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Category: Pre-slash
Warnings: Angst, post TSbyBS, some cussing, un-beta'd
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I don't own any portion of the Sentinel. No copyright infringement is intended.

There will be more. This came about from sentinel_thurs Challenge #433: cloud.

To the Sacrificing Isaac index


006 Clouded Leopard

Jim didn't flinch when they followed Kim into the Evergreen hospital parking lot rather than Fairfax. He didn't know which was worse, an institution for psychos or an institution to warehouse coma patients. At least it wasn't a hospice. He climbed out of the car and looked up at the rows of windows on the building. It's not me. But it could have been. So easily, this could have been him. He clenched his teeth together and headed toward the sidewalk, where Kim waited.

And just like that, Jim didn't have to go into the hospital to know. He didn't have to have that creepy sensation of a sniper rifle pointed at his back that meant "Alex" to know. The clouded leopard limping its way toward him with pitiful mews and ragged fur told him everything.

He stopped, closed his eyes, and pushed down the deepening sensation of loss that was trying to crawl out of his heart and strangle him.

Simon stopped, too. "Jim?"

Jim opened his eyes. "He’s a sentinel."

Kim, who was waiting a little further along the sidewalk, closer to the doors, frowned at them both. She did a lot of frowning.

Simon scowled. "How do you know? We haven't seen this kid."

Jim's shoulders hunched a little, he couldn't stop them, and he look up at the windows above the doors. In one of those rooms, a zoned out sentinel was laying, pumped full of drugs and a feeding tube, lost in one of his senses, just waiting for someone to wake him up. Or for his body to shut down. "Pretty much the same way I knew about Alex, though I didn't know what I was seeing then, not enough to know what it meant." I see his spirit animal, Jim didn't say. Simon wouldn't appreciate it. Blair would, but not Simon. Not Jim, either, now that he thought about it.

"Well, shit," Simon said. And didn't that just say it all?

Jim started walking forward. "Let's get this over with."

Kim shifted to block their path. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Jim said.

Simon gave her a gentle smile, the same kind of smile he used with nervous victims who weren't very traumatized. "This is a bit difficult for Jim."

She looked between the two of them suspiciously, then nodded. "Okay. Just don't upset my brother."

Jim nodded.

No one said anything as Kim led them through the hospital, to a quiet ward. A desk was manned by a male nurse with blond hair and features bracketed by smile lines. He looked up from his computer, looked at Jim and Simon curiously, and then smiled at Kim. "Kim! It's great to see you."

Her returning smile wasn't nearly as effusive. "Any change?"

His face fell into a concerned expression. He shook his head. "I'm sorry. Dr. Hannigan won't be in for a few hours. Bringing friends to see Josh?"

She nodded. "This is Jim, a, um, friend from Cascade."

"I'll just wait here," Simon said. He moved over to one of the couches in the waiting area and dropped into it.

The nurse just smiled. "You can stay as long as you like, Kim."

Kim went to a closed door. She put her hand on it, as if seeking a heartbeat in the wood. "If he is, you know, like you, can you help him?"

He had no idea. Sandburg was the genius. But, maybe? "I think so."

She pushed the door open and took him into the room. It was a generic hospital room, with monitors, beeping, the usual uncomfortable hospital bed, and a couple of equally uncomfortable chairs for guests. Nothing unexpected. The still body on the bed, though, was like a punch in the stomach.

Kim crossed the room and combed her fingers through the hair on her brother's head. "Hi, Josh. I've brought a visitor. His name is Jim."

Jim closed the door behind him and joined her. Josh had a feeding tube in his nose, an IV in his left arm, and a few monitors. Other than that, he looked like a man sleeping in a hospital bed. He smelled dusty, though, as if he was shedding all of his body instead of just the top layer of skin.

"I wish Blair was here," he muttered.

Kim looked up from the covers she was fussing with. "What?"

"My partner. He would be helpful right about now."

"Oh. Mr. Sandburg."

"Yeah. We have to figure out which sense he zoned on."

Kim paused in blanket smoothing. "You think he's..." She swallowed. "You think he's like you."

"He is. Right now, he's lost in one of his senses. Sandburg would know how to bring him around." Jim shoved his hand through his hair. "It's kind of a process of elimination, to figure out which one he's zoned on. We have to use a sense he's not zoned on to bring him out."

She was quiet for a few moments. Processing, probably. She took Josh's hand in hers and cleared her throat. "Which sense would that be?" She probably thought she hid it well, but the disbelief was clear in the timber of her voice and set of her shoulders.

Jim scratched his chin. "Well, it's probably hearing or sight. Maybe smell. Probably not touch or taste. With touch, he'd have to be touching something and with taste, he'd have to have something in his mouth. The others, it could be anything in the environment that’s in his range, which happens a lot."

"So how do we bring him out of this, ah, zone?"

"Taste," Jim decided. "We need to find something with a strong taste, something he wouldn't have every day, and put it on his tongue."

"What do you suggest?" Her voice was hardening a bit more. Perhaps she was regretting this.

Jim looked around the room. There wasn't anything to eat. There were various things in the room, but he was hesitant to stick a non-food thing in someone's mouth. "Do you have any gum or mints?"

"No. I have lip gloss."

“I’ll see what I can find.” Jim wandered through the room, and into the attached restroom. He found a grooming kit, one without a razor or dental floss. He pulled a toothbrush out, and toothpaste. He put a dab of toothpaste on the brush and brought it back.

Kim frowned. Again.

"I'm going to put this on his tongue. Talk to him. Touch him like you've been doing, and ask him to come back. Follow you back. That kind of thing. He doesn't know me, so he might not listen to me, but he'll listen to you." God, he hoped this worked.

She nodded. "Josh, it's Kim. Come back to me Josh."

"Good, just keep talking to him."

"Okay. Hey Josh, it's Kim. I'm here and I love you."

Feeling like he'd fallen flat on his face in the Twilight Zone, Jim gently pried Josh's mouth open enough to stick the bristles of the toothbrush into his mouth. Goosebumps rose on his skin and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. This was wrong. Not wrong like Alex was wrong, but wrong like he wasn't supposed to be there wrong.

In the corner of the room, the clouded leopard hunched and yowled. Jim tried to ignore it.

"Josh, come back to me Josh," Kim said. She patted his cheeks and ruffled his hair. "I know you can hear me. Quit messing around and come back."

"Tell him to follow your voice."

She looked at him like he was an idiot.

Jim shrugged. "It helps me."

"This happens to you?"

He focused on the bristles of the toothbrush, swiping it across the kid’s tongue carefully. "All the time."

She looked at her brother. "Oh. Do you hear that, bro? You're not the only one who takes off for la-la land. Come back to me so I can introduce you to Jim, here. Follow my voice and come back to the real world."

Jim wrinkled his face up. Even though it was a tiny bead of white, keeping the toothpaste on the kid's tongue so it wouldn't gag him was a little bit tricky. The kid was starting to drool.

"Come on back, Josh," Kim said.

The tongue twitched under the toothbrush and spit, then the kid swallowed. And coughed.

"Josh!"

The kid's face twitched.

"Not so loud," Jim said.

"C'mon, bro, come back to me. Come on. Open your eyes. You can do it. Come back, come back, come back." Kim's tone had changed, Jim noticed. The humoring-Jim vibe was gone and the insistence was there, instead. "C'mon Josh. It's me. Follow my voice back. C'mon, follow my voice. You can do it."

The kid blinked.

Jim pulled the toothbrush out and stepped back.

"Josh, Josh." Kim was tearing up now. The saline scent was irritating.

"Khi...?"

"Josh!" She put her head on the pillow next to the kid. "Oh God, Josh." And she openly wept.

Jim swallowed past the stinging in his throat and closed his eyes.

Go to part 005 Road Trip
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Comments

fluterbev
Apr. 26th, 2012 06:43 am (UTC)
I am really pleased to see another chapter! I like how Jim has learned so much from Blair, but that he goes about it in his very straightforward, Jim-like way :-).