Disclaimer: Not mine. You know that.


That Thin Line

It's not a good day today. Sometimes it gets to you, this work. Every life lost is a bitter waste, every life lost leaves someone to grieve for them, and these are the kind of thoughts running through my head, along with worry. Worry about my partner, to be precise. He has a way of attracting worry from everyone. Sometimes I think I can almost see it hanging round him like a black shroud, one which everyone apart from him sees.

What are we here for, anyway? We walk around for a while, and then we die. We all die in the end, and don't I know it. My life is spent looking at death, chronicling the what-ifs. If that woman hadn't taken the shortcut through that alley. If that married man hadn't let that drunk girl give him a lipstick kiss. If that boy hadn't been introduced to drugs by his best mate.

There's always a tipping point. A clear, knife-edge of an instant where fate stands divided, before the slightest atomic imbalance pushes the events of the future down one side or the other, rolling and gathering momentum, unstoppable now. Always the little things. A girl leaving a magazine on the floor, so that her father slips on it later, dropping and breaking a stack of plates. And the magazine and the tiny, insignificant chance that led to it sliding off the table is the tipping point, because there is an argument and the girl storms out of the apartment and draws the attention of a man who had been lurking in a shadowed street for a girl like her. All because of that one event, her death rolls unstoppably down onto her. I can't seem to forget things like that.

So. Nothing like a job like this to give you a sense of perspective, really. And nothing like this job for teaching you how important it is to be able to switch off perspective most of the time. Otherwise you can forget the distinctions and just float unaffected above all these cases on a wave of irony, or you can let all the sadness and the horror overwhelm you. You decide which is worse.

So here I am. It's sometime after midnight and the windows are black. I'm standing with a glass wall between me and the man I'm watching. Two different kinds of glass walls, to be honest. I'm watching him and I'm wondering where his own personal tipping point is, and if I'll be able to recognise it when it comes, or if it's already past and I've missed it.

He's in the revolving chair with the back that tilts. It's tilted now as he's leaned right back, head hanging unsupported, eyes closed. I feel what I always feel when I see him like this; sadness, pity, frustration. But most of all I just feel helpless, because with Mac every now and then something'll happen to send him slowly sliding back down into his own personal hell. He doesn't sleep then, just works long sleepless nights at the lab because he doesn't want to run the risk of dreaming. Of course, lack of sleep doesn't solve any problems, but he just keeps on going. And there's nothing I can do to help him.

I don't know if he's asleep at the moment. It's difficult because I want him to go home, I know that he really needs someone to make him go home and get some proper rest, but on the other hand I don't want to wake him up.

"Stella?" I turn around and see Hawkes leaning on a doorframe, his pose suggesting that he's been there for several minutes.

"Hi. Aren't you off shift now?" I reply, knowing exactly what his response to that will be.

"You're off shift too. So's Mac," he points out.

"Yeah, well, Mac spends his life here, you know that," I say, feeling suddenly very tired and very helpless.

Hawkes walks forwards until he's standing next to me at the glass wall. I'm certain now that Mac's asleep, but we're speaking softly so that he can't hear us if he's not. "Have you told him to go home?" he asks.

I laugh quietly. There is a bitter undercurrent to my laughter, and I know that Hawkes picks it up.

"What did he say?"

"I don't know. Nothing. Something stupid. I think he said he still had the paperwork to do, and that he'd go home when he'd finished."

Hawkes chuckles. "Yeah, he's doing a lot of work at the moment."

Despite my mood, a smile tugs at the corner of my mouth. "What do you think I should do?"

"Wake him up, drive him to either his or your apartment, then drug him."

"Drug him? Are you serious?"

"Do you think I'm serious?"

"I have no idea if you are or not!" I'm just about suppressing a proper laugh now. This conversation is turning surreal. I think Hawkes and I must be nearly as sleep-deprived as Mac is.

"Relax Stell, I was joking," he grins. "Although I suppose I could write a prescription…"

"Tempting, but no thanks," I say, grinning back.

"Anyway, I'll be off. You'll probably have more luck on your own." He slaps my shoulder in a good-luck sort of way and turns at the lift entrance to wave.

"Traitor!" I call, and he waves again as the doors close.

Left alone, I turn and study Mac for a few more minutes, trying to work out what to say. Then I push open the door and walk inside. Despite the fact that I mean to wake him up, I find myself walking only on the balls of my feet, avoiding contact between the floor and my noisy heels.

"Mac," I say gently. The idea of sleep is generally considered to be in order to relax, but Mac doesn't look relaxed. His face is drawn tight into a frown. He doesn't stir.

"Mac," I say, louder. "Mac?"

I grab his shoulder and shake him, hard. His head lolls from side to side. "Mac!"


Let me know what you think please? I'll update in a couple of days. Blue x