New Arrivals
Author-Sheila Paulson
Titles

The Limits of Trust
Part Four
by Sheila Paulson

See notes and disclaimers in part one.

"You did *what*?" Samantha Carter demanded in nearly identical, if quieter, tones half an hour later outside the infirmary. She'd come to know that wicked, little-boy-mischief look on the Colonel's face from the times he'd pushed a lot harder than regulations allowed. Worse, he was with Sandburg, who was a good guy and one of the quickest on-his- feet thinkers she'd ever met, but who didn't have a clue about regulations and the ordered running of the base. The thought of marching into General Hammond's office and recruiting the President of the United States to rescue Jim Ellison would never have occurred to her; even more, it would never have occurred to her that the President would go along with it. Would it even work?

"It was my idea, Sam," Blair defended the Colonel hastily. "I just asked Col. O'Neill to stand guard for me."

"And you did this?" Sam tilted her head and regarded Jack's cat-that- ate-the-canary grin with an amused smile of her own.

"Come on, Carter, you know what Maybourne's like, what he's tried to do to Teal'c. Gotta say, I kinda like the thought of putting a spoke in his wheels." The grin widened.

"It wasn't the colonel's fault," Blair insisted. "It was all my idea. I did it. The colonel just...didn't shoot me down." God, look at that hero worship in his eyes. Jack squirmed, uncomfortable with the very idea of it.

"And it *worked*?" Carter's eyes widened as she fought to hold back laughter. "The President's going to track down Maybourne and *order* him to give Jim back?" She exchanged a doubtful glance with O'Neill. "Does that mean you're going to leave us, Blair?"

Sandburg hesitated. "I really love this place and going through the Stargate is a major rush, but Jim needs me. I never meant to call Maybourne down on his head. The only thing is, Jim might not even want me back after what he's been through." His shoulders sagged. "I had to give him away to the President. He'll be so p.o.ed at me."

Carter patted his arm sympathetically. "You look like you need some sleep. I don't think there's any way Jim can be here before morning. Did anyone assign you quarters here?"

"No, I've been staying at Daniel's apartment. I came in and took tests and then rushed off with the colonel to find Daniel. Nobody's done anything like that. There hasn't been time."

"Then come along and I'll find you somewhere. I suppose your clothes are all at Daniel's? I'll see if I can't scrounge up something clean for you for tomorrow. And when's the last time you ate?" At the surprised look in Sandburg's eyes, she went on, "I'll take you to the mess first. The one good thing about a place like this is that you can get a meal pretty much an hour of the day or night." She turned to O'Neill. "I'll see to it, sir. Why don't you go look in on Daniel. He's been awake. Janet says he's pretty much back to normal mentally but he was sleeping and she thought he needed it so she didn't send for you."

That was enough for O'Neill. "You take care of Sandburg," he said, edging toward the door. "And watch out for him, Carter. He's sneaky."

Sandburg beamed as he trailed off down the hall with the Major.

Sam couldn't help smiling. "You go right to the heart of things, don't you?" she asked.

"I had to, Sam," Blair defended himself. "I mean, I'm sorry the Colonel got reamed out by General Hammond, but I think the General went kind of easy on him, underneath. I don't think he likes this Maybourne guy, either."

He was right on the money there, Sam decided. Of course he'd have to chastise Col. O'Neill because he'd gone too far, but then O'Neill always went a little too far. Sam had been slightly uncomfortable with that in the beginning but, since then, she'd come to realize that Jack O'Neill was the best commanding officer she had ever had, loyal to his team, innovative, maybe a little too impatient of regs, but he got the job done. Even more important, he was a good man, one who bent over backward to watch his people, one she could respect. She would follow him into hell, and had done so, more than once.

"Don't tell the Colonel, but in a way I'm glad of what you did," she admitted to Sandburg. "He feels bad about Daniel and he'd have had too much time to brood over the way the mission went wrong if he hadn't had a distraction like this."

"Jim's not a distraction," Sandburg came back hotly, then he caught himself. "Sorry. I know what you mean. We're all pretty tense. I did it to save Jim, but, man, it was a real rush."

"Don't tell me. You're a danger junkie."

Sandburg shook his head violently, hair flying. "Oh, no, man, not me." Then a reluctant grin sneaked out. "It's just--Jim says I'm a trouble magnet. Things...happen around me."

"And you *make* some of them happen," she replied positively. "Here's the mess hall. I'll come in with you. Come to think of it, I didn't eat either. I hope they can scrounge us up something decent."

*****

Once Carter and Sandburg were gone, Jack let himself into the infirmary and stopped beside Daniel's bed. Carter was right, the kid did look better. His color was nearly back to normal, his breathing was deep and regular, and he was curled up against his pillow, his hair sticking out in spiky disarray, looking very young, very innocent--and very important to Jack. Something in the region of his heart twinged at the very sight of him, protective, brotherly impulses he'd never felt before he met Daniel Jackson, and he looked around for a chair, hooking one with his foot and dragging it over. Plopping down beside the bed, he reached out and gripped Jackson's hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze before letting go. He'd just stay here for a little while and recuperate from the world-class chewing out he'd received from Hammond. Daniel could protect him from a repeat match. Not even the General would come in here and yell in front of a sick man. Of course the General's ranting had been toned down from the full force of his fury because Hammond secretly appreciated what Sandburg had done, although he couldn't admit it officially. He chuckled faintly.

At the sound, Daniel's eyes opened and he gazed up at the colonel. "Hi, Jack," he said softly, a faint smile darting out and then scurrying away again. His eyes were doubtful, wary, but they were clear of confusion and his pupils weren't dilated any longer. The warmth of friendship was back in his voice, none of the hostility, hurt, and anger that had rung in it in the ruined village. He was himself again.

"Someday in the dim and distant future, one of us is going to go through a whole mission without getting in trouble, and then they'll write us up in the Guinness Book of World Records," O'Neill said wryly. "Guess today isn't that day."

Daniel bit his bottom lip, then he caught himself and spoke hastily. "I'm sorry, Jack. I'm sorry I waved a gun in your face. I didn't mean it." He propped himself up a little with his pillows. Typically Daniel. He just plunged in as if there'd never been a gap, as if Jack would understand what he said without hesitation, as if he had to say it first, before anything else could be spoken.

"Course you didn't. Nobody with any sense would want to shoot *me*," Jack returned. "Well, maybe Hammond right now, but he'll get over it. Come on, Daniel, you were *drugged*. Wasn't your fault and you know it."

"Well, I think it was, in a way," Daniel replied earnestly, running his hands through his tousled hair and then giving it up as a bad job. "Because I was kind of mad at you for picking up that statue, and the drug probably just intensified what I was feeling."

"Oh, come on, Daniel, you weren't mad enough to shoot me because I screwed up like that," O'Neill challenged, determined to lay that particular worry to rest. "Yeah, I know it was dumb. I knew it was dumb the minute I touched it. When you fell through that floor and we couldn't get to you, I knew what my screw-up might have cost. I don't mess up that bad that often, but this time I did. It's just--the place didn't *feel* booby trapped. Looked like nobody had been there for a hundred years." That was no excuse, of course, but it was the best he could offer. Anybody ever tried to claim Jack O'Neill was perfect, he'd laugh in their face.

Daniel heaved a sigh that mutated into a gaping yawn. "Well...it didn't have to be booby trapped, I suppose. I just thought *maybe* it was, because places like that *have* been. I was in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings once; it had been robbed in antiquity and we found the skeletons of the thieves; they'd been squished flat under a huge block of rock. Next thing we knew, one of the workers set off another one and we were just lucky no one was close enough to do more than get a few bruises and one man had his toes crushed. But we'd all seen those skeletons and, at first, we thought we were going to join them. The Mayans set traps, too, but they were different, and I don't know nearly as much about them as I do the Egyptian ones. I didn't want to take a chance."

Jack cocked his head expectantly. "So you warned us on the off chance because that place reminded you of something out of an Indiana Jones movie?"

Daniel's head bobbed sleepily. "I had to. I couldn't take the risk." His eyes sought out the Colonel's and held them. "Jack, *do* you think I get too carried away on missions? Do you think I screw up and risk the team because I give you too much information?"

"No," said Jack without hesitation. "You did that a little at first, but you were new to going on military missions then and you were trying to tell me everything you knew all at once. Sometimes you get carried away, but most of the time that's good. Because you know things the rest of us don't and might never even think of. Sometimes the information you come up with is the one thing that saves us. I've gotta admit I'm not always a patient man, and I've got the whole team to protect, so I tend to get a little...hasty."

"Ya think?" Daniel said lightly in a dead-on impersonation of the Colonel.

Jack gave him a light punch on the shoulder. "Smart-ass." He couldn't help grinning. "The thing is, I'm never gonna get as gung ho as you are about tombs and ancient languages and rocks that turn out to be artifacts, just like you're not going to view things from the military perspective."

"Irreconcilable differences?" ventured the archaeologist.

"Hell, no. SG-1 is the best team in the entire Project. Why do you think that is?"

"Want me to say because you're the best commander, Jack?" Mischief glinted in Daniel's eyes. "A little ego-boo?" he was sleepy and relaxed and his guard was waaaay down or he wouldn't have talked like this. He'd have been more diffident, so soon after the incident. "No way."

"Oh, for crying out loud." Jack found himself grinning. "Because we're all different," he said. "Makepeace's marines are good at what they do but they couldn't do what *we* do on a bet. We've got you, who memorized the encyclopedia, and Teal'c, who's forgotten more about the Goa'uld than most people ever knew, and we've got Carter, who's so smart they probably had to figure out new IQ tests for her, and then we've got me, a cranky old Colonel who has to get the three of you to work together."

Mischief lit Daniel's eyes. "Waiting for me to say, 'you're not old,' Jack?" He stretched comfortably on the bed.

O'Neill gave him another mock punch on the arm. "Come on, Daniel, what I need to know is, are we okay with all this?"

Daniel hesitated, suddenly growing serious. "Jack, I remember everything I said to you when I was under the influence. Talk about a weird trip. It was so strange; everything was distorted and I was so paranoid I couldn't think straight, but the one thing that kept coming to me was that you didn't trust me. Some of what I was feeling then was just paranoia from the drug. I mean, I know you didn't try to kill me and that you weren't bringing in Blair to replace me. That was crazy. That was just the drug. But sometimes I do feel like you think you have the only correct take on the mission. That what I have to say is a luxury, only valuable when everything's going well and you're bored enough to listen." All the humor had gone from his face and what remained was a grim determination to say his piece. "I know it was all boosted by whatever that plant shot into me, but it wasn't all delusion. Sandburg says that when the chips are down, Ellison doesn't trust him. I don't know if that's true but I do know that you override me on what I think is important--it's always your decision, never mine."

"Because I'm in command," Jack replied, wondering how much of Daniel's words were true and how much was a difference in perspective. "Look at me and Hammond. I challenge him and push for what I believe, and he listens and sometimes he'll go my way and sometimes he won't. That's what being in command is all about. You have valuable knowledge and I appreciate what you tell me. But I have to take it all from a larger perspective. I don't always make the right call because nobody can. What you have to say is always important, but sometimes it's not the most important thing for the mission at that particular time. I hear everything you say, everything Carter says, everything Teal'c says, and it churns around in my twisted little brain and then I do what I have to for the sake of the mission. Sometimes, it's not what you think is most important, but it *is* more important in the larger perspective. Least I hope it is."

Daniel hesitated, thinking hard. Jack couldn't remember ever putting it quite like this before. He plunged on. "It doesn't mean I don't trust you, any more than it doesn't mean I don't trust Carter when she gets on about some science thing and I groan and pretend I'm not listening. But she doesn't worry that I don't trust her." He shook his head ruefully. "I think this is the deal. Sam and Teal'c both have the military discipline. Not that your not having it is a bad thing, but it means you're not as used to the chain of command as they are. I'm basically a pretty easygoing guy and some might say I let you get away with a lot on a mission--and I do, because you know things we need to know, even if we might not need to know all of it each time. So you've never gotten into the military mindset because I've never really expected it of you."

"I'm undisciplined?" Daniel asked sleepily. He didn't seem upset, but in his strange, relaxed, trusting state in the aftermath of the drug, he sounded like he'd buy anything Jack had to say. He'd better make sure he said the right thing.

Jack grinned. "I wouldn't have it any other way, kiddo. I just want you to have this straight. I *do* trust you. I have trusted you with my life, and if you think that comes easily for a guy like me, then you're way off base. What's more, I trust you with my team. When I cut you down on a mission, it *never* means I don't trust you. It just means that what you've got to say, while important, might not be the most important thing for the team and the mission at that particular moment." He shook his head. "And don't give me that little boy lost look. You don't *have* to know what's the most important thing at any given time; that's not your responsibility. But I do. That's why I'm in command. It's the way I've been trained, all my adult life." He curled his fingers around Daniel's arm and shook it lightly. "Are we okay with this *now*?"

Daniel's smile blazed out joyfully. "Y'know, Jack," he said drowsily, "I sorta figured that out as we went along. I never actually thought about it consciously, but it made sense. I guess I just needed to hear you say it. The drug made me go through a lot of bad feelings back there that made me wonder--but it doesn't mean I don't trust *you*."

"What's not to trust?" Jack asked lightly.

"No, I mean it," Daniel insisted, rousing a little from his soporific state. "I mean, even before the plant bit me, I was...kind of ticked off that you'd picked up that statue."

"Yeah, that was dumb," Jack replied without hesitation. "I wanted a sample to take back--part of that was because it was valuable and it would impress the brass. But another part was that I knew how much you wanted that stuff to study, and it was gold. I figured they'd go for bringing it back and they'd let you play with it before they shipped it off to Area 51." He shrugged. "Bad call, I know."

Daniel hesitated, fighting down a gigantic yawn. Jack knew he'd have to get out of here and let the kid sleep before he called down the wrath of Frasier, which could be quite fierce here in her own domain. But he stayed where he was.

"What makes you think you have to be right *all* the time, Jack?" Daniel countered, but there was a smile in his eyes. "Next time, we'll both know better." His mouth crumpled into a grin. "And eventually you'll start going, 'Oh, for crying out loud, we don't have time for this crap,' and I'll say, 'Why, why, why won't you listen?' just like always."

Jack sputtered with laughter as he recalled a number of instances that had played out exactly like that. It would sure be dull if he didn't have to put up with Daniel on missions. "Yeah, probably next time we go through the gate," he agreed.

Daniel smiled. He looked exhausted and Jack could see Frasier off to one side, waiting to pounce. She was a good enough doctor to know that Daniel probably needed this talk more than he needed sleep, but it wouldn't be long before she swooped down on them like a death glider. "So...everything okay?" he asked.

The smile grew. Daniel in this utterly relaxed state of mind might say anything. And did. "I trust you, Jack. I trust you with my life--and I trust you with Sha're's life. I...can't do any better than that."

It was more than Jack deserved, more than anybody deserved. He felt as if he'd just been promoted to sainthood. Coming out with the right words when emotions were involved wasn't easy for Jack O'Neill; this whole conversation had been harder than going one on one with Apophis. But he owed Daniel atonement for pulling that stunt on the mission, for convincing the kid that he didn't really trust him instead of sitting him down and going over military protocol with him, and for offering that absolute trust. He met those blue eyes head on and said, "Yeah, well, I trust you with my sanity, Danny boy. Best I can do--ever."

It was the right thing to say. He saw that in Daniel's face, in the peace that filtered into his expression, in the way his muscles eased. Daniel beamed at him, then he blinked sleepily and closed his eyes. "G'night, Jack," he muttered muzzily. "Thanks." Two seconds later he was asleep.

Frasier pounced. Jack had been expecting her to. He let her steer her away from Daniel's bed. "Is he really okay?" he asked her in an undertone so Daniel wouldn't wake up and hear.

"He will be. His serotonin levels don't seem to be inhibited, and the stuff is going out of his system so fast I don't think we'll even have to consider the possibility of flashbacks. It came on fast and it's going fast, and I think that's because his DNA is alien to the planet. That protected him from permanent aftereffects. Right now, he's exhausted and his mood's a lot more open and subject to rapid changes than usual. That'll pass. I want to keep him for observation, and I'll reassess tomorrow afternoon. I think I'll be able to discharge him then." She smiled suddenly. "Thanks for reassuring him. He's been pretty restless. I think he needed to talk to you. Teal'c talked common sense to him earlier and he believed it in his mind but not inside." She dimpled suddenly. "And getting *you* to talk generally requires a direct order from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You did good, Colonel. Now, why don't *you* get some sleep?"

"Medical order, Doc?"

"You bet."

Jack grinned, sketched a mock salute in her direction and headed off for his on-base quarters and bed. He had a feeling he'd sleep better than he had for a long time.

****

Jim Ellison jerked awake when the two soldiers came in, with the scientist. It felt like the middle of the night. Figured, they would have to keep him from sleeping. He glowered at them, astonished when the scientist, who looked as if he'd thrown his lab coat on over his pajamas, started undoing the straps that held him to the table.

"What fun and games are you up to now?" Jim demanded suspiciously. Probably, they were moving him to a more restricting setting so they could get down to the medical parts--like taking samples of his brain tissue and chopping off selected portions of his anatomy.

"You're being moved, Mr. Ellison. We got the word just now. Col. Maybourne was upset, but he said to get you ready to transport. I'll just disconnect you from the equipment if you'll stay still until I do so."

Jim wanted to deck the guy but he was still connected to everything so he gritted his teeth and let the jerk do it. Talk about degrading, lying here buck naked while the creep did his work and the two guys with guns watched. Perverts! Jim wanted to take them down in the worst way. He hated this.

Where were they taking him? Probably an even more secure lab. Nobody knew where he was, nobody knew what had happened to him. If this Maybourne was pissed it probably meant some general wanted to play games with his senses. Or maybe the CIA. That was all he needed.

The scientist opened a closet and produced Jim's suitcase. "Get dressed and come out when you're ready," he said and ushered the two armed men out of the room. That was unexpected. Jim flung himself at the suitcase and threw on his clothes as fast as he could. The light of the camera was off, but it had been off during the vision tests, so that didn't mean he wasn't under surveillance. He didn't feel drugged, and he wasn't dizzy, but his head still ached. He wanted to burst out of here and disarm the guards, but he knew he wasn't as steady on his feet as he might be later. He didn't know where he was. Better to play along, wait for the right chance to break free, try it if it looked like they were going to tie him down again.

There was a sink in the corner of the room so he took a second to wash his face and brush his teeth in hopes of removing the lingering aftertaste of the drugs from his mouth. They hadn't told him to clean up, but they weren't here. Tough. He'd face them feeling as good as possible, even clean as possible. Taking the electric razor from his travel kit, he shaved, too, then combed his hair. Studying himself in the mirror, he realized he was too pale and that there were huge shadows under his eyes. His head still throbbed from the sight and hearing tests, but he was hearing normally and the scientist and his military buddies had been in focus.

When he emerged, bag in hand, into the hall, only one of the soldiers remained. The scientist was there, too, but there was no sign of Maybourne. Just as well. Jim's fist had an urge to make closer acquaintance with the Colonel's jaw and he was pretty sure he'd be taken down if he tried for his revenge.

"What are you doing with me?" he asked, sure he'd get the runaround.

"We're letting you go," the scientist said astonishingly. "The word came down from the very top that we couldn't keep you. Frankly, while it was intriguing to study you, once I heard the whole story, I think the Colonel took too much on himself. I won't apologize for the tests. We learned a lot and that information will be useful. But you have friends in very high places, Mr. Ellison."

"What high places?" Jim demanded suspiciously. This sounded about as unlikely as it could get. He didn't expect an answer, but he got one, the last answer he'd have ever imagined.

"The White House."

Jim stared. The White House shouldn't have a clue about him, and even if the President had seen him on the news a couple of months ago, he wouldn't have any way of knowing what had happened now, or any reason to care. But Ellison didn't fight it. This might be a lie to get him to come along tamely, but he thought he'd ride with it and see what they meant to do. He didn't even know where he was, and it was pretty tough to plan an escape without more information than he possessed. "So what are you going to do?" he asked.

"You've been scheduled on a military flight back to Colorado Springs, where I'm told you were abducted. I'm sorry, but we'll need to blindfold you when we take you out of here; this location is secret. But you'll be flown back to Colorado and driven to the Cheyenne Mountain location where Col. Maybourne picked you up. I'm told you have a rental car there. Here are the keys." He passed them to Jim. "You should be back by morning."

Jim snatched the keys. They looked like the same ones, probably were. This was crazy. Who could have guessed he was in trouble? Or did the President have a score to settle with Maybourne and decided to use Jim to settle it?

His questions grew as he was transported, blindfolded, to an air field. Remembering a couple of movies he'd seen where someone was transferred, blindfolded, in a moving vehicle, he concentrated on his senses, picking up anything he could tell, counting the number of turns, listening for minute differences in the sound of the tires against the road. Both movies he'd seen had done the same thing, convinced the blindfolded man that he was hearing a party when in fact they were passing a flock of geese, but Jim was granted no such assistance. He could tell he was in a remote area because there were no frequent stops and starts, and the road was rough beneath the tires, gravel and then probably blacktop. They stopped twice, evidently at stop signs for the resumed moving immediately. The trip to the airfield took fifteen minutes. Assuming he ever returned to the same airfield, he might find his way back to the lab. Might. He had a pretty good idea he wouldn't be given the chance, even if the President himself had ordered him freed.

In spite of his enhanced vision, he could not see through the fabric of the blindfold. It was too dense, too tightly woven. Light leaked in under it but even tilting his head backward only gave him a tiny slice of sight, the inside of the car and, once, when he turned his head, a dusty, desert landscape under stars, no landmarks visible.

The blindfold wasn't removed until he was safe in the military jet. Typical no-frills job. The man who had escorted him from the lab gestured to a seat and he took it, glowering up at the man.

He slept in the plane, slumped in the uncomfortable seat, his head against the bare bulkhead. He hadn't meant to, but he did. They didn't enhance his sleep; he was sure of that. He hadn't been given anything, not even water, and the soldier who traveled with him sat upright, wide awake, so gas couldn't have been pumped into the cabin to induce sleep. When he awakened, he was shown to a tiny bathroom on the plane and allowed to wash, shave, and brush his teeth all over again. Coming out, he was given coffee from a thermos that he didn't touch until the bodyguard poured out a cup for himself and drank it. Jim risked it then, focusing his senses on the taste. It might be strong enough to use for paint stripper, but it was only coffee, and it kicked him fully awake.

It was barely dawn when he was escorted from the plane. Off to one side, there were mountains dark against the sky and, in the other direction, the flatter landscape was starting to gleam with the pearly opalescence of morning.

Another car and, this time, he wasn't blindfolded. It *was* Colorado Springs after all, and it didn't take long to reach the Cheyenne Mountain facility. The soldier who had accompanied him pulled to a stop beside his rental car, still parked where he had left it. Once Jim stepped out, clutching his suitcase, his chauffeur peeled out like an Indy driver and vanished into the new morning.

Jim stretched, looked around warily, then frowned when the guy at the gate beckoned him over. "Detective Ellison?" he asked.

He was *expected* here? What the hell was going on? "Yeah," Jim admitted warily, suppressing the 'who wants to know' that instantly came to his mind.

The man passed him a visitor's pass. "Go on through. You'll be met. I'm to remind you that the non-disclosure statement you signed last time is still in effect."

Jim nodded. "I've been military. I remember that kind of thing. Who told you to expect me?" he demanded.

"General Hammond, sir."

Hammond? That was the guy in charge from last time, the one who had wanted the reference for Sandburg. Had his capture been taped and noticed? Even so, Hammond had no reason to care what happened to Jim Ellison. Unless he was the one who set Maybourne on Jim in the first place.

Weary and enraged, Jim struggled against a yawn as he was taken into the facility and down in an elevator. Next thing he knew, he was in the same impersonal, uninformative room where they'd made him wait last time. They needed a new decorator. "Someone will be with you shortly, sir," his escort promised. "We're all glad we could get you free." He glanced over his shoulder to make sure he wasn't observed. "Let me tell you, it makes me feel good to know we got the better of Col. Maybourne." He was a kid, probably five years younger than Sandburg, with an open, innocent face and huge blue eyes. "Uh, sir...could you please not tell anybody I said that?" he ventured, embarrassed at his indiscretion.

All at once, Jim realized that, whatever had gone wrong, it was all right now. Whatever this place was where Sandburg had come to work, they must be the white hats. "Don't worry," he consoled the young man. "It's not like I have any fondness for the guy myself."

The Lieutenant relaxed. "There's coffee there," he said, pointing over to a kitchenette area. "And I think there are rolls and doughnuts. Major Carter arranged to have it prepared for you before she went to bed."

"Sam Carter? She got a promotion?"

"Yes, sir, not long ago. I'll go tell them you're here." He grinned, pulled himself to order, and hurried away. When Jim followed him to the door and looked out, he was surprised to see that the place wasn't guarded.

Weird. He had been watched here last time. To be free now after the nightmare of the day before touched him more than he wanted to admit.

Realizing he was in a secure base, he didn't venture out. Instead he headed for the food.

Fortified with coffee that tasted much better than that crud on the plane and a Danish, Jim sprawled on the couch, closed his eyes, and focused his senses, stretching out with his hearing, listening for evidence of Sandburg. It had driven him crazy, once Sandburg had departed, to realize how much the sound of his guide's heartbeat in the downstairs bedroom at the loft had soothed him back to sleep when he awoke in the night. He'd missed that, realizing that the guide/shaman thing was more important to his senses than he'd ever been quite willing to acknowledge. Even more, it wasn't the fact of someone in the know, willing to work with him. Connor had been willing to do that, and he trusted her, but it just wasn't the same.

Moving lower and lower in the complex, he mentally blocked out all the heartbeats that were not Sandburg's. That was when he found it, heard it beating away, strong and steady, slowed with sleep. The kid was here and he was all right.

Jim heaved a deep, steadying sigh, and knew that he could wait until Sandburg woke up. Closing his eyes, he felt his breathing slow. It was as if his own heartbeat eased to match Sandburg's, and sleep came over him like a blanket. He was safe.

*****

"Sandburg?"

Blair blinked awake and stared around the darkened room, the only light from the open doorway. "Huh? What?" He thought it was still very early. Then he saw who was standing there. "Col. O'Neill, sir?" He scrambled hastily out of bed, knuckling the sleep out of his eyes. "What's wrong?"

Jack O'Neill flipped the light switch, and Blair could see he was grinning. He looked like he'd just awakened, himself, freshly scrubbed and shaved and combed--and yawning. "Not a thing. You've got company upstairs, and the man that brought him in says he looks like he's okay."

"*Jim*?" screeched Blair, joy flooding through him. "He's here? He's safe? He's *okay*? Take me to him, Colonel, sir, please?"

O'Neill laughed. "You might want to get dressed, first, sport. I went up and looked in on him and he's sawing logs with the best of 'em. Let him sleep, at least long enough for you to shower and dress."

"But I want to *see* him," Blair insisted.

"Easy, settle down." O'Neill clapped him on the shoulder. "Grab your clothes and I'll show you where the showers are. We can't have you running through the base in your shorts. Bad for morale. Undignified."

Smothering a chuckle, Blair fumbled in the supplies he had been given, surprised to see his own duffle bags had materialized mysteriously overnight. "How's Daniel, sir? Is he better?" he asked as he dug out clean underwear.

"He's asleep, too, but I saw him last night while you and Carter were testing the culinary delights of this place. I think he's gonna make it." Blair saw peace in the Colonel's eyes and realized they must have talked it out last night. That must have been as tough for the Colonel as it would have been for Jim. In some ways the two men were alike, both strong, both willing to take responsibility, both very, very good at their jobs. And neither of them comfortable with an excess of emotions. Blair grinned faintly. Each of them plagued with a scientist buddy who was as different from him as night and day.

"You gonna work it out with Ellison?" the colonel asked.

"The trust thing? Yeah, that I can do. Protecting him? I don't know how to do it. No matter what I do, he gets in trouble."

"Maybe he needs better protection than any one man can give," the colonel said thoughtfully. When Blair looked at him doubtfully, he didn't explain. "Ready?"

"More than ready."

He thought about it in the shower, probably the quickest shower he'd ever taken. He couldn't use up all the hot water here but, even if he'd been so inclined, he was in too much of a hurry to consider it. More protection than one man could give? Jim was a cop. He would be out there on the front lines. How could he have more protection? With Blair as a cop and as his partner? Much as he cared about his friend, Blair didn't feel right with being a cop. He'd go with Jim as a civilian and never hesitate, even up against fifteen Maybournes. Jim couldn't stop what he was doing. He was the Sentinel of the Great City. He had to protect...

"Omigod," Blair breathed, his eyes widening. "Have I ever got a great idea!"

*****

"Jim?" Blair burst into the room yelling Ellison's name. "Jim, wake up. You're safe."

Ellison bolted up, spilling the half-eaten Danish that had been lying on a napkin on his stomach to the floor unnoticed. "Sandburg?"

Launching himself at his Sentinel, Blair flung his arms around Jim's neck and hugged him for all he was worth. Ellison wasn't exactly good with the touchy-feely stuff but, this time, he let permitted it. He even hugged back--at least for a minute. Then he loosened himself from the grip and looked down at his erstwhile guide.

"He did it," Blair exulted. "The President did it. He got you free."

"That's what they said when they let me go," Jim admitted doubtfully. "That the order came from the White House. But how do *you* know about it?"

Blair beamed proudly. "I called him."

That rocked Ellison back on his heels and he stared at Sandburg as if he had never seen him. "You called the President of the Unites States about *me*? How did you even *know* I was in trouble?"

"Col. Makepeace from SG-3 saw Maybourne snatch you and he came and told us. God, Jim, I thought coming here would make you safe, and instead, Maybourne found out. He's the type of guy who does all this nasty covert stuff. I'm *sorry*, Jim. I'm so sorry. I had to get you out but Col. O'Neill couldn't find out where you were and I was *desperate*." He gazed up earnestly at Jim. "So I got the colonel to stand guard while I snuck into General Hammond's office and used his hotline phone. He has one of those nifty red phones on his desk and it's a direct line to the President. Isn't that *cool*, Jim? I actually talked to the President of the United States!"

Jim stared at him in astonished disbelief, his eyes full of shock and respect. "You used a hot line--for me?"

"It was the only way I could think of to make you safe, Jim. Boy, was General Hammond mad. He said I was a loose cannon and a wild card and whichever SG team got me would have their hands full." His voice ran down. He'd kind of liked the chewing out, especially since he saw an unadmitted approval in Hammond's eyes. "Anyway, I figured if SG-1-- that's Col. O'Neill's team--went in shooting, people could get hurt or killed and all Maybourne would have to do would be wait until you were back in Cascade and by yourself and he could snatch you again. So I thought if he had direct orders from the President himself, maybe he wouldn't."

"I can't *believe* this, Chief. The President talked to you? He listened?"

"He did." Blair hung his head, prepared for the explosion he knew was sure to come. "Jim, I'm sooo sorry, man, but I had to tell him. I had to tell him you were a Sentinel. He knew all about that already, though. When my dissertation got leaked, his advisors brought all that information to him and I think they checked you out already. I know that means I screwed up again and you can't trust me, but getting you free from Maybourne and making sure you were safe was more important than what you think about me. If anybody like him ever tries it again, you just refer them to the President." *At least until the next election*, Blair thought ruefully, waiting for Jim to come down on him with a worse lecture than Hammond's, a worse one than the time with the dissertation. Jim would come down on him with both feet. But Jim didn't.

"You were right," Jim said slowly, his hands on Blair's shoulders. "You were right when you claimed I didn't trust you, but you were wrong, too. It wasn't that I didn't trust *you*, it was just that...god, Chief, all my life, I learned to blame somebody else when things didn't go my way. It wasn't that I didn't trust you, it was that I wasn't capable of complete trust in anybody or anything. It's not your problem, it's mine, and I had some time to think in between playing guinea pig for Maybourne. I'm gonna keep doing it because it's pretty much a conditioned reflex, but now I *know* about it, and I'm telling you. Next time, you have to remind me, point out that I can't blame you for things beyond your control. You aren't responsible for what other people do, Sandburg. When something happens and other people screw up, I'm an idiot if I blame you."

Blair felt a surge of incredible happiness pulse through him. He'd wanted to hear something like that ever since this whole mess started. But he had his own claims to make.

"Jim, man, I know that. I thought about it hard. And I know that I'm not responsible for your thoughts and feelings either. I've been talking to people. The Colonel and Daniel just had a little run in about trust, too. The thing is, trust can be absolute, but it isn't total. I mean, I trust *you* with everything--only I'm wary, too. Before I got tied up with you, I played it cool, had casual buddies, never even thought about trusting people. You're not the only one who has to learn to make this work. But where the limits come in are not in your conscious choices but in things that are beyond your control. Mine, too. You are the man you are, and maybe you and I can both work to change the things we both do wrong. But the Colonel said it yesterday. We're not perfect. We make mistakes. Even with the best intentions in the world, we screw up. That doesn't mean we should ever stop trusting each other. That only means we're giving up."

"And we don't live every second of our lives to live up to each other's expectations," Jim said hastily, as if he needed to get it out in the open. Okay, that was fair, too. Jim had a point. Sometimes, he took things way too personally. It had never been about his own hurt feelings.

Blair nodded fervently. His hair was still damp from his shower and he could feel it trailing wetly on the nape of his neck. "I know, and I do that a lot. I'll try not to. If I get bent out of shape, it doesn't have to be your fault, man. I never meant to turn on you or hurt you or get you in trouble. I'm sorry about Maybourne, but I didn't know about him. I didn't realize he probably had contacts here and access to field reports. There was nothing in my report from last time--or anybody's-- that mentioned you or even suggested you were a Sentinel, but he didn't get to be a colonel without being able to add two and two together. I think you're safe from him, at least for now."

"If he finds out what you did, you'll have made yourself a dangerous enemy."

Blair waved that away. He could live with it. "That doesn't matter. What does is you. I can't protect you out there, Jim. I just can't. Even if I made myself be a cop, I'm not sure now that everything came out, how safe you'd be."

"I'm not going to hide in a cave, Sandburg. I'm a cop. It's what I do."

"It's not the only thing you can do, though, Jim. I know how good at it you are--but maybe you'd be good at *this*." He waved his hand to encompass their present location.

"I don't even know what *this* is," Ellison snapped. He caught himself at once, his good intentions too fresh in his mind to fall back on the old ways and made an apologetic gesture.

"I can't tell you yet, Jim. I really can't. But I know one thing. I know about your time in Peru and I know how great you handled an impossible situation. I know you have the military background in covert ops, and you would probably be the greatest addition to this project they've ever had."

"Sandburg...I'm a Sentinel. I've got the obligation to protect... "

"What makes you think you couldn't do that here, Jim? The Colonel told me I was going to be a great help to them. Even General Hammond thinks so. They all thought, last time, that the two of us would be good on one of their teams. You'd still be protecting, Jim. You'd just be protecting...more than Cascade." He gazed up intently at the taller man. "The Colonel said something just now that made me think of it. I bet he'd put in a good word for you. And I know that being here protects people. Maybourne wanted to do experiments on Teal'c, too. Remember, Teal'c from last time? But he can't touch him now, he's here and he's protected."

"I'm not going to hide in a secret base under a mountain, Sandburg," Ellison snapped angrily. His mouth twisted. "I'm not mad at *you*, Chief. But it's been rough and I'm not sure what's going on."

"I've only been here a couple of days," Blair burst out. "And I've already been on a mission outside of here. Jim, I can't tell you yet what this place is, but I'll go to General Hammond for you because I *know* working here would be perfect for you. Maybe you could even go back into the service, if you wanted to. That way, you'd have the whole military thing on your side. And we'd still be a team. God, Jim, I missed you. That's the only thing that doesn't work for me here, and it's the most important thing. If you don't want to stay, I'll go with you and we'll work it out, somehow, but--"

There was a rap on the door and Jack O'Neill poked his head in the door. "Ellison? Remember me? O'Neill. The kid here figured out how to get you free of Maybourne. He did a great job; he even conned *me* into helping."

"I bet," Jim said, shaking hands with the Air Force officer. "He's good at that."

"General Hammond wonders if you'd consent to a debriefing. Maybourne's sort of like a pet snake. We like to keep an eye on him, figure out what he's doing. And I couldn't help hearing Sandburg giving you a recruitment pitch just now. Have to say, I agree with him. You don't know what we do here, but from everything the kid said and this Sentinel stuff we have to pretend we don't know about, I think you'd probably be perfect for it. It's specialized work, and not just anybody can handle it. Sometimes it scares me so much I want to take off and never look back, but it's more than that." He grinned. "So, you want to come down to the General's office? We'll give you the tour, show you the famous red phone, everything like that."

"You backed him when he did that?" Ellison shook his head, still disbelieving.

"Let's just say, I once requested Hammond's permission to beat the crap out of Maybourne," O'Neill replied. "The request's still on the table. First chance I get, I'm gonna do it. Besides," he added, reaching out and ruffling Sandburg's hair, "you've got a good one here and we hope we can keep him. He's gonna turn the rest of my hair completely grey--or even white--before we get a few more missions under our belts, but he's worth it. We all think so."

Blair glowed with delight at the respect in the Colonel's tone. "Come on, Jim, General Hammond's a great guy. Sometimes he's a real pussycat."

That made O'Neill do a double take, but his eyes were sparkling.

"Okay, I'll come," Jim agreed. "I have to admit, the sales pitch has been pretty interesting. I can't wait to find out what it is you do here even if I'd have to kill anybody I told about it."

*****

"The Stargate goes *where*?" Jim Ellison's eyes opened so wide General Hammond was afraid they would squirt out of his skull. "Come on, I know it's classified but I've signed a new non-disclosure statement. Level with me, General."

Hammond was reminded of Jacob Carter's reaction to being told what his daughter actually did for a living. Basically, the story was unbelievable to someone who didn't have the experience of the Project. Ellison sat there looking like he was being conned while Sandburg curled up in a chair in the corner, one leg hanging over the armrest. The kid never just sat, he struck an attitude. Of course O'Neill didn't just sit either. He was up and down, back and forth, leaning on the edge of the desk, propping the wall up with his shoulders. He stood now, amusement in his eyes, watching Ellison.

"Are you trying to get me to believe that Sandburg has been to another *planet*?" the Sentinel persisted with heavy skepticism. His eyes narrowed slightly and Hammond had the idea he was seeing and hearing things that the rest of them couldn't. Maybe he could read their heartbeats, like a human polygraph test.

The long-haired anthropologist fought hard to keep his mouth shut. He'd been good about security so far but he was just bursting with the need to speak.

"It's all right, Sandburg. You can answer that," Hammond urged.

Blair bounced up out of the chair. "I've been to *two* other planets, Jim. That's where I went when I was here before. It was so cool! That's where they found another Sentinel, not somebody hiding with survivalists, somewhere out there." He gestured wildly over his head. "Then I went again yesterday to a different planet to help SG-1. It's the wildest ride I ever took, man. What a rush! It's incredible."

Ellison had the expression of a man who suspected he was being given the biggest snow job since the dawn of time. He opened his mouth to scoff, then he caught himself and studied Sandburg, frowning. "Chief, I don't know what to think of this," he admitted. "But I can tell you believe what you're saying. You're not lying." The frown deepened and he said flatly. "There's no way I can compete with that."

Sandburg's face fell. "Jim, you *know* it's not a competition. I'll come back with you, if that's what you want. You know I will. But think about this. Give it a shot. My coming back to Cascade with you won't give you the protection this would. I know you feel like you need to use your abilities to help people; you're the Sentinel of the Great City. But-- but Jim, you could be the Sentinel of the Planet Earth."

"So you could be Shaman of the Planet Earth?" Ellison countered. He looked like a man who had been hit with too much information too fast and was having trouble processing it. Hammond believed he would be an excellent addition to the Project or he wouldn't have allowed this meeting to take place. Sandburg had been pitched in willy nilly, unable to deny the evidence of his own eyes when he stepped through the Stargate onto a world with two moons shining in the night sky. He was also more receptive to new ideas, more receptive to wonder, than Ellison was. Ellison had a military feel to him, a hangover from his Army Ranger days. Having them both here would be to the SGC's advantage. Sandburg was going to walk otherwise and his inventiveness and knowledge had benefitted the SGC. Hammond would hate to lose him.

"Jim. Jim, listen." Sandburg waved his hand for attention. "Jim, SG-1, that's the Colonel's team, saved the whole *world* last year. The *whole world*, Jim. Isn't that *great*."

"Ah, geez," muttered O'Neill, grimacing under the full weight of Sandburg's hero worship.

"There's some...bad guys out there who have it in for us, for the human race," Sandburg went on. "They came here in ships and the Colonel's team stopped them. They're out there on the front lines on every mission, fighting for Earth's future. You wouldn't have to stop being a protector, Jim. You'd just protect all of us instead of one town."

"Is this on the level?" Ellison demanded. He turned to Jack. "Your team- -four of you, was it?--stopped an alien invasion? Give me a break."

"Well, there were only two ships," O'Neill said wryly.

"But they were honking big ships, Jim." Sandburg gazed at him earnestly. "Jim, your being here would protect you from Maybourne, but it would also help to protect the whole world. I think this is soooo great. And it's something I can do, too, instead of just being your backup, your sidekick. I mean, I'd still be your guide and shaman, but there'd be more, things that let me use my education and training. It'd be perfect. We could work together like we did before, and instead of leaving out my training, I could use that, too. And you could use your abilities. We'd both be helping." He hesitated. "If you want to go back to Cascade, though, I'll try it out, just not as a cop. I was wrong to take off the way you did. This Sentinel and Shaman gig is too important to walk away from."

Although his eyes warmed at Sandburg's declaration, Ellison frowned. "This is a lot to take in," he said, and Hammond heard a note of sheer uncertainty in his voice as well as indecision. Ellison was a more conventional man than Sandburg. His mind took normal pathways, while Sandburg skipped from point A to point D to point Q, a lot like Dr. Jackson did. If Ellison stayed, he could help to rein in his younger friend and Sandburg could push him to look beyond his normal expectations. The best teams came with something both members could contribute.

"We rarely recruit outside of the military," the General told Ellison. "Your rare abilities would be beneficial for this Project and for this planet. As of now, through a series of unfortunate events, knowledge of your abilities has been compromised in the military. That's unfortunate. We know you have been using them for the greater good, which is commendable. Being here, on this project, would give you protection, as it has done for Teal'c. But it would also offer your services to your country and your planet, where we believe it could do some good. Unlike Maybourne, we won't force you to join us. Your decision is strictly your own and, if you decline, we'll see if we can help deal with the Maybourne issue, although I'm told the President has already had his say. He has been supportive of us and of this project from the day we began, but there is an election next year. I'm not trying to sway you, and we will respect whatever decision you make. If you would like additional information before you decide, I'll give you what I can without a commitment to the project. I do not expect an answer now. Of course you'd have time to think it over."

He glanced over at the anthropologist. "I should be sorry to lose Mr. Sandburg," he admitted. "His unique qualities have already assisted us on two occasions. He has a rare ability to think on his feet plus a knowledge base that would assist us and the experience of being under fire, always a plus. He's also had the experience of living with and being accepted by primitive tribes, which is another bonus and makes him a good possibility for a first contact team. We've suspected all along that his guide bond with you would be too strong for us to keep him, though."

He rose to his feet. "Colonel, why don't you take Sandburg down to see Dr. Jackson now. I'll continue this discussion alone with Detective Ellison."

Sandburg hung back, then he nodded, allowing O'Neill to steer him from the room.

"You meant that about Sandburg?" Ellison asked. Hammond wasn't sure if he were surprised or not. He did not have the world's most expressive face, and his eyes were shielded.

"I meant every word. Apart from the needs of this project, which I must put before all else, Sandburg has found a place here where he is valued for himself, not as an adjunct to you. I'm not sure you realize how much he has sacrificed for you, without a word of complaint and without even a feeling that he was giving up his own special value and abilities. He didn't even consider it a sacrifice."

"Did he say that to you?" Jim demanded, then he caught himself. "Damn it," he muttered under his breath. "I screw that up all the time. I couldn't see it before. I *know* how much he's done for me; I know he never hesitated, and I've never heard him complain--well," he added with a hint of humor, "not about that. What I don't know is how *you* know that."

"We've had our base psychiatrist talk to him, and SG-1 has talked to him. Every other word that comes out of is mouth is about how amazing *you* are. I don't think he has a clue how utterly unique *he* is. Before you make your decision, I'd like you to consider him as well as the safety of this planet and your own personal safety. We'd love to have you on our team but, if we do, you'll have to learn to view Sandburg as an equal rather than a..."

"Sidekick?" Jim hazarded, his mouth twisting. "God, sometimes I am an idiot. I told Sandburg this morning that he needed to remind me when I did stuff like that. It's hard to break old habits." He shook his head. "But it's something I mean to work on. I know it's not entirely my fault Sandburg left, but a big part of it is my blame. Even if we both went back, I'd have to watch my step." He hesitated, gesturing around to encompass the whole base. "He really enjoys this Star Trek gig?"

"He gets a thrill from it the same way Dr. Jackson does."

"So, it's a scientist thing?" Ellison had clearly never understood the scientific mindset any more than Jack O'Neill had done when he was first teamed with Dr. Jackson and Major Carter. "This gives him back what he lost when he pulled that press conference number to save me and wound up getting canned from the university?"

"Partly. Let me tell you a little about what we do here, Detective. You realize everything we do here is classified?" When Ellison nodded, he continued, "You see, there is a race of beings out there called the Goa'uld...."

*****

Daniel was growing heartily sick of the infirmary. Feeling much better, the IV removed, he knew he was only waiting for the latest batch of tests to be processed before Dr. Frasier sprang him. Jack had been in with Sandburg, telling him all about what had happened to Jim Ellison and how they hoped he would join the SGC. Daniel hoped he would. He genuinely liked Blair Sandburg and found him someone who would understand the things that the military on the project didn't quite get. Also, the way Blair had behaved on the mission yesterday--god, had it only been yesterday?--was so different from the depressed young man who had appeared at his door a few days ago. Being needed and valued was good for everyone. The way the rest of SG-1 had hovered, Daniel had been given a clear demonstration of how much his own team valued *him*.

Sam and Teal'c had both been in and out the whole time. Teal'c had a bedside manner that had to be seen to be believed. "You are well, Daniel Jackson?" A lift of one eyebrow.

He'd almost imitated Jack's line when he'd come back from the Touched virus and replied, "Lucy, I'm home," although an evening spent with Teal'c watching I Love Lucy on Nick at Nite had at least explained the remark to the Jaffa. He'd just nodded. "I'm fine, Teal'c, and anxious to get out of here."

"All of you express an urgent need to leave the infirmary." Teal'c shook his head. "Why is that? I do not see that this place is at all unpleasant, and Dr. Frasier has your wellbeing at heart."

Daniel stopped to think about it. Jack was the worst of all of them. He made a singularly bad patient. Daniel realized he was almost as bad. "Mostly, I just can't wait to get back to work," he admitted. "Today I'm thinking about that Codex and wondering if there is a way to retrieve it safely."

The Jaffa looked alarmed. "Does O'Neill know you wish to return to the planet?"

Hiding a grin, Daniel shook his head. "I didn't think it was the right time to spring that on him yet. I wish the archaeological team wasn't offworld right now. They've got a Mayan specialist--well, Aztec and Mayan. But I want to see if that really is a codex. Jack will have kittens if I tell him I want to go back."

Teal'c's eyebrow shot up even higher. He'd encountered this particular phrase before so he didn't comment, but he looked amused. Of course, with Teal'c, you had to know him to see it, but all of SG-1 was coming to understand his dry humor. That didn't mean any of them really got into Jaffa jokes or could do anything but boggle at the very concept.

Yep, Teal'c had a different bedside manner, but he was a good friend.

Sam, on the other hand, knew all too well how much the artifacts in the Mayan pyramid tempted him. She came in with information gathered from the film they'd taken on the planet and had produced photos made from it of the box. Leaving them with him to study, she had talked about the dangers of excavation but appeared unalarmed when Daniel had shrugged them off. They could wear environment suits. They could study the temple carefully before they started moving things. They could rig people with ropes in case anyone triggered another pitfall. Now that the Bacabs had lost their heads, maybe the most dangerous trap was already triggered. Sam listened and made suggestions. Even though her field was astrophysics rather than archaeology, she understood the need that drove him.

"Just think, Sam, if it's a codex, we might be able to learn about what happened on P3R-123, how the Mayans got there, whether the Goa'uld kept coming through the gate."

"I think we'll go back," she consoled him. "But go a little easy on it with the Colonel. He took what happened badly."

"I know. And then I waved a gun at him." Daniel hunched his shoulders.

"The drug did that. He knows that."

Daniel hoped she was right.

He'd just eaten a particularly unappetizing dinner delivered to him from the mess when Jim Ellison appeared at his door. "Mind if I come in?"

"Why not. Maybe you can spring me." Daniel waved his hand at the chair Sam had recently vacated. "I hear they've asked you to join us."

Ellison nodded. "Yeah, they did. I'm still reeling from hearing what it is you do here." He settled into the chair.

"It is a shock," Daniel replied. "Even for me, and I was halfway primed to think there was life out there from my own theories before they called me in to translate."

"Sandburg said something about that. He really is good at this?"

"You know," Daniel said thoughtfully, "when you ask a question like that, you make me understand why he had to leave. Blair Sandburg is in no way inferior to you, except that his five senses are normal. He is a natural for this place. He's got the background to deal with alien cultures, a lot of whom were seeded out there from Earth originally. He's learned from you how to be cool under fire. He can handle weapons but he can also handle people. Even Jack is impressed--and it takes a lot to impress Jack."

"You think I consider Sandburg *inferior* to me?" Ellison blurted out in astonishment. "You're wrong. I don't."

"You consider him subordinate to you. Someone you have to take care of and be in charge of. And no, he never said a word about that to me."

Ellison stared at him openmouthed. "I took him into danger that he wasn't trained for. What was I supposed to do?"

"Accept the fact that he learned from what you taught him--and that he had as much to teach you. I've learned something from Jack--well, I've learned a lot of things. One of them is that there's a certain mindset that goes with the military. Maybe it carries over from cops, too, though I understand you were an Army Ranger. What that mindset says is that scholars and scientists and people who aren't skilled in the use of weapons are, maybe not inferior, but in some ways less. Because they have to be protected in combat. Now, needing to be protected in combat might be true, although both Blair and I have learned to hold our own. But it can't be the only measure of a man. You're a cop. You have that 'serve and protect' thing going for you. But you have to stop thinking of those you protect as being less important in the scheme of things."

"You're wrong," Ellison insisted.

"I'm not wrong," Daniel replied. "I've lived this all my life. It's not even you, particularly. "It's our society. The guy with the biggest gun is the hero. Rambo, and the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon stuff. They don't make many action/adventure movies about archaeologists. Indiana Jones is the exception to the rule, believe me, and *he's* got a whip." He grinned, pausing to settle his glasses on the bridge of his nose.

Jim started to speak, and Daniel grinned and held up a hand. "Let me finish. I'm on a roll. At least that's what Jack would say. The thing is, I don't either think you or Blair are completely at fault. You're in a bad position. Like Teal'c, you're a fish out of water in our society. Like Jack, you're coming out of a military background. Jack and I have our run arounds too. We're like salt and sugar. Sometimes I think he doesn't listen to me, that he thinks the things I have to say aren't as important as I think they are. I know you probably do the same to Blair. But then he and I sometimes expect more than we should, too. The worst thing I can say about you--and believe me, I don't know the entire story, just what I saw on TV and the little Blair said when he showed up--was being so quick to put it all on him and not forgive him, when he was trying with everything he had to make it right. But you were the one with your life on the line. It'd be hard to think past that, and I'm pretty sure Blair knows that now. I hope you know that sometimes you've got to take a step back and think it out before you jump on him, just like he does to make sure that he isn't expecting things from you that aren't fair to expect."

"I worked through a lot of that when I was strapped down on the table," Jim said dryly but without the anger and resentment Daniel had half expected for meddling in his life. "A part of me wants to get out of here so fast it would make everybody's heads spin. But then, I think, I'm not the only one in jeopardy out there. He'll come back with me if I go, won't he?"

Daniel nodded emphatically. "Even if Maybourne hadn't done his nasty thing, Blair would have come back eventually. And not very far down the road. We could all see that."

Jim was silent a moment. Dr. Frasier came in, registered Jim's presence, smiled at him distantly and vanished into another room, her mind on something else. Daniel rubbed the back of his hand, where he'd had the IV.

Ellison's words burst into a little silence. "He gave up his science career for me, did he tell you that?"

Daniel nodded. "I just about lost mine once, before I came here. I gave a lecture and everybody walked out on me. I'd lost my grants, I didn't have anything, nowhere to go, no family, no hope. I got recruited here. And this was better than any academic thing I ever tried. I get to use what I know, in more ways than I'd ever dreamed possible. And I won't deny that it gets exciting. If he stayed here, Blair could still do his own work, his anthropology. We're meeting a lot of cultures out there at all different levels of development. He's learned from you how to deal with a dangerous situation and he's got that police academy training now, too. Outside the military, you don't find many people like Blair. When I came, I didn't have a clue about guns. I could read hieroglyphics, I knew about ancient cultures. But Blair's got a real edge. If he goes back, he's got that Sentinel/Shaman bond that I don't think is breakable. But he goes back to being a tag-end to you. He needs that part. But what else will he have?"

"So I should stay for Sandburg's sake?" Jim's mouth tightened. He looked angry.

"No," Daniel said. "You should stay because it's what you feel is best or go if that's what you have to do. It's just that, he's more than your partner. He's your family. I went for a lot of years without family. My folks died when I was little and I spent time in foster homes. I only got to college because I was smart enough to win scholarships and because some of my parents' colleagues put in a good word for me. I had theories that didn't match conventional thinking and I got ostracized for it. Except for the year I spent on Abydos, this is the closest thing to family I've ever known. Jack and Sam and Teal'c, they're not just my teammates, they're my family, and I love them." He grinned. "Not that I could go around saying that. Jack would shrivel up with terminal embarrassment, and Teal'c would raise that one eyebrow of his and look at me like I was a lab specimen. Sam would understand. Anyway, except for Sha're, I'm the luckiest man on Earth."

"Sha're?"

"Do you know about the Goa'uld?" Daniel asked tentatively. Unless and until Ellison committed himself to the SGC there were things that needed to be held back.

"General Hammond told me about them." Skepticism still lingered in his eyes, although Daniel could tell he had accepted the General's words. It was simply that it was far too much for someone to swallow in such a short time. "I think I liked it better *before* I knew."

"Sha're is my wife," Daniel explained. "And she's been taken by a Goa'uld. She's out there somewhere. I've only seen her once since it happened. I know she's still 'in there', in her mind and she still loves me. I don't know if I will ever see her again. I got into this because I had to find her, and I still do. But when I do, I hope she'll be able to be here with me, because I don't know that I can ever give this up."

"I had no idea," Jim said gravely, sympathy in his eyes. "I'm sorry."

"So am I. Teal'c has a wife, too. She and his son are living far away, on another world, not his homeworld. Whether they can ever be together depends on the Goa'uld threat. We can't assume we're safe here on Earth and hide our heads in the sand. Not when they know where we are and have come here before to try to destroy us."

Jim had the expression of a man who has been so completely stunned with information that he might have shrugged and nodded if Daniel had said that Teal'c could turn into a giant white rabbit. "You four stopped them?"

Daniel nodded. "Well, we had help. Master Bra'tac, Teal'c's old teacher helped. There's a lot to tell but I bet Jack would say I shouldn't tell you much more right now."

"I understand that. I've been in covert ops. I understand about need to know." Jim was silent a minute, rubbing his jaw, his face completely expressionless. Daniel realized it was far harder for him to read this man's expressions than it was to read Jack's. Of course he *knew* Jack, probably better than anybody else did, but Jack's expressions were mobile and his eyes and his voice gave him away without hesitation. Daniel didn't have to be told when Jack was angry or happy. The whole world knew. Of course when Jack was down or depressed or sad it was a little harder, but Daniel had seen Jack that way, too, and he knew. He'd seen Jack at absolute rock bottom, ready to toss away his life on Abydos, and he'd seen him begin the climb back to normalcy. Whatever else Daniel did, he knew he had to be there if Jack needed him.

Janet returned holding a chart. "Hello, Detective Ellison. Daniel, your tests are looking good. I'm going to release you now, but I want you to stop back tomorrow afternoon for a follow-up blood test and to let me check that wrist to adjust the ace bandage and to see how that deep bruise on your knee is coming. And I'm going to want to monitor the bite wound regularly until it's completely healed." She grinned. "I won't clear you for a mission for two more days, just to give them time to get into shape, but other than that, you're fine. As far as I can tell there's not the slightest evidence of any of the toxin left in your system. The chance of a flashback is so remote as to be impossible." She smiled. "You don't even give a poor imitation of a sick man. Go on, go and get some lunch. I understand the General wants to call a briefing about P3R-123 at 1400 hours."

"Great. I can tell him about the codex and how important it is for us to reclaim those artifacts," Daniel cried, elated. "I know there's a way we can retrieve them. I just need to get at the computer and research Mayan temples. And if the environmental suits keep those killer plants away..."

Somewhere in the course of his excitement, Jim Ellison muttered a farewell and took off. Janet pointed Daniel in the direction of his clothes, that Jack had brought by for him earlier, and he hurried to dress. He had a lot of work to do.

*****

Jim Ellison found himself assigned quarters, typical military issue, stark and plain, and he tossed his duffle bag down on the bed and sat beside it. His thoughts were revolving so fast in his head they nearly made him dizzy. Go on missions to other planets? Defend the Earth from the Goa'uld? Work on a team with Sandburg here, a team where they had their own roles to play? Did that fit in with what he was? Did it mean he was turning his back on the choices he'd made in his life? Could he do it? Did he want to? He was content with being a police officer; he liked his work in Major Crimes. But this...this was such a unique opportunity he couldn't reject it out of hand. He liked the way Sandburg reacted to it, too. Did he want to deprive him of such a chance?

Uncertain of what to think about his options, he frowned. He knew how to be a cop. He was good at it. He was Major Crimes' best detective. Of course part of that was his Sentinel abilities but he'd been a good cop before his Sentinel senses had recurred, and he could be one again if the ability went away. What he'd wanted to be more than anything was a cop with Sandburg as his partner, his fellow cop. That didn't sound like it was going to happen. He knew Sandburg would come back to Cascade if he asked him to, and they could work something out, maybe with the police commissioner, to grant Sandburg authority beyond the badge. He could go back, take Sandburg with him....

Should he? Was that one more example of his expecting Sandburg to sacrifice his own life for Jim? He knew Sandburg hadn't wanted to leave or end their partnership and he'd come back in a second if Jim asked him to. If he felt uncomfortable being a police officer, they could work something else out. But if he did that, he'd be taking Sandburg away from a place where he could help all of humanity, not just Jim Ellison, a place where he could use his own very unique abilities. Did Jim have the right to ask that of him.

Pushing the duffle bag aside, he stretched out on the bed and closed his eyes, letting his mind sink into a near-sleep state. He sought after the jaguar spirit that sometimes appeared to him, that had guided him before, when Blair had been pulled, dripping and dead, from the fountain. The ability to seek his animal spirit was part of him although he'd always been less than comfortable about the mystic aspects of his heightened senses. That didn't mean they didn't exist.

So he concentrated hard, seeking out that part of him that he was the least comfortable with. It surprised him how fast he found the place he sought.

He stood before a temple, deep in the jungle, half buried in vines. Ahead of him, the jaguar led toward the door, loping through the vines with ease and power. Jim followed. As he reached the door, the beast turned, sprang at him, and merged with him, as it had done before. When the merging was complete, Jim's senses felt heightened in a different manner than usual. Everything was clearer, brighter, more vivid. He stepped through the massive stone door, into a world of shining stars and planets, whirling over his head in a stately dance. If he put out his hand, he could capture and hold them. They were his for the taking.

Incacha appeared, the Chopek warrior studying him in the way he had sometimes done when he was still alive. The air was thick with the scent of the jungle, each plant, blossom, filling the air with fragrance, the rich, moist soil adding its own tang. Birds chirped, distant animals called. Even the faint shusss of a snake coiling its way along the ground echoed in Jim's ears. He could hear the whole of earth, pulsing and alive, in need of his protection.

Incacha spoke in the Chopek dialect. "The world broadens, Sentinel. You must choose. To remain the Sentinel of the Great City is worthy. To seek more will require more of you. There will be great danger, but where the danger is great, so are the rewards. Only you can accept the risk. Only you can turn your back on it."

"What about Sandburg?" he asked, glancing around the temple that seemed to contain the entire universe in its small dimensions. Overhead, the stars glittered brilliantly, tempting him. Below him, the green life of Earth reached for him, claiming him as its own. He stood in between, his feet on the Earth, his head among the stars.

The wolf spirit sat on the altar at the far side of the pyramid. Above its head shimmered a crown of stars, at its feet was a forked path. One side was well-beaten, traveled by many. The other was tangled and twisted and full of briars but, above it, the stars shone brighter than ever and planets wheeled in a glorious blaze of color. The wolf hopped down off the altar and took a quick run down the rougher path then paused, looking over its shoulder. Its eyes glowed and they were Sandburg's eyes. It spoke to him in Sandburg's voice.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by.

And that has made all the difference."

Then, the wolf padded back and sat down at Jim's feet, leaning against his leg, looking up at him with Sandburg's eyes. Waiting. Trusting. Ready to run at his side whichever way he chose to go.

The temple dissolved around him and Jim pushed himself up off the bed. He had to find Sandburg.

*****

Blair was having lunch with Sam Carter when Jim appeared in the doorway and looked around. He noticed O'Neill and Daniel sitting a little ways off talking. Or rather, Daniel was talking eagerly, gesticulating with his fork, and Jack was listening with fond resignation. Blair had an idea Daniel wanted to go back to that planet and retrieve artifacts, find out if there were natives--and there had to be; someone kept the clearing around the Stargate open. Did the Goa'uld ever go there? Blair would have liked to go back himself, although he was pretty sure it wasn't in the cards, unless they did find the natives. Were they descendants of the original Mayans who had reverted to the primitive? Actual aliens who had wiped out the Mayans? He caught himself and waved at Jim.

As Ellison grabbed a tray of food and headed for their table, Sam smiled. "I think I'd better go over and protect the Colonel from Daniel's enthusiasm," she said. With a gesture at Teal'c, who had just appeared in the doorway, she motioned to the other two members of her team and hurried over to join them. Ellison settled his tray opposite Sandburg and looked at him consideringly.

"Hey, Jim," Blair greeted. "Did the General tell you what was going on here?"

"Only you could land in a place like this, Sandburg. I never met anybody like you who was such a trouble magnet."

"But I'm good at it, Jim. Okay, I've only gone twice. But it was soooo great! Think about it, Jim. The Sentinel of Planet Earth."

"I *have* thought about it," Jim replied. Suddenly he grinned. "Simon's just going to kill me. Where do I sign up, Chief?"

Blair didn't think he'd ever been so happy. His eyes lit up and his grin split his face. "Oh, man, that is the greatest news I have ever heard. You won't regret it, Jim. Well, maybe you'll regret it once the Goa'uld start chasing us, but it's gonna be soooo fantastic." Abandoning his food as something totally irrelevant, he jumped up, grabbed Jim and hugged him hard before whirling away to pounce on the unsuspecting O'Neill, crying, "It's okay. Jim's staying!!!"

*****

"...and you see, General, here's a series of blueprints of comparable Mayan temples with all the known booby traps marked and ways to trigger them without squishing anybody or dropping people into pits. We've got to go back to P3R-123, sir. There's too much there for us to just leave it moldering away in the jungle. Do you know how many Mayan codexes have ever been found? Uh, codicies. Hardly *any*. What it'll add to our store of knowledge is incredible, and it might even have information on the Goa'uld. We have to go back, sir. I know the plants are dangerous but they didn't react to the environment suits. It'll be safe."

"You mean safer." Jack grinned laconically. "Have to agree with him, sir," he said. He owed Daniel this one and he meant to back him. "The Mayan civilization didn't rise for a lot of centuries after the Egyptian Stargate was buried. We need to figure out how all these later cultures keep popping up on other planets. I don't think the Antarctic Stargate can explain all of it. That codex thingie might have the answers we need."

"That makes sense, sir," Sam agreed. "I know we're expected to find weapons, but knowledge is a weapon, too. We don't know if there are other Stargates on Earth, if there have been temporary Stargates over the years or if the Goa'uld have come in ships and taken people away. We have to find out all we can."

"The alien plants are not interested in me," Teal'c put in. "I can return to the planet without an environment suit and retrieve the codex. If Daniel Jackson believes it is important, then it is important."

Daniel grinned hugely and caught Jack's eye. O'Neill winked at him before turning to Hammond. "So, what do you say, sir? We need that information." He hoped the box really held a codex or Daniel would mope for weeks. He didn't mind going back there and retrieving it. Okay, so Daniel's take on missions would always be different from his own, but he could live with that, because the alternative meant a conventional military type who would agree with everything Jack said. He didn't need a yes man, even if he was a competent officer. He needed people who could give him the most information possible from the widest possible perspectives. He needed these three, the best team he'd ever had. He hadn't really forgotten that on P3R-123. He'd just taken it a little too much for granted. But Daniel was all right. Okay, so his wrist was a little banged up and he had a slight limp from whacking his knee and from the healing bite-mark on the back of his leg, but he was so caught up in the plan to retrieve the artifacts from the pyramid that he didn't even notice.

Hammond gave a wry smile. "I'll authorize that mission, Colonel O'Neill, once Dr. Jackson has medical clearance. We'll use it as a training session for Ellison, assuming he passes our tests, and Sandburg can go along, too. We won't fit them into a team of their own immediately; not just anyone would be able to work with the two of them. We'll need to work it out carefully. If they prove as good as I think they are, they'd be an ideal backup team for SG-1, doing the same kind of things you four are doing. Sandburg can use the experience. If you run into natives, I understand he has a knack for fitting in with primitive tribes."

Daniel started laughing. "Jack, if you could see the look on your face. I thought you liked Blair."

"I do like him," Jack returned, shaking his head. "It's just, between you and him, I'm really outnumbered."

"And Sam's a scientist, too," Daniel reminded him gleefully. "You know, I think this mission is going to be a lot of fun."

*****

Simon Banks put down his telephone and looked across his desk at Megan Connor and Joel Taggart. "That was Jim," he said regretfully. "And I'm sorry to say, he just turned in his resignation."

"He *quit*?" Taggart frowned. "Is he all right?"

"Is he with Sandy?" Connor demanded.

"Yes, to both. He says he's fine, but apparently the classified position Sandburg got wants him, too. Sandburg was on the line, too. He said both of them will show up sometime next weekend to close up the loft apartment, and so Jim could say goodbye to everyone here, including his family. Damn, I'm gonna miss him."

"And Sandy?" Connor asked, a twinkle in her eyes. "Are you going to miss him, too?"

Simon pushed his glasses into place with an impatient hand, groaning. "Damn it, I'm even gonna miss the kid."

"Think they'll ever come back?" Taggart asked.

"I don't know, but I hope so. I've half been afraid of this ever since the Sentinel thing came out. Even if most people think it was a hoax, I always knew it could come back and bite us on the ass. I'm sure Jim knew that, too. All I can say is, if this place he's going to work is classified, it sounds like they have a better chance of watching his back than we could. Hopefully, it's the best for him, and for Sandburg, too." He got to his feet. "I suppose I'd better go out and make the announcement." He paused in the doorway, looking out at the bullpen. Brown and Rafe looked up at him as he stood there, and he saw from their expressions that they'd guessed something big had happened. "It's going to be different around here," he said ruefully, and knew that Taggart and Connor felt it just like he did.

It would be hard to get used to Major Crimes without a Sentinel in the bullpen.

*****

"Okay, it starts out like this." Jack O'Neill grimaced. There were some things that didn't go well with the dignity of his rank and this is one of them. "Come on, Teal'c, you insisted on this. Let's see you do it along with me."

Sitting on a couch in the corner of the rec room, Daniel exchanged a grim with Carter. "I really said that?" he asked, although he claimed to remember everything that had happened when he was under the influence of the alien hallucinogen.

"You did." Carter dimpled and lowered her voice. "Pretending not to know the macarena was wicked."

"Well, wasn't I on Abydos when it was popular?" he asked.

Jack couldn't remember when the dance had enjoyed its fifteen minutes of fame, but he did remember that Carter had tricked it out of him that he knew how to do it. After that, Teal'c had demanded a demonstration, his face bland and unexpressive, his eyes alight with the kind of mischief only SG-1 ever saw. To make it worse, Daniel turned that wide-eyed-kid look at him and said, "Please, Jack," in a tone O'Neill had never been able to resist. He was as bad as that long-haired Sandburg.

Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if Jackson hadn't invited Blair and Jim Ellison--and all of SG-3 to witness the demonstration. Or that Makepeace hadn't blabbed it to a couple of other teams that were between missions. When he realized he had such a big audience, Jack had nearly pulled rank on everybody he could get away with and ordered them out of the room. Only the expectant gaze Daniel threw at him prevented it.

Okay, so he was stuck. That being the case, he'd have to hoof it with the best of them. He cast a baleful glance at Daniel, a wary one at Carter, and opened his mouth to explain.

Rescue came from the most unlikely of sources. "Uh, Colonel, sir?" Blair held up his hand like a student in a classroom, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

Now what was going wrong? "Sandburg?"

"I think this ought to be *my* gig. I'd bet money I'm the best dancer in the whole room. I mean I not only know all the latest dances, I know primitive tribal ritual dances, too. Come on, Teal'c, do what I do, okay?" He leaped to his feet, bestowed a wicked grin on Jim Ellison, who tried to look as if he suddenly had two sprained ankles, and grabbed Teal'c by the arm. Jack winced and waited for the subsequent explosion, and Makepeace put his hand over his mouth in a laugh he tried hard to turn into a cough, but failed.

Freed from making an idiot of himself in front of half the SGC, Jack dropped down beside Daniel and watched Sandburg perform the motions of the macarena with a practiced ease that Jack couldn't have mastered. His dancing experience was limited to the times when Sara had dragged him off for an evening of dinner and dancing, something he had allowed only when he couldn't think of a reasonable excuse. After a moment, Teal'c started to do the movements with him.

Ellison risked one look at the colonel, then he smoothed his face over into utter immobility, although his eyes danced with amusement. Carter giggled happily for a second, then she jumped up and joined in. Johnson, one of the SG-3 marines proved to have a major aptitude for it, too.

"Now *that's* the Macarena," Blair proclaimed when he ran down. "I've even got a screen saver that does it with little noodles. Anybody want to know how they dance on Borneo?"

"Nobody wants to do any weird tribal dances," Ellison protested, grabbing Sandburg's arm and yanking him into a chair. Blair beamed at him delightedly, not one whit abashed.

"I do," Daniel volunteered. "And I know a couple of chain dances from Abydos that might be fun."

"Goody. The SCG dancing school," muttered Jack. "We can send out dancing teams whenever we need to help the natives with their socialization skills."

Teal'c repeated the steps and arm movements once more then he frowned. "I do not like this dance," he observed in his driest, most skeptical tones. "Daniel Jackson, how could a ceiling do such a dance?"

"Well..." began Daniel over everybody's laughter, "it sprouted little arms and legs. It was cute, really."

Jack grabbed him in a chokehold and rumpled his hair.

*****

"Okay, Jim, this is it," Sandburg exulted, dragging Ellison up the ramp to the Stargate. He caught Jack O'Neill's eye through the faceplate of his environment suit and winked.

The Colonel rolled his eyes and muttered, "Oh, for crying out loud."

"It's not too bad, Jim." Sam smiled at him. "The only thing is, you might want to tone down your senses a bit before you do it the first time. You'll figure out how much it's going to affect you then. It's a little different for everybody, and we don't want you going into overload."

"Hey, she's right," cried Daniel, adjusting the pack he carried. "Just take it easy the first time through, Jim."

Blair nodded. "You can do it. If I can survive it when I'm an anxiety attack waiting to happen, you can do it. Just be ready to turn the dial down when we step through."

"You do not look like an anxiety attack, Blair Sandburg," Teal'c rumbled drily. "I have witnessed your courage on more than one occasion."

A blazing smile spread across Blair's face. He tugged at Jim's arm. "Come on. This is the greatest rush in the world--in the galaxy," he corrected.

"When we're through the pep talks, maybe we could think about actually going on the mission," O'Neill pointed out. "Ready, Danny boy?"

"If you are," Daniel replied. He fell into step with Jack and they stepped through the Gate together. Teal'c followed. Carter gestured for Jim and Blair to precede her.

Ellison blinked as they vanished into what Sam called an event horizon of a stable wormhole. He didn't know what that was, exactly, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know. He wasn't even sure he wanted to step through it. But Sandburg was grinning at him expectantly. Trust Sandburg to lead him into a totally different kind of trouble. Not satisfied with the problems he could create here on Earth, he had to find more on other planets. "Okay," he said. "I'm ready."

Blair pulled him up to the Gate and Jim took a deep breath and stepped through--and into his future.

*****

"*That's* a Mayan codex?" Jim Ellison asked eight hours later when the team had returned through the Stargate in possession of the box that supposedly contained the codex and a few other easily portable artifacts. Jackson had babbled something about Long Count dates and Mayan gods with names Jim had never heard before, one of whom was supposed to be the Mayan god of disaster. Ah Puch or something like that. Disaster? Wonderful.

Jim wasn't sure what a codex was supposed to look like, but something that had been made with tree bark with panels on it like a comic book in vivid colors and pictographic writing on it in the style he mentally associated with pre-Columbian tribes wasn't it. "We risked killer plants for that?" Look at Sandburg, every bit as excited as Jackson was. Maybe there was something in joining the SGC. It felt good to see the kid looking so happy. He'd tried hard the last few months; he'd worked hard at the Academy but, at times, there had been a sadness in his eyes that he banished whenever he realized Jim had noticed. He put it down to fatigue after his hard work at the academy, but Jim had known, even before Sandburg had worked up his courage and told Jim he couldn't be a cop, that there was a problem. Now, Sandburg seemed whole again. For that, alone, this place would be worth it, but Ellison found himself caught, too. He was intrigued with what he was doing and knew he could make it work. His vision of the pyramid, the stars, and the wolf had been right on the money.

"That's a codex," Daniel Jackson's face was alight with sheer intellectual joy, a look Ellison recognized from Sandburg's face when he'd been spouting weird things out of obscure textbooks or dreaming up crazy new ways to test the limits of Jim's senses. General Hammond had said something about sensory tests, and Blair had crowed with delight at the idea. Okay, maybe Jim didn't like that idea very much, but he had a feeling he needed to do it. Blair had even suggested they invite the Shaman from that planet where Sandburg had first been recruited to help out, to work with the two of them for a day or two. Jim wished he could talk to the Sentinel who lived there, but his experience with a second Sentinel had proven that was not possible. The shaman would have to do.

Jackson was still talking. "The only bad thing is that we can't pull in recognized experts to translate it. We'll have to go with what we can manage here. I'm good with Egyptian hieroglyphs but this... Well, I've done a little. I can't wait to get started on it. We don't have to send this to Area 51 right away, do we, General?" he asked hopefully.

"We *are* a field team, Daniel," Jack reminded him. "I asked and he said we had until our next assignment for you to play translator. Anything about the Goa'uld gets top priority." Hammond nodded in confirmation.

"What about those natives?" Sandburg asked. He was fascinated by the codex, but it had been the timid little people who had peeked out of the jungle at them who had really thrilled him. Ellison knew his guide's priorities. He loved interacting with remote tribes. He'd even started working out communication with them before they left. Sam claimed the Stargate sometimes made it possible for them to communicate with the people on other planets as if they were all speaking English, but that it didn't always with non-human types. The natives on P3R-123 weren't human, although they were fairly humanoid. Ellison still found the encounter mind-boggling. Teal'c wasn't from Earth, but he looked human if you ignored the gold tattoo on his forehead.

The little Blair had worked out with the natives implied that they had inherited the cattle from the pyramid builders, who had gradually died off from plant bites, the same plant that had chewed on Daniel. Apparently repeated exposure proved lethal to them. One bite, no problem, Sandburg had insisted when he'd reported his discussion to the Colonel.

"It's like a zat gun," he proclaimed, delighted to have come up with the parallel, holding up the weird alien ray gun to make his point. "One bite hurts you but you get over it. Two of them makes you crazy permanently. Any more than that, you're dead. The natives are immune, I think. The cattle that came from Earth evidently weren't affected; they're immune, too, or else it doesn't affect animals. I couldn't get that clear. And Teal'c's immune, too, or else the plants can sense his larval Goa'uld and don't want to mess with it." Jim hadn't seen the entity that lived inside the Jaffa and he wasn't sure he ever wanted to, but he knew about it.

The little natives had been terrified of Teal'c. That was evidently why they hadn't appeared the first time SG-1 had gone through the Gate. This time, in the environmental suit he'd been forced to wear, they hadn't realized he was a Jaffa until they had come face to face with him. Their leader had implied--with exaggerated pantomiming--that Teal'c's protectiveness toward Jackson on the first mission had convinced them these strange humans were safe to contact.

"They evidently know of the Goa'uld," Hammond put in, lifting his eyes from the priceless codex and shifting his focus to the larger picture. "Sandburg, you established a rapport with them. I'm going to send you and Ellison back with SG-3 so you can learn more of what they know. I've recalled our archaeological team and they'll go, too, and complete the excavation of the pyramid."

"My own mission," Blair said eagerly, rocking on his toes. He looked like he'd won the Nobel Prize. Reminded of the possibility that he might have won it for his Sentinel dissertation, Jim frowned. Sandburg had said he knew what was important and it wasn't money and prizes. It was friendship and working together on something they both believed in.

"*Our* mission, Chief," Ellison pointed out. All right, he could believe in the Stargate project, too. He was intrigued by the whole process. Goa'uld or no, he had experienced some weird sensory reactions in the transition between Earth and P3R-123. That wild ride through the Stargate had been exciting but it had also touched his senses in whole new ways. He wanted more opportunity to study the experience. After all, it hadn't been bad, nothing he couldn't control and nothing that had disoriented him. Stepping out on the alien planet, he had stood in the sunshine, feeling a gravity slightly lighter than Earth's, and a sun that was fractionally the wrong size and he felt as young and excited as Sandburg. So it was true. He was on another world. He looked forward to the first one he got to visit without a protective suit.

Blair nodded. "It's gonna be so great, Jim. You'll be able to tell things about the new worlds that most people can't. You'd probably have known the natives were watching us last time when the rest of us couldn't."

"That could definitely be an advantage," O'Neill agreed.

"Before you go, though, I want the two of you to go through several days of intensive training," the General decided. "You're both new to this. You have a lot of work ahead of you before you'll be going on missions on your own. We'll eventually fit you into a team, people who prove they can work with you."

Daniel leaned over the codex, so close to it his nose was nearly touching it.

"Don't make love to it, just study it," Jack muttered, winning a quick grin from the archaeologist and an odd glance from Teal'c.

Chuckling, Blair turned from the codex and looked up at Ellison. "Are you okay with all this, Jim?" He asked quietly, and there was a moment of doubt in his eyes.

The Sentinel hesitated, then he found a reassuring grin for his guide. "Don't worry about it, Chief," he said, clapping the younger man on the shoulder. "I think everything is going to be just fine."

-end-