A/N: Update. As always, I apologise for how long it has taken me to update. You could show me your forgive me by leaving a review. And if you don't forgive me, review anyway. I'd like to know what you think. SilverTrinity, you made me smile and I like the way you think. This one is for you.
The Way that You Save Me
"Inside I was a child that could not mend a broken wing. Outside I looked for a way to teach my heart to sing."
The North Carolina Controlled Substance Rehabilitation Unit wasn't all that imposing from the outside. It had been erected in the previous ten years, and had a rather Spanish-influenced Post Modern look to it. Crafted from faux-sandstone, it gleamed like a precious gem against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a final beacon of man made excellence before nature once more took its hold over the land.
The entrance had been crafted into a wide staircase that narrowed at the top with large glass door serving as the entrance. The roof of the facility had a larger perimeter than the structure itself, with large columns equally spaced providing support from the ground up.
Around the outside of the grounds ran a tall metal fence, complete with security cameras. Whilst most rehabilitation facilities operated on a voluntary basis, the NC facility was used for the state's court ordered placements. Previous attempts at escape had forced the creation of a fairly secure security system, although very few every got as far as it during a breakout.
Behind the main building were the grounds of the facility, affectionately called the 'Gardens' by those that lived and worked at the facility. The Gardens seemed to taper off into the countryside; the end merging completely with the trees carpeting the land before the mountains. The lawns were kept immaculate, and two water features provided soothing tranquillity with softly trickling liquid spilling down into the fenced off pools. Staff had learned quickly unprotected pools of even shallow water could lead to near catastrophe.
In the right hand corner of the grounds was a small planting area, where patients were allowed to plant and grow anything ranging from plants and flowers to small vegetables. Agricultural therapy was a proven way to beat addiction, and so this area was used to the maximum of it's potential. Groups of patients were always there, even unto the fading sunlight of the day.
Running down the lengths of the grounds were rows of conifer trees, tall enough to cover the fences behind them, but not enough to becoming looming and oppressive. The only downside of the size, if there could be one was that the trees provided very little shade into the gardens. And it was that fact which currently pissed off Jeff Hardy.
The sun beat mercilessly down on Jeff's head, filling his eyes with an unwelcome, piercing amber glow. He'd just survived yet another false-happy, 'snaps for the most deluded addict' group session and was just about ready to throw himself under a bus.
The slightest of reprieves had come in being allowed outside. Now that he'd completed seven days of his six week incarceration, he was given the privilege of going outside within the facilities' grounds and into the gardens. Of course, Jeff realised the place was locked down like a prison, with security features that would make the cute guy on Prison Break think again. He was able to walk around the ground, but he was never free. Guards, counsellors, doctors and fellow patients were always within hearing distance, always watching him; whispering like he didn't know it was he they were gossiping about.
Even being outside made him uncomfortable. The fresh air and merciless Fall sunshine made him shiver and pant pathetically. Locked in a permanent cold sweat, he dabbed at his forehead with the sleeve of the facility issue shirt and smeared it over his upper lip. Powder blue had never been his colour, and the fibre blend felt like sandpaper against his sensitive skin.
And if that wasn't enough, Jeff was well and truly into the abstinence syndrome of addiction. His skin felt alive, as though thousands of tiny fire ants were crawling over and beneath it, gnawing and biting away at every inch of him. No amount of scratching gave relief, but it didn't stop Jeff. Ugly red welts marked his arms and chest, offset by the white cast covering his broken hand. Feeling broken on the outside and inside, Jeff knew he was falling to pieces.
The craving for a fix, which had once been a dull ache, was now a throbbing agony inside. If he could just get his hands on something; anything, Jeff knew he'd feel better. But the doctors wouldn't prescribe a single painkiller for his broken hand, so there was no hope of scoring anything stronger at all. If Jeff were being honest with himself, the pain in his hand provided a sometimes distraction to everything else he was feeling.
Even the cold-turkey approach he was being forced through for his alleged addiction paled in comparison to the artic cold in his heart. Being alone with his thoughts gave him time to dwell on everything that had happened with Morgan. It was at night, when he felt at his most vulnerable. Whilst his body betrayed his need for a hit, it was his heart that made him sob and whimper into his pillow, whispering names of those who would never come for him now. For the first time he was being forced to confront everything that had gone wrong in his life; every bad decision and wrong turn he had ever taken. With no narcotic escape, Jeff didn't think he would survive the sadness.
He'd even resigned himself to the obvious eventual fate of this programme. If the drug treatment didn't kill him, then heartbreak would.
Feeling light headed, Jeff staggered over to the nearest bench in the shade of one of the bay windows of the building. Dropping into the seat, he made a point of ignoring the engraved gold plaque on the back. He didn't care about whoever it was who donated to the facility and for what reason they did it. Why couldn't anyone understand that he didn't care about anyone else right now? It wasn't that he was at all an unfeeling person; rather Jeff simply didn't have enough left to consider anyone else. He'd felt low before, but nothing had gone so far to strip him of everything that he was like he was now.
Tilting his head back, the muscles in his body groaned and scratched across each other in protest. Letting his eyes fall closed, Jeff pretended that they weren't tears that blurred his solitude. He pretended that the void of sadness that was eroding at his edges wasn't about to submerge him completely.
Mostly he pretended that he wasn't alone, that someone who loved him was here and cared that he was hurting. More than anything, he wanted to be encircled in soft, strong arms and have the tears soothed away. Whose arms however, he couldn't say.
The sound of approaching footsteps echoed painfully in his head, forcing him to open his eyes. Each footstep sounded like a crashing gong, making Jeff want to rip at his ears until he couldn't hear it anymore. In reality, the slight figure of a redhead woman moved quietly across the lush green grass toward him.
She was wearing the same powder blue shirt as Jeff, and although obviously designed for a woman, she was clearly another patient. The shirt was the smallest size available, and still it hung limply over her near skeletal frame. Her face could be beautiful, although it was sunk and hollow and drawn to a painful tightness over her features, destroying the femininity of her face. On closer inspection, her red hair was more of a faded copper, fine and terribly thin so that you could see the pink of her scalp beneath the colour. Her full lips were chapped and sore, but they still curved into a disarming smile, matching her faded green eyes.
"May I join you?" She asked softly in a voice constricted by a twenty cigarettes a day habit.
Jeff looked at the empty seat next to him and up to her. His mind went blank for reasons unknown, and he couldn't seem to form a response. He couldn't tell if he wanted her to join him or not.
"I'll take that as a yes."
Her laugh was more a giggle, childish and seemingly at odds with it emerging from her adult body. Still, it was oddly refreshing to Jeff. It was the first non-jaded thing he'd encountered since he'd been here. As much as an effort it was for him, he sat up straighter on the bench, at the same time shifting to the left to give her more room. Not that she looked like she needed it. She was so thin, Jeff wondered how the act of sitting didn't break her.
"I'm Alice." She stated, holding her hand out to him. He reached over with his good hand, and so made an awkward handshake with a right and left hand. "You're Jeff Hardy, aren't you?"
Stifling a groan, Jeff let his eyes fall shut. "Listen sweetheart, I ain't in the mood for a meet and greet with a fan okay. I'd rather be alone." He sighed, withdrawing his hand straight away. The last thing he needed now was to have to deal with Jeff Hardy, 'The Legend Thriller'. As far as he was concerned, he didn't exist whilst he was in the facility. The more he thought about who he had been, the more paralysing the shame of his situation became.
Alice looked confused, turning her head to the left as she eyed him with one eye. "I'll leave you alone if you like, but I have no idea who you are if that's the problem. You an actor or something?"
His eyes darted to her face. "You seriously don't know who I am?"
Alice continued to eyeball him in a disconcerting manner. "Nope. Am I supposed to?"
Jeff's eyes were blinking in equal amounts of incredulity and plain shock. He realised she was looking at him strangely because she was attempting to figure who he was, and perhaps even what he was famous for. However, common sense and suspicious still won over. "How do you know my name if you don't know what I do?"
"Because you're the new guy." At Jeff's blank expression, Alice twisted on the seat and crossed her legs on the bench so she could face him. "Listen superstar, we don't get that many new people here. You're the only patient to arrive this month."
Jeff felt his face flush with embarrassment, even as Alice continued explaining. "And besides, Jim and Doctor Hamilton introduced you on your first group talk, remember?"
"No." Jeff was being honest. He didn't remember anything of the sort.
"Well they did. You going to tell me what you're famous for then?" Her green eyes hinted at a sparkle of amusement, but the haze of a long term addict smothered it from life.
"Doesn't matter." For some reason, Jeff didn't want to tell Alice who he was or why he was well known. Some how the humiliation of letting another person see how far he'd fallen was too much to contemplate.
"Alright, it doesn't matter. Most folks who come here use cover names anyway. Makes no never mind to me."
"So you ain't really an Alice then."
The girlish giggle again. "Oh, my name is Alice alright. At least, it is right now. I may change it when I get out of here. I always wanted a more impressive sounding name, like Veronica or Carlotta, or something." Grinning, more at herself than anything, Alice leaned over the front of the bench to pluck a daisy growing in the grass below. "I guess I think it through when I get out, y'know? When I start my new life and all."
Jeff watched her as he struggled to appear human and make conversation. Now that he thought about it, her face was vaguely familiar, although he wasn't entirely sure why. Finding the silence that stretched between them uncomfortable, he said the first thing that came into his head. "You come here a lot?"
Despite his inward cringe, Jeff was relieved to see Alice didn't flinch. "This is my first time in the North Carolina Facility, although I did try a voluntary programme a few years ago back in New York. Didn't work out so great. What about you? You a serial rehab patient?"
"First time." Jeff tilted his head, recognition smoking in the back of his head as Alice's features began to fall into place in his memory.
"So you are a newbie. Well, the facility is pretty good and the counsellors are strict but pretty fair as long as you-…"
Alice's words of wise warning were cut off as Jeff blurted out what his memory had finally pieced together. "Backseat blowjob girl!"
She blinked in surprise, her mouth slightly open to form what she was going to say. Jeff remembered seeing Alice in his first group meeting, and she had bravely admitted what had caused her to seek help; she was prepared to use her body to get money for drugs. Realising what he had just done in exposing her addict shame, Jeff stared hard at the ground, a flare of painful unease shooting through his chest. "I'm sorry Alice. I-I didn't mean…"
Even as Jeff trailed off, Alice was already speaking. "I wouldn't exactly like everyone to refer to me as that, but yeah that's me. Backseat blowjob girl."
"I am so sorry. It just came into my mouth…"
Realising what he'd said, Jeff turned his fearful eyes to Alice who burst into her giggle. Glad she could find humour in his serial foot-into-mouth affliction, Jeff felt a ghost of an embarrassed smile touch his lips.
"If I had a dollar every time I'd said that." Still giggling, Alice dabbed at her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt. "So come on then. You know my shady past as an addict. Your turn to share."
Jeff considered her request in discomfort. There was so much he could say, but he wouldn't ever expose himself in such a way, and never to someone he didn't know. "Not that much to tell. I just take stuff because I like the way it makes me feel. I never did anything I didn't want to so I could get stuff, and I can stop whenever I want. And I'm not an addict."
Alice smirked, tucking a strand of limp copper hair behind her ear. "Sure you're not. I hate to break it to you Jeff, but you're on a court ordered programme for drug addiction." Jeff's eyes widened at her knowledge of his reasons for being here. "I work on the admissions desk a few mornings a week. There are opportunities given to us to help us make something of ourselves before we go back out into the real world. I processed you in. You could join the Admin programme too…or maybe not seen as you're famous and all. It's no big deal."
"I'm sure." He muttered, shuffling his feet over the floor.
"Besides, between you and me, you look like you're going through some serious narcotic abstinence. Shivering, cold sweats, irritability. The worst is yet to come my friend."
"And you're an authority on that, are you?" He hadn't meant to snap, but the words and tone were unleashed before he could temper them.
"I am as it happens." Leaning closer to Jeff, Alice folded her hands and concentrated on them. "I've been through it three times, the last time four weeks ago. It is hell on earth until you get through it, and as far as I can tell you're still in the early stages. There are enough drugs in your system to keep you functioning. But once they're gone? Well, it's like I said, hell on earth."
"I feel like hell now." Jeff didn't know why he admitted it, but it was true. Although he knew he couldn't blame the way he was feeling solely on the drugs, he wouldn't admit that to Alice.
She nodded sympathetically. "The facility won't let you suffer. You can get methadone to help you through the worst of it."
Jeff chuckled darkly. "Not me. They wouldn't even give me pain killers for this." He lifted his hand and the cast that surrounded it to illustrate his point.
Alice's eyebrows shot up on her forehead. "Seriously? Nothing? Not even an aspirin?" Jeff pursed his lips, shaking his head. "I bet that was Doctor Hamilton's decision."
Kade's name provoked a shudder in Jeff. "What makes you say that?"
Leaning closer as though she didn't want anyone else to hear, Alice bit down on her bottom lip. "Well, not that I should really say anything, but I heard some of the Doctor's talking, and apparently he's brilliant but a total ball breaker. Like he practices tough love to the extreme and likes his patients to suffer whilst they get over their problem. He doesn't believe in any therapy other than abstinence from the stuff, y'know?"
"That sounds like him alright." Jeff could just imagine Kade getting a real sick kick out of watching him suffer whilst his body simultaneously purged and craved the drugs from his system.
"Sounds like who Jeff?"
Jeff and Alice jumped in unison as the sound of another voice interrupted their huddle. Coming across the lawn was the man himself, and Kade looked relaxed and even slightly amused. The light blue shirt he was wearing had the sleeves folded up to just below his elbows, and seemed to catch the sunlight in a glaring way forcing Jeff to look away entirely.
"Is this a private conversation, or is it okay if I join you?" Kade smiled at Alice as he stopped next to the bench.
"Not at all Doctor Hamilton," Alice smiled politely, "I was just saying hello to Jeff. Figure I'd be sociable and all as he's the new guy. Gerald, the counsellor guy says it's important that we make sure nobody feels alone whilst we're here. "
"That's kind of you, Alice is it?" She nodded. "And that's a good attitude to take. I hope Mr. Hardy has been behaving himself?" It was more an accusation to Jeff ears, but the smile shared between Kade and Alice wasn't lost on him. "Good. I hate to break this up, but Jeff was supposed to be in a session with me twenty minutes ago."
"And you came to get me?" Jeff felt anger boiling in his veins at being treated by a child, but Alice interrupted before it could explode.
"Totally my fault Doctor. I kept him chatting." Alice shrugged her shoulders as if to complete the excuse. "We were just talking about how I got here and we lost track of time. Didn't know I was that interesting."
Alice giggled her giggle, nudging Jeff's leg with her knee. Against his will, Jeff felt the corners of his mouth curve upwards into an almost smile. At the same moment, something chipped at the cold crushing his heart. It wasn't enough to cause any real damage to the barrier, but it surprised Jeff enough that he could still feel.
Kade didn't look phased. "It's okay Alice, he's not in trouble. I've got all the time in the world, so I can work to Jeff's schedule."
"Could everyone please stop referrin' to me in the third person when I'm sat here?" Jeff glared at Kade, his petulance more directed at him more than Alice. He found himself half wishing that he'd broken his hand by shoving his fist into Kade's face, although it was too late to do anything about that now.
Kade licked his lips, revealing a perfect white-toothed grin. "My apologies Jeff. I won't do it in future."
Jeff could tell Kade was enjoying every minute of this, and was resolute in his intention to walk out, consequences be damned when Alice tugged his arm softly. "You should probably get inside with the Doctor," she smiled, "don't want to miss anymore time, do you?"
"We had have the session out here if you prefer Jeff? May as well make the most of the beautiful day." Jeff looked blankly in response, deciding silence was the best weapon against such an irritating and obviously arrogant human being. "I'm assuming the blank look is one of consent. Alice, you mind if I borrow Jeff for a little while? I promise to have him back in the same condition that I found him."
Alice nodded with a smile. "Okay then. I'll come find you later Jeff. Good afternoon Doctor."
Alice got up from the bench, squeezing Jeff's shoulder as she did so. Her petit form trudged across the grass, and Jeff felt almost sorry she was gone.
Kade had taken her seat, his voice droning away but Jeff wasn't paying attention. Maybe he could go through the motions after all. He make a few 'breakthroughs' with Kade, and Jeff knew he's be on his way. And whilst he didn't agree that he had any sort of problem, he wondering if maybe being around Alice would be enough to melt away the cold inside his chest. Just being around her for two minutes had given him some cause to hope.
Maybe he would make it through this yet. The thought gave Jeff his fist reason to smile in what felt like forever, but he wasn't about to share that special moment Kade. Rather, Jeff did what he always did and stored the emotion away. Maybe bottling things up were bad, but the one pro was that he could call up the good emotions at another time.
And when he was alone later, Jeff knew he would be smiling again.