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“You did what?” Blair demanded, facing down the full-bird colonel and speaking coolly and calmly. He wanted to throw a hissy fit, wanted to tell this jerk that his ass was going to be grass, but he knew better.

 

Blair was outside the chain of command, so he could get away with a lot, but he couldn’t get away with punching Colonel Meers in the face, as much as he might want to do so.

 

“We lost him,” Meers admitted, his chin thrust out pugnaciously. “He didn’t follow protocol, and he went off on his own.”

 

O’Neill grabbed Blair’s arm and pulled him back gently. “Okay, let’s all simmer down. Meers, tell me that you didn’t just ‘lose’ a valuable asset like Ellison because you couldn’t keep up with him.”

 

Meers flushed a dull red. “Sir—”

 

“That’s what I thought,” O’Neill said. “Get to medical. This is out of your hands now.”

 

“Colonel O’Neill, I saw what happened,” one of the sergeants said. “Ellison saved my bacon, sir.”

 

O’Neill nodded. “You, get checked out then meet us in the briefing room. Sandburg, alert your team. I want them here on the double.”

 

Blair nodded. “You got it.”

 

Over the last months, he’d come to trust O’Neill, and all the members of SG-1, and he knew they wouldn’t leave Jim hanging. He just wished he could trust the rest of the SGC to take care of Jim.

 

As Blair dialed Stranger’s number, he muttered, “They wouldn’t have left Daniel behind, because O’Neill would have kicked their asses.”

 

That wasn’t something he would have said to anybody else, other than maybe Jim, because Jackson’s loss was still a sore subject. It was a sore spot for Blair, too, one that he would poke from time to time, like you’d poke a bruise to see how close to healed it was.

 

The problem, Blair thought, was that Jim was developing legendary status within the SGC, but hadn’t been there very long. Jim inspired those who knew him, and who served under him, but there would always be assholes like Meers who looked at Jim as a threat to their own careers.

 

They either didn’t know or didn’t care about the price Jim paid every day for his gifts.

 

“Stranger,” Cory answered.

 

“We need you,” Blair said without preamble. “Call the others. Meers lost Jim.”

 

“Fuck,” Cory said succinctly. “Whose idea was it to let the major go on that mission anyway?”

 

Blair smiled. “General Hammond’s, so don’t complain too much.”

 

“You got it, doc,” Cory said. “I’ll be there in twenty.”

 

He’d called Stranger first because Cory and Devon lived in the same apartment building. Tammy shared an apartment with another airman near the base, and it would be on their way to pick her up.

 

At least Blair could trust their team. They all seemed to regard him with a proprietary air—Jim could work miracles, and they’d make sure he had the time, space and protection to do just that.

 

Blair ran a hand through his hair, now much shorter, just because it was a hell of a lot easier to take care of when out in the field. Honestly, Blair wanted to be out there right now, but he understood that they needed a plan. Going off half-cocked wouldn’t help Jim.

 

SG-1 was already in the conference room when Blair entered, and he sat down next to Sam, who reached out to squeeze his arm. “We’ll get him back,” she promised.

 

He nodded his thanks, knowing that Sam was probably just as worried as he was. “Meers is an ass,” she added in a whisper, which made him smile.

 

Cory, Devon, and Tammy arrived together, about the same time that the sergeant from Meers’ team cleared medical and joined them.

 

“Let’s hear it, Sergeant Cowan,” O’Neill said.

 

Cowan grimaced. “Not to speak ill of a commanding officer, but there were problems from the beginning. Colonel Meers resented Major Ellison’s presence, and he regarded him as—well, I don’t like to repeat it.”

 

“A freak,” Blair said bitterly. “Meers thinks Jim is a freak.”

 

Hammond gave Blair a sharp look but didn’t reprimand him. “Is that true, Sergeant?”

 

“Yes, sir,” Cowan admitted. “So, when we were surrounded and Major Ellison offered to draw them off, Meers refused. He said we should split up and head back to the gate, that they couldn’t chase all of us, and we had a better chance of dividing and conquering.”

 

Blair grimaced, having no trouble picturing Jim doing just that. He wouldn’t follow an illegal order, but Meers outranked him, and even if he thought Meers was an idiot, he’d make the best of the situation and follow orders—at least within reason.

 

“I volunteered to go with Major Ellison,” Cowan continued, glancing at Devon. “I’ve seen him spar, and I’ve heard Sergeant McConnell’s stories. I was just hoping I could keep up.”

 

“What happened?” O’Neill asked.

 

Cowan stared down at the table. “Near as I could figure, sir, they knew about the major’s abilities, because they didn’t go after the others. It seemed like a whole damn platoon of Jaffa dropped on us like a ton of bricks. The major was amazing, but—there were just too many of them. He told me to run, and then he took a stunner. I didn’t want to leave him, but—”

 

“There was nothing you could have done,” Hammond said. “Not against that many.”

 

Blair wanted to argue, to say that Cowan could have stuck around, but Hammond was right. If Cowan hadn’t escaped, they wouldn’t have known what happened, what with Meers running off.

 

“With that many Jaffa, it was probably a stronghold for Ba’al,” Blair commented.

 

He understood that the world had enough naquadah to make it strategically important, and that reconnaissance had been necessary, and Jim’s presence made it likelier to be a success.

 

That didn’t mean he had to like it.

 

“We suspected Ba’al set up there before we sent a team in,” O’Neill said sourly. “What I didn’t expect was to have one of my people hung out to dry.”

 

“It wasn’t exactly like that,” Cowan argued. “If Colonel Meers’ plan had worked—”

 

“If he’d paid attention to the briefings about Major Ellison’s abilities, he’d have listened to Jim,” Blair snapped. “And if they bring in a symbiote, you know what they’ll do to him.”

 

General Hammond cleared his throat. “We’ll find him before that happens, Dr. Sandburg.”

 

“It will take time to procure a symbiote, Dr. Sandburg,” Teal’c stated. “We will find him.”

 

“I’m holding you to that,” Blair said sourly, although he knew there wasn’t a deceitful bone in Teal’c’s body. If Teal’c said it would take time, then it would take time.

 

“Dr. Sandburg is correct,” General Hammond stated. “We cannot allow Major Ellison to fall into Ba’al’s hands.”

 

In reality, they couldn’t afford for anybody to fall into Ba’al’s hands, but Jim was different. If Ba’a found out about Jim’s Sentinel abilities, and the Goa’uld implanted a symbiote, they’d be in real trouble.

 

“A frontal assault is too dangerous,” O’Neill said. “He’ll be dead before we can reach him.”

 

Teal’c replied, “I believe it would be better to send a small force first, to infiltrate and rescue Major Ellison, then send a larger force to provide cover as we escape.”

 

“I want to be in on that small group,” Blair insisted. “Jim is going to need me.”

 

Jim hadn’t been seriously injured since having his senses even more enhanced, and Blair remembered how hard it had been for Jim to deal with the pain of being shot before Jim had full control of his senses. As it was, Jim struggled with the occasional sensory-induced headache, verging on a migraine, on a fairly regular basis.

 

Plus, there was the not-so-small matter of Jim’s PTSD, which he definitely had. Capture and torture was even more likely to mess with his head these days.

 

Blair had to be there when they got Jim out.

 

“Agreed,” Hammond said, probably used to the demands his relationship with Jim had on the mission. “Colonel O’Neill, I assume that you’ll want your team on this one.”

 

“Mine and Ellison’s,” O’Neill replied. “Two teams, just to cover our bases. We’ll take SG teams 4, 7, 8, and 12 for the main attack. Cowan, we need to know everything you know about where the Jaffa came from, and what you found on M24-499.”

 

Blair tried to pay attention to the intel, knowing that he would need to be familiar with it, but his worry for Jim preoccupied him. Maybe Blair had become too used to the idea that Jim was invulnerable. Jim was like Superman—except when he wasn’t.

 

And just about anything could be happening to Jim right now. He remembered Jim’s grin, his quick, “Don’t worry so much, Sandburg. I’ll be fine,” before he left.

 

Blair didn’t care what happened to him, he was going to say “I told you so” just as soon as he saw Jim again.

 

Sam elbowed him subtly, and Blair sat up straighter, trying to look as though he was paying attention.

 

“I’m pretty sure the center for their activity was about three klicks away from the gate,” Cowan was saying. “Once we realized that they seemed to be after Major Ellison, he tried to lead them away from the others, and we knew Colonel Meers would head back to the gate.”

 

Same old Jim, Blair thought.

 

“We can kick his ass together,” Sam muttered, like she was reading Blair’s mind.

 

Blair hid a grin. It wouldn’t be the first time he and Sam had ganged up on Jim, something that had been happening more and more often since Daniel’s death. Sam had started to become family in a way that none of Jim’s girlfriends had been in the past.

 

Granted, most of Jim’s girlfriends ended up on the wrong side of the law, so maybe that wasn’t much of a shock.

 

“Sandburg, you good to lead your team?” O’Neill asked.

 

“Yeah, of course,” Blair said immediately. “No problem.”

 

Blair glanced at McConnell, who nodded, as did Stranger. The two of them would have his back and Jim’s, as would SG-1. At least he could trust them.

 

~~~~~

 

When Jim woke up in a Jaffa holding cell, he cursed his rotten luck. Not only had he been captured, but they’d taken his vest, shirt, and shoes, which didn’t leave him much to use to escape. Plus, he still felt logy and off-balance from the stun weapon.

 

Really, he’d run into his share of idiots in his day, but Meers was right up there. There were always a few bad apples, and he recognized the kind of officer Meers was: ambitious to a fault, and more interested in covering himself in glory than actually getting the job done.

 

Of course, Meers was in for a rude awakening when he realized that the SGC wasn’t going to look kindly on leaving Jim in enemy hands.

 

Jim would enjoy that takedown—supposing he managed to survive.

 

The two Jaffa who entered his cell a few minutes later didn’t waste any time with pleasantries, grabbing Jim by either arm and dragging him out, bringing to another room and slapping manacles on his wrists and hanging him up from the ceiling.

 

“I don’t think we know each other well enough for this,” Jim quipped. “I mean, save some mystery for the third date.”

 

They didn’t reply, and Jim realized they probably didn’t speak English; hell, Jim didn’t speak enough Goa’uld to translate that, if they even had words for what he was trying to get across. He liked Teal’c a lot, and he knew the big guy had a sense of humor, but he wasn’t sure about the rest of them.

 

The man who entered the room after he was chained up wore a complicated headdress and robes that indicated he was a minor Goa’uld overlord. “You will tell me how it is that you have been able to kill so many of us.”

 

“I’m blessed with great reflexes,” Jim replied flippantly.

 

The overlord flicked a finger and the Jaffa on Jim’s right slammed the butt of his staff into Jim’s solar plexus. Jim grunted but didn’t respond further.

 

“You will tell me what it is I want to know,” the overlord repeated.

 

“Not this century, asshole,” Jim said.

 

Another finger flick, and they started working Jim over in earnest. The pain was overwhelming, threatening to send his senses spiraling out of control, and Jim breathed through his nose, trying to dial it back. In moments of high adrenalin like this, all his senses dialed up, but he didn’t need touch right now.

 

He needed to stay in control.

 

The overlord kept asking, “How is it that you were able to kill so many of us? What makes you special?” and Jim remained stubbornly silent.

 

Jim knew he had a couple of broken ribs by the time they switched from fists and staff weapons to a whip. He felt the movement of air displaced by the whip, the crack of leather drowning out the unrelenting questions. Jim felt each welt, the splitting of his skin in a couple of places, the burning pain.

 

When he still didn’t answer their questions, they unhooked the chain from his manacles from the hook in the ceiling and forced him into the chair they brought in. Jim’s entire world had narrowed to the pain he felt, and he couldn’t dial it back, but he also knew that he had a duty to escape. He just needed the right opportunity.

 

They used ropes, not chains, to secure him to the chair, and only at his wrists, not his feet. One of the Jaffa pulled out the fingernail on his right index finger, and that pain cut through the rest, a bright, searing pain that seemed to tip him over the edge from near-madness into clarity.

 

The pain when they pulled out the second fingernail allowed him to focus on that alone and then dial back touch entirely. Jim thought he might be going into shock, or maybe the Sentinel variant of shock.

 

Time seemed to slow, and he heard the respirations of the Jaffa and the overlord, the movement of the Goa’ulds in their pouches. He watched as the overlord left and then returned with a symbiote in a jar filled with liquid.

 

The overlord said, “Whatever enables you to do these things, your gifts will be ours.”

 

Jim felt the rush of adrenalin, and he reared up, bringing the chair with him and twisting so that it hit the overlord, knocking the symbiote out of his hand. He swung it around again, hitting one of the Jaffa, and the chair broke.

 

Ignoring the broken glass, Jim brought his heel down on the head of the symbiote, crushing it, then shot a fist out to rip the symbiote from the pouch of the second Jaffa. He grabbed the zat from the body and began firing.

 

The pain receded to the background, although Jim knew he’d pay for it later.

 

With the two Jaffa and the overlord dead, Jim retrieved the keys and made his way out of the room, checking the hallway carefully, shooting the single Jaffa he saw.

 

Jim didn’t have his IDC, but Meers’ team would have gone back to the SGC by now, and his disappearance would be noted. Even if he couldn’t go through the gate, if he stayed close he’d be there when they sent the rescue team.

 

And they would send a team. Blair would move heaven and earth to rescue Jim, as would SG-1. He trusted them to have his back.

 

Right now, Jim had a duty to escape and evade until they could come for him. And that gave him something to focus on other than the pain.

 

~~~~~

 

Blair checked his sidearm, making sure it was properly loaded and the safety was on. He checked the straps on his thigh holster, then slung the strap of the P-90 around his neck.

 

Sometimes, Blair wondered how the hell he’d gotten here, in uniform, with his doctorate, traveling to different planets. When he’d first discovered Richard Burton’s treatise on Sentinels, he’d imagined traveling the world, going to strange locales, even to the ends of the earth.

 

He hadn’t imagined finding a Sentinel in Cascade, and he certainly had never thought he’d be putting on a uniform, armed to the teeth, and rescuing his Sentinel from aliens.

 

And yet here he was.

 

“Ready?” Sam asked quietly as she joined him in front of the gate.

 

Blair nodded. “I’m ready.”

 

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Sam said. “He’s tough.”

 

Blair smiled. “I know.” He glanced at her. “How are you?”

 

She shrugged. “I’ll be better when we have him back.” Sam hesitated, then added, “I feel like we were just beginning to find a good rhythm.”

 

Blair wanted to ask if that was why she’d been spending more and more nights at their place, but he’d already pried information on their relationship out of Jim, but he wasn’t sure whether Sam knew Blair had those details. If they were happy, and things were going relatively well, that was all he needed to know.

 

“Thanks,” Sam added a moment later. “For being so great about me spending time at your place.”

 

“Whatever makes things easier,” Blair said sincerely. “Anything I can do to help.”

 

Sam glanced at him, her eyes warm. “That means a lot, Blair.”

 

“All right, campers,” O’Neill called. “Let’s go rescue Ellison.”

 

SG-1 led the way through the gate, with Blair and Cory on their heels, and Blair stopped cold when he saw what waited for them.

 

O’Neill, Sam, and Teal’c ranged around Jim’s battered, bloody figure. He wore only a pair of BDU pants, his face swollen, his torso littered with bruises and streaked with blood, blood dripping from one hand where he was missing a couple of fingernails. He didn’t seem to recognize that he was among friends, because his hands were raised defensively, and he was backing away.

 

Blair let his P-90 dangle from the strap around his neck and began to approach. “Hey, Jim,” he called softly. “No offense, but you look wrecked.”

 

Jim froze, his head cocking to one side.

 

“Yeah, you know us, man,” Blair said. “We’re the cavalry. You knew we were coming. You met us here at the gate.”

 

Jim’s shoulders slumped. “Chief?”

 

“Yeah,” Blair said, relief coursing through him. “It’s me.”

 

“Knew you’d come,” Jim said, and then his eyes rolled back in his head and he toppled over. He would have hit the ground hard if Teal’c hadn’t managed to catch him, and Blair saw his back for the first time.

 

“Fuck,” Blair breathed.

 

“Let’s get him back to Frasier,” Sam said faintly. “He needs a doctor.”

 

McConnell slid up next to Jim and pulled an arm over his shoulders while Teal’c took the other side. “I’ve got him.”

 

Blair could only follow in their wake, walking back through the gate in what had to be one of the shortest missions in history, wondering what other horrors awaited.

 

O’Neill called for medical as soon as they entered the gateroom, and medical staff responded as quickly as they usually did. They had Jim loaded on a gurney in record time, wheeling him to the infirmary under Dr. Frasier’s watchful eye.

 

“You never do anything by half, do you, Major?” Blair heard her murmur when she got a good look at Jim. “All right, we’re going to need X-rays! I want a scan of his ribs and a head CT. Let’s take a look at the cuts on his back to see if any need stitches, and I want him cleaned up and his fingers disinfected.”

 

Sam grabbed Blair’s arm. “Come on. You need to stow your gear, and then you can sit with him. They’re going to be busy for a while.”

 

Blair knew she was right, and he allowed himself to be led to the armory to return his P-90 and sidearm, to stow his vest and holster. He followed Sam back to the infirmary, and while there weren’t a lot of places to wait, she found a couple of chairs for them.

 

He leaned forward, forearms on his thighs, and tried to get the picture of a bruised and bloody Jim out of his mind.

 

“It’s worse when it’s someone you care about,” Sam said suddenly. “I mean, it’s bad enough when it’s you suffering, but it’s harder to see someone you love in pain than it is to be in pain yourself.”

 

Blair glanced at her. “Yeah,” he agreed hoarsely. “It is.”

 

She reached out and put a hand on his arm, squeezing tightly, and Blair sat up, shifting so that they were holding hands.

 

They were joined by Teal’c after a bit, and Cory dropped in to let Blair know that the team was sticking around the SGC until they heard about Jim’s condition. “We’re here for you, doc,” Cory said. “You and the major.”

 

“Thanks,” Blair said. “That means a lot to me, and I know it will to Jim, too.”

 

It was the kind of thing that the guys at the station would have done, and Blair was grateful for the support—but all he wanted right now was to know that Jim would be okay.

 

~~~~~

 

Jim felt hands on him, and he began to struggle immediately. “Back off,” a familiar voice ordered. “Let me deal with this.”

 

“Major Ellison, it’s Dr. Frasier,” Janet said, her hands on either side of his face. He forced his eyes open and recognized her, although her features were blurry. “There you are. We need you to lie still for a CT scan.”

 

Jim swallowed. “Concussion?”

 

“That’s what we’re afraid of,” she replied.

 

Jim took a breath. “Blurry vision and head hurts.”

 

“I’m sorry, but we can’t do much more than give you local anesthetic when we have to stitch you up,” Janet said. “Not until we know how bad your head injury is.”

 

“’s okay,” Jim said. “I’ll behave.”

 

Janet patted him on the shoulder. “You’re my best patient.”

 

Jim bore the CT scan without moving, no matter how much his back hurt, and then they wheeled him out of the examination room and back into the infirmary.

 

“Hey, Jim,” Blair said, popping up next to his bed. “You’re awake.”

 

Blair’s presence had Jim relaxing his guard. “Not for much longer.”

 

“That’s okay,” Blair replied. “You sleep, and I’ll keep watch.”

 

He fell asleep, this time a little more restful, and when he woke, the infirmary’s lights had been dimmed. Jim was lying on his side, and he could feel lingering numb spots on his back, probably where they’d given him a local anesthetic to stitch up the worst of the cuts from the whip.

 

The first two fingers of his right hand were heavily bandaged in gauze with foam-padded aluminum splints, and he felt the bandages around his torso that spoke of broken ribs.

 

None of it was a surprise, but what was a surprise was the sense of safety he immediately felt.

 

He’d been tortured, sure, but he’d held up. He’d escaped. His team had come for him, and he hadn’t wound up stranded. Blair had come for him.

 

Blair started awake and immediately looked to Jim. “Hey,” he said. “Do you need anything? Should I get the doctor?”

 

“Water?” Jim asked.

 

“Sure,” Blair said, grabbing a pitcher and glass from the bedside table and pouring Jim a cup. “Do you want a straw?”

 

“No, I can sit,” Jim said, pushing the button that would raise the head a bit. He hissed in pain, but that subsided once he stopped moving. He sipped slowly and watched Blair, seeing the anxiety on his face. “I’m okay, Chief.”

 

“You were tortured,” Blair replied bitterly. “Meers has a lot to answer for.”

 

Jim grimaced. “Yeah, well, he’s an idiot, and the world is full of them. The important thing is that they didn’t manage to put a symbiote in me.”

 

“Teal’c thought it was going to take more time,” Blair exclaimed.

 

“They were after me all along, I think,” Jim admitted. “It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that they had it just in case they did capture me.”

 

Blair frowned. “That’s not good, Jim.”

 

“Hey, I figure SG-1 has a capture and/or kill order out there for them, too,” Jim replied philosophically. “I’m in good company.”

 

Blair sighed. “Are you okay?”

 

Jim took stock and finally said, “All things considered, I’m fine.”

 

“That’s it? You’re ‘fine.’”

 

“I got tortured,” Jim said bluntly. “It sucked. But I didn’t give anything away, I escaped, and you guys came for me. I’ve had worse.”

 

Blair winced but didn’t argue, probably because he knew Jim was right. “The senses?”

 

Jim blew out a breath. “The pain was overwhelming, the way it was that one time before you helped me find the dials, and then I moved past it.”

 

“What do you mean?” Blair asked.

 

He was always curious about the details, but Jim hesitated before sharing them, knowing it would hurt as much as help. “The first fingernail they pulled—the pain was sharp, localized. It clarified everything, and I could just focus on getting free.”

 

It was a little more complicated than that, but Jim didn’t have words for his mindset when he finally managed to escape. It was close to an out of body experience, but that wasn’t entirely accurate either.

 

Blair looked a little sick, but he said, “Colonel O’Neill and General Hammond want to debrief you tomorrow. They went back to the stronghold and—they said there were a lot of bodies.”

 

“Probably because I killed a lot of Jaffa,” Jim said evenly. “And before you ask, I don’t know how many. I think my brain shut off somewhere in there. I would have done just about anything to escape, and I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way.”

 

“I’m glad you got out of there,” Blair said. “Just so you know, Sam was here, and she wanted to stay, but Dr. Frasier said only one of us could. We flipped for it.”

 

Jim reached out to clumsily pat him on the arm. “Glad you were here. I’ll be fine, Sandburg.”

 

“I should have been there,” Blair complained. “We’re a team.”

 

Jim grabbed Blair’s arm and said forcefully, “No. I can deal with the pain, but I couldn’t stand watching you be hurt.”

 

Blair let out a breath. “Yeah, I know, man.”

 

“So let whatever guilt you’re feeling go,” Jim added. “There was nothing you could have done in that situation, and I’d have told you the same thing I told Cowan—to run. If Meers’ actions rise to the level of misconduct, he’ll suffer the consequences. I’m certain of that.”

 

And Jim was certain. Hammond and O’Neill were straight shooters, and they wouldn’t hang him out to dry, if only because it would send a bad example. Leaving people behind was bad for morale, and word spread fast around the SGC.

 

Even if Meers emerged from this mission with his career unscathed, a lot of people would be hesitant to go out on missions with him. Without the trust and respect of his colleagues, and with O’Neill and Hammond giving him a hard look, Meers would probably have to go outside the SGC in order to advance at all.

 

For Jim, that was payback enough. Then again, if something had happened to Blair, Jim would probably have torn Meers apart with his bare hands.

 

“You can be forgiving, but I’m going to hold a grudge,” Blair grumbled. “And if I get the chance, I’ll probably punch him in the face.”

 

Jim smirked. “Yeah, well, you could probably get away with it, whereas I’d be court-martialed.”

 

“The perils of being inside the chain of command,” Blair replied, but he wore a faint smile. “You sure you’re okay?”

 

“Yeah, Blair,” Jim said gently. “Go get some sleep, okay? That’s what I’m going to do.”

 

Blair patted his good hand. “Yeah, okay, Jim. Dr. Frasier said you could have a pain pill if you needed one, so don’t hesitate to call the nurse.”

 

“I won’t,” Jim promised, but he waited until Blair was gone to press the call button.

 

He hoped that his pain hadn’t been too obvious, but it was clear that he was going to be pretty miserable for a while. That wasn’t something Blair needed on his conscience, though.

 

Janet appeared shortly. “Hey, Jim. You in pain?”

 

“What are you still doing here?” Jim asked. “I thought you’d have gone home.”

 

“I have a vested interest in making sure you’re okay,” Janet replied. “And I thought you’d appreciate the familiar face.”

 

Jim nodded. “Thanks. Anything I need to worry about?”

 

He was sure there wasn’t, because Blair would have said, but he still thought it prudent to ask.

 

“Twenty-four stitches in your back, but it could have been much worse,” Janet said. “Two fingernails gone, but they’ll regrow. Three broken ribs, which will mend, and a mild concussion.”

 

“I got off lucky,” Jim summarized.

 

Janet smiled. “Well, I don’t know that I would have said that, but it could have been a lot worse.”

 

“Hazards of the job, right?” Jim asked.

 

“You want that pain pill now?”

 

“That would be good,” Jim admitted. “But maybe—don’t tell Blair?”

 

“My lips are sealed,” Janet replied. “Although I’d point out that Blair is probably well aware of how much pain you’re in. He saw your chart.”

 

“Yeah, well, he knows exactly how much pain I have to be in to ask for meds,” Jim said. “And he’d just worry if he knew.”

 

Janet gently patted his shoulder. “He’s not the only one who worries.”

 

“It’s good to have you in my corner, doc,” Jim said.

 

Janet’s smirk was almost predatory. “I am in charge of physical examinations around here. It’s best to stay on my good side.”

 

Jim chuckled. “You are the woman with the big needles.”

 

“It’s good that you remember that,” Janet teased. “For the record, you’re going to have to see the psychiatrist before you go out in the field.”

 

Jim gave her a look. “I never stopped going.”

 

“There’s a reason you’re one of my favorite patients,” Janet said.

 

Jim took the pain pill she held out. “Just one of them?”

 

“I have a lot of patients,” Janet said. “Get some sleep, Major.”

 

Jim took the medication and tried to forget the pain, and the sounds of his torture. Maybe he wasn’t entirely successful, but at least he slept. That was something.