Making A Life
by Kathryn Andersen
a Sentinel/Stargate crossover
for the Crossover TS Lyric Wheel
Rating: PG (bad words)
Disclaimer: Ain't mine, just borrowing them.
Spoilers: TSbyBS, Rogue (and for Stargate, references to "Politics", "The Serpent's Lair")
Warnings: AU, Crossover
Category: AU, Crossover, epilogue, angst, smarm
Summary: The fallout after the press conference make Jim and Blair wonder if their life together in Cascade is over. (TSbyBS alternative ending)
I be puttin the ravin's at t'end, so's t'be gettin' on wi' t'story.
Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado
"Dammit, Jack, I'm an archaeologist, not an anthropologist!"
Jack rolled his eyes. "Enough with the Star Trek retreads!"
"You don't understand, Jack -- an archaeologist deals with dead cultures, an anthropologist with living ones --"
"And we damn near ended up as an example of a dead one," Jack retorted, gingerly touching the butterfly bandage decorating his temple. His hair stuck up all around his head, as if he'd just had a shower -- or been dunked in hair gel. "Three hours," he said, "three hours we were gone, and you almost got us killed!"
"I almost got us killed?" Daniel raised his eyebrows, an effect somewhat mitigated by the insulation tape wrapped around one arm of his wire-frame glasses -- and the fact that his hair was stringy-damp, and anything but respectable.
"Okay, so it was my fault. But you said it was okay --"
"I said I didn't know --"
"And you're not an anthropologist. So I guess we need one, don't we?" Jack said. "What about that guy that's been all over the news, discovered a superman, what's his name?"
"Blair Sandburg," Daniel supplied.
"I doubt an aspiring Nobel prizewinner would want to come and work for us," Sam said. Her blonde hair also was curly-wild with the aftermath of a soaking. "Especially with the side-benefits," she added, wincing, rubbing a sore thigh.
"I doubt Blair would want to work for the military at all -- he's a pacifist," Daniel said.
"You know this guy?" Jack said.
"What is this "pacifist"?" Teal'c asked at the same time.
"Someone who won't fight, because he believes killing is wrong," Sam explained.
"A coward," Teal'c pronounced.
"Blair is not a coward!" Daniel protested. "He's got guts and determination, not to mention chutzpah -- gone on expeditions where others wouldn't go. He was actually the first white man to make contact with the Kombai Tree People of Irian Jaya. Or maybe just the first one not to get killed, I don't remember," Daniel said.
Jack raised one eyebrow. "Well, not-getting-killed is sure a talent we could use," he said. "Where did you meet this guy?"
Daniel smiled. "In Jerusalem. I was on a trip after finishing my bachelor's, so was he. Or maybe he was already working on his master's, I can't remember. I had a bit of a disagreement with a shopkeeper who took offence at my Arabic. Blair popped up out of nowhere and calmed the guy down, but not before we'd bought a chicken from him. We got talking, shared the chicken for dinner --" Daniel made a face, "-- the gas bottle ran out half-way through cooking it, so we ended up making a fire and trying Charcoal Chicken a-la-Sandburg."
Sam quirked her mouth in a smile. "And you didn't end up burning down Jerusalem?"
Daniel raised his eyebrows. "It's still standing, isn't it?"
"So that was the start of a beautiful friendship?" Jack said.
"Yeah, you could say that," Daniel said, smiling as they entered the mess hall.
"You two grab a table, Teal'c and I will get the coffee, okay?" Sam suggested.
"Fine," Jack said. "But if they haven't got any real milk, I'll have it black."
He and Daniel found a table by one wall, not too far from the TV in the corner of the room. It was tuned to a news channel.
Jack glanced at it. "There's our daily dose of reality," he said. "Not sure if it's supposed to remind us of the world we're saving, or make us glad that we're here and not out there."
"Cynical, much?" Daniel said.
"That's right, cynical's my middle name," Jack said. "So, do you think this Sandburg guy would do?"
Jack shrugged. "Look, we're most of us soldiers. We see threats, we act accordingly. Sometimes that's right, sometimes it isn't. You've got a different perspective, that's helped us out a lot. But today just shows that you aren't infallible. Heck, none of us are infallible! So, maybe we need someone else with a different perspective. An anthropologist seems like a good idea."
Daniel thought a moment. "Seriously, I can't say for sure whether he would do. I mean, look at how I was when you first met me!"
Sam came back carrying a tray of styrofoam cups. "Teal'c'll be along in a minute -- the bakery stuff is fresh today."
"Ah, food for the arteries," Jack said, picking up his cup.
"Wait a minute, isn't that Blair Sandburg?" Sam said, pointing at the TV.
They all turned to watch. The screen showed a man with long curly brown hair tied back in a ponytail. He was standing at a podium.
"Hi. Thank you all for coming. I just have a short speech prepared here. Um... In our media-informed culture, a scientist receives validation by having his or her work published and after years of research there is great personal satisfaction when that goal is reached. However, my desire to impress both my peers and the world at large drove me to an immoral and unethical act. My thesis "The Sentinel" is a fraud. While my paper does quote ancient source material, the documentation proving that James Ellison...actually possesses hyper-senses is fraudulent. Looking back, I can say that it's a good piece of fiction. I apologise for this deception. My only hope is that I can be forgiven for the pain I've caused those that are close to me. Thank you."
Daniel went white. "I don't believe it!" he said.
"It's appalling," Sam said. "To fake his dissertation, that's..." She shook her head.
"Scratch one anthropologist," Jack said. "Guess we won't be checking his credentials after all."
Daniel just shook his head. "I don't believe it," he muttered.
Making A Life
Tuesday, two weeks later
307/852 Prospect Ave, Cascade
Blair Sandburg stared at the shoe in his hand. One shoe on, one shoe off. He'd been sitting on the bed for the last ten minutes, trapped in the molasses of inertia. What was the point? There was nothing to do. Nothing but look at the classifieds, get rejected from yet another job, sponge off Jim some more. Nobody wanted to employ a fraud.
He'd done the right thing. He knew he'd done the right thing. But the fallout hurt. He would rather that none of it had happened. He'd never meant for it to turn out this way. Only the dissertation committee was supposed to know who Jim was. The draft he'd written was for Jim's eyes only. He'd put Jim's name in that because he didn't think Jim would take well to being referred to as "the primary subject" all the way through. And he would never have sent the diss to a publisher like Sid Graham. But Naomi had only meant for the best. They had all only meant for the best. If he had things his way, everything would be the way it used to be; he and Jim, working together. But things weren't his way. The wheel had turned, and he had fallen under it. Nothing in life is decidable. You can't force it to turn out the way you want it to be. Nothing's supposed to be easy.
Maybe he should just leave. Change his name, start a new life. He remembered what Jim had said before Blair had called the fateful press conference -- Jim just wanted to be a cop. A plain ordinary cop. Yes, they were square; Jim had made that clear in the hospital, a paean of praise for the best partner he'd ever had... Partner. Cop-speak. Being a cop was Jim's life, but how could Jim really get his old life back if Blair were still around? Jim had never wanted his senses; they'd always been a burden to him. Maybe it was time Blair woke up and let him be, let Jim be the way he wanted, rather than the way Blair wished he would be. Can only bang your head against a brick wall so many times before you get a headache.
And it wasn't as if he were still Jim's partner. Nothing Jim could do about that -- the word had come down from on high -- get the fraud out of the department! With Simon still in the hospital, there hadn't been a thing that anyone could do about it. Or had they even tried? He didn't know. He hadn't dared to ask. The same day he'd cleared out his office at Rainier, he'd handed his observer credentials in at Cascade PD. His goodbyes had been subdued, and most of the guys did seem sad to see him go. He'd missed out on saying goodbye to Joel -- the acting Captain had been in meetings, trying to drag order out of chaos. Blair hadn't been back to the precinct since.
Wearily, he dragged the other shoe on. He knew he shouldn't be so depressed. He knew he was concentrating on all the bad things, but he couldn't seem to get his mind out of this rut.
He and Jim did manage to talk about the diss mess -- this time. After it was all over. Though, maybe if Jim hadn't been shot in the leg, he wouldn't have sat still for that either. Oh, be fair, Sandburg. How many times did he have to repeat it before he got it through your thick head that, jobless or not, the loft is your home too? Blair sighed. But he hasn't read the diss yet, either. Not that he could blame him. It was a bit like asking a burned man to judge the merits of a gas barbecue. The only reason Blair had given it to him to read after all this was that there were things in it that Jim needed to know. The research wasn't just something to get him a doctorate -- not that that would ever happen now.
Snap out of it, Sandburg!
Jim had long since left for work, leaving him be. He trudged into the kitchen and got himself some breakfast, eating his soggy Wheaties at the counter. He couldn't summon the energy for anything more elaborate. He scrupulously cleaned up after himself. It wasn't like there was any hurry. He picked up the morning's paper and settled himself at the table. Classifieds. Okay, so if nobody in Cascade would employ him, then maybe someone somewhere else would. He started circling possibilities, then stopped abruptly, dropping his pen on the table. What's the use? He stared out the window at the grey day.
He was startled out of his lethargy by a knock on the door. Huh? Who could that be? A delivery? I wasn't expecting anything. God, I hope it isn't a reporter.
The knock came again. He scrambled to his feet, over to the door, and looked warily through the peep-hole.
On the other side of the door stood a man with straight light brown hair, wire-rim glasses, dressed in casual, comfortable clothing -- what Blair might call anthro-grunge. Although in this case it was more like archaeologist-grunge.
Blair flung the door open. "Daniel! What on earth are you doing here?"
That summer in Jerusalem when he'd met Daniel Jackson, they'd ended up going around the city together, and the sights nearby. Initially, a large part of it had been the instant kinship that fellow countrymen feel when they meet in a foreign land, but they found they had a lot in common and a quick brain and imagination that wasn't shared by those about them.
Daniel raised an eyebrow and gave a half-smile. "You don't answer your calls, you don't answer your email... what else was I supposed to do?"
"But you live in Colorado, Daniel," Blair said, stupefied.
"And you live in Washington," Daniel said. "So I caught a plane. Aren't you going to invite me in?"
"Uh, yeah," Blair said, stepping back and gesturing with a sweeping bow, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Come in. Entrez vous. Take the weight off your feet. Lay down your burdens," he added, noticing that Daniel had a pack on his back.
Daniel smiled and put his pack by the door. "Nice place." He noticed the Red Heron poster on the back of the front door. "Red Heron what? Beer? Tobacco? Pantyhose?"
"You know, I don't have the foggiest idea -- lived here for four years and never thought to ask," Blair answered.
"The same poster has been there for four years?"
"It is an old and venerable poster," Blair intoned, "and none shall disturb the place where it resides."
"Or ye shall awaken the wrath of the Guardian of the Door," Daniel teased.
"No, I think the poster's just stuck," Blair said. "Pity we don't actually have a protective spirit of the Door, there'd be a lot less bullet holes in the place if we did."
"Is it really that bad?" Daniel said. "I thought cops' addresses were a closely guarded secret."
But that wasn't one of the secrets I kept from you, Blair thought. All that Blair had told Daniel about Jim was that Blair lived with him... and rode along with him. In their emails, they'd talked about life, and academia, but they had a tacit understanding that neither of them were free to talk about their work. For Blair it was subject confidentiality, for Daniel... well, it was obvious that Daniel was working for the government. The .mil domain on one of his email addresses was confirmation enough. Blair's best guess was that Daniel was working in some crypto lab -- he'd always been brilliant at dead languages, and Blair figured that finding patterns in languages wasn't that far a cry from finding patterns in codes. Although, Daniel did tend to get injured an awful lot for someone supposedly ensconced in a lab. The thought had crossed Blair's mind at least once that Daniel might be a spy -- and was immediately dismissed as a crazy idea. Daniel just wasn't that kind of guy. Or was he? Even doing crypto seemed an odd sort of occupation for an archaeologist.
But then look what Blair had ended up doing.
He shook his head. "I don't know, bad guys just seem to home in on the place." He suppressed a shudder, not wanting to remember the times he'd been threatened, kidnapped, held at gunpoint...
An awkward silence fell between them.
"Beer? Coffee? Tea?" Blair offered. A paranoid voice at the back of his mind said, Why is he really here? but he tried to ignore it.
"Coffee," Daniel smiled. "If you have the good stuff."
"Oh yeah, Jim wouldn't settle for anything less."
Daniel nodded thoughtfully to himself. "I guess not."
Blair fussed around making the coffee, still puzzled by Daniel's presence. One didn't just hop on a plane to say hi. Though it was true he hadn't been very... communicative lately. Tends to happen when your life gets turned upside down.
He returned with the coffee, and they sat down at the table opposite each other.
"Okay Daniel, why are you here, really?" Blair asked. "Not that it isn't great to see you, but it's, well, kinda unexpected..."
"To see for myself," Daniel said slowly. "To give you moral support."
"Moral support? For a fraud?" Blair was surprised.
"Yes, I saw the press conference," Daniel said mildly. "That took a lot of guts, saying that." He leaned forward. "I know what it's like, Blair. I know what it's like to be shunned and derided by your peers."
"You were a loony, Daniel -- you weren't a fraud."
"Say that often enough and you might actually believe it," Daniel said dryly.
"I'm sorry," Blair said immediately. "You aren't a loony."
Daniel snorted. "No more than you're a fraud," he said.
Blair's jaw dropped. "But I lied!"
"About being a fraud, yes," Daniel said. "C'mon, Blair, this is me you're talking to, not some ignorant journalist! You've been living with Ellison for, what, three years? I'd have to be a complete moron not to figure out he was your subject, your Sentinel." He shrugged. "Though I was a complete moron, because I didn't put it all together until the brouhaha about your thesis. And then you told the world that you were a fraud. You? You nearly lost your job because you wouldn't let some snotty rich kid plagiarise an assignment! You expect me to believe you'd turn around and fabricate your entire dissertation?"
Blair gaped at him. Trying to persuade Daniel that Blair's thesis was nonsense was obviously a lost cause. He shook his head. "Everyone else did," Blair said, reminded again of his woes. "Much easier to believe that I lied than that Sentinels are real."
"Trust me," Daniel said. "I've seen stranger things -- a lot stranger."
"Thanks, man," Blair said, his heart lightening a little. Then he saw the newspaper on the table and he sat back with a sigh. "Still won't help me get a job though. Nobody wants to employ a fraud."
Daniel shook his head. "Let me tell you something. The nadir of my academic career. My day of no hope. There I was in Cairo, living out of a suitcase. All my grants had dried up; I had one last chance to convince people that my theories were viable. I'd been invited to give a lecture, but everyone walked out. There it was, my last chance, gone. But that wasn't the end."
"Someone believed in me. Someone gave me a chance. That very day, in fact."
"Yeah, but --"
"No buts. You may think you're in a worse position than I was, but you aren't. You've already got two people who believe in you, not to mention a roof over your head --"
"Two people who believe in me?"
"Me, and your friend Jim," Daniel said.
Guess I should really count my blessings, Blair thought. He considered, and said, "Four. But one's in the hospital right now, and the other might go back to Australia. Oh, and my Mom."
"See?" Daniel said. "Some sage advice: take one day at a time. There's no need to hurry. Is there?"
Blair rubbed his fingers together. "Moolah. Money. Lack of it."
Daniel winced. "I get you. But don't make any hasty decisions, okay? Things could turn out better than you expect."
"Thanks, man," Blair said. "I really needed to hear that."
"So," Daniel said, taking a sip of his coffee, "how did you manage to get considered for the Nobel Prize?"
Blair groaned. "My mom knows the masseur of one of the members of the committee."
Daniel raised his eyebrows. "That's... different."
Blair rolled his eyes. "That was only the icing on the cake, let me tell you."
So Blair told him. It was a relief to talk about it with someone who wasn't involved, someone who could help him put it in perspective, put it behind him. By the time Daniel left, he was feeling a lot better.
He was reminded of something Naomi used to say. She called it goal visualisation, or something like that. Realize where you are, and where you're going to. Well, I don't know where I'm going to, but I do know where I am. He looked around the loft. I'm home.
He paused and looked at the morning's paper, abandoned on the table, open at the classifieds. Okay, I'll wait a little longer. He tossed the newspaper away. It landed under the couch.
852 Prospect Ave, Cascade
Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. The black car was parked at the curb again -- the third time this week. Jim groaned silently to himself. He hadn't told Sandburg because he hadn't been sure, and he didn't want to spook him, but they were definitely under surveillance. Not the kind of thing one wanted to deal with on a Friday night after a long, hellish week. Simon was barely out of the hospital, not yet deemed fit enough for a desk. Megan was still in a sling, and he himself was still limping. Jim had been doing stakeouts, even though he should have officially still been riding a desk. Joel was doing his best as acting Captain, but they were spread thin.
He could see the licence plate of the car quite easily, despite the distance and the darkness of the evening. The tinted glass of the windows made looking inside difficult, though, and he didn't want to try, not without Blair there to guide him. But he could hear movement from inside the car, there was somebody there, just sitting, watching -- or more than one. Jim quietly called in for a make on the plates, and the answer he got back didn't allay his unease one iota. The car's owner didn't live nearby; indeed, they weren't even from Cascade -- and it wasn't a privately-owned vehicle at all; it was owned by a company, BellaNotte Enterprises. Something about that name had Jim's scalp prickling, but he couldn't remember where he's heard it before.
But one thing was perfectly clear: somebody was far too interested in him. It wouldn't surprise him if the loft was bugged, too. Damn -- it hadn't worked. Sandburg had thrown his life away, and it hadn't worked. Somebody hadn't believed it.
He was never going to get his life back.
Maybe he should just leave. Change his name, start a new life. Sandburg would be better off without him. With the Sentinel gone, whoever they were, they would go too.
He couldn't put Sandburg in that kind of danger.
But he didn't want to leave him.
He got out of the truck, acting -- for the benefit of those anonymous observers -- as if nothing was wrong, and went up to the loft.
There was a note on the fridge: Jim, gone to get some milk. Back in fifteen. Blair. There was no time on the note, no indication of how long he'd been gone. Sandburg could have been kidnapped and he wouldn't know it. Don't panic. Not yet. At least the note was written by Sandburg -- it had his fingerprints on it. He'd seen them often enough in the past to recognise them on sight. He could at least wait fifteen minutes before he panicked.
In the meantime, he could figure out if the place was bugged. He'd done it before with the Gordon Abbot case, and he hadn't even been trying. He could do it again. He listened, filtering out the ordinary sounds of the loft, seeking the characteristic high-pitched hum of a listening device. He didn't hear anything at first, but then, faintly, he heard it. There were four of them; one in the kitchen, one in the living area, and one in each of the bedrooms. Talk about overkill! He didn't disturb the spots where he heard the humming coming from; he didn't wish to alert the unknown listeners that he'd found the bugs.
In his roving, he spotted the corner of a newspaper sticking out from under the couch, and picked it up. USA Today. It was open at the classifieds section. Sandburg was still looking for work, he knew that. The paper was Tuesday's paper. Out of date. Then he noticed some of the jobs that had been circled. They weren't jobs in Cascade. Some of them weren't even in Washington state.
Out of state? Sandburg was thinking of leaving? An icicle touched Jim's heart. Well, what was there to hold him here? He had no job, he had no career, his university friends had turned their backs on him... But he had Jim, surely he knew that? And other people in Major Crimes who knew and respected him. But maybe Sandburg didn't know that. And maybe it wasn't enough. It wasn't as if Jim had been terribly encouraging in the last week. Tuesday night, the news that Sandburg had had a visit from an old friend, should have been a high point but Jim managed to mess that up too. He hadn't been able to pretend that he was happy that there was someone else out there who knew the whole truth about the diss, and while he knew that wasn't Sandburg's fault, he could hardly be comfortable about it. And then he'd been... busy. But what kind of excuse was that? He told himself he was giving the kid space, the way he himself would have wanted space, but maybe he was just giving him silence.
Jim hadn't even read the diss. How could Sandburg think that he cared if Jim wouldn't even read the thing he'd spent the last three years of his life working on? But Jim hadn't gotten up the nerve to read it. The wounds caused by the media frenzy were still too tender; he didn't want to be reminded of it.
They needed to talk. They really needed to talk. But not in the loft where they would be overheard. Jim pulled out the yellow pages and flicked through it, pausing when he found what he was looking for. He picked up the phone and dialled. "Hello? I'd like a table for two, please..."
Phone call done, Jim paced and worried until he heard the welcome sound of Blair's footsteps in the hallway. Jim opened the door before Blair could put his key in the lock. Blair started, nearly dropping the carton of milk he was carrying.
"Put that in the fridge pronto, Chief. We're going out."
"Out?" Blair walked over to the kitchen.
"To Mama Ferretti's. My treat."
Sandburg opened the fridge and put the milk in the door. "This is a bit sudden, Jim -- what gives?"
"I just feel like Italian. And you need to get out." Jim put his hand on Blair's shoulder and steered him towards the door.
"I do get --" Blair protested.
"Just get in the truck, Sandburg."
"I'm getting, I'm getting!" Blair said, stepping out the door. "Geez, talk about a control freak," he muttered.
"I heard that," Jim said, locking the door behind him.
"You were meant to."
Mama Ferretti's, Cascade
The waiter departed with their order, and the inevitable could no longer be put off. Blair asked the question that Jim had been dreading.
"Okay, Jim, what's the matter?"
"What makes you think something's the matter?" Stupid, Jim, stupid. Of course he knows something's the matter. He knows you too well.
Blair rolled his eyes. "Don't try to snow me, Jim. You get a sudden urge for Italian, and instead of enjoying yourself, you look like you're waiting for the sky to fall."
Jim sighed. What am I going to say?
"Just say it, Jim," Blair said, reading his mind.
The words spilt out of Jim's mouth, unthought. What he wanted, but hadn't dared to think he could ask. "Come with me, Blair."
This was obviously the last thing Blair expected. "Come with you? Where?"
"I don't know. Anywhere that's not Cascade," Jim said. "You were thinking of leaving, weren't you? No need to go on all by yourself. Leave with me."
"Leave with you? But you can't leave! You've got your old life back -- or would have if I wasn't in your hair, giving the lie to my denial --"
So that was why he wanted to leave. The lump of ice in Jim's heart melted. "My old life? It wouldn't be much of a life without you in it. I should never have wished for my old life back. I was a fool."
"What brought this on? What the hell happened?"
"The loft is under surveillance. Bugged too. Somebody didn't buy your speech, Blair."
They were interrupted at that moment by the waiter arriving with their pasta. After that was dealt with, Blair just glared at his plate so intently it might have burst into flame.
"I should have realized," Blair said at last. "Jack Kelso told me there was someone around asking questions about me, but I figured it was just some reporter. Dammit!"
"So the operation went to hell. Let's regroup and think of a better plan."
"This isn't some damn military operation, Jim -- this is your life!"
Jim shook his head. "A life I wouldn't have if not for you. I've got a whole skin, I've got my sanity, I've got a friend I can count on -- what else do I need?"
"A job? A good reputation? The respect of your peers?"
Jim shook his head. "I realized something tonight. I need you. I don't need anybody else. My old life is gone forever. But together we'll build a better one. If we're together."
"Jim..." Blair's voice cracked. "I don't know what to say..."
"Yes? Of course, yes!" Blair said. "Hell, I'd rather go into a Contra-infested jungle with you, than talk on the Today Show by myself. You lead, I'll follow. We'll do it together."
"Together." They clinked their glasses.
Blair smiled, and dug into his pasta. "Okay, then, what's the plan?"
"The first thing we need to do," Jim said, "is to find out who they are."
"I could ask Jack to send out some feelers," Blair said, and then brightened. "Hey, that makes six!"
"Six what, Chief?"
"Six people who believe in me. You, Daniel, Simon, Megan, Naomi, and Jack."
"Your friend Daniel who came to visit?"
"Yeah." Blair stopped in sudden realisation. "Oh shit," Blair swore. "How long have we been under surveillance? How long have the bugs been there?"
"I don't know," Jim answered. "I first saw the car on Wednesday, but it could have been there earlier." Jim made the connection. "You think they could have heard what you said to Daniel?" Jim frowned. "But if the bugs were there then... then why are they still watching?"
"Could they just be reporters?" Blair wondered.
"Reporters don't use bugs," Jim pointed out. "Reporters don't work for BellaNotte Enterprises."
"BellaNotte Enterprises?" Blair echoed. "Beautiful Night Enterprises? What's that?"
"A private company in Colorado..." Jim said, but the words "beautiful night" were reverberating though his mind, and he finally made the connection. "Oh, no. I remember now. They're a front. I knew I'd heard that name before..."
"A front? A front for who?"
Jim sighed. "I heard the name when I was in the Rangers... I don't know who, but I'm pretty sure it's one of those deep, dark things that our government doesn't want us to know about."
"The government?" Blair exclaimed. "You mean, like, spies?" Then Blair suddenly paled, and shook his head. "No, it's got to be a coincidence."
"What's a coincidence?"
Blair carried on as if Jim hadn't said anything. "No, no, Daniel wouldn't do it." But he sounded uncertain, as if he were trying to convince himself.
"Wouldn't do what? Blair? What are you talking about?"
"The company. It's in Colorado," Blair said.
"And your friend lives in Colorado -- so what?"
"It's one coincidence too many," Blair said. "Daniel works in Colorado -- for the military -- as a consultant, a job which is hush-hush -- I thought it was code-breaking but sometimes I wondered -- because he was always getting injured -- whether he might be a spy."
"A spy?" Jim exclaimed. "You think he betrayed you?"
Blair pulled out his cell phone. "One way to find out..." He hit the memory function and started looking through the numbers.
Jim put out his hand. "Blair, I don't think that's a good idea."
Blair looked at him. "Why not?"
"He could just lie to you," Jim said, veteran of many a betrayal. "You'd be letting them know we're onto them." He reached for Blair's cell phone.
Blair moved it out of his reach and started dialling. "They could know anyway," he snapped. "I want to give them a piece of my mind!" He finished dialling. "Daniel?"
Jim could hear every word on the other side of the conversation.
"Blair?" the voice sounded rushed. "I just had a shower. Can you call back? I'm dripping on the rug."
"I don't care!" Blair snapped. "Did you tell anyone my dissertation wasn't fake?"
"What's happened?" The voice was more alert.
"What's happened? There's government goons staking out our place! The loft is full of bugs! The electronic kind! Tell me you don't know anything about it."
"I don't know anything about it," Daniel said. There was no hesitation, no equivocation... he sounded sincere, though surprised. "But I know some people I can ask."
"Did you tell anybody?"
"Blair, there were other people in the room when I saw your press conference. They heard me say I didn't believe it."
The answer obviously wasn't good enough for Blair, because he said, "Who did you tell, Daniel?"
There was a pause. A sigh. "People that I'd trust with my life," he said, finally.
"Well, you've trusted them with Jim's life, you realize that?"
"Jim's life?" Daniel said. "Aren't you being a little paranoid?"
"Daniel," Blair began, "three years ago a rogue ex-CIA agent threatened to plaster the Ebola virus all over Cascade if Jim didn't help him to break into a top-secret installation. It is not paranoid to be concerned that some black-ops group would want to force Jim to work for them against his will, or worse, turn him into their favourite lab rat. Comprende?"
There was dead silence at the other end of the phone. Then, "I'm sorry, Blair, I'll do what I can."
"And what can you do? You're just a civilian."
"I'll talk to the Colonel, and he'll talk to the General, and he'll talk to the President if need be."
"And why would he do that?"
"Jack's a good friend, and General Hammond is a good man," Daniel said.
"Bye, Blair. I've got some calls to make." Daniel hung up.
Blair stared at the phone in his hand.
"Well, you've either blown it completely, or we've got an ally," Jim said. "Whether we do or not, to be on the safe side, we'd better assume we're blown, and get some of our known allies to help. You call Jack, and I'll call Joel."
307/852 Prospect Ave, Cascade
The forensics team picked up all four of the listening devices. Serena gloated over them -- they were beyond state-of-the-art. The black car was nowhere to be found.
"This is about the Sentinel thing, isn't it, Jim?" Joel asked Jim quietly as the forensics people dusted for fingerprints.
"Somebody didn't believe Sandburg's work was fake," Jim said.
"Well, it wasn't fake, was it?"
"What do you mean?" Jim said cautiously.
"I may have been slow, but even I can't doubt the evidence of my own eyes. It wasn't a science course, was it? You are a Sentinel, have been all this time."
"Joel, I --"
"Why didn't you trust us?"
"I'm being stalked by the government and you ask me why I didn't trust you?"
Joel made a sour face. "It's a free country, Jim, they can't just do things like that and get away with it."
Jim rolled his eyes. "Are you really that naive? I guess you are. I can't ask you guys to take the flak for me. My resignation will be on your desk on Monday."
"What?" Joel exclaimed. "You can't do that!"
"Like you said, Joel, it's a free country. And we're leaving."
"You and Sandburg?"
"Yeah. Me and Sandburg."
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know - yet."
Joel sighed. "Your mind's made up, isn't it?"
"I think it's the wrong decision."
"I know that," Jim said. "Joel, I appreciate your concern, but we've just got to get away, put it all behind us."
"And live to fight another day," Jim said.
Simon Banks' House
It was Daryl who answered the door. He brightened for a moment, then looked uncomfortable. He smothered that look with politeness. "Come in, Jim, Blair," he said.
"How is he?" Blair asked.
Daryl quirked a smile. "Grumpy." He called out as they walked down the hall. "Daaa-d! Vi-si-tors!"
"Who is it?" they could hear from the living room.
"Jim and Blair," said Jim as they entered the living room. Simon was sitting in a recliner chair facing the television. A blanket was wrapped around his knees and a half-empty mug of cocoa sat on the table by his elbow.
"Look at what I'm reduced to!" Simon said, pointing at the TV. "Daytime television!"
"You could always try a good book, Simon," Blair said, hiding a smile.
Simon picked up the remote and switched off the TV. "They put me to sleep."
"They say sleep's good for you," Jim said.
"Knits up the ravelled sleeve of care," Blair quoted.
"I've had enough sleep to knit me an entire sweater!" Simon said. "Daryl, go get these gentlemen some coffee or tea or something. What would you like?"
They both opted for coffee.
"How's the leg?" Simon asked Jim.
Jim shrugged. "Mending. Annoying."
Simon nodded. "Don't I know it." He turned to Blair. "By the way, I'm glad you came round; I tried calling you yesterday, but couldn't get you."
"Call me about what?"
"Congratulations for making the short list."
Blair's forehead wrinkled in puzzlement. "What short list?"
"You mean they haven't told you yet?" Simon frowned. "He didn't strike me as that inefficient..."
"Who didn't?" Blair was almost bursting with impatience.
Simon paused, thinking. "John Daly, that was his name; from NoraCorp. Remember, you asked me to be a character reference --"
"NoraCorp?" Blair frowned. "But I didn't--" He broke off, and paled. "Simon, what did you tell him?" he asked urgently.
Simon frowned. "That's confi-"
"Simon, I never applied for a job at NoraCorp!" Blair interrupted. "The guy was a fake!"
Jim swore. "Our friends from spookville, I'll bet," he said.
Simon looked from one to the other. "What are you talking about?"
"We're being spied on by the CIA or somebody like that," Blair said. "Someone didn't believe my diss was fake."
"Four bugs and a surveillance team," Jim added. "They're gone for the moment, but we've decided it's safer for everyone if we leave."
"Leave? You can't leave!" Simon protested.
"We have to, Simon," Blair said.
"Or do you want the next thing you hear about us to be the reports of our faked deaths?" Jim added. "Black ops groups wouldn't think twice of killing anyone who got in their way, either."
"Dammit!" Simon said. "This is supposed to be a free country!"
"And just remember what happened with Brackett," Blair said. "He threatened Cascade with the Ebola virus to force Jim to help him get into that base."
"I couldn't live with something like that on my conscience," Jim said.
"And I wouldn't want to ask you to." Simon sighed.
There was a clatter from the kitchen. Daryl came to the door of the living room. "You mean it was all true?!" Daryl exclaimed. "Jim really is a super-senses guy? And the military are after you?"
Simon put his head in his hands and muttered something about little rabbits having big ears.
"Yes, Daryl, it's all true," Blair said. "But you mustn't tell anybody!"
"You lied on TV to protect Jim?" Daryl said.
"Yes, he did," Jim said.
A mixture of expressions crossed Daryl's face, and he finally settled on a smile. "You're not a fraud! I'm so glad!" He paused and said, "Man, that was a brave thing to do."
"Thanks, Daryl," Blair said.
"Do you really have to go?" Daryl said.
"Yes," Blair said.
Daryl surprised them both by giving Blair a hug. "I'm gonna miss you," he said.
"Me too," Blair said. "Me too."
307/852 Prospect Ave, Cascade
Blair put the phone down. "Were you listening to that?"
"Jack's got some information for us," Jim said.
"You mind dropping by his office?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Jim said. "Besides, despite the apparent lack of snoops outside, it won't do do make assumptions: I'm not letting you out of my sight."
"The feeling's mutual, man," Blair said, remembering with a shudder the time Jim had gone off to meet an old friend and been snatched by Colonel Oliver. "Or shouldn't that be the other way around? It's you they want, not me." What if they snatch Jim and leave me screaming on the pavement? The picture unfolded in his mind's eye: a black van, six men in balaclavas, Jim limp from a drugged dart, the van pulling away, himself helpless...
Jim put a strong hand on his shoulder. "Not gonna happen, buddy," he said.
"What? You read minds now?" Blair said.
"No, just heartbeats," Jim said. "Don't worry, there's always plan P."
P for Peru. That was one of the options they'd discussed.
"C'mon, let's go see what Kelso has to tell us."
Political Science Department, Rainier University, Cascade
Jack Kelso was writing something in a notebook when the two of them peered through his open door. Blair knocked on the doorframe.
"Come in," he said, "and close the door behind you."
"So what have you got?" Blair asked.
"A very interesting collection of coincidences," Jack said.
"Which are...?" Jim said.
"BellaNotte Enterprises is connected with the government, though not the CIA, but some kind of military, possibly a front for Air Force intelligence, or a smaller group within that with their own agenda."
"Don't tell me -- General Hammond works for the Air Force?" Jim said.
"Got it in one," Jack said. "He's in charge of something big, and very very secret, which seems to be associated with NORAD, but not quite," Jack continued. "It's very difficult to find out what top secret projects do, but it is a little less difficult to find out how much they cost. And this one costs billions. Now, it also seems that the good Senator Kinsey, more than a year ago, didn't like that such a lot of money was being spent on this military project, and demanded an investigation. As a result, the project was actually shut down. For about a week. Then Kinsey suddenly withdrew his objections, and the project was reinstated."
"Pressure brought to bear on Kinsey?" Jim guessed.
"No, if they'd been able to do that, the project wouldn't have been shut down at all," Jack said. "No, the interesting thing is the timing of the reinstatement. You remember the sky-flashes about a year ago?
"Yeah, they said it was two asteroids colliding or something," Blair said. "Though the conspiracy theorists said it was really an alien battle fleet."
Jim rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right."
"Or something," Jack said. "And here we get our next interesting coincidence: Kinsey withdrew his objections the day after the sky-flashes incident. And here's another: I actually looked at some of Daniel Jackson's theories."
"He believes the Pyramids weren't built by the Egyptians," Blair said. "That they're older than people think they are. So what?"
"So it sounds pretty similar to Von Daniken -- that they were actually built by aliens," Jack said. "And Daniel Jackson is working for General Hammond."
"They're fighting aliens?" Jim said. "Don't be ridiculous."
"No, I don't think they're fighting aliens," Jack said. "But I do think they're fighting something. Something dangerous enough to convince Senator Kinsey. As for General Hammond... he's a veteran, close to retirement, has a good reputation as a straight-dealing man. Rumours say he was going to retire, just before he was given the project. It had a small budget then. The fact that he's stayed with it would seem to indicate that he thinks it's important."
"So he's not a young, ambitious mint-new general out to make a name for himself," Jim said. "Not prone to exaggeration or aggrandisement."
"No," Jack said. "Responsibility, rather than power."
"So why are the military skulking around the loft?" Blair asked.
"With something that important, whatever it is, there are bound to be factions," Jack said. "I've seen it before. The shortcut brigade always has willing recruits."
"Is that all you can tell us?" Jim asked.
Jack shrugged. "I don't lay much store by this one, but there's also rumours that BellaNotte Enterprises might have something to do with Area 51."
"But Area 51 doesn't exist!" Jim protested.
"Officially," Jack returned. "Or maybe they started using Area 51 as a code name for some kind of skunk works, so they'd have some plausible deniability going for them." Jack shrugged.
"Or there really are aliens involved...?" Blair trailed off.
Jack shook his head. "I really don't think so."
"Thanks Jack," Blair said. "For everything."
Blair's cell phone rang as they were walking down the hall. "Blair Sandburg."
"Blair? It's Daniel. I'm at Cascade Airport. I tried the loft but there was no answer. Is there somewhere we can meet?"
"A public place," Jim mouthed at him.
"Ah, right," Blair said. "You know how to get to Rainier University? What say we meet you at the Arts Cafeteria, in half an hour?" Blair gave him directions.
"Got it. It will be me and a friend, okay?"
Arts Cafeteria, Rainier University, Cascade
Blair sometimes wondered if they'd contracted an Australian architect to design the Arts Library building; the floor to ceiling glass walls of the cafeteria in the bottom floor the building seemed intended for somewhere with a lot more sun than rainy Cascade. But at least they offered a good view of the lawn and the buildings on either side -- and anyone approaching from the front of the building. It was early enough in the day that they'd beaten the lunchtime crowd, so he and Jim had one of the large grey laminate tables to themselves.
Blair looked around the room. The bunch in the corner were still laughing and talking. Other tables had the occasional student with a book open while they nibbled something. Nobody there who looked obviously goon-ish, not within earshot -- normal earshot, that is. Jim had consoled himself for the wait by buying donuts as well as coffee for both of them. Jim's donut was crumbs. Blair's remained untouched. All that fat -- ugh. Still, it was the thought that counted. And the coffee wasn't that bad, if you drank it fast before it cooled down too much.
Blair spotted Daniel coming through the front door before Jim did. The man accompanying Daniel had short cropped hair -- not a crew cut, but short, and greying. He wore black, comfortable clothing -- and army boots. Army, or not? Who are you kidding? Guy's gotta be one of Daniel's... co-workers
Blair waved them over, squashing his unease.
"Hi, I'm Jack. O'Neill," the stranger said.
"Colonel O'Neill," Daniel added. He looked at Blair. "My friend the Colonel."
But how good a friend? Blair wondered.
"Figured the uniform would attract a little too much attention," Jack said.
"ID?" Jim prompted suspiciously.
Jack took out an ID wallet, opened it, and handed it to Jim. Blair leaned closer and looked at it too. The card declared Jack to be a Colonel in the Air Force, complete with stiff photo. It seemed genuine. As if I could tell! But Jim seemed satisfied with it too, and handed it back. Jack and Daniel sat down opposite them.
"The first thing I'd like to say is that those bozos with the bugs have been dealt with," Jack said. "I'd like to say it, but we haven't tracked them down, yet."
"I'm sure you didn't come all this way just to tell us that," Blair said.
"No, I didn't," Jack admitted. "I came here to offer you a job."
"Ah, so now you've spied on us, and you know you've got a genuine Sentinel on your hands, you want to recruit him," Blair bristled.
"No," Daniel said, "he's come to offer you a job."
"Though we certainly wouldn't say no if Detective Ellison decided to reactivate his commission and come work for us too," Jack said.
"Why on earth would you want to offer me a job?" Blair said. He looked at Daniel. "This isn't a pity thing, is it? I won't take charity."
Daniel shook his head. "I swear, Blair. We need an anthropologist. Someone like you. We thought of you even before all this went down, but it didn't seem likely you'd be free to accept."
"And now that I have no job, because I'm a frau--"
"Oh for crying out loud, enough of that song already," Jack said. "Daniel says you're not a fraud. Your academic advisor says you're not a fraud. Your Captain Banks wishes you were a cop -- how many more glowing testimonials do you want?"
"Simon said that about me?"
"Not in so many words, but that was the gist of it," Jack said. "In the course of our investigations, we have established that," Jack ticked off the points on his fingers, "you're resourceful, you talk your way out of trouble -- after you've talked your way into it -- you're a peacemaker, you're loyal, you're fair, you don't follow orders -- a bit like Daniel here -- you're afraid of heights, you write readable reports, you're not bad at languages, you're open to new situations and cultures, you think outside the box, you like exotic food -- and women -- you wield a mean blowtorch, and you can drive a truck. You aren't affiliated with any radical organisations, you aren't a communist spy, and we figure we can give you a suitable security clearance." He glanced at Daniel. "Did I leave anything out?"
Daniel quirked a smile. "He's an expert on Sentinels?"
"Right, he's an expert on Sentinels. Probably come in handy if we ever happen to run into any. You think that's likely?"
"Considering everything else we've run into..." Daniel said.
"True," Jack said. "But we wouldn't want to employ you just on the off-chance we might run into one. We need an anthropologist --"
"Who isn't afraid of being shot at," Daniel interrupted. "Wounded, perhaps even killed in the line of duty."
What the hell are they asking me to do? Negotiate in the Balkans?
"But he's a civilian!" Jim bristled. "And you're asking him to volunteer for something that dangerous?"
Jack made a face. "Saving the world has its drawbacks."
"Saving America from the forces of darkness?" Jim said dryly.
"Something like that," Jack replied.
"Did you know it was this dangerous when they hired you?" Blair asked Daniel.
Daniel rolled his eyes. "They didn't know it was going to be that dangerous."
"Don't forget, you volunteered," Jack pointed out.
"They originally hired me to do some nice, safe, translations," Daniel said. "Then the nature of the job changed considerably."
"And isn't that the understatement of the century," Jack said dryly.
"You want me, an anthropologist," Blair said. "What about Jim?"
"What about him?" Jack said. "I gather you two work as a team. I hate breaking up teams. There's an offer for both of you, if you want it."
"You said you haven't found the people who bugged our apartment," Blair pointed out. "Won't they come after him again?"
Jack glowered. "I guarantee you, if he's on our team, those putzes won't be able to touch him," he said. "Hell, if we can protect Teal'c, we can protect anybody," Jack muttered.
"Who's Teal'c?" Jim asked.
"Er, he's a sort of defector," Daniel said.
"Wait, he's the guy you took to the mall, isn't he?" Blair burst out.
"You told him about the trip to the mall?" Jack said.
"A trip to the mall isn't classified, Jack!" Daniel protested.
"Teal'c is classified!"
"He didn't name any names, Colonel," Blair reassured him. "I just figured it out. I mean, there can't be that many Americans who don't know what fast food is, can there?" A thought suddenly occurred to Blair. "Um, he wouldn't happen to be an alien, would he?"
Jack and Daniel carefully didn't look at each other.
"Whatever made you think that?" Daniel said into the silence. "Surely not anything I said?"
"No, no, just some conspiracy theories," Blair said. "Forget I mentioned it, stupid idea."
"You admit it's dangerous, liable to get him killed -- why would Sandburg want to go for it?" Jim said.
"Ah, good question," Jack said. "Daniel?"
"It's an anthropologist's dream, Blair," Daniel said. "Cultures that haven't been discovered, just waiting..."
"Hey, I know the saying, man -- Join the army, see the world, meet interesting, exciting people, and kill them. Not my scene."
Daniel made a face. "Some of them aren't friendly, I admit..."
Jack held up his hand. "Let's be precise here; one of them is really hostile, the rest are all potential friendlies. And it's the potential friendlies we wanna go visit. With someone in tow who knows how to make nice. You. That's what it boils down to."
"Go visit? Where?" Blair asked. Where on earth could there be undiscovered cultures in a place that the US military is interested in? Undiscovered cultures that they would actually want to talk to?
"I'm sorry, that's classified," Jack said. "I've already told you more than I probably should have."
"Look, we're gonna need some time to talk this over, decide," Jim said.
"Sure," Jack said, standing up. Daniel followed suit. Jack handed them both a card. "Give us a call. But don't take too long."
"Opportunity of a lifetime, Blair," Daniel said.
Rainier University, Cascade
Jim and Blair walked outside across the green grass of the campus.
"What kind of a job are they offering, man?" Blair mused.
"Well, there's something you ought to know," Jim said. "You know when you asked about aliens?"
"Yeah, stupid question, but what with what Jack Kelso was telling us --"
"Kelso was wrong to dismiss it," Jim interrupted. "Both of them reacted when you asked if that Teal'c fellow was an alien. Pulses through the roof."
Blair's eyes widened. "You mean he really is an alien?"
Jim shrugged. "They seemed worried about it, anyway."
Blair turned to face Jim, walking backwards. "Hey, you know, this all makes sense, now. They are fighting aliens. That's what all that was about last year. Only there isn't only one kind of alien. And they want me for a first-contact person. Because I know how to deal with lots of different cultures. First contact, man! With aliens! Opportunity of a lifetime doesn't begin to cover it!"
"Don't get too excited, Darwin," Jim said. "We don't know that that's what it is."
Blair rolled his eyes. "Hey, nothing's impossible, man!" He stopped walking backwards and returned to Jim's side. "What's bugging you?"
"Join the army and you get screwed," Jim said.
"Colonel Oliver was an exception, you know that," Blair said. "I know Daniel, he wouldn't hang with people you couldn't trust."
Jim sighed. "I'm glad you think so."
"Hey, man, if you aren't comfortable with this, I won't do it. Not without you. We're a team, remember?"
Somehow, they had made their way towards Hargrove Hall. Jim could see the fountain clearly. It wasn't flowing.
Blair started walking in the direction of Jim's gaze. "Yeah, I remember what happens when we aren't together on something..." Blair said.
"And you're the one who pays the price," Jim said.
Blair kept on walking. "Not your fault, man," Blair said. "Alex was a psycho."
"And you threw away your academic life for me," Jim said.
"I threw away the fool's gold for the real thing," Blair said. "You. Not the fame, not the money, not any of that. But this..."
"Is it worth the danger? How many times did you say your friend had been injured?" Jim said.
"How many times have I been injured, working with you?" Blair countered.
Jim shook his head. "That's different. What they were talking about, it sounds like a war zone. You could be killed. Even with the best crack team in the world backing you up. I couldn't --" he broke off, unable to finish.
They were standing right by the fountain. Blair looked at the reflections in the water -- the two of them standing, side by side. "I'm not afraid any more, Jim. The past is past. If I die, I die, and I know that you will have done your absolute best to save me. And your absolute best is ten times better than anybody else's! We can't be looking backwards all the time. We've got to look forwards. And we've got a lot to look forward to, if we're together. Life is as good as we make it."
"Ever the optimist, eh, Chief?"
"Hey, life is for living, right?" He turned his back on the fountain and sat on the edge. "I think I should say yes. But not if you won't go with me. Follow me, Jim. Together we'll build a better life."
"Are you sure about this?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
Jim nodded. "Then I'm with you, partner."
Blair bounced to his feet, and held up an imaginary glass. "A toast!" he said. "Lehayyim! To life!"
Jim smiled, and clinked his imaginary glass to Blair's. "To life."
Thanks to Sue Wells, who sent me these lyrics, for giving me the opportunity and inspiration to do something I'd wanted to do for a while -- write a TS/SG-1 crossover which fixes up the TSbyBS situation. I've thought for a long time that working on an SG team would be the perfect job which would allow both Jim and Blair to use all their talents.
Besterette has to share part of the blame, er, credit for this; if I hadn't read and enjoyed "The Ridiculous and the Obscure" then I probably wouldn't have considered the Blair-and-Daniel-are-old-friends and Daniel-didn't-believe-the-press-conference thing. And since she wouldn't write a sequel then I just had to write my own story, didn't I?
Thanks to Aubrey Robin, blessed beta, for not letting me sit back and relax, and helping the revised version to be more worthy. And thanks for the line about the Red Heron poster.
The reference to the trip to the mall is in honour of a story I read where they did just that -- took Teal'c to the mall. Unfortunately I can't remember the title or who wrote it.
For the purposes of this story, Wilton Fisker (in Crossroads) is not the evil twin brother of General Hammond.
For timeline purposes, I am taking initial airdates as a rough timeline indication. That means that this takes place between season 2 and 3 for the Stargate folks.
Thanks to Dr. F. I. Andersen for the correct spelling of the Jewish toast "to life". Thanks to Dr. L. C. Andersen for information about time taken to recover from bullet wounds. All errors are mine.
Here are the lyrics.
One shoe on; one shoe off.
Nothin' in life is decidable; wouldn't you know.
Nothing's supposed to be easy.
Take one day at a time. Ain't no need to hurry.
Realize where you are, and where you're going to.
Follow me; ain't no need to go on all by yourself.
Follow me; don't need nobody else.
Follow me; and together we'll build a better life.
One more time; toe the line;
Nothing in life is impossible. Both of us know
Life is as good as we make it.
Dark reflections of the past
Drown in our tomorrows.
Time to laugh; time to love;
Time to live again.
Follow me; ain't no need to go on all by yourself.
Follow me; don't need nobody else.
Follow me; and together we'll build a better life.
Time to laugh; time to live again.