If I Ever Lose My Faith In You

Title: If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
Author: Bindingdiva
Fandom/Genre: Stargate: SG1/Criminal Minds
Relationship(s): Daniel Jackson/???; Spencer Reid/???; Jack O’Neill/Samantha Carter;
Content Rating: M (For language)
Warnings: None
Summary: The Sentinel chooses; every Guide was taught that as the Universal Truth. Psychiatrist Dr Daniel Jackson is the rarest of Guides, but he’s already been rejected once. When it looks like it’s going to happen again, he has to wonder…does it mean he’s just not good enough? And just how ethical is it for him to treat the man who could potentially be his Sentinel.

Word Count: 14624

A/N: This is one of three Rough Trade stories for the Little Black Dress Challenge – which crosses a fandom of your choice with the Sentinel. The three stories for 2016 are all interlinked in a Trilogy I am calling ‘Body, Mind and Spirit’ and should be read in that order. This is the ‘Mind’ section. In turn two of the stories are sequels to the LBD Challenge of 2015.

The ending of this is an in-joke that was made at the end of another story in this ‘Seven Days’,which is here on the site, and was basically a shopping list of attributes that Tony and Jethro made for Kelly’s Guide.
The quote about emergent theory is taken verbatim from the International Encyclopedia of Organization Studies Edited by: Stewart R. Clegg & James R. Bailey. Thanks to my very clever hubby for lending me his serious doctoral knowledge for the frivolity of fanfiction

Banner by Bindingdiva

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Case #: 2339881/DSJ/
Patient Name: Reid, Spencer J.
D.O.B: 10/24/1990
Referrer: Self
Notes: Dr Jackson,
In his referring email, this patient wrote: ‘I request that my therapist be male, and preferably homosexual’. I’m not sure whether he knew you fitted that criteria, or that he wasn’t aware you are a sole practitioner.
Either way, it seems his luck is in!
Tammy

Apart from the personal information page and a page with details of insurance and primary healthcare providers, the file was sparse but that was the way Daniel preferred it. He didn’t like to have any preconceived ideas about a patient before he met them. His supervisor at college – a rather ancient old-school psychiatrist with an atrocious bedside manner – told him that anyone who spent their time with their head stuck in a case file folder, wouldn’t be concentrating on listening to the patient.

Daniel had taken that completely to heart and, so far it had proved to be good advice.
He gave a snort at Tammy’s note. She was nearly sixty-five but behaved like a fifteen-year-old. She had been a fantastic find when he had bought the practice from a retiring psychologist, and he’d never regretted keeping her on. She also made the best coffee in all of DC.

Moving quietly and efficiently, he began to straightened the room from his last consultation. It had been a difficult session with a teen who was dealing with the loss of her younger sister after a long illness. They had been exploring her grief with art materials, and there were pencils and paper strewn across the consulting room floor along with a liberal sprinkling of glitter, which he quickly sucked up with a hand-held vacuum cleaner. Daniel didn’t want anything to act as a distraction for his new patient. It was usually hard enough to get someone to begin the process of opening up to him, without making it more difficult by having their focus diverted by something irrelevant like heart-shaped sequins.

He took the last few minutes before Reid, Spencer J. was due to arrive, to make sure his empathic abilities were shielded, using a chunk of glowing Asgard crystal that he’d smuggled from the SGC as a focus. He was an unbonded Alpha Prime Guide – recognised as one of the most powerful in the US after the Guide Ultima – because of his superlative empathic abilities, and the left-over psionic boost he’d had from Ascension. He would receive another power boost from his Sentinel when he finally bonded …but the chances of that happening anytime soon was something he didn’t like to dwell on.

Having locked his mind down tight, he would appear Mundane to all but the most powerful of Sentinels and Guides. He knew many other Guides in the field of mental health would have scoffed at him for not using what they would consider his most powerful diagnostic tool. But the people Daniel treated were, on the whole, not from the S/G community. The Centres were well equipped to deal with the needs of the unbonded. Bonded Sentinels and Guides had their emotional needs supremely well covered by their bondmate. He also didn’t advertise his status, so Daniel received referrals almost exclusively for Mundane patients. The loss of his skills and abilities to their community was something Blair was very unhappy about.

A quiet buzz from the timer on his desk alerted him that he should prepare for Mr Reid. He locked the crystal back in its box in his desk, slipped on his favourite linen jacket, and took a quick look in the mirror on the wall to make sure his hair wasn’t too disreputable, as he tended to run his hands through it when he was particularly distracted.

Moments later the door opened to Tammy, wearing her most professional face, and a beautifully tailored skirt suit.

“Dr Jackson. This is Dr Reid, your three o’clock.”

Daniel smiled at the tall, thin man who accompanied Tammy into the room. He didn’t receive one in return, but he was interested to observe the man undertake a lightning fast, but detailed threat assessment of both him and the room.

‘Law enforcement or military,’ Daniel thought, which he found surprising, as if anyone could look less like a cop or soldier it was the young man who stood in his consulting room doorway.

He was distracted as something tugged at the periphery of his mind, just out of reach. Not wishing to take his attention from his patient, he marked it down to study more carefully later on; his eidetic memory was one mental tool he was very willing to have in constant use, particularly as it was separate from his Guide gifts. It permitted him to work without the need to take notes; allowing him to concentrate on all aspects of his patient, including body language and expression, and not just their words.

Daniel stood back, allowing the other man to complete his assessment of the room and choose where he would feel most comfortable to sit, while in turn he did his own visual appraisal of his new patient.

Dressed in an eclectic mix of styles and colours, with long wavy hair almost touching his shoulders, Spencer Reid looked like every graduate student Daniel had worked alongside in college. They were in fact near contemporaries as far as age went, with Daniel only two years older. Sometimes his youth made patients nervous, but he had a hunch that wouldn’t be the case here.

The other man completed his inspection of the room, and turned very pretty brown eyes to appraise Daniel. His focus was intense, and the laser-like attention made Daniel feel slightly off-kilter for a second or two.

“Dr Reid, welcome. I’m Dr Jackson, but I’d prefer it if you would call me Daniel.”

Spencer frowned for a moment as if confused, and Daniel wondered if he had been expecting someone older. After a few silent moments, however, Spencer seemed to accept that Daniel was the person he had come to meet and once again looked around the room.

“Dr Spencer Reid. I would be happy for you to call me Spencer, but never Spence. I don’t shake hands,” he said abruptly, despite the fact that Daniel hadn’t made any effort to do so.

Pulling a soft brown messenger bag over his head, Reid bypassed the couch that was against the wall That was a surprise as given the thorough reconnaissance of the room it was Daniel’s first guess at where he would end up sitting.

He then proceeded to fold his long frame into the lower and less substantial of the two armchairs in the centre of the room, managing somehow to make himself look smaller, despite the fact that his knees were bent almost comically close to his ears.

With a small, accepting nod, Daniel slipped into the chair opposite, a large glass coffee table carrying the ever-present box of tissues between them. Daniel prepared to make his opening gambit, knowing that the first few minutes of the session were often the most difficult for new patients. However, it quickly became obvious that this time was going to be different as Spencer launched into his concerns without preamble.

“I’m here seeking your firm diagnosis of whether I have inherited one of the Schizophrenic Spectrum of Disorders such as Schizoid Personality Disorder or full blown Schizophrenia. I have a breakdown of my various symptoms…”

Spencer pulled a huge sheaf of papers from his bag, and surprise almost made Daniel miss the faint trembling of Spencer’s hands as he placed the stack carefully on the table. Once they were situated and neatened to his satisfaction, he sat back and tightly laced his fingers together in his lap.

Daniel was a little taken aback. Patients often appeared in this room already armed with a diagnosis, or at least the fear of one. Some had trawled the internet, finding more and more lurid and frightening reasons for their problems until they had themselves convinced of their imminent lifetime incarceration in the nearest psychiatric facility. But not many had the air of someone who had researched their own mental state in such detail, and was sure of the outcome.

“I have some background knowledge, as I have both a BA and a PhD in forensic psychology,” Spencer continued, the rapid staccato of his speech antithetical to his outward calm. “And there is a genetic factor.”
Daniel waited for him to expand on that statement, but Reid simply looked at him with an expectant air, as if that was enough to make the dire self-diagnosis a foregone conclusion.

“OK, Spencer. Let’s talk about why you believe you may be suffering from one of these disorders. You say there is a genetic factor?”

Reid looked a little surprised. “My mother, she’s detained in the Bennington Sanitarium. I placed her there when I realised she was no longer able to care for herself. She has been diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.” He looked down at the sheaf of papers. “It’s all in my notes.”

It was obvious that hard evidence was the stock-in-trade for Spencer, and once again Daniel wondered what the man did for a living. There was a certain quality to his interactions that spoke more of one of the Autistic Spectrum of Disorders, rather than Schizophrenia, but Daniel was not willing to make a snap diagnosis, based on merely on surface evidence.

Daniel relaxed back in his chair, but got no corresponding relaxation from his patient. The man was wound tight as a spring, the control Spencer had over his fingers already beginning to break down, as he traced tiny patterns on his thigh with a trembling fingertip. His eyes kept flicking to the obsessively ordered papers on the table. Daniel was positive the notes would be detailed and exhaustive, but he was more interested in hearing from the man himself.

“You say you have some background knowledge, so you already know that there can be genetic component to SSofD, but it is not the only possible cause of a schizophrenia diagnosis. There are many other illnesses, both physical and emotional that can cause someone to behave in a way that could be interpreted as SSofD. Do you feel you display symptoms which make you believe you are suffering from a disorder in the spectrum?”

Spencer gave a fast, almost spastic nod and began to list off his perceived symptoms on his fingers. “Migraine headaches, accompanied by scent aura and visual disturbance; hallucinations, both visual and auditory; I have already been diagnosed as having a level of Aspergers, and as you know there can be some blurring of the boundaries causing misdiagnosis between that and SPD. But in my case, my difficulties in the past have always been around social interaction and emotional understanding and have never been associated with any of the more recent symptoms.”

For a moment, Daniel let his professional pride at his recognition of some of Spencer’s problems warm him. The man was an interesting dichotomy. Obviously highly intelligent and, if he was in fact Aspergers, he was managing to function at a very high level. His speech was fluent and highly academic in tone. But his social interaction seemed…studied, almost as if he’d been carefully trained in how to behave in interpersonal situations. Given his comments, Daniel thought that was probably the case.

Daniel was interested in his shopping list of symptoms. Although Spencer was obviously nervous, he seemed almost matter of fact about the possibility of being diagnosed with a major psychiatric disorder. And at first glance, they were a compelling starting point for one of the Schizophrenic Spectrum of Disorders. But Daniel’s intuition told him that wasn’t what was going on here. There was also that rather strange non sequitur about the handshake when Reid entered the room, which had rung a few bells for Jackson and seemed like it could be a further clue to what was going on.

Daniel decided to continue with the rather clinical discourse Spencer had begun. It was more like a discussion between peers than doctor/patient, but he hoped it would allow Spencer to relax and allow him to gradually open up to more personal areas of enquiry.

“Are you aware of displaying any OCD tendencies; for example, germ phobia, or hand washing?”

“My colleagues would say so. But I don’t abhor handshakes because of germ phobia, but rather that the feel of skin on skin is quite uncomfortable for me.”

And like a bolt from the blue, Daniel began to realise just what the slightly out of phase feeling was. Without his empathic gifts in play, he had missed the tell-tale signs and he wanted to kick himself.

What the clues added up to, without doubt, was that Spencer was a burgeoning Sentinel and a powerful one at that, considering that his psionic signature had managed to ping Daniel’s receptors, despite them being barricaded behind his very thick shields.

He immediately clamped down on the upswell of euphoria and adrenaline that coursed through him, causing his breathing and heartrate to increase and a fine shimmer of sweat to break out on his skin. Daniel couldn’t afford to let his personal feelings intrude on his professional ethics, no matter how desperate he was.

First and most importantly, Spencer was his patient; they were in his consulting rooms, not a Centre Mixer.

Secondly, and probably more imperative for Daniel, he had been here before. Only in that case, he had spent two years allowing himself to be used and emotionally abused, and then had been callously discarded by an Alpha Sentinel Prime he not only called friend, but who he had had the stupidity to fall in love with. A man who had seemed to promise him his heart’s desire, before choosing a Guide who was as totally wrong for the Sentinel as Daniel was right. He’d been rejected out of hand, and to Daniel’s mind, not seen as good enough.

He could hear Blair in the back of his head yelling at him, ‘That sort of thinking is soul destroying, Danny. You have to know the only fault was his, and if I could I’d sanction that fucker and break their bond’.

But the pair were just too important to the Earth for even the Ultima to take things as far as he wanted. Saving the planet got you a lot of leeway, especially from a Mundane President who didn’t understand the mores of the Sentinel community.

There had been some slight vindication when Daniel had heard that Ja…The General had been called into the National Centre for various seminars, ranging from ethics and social responsibility, to the care and handling of baby Guides.

He was also sure O’Neill’s career had been stalled, and that of his Guide along with it, which knowing Carter as he did, Daniel had no doubt it would have been the bigger blow.

Blair had never owned up to it, but Daniel knew his friend had a hand their lack of advancement.

“…my interpersonal relationships are often fraught with difficulties, but I’ve always put that down to my exceptional intelligence and my ASD. Now though, I’m not so sure.”

There was a moment when Daniel wanted to apologise profusely for losing track of their session. The next 90 seconds were spent racing through ways to get the man out of the room as quickly as possible, so he could pull out the bottle of Scotch from his desk drawer and drown the sorrows that his wool-gathering had brought up.

But it was against every one of Daniel’s professional and moral values to even consider punishing this young man for the sins of others, no matter how obliquely.

And anyway, it was really as simple as pointing him towards the DC S/G Centre. Once they had agreed his status, he would be offered the services of the Guide psychologists on staff if it was still felt necessary. The fact that Spencer would no longer be Daniel’s patient would then allow Daniel to respond to the call for Guides that would no doubt be forthcoming.

Even with his gifts locked down, and Spencer still burgeoning, Daniel would wager that the Sentinel was going to be an Alpha, and probably a Prime. As the only unbonded Alpha Prime Guide in the country it was a pretty good bet that once Reid came fully online he would get a personal call, along with the numerous other unbonded Alpha Guides locally, to meet the new Sentinel, especially if the Ultima pair had anything to do with it.

There would at least be some chance that this man could be his Sentinel.

Still, ‘The Sentinel chooses’, Daniel reminded himself. Every Guide was taught that as the Universal Truth and there were no guarantees. But a chance was all Daniel had wished for over the last few years, and he couldn’t help allowing himself a little surge of hope.

First things first, he needed to actually let Spencer in on his suspicions.

The man in question was looking at him quizzically, and Daniel realised that he’d probably been quiet for a little longer than was appropriate.

“I’m sorry, Spencer. Something you said sparked a train of thought and I wanted to follow it to its conclusion before I said something.”

Reid nodded in grave agreement. “I’m always amazed when people just spout off any hypothesis without factoring all the variables.” He leaned forward, obviously interested in what Daniel had to say – and wasn’t that a nice change from his historical interaction with…

Daniel refused to go there, not wanting to sully this meeting with those particular memories.

“With all the sensory anomalies you have outlined, have you ever considered that what might be happening is that you are coming online as a Sentinel?”

Whatever he had expected in the moment, it definitely wasn’t the totally closed off expression he received. He didn’t have to wait long for a reason.

“I am well aware that genetically I carry the Sentinel trait. However, I have been assured by someone infinitely qualified, that my status is Dormant. Jason was a high level Guide, superlative forensic psychologist and profiler, and someone I trusted implicitly. He made it very clear that the childhood trauma of my mother’s schizophrenia had retarded my emotional and spiritual growth to such an extent as to render it impossible for me to come online.”

While his affect and his voice was still quite flat, Spencer now had two hectic spots of red on his cheeks, and Daniel was somewhat surprised at how angry his simple statement had obviously made the other man. This ‘Jason’ had obviously managed to convince Reid of the veracity of his statement about his status. That wasn’t really a surprise, as the inbuilt imperative for Sentinels to protect the Guide meant it was always easy for Guides to convince Sentinels of their sincerity. After all, it was a necessary response, so that a Guide, even an unbonded one, could help a Sentinel who was zoned, or descending into a feral state.

Under normal circumstances, Daniel would have not disclosed his status. But right now, it was more important that Spencer was assessed by the Centre. Considering his emotional state, if he were to come online in the near future, it would not be pretty.

“I understand. But even the more powerful Guides find it very difficult to make that kind of assessment psionically. The Centres have access to the most up to date tests and information, and if there is even the slightest chance that your friend may have been wrong, then I believe you owe it to your…”

Before he could complete his argument, Spencer was on his feet, his bag swinging in his hands as he strode towards the door. He turned with his hand on the handle and gave Daniel a look of utmost disdain.

“I don’t know why you insist on touting your obviously erroneous opinion in the face of other data.…and I say opinion advisedly, as you have not had enough time to make a reasoned clinical diagnosis… I am not a Sentinel. If I was then I would have…”

Spencer ground his teeth together, obviously biting back the end of his statement with great difficulty. Before Daniel could even get out of his chair, the door was slamming behind him.

Spencer Reid had left the building.

*****

Two weeks later.

Daniel’s house was tiny. Property in the area was expensive – massively priced because of all the over-paid bureaucrats who wanted to live in good commuting distance to the many government agencies that were centred in DC.

But despite the fact that the cost was excessive, and would stretch his budget, he knew when he saw it that the pretty little house was exactly what he wanted. He’d furnished it with all the lovely things he’d collected, lined the walls with his books, and placed his few precious family photos in a sentimental display on the Steinway grand he played every single day.

One thing he didn’t have was any reminders of his time at the SGC. His eidetic memory allowed him an all too vivid recall of the time he’d spent under the mountain and the people he’d left behind.

Unfortunately, those painful memories seemed more than willing to come forward this evening.

He’d spent yet another day in the office going through the motions. He was concerned about his effectiveness and knew he needed to either get a handle on his emotional state, or take a few days away in order to regain his equilibrium. But for the last two weeks he couldn’t help looking hopefully at the door of his consulting room every time it opened, waiting for the long, lean form of Alpha Sentinel Reid to return and tell him Daniel was right.

“He’ll swear his undying love, sweep me off my feet and ask me to bond then and there. Candles and champagne will appear as if by magic, and as our Spirit Animals leap towards each other in a bright flash of light, our sexual bonding will be explosive, causing the Mundanes in the surrounding area to swoon with the empathic backlash…

“And if you sounded any more like a teenage girl, Jackson, then you’d have to pass notes to Tammy asking her to braid your fucking hair,” he gritted out to the empty room.

Daniel roughly pulled off his glasses and threw them onto the kitchen counter. He scrubbed his hand through his hair, frustrated with himself. It was late, he was tired, and not in a good place to think about this. But nevertheless, his ever-active brain refused to allow him surcease. He poured a glass of juice, too afraid to start drinking because he was almost certain he wouldn’t be able to stop, and an inebriated Prime Guide was never a good idea.

He’d been alone for a very long time; met a lot of Sentinels, although only two who were truly powerful enough to be a perfect match for him. Somehow, despite the shortness of their acquaintance, this time it was more difficult to take the rejection.

He wandered through the house, heading for the relative peace of his bedroom; a sanctuary that no one else had ever entered…And wasn’t that a sad reflection on the state of his fucking life.

A long hot shower and the blessed release of sleep, that’s what he needed. Daniel started to undress, paying little heed to where his clothes landed. He didn’t have the energy to care.

Despite his weariness, memories of the two years with Jack wouldn’t leave him alone. He’d naively believed back then that their relationship was the end of his loneliness. Despite his pinpoint accurate recall, when he examined his memories in detail, he still couldn’t work out what he did that made Jack reject him for Sam; a low-level Guide who was barely capable of stabilising a couple of his senses, let alone all five. She was also a bad match for him personally – totally selfish, obsessed with her work, and ridiculously envious of those with greater gifts. But Jack had been blind to all of it.

However, the years before his hopes were dashed were wonderful, and in the depths of his misery he would often take masochistic pleasure in remembering the warm sweep of Jack’s hands across his bare skin and the wonderful feeling of safety and rightness that always accompanied their physical bonding.

Jack had a fantastic cock, and really knew how to use it. Daniel could conjure the feeling of the Sentinel sliding hot and slick inside him, telling him how perfect he was, how hot; pressing his nose against the crease of his neck to inhale his scent; dragging his tongue over sweat-salted skin; revelling in the sounds he could wring out of Daniel.

But all the time there was something missing. For every benefit Jack derived, their bonding was deficient and empty for Daniel. The emotional, empathic spark was never there, always just beyond his reach.

Daniel had hoped it was just because of the way Jack was emerging, his senses coming online slowly, one at a time, over almost 18 months. But now, with the benefit of hindsight, and greater experience, Jackson realised that Jack had been withholding the very thing Daniel needed.

A true connection.

And then when the moment finally came, and Jack was fully online…

Well the fallout had been spectacular and led to Daniel leaving the SGC and training for a completely new career.

“I’m not going to spend my whole life in regret,” he said to his reflection in the bathroom mirror, but the affirmation sounded hollow and untruthful.

Right now, regrets were all he had.

*****

Next Day

Tammy tapped on his door about five minutes before he expected. They tried to meet every day to synchronise their diaries. It also gave them an excuse to sit down, relax and chat. Tammy would bring great coffee, Daniel would provide the cookies – home-baked of course, and they would spend a little time just enjoying each other’s company. He hadn’t slept much the night before and was looking forward to just kicking back for a while.

But her expression told Daniel this wasn’t going to be a normal meeting.

“Dr. Jackson, Dr Reid is here and asking if you have a few minutes to spare him.”

Tammy’s expression belied the irritation she was projecting. Daniel hadn’t been expecting a patient, so wasn’t as tightly shielded as he would normally be. But, a hopeful little voice in his head said, if things go well then your shields will be a positive disadvantage.

“Of course, send him in.”

There was a little curl of nervous excitement wriggling in his belly as Spencer strode into the room. The maelstrom of emotion that came in with him was almost overwhelming, and it was obvious to Daniel that the Sentinel was fully online and struggling, and should really have gone to a Centre. He was an Alpha as Daniel had predicted, but it seemed to the Guide that he wasn’t quite powerful enough to be considered Prime, only time and training would tell.

Just the thought that this new Alpha had come to him rather than seeking support elsewhere, gave the Guide a surge of hope.

“Spencer, why don’t you take a seat.”

Daniel kept his voice low, and his movements gentle, feeling with every synapse the knife edge that Reid was walking.

The tall man subsided into the same chair as before, but then immediately rose, as if stung.

“It is too…the material…it is too rough.”

Without a thought, Daniel placed a hand on Spencer’s shoulder, offering the support any Guide would to a Sentinel in distress. But Spencer pulled away sharply, and his face took on a decidedly unfriendly expression.

“I felt better as soon as I stepped in this room. I can only surmise that you are a Guide…An unbonded Guide.”

The statement was accusing…unfriendly…and Daniel’s gut churned.

“Yes. I’m an Alpha Prime Guide. My empathic levels are…”

“So that is how you knew I was emerging as a Sentinel? Isn’t it completely unethical not to tell your patients that you can read them.”

As before, Spencer’s affect was flat, but there was an edge of danger to it that hadn’t been there before. Daniel retreated to the other armchair, putting out feel-good vibes, hoping he wasn’t going to have to put Spencer down empathically, but prepared to do so if the need arose. He wouldn’t risk Tammy around an unbalanced Sentinel.

“Yes, it would be unethical if I was reading them. But I purposely shield my abilities before a session. Sentinels and Guides are supported by their own psychiatrists at the Centres, so I never consult for them. The reason you can feel me more at the moment is because I didn’t have time to strengthen my empathic shields. I have never read you, Sentinel.”

“But I am right that you are unbonded?” Reid said accusingly.

Daniel nodded.

“Well, it appears I was not cognisant of all the facts and I can only assume, based on the evidence, that you have been duplicitous. I wish you to know, that while I have some real concerns about my status, I am not willing to hand myself over to someone like you; an over-educated Guide who puts his own selfish need to hide before that of a Sentinel, even one he isn’t bonded to.”

The words were delivered quietly, with shocking arrogance, considering Spencer’s untrained state. The speech was devastating in its ability to wound, hitting everyone of Daniel’s doubts and fears. The agony that slammed through the Guide Prime was as loud and as painful as a gunshot. And none of that pain was Spencer’s. In fact, the Sentinel was revelling in causing it. It was obvious he wouldn’t be open to hearing how wrong he was about Daniel – he’d already made up his mind.

The statement was unambiguous, he got the message loud and clear. Daniel had to swallow several times before he could speak.

“So why are you still here, Spencer, if you don’t need or trust me?”

“I came here to see my psychiatrist; to ask his advice about approaching my Guide. But instead I find that I have been deceived. Given those circumstances it is difficult for me to believe that you have not had unscrupulous motivations for keeping your status from your gifted patients; that you have perhaps been deliberately deceptive, both now and in the past, hoping to find a Sentinel to bond with.”

“There was no intentional deception on my part, Dr Reid. You didn’t come to me as a burgeoning Sentinel. I had no reason to expect that from your initial referral. And you left before we could discuss anything. I would have told you if you had stayed. And as for bonding, you may not be aware, but it is the Sentinel who chooses…”

“I have chosen a Guide…my Guide, and it isn’t you, Dr Jackson.”

The words crashed into Daniel like a train. The exact same words Jack had used coming right back to haunt him.
From somewhere, Daniel found the strength to nod.

“Congratulations.”

Spencer just stared at him, his expression blank.

“So how can I help. All you need to know about bonding is available on www.S/G.org.us, the S/G database online. And if your Guide is already online…”

The Sentinel gave a terse nod.

“…Then he or she will have been trained. All you have to do is approach them.”

Reid’s emotions were becoming more and more chaotic, and Daniel could feel the other man’s senses reaching out to him, seeking the calm and order that only a Guide could bring. He could imagine that a man as orderly and reasoned as Spencer would find this primitive and uncontrolled aspect of his newly wakened nature exceedingly uncomfortable.

Daniel knew he couldn’t send an unstable, unbonded Sentinel out into the city in this state. There was only one real solution, as distasteful as it was.

“Why don’t you call your chosen and get them to come here. You can achieve a primary imprint safely in the office, which will keep you stable until you can get to a bonding suite.”

Spencer’s cell was in his hand before Daniel had completed his sentence. He stabbed one of the keys and then winced. The sound of it ringing was obviously too much for his levels.

“Here, let me,” Daniel said, his tone resigned even to his own ears.

Moving slowly, Daniel rose and gently took the cell from Spencer, before prodding the Sentinel into the armchair.

“Hotchner.”

“Erm, Hello. This is Dr… erm, Daniel Jackson. I’m with Spencer Reid, and he needs your urgent assistance.”

“What’s wrong? Is he injured?”

The man on the other end of the phone sounded concerned but not frantic. It was obvious as he was speed dial #1 on Spencer’s cell that he knew Spencer well, but Daniel couldn’t know the nature of their personal relationship. But time was of the essence and so he decided that the direct approach was best.

“He has come online as a Sentinel, and he needs your help, Guide Hotchner.”

There was a shocked silence at the other end of the line.

“But I’m only…” The man sighed quietly. “Very well. Can you maintain him until I get there or do I need to call the DC Centre to help you?”

“I am an Alpha Prime Guide and can keep him stable until you get here.” Daniel stated, trying hard to keep the tension out of his voice. Spencer was almost dancing out of his seat with his nervous movements. “And Mr Hotchner, he has made it clear that you are his chosen Guide. Congratulations.”

“Very well. Thank you, Alpha Prime. Where are you situated?”

Although it was difficult to tell over the phone, as he told the other Guide the address of his offices Daniel was sure he heard an overtone of stress in his short responses. Whatever his reaction, he didn’t seem overjoyed at the call to his Sentinel’s side.

Daniel just hoped he’d hurry. He wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. The aura of a high-level Sentinel in distress in close proximity, and the soul-deep knowledge of his rejection, was making it difficult for Daniel to hold onto his composure.

But he had to hold on, for just a little while longer.

Until another Guide took over and he was alone.

Again.

*****

Outside Jack’s house, Colorado Springs – Three days later.

“Took you long enough. I thought you were gonna sit in the car all day. So are you coming in?”

And wasn’t that a loaded question. He’d come here in a desperate search for answers to questions he hadn’t even formulated; the need to do so in part because of the despair he’d felt in his office a few days before.

Guide Hotchner had turned out to be a tall, dark and severely handsome man, who was Spencer’s boss in some unnamed FBI unit. Daniel knew immediately that he was a low-level, maybe only a IV or V, and that once again he was being passed over for someone wildly unsuitable. Although the man allowed the Sentinel to begin his Primary Imprint, as he left them alone, Daniel could feel the other Guides ambivalence. It had taken a great deal of willpower on Daniel’s part not to yell at them both that they were about to make the biggest mistake of their lives.

But that wasn’t his call, and he had ushered them out as soon as it was safe, asking Tammy to cancel his appointments for the following week.

He could feel her sadness and sympathy follow him out of the office. But she couldn’t give him the answers he needed.

He’d travelled to Colorado to sequester himself at the Retreat; to fall into the warmth and comfort that was his best friend and mentor, Blair Sandburg. But somehow, he’d  ended up driving to the last place that made any real sense to him, no matter that he was probably risking his sanity at the same time.

It was just something he had to do, otherwise he’d drive himself mad with speculation..

Jack O’Neill’s house was exactly the same as always, and that familiarity settled Daniel, allowing him to look Jack in the eye.

What he saw made him more angry than sad. The Sentinel was superficially the same. Still gorgeous, with silver hair and soft brown eyes. But he was much thinner than he should be, the lines of stress around his mouth and eyes speaking of levels of pain and sensory imbalance that a bonded Sentinel of his level should never exhibit.

His shields were up and firm as ever, but then Jack had always been a closed book unless he wanted to show himself. Daniel knew he was one of the few people who’d seen behind those walls.

“No thanks, Jack. I won’t be here long.”

Jack looked surprised. “Sam isn’t here.”

There was a questioning look in his eye, along with a heat that Daniel was very familiar with. Well if O’Neill thought that was the way things were going to go, he was very much mistaken, although Daniel’s body was shouting at him that he was a fool.

Jack turned to pull the door closed behind him and moved onto the porch, sliding down the wall to sit facing Daniel, his forearms resting on his knees. The neck of his t-shirt slipped to one side, showing that his throat and upper chest were almost completely covered by a bright red rash, which looked as irritated as Daniel felt.

And suddenly any sadness and despair was consumed by a hot flame of anger that he was unwilling to douse.

“Why did I leave the SGC, Jack?”

“What, you came all the way from DC to ask me that? Don’t you know? After all it was your dumb fool decision to pack up and leave without even a phone call. Just a letter on my desk.”

There was a bite to Jack’s reply, and Daniel knew he was on the defensive.

‘And so you should be, O’Neill’, Daniel thought vindictively.

“Come on, Jack. You must have some idea,” Daniel said mockingly.

Jack’s face went hard, and Daniel knew something particularly nasty was coming. Jack always got vicious when he was cornered.

“Probably that you were pissed that I didn’t want to bond with you. That I realised Sam was the best choice to be my Guide. What, did I upset your sensitive little sensibilities by not choosing you?”

Daniel almost laughed in his face at the weak attempt to wound him. ‘You must be losing your touch, old man. You’re gonna have to do better than that, O’Neill’.

“No, you’re wrong. You see, I wasn’t waiting for you to choose Daniel Jackson, the Guide. I didn’t want to be with you because you were a Sentinel although we were and are a perfect match. No, I fell in love with Jack O’Neill, the grouchy, funny warrior, who would never leave a man behind. And despite everything, I still feel the same, even though I’ve tried not to. I think I always will.”

Daniel forced himself to keep looking at Jack. He wasn’t going to give him any opportunity to sense weakness.

For a moment Jack looked taken aback, and Daniel began to realise that O’Neill really hadn’t expected him to be so honest. That made the Guide angrier still. Did the bastard not know him at all? He had never lied to him, not in all the time they had spent together, both as colleagues and lovers.

Thinning his shields, he let a little of the distain he was feeling leak out all over the Sentinel. Jack pressed his back against the wall of the house, physically responding to the empathic weight. He soon covered his reaction with his usual smart-ass act, but there was a chink in his armour that Daniel was very willing to take advantage of.

“Hey, ya know, what’s not to love,” he said with a smirk.

Daniel shook his head and gave him a withering look.

“Don’t be a smug ass, Jack. When it comes to you and me, you have nothing to be proud of. If you are honest with yourself, you can’t deny you used me, and even though you knew how I felt about you, for month after month you kept stringing me along and pretending to be my friend.

“But hey, I’m willing to take some of the blame. I was so blind with love, I let you do it. But the truth is, all the time you were taking me to your bed you were struggling to reconcile your internalised homophobia, with your inner Sentinels imperative to fuck and bond with the strongest and most suitable Guide available, regardless of their gender – something you need to do in order to be healthy and stable.”

“I am your friend. For crying out loud, we’ve fought and died together. It wasn’t my fault you misinterpreted being fuck-buddies for something more. With you it was friendship with mutual benefits. I wasn’t even online. But with Sam, it was…is… something different, something…more.”

Daniel wanted to punch him for making what he felt into such a sordid thing, but he was also interested to find out whether Jack really believed the total bullshit he was spouting.

“God, O’Neill, you are such a fucking liar. Sam was around all the while your senses were slowly coming online. If she was your Guide, then why weren’t you fucking her senseless? Instead, you kept her at arm’s length, called her Carter, even when we all socialised together. Fuck it, you didn’t even let her call you ‘Jack’, it was always ‘Sir’.”

His tone was even and sure, and he leaned against the porch railing, his relaxed posture belying the roiling anger that made him want to beat Jack to a pulp.

“It was me you took to bed; me you used; me you grounded your senses on. But then when your hearing finally came online and your emergence was complete, my guess is that you realised fucking me meant we’d form a bond, and you’d be seen as gay by any Mundane who wasn’t aware of your Sentinel status. And that scared the shit out of you.

“So you double-timed your homophobic ass into the bed of the first pretty, trophy, female Guide you could think of, even though Sam is only a level IV, and hell and gone from being an appropriate match. And once you’d bonded with her you threw me and our friendship down the drain, like so much spoiled milk.”

Jack’s shields were well and truly down as he surged to his feet. Daniel didn’t even flinch from Jack’s threatening hands, as they sliced the air in front of him. He was sure that even in this unbalanced state, a bonded Sentinel would never hurt a Guide. And if he was really that far gone, then Daniel would take him down empathically without an ounce of guilt.

“No you’re wrong. There was always an attraction between me and Sam. I never promised you anything. We were fuck buddies and nothing more. I’m not gay. You’re right that your attraction to me made you blind, or maybe you were just so desperate for a Sentinel that you were playing along to sneak a bond on me, Dr. Jackson.”

“And there it is…You know; I knew it was all over when you stopped using my first name. No more, Danny, or even Daniel, except when someone else had used it first. It became Jackson, or those stupid nicknames: Plantboy: Spacemonkey. And on the worst days it was just my title. I knew then, Jack that you’d never choose me, even though you kept me guessing for way longer than I should have let you. My ethics proved to be my worst enemy. I should have just scanned the fuck out of you. Another mistake I’ll not be making again.”

Jack was throwing off denial signals that made Daniel curious. Had he really not realised how much he’d fucked up with Daniel?

“And that’s why, after Kelowna I gladly accepted Oma’s offer to ascend. I did it to get as far away from you as possible. So far, in fact, that you’d never be able to reach me, or so I thought. But you even managed to pull me back in from the Ascended Plane. When Ba’al had you, your bond with your own Guide wasn’t strong enough for you to reach out to her, so once again you used me. And despite all I did to save you; despite the fact that I risked and lost my Ascended life to help you and the SGC, I still wasn’t accepted. When you found me on that planet, frightened, amnesiac, emotionally compromised, and my empathic shield in tatters, you and Sam treated me like a stranger. It was only the support I got from Blair and Jim that got me through it without compromising my gifts. I got thrown out by the ascended for not toeing the line, and then discarded by my so-called friends for no reason I can discern.”

“You could have come back to the SGC, Jac…Danny, you still can. We desperately need your expertise. Things are really not going well for us…out there, and we’ve never found anyone to replace your skill and expertise, both in linguistics and diplomacy. We have a fuck-ton of Guides, but no one can do what you can.”

Daniel didn’t have to read Jack to know he really believed every word he was saying. The Guide couldn’t believe that such an intelligent man could be so clueless.

“I was good at all that because I’m an Alpha Prime Guide, you stupid bastard. My empathic scores are off the charts and due to my Ascension, I have almost limitless Psycho-Kinetic and Psycho-Telepathic gifts. I could have made a real difference…out there… I just wasn’t willing to be used anymore.”

Now he wished Sam was here, because everything was leading him to believe that as a Guide she was seriously failing, and he would have loved a chance to let her know just how badly. The woman could never take being told she was unsuccessful at something, and it gave Daniel a sense of schadenfreude to imagine being the one to do it. Still if the Guide was away…then the Sentinel was going to get it both barrels.

“If your weak ass Guide wasn’t so fucking self-obsessed, and scared that some empathically stronger and more appropriate Guide would garner your interest, then she’d make sure you had links with the local Centre so you’d be educated about this bullshit. If I came back to the mountain, I’d just get used again, probably by you.

Daniel came back up off the railing and reached for the collar of Jack’s shirt, taking a dark pleasure at the shiver Jack gave when Daniel’s fingertip grazed his skin, before he pulled it back revealing the angry skin.

“How are your senses? It looks like you have a serious case of skin irritation there.”

“It’s nothing. I often have them. I’m sensitive to all kinds of perfumes and chemicals. They irritate me and particularly affect scent and touch. I avoid them where I can, but ya know, Sam’s a woman, she likes all those pretty smells and hates the neutral scent of Sentinel friendly stuff, so I just deal. The rash is severe at the moment because Sam’s away at a conference in Beijing for three weeks.”

Daniel’s temper felt like a hot twister in his chest, and he was so pissed at the stupid, pussy-whipped Sentinel in front of him that he let Jack have it full blast. The Sentinel almost went to his knees under the empathic impact of it, and Daniel couldn’t find it in him to care.

“And she left her Sentinel behind…for three weeks? Her Alpha Prime Sentinel, whose senses are so acute that the guidelines recommend they are not left more than a few hours without skin-to-skin contact with a high level Guide. This is a Guide who despite knowing her Sentinel has severe sensitivities, still insists on using products that irritate because she ‘likes’ them. So did she organise a conservator for you? Or offer not to go? Or perhaps even suggest you go with her?”

“She’s gonna be busy, giving presentations, meeting, greeting. You know I hate all that stuff and I didn’t really want to…”

There was no way Daniel was going to let Jack defend the actions of an incompetent Guide, no matter that he had once called her friend. He sliced his hand through the air in irritation, cutting off Jack’s babbling.

“Whatever, Jack. I’m also gonna take a guess that right now you’re feeling better than you have for the last two years; your hearing is more acute; that burning on your skin feels so much better, right? And all that of that is just from having me across your porch.

“I shouldn’t have to tell you that not having your senses under control for any length of time puts you in danger of protracted zones, Sensory Cascade Failure, and ultimately…death. So while I understand that having me back at the SGC would be a great relief for you…well thanks, but no thanks for the offer of a chance to be exploited yet again, Jack. Fool me once and all that bullshit. I like the job I have now. I don’t need to be working under the mountain as a linguist, translator and diplomat, while at the same time acting as unofficial conservator for you or any other rapacious Military Sentinel, who thinks my only role is as a stand-in for the ‘one true Guide’ they’ll eventually bond with.”

Jack’s face crumpled into fury. “You’re such a fucking drama queen…but what did I expect from a fag. You were just a hole to fuck, Dr. Jackson. You are such a pain in the ass you had to be good for something. I’m not surprised you haven’t bonded. No Sentinel with any sense would want the trouble.”

On the outside, this was Jack at his most aggressively offensive. But his shields were ragged and ineffectual, and Daniel could feel the remorse and pain flowing off him like a river. The part of him that loved Jack wanted to make it right; wanted to absolve him of his bigotry and wounding words; put the blame on his unbalanced state and his anger. But a bigger part of Daniel was so very glad it was out there; the final salvo of hurtful words in the ongoing battle of their relationship had been fired. And alongside the relief, there was a wide streak of masochism in him that believed he deserved every word.

“As much as I’d like to disagree with everything you say, I can’t. You’ll no doubt be amused to know it’s happened again. I’ve been judged, weighed and found wanting by yet another Alpha who’s decided to take a chance on an ill-considered bond with a low level Sentinel, only this time he’s made that choice not based on gender, but on the fact that he’s threatened by my intelligence. As we both have double doctorates, I can only think he doesn’t like competition.

“So, I originally came back here to talk to you, foolishly thinking you might have some little insight into what it is I’m doing wrong; perhaps even give me a little help. But I’ve come to the conclusion, that for a genius, I’m really stupid. I’ve finally realised that many Sentinels are self-obsessed jerks who, when they are offered the care of a Guide, don’t know they’ve got a priceless treasure even when it’s right under their noses.”

He took one last look at Jack, knowing that this was it. There was no coming back. The tiny part of him that had always hoped they’d be together one day had been stomped underfoot.

It was excruciatingly painful, but strangely liberating.

“I’d say I hope you have a great life with your completely inappropriate and unsuitable Guide, Jack, but I’d be lying. I’ll never stop loving you, and I’ll definitely never forget you, but you can be damn sure I’ll never forgive you either.”

The force of Jack’s grief at his leaving, accompanied him on his walk back to his car. Daniel didn’t let it touch him, instead he locked it way away from the core of him, knowing he’d be tempted every day to look at it again, and also hoping he was strong enough not to need to.

As he put the key in the ignition a call came through on his cell. He diverted it to Bluetooth so he could talk and drive.

“Danny?”

“Blair.” Daniel felt tears immediately begin to tip over his bottom lashes at the compassion in his best friend and mentors voice.

“Come home, Danny. We’re waiting for you.”

And in the rear view mirror, the reflection of his almost transparent Spirit Animal – a pure white, blue eyed malamute – lay on the back seat, wound around the very real form of Chief, Blair’s timber wolf.

Yeah. Home sounded like a really good idea.

*****

Jack’s House – Colorado Springs – Four hours later

There was another fucking Sentinel outside in a black SUV that had one of the Alphabet Agencies written all over it. Jack didn’t know how he knew, but he was pretty confident that it had something to do with Daniel. The vehicle had been parked out there for over an hour and it didn’t look if the occupant was planning on coming down the drive anytime soon.

Jack wasn’t even sure he wanted them to.

He’d spent the last few hours recalling the things that Daniel had said, becoming more and more morose as he realised just how totally he’d fucked up. His senses were phasing in and out, and he was pretty sure he was going to have to make a call to the Mountain soon. There were several higher level Guides – VIII and above – posted to the Infirmary, and if his luck held, which he wasn’t going to take as read, then one of them would be on duty.

Then he was going to have to call Cart…Sam in China and tell her to get her ass back asap. He’d make it an order if he had to. She’d probably be happier coming back if he lied and said there was a problem on base, than if he admitted just how fucked up he was. But even if she left China that day, and then hitched a ride from the nearest USAF base, it would still be at least 36 hours before she’d be home.

When did I start letting her walk all over me, he wondered, hissing as his fingers touched the red rash that now covered his whole chest.

The relief he had felt when Daniel had touched him was like a cold shower in a tropical forest. Just his proximity had eased Jack in ways he hadn’t felt for years. Since Danny left, he thought, morosely.

And now he was bonded to a Guide who never put him first. If he was honest, she just used him for status, and the perks that being a two-star general brought – hotel upgrades, access to private jets… And right now, he was in such a fragile state, that he needed her here right now, despite his misgivings about her abilities and her motives.

But he couldn’t even pull a few strings to get the Apollo to beam her up, as the politicians were adamant that they keep the existence of their battle cruiser’s Asgard tech on the down low from the other members of the IOA.

He sighed as he heard the door of the Chevvie Suburban unlock. It jangled against his hearing, the scraping of metal and plastic setting his teeth on edge. Finally, it swished open.

It was show-time.

The car had some kind of built in white-noise generator, which he would easily have been able to hear around if his senses weren’t seriously compromised. So he had no clue who or what he was dealing with.

The open door gave him an opportunity to use what little ability he did have available, to track two heartbeats; Sentinel and Guide, and from what he was getting from his malfunctioning olfactory sense, they were a pair with a primary bond. The Guide stayed in the car and from the weak empathic projection, Jack surmised the man was very low level, maybe only a IV or V. Considering that the approaching man was an Alpha, the mismatch seemed wrong somehow.

‘Yeah, you want to look in your own glass house before you start throwing any boulders, O’Neill’, a voice echoed in his head. It only took him a moment to recognise it as Danny’s. The stab of guilt was a physical pain. He hoped the guy walking up to his door was ready for a very grouchy General, because right now he didn’t have the give a fuck to care about the niceties.

As he moved towards the door, the approaching Alpha’s scent pile made Jack feel antsy. He had the hormone signature of a hunting Sentinel, but there was something off about his heartrate and respiration that didn’t gel with that.

Deciding that he was not going to go into a confrontation without a weapon, Jack diverted to the kitchen and retrieved his Beretta 92 from the lock-box, sliding the magazine into place without finesse. He checked the safety and then pushed the gun into the waistband of his jeans, not bothering to pull his t-shirt back over it. He didn’t care if his visitor knew he was packing; if the Sentinel was worth anything he’d already be aware.

There was a single rap on the door and Jack growled in irritation. Did the fucker not realise Jack knew he was there. He yanked the door open with a snarl and came face to face with a thin young man, with tightly cropped curly hair which looked newly cut. He seemed taken aback to see Jack, which made Jack snarl even harder. It should have been easy for the other Sentinel to glean all kinds of things about him, especially considering that O’Neill knew his shields were for shit, and he was leaking stress hormones everywhere.

He had absolutely no time for Sentinels who didn’t train their gifts and use them to the best of their abilities. It was an affront to his sense of service. After making a considered choice of Guide and completing a full bond, regardless of their role in life there were two only imperatives. Protect the Guide, defend the Pride. It was the credo of every fully bonded Sentinel.

‘Yeah, right O’Neill. Pot/Kettle?’ Daniel taunted in Jack’s head, and he felt the hot burn of regret and shame as once again his own failings came back to kick him in the ass.

“He was here…but you’re bonded. So what was he doing here?” the young Sentinel demanded belligerently.

Jack didn’t bother asking who ‘he’ was; he already knew. The young man’s angry/nervous machine gun delivery did nothing to endear him to Jack.

“Alpha!” He growled, more than willing to pull rank in order to get this fucker into line, knocked off his high horse, and off Jack’s stoop. This little pissant needed putting in his place, and O’Neill was just the one to do it.

The Sentinel took a step back, obviously hearing the thinly veiled threat in Jack’s voice. He tipped his head, baring his throat, his pulse spiking gratifyingly.

“Prime.”

Jack had learned from the best that one word could say a multitude of things. This one said, ‘I’m sorry I insulted you, Alpha Prime; I know I’ve pissed you off, but please don’t rip me limb from limb; please don’t send me away before I have the answers to my questions.’

“So you’re the fucker who rejected Daniel,” he ground out, without the merest hint of irony. It took one to know one obviously.

“Dr Spencer Reid,” was the reply, as if that answered all the hidden questions.

“I’d invite you in but…no, actually I wouldn’t invite you in. You’re not gonna be here long enough to get comfortable. Why are you here, and more to the point, how did you know Dr Jackson had been here?”

There was more than just Daniel to think in this. There was Operational Security to consider. If this Sentinel, even one from whatever government agency, had tracked Daniel from Washington and found Jack’s home, then there were concerns about the security of other members of the Stargate Program.

“Garcia…she’s our tech godde…ess. Fuck…can you forget I said that…please?” he whimpered pathetically.
It seemed Reid had some survival instinct, although even less developed than Daniel at his very worst.

“And how,” Jack ground out. “Did this goddess do that?”

“I’m not sure I should…On the grounds that I might incrim…”

“Considering that your employment in the…?”

“BAU…erm FBI…” Reid was looking worried now, much to Jack’s dark amusement.

“…As your continued employment in the FBI,” Jack carried on, “depends on you telling me how the fuck you knew to come here, I think you’d better start incriminating.” Jack turned his head and indicated with his chin. “You can’t tell with me in civvies, but there are usually two stars on these shoulders…”

He left the threat hanging, and the younger Sentinel didn’t disappoint.

“She traced his cell signal. This was the last place he used it.” He babbled.

Jack struggled not to let his shock show on his face. He hadn’t realised how easy it would be to trace someone with an ordinary cell. SGC staff had specially encrypted phones that had cycling signals, all the better to stop this kind of thing happening. Despite the fact that Daniel had left the SGC, he was a priceless national asset, and Jack had been more than a little lax in not protecting him.

‘Another strike…that makes three’, Jack thought, incandescently angry, both at himself and at Carter, whose job it was to keep on top of this kind of thing. ‘And yeeerrrr out!’

Reid was clasping his trembling hands in front of him, and Jack could see the pinpricks of red that were beginning to appear on the young Sentinel’s jawline.

Seemed like Daniel was right, Primes needed more than just a Guide.

“Please Prime, I need to find him. I made an error of judgement. I have to…”

Jack was self-aware enough to realise that the rush of relief he got at the other Sentinel’s words were because he was no longer alone in having lost Daniel for good. Misery really did love company.

“You’re too late.”

Spencer looked panicked. “No, no. I can’t be. I’m an Alpha, he’s Prime…The Sentinel chooses and there aren’t that many Primes. There wasn’t time for him to have met and accepted someone else.” His final statement was strident, as if he thought that would win the argument by outright force of will.

“But you’ve already chosen. You have a Primary Bond with dark and mysterious out there.”

“Yes…I made an…”

“Error of judgement. Yeah, I heard.”

“Hotch…my Guide…He’s married, with a child. I had a crush on him and I thought…”

“You thought that after bonding he’d leave his wife and kid…Lots of sex bonding…fairy tale ending, right?” Jack surmised, darkly amused by the car crash of a story he was hearing.

“Right,” Spencer said sheepishly. “And Hayley…his wife…”

“Not going for it?”

“Not at all.” Spencer looked nervously towards the SUV. “And he’s not a strong enough Guide to stabilise my senses with a platonic bond.”

“Yeah, I know how that is,” Jack muttered sourly, only to get irritated when the kid had the temerity to look like he was going to question the Prime about it.

Jack blew out a long breath to try to relieve the tension, then decided he was too fucked up to spend any time on this stupid kid. He was going to have to get to the Centre – he needed more than the mountain could provide. He and Sam were going to have to have a very long, frank, and painful conversation as soon as she got home, the end result of which might not be that pleasant for either of them.

“You told him he was too intelligent…” Jack quietly.

“Well actually I commented that he was over-educated…I have an eidetic memory,” Reid said proudly, completely missing the point.

“And so does he, you stupid fucker. So if you think he’s going to forgive and forget, you’re going to have to wait a long time. Get back in the car with your chosen Guide, high tail it to DC, and for fucks sake sign in to your local Centre and take every training course you can; because you might have a couple of pretty diplomas on your wall, but believe me you’ve got a lot to learn.”

Jack poked a rough finger into Spencer’s narrow chest. “Protect the Guide, defend the Tribe,” he ordered in his best General’s voice.

The other man seemed totally taken aback by Jack’s dismissal and took a step forward.

“But…how do you know he won’t forgive me. He’s a Prime Guide…and a mental health professional. He seemed very compassionate…”

Jack wanted to punch the guy; in fact, he was getting ready to do so when Reid’s Guide got out of the car.

Obviously Jack’s mental state had got loud enough to ping even a low powered Guide’s shields.

“Is everything alright, Prime?” the Guide asked as he walked up the pathway.

Jack almost laughed aloud. ‘Nothing’s alright’, he thought with a sudden rush of insight. ‘Nothing is ever going to be right again.’

“Your Sentinel’s business here is done. Take him home before you have to scrape him off my porch.”

He turned to go back into the house. Today had been the worst day…for years…since Charlie, and that was really saying something.

“How do you know he won’t forgive me?”

Jack didn’t bother turning around. He knew an Alpha would be able to smell the tears that sprang into his eyes, and the soldier in him refused to be seen as weak, even though that was how he felt.

“Because I knew him for years. Shared a bed with him while I was coming online. Used and abused him and then chose a level IV Guide because I could take her home to meet my parents. My Dad was a lay minister in the Congregation of the Ascension…”

There was a slight intake of breath from the Guide. He’d obviously heard of the sect of the church that had very strong views about same-sex S/G pairings.

“I treated him like shit, and drove him away, for something I don’t even believe in…”

Jack did turn around then, letting both men see how devastated he was, and how much his fuck up had cost him.

“…And then I pushed him away as hard as I could so he wouldn’t be a reminder of what I’d given up.”

He closed the distance between him and the young Sentinel, whose expression showed that he was finally getting it.

“I have trusted Daniel with my life…and my death…and I know he is an honest man. When he was here today, he told me that he loved me; that he’d always loved me, and would never stop, but that he could never forgive me. So you tell me, Sentinel…is it likely he is ever going to forgive you?”

The Guide moved closer and put a hand on Spencer’s shoulder. Jack could see there was affection there, but the Guide’s scent pile spoke of stress and unhappiness, and it wasn’t all about the situation they found themselves in.

He gave them both a telling look.

“Listen, my advice, for what it’s worth…Go home, break that weak ass bond you have, because believe me, you might think you can cope, but you really can’t. Train your senses, get the Centre to do a Guide search, and forget Daniel, because that’s the best thing you can do. He deserves better than being hounded by Sentinels who have rejected him, only to realise what idiots it makes them.” Jack was well aware that he was including himself in that small group.

The Guide stepped forward. “Thank you. We’ll talk on the way home. In the meantime…” he paused, searching Jack’s face. “I’m only a level V, but Prime, I can tell you’re really struggling. Your senses are in overdrive and your shields are dangerously thin. Where is your Guide?”

Jack gave a humourless laugh that sounded more like a sob. “China.”

A look of total shock and surprise flitted across the Guides face. Then there was a press of hands on Jack’s shoulders and he felt his senses react slightly to the mild empathic input. He made a decision then and there – after all he was a General, that’s what he did best.

“You could drive me to the Springs S/G Centre…”

After all, today was the first painful day of TROTLYSRDJOYSSFB – The Rest Of The Life You So Richly Deserve, Jack O’Neill, You Stupid Selfish Fucking Bastard.

As he stumbled into the house to stow his gun and collect his wallet and keys, he could only hope that he’d somewhere along the line, he’d get that quick, glorious death he’d always imagined.

Because a long old age sounded like another sentence on Netu. Only this time there’d be no Daniel there to make it bearable.

*****

“Danny, I want to ask you a favour.”

There was a slight disconnect between the calm of the meditation they’d just completed and the slight tension in Blair’s request that Daniel couldn’t quite parse.

“It’s me that owes you, Blair. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t have called right when you did.”
Blair gave him a slightly sheepish look. “Well I may have been…sort of…keeping an eye on you from the Spirit Plane. Chief has probably spent more of the last few months with Talini than he did with me.

Daniel looked over at the two canines who were wrapped around one another. His Malamute Spirit Animal was looking a good deal healthier than she had when they’d arrived at the Retreat a few days earlier.

“Yeah, both me and my little Snow Angel have reaped the benefits of being here. So what’s this favour?”

The Guide Ultima stood smoothly and looked down at his friend. “Imagine you are planning a piece of qualitative research. You’ve finalised your research design, done your interviews. If I said I wanted you to analyse it using an emergent approach, would you know what I meant?”

It had been a long time since Daniel had thought about theoretical models of information analysis, but he searched his memory and found a definition that seemed to be correct.

“Sherrie Human’s definition was… ‘Emergent theory is an outcome of organization research in which theory is allowed to come to light through a systematic data collection and analysis process called grounded theory, a research approach committed to discovery, direct contact with the social phenomenon of interest, and a rejection of explicit a priori theorizing’. Is that what you wanted?”

The force of Blair’s pride came beaming into Daniel like the tightest empathic hug.

“Brilliant as always.”

“And so…the favour,” Daniel reminded, after he’d let the love inherent in that pride soothe him a little.

“Oh yes,” Blair said with a little smirk that had the Prime feeling a little nervous. “Well, just promise me to keep it in mind, that’s all I ask.”

Before Daniel could even begin to unpack the completely cryptic comment, Blair was gone from the room, leaving an amused aura behind him, tinged with a little concern and a lot of love.

Daniel sighed, knowing he’d find out eventually what the frankly devious Ultima was talking about, but feeling a little disturbed that it was shrouded in mystery. Blair was not known for his ability to keep a secret, not when it affected the people he loved. Daniel felt a warm swell of pleasure that he could count himself one of those people, but it made the whole thing that much more worrying.

*****

After a shower and a change of clothes, Daniel decided he needed to walk off some of the tension that was tightening his muscles and keeping him on edge. He had his shields locked down, knowing there were others in residence at the moment. He didn’t want to project his misery onto anyone else, particularly the kind of Sentinels and Guides who sought sanctuary at the Retreat.

The air was crisp and fresh in a way he’d only ever experienced here in Colorado, and it made his sadness and grief at what he had lost even deeper somehow. He couldn’t help thinking that despite how much he loved to see Blair and Jim, it had been a mistake to come here. Maybe he should just go back to Washington and try to find a way to put everything behind him.

“You can’t run away from yourself, Jackson. That’s a race you’ll never win,” he muttered as he kicked at a pinecone in his path in frustration.

“That was very philosophical…and true.”

Daniel turned quickly, his hand falling to a gun that hadn’t been there for a while. There was a beautiful girl…no young woman… in the trees to his left. He didn’t need to lift his shields to know she was a Sentinel…an Alpha Prime no less. The aura of a high functioning Sentinel was streaming from her. His stomach turned over with distress and it was all he could do not to turn tail and run.

But he’d never been a coward. If a phalanx of Jaffa warriors with staff weapons couldn’t get him to retreat, then one young sentinel wouldn’t beat him.

He plastered on his ‘meeting the aliens’ smile.

“It was a bit trite really, but the best I could come up with out here in the snow. I’m not very good at clever motivational speeches, which is probably not something I should admit to in my profession as a psychiatrist.”

The Sentinel laughed, and her smile could have lit the darkest room. Daniel imagined that to the right Guide she would be irresistible.

She pulled back to hood of her parka and a riot of beautiful red hair tumbled down over her shoulders.

“You’re a Prime. I’ve sensed you around the Retreat for the last few days, but Ultima Blair has been keeping you isolated.” She gave a little gasp as she obviously picked up his distress. She lifted her hand, but didn’t try to come any closer to him. “No don’t get panicky. Please, I don’t want to upset you.”

Daniel smiled sadly. Here was a gorgeous unbonded Sentinel Prime, the first in his experience who he knew, with every fibre of his being, really didn’t want to hurt him. And fuck his life, not only was she too young, but more importantly female as well.

“My experience with Sentinel Primes hasn’t been that great, and I wasn’t really interested in repeating that. But it isn’t you…”

“…It’s me? Well, I’ve never been subject to a breakup line when I didn’t even know the other person. That’s a really novel experience.” She giggled infectiously.

Daniel felt the tension ebbing away. She was right, he was being a little ridiculous, but he was just too tender to cope without overreacting.

“Can I walk with you or do you want to be alone?”

He wished he could give a one-word answer, just say no and walk away, but somehow it was beyond him to be so rude.

“Of course. I’m Daniel by the way.”

“Kelly. I’ve only been completely emerged for a couple of months. I’ve been here getting my levels under control.”

Daniel couldn’t help it. He had to make sure there were no misunderstandings because he knew his heart and spirit just couldn’t take it. “I’m gay…and while if I was chosen by a female Sentinel, I would have to agree, it wouldn’t make for a good match,” he blurted, and then blushed to the roots of his hair.

‘Fuck it, Jackson, for someone who has made their living from words for ten years you certainly know how to start a conversation’.

Kelly however seemed destined to surprise him.

“Oh yeah? Wow, me too. Although my Dad doesn’t know. My Papa Tony does, but then it’s hard to keep anything from a Prime Guide.” She raised her eyebrows at him knowingly.

“Yeah, you’re right. The reason I brought it up was…I can’t bond with you, Kelly. I know how much you feel the Sentinel longing, but I’m fragile at the moment, and it would be really difficult if you were to ask me…I know the Sentinel chooses…but…please…”

“And isn’t that stupid. I mean, surely it should be a joint decision. The thought that I could just click my fingers and say to some random girl or guy, ‘Hey Guide, you don’t know me, but I want to spend the rest of my life joined at the hip and you don’t have a choice because the S/G Council says so.”

She looked so disgruntled that Daniel couldn’t help laughing, and the act made something loosen in his chest. But she wasn’t finished baffling his assumptions.

“I’ve been studying some of Blair’s reference materials. Did you know that in the past, Sentinel and Guide Primes who prefer their own sex, would have platonic bonds…”

Daniel shook his head. “But unfortunately we’ve realised that doesn’t work, Kelly. A Prime needs maximum input in every facet of the bond. And excuse me for being indelicate, but sexual bonding is a major part of that.”

He thought sadly about Jack’s senses and how close he was to something really catastrophic happening because of neglect. He was still upset with Jack, but also really incandescently angry about how Sam had let Jack down.

Kelly seemed to know she had hit a nerve, slowing her pace a little, before she obviously decided it was not her business. Daniel loved her a little for that.

“Ahh, yes, I know. But you see, to combat that, they formed what the historian called Tetrads. It didn’t happen very often because Primes are quite rare – especially female Sentinel Primes.” She gave a proud little grin. “Each of the Prime pair would find a same sex, but lower level Sentinel or Guide as a lover and to provide the sexual aspect of the bond, while the other Prime would meet all their Spiritual and empathic needs. All four would form a family group which meant that children could be born to the Tetrad using the sperm of one of the male members and an egg from a female. There was a greater chance of a gifted child being born that way too.”

Suddenly Blair’s cryptic request made sense. Daniel knew the reference material had no doubt been placed where Kelly would find it. He really was a sneaky bastard. It was a really interesting idea though, in fact, there were tribes of Mundane peoples on planets through the Stargate, that embraced a poly-amorous lifestyle very successfully.

Kelly was becoming really enthusiastic, waving her hands to emphasise her point. “It’s all so interesting. I want to study anthropology, and Blair’s already given me some good ideas about colleges, although of course I won’t be able to enrol until I’m bonded, or my senses are really stable.”

“One of my doctorates is in Anthropology…” Daniel said, as always happy to encourage a bright young mind like Kelly’s. He was really beginning to like this young woman, which was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. She was too young and too sweet to even consider friendship with a jaded soul like Daniel let alone a bond of any kind. But also there was a strange feeling of inevitability…maybe even destiny…swirling around them, joining the flurries of snow they were kicking up.

They talked about anything and everything. He learned about the loss of her mother and in turn talked about his own experiences; she shed a few tears as she explained how she had jumped onto the Spirit Plane before she was even online, in order to save her Papa Tony, while knowing it was likely that if the Guide died her Sentinel father would be lost too. Daniel told her how he first realised he was gay, and he was gratified when she was outraged at his recent treatment by Dr. Reid.

Jack was a subject he wasn’t able to touch, but he had a good idea that when he was ready, Kelly would be happy to listen. This connection they’d made was something that didn’t normally happen to Daniel before he’d known someone for years rather than an hour or two.

“So do you have a girlfriend at the moment?”

Kelly opened her mouth to answer and then went completely still, her head tilted and her nostrils flared. Daniel opened his shields immediately, the compulsion to do so, to support the Sentinel, bred into him on a genetic level.

Her eyes widened as she felt the benefit of his empathy. “Wow! I didn’t know it would feel like…” She swallowed hard.

There was an expectant hush in the air, and Daniel began to panic. He knew pulling back from her too suddenly could send her into a Zone, but he wasn’t willing to risk instigating a primary bond. It wouldn’t be fair to either of them.

“Kelly…Kelly, please. I know it’s an amazing feeling but…please Kelly, I can’t do this…”

Before he could withdraw, her own shields were up and firm. The ability to do so was way beyond what she should have been capable of at this early stage, but nevertheless she achieved it with the minimum amount of fuss.
He must have looked dreadful, because her face fell and her eyes began to shimmer with tears.

“Danny, I’m so sorry. I heard something but I couldn’t quite get it, and then you were there and I could hear Daddy and Papa coming up the path to the Retreat…and shit I am in so much trouble because Dad heard you ask me about a girlfriend…”

And her expression of horror was so comical, he couldn’t be upset with her. He just started to laugh shakily as she prodded him back down the path towards the Retreat. He thought her Dad couldn’t be so bad if she was running towards him and not away, being as she’d just inadvertently come out.

As they reached the clearing near the main building they were met by a silver haired Sentinel, and his film star gorgeous Guide, both of whom were Prime and then some. Only Blair and Jim felt ‘more’ than these two did.

“So are you going to answer his question?”

Daniel realised this was Papa Tony. His aura was absolutely gorgeous, ripe with the rippling colours of a completely harmonious bond. Daniel felt a surge of jealousy, but it was quickly under control. Nevertheless, the sympathetic look on the other Prime’s face told Danny that Tony had picked it up.

“More importantly, who’s your friend? I hope you haven’t done anything stupid, because one family member pulling an idiotic stunt is enough for this…decade,” the older man growled.

The Sentinel’s eyes were laser sharp, their gaze so like Jack’s that Daniel had to shut down his shields fast, or risk leaking his sorrow empathically over all of them. From his posture and situational awareness Daniel was sure this man was ex-military, and therefore probably so was Tony.

Kelly wasn’t at all distressed by her father’s gruff question. She ran to them, hugging and kissing them both, obviously overjoyed to see them.

Daniel decided he was surplus to requirements. He would go back to his room, brew a carafe of the excellent coffee Blair always kept for him, and perhaps look up some of the historical references for the Tetrad bonds…just for academic interest of course. He waited for a moment, not wanting to leave without at least waving goodbye.

“…And Daniel has three doctorates; Anthropology, Linguistics and Sentinel/Guide Psychology. The Medical Board let him practice as a psychiatrist for Mundanes because of his expertise and experience. I think he used to be in the military too…”

Daniel looked over at her sharply, wondering how he’d given that away. They hadn’t discussed it.

“…Because he watches everything the way you do, and he isn’t even a Sentinel, but it must have been secret because he didn’t talk about it….”

As she was speaking, Tony’s grin was getting bigger and bigger, while the Sentinel was giving him a very considering look.

“You’re a Prime,” the Guide stated.

Daniel knew he could never keep that from another Prime so he simply nodded.

“And a Shaman.” Again it was a statement, but this time Daniel knew it was a considered guess. He wasn’t strictly a Shaman, as the Council would define it. He’d never walked the path; rather he’d lived the path on the Ascended Plane.

“Yes.” Simple was best, as he couldn’t really explain.

“And how old are you,” Kelly’s dad queried, his eyes slitted, not threatening but assessing – as if he could see right through Daniel to his soul. He was closed off, sheltered so closely by his Guide, that Daniel would’ve had to work really hard to break through his shields. A bond that encompassing was just beautiful and much to be envied.

“I’m 27…”

Then, with a strange look over at his Sentinel, Tony began to laugh; loud, deep belly laughs, accompanied by streaming tears, until he couldn’t stand anymore and flopped into the snow holding his belly. Kelly’s dad didn’t join him, but there was nothing but humour in his expression. He simply wrapped his arm around a slightly puzzled Kelly, and led her off towards the Retreat.

“So I take it you’re not a virgin anymore…”

“Dad!”

Their conversation floated back to where Daniel and Tony were. Tony stood, brushed off the snow from his pants, and then patted Daniel on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry, it’s a bit of an in-joke, but I have a feeling we’re going to be explaining it to you sooner rather than later.

And as Tony encouraged Daniel to begin walking with him back to the main building – a warm and friendly arm slung across his shoulder – Daniel felt his spirits lift a little.

Meeting Kelly, talking to her, getting a new perspective, had shaken something loose inside him. Daniel realised that despite the pain he had been through; despite the way his faith in life and love had been shattered, there was always a chance for a new start; new people, new experiences and maybe…just maybe the very thing he’d longed for all his life.

A Sentinel to love and nurture, in whatever way fate decided. It might not be Kelly, but there would be someone out there for him.

It really didn’t matter what had gone before. It was what was ahead that was important.

So bravely, hopefully, Daniel followed Tony.

And took the first step.

End

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