Disclaimers: Yes, they're mine... Oh, okay then, I'm just dreaming. They're someone else's. No money made, etc.
Originally posted to the SA List January 2005
It was one of the most pathetic sights he'd ever seen, and one of the most heart wrenching.
This had once been the man who he had viewed as a stalwart, a rock, a friend.
Now, the once-strong limbs were wrapped tightly around the wasting figure, once muscular arms that had padded out the close-fitting t-shirts were swamped by the white shirt that hung loosely over the pale skin.
His legs were drawn up underneath him, his bare feet tucked under the baggy, stringless trousers.
Hair was mussed, five o'clock shadow firmly in evidence, and telltale scars from previous attempts at being shaved marked the once-chiseled jaw line. Now, it was the face of a man who had more than lost his way. It was a man who had lost everything.
Convincing him otherwise had become such an impossible task that he had all but given up.
Even their last resort had failed.
"It's been over three weeks," Banks sighed, staring through the wire-reinforced glass into the rocking man's cell. "You said that if we couldn't get him back in two then it was unlikely we'd get him back at all." The sick churning in his stomach was the same sensation he had experienced when he'd seen his own son being suspended upside from the open window of the PD. The feeling of indescribable hopelessness. "Don't tell me we won't get him back." The captain wearily turned to face the silent doctor. "Don't tell me that."
The doctor mulled over an appropriate answer but drew a blank. They had already established that neither time, counseling nor medication had reached through to this man's former detective. The chances of James Ellison being released from the Trafford Sanitarium in the near future, were becoming increasingly unlikely.
"See, you're back." Ellison laughed at the presence, and shifted over slightly to allow his visitor to sit. He patted the padded floor next to him, encouraging his guest to join him on the ground. "You're usually here about this time." His voice was so lacking in control and cadence that he sounded almost drunk. "I wait for you, you know." He leant forward conspiratorially to the new arrival. "But you know that already, don't you, 'cause..." A giggle floated to the surface, proof that his personality had taken a major about-turn. Then he sobered and glared at the floor, ignoring his companion. "'Cause," he began again, before twisting sharply and punching his finger forwards, spitting out the next words in vitriolic outrage. "I know, you bastard, 'cause You're... Not... Here."
His visitor had sidled to the floor and, as he did every day, gently drew the waving hands into his own, stroking the backs of the hands and shushing the temper back into calmness. He hardly used words any more, because those seemed to disturb far more than his presence ever had. As the larger man started his recurring motion of slow rocking, the younger man brought him into his arms and lightly brushed his hand down his back, desperate to still the racking hiccups of doubt which tore the man apart every day.
It always took him the first twenty minutes of his visit to pacify the patient, but it was established fact that he was considered an illusion. With this in mind, the staff had been instructed to keep out of sight of the door's window while the hour-long stay took place - anything to keep Ellison from becoming protective and demanding solitude, through the frequent screaming that echoed down the hospital's corridors when the lights were dimmed further.
Blair Sandburg bit back the daily tears that raged within him as he held Jim in his arms, urging the sense of peace that it took so long to encourage. Simple sounds and tender strokes of his hand down the man's back were the only solution - and he had tried so much.
Still, it was progress from his first visit when the tall detective had launched himself at him, slamming fists into his upper body and uttering indecipherable chants. Another shot from a never-ending supply of syringes had ended that outburst, and the medical staff had shaken their heads that their last resort had so clearly failed.
Two weeks later and Blair devoted one visiting hour, twice a day, trying to reach through to the man who had gone beyond the realm of zoning, and who no longer had any idea which parts of his world were real.
"I didn't mean to kill you," Jim finally choked, his head buried into Blair's shoulder. His customary position of seeking comfort in his hallucination. "I'm so sorry, Chief. I didn't mean to kill you."
Maintaining his usual response of quiet, mollifying noises, the younger man was startled when the litany diverted from its traditional course.
"And don't tell me that it didn't happen, Chief. I know I killed you. I watched it happen."
Stilling his movements for a fraction of a second, Blair was taken off guard and gazed down in puzzlement at the cropped hair of the man in his arms. Hurriedly resuming, so as not to lose their tentative contact, he waited for further words before considering his own response.
"It was my gun, Chief. I took out my gun. My gun. It was my gun. Me. My gun. I fired it. I shot it. I shot you. I killed you." The rocking became almost fierce and Jim loosened the enfolding arms, pushing Blair's physical touch away, and trying to find the corner that was his safe place. There was silence in the small chamber for several minutes as the movements slowed, and Jim started on his other action which made Blair want to rip his hands away and hold him again - the fingernails running down his forearms and pulling at the abused skin. "You can go, Chief." Scratch, tear, scratch. "I don't need you now, anyway."
Suddenly he stopped and clenched his fists so tightly blood seeped out of the minute cuts he created in his palms.
"I hear it all the time."
Hear what? Blair was confused by this new sentence in Jim's language towards him. He didn't want to ask, and fervently hoped that the sick man would bring himself around to explaining what he had meant.
"I hear it. All the time." Jim's lip twitched as he fought to form the words, the smallest of drops of blood coursing down his arm. "All. The time."
He cocked his head to the side in that familiar gesture that Blair missed.
"Even now. I hear them. See? Can you hear it?"
The tears were pushing at his eyes even harder now, but Blair couldn't show any outward signs beyond biting down on his lip, and clenching his own fists. Without warning, anything could spark off another burst of temper, and although there was always an orderly immediately outside the door, waiting off to the side, it would take them some moments to respond - and Blair was well within chokehold distance. It was a risk he was willing to take, and had signed appropriate waivers after his first unfortunate visit.
Where was Jim? Somewhere under all the pain that was etched on his friend's face, he knew that he was still in there somewhere.
They knew what had triggered all of this, but rectifying the damage was fast becoming an unattainable goal.
Simon had talked to Jim during the first few days; the counselors had tried; the doctors had tried; the hypnosis suggestion had been an appalling disaster. Bringing Blair in to see him to prove that no, he had not died, their greatest hope. Perhaps it had happened too late after the initial breakdown.
Hallucinogenic drugs similar to Golden, coincidence, senses that were not under complete control, and Sandburg off on a dig for a week. These elements had collided during a poorly executed arrest sequence, when one of the suspects had opened fire, Jim had responded, and the assailant had gone down. Dead.
Somewhere in his drug-laced psyche, Ellison had become obsessed that the man he had shot had been Sandburg, and had gone from inconsolable to violent. When physical restraints had failed, and the aggression level had exploded out of control, the detective had been sedated.
If only Sandburg had been there to tell them that sedating drugs on top of the hallucinogens were a potentially lethal combination. Neither man had ever shared their findings on sentinel research, and in Sandburg's absence, Banks had not known what the results would be.
The guilt felt by both the captain and the anthropologist, was devastating.
When the sedative had worn off, Jim had spiraled downwards to his current state, confused, irrational, prone to violence... and convinced that Sandburg was dead.
As slowly as he could, Blair inched towards Jim's safe corner, trying to make eye contact - blue against blue.
This was a different tack in Jim's thinking, and it was a precious change. He *had* to make headway. Had to.
Reaching out a tentative hand, he lightly brushed the back of Jim's left hand, recommencing the shushing sounds, and waiting, with feather-light touches, to see if there would be any hint of returning trust.
"What do you hear, Jim?" The detective had never managed to answer any direct questions since his incarceration, so Blair held out little hope of a coherent response. "Is it my heartbeat that you hear?"
He would always remember that bizarre moment when his sentinel had confessed to being able to hear body sounds. They had shared a laugh when Blair had immediately asked if that included wind, followed by the stoic man's dismissive chuckle.
The fingernails didn't lessen their tension and the rocking began yet again.
Nervous, and sweat starting to drip down his own face with the strain of the situation, Blair steeled himself to ask once more.
Before he could, the blue eyes met with his for the first time since Blair had left Cascade on his trip to South America. "No."
Now contact was made, he was loathed to break it.
"No, what?" Sandburg gulped away his insecurities in his ability. "What do you hear, Jim?"
"Them. All of them." The dark rings underlined the terrified eyes that tore into Blair's soul.
He gulped again, and battled to keep his own head held up high, his hand never leaving Jim's. Whatever was going on in Jim's head, he just wanted to be able to hold him, to cajole him, to be strong for him. To be there for him.
"Dahl once wrote a story..."
Blair's jaw dropped at the opening sentence, and pulled in closer, bringing in his other hand to touch Jim's shoulder.
"... a man made a machine."
Time machine? No, wrong author. Machine, machine, machine. Think, Sandburg, think...
With horror he understood what Jim was telling him. And white noise generators and dials were clearly ineffective against it.
"I hear it all."
In the story, a man had invented a machine to hear ultra high frequencies, and had discovered that every living thing made a sound - from the wind moving the blades of grass against one another, to their screams as they were cut...
"I thought that..." The words ground to a halt and Blair's heart missed a beat in panic. Talk Jim, please man, I need you not to stop now. C'mon, Jim, we're getting somewhere.
The irony of his own fear changing his pulse-rate seemed to bring Jim back one step closer to the real world. His fist loosened and he allowed his left hand to be taken into Blair's clammy, scared grip. The eye contact was lost, and just as the younger man felt he was losing, Jim spoke again.
"I thought that if I listened more, I'd hear your heartbeat again."
There it was.
This was beyond anything for which he had produced a solution. There was a white noise generator high up on the wall, emitting what sounded like a mistuned radio station. The walls and floors had been scrubbed with products Blair himself had recommended, claiming allergies. Likewise the material that Jim wore. The lights were perpetually dimmed.
The idea of using a white noise generator had been a recent one in their lives, and they had barely had time to research Jim's levels of coping when this whole debacle had taken place. Blair had tried Jim with the earplugs again, but in a fit of rage they had been flung to the floor and trampled over.
Perhaps machinery was the worst possible solution.
Perhaps, in the state that Jim was in now, he was hearing the inner workings of the equipment and it was cutting through every form of tolerance he had. And who was to say what drugs they were pumping into him when Blair wasn't there.
With no medical power of attorney, and no medical qualifications to his name, what rights did he have, in reality?
'Hello, my friend's a sentinel. It's something which has no scientific proof, but I'd be very happy if you took my word for it, and I'm writing a dissertation on this, so I sometimes think I know what I'm talking about. By the way, all the ideas I've tried have been done off the top of my head...'
Uh, yeah. That would get him the next room along from Jim.
He had to re-think.
This was the closest they had come to coherency in his two weeks with him.
Jim had pulled his hand away from Blair's and was now moving back-and-forth, and back-and-forth, hypnotizing himself back into his own world.
The mumbles were faintly audible if he strained to hear, and Blair wasn't surprised to hear the familiar edict: "I didn't mean to kill you. I'm sorry, Chief. I didn't mean to kill you."
If there was no control over the torturous sounds pummeling into his head, was it any surprise that all rationality had gone?
Blair needed to rethink.
He would take risks, he would go further afield and seek scientific help if necessary, he would demand Simon's assistance in having sedating drugs withdrawn, he would find the answer.
God only knew how, but he would find the answer.
And he would bring Jim back.
"I didn't mean to kill you. I'm sorry, Chief. I didn't mean to kill you."
His own barriers shattered, Blair eased his friend into his arms, tucked the pale face into his shoulder, held on - and cried.
As the rocking subsided and the man in his arms was drawn into a restless sleep, the younger man planned his next course of action.
After two weeks of hell, he had finally found something he never thought he would know again.
In Dante's Inferno, the seventh circle of hell is considered to be for those who commit violence against self, others or God.
copyright Xasphie 31/01/05BACK