Title: Invalid Reality
Characters: Hesam, Eli, Dennis Wells (OC)
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Mentions of blood and medical treatment, off-screen (probable) character death
Word count: ~3,000
Setting: Shattered Salvation AU (though you need not have read any of that to follow this). Spring 2010, post season 4 (but the AU derails shortly after The Fifth Stage, and the carnival showdown/Claire flinging herself from the Ferris wheel never happens).
Summary: Hesam is working as a paramedic when he gets a call for a stabbing. He arrives to find Eli in need and comes face-to-face with abilities.
Author's Notes: Written for the LJ bamf_hesam Christmas and New Years Fandom Fest. If you've read The Diary of Lyle Bennet, then you'll have a tiny bit more background on what's going on. (But not a lot, because I haven't published the chapters between Diary and what happens here, so you don't know how Eli's situation evolved. Neither does Hesam, so I felt safe in leaving that out.) If you look really, really close, you still can't see Lyle here, but that's his ability, after all. It should be noted that I do not have a medical background and I apologize in advance for any mangled terminology or inaccurate treatment. Hesam's POV.

It wasn't exactly a routine call, but I'd had similar ones before. Despite what you might think from watching those ER shows, my job as a paramedic isn't all stabbings and gunshots and delivering babies. Probably the most frequent thing I do is transfer patients from hospital/clinic/doctor's office A to hospital/clinic/doctor's office B. Then there's the calls to nursing homes, which I loathe but Peter was always pretty chipper about - might be part of why I loathed it. Of course I didn't have Peter with me today. He'd ramped down his hours a lot recently, taking up some second job he wouldn't talk about. Instead, I was partnered with a green, almost-still-a-trainee named Dennis Wells.

And instead of the usual boring routine of transfers or nursing homes, or even the more exciting drunk, non-responsive, or motor vehicle accident, today we actually did have a stabbing. We tore through the streets, lights and sirens running. Dennis was driving, because the one thing the man did a lot better than I'd expect out of an EMS tech was that he could drive. That was a tremendous asset and it made me forgive him a lot of other minor stuff.

I could drive okay, don't get me wrong, and I could drive circles around Peter (the man has never owned a car - it always surprises me that he even knows how to drive one, but for sure he doesn't do a good job of it when it's vital for us to make time in heavy traffic), but Dennis seemed to have a sixth sense for the road and a natural talent for guessing where the other drivers were going to dodge. Either that, or he was just damned lucky. As long as it was his driving record that would take the ding, he could rely on luck all he wanted.

We arrived on scene first, which wasn't too surprising. We'd been practically next door in the scheme of emergency services, looking for a pedestrian who'd been hit by a car. He'd been struck and knocked down, some young white fellow, and then he'd disappeared. Reports varied on whether he'd limped off or just actually, immediately, right-before-their-eyes, disappeared. You can never trust eyewitness testimony.

Anyway, that's where we were when the stabbing call came in, so after looping out to the main drag and racing down to the next housing addition, we ended up not too far from where we'd started. It kind of made me wonder, yeah, but a stabbing isn't easily confused with getting hit by a car, so I thought I'd reserve judgment until I saw our patient.

Dispatch told me they'd lost touch with the caller almost immediately, but been called back twice more to ask for aid, again, losing the caller each time. So they couldn't give me details. We loaded up the usual assortment of gear we have to drag in when we're not sure what's going on and headed to the house. Not too surprisingly, no one answered the knock. I yelled a little, but no answer to that either. The door was unlocked and we're legally allowed to go pretty much wherever we damn well please when we think someone might be dying, so we went on inside.

As soon as we got in, a guy - white, swarthy, kind of a meat-head look to him - came out of the kitchen. He looked fine, on first glance, no blood or anything, but he was pale and diaphoretic (that's sweating to you non-medical types). He said breathily, "Downstairs. They're down-" and he vanished.

I mean, actually, immediately, right-before-our-eyes vanished. I blinked. I rubbed my eyes. I wondered if we'd caught something contagious and mind-affecting from the hit-and-gone we'd just been at. I looked at Dennis, whose eyes were bugging in his head. I said, "Where did he go?" like an idiot. Dennis didn't answer me. He was still staring at the spot where the guy used to be. So I decided there was probably a rational explanation for this, but it was more important for me to find my patient (if there was one, and this wasn't some kind of elaborate prank) than to figure it out.

I went in the kitchen. Dennis trailed behind me a little hesitantly. There was a door that might, given the layout of the place, lead to a basement. I've been in probably over a thousand homes. You start to get a feel for the floor plans. Builders try to make them all unique (I have no idea why), but there's an element of sameness there anyway. I tried the door. It was locked. Now who has a locking door to the freaking basement?

Just as I was thinking that, that fellow who had pulled the magic act earlier appeared right next to me. There was nowhere he could have come from except empty air. I liked to jumped out of my skin, but he was talking to me right away, saying, "He's in the basement. You gotta hurry! Come on!" He slammed his shoulder into the door. I jerked out of the way, the door frame busted, and he stumbled through the opening. I lunged at him and caught the fabric of his shirt, but before he fell down the stairs, he disappeared again.

Dennis made a really weird choking noise behind me. He'd seen the whole thing - guy appearing, guy disappearing. And apparently he didn't like it one bit. He muttered something about ghosts and ran off. Great. Thanks. What a waste of skin. He didn't even leave his gear, although I wouldn't have been able to carry it and mine too, but I could have at least come up the stairs to get it if it came to that.

I thought about going after Dennis to drag his sorry, superstitious rear end back, but I heard noises in the basement, like a scuffle. There might really be a stabbing victim down there. If it was a prank, I was probably safe. If it wasn't, then there might be someone dying down there. I edged down the stairs. I heard a voice, young and male, saying something threatening and vague and kind of distorted. I didn't catch the words. I called out and announced myself.

"Over here!" responded another voice, the deeper, more mature voice of the disappearing guy. I followed it to find two guys, identical, standing protectively in front of a third, who was sitting on the floor, slumped against the wall and bleeding. He wasn't bleeding too much now, but it was clear he'd lost a lot - and I mean a lot - of blood. It was all over the floor, footsteps having tracked it everywhere like they'd had a polka competition down here on top of it. There hadn't been any on the stairs.

I started towards the trio and was just wondering if they were identical triplets when two of them abruptly winked out of existence. Okay… I paused for a moment, doubting my sanity. Maybe there was a gas leak? Hallucinogens in the air? The guy who'd been stabbed was still there, so I went to him, hoping he wouldn't simply vanish too. He didn't, so I knelt and gave him a quick look-see. Next thing I did was pull out my portable radio and chew Dennis' ear off. He said he'd come help me. He said some other things too, but they they're not fit to print and it's not like I was innocent either.

I had an adult Caucasian (honestly, I had some doubts about that, but I'm not real good at telling people's races unless they're from the Middle East - to me, most Saudis look dramatically different from a Pakistani, for instance, but most Americans can't seem to tell the difference; I have the opposite issue, so, well, he was a whitish guy) in his 40s, about 200, 220 pounds, multiple chest stab wounds, defensive lacerations to the hands and outer forearms, and a deep gash on his neck, that, given the other injuries, I'd say was where someone tried to cut his throat and did a botched job of it. Poor guy.

He kept watching the rest of the room as I cut back his clothing and assessed. At first I thought he was just spacing out (common with shock and blood loss), but then it occurred to me it was too purposeful. It was like he was on guard against something… or someone. There had been no bloody footprints on the stairs, and he sure as hell hadn't stabbed himself. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I realized what that meant. I resisted the urge to turn around and scan the room too. I hadn't searched the basement and I'd even known, heard, another voice down here. I'd just been too focused on the patient to think about it.

Very quietly I asked him, "He's still down here, isn't he?"

He nodded once. A new trickle of blood ran down his neck. Dennis wasn't here yet, though honestly, even if he'd hurried he probably wouldn't have been. I'd told him to grab the stair chair because the guy probably wouldn't stay conscious if he stood. Right now keeping him still was the only thing keeping him awake. I was going to be alone down here between a killer and his victim for at least another minute or two and that's plenty of time to get the crap stabbed out of you because you're trying to save the life of someone that someone else wants dead.

It seemed like I sat there for a really long time trying to decide what to do, but in reality it was probably only a couple seconds. If I kept treating him, maybe the perp would ventilate me a little bit for my trouble. If I stalled until Dennis got there, then two-to-one would be safer. But the guy was bleeding out right in front of me. As if he knew what was going through my head, another of those weird identical twin guys popped into existence right next to me and said, "I'll guard both of you." He stood up and faced the rest of the room. My patient sagged a little.

I looked up at the new guy. Where the hell did these guys come from? Where did they go when they vanished? I wanted to reach out and touch him to see if he was real or just an illusion, but I didn't. Instead I started trying to get an IV, which was hard to do given the victim's low blood pressure. I had to get some fluids into him fast. It was a wonder his heart hadn't gone into arrest already. He was tough, I'll grant him that, but I've worked some tough guys before - war vets, Holocaust survivors, the real-thing-outdoorsmen - and we're all flesh underneath. If being bad-ass prolonged a person's life, then Bruce Lee would have lived forever.

I was just setting up the lactated Ringer's solution when Dennis came to the top of the stairs. I don't know what it was about him showing up, but as his footsteps came down the wooden planks, the duplicate that was standing guard vanished. I guess he didn't need to be there anymore and that was when I started to think these phantoms were controlled somehow by the guy on the ground. Fortunately the twin disappeared before Dennis saw him, or else we might have had words of an even stronger variety, because no one goes deserting patients on my watch. Sometimes I really, really miss Peter and this was one of those times. That guy is freaking unflappable. I think bolts of lightning and fireballs could be going off around him and he'd still be calmly working his patient in the middle of it.

Dennis set down the gear and the stair chair, then knelt on the other side to help. I gave him a quick report while he elevated the bag of Ringer's and I started slapping bandages on all the perforations. The guy was still breathing, even though I'd been able to hear that he had a lot of fluid in his lungs. Now that he was getting more blood volume, he'd start bleeding more, which meant his lungs would fill faster and the probability of collapse was higher. We had to get him into the van and to the hospital.

I heard the clatter of more motion above us and for a moment all I could think of was the weird duplicates that might be up there doing something. Then I heard the police calling for us. Dennis yelled back. I nodded and said to our patient, "Okay, we're going to shift you into the chair and get you out of here."

"Wait," he croaked. "It's Bennet. Aye Bennet did this. Tell them-" Or at least, that's what I think he said. He started coughing, which caused red to blossom on the bandages I'd applied. I shook my head and told Dennis to help me and we wrestled him onto the stair chair as the cops came down the stairs. I told one of the cops I thought the perp was still down here, which meant I then failed to recruit the other to help me with the heavy part of lifting the patient up the narrow stairs. Not that the cops usually helped with that, but sometimes they did. They were more likely to lend a hand if the vic was a nice old lady, but nice old ladies usually weigh less than the meat-head we were hauling now.

We heaved him up the stairs and got him to the van, but he was unconscious the whole way. When I got the leads on him, he was in arrest. Dennis drove while I fought to keep the guy alive. And he was, technically at least, when we pulled in and the trauma team rushed out to whisk him away to the waiting OR. I came back later to inquire, but he hadn't made it. Sometimes I wonder if you just left a vic in place and worked them there, if they might survive, but that's probably stupid. Lying on the concrete floor in an unfinished basement, still bleeding slowly, with his attacker lurking somewhere nearby apparently waiting for him to finish dying… nah. We did the right thing getting him out of there.

One of the cops called me an hour or so after the incident to see if I had any information on the perp. They hadn't found anyone down there. Since I'd never seen him, all I could tell him was that the voice I'd heard had sounded male, young, and had a vaguely Midwestern accent. Maybe. I'm not so good at accents either, but he wasn't from the northeast. I told him about the victim's (whose name turned out to be Eli Stashwick) dying statement, but it wasn't much help. I did remember (but didn't mention) that we'd treated a Bennet for a stab wound about a year before. He'd been an older guy and was a friend of Peter's. I made a mental note to mention it to Peter later. Bennet was a pretty common name though.

I climbed in the cab after my chat with the cops (I'd been pulled into the office for the call, between dispatches). Dennis gave me a long look and said, "So… uh… that call, the stabbing?"

I looked at him.

"That was normal, right? Nothing weird happened." He looked at me intently, like he was begging for me to confirm it. It was clear he didn't want to accept what he'd seen, what I'd seen, and that if I agreed it was all normal and we hadn't seen anything odd, then life could go on like it had before. If I didn't, then… what? Ghosts? Strange clones of people that appeared and vanished right in front of you? The perpetrator must have had a power like that too, because somehow, despite being trapped in a basement that had only one exit, and he hadn't passed by me and the place had been swarmed by police, he'd gotten away clean. What sort of crazy can of worms did it open to imagine people had abilities like that?

It's not like I'd mentioned any of that hocus-pocus to the police. They'd have thought I was bonkers, just like we did at the accident scene right before we got called to the stabbing. "Totally normal. Nothing weird happened at all."