Title: Cross Talk
Author: Quasar (quasar273
Pairing: Jim/Blair, John/Rodney
Date written: February 2008
Length: 4300 words
Summary: Jim and Blair's perspective on events in the Criss-Cross universe.
Notes: Just a bit of self-indulgent fluff for my Criss-Cross series. This one takes place immediately after Cross Country and shortly before Crossing Paths. Here's a summary of the series, which contains links to the stories (and some story spoilers).
Blair blinked open gummy eyes to find he was lying in his own bed (which was nice), on his right side (good, because his left shoulder still ached), with a muscular arm locked around his ribs (nice, but sort of overkill).
"Morning, Chief," Jim murmured in his ear.
Blair turned a deep groan into a hum that he hoped sounded halfway pleased. "No morning run?" Normally he would be pleased to spend a lazy morning in bed with his husband, but in this case he knew it was Jim being overprotective, and he knew he had to nip it in the bud.
"Had a good workout yesterday, hiking," said Jim.
Blair only remembered about half of yesterday; the healing device that had cleared up his concussion (and other injuries that he didn't like to think about too closely) hadn't fixed the amnesia caused by the concussion. He remembered finding a Wraith dart crashed in the desert and heading for the nearby mountains to look for the Wraith, and that was it.
Jim had explained tersely that they'd hunted around for a little while before the Wraith dropped down on them out of ambush. (On closer questioning, Jim had admitted he knew the Wraith was near but was expecting it to be cocooned -- he'd been too focused on scent and hadn't heard their enemy creeping right up to them.) It had positioned itself so that Blair blocked Jim's line of fire, but Jim had gotten off one shot anyway; then the Wraith had grabbed Blair and thrown him into a tree. Sheppard had killed the Wraith, McKay had helped Jim with the first aid, and they'd gotten back to Atlantis as soon as possible. Then, when Dr. Beckett broke the news that Blair would never walk again, probably never type again, and possibly never breathe on his own again, McKay had pulled off a miracle with a Goa'uld healing device. So Blair got to go home, sleep in his own bed, walk, talk, and gesticulate as normal. And he shouldn't be ungrateful (he wasn't!) about an aching shoulder (he didn't care about that) and a little lost memory (okay, that part still bugged him).
Blair stretched and sat up carefully. He was stiff and thirsty (and really hungry too) and he needed to piss. "What time is it?"
"Almost ten," said Jim dryly.
"What?" Blair yelped. "Are you kidding me? But I went to bed at, like . . . couldn't have been later than twenty-six last night. That's twelve hours ago!" He jumped up and then staggered from the head rush.
Jim caught his arms and steadied him, without even jostling his sore shoulder. "I fielded a couple of calls from Beckett already," he said. "Had to swear on my hyperactive senses that you were okay and the sleep was doing you good. Don't make a liar out of me, Sandburg."
"I'm fine, man," Blair insisted as the sparkles cleared from his eyes. "Just really gotta pee." He patted Jim's hand as a signal to let go. In the bathroom, he gave the shower a longing look (he still had irregular patches of grime and sweat and medical adhesives and who knew what else from yesterday), but that would have to wait. Breakfast was definitely the first order of the day.
When he got out of the bathroom, Jim was already dressed and had set out some clean clothes on the bed, along with the sling Beckett had pressed on Blair yesterday. The shirt was Blair's last remaining button-down, which also happened to be his nicest shirt -- but since the buttons made it much easier to get into, he didn't object. He brushed off Jim's offer of help and eased into the shirt himself with no gasps or grimaces, then gave a triumphant grin. "See? I don't need the sling. It really doesn't hurt, unless I move the wrong way."
"Nice try, Chief. The whole point of the sling is to keep you from moving the wrong way. Here, I'll give you a hand with it."
Then, when they got in the transporter and Blair reached for the symbol nearest the mess hall, Jim pushed his hand away and tapped the position below the gateroom instead -- the position closest to the infirmary.
"Jim, come on . . ."
"Don't give me any trouble, Sandburg, or I will carry you to the infirmary over my shoulder."
"You're hungry because of the healing -- the energy came mostly from McKay, but the raw material came from you."
"Yeah, I know, Carson explained all that."
"And he explained it would throw off all your electrolytes and blood levels for a while. And that's exactly why he needs to check you out first thing. If you promise to be good, I'll bring your breakfast to the infirmary."
"Aw, man, but you're just going to do the bacon and eggs route."
"That's right, I am. I radioed a request to the kitchen staff while you were in the bathroom. Anything else you want?"
"That yak stuff?" Jim made a face.
"I don't care what animal it came from, I want a big glass. And some yogurt, too. And those fruits, the green kiwi things? At least three of those. And some Athosian tea, yeah, that'd be good."
They were at the door to the infirmary now; Beckett heard them and came out of his office, eyeing Blair closely. "Here's the man of the hour, then. Everyone's been asking after you, and all I could say was that Captain Ellison told me you were fine." He gave Jim a doubtful glance.
"He's dehydrated and smells sort of . . . sour, like halfway between tired and sick," Jim said, "but I think a good breakfast will fix most of it. I was just going to go get some --"
"Hang on a moment, man, I want to see the both of ye."
Jim sighed and followed Blair back to the exam area. "What's up?"
Beckett patted a table for Blair to sit on and started checking him over: eyes, lymph glands, grip strength, reflexes. "I've had another look at that blood sample ye gave me yesterday, Captain."
Jim settled into a formal stance with his hands behind his back, which usually meant he was uncomfortable about something. Blair frowned at Beckett, who had taken the sling off and was checking Blair's shoulder for heat or swelling.
"It's just as I guessed -- I can't believe I never thought of it before, but apparently the gene is extremely rare. More so than the ATA gene. Though, of course, the ATA gene frequency is quite different between the Earth and Pegasus native populations, so it's possible this one varies as well -- so the tests done on Hoff might not reflect what we'd find in another sample base . . . "
"Wait, wait," Blair protested even as Beckett eased him back to lie on the table and pulled a scanner into position. "What gene are you talking about?"
Beckett blinked. "Oh, didn't I say? The gene for resistance to Wraith feeding."
Blair thought about that while the scanner whirred, and looked over to Jim -- who was staring off into space, pretending to be zoned. Blair could tell the difference; Jim was just trying to avoid an unpleasant conversation.
"And you're saying Jim has that gene?"
"Aye, I can't believe I missed it! Of course, I've sequenced portions of his genome in an effort to understand the Sentinel phenomenon, but it's difficult to know what I'm looking for without other examples to compare against. Yet I never even thought of looking for the resistance gene until I heard what happened yesterday."
"What about what happened yesterday?" Blair assumed the doctor wasn't talking about his neck injury.
"What, didn't they tell ye, man? That Wraith tried to feed on Captain Ellison -- tore up his shirt -- but didn't leave so much as a mark."
Jim cleared his throat. "That's interesting about the genetic, uh, thing, Doc. I'll just go get Blair's --"
"Stop right there, Ellison," Blair growled. He was gratified to see Jim freeze, even though it was hard to convey any real threat while he was lying on a table under a scanner. "Why didn't you tell me about this?"
"I did. I said --"
"You said your shirt got torn on a tree branch!"
Jim winced. "I may have obfuscated a little . . ."
"That's my line!" It was hard to stay angry when Jim threw Blair's own tricks back in his face like that. The scanner stopped whirring at the end of its sequence and Blair quickly sat up. "Uh, look, Carson, could we have a minute here?"
"Aye, have a talk while I check over these results." Beckett disconnected the laptop from the scanner and carried it off to his office.
"Jim, what the hell? You need to tell me this stuff!" Blair hissed.
"You had enough on your mind, Chief. Anyway, it was already over, and nothing happened."
"You let the Wraith get its hand on you?!"
"What, were you zoned out or something?"
Jim threw up his hands. "Yes! It's possible I was just a little more worried about you than about me, considering I'd just heard your neck snap!"
Blair flinched. "You were zoned on me?"
Jim rubbed his jaw; he'd mentioned a few times that it ached lately when he flexed it under stress. "Yeah," he said, voice dropping to a murmur. "I thought you were -- that you might be . . ."
"Jim, you can't do this shit! You told me yourself, you have to stay present in a situation, no matter what goes down. It's been years since we needed to talk about you overdoing the Blessed Protector thing!"
Jim slumped, suddenly and appallingly. Blair was so used to the straight spine and braced shoulders that he hardly knew what to do when Jim looked so defeated. "I wasn't your Blessed Protector yesterday, Chief. It was McKay that saved you. McKay and Sheppard."
Blair stared. "Jim. Come here. Come sit here." He patted the exam bed next to him and grabbed Jim when he sat, leaning against him. Touch was always the best way to calm Jim, so Blair practically plastered himself against his husband and slung an arm across his back. "Okay, look, so maybe Rodney's the one that healed me --"
"Not just that. I'm pretty sure he actually grabbed the Wraith and pulled it off of me."
"Whoa! Rodney?" Blair had a little trouble picturing that.
"Not that it made that much difference, because it wasn't actually feeding on me. And McKay was wearing that shield thing, you know, the one I can barely smell through? He held the Wraith down while Sheppard killed it."
"Okay. Um. Wow." Blair was starting to realize they owed Rodney even more than he'd thought. "So . . . we have a good team going. We all look out for each other. That's how you need to think about it. And like I was saying, Rodney used the healing device, but who thought of it in the first place?"
"I did," Jim said slowly.
"Yeah. You're the one that remembered it, you're the one that got Rodney to try it out. Hell, I think I'd forgotten it was sitting in your office. No one else was even going to realize it was a possibility. If you hadn't thought of it, Jim, this time today I probably still wouldn't be conscious."
"More likely partway conscious and facing some very unpleasant evaluations," Beckett said, returning to the room. "Is now a good time?"
Jim sat up straighter, but Blair stayed half-draped over him. He subvocalized so that Beckett couldn't hear: "You are my Blessed Protector, Jim. Always. Rodney's just a damn good guy to have on our team."
Jim twitched but didn't react openly. "How's he doing, Doc?"
"Much better, I'm glad to say. The residual inflammation in the neck and head is entirely resolved, and neurological function is fine, as we confirmed yesterday. His shoulder injury seems to be progressing normally -- a bit inflamed, but nothing to worry about unless it persists for several days. Given your special abilities, Captain, you might consider giving it a bit of light massage. Nothing too deep or vigorous, just stimulate the blood flow a wee bit." Beckett tapped his computer and frowned at the next page of results. "As expected, his blood tests are a bit off. Calcium, magnesium, and potassium all below normal -- I'd like ye to take some supplements for a few weeks, Blair, and then we can reassess. Blood sugar also rather low --"
"I think the answer to that is on the way," said Jim, watching the doorway intently.
A few seconds later, John Sheppard appeared with a tray of food in his hands, grinning warmly at Blair. "The kitchen staff said this special order was for you?"
The tray had the expected bacon-and-egg analogies, but also milk and fruit. "Bless you!" Blair breathed, and snatched up the glass of milk for a long, luxurious drink.
"Here," said Beckett, and dropped several fat white pills on the tray. "Take your breakfast over there and eat it while I have a wee talk with the Captain about further genetic tests."
Blair was torn. "Oh, I want to hear about that," he said, even as his fingers snatched up a strip of cured meat and stuff it it his mouth.
"I'll go over it with you later, Chief," Jim promised. "Go, eat."
Sheppard carried the tray over to the duty nurse's desk and found a space for it, Blair following like a puppy on a leash. He was working on the fruit now, and barely noticed when Sheppard eased a chair in behind his knees.
"Mmmph! Oh, man. Thanks for bringing this. I was so -- mm!" Blair found a fork and started working on his eggs, unworried by the purple veins threading through the yellow.
"You must be really hungry -- you're worse than Rodney, even," said Sheppard indulgently.
"Carson says it's because of the healing," Blair mumbled around a mostly-empty mouth, "but y'know, I didn't get a lot to eat yesterday, anyway."
"Go to town," Sheppard encouraged him. "You need it. Feeling better today?"
"Oh, man, I've been trying to figure out how much we owe you and Rodney --" Blair began.
Sheppard held up a hand. "Forget about it. You'd do as much for us. I'm just glad you're, you know --"
"Not a vegetable? Me too. Understatement of the century. I gotta find some way to thank Rodney for this!"
Sheppard grinned. "Don't worry about it. He's been getting little presents from half the people in the city."
"What?" Blair was so surprised, he stopped chewing for a couple of seconds. "Why?"
Sheppard snorted. "Look around you, Blair -- everyone likes you. They're all glad you're going to be okay."
"Huh." Blair blinked. Sure, he got along okay with just about everybody, and in a closed, isolated society like Atlantis that was a big deal, but he hadn't thought it went quite so far. "Well, I'm glad Rodney's getting the gratitude he deserves, but seriously, if you can think of anything --"
"Chocolate," said Sheppard.
"Where?" Blair looked around his tray eagerly.
"No, I mean, if you know of a source of chocolate, real chocolate, Rodney would consider that repayment in full."
Blair considered while he scraped the last of the eggs from his plate. "That's a tough one." The expedition had run out of chocolate over a year ago. More had come through the gate with Colonel Sheppard's strike force, but Blair was pretty sure that was all gone, too.
"Or real coffee, that's just as good. Or a source of caffeine that doesn't taste like, um, what did he call that tea? Grass water? Straw water?"
"Caffeine I can do," said Blair with relief. "There are these nuts from P3E-211 -- kind of bitter tasting, and they'll mess up your digestion if you eat too many, but four or five of them will give more caffeine than a shot of espresso."
"Sounds good. I'll try to make sure he gets the message about the digestion thing."
Blair looked up. "So, uh, are you two getting along better now?"
Sheppard shifted his weight and glanced around the infirmary, and Blair noticed the tips of his ears had gone pink. "Yeah, maybe. I think -- that is, I'm going to try -- I think we're getting back together."
"That's great, John! I'm glad to hear it!" Blair went to slap him on the back with his left arm and winced as the shoulder twinged. "Just tell him you love him and everything will be fine."
Sheppard's ears were bright red now, as if he'd been running in cold weather, but the rest of his face looked perfectly normal. "I, uh . . . I'm not really good at . . . yeah. Okay. Here, let me get that tray for you." He bustled around stacking the fruit rinds on Blair's tray, gave some hasty excuses, and hurried out.
Blair turned to find Jim waiting behind him with the sling in his hand. Blair sighed and accepted help getting the thing on.
"Come on, Chief, I know you want a shower. Here -- these are from Doc Beckett." He handed Blair a bottle of the supplement pills.
Blair bounced on his heels as they reached the corridor. "It's so cool, man -- John and Rodney are getting back together!"
"Oh, you heard?"
Jim shook his head. "I was talking to Beckett. But I could smell it. They slept together last night."
"No kidding?" Blair turned to look in the direction Sheppard had gone, thinking about why his ears had blushed.
"Not -- I mean, I didn't smell sex. But McKay's scent was all over him, so they must have spent a lot of time together." Jim frowned. "It's weird, I never realized -- Sheppard smells a lot like O'Neill."
"Huh. You think that's because of the ATA gene?"
"None of the other carriers smell that way, even the natural ones like Beckett and Kusanagi."
"Well, maybe it has something to do with John and Jack both having the super gene. Like maybe it's the enzymes in the skin you're smelling?"
"Maybe," said Jim doubtfully.
"You should tell Carson about it -- could be something for him to check into. What if he could make his gene therapy as effective as the super gene?"
"You're still not getting the shot, Sandburg."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Hey, what did Carson want to talk to you about?"
Jim shrugged. "Mostly just speculation. He's wondering if the Wraith resistance thing and the Sentinel thing are connected. Some vague reference to senses in those records on Hoff -- but he can't really check it out since he's not welcome back there."
"Yeah." Blair winced at the thought of what had happened to Hoff, but he couldn't help wondering if he might be allowed to go there. It had been a long time since he found any new, genuinely original material on Sentinels. "Is he thinking the Hoffan gene therapy created a bunch of new Sentinels?" That would certainly be a fascinating study, if a whole society turned super-sensitive . . .
"Well, not that he knows of, but it could have been latent, or something --" Jim froze a few steps from the transporter. "Hold it, Sandburg. You'd better not be thinking what I think you're thinking."
"You're not getting the ATA gene therapy, which is fifty percent effective. And you're definitely not getting the Hoffan gene therapy, which is fifty percent deadly."
"I wasn't even thinking about it, man!" Blair held a hand to his chest -- or at least, to his sling. "Scout's honor, Jim. Even if it was safe and completely effective, I wouldn't want it. I already have a Sentinel of my own -- I don't need to be one."
Jim's face softened.
Later, freshly showered and lying face-down on the bed, Blair moaned happily as sensitive fingers found and soothed every sore spot in his back. Also some spots that weren't sore, but Blair knew Jim was satisfying himself that Blair's spine was intact again, so he didn't complain.
"It's weird," he mumbled into the pillow as Jim traced Athosian oil down his vertebrae one at a time.
"What's weird?" So Jim wasn't -- quite -- zoned out on Blair's back; that was good. He'd gotten much better at dividing his attention over the years.
"I keep thinking about that other Jim and Blair."
"What are you talking about?"
"In the other universe -- Colonel Sheppard's universe, where John visited for a little while? He said our counterparts weren't there."
"Maybe he just didn't meet them."
"No, he's pretty sure he would have remembered seeing them. I wonder what went differently in their lives. Why they didn't make it to Atlantis."
"Maybe the Trust killed them," Jim said darkly.
Blair grimaced into the pillow. "Way to harsh the vibe, man."
"There probably is a universe where the Trust killed us, you know."
"I know. But maybe not that universe. It could have been something else. Like, maybe they never got kidnapped by the Trust in the first place."
"So they never hooked up with the SGC? It's possible," Jim conceded.
"Or maybe they did go through the initial kidnapping, like us, but they didn't end up going to Colorado Springs. So they met the SGC folks but never came to Atlantis."
"Maybe," said Jim. "Maybe they never went to Frisco to get married, so the Trust didn't make their move. Maybe that other Blair never went on the 'out and proud' kick you got into that set us off in the first place."
Blair chuckled. "Come on, I wasn't that bad, man! It just started to seem really important to me, that's all."
"Sure, Chief, but you know I'm not really into sharing intimate details of my life with the press. I've been down that road too many times."
"I know, man, I'm sorry. But I just got so mad . . . I found that magazine article about gays discharged from the military, remember that? And there was one story that really got to me . . ." Blair went silent, remembering.
"What is it, Blair?"
"I think . . . I think maybe that article was about --" Blair pushed himself up from the bed, suddenly energized. "It was about a pilot in Afghanistan who got discharged after he went in to save his buddy, and later it came out they were lovers."
Jim just looked at him. "Okay, if you say so."
"Jim! I think that article was about Sheppard."
"Don't you get it, that's it! In the other universe, Sheppard wasn't discharged. No article, no Blair Sandburg outrage, no eloping to Frisco, no kidnapping . . . the Jim and Blair in that other universe are probably still serving and protecting in Cascade, with no idea about other planets and galaxies and aliens."
Jim rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "That could be it."
"It makes sense, man, it hangs together! Can you imagine, our lives being determined by whether or not John Sheppard got kicked out of the Air Force?"
"I think you're getting carried away with this, Chief. There's a lot of other stuff about that universe we just don't know. Sheppard being a colonel was just the big difference we knew about because he came here, but there were other things. What about McKay? I seem to remember he never got implanted with a Goa'uld in that universe, right?"
"Um. Yeah, I think so." Blair started thinking about whether that could somehow be a consequence of Sheppard's discharge. He had no way of making that connection, but it wasn't impossible.
"So maybe in that universe, the Trust isn't as entrenched, not as ambitious. Maybe the other Jim and Blair did get married, but just didn't get kidnapped. That makes as much sense as what you were saying."
"Well, yeah, I guess . . . either way, though, it's kind of sad, isn't it?"
"How come?" Jim angled Blair to face away from him and started working on his shoulder again, long gentle strokes that seemed to push the ache right out of the overstretched muscles.
"Well, whatever the reason, we know the other Jim and Blair didn't come to Atlantis. And that's sad, because it means they never got to know all the incredible people and all the cool stuff we've encountered."
"Yeah? You mean like Wraith and super-hurricanes and yak yogurt?"
"And Athosian semil oil," said Blair, referring to their new favorite lubricant, which Jim was rubbing into his shoulder. Unlike most artificial lubricants, it was compatible with Jim's sensitive skin. There was a lot to be said for not breaking out into a rash in intimate places.
"And the effects of intergalactic gate travel on Sentinel digestion," Jim added.
"Oh, don't remind me," Blair groaned. Projectile vomiting had been the least of it. "Let's go back to the semil oil, I was liking that a lot more." He turned around, caught Jim's hand, and moved it lower along his ribs. "Now that you've rubbed all the stiffness out of my shoulder, I'm thinking there's another part of me that's kinda stiff . . ."
"Yeah?" Jim looked down, a fond smile curving his lips. "You want me to massage that for you, Blair?"
"Ooh! That, uh -- oh! That might just make it stiffer."
"I could stop, if you want me to."
"No, I think we should give this method a chance to work. Keep -- ahhh -- keep trying." Blair grinned as he lay back, enjoying his husband enjoying his living, healthy body.