New Arrivals
Author-Gadfly
Titles

Out Of The Frying Pan
by Gadfly

Summary:  Blair and Jim head to Cascade for a break. Part of A New Direction series; continues on from The Journey Back; crossover with Stargate SG-1.

Author’s Note: Un-beta’d as usual. Warning for (fairly mild) language.

Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, Simon, et al, and The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly, UPN, and Paramount. Jack and the gang belong to MGM, and the other Stargate Powers That Be. No copyright infringement is intended.

As it turned out, General Hammond ended up deferred SG-1’s debriefing for a further two days. Doctor Fraiser insisted on keeping Jim in the Infirmary under her personal supervision for forty-eight hours. Although Jim wouldn’t admit it, he was exhausted, and, Fraiser discovered, still a little anaemic from the blood he’d lost before Hal’ruut had healed the staff weapon injury to his upper chest and shoulder.

Blair had been a fixture at Jim’s bedside until Fraiser had threatened to sedate him and put him in a bed next to Jim. Even so, he’d only stayed away for the eight hours that the doctor had mandated each night before resuming his vigil.

Jim slept for most of the time, aided by the light sedation that the doctor had insisted on administering. The base psychiatrist, Doctor Mackenzie, had also been to see him – a mandatory requirement in such situations – and after their second session had reluctantly cleared him to be released after his two days of enforced rest, although he’d stated that he believed that Jim would benefit from several more sessions with him. Not unexpectedly, Jim had declined the offer.

By the time the members of SG-1 were called for their debriefing, the other teams involved in the rescue had already given their accounts and moved on to their next Hammond had felt that it would be easier on Jim if he only had his own team, and Doctor Fraiser, in attendance when he gave his report on what had happened.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hammond waited until everyone was seated before beginning.

“Before we start, I thought that you would all like to know that we’ve received word from Bra’tac that the majority of the Jaffa that were in service to Hal’ruut and Mel’tak have chosen to join the Free Jaffa.” He’d decided to begin with good news.

“That’s ah, good to hear, Sir,” Jim smiled very slightly. At least some good had come out of the whole debacle.

“It is indeed excellent news, General Hammond,” Teal’c stated with no little satisfaction.

“On to business, then. Colonel O’Neill, if you could please provide a brief recap from the end of the original mission to P22-401, up to the commencement of your most recent mission?”

O’Neill quickly ran through everything that had happened after they rest of the team had been unable to prevent the Jaffa from taking Jim through the wormhole, through the search for Hal’ruut’s base, up to the decision to send Blair in, with Teal’c as backup, to lure Hal’ruut back to P22-401.

“Thank you, Colonel. I’ve already heard from the other teams about what happened on P22-401. Doctor Sandburg, I’d like to hear from you about your part in the mission.”

“Yes, Sir,” Blair nodded. “After Master Bra’tac’s people dropped us off on Hal’ruut’s planet, Teal’c mingled in with the Jaffa while I disguised myself as a slave and made my way into the palace and Hal’ruut and Mel’tak’s audience chamber. It became obvious to me that the Goa’uld was not in complete control of Jim’s – uh, Colonel Ellison’s – senses, so I used that as a means to get closer to him. Hal’ruut recognised me as Jim’s Guide when I entered the chamber. When he questioned me about the hidden treasure, I told him that I believed that it was located on the same planet where his Jaffa had captured Colonel Ellison. Hal’ruut also demanded that I help him with the senses, and finding the treasure. We took one of his medium-sized ships and headed to P22-401 where SG-1 and the other teams were waiting.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Hammond nodded then turned to Jim. “Colonel, I realise that this will be difficult for you, but if you could please take us through the events of the last four weeks from your prospective?”

“Yes, Sir,” Jim said quietly. Keeping his gaze firmly on where his clasped hands rested on the briefing room table, he began to speak. “When Blair – Doctor Sandburg – was injured on P22-401, I dragged him undercover and activated the homing signal on his radio before I headed off to try and draw the Jaffa away from his location. Unfortunately, I stumbled into an ambush that one of the other groups of Jaffa had set up. Before I could do anything, I was zatted. By the time I woke up, I was in some sort of holding cell with eight other captives – all males from the village near the gate on P22-401. Apart from my uniform, all my gear, including my dog tags and boots, had been taken while I was unconscious,” Jim sent a glance toward the General, before continuing. “Shortly after I woke up, the two Goa’uld and a group of Jaffa came into the cell. The Goa’uld examined each of the captives until they came to where I was standing. Once Hal’ruut had decided that I was to be his new host, he ordered the other captives killed. When I fought against the Jaffa, I was zatted again.” Jim paused and reached for the glass of water that Blair had silently placed in front of him.

“I was taken on board a ship where..” he faltered momentarily, jaw muscles clenching “where Hal’ruut left his old host and … and transferred to me while three Jaffa held me down.”

Blair rested his hand lightly on Jim’s arm in support as he struggled to continue.

“When…when I continued to try and resist him, Hal’ruut took it out on his slaves. Eventually, I guess I just retreated as far back into my mind as I could go,” Jim’s voice was expressionless as he recounted what had happened. “It wasn’t until about a week before Doctor Sandburg showed up that Hal’ruut and Mel’tak found out about my senses. Actually, it was Mel’tak who guessed that I was a Sentinel – a Trak’tah. Hal’ruut was, ah, less than pleased when I wouldn’t help him to understand and control the senses,” Jim shuddered as he remembered Hal’ruut’s rage, and the lengths to which he had gone in order to try and force Jim to cooperate.

“Do you need a break, Son?” Hammond asked gently.

Jim shook his head. “No, Sir. I guess I’d just like to get this over with.”

“Understood. Continue when you’re ready, Colonel,” Hammond had no intention of making this any harder than it already was for Jim.

Thank you, Sir,” Jim took a deep breath before speaking again. “When Doctor Sandburg entered the audience chamber, Hal’ruut had already picked up on his heartbeat, but he didn’t know what it was. Once he realised that Doctor Sandburg was my Guide, Hal’ruut threatened to torture him if I didn’t cooperate. ”

Blair’s shocked gasp went unnoticed as Jim went on with his report.

“I..I managed to convince Hal’ruut that if he harmed Doctor Sandburg that there was no way he would be able to control the senses – that without the Guide, there was no control. After that, things moved fairly quickly. We headed for P22-401 by ship, and the rest you know.”

“Thank you, Colonel Ellison. Colonel O’Neill, if you could cover what happened after Hal’ruut was captured?”

Once again O’Neill took up the tale, going over what had happened once they’d reached Cimmeria and been transported into the underground caverns by the Asgard device that guarded the planet’s gate.

“I thought we’d lost JJ – Colonel Ellison – for a moment when the beam started to work on the Goa’uld,” O’Neill shot a sympathetic glance toward Jim, “but he seemed to rally. Once the beam had shut off, Teal’c and I checked the Colonel out. He was unconscious, but appeared otherwise okay. Teal’c made up a travois for the stretcher and we moved Ellison out of the caverns, and met up with Gairwyn, Carter, and Daniel. Gairwyn had brought a couple of spare horses, so we secured the travois to one of them and headed for the gate.”

“We’d met up with Gairwyn after Jack, Teal’c, and Jim had been transported to the caverns, and explained the situation to her. She immediately volunteered to accompany us to the cave where the caverns exit to the surface,” Daniel supplied after a nod from O’Neill.

“Colonel Ellison regained consciousness just as Carter was dialling home,” O’Neill concluded his report.

“Thank you, Colonel, Doctor Jackson. Doctor Fraiser, your report, please.”

“Yes, Sir. As you know, Colonel Ellison was suffering from exhaustion, mild dehydration, and anaemia when he returned. He’s dropped a little weight, and I’ve prescribed a dietary supplement for the next few days, but the Colonel has now physically fully recovered, and I’ve attached Doctor Mackenzie’s clearance to my written report,” Fraiser said, handing a slim folder to the General. “From the scans that we’ve run over the last few days, it’s apparent that the Colonel’s body is absorbing the Goa’uld much as Major Carter’s did with Jollinar. He now also has the same marker in his blood that Major Carter has.”

Jim was unable to stop the flinch as he listened to Fraiser’s report. Hammond and the others chose to ignore it – he was already unsettled enough after his ordeal without any added stress.

“Before I clear the Colonel for his return to duty, I would recommend at least one week’s downtime, preferably two,” Fraiser finished speaking and sat back in her seat.

“Thank you, Doctor,” Hammond nodded. “I expect all your written reports by the end of the day, please. After that, SG-1 will be on stand down for two weeks. Doctor Sandburg, Colonel Ellison, you have two weeks leave, commencing as soon as I have your written reports. The rest of the team will continue with their duties here at the base until your return.”

“General Hammond, Sir, I’d like to propose that we return to P22-401 as soon as possible. We still need to find whatever it is that the Ancients have hidden there,” Daniel spoke up quickly before the General could end the debriefing.

“And so you shall, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond nodded. “However, as I understand it, there would be little point in returning to the planet until Colonel Ellison is available to assist in the search. We’ll discuss scheduling such a mission once the Colonel and Doctor Sandburg have returned from their leave,” the General stated firmly. He was as anxious as anyone else to locate whatever the Ancients had left behind, but not at Colonel Ellison’s expense, and right now, Ellison was emotionally in no condition to go on a mission – especially one which would take him back to the scene of his capture and abduction. “If there’s nothing else, then this meeting is adjourned,” Hammond glanced around the table as he stood. When no one else spoke up, he gathered his folders in preparation for returning to his office. “Dismissed. Enjoy your leave, Colonel, Doctor.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As Hammond made his way to his office, Jack, Carter, Daniel, and Teal’c also prepared to leave the briefing room. O’Neill paused by the chair where Jim still sat, staring despondently at the table. Dropping his hand lightly onto Jim’s shoulder, O’Neill squeezed gently. “You’re back now, JJ. Hal’ruut lost, and we – you – won.”

Jim nodded silently, eyes still fixed on the tabletop.

O’Neill grimaced and glanced over at Blair, who nodded slightly. He would take if from here.

Carter and Daniel murmured soft words of support as they followed O’Neill from the room.

Teal’c stopped by Jim’s chair and remained there until Jim was forced to look up and acknowledge his presence, although his gaze fell short of actual eye contact with the tall Jaffa. “T?”

“Did you enjoy what you were forced to participate in when host to Hal’ruut?” Teal’c asked flatly.

What!?” Jim stood and angrily turned to face Teal’c. “Of course not!”

“Did you encourage his actions in any way?” The Jaffa continued implacably.

“No way! If you think for one minute that I – ”

Teal’c cut Jim off before he could finish. “Then why do you give the Goa’uld the victory of your guilt?” With that, he turned and exited the room, nodding briefly to Blair as he left.

Blair sighed silently and leant back in his chair. Jim was still guilting out about everything that happened while he was the unwilling host to Hal’ruut. No one did guilt like Jim, Blair knew. The Sentinel would, if allowed, blame himself for everything that went wrong. It was up to Blair and the others to ensure that he didn’t. The signs were all there; the avoidance of eye contact, the silent withdrawal, the tension in his neck and shoulders. It was no surprise to Blair that Teal’c – and probably the others, too – recognised what Jim was going through. Teal’c’s parting words had been a start, and Blair was determined to keep at Jim until he acknowledged their truth and forgave himself for being unable to stop whatever Hal’ruut had done.

“So, Big Guy,” Blair stood and walked around the table to where Jim still stood, jaw muscles clenched with anger, “I’m thinking at least a couple of days fishing and camping are in order. What d’you think?” He was aware that Jim had spent a couple of hours in his office earlier in the morning and had already completed his report. Blair had typed his own report up while he’d sat in vigil at Jim’s bedside during his stay in the Infirmary. All of which meant that they were free to begin their leave immediately.

“Whatever,” Jim shrugged, sinking back into despondency.

“Cool. I’ll forward both our reports to General Hammond and start getting the trip organised while you head to the locker room and get changed into your civvies.”

Another shrug and Jim was gone. Blair let out the breath he’d been holding and headed for his office. At least Jim hadn’t said no.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair had taken the time after booking two seats on a flight to Cascade to call Simon. Without giving him any details, he’d let the Police Captain know that they’d be arriving in Cascade later that evening before heading out to go camping. Simon had immediately insisted that they stay with him for a couple of nights. Blair had also warned the Captain that Jim was suffering the aftermath of a mission gone very bad, and that they couldn’t talk to Simon about it.

Not finding Jim in the locker room, Blair quickly changed and headed for the surface. He instinctively knew that Jim had needed to escape the sometimes claustrophobic confines of the Mountain and had sought out the open air.

Emerging from the final checkpoint, Blair grinned as one of the SFs merely rolled his eyes and pointed to the small track that led to the rear car park where they both usually parked their vehicles. Even though they hadn’t been at the SGC for that long, Colonel Ellison had the reputation of being somewhat unapproachable when he was unhappy. Given what he’d been through with Hal’ruut, to say that Jim was unhappy was a like saying the Goa’uld were a little power hungry.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim stood at the edge of the car park, staring out across the valley. He heard Blair’s approach, but didn’t turn or acknowledge his presence in any way.

It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate that Blair and the others had come after him. He would never find the words he needed to let the others know how he felt about that. And the support they’d given him since his return meant just as much to him.

What he couldn’t get past was the feeling that he should have been able to do something… anything …to stop the Goa’uld. And he hadn’t. Couldn’t. Didn’t.

He’d been helpless. And Hal’ruut had used him to commit atrocities on innocent men, women, and even children. And he could still see each victim’s face, still hear their pleas for mercy, still feel their pain. Could still feel the pleasure Hal’ruut had experienced at Jim and the victim’s expense. And Jim had done nothing.

Logically, he knew that it had been Hal’ruut who had been responsible for each vile act. He and his bitch of a mate, Mel’tak. But it had been Jim’s face that each victim had seen. Jim’s eyes that their terror-filled eyes had stared into. And sometimes it had even been Jim’s hands that had inflicted their pain.

As a Sentinel, he was blessed – or cursed – with a sometimes almost overwhelming instinct to protect others. During the nightmare of Hal’ruut’s possession, he’d been powerless to follow that instinct. He’d been forced, in fact, to observe, or worse, to participate in acts which had resulted in torture and death. And he wasn’t sure that he could live with the memories.

“I got us on a flight to Cascade later this afternoon, so we’ve got plenty of time to get home and pack,” Blair told Jim as he walked over to where he was standing.

“Okay,” Jim nodded. “Let’s get going.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

True to his word, Simon was waiting for them in the arrivals lounge when they disembarked from the plane at Cascade Airport.

“Hey, Simon, great to see you/1” Blair gave the larger man a quick hug.

“Simon,” Jim nodded, his quiet greeting in marked contrast to Blair’s enthusiasm.

“It’s good to see you both,” Simon smiled. “Come on, we’ll get your bags and head home. I thought we’d pick up Chinese on the way.”

“Sounds good, man,” Blair agreed cheerfully, while Jim merely nodded.

“I thought I might invite Joel over for dinner tomorrow night, if that’s okay with you,” Simon remarked after they’d retrieved their bags and were headed to where he’d left his car.

“Fine by me,” Blair shrugged.

“Actually, I’d – ” Jim started to speak, broke off, then started again. “Whatever you think.”

Exchanging a concerned glance with Blair, Simon opened the boot of his car so that they could stow their luggage. At Blair’s nod, he shrugged, “Okay, I’ll tell him to be at my place around 7.30.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim was quiet during dinner, and excused himself shortly after they’d finished clearing everything away, saying that he felt like and early night.

Simon waited until Jim had left the room before turning to Blair. “Okay, Sandburg, exactly how badly wrong did that mission go?”

Blair sighed and fiddled with his beer bottle as he considered his reply. “Really bad, Simon. Jim was taken captive by, ah, hostiles. It took us nearly a month to find him and get him back.”

“Hell!” Simon hadn’t been expecting that. “When was this? He seemed to be moving okay, although he’s a bit pale, and looks to be a little thinner than I remembered.”

“Physically, he’s fine,” Blair reassured him quickly. “We got back to the base a couple of days ago, and he was given a thorough medical, as well as going through a couple of sessions with the base psychologist. The scars aren’t physical, Simon. The, ah, people who had him put him through hell, and he’s having a hard time dealing with it.”

“What can I do to help?”

“Just be his friend, Simon. He has to work through it for himself. All we can do is be there for him.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair had been up early enough to have breakfast with Simon before he’d left for work, and pottered around afterwards checking their maps of the various parks and hiking trails in the area and making a list of the food they’d need to buy before they headed off the next day.

Jim had slept late, but Blair knew that it was because he’d woken several times during the night, his sleep disrupted by what had sounded like nightmares about his time as Hal’ruut’s host. He’d gone to check on him the first time he’d woken, but had quickly realised that Jim was uncomfortable with his concern. It had been difficult, but he’d remained in his own bedroom for the rest, although the sounds of Jim’s distress had woken him each time.

Finally, though, he heard Jim moving around upstairs, and set about preparing a fresh pot of coffee when he heard the shower start up.

By the time Jim made his way slowly down the stairs and into the kitchen, Blair had coffee and toast ready and waiting for him.”

“Thanks, Chief,” Jim said quietly as he sat at the table.

“No problem, man.” Blair sat at the table with his own mug of coffee and several of the trail maps spread out before him. Before he could discuss which of the trails Jim was interested in, his cell phone rang. Dragging it out from his pocket, he flipped it open. “It’s Naomi,” he noted in surprise before answering the call.

Jim picked up his coffee mug and moved over to refill it from the pot before heading out the back door to give Blair privacy for the call, mentally crossing his fingers that it would go well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“She’s in Seattle visiting friends and wanted to know if she could visit us in Colorado. When I told her we were at Simon’s she said she’d be here in a couple of hours, around lunchtime. She said she’d bring something with her for lunch,” Blair said without preamble as he joined Jim on the back deck of Simon’s house.

“I’ll go and get the food for the camping trip while you visit with her,” Jim said immediately. “That’ll give you some time together.”

“She said she’d like to see both of us,” Blair informed him, watching Jim’s reaction closely. What he saw made his heart ache for his friend.

“Chief, I…I don’t know if I can…” Jim gaze was haunted as it met Blair’s.

“How about you just give it a try?” Blair suggested carefully. “If it gets to be too much, you can head out to do the shopping, or go up to your room for a rest. I know you still get tired easily.”

Jim was quiet for such a long time that Blair had been sure he wasn’t going to answer. Then…

“Okay, Chief. I’ll try.” For you. The unspoken words nevertheless came through loud and clear.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Naomi breezed into the house with her usual vigour, sweeping Blair up into a warm hug.

“Oh, Sweetie, I’ve missed you so much. I’m so sorry about what happened at your graduation. I do love you, you know. Can you ever forgive me? I don’t know what I was thinking!”

Blair returned the hug with a warm smile. “I love you to, Naomi. I can forgive you, but I really think we need to talk about what happened, and it wasn’t just me that you hurt,” he said, leading her through the house to the kitchen.

“I know, Honey. I hear that,” she nodded and turned to face Jim, who had hung back to allow the two to greet each other.

“Jim, I said some dreadful things the last time we saw each other,” Naomi began, appearing to be genuinely regretful. “I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” she said, moving to where he stood and extending her hand.

“You were upset,” Jim shrugged, still unable to shake the uneasy feeling he’d had ever since Blair had told him that Naomi was coming to visit them. He shrugged mentally, putting it down to the fact that he wasn’t exactly back on his game yet. “I understand that you only want what’s best for your son,” he continued, taking the hand she’d offered. “What the – !?” he drew his hand back with a startled gasp, the action dragging the small needle secreted in Naomi’s palm across his hand, leaving a thin trail of blood.

“Jim? Naomi? What’s going on?” Blair stared from Jim to his mother in shock as Jim silently collapsed.

“You will be free of that man, Sweetie,” Naomi declared, flicking a dismissive hand toward where Jim lay sprawled on the kitchen floor before removing the dart from her palm and tossing it negligently onto the kitchen table. “Now you need to come with me. I’ve taken care of everything.” She made an abortive grab for Blair’s arm, but he twisted out of the way, and dropped to his knees at Jim’s side.

“What the hell have you done?” Blair demanded even as the front door crashed open and five very large men moved rapidly inside.

One of the men grabbed Blair, dragging him away from Jim and pinning him arms securely behind his back before snapping heavy steel cuffs around his wrists. “Just cooperate, Sandburg, and no one needs to get hurt.”

“No way, man!” Blair struggled against his captor, knocking two of the kitchen chairs over, but he was in an awkward position and couldn’t get any leverage.

Another of the men threw a quick, vicious punch that caught Blair on the side of his head, stunning him. “Just shut up and come with us quietly, or your friend there will suffer,” he nodded to where two of the men were roughly hauling Jim to his feet, pulling his arms over their shoulders in preparation for dragging him out of the house.

No! You were only supposed to take Ellison!” Naomi launched herself at the man who had hit Blair. The man barely glanced in her direction before he hit out almost negligently, catching Naomi squarely on her jaw and sending her crashing against the doorframe.

“Naomi! No!” Blair began to struggle even harder at the sight of his mother lying, unconscious and bleeding, on the floor.

“Bring her, too,” the fifth man instructed the others as he jammed a syringe through the material of Blair’s shirt and into his right bicep. Blair was unconscious within moments.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Simon whistled tunelessly as he parked his car in his driveway and grabbed his briefcase from the passenger seat. He’d given himself an early mark, wanting to find out more about what was bothering Jim, and, more simply, just wanting to spend some time with his friends. He’d missed them at work, but it was their friendship that he missed the most.

While it was true that he hadn’t lost their friendship, he missed having them in his everyday life, and intended to make the most of every minute of their current visit.

As he was about to trot up the stairs to the front door, he halted, eyes narrowing as he took in the fact that the door was ajar. Dropping his briefcase and drawing his gun in one smooth motion, he edged carefully up beside the door before pushing it further open with his hand. A quick glance showed no one in the living room, but he still moved cautiously as he made his way inside.

Instinct told him that the house was empty, but he took no chances as he checked upstairs before moving toward the kitchen, which was in the back of the house.

It was immediately obvious that whatever had happened, it had happened in the kitchen. Several chairs lay on their sides on the floor, and there was a small pool of blood near the doorway that led to the living room. Most alarmingly, there was what appeared to be a small tranquilizer dart lying on the kitchen table, next to an overturned coffee mug. A floral handbag lay partially under the table. Whoever had taken Jim and Blair appeared to have also taken Naomi, although Simon had no idea what Naomi would have been doing at his house.

Re-holstering his gun, Simon dragged out his cell phone and called the precinct. While he was speaking to the watch commander, he drew out his wallet, extracting the card that Colonel O’Neill had given him when he’d gone to Jim and Blair’s housewarming. If Jim and Blair had been taken because Jim was a Sentinel, then he’d need all the help he could find to get them back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

O’Neill left his office at a dead run after speaking with Simon. Nearly colliding with an airman, he fought the urge to sneeze when he caught a whiff of the man’s cologne.

Continuing on his way, he had the nagging feeling that he’d missed something. Something important.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Simon stood back and gave the forensic team room to work. Joel had driven up right behind the team’s van, followed closely by Brown and Rafe, and Simon had set them to work canvassing the neighbourhood for possible witnesses.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

General Hammond listened with growing anger as O’Neill related the few details that Simon had been able to give him so far.

“It’s the NID, Sir, it has to be. After the unauthorised access to Sandburg and JJ’s personnel records and their lockers being searched – ” O’Neill stopped suddenly, his eyes widening as a memory kicked in.

“What is it, Colonel?”

“When JJ and Blair’s lockers were searched, JJ picked up on the fact that whoever had done it wore a particularly expensive cologne Chanel Antaeus. It’s unusual enough that I went to a store in town to find out what it smelled like,” O’Neill explained.

“And your point is?” Hammond was clearly at a loss as to why the Colonel was telling him about a cologne.

“My point, Sir, is that I just ran into an airman – almost literally – who was wearing Chanel Antaeus,” O’Neill’s eyes took on a dangerous glint. “I think I’d like a word with that airman. And something tells me Teal’c would, too,” he added, with a predatory smile.

Hammond’s smile was almost a perfect match for O’Neill’s. “Then what are you waiting for, Colonel?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim returned to consciousness slowly. He lay for a moment without opening his eyes, using his other senses to try and work out where he was.

Two heartbeats, and one of them was Blair’s. There was a vague scent of sage and various other aromatic herbs. Naomi must be there to. That thought reminded him that Naomi had drugged him. Opening his eyes abruptly, he looked around the room, or rather, the cell. Given the barred door and windows, there was little doubt that they were in a cell.

“Chief?”

Blair was sitting on the side of a bunk on the opposite wall to the one on which Jim lay, carefully wiping Naomi’s head with a damp towel. He looked up when Jim spoke.

“Hey, man, how’re you feeling?”

“Still a bit foggy from whatever it was that Naomi used on me,” Jim shrugged, moving carefully to sit on the side of the bunk. “What’s she doing here?”

“She objected when they said they were taking me, too,” Blair shook his head, not meeting Jim’s eyes. “I’m sorry, Big Guy. I never thought she’d do anything like this.”

“It’s not your fault, Chief,” Jim told his friend gently. “I smell blood. It’s not yours, but it’s similar. She’s hurt?” Getting to his feet, he moved cautiously, still a little dizzy, until he was next to Blair.

“She was knocked out back at Simon’s, but I’m pretty sure they gave her something to keep her out – there’s a needle mark on her arm.”

“Do you want me to take a look?” Jim asked, laying his hand on Blair’s shoulder.

“You don’t have to, man. I know you must be pretty angry with me and her right now.”

“I’m not angry at you, Chief, and I guess I’m not really angry at her, either,” Jim sighed. “She’s worried that I’ll get you killed, or that you’ll abandon your ideals because of me. My guess is whoever put her up to this played on all her fears for you to get her to cooperate.”

“I guess so.”

“I know so,” Jim said, squeezing Blair’s shoulder lightly in support. “Scoot over and I’ll check her out.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Teal’c was more than willing to assist O’Neill in questioning the airman once he learned that Colonel Ellison and Doctor Sandburg were missing.

Having ascertained the man’s location, it was a simple matter for Teal’c and O’Neill to flank him. When the airman happened to glance up and see O’Neill coming towards him, he turned and ran – straight into Teal’c. Minutes later all three were in one of the holding cells.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Naomi had woken up, she’d immediately launched a scathing attack on Jim, blaming him for the mess they were in. Blair had tried to reason with her, saying that it wasn’t Jim’s fault, but she’d rejected every argument he’d put forward, insisting that if Blair gotten involved with Jim, none of it would have happened.

Their argument was interrupted when the cell door was jerked open and the four of the men who had attacked them in Simon’s house rushed in, weapons aimed at both Blair and Jim.

“On your feet, Ellison. Face the wall and put your hands behind your back. Try anything and your Guide will be the one to suffer.”

Jim went cold at the man’s words, reluctantly complying with his instructions. So, this was definitely about his being a Sentinel. And worse than that, they obviously knew what Blair meant to him, using threats against him to ensure Jim’s cooperation.

Blair was next to be cuffed, the gun at Jim’s head enough of a threat that he didn’t try to resist. Naomi was obviously not considered much of a threat, since she was left unbound.

The three were then dragged from the room, down a short corridor and into what was obviously some sort of examination room. Blair and Naomi were forced into chairs set up in one corner of the room, two of the goons standing close by with their weapons drawn.

“Hey! He’s cooperating, okay? You don’t have to be so rough!” Blair protested uselessly as Jim was lifted off his feet by the other two goons and virtually thrown onto the examination table on his back, his weight coming down painfully hard on his hands and arms.

Ignoring both Blair’s protests and Jim’s stifled exclamation of pain, the two men quickly secured Jim to the table with straps across his neck, chest, waist, thighs, and shins. They smirked as they ensured that the restraints were as painfully tight as they could make them, then stood back in another corner as two white-coated men entered the room, followed by the fifth man from Simon’s house.

“So, Colonel Ellison, here’s how this is going to go down, in case you haven’t already worked it out for yourself,” the man said, stepping up to the table so that Jim could see him clearly. “You will cooperate with our tests, or your Guide will suffer. Resist us in any way, and your Guide will suffer. Try to escape, and your Guide will suffer. Are you picking up on a recurring theme here, Colonel?”

“I get the idea,” Jim said flatly.

“Excellent. I knew you would.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

O’Neill and Teal’c reported to the main briefing room once they’d finished with the airman, who remained in the holding cell, guarded by two SFs. Carter and Daniel were already with the General when they arrived, on a conference call with Captain Banks.

“… the forensics people have confirmed that it was Ellison’s blood on the tranquilizer dart. It’s a telling fact that the drug found on the dart is one of the ones that Sandburg had identified as being effective in knocking Ellison out, but safe to use on him. The blood on the doorframe was a bit of a surprise. Enough DNA markers in common with Sandburg that it has to be a relative of his, but the blood came from a female, so it looks like Blair’s mother is the other person who was hurt,” Simon concluded his report on their preliminary findings.

“I thought they weren’t speaking?” Dnaiel commented, remembering the scene at the Blair’s graduation, and knowing that Blair hadn’t been able to contact his mother since he’d been in Colorado.

“So did I,” Simon agreed, “but perhaps they were attempting to reconcile. Whatever the reason for her presence, it now seems definite that all three were taken. Unfortunately, we have no leads on who is responsible.”

“Colonel O’Neill and Teal’c have just joined us, Captain Banks,” Hammond informed Banks. “Gentlemen, if you’d share what you’ve learned?”

“The guy’s name is Howard Darcy, Airman First Class, assigned to the Armoury. He’s admitted to searching Sandburg and JJ’s lockers, and taking JJ’s mission tags, as well as advising his contact that JJ and Sandburg were headed for Cascade. With Teal’c’s ‘encouragement’, he also spilled that he’s NID, but he doesn’t know who his controller is – all contact is handled through a dead drop. I doubt that he has much more to tell us about JJ and Sandburg, but I have a feeling that he could be an interesting source of information – I’ll follow up on that once we have our two lost sheep back safe and sound.”

“So it looks like the NID is responsible?” Simon asked.

“I’d say so,” O’Neill confirmed. “I’ll try to get an idea of where they would have been taken through my contacts. My guess is that they wouldn’t have gone too far.”

“I agree. I’ll get Jack Kelso onto it from my end, as well,” Simon advised them.

“Captain, I’d like to send some of my people out to Cascade to help you with both the investigation and any rescue operation. Since we definitely seem to be dealing with the NID, you’ll need the extra manpower. Naturally, my people will place themselves under your command during any operation.”

“I’d welcome the help, General.”

They ended the call and Hammond turned to O’Neill. “Colonel, I am authorising you to take your team, as well as SG-2 and SG-3, to Cascade, and render any and all assistance to Captain Banks. Do whatever it takes to get Doctor Sandburg and Colonel Ellison back, Colonel.”

“Sir, yes, Sir!” O’Neill acknowledged the order, a dangerous gleam in his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The tests had started out simply enough, but soon reached a level where Jim was in agony. Over the next few days, their captors maintained a brutal schedule. Jim was subjected to testing for four hours, taken back to the cell and given an hour to rest, then taken for testing again. Almost unbelievably, the testing continued around the clock, almost as if the testers were under some sort of deadline.

Naomi and Blair were forced to watch the testing, always guarded by two of the goons. With the threat of harm coming to Blair if he didn’t cooperate, Jim constantly pushed himself to the limit. Several times he’d pushed too hard, and zoned. Blair had been forced to bring him back each time. As the hours, and then days, passed, Jim’s condition had deteriorated markedly. There were angry looking welts all over his body from the constant irritation caused by the scrubs that they’d given them all to change into after the first night, and dark circles under his eyes. More than once, as Jim’s exhaustion grew, Blair had had to help him with the tests, talking him through the dials.

Begging the two supposed scientists who conducted the testing to ease up and give Jim time to rest had been a waste of time, but Blair had continued to try and convince them, frustrated when his pleas continued to be ignored. Through it all, Jim continued to try and keep Blair safe, but Blair knew that he was reaching his limits, and was worried about how Jim would take it when he ultimately failed at something he was asked to do and Blair was punished for it.

For her part, Naomi had been horrified by what Jim was being forced to endure, as well as somewhat awed by what he could do. What had only been an abstract idea when she’d read Blair’s original dissertation had become so much more real now that she’d seen what Jim was capable of. And the lengths to which he was prepared to go, the pain he willingly accepted in order to keep Blair safe gave her an insight into just how much he valued her son.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I think we’ve got them!” Simon hung up the phone and turned to the group of people gathered in his office. “Kelso came through. There’s an abandoned electronics factory about thirty minutes outside of the city limits. Kelso’s sources say that there’s been some unusual activity around there in the last few days, and the van that several of the witnesses said was parked in front of my house around the time of the abduction has been seen in the area.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” O’Neill asked with a feral grin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was late on what Blair estimated to be their third day of captivity. Given that the three of them had had very little sleep, he was a little punch drunk and not completely sure that his estimate of the time that had passed was accurate. All three were returned to the small cell after the latest round of testing. Two of the guards simply dragged Jim in after Blair and Naomi and dumped him unceremoniously on the floor, as they had every other time. Prepared for the goons’ callous treatment of his friend, Blair was already in the tiny bathroom, soaking one of their small towels in cool water. He carefully straightened out Jim’s legs and arms and repositioned him until he could cradle Jim’s head in his lap, then began to wipe the damp towel gently over his face and neck.

Having paid no attention to his mother since they’d returned to the cell, Blair was startled when she came to sit next to him on the floor, reaching out a tentative hand to brush her fingertips lightly across Jim’s forehead.

“Will…will he be okay?”

“Maybe. If we can get out of here soon. He…our last mission …last time our team went out in the field, he ended up having a pretty bad time. He was…they captured him. It took us nearly a month to get him back. He just so doesn’t need this on top of everything he went through before we got to him.”

“I’ve been a fool, haven’t I, Sweetie?” Naomi said quietly, tears pooling in her expressive eyes. “You didn’t stay with Jim because he made you, you stayed because you love him, and he loves you. You need each other. He really would die to keep you safe, wouldn’t he? I just never understood before.”

“Just like I’d die to protect him. I’m his Guide, and he’s my Sentinel,” Blair said simply. “Jim is my best friend, but he’s also the brother I never thought I’d have. He gave me something I hadn’t even realised I was searching for – a home…a sense of belonging. I owe him so much.”

“I hear that,” Naomi said with a small smile.

“Don’t…owe me…any…thing, Chief...It’s me that.. owes you… so sorry” Unnoticed, Jim had woken while they were talking.

“Hey, Big Guy, we’ll argue about it later, but you don’t owe me anything, and you have nothing to apologise to me for, okay?” Blair told Jim with a warm smile, resting his hand lightly on his Sentinel’s shoulder. “How about we get you up onto your bunk? Better than the floor, right?”

“’Kay,” Jim nodded, too fatigued to disagree even if he’d wanted to.

With help from Blair and Naomi, Jim was able to stand and stagger the few steps to his bunk, collapsing onto it with a relieved sigh, and falling into an exhausted sleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Once he was sure that Jim was sleeping, Blair staggered over to his own bunk and dropped wearily onto it. A glance over at Naomi assured him that she was also resting. He sighed and turned onto his left side, trying to get comfortable.

It seemed that he had just gotten to sleep when the cell door clanged open and Jim was being pulled to his feet and out of the cell for the next session of testing. With a groan, Blair helped Naomi to her feet and staggered blearily in Jim’s wake.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Outside the factory, SGC personnel and police waited in concealment for the order to move in.

Simon had stared at O’Neill in bemusement when the Colonel had blown lightly into a dog whistle that he’d pulled from his pocket shortly after they’d moved into position.

“Hey, JJ,” O’Neill had spoken almost casually, “just letting you know that we’re here. Hopefully we’ll have you all out of there soon.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back in what Blair had come to think of as the torture chamber, Jim was instructed to get up on the examination table. He stumbled slightly, and leant against the wall for a moment while he tried to get his balance back.

Blair immediately, instinctively, moved over to help him, pulling Jim’s arm across his shoulders and putting his own arm around Jim’s waist. “Lean on me, man.”

Jim complied, leaning heavily against Blair as they made their way toward the table.

“The cavalry have arrived, Chief,” Jim whispered urgently into Blair’s ear. “Get Naomi out of here when I tell you to, okay?”

“Okay,” Blair replied, pitching his voice so that only Jim could hear him.

When Jim stumbled again, one of the scientists impatiently waved the two goons who normally guarded Naomi and Blair forward to help.

“Run, Chief!” Jim hissed at him urgently even as he launched himself at the two guards.

Blair reacted iunstantly, grabbing Naomi’s hand and dragging her out of the room, pulling her after him as he ran down the corridor in the opposite direction to their cell.

It was several moments before he heard any sound of pursuit. He pushed harder, telling Naomi to hurry. There was no way that he was going to waste the lead that Jim had bought for them. He only hoped that Jim was okay.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Simon gave the signal and several officers at various points around the building fired teargas canisters into the factory. After a few seconds to allow the teargas to start to spread, the group donned their gasmasks and headed into the building.

Blair and Naomi had almost made it to the exit when they were grabbed by two men and dragged forward, guns pressed against their temples.

“Let us out, or we’ll kill these two!” One of the men yelled to the shadowy figures who emerged, from the cloying clouds of gas, weapons drawn and aimed unwaveringly at the gunmen. “I mean it, let us go or they die! We’ve got nothing to lose!”

“Like that’s so going to happen, not!” O’Neill snarled angrily, snapping off two shots so quickly that the sounds seemed to merge into one.

Just as suddenly as they’d been grabbed, Blair and Naomi were free, and both gunmen were down.

Simon glanced at the two bodies as he quickly began to herd Naomi and Blair out of the factory. With almost clinical detachment, he noted that both men now had small, neat holes almost perfectly centred in the middle of their foreheads.

“Where’s JJ?” O’Neill asked, stopping Blair briefly with a hand on his shoulder.

“Down the corridor…examination room…fifth door on the right…” Blair gasped out, his eyes still streaming from the teargas.

O’Neill, Teal’c and Simon were moving even before he’d finished speaking, Simon having quickly pushed Blair and Naomi into Joel and Carter’s capable hands.

The three could hear gunfire from various locations throughout the factory, but ignored it as they ran down the corridor, only to come to a sudden stop just yards short of their target when they were confronted by a wall of flames.

It was obvious that some of the tear gas canisters had started a fire in the examination room, which had spread to the corridor outside, feeding hungrily on the timber panelling.

Simon tried to push his way through, but was forced back by the intense heat.

Teal’c, meanwhile, had barely paused before he stepped past Simon and lunged into the flames. O’Neill and Simon could barely see him through the flames and smoke as he dove into the examination room.

Once inside, the Jaffa quickly located Jim, who lay unconscious on the floor next to the bodies of two other men. A brief glanced confirmed that both men’s necks had been broken. Nodding in approval at his unconscious friend, Teal’c grabbed several blankets from a pile in one corner of the room. Throwing them into the sink he flicked the faucet to the wide open position. It took several precious moments until the blankets were thoroughly soaked. Wrapping Jim in one, Teal’c threw the other over his head and shoulders before picking Jim up and running for the door.

Simon watched in awe as Teal’c re- emerged from the flames carrying Jim’s blanket-wrapped body over his shoulder. Once clear of the fire, Teal’c carefully eased Jim down onto the floor and dragged the steaming blanket away from him even as O’Neill quickly stripped the now smouldering blanket from Teal’c and threw it aside. Once they were both rid of the blankets, Teal’c hauled Jim back over his shoulder and proceeded to carry him out of the factory. Simon and O’Neill took point, weapons at the ready in case the rest of the group had missed any hostiles.

Emerging from the factory, Teal’c headed directly to where Doctor Fraiser and her small, hand-picked medical team were working to alleviate the worst of Naomi and Blair’s symptoms from their exposure to the teargas. One of the corpsmen helped Teal’c to ease Jim down onto a waiting gurney.

Blair immediately pulled away from the nurse who was washing out his eyes and joined Doctor Fraiser at Jim’s side.

“Doctor Fraiser, I believe that Ellison was incapacitated using what your people refer to as a tazer – there was such a device lying on the floor next to him when I found him, and there are small burn marks on the side of his neck which match the configuration of the weapon,” Teal’c told the diminutive doctor before stepping back and allowing her to continue her examination.

“Thank you, Teal’c,” Fraiser flashed him a quick, appreciative smile before returning her attention to her patient.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Leaving the fire to the Fire Department, Simon, Joel, O’Neill, Carter, Daniel, and most of SG-3 headed for the police station. Rafe and Brown remained onsite at the factory, ready to check out the building once the fire was out and the site was declared safe.

Doctor Fraiser and her staff had accompanied Blair, Naomi, Jim, and the wounded agent to Cascade General Hospital, with SG-2 along to guard the prisoner and see to Blair and Jim’s security. General Hammond had already cleared the way for Fraiser to act as primary physician for Blair and Jim while they were in the hospital. A marine from SG-3 had been detailed to drive Teal’c back to the hotel where the SGC personnel were staying so that he could perform a much needed Kel’No’Reem, and to prevent any awkward questions about how rapidly the relatively minor burns he’d received when rescuing Jim were healing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Okay, let’s recap,” Simon wearily called the group to order once they had all gathered in the large conference room.

“My team accounted for two, both KIA. We offered them the option of surrender, but they declined,” Colonel Reynolds decided to start the ball rolling.

“Thank you, Colonel,” Simon nodded. “My people – Detectives Rafe and Brown – accounted for two more – one dead, the other wounded and at the hospital undergoing surgery.”

“I can account for two more – the ones who tried to use Sandburg and his mother as hostages. Both KIA.”

“That was some very sweet shooting, Colonel.” Simon said appreciatively.

“Thank you, Captain,” O’Neill nodded. “Major Ferretti briefed me before he accompanied the others to the hospital. His team caught two agents, apparently scientists of some kind, both of whom they turned over to Captain Taggart.”

“They’re in lockup downstairs, on suicide watch,” Joel advised the group. “One of them was babbling about having knocked Jim out with a tazer after he’d killed two of the guards. Once Jim was down, the two of them tried to get away.”

“Teal’c said there were two bodies in the room where he found JJ, and that it looked as though both had broken necks,” O’Neill offered in confirmation for what the scientist had told Joel.

“By my count, that makes seven dead, one wounded, and two in lockup,” Simon glanced briefly at the pad where he’d been taking notes. “Intel from Jack Kelso suggested that there were ten men involved in the operation, so it seems likely that we’ve accounted for all of them.”

“But I doubt that any of them was the mastermind behind the op,” O’Neill stated flatly.

“Probably not, but the two down in lockup are claiming that they were acting on their own, without authorisation,” Joel told him.

“Typical NID,” Daniel said, his disgust obvious. “If they stick to their previous method of operation, the agents we caught probably don’t even know who their orders came from.”

“Hopefully this little disaster will make them think twice before trying anything – for a while, anyway,” O’Neill tried to be philosophical about it, but he was still furious about what had happened, and more than a little frustrated about the fact that whoever had planned the operation would probably never be brought to account for it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Colonel Simmons read the last report his people had sent on Ellison before O’Neill and the others had neutralised them and taken Ellison and Sandburg back.

It was more than a little disappointing. Ellison obviously needed Sandburg to help him in using and controlling his senses. It would have been easier if Ellison had been able to function on his own, since it would have been a simple matter to hold Sandburg and use him to guarantee Ellison’s cooperation.

Still, the data that had been collected on Ellison indicated that the range of his senses was considerably greater than Sandburg had indicated in his dissertation. That was a definite plus.

Closing the folder, he dropped it back on his desk.

It might take him a few months, or even years, but he was sure that he could find a use for Ellison’s skills, and a way to keep him under control. It was an interesting puzzle, but no longer a priority at the moment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Doctor Fraiser had insisted on taking Blair and Jim back to Colorado as soon as possible. While Blair was recovering quickly after a good night’s rest, Jim was still suffering from smoke inhalation, exhaustion, and his skin, while it was responding well to the soothing lotion that Fraiser and Blair had agreed upon, was still covered in a painful rash.

Before they were spirited away by the determined doctor, the two had managed to catch up briefly with Simon and Joel, and had even spent a few surprisingly pleasant minutes with Brown and Rafe, who had come to the hospital after they finished at the factory to check on how they were doing. Rafe had also told them that the factory had ended up being completely destroyed by the fire, so any records that might have detailed the results of the tests that Jim had been subjected to had been destroyed. That particular piece of information had gone a long way to easing both men’s minds – they’d been more than a little concerned that the data might have survived to resurface and cause them even more problems.

Blair had merely shrugged helplessly at a very irritated Jim when Fraiser informed him that, since he was exhausted and consequently suffering from sensory spikes since his control was more than a little frayed, she intended to sedate him for the trip back to the Infirmary.

“Hey, Big Guy, I’ll speak to her, but I wouldn’t hold your breath!” he’d told him before following Fraiser from Jim’s hospital room.

When the time came to leave Cascade, Naomi, Jim, Blair, and the rest of SG-1, as well as SG-2, SG-3, the three ‘rogue’ NID agents – the injured man now under military arrest – and Doctor Fraiser and her team all returned to Colorado on board a military transport organised by General Hammond. Given that military transports were known for their high levels of noise and lack of more than very basic comforts, Jim had actually been grateful for the sedative, although he would never have admitted that to Fraiser.

The End