New Arrivals
Author-Gadfly
Titles

Consequences
by Gadfly

Summary: Continues on from Aftermath. There are always consequences...although some can be unexpected. Part of A New Direction series.

Author's Note: Don’t have a beta - all mistakes belong to the author. Spelling is Australian English (if that’s not a contradiction in terms LOL) Feedback always welcome.

Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, Simon, et al, and The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly, UPN, and Paramount and no copyright infringement is intended

It had taken a great deal of effort for Simon Banks to concentrate on the reports in his in tray after his mini confrontation with his team. He’d meant what he’d said. There just weren’t adequate words to express how disappointed he was in all of them, himself included. He should have seen the direction things were heading and taken whatever action was necessary to stop it.

He looked up in irritation at the knock on his door. “Come.”

The word was clipped and brittle, and less than encouraging, but the door opened to reveal Henri Brown standing hesitantly in the doorway.

“What do you want, Brown?” Banks was not in the mood to be friendly.

Brown moved further into the office, not meeting Banks’ stern gaze. “Captain, you need to know, Joel didn’t know about the mace. He thought we were just going to use air freshener. He also tried to talk us out of going that far.”

“Why are you telling me this, Brown?”

“Fair’s fair, Captain. Joel’s really beating himself up about it, and he’s really upset after everything Blair told us,” Brown wiped a hand quickly down his face. “Hell, we’re all really sorry about what happened, Sir.”

“And why are you telling me, this, Brown?”

“Do you really think Jim would want to see us, Sir? After what we did?”

“There’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?” Banks said flatly. He checked his watch, surprised to see that he’d been struggling with the reports for several hours. “They should be home by now.”

“Yes, Sir,” Brown nodded and quickly left the office, closing the door gently behind him.

Banks sighed and returned to his reports. Unfortunately, he was fairly certain that any apology would be too little, too late.

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

Blair glanced at Jim to see if it was okay to let the stranger at the door into the loft.

“It’s okay, Chief,” Jim said quietly, a genuine smile on his face for the first time in a while.

Closing the door briefly to unhook the safety chain, Blair reopened it, stepping back to allow O’Neill to enter. “Come on in, man. I’m Blair – Jim’s roommate.” He offered his hand.

O’Neill took it and shook it briefly but firmly. “Good to meet you, Blair.”

“Same here, Jack. Go on into the lounge room, man. Can I get you something to drink?”

“Coffee would be great, thanks,” O’Neill smiled. Having noticed the mugs already on the coffee table, he figured that would be the easiest choice. He stopped dead when he caught sight of Ellison, taking in the healing tracheotomy scar, and the still vivid bruising around the stitches on his head, as well as what almost appeared to be burns on his face and hands – the residue of the allergic reaction he’d had to the mace, although O’Neill wasn’t aware of that. “Damn, JJ, what the hell happened to you?”

“Accident at work,” Jim said softly, the rasp in his voice testimony to the fact that he still had some healing to do.

“And your eyes?” O’Neill asked, correctly interpreting why Jim seemed to be looking at a point just to the left of where O’Neill stood, rather than directly at him.

“Same accident,” Jim shrugged without elaborating.

“What’s the prognosis?” O’Neill asked, taking a seat in the lounge chair nearest to where Ellison sat. He nodded his thanks for the coffee Blair handed him while he waited for Jim’s answer.

“My sight should be back to normal in a couple of weeks, barring any unforseen complications,” Jim said as he reached for his coffee mug, impressing O’Neill when his hand went straight to it without hesitation.

“That’s good to hear,” O’Neill said sincerely.

“So, I guess you’re an old Army buddy of Jim’s?” Blair settled himself on the other end of the couch to Ellison, cradling his own coffee mug in his hands.

Air Force, thank you very much,” O’Neill replied indignantly. “And watch it with the ‘old’, okay, kid?”

Jim couldn’t hold back his snort of laughter at O’Neill’s response. “Jack couldn’t get in to the Rangers so he had to settle for Air Force Special Forces.”

“Up yours, groundpounder,” O’Neill laughed.

“Shove it, flyboy,” Ellison shot back with a grin.

“Aah, inter-service rivalry at it’s best,” Blair observed with a knowing smile.

“So, what brings you here, Jack?” Jim was tired, and couldn’t be bothered pussyfooting around.

“Still as patient as ever, JJ,” O’Neill teased him gently.

Jim could hear the grin in O’Neill’s voice and responded with one of his own. “Ya think?” He deliberately used one of O’Neill’s own pet phrases.

“Yeah sure, you betcha!”

“So? Talk, Jack,” Jim instructed firmly, although there was still a slight smile on his face.

O’Neill set his coffee mug down on the table and leant back in his chair. “I’ve come to offer you – both of you – a job.”

“Sorry. Not interested,” Ellison said immediately, his tone firm.

“What?” Sandburg said at the same time, eyes wide with surprise.

“At least hear me out, JJ. You don’t know the details yet,” O’Neill wasn’t surprised by Ellison’s reaction, but he was determined to at least make sure that both of them knew exactly what he was offering – well, as much as he could tell them for the moment, anyway.

“I’m sorry, Jack, but there’s no way we could even consider working for the military or any other government agency. We’ve already had our fair share of trouble from that quarter,” Blair said firmly.

“Brackett was and is an asshole, and you know he was acting on his own,” O’Neill told them quickly, “as was Oliver.” He’d obviously done his homework before he’d approached the pair. “I won’t lie to you, JJ. You’d be a valuable asset to us – with or without the hypersenses thingy – and the Doc here,” he nodded at Sandburg even though he knew Ellison couldn’t see him, “would be just as valuable to us, as an anthropologist with experience in first contacts.”

“I’m nobody’s lab rat, Jack,” Jim’s expression was hard and closed.

“We’re not looking for a lab rat, JJ,” O’Neill sighed, understanding Ellison’s attitude after his experience with Brackett. “Look, I came here to ask if you two would be willing to come back with me to Colorado Springs for a full briefing on what it is that we’re offering. I didn’t know that you’d been injured, so the trip can wait until you feel up to it. No strings, Jim. Just hear us out, and if you’re not interested, no one will try and stop you from leaving. You have my word on that. Nothing about your senses will appear on any official report, regardless of what you decide. You’d just be a former Ranger, and an anthropologist as far as anyone else would know.” He stood, reaching into his pocket to withdraw a card, which he dropped on the table. “Either of those numbers will reach me. Just leave a voicemail if I’m not there.” Picking up his mug he headed for the kitchen to empty it and rinse it out.

Despite himself, Blair was intrigued. “Do you trust him, Jim?” he asked, his voice Sentinel-soft.

Ellison cocked his head slightly, considering. O’Neill’s vitals had remained steady the whole time he’d been speaking. There was nothing about him to suggest deception. And he’d trusted O’Neill with his life, and been given that same trust in return, on many occasions when they’d worked together. Taking a deep breath, he nodded.

“What do you want to do, Chief?” he whispered, tracking O’Neill’s movements in the kitchen with his hearing.

“Well, I’ve never been to Colorado Springs, man,” Blair grinned.

“Are you sure?”

“We can always say ‘no’, Jim. And I’d really like to hear more,” Blair’s considerable curiosity had been aroused.

“Okay,” Ellison’s reply was barely more than a sigh.

O’Neill had finished in the kitchen and returned to the living area to say his goodbyes. “So, Blair, it was good to meet you.”

“When would you want us to go to Colorado Springs?” Ellison asked before Blair could respond.

O’Neill was more than a little surprised at the question. He’d pretty much decided that Ellison wouldn’t be interested in the offer. He recovered quickly though. “Well, my original plan was to ask you to come back with me, either tonight, or tomorrow, but I guess a couple of weeks to give you a chance to recover wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

“Not much point in going all that way with you right now, anyway, Jack – I can’t exactly see what you want to show me, you know?” Jim scrubbed a hand wearily down his face.

“Fair enough,” O’Neill said with a small smile. “How about you give me a call when you’re ready?”

“And if we change our minds?” Blair asked quietly.

“Then I’ll probably have to come back to Cascade anyway, so that JJ can make good on his long-standing invitation and promise to show me some of those secret fishing spots that he’s always bragging about,” O’Neill said without hesitation.

“I thought it was all about the act of fishing, Jack,” Jim laughed, “why on earth would you want me to take you somewhere where you might actually catch some of those pesky fish?”

“Well, there’s that,” O’Neill allowed with a grin.

“I think you’ve got yourself a deal, Jack,” Blair laughed. “So, how about we set a tentative date for two weeks from today? We could get a commercial flight out there…”

“And deprive me of the chance to log a few more flight hours?” O’Neill snorted. “No way!”

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

Blair had talked O’Neill into staying for dinner, looking forward to the chance to hear more of O’Neill’s stories about some of the antics he and Jim had gotten up to during their downtime. O’Neill was still going as Blair cleared the table, placing the dishes and cutlery in the sink for later rinsing.

“… and then he says, all big-eyed and innocent, ‘But, Sir! How was I supposed to know that the goat would eat your uniform?’” O’Neill laughed at the memory. “I can still see the look on Colonel Brooks’ face. It was classic!”

“Oh, man! I would have loved to have been there!” Blair grinned, then noticed that Jim hadn’t joined in with the laughter. “What’s up, Big Guy?”

Jim had stiffened, sitting rigidly in his chair at the dining table, his head cocked slightly as though he was listening to something.

“Visitors,” Jim’s expression was unreadable, his words clipped and angry. “Taggart, Brown, Connor, and Rafe.”

Blair’s own expression hardened. “What the hell do they want?”

“Trouble?” O’Neill asked quietly, wishing now that he’d bought his gun up with him rather than leaving it in the rental car.

“Not really,” Blair sighed, “just not people we really want to talk to right now.”

Jim grimaced and headed back over to the couch. “You’d better let them in, Chief. We may as well get this over with.”

O’Neill, mystified about what might be wrong, moved to stand behind the couch where Jim now sat as Blair headed for the front door, opening it just as Brown was about to knock.

“What do you want?” Blair’s tone was flat and angry.

“We came to apologise,” Brown told him quietly, not meeting his gaze.

“A little late for that, don’t you think?”

“Blair, it’s okay,” Jim’s voice was a soft rasp, “let them in.”

Sandburg silently stood aside and allowed the four to enter. They did so hesitantly, not failing to notice how angry Sandburg still was.

“Oh, God, Jim,” Taggart exclaimed, “I never thought it would end up like this! I just thought it would be a harmless prank. I was angry and hurt that you hadn’t trusted me, and I guess I was looking for a way to get back at you. I’m so very sorry.” He hadn’t been in the bullpen when Jim and Blair had made their return, and wasn’t prepared for his first sight of the results of their ‘prank’. The obvious physical damage was hard enough to see, but he got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach when he realised that Jim couldn’t see him, his ice blue eyes fixed sightlessly on a point somewhere over his left shoulder. Simon was right,he thought miserably, Jim should have let him file the assault charges, at the very least.

“Blair! Help him!” Jim rasped urgently as he rose to his feet, concerned by the too-rapid beating of Taggart’s heart, and his sudden struggle to breathe.

Reacting instantly, Blair pushed past the others and managed to get Taggart to the lounge chair just as his legs gave way.

“Do we need an ambulance, JJ?” O’Neill was at the phone table in three quick strides.

“No, probably not. Panic attack, I think. He’s hyperventilating,” Jim had moved to crouch beside the lounge chair, eyes closed and head cocked in what Blair recognised as a classic listening pose as he monitored Taggart’s vital signs.

Blair made a quick trip into the kitchen, returning a few moments later with a brown paper bag, which he held over Taggart’s mouth. “Joel, just try to breathe deeply, okay? Just calm down. It’s okay.”

“Sorry….so…sorry…” Joel gasped out, causing Jim to grope for his hand, holding on firmly when he found it.

“Easy does it, Joel,” Jim said soothingly. “Just try to relax, okay?”

The others had watched in shock as Taggart had all but collapsed. They’d known that the ex-bomb squad Captain was disturbed by what had happened, but they hadn’t realised just how deep it ran.

“Joel didn’t know that I used mace. He would never have gone along with it if he had.” Brown broke the silence awkwardly, his voice low.

“So, let me get this straight,” O’Neill said, his voice dangerously soft, “you people did this to JJ? And you’re supposed to be his friends? Not to mention the minor fact that you’re also cops.” He shook his head, his disgust obvious.

“Jack,” Jim’s voice held a note of warning. He really didn’t feel up to getting into this now.

“Who the hell are you, anyway?” Brown snarled belligerently, angry that things had gotten so out of hand. Angry at himself.

“Jack’s a friend,” Ellison said in response to Brown’s question. “He’s offered Sandburg and me a job.”

“Ex military?” Rafe asked quietly, studying the man more closely.

“Nope,” O’Neill shook his head. When Rafe would have protested, he continued with a grim smile. “Current military.”

“You can’t be serious!” Connor exploded angrily. “Sandy, you can’t work for the military!”

“That’s hardly any of your business, is it?” O’Neill countered angrily.

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

Ignoring the argument going on in the background, Jim continued to speak soothingly to Taggart, genuinely worried about the older man, although his vitals were coming back to more normal levels.

“God, Jim, how the hell did we end up like this?’ Joel asked miserably when Jim finally allowed him to move the paper bag away from his mouth.

“I guess I got even more paranoid after Brackett,” Jim shook his head sadly. “I should have trusted you, at least. I’m sorry.”

Taggart took Jim’s hand gently in both of his. “You don’t owe me anything, Jim, much less an apology. I guess I just got so caught up in what Iwas feeling that I didn’t stop to think about what it must be like for you. And Blair. Dammit, the fact that Blair called that press conference to try to protect you should have told me something, if only I’d been really listening! I wish I could say something that would make you change your mind about resigning, but I know that’s not possible, Jim. I just wish it was.”

“I know, Joel. So do I, but I just don’t feel like I can stay on the force, or even in Cascade, after everything that’s happened,” Jim said sadly.

Taggart glanced over to where the others were occupied with confronting Blair and O’Neill. “So, do you really trust this guy, Jim?”

“With my life, Joel,” Ellison smiled and squeezed Taggart’s hand, touched by his concern. “But more importantly, I’d trust him with Blair’s. He’s a good man – one of the best I ever served with – and a good friend.”

“Then that’s good enough for me,” Taggart nodded even though he knew Jim couldn’t see the gesture. “Help me up.”

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

“You’re just taking advantage of the fact that they’re vulnerable right now,” Brown was in O’Neill’s face, tempting the older man to do something about it, but he managed to control his temper – barely.

“And let’s just look at exactly what led up to this so called vulnerability, shall we?” O’Neill sneered, not backing down an inch. “Funny how you’re all of a sudden so protective now.”

“Why you – !” Brown let fly with his fist, only to find himself suddenly becoming closely acquainted with the polished wood floor of the loft.

Rafe immediately moved to help his partner, but found himself unable to move, restrained quite effectively by Jim. Even with the advantage of being able to see, the younger detective knew he was no match for Ellison.

“He didn’t hurt him – just dented his pride a little,” Jim told him quietly.

“But – ” Rafe started to argue, but Jim cut him off.

“If he’d wanted to hurt him, he would have, without even breaking a sweat.”

“Let me up, you asshole!” Brown growled, embarrassed and furious at how quickly he’d been taken down.

Blair was effectively blocking Connor from interfering, knowing the whole situation could easily degenerate even further.

“Only if you can promise to behave yourself, Henri,” Taggart’s gentle voice startled everyone.

“What!? He – ”

“Was only defending himself, Henri, and you know it. You’re more upset that he took you down so effortlessly, although you probably won’t ever admit it.” Joel said, his voice firm despite the sadness in his eyes that it had all come to this. “I think that the best thing we can do is leave.” He lifted his gaze to Blair. “I’m sorry, Blair. We really didn’t come here this evening to cause you or Jim any more grief.”

“Hey, man, I know that,” Blair smiled and moved over to the taller man. “Are you feeling any better?” he asked, his concern obvious.

“I’ll live,” Taggart smiled, reaching out to grasp Blair’s shoulder. “Thanks.”

O’Neill had released Brown and moved to stand by Jim, who had, in turn, loosened his grip on Rafe once it became obvious that the situation was under control. Despite his friend’s stoic expression, O’Neill could tell that he was exhausted, and more than a little distressed by everything that had happened.

Sensing that O’Neill had moved closer, Jim reached out and managed to get his hand on his friend’s shoulder. Only he and O’Neill were aware of how heavily he was relying on the Air Force officer’s support to remain standing.

With tacit encouragement from Taggart, Brown and the others offered subdued apologies to Jim, who stiffly nodded in acknowledgement, and took their leave, the heavyset Captain shepherding them out of the loft ahead of him.

“Call me, Joel. Okay?” Blair said, standing by the door.

“I will. I’d like that, Blair,” Taggart smiled almost shyly before turning away to follow the others.

Blair closed the door and leant against it, letting out a heavy sigh.

“And here I thought it would just be a quiet evening,” O’Neill quipped as he virtually manhandled Jim back to the couch, where he collapsed gratefully into the soft cushions. “So, is it always like this with you guys? I mean, is this a typical day for you two?”

“Oh, man, you have no idea!” Blair grinned as he headed for the kitchen to make coffee.

The End