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Not Six

by ljc

5/05



Summary: Sentinel weirdness lurks here. Not a typical crossover with Stargate.



Note: Takes place after “The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg”, after Blair becomes a cop; and shortly after “Crystal Skull” on Stargate SG1. I wanted to write a crossover between my two favorite shows. I've also worked in a social networking theory (or small world phenomenon) called six degrees of separation. The first thing I did was write the prologue and epilogue. That made getting from point 'a' to the endpoint very interesting.



No warnings.



Rated PG for a few words.



Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, and Paramount. All stories are written with the love of the show in mind. No money is being made. All stories are property of the author.



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Definition:

Six degrees of separation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. The theory was first proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called "Chains".



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Prologue



“Hey Jim , have you ever wondered about that theory, six degrees of separation? You're pretty well connected through the police and the army and the Chopec and all your travels. I bet, for you, it could be five degrees or even four to just about anyone in the world. What do you think?” asked Blair.



Jim shook his head and inwardly groaned. Whatever answer he gave would just set Sandburg off on a tangent. This was not a discussion he wanted to have, locked inside his truck with the talkative kid while on a stakeout. He totally ignored the question instead, “What about those Jags, hunh? Great game last night. I thought Orvelle was going to retire soon. Not the way he moved last night. Have you talked to him lately?”



Blair took a deep breath to respond then glared at his partner. He slapped him on the arm and his response was, “Hey. I 'know' what you're doing. You wait. There could be some amazing connections through people you know. You never can tell.”



<>-<>



1.



Blair tapped steadily on the the door of the truck. Traffic had slowed to a standstill and Jim was on edge as it was. “Chief,” Jim began in exasperation, “Cut it out, okay? I swear that tapping sounds like those Kodo Drummers on that CD of yours.”



Blair just kept on tapping to the exasperation of his partner.



“Sandburg,” Jim nearly shouted. Blair jumped, and Jim felt a little guilty. “Sorry kid, but this stop and go traffic has my nerves fried. Sorry I startled you,” Jim said with a sigh.



“Oh, sorry, man. Just take a deep breath and blow it out slowly. Want a little neck massage. I can manage that since we're not moving,” and Blair moved to do just that, releasing his seat belt and sliding over, then reaching for Jim's neck.



“Quit it Sandburg. Not in the truck. I'm getting enough nasty looks now,” groused Jim.



Blair felt a little hurt but he shrugged it off, “Okay. It's your neck. I'm the one that's studied yoga and relaxation techniques. But ... what do I know?” ending with a long-suffering sigh.



Jim heard the sigh and knew Blair was using his innocent/hurt puppy trick. He grinned as he said, “Chief, I just don't want all these stressed out drivers to be jealous. You know how bad 'road rage' can get.”



Blair just smirked at his partner, and soon lapsed back into his rudely interrupted thoughts. “Uh, Jim? I've been wanting to discuss something with you and maybe this isn't the best time or place but ... well ... ”



Jim could hear the hesitance in Blair's voice. That was not like his partner. Not at all. He put the truck in park since they were totally stalled. He could hear sirens at the next exit. Must be a heck of a tie up ahead. If Blair wanted to talk, they might as well do it here. He leaned back in his seat and gazed at Blair questioningly, “This sounds serious Chief. No time like the present. Shoot.”



Blair shifted in his seat and clasped his hands in a tight clench as he continued, “Well, uh, ... Jim I just wanted to tell you I've made a decision about the Shaman thing.”



Shaman THING? Ookay. Jim grabbed the back of his own neck with one hand and squeezed, trying to ease the tension that had just gone up a notch, “You're the Shaman, Blair. Whatever you decide, you know I'll back you right?”



“Yeah. I know the drugs are out, right?” as he looked at Jim. Jim's steely stare left that answer plain without words. “Okay! I know. But I've tried meditating and ... nothing. At least nothing more than relaxing.”



Jim was trying to be understanding. “Blair you have a spirit animal. You've seen the wolf ... ”



“Only that once,” whispered Blair.



Jim's stomach knotted. He reached his hand over to clasp Blair's shoulder. “That once ... saved your life, buddy. Look, I know this is important to you. I know you've done research and interviewed people and meditated till you nearly fainted from hunger. I don't know how to help you with this ... ”



“But that's just it Jim, I think you could. Help me, that is,” Blair responded with subdued excitement. “But, I don't know if you really want to help, you know?” at Jim's upset look Blair hurried to continue, “I mean, help me the way you'll need to. Ahhh, I'm not explaining anything right. Look, Jim ... will you meditate 'with' me? Will you take that trip Jim? Is it something you can do now? Is it something you're willing to try?” Blair held himself tensely.



Jim's immediate reaction was denial ... nononono NO ... But. This was Blair. They'd come a long way since Alex. The diss mess. Becoming partners on the force, long after becoming sentinel and guide. He couldn't just blurt a 'no' without good reason. Besides being stubborn, controlling, compulsive ... and scared, that is. And just not wanting to 'go there'. He turned to stare at nothing, anything besides Blair. He rubbed his hands roughly over his face, finally sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose. He peeked at Blair as he did so. Blair sat statue-still, hands loose in his lap, breaths shallow.



“It's okay Jim, it's okay. I knew it was too much to ask ... I just had to, you know. I'm at a dead end. Incacha must have been wrong, man. I'm sorry. I really tried Jim. I tried everything. Read everything I could get my hands on. Tried a vision quest. I don't know ... ”



“Wait a minute. Vision quest? When did you try a vision quest? And why didn't you tell me? We are partners right? Sentinel and guide. Right? Are you keeping stuff from your sentinel and your partner again? Come on Blair, we're supposed to be past that,” exclaimed Jim.



Blair turned startled eyes on his sentinel, “Jim, man. It's okay. Nothing happened. I tried and nothing. Nada. Zip. I'm a failure as your shaman man. I'm sorry ... ”



“Okay.”



Blair blinked. “Okay. Okay what?”



“I'll take that trip with you, Sandburg. Blair. You shouldn't have tried on your own. Tell me you weren't really alone ... ”



At Blair's vigorous shake, Jim sighed. “Okay. We're on.”



<>-<>



2.



Everything was all arranged. Time off: check. Secluded cabin, no visitors: check. Ambiance, candles and pillows and natural scents: check.



Blair bustled back and forth, checking the pillows, the candles ... whatever. How many times has he done that? Too many. Nerves. Jim walked up to Blair and placed both hands on his shoulders as Blair's nervous energy almost sent him careening around him to check something again. “Blair stop. Breathe ... ”



“Jim. Almost ready. Just one more ... ”



“Blair. Stop. Breathe. Come on Chief, breathe for me,” Jim shook Blair's shoulders gently as he slowly grinned at him. “It's fine. Everything is fine. We're as ready as we're going to get. Just remember that you're my guide, my friend, my partner. Come on, let's go there. WE have a journey to take.”



<Breathe for me> Jim's insides twisted at his own words. Jim didn't know why, but he knew, just knew, that something was going to happen today. Maybe it was wishful thinking because Blair wanted this, and seemed to need this, so much. Blair had never failed at any of the guide stuff. Jim felt he'd failed miserably in the sentinel stuff. Losing your guide when another sentinel drowns him ... when he'd been warned in a vision ... had to count as a huge failure. He could only try to help Blair now with his guide's own perceived shortcomings.



Jim kept one hand on Blair's shoulder as they walked to the center of the cleared space in the living room. They'd removed anything not nailed down. Since neither of them were sure of what might happen, they didn't want to chance breakage. His dad was happy to lend them the cabin but Jim didn't know how understanding he'd be of this spirit quest if they wrecked the place.



They settled and began the breathing exercise they'd practiced a few times, never before allowing themselves to go deeply into the meditation, just to familiarize themselves with the technique. This was the real thing. The first all-out trial. They had a week. Hopefully they'd have a breakthrough early-on or .... What if they learned nothing? What if this, too, didn't work for them? For Blair. No, he didn't think he could do this just for Blair. This was his journey too. He didn't think it would work to try to do this for someone else. It had to be personal, for himself, too. Just what would it mean if they connected in some way ... to something ... to ... somewhere? This could be interesting. Simon would not believe he was thinking that, and Jim grinned. Simon would NOT want to know. He wondered if Simon would ever come around. This journey was looking better just knowing he and Blair were together, all the way. Blair had never left him. Had NOT betrayed his trust in any way. Yeah. Breathe Ellison. Breathe with Blair. Hear his breath. The rustle of his clothes. The minute creaking of muscles and ligaments. Hair against hair. Lungs expanding. Air whooshing in and out.



Blair was terrified and elated. Jim was with him. He wanted this. Even if nothing happened, this spoke volumes. He reached out as his breathing steadied. Touching his sentinel lightly on his knees. Don't zone on me Jim. We're on a journey.



Home.



Gray. Lighter. White. Bright as the light at the fountain. Wolf. Powerful and vital. Panther. Primal. Primordial.



One.



<>-<>



Awakening they gasped in shock. Awe. Wonder. The merge of two beings replayed with both cognizant of the ramifications. Both ... wanting with hearts and souls. Both ... given a second chance to be brothers. Both ... forgiving and forgiven. They ... were one.



<>-<>



They tried again the next day. They thought they knew what to expect.



It came faster. Rushing. Headlong into the blue.



They wandered joyfully. Exploring with each step. Always in reach of one another till sleep overcame them.



<>-<>



The next day was attempted joyously.



And it began with a rush headlong into the gray. A fog so thick they quickly lost one another. Jim could not sense Blair, nor Blair, Jim.



The mist was thick, cold. It wet them through till shivers wracked them. The damp air impeded their breathing. The impenetrable fog threw them into panic.



White out. Lost. Search was by feel. Trippingly they went over gray verdure. Crying out, unheard. Endlessly. Lost. Alone.



Then found. Not alone. Together and lost, but not alone.



Waking with tears of fear. Of fear of aloneness. Of being two.



<>-<>



They were hesitant, but made another attempt. Clinging hand-to-hand as they entered the light.



They walked hand in hand.



Wolf and Panther reclined in sleep as Incacha kept watch. <I have waited long.> He spoke chidingly, as to recalcitrant children.



Blair and Jim stepped closer. They looked at each other and released their tight grip. Blair stepped forward. “You passed the way of the Shaman to me, Incacha. I have ... been searching.”



Jim said, “Blair is my guide. He has fulfilled his duties. Why couldn't he come here by himself Incacha? Why did I have to join him?”



Incacha spoke gravely, <You are one. Your spirit guides merged. You are one in this place. You know this.>



Blair looked on in wonder. “We truly are one soul? One for eternity?” He looked worriedly at Jim. What would Jim think of that?



Jim was equally awed. He turned to smile at his guide. His partner, “For eternity, Blair.”



<>-<>



Their 'vacation' was something they didn't need to discuss in depth. They were one on the spirit plane. Only 'back on earth' did they miscommunicate. One thing they did agree on was that any time they had problems, they knew where to go to get themselves back on track. The place where they were one.



It was a relief to both men that their differences were only superficial. That they could exist in harmony in 'that other place'. They went there often to 'commune' with each other. With themselves? It was confusing even to them. But they were better for the journey.



<>-<>



3.



“Come on Sandburg. We're going to be late,” yelled Jim.



“I'm coming. Go. I'll meet you downstairs. I just have to grab my phone and backpack. Go,” said Blair, exasperated at nothing in particular and everything in general.



Jim obligingly hit the stairs, intending to swing his pickup by the door to get Blair.



Blair swung around the corner into his room, and shivered with the cold. <What the ... > he thought. It was a warm spring day. He felt like he'd walked in front of an open freezer door. But the cold seemed to permeate his entire body. He stumbled back a few steps. He passed his hand through spot, again feeling the cold, but just on his hand. Just in that one small area. He tried feeling around the area to see where it was coming from.



~Blair~ he heard faintly.



“Who is it? Who are you? Where are you?” Blair questioned nervously.


Jim came crashing through the door and swung into Blair's bedroom with gun drawn. “What ... What is it? Sandburg, what's wrong?” Jim looked wildly around expecting an army of intruders, from his reaction.



“Jim. Did you hear that? Tell me you heard that,” pleaded Blair.



“Isn't that what I usually ask you, Sandburg? I heard your heartbeat take off. What happened anyway?” as he lowered his gun.



“I heard my name. Wait, first I felt cold ... ”



“What's new about that?” Jim grinned as he holstered his gun.



Blair slapped his arm, “Come on Jim. There was no draft. Just this cold spot. And I swear I heard someone whisper my name.”



Jim stilled, “Cold spot?”



“What Jim?”



“No. No. It must be just a weird draft. Come on Sandburg. We have to get to work. Come on ....”



<>-<>



4.



“Sandburg, leave your tie alone,” Jim admonished.



“Ah Jim. Why did I have to come along? This is worse than those academic functions to impress benefactors of the University ever were. Why'd your Dad invite these people to the Country Club? I thought he was semi-retired,” Blair groused, trying to keep from sounding like a fretful little kid.



“Dad's just throwing a little get together for some of his old friends. He said he hadn't seen some of them since handing over the top job to Steven. I think he wants to network Steven in with the older crowd,” said Jim.



Blair considered the possibilities, “That's a great opportunity for Steven. Your Dad's contacts are probably as diverse as yours.” Blair gave Jim a broad grin, “Hey, there's your Dad.”



Jim gave his father a firm handshake and a mini stoic-Ellison hug. Jim saw Blair stifle a chuckle and reached over to draw him up beside him. If he had to be here he was going to share the 'joy'. “Hi Dad. I dragged Blair along, like you asked. What's up?”



William Ellison smiled at Jim and shook Blair's hand, “Nothing is 'up' Jimmy. I told you this party is for Steven and for you two. Both of you. There are some people coming that you've known for years Jimmy and I thought you'd be happy to reacquaint yourself with them. And Blair is your friend and partner. It never hurts to have contacts in high places. Take my word for it, boys. Now, just take a stroll and mingle. I think you'll be surprised, Jimmy, at how many of the guests you remember.”



Jim seemed to actually be enjoying himself, and Blair was getting a view of a part of society he'd have a hard time infiltrating on his own. Talk about a closed society. There were men and women from major corporations, academic and research institutions, and even the military.



“Little Jimmy Ellison? I haven't seen you in twenty years,” said a grandfatherly gentleman with kindly blue eyes.



“Uncle George?” said Jim, with real warmth in his voice. “It's wonderful to see you again, Sir. Dad didn't say you were here, he just told me to mingle and I'd be surprised.”



Uncle George chuckled, “Civilian contractors do a lot of work for the military, these days especially. William and I have worked on several projects together over the years, and we became friends early on.” With a twinkle in his eye he reached into his pocket, “I just happen to have a few pictures of my granddaughters ... if you're not too busy.”



Later as Jim and Blair walked slowly out for some cool, fresh air, Blair remarked, “Jim, is ... is Uncle George safe? I mean, he is military. A General! He seems like such a nice guy but could it be a problem?”



Jim sighed as he leaned back against the balcony, “I've known Uncle George for years. I think he's as honest as they come. And loyal. He's a devoted family man. I didn't 'sense' anything odd. And maybe Dad is right. Maybe it would be good to have contacts in high places.”



Jim tilted his head as he listened to something only he could hear in this instance. Blair casually leaned forward into the balcony rail, brushing Jim's arm to keep him grounded, all the while watching his sentinel for signs of danger to Jim or those around them.



Jim shook himself slightly as his focus returned to here and now, beside Blair. He gave his partner an odd look.



“What Jim?” Blair asked quietly and with Sandburgian impatience, he bounced slightly in place.



“It was Uncle George. It was a strange phone conversation. I think it caught my attention because he seemed a little agitated. He was talking to someone named Mark Rothman. He's at Rainier doing a little research on the background of ... an artifact, I guess. A crystal skull?” whispered Jim.



“The one found in Belize? By Nicolas Ballard? He made some weird claims about it years ago,” blurted Blair in surprise.



“What would an Air Force General, stationed at Cheyenne Mountain, have to do with research on a crystal skull?” mused Jim.



“Hey, Jim. I think I met Mark Rothman once. There was a seminar at Rainier on Pre-Columbian Archeology that he attended. The anthro department got involved with planning and exhibits.”



<>-<>



5.



Simon grumpily cleared snack debris from the poker table. “Sandburg, if I ever find out you've been cheating, you'll be doing school crossing duty in January.”



Blair whirled toward Simon with a quick denial at the ready, “Come on, Simon. Do I look stupid enough to try to cheat at cards while playing with cops? You must have mistaken me for someone with a death wish. I just happen to be an accomplished poker player,” said with a haughty air.



Megan whapped him gently on the back of the head, “You're just too lucky, mate. You better watch it or those cops will catch on.”



Blair, chuckling as he smoothed his curls, “It's not luck, it's talent. Right Jim?”



Jim grinned, “I don't know Chief. Statistics isn't my field but even I have to wonder. You've been pushing the odds lately.”



Blair just continued counting his winnings, “You're just jealous of the Sandburg talent, that's all.” He got up to start straightening the kitchen and felt an odd disjointed sensation. He shivered with a sudden feeling of cold. He turned toward Jim. Simon and Megan were talking to Henri and Joel. They stood still as statues. He saw Jim turn so very slowly toward him, reaching out in slow motion to him. Blair continued to turn until the balcony windows were before him. Then everything dimmed as a though a cloud passed between him and the rest of the room.



Then Jim was there. Blair was gasping as he lay on the floor cradled in Jim's arms. Everyone was looking worried as they hovered over them.



When Blair's breathing had settled Jim insisted he move to the sofa. “Blair, what happened? Can you tell me?” Jim asked gently. But the worried expression on his face belied his grave concern.



Blair hesitated to answer only because he knew it was a sentinel thing, not for general consumption. “Jim, man. I'm okay, really. I was just a little light headed when I got up. No problem,” and gave Jim's hand a surreptitious squeeze. Whispering sentinel-soft, “Later, Jim. Just between us, okay?”



Jim's worry increased but he tried to make light of the incident and with a nod to Simon, who took appropriate action at this cue, convinced their friends everything was alright, with reassurances to notify them if something 'came up'. Blair had bounced right back and was the best evidence that things were okay with their friend. Simon left after further assurances, but he still looked like he had misgivings about leaving them.



After everyone was gone, Jim didn't say much. He made tea and suggested Blair sit on the sofa. With tea made, Jim brought two cups to the living room. Handing one to Blair, he sat beside him with his own cup. Still reluctant to say anything, he turned to Blair.



Blair looked at his friend, and with a small sigh, “I really am alright Jim. But something strange, odd, happened. I have an idea, but I need to ask you something first.”



Jim's soft reply with a warm smile was, “You know you can ask me anything. What's stopping you now?”



Blair grinned, but it quickly faded, “Jim, you kind of brushed off that 'cold spot' incident the other day. It happened again ... plus an added feature. Are you sure you want to talk about it?”



Jim sighed, “I know that we need to talk about it Blair. But it wasn't an incident that only you experienced this time. What did you see, feel, sense? Because I had my own 'incident' observing you. Tell me your side.”



Blair looked confused and surprised and started to blurt a question but reined himself in. He took a deep centering breath and explained his experience. “Tell me Jim. What did you observe?”



Jim gripped his cup tightly, then must have thought better of it, and put it gently down on the coffee table. His gaze strayed to the balcony as he tried to order his thoughts. “Blair ... your body temperature went down a few degrees for one thing. You thought everything went into slow motion, but to me your heart speeded up, you jerked your head toward the balcony, and nothing in the loft 'dimmed' except you. Chief, you looked like you were fading. I swear I could see through you. It scared the hell out of me.”



Blair paled at that. “I was fading? To me, everyone looked like I was seeing them through a fog. I don't know what to say. This is beyond anything I have experienced before. Do you think we should 'take another trip'? Maybe Incacha could help.”



Jim looked at Blair, “Chief, I don't know. I just know I don't want to let you out of my sight right now. But it's late and we both need to sleep. I think we might not have any choice but to seek out Incacha. We could head to the cabin tomorrow. Ah ... would you mind ... ?”



Blair couldn't guess, “What Jim?” He grinned as he repeated his friends words back to him, “You know you can ask me anything.”



Jim snorted and shook his head, “I've never asked you to sleep with me before.” He looked ruefully at his guide.



Blair goggled, then laughed, “Be still my heart.” Then with a wan smile, “It was scary for me too Jim. I could use a little togetherness right now.” Looking down at his own empty teacup, “I was fading away?” he asked hesitantly.



“Yeah buddy. I could see .... Incacha better have some answers,” muttered Jim.



<>-<>



6.



The next day's journey was started at dawn. They'd been too tired to pack the night before, but they were well used to these quick getaways by now. They'd needed these respites from their stressful work in Major Crimes and from their sentinel/guide partnership as well. Reconnecting with each other and with the natural world, untainted by modern toxins and emotional stress.



They quickly but unhurriedly set the scene of their meditation routine. They wanted to go into it well rested and after giving themselves time to unwind as much as possible. They sat and drank a last cup of tea and just enjoyed the fresh air and the view from the back porch before embarking on this latest quest.



Blair held his tea until the last warmth was soaked into his fingertips. He turned to Jim with a raised brow and a grin.



Jim grinned back, “Time's a wastin' pardner,” he joked.



Blair chuckled and gathered their cups to put in the sink. He went to light the candles. All was in readiness. Now, hopefully, Incacha would come though for them.



They entered their meditation with knees touching, as usual, and hands on knees so that their hands touched also. They both felt safer with this physical contact. Their quests were sometimes joyful, sometimes chaotic, sometimes frightening.



The sun shone brightly on this journey. They hoped that was a good sign. They walked the jungle path with Blair in the lead this time. Jim wanted to keep an eye on him at all times. They came to a clear pool, so clear even Blair could see well into it's depths. Blair sat idly by the pool. He looked up at a faint sound. When he failed to locate it he bent to pluck a flower from the edge but turned quickly at a wisp of a touch along his back. The touch spread to encompass him. He felt a vibration deep in his bones. His heart hammered and he felt paralyzed in his fear. His head turned at Jim's gasp.



“Jim ...” gasped Blair.



“Blair! Blair, where are you?” cried Jim franticly.



Blair looked at his hand, at himself. He could see himself even if he couldn't make himself move away from this intrusive force. When he glanced down into the clear pool he saw ... jungle. No reflection of himself as he'd seen only moments ago. Terror gripped him and he stared wildly around. At least Jim looked solid enough and he seemed to be free to move.



“Jim, do you hear me?” Blair's voice quavered.



“Yeah Chief. And your heart's going mad. Are you okay?” asked Jim as he reached for his target. Grasping Blair, he hugged him tightly to his chest.



Blair felt a strain and then a snap as if something flexible had broken it's hold on him.



“I think we're going to be joined at the hip here buddy. Hope you don't mind, but I'm not letting go,” said a quietly panicked Jim.



“Hey man, if you let go, you'll be the only one,” whispered Blair into Jim's chest. “Please, man. Don't let go.”



Their contact eased their fears somewhat as the minutes passed. No other manifestation occurred and their own reactions became less panicked. Normal jungle sounds and sights greeted them. It looked normal for the spirit plane. Blair snorted at that thought. 'Normal' used to describe the 'spirit plane'. That just wasn't right.



The jungle sounds filtered past the fear and Blair took note of whispery mutterings. “Jim. Do you hear that?” he questioned his sentinel as his own ears strained to make out what seemed to be gibberish.



“That? Just jungle sounds and you and me Chief,” Jim answered. “I take it you hear something else?”



“Yeah man. But it's so faint ... and I think it's in another language. Don't you think it's funny Incacha hasn't made an appearance?” Blair wondered.



“Or the spirit animals. What was going on Blair? What happened? You know you faded out completely that time?” Jim asked as he hugged Blair a little tighter.



“I was so scared ... I couldn't move. Not like someone was holding me, but like I was wrapped tight in fog or something. I know that doesn't make any sense. I thought I heard something, but it was strange, like it was below my threshold of hearing. It seemed to resonate in my bones. And then I couldn't see my reflection in the pool. But I could see my hand and myself. You can see me now, right?” he said as he quickly looked up at Jim's face.



“Yeah buddy. And I'm not letting go. But now what? I vote for going back,” said Jim.



“Sounds good to me, man,” Blair agreed with a shudder.



And the quest was ended for now.



<>-<>



7.



Jim looked wistfully at his partner. Reminiscences of the early years of their friendship flowed with some regret as he watched Blair wade through tome after dusty tome and write note after note trying to make sense of those half heard garbled words from the spirit plane. As Blair once again pushed his glasses up, bit his pencil, and ran this fingers through his curls until they caught in the tangles, Jim smiled, “Hey Darwin. Do you want to quit for supper or do you want me to order in?”



“Yeah, sure,” muttered Blair.



Jim shook his head and walked over to the table where Blair had everything spread out. He carefully began closing books, marking open pages with scraps of paper.



“Hey, Jim, no no no ... wait. I need that,” complained Blair.



“Blair, do you have it figured out yet?” asked Jim as he continued with his self-appointed clearing task.



Blair slumped, “Nope. Bring on the pizza.”



<>-<>



8.



Blair had done his best with the language puzzle. He just needed to give his brain a break. He headed back to the University. His contacts from his grad student days were still mostly friends and he continued to haunt the halls of academia for one reason or another. Even if he didn't teach or plan to publish his dissertation he still loved learning for it's own sake, and of course, his sentinel research never would end even though it was shaman research that occupied him today.



It was at the library that he made his reacquaintance with Mark Rothman. Mark's research on the crystal skull seemed peculiar to Blair. He thought the skull an odd curiosity, not a serious object of scientific study. And Mark seemed strangely nervous and secretive about it.



Blair did a little research on his own. He knew it had been discovered by Nicolas Ballard in Belize. He hadn't heard anything about Ballard for years. When he discovered that the archaeologist had had a mental breakdown and had been institutionalized for twenty years that explained the lack of further published work. But a little more research revealed he had a daughter, Claire Jackson. She and her husband were killed in an accident in a museum in New York. And their son's name is Dr. Daniel Jackson. And wasn't Dr. Jackson a chip off the old 'crystal skull'! His theories rivaled Dr. Ballard's for eccentricity.



But Jim's 'Uncle George' is connected with Mark Rothman and research on the crystal skull. And what exactly has Mark been doing for the last year or so? There has to be something to that story.



<>-<>



9.



“Daniel Jackson?” asked Jim. “You're kidding. I remember Daniel, and that story about how his parents died, right in front of him. I always thought it was kind of odd that he didn't want to be called Danny. But he and Danny Choi were both foster kids. Me and a buddy were their big brothers, at least until Daniel went to college early. He was a weird, geeky kid. Too smart, but not street smart like Danny. Danny and I hit it off right from the start, and you know ... we stayed close afterwards,” Jim ended with a sigh. Thoughts of Danny's death still hit him hard.



“You don't think he'd have something to do with the crystal skull do you?” Blair asked.



“Stranger things have happened,” said Jim.



<>-<>



10.



“I can't believe you let that gorgeous Colonel get away Sam,” laughed Carolyn. “You've got to get out more. At least date, girl.”



“Listen to you. You had a hunk and let him go,” said Sam. She looked a little regretfully at her college pal. “I'm sorry Carolyn. That wasn't very tactful. I know you loved the guy. Sometimes things just don't work out, huh?”



Carolyn sighed, “Sorry. I guess I had it coming. Who am I to give advice to the lovelorn.”



“Hey! Lovelorn? I've had boyfriends. I don't tell you EVERYTHING you know. Some of it's classified,” Sam grinned at her friend.



<>-<>



11.



Jim inched carefully down the stairs. He was too old to get plastered. Well, it wasn't really 'plastered'. He was just feeling too good. And he had a heck of a headache this morning to remind him how good he was feeling last night. He headed to the bathroom, but stopped first to grab a glass of water and some aspirin. He started the coffee then headed for a relaxing shower. He could use all the hot water he wanted this morning. He was sure that Blair would be sleeping in after the retirement party for Detective Sherrie Reynolds. Sandburg did love to party.



He climbed out of the shower and rubbed the fog off the mirror, and gasped out, “Molly!” He stumbled back a step before he recovered from his surprise, but she was gone when he looked again.



“Sandburg! Wake up!” yelled Jim.



Blair woke with a start, “What? What? Jim?”



Jim, with one hand on his towel to keep it in place, and one hand on Blair's arm to drag him out of bed, towed his friend into the bathroom. “Look. Do you see anything?”



Blair rubbed his face, “What Jim? You're the sentinel. What am I supposed to see man? I don't even have my glasses on.”



Jim looked down, muttering to himself until he looked up and realized Blair was waiting for an explanation, “It was Molly. In the mirror. I didn't want to think it was a ghost, but those cold spots .... Chief, do you see her? Do you feel a cold spot?”



Blair looked around wildly, passing his hands through the air around them but shook his head negatively, “It's just you this time Jim. What's going on man? Are we missing something? Molly must be trying to tell us something to make an appearance 'in the flesh' so to speak. And here in our apartment.”



“The cabin?”



Sigh, “The cabin, Jim.”



<>-<>



12.



Incacha's form looked reassuringly solid compared to his companions.



“Molly,” said Jim. “We came Molly. Hopefully Incacha can help us understand.”



Incacha looked sternly at sentinel and guide, <You have been given great gifts. Use them.>



Blair looked shocked, and upset, “But we've tried. We've come here seeking your help. We knew something was wrong. Believe me, we got the message. Cold spots. Fading away. We were paying attention. But what do they mean Incacha? We have clues but not the answer to the puzzle. We're here. Help us, please.”



<Their need is great,> then Incacha faded to nothing.



Blair and Jim were nonplussed.



Molly and her big foggy shadow drifted closer. <You must help them.>



Jim said with great concern, “Who Molly? You know I will if I can. We both will.”



<*** ***** ** ** ***** ** ** ******>



Blair said excitedly, “It's what I heard before Jim. The words I tried to decipher. You hear it this time, don't you? What do you see Jim? Is there any form there? Is it something different from Molly?”



“It's one being. Separate from Molly. It's shape is indefinite but big. I can't really make out anything solid. And I do hear something, but I don't understand it either,” muttered Jim as Blair anchored him with a steadying hand.



Molly drifted closer still, <Tell Daniel. Grandpa's friends need Thor.>



Blair was more confused than ever, “I don't understand.”



Molly's message continued, <Tell them Blair, what the ancient ones have said.>



<>-<>



13.



“Blair, this is crazy. What are we going to do?” exclaimed Jim. “Have you figured the translation out yet?”



“Well, actually ... yeah. But ... I don't know. It doesn't make sense, if this is really what I heard,” sighed Blair.



Blair had Jim's rapt attention, “Well?”



“Well ... I think it was Mayan.” At Jim's encouraging nod Blair continued, “I think it was, 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.'”



At Jim's puzzled look, Blair slumped, defeated. What kind of answer was that?



<>-<>



14.



“Naomi?”



“Jack?”



“It's been a long time,” Jack said softly.



“Yes Jack, it has. What are you doing in Cascade?” asked Naomi somewhat nervously.



“Oh, lots of reasons. Some friends are catching up with friends of theirs. And a little work thrown in too. You know how it is with us military types. Can't leave work in the office,” Jack was uncomfortable with this meeting and it could be plainly seen in his actions as he rocked back on his heels and looked nervously around.



“Oh, I see. I thought you might have come to see ... ” said Naomi.



His gaze locked on her at her statement. “How is Blair? Is he doing all right since that dissertation mess,” Jack's reserve was false.



Naomi could hear the anger in his voice. She deserved that anger. Her actions and then her regret had nearly torn her and Blair apart, but she'd finally had to put away her grief and move on. If she couldn't function she'd be no help to her son.



“You know he's a cop. Knowing you, you must have kept up on his life. But he seems happy .... When are you leaving Jack?” Naomi's voice cracked slightly.



Jack's face softened slightly, “Soon. Don't worry Naomi. He'll be alright.”



<>-<>



15.



Blair smiled at Jim as they sat in their now familiar meditation positions, “Take that trip with me again Jim?”



“It's become a familiar road to travel. I'm with you Chief. All the way,” Jim smiled in return.



It was a quick trip this time, Incacha was there to greet them, <This realm is known to you. Others are not.>



Blair looked quickly at Jim, “This realm? What others? Man, I hadn't planned on exploring 'other realms'. We've got enough problems with this one. What should we do Jim?”



Jim's unease was easy to see. It was to Incacha that he spoke, “Incacha, is it necessary to know these other realms? Is this connected to Molly's request and that other being? If we need more information,” and he looked to Blair to confirm this, “then we'll attempt what's necessary.”



Incacha smiled his pleasure, <Come.>



Fog shrouded the jungle ahead. The sentinel and his guide followed the Chopec Shaman till the fog engulfed them and still they traveled forward. Or in circles. They were totally disoriented. But Jim and Blair kept a firm grip to anchor one to the other. Slowly the fog seemed to burn off into the crisp cool air of a desert sunrise. Shifting sand slowed their steps till they walked on hard baked clay. The blue and green of the jungle gave way to the sere colors of the high desert, muted greens, a dozen shades of brown, a tinge of harmonious red.



Seated before his own meditation fire was a dark warrior. Serene in his presence. Peace writ upon his face. But they knew him for a great warrior still. A man who had found his peace in this realm as they had found it in theirs.



Incacha spoke first, <Great Warrior of the false Gods>



The warrior opened startled and offended eyes, “I am a warrior of the false Gods no longer. I am free. They have no hold over me Shaman.”



Blair looked at Jim. They were both confused, “False Gods? Who are these false Gods? Incacha, why are we here in this realm? Who is this man? Why is it necessary for us to meet? For what reason?” was Blair's plea.



Incacha responded, <Molly's message must have a messenger. And soon.>



Jim worried, “Then the message must be passed on quickly. And this man is to carry it?”



Blair asked, “How do we know we can trust him? I mean, we know he's on the spirit plane, or his spirit plane I guess, but does that mean we can trust him Incacha?”



<Trust must be earned. You must decide.> and with that admonition Incacha faded away.



“Chief, don't leave my side, okay?” said Jim.



“Not going anywhere, Big Guy. All this fading away stuff makes me nervous.” Turning to the warrior Blair continued, “Look I don't know how we can learn to trust each other, but we at least have to know your name. I'm Blair and this is Jim.”



The dark warrior stood gracefully, “I am Teal'c of Chulac, now of the Tau'ri.”



“Chulac? I've never heard of that place, or the Tau'ri,” said Blair.



Teal'c nodded understandingly, “You are of Earth. I know enough of your world to recognize your clothing and your language.”



Blair was speechless, if only for a moment, “Chulac isn't on Earth?”



“It is a planet far from here. It is controlled by a false God. I was the First Prime of Apophis. I left his service in the hope I could win freedom for my people with the help of friends from Earth, the Tau'ri. We have made great strides but much still needs to be done.”



Blair asked, “Then this Apophis is one of the false Gods? How did you come to this place, this realm, as Incacha called it?”



“I was taught a method we call Kel-no-reem. It is a place of peace and healing, to restore one's mind and body,” Teal'c replied solemnly.



Jim had some questions of his own, “Who helps you on Earth? You see, the message we were given, we need to know if you are the true messenger. We were told to tell Daniel .... ”



Teal'c looked surprised, “DanielJackson?”



Jim looked quickly at Blair, and received a nod to continue, “We weren't sure if it was Daniel Jackson. But ... well ... ” with another look to Blair, “the message was <Tell Daniel. Grandpa's friends need Thor.> and <Tell them what the ancient ones have said.>



They could see the fierce warrior that Teal'c had been, and still was, as he forcefully asked, “You know what the ancient ones said, as do I. I must hear this from you. I need proof to engage the help of Thor.”



Jim and Blair again looked unsure, Blair said, “If I give you the first part, you'll have to finish it. Okay?”



Teal'c nodded acquiescence, “Continue.”



Blair licked his lips and began, “The enemy of my enemy ....”



Teal'c stood straight and still, then grinned fiercely, “... is my friend .... The message will be delivered with utmost speed. You have my word.” And with that he disappeared, fading into the desert sunrise.



“Ah Jim. I didn't get to ask 'who's Thor'?” said Blair.



<>-<>



16.



Blair and Jim sat companionably on the sofa. They'd each had a beer and were considering another. Naomi was quietly, too quietly in Blair's estimation, making a vegetarian lasagna for supper. Jim tilted his head in a listening pose.



“Jim?” Blair asked quietly.



Jim looked worriedly at Blair, “We have company coming, Chief.” Glancing over to Naomi he then said, “This could get complicated. Can we get rid of your mom for a while? It might be better to keep her out of this.”



“How bad could it get?” Blair looked really worried now.



Jim got up to get the door and whispered, “We don't have any time to work up to it. They're here.”



“Uncle George?” said Jim. “Daniel? Uh, come in.” The array of uniforms was impressive.



“Hey Mark,” greeted Blair nervously.



“Jack?” a pale Naomi gasped to a particularly grim looking Colonel.



Jack tried to explain, “I'm sorry Naomi, this isn't what you think.”



Blair stared at his mom, “Naomi?”



Wondering at that little tableau but ignoring it for now, Samantha said, “Hello Jim. You may remember me. I'm Carolyn's friend. I was at your wedding.” She reached to shake the hand of one very surprised man.



With the door shut behind General Hammond and his entourage, the silence was, as the saying goes, deafening. The General cleared his throat, “I expect that explanations are in order.” Looking at Jack, “Col. O'Neill has informed me of a situation at Cheyenne Mountain, relayed to him by a trusted team member. That teammate was aware of only two names: Jim and Blair. With his descriptions and with some investigating on our part we've decided that could only be you two. Am I right in this assumption? Are you the two so named? And now I have to ask if your mother is involved in this also, Mr. Sandburg?”



“No, no, no. S-she's not involved. You can let her go. Please. She doesn't know anything about this. I swear!” answered a very worried son.



“Blair, if Jack is here, I'm staying. There's no way you'll get me to leave,” as she stared defiantly at O'Neill.



“Damn it! Naomi this is classified, and you'd never be cleared to hear this with your background being so ... so ... anti-establishment,” stated the Colonel.



The General looked appraisingly at Jack, “And you'd know her background because ... ? Would it be because of a certain, ah, recent experience with the hippie movement Colonel?”



Jack reined in his temper and clenched his fists in frustration, “No, Sir, General Hammond, not a 'recent' experience, Sir. This is a personal matter, Sir. I will explain later if allowed, General.”



General Hammond considered it for a moment.



<>-<>



17.



“ohmygodohmygodohmygod,” was whispered franticly by a panicked guide as he tried to bring his sentinel out of a zone.



“Blair, what's wrong with him, son?” asked a hovering Jack O'Neill.



Blair rubbed Jim's back gently and whispered soft instructions to dial it down, as Jim's body slowly came back under his control. He didn't really pay any attention to Colonel O'Neill or his worried question.



Jack knew when he was being ignored so he looked around for his good buddy. He thrust his hands in his pockets and spoke cheerfully, “Thor. You always know how to pick just the right moment. Do 'you' know what's wrong with him? That 'beam up' thingie that you do never bothered anyone else like that.”



“O'Neill. It is good to see you again,” Thor spoke warmly. “You will be pleased to learn that the message from Teal'c was received in time. Appropriate measures have been taken to protect their planet.”



Blair's shallow breaths got a little shallower as he looked at their new host. Shaking his sentinel's arm none too gently, “Jim, do you see that? Tell me you see that.”



Jim gulped as he looked at the epitome of a 'Roswell' alien and the ship around them. He had his own doubts, “Blair, tell me I'm really seeing this, because I've got to tell you, you could say I was crazy, and I'd believe you.”



Blair relaxed slightly, “Good, you do see it.” He took a deep calming breath and realized the alien and Jack were talking like, well, friends. “Colonel O'Neill ... Is that Thor! That's who Molly and that other ... being were talking about. You're Thor aren't you?!”



Thor looked with amusement at the young human, “You are correct. I am not sure who 'Molly' is, but I am Thor. Your assistance has saved many lives. You execute your responsibilities with passion. Guide counsel your sentinel for the shift back to Earth.”



<>-<>



18.



Their arrival in the loft was as instantaneous as their leaving, but even more astonishing, because of the arrival of Thor as well as the missing men.



Thor spoke to the startled Tau'ri, “Teal'c's message arrived in time. Our presence was enough to deter the planned assault.” Turning to Daniel, he continued, “Nick said to say thank you. Your Grandpa would like you to visit. He has much to tell you and he has much he wishes to learn from you.”



“My thanks to you, Thor. We may now get the chance to do just that.” Daniel turned to Jim and Blair, “I guess I owe you thanks, too. Um ... I want to hear everything that happened. How did you know about Nick and his aliens? How in the world did you get a message to Teal'c ... ?”



Thor interrupted guietly, “I must take my leave, but with a warning.” There were worried glances amongst the assembled. “These men, Jim and Blair, are sentinel and guide. They are paired protectors, an ancient brotherhood well respected in the legends of many earth cultures. The Asgard claim them as Protected Ones. They must not be harmed, nor exploited, nor prevented from their guardianship of their tribe of the Tau'ri. We 'will' be watching.”



Thor turned to Jack, “O'Neill. You should talk to your son.”



Thor disappeared from sight as several gasps were heard, from many parties.



<>-<>



19.



It was a long time before everyone settled down enough for Jack to be alone with his son. He knew now the 'alone' wasn't absolute. His son's sentinel would be listening. It made him nervous to know someone would be listening to this very private conversation, but he was glad that Jim cared for Blair enough to watch out for him. For his son.



Blair and Naomi had already had their 'talk'. Naomi had left in tears, with an appropriate and inconspicuous escort. She'd thrown Blair's life into upheaval again, but he was a forgiving person. This disruption hadn't destroyed their relationship.



It had been a hard decision to swear everyone to secrecy, but the General was right. It was too dangerous for certain people within certain covert agencies to know of his true relationship with Blair. There would be enough pressure on them ... and on him ... because of the nature of these 'guardians of the tribe' and their high ranking protectors. Thank God Thor's people had declared them a protected 'entity'. The Asgard had declared them untouchable. Hopefully no one would be stupid enough to cross that line.



Well ... he couldn't put off this talk forever.



<>-<>



20.



Jim and Blair walked slowly through the verdant jungle till Blair took his leave. He wandered along the path looking for one of those other realms until the jungle growth thinned and a meadow appeared with stately old oaks, that then lead to a very quiet and stereotypical suburban neighborhood. He heard a steady thwack, bump-thump repeating in the still air. As he rounded the corner of a garage he came upon the object of his search.



“Hey Charlie,” Blair called softly.



“Hey, mister,” said the dark haired boy. He stood thumping his baseball into his glove over and over as he studied his visitor.



“Your Dad says you like to play baseball,” began Blair tentatively.



Charlie pulled at his ball cap and nodded his head, “You want to toss a few, Blair.”



Blair took a moment to control his emotions, “Yeah, Charlie. I'd like to very much.”



<>-<>



21.



“Chief, we're going to have to update our title you know,” smirked Jim.



Blair wondered where Jim was going with this, “Well, you're a sentinel and I'm a guide. And a shaman. We're detectives, partners, friends. You're the Sentinel of the Great City ... ”



“And you're the Shaman of the Great City,” filled in Jim on cue. “And ... ”



Jim only got a raised eyebrow in response.



Jim laughed and with feigned haughtiness said, “ Come on Chief. We're now 'Jim and Blair of Earth' ... 'Protected Ones of the Asgard'.”



<>-<>



Epilogue



“Hey Jim, what are you doing man?” asked Blair with a confused expression.



Jim looked like Blair in his research persona. Papers had seemingly exploded around him, and at present he was working on something that looked a little like a genealogy family tree. “I'm trying to get this all down while I'm thinking about it, Chief.”



“What is that family tree chart about, Jim? I didn't know you were into tracing your roots. That would be so fantastic. We could research your family for any sign of sentinel traits. How far have you ... ?” asked Blair.



With a great sigh of exasperation, Jim turned his head, “No Darwin, this is about that question you asked me.” At Blair's look of confusion, Jim continued, “You know ... 'six degrees of separation'? Look at this ... to Thor ... ”



“But Jim ... ”



“What?”



“We didn't need six degrees Jim!”



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finis