in the Dark
Story Notes: I'm posting this by way of celebration. A short while ago, I had a major computer crash, and lost all of my WIPs, of which there were many. Then, trawling through floppy disks in my drawer this morning, I found a backup I didn't realise I had of the very first TS story I played around with, long before I had even seen the series, let alone got up the courage to actually post anything.
This is the opening scene in that story. It is an AU, in which Jim, Blair and other characters from The Sentinel have been transported to another world, adbucted by a malevolent alien race. Humans, in this story, are slaves, and are forced to live lives filled with fear and brutality. But Jim, and now Blair, have found an oasis in the midst of horror, where compassion and kindness still exist, albeit under siege by the horrors of the world outside their sanctuary.
The story is basically an angst-h/c-smarm fest of epic proportions, reflecting the elements that got me into TS fanfic in the first place. It is not finished, and I don't know right now if it ever will be. But I am glad it was not, as I feared, lost for ever, after all :-)
These notes are longer than the story, so I'll shut up now!
The barn was pitch black inside, but Jim didn’t need light to find what he was looking for.
He could hear the shivers and the panting, terrified breaths, and smell the rank odors of sweat, blood and fear of the filthy creature inside. He made his way cautiously to the far corner, where his uncanny night vision made out the huddled form, trying its best to become one with the dark.
When he was close enough to touch, Jim crouched down. So as not to startle the newcomer, he had made no secret of his approach. The poor creature was crouched down, huddled in on himself, partly underneath the wooden platform where farm implements were stored.
Jim resisted the urge to reach out, but instead spoke in a quiet voice, trying to be as unthreatening as he could. “Hey, Chief. You can’t be very comfortable like that. What say you come out of there and get warm?”
The young man didn’t respond, except to pull in on himself even more. This close, Jim could see that under the dirt and rags of clothing he was wearing, his arms and legs were covered in bruises and cuts, his face entirely hidden by the long matted hair which fell forward from his bowed head.
Silently cursing the godforsaken world in which he was forced to live, Jim took stock of the situation. That this man had been abused beyond bearing was a given. Simon had said as much when he and Joel had come back from the market with human cargo along with the sacks of grain they had gone to buy. Simon, as always, had been sure of his decision. “It was sick, Jim. They were parading him, using a whip to keep him moving. God knows how long he’d been at it. He’s exhausted.”
And because of his obvious injuries and exhaustion, they had been careless, thinking him unable to move. But as Joel had lifted him bodily from the trailer, a surge of adrenaline had spurred the newcomer on to fight. Joel had lost his hold on him - the man’s injuries meaning that the big, gentle man had been holding him carefully in any case - and he had won free, clutching a knife which had been underneath the sacks against which he had been laying.
Then he had run. And they had let him, knowing he could not go far. And that in any case, Jim would be able to find him. They all knew that he could find anything, anyone on the farm.
And so here he was, crouching in the straw in the darkness, able to see when the lack of light should have made it impossible; able to smell not only the smells of byre and barn, but the fear underneath the hapless man’s body odor. Able to hear the rush of blood through veins sped by a terror-driven heartbeat.
Casting aside his distracting reflection on why these things were possible, Jim determinedly focused on the matter in hand. It was enough to know that this man was afraid and injured. He did not have the leisure at this moment to contemplate the breadth of that knowledge, or why he knew those things so intimately.
Again, he spoke softly. “Come on Chief. I know you’re scared, but it’s cold out here, and you’re hurting. I know you have no reason to believe me, but I promise you can trust me. No one’s going to do you any harm.”
He heard the little catch of breath the man made as he listened. Slowly the man’s head rose, and his eyes, all-pupil in the darkness, dark themselves with anguish, turned towards Jim. His hand moved slowly, and the knife, concealed until that moment, moved to rest on his opposite wrist. The eyes closed, a look of such pain in his face that Jim took a shocked breath, anticipating his intention. A second before the man could move the knife to cut deeply, Jim spoke again. “You don’t want to do that, Chief, not now. This is a safe place. I’ve been exactly where you are now. But I came here, and now I have my life back.”
The man’s eyes snapped open, and the naked despair on his face made Jim believe for a moment that nothing other than physical force would prevent him from attempting his own life. But he paused a moment, the knife not moving.
A hoarse whisper sounded out of the darkness. “I’m so tired.”
Jim let go the breath he had been holding, in relief. If the man was talking, there was hope. “Then rest, Chief. Come with me, and rest,” he said simply. He held out his hand, touching the man for the first time, laying his fingers on the hand holding the knife. His touch was light, but in a heartbeat he could have disarmed the man if he tried to cut himself or Jim, able to anticipate the movement in the minutest play of muscle and tendon under skin. He fervently hoped he wouldn’t have to.
He didn’t. The man’s hand opened, the knife falling to the dirt floor. Jim’s grip remained gentle, taking the now empty, icy-cold hand in his own. “Come on, Chief.” he said, pulling gently. “Come on.”
Gradually, in slow increments, the man moved towards him, allowing himself to be maneuvered to Jim’s side. Then, once he was all the way out, Jim hoisted an arm around him and stood, bringing the man with him. Under the rags he could feel how thin the man’s shivering frame was, and how cold.
Supporting most of his charge’s weight as he guided his stumbling steps outside again, he spoke quietly to Joel who had been waiting outside the barn. “Get things ready up at the house. I’ll need hot water for a bath, clean clothes, bandages. You know the drill.” Joel nodded, and before he left, shucked off his cloak and placed it around the young man’s shoulders, naked pity on his face. Jim held the man closer as he wrapped it around him, trying to warm him up as they moved along. “Not far now,” he said quietly, encouraging. “It’s all over now”.
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