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Summary: A missing scene for 'Mirror Image', taking place immediately after Jim meets up with freaked-out Blair in Conover.





Scrying
By Fluterbev

November 2004



Blair Sandburg couldn’t shake off the feeling that they were being followed. For the entire, interminable couple of minutes it took him and Ellison to reach the locked door dividing the hospital proper from the staff block, he had to resist the urge to look over his shoulder. Twice he didn’t resist it, and both times was surprised when a dark, ominous figure could *not* be seen lumbering menacingly after them.

Ellison jogged along beside him without a word. Other than the concerned pat on the shoulder he had given Sandburg when they’d set off, the detective hadn’t acknowledged his partner’s nervousness at all, and for that, Sandburg was profoundly grateful. In the police society they inhabited, too much solicitude from his friend in public could conceivably be misinterpreted as weakness on Sandburg’s part, and it was vitally important that he appear anything *but* weak if he was to function effectively as Ellison’s partner.

But what sometimes happened in private was a different matter. Jim Ellison was – despite any appearances to the contrary - a gentle man. A loyal friend. And he always carried bucket loads of guilt whenever Blair got injured or threatened in the line of duty, no matter how much his partner’s involvement in all of this was Blair’s own choice.

Blair knew that Jim was anxious right now to get him out of Conover, and to assure himself that Blair was really all right. And Blair was just as anxious to prove that he was fine, that he was in control, despite how freaked he had been by the encounter with Chapel.

At last safety was in sight. At the barrier between madness and sanity, a security guard unlocked the door and waved them through, his glance passing suspiciously over Sandburg, who was still, after all, dressed like an inmate. Ellison’s badge forestalled the need to answer too many questions, and they moved on down the corridor. A moment later, they entered the staff locker room where Sandburg had left his clothes and his real persona behind upon entering Conover. The room was empty, the current shift not being due to change for a few hours yet.

Now they were alone and unwatched, Ellison let his impersonal mask fall. “Hey, Chief.” His hand settled on Blair’s shoulder, his anxious eyes, unencumbered with macho aloofness, looking at him with open concern. “Settle down, okay? Even if Chapel is loose – and believe me I’ll find out *exactly* where he is before we leave – he can’t get in here, okay? Just relax.” The hand on Blair’s shoulder patted him, tentatively, as though he were a wild horse to be gentled.

Sandburg took a deep breath. “I’m okay, man,” he said, embarrassed when his voice came out as a nervous squeak, wanting so much to come across as stoic as Jim at times like this. “Really, I’m fine. I’m just…” he tailed off, unable to find the appropriate word.

But Ellison’s expression softened, eyes crinkling with understanding. “I know,” he said simply. “It’s okay.” He frowned, his attention shifting momentarily as he cocked an ear out to listen to the wider world.  Bringing his attention back to Blair after a few seconds, he said, “Look, will you be all right if I leave you for a while? I have to go talk to the security staff, and check on Chapel.”

“Yeah, I’m fine, Jim.” Sandburg managed at least to get his voice under control. “I know my way around, man. I used to work here, remember? There’s a staff break room two doors down. I’ll get changed and meet you there when you’re done.” When Ellison hesitated, still watching him with concern, Sandburg shooed him off. “Go on, man, get out of here. Go!”

Ellison nodded, and patted him once more before moving away and out of the room, making Blair smile. Sometimes it bugged him, when Ellison came over all protective on him like this. For the most part, he knew that he coped just fine with the stresses and strains of their work together, thank you very much. But at other times, like now, it seemed infinitely reassuring when Jim put on the kid gloves. Especially when you considered the alternative scenario, he thought with a shudder, remembering Chapel’s snarling face as he had gotten up close and personal. If Jim hadn’t come along when he did…

But he had. And Blair had managed to get himself out of the situation already, hadn’t he? He’d hit Chapel hard enough to knock him sideways. He’d gotten away even *before* Jim had arrived on the scene.

So why the hell, particularly now that Jim had left his side, did he feel so damned powerless? So off-balance?

Shaking himself like a wet dog, trying to cast off the unwelcome feeling of vulnerability, Sandburg opened the locker containing his clothes and swiftly got dressed. The pale blue uniform was dumped, with enormous relief, into the laundry bin. And, hoisting his backpack onto one shoulder, Sandburg made his way down to the break room, forcing himself not to look for someone hiding in the shadows on the way there, despite the aura of approaching menace he seemed to feel in the air.

There was an ancient pot of coffee gurgling away in the kitchen area of the empty room, and as Blair helped himself with shaking hands, he wondered wryly if perhaps he was insane after all. He was certainly freaked out right now to the point of paranoia. A common phrase he had heard one of his students say just the other day came back to him, and he spoke it aloud suddenly, his voice sounding outlandishly loud in the quiet room. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

It was as if the validation in that aphorism freed the devil he had been trying to elude. Chapel’s face, murderous and evil, filled his vision, obliterating the here and now. But then that scene blurred, changing into another face, equally terrifying; the stuff of nightmares. A voice - hateful; a cadence he never forgot, no matter how much time had passed, rang in his ears - “I can be you.”

The cup slipped through his fingers, bouncing on the floor with a loud crack, the coffee spilling across the floor in a dark spatter, like blood.

The vivid vision of his one-time tormentor - be-wigged, relentless, merciless - robbed him of his real senses. He felt once again the chains confining him, smelled the candle wax and tasted the sickly-sweet solution of the drug he had been forced to ingest. His heart pounded, deafening him along with the screams he had let loose.

Then, abruptly, it all vanished, leaving him a shaking wreck. Back once again in the here and now, breathing fast, he found he was sitting on the floor. He had no memory of how he got there. He prudently stayed where he was, not trying to rise, allowing himself time. Gradually, in painstaking increments, he got himself back under control.

It would have been harder, he knew, if he hadn’t understood what had just happened. If he hadn’t been here before. But he knew all too well what that was - a flashback. He hadn’t had one since… well not for quite a while, anyway. Not one as bad as that, at any rate. He’d thought he was over them, over that whole Lash thing.

He forced himself to consciously relax. Breathe in, breathe out. I am safe. I am in control. He decided to vocalise the mantra, to make the affirmation stronger. But, “Fuck,” was what he actually said out loud. “Damn. Shit!” His fist pounded the floor. “Pull yourself together, goddamn it!”

The anger he hadn’t realised was simmering under the surface buoyed him up, and he stood. He nursed it. Anger was good. Anger was his friend. Anger was a familiar response, one that had seen him through difficult situations again and again. It was infinitely better than fear. He cursed Chapel out loud. Where the hell did that psycho get off, anyway, playing those power trips? “Fuck him. Fuck Lash. Fuck all of them!”

A few more expletives, a little stomping around, did wonders for his sense of powerlessness. A little while longer, a few more deep breathing exercises, and he felt like himself again –or as close as he was likely to get right now. He cleaned up the spilt coffee with paper towels, and retrieved the mug, which oddly hadn’t broken. He felt a strange affinity with it, and chuckled at the thought. Man, he was on some weird trip today.

Getting himself a refill of coffee, he sat down on one of the room’s plentiful couches. Holding the steaming mug between fingers that no longer shook, he ruthlessly pushed the flashback to one side and pondered what had gone on the last little while he had been here.

It disturbed him just a bit that he had slipped so easily into his role as a mental patient. There had been a point, in fact, just after bumping into Jim, where he had seriously questioned his own grasp on reality. He had been so, so sure Chapel was chasing him. He had heard the killer’s labouring breaths and heavy stomping footsteps just behind him. But Jim had assured him there was no-one there, and really, it was more likely, wasn’t it, that Chapel had made his way back to his cell the minute Blair had gotten away?

Looking back now with the benefit of hindsight, he supposed that the whole serial-killer-in-the-face thing had brought back a lot of shit he’d assumed he’d successfully buried long ago. The impending flashback to his first cosy tête-à-tête with a serial killer had no doubt been looming ever since Chapel had pinned him up against the wall by the throat.

Changing the direction of his thoughts, he realised that Chapel had been onto him from the word go. The guy had seen through him the moment he had opened his big mouth in group therapy. Seen through him with, Blair suspected now, a professional eye, given Chapel’s apparent knowledge of the subject. Idly, Blair wondered where the killer had gotten the opportunity to study psychology. Probably here at Conover, he surmised, during his sojourn as a guest of the penal system, in the name of rehabilitation. It seemed like a dangerous thing to do, in Blair’s opinion, to give a serial killer one more weapon for his arsenal – the ability to psychoanalyse others, including his potential victims. Blair shuddered, his mind shying away from imagining himself among that particularly exclusive group.

Coffee finished, he rose again and washed the cup. There was a mirror over the sink, and he found himself looking into it, at his white-faced reflection. His hair was still pulled back in a tight ponytail, and feeling the need to further banish the identity he had adopted in this place, he pulled it free, shaking the curls out over his shoulders and running his fingers through it in place of a comb.

Peering at himself in the mirror, he found himself re-living another unwelcome memory, this time of much longer ago. As a college freshman, in his early teens, he had hung out with a bunch of students from his introductory psychology course. They had all been interested in parapsychology, in a particularly juvenile mock-scientific way, and had spent many an hour playing with EMF readers filched from the psychology lab, and performing impromptu séances with ouija boards.

Blair had no idea if the impressive results they had occasionally gotten were the product of hoaxers among the group, the manifestation of spirits, or something hallucinogenic in the incense. But one experience in particular still stood out in his memory. The one thing they had done which had freaked him out so comprehensively, that he had afterwards abandoned their ill-conceived experiments altogether, and developed a thoroughly wholesome obsession with anthropology instead.

Scrying.

They had all sat around in the darkness, each one of them holding a mirror before their faces. Staring into his own eyes unblinkingly, as he had been instructed, Blair had willed the murky reflection to change. For someone else’s reflection to superimpose itself over his. This type of scrying was called, the one who had come up with the idea had informed them all, ‘transfiguration’. A spirit might choose to use the reflection to show themselves, transfiguring the watcher’s face into their own.

Blair had been singularly unimpressed with many of their exploits up to then, his scepticism fed by the whole thing. He had seen nothing to convince him of the existence of paranormal activity, but quite a lot to convince him that the human mind was a remarkable and complex entity. But this… this proved to be something else. And to this day, he remembered it. The absolute horror of watching his own face morph into something unrecognisable, something hateful.

Something, now he looked back years later, not unlike Chapel, or even Lash, at their terrifying worst.

Peering now into the reflection of his own face in the mirror above the break room sink, he blinked. Then stared back into red-rimmed eyes which evidently were the mirrors of his troubled soul today. Half expecting to see his reflection morph into another face - Chapel’s or perhaps Lash’s - he whispered, “Who am I now?”

His breath caught, as another face seemed to superimpose itself over his. Then, when he squinted and focused, that second reflection resolved into the separate likeness it actually was. The face of his friend, a little behind and to the left of him, taller, smiling. “You’re Blair Sandburg,” Jim said. “Who else would you be?”

Blair smiled back, his eyes meeting Jim’s reflected ones warmly in greeting. “Jim.”

“That’s me, partner.” Jim’s hand fell on his shoulder, the grip affirming, comforting. “You ready to get moving Chief? Let’s go home, huh?”

Blair nodded, the mirror, and his memories, no longer something to fear, eclipsed by the safety his friend, the sentinel, represented.

“Yeah,” he breathed, as they stood side-by-side in the glass, mirroring each other’s stance. “Home.”


The End




Comments are welcome, but absolutely not necessary - all of my stories are offered freely and without obligation. If you do wish to comment below please sign your name/pseudonym if you are not logged-in to Dreamwidth or Open ID, or alternatively you can email me at fluterbev@gmail.com



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Date: 2007-08-03 06:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] klgrem.livejournal.com
Another very good story. Thank you, again, for sharing it.

Date: 2007-08-04 08:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
You are welcome!

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