Title: Destiny's Choice
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pairings: Blair/Enqueri, Jack/Daniel
Category: alternate universe, Sentinel/Stargate crossover
Series/Sequel: sequel to Destiny's Bond
Disclaimers: They own them, I don't, yadda, yadda, yadda
Notes: This is the sequel to Destiny's Bond (which can be found on my page). At least part one of the sequel to Destiny's Bond. I finally decided if this was ever going to get posted I was going to have to do it in parts. The editing is easier to face that way. I'll try and get the parts out as fast as I can but with work and other things, can't commit to any specific time limit.
Summary: (I hate doing these things. How about:) An alien device changes Jack and Daniel's relationship.
Daniel Jackson looked up from adjusting his pack as the Stargate was activated from the other side. As the wheel spun and symbols were locked in place, the iris opened, indicating it was some SG team returning.
A moment later confirmation came from the control room. "Signal is being sent by SG-14."
"They're early," somebody behind Daniel said in surprise.
"Stargate missions never adhere to schedule," somebody else replied dryly.
'No kidding,' Daniel thought to himself, thinking about how rarely a mission went according to the briefing.
"So much for our early start," Colonel Jack O'Neill muttered beside him as they watched the seventh coordinate lock in and the gate activate.
Jack, Daniel and the rest of SG-1 were in the gate room preparing to leave on their own mission, but their departure would now be delayed until SG-14 returned and the gate was free.
It didn't take long once the gate was open for the members of SG-14 to come through. The tall auburn haired Lieutenant Megan Connor was the first through, looking, as usual, calm, cool and collected. She was followed by Sergeant Rafe, who was looking less than thrilled, as well as a bit worse for wear, with some strange, foul-smelling stains all over his uniform and his short brown hair wet and sticking up in all directions.
The next two members came through the gate side by side. One, Enqueri, was tall and silent, with short dark brown hair, ice blue eyes and a fond smile. The other, Dr. Blair Sandburg, was almost a head shorter with long curly brown hair and laughing azure eyes. His hands were in mid-gesture as he exited the gate and his companion reached out and steadied him as he stumbled.
The shorter man acknowledged the steadying hand with a brief smile but continued what was obviously something he had begun to say before they had entered the gate. "-not that bad Rafe. The Namaf consider those kwalaf birds sacred. They consider any offering from them a great honor."
"Where I come from, being pelted with eggs -- no matter what bird laid them -- isn't a honor, Sandburg," Rafe growled as the last member of their group -- Captain Simon Banks -- his outfit also bearing unusual stains -- came through.
"But to them it is," Blair argued. "They hoard those eggs like gold. To be so freely given them is the ultimate reward they can bestow."
"I didn't see you stepping forward to be so honored."
Blair spread his hands. "Hey man, I was just the translator. You and Simon were the ones who found the chief's daughter."
"I've been meaning to talk to you about that Sandburg," Captain Banks began as he came down the ramp and joined the others. "Considering Enqueri's tracking abilities one would have supposed that you would've found the girl first. Strange how you didn't."
"What can I say Simon? He's a sentinel, he's not omniscient." Blair's tone and expression were the very essence of innocence.
Banks glared at him then shifted to turn his glare on Enqueri. "You mean to tell me you didn't pick up her trail at all?"
"I am not perfect, Captain. Occasionally I do miss things," the sentinel calmly responded.
The Captain stared suspiciously at the man but Enqueri's expression did not change.
Daniel watched the interplay with a small grin, recognizing the look on Blair's face as the one his friend had always worn when he was lying through his teeth to get out of trouble. He had seen it quite often when they had attended the same school. He figured Captain Banks probably recognized it too but unless Blair broke he wouldn't be able to prove it. Especially not with Enqueri backing Blair up.
It was Lieutenant Connor who broke the moment. "Lighten up Cap," she said, reaching out and clasping Banks' shoulder. "Just think of what would happen if the goa'uld showed up there and the Namaf paid them proper homage."
Enqueri nodded. "A hero is worth one nest of eggs. How much would a god be worth?"
There was a long pause and then slowly, almost reluctantly, Captain Banks started to chuckle. One by one the other members of SG-14 joined him until they were all laughing.
"You think maybe," Rafe said between chuckles, "we can send them the address?"
That set off another round of laughter, even louder than the first.
After a moment their hilarity calmed and they seemed to start taking stock of their surroundings. Predictably, it was Enqueri who noticed SG-1 waiting at the side of the ramp first. As Daniel watched the Sentinel's nostrils flared as he caught a scent and, muscles tensing, he turned his head unerringly towards Teal'c. A split second of recognition and Enqueri relaxed.
"We seem to have interrupted a departure," he said, drawing the attention of the rest of SG-14.
The three military members of the team stiffened to attention automatically at the presence of a superior officer. It was a split second reaction before they relaxed again but it was there. 'Military mindset,' Daniel observed. 'Behavior's so ingrained they don't even realize they're doing it anymore.'
It was in direct contrast to Blair's reaction. "Hey guys!" he called out with a wide grin. He bounded down the ramp, heavy pack notwithstanding, exchanged smiles with Sam, handclasps with Teal'c, nodded at Jack and grinned at Daniel. "Sorry to hold you up. So you're going out huh? What's the mission? Anything juicy?"
Daniel didn't even bother hiding his own grin. His friend may have gotten over his instinctual distrust of the military but Blair was incapable of following the military mindset. Not that he didn't accord respect to those that he thought deserved it. It was just that he reacted to the person not the rank or the uniform; a way of reacting that Daniel shared, he just wasn't so... blatant about it.
"Details of mission briefings are not to be talked about beforehand, Blair Sandburg," Teal'c informed the doctor. "You are well aware of that."
Blair rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I know," he sighed. "But who the hell do they think I'm going to tell now that I couldn't tell afterwards when I can access the mission report?" He shook his head. "The military. Keeping secrets just for the sake of keeping secrets."
"The regulations were developed for earthbound missions, Blair," Sam told him. "All mission information is treated on a need to know basis because one leak could get someone killed and lead to the mission's failure."
"Yeah, but that's for earthbound missions. None of that applies to gate missions."
"Sandburg!" Captain Banks bellowed as Blair opened his mouth to continue.
"Yes, Simon?" Blair asked mildly, looking over his shoulder to where the rest of SG-14 was slowly walking down the ramp.
"SG-1 might actually want to *leave* on their mission."
Blair flushed. "Right. Sorry." He backed off, looking much abashed. Enqueri, who along with the rest of SG-14 had reached them, laid a reassuring hand on Blair's shoulder.
"Don't worry Blair," Daniel reassured his friend, taking pity on the woebegone expression. "I'll give you all the gory details as soon as we're back and finished the debriefing."
That got him a smile. "Thanks, man. Let me know and we'll make an evening out of it."
Captain Banks and the rest of SG-14 were heading for the door now. "Come on Chief," Enqueri said, squeezing the shoulder his hand still rested on. "We have our own debriefing to get to."
Blair nodded and grinned up at the Sentinel. "Right." He turned back to SG-1. "Good luck guys. We'll see you when you get back." With that he and Enqueri walked off, Enqueri's hand still casually on Blair's shoulder.
Daniel watched them go, feeling a sharp stab of envy. The connection between Blair and Enqueri, the bond that the two men shared, was just so strong, so apparent, that it was visible to anyone who saw them together. Blair had once told Daniel that finding Enqueri had been like finding the other half of his soul. As corny as that sounded Daniel did not for a second doubt that it was the truth. All one had to do was look at the two of them to verify it.
And Daniel could not help but feel jealous. He had never felt that close to another person, never had that kind of soul deep connection with anyone. Not even with Sha'uri. Oh, he had loved his wife -- still loved her -- just as she had loved him. But they had been so different, had come from such different backgrounds that simple understanding had sometimes been a problem. Even their marriage had been a misunderstanding! He loved her with all his heart, but his soul was still his own. Untouched. Unshared.
He wondered wistfully if it would always be.
Jack's voice startled him out of his reverie. "What?"
"Would you care to join us?"
With a start Daniel realized the gate had been activated and Sam and Teal'c had already gone through. Jack was standing beside him with an impatient look on his face, though Daniel could see the hidden concern in his eyes. "Sorry. I was just..." His voice drifted off as he searched for the right word. "... thinking."
"Think later," Jack advised as they both headed up the ramp to the gate. "You're on company time right now."
"Right. Sorry. I forgot the military discourages thinking," Daniel teased, keeping his expression serious with an effort.
Scowling at him, though his eyes glinted with humor, Jack shoved Daniel through the gate.
Daniel endured the chaotic gate travel and stumbled out the other side, running straight into Teal'c's back.
"Sorry," he mumbled when the Jaffa turned to look at him. He wasn't usually so clumsy. "Jack just..." He paused when he saw the puzzled expression Teal'c was wearing. "Never mind. Sorry."
He ignored the questioning look Sam shot him as well as the smirk that Jack wore when he emerged from the gate.
Instead Daniel turned his attention to his surroundings.
The info from the advanced probes had been that UV, radiation, atmosphere were all equivalent to Earth's or with differences so slight as to not be worth mentioning. The climate around the gate was temperate if a bit on the cool side. Much like what was found in say the northwestern United States or England in the spring or fall.
The gate was placed in a small clearing in the middle of an ancient looking forest, with trees that were hundreds of feet tall and bigger around than he could reach. It appeared to be early morning and a dense bank of fog cut down severely on their visual range.
The thing that was raising the hairs on the back of Daniel's neck however was the silence. In a forest this size on Earth you would expect to hear all sorts of background noise, the sounds of animals and birds going on about their lives, even the rustle of leaves and branches as the wind blew. Here there was nothing. No animals, no birds, no wind. Just silence.
It made for a very eerie atmosphere.
Daniel wasn't the only one it was affecting either. As he moved over to the M.A.L.P.H. to help Sam start take readings, she looked up and shivered. "This place is giving me the creeps," she said.
"It is the quiet." Teal'c did not stop scanning the woods around them. "It makes the place seem dead."
"The fog isn't helping either." Daniel paused to take another look of his own at their surroundings. "It's like something out of a gothic novel -- or a horror movie."
"That's what I like about this team," Jack said coming forward. "Everyone's always so cheerful. Can we show a little optimism here people? There's probably a perfectly logical explanation why it's so quiet."
Sam nodded. "The gate activating could've scared all the wildlife off," she offered.
"Perhaps this area is simply hunted out," Teal'c suggested.
"Or there's something about this area that makes it unlivable for any creatures," Daniel added, again staring off into the mists.
Jack rolled his eyes. "You call that optimistic?"
Daniel flushed. "Sorry. Guess this place is getting to me more than I thought."
"No, really? I never would have guessed." Daniel hid his wince as Jack's sarcasm bit a little deeper than normal but the Colonel noticed anyhow and reached out to briefly clasp Daniel's shoulder in silent apology. Jack continued without missing a beat. "Let's move out," he ordered. "The sooner we start exploring the sooner we'll figure out the real reason for the quiet. And Daniel, if it's some kind of fog-breathing monster, I'll apologize right before we get eaten."
Daniel felt his mouth curve up into a reluctant smile in spite of himself. "I'll keep that in mind," he replied as they started off through the trees. Mentally he added a 'Thanks Jack,' as he felt his mood lighten somewhat.
It wasn't too long before SG-1 came across a path -- a bit overgrown and showing no scenes of recent use but a path nonetheless. Following that they eventually came to the remains of a village. The place had been devastated. No buildings were undamaged and the majority were little more than a few blackened timbers reaching for the sky. More distressing were the small mounds of cloth and bones that were scattered all over. The remains of the villagers, as devastated and decayed as the rest of the place.
"Well now we know why this place seemed dead," Daniel murmured at he stared at the ruins of places and people.
"Yeah," Jack replied in an equally hushed tone. "I'll keep an eye out for that fog-breathing monster."
Teal'c was examining the scorched remains of one of the buildings. "This was not caused by any monster," he said. "These marks came from a death glider's weapons."
"You're saying the goa'uld destroyed this place?" Sam asked, looking up from her own examination of the ruins.
"It would appear so, yes," Teal'c replied.
Daniel was still trying to assimilate the extent of the destruction. "But why? From the looks of this place, these people were no threat to them. Why wipe them out?"
"We don't know they were wiped out. Maybe some escaped." Sam looked around the place and saw all the bodies still lying where they must have fallen and it was obvious even she didn't believe that. "Or maybe some were taken captive."
Knowing the fate of goa'uld captives, Daniel shivered. "If that's true, these are the lucky ones."
"You're wrong Teal'c," Jack said solemnly, looking up from where he knelt over the remains of a child, a half disintegrated toy still clutched in its bony hand. "It was a monster who did this."
Daniel silently agreed, as he added this to his grievance list against the goa'uld. One day there would be a reckoning, he vowed, not for the first time. All of the goa'ulds' victims would have justice. Or, at the least, revenge.
But it wouldn't happen here; judging by the state of the remains, both human and architectural, Daniel judged that this attack had taken place at least several months ago. Maybe longer. The goa'uld in this case were long gone.
The team spread out, surveying the ruined village, taking stock of the remains and trying to piece together what had been here before and exactly how it had been destroyed.
As near as they were able to deduce, the village had been on about a 10th century northern European technological level. Its culture based on what they could see of their clothing and artifacts seemed to be derived from the Celtic tribes. The attack seemed to have occurred at a time when everybody was out and away from cover; very few of the bodies had been found in the buildings; nearly all were out in the open.
It was following the trail of bodies that led them to the second path, just as overgrown and disused as the first. 'Of course,' Daniel thought. 'Nobody's been alive to use it.'
Without having to consult with each other the team started down the path, leaving the dead village behind them.
The eerie silence that had hung heavy over everything since they had arrived on the planet gradually faded away the farther they got from the village. As the normal forest sounds began to filter in Daniel found himself relaxing tense muscles and was aware of his teammates doing likewise. They did not relax their vigilance however. They were too well trained and too experienced for that.
"Long trail," Sam observed after they had been walking for almost an hour.
"All the people seemed to be heading in this direction," Daniel pointed out. "There had to have been a reason."
Teal'c nodded. "Agreed. Perhaps there was somewhere they hoped to hide from the goa'uld attack."
"Or maybe they had something they hoped to use as a weapon," Sam suggested.
"Only one way to find out. And that's go look." Jack continued down the trail.
It was another hour before they broke through the underbrush into a clearing. They stopped and stared at what they found there.
Sam was the first to break the silence. "Think that was what they were trying to get to?"
"It would seem likely," Teal'c said.
"So," Jack began after a moment of silence, "anyone have any idea what it is?"
The structure that stood in the middle of the clearing was unlike anything they'd seen before. It seemed almost as much grown as built, as much natural piece of the landscape as building. It rose into the air high above their heads, though still dwarfed by the huge trees surrounding them. The front, which looked like nothing so much as a rocky outcropping, was covered in carvings and runes, all of which seemed to center around the small doorway in the center, barely wide enough for one person to walk through at a time.
Though he didn't have much more of an idea than the rest of the team Daniel was willing to venture an educated guess. "Maybe it's some kind of temple of some sort," he mused. Out of the corner of his eye he caught Jack rolling his eyes in an 'of course' expression, and, remembering something the Colonel had said on a previous mission, added deadpan, "Or where they held the local swapmeet perhaps."
That earned him a surprised grin from Jack, quickly hidden and a discreet cuff to the head. "Only one way to find out," he said and started towards the building.
When they got close enough to make out the runes a bit more clearly, Daniel stopped cold and sucked in his breath.
The others stopped a few steps past him and turned and looked at him. "What is it?" Sam asked, face clearly showing her concern.
Daniel answered, never taking his eyes from the building. "Those runes... I recognize them. They're Norse."
"Norse," Jack repeated. "As in-"
"The Asgards," Daniel finished.
A sort of anticipation ran through the whole team at that.
The Asgards were, like the goa'ulds, an alien race who had come to Earth in the past posing as gods, and had taken humans to other planets via the Stargate. Unlike the goa'uld however, the Asgards had not been out to exploit and use humanity but to aid them instead. From the few contacts SG-1 had had with them, the Asgards seemed to consider humans almost as children -- to be protected and cared for and slowly taught what they needed to know as adults. Their technology was at least as advanced as the goa'ulds', perhaps even more so. This was definitely a potential windfall of a find.
"That would explain the goa'ulds' interest in this world," Teal'c stated. "And why their attack was so vicious."
"I wonder what the Asgards left inside..." Sam mused her eyes on the building.
Daniel repeated Jack's earlier words. "Only one way to find out." He headed for a closer look at the runes.
"Can you read it?" Jack asked after giving him a moment to examine the writings.
"Some." The anthropologist raised a hand and traced it over some of the runes. "It says this is Heimdal's Hall."
"And...?" Jack prodded when he didn't continue.
"In Norse mythology Heimdal guarded the Bi-frost Bridge, the connection between Asgard, where the gods lived and Midgard, Earth."
Sam moved forward to get a better look at the symbols Daniel was pointing out. "Sounds like that could've been another name for the Stargates," she said.
Daniel nodded. "More than likely."
"So what does that mean?" Jack asked. "What's inside?"
"Could be anything," Daniel replied. "Another gate, or something to protect the gate, to keep unwanted intruders from coming through..."
"Could even be another list of gate coordinates like we found on Abydos," Sam suggested, eyes lighting with an excitement that Daniel shared. "If we could get a list of destinations the Asgards knew and compare it to the goa'uld's list... There's certain to be planets out there that the goa'uld haven't visited and the Asgards have."
"Now let's not go getting ahead of ourselves," Jack warned, cutting off the two scientists before they could really get going. "First let's find out for sure what's inside. Then we can decide what use it is."
Jack headed for the doorway and passed through. The second the Jaffa, who was a few steps behind him tried though, he was enveloped in a softly glowing blue light. From his frozen expression and minute twitches in his body, it seemed not only immoblizing but painful.
Daniel recognized what it was at about the same time Jack did but was a fraction of a second slower than the Colonel in reacting. Jack tackled Teal'c pushing him out of the doorway and landing on top of him on the ground at Daniel's and Sam's feet.
There was a few seconds of frozen silence and then Jack rolled off of Teal'c. Daniel reached out an arm to help the Colonel up.
Jack accepted it, allowing the anthropologist to help haul him to his feet. "You okay Teal'c?" he asked.
The Jaffa slowly sat up. "I am unharmed." He looked up at Jack. "Thank you O'Neill."
They waited until Teal'c regained his feet before moving closer to the entrance to examine it. Teal'c prudently stayed at least a couple feet away from it at all times.
"Well if we had any doubts about this place belonging to the Asgards that certainly got rid of them," Jack muttered.
Daniel nodded, running his hands over the stone arch that formed the entrance, excitement running through his system. Another Thor's Hammer, another chance at freeing Sha'uri and the other goa'uld hosts one day. And this time they didn't have to destroy it to save Teal'c.
"It explains why the people were trying to make it here," Sam said. "If they could get inside they would have been safe from any goa'uld."
"There may be more weapons and other technology inside that may prove useful against the goa'uld. You must look for it. Since I cannot enter I will remain out here on guard."
There wasn't much else Teal'c could do -- unless they wanted to blast this device like they had the last one they'd found, which was the last thing any of them wanted to do, so it was a team of three that entered Heimdal's Hall.
The entrance led to what looked like a long corridor, the walls made out of the same stone as the outside. There were more runes and designs inlaid as well and they moved slowly as Daniel took pictures of them and tried to translate what he could off the top of his head.
Jack's voice startled him out of his thoughts, its tone telling him it hadn't been the first time Jack had tried to get his attention. He jumped a little, turned and blinked slightly dazedly at his friend. "Yes, Jack?"
"You mind sharing with the rest of the class?"
Right. Getting lost in an intellectual puzzle while on a mission was bad. Daniel had to keep reminding himself of that.
"Sorry," he apologized, then gathered his thoughts and related the little he had figured out.
"I haven't been able to translate much of this -- I'll need a lot more time and study for that -- but I think this place was used for some kind of warrior's initiation." Daniel ran his fingers over the runes as he continued. "It says those who would be a watchman, present yourselves to Heimdal... then something about being worthy... receive his gifts within his hall."
"What gifts?" Jack wanted to know.
"That's the part I'm going to need more time to figure out."
"Well does it at least say where this Heimdal's hall is?"
Daniel grinned at Jack's exasperated tone, then pointed down the hallway with the hand that was holding his flashlight. "That way."
The group moved further into the structure, following the runes' directions towards the Hall. Daniel itched to stop and give the many walls full of runes they passed the attention they deserved but he contented himself with taking pictures to study later.
Besides, he was just as eager to see what this hall looked like as Jack and Sam were.
When they finally did reach the hall, it was something of a disappointment.
The room was huge -- almost as big as a football field, with a ceiling so high it was lost mostly in shadow. There were sconces at regular intervals along the walls where torches could be placed, just as there had been in the corridors they had walked through to get here. In the very center of the room was a waist-high stone rectangular box, about the size of a king-sized mattress. Other than that, the room was empty.
"So this is Heimdal's Hall, huh?" Jack asked, wandering over to take a closer look at the center stone. "Doesn't look like much."
"The hall where we found Thor's Chariot didn't look much different," Sam said. "It was set up that you had to be able to figure out how to activate it. An intelligence test."
"Great." Jack made a show of turning around and searching the room visually. "Where's the test?"
"Part of the test might be finding where the test is," Daniel answered, even as he drifted closer to a particular section of wall, where the runes were much more densely packed than other places.
"A scavenger hunt followed by a final exam." Jack shook his head as he turned back to the stone block. "Those Asgards, they're a laugh a minute."
Daniel opened his mouth to reply but completely dismissed that unimportant thought with what caught his eye next.. A symbol, not a Nordic rune, but somehow still fitting in with the rest of the writings on the wall. And it was familiar. Daniel knew he had seen it before, he just couldn't remember where. Or what it meant. He reached out and ran his fingers lightly over the carving, as he tried to jog his memory.
There was a soft click and the symbol moved.
Sam's alarmed call caused Daniel to spin around, his eyes immediately going to where he'd seen Jack last -- and froze where he stood.
Jack was enveloped in a beam of light so bright Daniel couldn't look at it without squinting. Jack's feet were no longer touching the floor, he was suspended in midair, his entire body spasming like an electric current was running through it. Daniel could see Jack's mouth open in a silent scream, no sound leaving the Colonel's body.
For a few seconds all Daniel could do was stare in mute horror, then his brain kicked in. Frantically he turned back to the wall and fumbled for the symbol, trying to turn off whatever he had managed to activate by accident. Finally the symbol shifted again with a second click. Daniel turned in time to see Jack slump to the floor in a boneless heap.
Leaving Daniel to wonder if he had just killed his best friend.
"-attitudes changed after we helped locate the Chief's daughter who had wandered off and gotten lost. Not only did they agree to talk about some kind of trade for their naquadah deposits but they insisted on holding a celebration in our honor." Blair grinned. "And they sure know how to throw one hell of a party."
He and the rest of SG-14 were seated around the table in the conference room, giving their debriefing report to General Hammond.
"That wasn't all they threw," Simon muttered with a scowl.
At General Hammond's questioning look Blair quickly explained. "Simon and Rafe were the ones who actually found the girl so the Namaf decided to give them their highest honor." He managed to keep a straight face with difficulty.
Rafe snorted. "Tell him what this 'highest honor' consisted of, Sandburg."
"There's a bird called the kwalaf that nests on the tops of the most inaccessible peaks. The Namaf hold it sacred. It's considered a rite of passage for a young warrior to climb to one of the kwalaf nests and take an egg. Never more than one from any nest. And the highest honor the Namaf can bestow on somebody is to give these collected eggs to them."
"What Hairboy here is trying to say is that they pelted us with rotten eggs!" Rafe burst out in exasperation.
"They weren't rotten," Enqueri said, speaking for the first time in the briefing. Outside of SG-14 he still was more comfortable letting Blair do the talking and so rarely spoke up during meetings unless he had something he felt was important to say. "They were preserved."
"That Sentinel nose of yours stuffed up or something?" Rafe asked. "They stank!"
"And they still do." Enqueri gave the stained uniform that Rafe was wearing a pointed look.
"What Enqueri is trying to say," Blair jumped in, "is that the eggs weren't rotten. Just smelly." Under his breath he added, "And that you should take a loooong shower when we're done here. Maybe in tomato juice."
"Exactly, Chief." Enqueri nodded and glanced at Blair with amusement sparkling in his eyes. The Sentinel had heard every word of course, as Blair had meant him to. But there was a certain puzzled cast to Enqueri's expression and Blair knew he'd be explaining about skunks and tomato juice as soon as the other man could get him alone.
He considered. Okay, maybe not first thing. They'd be too busy boffing like bunnies first thing. They always were. But as soon as they took a break…
"Gentlemen," General Hammond broke in, "if we could return to the topic at hand?"
"Sorry sir," Simon apologized for them all.
"Is there anything relevant any of you'd like to add?" Silence greeted the general's question. "Very well then. I'll arrange for SG-9 to go through and negotiate the details of a trade for the naquadah. Good work. You're on leave for the next three days. Dismissed."
Blair and Enqueri exchanged grins as the meeting broke up. Three days leave! Blair loved his job and was quite fond of his teammates but three days leave meant three days he could spend alone with his sentinel.
His sentinel. That phrase still had the power to send a thrill through him. It had been almost seven months since they had found each other, almost seven months since they'd bonded after Enqueri's first guide, Incacha had been killed. Sometimes it seemed like they'd been together forever, other times it felt like only an instant.
There were still some times that Blair felt out of his depth with the whole guide thing, times when Enqueri would zone or have some weird reaction because of his senses that he'd be relying on Blair to pull him out of. More often than not in such situations, Blair would have nothing but instinct to fall back on. So far that had been adequate, but he couldn't help worrying that some day it wouldn't be.
Regardless of the problems Blair wouldn't trade his relationship with Enqueri for anything. Enqueri was the best thing that had ever happened to him, and every day he thanked whatever powers that be for bringing them together. The longer they were together the more Blair realized that the sentinel had been what he'd been missing his entire life. It was like there had been a sentinel-sized hole in his soul and it wasn't until he had found Enqueri that he'd finally felt complete.
The object of Blair's ruminations reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder. "You okay Chief?" Enqueri asked softly.
"Yeah," Blair replied with a smile, feeling the other man's concern wash over him like warm sunlight. "Just thinking."
"Uh oh?" Blair glared at him. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Only that I can't think of anything much more dangerous than you thinking," Enqueri answered calmly, as he lay a hand against Blair's back, guiding him from the room.
Blair made a face. "Just remember if I hadn't kept thinking about the Namaf's customs until I'd figured them out, it might have been us that had gotten pelted with rotten -- excuse me, preserved -- eggs," he reminded his sentinel, as they both watched Rafe and Simon make a beeline for the showers.
"There is that," Enqueri allowed, keeping a straight face though his eyes danced with humor.
The laughter that Blair had been manfully suppressing since the ceremony finally escaped. He leaned against his companion's shoulder and let it all out. "God, did you see their faces?" he gasped out between chuckles. "I thought Rafe was going to have a heart attack -- he's always so concerned with how he looks! And Simon--" The laughter got away from him again and prevented him from finishing the thought.
Enqueri's quiet chuckle joined his own howls. "He did not know who to glare at -- the people who had thrown the eggs or you for not warning him."
He nodded and laughed all the harder.
He felt Enqueri stiffen a second before he heard the alarm himself. They were just passing the door to the gate room and so the calls of "Incoming traveler!" were clearly audible even to one without Sentinel hearing.
Enqueri's expression was concerned. "No one is due back are they?" he asked, his gaze going to the gate room door.
"Not that I know of," Blair confirmed. "But that doesn't necessarily mean anything. You know how well these kinds of missions follow a schedule. We were back early remember, and all that was wrong was a couple of smelly uniforms."
"You're probably right," Enqueri admitted but he continued to look towards the door.
'A sentinel's instincts are to protect his tribe,' Blair thought. And Enqueri now saw Stargate Command as his tribe. He'd walk away if Blair told him to, but he wouldn't be able to relax until he knew that there wasn't a problem coming through the gate.
"Come on," he said, heading for the door. "We can duck in and make sure everything's okay before we take off."
Enqueri nodded and followed. "Thanks," he said quietly.
Blair grinned at him. "Hey it's a matter of self interest. I did not want to spend the rest of the day with a twitchy sentinel." The grin turned wicked. "I've got plans for us and they do not include twitchy. At least not that kind of twitchy."
They slipped in the room and stood at the back out of the way. "Besides," Blair added almost as an afterthought, "I'm curious too."
They turned their attention to the Stargate, watching as an address was dialed in from the other side and the gate opening with its customary >whoosh< of energy. The iris remained open so it was definitely somebody with the access code. Blair overheard one of the techs identify it as SG-1's code and felt his own spine stiffen with worry. SG-1 had only been gone for a few hours; to return after so short a time almost invariably meant trouble. Of what sort and how bad remained to be seen.
Waiting for his friends to appear, Blair's anxiety increased until he was practically vibrating with suppressed energy, the only thing holding him in place his sentinel's hand on his shoulder.
Daniel and Sam were the first ones through the gate, both of them yelling for a medic. A step behind them came Teal'c carrying an unconscious Colonel O'Neill.
Blair felt Enqueri start when he caught sight of the Colonel's limp form and then was pushed aside as the sentinel rushed forward.
Unprepared for Enqueri's reaction, Blair stood and stared for a few seconds before following. By the time he had caught up Enqueri had pushed his way through the crowd to where Teal'c was standing and was just staring intently into O'Neill's unconscious face.
Blair was aware of the strange looks Daniel and the others were giving Enqueri and himself and knew that soon they were going to start asking for explanations. 'So I better get some to give them,' Blair thought as he reached out and laid a hand on his sentinel's back. "Enqueri?" he asked softly, knowing that Enqueri would understand that what he really was asking was "What the hell are you doing?"
"We've got to get him somewhere quiet and dark Chief," Enqueri said, his eyes still on the unconscious man. "Too much stimulation here. It'll be agony if he wakes up."
It was on the tip of Blair's tongue to ask Enqueri what he was talking about but one look at the urgency in the Sentinel's expression made him decide to just back him up for now. There would be time for answers later.
He spoke to the medics who were in the process of placing the Colonel on a gurney. "Take him to the isolation ward and dim the lights." At their skeptical looks he snapped, "Just do it!" in his best imitation of Simon's command voice.
Apparently it was a pretty damned good imitation. The medics jumped, saluted Blair and hurried to carry out his orders.
"Blair, why-?" Daniel began.
"Enqueri can monitor someone's vital signs better than some of the machines. I trust his instincts. If he says Colonel O'Neill needs dark and quiet, then it's a safe bet that's what he needs." He and Enqueri, along with the rest of SG-1, followed behind the medics on their way to the infirmary.
"He is a sentinel," Enqueri stated baldly.
Blair stopped moving. "*What*?!"
"Colonel O'Neill is a sentinel."
"But- but-" Blair stammered then stopped, took a deep breath and forced himself to approach this logically. "You're saying O'Neill is a sentinel. Like you."
Enqueri nodded. "Yes."
"He wasn't one when he left here this morning."
"But he is one now."
"That's a good question, Chief." Enqueri's gaze shifted to SG-1. "What's the answer?"
The members of SG-1 stared back. Finally Daniel stirred and started talking. "There was this... temple. Heimdal's Hall."
"Heimdal?" Blair repeated sharply. "Asgardian?"
Daniel nodded. "It was apparently a place for warriors' initiations. There was an inscription on the wall just inside the door..." He closed his eyes as he worked on recalling the exact wording. "'Those who would be a Watchman, present yourselves to Heimdal.' I think the next part was 'If you are found worthy you will receive his gifts within his Hall.'"
Blair gaped at his friend. "Daniel, watchman is just another word for sentinel! And Heimdal -- in Norse legends he was the guardian of the Bi-frost bridge *who was supposed to see and hear things no one else could!* He *was* a sentinel!"
Daniel's eyes widened. "Shit," he breathed. "That's where I saw that symbol before!"
'Huh?' Blair thought. "What symbol?"
"I was trying to decipher these runes in the main hall -- there were all of Nordic origin except for this one symbol. I knew I had seen it somewhere before, I just couldn't remember where. Now I do. It was in one of your papers on ancient tribal sentinels. And that's the symbol I touched just before Jack-" He broke off his eyes even wider. "That's what caused this."
"You're saying," Blair began slowly, "you touched the symbol for sentinel and that somehow turned Jack into a sentinel?"
Inside he was torn between disbelief and excitement. Could SG-1 have found a device for making sentinels?
"If Enqueri's right about Jack being a sentinel," Daniel replied.
"I am," Enqueri asserted. "And we better get to the infirmary before Dr. Fraiser attempts to treat O'Neill."
Blair's eyes widened in alarm. "Shit, you're right! If she gives him any drugs and he is a sentinel-"
Glaring at his sentinel Blair continued, "-it could send him into a zone-out. Let's go."
The group resumed their trip to the infirmary, Blair vowing to himself that he would have a very long talk with Enqueri at the first opportunity.
They weren't too far behind the medics, even with the delay and arrived at the infirmary just as O'Neill was being settled in the isolation ward.
Dr. Fraiser looked up as they all entered. "Blair," she said, as her gaze landed on him, "do you mind telling me when you began issuing medical orders?"
Blair shrugged. "You said you'd defer to me as the expert when it comes to treating sentinels."
Fraiser stopped. "You saying that Colonel O'Neill is a sentinel?"
"That's what Enqueri says," Blair answered with another shrug.
"It's not as crazy as it sounds," Daniel said. "We were in an Asgardian building and the writings did mention sentinels."
"We won't be sure though until he wakes up," Blair added, shooting a quelling look at Enqueri as the sentinel opened his mouth to once again assert his belief.
A low groan came from the bed. "Looks like we won't have to wait much longer," Dr. Fraiser said. "He seems to be coming around."
Blair, like everyone else, turned his attention to O'Neill. He watched as the Colonel groaned again and opened his eyes...
Only to immediately close them in pain and curl up into a fetal position. "God!" he whimpered, then winced at his own voice, his hands going over his ears.
'Definitely a sentinel,' Blair thought.
O'Neill groaned again and Blair automatically took a step forward to help -- after all he was the only one with experience with talking a sentinel through sensory spikes -- but was stopped by Enqueri's hand on his shoulder. He tried to step forward again and Enqueri's grip tightened almost to the point of being painful.
"Don't Blair," Enqueri pleaded and there was so much fear and pain in his voice that Blair stopped in his tracks. He turned to look at his sentinel's face and was stunned by what he saw; Enqueri's expression was the careful blank mask he wore when he did not want to reveal his feelings but the muscle in his jaw twitching double-time gave away his agitation. And his eyes... the only time Blair had ever seen anything near to that lost expression in Enqueri's eyes was when Incacha had died.
"What is it?" Blair asked softly, wishing they were alone so he could reach up and caress that twitching jaw muscle. He settled for the less intimate -- but much safer -- hand on the arm.
Enqueri just shook his head, his grip on Blair's shoulder never slacking, but some of the lost look in his eyes vanishing as Blair displayed his concern.
Blair hadn't been the only one to step forward in response to O'Neill's distress; all three of the other SG-1 members had also moved instinctively to comfort. Daniel got there first.
While Blair was distracted with his own sentinel, Daniel reached out and placed a hand lightly on the Colonel's shoulder. "Jack?" he asked, very quietly. "Can you open your eyes and look at me?"
O'Neill, uncurled slightly at the familiar voice, lifting his head and opening his eyes to meet Daniel's gaze.
All this Blair only noticed peripherally, too caught up with Enqueri's distress to pay much attention. So it was only when Enqueri's expression softened and he nodded towards the bed with a hushed, "Look," that Blair turned and realized what was going on.
O'Neill and Daniel were frozen in place, each staring into the other's eyes looking both stunned and like someone had just handed them the key to all enlightenment.
"Oh man," Blair breathed, instinctively leaning towards Enqueri. "Is that what we looked like?"
"Probably," Enqueri replied, resting a hand against Blair's back. "You'll have to ask Nanna. I was a bit too... caught up... to notice."
That made Blair grin. "Me too." Caught up was an understatement! He could still remember the wonder of that seemingly endless moment when it felt like Enqueri had seen into his soul.
But as it had for them, the moment eventually had to end for O'Neill and Daniel. Dr. Fraiser cleared her throat and broke the two men out of their mutual fascination. They blinked, shook their heads and looked dazedly around, once again aware of their surroundings.
"How are you feeling, Colonel?" the doctor asked, when it was clear she finally had a chance to get their attention.
"Like I've got the mother of all hangovers." He groaned and slowly maneuvered himself into a sitting position, Daniel automatically reaching out to help. "What happened?" He looked at the members of his team, his gaze finally settling on Daniel. "Last I remember we were looking around that Heimdal's Hall place on P36179."
Teal'c, Sam and Daniel all looked at each other for a long moment. They seemed to reach some sort of unspoken consensus electing Daniel as speaker. Blair held back a grin, having been in Daniel's shoes more than once, when SG-14 would all look at him, the words "You do the talking" clearly showing in their expressions.
Daniel shifted around a bit, obviously nervous but didn't move out of easy touching range of O'Neill. "Remember we were looking for any devices the Asgards may have left behind? Well, uh, I found one. And activated it accidentally."
The colonel frowned. "I probably don't want to know this but what did it do?"
"Well apparently it uh..." Daniel looked away. "Turned you into a sentinel."
"What?!" O'Neill yelped, then winced as the volume hurt his hyper sensitive ears. Blair watched as Daniel instinctively reached out to soothe and help center the Colonel, both amused and fascinated to watch the dynamics he was used to experiencing from the inside.
"Daniel speaks the truth," Enqueri told O'Neill, once the colonel had managed to reestablish his equilibrium. "I sensed it the second you came through the gate. You'd be able to sense it too if you gave yourself a chance."
O'Neill just shook his head, a bit wild-eyed. "This has got to be somebody's idea of a bad joke!"
Blair shook his head. "No joke Colonel. You're the real deal, just like Enqueri here."
O'Neill looked from one face to another and then seemed to settle down, looking off into space as he took internal stock. Finally he sighed and his eyes sought out Blair. "So what does this mean?" he asked.
"It means you'll need a Guide to help you control them."
"Terrific," the Colonel said with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Then he sighed again, ran a hand over his face and straightened into a kind of sitting at attention. "You're the expert here, Sandburg. How do I get a Guide?"
"Uhh... you already have one," Blair replied, wondering just how he was going to explain everything.
Blair felt the slight tensing in Enqueri's body at that suggestion but couldn't tell if it was from agitation or suppressed mirth. "No..." he said slowly. "It's, uh, Daniel." He watched as everyone turned and stared at SG-1's anthropologist perched on the side of the bed beside O'Neill.
Daniel looked shell-shocked for a moment then offered a weak, "Oops?"
It took a while but eventually they got things settled, at least temporarily. Colonel O'Neill, his body still recovering from the sudden induction into sentinel-hood, was resting in the isolation ward in the infirmary. Daniel, as his Guide, was there with him. Blair had learned the hard way that a Sentinel needed his Guide in close proximity until the bond was completed. He didn't even want to think about how he was going to explain what *that* would entail.
As the only people who really knew anything about sentinels and guides he and Enqueri had volunteered to stay on base, at least until they were sure that Daniel would be able to help O'Neill deal with any zone-outs or unexpected sensory spikes. So instead of heading into their apartment in town like they had planned, Blair and Enqueri had gone to their on-base quarters when they had left the infirmary.
Their quarters were a converted VIP suite, well away from the barracks and other busier parts of the base. The walls had been reinforced with special soundproofing, all in the name of creating a space someone with hyper senses would be able to rest in. It had the added benefits of being larger than the standard quarters and completely private. The soundproofing that kept noises out worked just as well at keeping them in.
Blair waited until they were inside, door shut securely behind him. Then he turned and faced his Sentinel, crossed his arms over his chest and said, "Okay, talk."
"About what Chief?" Enqueri replied casually, though he was not meeting Blair's gaze.
"You know what. Why'd you flip out when I tried to help O'Neill?"
Okay, maybe that wasn't totally fair, Blair admitted. Enqueri hadn't exactly flipped out after all, not in any big demonstrative way at any rate; Blair wouldn't be surprised if no one had noticed it but him. But he *had* noticed it -- it had been pretty hard to miss with the way Enqueri had been holding onto him -- and he was going to get to the bottom of it.
Whether Enqueri liked it or not.
And it was pretty apparent that he was not exactly thrilled about it. He looked away, his jaw twitching. "Chief I really don't-"
Blair held up a hand and overrode the other's protest. "I need to know Enqueri. What happened?"
Enqueri sighed and slumped in capitulation. "I don't know if I can explain it," he said softly, looking down at the floor.
Walking over to him Blair reached out and gently cupped his Sentinel's face, forcing him to look up. "Try."
Enqueri's arms came up and wrapped tightly around Blair's waist, pulling him closer. Blair responded by hugging him back just as tightly, patiently waiting for him to speak.
It was long moments before he did, in a low fierce tone Blair couldn't remember ever hearing from him before. "You're *my* Guide."
"Of course I am," Blair replied puzzled. "What does that have to -- oh. You thought O'Neill was going to try and bond with me?"
"No. Yes. I don't know." Enqueri shook his head, obviously frustrated with his inability to explain. "It wasn't as clear-cut as that. It was just... you're *my* Guide."
Blair let out a deep breath. This wasn't getting them very far. "Okay," he soothed the increasingly agitated sentinel. "We'll figure it out okay?"
Enqueri nodded and held onto Blair even tighter.
After a moment Blair gently slipped out of his embrace, grabbing Enqueri's hand and leading him over to the couch. Pushing him down, Blair sat beside him, still not relinquishing his hand. "What were you feeling when this happened? Do you remember?"
The sentinel considered, his eyes going distant as he sought out his memories. "Angry," he said. "Frightened." There was a long pause. "Possessive. *Mine*." His gaze focused back on Blair's face. "What's that word you're always throwing around Chief? 'Territoral.'"
"Territorial," Blair corrected absently, his mind racing. "That makes sense. A Sentinel's greatest instinct is to protect his territory, his tribe. For you that's SG-14, and me especially. So another sentinel comes into your territory and you feel threatened."
Enqueri nodded slowly. "That feels... right."
'Mystery solved,' Blair thought. "I don't think it'll happen again now that O'Neill has a Guide of his own. Not unless he was suddenly transferred to SG-14 which isn't about to happen."
"Good." Enqueri let out a sigh, his head falling back against the back of the couch. "I could do without feeling that way again, that's for sure."
Blair watched him for a long moment before venturing, "Enqueri?"
"Yeah Chief?" Enqueri didn't move while he answered.
"You know you have nothing to worry about don't you? Nothing could ever make me stop being your Guide."
Enqueri went completely still. "My head knows that," he answered softly. "My heart...sometimes has trouble believing."
That was what Blair had been afraid of. He shifted around until he was straddling Enqueri's lap, his hands resting on his Sentinel's shoulders. Meeting his eyes he asked, softly, "What about your soul?"
Two hands reached up and tangled themselves in Blair's curls. "You are my soul," Enqueri answered, just as softly.
The heartfelt honesty in the statement took Blair's breath away and he once again sent up a thank you to whatever force had led him to this man. "You're mine too," he whispered before closing the remaining distance between them and claiming Enqueri's lips in a gentle kiss.
When they parted Blair sighed and laid his head against Enqueri's shoulder, his arms going loosely around his Sentinel's neck. Enqueri, in turn, wrapped his arms around his Guide's body, hands stroking absently up and down Blair's back. Neither spoke, basking in their togetherness, each relishing the closeness that you could only find with your soul's mate.
There were very few places on a military base that were ever completely quiet. There was just too much activity 24 hours a day for it to be otherwise. Daniel had grown used to the constant low level of background noise, even found it comforting in an odd sort of way when he would end up sleeping on base. On the whole, though, he had dismissed it from his mind, only really noticing it when it was gone, because its lack was often the signal that something was wrong.
Until now. Sitting beside Jack's bedside in the isolation ward, watching over the sleeping man, Daniel found himself almost hyperaware of every little sound, found himself reacting with irritation and outright anger at each soft occurrence because he knew every one of the sounds was magnified a hundredfold for Jack.
He remembered Blair telling him about feeling like this, when he'd first found Enqueri. About how suddenly he'd become ultra aware of all the sensory input around him as potential hazards towards his sentinel. Daniel had only been interested in how it affected his friend, though he had to admit the theoretical discussions he and Blair had had concerning it had been fascinating on an anthropological level.
He never imagined that it would become so relevant on a personal level.
Jack groaned in his sleep, his face twisting with discomfort. Automatically Daniel reached out and stroked his friend's arm, murmuring subvocal words of comfort. The grimace faded from Jack's face and he settled back into a deeper sleep.
Daniel sat back again with a sigh. He still couldn't believe all that had happened. Jack a sentinel. Bonded to him. Making him Jack's guide. Making Jack *his* sentinel.
He hadn't meant to do it, any more than he had meant to activate the device that did this to Jack in the first place. He had only seen his friend in pain and reached out to help. And then Jack had looked up and...
Daniel pushed that thought away, unable to deal with the memory of that simple look right then. Simple. He snorted. Right. Nothing in his life had ever been more complicated or intense as that one simple look he and Jack had shared.
But he wasn't going to think about that right now. The implications were just too unsettling.
Desperately he cast his thoughts around for another topic to dwell on, something a little less fraught with emotional pitfalls, only to come up blank.
'This is ridiculous!' he thought, exasperated. He was an educated man, with three phDs, well-read, and had a knowledge and interest in a variety of subjects. On top of that he had seen things and been places that most people hadn't even dreamed of. He had done things so terrifying, so fantastic...
Like turning his best friend into a sentinel and then bonding with him.
Sighing shakily, Daniel gave into the inevitable. Mentally he began going over all he knew about sentinels and guides. It wasn't like he had much choice. He couldn't seem to think about anything else.
So what did he know about sentinels and guides? Taking it from the top, Daniel began to lay out the facts one by one. A sentinel was a guardian found in all tribal cultures who was endowed with heightened senses. That was a fact. Those senses could be as much weakness as strength as they were prone to being overwhelmed and leaving the sentinel vulnerable. Also fact.
Because of this a sentinel always worked with someone else, a partner who would both watch his back and help moderate any excess stimuli. The dependency went so far that a sentinel could not survive for long without this guide. This, too, was also fact. He had heard from Blair just what even a short separation had done to Enqueri when they had first bonded.
'A sentinel faced certain death without a guide. Hence the bond,' he thought. 'A psychological -- maybe even biological: the tests Blair and Enqueri underwent were inconclusive on that point -- imperative that forces the guide to stay in close proximity to the sentinel.'
So far so good. But what exactly did this bond do? Blair had told him that as time went on he had developed some kind of low-level empathy with Enqueri, one that allowed each of them to sense, and to some limited extent, affect the emotional state of the other. But mostly -- and this he had observed himself -- the bond seemed to make the sentinel more responsive to both the guide's voice and his touch, letting the guide become the anchor to sanityfor when things were too much.
Blair and Enqueri were always touching each other and, Daniel realized as he looked down and found his hand resting on Jack's arm, he had been constantly touching Jack since they had bonded as well. *That* should prove interesting. Jack wasn't exactly what you would call a touchy-feely kind of guy. Daniel had a hard time picturing his friend just blithely accepting the amount of touching that Blair and Enqueri engaged in.
Not to mention the type of touching.
Daniel thought back to the time soon after Enqueri and Blair had bonded that he had walked in on them and found the two men engaged in a rather passionate kiss. As far as he knew that information had gone no further than he and the other two people who had seen it -- Dr. Fraiser and Captain Banks, a true example of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in practice.
He'd only spoken about it with Blair the once, immediately afterwards. At the time Blair had seemed as shocked by it as Daniel had been, unable to explain what had happened or why. Daniel had never brought the subject up again, respecting his friend's privacy -- what Blair did or did not do behind closed doors was none of his business. He had been happier than Daniel had ever seen him before, which was all that mattered.
Until now at any rate.
Now it had taken on a relevance that was scary. Now he wanted -- needed -- to know what Blair and Enqueri did behind closed doors. Because if they were doing what he'd imagined they were doing and it *was* because of the sentinel-guide bond...
He was in trouble.
Daniel could *barely* imagine Jack accepting them having to touch all the time. But kissing and... and whatever else may logically follow...
Oh yeah. Big trouble.
Still, he mused, gazing contemplatively at the face of his sleeping friend, Jack wasn't without his charms. He was caring and had a dry sense of humor, features that gave him a rather rugged handsomeness and a body that was...
'What am I thinking?!'
He had been leaning over Jack, focused on the man's lax mouth. Daniel jumped back when he realized he had been moving in for a kiss.
'I almost... I-' Anxiety propelled Daniel out of his chair. 'What's happening to me?' he wondered, pacing in the small floor-space of the room. 'I almost kissed him. Jack. I *wanted* to.' He glanced back at the bed and its occupant. 'Oh god, I still do.'
He could feel an almost physical pull, urging him to return to his seat, to reach out and touch, to --
Abruptly Daniel turned on his heel and walked out. He had to. It was either that or risk doing something that would ruin the friendship.
He left the infirmary and struck out blindly down the corridor. He didn't pay attention to where he was going, just as long as it was away from here. Away from temptation.
His plan was to get some distance, get a hold of his emotions and think the situation through rationally. But it didn't work out that way.
The distance he was doing, but the getting a hold of his emotions was proving more difficult. Instead of calming down the further he got from the source of his unease (namely Jack), every step away seemed to increase his agitation. He barely had gone the length of the corridor before he had to stop and lean against the wall, he was trembling so much.
Every instinct Daniel had was screaming at him to go back, but he stubbornly resisted. The strange attraction had unnerved him and he wasn't willing to go back until he got a handle on it.
There was too much at stake.
Daniel leaned against the corridor wall with his eyes closed, trying to slow down his breathing and ignoring the little voice in his head that kept telling him that the only thing that would help would be Jack. He was so focused inward in an attempt to break this compulsion that he didn't even notice he was no longer alone until Blair grabbed his shoulder and shook him.
Daniel jumped what felt like two feet in the air, with a startled yelp. "Dammit!" he yelled trying to calm his heartrate down from warp speed. "*Don't* do that!"
"Sorry," Blair answered, staring at his friend in concern, Enqueri hovering a step behind him as usual. "What are you doing here? I thought you were sitting with Jack."
"I was," Daniel replied running a trembling hand through his hair. "But he was sleeping and I... needed to think."
"You couldn't think with Jack sleeping?" His friend gave him a puzzled look. "What's the matter -- he snore?"
Daniel shook his head. "I wish it were that simple. I- This whole guide thing..." He trailed off as he noticed Enqueri watching him through narrowed eyes. "What?"
Instead of answering him, Enqueri spoke to Blair. "Chief, he left his sentinel alone."
Blair's eyes widened. "Oh man," he breathed. "I didn't think..." Turning back to Daniel he examined his friend more closely. "You look like you're on the verge of a panic attack."
"I'm a little on edge," he admitted, "though I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm having a panic attack." 'Yet,' his mind helpfully added.
"Well you will be soon if you don't get back to Jack," Blair told him bluntly.
Daniel blinked. 'Huh?'
His bewilderment must have shown plainly on his face because Blair asked, "Haven't you figured it out yet? O'Neill's and your bond is still quite fragile; it's not strong enough to be able to function over even short distances yet. That's why you're feeling like you are -- when the bond is strained the guide just keeps getting more and more jittery until he reestablishes contact with his sentinel." His expression grew grimmer. "It's worse for the sentinel."
"Worse, how?" Daniel demanded, hating the idea that Jack may be feeling the same anxiety as he was... all because of him.
It was Enqueri who answered him. "To a sentinel -- especially a new one, or one who is not fully in control of his senses -- his guide is his anchor to reality. Without him, the sentinel's senses will be out of control and eventually he will zone. If his guide does not return in time such a zone could lead to death."
'Jack!' Before he could even complete the name in his thoughts he was already moving, running full tilt down the corridor towards the infirmary. Everything suddenly took a back seat to getting to Jack's side. He didn't even think he breathed until he dashed through the door to the isolation ward to find Jack very much alive and unzoned.
In fact he was still asleep though the amount of tossing and turning he was doing showed that it was no longer restful. It was apparent that Daniel's absence had been noticed.
Just as his return was noticed; when Daniel crossed the room and settled back into the chair by the bed, Jack turned and reached out for him, latching unerringly onto Daniel's arm. The touch seemed to settle him for he stopped tossing and turning, relaxed with a sigh and fell back into a deeper sleep.
For a moment Daniel just sat there, too relieved to do much of anything. Jack was all right.
He sensed a presence at the door and looked up to see Blair and Enqueri watching him.
"He okay?" Blair asked in a quiet voice, nodding towards Jack.
Daniel nodded. "Seems to be." He also spoke quietly, doing his best not to wake Jack.
Blair's eyes narrowed. "What about you?"
"I could use some information," he replied. "Just what other little surprises should I be expecting?"
He watched as Blair and Enqueri exchanged a long silent look, seeming to almost communicate telepathically. Hell, for all Daniel knew maybe they were. Finally they turned their attention back to Daniel. "Okay," Blair told him. "But you're not going to like it."
"Like that's a surprise."
Daniel jumped at the unexpected voice and looked down to see Jack's eyes open and aware. "You're awake."
"Who could sleep through all the yelling you were doing?" With a groan, Jack maneuvered himself into a sitting position.
"Uh, Jack," Daniel began carefully, "nobody was yelling. In fact we were practically whispering."
Jack's expression crumpled when the words sank in. "Oh." He looked subdued for a moment before he seemed to shake it off. Looking directly at Enqueri he asked, "Just how do you *ever* manage to get *any* sleep?"
"You get used to it," Enqueri said, dryly. "And, Blair helps." He favored his guide with a smile full of affection.
Daniel just did not want to think about the possible implications of that statement... until he remembered something Blair had mentioned a few months back. "Oh you mean the white noise generators that Blair got for you."
Enqueri's smile widened. "Those helped too."
Which brought Daniel right back to what he didn't want to think about. 'Looks like I don't have much choice.'
Jack glanced at him, giving him a peculiar look, and half reached out a hand towards him before he stopped, frowning slightly and turning his attention back to Enqueri and Blair. "You were saying something about giving us information on this sentinel thing?"
"Right," Blair affirmed. "You're not going to like it though."
"You said that part already," Jack reminded him. "And I'm already not liking it much so I'd appreciate it if you would just get on with it."
After a moment's silence wherein Blair and Enqueri exchanged looks again, this time apparently deciding who was going to do the talking, Blair began. "There is a *ton* of stuff you don't know that you're going to have to learn about being a sentinel. I mean I could literally talk all night and not even begin to scratch the surface. There just isn't the time to teach you everything that Enqueri's learned from his childhood on. I'm afraid you're going to have to settle for on-the-job training. But there are some things about the sentinel-guide bond that you need to know now." He glanced at Daniel. "You *both* need to know."
Daniel swallowed. He was sure he really did not want to hear whatever Blair was going to say.
"Well?" Jack asked impatiently as Blair's pause lengthened. "Tell us already."
"Daniel's already found out part of what I have to tell you the hard way. Your bond's still very fragile and you're going to have to stay in close proximity until it gets stronger."
"Zone-outs for you, panic attacks for Daniel."
Jack glanced sharply at Daniel. "You found this out the hard way?"
Daniel nodded. "I took a walk to get some air, do some thinking -- or at least I tried. I didn't even make it out of the corridor."
"If you hadn't been asleep you would've found out the hard way too," Blair told Jack with all seriousness. "It's not something you want to mess around with."
Jack stared at Blair for a moment then nodded. "Okay, so we stay together until the bond gets stronger." He paused and Daniel could almost feel the wheels in his head turning. "Uhh, how do we make it stronger?"
Again that brief exchange of glances, wordless communication between the guide and sentinel standing in front of them. "That's the part you're not going to like," Blair finally said with a sigh.
"I won't know that for sure until you tell me -- sorry Daniel, tell us -- what it is now, will I?" Jack's exasperation showed in the sarcastic edge his words carried.
Blair took a deep breath and said, "To strengthen your bond you must symbolically complete it." A pause. "Physically."
Daniel swallowed. That was exactly what he had been expecting to hear and praying he wouldn't. He held his breath and waited for Jack's reaction.
"Physically," Jack repeated slowly. "Exactly what do you mean by that?"
"I mean," Blair replied, his constant fidgeting giving away his nervousness, "that you and Daniel have to bond. Physically. Sexually."
Jack stared at SG-14's anthropologist. "You're serious."
"You and Enqueri...?" Jack trailed off, finishing his question with a gesture.
Blair blushed slightly and nodded again.
"And you're saying that Daniel and I...?"
"Yes." This time it was Daniel who blushed.
Jack turned and gave Daniel a hard searching look. Searching for what exactly Daniel didn't know. He looked back, trying to keep his roiling emotions from showing on his face. Whether he succeeded or not he couldn't tell from Jack's expression -- hiding his emotions was Jack's strong suit, not his.
With a sigh Jack turned back to Blair. "What if we don't?" he asked, eyes narrowed.
Blair opened his mouth to answer then closed it again. "I'm not sure," he admitted. He turned and looked at his sentinel. "Enqueri?"
"You will," Enqueri said.
"But what if we don't?" Daniel persisted, suddenly desperate to know. There had to be some options.
"All sentinels and guides bond. That's just the way things are." Enqueri seemed truly flabbergasted that they were resisting.
Daniel looked at his friend. "Blair?"
Blair chewed on his lip absently as he gave the question some thought. "I don't *think* anything horrible or life threatening would happen," he said slowly. "But without the... physical confirmation... I don't think the bond will strengthen beyond what it is now. Which means you two will have to live practically in each other's pockets."
Jack shrugged. "We pretty much do that already."
"I'm talking all the time, man," Blair clarified. "You'll have to stay pretty much within touching distance. Or risk zone-outs and panic attacks."
"If that's what we have to do, we'll do it," Daniel said determinedly. It was his fault that Jack was in this mess and he would do all he could to make it easier.
Blair looked about to argue the point but Enqueri reached out and touched his arm, shaking his head slightly. "All right," he finally sighed. "It's your decision. Just be careful about your proximity. When in doubt, listen to your instincts. If you start feeling edgy, Daniel, there's probably a reason. Same with you, Colonel. If you start feeling anything that's weird... well weirder than normal, tell Daniel. And if either of you have any questions please ask. Enqueri and I will help as much we can, but we need to know about any problems before we can deal with them."
"I have a question," Jack said. "When can I get the hell out of here?"
"Whenever you feel like it," Blair told him. "Actually, getting off-base entirely would probably be a big help -- this place can be hell on a sentinel's senses. There's just too much going on all the time. As long as you and Daniel stay together there shouldn't be a problem."
Off-base. That sounded wonderful to Daniel right then. This place may have become a second home but at the moment the walls were beginning to close in on him. He needed time to be alone and try to think this whole thing through. He glanced at Jack. Well as alone as he could be at least.
"Sounds good," Jack was saying then he turned to Daniel and quipped, "Your place or mine?"
Daniel blinked. "Uh, my place, I guess," he answered. "It's closer."
"Close is good," Blair approved with a nod. "Less chance of you running into something that will overload the Colonel's senses."
Blair grinned at him. "Jack," he agreed with a nod. "I'd advise you let Daniel drive until you get more used to your senses. A zoning sentinel behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is *not* a good thing."
"You've got a point," Daniel said.
"We'll be leaving," Blair continued as he began moving towards the door, Enqueri as ever his silent shadow. "We're going home ourselves so if you have any questions you can reach us there. Daniel, you know the phone number."
He nodded. "Yes."
"Great. Take it easy you two okay? You're probably not feeling this way at the moment but the whole sentinel-guide thing is really a profound experience, a true gift that not many get to share. Just try to relax and go with it. You'll see what I mean."
"No offense but I'd still rather exchange this gift for a six pack of beer," Jack said.
Blair just grinned. "You'll learn," he said rather mysteriously, then left the room. Enqueri nodded solemnly to the two men and followed.
It took a few seconds for Daniel to register that he and Jack were alone for the first time since they had bonded with both of them wide awake. Suddenly feeling awkward, he stared at his friend and searched for something to say.
He drew a blank.
If Jack was feeling the same awkwardness he was better at hiding it. "Just let me get dressed and we can go," he said, getting up and going over to the locker in the corner where his clothes had been stashed. With that total lack of self-consciousness that all regular military seemed to have, Jack started to change.
Daniel swallowed hard as he watched, doing his best to ignore both certain wayward thoughts and his body's response.
Oh yeah. He was definitely in trouble.
"So what do you think?" Blair asked Enqueri as they both got into his car.
He rolled his eyes. "Jack and Daniel."
"I think that they are being foolish and pork-headed."
"Pig-headed," Blair corrected with a smile. "And maybe they are, but can you blame them? This is a hell of a lot to take in all at once."
"You managed, Chief," Enqueri pointed out as Blair pulled the car out of its parking spot and headed for the exit.
Blair chuckled. "Man, you didn't see what was going on inside my head. I spent the first two weeks after we bonded swinging between confusion and utter panic. And I had it easier than Jack and Daniel have it. I, at least, had you to guide me. So to speak."
"We could always offer to show them how it's done."
"What?!" Blair's eyes left the road as he turned and stared at his sentinel. Enqueri's expression was totally deadpan but the glint of humor in his eyes gave him away. Sighing, Blair turned his attention back to the road. "Don't *do* that."
He reached out and whapped Enqueri in the arm. Before he could retrieve his hand, Enqueri grabbed it and held on, thumb caressing Blair's skin absently.
"You know I think I liked it better when you were afraid of my driving," Blair complained, though his words didn't carry much heat. And he made no attempt to reclaim his hand.
Enqueri just chuckled.
Turning the corner Blair threatened, "I'm going to teach you how to drive and then I can distract you."
"So you keep telling me."
This time Blair grinned at him.
The rest of the drive passed in much the same way with the two teasing and flirting back and forth -- and with their hands intertwined the whole way.
The problem of Daniel and Jack and their bonding didn't leave Blair's thoughts entirely, but he did push it to the back of his mind. He and Enqueri needed this time to decompress, needed the silliness and flirtation to help them stay connected. It had taken them a while to get into synch about such things, taken them a while to learn to joke with each other and just plain enjoy each other's company.
In some ways their entire relationship had evolved in reverse to what Blair had been used to -- first they had bonded, and then they had fallen in love. It was only after they had realized they really did love each other as well as need each other that they relaxed enough to realize that they liked each other as well. So the last thing to develop was their friendship -- a friendship that was now every bit as strong as their love and their bond, its late development notwithstanding.
Though he wouldn't trade what they had now for anything, Blair had to admit that it hadn't been entirely smooth sailing to get to this point. And it was the rough waters that Jack and Daniel had yet to transverse.
They had one thing going for them that Blair and Enqueri hadn't, and that was the fact that they were already good friends. Best friends, if what Daniel had been telling Blair was the truth.
Then again, Blair thought as he and Enqueri climbed the stairs to their apartment, that could also work against them. Jack and Daniel were used to relating to each other as teammates, as friends; the way they interacted with each other had long since been established and fine-tuned. The sentinel-guide bond and its imperatives couldn't help put turn all the old patterns on their ears. Jack and Daniel would try to relate to each just as they always had, only to find their new circumstances wouldn't allow it.
Well there was nothing he could do about it except worry and that wasn't going to help anyone. Daniel and Jack were just going to have to strike their own balance.
Enqueri was watching him as they both removed and hung up their coats. "Just us tonight Chief?" he asked with a knowing look in his eye. Blair knew he wasn't referring to any physical company but the mental tangents Blair's mind often would run off on, bringing the problems and lives of others into their private time.
"Yeah," Blair answered, as with a mental effort he pushed his concerns about Jack and Daniel to a back corner of his mind and instead focused on his sentinel.
"Good." Casually he pulled Blair to him, reaching up and undoing the anthropologist's pony tail. Blair closed his eyes and tilted his head back, feeling tense muscles start to relax as Enqueri finger combed the now freed thick brown curls.
"Man, I love it when you do that," he all but purred.
"I know." The tone was affectionate, amused and just the tiny bit smug.
Blair's stomach chose that moment to growl loudly, echoed almost immediately by Enqueri's. Smiling up at his sentinel he said wryly, "Guess that's our cue for dinner."
"Guess so." With one last caress Enqueri released Blair and headed for the kitchen, Blair following a second later.
They worked in companionable silence, maneuvering around the tiny kitchen and each other like they had choreographed it.
Over the months Blair had finally begun to take for granted the almost psychic sense he and Enqueri had for each other that allowed them to work so closely without speaking or fumbling into each other's way. Once they had both accepted the bond everything else had just fallen into place, including the way they worked together, ceasing quickly to be amazing and becoming first common place and then expected.
But now, watching Jack and Daniel struggle and resist the same kind of bond that had so completed him, Blair was struck anew by the wonder of it all.
Enqueri was just so... so incredible and what they had was just so beyond anything that Blair had ever been able to imagine in his wildest dreams that when he did stop and think about it all he wanted was to thank whatever deity or power had brought the Sentinel into his life. He knew he had been given a great gift and silently vowed once again to do all within his power to live up to it.
Enqueri, as always seemed to sense Blair's mood. He kept shooting his Guide affectionate but questioning looks all through their dinner preparations and when they finally sat down to eat he asked, "You going to let me in on what you've been thinking Chief?"
Blair glanced up at his sentinel fondly. With a little shrug he said, "No biggie. Just counting my blessings."
The Sentinel tilted his head inquiringly. "Remembering how lucky I am to have you," Blair elaborated.
Reaching out Enqueri entwined his fingers with Blair's. "I'm the lucky one, Blair," he responded softly.
Blair felt his mouth stretching into a pleased grin. "So we're both lucky then." A growl from his stomach made him grin ever wider. "And hungry apparently."
Enqueri chuckled and released his Guide's hand. "Better eat then before you put me on the menu."
"What makes you think you're not already?" Blair shot back with a leer.
"That should prove interesting then since you're definitely on mine." The look Enqueri shot him was positively predatory.
Blair gulped and shifted in his seat. When Enqueri got that look.... "Guess I better keep up my strength then," he replied, glancing down at his plate and then meeting that heated blue gaze again.
Enqueri smiled at him. "You're going to need it."
"Is it hot in here all of a sudden?" Blair asked, unsurprised to hear his voice come out huskier than usual.
Chuckling Enqueri sat back and picked up his fork. "Eat, Chief. Dessert will wait."
"Eating is good, I can eat." Picking up his own fork, Blair added under his breath. "Damn tease..."
"I heard that."
Blair very calmly and deliberately stuck his tongue out at his Sentinel.
The next thing he knew said Sentinel had pounced, dragging him to the floor and doing his level best to devour Blair from the inside out.
For the first few seconds after they hit the floor Blair was frozen, all his attention centered on Enqueri's lips on his, Enqueri's tongue diligently exploring every millimeter of his mouth. His Sentinel took full advantage of Blair's motionless state to strip off his shirt and undo his jeans.
Enqueri's fingers brushing against his rapidly hardening cock broke his temporary paralysis. Blair pulled away from the kiss at the same time his hips involuntarily surged towards Enqueri's questing hand. "The bedroom's over there Enqueri," Blair said, just a bit breathless, as he waved one hand in the general direction of the hallway. His other was busy slipping up and around his Sentinel's neck.
"I know where it is, Chief." He leaned forward and started nuzzling Blair's throat.
Automatically Blair tilted his head to allow for better access. "The couch is six feet away," he said, the hand around Enqueri's neck slipping up and stroking Enqueri's short hair.
"Yes it is." Enqueri's hands went back to work on Blair's jeans.
Again Blair's hips bucked upwards at his Sentinel's touch. "Oh man," he groaned, staring at the ceiling as his jeans and boxers were worked off and cast aside. "*Here*?"
"Yes." Enqueri pulled back for a second to discard his own shirt, his eyes on Blair almost like a physical touch.
Blair squirmed nervously unable to keep still under that gaze. "On the floor?"
Enqueri paused in the act of taking off his pants. "Would you prefer the table?"
Glancing at the dish ladened glass surface, Blair mentally calculated the odds of both him and the dishes remaining unbroken and gave into the inevitable. "The floor it is," he sighed.
Enqueri just grinned rather smugly and pounced him again.
It was just as well that Blair had decided to stop arguing because Enqueri was doing his level best to make sure that his Guide was beyond the ability to speak -- and the ability to think for that matter. And Enqueri's best was very very good indeed.
Right from the start Enqueri had had the knack of melting Blair's brains, reducing the younger man to nothing but sensations and emotions. Practice, if anything, had only made the Sentinel even more proficient, as he once again set out to prove.
Starting at the top of Blair's head Enqueri proceeded to caress and lick and taste every inch of Blair's skin. By the time he nipped gently at one nipple before laving the entire area with his tongue, Blair was whimpering with frustrated arousal, just wanting the other man to get on with it already. And knowing that Enqueri would continue to take his own sweet time in driving Blair crazy.
And he seemed to be taking even longer than usual. The sentinel seemed to be obsessed with conducting as thorough a ravishment of Blair as was possible and no one could be quite as thorough as a sentinel could.
That single-mindedness might have triggered alarm bells in Blair's mind... if all the blood in his body hadn't migrated considerably lower down. As it was, all he was capable of thinking was whether he would manage to survive until Enqueri reached his cock.
It was a near thing -- or at least that's how it felt to Blair. By the time Enqueri finally focused on Blair's erection, which was literally weeping for attention, Blair was trembling with the effort not to come. He was certain that he was going to lose it at Enqueri's first touch.
But the Sentinel, rather unsurprisingly, seemed to sense how close he was and closed his hand tightly around the base of Blair's cock. Blair moaned in frustration as his impending climax receded.
Only to moan again for an entirely different reason as Enqueri leaned over and closed his lips over the head of Blair's cock. When he began to flutter his tongue against the tip, Blair's hips surged upward in an involuntary thrust, only to be quickly controlled by Enqueri, the hand not wrapped around Blair's cock holding his Guide down.
Enqueri drove Blair to the brink three more times, each time at the last second pulling him back with another firm squeeze to the base of his cock. By the time the Sentinel finally relented, removing his hand and working more of Blair's cock down his throat, Blair was beyond incoherent, whimpering, begging for his release in several languages.
He felt one of Enqueri's fingers probe his entrance slipping inside and searching unerringly for his prostate. When he found it Blair exploded, screaming out his Sentinel's name as he came harder than he had in a long time before blacking out.
When Blair became aware again he found himself lying on the couch. Or, to be more specific, he found himself lying on Enqueri who was lying on the couch.
He was sprawled on Enqueri's chest, Enqueri's hands absently stroking his back, Enqueri's still hard erection poking him in the thigh. Blair opened his eyes and blinked up at his Sentinel.
"Hey," he said, wondering exactly when his voice got so hoarse. 'Probably when you were screaming at the top of your lungs, Sandburg,' he told himself. 'It's a wonder no one called the cops.'
Enqueri smiled, one hand coming up and brushing Blair's hair out of his face. "How you doing Chief?"
"You mean aside from having no bones left and feeling like my I.Q. is roughly that of the average coffee table?" Blair grinned. "I'm fine. I'm better than fine. That was..." he trailed off with a shake of his head, unable to come up with an adequate description.
"It was my pleasure, Chief," Enqueri replied, his smile turning just a trifle smug.
Blair squirmed a little as he moved into a more comfortable position and once again became aware of the hot length pressing against his leg. "Speaking of your pleasure," he began, sliding one hand down Enqueri's body purposefully.
Only to have Enqueri stop his roving fingers before they reached their target. "You don't have to..." The look of total disbelief Blair sent him shut Enqueri up.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, pushing himself up on one elbow and staring down into his Sentinel's face.
Enqueri didn't answer, just turned his face away, the muscle in his jaw jumping rhythmically as he refused to look at his Guide.
Blair reached out and caressed that twitching muscle, gently forcing Enqueri to meet his gaze. "What's wrong?" he asked softly.
Enqueri still didn't say anything but the look in his eyes answered for him. The love, fear, and insecurity that Blair saw shining within their blue depths was enough for him to figure out somewhat what was going on.
Warning bells that hadn't gone off earlier because he hadn't been in any condition to think were going off now. Enqueri seemingly almost obsessed with pleasuring Blair, even to the exclusion of his own gratification. That had a very familiar feel to it, casting Blair back to before he had convinced Enqueri that he really did want to be Enqueri's guide, that he really did love him.
But Enqueri couldn't be doubting Blair's feelings for him now, could he?
He leaned down and kissed Enqueri gently, trying to put all of his feelings for the man into that one touch. Enqueri responded wholeheartedly, almost desperately, almost needily.
Pulling back finally, Blair met and held Enqueri's gaze steadily. "You do know I love you and that you're the most important thing in my life, don't you?"
He felt all the tension go out Enqueri's body at his words. Enqueri closed his eyes briefly and when he reopened them Blair could see the relief shining bright in them. "I know," the Sentinel said softly.
Blair caressed Enqueri's cheek once again, fingers lingering on the now still muscle in his jaw. "You want to tell me what brought this on?" he asked in a neutral tone, not wanting to scare Enqueri off with his own emotions.
Enqueri gave a half shrug.
'Okay, Sentinel not being forthcoming,' Blair thought. 'Like that is a surprise. Guess I'm going to have to push a little.' He already had a good idea what event triggered this, he had just thought that they'd already dealt with it.
Well, it wouldn't be the first time he had been wrong. They'd just have to deal with it now.
"This is about what happened this afternoon, isn't it? About me reaching out to Jack, before he bonded to Daniel."
Enqueri hesitated then nodded with a sigh. "Yes."
"Can you explain it to me?" Blair asked, fingers stroking Enqueri's short hair soothingly as they spoke.
Long moments passed without any words being said; Blair waited patiently, knowing that putting his feelings into words was not easy for the other man.
"You're my Guide," Enqueri finally whispered, echoing his words from the last conversation they had had about this.
Blair nodded encouragingly. "Nothing could ever change that Enqueri."
"Huh?" Blair gave his Sentinel a puzzled look.
"You're my Guide and nothing could change that *now*," Enqueri elaborated. "But are you *supposed* to be my Guide?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Destiny. Fate." Enqueri shrugged.
"Incacha said that being a Guide *was* my destiny," Blair reminded the other man, still not entirely sure where Enqueri was going with this.
"Yes. Being *a* Guide. Not necessarily being *my* Guide."
Not being Enqueri's Guide? Blair tried to wrap his mind around that thought. No good. It just refused to compute.
"If I'm not supposed to be your Guide, then whose Guide am I supposed to be?" he asked, still unable to even imagine anybody but Enqueri as his Sentinel.
"O'Neill." Enqueri's expression said it was so obvious that Blair had to have known the answer.
Blair blinked. He supposed it *was* obvious, considering that Jack was the only other Sentinel that he'd encountered. But that didn't mean it was possible. Not even remotely. The anthropologist shook his head. "No," he said.
Enqueri waited for a moment. "That's it?" he finally asked, quirking one eyebrow in disbelief. "Just 'no'?"
"Just no," Blair affirmed. "It didn't happen, it wasn't supposed to happen, there wasn't even the remotest chance in hell that it would've happened, so no. I'm your Guide, I was always meant to be your Guide, just as you were always meant to be my Sentinel. That's just the way it is."
Enqueri looked like he desperately wanted to believe that but didn't seem able to shake all of his doubt. "You can't know that for sure."
"Yes I can." Blair tried to put all the certainty he felt in his soul into those three words but he still wasn't sure if it was enough to get through. Sighing, he ran his hands over his face and tried to think of what he could say that would wipe those last doubts from the other man's mind.
Choosing his words carefully Blair gave it his best shot. "Enqueri, even if you're right and in some alternate universe I was supposed to be Jack's Guide instead of yours, that doesn't change anything in *our* universe. In this universe *you're* my destiny. Moreover in any universe where I was offered a choice you're the destiny I would choose for myself. Hell, even in universes where I wasn't offered a choice, I'd still find a way to choose you. So yes, I can be sure that you're the only Sentinel for me. Okay?"
There was no answer for so long that Blair began to get worried all over again. Then Enqueri's face -- his whole body in fact -- relaxed and he smiled. "Yeah," he said huskily, his eyes bright with affection and awe. "More than okay. I-- the feeling's mutual Chief."
Blair smiled back, relief and love making him slightly giddy. The one thing he never wanted Enqueri to doubt was their bond. "I know," he whispered, then leaned down to capture Enqueri's lips in a soft kiss of affirmation.
The kiss didn't remain soft for long, turning passionate and possessive after a few seconds, on both men's parts. Blair's tongue delved deeply into Enqueri's mouth, claiming it as his territory, while Enqueri grabbed onto Blair's loose curls, holding his Guide's head in place as they plundered each other's mouths.
When lack of oxygen finally forced them apart, they stared at each other for an endless moment, their eyes saying everything they couldn't in words. Finally though Blair grinned mischievously, running his hands lightly down his Sentinel's sides. "We have some unfinished business here." Blair's hands wandered lower. "And it's about time we take care of it, don't you think?"
Enqueri arched up involuntarily as Blair's hands lightly skimmed over his stomach and lower. "Whatever you say, Chief," he replied breathlessly, arching up again as one of Blair's hands closed over his returning erection.
Blair's grin widened and he gave Enqueri's cock a friendly squeeze. "Whatever I say, huh? I like the sound of that. Oh, this is going to be *fun*." With that Blair slithered down Enqueri's body and swallowed the Sentinel's cock in one swift move.
He was rewarded by a loud strangled moan as Enqueri froze for a split second then thrust his hips upwards in an effort to get more of his cock into the warm wet haven of his Guide's mouth.
Blair, however, moved his head with the thrust, keeping control of the situation, only taking Enqueri to the depth that he decided on. Shifting, he grabbed onto Enqueri's hips with his hands, gently restraining the other man's movements, as he turned all his attention on making slow gentle love to Enqueri's cock with his mouth.
After a moment Enqueri's frantic movements slowed and he relaxed into Blair's caresses, his entire body going limp with pleasure. 'Or almost his entire body,' Blair thought wickedly, running his tongue in a spiral pattern down the length of one body part that was definitely *not* limp, appreciating the minute shivers this maneuver caused in his lover.
Blair lost all track of time as he focused his entire attention on pleasuring his Sentinel. He nipped, he licked, he swallowed he sucked, always hyper aware of what each tiny movement was doing to Enqueri. So aware, in fact, that, when it came, he was aware of Enqueri's impending climax before Enqueri himself was. He deep throated the Sentinel just as he shuddered and came with a choked gasp, letting his throat muscles massage Enqueri's cock, prolonging and intensifying the sensations.
Blair continued nuzzling Enqueri's groin until the Sentinel's cock began to soften, then with one last kiss to the tip, he slithered back up Enqueri's body, wrapping his arms around Enqueri's torso and snuggling close with a contented happy sigh. "That was amazing man."
He felt the rumbling vibrations in the chest beneath him as Enqueri chuckled softly. "Isn't that my line, Chief?" the Sentinel asked, his own arms closing around his Guide.
"Nah," Blair said, shaking his head after a moment's consideration. "Your line is 'Wow.' You're not supposed to be able to form words of more than one syllable yet."
"Ah. Right. Wow." Blair felt a kiss being dropped on top of his head. "Thanks. I love you Chief." A slight pause. "Better?"
Blair felt an incredible warmth pour over him at the other man's words. "Yeah," he sighed happily, tightening his grip and hugging his Sentinel even harder. "Perfect."
Enqueri squeezed him back. "Good."
They lay there in silence for a long while, basking in the afterglow and in each other's company. Then Blair's stomach growled. Loudly.
"Guess that protein drink wasn't enough," Blair joked.
"I did pounce you before you had a chance to eat," Enqueri said reflectively, one hand idly stroking Blair's hair.
"Hey do you hear me complaining?" As if on cue his stomach rumbled again. "Okay, well maybe *part* of me..."
Laughing Enqueri hugged him tighter then shifted until they were both sitting up on the couch. "Come on Chief. Let's get you fed."
They got up and put their plates in the microwave to warm up before picking their clothes up off the floor from where they'd been thrown earlier and putting them back on. Blair grinned when he heard the resigned sigh that Enqueri gave as he pulled his pants and shirt back on.
"You can undress me again after we eat," he promised with a wink and a leer.
Enqueri gave him a dignified look. "I look forward to it," he said seriously, but there was a humorous twinkle in his eyes.
"I'm sure you do," Blair replied as the microwave beeped and he walked over, removing the two plates of food from it. Carrying them to the table he added, "*After* dinner though. If I keep up our usual level of activity without sustenance I'm going to waste away to nothing."
"Can't have that," Enqueri agreed as they sat down to resume their meal. "I'll keep my hands to myself... as long as you don't provoke me."
Blair stopped with the fork halfway to his mouth. "Provoke you? I never provoke you. I'm the picture of easygoing cooperation."
Enqueri snorted. "Yeah, right Chief."
"If you say so."
"You're the one who attacked me," Blair pointed out, talking with his mouth full and using his fork as a pointer for emphasis. "I was just sitting here innocently trying to eat my dinner."
Enqueri gave him a disbelieving look. "Blair, you are many things but innocent is not one of them."
Blair grinned, conceding the point. They ate in silence for a few minutes then he asked, "So what did I do that caused the big strong sentinel to lose control?"
"You stuck out your tongue at me."
"You mean like this?"
Blair yelped with laughter as for the second time that night he found himself pounced across the dinner table.
Daniel shut off the car's engine, reached out and touched Jack's shoulder. The colonel was sitting in the passenger seat with his head tilted back and his eyes closed. "Jack?" Daniel said softly. "We're here."
Opening his eyes, Jack looked around. "My place," he said softly, sounding surprised.
"Yeah," Daniel confirmed, resisting the urge to move his hand from Jack's shoulder to his cheek. "Where did you think we were going?"
Jack gave a half shrug. He was careful, Daniel noticed, not to dislodge Daniel's hand. "Your place is closer to the base."
"It's also an apartment instead of a house which means it's smaller and noisier. Besides," he added almost diffidently, "I figured you'd be more comfortable in familiar surroundings."
"Your apartment isn't exactly uncharted territory, Daniel." Jack undid his seatbelt and opened the car door. "But thanks."
Daniel undid his own seatbelt and got out of the car as well, feeling an almost painful shock at the loss of physical contact with Jack. His Sentinel. Who he was supposed to... Quickly Daniel cut off that line of thought, telling himself he was *not* going there. He was there to keep Jack from zoning, that was it.
And speaking of zoning...
Jack had taken one step after getting out of the car and promptly froze, staring blankly off into space, a look of wonder on his face. Daniel hurried around the front of the car to his friend's side. Reaching out and laying his hand on Jack's arm, he spoke, trying to imitate the soothing tones he'd heard Blair use with Enqueri.
"Jack? Come on, snap out of it." No immediate response. He frantically searched his memory for the words Blair used. "Uhm... you have to come back now Jack. Just, uh, concentrate on my voice and uhh... follow it back... here." He felt kinda stupid -- this was exactly the kind of thing that Jack always rolled his eyes at -- but he didn't know what else to say.
Luckily, it seemed to work as well on Jack as it did on Enqueri. Jack blinked, took a deep breath and turned his head towards Daniel, his eyes focusing on his friend's face. "D-Daniel?" he asked, voice shaky and uncertain. He blinked a few times. "What just happened?"
Daniel let out a sigh of relief. "You zoned," he told the other man who was still looking at him quizzically.
"I did?" Jack frowned, obviously trying to remember. "I guess I did." He grimaced. "Guess I just proved that Sandburg wasn't joking about remaining within touching distance."
"Guess you did." Daniel was trying not to think about that. "Come on. Let's go inside."
Jack nodded and they started for the door. Halfway there he paused, looking around, the expression of wonder faintly reappearing on his features again. "Jack?" Daniel asked. Fearing another zone-out he reached out and touched the other man's arm again.
"I'm okay," Jack responded. "Just..." He looked out at the quiet neighborhood. "I never noticed how... alive the night was before."
Daniel was quiet as he stared at the peaceful darkness. Inside him something -- his heart? -- unclenched a little at the awe in Jack's voice. Maybe this Sentinel thing wasn't a complete disaster after all.
Shaking off his bemusement Jack continued walking to the house, pulled out his keys and unlocked the door. Opening it wide, he gestured broadly for Daniel to enter. "My casa es su casa and all that," he muttered.
Pleased to hear this example of typical O'Neill wit, Daniel did as he was bid, trying to ignore his own sudden hyper awareness when he accidentally brushed against the other man as he entered. He quickly took a couple of large strides into the living room and away from the door, as he tried to keep his heartrate and breathing under control. 'Cool and calm,' he reminded himself. 'Cool and calm.'
Jack followed him inside, closing the door behind him and leaning back against it. Daniel couldn't make out more than a shadowy form where Jack stood in the unlit room but somehow knew he was being studied intently. He did his best to steal his expression into something neutral, knowing the gloom would be no hindrance to Jack's sight.
Apparently he didn't do a good enough job or maybe his friend just knew him that well because the first words out of Jack's mouth, voice heavy with concern were, "You okay Danny?"
"I'm fine," Daniel replied, willing them both to believe it. "Uhm, you mind turning on a light?"
That seemed to startle Jack. "Oh, right," he said, his discomfiture plain. "I... uh hadn't noticed." He reached out and flipped a switch, squinting painfully against the sudden brightness.
"Are *you* okay?" Daniel asked as he watched Jack try to shield his eyes from the light.
"Yeah, fine. Just give me a second..." The colonel dug into a pocket and came up with his sunglasses. Putting them on, he noticeably relaxed. "That's better."
Daniel looked at his friend, standing in his living room wearing shades against the, to him, rather dim light, and felt his guilt hit him again. "Sorry Jack," he muttered under his breath.
Jack, of course, heard him loud and clear. "For what? It's not the first time I've had to wear sunglasses inside. Well, okay, usually it's a morning after situation but still..."
In spite of himself, Daniel smiled. "You've had many night befores?"
"Enough." Jack wandered over and sat down on the couch, leaning back into the cushions with a sigh. "Mostly back in the early days with Covert Ops. Sometimes the best way to forget a mission is to... forget it. Cleaned up my act though when I met Sarah." He turned his head and looked at Daniel. "What about you? No wild parties during your college days?"
Daniel chuckled. "Jack, you've seen my tolerance for alcohol. What do you think?"
The colonel laughed. "I remember. You started feeling it with barely a beer. Cheaper date than my wife."
Remembering the night in question, Daniel smiled back. It had been the first night he'd been back on Earth, the first night after Sha'uri had been taken. He'd found himself at loose ends, with nowhere to go and no one to talk to.
Or so he thought. Jack found him loitering in one of the hallways in the complex and had taken him home, fed him, shared a couple of beers with him (which had gone straight to Daniel's head, hence the cheaper date remark), and stayed up half the night talking with him.
It was that night that made him realize that Jack was not only a friend, but his best friend. There had been nobody else in Daniel's life at the time who would have been there for him like Jack was.
He'd always vowed that he'd return the favor if he ever got the chance. In a way, he guessed, this was it. His chance to be there for Jack, the way Jack had always been there for him.
"You hungry?" Daniel asked suddenly, as he tried to push down feelings that were way too close to the surface right then. He walked into the kitchen, which was just off the living room "I could make... something." He trailed off as he opened the fridge and found that the shelves were almost bare.
"Only if you can pull food out of thin air," Jack called from the living room, still sitting on the couch. "I haven't had a chance to restock the fridge lately."
"I see that." Daniel closed the fridge door again. "Order a pizza instead?"
"Yeah. The number's by the phone. Just don't get any anchovies. I hate those things."
"No anchovies, right."
Daniel phoned in the order, then grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge and headed back to the living room. "Should be here in half an hour," he told Jack, handing him one of the bottles.
"Good, thanks." He took the bottle and turned his head towards Daniel. Though the sunglasses hid Jack's eyes, Daniel could tell he was staring at the bottle that he was still holding.
"What?" he asked. "I think we both could use something to drink after today."
"Can't argue with that," Jack replied laconically, taking a swig of his bottle and then grimacing at the taste. "Just don't pass out on the furniture."
Flopping down in a nearby chair, Daniel rolled his eyes. "I'm not that cheap a date." He took a large swig as if to prove his point.
Jack shrugged. "It's your potential hangover." He took another sip, grimacing again. "Damn."
Daniel looked up curiously. "What?"
"Ah, nothing. Just never really noticed the taste of beer before." He grimaced again, obviously realizing what that sounded like. "I mean, I noticed it, but not like this. This..."
Intense?" Daniel supplied.
"Yeah." He stared at the bottle dangling from his hand. "This is going to take some getting used to."
"Sorry." The word was out before Daniel even had a chance to think.
Jack's head snapped up. "Just what," he asked in a careful tone, "do you mean by that?"
Daniel could feel the heat of Jack's glare right through the sunglasses. "This is all my fault, Jack. If I hadn't pressed that symbol, activated whatever it was that did this to you..."
He trailed off as he saw Jack's expression change to disbelief, realization and then anger. "Is that why you took on this guide gig? Because you felt *responsible*?"
"I *am* responsible!" Daniel shot back, his guilt overriding every other emotion. "You wouldn't be in this mess if I had learned to keep my hands to myself."
Jack sighed, and slumped into the couch, his anger seeming to leave him all at once. When he spoke his voice had a fatalistic resigned tone that Daniel did not like at all. "If you kept your hands to yourself you wouldn't be the person you are. It wasn't your fault, Daniel."
Daniel shrugged, eyes dropping to the bottle he still held. "Feels like it is," he said softly.
The touch of a hand on his shoulder made him look up. "Anyone ever tell you you're a stubborn pain in the ass?" Jack asked, looking down at him.
Daniel blinked. "Once or twice," he answered, shifting in his seat as he tried to keep his body from reacting to Jack's proximity.
"So I won't be the first one. Good." If anything, Jack leaned closer.
Daniel pressed himself into the back of the chair, feeling his heartbeat increase the closer Jack got. And it wasn't the only thing on the rise, as it were. He swallowed hard, his throat suddenly very dry and prayed that the other man wouldn't notice his reaction. "Jack," he breathed, the word coming out more like a plea than the protest he had meant it to be.
Jack leaned in closer, and Daniel's eyes focused on his mouth. 'This is not happening,' he told himself, over and over, as he watched that mouth swoop closer to his own. 'Jack is not about to kiss me. He's not...' His eyes closed and he tilted his head back, his own lips parting slightly in welcoming.
At the softly spoken curse, Daniel's eyes flew back open in time to see Jack straightening up again. "Wha-?" he managed.
"Pizza's here," Jack said, casting Daniel an apologetic look before heading towards the door. Whether that look was for what he'd almost did or for stopping, Daniel didn't know.
His mind in a bit of a daze, he watched Jack go over and open the door before the delivery boy had a chance to ring the bell, startling the teenager badly.
"How much?" Jack asked, pulling out his wallet.
"Uhm, Fifteen ninety-nine, sir," the kid replied, still looking a bit surprised. "How did you-"
Jack handed over a twenty-dollar bill and took the pizza. "You should get your muffler looked at. Heard it all the way down the block." He hefted the pizza. "Thanks."
The kid looked even more mystified. "Uh, yes sir. Thanks," then turned and walked back to his car shaking his head.
Jack closed the door and laid the pizza on the table. He straightened up, suddenly wincing. "Damn kid's going to wake up the entire neighborhood," he muttered.
Daniel shifted worriedly in his seat. "Uhh Jack..." he began slowly, "I don't hear anything. The kid's car is fine."
"What are you talking about? I've heard machine guns that weren't that-" He stopped, realization striking. "Oh."
"Sentinel hearing," Daniel confirmed, reaching out almost unconsciously and laying his hand on Jack's arm.
"Yeah." The colonel, equally unconsciously, leaned into the touch. "This is going to take some getting used to," he admitted, brushing a hand over his head with a sigh.
Daniel suppressed the urge to apologize again, instead just squeezed Jack's arm in reassurance. "We'll work it out," he said, then released Jack and turned towards the pizza. "I don't know about you but I am starving," he said, deliberately changing the subject.
Jack shook himself and visibly refocused. "Yeah. I haven't eaten anything since before we left on the mission." Sitting down on the couch across from Daniel, he flipped open the pizza box.
Leaning over the box, Jack inhaled deeply and Daniel watched as his expression began to go blank. 'Zoning,' Daniel thought. "Jack!" he called sharply, startling the man out of the zone-out before it had a chance to take hold.
"Wha-? Oh. Thanks." He gave Daniel a brief self-conscious smile. "Sentinel observation number 4 - Pizza smells really good."
Daniel smiled back. "Should I be keeping a list of these?"
"Why- you planning on writing a book on Sentinel wisdom? 'Beer tastes bad but pizza smells good'?" He seemed to consider. "Actually that might sell if you gave it a catchy enough title."
"I'll split the royalties with you," Daniel replied deadpan, picking up a slice of the pizza.
"Deal." Jack reached for his own piece but didn't bite into it yet. "Hey Daniel, about what happened before..."
Daniel froze, pizza slice halfway to his mouth. "Uh, yeah?" he asked cautiously.
Jack opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before continuing. "What was that?"
"What was what, exactly?" Daniel replied, though he knew quite well what Jack was talking about. He just wasn't sure what he could say.
Besides a part of him wanted to see exactly how Jack would try to explain it. He didn't want to be the only one squirming.
"What was what?" Jack repeated in disbelief, putting his slice of pizza back down. "What was that... thing... that happened. You know... where I - we... well y'know!" Daniel could swear that Jack was actually blushing.
"When you almost kissed me," Daniel supplied taking pity on his friend.
"Yeah," Jack replied. "When I almost... y'know."
Jack did squirm rather well, thought Daniel.
Daniel blinked. "So?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "So what was it?"
Right. He'd have to answer now. "It's probably just a reaction to this bonding thing," he told Jack, speaking in as casual a tone as he could manage. He didn't want Jack to think it was a big deal. Because it wasn't. Or so he kept telling himself.
Jack didn't sound entirely convinced.
"Remember what Blair and Enqueri told us about how the bond is traditionally uhm, consummated." The anthropologist winced at his own choice of words. "So it's not unlikely that there might be some uhm, instinctive urges to push a sentinel and guide in that direction." He could feel the heat of his own blush now.
"So you're saying it was a sentinel thing?" Jack asked after a minute.
"Yes," Daniel confirmed. "It would almost have to be wouldn't it? I mean we've known each other for how long and it's not like you've been going around trying to kiss me whenever you got the chance or anything."
'More's the pity,' Daniel added to himself then froze. 'Where the hell did *that* come from?'
Jack was silent for a moment, seemingly absorbing what Daniel had just said then asked, "So what do we do about it?"
That caused Daniel to blink. "Do?" he asked. "I don't know there's anything we *can* do. Or that we need to do. It's not like anything happened after all."
"This time," Jack muttered. Or at least that's what it sounded like to Daniel.
"Well if it's a sentinel-bond-instinct it's probably going to happen again. So what do we do when it does?"
Daniel felt his heart beat faster at the thought. "We'll just have to be aware of any... uhm..." he trailed off. "Deal with any situations that happen when they happen."
"And you're okay with that? Just deal with anything when it happens?" Jack asked gesturing with his arm as he spoke.
"It's not like we have much choice in the matter," Daniel pointed out. "I mean, what else can we do?"
"You've got a point."
Daniel let out a sigh of relief as he realized that Jack was finally going to drop the subject. For now. He tried not to think about 'later' too much though. Instead he asked plaintively, "Can we eat now?"
Jack looked startled for a moment, then grinned. "Nobody's been stopping you," he said as he picked up his own slice of pizza again.
"Yeah, right," Daniel muttered under his breath, knowing full well that Jack could hear him. The colonel just smirked and took a bite.
And immediately spit it back out, coughing and choking, hand grasping after his barely touched bottle of beer.
"Jack?!" Daniel placed the beer bottle in Jack's hand and watched in alarm as Jack proceeded to try and guzzle it, only to dissolve into another round of choking coughs.
"H-hot," Jack gasped out between coughs, gesturing at the discarded pizza slice.
Daniel looked at the pizza and his eyes suddenly widened in comprehension. Among the other toppings were peppers that were fairly mild and innocuous to normal tastes but to a sentinel...Well, the results were obvious.
A new round of coughing from Jack propelled the anthropologist off the couch and into the kitchen. He remembered seeing a carton of milk in the fridge and just hoped it hadn't gone bad yet.
It hadn't, and Daniel quickly poured out a glass and carried it back in to Jack. "Here," he said, handing it to the colonel, who was still coughing sporadically. "This should help."
Jack nodded his thanks and gulped down the milk in between coughs. It seemed to be doing the trick, Daniel thought with relief as the spasms and coughing began to calm.
Then the phone rang.
"God!" Jack cried out in pain, dropping the glass of milk and to bring his hands up to cover his ears.
That image froze Daniel where he stood for a few seconds, long enough for the phone to ring again. Jack whimpered and hunched even lower. Shaking off the paralysis Daniel dove for the phone before it could ring a third time.
"Hello?" he answered absently, most of his attention focused on Jack. The colonel had yet to uncurl from his defensive position, but at least he didn't seem to be trying to retreat even further.
"Daniel?" Sam, sounding surprised at his answering. "I was just- Dr. Fraiser said that the Colonel had been released. I was just calling to see how he is."
"He's... been having, uh... a few problems adjusting to the senses," Daniel replied, reaching out and laying a hand on Jack's back and beginning to rub it in soothing circles. He felt the tense muscles under his fingers slowly start to relax. "But we're handling it." 'If you can call this handling it.'
There was a slight pause on the other end, as if Sam had heard something that she hadn't expected to. "Teal'c and I are still at the base. If there's anything either of us can do..."
'Well you could not make any more phone calls for one,' Daniel almost said then immediately felt guilty. Sam hadn't known the phone ringing would affect Jack like it had. She had only been concerned about her teammate, especially since he and Jack had left the base without speaking to Sam or Teal'c.
There was no good reason that they hadn't. It had been, Daniel admitted to himself, a totally selfish decision on his part. He had still been reeling from what Blair and Enqueri had told him -- hell he still was, even now! -- and on top of that he had wanted Jack all to himself for a little while. He refused to look too closely about his motivations for that though.
"Daniel?" Sam asked, making him aware he had been silent too long. Great. He was the one zoning now.
"I'm here," he told his teammate. "Thanks, Sam, but Jack and I have everything under control here. You might as well go get some rest. We'll meet up with you and Teal'c at the base tomorrow."
He must've sounded a bit more abrupt than he had planned on because there was a strange tone to Sam's next words. "If you're sure..."
"I am." Jeez, that sounded even more abrupt. Trying to smooth over any potential ruffled feathers he made an attempt to explain. "Jack and I just need some time alone to... connect, Sam. It's a sentinel-guide thing. I can't really explain it any more than that..."
"It's okay Daniel," Sam replied, her voice considerably warmer. "I understand. Teal'c and I will see you in the morning."
"Thanks Sam. Night." He waited until she had returned his farewell then hung up. And, after a second's thought, disconnected the phone.
A hoarse voice from the couch said, "I'd offer you my gun to shoot it if I didn't think the gunshot would rupture my eardrums."
Daniel's attention immediately focused entirely on his friend. "You okay Jack?" he asked, careful to keep his voice soft. He reached out and once again laid a soothing hand on Jack's back.
"Aside from the pounding headache and the fact that it feels like I burnt the top two layers of skin off my tongue, I'm just peachy." Jack's tone was annoyed but he was relaxing under Daniel's touch.
"Sorry about that," Daniel said with a grimace, even as he continued rubbing Jack's back. "I should've realized about the peppers. And I should've disconnected the phone when we first got here."
Jack waved that away. "If you had, Sam and Teal'c would've just shown up at the front door and my doorbell is a lot louder than my phone." He straightened from his hunched over position a little, though was careful not to dislodge Daniel's hand. "As for the peppers, I probably would've eaten them even if you had tried to warn me. So all you lost was the chance to say 'I told you so.'"
Daniel felt the knot of guilt ease a little, more from Jack's tone than his actual words. After all this time he'd learned to distinguish Jack's pissed off sarcastic tone from his normal sarcastic tone. This had been normal. Trying to lighten up in return he replied in kind. "I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities to tell you that in the future."
"No doubt." Straightening the rest of the way, Jack leaned against the back of the couch with a sigh, trapping Daniel's hand between him and the cushions.
For a moment Daniel froze, uncertain what to do. He didn't want to reclaim his hand too quickly, but the current position was definitely uncomfortable. Mostly because it wasn't uncomfortable at all.
And that thought would lead him down paths he *really* didn't want to follow.
He pulled away abruptly, shooting to his feet almost as if he'd been burned. His foot nudged the glass that Jack had dropped earlier and, when Jack looked at him questioningly, he stammered, "I... uhh... just better clean up the milk you spilled." He bent down, picked up the glass and fled to the kitchen.
Once there he put the glass in the sink and held onto the counter for a moment, just trying to get his feelings under control. He was beginning to understand why Enqueri had been so certain that they would "complete" the bond eventually. The feelings and desires running through him were almost beyond his ability to resist.
They were much harder to control than they had been before the bond.
Daniel blinked. Where had *that* thought come from? He hadn't had any feelings or desires of this kind, the sexual kind, for Jack before all this.
Before he could examine or reject this surprising new insight into himself he was interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind him and the feeling of Jack's hand on his shoulder.
"Is this how you plan on dealing with it?" Jack asked softly. "By running away?"
That caused an attack of hysterical laughter to bubble up. "Wouldn't do me much good would it -- considering I can't get more than a room-length away from you without falling to pieces."
The hand on his shoulder slid down onto his back, rubbing it in the same soothing way he had done for Jack only minutes before. In spite of himself, Daniel leaned into the touch.
He gave a resigned sigh as his body slowly relaxed under his friend's hand. His mind may want to run away, but his body was right where it wanted to be. He knew if he didn't pull away now, he wouldn't be able to.
He felt the presence behind him moving even closer, another hand joining the first and both sliding around and pulling him backward into an embrace. "Jack," he whispered in protest, body shivering.
Jack sighed and leaned his chin on Daniel's shoulder. "We've really gotten ourselves in it this time, haven't we, Danny?" he asked softly, his breath warm on Daniel's ear.
"I've really got us in it this time, you mean," Daniel corrected, reminding them both of who was responsible for their current situation. If he concentrated on his guilt, maybe he could ignore the other feelings and thoughts that were coursing through him.
"I already told you, Daniel -- it's not your fault." The arms holding Daniel tightened their hold.
Daniel shook his head, gasping as the movement skimmed the side of Jack's face, still resting on his shoulder. "I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree on this one," he said, hearing a note of something in his voice that he wasn't ready to acknowledge.
"I will as long as you don't beat yourself up over it." Jack shifted slightly but his arms remained around Daniel and his chin remained on Daniel's shoulder. "So what are we going to do about this?" he asked, squeezing tighter for a second in lieu of gesturing with an arm.
Daniel laughed weakly. "I have *no* idea."
"Great," Jack muttered, but to Daniel's ears he didn't sound as annoyed as he should have been.
"Ignoring it doesn't seem to be working," Daniel pointed out, trying to keep his voice steady. Just another scientific problem to figure out, that's all.
"I had noticed that," Jack agreed, pulling Daniel even closer.
Daniel closed his eyes and shivered at the increased proximity.
"Maybe we should stop ignoring it," Jack suggested, the words causing Daniel to shiver even more.
"Jack, I..." Daniel began but trailed off as he realized he didn't know what to say.
"Turn around, Daniel." The words were softly spoken but no less an order for that.
Unable to disobey, and, if he was honest with himself, unwilling to as well, Daniel turned in his friend's embrace until they were facing each other. He couldn't bring himself to meet Jack's gaze however and so kept his eyes downturned.
"Daniel..." Jack's hand slid under his chin and forced his head up.
Daniel's breath caught in his throat when their eyes met; it felt like their shared gaze was generating enough electricity to power a hundred Stargates. He felt his mind give one last futile protest as Jack touched his lips to his.
Then all protests ceased, because all thought had ceased. He was too busy feeling to have any energy left over for thinking. He felt Jack pull him even closer, wrapping arms around his waist and slipped his own arms around Jack's torso. But all that was peripheral; because at the moment nothing existed outside of their locked mouths and dueling tongues.
After several hundred years, at least that's what it felt like to Daniel, the kiss finally ended. Feeling confused, vulnerable, needy and more than a little aroused, Daniel leaned his forehead against Jack's as he panted for air.
That was all Jack said before seeking out Daniel's mouth once again.
Daniel didn't even think of resisting this time, instead losing himself in the feelings and sensations that were coursing through him at Jack's touch. He felt himself trembling, unsettled by the intensity of the experience, feeling like if it went on long enough everything else that he was would be swept away.
There was something important about that last thought, something he should be remembering and dealing with... It was nudging at the back of his mind even as he fell deeper into the kiss.
He was beginning to feel lightheaded from lack of oxygen, his lungs being unable to pull in enough air through just his nose. Reluctantly, Daniel moved to pull back...
Only to discover that Jack wasn't letting him go. The colonel's grip remained tight on Daniel's arms and his mouth remained fastened to Daniel's despite the increasing struggle Daniel was making to pull away.
He caught a glimpse of Jack's face, saw the blank expression and realized what had happened.
Jack had zoned.
'Shit!' Daniel thought, panic rising as he finally managed to free his mouth. Jack's hands remained tightly clenched around Daniel's arms however.
He stared at Jack for a long moment, unable to get his voice to work. Even if it had, he didn't know what to say, how to pull Jack back when it was him that Jack had zoned out on in the first place.
'Snap out of it!' he told himself sternly. He could panic after he got him back.'
"Jack," he called softly, his voice cracking on the single word. He cleared his throat and called again, louder. "Jack!"
Well he hadn't really expected it to be that easy. He started talking to Jack in a low compelling tone, not even really paying attention to the words, just keeping up a thread of sound for Jack to focus on.
At the same time Daniel worked at extricating himself from the oblivious grip Jack still had on him.
He succeeded at the latter after a few moments -- he still wasn't having very much success with the former.
"Maybe it's not working because it was me you zoned on in the first place," Daniel thought out loud. "So I guess I need another kind of stimulus to bring you back."
The question was, of course, what stimulus to use. He briefly considered a slap or a punch but found he couldn't bring himself to hit Jack. He finally decided on water.
Which is why Jack found his head and upper torso soaking wet when he finally became aware of his surroundings again. He stumbled forward with a gasp and a curse, suddenly unbalanced as his hands tried to close on the man who was no longer in his arms.
"Daniel! What the hell-?" he stammered, peering at the anthropologist in confusion and anger.
Daniel slumped against the counter in relief, dropping the now empty water pitcher into the sink. "You zoned."
"So you dumped water on me."
"It was either that or hit you," Daniel shot back, adrenaline making him jumpy. "Which would you have preferred?"
"What happened to talking me out of it? It worked earlier."
"Well apparently that only works if it's not me you zoned on in the first place!" He didn't need this. Shakily he reached up and ran a hand through his hair in a nervous gesture.
Jack frowned, even as he reached out, automatically it seemed, to lay a comforting hand on Daniel's shoulder. Daniel stiffened but did not pull away as was his first instinct.
"I zoned on you?" Jack asked, puzzled. "How?"
Daniel opened his mouth to answer, only to close it again when he couldn't make himself say the words. "What do you remember?" he asked instead.
He watched as Jack visibly tried to remember the few minutes before he had zoned, and he had no problem telling when Jack had succeeded. The Colonel's eyes went wide and his cheeks turned faintly red.
"I see that you do remember what happened," Daniel said dryly.
Jack nodded, still blushing slightly. "So I zoned when we were..." he trailed off, gesturing between the two of them with one hand.
"Kissing? Yeah, you did."
Daniel half expected Jack to make some kind of wise-ass comment then -- it was his standard modus operandi after all -- but that's not what happened this time. Jack let out a soft "Huh," and then fell silent.
After a moment though he glanced sharply at Daniel and asked, "You okay?"
Not expecting that question Daniel answered with something intelligent like, "What?"
"Are you okay?" Jack repeated. "I didn't hurt you when I zoned?"
Oh. Daniel felt a strange warmth at Jack's concern. "No," he answered. "All you did was try to suck the tongue right out of my mouth." He wasn't about to mention the bruises he sure were forming on his arms even as they talked. That wasn't Jack's fault. And he might have gotten those even if Jack hadn't zoned, the way they'd been going. Almost diffidently he added, "You're quite a kisser."
Immediately he wanted to take those words back. He hadn't just said that had he?
Jack's faint blush was back. Smiling a pleased smile, he reached out and ruffled Daniel's hair. "You're pretty good in that department yourself, Danny boy."
Daniel blinked, having no idea how to respond to that. "Uhhh... Thanks." 'I think.'
"So now what?" Jack asked after a few moments' awkward silence.
"I don't know," Daniel admitted. He was suddenly dead tired; all the scares he'd had this evening had worn him out.
And he wasn't the only one -- Jack looked about as exhausted as he felt. "Maybe we should just call it a night," Daniel suggested.
Jack sighed and ran a hand over his face. "Yeah, maybe we should. Before I get into any more trouble."
Involuntarily, Daniel winced at that. "I'm sorry about all this," he said feeling his guilt afresh.
This earned him an exasperated sigh. "Daniel, if you apologize one more time for this, I'm going to have to shoot you. Which, given my current condition, would probably blow out my eardrums so just cool it with the apologies okay? It's nobody's fault. Stuff like this just happens on missions. You know that."
Daniel grimaced. "Yeah," he said. "I know that." 'Still doesn't make this any less my fault,' he added to himself.
"But you're going to keep right on feeling guilty about this anyway aren't you? Daniel..." Jack shook his head with a sigh. "Listen, I'm tired, you're tired. Let's get some sleep. We can continue arguing in the morning."
That drew a small smile from Daniel. "Right."
He followed Jack down the hallway into the bedroom, trying not to think. If he thought of anything at that moment, it would be their sleeping arrangements and he really did not want to go there.
Not that he had much choice, he realized, as he stared at the single king-sized bed that dominated the room.
"Uhm, I can sleep on the floor," he offered, feeling his heart rate speed up. In fear, he told himself. It had to be fear.
Jack just stared at him for a long moment. He looked like he wanted to say something but remained silent.
He didn't have to, Daniel realized. That look alone was enough to get his point across. "Never mind," he muttered, heading around to the far side of the bed and gingerly sitting down on its edge.
Jack shook his head and began undressing.
"What are you doing?" Daniel was surprised that his voice could actually go up that high.
"Getting ready for bed," Jack replied, pulling his T-shirt over his head. "What does it look like?"
"Oh." Daniel swallowed. Hard. "Right."
Jack by this time had reached his pants. He paused though with his hands on the fastenings. "Is this going to make you uncomfortable?" he asked.
"Uhm..." Daniel said intelligently.
The colonel nodded. "Right." He stopped undressing and instead moved to pull back the covers and slip into bed with his pants still on. He looked up at Daniel who realized he'd been sitting there staring. "Coming?"
Right. Daniel nodded and turned away to fumble with his boots. Kicking them off, he straightened and removed his shirt. After a moment's thought though he decided to leave the black T-shirt underneath on.
Taking a deep breath and trying to keep his mind absolutely blank, he slid under the covers and lay stiffly next to Jack.
"Comfortable?" Jack asked, voice thick with irony.
"Yeah," Daniel replied, staring at the ceiling.
Jack nodded and reached over and turned off the light, plunging the room into darkness. "Night, then."
"Night Jack," Daniel replied, still staring at the ceiling.
He lay there, tense and unmoving, and listened as Jack's breathing gradually deepened into sleep. He didn't think he himself would be able to get any sleep, no matter how tired he was, but after a while of listening to the reassuring sound of Jack's steady breathing he found himself dozing off.
Only to be jerked back to wakefulness when Jack rolled over on top of him.
Well not really on top of him, Daniel realized, after a moment's claustrophobic panic. More like up against his side, with one arm and one leg flung over him, effectively holding him in place.
Great. Now, what was he supposed to do?
Jack sighed, muttered something unintelligible as he buried his face against Daniel's neck, and drifted off into even deeper sleep.
Daniel sighed, and resumed staring at the ceiling.
It was going to be a long night.
Blair was awakened by the persistently ringing phone.
Detangling himself from Enqueri's limbs enough to reach the phone, he grabbed the receiver and mumbled what would've been "Hello," if he had been more fully conscious.
"General Hammond," Blair replied, suddenly wide awake. Getting phone calls from the General was not a normal occurrence. Especially not at -- he peered blearily at the bedside clock -- five a.m. God was it that early?
No wonder he felt like the walking dead, considering that, even though they'd made it to bed around 11, it was well after three by the time Enqueri and he had finally gone to sleep.
Hammond was speaking again and Blair turned his wandering attention back to the phone. "Hate to interrupt your leave, son, but you're needed back at the base ASAP."
"Why? What's happened? Is it something to do with Jack- I mean Colonel O'Neill? I told Daniel to phone me here if he had any problems, I hadn't heard from him so I assumed everything's okay. Am I wrong? Did something happen?"
Enqueri reached over and laid a soothing hand against Blair's back.
"Calm down, son. As far as I know Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson are just fine," Hammond said.
Blair let out a sigh of relief. "Then what's up?" he asked puzzled. "If it's not the sentinel thing..."
"I never said that. Word of Colonel O'Neill's... condition... has leaked out. I've just been informed that Colonel Brackett is coming here to look into it."
Alarmed, Blair sat straight up in bed. "Oh man! Do you know what exactly he wants?"
"I wasn't told but I could hazard a fair guess."
Blair snorted. "Yeah, me too. The same thing they wanted with Enqueri -- to turn him into a lab rat to figure how his senses work and if there was a way to give others sentinel abilities."
"Exactly," Hammond agreed. "And I like that idea about as much as you do. That's why I'm assigning SG-1 and 14 to a joint mission immediately."
"What?" Blair asked, blinking.
"Everything will be explained in the mission briefing, Doctor. So you and Enqueri get your butts in here ASAP."
"Yes sir. We'll be there as soon as we can." He reached over to hang up the phone then turned to Enqueri. "You heard." It wasn't a question.
Enqueri nodded, his face set in the blank mask he had always worn when confronted with Brackett. He'd never admit it, Blair knew, but Enqueri was frightened of the Colonel and, more to the point, what the Colonel had wanted to do. Thinking back to some of Brackett's requests, Blair shuddered himself. Enqueri hadn't been the only one scared.
"Don't worry," he said, trying to reassure himself as well as his sentinel. "The General's got Brackett's number. He won't let anything happen."
Enqueri did not look so sure. "He will do all he can, but he is bound by his honor and his oaths. Brackett is not."
Blair worried about that also. Not so much about Brackett circumnavigating Hammond's orders but about Brackett going over Hammond's head and getting those orders changed. It had been his greatest fear the last time Brackett was at the base and it remained so now that it appeared he would be back in the picture. What would happen if Hammond was ordered to turn them over? They would still refuse to go, of course, but would they be given that choice?
"We dealt with him before," he said as decisively as he could, pushing all his doubts and fears to the back of his mind. "We'll deal with him this time. We better get moving, Hammond said he wanted us at the base as fast as possible."
Taking his cue, as always, from his Guide, Enqueri brushed aside his own fears and nodded. "I'll make the coffee while you shower."
"Which means of course that you want me to make breakfast when you shower." Blair looked over his shoulder at the other man as he climbed out of bed.
"That would be the most efficient use of our time, Chief," Enqueri agreed easily.
"It would be, 'cept we don't have time to eat it." Blair managed not to smile at his sentinel's crestfallen expression. "Come on," he said, beckoning. "We'll share the shower, if you promise to keep your hands to yourself, and then pick up something to eat on the way to the base."
"Donuts?" Enqueri asked hopefully, having developed almost an obsession with the food since coming to Earth.
"You know those things are *so* bad for you." Blair's eyes roved over Enqueri's body as the other man got out of bed. "Not that you'd ever be able to tell that from looking at you," he admitted.
Enqueri walked past Blair into the bathroom. "Is that a yes?" he asked, leaning over to turn the water in the shower on.
Distracted by the image in front of him, it took Blair a few seconds to remember how to speak. "Uhm, yeah, sure. Why not?"
He followed Enqueri under the shower, automatically reaching out to touch the other man's skin.
"I thought you said we had to keep our hands to ourselves," Enqueri chuckled. He didn't make any move to stop Blair's exploring though.
"No. I said *you* had to keep *your* hands to yourself," Blair corrected. "I never said anything about my hands."
"Oh." Enqueri considered for a moment. "What about my mouth?"
"What did you have in mind?"
"This." He leaned over and captured Blair's lips in a long lingering kiss.
Blair was slightly breathless when they parted. "Yeah," he said, licking his lips. "I think we can allow that."
Enqueri just grinned and leaned in for another kiss.
They were much later leaving their apartment than planned, but Blair made most of the time up during the drive to the base.
With a stop for coffee and donuts.
By the time they made it to the base, went through the usual security, and headed to the briefing room, most of the other members of both SG-1 and SG-14 were already present.
The only ones missing were Jack and Daniel.
Blair could not help but worry at that, even though he told himself there was no reason to panic at their absence. Yet. The explanation could be as simple as them getting caught in traffic.
Or something could have happened with Jack's senses that Daniel didn't know how to handle. Or Brackett could have decided to skip the formalities and just take Jack and Daniel... Blair firmly squelched that train of thought. 'This is *not* the way to not panic,' he told himself sternly.
Fortunately, before his thoughts could run too far away with him, he was distracted by the other members of SG-14, clamoring for information.
"Hey Sandburg, is it true?" Rafe asked, sitting up in his chair as Blair and Enqueri moved to take seats. "Is O'Neill a sentinel?"
Blair paused for a second, wondering why his opinion was being sought for verification. Did Rafe really think SG-1 would lie about something like this? "Yeah," he finally answered. "He is."
"We told you it was so, Sergeant," Teal'c addressed Rafe calmly. "Did you have some reason to doubt what we said was the truth?"
Rafe shifted uncomfortably in his seat under the Jaffa's stare. " I thought that you might be, y'know, messing with us. That you were pulling our legs."
Teal'c frowned slightly. "I have not touched your legs."
Blair had to hide a smile at that. "It's just an expression Teal'c," he told his friend. "He means he thought you were playing a joke on him." He shot a look at Rafe. "Which you weren't."
"Okay, okay," Rafe said, holding up his hands in a placating gesture. "I was wrong! So sue me!"
Megan, who was sitting beside Rafe, nudged him with her elbow. "Told you, Slick."
Captain Banks rolled his eyes at his team's antics, then turned his attention to Blair. "I take it you know what's going on here."
"Pretty much," he answered, then glanced at Teal'c and Sam. "How much have you told them so far?"
"Just that the Colonel has developed sentinel abilities," Sam replied. "The Sergeant was too busy disbelieving that for us to explain anything more."
"All right, I'm sorry already," Rafe exclaimed. "Make one little mistake and everybody jumps on you..."
Simon waved him to silence. "Nobody's disbelieving you now. So, explain. I had to cancel a weekend fishing trip with my son less than 24 hours after making the plans and I'd like to know why."
Blair exchanged glances with Sam and Teal'c, wordlessly deciding who should start.
"It happened on the mission yesterday," Sam finally began. "The people on the planet had been completely wiped out by a goa'uld attack. With a little searching we found out why. There was an Asgard building there."
They took turns relaying what had happened, even Enqueri interjecting a word or two. The rest of SG-14 listened in shock and amazement that seemed to grow exponentially as the story unfolded. Blair was just getting to the phone call this morning and the information General Hammond had given him about Brackett when Enqueri suddenly turned his head expectantly towards the door.
Blair broke off and followed his Sentinel's gaze. After a second everyone else did too.
When Jack and Daniel entered the room a moment later, Blair breathed a sigh of relief. He had been half-afraid it had been Brackett approaching the room. Jack and Daniel's appearance dispersed that fear as well as the increasing worry he'd been feeling for his friends' whereabouts.
Jack seemed taken aback at the collective stares facing him and Daniel as they came in. "What?" he asked. "Do I have a milk moustache or something?"
"How are you doing, sir?" Sam asked the question for them all.
"Oh I'm just peachy, Carter. You mind not breathing so loudly?" Jack moved to take a seat, Daniel following a step behind, as if attached by an invisible line.
"Your senses giving you that much trouble?" Blair asked, looking over the Colonel intently. What he saw was someone who was a bit tired, who was obviously under stress but still holding it together. Jack didn't look like he was about ready to fall apart at least.
Daniel on the other hand...
If Jack looked tired, Daniel looked exhausted, with dark smudges underneath his eyes standing out in sharp contrast to his pale skin. And where Jack looked justifiably stressed, Daniel looked like someone about to reach the end of his rope.
Alarmed, Blair straightened in his chair, automatically starting to reach out to his friend in concern, only to stop when Jack stiffened and laid a hand protectively, almost possessively, on Daniel's shoulder. For his part Daniel sighed and seemed to lean into the touch even as his expression became more miserable than ever.
"Nah, not really," Jack said, answering Blair's earlier question, still touching Daniel. "They've settled down a lot since last night. They're just more..." he paused, seeming to search for the word he wanted, "there. You know?"
"Yeah, sorta," Blair answered. He turned his attention to man sitting beside Jack. "How about you, Daniel?" he asked, keeping his voice gentle, the tone he used when guiding Enqueri. "You okay?"
Daniel looked up, freezing when he noticed every eye in the room now focused on him. For a moment he looked even more stricken. "I-"
He broke off as General Hammond briskly entered the room. "Good morning people." He took his seat at the head of the table. "You're all here. Excellent. Then we can begin."
Blair bit back a curse as he watched Daniel very atypically withdraw into himself at the interruption. Something was definitely wrong here. He had to talk to Daniel as soon as he got a chance. In private, or as privately as they could get with two sentinels no doubt hanging on their every word.
Enqueri he wasn't worried about. Jack, though, seemed to be becoming very protective of Daniel. Which was a good thing -- sentinels were supposed to be protective of their guides -- but if he was becoming overprotective...
'Stop it,' he told himself firmly. 'Can't do anything about it now except worry about it. Wait until you find out what the problem is, *then* worry.'
He focused on his surroundings again, suddenly becoming aware that Enqueri was eyeing *him* with concern. 'Great. Now we've got two sentinels with protective instincts in overdrive.'
The thought inspired mental pictures of the two sentinels squaring off and fighting it out while he and Daniel tried futilely to pull them back. He winced and shivered slightly, finding even the thought of such a possibility unsettling.
Then Enqueri cocked his head to the side, frowned, and reached out and touched Blair's arm. And just like that, Blair found his emotions and his thoughts settling.
He smiled his thanks to his Sentinel, muttering under his breath, "One of these days I'm gonna figure out how you do that." Enqueri just looked smugly pleased; across the table Jack was giving him a confused look.
All this had taken place in less than a minute; Hammond was only now starting to brief them about the mission. Moving his arm closer to Enqueri to maintain contact, Blair turned his attention to the General's words.
"You've all been filled in on the circumstances leading us all here?" When he got a bunch of affirmative nods he continued. "Good. I've been informed that NID are interested in finding out more information about both the sentinel phenomena and the device that imparted these senses on Colonel O'Neill. So I'm going to give it to them."
That seemed to get through to Daniel as nothing else had to that point. He straightened in his seat, his face alarmed. "You can't sir!" Without even seeming to realize it, he was putting his body in front of Jack's, instinctively seeking to protect the other man.
"Easy Dr. Jackson," the General soothed. "I'm not. At least not the way you seem to be thinking. Just hear me out, okay?"
Jack reached out and touched Daniel's arm and the anthropologist seemed to relax slightly. "Go on," he told the General though his eyes were still wary.
"The NID think the best way to gain this information is to study those who have been affected -- Colonel O'Neill and possibly Enqueri." Hammond nodded towards each of the men as he named them. Blair bit his tongue to keep from uttering his own denial at that; even the thought was more unsettling than he wanted to admit.
The General continued speaking. "I disagree. In my experience the best way to gain information is to go the source. In this case this 'Heimdal's Hall' on PK9755. Which is why I'm assigning SG-1 and SG-14 to return and do as in-depth research on the place as you can. You will leave immediately upon the ending of this briefing."
Blair grinned at the order, as the others around him showed various degrees of surprise. He'd expected something like this from Hammond's phone call earlier but it was still nice to have it confirmed.
Glancing across the table Blair surmised that Jack and Daniel hadn't had the benefit of advance information. Jack was smiling a little, shaking his head as he looked at the General. It was a brilliant strategy after all, getting them out of the way by obeying the very order that put them in jeopardy. Just not in the way Brackett had planned. It was deserving of the admiration that Jack was obviously showing.
Daniel... Daniel looked flabbergasted. He had obviously been so prepared for the worst, that this reprieve had come as a complete -- but welcome -- shock.
"There goes the three day leave," Rafe muttered mournfully.
Hammond, along with everyone else pretended to ignore that statement. The General looked around the table. "Any questions?"
"Uhm, yeah," Daniel said, finally bestirring himself. "What exactly is our mission objective? To research the place's history? To figure out the Hall's technology? To bring back the secret of how to make a sentinel? What?"
"Your objective is to find out as much as you can about both the Hall and its builders, especially if they are the Asgard. How and what you study and focus on within those parameters is up to you, Doctor."
"Hear that Sandy?" Megan asked, smiling at her teammate. "You've got carte blanche!"
"Yeah," Blair replied, getting excited about the assignment in spite of himself. "We might even teach Rafe something," he added with a grin, trying to slip back into normal mission mode.
He heard a small snicker from beside him though Enqueri's expression remained neutral.
"What's the time limit sir? How long do we have?" Captain Carter was asking.
"That's up in the air right now, Captain," Hammond replied. "Just send regular reports and we'll let you know."
*That* was unusual. Blair couldn't remember the last time they'd been given a mission with an open-ended duration. Even on most of the research missions there had been an ultimate deadline. It was becoming more than apparent that Hammond was doing everything he could to thwart whatever Brackett had planned.
From the looks on the faces on SG-1 it was as unusual a circumstance for them as well.
"If there are no more questions then...?" the General asked leadingly. When no one spoke, he nodded firmly. "Dismissed. Report to the gate room in 30 minutes for embarkation."
Blair watched as General Hammond took his leave and the meeting broke up. There was a general murmur of voices as the members of SG-1 and SG-14 started planning what they would need to take with them and what they had to do to be ready to go at the appointed time.
Jack was involved in the conversations as much as anyone but Daniel had once again withdrawn into himself, looking miserable.
At least he tried to. Blair wasn't the only one who had noticed Daniel's moodiness and his teammates did their best to draw him out, asking him questions and teasing him about the upcoming mission. Jack, in particular, seemed determined to lift his friend's depression.
Blair spun his head around to look at his team's Captain. "I'm sorry Simon, what did you say?"
Simon rolled his eyes. "I said that if you have any research books or materials you want to bring, you better go pack them now."
"Right." He looked back at Daniel, but SG-1 had seemed to have succeeded at getting him involved; the other anthropologist was in the middle of explaining some old Norse legend and was back to his usually animated self.
Still, Daniel's earlier reactions were enough to make Blair resolve to keep a closer eye on his friend. And his friend's sentinel.
Enqueri's voice broke Blair out of his thoughts. 'Guess he's not the only one who zones in this relationship,' he reflected wryly. He turned to his sentinel with a questioning expression.
"Research materials?" Enqueri prodded. "We don't have much time."
Oh. Right. Getting his brain in gear, Blair made a mental list of what may prove useful. "Most of the stuff I'll need is in our quarters," he said, getting to his feet. "The rest are classified reports but I should be able to download copies into my laptop." He glanced at the clock on the wall. "It's going to be tight to gather everything though."
Enqueri nodded, also standing. "We should get moving then."
Blair started towards the door, then paused, looking back at Jack and Daniel. He *really* wanted to talk to them before they left, ask how they were adjusting, try to head any potential problems off at the pass, and find out exactly what had put that expression of such misery on Daniel's face in the first place. But there just wasn't any time.
He felt Enqueri's hand on his shoulder, the simple contact conveying understanding and reassurance. "They'll be all right, Chief," he said softly. "At least for the moment. We'll corner them later."
There was something about the certainty of the statement that made Blair's lips twitch upwards. When his sentinel used that tone there was never any doubt that what he said would come to pass. Blair no longer had any doubts that Jack and Daniel would talk to him about whatever was going wrong -- whether they wanted to or not. His smile widened. And he wouldn't even have to do the pestering.
The good cheer lasted all the way to their quarters, and only dispersed as Blair became preoccupied with sorting through his research material for what might prove useful and worth taking with them. As always the double constraints of time and space allowed made the enterprise a frustrating one.
As he dithered, trying to decide which texts and papers he could do without and promising himself yet again that he'd transfer them all over onto computer discs the second he had some free time, Enqueri was calmly packing the non-research related possessions they would be taking with them.
It was their normal division of labor, one that they had never discussed but just kind of naturally fell into. They hadn't needed to discuss it, anymore than Enqueri needed to ask Blair what the younger man wanted packed in the way of clothes or other paraphernalia. It was more than just the usual routines that develop between longtime friends or even longtime lovers. It was almost a sixth sense each had for what the other was doing and what the other needed. When he thought about it at all Blair just assumed it was part of the whole sentinel-guide package, but mostly he didn't think about it. Mostly he just took it for granted the ease with which they worked together.
Idly he wondered if Jack and Daniel would develop that same ease.
Or if they would even want to.
"You're still thinking about them."
Enqueri's tone held no censure or accusation, just a plain statement of fact.
Blair felt slightly embarrassed anyway. Caught up once again in his favorite obsession. "Yeah I was. Sorry. It's just..." he shrugged. "Seeing another sentinel and guide pair just makes me look at us and what we have all the more closely. It really is amazing y'know? I tend to forget that in the day-to-day stuff. Take you for granted." He smiled at Enqueri. "I shouldn't do that."
His sentinel gave him a fond smile. "You don't," he assured him. "Far from it. You've made me look with new eyes on what I am and what I can do. Made me feel the wonder of it anew. Like I did when I was a child."
That gave Blair an opening to bring up a subject that somehow he and Enqueri had never gotten around to discussing. "Were you born with your senses?"
Enqueri shrugged. "Don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?" Blair asked frowning.
"Just that. I don't know. I don't remember anything of my life before I was found by the Chopec."
"Wait a second. What do you mean 'found by the Chopec'? You weren't born into their tribe?"
Enqueri shook his head. "No. I was about seven when the Chopec took me in. They found me by the Stargate. I was a gift from the gods, they believed, and so I was told."
Blair stared at his Sentinel, his mind whirling. "That would mean..."
"That the Chopec world was not the one I was born to, just as the Chopec people were not the people I was born to. Yes, I know."
"Why didn't you ever mention this before?" Blair asked plaintively, his mind racing as he assimilated this new information and all its possible implications.
"You never asked." At the look Blair sent him for that Enqueri elaborated. "It never seemed that important, Chief. That was the way all the Chopec's sentinels had appeared. I was sent by the gods. That was what I was raised to believe. I was never given a reason to doubt it. Until..." he voice trailed off.
"Until we showed up and the goa'uld attacked," Blair finished for him.
Enqueri nodded. "Yes."
"You could've said something then." Without his meaning it to, a sulky undertone of hurt had crept into his voice.
There was silence for a moment. "I could've," Enqueri finally agreed with a sigh. "But Chief... Blair... I wasn't sure how you or your people would react. Would they send me away? I already thought you were only acting as my guide out of duty, I wasn't sure if this would change things, make them worse." His voice got softer. "And after we fully bonded and I knew how you really felt, well I just wanted a new start. This is my world now, I didn't want to think about the past." He met Blair's eyes. "And truly, in my heart, I really didn't feel it was important, crazy as that must sound to you."
"Actually," Blair replied, reaching out to touch Enqueri's arm, "it doesn't sound crazy at all. Everybody your whole life had dealt with it so matter-of-factly that it just wasn't a big deal to you. And you had so much weirdness to get used to here that the last thing you'd want to do would be to go looking for weirdness in what was for you completely ordinary events in your past."
Enqueri nodded again, as he silently digested that. "Does that mean I'm forgiven?" he asked finally, quirking an eyebrow.
Blair was a little startled by the question. "There's nothing really to forgive, but if there is, yeah of course. Always."
He was rewarded with a smile so bright he was tempted to reach for his sunglasses. 'I'd forgive you anything for a look like that,' he thought, smiling back without even thinking about it.
But time was short so such thoughts would have to wait until they could properly be explored. Instead Blair turned his mind back to the matter at hand. "Do you remember when the Chopec found you?" he asked curiously.
"Yes," Enqueri replied. "Well... mostly. I was asleep when they actually found me. Curled up on top of the message stone near the 'Gate, the one that spoke of sentinels?"
Blair nodded; he remembered the stone and his excitement when he had translated it vividly, only to meet the real thing minutes later.
"I remember waking up and seeing this incredibly kind looking man leaning over me. He had the most wonderful smile -- kinda like yours, Chief. His name was Remigo; he was the Chopec's shaman -- and Incacha's father. A vision had told him to go to the 'Gate. And there I was. He was the one who raised me. Treated me like a son, especially when it became apparent that Incacha was going to be my guide."
Blair smiled at the look on Enqueri's face. These were obviously good memories. "You know, we've never really discussed your childhood..."
Enqueri shrugged. "Not much to tell. I was a child. I played, I learned, I grew up."
"Happens to the best of us, man," Blair quipped, which earned him an eye roll and a playful swat.
He dodged out of the way with a grin before turning serious again. "Do you remember anything from before the Chopec found you?"
Enqueri shook his head.
"Nothing?" Blair pressed. "You had to have come through the Stargate, do you remember that? Or who sent you? Or where you were sent from? Or your biological parents? Or-"
"Nothing, Chief. I don't remember anything. My first memory is opening my eyes and seeing Remigo smiling at me. Before that, everything's a blank."
Blair resisted the urge to ask, "You sure you don't remember?" one more time. It was obvious from Enqueri's expression that he did not and pestering the man would not suddenly change that.
Instead he said, "Does that bother you?"
His sentinel did not answer for a moment, obviously giving the question serious thought. "It hasn't," he finally said slowly. "That's always just been the way things were. But now..."
"Now I wonder." Enqueri turned back to his packing, obviously unable to stand still while they discussed this. "This planet that we're going to, the things that SG-1 found, the hall, the sentinel making device... I wonder if that could be where I got my powers, if that is my homeworld, if the people the goa'uld slaughtered there are my people, even maybe my family. I wonder."
That possibility had occurred to Blair as well. The troubled expression on his sentinel's face made him wish he could either confirm or deny it. Either way he'd know what to say. As it was...
"I don't know what to tell you Enqueri. It could be. Maybe we'll find something on the planet that will tell us one way or the other. If it is the place you came from, maybe there'll even be something to jog your memory."
"Maybe," Enqueri conceded. "And if there's not?"
"If there's not and you still want to try and find out, we can always try stimulating your memories ourselves. There's some meditation and hypnotic techniques that can be helpful in accessing lost or repressed memories. We can try some of those if you'd like."
"Maybe," Enqueri repeated. He didn't sound all that enthused.
Blair decided not to push. "Well it's just a suggestion," he said with a shrug, turning back to his own packing.
Enqueri nodded, still obviously worrying at the subject. "It's not that I don't *want* to find out, to remember," he ventured hesitantly. "It's just that..."
"You don't like the idea of anybody messing with your mind," Blair finished for him. "Yeah, I know." He smiled reassuringly at him. "Nobody's saying you have to do anything, Enqueri." He stuffed the last books into his bag and began working to close it. "You don't need to make any decisions right now anyway. Think it over. If you want to try it sometime just let me know. If not, that's cool too."
Finally getting the zipper worked shut on the large duffel, he sighed and straightened. "There! That's done. You know, I think I'm getting better at the packing thing. I got about a third of my research material squeezed in this time."
"And I suppose you expect me to carry it," Enqueri said, looking pointedly at the bag.
Blair just grinned at him.
Enqueri muttered under his breath about how "sentinel" did not mean "pack mule" but he did pick up and shoulder the heavy load. "Come on, Chief. This isn't getting any lighter."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming." He quickly grabbed the other -- significantly lighter -- bags that Enqueri had left for him and headed for the door.
A hand on his shoulder stopped him before he could open it. He turned and looked up into a serious blue gaze. "I *will* think about it, Blair," Enqueri said softly. "It's just... I will think about it."
"I know," Blair replied just as softly, smiling up at the man. "Come on," he said turning back to the door. "Race you to the Gate Room!" He took off running before Enqueri could reply.
He was halfway there before he realized he'd become so wrapped up in his own sentinel's problems, he hadn't even thought about Jack and Daniel once.
Daniel hovered a few feet behind Jack and watched as he discussed with Captain Banks the details of the mission organization.
Jack seemed perfectly fine, nothing in his appearance or demeanor hinting of his new sentinel status. He was moving with his characteristic grace, carrying out the preparations with his usual efficiency. Even his trademark dry humor was very much in evidence. His senses seemed to be, for the moment, completely under control and he looked and acted perfectly normal. In less than 24 hours it seemed Jack had totally adjusted to his new condition.
Daniel wished he could say the same for himself.
He wasn't handling this whole business nearly as well as Jack seemed to be. And he wasn't exactly sure he could put a name to the reason for that.
Part of it was guilt, he was sure, for landing them both in this situation. It wasn't something he could just stop feeling, no matter what Jack told him. All that did was make him feel guilty over his guilt.
Another part was fear. No, not just fear -- stark raving terror. Terror that Jack would get into trouble and he wouldn't know what to do, terror that he would fail at some critical point and that Jack would pay the price.
But the worst fear was one of more longstanding duration. It had faded over the last year or so, but now it was coming back stronger than ever, made even more so by its long absence.
The fear of losing Jack's respect.
The fear of losing Jack's friendship.
The fear of losing Jack.
But that wasn't what was throwing Daniel so off-balance. If all that was bothering him was guilt and fear he wouldn't have any doubt of his ability to handle it. Those two emotions were not exactly new to him after all.
No, what was unexpected and what Daniel had been totally unprepared for was something altogether different.
When he had woke up that morning, in Jack's house, in Jack's bed, with Jack wrapped around him, the first thing he had felt was a sense of contentment and belonging he had rarely, if ever, felt before. And for the few minutes it took for him to completely wake up it was the most wonderful feeling he'd ever had.
Guilt and fear he was prepared for, could deal with. But not this sense of... rightness.
He tried to ignore it, to put it out of his mind, but that was proving extremely difficult if not impossible.
Especially when Jack kept touching him.
As if sensing his thoughts, Jack did so now, reaching out and casually touching him on the arm. "You okay?" he asked, as Captain Banks moved off to see to his own team's readiness.
Daniel briefly met Jack's eyes then looked away, the gaze too full of concern and worry for him to maintain. "I'm supposed to be asking you that," he muttered.
Jack of course had no trouble hearing him. "I'm not the one who looks like somebody just ran over my puppy."
"No," Daniel replied, with a small smile in spite of himself. "Not yet. Not quite." He suddenly pictured Jack with long floppy ears and a tail wagging a mile a minute and had to suppress hysterical laughter. "I'm all right," he finally said to his concerned friend, once he got the wild guffaws under control.
"You're sure." Jack didn't look convinced.
"I'm sure." He gave himself a shake mentally. 'Get it together,' he told himself sternly. 'Jack has enough to worry about without adding you to the list.'
With an effort of will Daniel managed to push all his conflicting feelings to the back of his mind. He would try and deal with them later. Much later, if he had his way.
The key, he thought, would be to keep busy. Luckily, this mission would provide the perfect opportunity for that.
Speaking of which, there were a few books in his office that might prove useful. He got about five feet in that direction before stopping short.
It was as if he was on a tether and had come to the end of it. Try as he might he could not seem to take another step.
It had to be the sentinel-guide bond, Daniel realized. Too much distance between sentinel and guide was less than a picnic for them both. In fact, it could be downright dangerous. Now, either the bond or his own subconscious reaction to it -- he couldn't be certain which -- was making *sure* they stayed together.
Great. Like he didn't feel trapped enough already.
Wait a minute. Trapped? He blinked. He didn't really feel trapped by this, did he?
He glanced back to see Jack looking at him puzzledly. "Yeah?"
"What are you doing?"
'Testing the limits of my leash.' The words popped into Daniel's mind but he firmly pushed them aside. That was *not* how he felt.
Instead he said, "I need to get some papers and stuff from my office."
"Okay," Jack replied. They stood there looking at each for a moment, then Jack's eyes widened in comprehension. "Oh. Right. Forgot we're supposed to be attached at the hip."
'Glad one of us can,' Daniel thought rather miserably, as Jack walked over to where he was standing.
"You're the Guide," Jack said, gesturing down the corridor in the direction of Daniel's office. "Guess that means you lead."
Shooting Jack a look, Daniel obediently started down the hallway, Jack a few steps behind.
That began to make him nervous, when Jack didn't catch up and walk beside him. "What are you doing back there?" he finally asked glancing over his shoulder at the colonel.
Jack spread his hands in an 'isn't it obvious' gesture. "Enjoying the view."
Daniel felt his face heat up. "Oh," he said, facing forward again. He continued walking and tried to ignore the feeling of Jack's eyes on him.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when the hand landed on his shoulder. He spun around, glaring at Jack. "Don't *do* that!"
"Sorry," Jack said appeasingly. "Little too much caffeine Danny-boy?"
Daniel laughed humorlessly. "I am way beyond caffeine jitters here Jack."
"Hey." The concern and worry was back in Jack's eyes again. "Calm down." He reached out and laid his hand against Daniel's back, rubbing soothingly. "Your heart's going a mile a minute."
"I'm okay," Daniel told him. God, how many times had he said that to Jack today?
Jack looked like he believed it about as much as Daniel himself did. "Come on," he said, his hand slipping from Daniel's back and closing around his upper arm. He began dragging Daniel down the corridor towards the anthropologist's office.
Daniel stumbled a little before he managed to get his feet coordinated. "Jack wha-?" he asked as he concentrated on staying upright as he was dragged along.
"We need to talk and I'm not going to do it out here in the corridor."
Daniel felt relief and terror in equal measure at that. Relief because he knew Jack was right, they did need to talk. And terror, because he wasn't sure he was ready to.
Though it didn't look like he was being given much of a choice. Jack didn't let go of his arm until they were inside his office with the door closed.
He looked closer. And locked.
Nope, no choice at all.
Jack leaned with his back against the door, and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked like he was settling in for the duration. "Well?"
"Talk. Right." Putting off the inevitably a few seconds longer Daniel sat down behind his desk, and idly began straightening the many books and papers piled there.
"What do you want to talk about?"
Jack gave him an exasperated look. "You've got to be kidding me."
"The sentinel-guide bond," Daniel said, his voice surprisingly steady, considering how badly his insides were churning.
"No, you think?"
Daniel winced a bit at the sarcastic tone. "You seem to be handling everything okay so far."
"But you're not."
He shrugged. What could he say? Jack was right.
Jack's eyes caught and held his from across the room. "Talk to me, Danny."
Feeling his defenses weaken at the plea, Daniel looked away. "It's just something I have to come to terms with myself," he said, in one last ditch effort to avoid this conversation.
"If our positions were reversed," Jack asked, tilting his head to one side as he observed his friend, "would you let me get away with that?"
He half-smiled. "No," he admitted.
"Do you really expect me to do any less?"
"No," Daniel repeated softly.
Jack nodded. "Good. Then can we skip the me badgering you into talking bit and get to the part where you tell me what's wrong?"
Again Daniel smiled slightly at Jack's words, a smile that faded quickly when he finally admitted there was no way out of this but to talk. But how could he explain it to Jack what he barely understood himself?
"Daniel?" Jack prodded after he'd been silent too long.
All he could do at this point was try. "I'm not sure how this is going to come out so bear with me here," he pleaded, looking up and meeting Jack's eyes.
Jack nodded. "Okay."
"I don't like the way this bond is making me feel," Daniel blurted after a couple of false starts.
"That's a start. How is it making you feel?" When Daniel didn't answer right away he added, quietly, "It's about the sex thing, isn't it?"
"Isn't it bothering you?"
Jack opened his mouth and shut it. He looked at Daniel for a long moment before answering. "Not as much as you, apparently."
Daniel nodded. "That's the problem."
Now Jack's expression clouded. "You don't think-"
"No!" Daniel denied vehemently. "I know you'd never hurt me Jack. It's just..." He trailed off with a sigh, again finding the words he needed elusive.
"It feels... right," Daniel mumbled, looking down at his hands.
Jack, of course, had no problem hearing every word. He walked over and perched on the edge of Daniel's desk, then reached out and, with a hand under Daniel's chin, gently tilted the other man's face up to meet his. "Right?" he asked gently.
Caught in Jack's gaze, Daniel could only nod.
"And this is a bad thing?" Jack asked, moving closer.
Daniel felt his heartrate pick up as Jack invaded his personal space. "I-I don't know," he stammered, shivering. In fear? Or anticipation? Even he didn't know.
Jack breathed, "Let's find out," then closed the remaining distance between them. Daniel moaned once in denial then Jack's lips touched his and he gave up thinking.
He just felt.
All his fear, worry and apprehension melted away beneath the heat of that kiss and Daniel found himself leaning forward, reaching out and wrapping his arms around Jack's neck like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Because that's what it felt like.
When they finally parted all Daniel could do was look at Jack through dazed eyes. Jack who was sitting there with a smug grin on his face. Jack, whose eyes shone with affection as he returned Daniel's gaze.
"So?" Jack asked. "Is it a bad thing?"
"I..." His eyes closed as Jack reached out and caressed his cheek. "N-no..." he stuttered. 'It isn't,' he added to himself. 'Even if part of me is still screaming it is.'
Jack's smile widened. Even without opening his eyes, Daniel somehow sensed that. But he did open them just to confirm it. Yep, Jack was definitely wearing a shit-eating grin. Daniel found himself grinning back.
But before Jack could move in for another kiss, Daniel held up a forestalling hand. "We better take it slow," he advised, adding when he saw the stubbornness in Jack's expression, "Remember what happened last night? You zoning with your tongue down my throat isn't exactly the stuff romantic moments are made of."
Jack grimaced at that. "Sorry."
"It's okay," Daniel replied. "No permanent harm done, aside from scaring me out of five years of life. But we should take it slow so it doesn't happen again."
"Slow. Right." Jack paused. "But we are going to... y'know. Keep moving forward."
Daniel hesitated, part of him still certain this was a mistake, but one look at Jack and he knew he couldn't go back now, even if he wanted to. "Yeah," he said. "But slowly."
Jack nodded. "I can do slowly."
"Good." Though if Jack kept looking at him like that, Daniel wasn't sure he trusted his own ability to do so.
Luckily for him, Jack glanced away, checking the time on his watch. "But right now we got to move fast if we're going to make our mission departure time." He stood up. "Come on. Grab the English/Asgard dictionary or whatever it is you need and let's go."
Daniel blinked, mentally shifting gears. "Right." He quickly gathered up a couple of notebooks that had his research on Norse runes and the Asgardian language, shoved them into a weather-beaten leather bag and turned back to Jack. "I'm ready I guess," he said, glancing back over the room, wondering if there was something else that he could take that may prove useful.
"You can't take the whole office Danny."
"I know," he replied, though he was still dithering.
Jack heaved a sigh and grabbed Daniel's arm, dragging him from the room.
"You plan on dragging me around like this for the rest of our lives Jack?" Daniel asked, his humor tweaked by the picture of Jack dragging him into his office then ten minutes later dragging him back out the exact same way.
"Only until we get the leash fitted," Jack teased.
Unfortunately the joke brought back what had happened earlier for Daniel, when he tried to go to his office by himself and had been unable to get more than a few feet away from Jack. With that replaying through his mind Jack's joke no longer seemed very funny.
He forced them both to a stop and yanked his arm from Jack's grasp.
Jack turned and looked askance at him.
"I'm not your property! Not some kind of pet you can drag around!" Several passersby turned and looked at them and Daniel realized he had been a bit louder than he intended.
No matter though. This was something he needed to get clear right now.
Jack was staring at him wide-eyed, shock and disbelief plain to read on his features. He opened and closed his mouth several times before finally managing to say something. "Daniel, I'd never- You're not- I don't-" He stopped, took a deep breath, then tried again. "You don't really think that's how I see you do you?"
The pleading look in his eyes went straight to Daniel's heart. But he couldn't just let it drop. "It's how I feel sometimes."
They stood there in silence for a moment, just staring at each other. Jack started to reach out to touch Daniel but drew his hand back at the last moment. "I'm sorry," he finally said.
Daniel finally relented, shaking his head. "It's not your fault, Jack. I just... need to work some things out in my own head. But can we lay off the leash jokes in the meantime?"
"Ah. Sure. That was in kind of bad taste wasn't it? Sorry."
He accepted this second apology with a nod and gestured at the hallway. "We better get to the Gate Room."
"Right." Again Jack reached out as if to touch Daniel and again pulled back at the last second. Instead he gestured for Daniel to proceed him. "Let's go."
They made it to the Gate Room without further incident, though the slight awkwardness between the two men remained.
Daniel repressed a sigh; it seemed every time they started feeling comfortable with each other and their new connection, something would happen and they'd end up further apart than ever.
This time though, he knew he had no one to blame but himself; though his feelings of being trapped were real and needed to be dealt with somehow, biting Jack's head off over a one-liner was definitely not a productive coping mechanism.
He almost stopped the man again to try and apologize, but what could he say? The joke *had* hurt, he *was* feeling rather trapped at the moment, and there *were* times he felt like less than an equal. He could just see it now: "Sorry Jack, I meant everything I said, I just should've said it nicer." Oh yeah, that would be a great apology.
Consequently, Daniel held his silence all the way to the Gate Room.
Once there, they were both so caught up in last minute preparations that even if they had wanted to talk they wouldn't have been able to. Not with any privacy.
Jack again was coordinating things with Captain Banks so Daniel went over and double-checked with Sam and Sergeant Rafe what they were bringing scientific-wise. He wasn't surprised to see that they seemed to be bringing everything but the kitchen sink. Actually, he wouldn't be surprised if he saw one of those listed on a manifest either.
"Man, is there going to be anything left here when we leave?"
Daniel turned and saw Blair standing behind him staring at the rather impressive pile of equipment they were going over.
"Just trying to head off the Murphy's Law of mission supplies, Hairboy," Rafe told him with a grin.
Blair grinned back. "And that would be?"
"That the one piece of equipment absolutely vital for the successful completion of the mission is the one piece that wasn't packed."
He gestured behind him, where Enqueri was standing with a large duffel bag at his feet. "Think you can find some room for my books?"
"Yeah, probably," Rafe replied. "Here, hand it over."
Enqueri hefted the bag with one hand and held it out to his teammate who reached for it...
And dropped it like a stone when Enqueri let go. "Jeezus Sandburg!" Rafe exclaimed. "What did you do, pack the whole damned library?"
"Hey, I'm just trying to head off Murphy's Law of research," Blair replied, spreading his hands innocently.
Rafe made a face. "Which is?"
Blair grinned. "That the one piece of reference material I need to be able to crack the mystery is the one sitting back on my desk at home."
"So you clean your desk before you leave," Rafe shot back.
"I did. It's all in there."
Over the strangling noises Rafe made in response to that, Sam said, "Don't worry, Blair. We'll fit it in somewhere."
"Thanks Sam," Blair replied. He then turned his attention to Daniel, giving his friend the once-over. Daniel fought the urge to squirm.
"Well you're looking slightly better than you did earlier," Blair finally said, "but we still need to talk."
Blair led his unresisting and unhappy friend off to the side so they could speak with a modicum of privacy.
He stared at Daniel for a long moment, noting the resigned turn of his mouth, the depression in his eyes and the fear that was almost totally hidden underneath it.
Something was definitely going wrong, probably sentinel -- or in this case, guide -- related and Blair was determined to find out what it was.
Knowing that the only thing that would put that expression on his own face would be trouble with Enqueri, Blair applied that logic to his friend. "Are you having problems with Jack?"
Daniel flinched and then sighed. "Yes," he said. "No. I don't know. Everything is so mixed up."
Blair reached out and touched Daniel's shoulder comfortingly. "Tell me about it?" he offered, projecting concern and a desire to help with everything he had.
For a second he felt Daniel tense up and watched as his expression closed down, and Blair was sure he wasn't going to speak. But then, his friend seemed to relax all at once and looked at him with such naked misery that Blair's heart went out to him all over again.
"You know," Daniel began in a conversational tone wholly at odds with his expression, "I used to envy what you and Enqueri have, the connection you share. I used to wonder if I'd ever experience anything remotely the same. I was thinking that right before we left on the mission yesterday. Yesterday? God it seems like a million years ago." He gave a half-laugh that held nothing of humor in it. "Guess I should've been careful what I wished for, huh?"
He sought out Blair's gaze. "How do you handle it Blair?" he asked earnestly.
"Handle what?" Blair responded. There were many different things that could be giving Daniel problems. All of them, of course, were related to the bond.
"Everything," was the less than helpful answer.
"Uhm..." Blair shifted in place. "Can you be maybe a bit more specific?"
"The responsibility. The lack of privacy. The-" Daniel suddenly clamed up.
A moment's hesitation and then softly, "The feelings."
Ah. "The attraction," Blair clarified. "The *sexual* attraction."
Daniel blushed. "Uhm, yeah."
"I thought you and Jack had decided not to-"
"We had. But-"
"I... We... Jack..." Daniel's blush was deepening as he stammered. "We can't seem to help it. It just feels... right."
Blair nodded in understanding, remembering that feeling all too well himself. "And this is bothering you?"
Daniel just looked at him like he was nuts.
'Right. If it weren't bothering him he wouldn't have brought it up. Lame question, Sandburg.'
Before he could reformulate the question into something not quite so idiotic, Daniel asked hesitantly, "How do you tell the real feelings from the ones that are just because of the bond?"
Blair frowned and shook his head. "I'm not sure I understand what you're asking..."
"I don't know if I really feel what I feel or if the bond's making me feel this way."
"Oh." Blair thought frantically for an answer to that. Well for an answer that wasn't "I don't know." He somehow got the feeling that wouldn't go over very well.
The trouble was, this wasn't something he had ever given much thought to. He loved Enqueri and Enqueri loved him. That was all he needed to know. It didn't matter whether that had its start because of some sentinel imperative or not because it was as real as any other emotion he'd ever experienced. Moreso even.
Maybe that was the way to go. "What you're feeling, does it feel real?" Blair asked. "Genuine?"
Now it was Daniel's turn to look puzzled. "If it didn't feel real it wouldn't be a problem."
"If it *feels* real does it really matter what the cause is?" He paused. "You cared for Jack before this, right?"
"Of course I did! What kind of question is that?"
Before Blair could do so much as open his mouth to respond there was suddenly 200 pounds of colonel hovering protectively over Daniel and looking suspiciously at Blair.
"There a problem here?" Jack asked his guide quietly, his hand seemingly automatically reaching out to rest against the small of Daniel's back.
And before Daniel could answer, Blair became aware of *his* sentinel suddenly appearing, hovering protectively over *him*. "Something going on here?" Enqueri asked, shooting a warning look at Jack.
Blair rolled his eyes. "Hey guys chill," he said, addressing both bristling sentinels. "Daniel and I were just talking. Turn down the protector instincts okay?"
"You all right Daniel?" Jack asked, his stance not relaxing a bit.
Daniel sighed and then seemed to make a concerted effort to gather what dignity he could and wrap it around him like a cloak. "I'm fine Jack," he replied, his voice even and steady, betraying none of his earlier distress. "It was just a talk."
Slowly, bit by bit, Jack relaxed. Behind him Blair could sense Enqueri doing likewise.
He let his body untense as he breathed a sigh of relief. That could've gotten very messy.
An awkward silence fell among the four as they stood there looking at each other. Blair shifted from foot to foot as he frantically tried to think of something appropriate to say.
He was saved from having to by General Hammond's appearance in the Gate Room. Looking around, the general took in the preparations completed and visually acknowledged the leaders of each team.
"Colonel O'Neill, Captain Banks, are your teams ready to depart?"
"Yes sir," Simon responded, Jack echoing him a few seconds later. Blair glanced at the colonel; he seemed to have taken the opportunity to retreat into his military role, hiding any sentinel reactions he was having.
Hammond once again raked his eyes over the members of both teams, lingering the longest on Daniel and Jack. Finally nodded. "SGs 1 and 14, you have a go."
The control room started dialing in the address as Blair and the others scrambled to double-check all the last minute details.
By the time the words "Chevron seven is locked," came over the speaker and the Stargate activated with a >whoosh<, Blair was standing with the rest of his team, bouncing on his heels as he always did just prior to going on a mission. Things felt almost normal.
That illusion stayed until he saw Jack and Daniel about to step through, suddenly realizing they hadn't warned them about how a sentinel's senses react to gate travel. He stiffened and stepped forward, the warning on his lips but it was too late, they'd already step through.
"What?" Enqueri asked, as they started up the ramp with the rest of SG-14.
"Forgot to warn them about sensory overload in the wormhole," Blair muttered. "Jack's going to be wasted when he comes out."
"He'll survive, Chief." Enqueri casually ran a hand lightly down Blair's back as he replied.
Blair shivered at the soft touch but didn't quite lose his train of thought. "Daniel's... uhm...Daniel's going to freak though."
Enqueri guided Blair towards the Stargate, as their teammates went through. "The sooner we get through then, the sooner you can unfreak him."
"Unfreak huh?" Blair gave a half smile. "Yeah, I guess you're right." With that they both stepped through.
They emerged from the other side to just the situation Blair had predicted taking place. With one notable exception.
Daniel was not freaking.
Instead he was on his knees beside Jack, who was curled up in a fetal position, obviously in great distress.
There was no sign of any of the conflict or confusion that Daniel exhibited earlier. His manner was sure and comforting as he stroked Jack's back, speaking to him in a low steady tone.
It was working too; the tension in Jack's huddled form was visibly relaxing and he was slowing uncurling from his tight ball. Daniel continued his encouragement and reassurance, ignoring the others all standing around watching and worrying.
Blair, aware that the scrutiny, even from friends, would be the last thing that either man would want or need to deal with once Daniel succeeded in pulling Jack out of the overload, decided to see if he could do something about that. Catching Enqueri's eye he nodded towards Simon, Megan and Rafe.
Enqueri nodded and walked over to them and Blair could hear him quietly asking them to give Jack and Daniel some privacy. Blair allowed himself a second to bask in how it felt to have someone who understood him so easily and so well, then turned his attention to other members of SG-1.
Sam glanced at him when he walked over but Teal'c's gaze remained fastened on his teammates.
Sam's eyes were worried. "As soon as he came through the 'Gate, he just...collapsed," she told Blair as he joined them.
"It's a sensory overload," he explained. "The chaos of a wormhole is pretty overwhelming even to our senses, to a sentinel..." He let his voice trail off meaningfully.
"Enqueri hasn't-" Sam began, gesturing at Blair's partner who was already leading the others away.
"He knew what to expect and was prepared for it. Jack wasn't." Blair grimaced. "Partially my fault, I forgot to mention it to them."
"What can we do to help, Blair Sandburg?" Teal'c asked, his gaze still fixed on Jack and Daniel.
"Daniel's doing just fine bringing him out of it," Blair replied. "But it would probably be better if we gave Jack some space and privacy to get his equilibrium back."
"Understood." The jaffa hesitated a second longer in watching his friends before turning and moving purposefully down the trail SG-14 had vanished.
Blair followed with Sam, both of them glancing back once or twice at the two men still huddled together on the ground in front of the Stargate.
Daniel was vaguely aware of his teammates and friends withdrawing, just as he had been vaguely aware of Blair's quiet explanation to them on what had happened to Jack.
He didn't spare any brainpower on either however; for the moment they weren't important. The only thing that was important was bringing Jack back. Everything else could wait.
When they had come through the Stargate, Daniel had sensed that something was not right, even before Jack had collapsed. So when he had, Daniel had been in the right position to catch him and ease him to the ground.
Almost without thinking, Daniel had reacted, reaching out and running a hand in soothing circles over Jack's back while maintaining a steady stream of talk in Jack's ear. He wasn't even aware of what he was saying, just knew somehow that he had to keep saying something.
So he did.
He had no idea how long he'd been speaking when Jack finally stirred, letting out a sigh of relief and blinking up at Daniel dazedly.
"Jack?" Daniel ventured softly, noting idly that his voice was starting to become hoarse. Just how long *had* he been talking?
"Yeah," Jack replied, slowly straightening up, ending up in a sitting position beside where Daniel was kneeling. "Whoa. What a ride."
Jack shrugged. "Guess so. It was... the colors... the sounds..." He shook his head in frustration. "There aren't words."
"So it wasn't bad," Daniel ventured, half questioningly.
That earned him a half-smile. "No not bad," Jack confirmed. "Just... intense." He looked around. "Where is everyone?"
Daniel shrugged. "I'm not sure exactly. Though my guess would be they've started for Heimdal's Hall to set up camp. I was a bit preoccupied when they left so I didn't ask."
"Preoccupied? Oh right, you were doing the guide thing." Jack paused for a moment staring off into the forest in front of him. "Thanks by the way."
"I'm your guide. It's my job," Daniel replied, fidgeting slightly in embarrassment. If he'd been really doing his job as a guide would Jack had blacked out like that in the first place?
Distracted by that train of thought Daniel didn't notice at first his friend's subtle withdrawal, slowly pulling away from him and schooling his face to a neutral expression.
So it took Daniel completely by surprise when Jack stood up, settled his pack and said, completely businesslike, "We better catch up to the others while we still have daylight."
'Huh?' Daniel blinked up at the colonel, wondering what had brought on this sudden change of attitude.
Jack looked back down at him, his face showing nothing but maybe a vague impatience. "You coming?"
Daniel opened his mouth to acquiesce, as he met Jack's gaze with his own. "No."
Then again, maybe acquiesce was too strong a word, he thought wryly, watching the blank mask on Jack's expressions shatter, leaving surprise and confusion in its place.
"What's wrong Jack?" he asked quietly, reaching out a hand to his friend.
The confused expression deepened. "I thought..."
"What did you think?"
"That you wanted me to back off. To give you some space."
'Oh.' This was all due to the argument they'd had before they left. If you could call it an argument. It had been pretty one-sided, with him doing all the yelling and Jack just taking it.
Taking it to heart apparently, he mused, if Jack's current reactions were anything to go by.
'Guess it's time we really hashed this out once and for all,' Daniel thought. 'Before we drive each other crazy.'
Shifting into a more comfortable position, Daniel patted the rock beside him. "Sit down," he said. "We need to talk."
Still looking a bit confused and more than a little wary, Jack complied. Daniel noticed however that the colonel was careful to leave a clear amount of space between them.
Suppressing a frustrated sigh -- at Jack's reactions, or himself for instigating them, he wasn't sure -- Daniel deliberately shifted over, until his leg was brushing Jack's. Much better, he decided.
He felt Jack stiffen briefly before relaxing again, this time more fully. He even leaned a little into Daniel's side. "So talk already," Jack said, sounding halfway between resigned and amused.
'I will as soon as I figure out what to say,' Daniel thought to himself, half hysterically. But he managed to sound more or less calm and collected when he did speak. "This thing between us, this connection, I don't think we can ignore it."
"But you want to," Jack answered.
"I don't know," Daniel replied honestly. His emotions were still so much in a tangle that he wasn't sure what he was feeling, not really. All he knew for sure was that Jack pulling away felt... wrong.
He continued speaking, looking up and meeting Jack's eyes. "But the point is we *can't* ignore it, even if we wanted to."
Jack looked away, staring off into the distance; Daniel found himself wondering what his friend was seeing. Then Jack looked back at him and said with almost painful truthfulness, "I don't want to force you into anything you're not comfortable with."
Daniel felt something inside him twist and relax at that, felt the connection between him and his sentinel grow just that tiny bit stronger. Suddenly his own doubt and fear seemed to fade and he returned Jack's gaze with one that was totally self assured and confident. "You won't," he told him. "You can't."
For the first time he consciously reached out and touched Jack's cheek.
He saw Jack's eyes widen a little and he leaned into Daniel's hand seemingly automatically. "You sure about this Daniel?" Jack's tone was both hesitant and hopeful.
A thrill of uncertainty shot through Daniel as he thought about all "this" entailed, but he didn't hesitate in his answer. "Yes."
His answer seemed to shake Jack; he closed his eyes in something that looked very much like relief and wonder, and Daniel could feel him tremble as they simultaneously leaned towards each other. He was doing a bit of trembling himself, if he was being honest.
When Jack's lips touched his own, Daniel sighed and relaxed into his touch. This kiss was different than the ones that had come before; all of those had come out of instinct, some sentinel-guide drive that Daniel didn't fully comprehend. This one, this time, the kiss was totally voluntary, a conscious decision on both their parts. It was both more hesitant and more meaningful as a result.
It didn't last very long but at the same time seemed to last forever. When they pulled back, Jack was smiling at him and Daniel could feel himself grinning in return. This was right, something in Daniel was telling him, and this time he chose to listen and accept.
Jack had reached up and was combing his fingers through Daniel's hair and it was all Daniel could do to keep from shutting his eyes and purring in contentment. Oh yeah, this was right.
He leaned into the touch, even rubbing his head slightly against Jack's hand like a cat begging to be petted. Jack obliged, chuckling softly. "Never pegged you for such a hedonist Danny," he teased affectionately.
Daniel felt himself blushing at that but he didn't pull away. Jack's petting felt too good. "Yeah, well... it's not like I've had much opportunity to indulge," he replied, eyes going to half-mast as Jack's gentle scalp massage continued.
Jack's hand stilled at that until Daniel made a small involuntary sound of displeasure in the back of his throat. He resumed the caress but his voice held a strange wistfulness when he spoke. "Sorry about that."
"About what?" Daniel asked, his thoughts slightly muddled as he basked in the sensation. Why the hell had he ever fought this?
There was no response, at least no verbal response. But suddenly Jack was pulling Daniel to him and kissing him with an almost desperate passion. Daniel wasn't too sure about the desperate part but the passion was coming through loud and clear.
When Jack finally released him they were both breathing heavily and Daniel was more than slightly shell-shocked. He looked at Jack, wondering where that had come from... and if it was going to happen again. Licking lips that felt swollen and tender Daniel attempted to ask.
"Wha-wha-" He stopped as his voice cracked.
Jack half-reached for him again before pulling back. "Sorry," he apologized, not quite meeting Daniel's eyes.
'Huh?' It took a few seconds for Daniel to figure out that Jack was apologizing for the kiss. The kiss that had almost made Daniel forget his own name. This was just great. Just when he came to terms with this, Jack got skittish. What was it going to take to get them on the same page?
Determined not to let either one of them back off again at this point, Daniel deliberately reached for and pulled Jack into his arms. "Don't be," he said firmly, feeling the stiffness with which Jack was holding himself. "I'm not."
This time it was he who instigated the kiss.
By the time he finally pulled back, Jack's body had once again relaxed and his strange wistful hesitancy was gone. He gave Daniel a funny little lopsided grin and shook his head. "You've certainly got a hell of a way of arguing," he said wryly, running one hand lightly down Daniel's arm to entwine their fingers.
Daniel shrugged, squeezing the hand in his. "Seemed like the best way to get my point across."
Jack's grin widened. "Message received loud and clear, Danny boy." He opened his mouth to say something else but stopped, head cocked to one side as if listening to something.
Which he probably was, Daniel reflected. "Jack?"
When his eyes focused back on Daniel they were filled with real regret. "'Fraid we're going to have to table this 'discussion' for now," he said. "Teal'c and Blair are heading back here to check on us. Guess we've taken a little too much time to get in touch."
Daniel grinned at the unintentional double entendre. "I don't think we could've moved any faster Jack."
Jack looked startled for a second then rolled his eyes. "Come on," he said, getting to his feet. "We better go meet them." He grabbed Daniel's hand and hauled him up and into his arms for another brief kiss. "We can continue this discussion later?" It was more a question than a statement.
"Yeah," Daniel replied, with a half-smile. "Later is good." Jack grinned back and the two men started off down the trail.
Later, Daniel thought. He was quite looking forward to later.
Blair had to admit one thing about military types, and that was that they were damned efficient.
When he had gone with Teal'c to check on Jack and Daniel, the remaining members of the two SG groups were just starting to unpack all the gear for the campsite. Now, as Blair returned to the clearing near the Hall with the others, the camp setup was almost completed.
The work stopped as their presence became known as everyone swarmed around them, wanting to know how Jack was. The colonel endured their scrutiny with grumpy good humor, waving off their concern and insisting he was perfectly fine.
To Blair's eyes that seemed to be true -- for both Jack and Daniel. Whatever had happened when the two men had been alone seemed to be all for the good. There was a certain aura about the two of them now, a...contentment that had been severely lacking before.
There was also more than a slight bit of anticipation in the gazes the two men were exchanging, Blair noted, carefully hiding a smile.
Maybe he wasn't going to have to have that talk with Daniel after all.
The huddle eventually broke up as everyone assured themselves that Jack was none the worse for his 'attack' at the 'Gate. Everyone drifted back to what they were doing before.
Blair joined Enqueri at their tent, which the sentinel had set up while he was gone. Consequently everything had been done with an exacting perfection that put even military precision to shame.
"You know," he said casually, as he sat on one of the bedrolls and deliberately mussed it up, "you could be a bit more...casual with this place."
"Casual," Enqueri repeated. "You mean like you are, Chief?"
The tone was mild enough, nothing in it accusing at all, but Blair flushed anyway. "That wasn't my fault."
Enqueri just raised an eyebrow.
"It wasn't," Blair insisted. "How was I supposed to know that those rodents would find sleeping bags perfect for having baby rodents?"
Enqueri didn't say anything, merely looked at him.
"Okay, maybe I could have been a little more careful about making sure the tent was closed, but..."
"You were distracted." The sentinel's tone was dry.
"Well, yeah. You saw those ruins. Of *course* I was distracted!"
"That's why I do the setup now, Chief," Enqueri responded, then leaned closer his voice dropping in pitch and volume. "The only furry thing I want to share a sleeping bag with is you."
Blair blinked. "You think I'm furry?"
Enqueri reached over and tugged pointedly on his Guide's pony tail. The eyebrow was raised again.
"I like you furry," he whispered. Blair shivered as the tone did interesting things to certain parts of his anatomy.
'God, I'm just like Pavlov's dog,' he thought, laughing at himself. 'He uses *that* tone and I...spring to attention. In more ways than one.'
"What's so funny?" Enqueri asked, having caught the quick flash of humor.
"You. Me. Us. I'm so in tune with you that you can get me going from 0 to 160 with just your voice."
Enqueri smiled and leaned even closer. "And this is humorous?" he asked, nuzzling at Blair's ear.
"Not humorous exactly," Blair replied, his toes curling in response to Enqueri nipping at his ear lobe. "Just...uh...um...what were we talking about again?"
That earned him a low chuckle from his sentinel, which did nothing to help him regain his equilibrium.
Man, you think he'd be used to this by now! But when Enqueri looked at him like that, Blair felt anything but complacent.
Enqueri just chuckled again and stood, pulling Blair to his feet beside him. "Come on."
Automatically Blair followed him out of the tent and away from the campsite. "Where are we going?"
"To check out the perimeter," was the spoken answer. The unspoken one in Enqueri's eyes was *much* different.
Blair couldn't stop the grin of anticipation from forming as they headed deeper into the surrounding forest.
Enqueri led them further away from the camp than they normally would have gone when 'checking the perimeter'. This wasn't the first time they'd snuck away for some time alone together, but usually they just went out of earshot.
Hard on the heels of that thought came the realization that that was exactly what they were doing this time, only out of earshot took on an entirely new meaning when one of the people back in camp was a sentinel.
The thought of Jack listening in on them made Blair blush in embarrassment, though he had to admit it also sent an extra tingle of excitement down his spine.
'Never knew I had exhibitionist tendencies,' he thought, all the while following Enqueri deeper into the woods.
Finally, in a small clearing, Enqueri stopped, cocked his head to the side in a listening pose then nodded. Turning to Blair he said, "That should be far enough."
Blair nodded and slipped into Enqueri's waiting arms. He nuzzled at his sentinel's neck for a few seconds then pulled back as something suddenly occurred to him. "You did let Simon know we were going to be disappearing for a while?"
"Of course," Enqueri replied, giving him an 'oh please' look. "Talked to him when you went off with Teal'c." He leaned over and began nuzzling at Blair's neck the way Blair had been nuzzling at his a moment before.
"Actually," he continued in a conversational tone, in-between nipping kisses along his guide's jawline, "I didn't have to say anything. He took one look at me and all but ordered me to drag you off somewhere when you got back."
Blair chuckled at that, even as he tilted his head back to allow Enqueri greater access. "Sometimes I wonder what he thinks it is we do when we take off like this."
Enqueri's laugh joined his own. "I think he's happier not knowing, Chief. He probably has more of an idea than he's comfortable with already."
"Yeah, we haven't exactly been very discreet around the rest of the team." He grimaced. "We're probably not as far in the closet as we think."
That brought a confused expression to Enqueri's face. "Closet?" He looked around as if expecting to suddenly find them literally in one.
"It's an expression," Blair told him, trying not to laugh. "I just meant that, even though we haven't said anything, the rest of the team probably has a pretty good idea that we're…uhh..."
"Sneaking off to have sex in the woods?"
"Well, yeah. Basically."
'Though I might have put it a little less bluntly,' he added mentally.
Enqueri looked thoughtful. "I suppose we should get on with it then."
"It?" Blair asked. "You mean the-"
"Sex in the woods, yes. That is why we're out here isn't it?" He pulled Blair closer to him, fitting their hips together.
"Oh." Blair slid his hands up the other's muscular chest, stepping even closer. "Right."
Those were the last words either man spoke for a while as communication took on a different form. A more tactile form. A more…heated...form.
Clothes were quickly and efficiently discarded and Blair soon found himself stretched out naked in some soft grasses staring up at the sunlight filtering through the overhanging leaves as Enqueri swallowed him whole.
The sensations were as overwhelming and mind-blowing as usual but that wasn't the important thing, the thing that always took Blair's breath away during these encounters.
No, what left him breathless in wonder and awe was the sense of connection he felt, the sense of merging until it almost seemed like he and Enqueri shared one brain, one heart, one soul. Next to that, the physical sensations of lovemaking paled in comparison.
Enqueri looked up at him then, eyebrow quirked and Blair realized he had caught that last thought. The glint in his sentinel's eye told him that Enqueri was taking it as a challenge.
Blair shivered in anticipation.
It really didn't take much for Enqueri to drive Blair crazy. He knew all of Blair's hotspots after all and was not shy in utilizing every one. It wasn't long before Enqueri had him reduced to a quivering puddle of desire and need.
Then, Enqueri stopped.
Blair's eyes snapped open -- only then realizing he'd closed them -- his mouth already open to ask why his lover had stopped. The protest died on his lips however at what he saw.
Enqueri had knelt facing away from him, forehead pressed to the ground and hips raised high in the air. Offering himself to his guide.
The sight alone was almost enough to push Blair over the edge, but he managed to hold onto control by his fingernails. On limbs that felt about as stable as jello, he crept forward, reaching out a trembling hand to lightly caress Enqueri's back. He didn't stop the caress at the base of his Sentinel's spine, instead dipping a couple of fingers into the crevice between Enqueri's buttocks. He got a moan in response and an intriguing hip wriggle, begging for more.
Shifting around a bit, Blair felt his knee brush against something; he reached down and picked up a tube of lube. Blair shook his head and grinned at his lover. Enqueri may never have been a boy scout, but he certainly lived their motto. Be prepared.
Better not let all that preparation go to waste. He uncapped the lube, squeezed some out, then slipped a finger inside Enqueri's body. A full body shudder, starting at Enqueri's head and travelling along his rippling muscles down to his feet was the result.
Blair grinned, added more lube and another finger.
In very little time Blair was up to three fingers and Enqueri was panting and moaning, begging Blair in both English and Quechua to take him. Blair was more than happy to oblige.
Pulling out his fingers, he lubed up his cock and entered his lover in one long slow stroke, drawing moans from both of them.
Once fully sheathed, Blair stilled, relishing the feeling of being as totally connected physically to his sentinel as he was emotionally. Spiritually as well; there was simply no one that Blair had ever felt as close to as Enqueri and when he was inside Enqueri, or Enqueri was inside him the last of the barriers dissolved.
They were one.
Spiritual satisfaction aside, eventually the drive for physical completion became too great to ignore. Blair started to move, pulling almost all the way out in slow motion, then thrusting back in just as slowly. Enqueri let out something between a grunt and a gasp at the movement and pushed back against his guide, mutely begging for more.
Blair repeated the move, drawing another of the intriguing sounds from his lover. As they settled into a slow and steady rhythm part of Blair's brain was cataloguing and analyzing the sounds his sentinel was making, judging Enqueri's levels of pleasure and urgency from their timbre.
Gradually their movements sped up as Blair felt his own urgency growing right along with his lover's. Enqueri wasn't the only one making noise now; he could hear the involuntary sounds of passion slipping past his own lips as well.
Knowing that he wouldn't last much longer, he slid one hand down the curve of Enqueri's hips to the sentinel's rock-hard erection, wrapped his fingers around it and began stroking in a counterpoint to his thrusts.
The effect on Enqueri was electric; he let out a yell and stiffened. Two more thrusts from Blair and he was coming.
The sight and feel of his lover's climax was more than enough to bring on Blair's own. He thrust as deep as he could and held on as the pleasure coursed over and through him, seeming to go on forever.
They lay slumped together for long moments as hearts and breathing slowed down and senses were regained. This was the time that Blair liked the best. He gave a contented sigh as he basked in the afterglow and savored their connection as the bond was once again renewed.
Enqueri stirred, dislodging his guide, rolling over and pulling him back into his arms all in one smooth motion. Blair chuckled. "You've got that down to a fine science," he observed.
"Making love?" Enqueri asked, nuzzling at Blair's sweaty curls. "I should, considering how much practice I get."
"No, not the making love, the rolling-" He stopped when he caught the gleam of humor in Enqueri's eyes. "Are you laughing at me?" he demanded trying to sound indignant but not succeeding very well. It was hard to do indignant when he holding back laughter of his own.
His sentinel looked back at him the picture of innocence. "Would I do that?"
"In a heartbeat," Blair shot back.
Enqueri smiled heartstoppingly at him then. "I love you Chief," he said suddenly serious.
Blair felt the emotion, warm and secure, wrap around his heart and soul. "Love you too," he replied snuggling closer.
"Good." Enqueri's arms tightened around him and it was the sentinel's turn to sigh in contentment.
"We really needed this, huh?" Blair asked after a few moments of contemplative silence.
"I needed it more than you, I think." Enqueri's tone was introspective.
Blair was about to protest but the look in Enqueri's eyes forestalled him. "That bother you?" he asked instead.
Enqueri thought for a moment. "I did not mean to doubt your commitment or your feelings."
"You didn't," Blair replied automatically, then amended his answer at the skeptical look his Sentinel shot him. "Well not really. You were afraid, Enqueri. You told me, we dealt with it. There's no shame in that."
"You wouldn't have doubted."
"I don't know about that. If it had been another guide needing a sentinel..." Blair trailed off with a self-conscious shrug, eyes downcast. It was hard to admit his insecurities, even to the one person he had no secrets from.
Gentle fingers slipped under his chin and raised his head to meet his sentinel's gaze. "*You* are my guide."
The certainty in both Enqueri's voice and eyes banished whatever small doubts or misgivings Blair felt. "Yes," he answered simply, knowing the same certainty shone from his own face.
A small smile graced Enqueri's lips, growing slowly larger. "Sneaky bastard," he said, admiration and affection clear in his voice.
"Turning it around and making me see how stupid I had been."
"Not stupid," Blair countered. "Just human. We all get insecure at times, Enqueri. I'll reassure you if you'll reassure me."
"You got it, Chief," Enqueri replied softly, leaning forward to capture Blair's mouth in a gentle kiss.
They stayed there in each other's arms for a few minutes more before both of them began to get restless. Blair recognized it for what it was: they had resolved what had been eating at them, disrupting their connection, and the demands of real life were once again exerting their influence.
The moment was over.
"We probably should be getting back," he said, disengaging from his sentinel's embrace and sitting up. "We don't want to overtax Simon's goodwill."
Enqueri nodded and got up. He handed Blair his pants, which he'd retrieved from a low branch in a nearby tree.
Blair took them, his lips twitching. "I don't even want to know how they got up there."
"I'm a little foggy on that myself," Enqueri admitted, frowning at the branch for a few seconds then shrugging and turning his attention to getting dressed.
"I'm sure it would make an interesting physics experiment," Blair replied, finishing pulling his socks on and looking around for his boots. "Enqueri-"
"Five feet behind you and to your left."
Sure enough there was his boot, lying against a tree root. "Thanks."
They finished dressing quickly and, after giving each other the once over to make sure they didn't look *too* rumbled -- they may not be as far in the closet as they thought but they didn't need to be advertising -- they started back towards the camp.
Blair watched Enqueri move through the woods totally at home, especially when contrasted with Blair's own occasionally less than graceful progress. The Sentinel looked so at home in fact that it made Blair wonder once again if maybe it *was* home.
"Okay, what is it?" Enqueri asked, after his third glance over at his guide showed the other gazing at him intently.
"You're thinking so hard I can practically hear it. So what's up?"
Blair gave it a moment's thought and then asked tentatively, "Does this place seem familiar Enqueri?"
"You mean does it feel like I've been here before?" Enqueri asked, immediately following his guide's train of thought.
"Well...yeah. Does it?"
It was Enqueri's turn to grow contemplative. Finally he shook his head. "Nothing," he said. "It's just a forest, like any other forest. If I've been here before I don't remember."
"Not even a sense of deja vous, some vague feeling?" Blair pressed.
Enqueri shook his head again. "Nothing. I have more feelings about Earth being home than I do this place. Sorry."
"Hey, don't apologize! If you don't remember anything, you don't remember anything. That's just the way it is. Hell, we don't even know if there's anything *to* remember, at least in relation to this place..."
"You were hoping I would though," Enqueri pointed out.
"Yeah, I was," Blair admitted. "I think we could learn a lot if you remembered your past. But it's not essential. We're not talking life and death information here. Just one anthropologist's overactive curiosity." He grinned at Enqueri. "Don't worry about it."
"Your curiosity is more dangerous than other people's life and death situations, Chief," Enqueri shot back, but with a smile.
"I'm not *that* bad," Blair protested.
Enqueri just looked at him pointedly.
Blair squirmed and sighed. "Okay," he conceded. "Maybe I do get a bit...overzealous at times but-"
His sentinel snorted in amusement. "I suppose overzealous is one word for it."
"You have another word in mind?"
"Obsessed," Enqueri replied. "Fanatical would work as well."
"Fanatical?!" Blair repeated. "Don't you think that's a bit strong?"
"Is it? Blair, the second someone lays a mystery in front of you it's all you can think about until you solve it. Everything else just vanishes from your awareness."
Blair stopped moving and turned to his sentinel. "Not everything," he said, meeting Enqueri's eyes, suddenly serious.
Enqueri smiled slightly and he reached out and cupped Blair's cheek. "No, not everything," he acknowledged.
They stood there just staring at each other for long moments until something caught Enqueri's attention.
"They have finished setting up the camp and are starting to get ready to enter the Hall. We should return."
Blair nodded. "Wouldn't want them to start unraveling a mystery without me!" he teased as they started walking again back towards the camp.
A few minutes later he added, "And later I'll work at unraveling my sentinel again."
That caused Enqueri to pause in mid-step and cast a look back over his shoulder at his guide.
"Any time," he said and resumed walking.
Blair grinned and hurried to catch up.
To Be Continued