someone only a few feet away who not only looked like him, but was him. And was someone who had a Blair of his own, and had gotten a little too cozy with the Blair that wasn't his own.

Even worse, the other Jim Ellison had suggested that Blair leave him. And not leave him as in moving out of town, or even out of state. No, leave him as in leave the fucking planet, go to an alternate reality, and be some place Jim could never, ever see Blair again. That was not all right on such a gigantic cosmic scale that it made the marrow in Jim's bones freeze.

He'd thought the idea of Blair moving out of his apartment had been bad enough, had been the worst thing he could think of just a few hours ago. Jim let out a snort. How things can change in just a matter of hours. He thought of Ellison's words. To love Blair. He did love Blair. He'd never loved anyone the way he loved Blair. How could Ellison--

A hand on his arm interrupted his reverie. He looked over to find Blair staring at him, worry lines creasing his forehead. "You all right, Jim?"

Jim let out a mirthless laugh. "Yeah, Chief. Never better." As the worry lines increased on his friend's face, Jim patted his hand. "Just have a headache." A headache--that was a laugh. His head was about ready to burst. There were too many sounds and smells he couldn't identify that he couldn't shut off. Starting with the large black man sitting across from him. He didn't smell right. He didn't smell human. And the sounds and noises coming from his abdomen were bewildering.

"Hey, Jim, let me try that thing on you."

Jim looked at Blair. "What?"

"That meridian thing. Maybe I can get rid of your headache."

Jim took a quick glance around and saw that everyone was watching him. "Maybe later."

Blair leaned toward him. "Come on, man. I can tell you're hurting. It will just take me a second."

Teal'c spoke up. "Please proceed. I would like to see the procedure again. I am most curious about it."

Janet nodded. "Me, too. Maybe you could tell us what you're doing, Blair, as you do it."

"I agree. I'd like a chance to see it as well." Hammond announced.

Jim let out a sigh, reluctant to be a public guinea pig; Blair's tests were bad enough when they were on their own. But he didn't have the heart to say no to that look on Blair's face, let alone everyone else's entreaties. He whispered to Blair. "I'm not taking off my clothes."

Blair grinned with glee and waved his hand at Jim. "Push away from the table so I can see you better."

Jim pushed away and waited. He hadn't really been able to see what Blair had been doing to Ellison and Sam. Now that he'd agreed, he had to admit he was curious as well.

Blair reached up to touch the top of Jim's head but then he dropped his hand and let out an excited cry. "Man, I don't even have to touch you, I just have to think about it and I can see your channels." He gazed at Jim. "Can you see them?"

Jim looked down at his body, didn't really see anything out of the ordinary, and then focused more intently on his arm. "Show me one of them." He was sure if he could get a little direction, he'd be able to see what Blair was looking at.

Blair gently traced a line that started at Jim's right armpit, down to the inner joint of his elbow, then continued past his wrist and finished at the tip of the little finger. He didn't press any points, just skimmed his skin. Jim's eyes opened wide as he saw the faint light under his skin. "I can see it. Does it look like light to you?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah, like a river of neon. Pulsing all over your body, like a waterfall. It's amazing."

Jim's eyebrows went up. Clearly Blair was seeing a much stronger version of it than he was. "Speaking of pulsing, that headache's about to knock me right out of this room."

"Oh, yeah." Blair's eyes ran over Jim, from his head to his feet. "I can see you much better than I could see the other Jim. It must be because I'm your Guide."

Jim couldn't help but feel relief at that, along with a surge of what Blair liked to call his primitive imperative. Blair was his. No one was taking him anywhere. Suddenly he realized that Blair was touching him and encouraging him to stand.

Trying not to feel foolish, Jim stood, arms out from his body.

Blair started a commentary. "I only know the basics of the meridian system, and it doesn't help that not every practitioner uses the same physiological framework for each of the meridian channels. I guess I'm really gonna need to study up on them."

Jim saw a flicker of sadness momentarily replace the excitement on Blair's face. Jim guessed that Blair had suddenly remembered that, right now, they didn't have a future together, so there wouldn't be much need for studying.

Jim didn't want to see that look on his Guide's face anymore. He leaned forward and spoke softly. "Chief, we'll work something out."

Blair looked up at him and Jim watched as emotions passed over his face, like quickly shifting clouds. Worry, confusion, hope, back to worry.

His Guide nodded, gamely smiling, and continued. "Anyway, from the stuff I remember, there are twelve main meridians. Each meridian is related to an organ or function of the body. Then there're eight additional channels, called extraordinary channels that help supply chi and blood to the twelve main ones."

Blair stopped his lecture to study Jim. He started counting softly to himself then grinned up at Jim. "This is so amazing, man." He gave Jim another once over. "I can see where things are stopped up." He started pressing points on Jim, starting with the right side of his face, and then moving around his nose down to his jaw.

"I'm guessing your stomach meridian goes nuts all the time. Physically, obviously, it's the organ that deals with food, but metaphysically it's the meridian that deals with taking things in, or absorbing information. It's probably the main one you use for your senses." Blair's hands continued down his body, across his chest, down to his groin, and then all the way down Jim's right leg.

Jim could feel what Blair was doing. He could feel things loosening up, like someone opening up a sluice channel in a dam, letting more water flow through. His body started to heat up, a healing warmth that energized him. Jim realized that his headache was gone, and that he felt better than he had in a very long time.

As Blair touched the area directly over his stomach and then finished back up at the top of his head, Jim smiled at his Guide. "Wow. That's incredible."

Blair smiled back. "Did that help?"

"Yes. My headache's gone. I feel like a million bucks."

Blair's smile grew incandescent. "That's great, man. That was so easy. I really wish I'd known about it before."

"Hey, can you work on my knees?" Jack teasingly asked.

Blair shrugged. "Don't know. Want me to try?"

Jack paused, and Jim guessed that he'd thrown the words out to be a smartass, but then he glanced at Jim. "You all right with that?"

Jim felt another jolt of inappropriate pride--that Jack was asking him for access to his Guide. Blair would smack him upside the head for having thoughts like this. Trying to sound like he meant it, he said, "That's up to Blair."

Blair grinned. "Sure. I'll try it." He moved to Jack and got him to stand.

Jack stood, his face showing a mixture of speculation and skepticism, but at Blair's urging, he held out his arms and let Blair study him. "I can't see them as well as I can see Jim's, but I can see where there're a few problem areas. Want me to try and fix them?"

Jack shrugged. "Sure. Wait, you don't need me to strip down, do you?"

Blair shook his head, grinning impishly. "Not unless you want to."

Jack shot him a look and tried to fight back a grin. "You got malpractice insurance?"

Blair let out a laugh, and then he started touching Jack. As he touched, he said, "Now that I know what I'm looking for, they're easier to see, even through fabric. I guess that's a good thing. If Jim got hurt on a case, it's not like he'd have time to strip down for me."

Jim tried not to care that Blair was touching Jack all over. He especially tried not to care when the touches came close to Jack's groin, Blair crouching down in front of him. What stopped Jim from pulling Blair away was the look of intense concentration on his Guide's face. It was the same look he had when he was hunched over his lap top. It also helped that Blair didn't smell aroused. And as far as Jim was concerned, it was lucky for Jack that he didn't smell that way either.

Daniel was standing close to Jack, splitting his time between watching everything Blair was doing, and watching Jack's reactions to it.

Blair finished up and stood. "How's that?"

Jack bent his legs, one at a time, at the knees. Then he swung his arms and twisted at the waist, back and forth. "I feel like I've dropped ten years." He gave Blair an admiring glance. "You're a handy guy to have around."

Blair grinned brightly at the praise, and Jim could practically smell how pleased Blair was at this new skill. Jim took a deep breath, filling his senses with his Guide's aroma. He agreed with Jack; he couldn't believe how good he felt either. He thought of all those headaches and sighed.

Blair yawned and rubbed his temples.

Jim frowned at him. "You all right?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just a little tired."

Jack pursed his lips. "Is it because of this meridian thing? Did that make you tired?"

Jim could almost see the wheels turning in Jack's brain, measuring Blair's worth, questioning his usefulness if after tending to two members of the team he was already tired. Jim hated him for it, even as he understood the instinctive response. A leader needed to know the strengths and weaknesses of everyone on his team and--at least for the moment--he and Blair were a part of Jack's team, whether they wanted to be or not.

"Nah. I'm just tired. Haven't gotten much sleep lately."

Jim glanced at his Guide and could see the weariness on his face. He could also see elation and excitement, something he hadn't seen on Blair's face for a while.

"Well, help yourself to some coffee. Daniel makes sure it's the best stuff."

Blair grinned at Daniel, and by unspoken agreement, they met by the coffee pot. Jim listened to the two men speak about Blair's new talents and then tuned in to the rest of the conversations around him. Sam was talking to Hammond about everything that device could do for them. Jack was talking to Janet, doing an occasional callisthenic, testing out how he felt after Blair's therapy.

That left Teal'c. Jim brought all his senses to bear on the large man, trying to understand what he was. Teal'c stared right back at him. Jim had questions to ask, but he wasn't sure how to ask them.

Suddenly, in the midst of them, the shimmering door reappeared. All of them backed away, the SFs in the room aiming their weapons.

Ellison popped through. "It's just me." He grinned. "Well, not just me. Someone wanted to come along for a quick visit." When he cleared the portable wormhole, following him was a second Jack O'Neill. The door shut behind him.

Jack let out a disparaging sound. "Oh, sure, you had to bring him, didn't you?"

Ellison turned to look at O'Neill and then grinned at Jack. "And here I was so sure you'd want to meet."

Jim kept his eye on both Jacks. Jack gazed at his double through narrowed eyes. "What do you want?"

O'Neill glared at Jack through equally narrowed eyes, and then glanced at everyone around the room. "Just want to make sure my Sentinel is gonna be in good hands."

"They'll be in mine."

O'Neill frowned at Jack, as if the idea didn't reassure him at all. Then he seemed to notice Daniel. "Hey, Danny."

Jim watched Jack get even tenser.

Daniel walked over until he was standing abreast of both Jack O'Neills. Jim thought he might be standing just a little closer to his Jack. Then he bit back a smile as Jack moved much closer to Daniel, doing his own version of marking his territory.

O'Neill grinned wickedly.

Jack scowled. "Just to make sure there're no misunderstandings, you're not going with us."

Still grinning, O'Neill said, "Don't worry. One Jack O'Neill per reality is already one too many."

Jack gave his counter part a mocking smile, the 'fuck you' clearly implied.

O'Neill poked his finger at Jack's chest. "You just make sure you bring my kids home, safe and sound." He pointed at Blair. "And that includes my version of him." He glanced back at Jack. "We clear?"

"Crystal. How 'bout next time, you just keep your Goa'uld to yourself?"

O'Neill's response was to take a computer disk out of his vest pocket. He handed it to Sam. "Here's everything we know about Ahriman. Maybe it will help." Then he handed Jack an MG. "We've learned it's best to have at least two of these per mission in case something happens to one of them. I expect to get that one back."

Jack's fingers closed around it.

O'Neill moved closer to Jack, speaking softly. Jim didn't think anyone would be able to hear him except for him and his double. Before he spoke, O'Neill flashed a look at Ellison, letting him know that he knew he could hear. "If Blair's hurt bad, Jim's gonna go a little mental. Just keep that in mind. He needs a choke chain sometimes."

Ellison glared at O'Neill.

O'Neill sent him a not-very-apologetic look, this time speaking to him. "It's true, and you know it. Keep it together. Okay?"

Ellison nodded, hoping he could. O'Neill was right. When he knew his Guide was hurt, it was hard to concentrate.

O'Neill switched his attention back on Jack. "You'll take care of him, of both of them?"

Jack gave him a terse nod in response. Such a small movement but it communicated a life's worth of words. Jim could almost see Jack strap on his weapons, see him threat assess, see him kill when his people were in danger. The look of determination in Jack's eyes and the set of his shoulders told Jim that the Colonel was a man whose first objective, whenever possible, was to bring his team home safe. Jim thought that maybe this was a man he would be proud to serve with, a man he might be willing to take orders from.

O'Neill walked across the room to shake Hammond's hand and then, after getting Blair's help to start up his MG, he dialed open the wormhole and said, "If you need reinforcements, we're only a door away." Then, with a last look at Ellison, he stepped through.

Hammond called for their attention by clearing his throat. "Due to the fact that there's a man in danger, you have a go in two hours time."

He stood, and Jack followed suit, and in a second they were all rising. Hammond left them to it.


Blair swung his legs as he sat on a stretcher waiting for Jim to get
finished with his CT scan. Janet had decided that she wanted them
both to submit to a full baseline examination before leaving and had
requested their immediate presence in the infirmary.

Blair grinned. Between the weird hours and being bossed around by everyone, he was feeling right at home. Sort of. If you ignored the fact that he was 28 floors underground, that he was hanging around with a person from another planet, and that they were about to go after a guy who was like Lash, Quinn, Bracket, Chapel and Kincaid all rolled into one. If you ignored all of that.

Hearing footsteps he looked up with anticipation but, instead of Jim, it was Teal'c who looked around the cubicle curtain. "Hey, Teal'c." Blair couldn't get over the fact that Teal'c was from another planet. "Can I help you with something?"

"I was looking for JimEllison."

Blair grinned again. "Jim Ellison #1 or Jim Ellison #2?"

"It is your JimEllison whom I seek."

"Great! He'll be back in a few minutes. Janet is running a scan on him right now."

"I see."

Blair saw that Teal'c looked as if he might leave, so he quickly asked, "I know it's none of my business, but why do you need Jim?"

"I find I am most curious about his enhanced senses and I wished to question him about them."

"Good luck. I can barely get him to talk to me about them," Blair complained good-naturedly.

"You are his Guide."

"Yup, but it's still like pulling teeth." Blair stared at Teal'c for a moment and then, marshaling his courage, he asked, "I know this is really none of my business but could I, uh, would it be really rude for me to ask--" He blew out a breath, deciding suddenly that he was too chicken to ask. Daniel had given him a brief explanation of Teal'c, symbiotes and Goa'ulds on his way to the infirmary, and Blair was being eaten alive by curiosity.

"You wish to see my symbiote?"

Blair nodded. "Could I?" A part of Blair almost hoped Teal'c would say no. The way Daniel described it was pretty Steven King-ish. But he needed to see it. Needed to get a better sense of what Teal'c was all about. He might never get an opportunity like this again to meet someone who was so astonishingly different.

Blair suddenly realized that Teal'c was raising his shirt. He had an X right on his belly and as Blair watched, amazed and disgusted in equal measure, a snake thing pushed its way through the flaps of skin until four or five inches were showing. It undulated back and forth for a few seconds and then withdrew back into its pouch.

Blair couldn't help cringing a little. "Holy shit." He slapped his hand over his mouth, hoping he hadn't offended Teal'c. Blair was relieved to see the amused crinkle lines in play around the big guy's eyes. All that practice reading Jim was paying off.

Jim whipped around the corner, his face anxious, eyes all over Blair. "You all right?"

Blair nodded. "Fine. I'm fine. Just got introduced to, ah--" Blair shot Teal'c a helpless expression, not sure what he was supposed to call it.

The skin at the corners of Teal'c's eyes crinkled again and he said, "ColonelO'Neill calls it Junior."

Blair barked out a laugh. "Junior. I love it."

Teal'c turned his attention to Jim. "You could sense his distress?"

Jim sat down next to Blair. "I could hear his heart racing from across the room."

"Most impressive."

Blair nodded his head in agreement and butted his partner with his shoulder. "Man, you should see Jim in action. He can tune in to anyone's vital signs and tell when they're scared or if they're lying."

Teal'c pursed his lips which made him look like he was frowning, but the look he gave Jim was admiring. "This would be a most useful skill."

Jim shrugged. "It can be. It can be a pain in the ass, too." He gestured over his shoulder. "I gotta get back, they weren't quite done with me."

Blair frowned at Jim as he walked away, but then turned back to Teal'c. "Hey, now that I've met Junior, can I ask you a question?"

Teal'c met his eyes gravely. "Of course."

"Great. Okay. I get that you've had Junior for a long time, right?"

Teal'c nodded. "I have had several symbiotes over my lifetime."

"Wow. Okay. But I'm guessing that before, when it started getting close to being an adult, that they took it out and gave you a new one, right?"

"That is correct."

"But, now that you're on our side, I'm guessing there aren't any new ones, right?"

Teal'c agreed, caution in his eyes.

Blair scrunched up his face in dismay, not wanting to offend his new friend. "Never mind. This is none of my business. I'm too curious for my own good, sometimes."

"You may proceed."

Blair gave Teal'c a look, decided that he meant what he said.

"Okay. What's gonna happen, now, when Junior grows up? I mean, do you know when it's about to turn into an adult? If you don't know exactly when it's getting ready to need a host it could be dangerous, right? Just imagine what would happen if you were, you know, getting it on with someone, and shazam, host time. It would kind of suck for your partner, you know?"

Teal'c looked puzzled, as if he were trying to work his way through Blair's sentences. Finally he said, "It would not suck. It would burrow its way into the new host's neck and take over its body."

Blair threw up his hands in defense and cringed again. "Yuck. I so did not need to have that image in my brain, thank you very much."

Teal'c's brow furrowed. "What is this getting it on? I am not familiar with that phrase."

"Sex." Blair threw out nonchalantly. "It means having sex with someone."

"Ah."

Blair was not getting the answer he wanted. "So, do you know? Will you know when Junior is ready for a new home?"

Teal'c head dipped in a brief nod. "Yes, I will know."

"So what will you do, now that you're with the good guys?"

"I will kill it before it completely matures."

"But won't that kill you?"

"Yes."

Blair stared at Teal'c for a few moments, trying to wrap his arms around courage like that. Then he smiled at the black man, hoping he'd be fortunate enough to one day be counted as a friend. "I think our world is pretty lucky to have you on our side and I sincerely hope they come up with a better solution for you by then." He smiled again at Teal'c's small head bow of acknowledgement. "Man, my mom would flip if she could see me now."

"Why would your mother find gymnastics appropriate at this particular time?"

Blair laughed. "No, sorry, just an expression. I mean she'd go wild, be excited. She's totally into the idea of aliens having visited our planet before but it's a horse of a different color when you have one standing right in front of you."

As Teal'c's brow furrowed again, Blair realized that he was still throwing out idioms left and right; he'd have to watch that. "And hey, is using the word alien all right? I want to be PC here."

"PC?"

Jim was suddenly at his side again, putting his hand on Blair's shoulder as if to halt the flow of words. "Take a deep breath, Chief." Glancing at Teal'c he said, "He means he doesn't want to offend you."

"Ah. I do not offend easily. I am from a planet known as Chulak."

Blair tried the word out. "Chulak." Suddenly the whole situation, all the things he'd been trying so hard to ignore, swept over him. He could feel his body breaking out into a cold sweat.

Jim rubbed his back. "Relax."

At Teal'c's look, Blair gave him a rueful smile. "Sorry, I'm a little freaked here."

"Freaked?"

"Wired, uh, nervous?"

"Indeed. Do not concern yourself. It is in our best interest to keep you alive as we will not be able to return without you."

Blair wasn't sure how to take that. "Thanks, I think."


After the infirmary visit, Blair had spent the last thirty minutes
getting the cook's tour by Daniel. Jim and Ellison had gone with Jack
to gather supplies. Blair had grilled Daniel on his job and received
many of the same kind of evasive answers he'd get from Jim when asking
about his past. He guessed that Daniel was keeping secrets as well.

Blair was pretty sure they weren't particularly good secrets. The look in Daniel's eyes gave too much away. This might be the job of a lifetime, several lifetimes, but it obviously came at a price.

Blair still couldn't believe it. Other planets. He kept saying the words, feeling them out with his lips, looking up at Daniel and asking it sometimes. "Other planets?"

The last time he'd done it, Daniel had laughed at him, wrapped an arm around his shoulder and dragged him down to his office. When they got there, Blair happily explored while Daniel did some last-minute research for their upcoming mission. Every now and then, Blair's eyes would rest on his friend.

Daniel had been one of the best things that had happened to Blair. Their relationship, either as friend or lover, had been so easy and uncomplicated, that he still marveled at it. They didn't talk often these days, and now that Blair had seen what Daniel had been up to, the reason for that was clear. But when they did manage to find the time, it was like a cool drink of water.

Daniel was a good man, one of the best he'd ever known and Blair loved him. Not the way he loved Jim; he'd never loved anyone with the raw desperation and longing that he had for his Sentinel. Those feelings were richer and deeper than anything he'd ever felt before, but it was complicated and painful as well. Especially the last few weeks. He felt shaky inside, that gross feeling like when you've taken a bit too much decongestant and everything gets jittery.

Daniel was simple. Daniel was like a warm blanket, and when his friend moved to his side, curious as to what had captured Blair's attention, he moved into Daniel's arms and held on tight.

They held each other for a long time until finally Daniel pulled back just enough to get a good look at Blair. "Why didn't you call me?"

Blair let out a sad laugh. "I didn't know where to start." He poked a finger in Daniel's chest. "Why didn't you call me? I mean, I get why you couldn't tell me any of this, but I can tell that something's got you down."

He knew about Daniel's wife. Not, he suspected, the whole story, but after not hearing from Daniel for over a year, his friend had called out of the blue, a grieving widower in desperate need of a friend. When Blair had told Jim he had to go away for a few days, he'd been treated to the 'fine, go, I don't need you' speech, followed by the mother hen routine, Jim helping him pack his suitcase, making sure he didn't forget anything, packing him a snack for the flight, driving him to the airport. Typical Jim.

He glanced up at his friend, studied him for a while. Daniel studied him right back. "Are you going to be all right?" Daniel asked, his voice caring and tender.

Blair shrugged. He knew that nothing had changed, that he couldn't stay in Cascade. But a small kernel of hope was beginning to grow that maybe he and Jim could figure out a way to be together. If they were this connected as Sentinel and Guide, it had to mean they were supposed to be together, no matter what crap life was throwing at them right now. "Too soon to tell."

"Do you love him?"

Blair gave his friend a tight smile. Trust Daniel to get right to the heart of it. He nodded.

"He loves you, too." Daniel suddenly grinned. "God, I'd love it if you could start working here with me."

"I don't think Jack likes me very much," Blair said warily.

Daniel waved off his concern. "Jack's a grump, but inside he's all marshmallow."

Something in his voice tipped Blair off. "Do you love him?" He could see it so clearly. Jack and Daniel. It felt right.

"Sometimes. Sometimes I hate him," Daniel answered with a small, wincing grin.

That pulled a sharp laugh out of Blair. "Sounds familiar." He waved a finger in the air, from Daniel to points unknown. "Have you two--?"

Daniel's eyes opened wide. "No. No, he'd never--. No. He was married."

Blair rolled his eyes. "So were you. So was Jim. Besides, I heard Ellison tell you guys that you were together in his whatever it is." Blair mouthed the words 'other planets' to himself and shook his head in amazement. "I still don't believe any of this is happening."

When it looked like Daniel was going to argue with him, Blair talked right over him. "Listen, Ellison's Jack wasn't that different from your Jack, at least that I could see. And Ellison seems an awful lot like my Jim, so I'm betting if Jack could love you in that reality, he could love you here."

Blair could understand the look of wistful longing on Daniel's face. He was sure it was echoed by the one on his. Ellison loved his Blair so much. You could see it in everything he said and every look on his face. It made Blair's heart twinge with envy.

Daniel perched on the edge of his desk. "Do you ever wonder if we could have made it work, between us, long-term?"

Blair nodded. "I do wonder about it, but I don't ache about it, you know? Not like I ache for Jim, or how I'm guessing you ache for Jack." He put his arms around Daniel. "We'd have had a great life together, you and I, as lovers, as friends, as crazy old men." Smiling, he added, "But it wouldn't have been a grand passion, a once in a lifetime, in a bunch of lifetimes, kind of love."

Daniel rested his forehead against Blair's. "Just promise me you'll always be around, all right? Because I do love you."

Blair felt the sting of tears. "I love you, too." He let out a damp laugh. "And now that I know your secrets, you have no excuse not to call me."

Daniel let out a soft chuff of laughter as he stared at Blair. "I don't know how he couldn't love you. You're even more beautiful than you used to be. Is he blind, or something?"

"Daniel, you're the gorgeous one here."

Daniel waved the compliment away, and said, "Let's just admit that we have a mutual admiration society going here and leave it at that." They moved into each other's arms, and once again, held on tight.


Jack was feeling pretty good about the mission. He found himself
liking Jim and Ellison; they were both cut out of the same cloth as
him. Ellison was a little on the antsy side, but Jack could
understand that. He hated it when Hammond kept him from launching
immediate rescue missions. It grated. Especially if it was Daniel
who was in trouble.

Jim got a brief in-service on zats and staff weapons, which he listened to very calmly, as if he always spent his afternoons arming himself to go chase after aliens. Ellison had his own zat, but he helped himself to a staff weapon. Jim took a P-90 and a pistol, the same weapons Jack liked to carry.

Jack took a baretta for Daniel, with a few extra magazines, and glancing at Jim, he asked, "What will Blair use?"

Jim shook his head. "He won't carry a weapon."

Jack scowled. "He carries a weapon or he doesn't go through the 'Gate."

Jim scowled right back. "He's been riding with me for four years, and he's never carried. He, uh, he improvises and he does all right."

Jack's eyebrows rose. "He improvises?" he asked, his tone derisive.

Ellison chimed in, a small grin on his face. "Give him a zat. He'll carry it, and he'll be okay using it once he knows that one blast won't kill. My Blair does fine with it."

Jack looked at the two men, almost identical, and then he reached for an extra zat, and handed it to Jim. He rocked onto his toes and then flat again. "I keep telling myself this is gonna be a piece of cake."

Ellison glanced at him, choosing not to comment, then down at his watch. He was looking unhappier with every passing minute.

Jack continued with his pep talk, even as he headed out the door to Daniel's office, figuring that's where he and Blair would be. "How hard can it be to kill one Goa'uld if he's got no backup?"

Ellison shot him a dark look. "Scorpions."

Jack grimaced. "All right. I'll grant you that. A Goa'uld with scorpions on top does not head up my list of favorite things, but still." Jack hoped his voice sounded more convincing outside his head than it did inside.

Ellison looked at his watch again. "I hope you're right. When we went after him, his Jaffa were with him, but he was the one who put us out of commission. It's hard to think straight when scorpions are flying." Suddenly he cocked his head to the side, his body tense. Then, just as quickly, he relaxed, although he shot a telling look at Jim. "I keep forgetting it's not my Blair."

Jim cocked his head and, Jack assumed, began to listen to whatever Ellison had heard. Whatever it was, he didn't like it. He took off at a brisk walk, almost a run, and it was in a direct line to Daniel's office.

He and Ellison caught up to Jim, and all three of them reached the door at the same time. Jim didn't bother to knock, he just opened the door, a stony, forbidding expression on his face.

As Jack followed Jim in, he wasn't sure what he was going to see, but he certainly didn't expect to find Blair and Daniel hugging. Nor did he expect his reaction. Pure green. Or was it red? Whatever it was, he was floored by it. He'd never been one to be possessive; too much effort for no payoff, but something deep inside was singing a different song right now.

The only thing that kept him temporarily sane was that while they'd been hugging, it didn't look as if anything else had been going on. No one's hair was mussed, lips didn't look kissed, clothing was all in place. Just a hug, then. Jack wasn't crazy about the idea, but he could live with it.

Jim, on the other hand, looked like he was going to explode. He stood there, his eyes flickering back and forth between Blair and Daniel, his nostrils flaring, and Jack wondered if he'd have to zat Jim to keep him from tearing Daniel apart. He was starting to get the message loud and clear. Don't fuck with a Sentinel's Guide.

They didn't have time for this. "Grab your packs, campers. We're due to leave in 15 minutes." Jack was starting to wonder if having a Sentinel around was going to be more trouble than he bargained for. This was twice now in only a couple of hours that Jim had gone fruitloops. Jack thought of the MG and sighed. He'd just have to keep a really close eye on the two of them and when they were back, he'd decide if an MG was worth the aggravation, even if it meant that Carter would never, ever, talk to him again if he turned it down.

Daniel had apparently gotten a good look at Jim's face, and deciding a retreat was in order, stepped away from Blair, a rueful smile on his face.

Blair put his hand on Daniel's arm and said, softly, "Thanks, I needed that."

Daniel smiled again. "Me, too." He glanced at Jim, who had now moved to stand next to Blair, practically on top of Blair, and his face grew melancholy.

Jack couldn't stand the sad look on Daniel's face. "Hey, Danny."

Danny slowly shifted his gaze to Jack, his eyebrows lifted.

"You're with me. Come on." He glanced at Ellison. "You get them to the Gateroom, I'll pick up Carter and the big guy."

Ellison nodded. Jack slapped Daniel's arm. "Come on." He gave Jim and Blair one more look, just to make sure that things were going okay, that Jim wasn't about to go postal. When it looked like Blair was effectively calming him down, Jack grabbed Daniel by the arm, and pulled him out of the room.


Jim felt like he was teetering on the edge of a precipice. He could
still smell Daniel all over Blair. He barely heard Ellison say he'd
be waiting outside, or the door shutting behind him. Blair had been
touching someone else and the thought of it paralyzed him. Days of
facing the loss of Blair came to a head, and all he could think of was
to grab Blair and hold him tightly. Very tightly.

"Jim," Blair squeaked out. "I can't breathe so good. I'm not going anywhere, I promise. Let loose a little."

Jim wasn't sure he could do that. There'd been too many threats of losing Blair. They kept coming from every direction, and Jim didn't know how to stop them, how to keep Blair at his side, except to hold him there as hard as he could.

"Jim. Jim. Look at me."

Jim didn't want to look at Blair. Much safer just to hold him.

"Jim." Blair let out a long sigh. "Jesus." He wiggled a little. "Okay. Let's try this again. I need you to look at me. You're sort of freaking me out here a little."

Jim compromised a bit, and released Blair from the crushing hug, but only so he could capture the back of his Guide's head and press it against his shoulder.

Blair took a deep breath. "Okay, that's better. I can breathe now."

Jim whispered softly. "Just don't leave me."


Despite the fact that Jim was acting a little nuts, Blair knew he was
perfectly safe. Not to mention that he was also exactly where he
wanted to be; the only thing that would make it better was if he was
sure Jim was in his right mind.

Blair forced himself to relax. He rested his cheek on Jim's shoulder, concentrated on the feel of Jim's hands on the back of his head, and brushing down his back. He snuck his arms around Jim's waist and gave his Sentinel a squeeze, feeling Jim press a kiss on the crown of his head.

Blair smiled and closed his eyes. This was where he belonged. With this man, in these arms. He had no idea how it was going to work out, but it was way past time pretending that he could walk away from Jim.

He heard Jim whisper again, "Don't leave me."

Blair pushed against the hand holding him captive until he could finally look up at Jim. "I won't. We'll work something out, I promise."

"For real?" Jim asked anxiously, pulling back so he could look at Blair.

"For real."

Jim just stared at him, his fingers rubbing restlessly on the back of Blair's head. "For always?"

Blair felt a rush of love so strong, it made everything white out for a second until all he heard was the shushing of the blood pumping through his body. It took his breath away that he could matter so much to someone like Jim, that he could be this essential. "You're stuck with me."

Jim stared at him some more, as if he was mining for the truth on a cellular level. Blair stared back, enjoying the rare opportunity to study the planes of Jim's face, to admire the extraordinary blue of his eyes. Jim was, Blair thought to himself, a decidedly handsome man.

Apparently, Jim needed more reassurance, as he asked, "So, we'll find a way to stay together, right, Chief?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, Jim. We'll find a way."

A pained but relieved smile crossed Jim's face. "Okay. Good." He pulled Blair into another hug. "Good."


Jim knew Ellison would be calling them soon, but he didn't want to
move. Finally, after hearing Ellison shift impatiently in the
hallway, knowing how much this gesture of waiting was costing him, Jim
pulled away. But when he looked down at Blair, all he could focus on
was on how full Blair's lips were, as if they were just made to be
kissed.

He suddenly realized that Blair's eyes were open and he was watching Jim stare at his lips. A pink tongue flickered out to wet the lips in question and Jim felt a corresponding flicker of desire race down his spine.

"Hey," Blair whispered.

"Hey," Jim whispered back. Jim slowly leaned down until his lips were millimeters away from Blair's. Jim could sense the moisture in every breath fanning across his lips, could hear Blair's respirations speed up. Then the pink tongue made another appearance to wet those lush lips and Jim closed the distance, pressing his lips against Blair's, following the path of Blair's tongue with his own.

Only Sentinel hearing could have heard the soft moan his touch pulled out of Blair. Jim swallowed the next few moans, letting the unuttered sounds touch him in places deep inside that had been untouched for far too long. He pulled back, noting with satisfaction that Blair's lips were swollen.

Blair lifted a hand and ran it wonderingly down Jim's face as if seeing him for the very first time. He let out a soft laugh and glanced ruefully at Jim, speaking softly. "I guess this isn't exactly the right place or time, is it?"

Jim shook his head, still shaken by the power of that one all-toobrief kiss.

Blair's brow furrowed, his eyes suddenly worried. "But it will be soon, won't it?"

Jim smiled at Blair. "Yeah, Chief. It will be."

Blair expelled a breath as if he'd been holding it for too long. "Good." He smiled brilliantly at Jim.

Now it was Jim's turn to furrow his brow. "Why are you saying yes now, when you said no before, back at the apartment? What's different?"

Blair sighed. "I don't know. I mean in some ways nothing's different. But in other ways, it's completely different, you know what I mean?"

Jim sort of did but he shook his head anyway, mostly just wanting to hear Blair say the words out loud.

Blair leaned in and kissed him softly. "That was such a bad time for me." He laughed. "It feels like a million years ago. It's hard to believe it was just a couple of days ago. I just couldn't see a way out, like some rat in a maze. But, now, all I can see is you and me. Can't you feel it? We're supposed to be together. I don't know how exactly, but we are." He shot Jim a worried look. "Don't you feel it, too?"

Jim did feel it. It had pierced his heart and settled into his bones. Even though he was getting exactly what he wanted, he couldn't help teasing Blair a little. For once it had been Blair who had been unwilling to take a chance. "So, even though you were so sure we couldn't figure out a way to be together, now you think we can?"

Blair pinched Jim. "Hey, cut me some slack, would you? That was like the worst fucking day of my life, okay? I was trying to protect you, you big jerk." The sparkle in his eyes belied the angry words.

"Ow." Jim couldn't help but grin at Blair. "I know I don't say it enough, but the only help I need is you. Try to remember that, Chief. Okay?"

Blair nodded. "Okay. Are you gonna let me try all this new Sentinel stuff out on you?"

Jim rolled his eyes. "Can we take this one day at a time? Right now we've got bigger fish to fry." Jim felt bad at the disappointed look in Blair's eyes but it was such routine to begrudge his senses it was going to be a hard habit to overcome. He tried again. "We'll talk about it, I promise." He was relieved at the smile he got in response. Needing to know, and aiming for nonchalant, he asked, "What about Daniel?"

"He's a good friend, Jim, above and beyond anything else. That won't ever go away. The rest of the stuff has always been optional."

"Is it still optional?" Jim tried to keep the jealous tone out of his voice but could hear that he wasn't entirely successful.

Blair shook his head, grinning at Jim, a knowing look in his eye.

Jim growled, "It better not be."

Blair let out a soft chuff of laughter and lay his head on Jim's chest. "I'm all yours, Jim. I always have been."

Jim stared down at him, and in a flash of understanding, realized it was true. It had always been true. Blair had given up more for him than anyone should ever be expected to. "I don't know what I did to deserve you, but you're the best thing that ever happened to me."

Blair's eyes shone up at him, and Jim couldn't help but steal another kiss.

There was a sharp knock on the door. "Time to go," Ellison called.


Jack strolled down the corridors, hands in his pants pockets, Daniel
silent at his side. He glanced over at him. "You all right?"

Daniel shrugged, then offered a tight smile. "I'm fine."

Jack pursed his lips for a moment and nodded. Daniel was always fine. Over the years, Jack had decided that reading his friend was a fine art. It was like taking a sip of a really good wine, letting the liquid rest on your tongue and slowly exploring all the hidden flavors. You had to sift Daniel to figure out what 'fine' meant.

Sometimes it meant he really was fine. Sometimes it meant he had a concussion, or a bullet in him, or he'd just been ribboned. Sometimes it meant he was lonely or scared. Jack let Daniel's words sit for a minute until he decided that what it meant this time was that Daniel needed a friend. Jack threw his arm around Daniel's shoulder and said, "Let's go round up Sam and Teal'c."

Daniel lifted his eyebrows at Jack but fell in next to him. They walked silently to Sam's lab and when Jack got there he pounded on the door frame with the flat of his hand. "Time to go."

Sam looked up. "Be right there, Sir." She was checking her pistol.

Jack nodded approvingly and then turned to head for Teal'c's quarters, shortly realizing that Daniel hadn't followed him. "Daniel?"

Daniel turned around from where he was talking to Sam. "Yeah?"

"You're with me. Remember?"

"Oh." Daniel's eyebrows went up, although he didn't move.

"That means when I leave, you leave." Jack made an impatient movingit -along gesture with his hand.

Now Daniel's brow was furrowed.

Jack made the motion again. "I'm getting old here."

Daniel exchanged a look with Sam that spoke volumes about Jack, not much of it complimentary, but then he flashed her a quick smile and joined Jack in the hall.

They walked in silence for a minute, on their way to Teal'c's. Then Jack said, "So, is that gonna be a problem for you?"

"What?"

"If Blair joins the team? Is that gonna be a problem?"

For reasons he chose not to examine at the moment, Jack found himself holding his breath as he waited for Daniel's answer. Not, Jack thought jadedly to himself, that Daniel would give him an honest answer. Daniel would say that it would be fine, that he would be fine. Jack retracted the question. "Never mind." As they rounded the corner they ran into Teal'c, on his way to the Gateroom. Jack spun around and, after making sure Daniel had made the u-turn with him, followed Teal'c.


As they waited for Hammond to give them a go, Jack was feeling pretty
good about the team as they stood in the Gateroom. Not great, but
better. Daniel had somehow found the time to do more research and had
come up with the most likely target, some Whosit of the Ancient
Mosquito or something, outside of Yazd. Ellison seemed to have a good
idea where to open the gate so as not to throw the natives into a
tizzy.

He was glad to see that Blair tossed on his pack as if he knew what he was doing and that, despite an unhappy grimace, had taken the zat. Of everyone on the team, he was most worried about Blair's ability to handle himself if they ran into trouble. Jim might be nuts, but at least he was a trained fighter. Regardless of his handy-dandy healing talent, Blair had no weapons training and no fighting skills to speak of. But, at least, he was shouldering his pack without difficulty and was quietly standing next to Jim, a determined look on his face.

Only the chance to get at an MG would make Jack take this chance. And if he wanted the MG, he had to have a Guide, and if he wanted a Guide, he was stuck with a Sentinel. So, he needed to see them in action, make sure they wouldn't be too large a handicap. No technology was worth putting his team at risk.

Although, he had to admit that having a Guide around was handy; Jack's knees still felt pretty good. That meridian massage thingy packed a wallop.

He glanced at Ellison, who was wearing one of the MGs. He wore the other one, even though he'd practically had to wrestle it from Carter. The doors slid open and Hammond walked in. "Is your team ready?" he addressed Jack.

Jack nodded. "Good to go, Sir."

"Then you have a go."

Ellison nodded and, with Blair's help, generated a shimmering event horizon. He poked his head through and then, pulling back, he gave Jack the okay.

"All right. In twos and spread out." He sent Carter and Teal'c through first, followed by Jim and Blair. Jack stepped through right behind Daniel, letting Ellison end the parade.

When they all arrived, Jack pulled his baseball cap out of his pocket and pulled it on in a futile gesture to protect himself from the heat of the sun. It felt like he'd walked right into an oven.

He checked to make sure everyone was present and accounted for and then he waved a hand at Jim and Ellison. "Do your stuff. Make me proud."

Jim and Ellison almost stood back to back, Blair making the third side of a triangle. It was Ellison who made the report. "There are a few people around but nothing to do with Ahriman. We need to get a little closer for me to know what he's doing."

Jack nodded and made a let's-move-out gesture with his hand. Carter took point, Ellison by her side. Teal'c brought up the rear. Jack and Daniel each took side positions, with Jim and Blair in between them. In formation, they headed toward Fahraj.

Twenty minutes later they were overlooking the small town. It was surrounded by desert, but crops of wheat and fruit trees gave sign of some successful irrigation.

Daniel pointed toward a building. "That's the mosque I think we'll find him in, Jack, the one in the center of town."

Ellison turned bleak eyes to Jack. "He's there, and he has Blair."

Blair touched his arm. "Is he all right?"

"He's alive." He listened for a moment and his lips formed an angry but victorious smile. "Blair hasn't told him what he wants to know."

Jack heard the unspoken 'yet' which said that Ahriman was still working him over. "Are there other people around?" His eyes swept the town. People were out and about doing their daily business. Sounds of Farsi filled the air, Jack catching one word out of ten.

He glanced at Daniel, saw that he was captivated with the town, no doubt understanding everything being said. Daniel's curiosity, occasionally, might be a total pain in Jack's ass on a mission, but there was something ineffably appealing about it.

Jim answered, one hand on Ellison's arm, as if to keep him from bounding down to the mosque in some kamikaze rescue attempt. "Ahriman's alone with Sandburg. There are dead people in the mosque. I can smell them. He's up there in the, uh, in the round thing."

"The minaret," Daniel offered helpfully.

Jack scowled as he took in the whole picture. The mosque was in the center of a town filled with people, any of whom could decide to go visit at any time. Ahriman was in the most defensible part of the building, where they could only approach him a couple at a time, allowing him to pick them off with ease. "Damn."

Blair moved closer to Jim. "Can you see what he's doing?"

Ellison chose to answer, "No, he's not standing near any of the openings."

"Yeah, but you can hear him, right?"

Ellison shot Blair a puzzled look.

"Just piggyback your senses."

"What?"

"You know, piggyback. If Jim can hear, he can send his sight along for the ride." Off of Ellison's stunned look, Blair grinned. "You didn't know you could do that?" He sent a brilliant grin to Jim. "Score one for the home team."

Jim sent a proud smile back to his Guide.

"Show me," Ellison demanded.

Blair stood next to him, speaking quietly. "Okay, listen to him again and nod when you have him."

A few seconds passed, and he nodded.

"Great, okay, now open your eyes and imagine your hearing is like this long string, stretching from you to whatever you're listening too. Got that?"

Ellison nodded.

"Good. Now, just lay your sight right on top of it and let it take a ride."

Ellison concentrated for a second and then an amazed look broke out on his face. "Wow. Blair's not gonna believe this."

He focused again, but Jim beat him to the report. "We need to go get Blair out." His voice was terse and distressed.

Jack was just as glad he wasn't getting more of a report. He could guess from both men's attitudes that whatever they were seeing wasn't good. "Let's move closer. Try to stay inconspicuous." Jack knew it was wishful thinking more than an order. Five men and one woman, dressed in dark clothing, packs on their backs, and carrying weapons. Not something people were gonna ignore if they were seen.

Somehow they got lucky. Either that or the few people who saw them decided to look the other way, having learned that sometimes not asking questions leads to a longer life. He turned to Daniel, speaking softly. "Anyone in the town noticing something's not quite right at the temple?"

Daniel shook his head. "No, everyone's talking like it's a normal day. Talking about their washing, what they're having for dinner, how sour the grapes are." His eyebrows went up. "There's talk of scorpions. Mothers warning their children to be careful."

Jack shot the ground a nervous look, fully expecting to find scorpions crawling over his boots. He glanced around to see the rest of the team doing the same thing. It made him feel better to be sharing his phobia. Misery loving company, and all of that.

As they grew nearer to the mosque, Daniel held up a finger. "Wait. There's a group of men talking about cleaning out the mosque to get rid of the scorpions. That must be why no one's around."

Against his better instincts, Jack spared a grateful thought for the scorpions. They were probably, paradoxically, keeping the civilian death rate down. A Goa'uld in a bad mood could do an inestimable amount of damage to a distressingly large number of unarmed humans.

The mosque was a simple building, made out of sun-dried, unfired clay tiles and mud bricks. There was an internal courtyard that could be seen through the arched doorways. Hugging his P-90 to his chest, Jack scouted for good hiding places, finding little that brought him any peace of mind.

He could see just enough of the stairway that made its way up into the minaret. It was spiral and barely wide enough for one person to climb.

Daniel touched Jack's arm, bringing his attention to a small group of people, locals by the look of them, all men, heading toward the temple; they all carried brooms of different sizes and shapes. "They're the men who want to sweep out the church," Daniel said.

"Damn it." Jack found himself missing a good old fashioned Goa'uld mother ship with no civilians in sight. Civilians made things messy. With the exception of Daniel. Jack thought about it for a second and changed his mind. All civilians made things messy.

"Jack, he's going to hurt them. We need to do something," Daniel added.

Completely unnecessarily, as far as Jack was concerned. Of course the son of a bitch was going to hurt them.

"Fine, Daniel, go down there and let them know church is closed for the duration. And keep a low profile, okay?" He said it in a way that let everyone know he didn't really believe it was possible.

Daniel shot him a disgruntled look, but then started making his way down to intercept the locals. Jack could hear him talking in what he assumed was the local patois, but he didn't understand it. It was abundantly clear, though, that the locals saw him as a kindred spirit, perhaps even a long-lost relative, and that as they turned to leave, they wanted Daniel to come home with them. Jack let out a snort. That was his Daniel, making friends everywhere he went.

The men finally turned to leave, and Daniel made his way back to Jack. "I don't know that they believed me, but they agreed to wait until tomorrow to clean the mosque."

"What did you tell them?"

"That we were scientists here to study the scorpions, to try to explain the unusual growth explosion."

Jack was impressed. "Good lying there, Daniel."

Daniel looked unimpressed by the compliment. After all, Jack thought, he'd taught Daniel everything he knew.

Jack focused back on the matter at hand. Deciding on the best way to get Ahriman to show his face, he gave Ellison an order. "Ellison, call him down."

Ellison didn't argue. He walked to the bottom of the spiral staircase and yelled out, "Ahriman. You have something I want."

Utter silence floated down the stairs.

Jack could see Ellison poised for take-off. "You go up those stairs and you're a dead man. He'll take you down," Jack cautioned.

Ellison barely restrained himself, his face a mask of anger. "Ahriman!"

Jack whispered to Daniel, "Keep an eye out for any other civilians." He caught Blair's attention. "Help Daniel." He watched as Blair joined Daniel, and the two of them walked through an archway to better keep track of any comings and goings. Jack blew out a breath. Maybe, if some god decided to take pity on him for a change, they'd both be out of range if things got dicey.

He got Carter's attention, told her to take Jim and work their way around to the back.

Footsteps started down the staircase, accompanied by a sound of something thumping. Ahriman suddenly appeared, holding a limp Sandburg in front of him like a shield. He was in rough shape; Jack couldn't tell from where he was standing whether he was even alive. He was battered and bruised, it looked like one of his legs was broken, one eye was grossly swelled shut, and it looked like he'd been stung at least once.

The only thing that told him the kid was still alive was the fact that Ellison was keeping it together. Barely, but he was keeping it together. Jack couldn't believe the Goa'uld had hurt him so badly; he needed the kid alive to get what he wanted. It was an indication to Jack that Ahriman was killing first and asking questions later. Great. This was going so well. Not.

Jack stood there assessing and discarding possible tactics. Teal'c was at his side, weapons ready.

The Goa'uld's eyes glowed and he spoke in his distorted voice. "I see I have uninvited guests."

Jack patted his P-90. "Actually, I'm thinking you're the one who's uninvited." He armed the zat he had hidden behind his back and hoped that Sandburg would survive a blast. As they all stood there, in a Goa'uld version of high noon, Jack whipped out the zat and shot the Goa'uld.

The brief illumination of a force field met the burst. "Shit." That ruined that plan. Jack slowly began working his knife out of its sheath.

Ahriman smiled. "Do you think me so easy to kill?" He looked at the three of them.

Jack saw him noticing the MG devices both he and Ellison were wearing. Maybe it could be a bargaining chip, make him believe that Sandburg wasn't necessary. "Let him go. He can't tell you what you want to know."

Ahriman ignored him, focusing on Teal'c. "Sholva." He snapped the word out as if it were something foul.

Teal'c bowed his head, as if it were a great honor.

Jack suspected it was. Being considered a traitor by the likes of Ahriman was a good thing. Really.

Sandburg let out a groan, coming out of whatever stupor he'd been in. "Jim?" he croaked out.

"Right here." There was a wealth of emotion in those words.

Sandburg nodded wearily.

Ahriman held him tighter soliciting another groan. "This one is important to you?"

Jack waved a hand in the air. "Just a member of the team. Nothing special."

Ahriman grinned unpleasantly. "You lie." He glanced at the MG on Jack's arm. "Perhaps we can trade."

Jack pointed to the one on Ahriman's arm. "You already have one of your own."

The Goa'uld's eyes glowed in anger. "It is defective."

Jack smiled tightly. "I guess your little joy ride isn't working out exactly like you had planned." He wasn't sure he could throw his knife with enough accuracy to keep it from hitting Sandburg. "Come on," he muttered under his breath, "get in position." He glanced at Ellison, but the man shook his head no.

Needing to waste a minute or two, Jack offered, "Let's trade, then. You give us the kid and your defective doohicky, and I'll give you mine."

Still smiling that smug smile that made Jack want to kill every Goa'uld he ever met, Ahriman said, "No. Give me your device, and I may let him live."

Jack shook his head. "No deal."

"Then you can watch him die." Ellison's curse made Jack look closely and he took an involuntary step back when he saw that scorpions were starting to make their way out of every fold of Ahriman's clothing, moving onto Sandburg. "The Tauri are so weak," he announced scathingly. "It makes them poor sport for my pets."

Ellison sprang for Ahriman, murder on his face.

Jack saw Ahriman's response all too clearly as the hand wearing the ribbon device came up and a blast of energy came out of it, hitting Ellison square on the chest, sending him flying. He hit the wall hard enough to make Jack wince.

With Ahriman momentarily distracted and slightly turned, Jack threw his knife, aiming for the Goa'uld's leg. It wouldn't put him down, but it would certainly weaken him and make him easier prey.

Jack watched in aggravation as Ahriman plucked it out of the air like some fucking ninja. Before he could work out Plan C or F or whatever the hell plan they needed, Jack got his own treatment with the ribbon device. He smacked against the wall so hard he saw stars.

Teal'c snapped out his name and he looked up just in time to dodge his own knife being thrown back at him. The Jaffa helped him get to his feet, and Jack could hear Ellison standing as well. He couldn't take the time to count but there had to be a dozen scorpions crawling all over the kid. If they didn't do something soon, it was gonna be too late.

"They're in position," Ellison barked out.

"Now!" Jack yelled. Ellison, Teal'c, and Jack all moved in on Ahriman, trusting Carter and Jim would make their own move as well.

Jack had to admit as he slammed back into the wall, that this Goa'uld knew how to fight, and it was really starting to piss Jack off. Ellison had gone flying as well, only Teal'c getting close enough to actually grapple with the guy.

Jim made a run for it, grabbing Sandburg, successfully pulling him away from the Goa'uld. He hollered, "Blair!"

Jack left him to it, assuming Jim was heading for Blair to start healing Sandburg. That worked for him. Now they could focus on killing the mutant ninja snake.

Suddenly, scorpions were everywhere, flying through the air as Ahriman flung them at his attackers, and all over the ground as if he were calling them out of the earth to come to his aid. "Piece of cake," he muttered angrily under his breath. Daniel was right, he'd totally jinxed this mission.

With scorpions advancing on his position, he found his feet faster than he might have, as his head was still spinning. He'd just managed to stand when Teal'c came flying right into him, knocking him flat on his ass again.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Carter let a knife fly and watched as it got through the shield and connected with a solid thunk into the Goa'uld's side, right above his left hip bone. Pushing Teal'c off of him, Jack yelled, "Way to go, Carter."

She smiled and pulled out another knife, getting ready to let it fly as well. She never got to it. Ahriman spun and lifting his hand, he threw her across the room. Sam hit the wall, fell to the ground, and didn't get back up.

Jack felt a sharp pain on his arm, and saw that a scorpion had just stung him. He let out a curse and snapped his arm, sending the insect flying. Standing, he started stomping on any he could find, using his baseball cap to brush them off of Teal'c as he also attempted to stand.

Jack couldn't believe that this guy was beating them. At this rate, the fucking snake head was gonna kill them all.


Blair came running, Daniel at his side, when Jim called out his name.
His heart began to race when he saw what condition Sandburg was in.
Jim lay him down in a grassy spot in the courtyard. "Can you fix
him?"

Blair had no idea but he was sure as hell going to try. He knelt at his counterpart's side, and closed his eyes to transition into his ability to see the meridians. Letting out a sigh of relief when they shone brightly, he got to work, fixing what he could, aiming for the few areas where the rivers of energy seemed to be entirely stopped up.

Daniel watched him for a second, then glanced at Jim. "How are things going in there?"

Jim just shook his head. "Badly." He crouched next to Blair. "Can you handle this on your own?"

Blair nodded nervously. Truly, he wanted Jim next to him, but it sounded like the others could use his help. "Go, I'll be fine." He glanced up. "Be careful."

Jim nodded and with a brief touch to Blair's shoulder, he strode away.

In the midst of his work, Blair noticed that Daniel was fidgeting. He took the time to look up at his friend. "Go if you want to. I'll be fine. Really." Now that he was paying attention, he could hear the sounds of pain going on, including Jack's.

"You sure?" Daniel sounded torn, but Blair had no doubt that his heart was with Jack.

"Yes. Go."

Blair heard Daniel stride away and felt a moment's vulnerability at being on his own, but he pushed past it and focused on the task in front of him, making sure this Guide stayed alive for his Sentinel. He could only hope that Jim would keep an eye on the Sentinel part of the equation.


Jim ran back to the base of the Minaret, only to find a scene out of a
second class horror film, complete with a seemingly indestructible
monster with glowing eyes, and the ground teeming with big black
insects.

He did a split second assessment and decided things were even bleaker than they looked. Ellison and Teal'c were down, scorpions crawling all over them. Jack was on his knees, Ahriman standing before him, his palm open, light shooting from a weapon on his hand directly at Jack's forehead. Through the back archway, Jim could see that Major Carter was down; scorpions crawling on her as well.

First things first. He'd seen the force field and he needed to see if it was still working. Pulling out his pistol, he began shooting at the Goa'uld, all head shots. They hit the force field and fell harmlessly to the ground. It did get Ahriman's attention, and he stopped what he was doing to Jack to focus on Jim.

The next thing Jim knew, a blast of energy hit his chest so hard, it felt like a boxer's punch, and it slammed him back into the closest brick wall. He didn't fall, but completely lost the ability to breathe. Desperately trying to pull in some air, he saw the Goa'uld go back to work on Jack. Jack had slumped to the ground, and Ahriman simply kicked him over until he was on his back. Holding up his hand again, he started aiming the light weapon at Jack again. Jack groaned, trying to curl up into a ball, but Ahriman wouldn't let him.

Finally pulling in a breath, Jim got himself ready for another run. But, before he could take a step, he heard a yell, and Daniel was bolting by him, barreling into Ahriman, pushing him away from Jack.

Jim used the distraction to go get Jack and pull him away, out of reach. He propped him up in the most scorpion-free corner he could find, then turned back to assist Daniel. The Goa'uld had his hand around Daniel's neck, squeezing tightly. Scorpions were already starting to run over Daniel's body.

Focusing on the Goa'uld's outfit, Jim tried to figure out where the controls were for the force field. Making a likely guess, and trying not to be seen, he started making his way to where Ahriman held Daniel, slowly suffocating him.


Jack came to, only to realize that he hadn't been dreaming. This
really was happening, in fact, it was even worse. Ahriman had Daniel.


Blair smiled down at Sandburg, as his double smiled back up at him.
"How are you feeling?"

"Better, thanks."

Pointing at Sandburg's leg, Blair said, "I couldn't fix your leg. I think it needs to be splinted first."

Sandburg nodded. "It's okay. You took the pain away, I'll be all right for the time being." He looked around. "Where is everyone?"

Blair grimaced. "By the Minaret." He listened intently but couldn't hear anything. For some reason, Blair was sure that was a really, really bad thing. "I better go check on them."

Sandburg looked frustrated that he couldn't go with him, but his broken leg wasn't going to let him go anywhere. "You have a weapon?"

Blair held out his zat, another grimace on his face. Suddenly they both heard Jack yell out Daniel's name, panic in his voice. Without giving it a thought, Blair headed in that direction at a run.

As Blair peeked around the corner he was afraid he might throw up. There had just been too many extremes happening to him over the last day, two days, week. It was all blurring together, culminating in the scene in front of his eyes.

It looked like Ahriman had killed them all. Not even knowing what he was doing, he used his new skill and checked out everyone's meridians. Letting out a silent gasp of relief, he saw that everyone was alive. No one was doing particularly well, and Sam and Ellison had too many hot spots to count from the scorpions crawling over them, but they were all alive.

He wanted to run to Jim and pull him clear, but all that would do is get him killed too. But what the hell he was supposed to do when the Goa'uld had bested the rest of them was beyond Blair. Ahriman stood in the midst of them, a look of triumph on his face, Daniel slumped on the floor in front of him.

He heard a scrabbling noise and looked to the side to see Jack attempting to get to his feet. Blair started frantically looking around him, trying to think of something.


Jack couldn't remember the last time he felt this bad. His insides
felt like mush, his head was throbbing so hard it felt like someone
was using a jack hammer in there, every muscle ached, his skin burned
where he'd been stung, and he was feeling sick to his stomach.

But eclipsing all of that was his fear for Daniel. For the rest of his team as well, but mostly for Daniel. Not knowing if his friend were alive or dead, Jack started inching his way over to where his body lay, just waiting for Ahriman to notice him and let loose another volley of his death ray.

He wanted to kill the bastard so bad his fingers were twitching in anticipation of ripping his fucking heart out.

"You are surprisingly difficult to kill," the Goa'uld taunted. "Tell me the secret of this device and I will make your death a merciful one."

Jack let out a snort. "Yeah, like I believe you." He was only a couple of feet away from Daniel, so he kept crawling. He ignored the scorpions he was crawling over, wincing as he felt another sting. All he paid attention to were the scorpions scrabbling over Daniel's body. He needed to get to Daniel, and he needed to try one more time to bring the snake down.

Jack started marshalling his strength for one more pounce. His fingers curled around the grip to his pistol, planning to put a bullet between the bastard's eyes if Jack could get his shield turned off.

Drawing in a deep breath in preparation, Jack saw a shadow. Trying his best not to give anything away, he surreptitiously watched as Blair snuck up behind the Goa'uld, walloping him across the back of his head with a large vase.

It took Jack a second for it all to compute. Then, with a decided lack of grace, he surged to his feet as Ahriman started to topple over. Jack's hand punched slowly through the force field, shut the thing off, and then putting the barrel of his pistol against the Goa'uld's forehead, he pulled the trigger.


His stomach churning as the back of Ahriman's head got blown off,
Blair staggered to Jim, falling to his knees next to him, getting to
work immediately on his meridians. It was so easy with Jim, Blair
didn't even have to think about it; his hands just knew what to do.

Jim came to quickly, and helped Blair brush the scorpion away that had started crawling on him. Blair glanced around and saw that Jack was holding Daniel, trying to talk him into consciousness. Suddenly he heard a slithering sound and, turning further, he saw a serpent snake thing writhing on the ground, heading in Jack and Daniel's direction.

Blair was frozen in fear, this new threat more than he could humanly deal with. He heard a movement beside him, and the next thing he knew, Jim was pumping the thing full of bullets.

The first shot got Jack's attention, and he yanked Daniel away, pulling his own weapon out, but by then, there wasn't much left of it. Jack let his head fall onto Daniel's and blew out a breath. Glancing up, he gave Jim a pained smile. "Nice shot." He looked around, his eyes glazed.

Blair could see that, with the exception of Jim, none of them were going to be of any use without some healing. The venom had to be slowly killing them. Jack looked like he had a fever and Blair doubted the man could even stand.

"We need to get them outside, away from the scorpions. The other Blair can help work on everyone." Now that Ahriman was dead, the scorpions were scattering, their compulsion to remain gone.

Jim nodded, and moved to Jack. "You hang on to Daniel, I'll hang on to you."

Jack nodded wearily, and pulled Daniel up until he could wrap his hands around the man's chest. Jim got behind him, and dragged them both outside.

Blair went to Ellison, knowing he could cure him the easiest and then he could help with the others. Using his zat as a swatter, he flicked the scorpions off of the other Sentinel, and then began to work on clearing his channels. It only took a minute before Ellison opened his eyes, smiling gratefully at Blair. Then his eyes grew worried. "Is my Blair all right?"

Blair nodded. "He's in the courtyard, working on Jack and Daniel." He looked up as Jim walked back in. He moved immediately to Sam, and Ellison, after he stood, went to assist Teal'c. Jim picked Sam up and carried her to the courtyard. It took both Ellison and Blair to manhandle Teal'c outside.


Jack sat there and tried to regroup. That had been too fucking close.
He was furious with himself for assuming that the guy would be easy to
kill; knowing that he'd almost led his team into a death trap.

He let out a mirthless laugh when he remembered that it was Blair he'd assumed wouldn't be able to handle himself. Instead, the kid had saved their fucking lives. All of them. Daniel would be dead right now if it wasn't for him.

As he watched Sandburg work on Daniel, his face drawn, Jack could tell how close it had been. Even if they'd managed to kill Ahriman, his friend still would have died, right in front of his eyes. If these Guides hadn't been around, the wait for medical care would have killed him.

He closed his eyes in exhaustion, and then felt hands on him. He opened them to find Blair touching him, healing him. Another look around assured him that all his team had made it out. He pushed at Blair. "Go work on them."

Blair frowned at him, but he obeyed, moving to Carter, starting to run his hands down her body, pushing the magic buttons that would keep her alive until they could get back to Stargate Command.

Sandburg was still working on Daniel. It didn't escape Jack's notice that Sandburg's leg was broken. Obviously these Guides were made out of sterner stuff than he'd imagined.

Blair patted Sam on the shoulder and moved to Teal'c, but Teal'c was already moving. Jack was grateful to Junior, despite the fact that it was a snake, for how much he protected the Jaffa. Blair quietly asked him if he was all right, and when he got a positive nod, he moved back to Sam. A minute later, he was back with Jack. "Your turn, now."

Jack nodded and lay back down. Blair's hands were soothing, the healing warmth pulling him into sleep. Fighting the pull, he pushed up until he was leaning back on his elbows. "You did good, kid."

Blair smiled at him, a shy delighted smile that touched his heart, the same way Daniel's smiles did. He just knew he was gonna be putty in the kid's hands. Just what he fucking needed.

Glancing over at Sandburg, who was still working on Daniel, Jack asked nervously, "He all right?"

Sandburg nodded. "He will be," he reassured Jack.

Jack wished he had the energy to move closer to Daniel. Wished he lived in a world where he could wrap his arms around his archeologist and never let him go again, and not care who was watching or what they were thinking. That had been too damn close.

Blair sat back on his haunches. "Is that better?"

Jack actually did feel better. Still tired and aching, but nowhere near as much. "You got some magic fingers there."

Blair looked at his hands and grinned. "I know. I still don't believe it."

He stood, stretching out his neck and shoulders. "We should get out of here before anybody shows up."

Ellison pulled out his zat and went back to the Minaret. Jack assumed it was to triple zat Ahriman to get rid of his body. When Ellison walked back out, Jack asked just to be sure. "All gone?"

Ellison nodded. "All gone." He moved to where Sandburg sat.

Carter was sitting up now, and Teal'c had his eyes closed, presumably catching a few winks of kel-no-reem. Daniel was still unconscious and Sandburg was leaning back against Ellison, his face weary, the lines on his forehead creased in pain.

Jim was giving Blair a hug, which was being returned in spades. Then, Jim looked over Blair's head to grin at Jack.

"What?" Jack asked, sure he wasn't going to like whatever Jim said. His face had I-told-you-so written all over it.

"Told you he was good at improvising."

Jack couldn't help the laughing snort that escaped. It was hard to argue with the truth. A fucking vase. Jesus. "Let's get going."

Ellison worked with Sandburg and got the MG on and the wormhole opened. Jack started roll call. "Carter, you and Teal'c go first, let them know we've got injured coming through that need medical treatment, and that includes you."

Sam cast an anxious look at her still unconscious teammate. "Yes, Sir." Making sure Teal'c was behind her, she jumped through.

Jack pointed at Ellison. "You two next."

Ellison held up his wrist where the MG resided. "We need to be last. Go ahead and take Daniel."

Jack thought about arguing, but truth be told, he wanted to take Daniel next, and if anyone knew how to use the MG it was Ellison. He nodded, ordered Blair through first, and then, with Jim's help, they lifted Daniel and made their way home.

When they arrived, Janet was already there with a stretcher and they helped get Daniel situated. Jack kept one eye on the wormhole and was relieved when Ellison walked through, carrying Sandburg.

They'd all gotten home. It was a damn miracle, but they'd made it.


Blair woke up yawning and he stretched out, expecting to feel the
close edges of his futon bed. Instead, he felt a large, warm and very
hard body next to him. His eyes sprang open and when he saw Jim
sprawled out, he couldn't help but smile.

His Sentinel looked completely relaxed. Which, Blair admitted, was pretty unusual. When Jim had to sleep someplace he wasn't familiar with, he usually slept with one eye open, and always facing the door, making sure Blair, or anyone else, was on the far side of him.

Right now Blair didn't think he could wake Jim up with a fog horn. And he was sleeping flat on his back, his body posture wide open, and Blair was closest to the door.

To be completely truthful, Blair could barely remember crawling into bed in the first place. They'd gone through the portable wormhole, Daniel had been carted away while the rest of them had made their way on two feet to the infirmary to be checked out. They'd all spent several hours there, as Janet injected them all, with the exception of the Guides and Sentinels, with the anti-venom she'd finally gotten her hands on. She also had assorted other injuries to fix and pain medicine to administer. Finally, a very nice soldier had escorted Jim, and a stumbling and exhausted Blair, to this place.

That was all Blair remembered. Running a tongue over his teeth, he was reasonably certain he hadn't even brushed his teeth. Not enjoying the taste of his mouth, he edged out of bed and stood. Looking around, he saw that this was the room they'd been given yesterday, or the day before. His time sense was shot.

Stretching again, he realized he felt pretty good. He glanced at his watch, saw that it was 4:00 in the afternoon. It didn't help much as he had no idea what time they'd stumbled into bed. Running his fingers through his tangled hair he headed into the bathroom to clean up.

A long hot shower, some teeth brushing, and a shave later, he walked back into the main room only to laugh softly at his friend. He was still fast asleep, but he'd grabbed Blair's pillow and had his face smushed into it.

He pulled on some boxers, and a fresh pair of jeans, and then he heard a yawn coming from the bed. "You awake, Jim?"

All he got for that was a grunt.

"I'd offer you some coffee, but--" Blair looked around and saw that there actually was a coffee maker. "Never mind, give me a minute and I'll have some coffee made."

He heard the slide of linen, and watched as Jim slid out of bed, his eyes still squinted against the light, his hair half flat, half sticking straight up. Blair grinned as he vanished into the bathroom.

Blair hadn't had much time, or the wherewithal, to admire the suite they'd been put into last night or whenever they'd arrived. It was more like a studio apartment than a hotel room. There was a small kitchen, kitchen table, a living room area, the bed, and a bathroom. Moving to the kitchen, he picked up the conveniently provided instructions to the coffee maker and got some percolating.

Then, he scoped out the contents of the cabinets and refrigerator. There wasn't much. Apparently it was understood that while VIP visitors could not be expected to go without their coffee, hunger was acceptable.

Blair could live with that. He was sure that food was somewhere in their immediate future. Out of curiosity he opened the door to the suite, half expecting a guard to be standing there. But there wasn't. The corridor was empty in both directions.

He felt a swell of satisfaction that he and Jim were trusted enough to be left on their own. Blair pushed aside the thought that it might have been handy to have someone standing outside their door to tell him where food was, and where Jack and Daniel was, and what was going to happen now.

Moving back to the kitchen area, Blair pulled out two mugs, sitting them side by side, watching the last of the coffee gurgle through the filter. Then, he filled the mugs, and just as he'd taken the first sip of his coffee, Jim came out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his hips.

Blair stopped drinking and just stared. He'd been living with Jim for years now, and had seen him in every state of dress and nudity, but after that kiss, things were different now. Jim looked different now, or maybe it was that Blair was allowed to look now. To admire, to desire.

"One of those cups for me, Chief?"

Blair just nodded, incapable of speech as he watched the hard-bodied love-god walk in his direction.

"Cat got your tongue?"

Blair suddenly couldn't stand it. He needed to know what was going on, with Jim, with him, with them both, with their future. "What happens now, Jim?"

Jim raised his eyebrows at Blair, and took a sip of coffee. "I left my crystal ball at home, Sandburg."

Blair couldn't help it as his eyes wandered down and then back up Jim's body. He thought he saw some movement happening underneath the towel, especially when his eyes found their way back down.

"See something you like?" Jim's tone was teasing, warm.

Blair forced his eyes back up to Jim's face and found one of Jim's endearingly shy smiles waiting for him. "Jeez, man, I, I really love you, you know?"

The next thing he knew, his cup and Jim's were back on the counter, and Jim was hugging him tightly. Blair was delighted at all the skin his lips had access to, and all startlingly close. Taking the hug as implicit permission to touch, Blair flicked out his tongue and lapped at Jim's nipple.

The earth moved. Or rather Blair did, as Jim practically lifted him and threw him onto the bed. Before he figured out which way was up, Jim had his jeans and boxers off, and the towel was nowhere to be seen.

This was more than okay with Blair. Even more skin to touch and explore. "You are so gorgeous." Blair shook his head, not believing his luck. His hands roamed over Jim's defined six-pack. "Yum."

"Me?" Jim let out an amazed laugh. "You're the one who turns heads, Chief."

Blair shook his head. "No way, man, you walk through a room and everyone's tongue hits the floor." He supposed it was stupid that they were arguing over who was more, you know, whatever. Blair didn't care; he was having fun.

So, apparently, was Jim. He grinned and said, "Yeah, well, everyone's watching your ass when you head out the door."

Blair wasn't so sure about that. "They're watching your muscles when you work out."

"Your smile knocks 'em dead."

Blair shook his head emphatically. "I got you on that one, Jim, you are the one with the killer smile. You let it rip, and your whole face lights up, and you--" Blair ran a hand down Jim's face, his fingers tracing the smile lines at the corners of Jim's eyes, the contours of Jim's cheek as he smiled. "--you take my breath."

Apparently the time for swapping compliments was over, because the next thing Blair knew he had lips on his. Lips and tongue, nibbling and kissing and sucking and exploring, and Blair couldn't get enough. The zings of electricity were shooting directly from his lips to his cock and any capacity for thought was declining as all blood flow shot south.

He was gratified to feel Jim's cock harden against his leg, immensely pleased that he seemed to be having the same effect on his Sentinel as Jim was having on him. It was all about touching, and moaning, and nasty kisses, and blood-red nipples licked to hard pebbles, and sweaty skin, yards and yards of it. And all of it hard, one spot in particular, and Blair really, really wanted to taste it.

He worked his way down Jim's body, reveling in the way his Sentinel's body wiggled under his, the way his skin flushed under Blair's tongue, the way every breath Jim took ended in this breathy gasp that was making Blair crazy.

Finally reaching his target, Blair wasted no time, just swallowing down as much of Jim as he could. The resultant yell was very satisfying. He used one hand to keep Jim from bucking too hard into his mouth, and the other hand explored the rest of his Sentinel. No matter what he did--running his hand up and down a thigh, gently squeezing his balls, lightly pressing in on Jim's anus--everything got an enthusiastic groan out of his Sentinel.

Blair thought it boded well for their future, much of which he hoped would be spent in bed. His free hand groped back up Jim's body and pinched a nipple and with a yell, Jim came in his mouth, shooting thick jets of semen copious enough that some, despite Blair's best efforts to catch it all, dribbled down his chin.

Jim let out an enormous sigh and his entire body relaxed, his head sagging back down to the mattress, arms falling to his side.

Blair sat up and grinned down at him, deciding the whole thing was a job well done. He began licking his mouth, trying to recapture any semen he'd missed.

The only thing that warned him was another groan from Jim, and then Jim was on him, licking his lips, his chin, his jaw, helping Blair clean his face up. Then his tongue was deep inside Blair's mouth, looking for any traces of his ejaculation.

Blair hadn't thought his cock could get any harder, but apparently he was wrong. He loved kinky. This boded especially well to future bed romps. His mind was filled with the vision of toys and feather dusters, chocolate sauce, and silk ropes.

Then Jim was making his way down Blair's body and he could tell he was in the hands of a maestro. Blair wasn't sure if it was because Jim was particularly experienced, or because it was due to the fact that he was a Sentinel, or because Blair was his Guide, but whatever the reason, Jim seemed to know exactly what to do, and precisely how to touch, and just when it was getting to be too much, or when Blair really, really wanted him to do what he'd just done again.

And when Jim's tongue delved into his ass at the same time he stroked Blair's cock just the right way and just tight enough, Blair exploded hard enough to see the aurora borealis beneath his eyelids.

This time it was his turn to sag to the bed, his head still spinning, colors still shooting sparks across his closed lids. He let out a feeble laugh. "I thought first times were supposed to be a little, I don't know, like something you're supposed to get through so you can get to the really good sex." Blair sincerely hoped that wasn't the case, because he didn't think he'd live through anything better than that.

Jim pulled him in close until Blair's back was against Jim's chest. "Well, I guess, as usual, we are the exception to the rule." He kissed Blair right behind his ear and it sent a shiver through his body.

Blair glared at his dick, as it seemed as if it was actually trying to rally. His cock might be thinking it was ready for another round, but he could hardly breathe yet. He rested there in Jim's arms, laying against his hard body and, feeling totally surrounded by love and safety, Blair drifted off.


As consciousness slowly returned, Daniel tried to figure out where he
was. It only took him a second to figure out he was in the infirmary.
Again. He cracked open an eye and saw Jack sitting by the bed, eyes
intent on watching some staff drama unfold across the room.

Jack sitting by his bedside was normal. Jack holding his hand, wasn't. At least Daniel figured it was Jack on the other end of the fingers currently entwined with his, but he guessed it was possible someone else was around.

He opened his eyes again and took a look. Nope. Just Jack. Daniel closed his eyes, not wanting Jack to see he was awake. He didn't want Jack to take his hand away. Daniel liked it. A lot.

Slowly replaying the last couple of days in his mind, Daniel remembered being slowly choked to death. Then he remembered the scorpions and he could suddenly feel them crawling all over him. Letting out a gasp he opened his eyes, surging to a sitting position, still, however, hanging tight to Jack's hand.

"Whoa, Daniel, where you going?" Jack questioned with some urgency.

Daniel just looked at himself, looked at his arms where he remembered scorpions marching down like some macabre parade.

Jack seemed to read his mind. "You're okay. You're in the infirmary. Between Sandburg and Janet you're all fixed up. And we didn't bring any scorpions home with us. I promise."

Daniel sagged back down. "Everyone else is okay?" He couldn't help but notice that Jack hadn't let go of his hand.

Jack nodded. "Everyone's fine. Ellison popped in a little while ago to tell us that Sandburg is doing fine, and as a bonus, he brought us all the information their Sam has pulled together about how the MG works and showed us how to find them if we need them for anything."

Daniel ran anxious eyes over Jack. He could recall Jack flying through the air and hitting a wall. Hard. "You're really okay? And Sam and Jim?"

"We're all a little bruised, but between our twin Guides and Janet, I promise, we're all doing great." Jack actually bounced their enjoined hands on his knee. "My knees feel like they're kids again." That statement was accompanied by a pleased grin.

"So Blair did all right, then?"

Jack barked out a laugh. "That kid is a piece of work. He walloped the Goa'uld over the head with a vase." He started laughing. "It was sweet." The laughter died down to a couple of soft rifts, and then Jack turned soft eyes on Daniel. "You're the one had me worried."

"I'm okay, Jack."

"I know. This time." Jack's other hand came up and he touched Daniel's throat. "Think there's a maximum number of times you can almost die? I'm thinking you're reaching your limit." The touch turned into something closely resembling a caress as it made its way up to Daniel's jaw.

Daniel held his breath, eyes locked with Jack, feeling things shift between them, the air itself thick with potential. For a second he thought Jack might touch his lips with his fingers, but his friend's hand dropped away. Both of them. Jack leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest.

They both stared at each other for another few moments, until finally Jack cleared his throat and looked away.

Daniel let out the breath he was holding, both relieved and disappointed. Relieved because this wasn't the place or the time, and disappointed because he needed more to go on. What had that been? Had it been something? Was it the start of something important or just a fleeting moment? Daniel let out a small sigh, unhappy with the current ambiguity. He needed a safe subject. "Are we going to keep them?"

Jack's eyebrows furrowed. "Who?"

"Jim and Blair. Are we going to keep them here?"

"What, like pets or something?"

"Ha ha. You know what I'm talking about."

Jack shrugged. "Not my decision."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Jack," he cajoled.

"All right, all right, already. I have to admit that they, uh, they did a, well, they did okay." Actually, Jack had to admit that they did great. Not even taking into account that they'd never even seen a Goa'uld before. Had never even heard of them before yesterday.

Daniel rolled his eyes again, seeking strength from above. "General Hammond will defer to your decision, Jack, you know that."

Jack scowled. "I know, but think about it, Daniel, no more privacy. No secrets. Jim can hear anything we're saying or doing. He'll be able to smell if my feet stink, if I fart down the hall. It sort of gives me the creeps."

"I'm sure he'll want to alert the media immediately if your feet stink. Come on, Jack, he's been a Sentinel for years. I'm sure he can tone it down if he needs to. I don't believe for a minute that Blair's been without any privacy for all the time they've been together. And he can't listen to everything, he'd go insane."

Jack just grimaced.

Daniel wanted Blair on the team; he wanted a kindred spirit. He wasn't looking for anything else from his old friend and lover--not, Daniel admitted to himself with an internal grin, that that was even a possibility with Jim glaring at everyone. What he wanted was someone nearby who thought like him. It was lonely sometimes being the only voice speaking on behalf of, well, anyone who wasn't military and who didn't love big, honkin' space guns.

So Daniel kept arguing. "Sam said it right, Jack. Our casualties will be lower if we can do our fact-finding from a mile away. No one will be able to sneak up on us, we'll be able to be in one part of a Goa'uld stronghold and Jim will be able to hear what the Goa'uld is up to." Knowing he was playing dirty Daniel touched his throat. "It may help keep me and imminent death in separate rooms."

This time the scowl was directed right at him. "That's hitting below the belt, Daniel."

"I know, but it's true. I'm guessing Jim's a pretty discreet guy and besides, he'll be on our side. Just think of all the things we can get him to listen in on for us." Daniel wiggled his eyebrows. He didn't have anything specific in mind but he counted on Jack's twisted brain to fill in the blanks. If the light that started gleaming in Jack's eyes was any indication, he'd come up with several scenarios where Jim might come in handy.

Daniel fired one more barrage. "Besides, without Blair you can't use the MG, and," Daniel tapped Jim's knee meaningfully, "like you said, he's handy to have around." The sudden bleak look on Jack's face revealed more than his words ever would, that perhaps he'd gotten a larger demonstration of the handiness of a Guide than he might have wanted. "I'm guessing you saw that up close and personal, huh?" Daniel asked cautiously.

Jack nodded unhappily. "Way too close."

"I'm okay, Jack." Feeling suddenly tired, Daniel closed his eyes.

"I should let you rest. Janet says you can leave after you eat a meal, so I'll come back at dinner time."

Daniel squinched his face up. "What time is it? What day is it?"

"It's Tuesday, 16:30."

Daniel let that process. Crossing the International Date Line was screwing with his time sense more than traveling to other planets did. "Did you get some sleep?"

Jack nodded. "Just got up."

"Where's everyone else?"

"Teal'c's probably kel-no-reeming it in his quarters. Sam went home, we're grounded for a couple of days, and Jim and Blair are up in a VIP suite."

"You slept here?"

Another nod. "Yeah." Then he qualified. "I mean, here at the base, not here, like as in here." He waved a hand, taking in the infirmary.

"Got it." Daniel let out a yawn and then shot Jack an apologetic look.

"I'm out of here. I'll see you a little later." And with that, Jack patted his arm, and left. Despite the fact that Daniel was ready to sleep, he couldn't help but feel, suddenly, really lonely.


The sexual haze started to wear off and Blair smiled, turning his head
to look at Jim, only to find him in Sentinel mode. He spoke softly.
"What?"

Jim held up a cautioning finger and shook his head.

Blair decided to put his new talents to work and, imagining Jim's meridians, paid close attention to see if he could figure out what his Sentinel strained when he used his senses. It was just like he suspected, the channel of his stomach meridian was still moving, but it was dimmer than the others, as if power was being leached out of it.

Blair touched the points along the channel and watched with satisfaction as it began to flow more strongly. He saw the look of thanks in Jim's eyes and sat back grinning like a fool that he had such a surefire way of lending assistance to his Sentinel.

Then Jim was back with him, and humming contentedly as he cuddled Blair close.

Blair could get used to this. It also made him remember that there was the issue of their future gaping before them. He pulled back a little, one hand on Jim's chest, enjoying the fact that he could touch as he pleased. "I know I asked it before, but what happens now?"

"Whatever you want, Chief."

Blair remembered how he put Jim off at home, ignoring his offer to go wherever he wanted. "I can't believe I was gonna throw all this away. I mean I know I was trying to do the right thing, but I'm such an idiot." He cast an appreciative eye down Jim's body. "An idiot of galactic proportions."

Jim smiled at him. "Yeah, but you're my idiot of galactic proportions. Besides I know I wasn't making it easy for you. I never made any of it easy for you, fighting you practically every step of the way."

Leaning up to kiss Jim, Blair asked, "So, both idiots?"

Jim nodded. "Both idiots."

Blair moved to lean against the headboard, encouraging Jim to join him. He reached out and clasped Jim's hand in his, lacing their fingers together. "I don't think I can stay in Cascade, Jim. I really don't. So, I might have to take you up on your offer to come with me. Not that I have any idea where that is," he added ruefully.

"I'll go anywhere you want. I can be a cop anywhere. Maybe we can open up a private investigation practice or something. That way we could still work together. I've got enough money put aside to set us up and keep us eating for a while."

"Man, that would be great. We wouldn't have to even explain your senses then, just present the evidence you scrounged up and then off to the next case." Blair thought that was a real possibility. It might take them a while to get a business going, but if Jim really did have some money put away it would be okay. "I really do love you. We'll make it work, whatever we do."

Jim just kissed him, a soft kiss that grew in intensity until it left Blair breathless. "I know," Jim assured him. There was a long pause as they sat there, arms wrapped around each other. "What do you think about staying here?"

Blair sat straight up. "Here? As in here?" His hand swept the room.

Jim nodded. "Yeah, it seems like they could use us."

"They could use you, that's for sure. I don't think Jack likes me very much."

Jim let out a soft chuff of laughter. "Actually, Chief, he thinks you're great. It's me he's worried about."

Blair's eyes opened wide. "He said that? About me? Is that what you were listening to before?" Then he smacked Jim's arm. "You shouldn't be eavesdropping on other people's conversations." Then he inched closer. "What did he say?"

Jim gave him a noogie and Blair batted his hand away. "He said he's worried about exactly this, that he won't be able to keep secrets." He grinned. "That I'll know when he farts."

Blair snorted. "Jeez, you've known about every noise my body's made for four years and it hasn't seemed to scar you for life."

With a glower and a rambunctious pounce that turned into a ruthless tickle session, Jim rejoined, "Speak for yourself."

Blair struggled against him futilely, his strength no match for his partner's. Finally he grabbed Jim's balls and gave them a tug. Not too hard, just hard enough to let Jim know that he had resources of his own.

Jim took the hint and moved away, hands up in surrender, although his face was still lit up with laughter.

After smacking his Sentinel on the chest, Blair made himself comfy, sprawling all over him. Resting his hands on Jim's chest, chin on his hands, he asked, "If he's so nervous about your senses, why did you ask if we want to stay? Is it an option?"

Jim nodded, his fingers working their way through Blair's thick curls. "I think so. Daniel certainly wants us here, and they can't use that MG without you. Besides, you saved Daniel's life. That won you some major points with the Colonel." Grinning, he added, "I think he's a little sweet on his archeologist."

"Does it go both ways?"

"I think so, although neither one of them has actually said anything. Yet."

Blair was pleased at the thought of Daniel having someone to love, who loved him back, especially now that he had someone of his own. Blair sighed up at Jim, like some love-struck teenager. Pulling himself back to the task at hand, he said, "Well, they can't have me without you." He was really clear about that.

"I don't think you need to worry about that. I think Daniel will talk him into being okay with me around, and even Jack has to admit that a Sentinel might come in handy every now and then."

Blair scowled at that imagined grudging praise. "He's lucky to have you, and I'll make sure he knows it."

Jim yanked a curl. "My very own Blessed Protector."

"You better believe it." He moved to sit across Jim's legs, straddling them, until he was essentially sitting on Jim's lap. "Do you want to stay? I mean if they asked us? Is this something you want to do?"

"I could ask you the same questions."

"Fair enough, and I'll answer, but I asked you first." Blair felt a desperate bubble of hope start to grow in him, that he tried to push down. He suddenly wanted to stay, desperately, despite their surreal brush with death.

"All right. I'll go first." Jim drew a deep breath, and then said, "Those Goa'uld guys are bad news. They make the criminals we were after look like a kindergarten gang."

Blair grimaced. That was true enough; he was figuring on encountering some glowing eyes in his dreams in the near future and he hadn't even gotten hurt. "And?"

"But these people have been fighting them for a while, and they think it's important enough to keep at it. It's kind of the ultimate fight, isn't it, Chief? Nothing we do here is gonna matter if some spaceship full of bad guys swoops in and takes us all out."

The hope started to grow. "And?"

Jim scrubbed at his face, and then ran his hands down Blair's arms until he laced his fingers with Blair's, their hands resting on his Guide's thighs. "I don't want to do this unless you do, but we can work together, I don't have to hide who I am, I can use my skills in a real way, and you can work with me without anyone ever questioning why you're there. Everyone will know that you belong with me."

"And?" Blair could feel the grin on his face, knew it was giving away his preference that they stay, that he was loving everything Jim was saying.

It spurred Jim on. "It might give us an opportunity to work with other Sentinels and Guides."

Blair decided it was time to chime in. "I'll get to go on some field trips." He could feel his grin practically splitting his face apart. "A little farther than I thought, but as long as I can pack a toothbrush, I'm okay."

"They'd probably let you publish your dissertation, Chief, stamp it Top Secret, and give you your Ph.D."

"You'd already be working for the government, in the most secret agency there is, so we wouldn't have to worry about anyone finding out about you." That was such a huge relief to Blair, he felt almost lightheaded.

Jim nodded. "Yeah, can't imagine anyone the government would want intel on more than the Goa'uld."

Blair bit his lip. "You think they're gonna ask us? Maybe they'll decide they don't want us here, that it's too big a risk."

Jim wrapped his arms around Blair and squeezed him tightly. "They'll ask."

Blair fervently hoped so. To be free to be with Jim, work with him, work on his senses, have the opportunity to work with Daniel, travel to other planets, maybe meet other aliens. It was too big to even think about. He shook his head as he laughed. "Aliens, Jim. Other planets."

Jim buried his nose in Blair's hair. "You and me."

"Oh, yeah. You and me."


Daniel was getting dressed when Jack reappeared, General Hammond, Sam,
Teal'c and Janet in tow. He stared at them as he finished buttoning
his shirt. "Am I in trouble?"

Jack grinned. "No, we just thought we'd hold our little impromptu meeting down here." He let out a silent sigh as he realized he'd come just a little too late for skin. He was smitten, no doubt about it. Maybe it had been a long time coming, but he still felt like someone had smacked him upside the head with a dead fish. In a good way, of course.

Daniel frowned a little. "Was I supposed to prepare anything?"

Jack gave him a disapproving look. "You mean you didn't get your memo?"

Teal'c broke in. "You have done nothing wrong, DanielJackson." He gave Jack's disapproving look back in spades.

Jack knew when to concede to a master. No one did looks better than Teal'c. "We're here to talk about Jim and Blair."

Daniel sat on the edge of the bed. "You mean whether we get to keep them or not?"

Jack bounced on his toes. "You really need to get a dog or something."

This time Daniel shot Jack a look. Jack didn't think it was fair that they were coming at him from every direction.

The General cleared his throat. "Colonel O'Neill has shared his concerns with me."

Daniel let out an exasperated sigh. "Jack."

"Hey, think about it, he could be listening to us right now. No secrets, ever. It's a big deal."

"Right, and he's clearly been manipulating his way, using everyone's secrets as blackmail so he could rise to the extraordinary rank of detective in the booming metropolis of Cascade."

Jack agreed silently to himself that, to all appearances, Jim Ellison was a man to be trusted, but he liked pushing Daniel's buttons. "Maybe he'd still be on traffic patrol without his senses."

Hammond put up his hand to quell what was likely to be a caustic rejoinder on Daniel's part. "The Colonel has also made it quite clear that he thinks they'll be a good addition to the team."

Jack scowled. "I wouldn't say quite clear. More like pond water clear."

"Thank you for your clarification, Colonel." Hammond's comment was punctuated by a look.

Jack sighed. He glanced at Carter and Janet to see if they were sending him looks, too. Carter didn't seem to be, but he could see a gleam in Janet's eyes and Jack was sure a needle was attached to it.

Daniel was grinning in delight. "So, they're staying?"

Sam was grinning, too. Jack was sure it was because visions of MGs were dancing in her brain.

Hammond smiled at Daniel. "That's assuming they want to stay."

"Of course, assuming." Daniel looked so hopeful, Jack decided he'd step on Jim's toes really hard if he even tried to say no. If there was any dissension, he was pretty sure it would come from that quarter; Blair was a shoo-in.

"Have you told them, or asked them yet?" Daniel was standing again, slipping his socked feet into his shoes.

"I figured you'd want to go with me when I talk to them," Jack advised his archeologist. He figured he'd assumed right when Daniel was by his side, tugging at his arm.

Hammond counseled them, "Let me know what they say, gentlemen, and if they agree, we'll have an orientation to plan. We'll all have to get used to one another."

Daniel sort of uh-huhed in agreement and then he was dragging Jack out of the infirmary.


After another heavy petting session, Blair's stomach gave out an
embarrassingly loud gurgle. Jim yanked him out of bed, smacked him on
the butt, and told him to get dressed.

Blair was tempted to smack Jim back and push him down on the bed, but he had to admit he was starving. Deciding he'd let Jim push him around this once, he got dressed, and then followed Jim's nose up to the commissary.

As they dug into what looked to be a substantial and fairly promising meal, Jim got that listening look on his face. He grinned at Blair. "They're on their way."

Blair felt a million butterflies suddenly attack his stomach and it had nothing to do with hunger. "You mean to ask us to join?"

Jim nodded.

Blair put his hand over his stomach. "Oh, God."

"Now's the time to change your mind." Jim was looking at him with a worried expression on his face.

Blair waved a hand around in the air, negating Jim's concerns. "No, no, I'm okay, it just, it just got me nervous all of a sudden." Really, really nervous. Other planets, aliens, glowing eyes. What the hell was he doing?

"You sure, Chief? You don't look so good."

Blair thought about it for a minute. Ran all the reasons why this was a good idea through his mind. They were all still valid. It didn't stop his stomach from churning. "I think I'm terrified." Actually, terrified didn't come close.

"We can say no, Sandburg. All you have to do is say the word."

Blair shook his head emphatically. "We can't say no. I mean, how can we say no? How can we go back to doing whatever the hell we'd end up doing, knowing this was going on? We're, uh, we're like ruined for anything else."

Jim rolled his eyes. "Aren't you being a little overly dramatic here?"

"Yeah, maybe, but I'm still terrified."

"So, does that mean yes or no?"

Blair took a good look at Jim, saw the worry in his eyes, but also the hope that his Guide wasn't changing his mind. And he wasn't. "Yes. Jim. Yes. As long as it's okay with you that I plan to be terrified pretty regularly. Okay with you?"

Jim grinned at Blair. "Okay with me. I might even join you sometimes." He snitched a carrot from Blair's plate. "They're almost here. Should I act like I know what's going on, or pretend it's a surprise?"

Blair looked up to see Jack and Daniel coming through the door, looking for them. He waved them over. "Given the sour look on Jack's face, I'm thinking he's guessing you know. Guess I shouldn't have found them so fast."

Jim sat back nonchalantly back in his chair, as if he didn't have a care in the world.

Blair envied him. He was sure he looked like a nervous wreck, his hair practically standing on end.

Jack and Daniel arrived and Jack stuck a frustrated hand out at Jim, as if the Sentinel were the source of all that was wrong with his world. "See? See that? He knows." He turned to glare at Daniel. "No secrets." Pulling a chair out to sit down next to Blair, he snarled, "I hate that." Looking down at Blair's tray, his eyes lit up and he pointed at the pumpkin pie that was sitting there. "You gonna eat that?"

Blair just shook his head.

Jack let out a happy grunt and snitched it, grabbing the spoon off of Blair's tray as well.

Daniel glared at Jack and gave Blair a somber warning. "You need to watch him every second. Take your eye off your dessert for a moment and it's gone." He sat down next to Jim.

Jack waved his spoon at Daniel, totally dissing his remarks. He leaned back, matching Jim's insouciant air. "So, you guys in or out?" Glancing at his watch, he added, "Doesn't matter to me, I just need to know so I can go home."

Blair saw Daniel kick Jack under the table. "Jack."

Jack pointed at Jim. "He's doing it, doing the whole casual-I-don'tgive -a-shit thing, why can't I? Why don't you go kick him?" He rubbed his shin. "That hurt."

"Big baby."

Blair started to grin as he watched the two of them. They were already like an old married couple, something he and Jim had been accused of on many occasions. He decided to put Daniel out of his misery. "We're in."

Daniel broke out into a brilliant smile and Blair noticed that Jack couldn't take his eyes off of his archeologist. He glanced up to find Jim's eyes on him and the look of love in them blew him away. Smiling at Jim, he nodded and said again, "We're in." He squinched his face up and somehow, managing to pull away from the look in Jim's eyes, he looked at Jack. "I mean if you want us."

Jack snorted through a mouthful of pie.

Jim decided to add insult to injury. "And I promise to try not to notice when you fart."

"Aah. Stop." Jack looked absolutely horrified. His look to Daniel was filled with vindication. "Are you listening to this?"

Blair was the one who stepped in, putting a cautious hand on Jack's arm. "Jack, I know this is freaking you out, but trust me, Jim's about the most trustworthy person you can find. He's never gonna use anything he hears against you. And he's also gonna try not to eavesdrop." That last statement was accompanied by a stern look he directed at his Sentinel.

He continued. "See, the thing is, you're new, this place is new, it's filled with unfamiliar sounds, and voices, and scents, and until he gets used to it, he's sort of gonna be permanently switched on. He needs to protect me, and protect himself, and there's too much stuff he doesn't recognize. Once he gets to know you, and gets used to this place, he'll start tuning you out."

Jack let out a sigh. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever." He ate the last piece of pie and looked longingly at the dessert sitting on Jim's tray.

Jim glared at him.

Jack sighed again. "Okay. Well, welcome to the team. We'll give it a month, and then see how it's going. Fair enough?"

Blair nodded and looked over to see Jim nodding as well.

"I don't think we need to start anything tonight. Hammond wants to meet with the team at 08:00 sharp. We'll send someone to get you, so you don't get lost." He let out a short laugh as he turned his attention to Jim. "Although I'm guessing you could find your way."

Jim nodded.

"Wait for an escort anyway. We'll put together some sort of orientation, figure out what your cover story is to quit your jobs and leave town without arousing suspicion and burning bridges." He gave Blair a look. "Or any more bridges."

Daniel gave them a nervous smile. "Jack and I were talking about a few of the planets we could take you to where we have allies, let you get used to gate travel before we go on a real mission."

Blair's heart started to pound. Other planets, aliens. He wondered how long it would be until this all seemed normal to him. "Do you ever get used to it?" he asked Daniel.

Daniel shook his head, grinning. "No. It's wonderful and awful, and breathtakingly beautiful and--"

"--and painstakingly boring, and there's lots and lots of trees." Off of Daniel's look Jack added, "And no, you don't ever get used to it." He made a sweeping gesture that took in the whole complex. "This is the real deal. It doesn't get any realer than this. You ready to be a part of it?"

Blair just nodded, not sure his voice wouldn't betray him and come out squeaking.

Jack nodded in return. "We'll probably want to go visit Ellison's and Sandburg's reality, see how their Stargate Command uses all its Sentinels and Guides."

Blair's heart skipped another beat. Alternate realities. He was going to go to a parallel universe for an in-service.

Jim's hand reached across the table and touched his arm. "Relax."

"Right." Blair blew out a breath. "It just, it's throwing me a little, you know. I'll be fine." Alternate realities. It was like a Fritjof Capra chapter come to life.

Daniel smiled understandingly at Blair. "I know it's all a bit overwhelming, but you'll find your tolerance for this sort of thing grows over time." His eyebrows wiggled a little, his face incredibly earnest.

Blair trusted Daniel implicitly, but all he wanted to do right now was go back to bed and have Jim hold him. He'd deal with everything else tomorrow. "Okay." He smiled at Daniel, hoping his smile conveyed that he was fine. He glanced at Jack to see that he wasn't fooling him for a moment.

Thankfully, Jack decided not to make a big deal out of it. Blair was grateful. He supposed even Jack had to have had a moment of sheer speechlessness about this whole thing.

Everyone seemed to be standing, so he stood too, hoping this was an indication that he and Jim could go be by themselves now.

"Do you want some company? Do you have questions right now that you need answered? I don't really have any plans," Daniel offered generously.

Blair and Jack spoke at the exact same time.

Blair said, "No, thanks, I'm really beat. I think I need to get some sleep."

Jack said, "Yes, you do."

"I do?" Daniel asked Jack. "What?"

Jim must have taken this for his cue, because he wrapped a hand around Blair's bicep, and gave him a tug. "Good night. We'll see you in the morning." Without waiting for a response, he dragged Blair away, much to Blair's great relief.

"You all right, Chief?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, I just really really need to be alone with you right now."

"You got it." They walked in a silence that lasted down the hallway to the elevator, for the elevator ride and down the corridors to their suite. When they got inside, Blair just buried himself against Jim's chest, nudging his Sentinel's arms around him.

Jim took his cues nicely and held Blair tightly, running his hands up and down his back, dropping kisses on his head.

Finally Blair pulled away enough to look up at him. "How are you staying so calm? Why am I the one totally freaking here?" And he was, his heart was pounding, he was breathing too fast, he even felt a little lightheaded. "I am totally freaked."

Jim pulled him in tight again. "You need to calm down. Your heart's gonna pound its way out of your chest."

Blair took a deep breath. "I know, you're right, I know." He blew it out nice and slow. "Maybe if you rock me a little."

There was a pause and Blair could almost imagine the what-the-fuck-ishe -talking-about look in Jim's eyes, but the next thing he knew, Jim was gently rocking him, almost like they were slow dancing. And he was muttering soft words of love, and gentle shushes, and Blair could feel it like magic just settling him down, making him relax, getting him comfortable in his skin again.

Blair let out a contented hum. "Man, that's great. Keep doing it."

Jim laughed softly and hugged him tighter, keeping up the rocking motion. With amusement in his voice, he said, "Maybe you got standard equipment as a Guide to heal your Sentinel, but I think I got the goods as a Sentinel to relax my Guide."

Blair was starting to feel like jello. "No argument here, big guy." He hung on tight to Jim, sure he'd slip to the floor like a wet noodle.

Jim began to gently frogwalk him to the bed. "Let's get this show horizontal before I end up having to carry you."

Horizontal worked fine for Blair. He let Jim manhandle him down and get his limbs ordered to suit his Sentinel, which suited him equally well as Jim had them all tangled together.

When Blair decided if he got any more relaxed he'd be comatose, and there were things he wanted to talk about, he sort of shook himself and sat up, making sure as much of him was still touching Jim as he could.

Jim stared up at him. "What?"

"What what?"

"You're looking at me like you want to dissect me, or do experiments on me, or something."

Blair was very glad that Jim's words were accompanied by a relaxed face and a look of love in Jim's eyes. Only a few short weeks ago, dread and aggravation would have been the counterparts to those words. "I do have a question."

"Go ahead. Ask." Jim lay on his side, stretching his long legs out, Blair's knees as he sat cross-legged touched him at belly and thigh. He took one of Blair's hands and held it.

Blair decided he wasn't close enough this way. He straddled Jim, and then helped Jim get a couple pillows under his head.

Jim gave him a mocking smile, his eyes twinkling. "There, got everything arranged to your satisfaction, Chief?"

Taking a good, long proprietary look at his Sentinel, all laid out before him, Blair nodded happily. "I'm good."

Jim snorted. "What's your question?"

"Okay. Why aren't you freaked out? I mean, usually, you're the one who's freaking." He put up a hand to ward off Jim's response. "Not that anyone would know it except me. But right about now, your teeth should be grinding. I can't believe you let Jack go without grilling him for more information, I don't understand why you're not insisting on prowling around the base sniffing into everything until you get your bearings."

Blair gestured at Jim, lying on the bed, his eyes all twinkling, a goofy smile on his face, and let out an amazed laugh. "And you sure as hell wouldn't be just laying there all relaxed like you haven't got a care in the world. I don't get it." He put a hand on his chest and added, "Me, I understand; I've got a history of panic attacks, but I don't get this new version of you at all."

"I'm not sure I see the problem here, Chief," Jim asked with a wry smile. "You saying you'd rather have me all uptight?"

"No, no, man. This is great. I just don't get it." Blair frowned. "Did they give you something to relax in the infirmary?"

Jim rolled his eyes. "No, Darwin." He reached up and grabbed Blair, pulling him down and then rolling them both over until Blair was underneath him.

Blair let out a yelp. "Hey, no using your bulk to push me around." He wiggled his eyebrows. "Not that it doesn't turn me on," he added honestly, grinning.

Jim pushed their groins together, hard cock against hard cock. "I'd never have guessed."

"Just answer the question."

"It's simple, Chief. I have you now. I'm with you."

Blair shook his head, not understanding. "I've always been with you." He looked down at their bodies. "Well, okay, not exactly like this." His eyes opened wide. "Is it the sex? Is that what made the difference?"

Jim rubbed against him again and grinned when it got a whimper out of Blair. "Well, it doesn't hurt. But, no, that's not what made the difference."

"Will you just tell me?" Blair snapped in exasperation.

Jim rolled them until they were side-by-side. "Okay. I know you think you've been with me, and maybe I even thought you were with me, but you weren't. You could have cut and run anytime. The next David Lash to come along, or Alex Barnes, you might have just decided to throw in the towel, and no one would have blamed you, including me."

Blair touched Jim's cheek. "But I didn't, and I wouldn't."

Jim caught Blair's fingers and kissed them. "But you did. And this isn't about blame, but you were gonna leave me."

Blair felt a tightness in his chest. "Jim--" It was like he couldn't breathe.

"I meant what I said, this isn't about blame. Jesus, if we start throwing blame around I think I'd still end up with the lion's share, so this isn't about that. It's about me never being sure. It's about me waiting for you to leave, it's about me not knowing what was gonna happen when you got your Ph.D.. What field trip would finally pull you away, or what school you'd end up teaching at, what woman or man would finally win your heart. It was about waiting. I was always waiting for the shoe to drop, for whatever it was, I was just waiting for it." Jim's voice had gotten progressively more agitated, his hand flying through the air to punctuate his points.

Blair stared at him, his jaw dropped. He grabbed one of Jim's hands to hold it still and put his fingers over his Sentinel's lips to get him to stop talking for a second. He needed to think. His mind was whirling like a blender on pulverize. When Jim tried to talk again, Blair pressed harder. "Shh, wait. I'm thinking."

Jim rolled his eyes, but lay back, waiting.

Fear-based responses. Blair could have smacked himself on the head. He'd been the one who'd come up with that oh-so-loving description of his Sentinel's reactions to anything threatening. But he'd never thought that maybe he was the largest cause of it. Oh, not him, as in Blair, but him as the Guide. As a child, Jim had been handicapped because he hadn't had a Guide. And then, when he did get one, it, or he, hadn't come with any kind of life-pact attached.

Not that Blair could have known; he wasn't going to jump into that guilt briar patch. But he also hadn't tried too hard to figure out why Jim was that way. He'd just assumed it was about Jim, the man. He'd stupidly, because of some huge blind spot Blair couldn't believe he had, never thought it was because of the Sentinel.

That somewhere, deep inside Jim, down where he was 100% Sentinel, he'd never relaxed. He'd always felt threatened, always felt the need to be hyper-vigilant, to be independent, because the one thing he needed the most, that was essential to his well-being--his Guide--never promised to stay put. Never said: I'm yours, in any way you need me, I'm staying and you're never getting rid of me.

Blair could argue that he'd sort of made the commitment stuff pretty clear just because he had stuck around despite all the shit and that maybe Jim could have bought a clue. But, when push came to shove, Jim was right. He had planned to leave. Leave Cascade, leave Jim, leave his Sentinel. Just the thought of it broke Blair's heart.

Except that he had said it now. He'd told Jim he loved him and that he was staying, and look what it got him. A loving Jim, a relaxed Jim, a non-freaked Jim. Just because he finally truly believed Blair wasn't going to leave him.

It took Blair's breath away that he had that much power over Jim, that he'd always had that much power over him. He wished he'd known, he could have put them both out of their misery a long time ago.

Sitting up, consumed with this new theory, he asked, "Do you think Sentinels were usually hooked up with their Guides when they were children?"

Jim shrugged.

Blair got it. Jim didn't really care. He had his Guide and that was good enough for him. He smiled down at his Sentinel. "I'm afraid you are good and stuck with me." He moved to straddle Jim again. "Indelible glue."

Jim flashed him his brilliant, beautiful grin, and Blair was afraid he might melt on the spot. "I know, Chief. And that makes everything all right." He pulled Blair down and cuddled him closely. "It makes everything just fine."

Blair sighed and let himself be cuddled.


Daniel turned to Jack. "What do you mean we have plans? I don't
remember making plans."

Jack started working Daniel out of the commissary, out to the hallway. "Well, sure. I mean you don't have plans, and I don't have plans, so that right there sort of implies that we don't have plans together. Right?"

"No."

"Yes, it does."

"No, it doesn't."

"Does."

"Doesn't."

"Daniel."

"Jack."

Jack let out an exasperated sigh.

Daniel had a sudden thought. And for the first time, when thoughts like this knocked, Daniel let them in. He was deluged with memories, all about Jack. Of Jack caring for him, grieving for him, yelling at him, rescuing him, hugging him, protecting him. They were like two planets in orbit around each other, an invisible force keeping them connected throughout time.

Other memories raised their hand for attention--how annoyed Jack always seemed to get when Daniel was attracted to someone, the way Jack had been holding his hand in the infirmary, that one moment that had been fraught with something, some sort of sexual something, the fact that Daniel and Jack were together in so many other realities. And, Daniel recalled, he'd been getting goose bumps lately, anytime Jack stood too close.

"Jack?"

"What?" Jack answered in a thoroughly pissy voice.

"Would you, uh, would you like to have dinner with me tonight?" Daniel asked in what he hoped was a casual but definite sort of tone.

Jack slapped his hands together. "See, I knew we had plans." He fisted his hands in a little victory dance.

Daniel shook his head. "No, we didn't have plans. I'm asking you if I can take you out for dinner tonight." He asked it a bit firmer that time, hoping he'd get his point across.

Something got across. Jack tilted his head to the side, opened his mouth and then closed it. He spread his hand flat against his chest. "Me?"

Daniel nodded.

"Are you--" Jack cleared his throat and looked around. "Are you asking me out on a--" His voice got really soft. "--a date?"

Daniel smiled what he hoped was a reassuring grin, maybe with a little flirt thrown in. He wasn't really very good at this; he never had really understood why people seemed to want him. And it had been a really, really long time since Daniel had gone after someone who he wanted. If ever. He realized he hadn't answered Jack's question. "Yes." He waited with bated breath for Jack's response.

It wasn't long in coming. Jack smiled at him. "Sweet. Somewhere expensive? I want flowers, too." Jack frowned. "Maybe candy. Chocolate."

Daniel decided right then and there that he was in love. He wasn't even sure his feet were touching the ground. "I'll pick you up at eight."

Jack looked at his watch and startled. "Jeez, I gotta go. Got a big date." He flashed Daniel a naughty grin and took off.

Daniel grinned in pleasure as he watched Jack run, even as he was already planning. Janet had some chocolate he could snitch, but where could he get flowers this late? And he probably needed to make reservations somewhere. Daniel took a look at his watch and when he saw what time it was he let out a yelp and took off sprinting.

The End