Ordinary Magic Part 1: Laying on of Hands
Summary: He'd been warned about informants. He'd been warned that they'd lie, try to manipulate his time, and hit him up for rides. Nobody ever suggested that they'd want him to perform miracles, though. Smarm. Rated R for language.
Notes: Part 1 of Ordinary Magic is a complete story in and of itself; the second story of the series will be posted shortly.
Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, et al., belong to large corporate entities and not to the author.
I could tell from across the room that he had a headache. In the time it took me to cross the bullpen, he flinched twice and pawed at his head. He had already admitted that he hated this. He wouldn't admit that it was too much for him, not really, but I was fairly sure it was. Twenty-four hours of jacked up volume had done quite a job on him.
I planted myself in front of his desk and presented my surprise. As I expected, it took him a few minutes to absorb the implications of it. When he got it, he looked from the white noise generator to me with approval. Once again I produced a miracle. After I handed him the portable versions I came around the desk to sit beside him. This close, I could feel that it had been a hell of a morning, rather than just guess. The energy around him was strong, but it was frayed and hungry, and as I got close it leaned toward me like a puppy butting at its mom's tummy.
I sat close to him. I didn't have to touch him anymore to re-arrange his energy or add to it. I was still about a foot away when he and I met and clicked together. It was amazing, how good at this I'd gotten, even though I still wasn't good enough to see his aura. If this kept up, soon I would be grounding him from across the room.
He wanted to talk about the case: had I located the witness yet? The lab report was in, but there was nothing useful. Martin's history didn't point to any obvious subjects. Naturally, it was impossible to concentrate properly while holding a small meeting on the investigation, so I just planted my feet and opened up. Jim responded at once, leaning on me hard, even though his recitation of progress on the case never faltered.
I kept him talking at the desk until I was sure his headache was gone and the air around him was no longer humming with strain and need. Then Jim went to see Simon, and I sat for a moment with my head in my hands. It was hard not to feel the wrench as he walked away from me. I felt simultaneously cold and parched for a moment. My own fault--I should be smoother about replacing my boundaries and separating us, rather than just let him walk away and tear us apart. But I wasn't that fast.
I set my feet again and did a quick round of the rain and egg visualization. I had a class this afternoon. It would be a bad idea to be all open around undergrads. Their lives were usually a mess and they leaked. I was done very quickly. I scooped up my stuff and headed toward the door.
That night when he got home he was ok. Tired, but not worn down by unrelenting information overload. He came over to the stove where I was throwing together a clam sauce for spaghetti, and leaned over to smell. He didn't need to be so close to smell it, of course, and he didn't move away afterward, but stood at my back. Reconnecting with me. Leaning, just a little, on the buoyant energy around me. I wondered if he knew. It must surely feel good to him; it felt very good to me. Having Jim out of my sphere of influence was starting to seem lonely. But then, I knew what was going on. I had been trained for this, taught to notice-- even though I wasn't particularly good at it before Jim.
"So how's the case going?" I asked.
A shrug. "The head of narcotics is no help. Which could be significant or not. I did talk to IA. All she'd say was that Martin wasn't being investigated."
"She?" I stirred the sauce one last time and took it off the heat.
Jim stepped back out of my way, and then went to the fridge. "Sheila Irwin."
"You're kidding. You're not kidding?"
He made a face and shook his head.
"One of your favorite people. What're the odds?"
Jim frowned. "She's not...that bad. She's trying to do her job. I can appreciate that. She's just not very helpful." From Jim, this was very high praise. He added, "She doesn't believe I saw Martin fall."
I sighed. As badly as Jim didn't want anybody to know about his senses, it was just shitty when nobody believed perfectly good facts just because it was 'impossible' for Jim to know them. Sooner or later, that was probably going to get us in more trouble.
After dinner we did some hearing practice. Jim sat on the couch and I perched on the arm beside him, a pad ready to take notes. Hesitantly, almost nervously, Jim took out the white noise ear plugs and set them on the coffee table. He winced slightly.
"It's ok. This isn't serious. This isn't hard. We're just seeing what you can do."
He gave me an impatient look and began to softly describe what he could hear. Plumbing noises, the hot water heater, birds on the roof. He mentioned conversations in other apartments, then other buildings. Each time I moved him on; indiscriminate eavesdropping was not a habit we wanted to cultivate. A car alarm somewhere close on Prospect made him jump and scowl. A dog fight in the park made him smile a little. "The dog that won, Chief, it had to be the much smaller one. I mean, we're talking Chihuahua here!" I coaxed him further and further out, taking notes until he stilled my hand with a light touch and shook his head. The pen was too loud.
He continued his quiet description; a ship unloading down at the docks. A woman calling her kids home to dinner. A fire truck going north, probably, he said, up Pacific Avenue. Then another siren hit, this one close enough for even me to hear, and Jim gasped. 'Enough,' I mouthed, squeezing his hand. He didn't respond. His eyes were unfocused and his teeth clinched together over shallow gasps. Shit. I reached for him, cupped my hands over his ears. Even this close, he seemed very far away. He felt blank and flat. I couldn't find his center--perhaps it was folded deep inside, focused on this zone. Perhaps it had been scattered with the rest of his control and coherence.
I removed one hand and reached down to turn on the full-sized white noise generator. The click of the switch made him flinch. I put my hand back and held him until he gently pulled away. His eyes were angry, and I didn't blame him. I had a chewing out coming. I was the one who let it go on until he was taking in much more than he could manage.
"Shit, Chief. I'm just screwed. I'm going to have to wear those things forever."
"Uh, no. No, of course not. You'll adjust."
He shoved away and stood up. "Bull. Look at me. I can't sit in a quiet room for three minutes before I'm driven crazy by the noise--"
"It was closer to twenty."
"God. What am I going to do? It was too loud. It's still too loud. That's dangerous, isn't it? Loud noises? I'll go deaf...."
"No. It sounds loud, but it's not--"
He rolled his eyes. "Loud is loud."
"Ha! But twenty decibels is still twenty decibels, no matter how it sounds to you!" He motioned me to keep it down, and I nodded an apology as I continued, "Look, your ears are just like anybody else's. The structures are the same. The magic that happens and makes you *think* sounds are loud that I think are soft all happens in your brain. It's a nervous system thing, a brain thing. Get it? Regardless of how it sounds, it still takes prolonged exposure to eighty-five decibels or more to actually, physically damage your ears."
"Then why does it hurt?"
"Because when it seems loud, you assume it should hurt."
He ran a hand over his face. "God, I'm so screwed."
"No, no. You're doing fine."
"It's not getting any better--"
"It's only been a day! Anyway, yesterday, your own voice hurt you. Today, you kept talking the whole time, no matter how sensitive you got. You compensated for yourself. With a little more time, you will be able to accurately judge what's loud and what's not."
He sighed, still impatient, but out of arguments.
"Come on," I said. "You know this always goes better when you relax. Let's just do some exercises."
He sighed dramatically--I was such a pitiless taskmaster--and leaned back, resting his head on the back of the couch.
"How about some breathing. Nothing fancy, just pay a little attention to the breath. Yeah..."
I breathed in too, because I wasn't relaxed either. Jim's hearing was way better than I had thought, better than I'd ever had any reason to expect. I didn't, in fact, know that the human brain could process and store as much information as Jim's was getting now. Even if he could adapt eventually, right now it was causing a great deal of fear and pain. Not good. It was hard not to freak.
Also not good that his distress was upsetting me. I couldn't calm him down while I was upset. And he needed to be calmed.
Right, yes. Relax. Relax. All Jim needed from me right then was to be calmed and steadied. I could do that. I had been doing that for almost a year. I felt myself uncoil slightly and sighed. "Any requests?"
"Hey, it was your idea."
"Ok, then, it's flowers."
"Well, at least you didn't make me do that one in the doctor's office. That would have been embarrassing."
"Entirely different objective. Now, deep breath. Can you see the first flower?" I held my hand just above the top of his head.
"Open or closed?"
"Closed...mostly." I could have done this exercise without Jim's help, assuming I could get him to sit still long enough. I couldn't see his charkas like mom could, but I could suss out the shape of them, and they responded very quickly to me. But doing this *for* Jim would do nothing toward teaching him to cope with his senses himself.
"Is it open enough?" I asked.
"Yeah, it's good...." His voice had gone soft, but his body was relaxed so I wasn't worried that his hearing was taking off again.
I moved my hand down to his forehead. He leaned toward me slightly, almost touching my palm to his brow. "How about here?"
"Closed, tight, tired...it's the wrong color." This was the first time Jim had spontaneously mentioned color, but I didn't let myself dwell on it. Jim thought this was a relaxation exercise, and that picturing flowers was a way of relieving tension one body part at a time, from the top down.
"Can you make it the right color?"
"Blue, right? Yeah. I'm supposed to think of it being blue."
A few moments later he nodded slightly and I moved on, my hand hovering over his throat. As always, he felt cold to me here, uneven. Tonight it seemed both underfed and not hungry, as though the will to nourishment had been lost. When Mom had visited a few weeks back, the first thing she asked when she had me alone was what had happened to Jim's Visshudha and Anahata. "Blair, I've seen children who are less entwined in their parent's energy than Jim is in yours. Honey, what's going on? Is he sick?"
A thought that scared the heck out of me: Mom was much better at this than I was, and I had only started to be good at it at all after I'd met Jim. Maybe she was seeing something I'd missed. "Does he seem sick to you?"
She thought about it. "No," she said. "No, not sick. But...hungry. Underfed." I thought that described it pretty well. Jim's spirit was strong enough, open enough, to support being a single man and a cop. But the stress of being a sentinel had been thrown in on top of that; painful spikes, anxiety, disruptions in diet and sleep, the constant need to process much more information than ever before. He'd never learned how to meet that kind of need. It was a huge amount of energy he needed to take in, and the circumstances were just the kind to push him the other way, to shutting down. Although there had been progress, it would be months more before he could manage on his own. We both thought he was basically, 'physically' healthy, but Mom was right about his Visshudha and Anahata. His fifth and fourth chakras were somehow damaged. They never functioned properly, never carried a full load, not once in the entire time I'd known him. The others had compensated before, pulling in the energy he needed as much as he needed food and air. That had been enough before the senses had kicked in and piled even more demands on him. Constantly bombarded with information and stimuli, he could really use four and five. I worked on them, but progress was slow. I didn't know what had hurt them. Physical or emotional trauma, either one could be enough. His divorce, that mess in Peru...it could be anything. Even now, after we'd worked on them for months, the energy vortex at his throat was half-closed and uneven.
"Can you make it bigger? Can you imagine the flower opening? Can you see it turning, a little, in the wind?" I asked.
He frowned slightly. "Why is this one so hard?"
"Just relax. Don't force it."
I settled myself more firmly with the earth, letting the energy bubble up and flow out my hand. 'Take it,' I thought. 'Take it from me. See, how easy it is from me? You can learn to do this. It just takes a little time.' I said, "What does the tension there feel like? What do you associate it with?"
Pain, for a moment. His face crumbled before shutting down and he shook his head.
"What is it? Why are you tense here?"
He shook his head. He wouldn't tell me. I kept my hand steady, pouring out energy as quickly as I could take it in until the broken chakra couldn't accept any more for a while.
The next one down was worse. My hand encountered sickly patches of cold and hot, leaking energy out rather than taking it in. Together, Jim and I tidied it and opened it correctly. He tried to imagine the flower spinning while I fed it 'pre-digested' energy, the auric equivalent of baby food. It could only take a little before backing up and shutting down like a clogged drain. Aw, damn. We'd lost ground here. Something was very wrong at the PD and this broken vortex was probably trying to close off to protect itself. That was the last thing Jim needed to be doing, but even if he understood the problem, he couldn't just correct it. He would have to heal this before he could use it, before he could get much conscious control.
Three, Two, and One were easy. He had each of those flowers open and spinning evenly in a few moments. He had good control over their size and speed. We played games, making them go faster and slower, the rate of energy flowing in varying as I tickled them gently. Jim, his head still back, smiled a little. A pleasant mental exercise for relaxation. A practice of concentration, imagining pictures and holding them in his mind. A weird hippie bonding experience that made his odd roommate happy.
I was sure that he would notice what was going on, and sooner rather than later. As sensitive as he was, it had to come to him sometime that he wasn't imagining all this. With any one else, this would not worry me; people tend not to notice stuff like this much before they are ready to handle it. But Jim's perceptions were light years ahead of the average, and given what he thought of spirituality in general and 'New Age insanity' in particular, it was quite possible that he would freak.
"Ready to wrap it up?" I whispered.
"Picture yourself as a shaggy flower....."
"Daffodil," he said. Interesting choice. I had no idea what it might mean.
I gave him time to get the picture clear in his head, and said, "Now, turn it into a tulip." A calm settled over both of us, so swift and neat that I caught my breath. I sat still for a moment, enjoying it, then firmly formed my intention to separate from him. Not a flower around me, but an egg shell. Thin. Slightly permeable. Contained.
Jim opened his eyes and frowned at me. I ignored the frown and went to the kitchen to get us oatmeal cookies.
For the first two and a half weeks I worked with Jim, I thought like an anthropologist. I tested his sensory acuity (as much and as often as he'd let me). I took notes. I coached him through practice, using every control trick I had learned from previous informants with a heightened sense or two and every concentration trick I had learned from my mother. Technically, by advising him I was altering my results, but under certain circumstances, it was a standard and ethical practice to make useful information related to the project available to a subject.
So I taught him to relax, intermittently raiding QiGung, Yoga and Tai Chi for techniques. I led him though visualizations, breathing exercises and simple postures, trying to keep him calm and distract him from his panic and resentment. I never thought about what those techniques were originally used for. I never mentioned prana or ki or chi or pneuma or ruach or the human energy field. I was being an anthropologist. Although what I've learned in anthropology has sometimes illuminated things I do in my personal religious life, and my religious experiences have led me to pay anthropological attention to things I might otherwise overlook, in general, I kept the parts of my life separate.
That ended the day of Tommy Juno's arraignment. Both of us had been pretty messed up--I had never seen anybody shot to death before and Jim had just lost one of his oldest friends. He was alternately displacing and repressing his grief and I was worried because his senses were flaking out on him. We came out of the court house and got into his truck--and I just sort of *felt* him next to me. Usually, I have to meditate and do warm-up exercises for about half an hour before I'm alert and focused enough to feel anything that vividly, but Jim--it was like there was something screaming, silently, beside me. Something ashamed and muzzled and frightened and helpless. It fairly shook the air around him. It was horrible.
Over the next few days, I spent a lot of time 'watching' the river of pain that flowed around Jim; sitting beside him in the truck, sitting beside him in the waiting room at the hospital after he lost feeling in his hands, sitting beside him while Simon chewed him out....perhaps I would have argued with myself more about what I was 'really' encountering if it hadn't been so urgent and powerful. But pain is pretty motivating, even when it's someone else's. I spent more time wondering what I could do about it than if it were real.
Danny's funeral was the day after Jim had caught up with Juno at the amusement park. After the funeral, Jim changed out of his blue uniform and went back to work. I stayed with him until one, but I had a class after that. I convinced him to come to my place--I promised dinner and some sensory tests. I think he accepted because he wanted to keep busy. Certainly, sensory tests were never his favorite activity.
I had fourteen strips of cotton/poly cloth, each with a different proportion of components. I blindfolded him and handed him the strips, telling him to arrange them in order--most to least cotton. He was a little slow at first, but he laid them all out correctly the first time. It was better than I'd expected for a first go. My control groups usually couldn't sort more than five or six correctly. I showed him his perfect score and handed the blindfold back. "This next one isn't really a test. It's a practice exercise, to help you refine your control."
"Fine, ok. You're the boss."
Not rousingly enthusiastic, but I'd take it. "Stand up. Ok. What you're looking for is changes in temperature."
He started to reach for the blindfold. "What are you using?"
"Just my hands." He relaxed. "I won't even be touching you. Just tell me when you know where my hands are. Ok?" I slapped my hands together and rubbed them back and forth. Just to create a little extra heat from friction. Ahem.
I stepped to the edge of his personal space and held my left hand about eight inches from his shoulder. "Whenever you're ready," he said.
I moved the hand closer until he told me where it was, and then passed my hand behind his shoulder blade, all the while Jim describing its movement. I stopped listening, and after a while, he probably stopped talking. Slowly, in small steps in silent, bare feet, I wound around him, tracing the layers of his aura with my hands. I hadn't done anything like this for years. Afraid I would hurt him, I tried to tread lightly.
There were 'hot' and 'cold' spots, that really did feel to me like a change in temperature. And one spot that I could only describe to myself as 'hard' and 'sharp.' It was all analogy, I knew--I was encountering and noticing something that neither my nervous system nor my consciousness had the ability to perceive or describe.
Each time my hand moved physically closer to Jim, I touched a spongy resistance. I would stop pushing then and pet my hand back and forth until the wall softened and let me sink in. After a while, I felt no more resistance at all.
Jim was silent by this point, calm and relaxed. I decided it was probably ok to go on, if I kept it simple and was as gentle as possible. I went to the worst cold spot and warmed it. I went to the sharp spot and leaked the sharpness out into an imaginary toilet I hastily erected behind me. When I had cleaned up the worst of the clouds he was carrying with him, I started cleaning and balancing his chakras, starting at the top and working down. In his throat I found the nastiness, the source of the despair and shame I'd been feeling in him for days. I could not open it. I could not move it. I could not give it any energy. Jim, meanwhile, had started frowning. His hands moved restlessly.
"You ok?" I whispered.
"Sorry, Chief. Mind wandered for a minute."
"Just--thinking about what would happen if anybody found out about me. They'd think something was wrong with me." He whispered something else, but I couldn't hear it. The ruined vortex under my hand was trying to fold up into itself, trying to disappear further.
"Nobody is going to know," I breathed. "I won't tell."
The wrong thing to say. His whole energy field began to sour and fade. "Jim," I said desperately, "you're doing fine. You're going to get control of this, and then everything will be ok. You're doing fine. There's nothing wrong with you. You just need some practice!"
He shuddered then, but his energy body leaned on me, pulling and sucking, trying to get closer to me and stumbling in confusion. It was a little scary, overwhelming. Not just because I wasn't used to experiences so vivid, but because Jim was both clumsy and strong, needing more than I had ever felt anyone need. Fear translates almost immediately into shutting down, but I made myself not resist him. I told myself he was my student, my friend. I told myself that Jim would not hurt me on purpose. He was grieving and damaged and tired. Nothing to be afraid of there.
It turned out I was right. He was demanding, but not skilled enough to take energy faster than I could let it go. He was needy, but he could not digest more than I could easily pass to him. He took, fitfully, awkwardly --and I let him. He stood very still, his eyes squeezed shut, breathing through his teeth. My hands hovered just before his face. When he was done, he staggered back on to the couch and fell asleep.
I sat watching him for a long time, wondering what the hell I'd gotten into and what was happening to me. I was....not thinking things out. I didn't make any attempt to separate from him. When he woke up around 11:30 and headed home with a mumbled apology, there was a dreadful tearing as he stepped out the door. We spent the next day sloppily attached. I am not sure what it did to Jim, but it left me both floating and exhausted-- befuddled, casually leaking energy, and open to every snarl and dark spot in the aura of every person who passed within ten feet of me. After that I tried to be more careful about closing down after working with him.
I did work with him. A lot. Three days later I suggested the body heat exercise again. He gave in at once, saying it did a lot for his concentration on touch. After that he began suggesting it himself. By the time I'd been living with him for a month, we didn't need the exercise any more. He reached for me automatically, all the time. On the rare occasions I tried to keep him out, it was nearly impossible, and separating us after a connection was getting harder and harder. If we were in the same room, even a big room, I was aware of him. If he was tired or trying to manage the senses or hurting, he leaned on me hard.
As the months passed, he improved. The sensory control got much better very quickly, but he still couldn't keep up with the demands that staying on top of them all the time made on his living energy. By the time mom came to visit a few weeks before the whole mess with Brent Martin came up, Jim still leaned on me hard when he was concentrating or tired or fighting one of the bad headaches, even though most of the time he could manage by himself.
As for me, I had learned to manage energy fields as quickly as Jim had learned to manage his senses. I began to take in much more, and sometimes when I was sitting at my desk working on a lecture, I could almost see the ch'i passing back and forth between me and the ambient environment. I learned to manage Jim's energy too--as quickly as I could touch him, I could balance him or ground him to the earth. According to mom, I could change the colors of his aura from several feet away, and gently remove clouds and stagnant parts while carrying on a conversation.
All in all, it wasn't what I'd expected and I sure as hell couldn't include it in my dissertation, but I wasn't going to complain.
I would have thought, as we learned more about the conspiracy surrounding Brent Martin's death, that Jim would get more and more off his center. There was profound betrayal in the Department, and most of an entire unit was implicated. But after Jim started working with Sheila Irwin, he was grounded most of the time and even the maimed energy centers got a little rounder and opened some. The case was ugly, even as crimes go. The arrests were difficult. The arraignments were worse. The press was on the whole thing like piranha. It was a massive embarrassment for the department and for the city. Through it all, though, Jim was very calm. He never let himself get pulled into the nastiness. His aura got healthier.
Six weeks later we lost all the ground we'd made. He had taken some vacation time right after New Year, and we were going to spend a week fishing up the coast before I had to go back to school. Four hours before we were to leave, Jim got kidnapped.
We didn't know what had happened to him, or why. There was no call demanding money, no note. Nobody had found his body in a ditch yet, but that was only marginally encouraging. Everybody did their damnedest to help. Simon was utterly tireless and sharp. The support staff at the PD pulled out every trick they knew to help us make the most of the few clues we had. Jack was, as always, brilliant in his ability to pick the right three or four useful threads out of a haystack of useless ones, and then put them together to form the right picture.
We found him. About two seconds after the last possible moment we showed up and caught two of his captors as they were fleeing. Simon hauled them out of their car, demanding to know where Jim was, but I was already close enough to feel him.
Simon handed me off to Joel while he and Brian secured the building and brought Jim down. He was fuzzy and weak. I could find no center for him at all, and he was neither grounded below or receptive above. "He's been drugged, Blair," Simon said. "Some kind of heavy downer or sedative. There's an ambulance on the way." He eased Jim onto the edge of the seat on the passenger side of his car.
I nudged Simon out of the way and squatted before Jim. Whatever he'd been drugged with, it wasn't very powerful. Jim was hardly 'gone' at all. Things that depress the nervous system blunt and clog an energy field considerably. But while he didn't feel too sluggish and muddy he felt--Gods, tattered. There was a dark, oily poison all around him, some of it from Jim, much of it strange and apparently poured onto him from the outside. This wasn't some kind of drug. My hand moved by itself to his heart chakra, which was thrashing weakly, choking on its own flood of poisonous junk.
"Jim?" I said softly. Dear Gods, had he been tortured?
He raised his eyes and looked at me. He was alert--eyes that were drugged couldn't have held that much hate--but he was empty and hopeless.
For a moment his face overwhelmed me. His nastiness was flowing around both of us now, chilling me, making me feel sick. "Jim," I said. "What? Talk to me."
"It was a trap. He sent us to die. He killed them." The numb whisper carried no inflection, but I understood. I knotted my fingers around the nasty mess in Jim's chest and tugged. He flinched. I paused and leaned closer, resting my shin against the sill of the car door.
"Let it go," I whispered. Here was the trauma that caused that blockage. That betrayal. Those murders. That abandonment and the tempest of culture shock that followed his 'rescue.' I tugged gently, trying to ease it free. Norman Oliver had fucked Jim up long enough. "Let it go."
A tear slipped free and slid down his face. It struck me then that saying that Jim's energy field was damaged was--well, not untrue. But not true, either. It was a way of talking around the truth. It was Jim's self that was hurt. It was Jim's soul.
A tear leaked out of my eye, too, but I didn't have a free hand to wipe it away. I couldn't tell where Jim stopped and I started anymore. I could just feel the pain in him, the spreading, hateful death that ate at him from the inside out.
It was still tangled around my hand. My skin seemed to burn where I touched it. "Let me have it, Jim. Give it to me," I whispered.
For just a moment he was afraid, and then he crumbled into me. "Sandburg. God. He killed them." Jim began to cry in earnest and the choking tangle around my hand suddenly loosened. I eased it free and wiped my hand on the asphalt, trying to scrape the clot off. Leaning down, I almost lost Jim who wasn't well balanced on the seat anymore. I pulled up and put both arms around him, holding him close, not trying to manage him now, just comfort him. Jim wept, and more and more nastiness spilled out of him into me. It was scary as hell, but I concentrated on letting it go. We didn't need it anymore. We'd looked at it, and it was bad, really bad, yeah, but we were done with it, and it could go.
The storm began to pass and Joel leaned down beside me. "The ambulance is here."
"No," Jim whispered, but I nodded ok to Joel and shielded both of us as quickly as I could. The blue egg surrounded us as a unit, not as individuals, and when the paramedic leaned down to touch Jim, she didn't really *touch* him.
She checked Jim's eyes and his blood pressure. Jim said he wanted to go home, and she didn't argue much. Simon, looking sad and worried, helped me get Jim into Joel's car, and Joel took us home.
"Jim? When was the last time you ate?"
"I dunno. Dinner? We had chicken."
Dinner yesterday. I sat him down at the table and heated up some tomato soup. I loathed the stuff, but Jim liked it. I sat beside him while he ate. I sipped at my own cup of vile soup because I also hadn't eaten much and let my knee rest against his. Touching him, Doing something, but I didn't know what anymore. I just knew that I had to keep touching him. Well, I kept telling Jim to trust his instincts. I hoped mine were worth something, because we were way beyond my training.
I put him to bed in my room, gently removing his shoes and covering him with a quilt. He'd barely stayed awake for the food. He was lying on his back, and I squeezed in beside him, lying on my side with my left hand on his chest. "Can you talk to me? Jim, I know you don't want to, but you should."
He waited for a moment and whispered, "It wasn't enough."
"Killing him. Hearing him dead."
I swallowed. "Enough for what?"
"He killed them all. He sent us into an ambush. They never had a chance. I never...." He stopped, staring silently at the ceiling.
The nexus under my hand felt sore and weak, but wasn't completely snarled anymore. I teased it with my index finger, trying to nudge it into a clockwise motion. Jim flinched. "Hurts," he whispered.
I stopped and listened with my hand. "What hurts?"
He shook his head, unwilling to answer.
Damn. I knew Jim. If we didn't work on this now, he might never. On the other hand forcing him would be a violence. Maybe he was right. Maybe he still couldn't face all of it, emotionally. As much trouble as locking things up and building blocks caused, often they were a protection against something worse. "Ok," I whispered. "Ok. Just relax."
To my surprise, as I let go, the nexus under my hand began to move a little on its own, sucking gently at me. Even as I realized what had happened, Jim fell asleep.
When I woke up much later, it was dark outside, and Jim was watching me pensively in the dim light from the kitchen. It occurred to me that as bad as the obvious, homophobic view of how this looked was, the truth was much worse, especially given Jim's opinion about alternative medicine and non-traditional religion. Although he didn't move, I felt him pull back slightly. "Guess I was pretty out of it," he said, looking embarrassed.
"Oh." Slowly I drew my hand back from around his waist. "Well, you'd been drugged and you were exhausted."
"No. It's ok. We were--you scared the shit out of everybody. We'd figured out who had you, Jim, we--" I stopped, realizing I was flooding Jim with my fear and pain.
"How did you," he swallowed, "How did you find me?"
"Jack Kelso helped a lot. We figured out who Sam Holland was. It was, um, pretty rough, I guess, huh?"
"Blair, I--I just couldn't take it for a while." He closed his eyes. "I just wanted to hide. To run away and not stop..."
"Hide..." I repeated, worried.
"I couldn't take it. I'm still--I wish I could...escape."
Shit. Shit. I so not liked where this was going. He might be talking about soul loss. I hadn't seen much of it personally, but I'd read enough about it--people frightened or tortured or depressed right out of themselves, a part of the soul gone, even though the body lived. If the case wasn't too serious, it might be treated by calling the wayward parts back with gifts or songs. Worse ones involved someone going out to find the lost parts of soul and trying to coax them home. I knew of five or six cultures who had different methods of doing this, and while I didn't know about any of them in detail, I was quite sure I wasn't up to leaving my body and hunting for Jim across the ether.
I tried not to panic. Maybe being home was safe enough. Maybe Jim wouldn't flee. "Jim, it's all over. He can't hurt you any more."
Jim shook his head. "He's still...he's still hurting Veronica Sarris."
I sat up, suddenly angry with him, although gods knew he had done nothing wrong. He had, in fact, done better than anyone would have a right to ask or expect. "So--what? Are we going to give him *you* now? Because, hey, he's done so much evil already. We might as well just lose you, too. Wouldn't be a big loss anyway."
Jim turned his face away.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I know I don't understand. I know. I just--"
"I get it, Chief," he said, but he still wasn't looking at me.
"I need you to stay with me, Jim." Gods, don't make me come after you.
"It's all going to be dragged out. There'll be trials...."
"Yeah, and it's going to be hell. But, Jim, it's just truth. It's just justice. It's gonna be hard, but it'll be open, finally. Clean. You'll be able to let go."
"Blair--I can't forgive him."
"I'm not asking you to. You should probably forgive yourself, though. It wasn't your fault, what happened to them. If you hadn't gone though all this, Chavez would be dead. It wasn't for nothing, Jim."
He nodded slowly, and I felt him reach, tentatively, to swell his connection to me.
"Yeah," I said. "You're gonna be ok."
He was over a month recovering from the encounter with Oliver. All things considered, that was pretty quick, but we'd gotten the biggest piece of nastiness out of him at the crime scene, and after that it was mostly a matter of healing.
There was a lot to heal.
Jim was angry. Deeply and thoroughly furious at being betrayed, now that he knew for sure that it was treachery that had killed his men, not incompetence or bad luck or his own failure. Unfortunately, with Oliver dead, there was nowhere to direct this anger, so it tended to stay with him.
He was also having to remember things about his time in the army and in Peru that he had ignored for six years or more. Not all of those memories were bad, but the bad ones made all of them hard. They were all tied to things like guilt and loneliness and grief.
Then there were the feds investigating the kidnapping and attempted assassination and drug running and whatever else. They kept bringing Jim in and raking all the old wounds open, looking for details.
It wasn't any wonder he was having a hard time. By the second day, his *behavior* was pretty much back to normal--he joked around with H and Joel. He filled out his paperwork barely on time. He was cheerfully irreverent with Simon. He seemed to be eating normally.
At home there were mood swings which he could not conceal from me and did not have the energy to try. He shifted from needy and affectionate to distrustful and vaguely hostile almost randomly. He had trouble sleeping. He ate mainly Wonderburger and consumed huge amounts of antacid.
Spiritually, there was a lot of turmoil. His energy field--
His soul was having a hard time. Sometimes it was open; strong and even and exchanging energy with the earth in a nice, healthy way, better than I had seen it before. Other times it seemed dark and thick, taking in energy very slowly and metabolizing it badly. I did my best to help him, and usually he plugged into me as easily as he always had. But sometimes all I met was a hard, prickly wall and I couldn't reach him.
I did my best. I kept him talking. I didn't take his mood swings personally. I let him lean on me when he needed to. I balanced and eased the blocks as much as I could without making him distressed. He did most of the work, though. The real achievement was his. Not that he saw that. About a month later, when I was again trying to get him to talk, he balked, saying what was the point? Rehashing things wouldn't make anything better. Some crap you just had to live with.
"I want you to try something."
"What?" he asked suspiciously, already bringing up a wall to push me away.
"I want you to notice something. Close your eyes."
Sighing, he folded his arms and closed his eyes.
"Now, take a deep breath and pay attention to your body. How do you feel right now?"
He frowned. "What has this got to do with--"
"Keep breathing and pay attention to how you feel." I gently nudged that fourth chakra. It was still damaged, but no longer maimed and nearly functionless. It spun almost evenly under my hand. Jim frowned. His subconscious knew what I was doing. "Jim, I know it's still bad, but...is it still something you can't live with? Aren't things getting better?"
He opened his mouth, shut it, glowered behind his shut eyes. "It's just--so slow! I'm tired!"
"I know. But Jim, it takes time. What happened was horrible. What happened *to you* was horrible. I'm sorry getting, well, not *over* it, but through it, takes time. But it does. You are getting through it. It will get better. You just have to have a little faith."
He was suddenly completely open to me, so that we overlapped and filled each other. I blinked, stunned for a second. "Yeah. Yeah. Breathe," I said. "Relax. Just imagine you're a tree, with huge, deep roots. Just let the roots go down." He sank, taking me with him. He wasn't leaning on me this time, just connecting. He was the strongest I'd seen him since his abduction. It was amazing progress.
We stayed like that for a half an hour before I brought us out, led him through a visualization so that he would tidy his energy up and not spend the next day leaking everywhere, and sent him off to bed.
Over the next couple of months he continued to get better. Before too long, it was just the stress from the senses I was compensating for, and sometimes he could handle even that without me. Mom came through for another visit. She confirmed that Jim looked wonderful, and added that she had never seen me so bright and even and nearly perfect. I didn't know what to say to that. It wasn't an achievement I'd gone for on purpose. Until Jim, I hadn't given it much serious effort at all since starting grad school. Now, suddenly, I had gone from barely sensitive at all to perceiving practically all the time.
I could sit in the bullpen while waiting for Jim to get out of a meeting and trace the outlines of each person in the room. Joel, who had been closed and knotted after the whole mess with Brackett's bomb and 'losing his nerve' was slowly opening up again. He didn't have the same solid, tidy distance he had before, but he seemed to be becoming a better manager, more open and more closely imbedded in the other five members of the bomb unit. Simon was quite different. For the most part, he kept his energy separate from that of the people under him, but a tiny cord ran from him to every member of Major Crime (including me, to my delight), and a big, fat one ran out to Daryl. Henry, for all his open, cheerful demeanor, was smoothly closed, at least to me. I could barely feel his presence in the room, and about his spiritual state or physical health, I never had any clue. Brian was very generous with his energy. He exchanged it freely--with co-workers and crime victims, if not with suspects. He poured himself gently on anyone down or tired who would accept it. It couldn't be deliberate--it wasn't smooth enough or tidy enough for that. But it was strong.
The morning before the Dawson Quinn escort, the bullpen was tight and dark with tension. We were sending three of our people and a bucketful of uniforms. It was a big deal and I could have told that people were nervous even if I didn't know that little bits of random tension were flaking off people and rolling around on the floor like small tumbleweeds. The place needed to be smudged badly; white sage and maybe also sweetgrass. Nobody had given me any details, though, and I wasn't sure just what the worry was. I scoped out the crowd doing last minute coordination while Jim went in to talk to Simon.
It turned out that Jim, not originally scheduled to go on the transport, had been reassigned. He wasn't thrilled about it. He tried to explain what the problem with Quinn was, but I didn't really understand until the convoy had been ambushed and Quinn had escaped in a helicopter with Simon as his prisoner.
Quinn was beyond nasty--fearless and vicious and just--and words didn't capture it--enthusiastic about what he could get away with, who he could hurt.
We went after them. Of course. The trail Jim was following was--naturally--invisible to everyone else, so we were alone. Jim was amazing in the woods. He opened up and spread himself out until I could barely distinguish him from the forest floor or the sky or the trees. Perhaps I wouldn't have been able to detect him, if his soul weren't so plump with all the energy he was raising. He was so radiant I could nearly see him, and that was saying a lot.
I, on the other hand, was not doing spectacularly well. Early on, I got a dunking and a blow to the head. Then I got captured--not by Quinn, but by some weird red-necks who had joined the chase for the money. Jim finally did find Simon, and the two of them managed to capture Quinn and his girlfriend, but by then I had been shot in the leg.
Not one of my shining moments. I lay on the lumpy ground watching Jim and Simon secure their prisoners. My leg hurt like hell, and the pain was getting worse instead of better. Shit. I took a deep breath, trying to ease through the pain. It was hard to breathe properly, though, when unclenching my teeth made them chatter. Not good. My recent experience with traumatic injury was pretty much limited to the time Angie Ferris had accidentally shot Jim. The worst of that damage had been spiritual, then--body-breach and overloaded nervous system experienced by a sentinel with his senses fully open. With me, the physical wound was messing up the non-physical parts of me. If there was anything special I could do, I didn't know exactly what it was.
Jim squatted down beside me, his hands hovering over my leg. "How you doing, Chief?"
I gritted my teeth so I wouldn't sound so cold. "Sorry, Jim."
"We're not gonna be able to walk out of here."
He laughed at that and motioned to the still-burning explosives shed. "Don't worry about it. They'll see the smoke from that for miles. We'll be fine."
"Oh," I said, feeling a little foolish. I also wasn't completely reassured. The old mining road was completely grown over. The clearing we were in wasn't large enough or flat enough to land a helicopter. How were they going to get me out?
Jim stripped off his jacket and covered me, then scooted down to check my leg. I was bleeding again, or maybe still. Jim fussed with the bandage. It hurt like hell. My head pushed back, into the ground, and my teeth clenched. "That's. Kind of. Sore." I got out.
Jim returned, laying one hand alongside my cheek. "Say, Chief," he said gently. "Any chance of you doing that thing you do for me--for you?"
I almost said, 'what thing?' and I laughed at myself. I wondered just how long he'd known. I'd have to think about that, later. "Believe me. Been trying," I panted.
He leaned closer. "Any chance of, you know, me doing it? For you? I mean, does it go both ways?"
I blinked. It was a surprise to have him admit noticing anything, let alone volunteer to participate in it on purpose. I wasn't prepared. If I cut this off now, he might not try again. On the other hand, I wasn't really in a good place to teach right now. On the third hand, it wasn't like he'd have the focus or ability to do anything too dangerous. A little tentative dabbling wouldn't hurt him. It probably wouldn't hurt me, even though I was in no shape to take charge. "Ok?" I said, guardedly.
"Um...what do I do? I mean, how--?"
I blinked, feeling a little disoriented. "Will," I said automatically. "Will is enough."
"I don't understand," he whispered.
"You have to want to...."
My mistake was apparent at once. I had guessed wrong about everything. Almost before my instruction was out, Jim's presence beside me expanded, overlapping mine, covering me completely. He played like a warm wind on my face, strong and sweet and buoyant. A disaster. I didn't have the focus to separate myself and wall him out, but my panic took care of it for me, wildly kicking Jim out and shutting the door behind him.
Jim fell backwards, off of his knees and onto his butt. He looked at me, confused and, despite the fact that he didn't know what exactly had just happened, a little hurt. I had never been rough with him before. I had never denied him access to me. "Blair?" He reached for my hand, and I pulled it away. "What did I do wrong? Did I hurt you?"
I closed my eyes. "No. No, Jim. You did fine." I had no idea how to explain. Shit, shoving him so hard the first time he reached out with intent, I might have hurt him. But the alternative-- "Jim, you've...you've gotta go slower. Take precautions. Or you'll hurt yourself."
"I don't care--"
"Then you're a fucking idiot," I snapped. The energy of my anger faded at once, and I closed my eyes again. "Look, Jim. There are...precautions you have take....ways of managing...." I sighed. He probably wouldn't take it well if I pointed out that he had no experience or training, or that his own energy was only ok recently, or that his sentinel hypersensitivity seemed to stretch to his energy body too.
"Blair, we don't have time," he hissed. "You're in trouble *now*." His hands hovered just above my body, gesturing helplessly. I wondered what he was seeing, and how he was 'seeing' it. Now probably wasn't the time to explore that.
Simon came over. He had a blanket from Quinn's pack. He and Jim spread it under me, trying to keep me off the cold ground. Simon checked the prisoners again and went to collect some firewood.
"Listen," I said, and then paused for a long time. "Think of it as me being full of hazardous waste. It doesn't help if you just play around in it and get it all over both of us."
"But you said--"
I managed a smile. "I had no idea you'd be so good at it. 'kay? So." I snared his wrist and held it up. "Just with your hands. You are only going to...touch me with your hands."
"How do I do that?"
Perhaps it was a good thing that I was a bit out of my head at the moment. Surely, in my right mind, I would never have this conversation with Jim. "Want to do that. Intention is everything. Just be...damn sure about what you intend. Ok?"
He looked nervous. "No, hands are easy," I said. "You've had years of practice, doing very complicated, delicate things with your hands. 's head start." He nodded. I squeezed his wrist. "Nothing *from* me goes past here. Wrist block." I didn't really have the concentration to install a proper wrist block, and he sure didn't have a chance to practice it or refine it, but if he assumed one was just there, that might work. "Anything that comes out of me, you wipe off on the ground."
He nodded. "What, um, do I *do*?"
Right. No letting his instincts take over. They were way ahead of his skill. I'd been teaching his soul to reach out, to share for over a year, but I'd never taught him to protect himself. "You're just gonna give me a little energy. Slowly. But not your energy. What you pull in from outside."
He looked at me in confusion, half disbelieving, half afraid. "Jim," I said, "Ground and center is not about imagining roots to improve your standing balance and imaging your middle so that you can stop thinking several thoughts at a time."
"Oh. What is it--? Oh." He settled into tailor position and closed his eyes. I wanted to watch what he was doing, but I really couldn't make out myself, let alone him. After a few minutes, Jim slowly lifted his hand and reached for my leg.
"No," I whispered. "Not there. They may have to mess around in there later. At the hospital. Don't push the healing yet."
"What should I do?"
"Find my center and feed it," I said. "Slowly." Surely, that couldn't hurt either one of us.
I very much wanted to watch what he was doing, but I was fuzzy and tired from fighting the pain. I knew Jim only as vague, blurry warmth that drew closer and coiled around me. Comforting. Soft. I began not to mind the pain so much. I slowed my breathing and looked up at the sky, rousing myself only to murmur occasionally, "Nothing past your hands, man. Nothing past your hands." But we might mess him up. I hoped, if we did, that we could fix it later. Jim was very, very sensitive, and very used to taking his cues from me. He was reasonably healthy, yes, but fragile. If he pulled my wound into himself, it might tear him to pieces or spread like a poison in his energy, his body, his soul.
Jim found my center in my head. He laid his hand on my forehead and leaned over me. He didn't talk, he couldn't spare the attention for that. The free hand roamed slowly over me, not quite touching, a reproduction of the slow exploration I had given him so many times in the beginning.
I heard Simon come back. He checked on us, giving Jim a worried look and whispering "He ok?" to me. I nodded and whispered back, "Sentinel thing." Simon checked my leg then. This time it didn't hurt so much, but his fingers came away wet with runny blood. His reassuring smile seemed runny, too. He checked the prisoners and got a fire started. After a few minutes, the heat was nice. The heat from inside was nicer, though, and I wondered if Jim had somehow mucked around in my metabolism or was reordering my perceptions.
I tried to rouse myself to get a look at what he was doing. At once, Jim caught me and aborted my attempt at alertness. "Easy, Chief," he whispered. "We're fine."
We. I realized that he had saturated me. No. *Jim*. My fragile sentinel. He would be hurt--
"Easy, Chief." Despite myself, my worry evaporated. Well, I thought as I fell asleep, we were going to have to have a talk about this later. There were consent issues....
I dreamed I was in some kind of forest or jungle. It was warm, but the sunlight was completely screened out by towering trees. I was hurt there, too, so that the main difference between dream and real life was that in the dream, I wasn't cold. I was also desperately thirsty. The jungle was damp--so damp that the trees around us had water collecting like dew on the leaves--but I was parched and dry. Jim was crouched beside me, gently teasing drops of water off the plants around us and carrying them one at a time to my mouth on the tips of his fingers. I thought that I should help him, but I couldn't reach for the water myself. My fingers were slow and awkward. I managed to catch a loaded leaf, finally, but the water simply rolled off and sank uselessly into the already-damp ground.
I groaned in frustration and embarrassment, but Jim shushed me gently and continued the tireless work of feeding me a few drops at a time. He was careful and patient, and even in the dream I felt the horrible thirst ebbing....
When I woke up, the clearing was full of deputies and federal agents. Jim was still sitting beside me, but he was talking to someone. Quinn and his girlfriend were nowhere in sight.
I was surprised to find that I was clearheaded enough to center myself and take a 'look' at Jim, but I couldn't locate him. He was weirdly 'invisible.' Worried, I tried to make out the fed standing over him. She came into focus without too much work, a small, glittery field like feds so often had. Without turning, Jim patted me on the head. "Stop, Chief." So I let it go and gave up trying to see anybody.
The next few hours were not a lot of fun. I was rigged to be airlifted out, which not only involved being moved to a stretcher, but did *not* involve actually getting inside the helicopter. I had been sedated, but, shall we say, not nearly *enough*. I panicked as the chopper picked me up.
Just how much Jim had been carrying me up until this point became clear as I was taken away from him. There was a horrible tearing as I was hoisted above him, an emptiness and painful weakness. Although I should have separated us neatly, I couldn't. I clung to him, instead, and suddenly Jim coalesced around me, solid and supporting. Mom had said for years that distance was only a figment of the imagination. I had never believed it before, not really....
Shhh. Easy, Chief.
I gave up fighting and let Jim take over. We would have a lot to talk about later, but for right now, things were fine.