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Depth or Doubt of Faith


I am finally posting my contribution to Angie's "sad story" challenge. After being out of town and becoming involved in a spectacular wreck (in a driving rain on I-45 North from Houston), I just feel thankful to be posting anything at all. Luckily, and due to the fact that we drove our big Impala, we all walked away without a scratch. All of us except my Impala SS that is, but bless her heart, she still got us home. Anyway, on with the story:


Disclaimer: Lyrics and the title are from "Needs" by Collective Soul. Jim and Blair and the MC gang are owned by Pet Fly, Paramount, and others. No copyright infringement intended.
Warnings: None
Spoilers: A very small one for S2P2
Rating: G
A short story written in response to the CT St. Patrick's Day Challenge. I want to thank K for her wonderful beta work. Her help and ideas are much appreciated. Any errors remaining are mine. 
A final note: Yes, the legend of Eithne is real.

I don’t need nobody
I don’t need the weight of words to crash on thru
I don’t need nobody
I just need to learn the depth
Or doubt of faith to fall into

The first minute was consumed with popping the emergency brake and the feel of the car gathering speed as it rolled down the long ramp towards the lake. She was groggy from the pills and could barely restrain her active two year old as the little girl bounced in her lap. The second minute followed the car in its final descent into the murky depths. A plume of emerald water rose into the air as the nose of the sedan plunged into the lake. The little red-haired toddler giggled as she watched the water cascade over the wind shield. From the shore, a teenager on a mountain bike frantically dialed 911 as he realized what he had witnessed. The third minute passed quickly as the young woman began to succumb to the sedatives she had taken to keep her raging emotions in check. She smiled sadly at her baby girl who was busy watching the water bob around the windshield. As the tail end of the car began to sink, there was a bump and the toddler clapped her hands in delight.

As minute four elapsed, the water had begun seeping into the various openings of the automobile. Only one of the occupants of the elderly car was still aware enough to take notice of the lapping water as it began covering the floor boards and crept toward the seats. There was a sudden jolt as the car began to sink more quickly. For the first time the little girl called for her mother.

The passing of minute five brought about crucial events. The young woman in the front seat sat slumped and immobile, having lost consciousness due to the drugs raging through her system. Her baby had abandoned the front seat to huddle in the seat behind her mother as the water began rising rapidly. Her piercing cry rang through the shuddering car as the water began to fill the back seat.

Two Cascade Police Department cars and one old Ford pickup arrived at the boat ramp simultaneously to herald minute six. Gravel flew in all directions as the vehicles roared to a stop. The occupants of those vehicles flung open doors and scrambled to the edge of the lake, yelling obscenities, directions and questions as the semblance of a plan was formed. The car continued its persistent descent into the lake's dirty water.

Seven minutes after the young mother had popped the brake on the car to begin its downward journey, Jim Ellison cocked his head to listen as he frantically watched the car sink even lower into the cold depths of the lake. Beside him, Blair Sandburg recognized the sentinel's posture and quietly reminded him to block out the wail of sirens and the yells of the policemen around them. Suddenly Ellison shook his head, grabbed a flashlight from the seat of the truck and hissed, "There's a child in the car!"

Almost eight minutes had passed by the time the detective had managed to swim out to the sinking car. By peering into the quickly disappearing back glass, he could make out the form of the frightened baby girl screaming as the water began to reach her neck and lap into her face. Grabbing onto the car for leverage, the detective began pounding the back window across from her with the long flashlight. The car had sunk enough now that Jim had to tread water with one hand and cling to the car with the other. As desperation gave strength to his blows, the glass in the old car finally began to give. Switching his grip to the back panel of the vehicle, Jim used his feet and with a mighty kick finally dislodged the window. Water surged into the car and Jim knew he only had a few seconds to complete the rescue of the helpless child.

Minute nine found Jim Ellison desperately grabbing for the young child as the car became completely submerged in the cold lake. He managed to latch onto her tiny arm, just as the air pocket she had instictively scrambled towards disappeared. Pulling the baby forward with all his might, he pushed off of the back seat and made his way to the surface of the lake, realizing the child wouldn't have known to take a breath before he dragged her through the car. He sent silent prayers heavenward as he began the ascent.

As Jim Ellison broke the surface, he swung the baby up and out of the water as far as he could reach. It wasn't until he had gasped his lungs full of air that he realized an underwater rescue team had joined him and quickly took the baby from his fatiguing arms. When he turned to swim back to the shore, Jim found his partner treading water nearby. He heard Simon Banks shouting oaths at Sandburg from the shore. Blair swam up to the detective and shouted "Are you okay? What about the driver?" Jim merely shook his head and began swimming toward the bank. Blair shouted anxiously, "Jim!" but was greeted with only a sad eyed glance and a wave telling him to come on back to land. As the winded detective stumbled into the waiting arms of his friends, his dripping partner stood in the shallows watching the final bubbles reach the surface as the car settled into the gloomy depths of the lake. It had only taken ten minutes for lives to be changed forever.


The detective was not to be denied the ambulance ride to the hospital. He kept constant vigilance on the baby’s condition despite the heart monitor and other instruments that the paramedics attached. His own monitoring was quickly greeted with a rapidly strengthening pulse and finally a hearty cry as the young child vented the fear that welled up within her. He drew back the focus of his hearing and watched with growing thankfulness as it became apparent the little girl would survive. When the ambulance pulled to a stop outside the emergency room, Jim was by her side as she was wheeled inside. Simon Banks had effectively stopped media interference beforehand so as to not traumatize the child further and Jim was once again grateful for his superior’s foresight. The doctors allowed the detective to remain near the child and she constantly reached for him throughout their examinations. It seemed a bond had been formed.

Many hours passed in the emergency room as the child’s condition was followed carefully. Jim never moved from her side for longer than a minute or two and spoke in a soft tone, constantly reassuring the frightened child. Next of kin were notified and details slowly filtered to Jim as he kept his vigil. The father was abusive and had caused the young mother much grief throughout their marriage. Apparently, most of the abuse was emotional and involved several affairs as well as threats toward his wife. At her wits end, the woman, who he learned was named Patricia, had finally turned to chemical relief and found some comfort in sedatives and anti-depressants. As her drug dependence heightened so had the torturous treatment.

Eventually the father had left the small family and filed for divorce. With this humiliation came the final blow, he had asked for custody of young Carly and seemed likely to get it because of Patricia’s burgeoning drug problem. This seemed to be the event which precipitated the horrible scene at the lake.

Friends were already gathering to tell authorities the terrible state Patricia had been in during her last hours. A note was found outlining the young woman’s troubles, how both of her parents had perished in a car wreck many years ago, so she no longer felt she had anyone to turn to for assistance. She wrote about the anguish she was in and her fears for Carly. She wrote about the life she had once had, full of love and belonging and mourned that it was all gone now. She mentioned the happiest days of her life and how she would never trade them: days of hope and faith and happiness at Rainier. Upon hearing this news, Jim’s heart skipped a beat. If he had so easily heard Patricia’s sad saga, surely his partner had also and Sandburg was alone. A vision of the young man standing in the shallows of the lake watching the final bubbles of air rise from the sinking car to the water's surface entered his memory. He would have to talk to his young friend soon. Sandburg had been an extremely popular TA on campus and very likely had known Patricia or at the very least could easily find out the details of her story. His empathetic guide was bound to be suffering.

More hours passed. The father had not made an appearance. Apparently his battle for Carly had been a fight for control over her mother and had very little to do with the child. It was possible the little red-haired child would be placed in foster care until a judgment could be ruled. Jim was told there was hope that a sympathetic aunt would be granted custody of Carly temporarily and perhaps permanently if the father never came to get the child.

The aunt finally arrived and once recovered from the initial shock of the loss of her niece and the actions which had almost taken the toddler as well, she met with the detective who had so valiantly rescued Carly.

"I have to thank you for being so brave and saving Carly, Mr....?"

Jim’s gaze met the older woman’s red-rimmed eyes as he softly replied," It’s Jim, ma’am. I did what I had to do...what any police officer would have done."

She smiled at him as a tear escaped from her saddened eyes,"I've been told you and your department don’t want any media coverage and for that I am so very grateful. My niece and her daughter had been through so much and now maybe Carly has a chance for a normal life. I just wish I could have known what was going on before........" The woman broke down at this point and Jim rushed to offer comfort.

"It’s okay, it’s okay. You couldn’t know what you weren’t told. We all have regrets, but we can’t change events which have already happened. Now you have someone that needs you.... and probably a bit of a fight on your hands. Don’t let guilt rob you of what has been spared. I imagine I know about working through that better than anyone you could hope to meet. Believe me, it’s okay to grieve for what you might have done for a while, but learn to let the guilt go, and start cherishing what you’ve saved. It will be well worth the effort or at least that’s been my experience."

The aunt studied the detective’s face and was surprised to see a tremendous amount of compassion and understanding there, along with something else she could not quite name Sorrow, maybe? Guilt? She reached out and patted his arm.

"I really expected you to hate Patricia for what she’s done. I’m so glad you understand. You’re an angel. My name is Christine Meyers. Please tell me you’ll stay in touch, the doctors say you’ve already developed quite a bond with our little girl."

Jim couldn’t help but smile. "Believe me, I’ll be around. Right now, however, I’ve got to check on my partner. He was with me and may have known Patricia when she was a student at Rainier a few years ago. He’ll want to know Carly is okay and in very capable hands."

The woman smiled tearfully, and suddenly reached over and grabbed the detective in a huge hug whispering, "Thank you so much. Bring your partner with you when you visit, he’s welcome too." She quickly broke away and reentered the baby’s room without a backwards glance as her emotions overcame her.

Jim released a large sigh and realized just how exhausted he was. He followed the long hallway to the waiting area to find Blair and get a ride home. His energy and emotions felt totally tapped and all he wanted was to touch base with his friend and guide and go home to rest. As he entered the waiting room, he glanced around to find Sandburg, but only saw Simon and Henri. Somehow this did not bode well for his plans. 

"The baby still doing okay, Jim?" H quickly asked.

"Ummm....yeah. She’s really a fighter. Her great aunt is here and says I can visit anytime. I just need to gather Sandburg and get out of here....I’m wiped out."

Simon fidgeted uncomfortably and coughed slightly before replying, "Well, Jim, will a ride in a Cascade PD car do? Sandburg disappeared with your truck right after you left. We saw him talking to a few of the guys who’ll be investigating the case. He apparently had some information on the woman. I looked back over for him after a bit and he was gone. We thought we would find him here, of course, but when we got here........We tried calling the loft and even drove by. Ah hell, you know how Blair is. He’s probably back at the loft by now and just not answering the phone." Simon knew how unlikely that sounded, but it was the best he could offer and Jim was apparently too exhausted to argue.

"I imagine he found out she was a former student at Rainier and is doing some research on his own. Probably best for me to just go home and wait, otherwise I might miss him. I’m sure he’s taking this hard and he’ll be glad to hear the baby’s okay." Simon quietly nodded and the three men turned to leave.


Jim quietly applauded his own precautions concerning keeping a back-up key in his wallet as he let himself into the loft. As he had suspected, his guide had come home in the last hour or so, dropped off the truck and left again in his Volvo. Jim shook his head and went to the kitchen to get something to eat. It was a little past midnight and Jim hadn’t eaten since breakfast. The whole time spent preparing and eating his sandwich was occupied in the inevitable replaying of the day’s harsh events. Part of him was a little angry at Sandburg, that part which had come to depend on the anthropologist to review and discuss difficult cases as they occurred. It wasn’t  long before Jim made his way to the couch and fell asleep from exhaustion, but his hyper senses remained on alert for the entrance of his friend.

Several hours later, Jim started awake. At first he was disoriented, wondering why he had awakened and why he was on the couch....again. Memories of the previous day’s events flooded him and a slight touch of fear began to tug at the recesses of his mind. Dawn was beginning to make its way across the Cascade skyline and his guide still had not come home. It was then Jim realized it was the absence of sound which had stirred him rather than some suspicious noise. For the thousandth time, he wondered about the  connection which bound him to Sandburg. He could not help but believe himself pitiful, relying on another’s presence or well-being to keep him centered and had a vague recollection of events which had once before prevented that calming influence. With a shudder, he rose quickly, showered and dressed for the day. If Blair wouldn’t come home, then he would go to him.

Jim drove to the lake with a calm assuredness which seemed remarkable even to himself. Sure enough, as he parked the truck and scanned the area, he found the figure he sought. Blair was seated on the ground just outside the yellow crime tape which flapped slightly in the breeze. Jim quietly made his way toward Sandburg. As he approached, Jim noticed Blair was holding a small bouquet of wildflowers, obviously handpicked and tied with a pink ribbon. Beside him on the damp spring grass was a stuffed animal, temporarily forgotten as the young man gazed off into the distance. Jim made a small noise, not wanting to startle the preoccupied man. Without looking up, Blair simply said, "I’m sorry, Jim."

Jim knelt by his friend and reached out to gently rub his back. He felt a shiver pass through his guide’s body and Jim’s voice was softly admonishing as he asked, "How long you been out here, Chief?"

"Not that long, man. I spent most of the night at the university and wandering around. I just had to process everything. I'm sorry I didn't call."

Jim couldn’t keep from smiling as he answered,"Hey, this isn’t about me. It’s about you and what’s going on in that head of yours. I know Patricia was a student at Rainier and I knew you would take the situation hard, but I kinda thought you would trust me enough to come home and talk."

For the first time, Blair turned to his sentinel. Jim’s heart clenched as he saw the young man’s face. The anthropologist’s expression seemed totally lost and his reddened eyes were as full of sorrow as Jim had ever seen them. "God, don’t say that. That’s the one thing I couldn’t bear right now. You thinking I don’t care about our friendship. You are all about trust to me, Jim. Trust and faith."

Jim continued rubbing his friend’s back as he sat down on the grass beside him. Obviously this wasn’t about "them." He could deal with this.

"So, can you talk to me about it, buddy? I might be able to help out a bit. You know the baby is going to be okay? You found that out, right?" Blair’s gaze returned to the lake as he nodded.

"You know what day this is, Jim?"

"Ummm....Friday? Oh, uh....I guess you mean the date. It’s the seventeenth right?"

"Yeah, St. Patrick’s Day. Kinda ironic, huh?"

Jim gazed at his friend with a confused expression which made Blair smile in spite of himself. "Do you know any of the legends of St. Patrick? Any of the myths connected to this day?"

Jim looked away and shook his head. "Well, at the risk of sounding glib, you aren’t wondering if I’m gonna pinch you or anything like that, I don’t guess?" Suddenly he found his arms full of guide who was laughing and sobbing at the same time. Jim pulled him in to return the embrace and spoke to him in soothing tones. "Hey, hey. It’s okay, it’s going to be okay. You’re just tired and emotionally wrung out. It’s gonna be all right."

Blair pulled back to look into the sentinel’s blue eyes. "You know you're the greatest...I really love you, man."

Jim shook his head again before replying, "The feeling is mutual, Sandburg. Now do you mind letting me in on what IS going on in your brain? I’m getting more confused by the second and you know how I HATE confusion." Blair sat back and sighed as he began his explanation. Jim settled next to him and resumed gently rubbing his weary friend’s back, expecting that the coming story might take awhile, yet not minding it a bit.

"I’ll rephrase my question. Have you ever heard of the legend of Eithne? No? That’s okay, most people haven’t. She was a goddess in the Druid belief. In the legend, Eithne became lost and couldn't find her way back to the other immortals. St. Patrick found her and fed her, but because of this indiscretion of eating with a mortal, she lost her own immortality. St. Patrick took her in and tried to help her, even changed her name to.....," Blair looked expectantly at Jim.

Jim gazed at his guide in wonder as he quietly filled in, "Patricia." 

"Right. But it didn’t work. Patricia missed her old life as an immortal so much she eventually drowned herself." Blair’s next comment was sentinel soft. "You know, I don’t do so good with stories about drownings....or real life events either. Not anymore." The last words ended on a choked sob, and Jim’s hand moved up from his guide’s back to his neck, which he lightly gripped as he offered his support. 

"Is that it, Blair? Is that why this has shaken you so very badly? Is it the fact Patricia drowned?"

Blair quietly shook his head. "Maybe a little, maybe even more than I realize, but that’s not what I’ve been thinking about. I can’t really put it into words. I’ve been thinking about Naomi, Jim. About how I’ve taken for granted what she did. How hard she had to work to raise me all by herself. I mean, I always knew what she did took a lot of courage, but I don’t think I realized just how much "faith" it took. I never really gave her the credit she deserves."

Jim was silent, his only movement was his hand which continued its gentle massage on Blair's tense neck muscles. The younger man finally stole a glance at the detective and was suddenly moved by what he saw. Jim was sitting with his eyes closed, his normally stoic face full of raw emotion. Quietly and without opening his eyes the sentinel answered, "I think you put it into pretty good words, Blair. I understand more than you can possibly know." At Sandburg’s slight gasp, Jim’s eyes opened. "No, no...it’s okay. I don’t talk about my dad much and I’m just as guilty for taking what he did for granted. Maybe even more so because he didn’t always do a very good job of it. But Lord knows he tried. He didn’t give in to the depths of despair, go off and abandon us, or heaven help us, take his own life." Jim pulled at Blair’s neck to hug him once again but was shrugged off. He looked up in confusion as Blair bounced to his feet.

"Patricia was sick, Jim. Caught in the stranglehold of depression and drug use. I know that, but I’m still mad at her for leaving her little girl. I don’t want to be mad at her, but I am, you know. Most of all, I feel so badly for her. I never knew my dad, but I do realize I am so lucky to have good friends and a great mom. As bad as things have been at different times of my life, I’ve always had something my mom gave me all those years ago. It was her gift of faith. I think it’s what kept me going when my life didn’t always work out like I planned. If she had done something like Patricia, what would I have then?" Blair’s eyes seemed almost frantic as he tried to work out this puzzle for himself.... and for Carly.

Jim rose to stand beside his guide. "You would have me, Blair. Just like I have you. We can never know how things will work out, who we’ll find in a dingy artifacts room at a university or in a hospital when we are on the brink of giving up. Carly has us and she has her aunt. That will work until the next adventure in her life takes her further into the journey. Hopefully she’ll come to know how much we all care and it will all make sense to her one day." Blair glanced at the sentinel with tired eyes which had finally regained some of their spark. Silently, he turned and walked beside the crime tape until he reached the water’s edge. He knelt and placed the colorful flowers on the shore and then looked up. 

"She’s at peace, Jim. It’s just something I feel."

Jim quietly watched as his brother of the soul walked back to the spot where they had been sitting and retrieved the stuffed animal which lay amid the now dry grass. The morning sunlight felt warm and healing on his back as Jim reached over and gathered in his guide as they walked together toward the vehicles. Suddenly, Blair stopped and handed him the stuffed animal. Jim looked down at the toy wolf and grinned as he said quietly, "I happen to think this kid’s gonna prefer big black cats, Chief." Both men chuckled as they resumed walking. "Meet you at the hospital, Sandburg. We’ve got a beautiful redhead waiting for us."


Here I slumber to awaken my daze
find convenience in this savior I save
Am I a prison, am I a source of dire news
Am I a picture perfect reason for you
I don't need nobody
I don't need the weight of words
To crash on thru
I don't need nobody
I just need to learn the depth or doubt
Of faith to fall into


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