As the promise of caffeine began to wake him, he remembered the
past two days. More importantly, he remembered the solution that had practically
slapped him in the face while laying on the exam table in the emergency room.
Gingerly he rolled onto his left side, keeping one arm wrapped protectively over
his injured ribs. Easing into a sitting position, he noticed the glass of water
and two prescription bottles on the night stand. Propped against the glass was
a note in Jim's handwriting. He picked up the note, squinting in the morning light.
That was all the note said. Quick, simple, to the point. Jim.
Blair smiled and reached for the bottles. He didn't like chemicals, didn't really
care for modern drugs, but he liked pain even less. He took the required amount
and stood slowly, realizing then he was in his sweats and barefoot. He couldn't
remember getting home that afternoon. He remembered the hospital, remembered they
wanted him to stay, but that was when he understood what he had to do, and in
his excitement, convinced the doctor to let him go home that same day. But that
"Jim." He called out, cleared his throat, and tried again
as he made his way slowly toward the bedroom door. "Jim..?"
He had just reached the door when he noticed the blanket draped over the chair
near the door, and the half cup of cold coffee on the table. Blair ran a hand
through his hair and continued slowly down the hall. "Jim?"
kitchen he saw coffee dripping into the pot, then spotted Jim, half standing half
leaning against the counter.
"Jim?" Blair raised his voice just enough
to startle his friend awake.
"What?" Jim jumped awake, suddenly alert,
"Good morning..?" Blair raised his eyebrows, smiling.
"Jim, did you sleep? You look awful."
Jim inhaled deeply, forcing
tired eyes wide, "Sure, I slept." he replied, reaching for the pot of
coffee. "Just had to get up early, to meet your friend."
leaning into a stool for support and reached for the cup Jim was offering. "What?
My friend? What are you talking about?"
Jim smiled and moved to the couch,
rubbing his hair and stretching. "You don't remember any of that night, do
"Well, not much I guess. No." Blair admitted, trying
to remember anything after the hospital, and failing.
"You slept in the
truck all the way back. Then when I got you up here you perked right up and started
insisting that I call your friend at the University, Charlie something."
Blair nodded, recognizing the name, if not the incident. "Charlie Jackson..."
suddenly he remembered the significance. "Oh man, you mean I told you about
him, about the radio station? I can't believe it." He shook his head, "I
don't remember anything. Except that I wanted to tell you."
you did." Jim was smiling. "In fact, until I promised to call him, and
drive over there for the tape, you wouldn't shut up."
"So, did you?"
"Yes, Sandburg, I got it." Jim produced a cassette tape from his
back pocket. "I got you to lie still long enough to fall asleep, and called
him. I drove over there at six this morning to pick it up." He tossed the
tape down on the coffee table. "I'm still not sure how a tape recording of
a sound that turned me into raging zombie is going to help stop it from happening
Blair laughed at Jim's description, then moved, slowly, over to
the easy chair next to the couch. "It's simple." he said as he sat down.
"That sound was a stimulus to your subconscious, and you unwittingly reacted
in an automatic response."
"Yeah..." Jim was still skeptical,
but he seemed willing to listen.
"So we have to work on your subconscious.
We have to change the patterned response, give you some way to react that is positive,
and just as instinctual"
Blair shrugged, "I
dunno, something. Anything other than..."
"Other than 'go kick the
crap out of Blair'?" Jim offered.
Blair's face flushed and he nodded sheepishly.
"Yeah, anything other than that."
Jim stood, "Okay, let's get
this over with." He walked past Blair and started up the steps to his room.
"Whoa, where are you going?"
"Just get the tape ready, Chief,
I'll be right there."
Blair set his cup down and reached for the tape
recorder on the floor next to the couch. He quickly slipped the tape in, and had
to stop himself from automatically wanting to check the recording. Even with the
volume all the way down, he was sure Jim would hear it. "Okay, Jim, I'm going
to need to..." he began, then stopped, glancing up the stairs. "Or did
I already explain this last night?"
Jim had found what he seemed to be
looking for and was coming back down. "No, Sandburg. You were rambling. I
barely understood what you wanted from the University radio station." He
returned to the living room and sat in a chair opposite Blair. "That's why
I stayed up with you all night."
Blair looked up from the tape recorder,
startled. "You stayed up?" he asked.
Jim nodded, looking away for
a moment. "Yeah, I stayed up." he replied matter-of-factly. "The
doc said you shouldn't be left alone, and those pain pills had you coming and
going. I slept in the chair, in your room."
Blair wanted to say something
but knew anything he said would just make Jim uncomfortable. "Okay, well.
I need to get you relaxed, very relaxed, so I can plant a suggestion in your subconscious."
Jim was nodding, but had a very skeptical look in his eyes. "No, Jim, this
will work." Blair insisted. "Trust me."
Jim inhaled deeply,
then looked at Blair. "I do, Chief. I do."
"Okay, now, just
get relaxed." Blair motioned to the couch.
"No, we do this my way."
Jim reached into his pocket and pulled out two sets of handcuffs.
are you doing?"
"Keeping you alive, Sandburg." He put one set
on his right wrist, securing his hand to the arm of the chair, then tossed the
other set to Blair. "Come on, we do it my way, or not at all."
Blair began to protest.
"No." Jim nearly shouted, then took a breath.
"Blair, it's safer this way. If this works, fine. But if not...You know I
could snap your neck in sixty seconds and still have time for coffee."
stood slowly and reluctantly picked up the handcuffs. "Yeah, I know."
he said. "Okay, we'll play it your way." He attached the cuffs to Jim's
free hand and secured it to the chair. "But it's gonna work."
tested the cuffs, then eased back into the chair. "Okay Chief, let's do it."
Blair sat back down on the edge of the couch, just out of reach of Jim's longer
legs, he hoped. "Okay, remember the breathing...you're relaxing, letting
all the tension flow from your body. That's right. You're safe, alone, quiet.
The only sound you hear is the sound of my voice." Blair paused, trying to
judge if his friend was truly relaxing or just faking it. "The only sound
you hear is the sound of my voice. You're safe. You're relaxed." He paused,
picking up the recorder. "Now, there's another sound, a sound other than
my voice. I need you to listen to that sound, and tell me how it makes you feel.
But you have to remember, that sound can't hurt you. You're safe here, and that
sound can't hurt you here. Do you understand?"
Jim nodded slowly, "Yes,
"How do you feel right now?"
fine." Jim replied.
"Now, I'm going to let you hear the sound, but
you must stay calm, because it can't hurt you here. I just want you to tell me
how the sound makes you feel." Blair braced himself, willing his own nerves
to calm down. He knew how dangerous it could be if he lost control of Jim while
in this suggestive state. And keeping control of Jim meant keeping control of
"Okay, I'm going to let you hear the sound, just for a moment,
then it will be gone."
Blair hit 'play' and slowly turned
the volume up so he could hear it as well as Jim.
The very instant the tape
began Jim's entire body tensed, straining against the handcuffs that held him
to a chair Blair suddenly realized could be smashed easily by a man of Jim's strength.
Seconds after turning the tape on, Blair shut it off.
"It's okay, your
safe...the sound is gone. Only my voice is here now. You're relaxed again."
Jim physically relaxed in the chair.
"Okay, now, the sound is gone,
it can't hurt you here. I need to know what you felt when the sound was here.
What did it make you want to do?"
Jim's eyebrows furrowed and he shook
his head. "Survive." he said. "Defend." he paused. "Kill."
That startled Blair for a moment, but he quickly recovered. "Okay, okay.
So you feel threatened?" Jim nodded. "You feel threatened and need to
"Survive." Jim replied.
You need to survive." Blair moved closer out of habit. "You have survived,
Jim. You have survived, and you are safe here. There's no more need to attack
intruders and defend yourself." Blair realized Jim's reaction was on a very
basic, almost animal response to intrusion. "You have survived, you are safe,
no one can hurt you or take anything away." he continued. "Now, knowing
that, there is no more need to attack. You are on top, there is no competition."
Fleetingly Blair realized he was only going to add to Jim's ego if he continued
in this manner. He had to replace the response, but with what?
Jim, listen to my voice." he said, smiling now. "Since there is no more
need to fight, no more need to survive...the sound doesn't make you feel threatened
anymore. You have no enemy, and the sound no longer makes you feel bad. In fact,
you feel good. When you hear the sound, you feel relaxed, happy." Blair paused,
wondering if he should continue with his current train of thinking, then decided
to go ahead. "Now Jim, when you hear the sound, you feel very happy, very
relaxed. It makes you laugh. It's the funniest thing you've heard in a long time."
"I'm going to play the sound again, and it's going to make
you feel very good. The sound can no longer hurt you." Or me, he
thought. "Are you ready?"
Jim nodded, still smiling.
the switch again, bracing himself. For an instant, Jim tensed in the chair. Blair
was ready to shut it off and had nearly done so when he saw his friend relax,
then begin to laugh. Blair smiled,
"Jim, how do you feel?"
was laughing now, "Great. I feel great."
Blair nearly began to laugh
as well, but the effort started his ribs to ache. "Okay, I'm going to stop
the sound now. You're relaxed. You're at home, everything's fine. I'm going to
count to ten, and you're going to wake up feeling fine." Blair paused as
Jim's laughter subsided. "And every time you hear that sound again, you're
going to feel just as happy and relaxed as you just did."
Blair counted to ten slowly, then waited for his friend to open his eyes.
Jim asked, looking around the room in mild surprise. "Did it work?"
Blair was grinning, "I think so." he replied. "I need to test
it now that you're awake again."
Jim took a deep breath, once again testing
the strength of the handcuffs on each wrist. "Before you do..." Jim
dropped his eyes to the floor momentarily, then looked Blair in the eyes. "I
just wanted to--about the other day when I...."
Blair waved a hand in
the air to stop him. "It's okay." he said. Jim had just apologized in
the only way he could, Blair knew. It was more than he ever expected to hear from
his friend. It was enough.
Jim nodded and looked away, accepting that Blair
forgave him without having to say so. "Let's do it."
the tape, then slowly and deliberately hit play. As the sound of the emergency
broadcast system could be heard from the tape player, Jim began to smile. Within
seconds, the smile became laughter.
"Jim?" Blair asked, eyebrows
raised. "Jim, how do you feel?"
Jim couldn't respond through the
laughter, and soon Blair joined in, holding his side. "It worked!" he
couldn't believe it himself. It worked! He shut the tape off, and immediately
Jim's laughter died off.
Blair was grinning ear to ear.
happened?" Jim demanded. "What did I do? Did it work?"
started to smile, still holding his side . "Oh yeah man, it worked."
Jim looked skeptically at the younger man, sitting on the couch with the biggest
grin on his face. "What did I do, Sandburg?"
"It's what you
didn't do that matters." Blair replied, still grinning. "Jim, you didn't
even try to get up. It worked. I replaced your territorial aggression with something
else, and it worked."
"Territorial aggression?" Jim inquired.
"Is that what I was doing?"
Blair nodded, "Yeah, I think so."
he nodded. "The need to survive, to protect your territory." Blair indicated
the apartment with a wave of his hand. "It's basic behavior. But on a more
instinctual level, one that most of us have overcome in society. But your Sentinel
abilities allow you to work on a level more like instinct instead of learned reactions."
"So, you fixed it?" Jim still sounded skeptical, but there was an
unmistakable note of relief in his voice.
Blair nodded, trying not to laugh
again. "Yeah, I replaced it. Now, when you hear the tone, that behavior has
been replaced with another."
Jim eyed the younger man for a full minute,
waiting. When Blair didn't respond, he raised his eyebrows. "Okay, what?
What did you replace it with?'
Blair just grinned.
Jim tried to get up, then remembered he was still cuffed to the chair. "I
could still snap your neck, Chief. Let's not forget that."
with mock fear, then smiled. "Relax, Jim. I just suggested that you feel
very happy, very relaxed." he replied, standing up. "So, where are the
Jim eyed him for a moment longer, then pointed with his head. "Up
there, on the dresser."
Blair glanced up the steps that led to Jim's room.
"Up there?" he asked, "All the way up there?" He held both
arms around his ribcage, feigning a dizzy spell.
okay. Up there." Blair smiled again, getting up slowly and making his way
leisurely up the steps. "I dunno Jim, maybe we should go over this a few
more times. Make sure it took hold...?"
"Hurry up, Sandburg."
Jim replied. "I'll be late for work."
Blair stopped halfway up the
steps. "Jim, it's Monday. Three day weekend, remember?"
it was Jim's turn to smile, "That was yesterday, Chief. Today's Tuesday."
He laughed lightly at Blair's surprise. "You slept, more or less, all the
Blair reached the top of the steps, shaking his head in
wonder. He didn't remember anything after leaving the hospital, and yet he had
been home for over a day. And Jim had slept in the chair in his room. Whether
out of guilt, or friendship, Blair didn't know. But either way, Jim had obviously
cared for him, even if he could never admit it. He found the keys on the night
stand and grabbed them, turning back to make his way gingerly down the stairs.
For a moment, as he descended, he felt a little guilty about the reaction he had
suggested to Jim. He knew at some point in his friend's life, he would hear that
tone again, and burst into uncontrolled laughter for no apparent reason. It could
prove embarrassing. It could cause some questions. Maybe he should do it again?
"Here," Blair uncuffed Jim's right hand, then gave him the
keys. "I have to get dressed."
"Hold on there Chief, you're
not going anywhere."
Blair turned, ready for an argument, but Jim held
up a hand.
"I promised the doctor, you stay home and rest for a week."
Blair had opened his mouth to protest but Jim stood, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"No arguments." he said, tossing the handcuffs to the coffee table.
"If anything exciting happens, I'll call you. I promise." He smiled.
"You're my partner, remember?"
Blair stopped the protest forming
on his lips.
"Besides, how am I supposed to explain that?" Jim lightly
touched the blackened mark on Blair's cheek.
Blair smiled sheepishly. "Oh,
yeah." he admitted. "Okay, I'll stay. Maybe I can get some work done.
This subliminal stuff is fantastic. I'm gonna have to think it over awhile, but
Jim laughed at the younger man's enthusiastic response
to paperwork as he put on his coat.
Blair picked up the tape recorder and another
cup of coffee on his way back down the hall. As he heard the door shut behind
Jim he was popping the tape out of the machine, ready to toss it in the wastebasket.
He smiled, and put the tape back in. "Nah, I think I'll just hold on to
you for awhile." he said. After all, if Jim was going to make him stay home
all week, the least he could do, was enjoy his evenings.