Steps Along a New Path

by Loui

Stargate SG-1 is copyright © Double Secret Productions and Showtime. The Sentinel is copyright © Pet Fly Productions and UPN. No infringement of these copyrights is intended by this story.
"Steps Along a New Path" is copyright © Loui.

SGC, Cheyenne Mountain, CO.

Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson wandered down the corridors of the SGC talking quietly, seemingly oblivious as always to the unobtrusive way that their path cleared in front of them. It was just something that the other personnel on the base did without conscious thought for SG-1. The members of SG-1 were usually involved in something 'interesting', and it was always expedient to help them or, at the very least, not hinder them in whatever they were doing - on occasion, the fate of the planet was at stake.

Some of the newer personnel that arrived at the SGC considered the way the rest of the personnel deferred to SG-1 to be fawning and out of line, until they realised that SG-1 didn't solicit this behaviour - and, in fact, seemed unaware that it was happening. That and the fact that within a week or two of arrival on the base these same protesters witnessed exactly what SG-1 got up to in a standard fortnight. That usually silenced all protests.

The personnel they passed would have been astonished to find out that SG-1 did know what went on around them. They just didn't know any way to ask that it be stopped without hurting anybody's feelings, so they kept quiet.

"So, Jack, what do you want to tell the others?" murmured Daniel.

Daniel watched as the Colonel gave a soft sigh and said, "Now there's the sixty-four thousand dollar question. For now, we keep quiet. See what the recall is about. After we're done, I think you and I have to have a little talk ourselves first. Once we've settled some things between us - and barring alien invasion - don't laugh, you know our luck - I'll have a nice friendly little barbecue and we'll break the news to the others."

Daniel nodded. "All right, Jack. You tell me if you're having trouble with your senses, though. That's non-negotiable."

Surprisingly, Jack agreed instantly. Daniel eyed him speculatively. He'd agreed way too easily. The tension around the Colonel's eyes gave Daniel the answer he needed; Jack was nervous and, to be honest, so was he. Discovering they were a fledgling Sentinel/Guide pair had been exhilarating and terrifying. Now, without the steadying presence and support of Jim and Blair, terrifying was the more prevalent of the two emotions.

He moved to reassure Jack, placing a brief, comforting hand on his arm and saying, "I'm with you every step of the way, Jack. I promise." The tension in Jack's frame eased and Daniel could almost feel the grin of pleasure that would have been on Blair Sandburg's face at that moment.

Ten minutes later, moving fast, Jack and Daniel exited General Hammond's office. They left behind a very confused commanding officer. In the time that they had been away, he'd began to doubt that letting them go away by themselves was necessarily the best thing to have done.

The pair that had just left his office had reassured him about that, at least. Jack no longer looked like he would shatter at a loud noise, and that was a good thing. Now, however, there was something new to cause concern. The dynamic between the two men that were arguably the heart of this command had changed. He wasn't sure how or why, only that it had happened. The question was, was that a good thing?

Thirty minutes later, Daniel and Jack stood within the Gateroom and watched as the last few chevrons spun and locked into place. It was nothing serious - it was far worse than that! It turned out that the Tok'ra High Council had been less than pleased by their absence. Carter and Teal'c had managed to stall by stating that it was under direct order that the missing pair had been ordered to take some leave and recuperate. Jacob Carter had done his best to lend his support to that argument, but it had only held sway for so long. It hadn't helped that Carter and Teal'c didn't know exactly why Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson were ordered to take some leave and they hadn't been.

As such - when Carter had called the base to apologetically inform General Hammond that there was an official ceremony being held to honour the Tauri team known as SG-1 for their recent efforts in destroying Apophis' new battle ship and that all members of the team were expected to attend - a recall had been inevitable. For O'Neill and Jackson not to turn up would be unthinkable.

Hence the recall order and their briefing by General Hammond. Voluble and sarcastic protests had gained them nothing, Daniel's more restrained protestations had garnered no success either. General Hammond had smiled, nodded and calmly overruled the pair. That was why, Jack and Daniel stood near the bottom of the ramp, Jack in his dress uniform and Daniel in a formal suit of charcoal grey.

The technician's voice said, "Chevron seven, locked."

The Gate shimmered into life and Jack and Daniel headed for the ramp. General Hammond's cheery voice said, "Enjoy yourselves, gentlemen."

Jack's sarcastic, "Oh, I'm sure we will, sir," was met with some stifled grins from the Gateroom defence team.

Daniel, ignoring the goings on around them, murmured some quiet instructions to his Sentinel. Blair had told him about this too - in a gentle tone - the instinctive need to protect the Sentinel from potential harm.

"Jack, I want you to dial everything down, right now. We have no idea what effect Gate travel is going to have on your senses and until we can increase your control we're not going to take any chances."

Jack glanced at him and nodded briefly. Using his own body to shield his actions from view, Daniel placed an unobtrusive hand on Jack's wrist to ground the older man. Jack took a deep breath and listened to his Guide's quiet voice as he took him through the steps necessary to 'turn the dials down'. They paused briefly at the edge of the event horizon, Daniel eyed Jack carefully; was he ready?

Jack nodded. Side by side, they stepped through the Stargate...

Major Crimes Department. Cascade, WA.

Eyes looked up as a familiar sound was heard; Detectives Ellison and Sandburg. The friendly banter from the disparate but most effective partnership in Cascade PD history filled the air. Smiles appeared in faces all around the bullpen. In a loud whisper, someone whispered, "They're back!"

Ellison and Sandburg headed for their desks. Still teasing each other, they followed their set routines. Computers on, files picked out from the never-ending supply of casefiles that appeared on their desks, Ellison with a phone at his ear and Sandburg with his fingers flying over the keyboard of his computer.

Jim stifled a smile as he heard the voice that had whispered their return giving a murmured countdown of, "Five, four, three, two, one..." As the voice reached one, Captain Simon Banks' voice let out a reverberating, "Ellison! Sandburg! My office. Now!"

Following tradition, Ellison gave a mock-glare to his partner. Falling into his part in the routine, Sandburg played along by saying, "Oh, come on, Jim! I haven't done anything!"

Pushing gently at his partner and herding him towards their Captain's office, Jim Ellison murmured, "I wouldn't put anything past your abilities, Sandburg."

Five minutes later, Ellison and Sandburg were heading off to the site of the latest in a spate of particularly vicious armed robberies. Simon Banks had truly not wanted to foist a harsh case off on his favourite detective team the moment they got back but Robbery had found nothing and neither had the initial Major Crimes personnel assigned to the case when it had been passed on to their department.

Five robberies, no clear evidence. Two witnesses - both in ICU at Cascade General - it was a case that desperately needed the magic touch of Ellison and Sandburg.

After their departure, Simon Banks sat in his chair and frowned. Something was different about Ellison and Sandburg, something that he couldn't quite put his finger on. Their hurried request for leave - however entitled they were to take it - had raised some questions from him at the time. Ellison had sighed and gazed at Sandburg. The young Guide had then begun to wax lyrical about the need for a Sentinel/Guide pair to re-ground themselves in the natural environment and he'd found himself agreeing just to get the kid to shut up.

They played me like experts, mused a disgusted Simon Banks.

To his practised eye, the pair not only seemed refreshed from their vacation; they seemed re-invested. Closer than before - if that were possible. He'd let it go... for now. He'd get his answers eventually.

The loft, later that night...

Ellison and Sandburg had wrapped up the armed robbery case in record time - even for them. They hadn't been able to help it. Jim was as focused as Blair had ever seen him - senses razor sharp.

It had turned out to be a relatively straight forward case of 'a man on the inside' at the security firm that fitted the alarms for the premises burgled. He knew the nights when there was a shortage of staff and at what time the shift changes happened. The robbers had targeted the premises on those vulnerable nights.

Ellison had detected minute quantities of oil from dirtbikes at three of the scenes. Interviews with the staff at the shops and the security firm had given them a suspect that unknowingly reeked of the oil. Sandburg had then 'done his stuff' and a mountain of paperwork later had found the embezzled funds from the security company and the concurrent payments into the suspect's bank account.

A search warrant had been obtained and the suspect arrested - without the normal chase as the suspect fled; or even, without the requisite injury to one of the investigating pair. Thirty minutes in the interrogation room with Ellison and Sandburg and the suspect had confessed. Behind the one-way mirror, Simon had watched, smiling. They'd done it again; the patented Ellison growl working it's magic as the suspect confessed.

Blair looked at Jim and smiled quietly. He headed out towards the balcony - bottle of beer in hand - and stood looking out over their city. He didn't move, didn't even acknowledge, Ellison's arrival behind him. He didn't have to. Jim reached a long arm round Sandburg to take the bottle of beer from him and placed it along side his own on the floor of the balcony.

Once all obstacles had been removed, Jim reached out with his strong but infinitely gentle fingers and tugged at Blair's shoulders to pull him back towards the security and shelter of his embrace. As soon as Blair's strong back was resting against his chest, Jim wrapped his arms around his Guide, saying, "Penny for your thoughts, Chief."

Blair lightly rested his hands against his Sentinel's forearm and gave a contented sigh. "Nothing momentous, Jim. Just the usual, it's good to be back, more bad guys off the street and all's right with our world type of feelings."

Jim smiled quietly. There was more. Who would put it into words first? Blair - as always - understood the meaning in his silence. His Guide spoke again; a mixture of reverence, delight, satisfaction and concern in his voice. Once again, the Guide put into words what the Sentinel was feeling.

"It's so cool about Jack and Daniel, isn't it, Jim? Who'd have thought that there would be another Sentinel/Guide pairing out there and that we'd already be friends. I gotta tell you, man, after the fiasco with Alex I wasn't really sure if I wanted to meet another Sentinel.

"Jack, though... Jack is different. Jack's cool. I'm so happy for Daniel. If you knew the things he'd told me about his messed up childhood..." Blair's voice trailed off.

And you had a conventional childhood, Chief?

Breaking away from that train of thought, Jim imperceptibly tightened his grip on his Guide; the beloved heartbeat resounding through his tall frame. He put into words what they were both feeling.

"We're not alone any more. There are two good men out there that understand - better even than Simon or Connor can - what we go through on a daily basis.

"Fate's given us two new brothers. They'd be here in a heartbeat if we needed them and we'd do the same for them and be damned to the possible consequences of the military finding out."

Blair smiled and nodded. Leaning his head back to rest on Ellison's broad chest, he murmured, "I wonder how they're getting on..."

Secret Tok'ra Base...

The ceremony had seemed to last forever. Jack had done his best not to fidget during the long speeches or the seemingly never-ending 'mingling' afterwards. I swear I'll never complain about another Air Force ceremony as long as I live.

Daniel caught his eye and - raising one eyebrow - gave him a questioning glance. He smiled reassuringly. After the near zone coming through the Gate he'd had no real problems with his senses - apart from when they'd been greeted by a highly curious Carter and Teal'c.

He hadn't realised that 'Junior' moved around inside Teal'c's pouch quite so much. It sounded absolutely gross! Using the techniques that both Blair and Daniel had drilled into him, he'd blocked the sound from his hearing.

The Tok'ra had been close on the heels of the rest of SG-1 and so, reluctantly but firmly, Jack had squelched Carter's queries with a "Not now. Later."

Back on Earth...

Surviving relatively unscathed by their 'ordeal', SG-1 returned to Earth. It was Friday evening by the time they got back. As soon as they exited the Gate, Carter had started up with her questions again.

Daniel - noticing the tell-tale squint to Jack's eyes that indicated a problem with his senses - abruptly silenced her with a "Not now, Sam."

His unusually brusque manner stopped her in her tracks. She gazed - hurt - at the usually far more gently spoken civilian member of SG-1. His intent gaze switched her attention to the Colonel, and she realised the reason for his abrupt dismissal - the Colonel was in pain. She watched, bemused, as Daniel laid a hand on the Colonel's arm - a hand that was not immediately brushed off - and began to murmur something quietly to the Colonel.

The Colonel straightened his stance and the lines of pain seemed to ease from his eyes. Sam frowned, confused.

The debriefing was long but dull - after all, nothing untoward had happened - for once! It had just been a very sedate ceremony.

After the briefing, the four had headed down the stairs towards the general access levels of the base. It turned out that Daniel was staying with the Colonel. Logically, that made sense. Neither of them had had time to unpack from their leave - the recall notice had been for immediate return. The Colonel's jeep was still apparently overflowing with camping gear.

Sam sighed. Something had changed, though. It was an intangible feeling but it was there.

The Colonel had apparently heard her quiet sigh. He cocked his head at her and gave her a mysterious smile. He said, "My place. Tomorrow at five. Bring Teal'c with you. I'll barbecue and we'll give you an explanation."

Too confused to do anything else, Sam nodded. Why did she suddenly have the feeling that tomorrow was going to be another red-letter day in the history of SG-1?

Daniel wandered down the hallway and navigated his way into the living room as he looked for Jack. He hadn't really unpacked too much, after all, he was heading back to his apartment tomorrow morning; tonight was for ease of convenience and so he and Jack could get a few things settled. The real fun would start tomorrow when they broke the news to Sam and Teal'c. Now that should prove interesting.

No sign of Jack.

Daniel continued on into the kitchen. Playing a hunch, he opened the door to the refrigerator, sure enough, he found what he was looking for. A six-pack of beer with two bottles missing. Checking his watch, Daniel decided that it was still too early for star-gazing so he headed off for Jack's other roost of choice - the back porch and it's decking platform that overlooked the garden.

Jack was sitting, legs sprawled, beer bottle in hand with his face tilted up towards the sky; eyes obscured by his sunglasses. Daniel's chair was ready and waiting for him so he settled into it with a grateful sigh... it had been a long day. Jack temporarily switched his bottle of beer to his other hand and, with his free arm, he reached down to the side of his seat, retrieved Daniel's beer and handed it to him.

"Settled in, Daniel?"

Daniel took a sip of his beer before responding. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sure, Jack. It's only for tonight, after all. I still know my way around everything pretty well. It's not like it's my first visit."

Jack grunted a non-committal response and Daniel grinned quietly. This felt normal. Many a night after his initial return from Abydos had been spent in a similar fashion. It had taken a few weeks to sort his life out again after his 'absence'. By that point, he had become intimately aware of every nook and cranny of Jack's two roosts - the one on the ground and the one that allowed his star-gazing.

He let silence fill the air. It'd only take a few minutes before Jack would break it with some wry comment that would induce a few moments conversation before they let silence take hold again. That was how nights like this worked.

Time passed and... nothing. Daniel frowned. He looked over at Jack and gave a muffled gasp. Zoned! Damn it!

Quickly placing his beer on the deck, he made his way over to Jack's side and crouched down beside his friend. As Blair had taught him he began to murmur in a soft voice; calling his Sentinel back from wherever his senses had taken him. It took a few minutes before anything happened - by which point, his heart was racing. Jack took a deep breath and seemed to focus once more, he gazed down to see Daniel crouching beside him, concern clearly mirrored in his eyes.

"What happened? No, don't answer that... I zoned. Right?"

Daniel sighed and nodded. "Do you know what caused it? You know what Blair and Jim told us. Try to identify the source of the zone, it's the best way of making sure it doesn't happen again."

Jack frowned in thought but soon after shrugged his shoulders in defeat. "I don't know. Stuff!"

Daniel stifled an irritated sigh. Stubbornness; Blair had mentioned that too.

Using the techniques that Blair had taught him, Daniel modulated his voice to a soothing murmur and, glaring at Jack till he played along, he got the novice Sentinel to take a few calming breaths, close his eyes and slowly recall the events leading up to the zone.

"...and then I gave you the bottle of beer.

"I was getting ready to talk to you about tomorrow when I heard that damn humming again. I listened more closely to try and figure out where it was coming from. The more I concentrated, the louder it sounded until it was all I was able to hear.

"Next thing I remember was your voice calling me to come back."

Daniel gave Jack a faintly congratulatory smile. Not too bad for their first, unsupervised session of sensory recall! Quietly, he said, "All right, Jack. I want you to listen for the sound again. Nothing else! Just see if you can hear it."

"Got it," murmured Jack.

"Good. Now then, listen more closely. Use my voice as an anchor if you have to. See if you can identify what type of sound it is."

This took a little longer, but finally Jack identified it as machinery of some kind.

"Which direction is the sound coming from, Jack?"

"The left." Jack turned his gaze to his neighbour's house. "It's the air-conditioning. It must be on the fritz again. I can hear it, Daniel!"

Daniel grinned. "Good, Jack. Now that you've identified the sound, filter it out. You can do it. Filter out the sound so that it doesn't bother you any more."

Moments later, Jack smiled quietly and said, "Done."

After that, they moved their discussion inside. Both were relieved with the success with which they had mastered this and the other near-zones that had happened since they had left Jim and Blair. They could do this. It'd take time before they were as proficient as the other pair but the trust was there, as was the willingness to learn.

It was time for the next hurdle. Who to tell and how much should they explain? Sam and Teal'c would be told the truth. The team dynamic depended on trust - besides, they'd already figured out something was up.

By the end of the night, they had still not reached a decision about Dr. Frasier or General Hammond. It was more than likely they were going to have to tell Janet something. The rate at which SG-1 got injured meant that - sooner or later - she was going to be treating Jack. Everything from pain-relieving drugs to anaesthesia to vaccinations was going to have potential ramifications to a Sentinel's physiology.

If they told her what would she say to General Hammond? What should they say to General Hammond? Sentinel senses working properly could be a huge asset to an SG team. It could also get Jack transferred to a testing lab in Area 51 if the wrong people found out. Would Hammond - if he was told - follow procedure and make a report; or would he keep the secret as Jim and Blair's captain had?

With no answers readily forthcoming, they had turned in for the night.

Jack lay in his bed and even from in the other bedroom; he could hear Daniel's heartbeat. It was that steady, soothing rhythm that lulled him to sleep.

Samantha Carter, Major USAF, astrophysicist, second in command of the premiere SG team in existence, was at a complete loss for words.

She had suspected that something was going on with Daniel and the Colonel, but nothing like this! After the barbecue, they had gathered in the kitchen for coffee - Teal'c still stuck to milk, unable to see the human fascination with the aromatic beverage. That had been when Daniel explained what had been going on.

She'd looked at the Colonel, waiting expectantly for the punchline; it never came. Instead, the Colonel added his own comments and explanations to those that Daniel had already given. He'd looked directly into her disbelieving eyes and said, "Test me, Carter. Prove it to yourself."

She had. Every test that she could think of to try - from whispering something to the Colonel while she and Daniel were at the bottom of the garden and the Colonel and Teal'c were in the living room - to writing something on a sheet of paper and giving the Colonel the sheet to read while blindfolded - had produced the same results! The Colonel and Daniel were telling the truth!

Teal'c had remained remarkably calm about the whole thing; the Colonel was quick to call him on it. Raising an eyebrow - it was amazing how much emotion he could convey doing that - Teal'c simply commented that he had heard many legends of the ancient guardians and their watchers. The tales existed on many Goa'uld worlds. He had believed them to be just that - stories. Then again, he had believed the existence of the Tauri world to be legend too and he now lived amongst its peoples. Why should this legend not be true, also?

"Why indeed?" said the Colonel with a smile. He gave Carter a challenging glance. She sighed and nodded.

"I believe you, Colonel. I'll do some digging and see if I can come up with some more information."

"No, you won't!"

Stunned at his outburst, Sam glared at Daniel. She was trying to help!

"Carter, I can't order you to, but I'm asking you: don't.

"I'm not the only Sentinel out there, nor is Daniel the only Guide. There is one other confirmed pair. They're old friends of us both. I knew the Sentinel, Daniel knew the Guide. They've been working together for years and what they can do is phenomenal.

"It's not all been plain sailing, though. They've endured everything from rogue CIA agents trying to use them to commit crimes, to a rogue Sentinel, to inadvertent information about the Sentinel being leaked to the media.

"They've survived more or less intact. There will always be speculation about them, but that is as far as it goes. They've got some friends watching out for them. If they hadn't, they'd be wandering around with a target on their backs for every would-be madman to try to use in their plans. Either that, or they'd be taken and wind up in a secret research facility as guinea pigs for the rest of their lives.

"Don't look at me like that, Carter. It happens. I've worked covert ops; I know what the wrong sort of people are capable of."

Daniel gave an apologetic smile for his earlier outburst and said, "I've got copies of all the notes and research that they did on how to hone and control Sentinel senses. If you agree to keep it confidential, I've already got their permission to show it to you both.

"They're the ones that told us that it would be easier if we told you the truth. You have the right to know. Our lives depend on each other when we go through the Gate.

"I just meant no to outside research. We're not going to take the chance that a flag will be raised by looking into outside sources. It's not just the safety of me and Jack on the line. It's their lives at stake too."

Sam nodded. "I understand. No outside research."

Teal'c asked his first question. "What are you going to tell General Hammond?"

Jack and Daniel exchanged an uneasy glance. Daniel said, "For now, nothing. We don't want to have to put him in the position of having to make an official report. Not unless there's no other way."

Jack glanced at Carter and answered the unspoken question in her eyes. "We'll tell Janet as and when it becomes necessary. You'll see from the notes that Daniel will be giving you that my pain tolerances are going to be affected, as will my reactions to drugs.

"We're going to have to play it by ear - it's just an expression, Teal'c - and deal with it as the situation warrants it. When we do, you're going to be very important. I get the distinct feeling that she'll be more inclined to listen if the 'rational' one of the team says it's true."

Sam and Daniel both grinned at that.

After that, the conversation developed into a more general exploration of what the Colonel was capable of and a more clearly defined explanation of Daniel's role in it all.

Eventually, Sam, Teal'c and Daniel all left to head home or back to base and Jack was left alone for the first time since his frantic knocking on Daniel's door just a few short weeks before.

Lying in his bed, Jack tossed and turned before eventually falling into an exhausted slumber. It wasn't as peaceful a slumber as recent days, and he eventually figured out what was wrong. The heartbeat was missing...

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Last modified January 03rd, 2001.
Trudy A. Goold/