New Arrivals
Author-Gadfly
Titles

Learning Curve
by Gadfly

Summary: There’s a lot to learn - on both sides - while the Sentinel and Guide are settling in at the SGC. Part of A New Direction series; continues on from Loose Ends, Part 2; crossover with Stargate SG-1.

Author’s Note: Un-beta’d as usual.

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.

The flight arrived in Colorado Springs on schedule. O’Neill met them at the arrival gate then went with them to pick up their luggage.

“That’s all you have?” O’Neill asked when they’d retrieved their four suitcases from the baggage carousel.

“That’s it,” Jim nodded as he stacked the last suitcase onto the trolley that O’Neill had snared for them.

They’d ended up travelling fairly light, bringing only clothes, toiletries, and a few personal items with them. The rest of their things were already in storage in the Springs, waiting for when they found a place off base to live.

“Cool. Let’s get going, then,” O’Neill said, leading the way through the busy terminal towards the short term parking area. “I figured you might like a quiet night tonight, but everyone’s coming over for a barbecue at my place tomorrow afternoon – kind of an unofficial welcome thingy before you report in officially on Monday morning.”

“A quiet night sounds good,” Blair grinned. “The last couple of weeks were pretty hectic.”

“Thanks for putting us up for the next couple of nights, Jack,” Jim had moved up to walk with O’Neill.

“It’s no bother, JJ,” O’Neill smiled easily. “The offer still stands if you two want to stay at my place until you find a place of your own.”

“Thanks, man, but we’ll be fine staying on base for a while – it’ll give us a chance to really get the feel of the place, you know?” Blair chipped in with a smile.

“Yep. Makes sense I guess,” O’Neill nodded. “But if you find yourselves going stir-crazy, just let me know, okay?”

“No problem, man.”

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

Jim and Blair had insisted on contributing their share to the barbecue. They’d borrowed Jack’s truck and headed to the local shops to gather supplies. Blair wanted to make his ostrich chilli as an entree, and Jim was contributing fresh fruit salad and ice cream for dessert.

By the time they’d purchased everything they’d need and returned to O’Neill’s place, Daniel, Carter, and Teal’c were already there, helping to get things set up.

Next to arrive were Janet Fraiser, and her daughter, Cassie. Their first stop was the kitchen to put the salad they’d bought into the refrigerator. Janet quickly introduced Cassie to Blair, who was just finishing cleaning up after cooking the chilli.

“Pleased to meet you, Doctor Sandburg,” Cassie shook Blair’s hand with a shy smile.

“It’s Blair, please Cassie. It’s a pleasure to meet you, too.” Blair grinned. “And I have to tell you, it’s a relief to be around people who aren’t towering over me, you know?”

Cassie giggled. “Mom says working at the Mountain sometimes makes her feel like she needs to wear stilts just so she can look people in the eye.”

All three laughed as they walked out onto the deck to join the others.

Blair couldn’t help but notice that O’Neill and the others were watching Jim for his reaction to the girl. His own curiosity peaked, Blair immediately picked up on the way Jim’s head cocked slightly to one side when he was introduced to Cassie. What really surprised him, though, was what happened next.

“Pleased to meet you, Cassie,” Jim smiled and offered his hand to the girl.

The moment they touched, both flinched, and Cassie’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Whoah!” Cassie exclaimed, staring intently at Jim. “Trak’tah! You’re a Trak’tah! Oh my gosh!”

“Cassie? Are you okay?” Janet was hovering anxiously over her daughter.

“I’m fine, Mom,” Cassie smiled, then returned her attention to Jim, who was looking somewhat bemused.

“I’ve only ever heard legends about Trak’tah,” Cassie told the startled Sentinel. “It’s so cool to actually meet one!” She grinned up at him.

“And as far as I know, I’ve only met one other person who wasn’t from Earth before,” Jim grinned in response and nodded slightly toward Teal’c. “Who’d have thought I’d meet another one at a barbecue at Jack’s house?”

Cassie laughed delightedly and surprised him once again with a warm hug.

“How did you know, Jim?” Daniel asked a split second before Blair did.

“Scent,” Jim said, cocking his head to one side, “and her heartbeat is…different. Of course, that zing when we touched was a bit of a give away, as well.”

“You can hear my heartbeat? Wow! It must be so weird to be you!” Cassie exclaimed, then looked horrified. “Oh, no! Sorry, Jim, I didn’t mean that in a bad way, really.”

Jim laughed, not offended in the least by the girl’s reaction. How could he be, when she’d seemed so happy and excited when she’d realised what he was? “It’s okay, Cassie. It is pretty weird to be me at times.”

“But cool, too, right?” Cassie asked eagerly.

“It can be, sometimes,” Jim smiled.

“Hey, Cassie, how did you know that Jim is a Sen – I mean, a Trak’tah?” Blair asked the girl, almost bouncing with excitement.

“I’m not sure,” Cassie frowned. “There was kind of a zing when we shook hands, and I just knew.” She looked a little uncomfortable about what had happened.

“That is so cool!” Blair grinned, hoping to dispel the girl’s unease.

“It is?” Cassie asked hopefully.

“Yep!” Blair nodded. “You’re the first person I’ve met who could just tell if someone was a Sentinel – what you call a Trak’tah – just from shaking their hand. That’s pretty amazing, you know.”

“Sweet!” Cassie smiled, relieved that she hadn’t done anything wrong.

O’Neill coughed to cover his laugh and looked away from the mock glare Janet Fraiser sent his way at her daughter’s use of one of his pet words.

“Uh, Cassie, not everyone knows about Jim,” Carter began, but Cassie interrupted with a grin.

“Don’t worry, Sam, I won’t tell anyone.” She turned to Jim. “I promise to keep your secret, Jim, honest,” she said, suddenly all serious.

“Thank you, Cassie. I know it will be safe with you,” he said, equally seriously, so that she would know that he believed her and trusted her.

“But it really is just so cool!” She grinned again as Jim and the others laughed.

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

The rest of the afternoon and evening passed uneventfully. Blair and Jim were introduced to Air Force Major Lou Ferretti, Air Force Colonel Dave Dixon, and Marine Colonel Vince Reynolds, who each headed their own SG teams.

“Just call me Lou. We almost met in the gateroom a couple of weeks ago,” Ferretti shook Jim’s hand with a grin.

“True,” Jim smiled as he returned the handshake. “How are your men, Lou? Taylor and Billings, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. They’re on the mend, thanks. And thanks for your help that day, Sir.”

“No problem. I’m glad that I could help. And please, at least when we’re not at the Mountain, it’s Jim, okay?”

“It’s a deal, Jim,” Ferretti grinned.

Dave Dixon kept them amused with hilarious stories about his family. The man had a droll sense of humour which did nothing to hide the fact that he absolutely doted on his wife and kids.

Jim and Blair enjoyed themselves, more and more convinced that they’d made the right decision. From the easy interaction between General Hammond and the others, it was obvious that the people at the SGC, at least as they were represented at the barbecue, were a tightly knit group, and that there was genuine trust and respect among them.

Dixon, Reynolds, and Ferretti only stayed for a few hours before heading off to return home to their respective families. Normally, they would have been invited, too, but the idea for the barbecue had been to introduce Jim and Blair and allow them to ‘talk shop’ a little with some of the people they’d be working with, and if the families had been there, they wouldn’t have been able to freely mention the Stargate or their work. Cassie, of course, knew about the Stargate, having come through it to Earth a few years before.

The evening finally wound down around nine o’clock. Carter, Daniel, and Teal’c helped to clean up before Carter left to drop Teal’c back at the base on her way home, and Daniel left to head home at the same time.

Jim, Blair, and Jack enjoyed a quiet beer after all the cleaning up was done, and Jack had taken the opportunity to give them a brief overview of what their first day at the SGC would have in store for them.

First up, they’d report to General Hammond, and then would head into an introduction and orientation session, along with several other new personnel who were also starting at the SGC on the same day. Their first week would consist of seminars on procedures and protocol at the SGC, gate travel, including how to activate the gate when off world, and information on the various cultures that had been encountered so far – both friendly and hostile. After that, they would be given training in unarmed combat and weapons, as well as on some of the special equipment – some of alien origin – that they might be required to use in the course of their duties. They would also both be required to undergo full medical examinations, which would set the baselines used for comparison when they returned from off world missions. Once their basic training was finished, they’d go on one or two off world training missions, to planets that SGC personnel had visited before and knew to be safe.

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

Monday morning dawned bright and clear. Blair and Jim were both up and dressed and had breakfast waiting for O’Neill by the time he had completed his own morning rituals and joined them in the kitchen.

“You’re sure you don’t want to stay here?” O’Neill grinned as he surveyed the steaming mug of coffee and the stack of pancakes waiting for him on the kitchen table. “I could get used to this!”

“We’ll see how we go on base, at least for the time being,” Jim laughed as he and Blair joined Jack at the table.

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

When they reported to General Hammond’s office, Blair asked Jack to stay with them for a moment so that they could discuss something with both him and the General.

“What’s on your minds, gentlemen?” The General asked once they were all seated in his office.

“Basically, Sir, we just wanted to go over some of the training that Colonel O’Neill outlined to us last night,” Jim began.

“Obviously, Jim can either choose to use his senses during training, or not, and we just wanted to discuss which way you thought he should go,” Blair took up where Jim left off.

“I see,” Hammond nodded. “I can understand why that would be something we might need to talk about.”

The discussion occupied them for a few minutes as they weighed up the pros and cons of Jim using his senses so early in his time at the SGC. On the plus side, if he did, they’d get a more complete view of exactly what he was capable of. On the down side, the possibility existed that this would draw unwanted attention to his abilities.

“Sooner or later, the word is going to get out,” Jim had shrugged as the debate drew to a close. “And SG-1, at the very least, needs to know exactly what I can do. It could make all the difference if we get caught in a bad situation when we’re on a mission. Besides,” he’d grinned suddenly, “I’d kind of like to know what I can do if I give my senses free rein, and I know Blair is just itching to run some tests.”

Blair’s eyes had lit up at that, and he’d rubbed his hands together gleefully. “I’ve already got some ideas, man!”

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

After the meeting, Blair and Jim headed to the quarters they’d been assigned to drop off their bags and change into BDUs before heading for their first orientation session.

Entering the main briefing room a short time later, they met the rest of the new personnel. The ‘class’ numbered twelve, including Jim and Blair. The other ten were all Marines of various ranks, from Sergeant through to Captain, destined to either join various SG teams or work in support roles within the base.

Blair and Jim had an advantage in that they already basically knew what working at the SGC involved, but they still found Daniel’s introduction interesting and informative, particularly when Teal’c joined them and Daniel had him lift his shirt to show the x-shaped opening in his abdomen.. Several of the Marines went decidedly pale when the symbiote emerged briefly before retreating once again into the safety of its pouch.

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

Between classes with Daniel and Carter, workouts in the base gym, sparring with Teal’c and O’Neill, and myriad other tasks that had to be completed in their first week, neither Jim nor Blair had had a chance to even check the papers or the ‘Net for ideas on what was available in Colorado Springs in the way of accommodation. Living on base wasn’t really much of a hardship, and they did manage to get some time above ground, although it consisted of grabbing lunch from the canteen and going topside to eat it. Teal’c often accompanied them, understanding more than most how necessary it was to get out in the fresh air every so often.

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

Early on, both Jim and Blair were subjected to good natured hazing by their classmates and the other Marines on base. Blair because he was yet another ‘long-haired civilian geek’ (although they used the term with more affection than malice), and Jim because he was the only member of the Army assigned to the SGC.

Both men gave as good as they got, and the hazing was, for the most part, good humoured, although, as always, there were one or two idiots who tried to take it too far. Jim had been pleased to note that the troublemakers were usually pulled back into line by their peers before things really got out of hand. Overall, the rapport between SGC civilian and military personnel was excellent, and once they’d been there a few days, the hazing died down to the usual banter that could be expected between workmates. It helped that Blair blithely continued to exhibit his usual friendly enthusiasm toward everyone he met, and it certainly didn’t hurt that he’d already volunteered to mentor a couple of the younger Marines who had expressed an interest in anthropology.

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

The first week passed quickly, and now that they’d completed the ‘academic’ part of their orientation, the ‘physical’ part had started in earnest.

The schedule for their second and third weeks consisted mainly of familiarising themselves with equipment and procedures, weapons training, and unarmed combat training, as well as their full medical exams.

Even with his senses dialled down to normal, Jim would still have attained expert qualification with all weapons during their first round of training. When the final, qualification sequence came around, he opened up with both sight and touch and achieved perfect scores with each of the weapons. The Marine Gunnery Sergeant who was in charge of weapons qualification had looked more than a little shell shocked as he signed off on Jim’s scoresheets.

Away from the shooting range, Jim did equally well in the more realistic weapons training scenarios, where they used life-sized dummies (representing both hostiles and friendlies) which had been rigged to pop up and down, apparently at random, as each candidate moved through the courses. Once again he received a perfect score on his first attempt. Blair had done some research, and proudly informed Jim that only O’Neill, Reynolds, and a Marine Colonel called Makepeace (whose name Blair found more than a little ironic) had ever even come close to matching Jim’s performance.

Despite his obvious aversion to using weapons of any kind, Blair did surprisingly well, at least on paper targets, and the Gunnery Sergeant had assured him that, with a little more practice he would be sure to reach expert certification if he decided he wanted to try out for it. His scores weren’t as impressive when he moved on to the off-range scenarios and he had to fire on the life-sized dummies, but they were good enough for him to receive a pass for that part of his training as well.

Unarmed combat was also not too much of a challenge for Jim, especially when he used his senses to track minute changes in his opponents’ weight distribution, muscle tension, and other miniscule signs was largely able to predict their moves.

Only their Marine classmates were surprised when Blair bested the Marine Sergeant instructor during his unarmed combat grading session, thanks to a few moves that Jim had taught him, which had been supplemented by some additional training with both Teal’c and O’Neill.

“You’ll do, Doctor Sandburg,” the Master Sergeant had grinned up at him as Blair helped him to his feet. “You’ll do.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” Blair beamed happily, catching the smug smiles of Jim and O’Neill out of the corner of his eye.

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

They’d nearly reached the end of their third week at the SGC, and the class was scheduled for two days of training in climbing and abseiling. Half of the class would do the climbing course on the first day while the other half would do the abseiling course. The two groups would swap around on the second day.

As luck would have it, the class was divided alphabetically, by surname, which meant that Jim and Blair were in different groups. Given Blair’s aversion to heights, Jim was a little uncomfortable with the arrangement, but Blair had told him not to worry. A few of the Marines in Blair’s group that had overheard the conversation were quick to reassure Jim that they would watch out for ‘Doctor S’, as they’d begun to refer to Blair. Jim still wasn’t all that happy that he wouldn’t be there for Blair, but he let the Marines know that he appreciated their offer.

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

The climbing group had been split onto two teams of three. Both would attempt the climb at the same time, although separated by about five yards for safety. The climb was a long one, but rated for moderately skilled climbers, and would take about four hours to complete. The morning was spent going over techniques and safety requirements, and they would be doing the climb in the afternoon.

As the two teams neared the top of the cliff, with Jim’s team about eight yards above the other team, Anderson, the third climber in the other team, lost his footing and fell, dangling helplessly at the end of the rope that linked him to the other two climbers in his team.

By unspoken agreement, both teams stopped climbing while he worked to right himself and re-establish foot and hand holds on the rock face.

While they waited, Jim, the third climber in his team, took advantage of the break, and idly sent his senses out to take in his surroundings. It had been a cool, clear day, and he was enjoying being outdoors after having been stuck inside the Mountain for most of the last three weeks.

A sudden creaking, tearing sound drew his focus in on the rope that was all that stood between Anderson a long, more than probably fatal, fall. Piggybacking his sight to his hearing, Jim saw that the rope had frayed from rubbing against a jagged outcrop of rock and about to break. The affected section was about five feet above Anderson, and he would never have time to climb up past it even if he’d been aware of it.

With a glance up to reassure himself that he was adequately belayed, and a quick warning shout to his team mates, Jim launched himself toward Anderson, managing to get a firm grip on his safety harness just as the rope snapped. The momentum of Jim’s lunge sent both men crashing into the cliff face, dislodging Jim’s helmet as his head smacked against the rock. Jim dialled down the burning pain in his shoulder as he took Anderson’s full weight, but he knew he’d pay for it later. The two men swung wildly for a moment, repeatedly impacting with the cliff, until Jim managed to steady them by catching hold of an outcrop with his free hand.

The four instructors had quickly rigged safety lines and two of them abseiled down the cliff to reach Anderson and Jim. Once they had Anderson secured, Jim released his grip on the harness and allowed himself to swing back to a position below his own team, bracing himself against the cliff to control his movements. Still ignoring his injured shoulder, Jim climbed up to where his team mates waited. After he reached them, they continued their climb. Reaching the top, the two lead climbers then used the safety rope to help Jim make it up the rest of the way. The remainder of Anderson’s team made it to the top without incident, and joined in with the others to pull up Anderson and the instructors who had abseiled down to him.

Only when he knew everyone was safe – Anderson had also been banged about a bit when they’d his the rock face, but he wasn’t seriously injured – did Jim relax the tight control he’d maintained over his pain, almost passing out when one of the medics who had accompanied the climbing teams gently manipulated his shoulder.

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

Blair hurried into the Infirmary, asking one of the nurses where he could find Jim. Entering the cubicle, he took in the bruising along Jim’s left cheekbone and the heavy bandaging on his right shoulder. The next thing he noticed was the doctor finishing removing a syringe from the IV port in the back of Jim’s left hand.

“Hey, Blair-bear!” Jim grinned fuzzily up at his Guide, the normal blue of his eyes barely visible around his overly dilated pupils. “How y’doin’, Chiefy?” he fell back into his pillows giggling like a ten-year-old before he faded rapidly into a drug-induced sleep.

Realising what had happened, Blair rounded angrily on the doctor. “Who are you, and what the hell did you give him?”

“I’m Doctor Harris. Who the hell are you, and what right do you have to barge in here like that?” The doctor asked disdainfully.

“Blair Sandburg, and I have Colonel Ellison’s medical power of attorney,” Blair snapped angrily. “Now what did you give him, when did you give it to him, and how much did you give him?”

Janet Fraiser appeared suddenly in the room, alerted to trouble by the raised voices.

“What seems to be the problem here?” she asked, crossing the small cubicle to stand at Jim’s bedside.

“Colonel Ellison was brought in suffering a mild concussion and severely strained ligaments and tendons in his right shoulder. He was in considerable pain from the shoulder injury, so I gave him ten cc’s of Varincol. This person seems to have a problem with the medication I administered to Colonel Ellison,.” Harris answered stiffly, gesturing toward Blair.

“I see.” Janet nodded, her expression hardening slightly. “Did you check the Colonel’s medical file before you gave him the medication?”

Harris looked startled. “Well, uh, no. The Colonel was in pain and I – ”

“Jim has experienced some very acute allergic responses to many medications, and you didn’t think to check his file?” Blair was almost yelling at the hapless doctor. “What did he say when you gave him the injection? Did you even ask him if he wanted the injection?”

“He, uh, tried to stop me, but, ah…” Harris’ voice trailed off as he took in the furious expressions on both Blair and Janet’s faces.

“You’re dismissed, Doctor,” Fraiser grabbed Jim’s chart out of Harris’ hands. “I’ll see you in my office in one hour.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Harris mumbled and almost ran from the cubicle.

Poking her head out through the curtains, Janet snagged a passing nurse. “Shelly, I need you to conduct checks on Colonel Ellison at five minute intervals. I’m to be notified immediately if there’s any change in his condition. And I’d like a crash cart standing by, just in case.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” the nurse entered the cubicle and quickly began to follow Doctor Fraiser’s instructions.

“Come with me, Blair,” Janet turned to Blair, taking his arm in a firm grip and leading him from the cubicle.

“But Jim – ” Blair began, obviously reluctant to leave Jim’s side.

“We need to check the medication against your list to see if we’re likely to have a problem. It will go faster if we work together,” Janet explained as she all but dragged Blair along the corridor to her office.

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

Jim woke suddenly, groggy, and more than a little confused.

Where was Blair? He needed to get to Blair.

He tried to listen for his Guide, but the various machines and monitors in the Infirmary acted almost like white noise generators, making it impossible. Scent was out, too – the strong disinfectants and other chemicals masked any other odour and causing him to gag in reaction.

Sitting up, he spied his clothes folded neatly on the chair next to the bed, his boots tucked under the chair. His shoulder ached dully as he stripped off the hospital gown and began to drag his clothes on, but he couldn’t remember why.

If he could just get away from all the noise and smells, maybe he’d be able to find Blair. Blair would know what to do…

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

“Oh, damn!” Janet re-read the paragraph, a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“What? What did you find?” Blair looked up at her anxiously.

“One of the components is something that Jim’s had a very bad reaction to in the past, Blair,” Janet pointed to the paragraph that she’d just double checked.

“Oh, God! Disorientation…respiratory distress… cardiac arrest!” Blair paled as he went through the list of what had happened to Jim the last time he’d been given that particular drug.

“It’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds,” Janet tried to reassure him. “From your notes, it seems to take some time for the more serious effects of the drug to manifest. We can monitor Jim closely, and there are several other drugs that we might be able to use to neutralise the worst of the effects.”

“Doctor Fraiser?” The nurse that she’d assigned to check on Jim hovered anxiously at the door to the office.

“What is it, Shelly?”

“It’s Colonel Ellison, Ma’am,” the nurse began but was interrupted by Blair.

“Is he okay?” the young anthropologist shot to his feet.

“What about the Colonel, Shelly?” Fraiser also got to her feet, ready to hurry to Jim’s bedside.

“The Colonel is missing, Ma’am. I’ve checked the whole Infirmary. He was asleep when I looked in on him a little over five minutes ago, but when I just went in to do another check on him, he was gone.”

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

Jim hummed softly to himself as he made his way through the corridors of the SGC looking for Blair. Maybe Sandburg was doing this as some kind of test? It was possible, he supposed, but Blair usually told him when he wanted to run tests.

Now that he was away from the Infirmary, he sent his hearing out to try and locate Blair’s heartbeat.

It took him a while, but he was finally able to isolate it. There! Down two floors from his current location. Blair must be near where they were quartered. Too easy! Swaying slightly, his gait more than a little unsteady, he headed for the stairwell.

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

Blair sighed in frustration. He’d checked both his quarters and Jim’s, but it didn’t look as though anyone had been in there since they’d headed to the canteen for breakfast that morning.

He’d left Janet to notify the General and ask him to organise a search for Jim. Actually, he’d been hoping that he would find his wayward Sentinel before things got out of hand, but that was looking less likely with each passing minute that Jim was missing.

Maybe he’d headed for the gym? Although he certainly wasn’t in any condition to work out….

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

O’Neill and the rest of SG-1 had gathered in the Colonel’s office to discuss the situation with Ellison. A knock at the door announced Blair’s arrival.

“Hey, guys,” he lifted a hand in greeting as he leant against the wall near the door. “Any word on Jim yet?”

“He was spotted near your quarters a while ago, and near the gym about five minutes ago,” O’Neill informed him after finishing his phone call.

“But I was just at both of those places!” Blair exclaimed, frustrated at the time it was taking to track Jim down.

“Sounds like he was there after you, both times,” O’Neill shrugged, rising from his chair and moving out from behind his desk. “Let’s head out and join the search. Someone’s got to find him soon,” O’Neill squeezed Blair’s shoulder comfortingly as he passed him. “Hang in there, Sandburg.”

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

“Nope, try again!” The guards looked at each other in frustrated confusion as Ellison’s voice came faintly to them, accompanied by a very un-Army-Ranger-Colonel-like giggle. “Yoooooou’ll ne-ver catch meee!” The sing-song voice and more giggling fading into the distance was the last contact they had with the elusive Ranger.

Sighing, the leader of the team flicked on his radio to report in.

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

Stifling the giggle that threatened to give his position away to yet another search party, Jim moved silently along a small maintenance corridor. He was a little breathless, and his eyes didn’t seem to want to focus all that well, but overall he was enjoying the game immensely. He idly wondered how Blair had managed to convince General Hammond to divert so many people to take part on the test by searching for him.

Rubbing absently at his chest, he wandered down yet another corridor, senses alert for the people searching for him and for traces of Blair’s presence.

If only all Blair’s tests were this much fun…

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

As they moved through the corridors on their search, Blair and the others monitored the radio, keeping track of all the sightings and near misses that were reported by the other search groups.

“I think we’re going about this the wrong way,” O’Neill came to an abrupt halt, turning to face the others.

“What do you mean, Jack?” Daniel asked, curious.

“Think about it, Daniel,” O’Neill said, slipping his hands into his trouser pockets. “What’s the one thing that stands out about all the sightings of JJ that have been reported so far?”

“You mean apart from the fact that he’s apparently able to evade the search parties at will? And that he seems to be teasing them by letting them see him before giving them the slip again?” Daniel asked wryly.

“Yes, Daniel, apart from that,” O’Neill rolled his eyes and nodded.

“All the sightings have taken place in areas that we have ourselves only recently searched,” Teal’c declared after a moment’s thought.

“Exactly!” O’Neill nodded. “Or, probably more precisely, areas that Blair has just been in. Think about it. JJ seems to be playing some elaborate game of tag, and he’s certainly having a lot of fun making fools of the guards and the other search teams, but he does seem to be following Blair – there were those two sightings before we joined up with Blair, remember?”

“So what should we do?” Blair asked quietly. They were running out of time. If the drug continued to work on Jim as expected, he was in very real danger of going onto cardiac and respiratory arrest.

“We wait,” O’Neill stated. “Let him come to us. And have a medical team standing by as close as possible for when he turns up. Even better, we could simply start moving toward the Infirmary at a leisurely pace – at least that way we’ll already be heading in the right direction when he finds us.”

It was a likely to succeed as anything else they might try.

“Oh, man, I just so hope you’re right!”

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

Dammit! Blair was on the move again!

Jim cocked his head slightly as he tracked Blair’s progress. Definitely moving slower than he had been before. Maybe this time he’d manage to catch up with him.

Easily avoiding the approaching search party, the Sentinel once again set off after his Guide, his wheezing more pronounced, never noticing the vague bluish tinge that had begun to discolour his fingernails.

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

They were only a few corridors away from the Infirmary now, and Blair was beginning to think that O’Neill’s idea had been a waste of time. Jim had been missing for nearly two hours. If they didn’t find him soon…he shuddered at the thought, staving off his panic by shear force of will.

“Chief? You okay?”

Blair and the others spun around in response to the barely audible whisper.

“Jim?” He searched the corridor, but couldn’t see his friend. “Where are you, Big Guy?”

The Sentinel swung down through a ventilation shaft maintenance hatch and dropped lightly to the floor in a surprisingly graceful move, given the injury to his shoulder. Reaching out a hand, he tapped Blair lightly on the arm. “Gotcha!” he declared, giggling and swaying slightly.

“Are you okay, man? Where the hell have you been? We’ve been searching for you for hours!” Blair exclaimed, taking a step toward Jim, worry making his tone harsher than he’d intended.

“’M I in trouble?” Jim asked, his voice slurring, eyes suddenly sad as he took in the serious faces of his Guide and SG-1. He shoved his hands deep into his trouser pockets, dropping his gaze guiltily, and tracing small circles on the floor with the toe of his right boot, looking for all the world like a ten-year-old who’d been caught getting up to mischief. “Don’ wanna be in trouble, Blair. Tried t’find you, but y’kep’ movin’ ‘round, y’know?” he said, lifting his eyes to gaze earnestly at Blair. “I couldn’t catch up fast ‘nuff. It was a fun test, but I don’ wanna do it anymore.” His words confirmed what they had finally realised only a few minutes before.

“You’re not in any trouble, JJ,” O’Neill told him, struggling to restrain his laughter now that they’d found JJ – or rather, now that he’d found them. The situation was still serious, but, dammit, JJ just looked so much like a little kid who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Behind them, Carter was speaking quietly into her radio, requesting that the medical team that had been shadowing them move in as soon as possible.

“Tha’s good. Thanks, Jack!” Jim beamed happily at O’Neill. “Um, Blair?” he turned again to his Guide, swaying alarmingly.

“Yeah, Big Guy?” Blair took a step closer, worried that Jim might fall over.

“Don’ feel s’good, Chief,” Jim whispered, the colour draining rapidly from his face.

Even as Jim began to topple, O’Neill and Teal’c were there, gently easing him to the corridor floor. Rapid footsteps behind them heralded the arrival of Fraiser and the medical team.

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

Blair sat quietly at Jim’s bedside. To his immense relief, Doctor Fraiser had taken Jim off the respirator several hours before, once it was clear that he was breathing easily on his own. They’d managed to avoid cardiac arrest through administration of several drugs, but Jim was still hooked up to several monitors, and Fraiser had decided to leave him in the intensive care ward at least until he regained consciousness.

The lights in the room had been turned low, both to reflect that fact that it was late at night, and in deference to Jim’s enhanced sight, which would in all likelihood be spiking when he regained consciousness. The sound on the monitors to which Jim was attached had also been turned off, again out of consideration for Jim’s hearing. They weren’t really necessary anyway, given that the monitors fed information directly to the nurses station, and audible and visible alarms would be activated there if there was any problem.

Now that he knew that Jim would be okay, he allowed himself to think back to the merry chase that Jim had led them on earlier in the day. Even high as a kite, Jim had easily given the many search teams the slip. He wasn’t sure whether to be proud of what Jim had accomplished even when not at his best, or terrified by how close they had come to losing him because they couldn’t find him. And then there was the look on Jim’s face when he’d thought he was in trouble. Oh, man! Even as worried as he’d been, it had been all he could do not to burst out laughing. He so wanted a copy of the security tape from that corridor!

His thoughts were interrupted by the unmistakable signs of Jim waking up. Blair leant forward, speaking soothingly to him, and gently pressing an ice pack against his forehead, knowing that Jim would have the equivalent of one hell of a hangover when he woke up.

“Chief?” Jim moaned, his hand coming up to hold the ice pack more firmly against his aching head, eyes tightly closed against the glare of the room’s lighting, even though it was turned as low as possible.

“Yeah, Big Guy?”

“Please tell me that I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself.”

The only response was silence.

“Sandburg?”

Still no response. Jim risked slitting his eyes open to look at his friend.

Sandburg was holding a hand over his mouth, struggling not to laugh.

Jim scrunched his eyes closed again with a pathetic groan.

“Sandburg?”

“Yes, Jim?”

“I hate you.”

“Hey, man, I’m not the one who commandeered the security tapes, y’know. That was Jack,” Blair gasped out, laughing so hard that tears had begun to run down his cheeks, “although I think it was Sam who said she’d have no trouble making copies for everyone. They didn’t catch much on tape, but I’m told that what they did get was pretty funny. Oh, and the Marines have started referring to you as Casper – about as easy to catch as a ghost, but definitely friendly, if the giggling was anything to go by!” Some of his laughter, he knew, was reaction to the anxiety and fear from earlier in the day, but Jim just looked so…so…another glance at the disgusted, embarrassed look on Jim’s face and Blair was lost.

“Sandburg?”

“Yes, Jim?” Blair panted for breath as he tried to calm down.

“I really do hate you, you know.”

“Whatever makes you happy, man,” Blair choked out, nearly falling off his chair as he once again gave himself over to laughter.

The End