I was attemtping to write the next chapter of Refraction when I got distracted. This one kind of takes the place of Hostage Situation. But I will make sure I do a bit on my other stories as well, some of them have been a little neglected.
Arthur parked his small car in the usual spot. They didn't have designated parking spaces at the small hospital, yet, day in day out, each person generally took the same space. Arthur had once wondered if there was a psychology behind psychologists doing such a thing, but then decided it probably wasn't worth the analysis.
Instead he gathered the files from the passenger seat, tucked them under his arm and picked up his plastic lunchbox and struggled out of the car, using his backside to shut the door behind him. The car locked with a merry little beep and Arthur wandered up the steps and into the building.
"That is so cute," Gwen said looking up, as he made a rather ungraceful entrance to the reception area. Arthur paused, by the desk, where Gwen, in her nurse's uniform, continued to type away on the computer.
"What is?" Arthur asked in confusion, while he wondered what tie he had put on this morning. He'd been in such a rush he hadn't bothered to look.
"The lunchbox," she said, pointing to the little Disney characters cavorting around on the front of the pink plastic. Arthur looked sheepish.
"I made the mistake of telling one of my father's colleagues I needed something to carry my lunch in. Morgana has a warped sense of humour, because damn thing is actually useful, while being thoroughly embarrassing. There's even a little thermos flask that fits in it, great for soup," Arthur said, while Gwen sniggered. He got his own back by carefully manoeuvring the file that was on the bottom of his pile onto the desk, with a minimum of spillage.
"Can you get that faxed over to the university for me? Just the top four sheets, the rest can be filed."
"Sure," Gwen said. "I've got your list of appointments, mainly outpatients, but you also have Freya today. She had a bad night though, so I've moved her to the afternoon, and juggled a bit because the medication probably won't wear off until later."
"How bad of a night?"
"She tried taking a swipe at Lancelot, and she got a bit aggressive but nothing too drastic."
Arthur nodded, "I can talk to her later, what's this one here?" He showed the sheet to Gwen and let her peer at the name in the first slot.
"Oh, yes, Gaius wants to speak to you about that first he said."
"You've been given the new one," Nimueh's voice announced. Arthur looked up, raising his eyebrows. She had appeared from the staff room, the door tucked away behind the reception desk. Nimueh blocked the doorway, leaning against it in an overly casual fashion.
"You made that sound very ominous," Arthur said.
"Not really, he arrived last night. Gaius has all the information, but I do know one thing."
"Which you are obviously desperate to impart," Arthur said causing a flicker of irritation to cross her perfectly made up face. There was no other reason for her to be lingering around in such a manner, unless she had been waiting for Arthur to arrive. Gwen was of the same opinion, she shared a brief glance with Arthur, rolling her eyes before going back to the timetable she was working on.
"He's the one from that police investigation, one of the cases that your father investigated."
Arthur's eyes narrowed, which appeared to be a reaction that Nimueh wanted as her lips quirked into a smile. Satisfied by that, she eased herself from the casual position off the doorframe and left the reception, breezing across the hallway and up the stairs to her office. Arthur shared a longer glance with Gwen who shrugged.
"I only came on an hour ago, so no good asking me. Elena was on night duty."
"In that case, I'll drop all this stuff, including my lovely little lunchbox, in my office and go and see Gaius."
The door to Gaius' office was open, as it usually was. It was only ever closed, and locked, when Gaius wasn't in there. Arthur didn't even bother to knock, he just strolled in and the old man behind the desk looked up, peering at Arthur from over his glasses.
"What's my father trying to do now?"
The question was mostly rhetorical, since Gaius had only met Uther a handful of times, but Arthur felt like venting his feelings. Gaius raised his eyebrows and sat back, pausing from writing his notes. The computer on his desk sat to one side, turned off, he never used it, preferring to avoid using technology unless he really had to.
"Nothing, to my knowledge."
It was Arthur's turn to raise his eyebrows, which made Gaius sigh.
"Although he has phoned me about the new patient we have."
"Ah ha," Arthur said flopping into the nearby chair, and looking at Gaius on the other side of the desk. "Who has now become my patient. This could be another one of my father's schemes to make me consider a change of career."
"I think the whole medical school, psychology degree and PHD have really pointed out to him that you have no desire to join the police force."
"That doesn't stop him trying," Arthur said. "I know how disappointed he is in me."
Gaius gave Arthur a long steady look. "I think that might be an overgenerous interpretation of the issue."
"Don't start analysing me," Arthur warned him.
"Fine, but he knows you are successful at what you do, which I think is becoming enough for him."
"Still, I think he'd be far happier if I did more research work and less… actual work."
"I, for one, happen to like your actual work," Gaius said.
Arthur grinned. As compliments go it wasn't a bad one from his boss. He had been at the hospital for about five years, and liked it. Arthur wasn't budging for anyone, least of all his father. Despite the regularity with which Uther Pendragon tried to harass him over it.
"So, anyway, Nimueh was all, 'oohh Arthur's got the new one' when I came in."
"Yes, she was probably hoping for it as a way to further her career, it's got a high enough profile."
"Which is the reason you haven't given it to her?" Arthur asked.
Gaius picked up a thick looking file and passed it over to Arthur, who flipped it open and started to flick through. While Gaius also gave him a short summary of the information within it.
"Merlin Emrys, victim of a high profile crime, although they are currently trying to keep him anonymous. The latest case your father was dealing with."
"The sicko who kidnapped youths and kept them in some basement," Arthur said, grimacing as he came across some rather graphic photos. "Jesus!"
"The police have supplied some of their reports and scene of crime information. Merlin is the only surviving victim of the six they know about. He was found in the basement of an old farmhouse chained to the corpse of another victim. Two more were buried on the land, and the last two on a plot two miles away."
"I remember it being all over the news," Arthur said. "They just got the conviction didn't they?"
"Yes, although his lawyers are still trying to pick holes in it."
"They make money from it," Gaius said. "Especially since the main witness couldn't give evidence. Merlin's injuries were extensive, obvious signs of sexual and physical abuse, and major head injuries. The brain scans are a little inconclusive, he does appear to be functioning physically, he can walk, move when directed, but he's remaining in a catatonic stupor. He hasn't spoken since they found him."
"Are they of the opinion it's through the physical injury, or just emotional trauma?"
"Neither, I suppose they want us to try and find out. It's been three months since he was found, and they've got nothing from him. He spent two months in intensive care. He's still a little malnourished, and he had been given drugs while he was captive, presumably to keep him docile. There were so many other things to deal with they didn't even realise he had gone into withdrawal," Gaius said with some disapproval. "The hospital treating him said the bruising hid the needle marks."
"And the withdrawal was never treated?" Arthur asked, finding the relevant notes and reading them.
"No, by the time they had worked it out he had almost gone cold turkey, they were going to give him something mild when Merlin gave his only reaction. The report isn't clear but he either saw or felt the needle and he started screaming, and fighting. They were too frightened to give him anything after that."
"So he is capable of reacting?" Arthur asked.
"Yes, so more than likely he's so traumatized his mind can't cope, or…"
"Or he's chosen to withdraw, and doesn't show any signs of wanting to come out. All things considered…" Arthur flipped through to the forensic records of the location, and what had been recorded of Merlin's injuries. "… it wouldn't be hard to blame him. How long was he captive?"
"Five months. He was reported missing on 20 January, and they raided the farmhouse and found him on 28 June."
"Bloody hell! The injuries look consistent with the abuse being inflicted over that length of time."
Arthur flipped through a few more sheets and then looked up. "No offence, but his residency here has nothing to do with my father trying to set something up?"
"I don't think even your father is that underhand, although I believe we were recommended by him for Merlin's treatment. Whatever else you think, it appears your father does have belief in your abilities, and I most definitely do. Just looking at Freya is proof of that."
"She took a swipe at Lancelot last night though."
"She can't be perfect all of the time," Gaius said. "And it didn't take him and Elena long to calm her. Elena has a theory by the way, she was voicing her thoughts this morning."
Gaius looked mildly uncomfortable. "She's been tracking it for a few months, but apparently Freya's flare ups tend to be almost consistently the week before she menstruates."
"Schizophrenia driven PMT."
"If we can get her medication organised around it, we may be able to move her back as an outpatient, and try again."
"I'll talk to her parents again after I've seen her this afternoon," Arthur said. "I'll go and see my new pet project now."
Gaius gave Arthur a disapproving glare. "Even if your father has any ulterior motives, it's not Merlin's fault."
Arthur looked back down at the notes in his lap. "No," he said.
He took the notes with him, the file was so thick it was going to take him a while to get through it, and he wanted to read it all. Before he started trying to make any connection with Merlin he wanted to know as much as possible. However, he still had an hour this morning to give his new patient a check-up and see how he was getting on.
Walking back through reception he smiled at Gwen, who was busy typing, faxing and answering the phone. Arthur checked his watch, it was now well after nine o'clock.
"Isn't Alice in today?"
"She said she was going to run late, but she shouldn't be much longer. Elena said she would hang around for an hour or so to help get the residents up until I could take over."
"Okay," Arthur said. He headed up the steps and turned right heading into the resident's area of the small hospital. The Camelot Annexe, as the small hospital was known, was an old Victorian house, and the main rooms had been converted into bedrooms for the residents, and downstairs the dining room and lounge were for their use as well. There were two further drawing rooms which had been set up as consultation rooms for Arthur and Vivian, who were the two main psychiatrists, with Gaius stepping in where necessary. The servants section of the house had become the offices and staff areas, with two bunkrooms on the top floor for the sometimes overworked staff to take naps.
Arthur liked the quiet little annexe. The main hospital was a mile down the road, but the old house was a perfect, quiet place that traumatized and mentally ill patients could stay in. There was only room for a dozen patients at maximum, but it was never always that full. It was merely a jump to get them back into the outside world, then they came back as outpatients, as and when they needed to.
Merlin had been given the room at the far end, overlooking a wide stretch of ground, comprising of the driveway and lawns. It was a bright sunny room, with windows on two sides, giving it a very airy feel. When Arthur arrived, Elena was making it even airier by chattering away in her usual fashion while she tided Merlin's hair. She gave Arthur a smile as he knocked his knuckles against the open door and stepped into the room.
"Hello," Elena said. "Merlin, this is Arthur, you'll like Arthur," she informed him brightly, "he's nice."
Arthur smiled, Elena grinned.
"We'd better finish getting you dressed!" Elena said. As she started to look in the chest of drawers for something for Merlin to wear, Arthur assessed his new patient. Merlin seemed oblivious to both of them, sitting quietly on the end of the bed, staring into the middle distance, his eyes unfocused and expression vacant. From the information Arthur had skimmed he knew Merlin was twenty-four, but he looked a good deal younger. He had been the oldest victim, but that could simply have been because his attacker hadn't realised his true age.
The skin of his torso was pale, his ribs and backbone more prominent than they should have been. Most of the damage had long ago faded but Arthur noted the rough skin around his wrists and neck where he had been restrained. There were other scars across his back and arms, some of them lash marks, and others cuts. The photographs had not been a pretty sight.
"Here we are, blue or red?" Elena asked, holding up two long-sleeved tee-shirts. "I think blue."
Merlin gave no response. Arthur waited and watched as Elena popped the tee-shirt over his head and moved his arms to dress him. Although Elena guided him most of the way, Arthur got the impression that Merlin was contributing to the movement, in just the slightest way. Elena waffled on about them having lasagne for lunch today, still managing a one sided conversation in a normal tone of voice, as if it was a perfectly logical thing to be doing.
Arthur assessed her as much as he did Merlin. She looked a tad tired, but most of the nurses did when on the night shift. Her hair was messy and tangled, but it often was, as if she couldn't quite get onto the right side of neatness. She was, however, a pretty girl with a nice figure, which considering the way she could eat and drink, was something of a miracle. Arthur guessed she either spent a good deal of her free time at the gym or she had the metabolism of an insect.
"There we go, Arthur's going to check you over now, and then Gwen will be up to look after you. You'll like Gwen too," Elena said.
"Is there anyone he won't like?" Arthur asked her, opening his medical kit to find what he wanted. Elena turned and stuck her tongue out at Arthur.
"Aside from the wicked witch."
Arthur sniggered. "Nimueh is a perfectly good psychiatrist."
"I never said she wasn't, she's just not a perfectly good person," Elena said.
Arthur shrugged and let that go, Elena tided Merlin's hair a little more and then petted his shoulder.
"I'll leave you with Arthur, I have to go home and get some sleep, but I'll be back later."
"Can you do me a favour before you go?" Arthur said. Elena paused a step or so away from him.
"Can you check Freya, see if she's stirring and let Gwen know so she can deal with her if she's awake."
"Yep, no worries. Did Gaius tell you my theory?"
"He did, it's a good possibility , I'll see what she says in the session this afternoon. It might mean she can get back home."
Elena beamed. "I'm not just a pretty face."
Arthur leaned forward to go nose to nose with her. "No, you're not."
"I'll tell you something else," Elena said, lowering her tone even more. Arthur raised his eyebrows, and she inclined her head a little. "He might look like he's not paying attention, but I don't think he's missing a thing."
Arthur straightened up and Elena sidled past him and out the door. He turned to look at Merlin, who was still sat quietly, unmoving from the position that Elena had left him in, staring straight ahead, hands folded in his lap. That was another thing about her one sided conversations, they were not just to fill the silence, they had purpose. In this case, she was trying to see if there was the merest reaction. He decided to catch her when she started her shift tonight, and get more out of her. Despite Nimueh's scathing complaints that Elena seemed to permanently suffer from 'severe blonde moments', she often proved herself to be intuitive and intelligent.
Arthur wasn't going to let that go do waste if he could help it.
"Okay, Merlin, I'm just going to give you a check up. I'm Dr Pendragon, which sounds really pretentious so everyone calls me Arthur. I'm going to be looking after you while you're staying here."
Merlin didn't appear to have given any reaction but when Arthur twisted round to get his stethoscope on turning back he was fairly certain that Merlin's head was tilted ever so slightly at a different angle, and although his eyes hadn't turned in Arthur's direction, Arthur felt a ripple down his spine that told him he was being watched.
"This is nothing to worry about," Arthur assured him.
He checked Merlin's heart, and breathing, both steady. His blood pressure was a little low, and he needed a good, nourishing diet. He also flashed a light into Merlin's eyes to check reaction. His pupils dilated normally, but Merlin didn't blink, and his eyes didn't move away. His reflexes were a little slow but Arthur didn't know if that was some neurological problem. He eased Merlin up into a standing position and coaxed him across the room to sit in the arm chair, again Merlin settled and his hands flopped into his lap. Apart from the fact he had moved compliantly Merlin gave no reaction. Arthur left him and sat in the wooden chair by the dressing table and flicked the notes open again to the brain scans.
There was a good deal of ambivalence between the scans that had been done. Arthur couldn't work out if parts of the brain were just not connecting any more, or they were working fine and Merlin was just locked away, possibly not even wanting to get out again. He glanced at his watch again, it was still an hour or so before his first appointment, so he had a bit of time with Merlin.
Next he looked at some of the other injuries that had been inflicted on Merlin. Pushing up his sleeve Arthur brushed his fingers over the rough skin that now marred his wrists. It was only because he was staring closely that he saw the faint tremor of tension run down Merlin's arm. Arthur kept Merlin's arm in his grip, but removed his fingers from the scarring.
"Sorry," Arthur said. "I'm sure we can find something to treat that. I guess the hospital didn't bother too much with things like that. Gwen will probably be able to come up with something, she's like an encyclopaedia when it comes to skin care."
Arthur eased the sleeve down over Merlin's forearm and put his hand down again in his lap. Glancing up Arthur couldn't see any particular change in Merlin's stature or expression, but he felt that Merlin had accepted the apology. Considering that he restrained himself from examining the similar marks that were around Merlin's neck.
"I'm sure we can find something to cover them up if you're not happy with them," Arthur said. Again there was still no reaction. A few seconds later Merlin blinked slowly, it was nothing more than reflex. Arthur tried to get Merlin to react to him but he either couldn't, or was ignoring his attempts.
In the end Arthur just sat back and instead read through Merlin's notes, highlighting sections where he needed to clarify facts. He didn't address Merlin too often, Arthur wasn't going to get any response, but he was of the same opinion as Elena. Merlin was aware. Arthur's gut instinct was telling him that at least part of Merlin's catatonic stupor was self-induced.
"I think we need to concentrate on your diet, you need to get some weight on you," Arthur commented, then frowned as he thought of something, and made another note. He carried on like that for a while, the silence in the room calm. Arthur had seen enough patients in odd states, so he wasn't disturbed by Merlin's stillness.
He stayed there until it was almost time for his next appointment, when he left Merlin in Gwen's care, with instructions for her to find out how willing Merlin was to eat voluntarily.
"Very, if you help him," Gwen said later, while she, Elena and Arthur gathered in Gaius' office to discuss the situation with him. "I tried to get him to take the spoon and do it himself but he didn't. He let me feed him though, and ate everything I gave him. I got the feeling he didn't like the rice pudding much."
"We need to send a diet sheet up to the kitchens; he needs to get some weight on him," Arthur insisted.
"His prior medical reports indicate that he was always of a slight build," Gaius mused. "It might not be as big of an issue as it seems."
"I don't care," Arthur said. "He's clearly underweight, if he's willing to eat then we need to make that a priority."
Gaius nodded, wrote a note and then looked at Arthur over his glasses. "What do you think of his mental state?"
"I think he's very aware of his surroundings, but I can't fathom if there is a connection missing somewhere in his brain, so he can't link his higher reasoning with his basic functions to allow him to react, or if he's doing it himself."
"If he has maybe now he's unable to stop himself, and he can't break the cycle in his mind," Elena said.
"Maybe," Arthur replied. "I don't want to rule anything out, I've only spent one hour with him so far. I can try a few different things, and see how it goes. In the end it will depend on how willing Merlin is to try and help himself."
"What's your feeling on that?" Gaius asked.
"I don't know. From what background I can get, he was obviously intelligent, but his employment record is filled with low paid jobs, waiter, shop assistant, he didn't try for further education."
"You can't hold that against someone," Gwen said.
"I don't, the only relevance it has in here was how he might have been targeted, I just picked it out of the police information," Arthur said, flicking through the now very thumbed through file. "And it has no baring on what we are dealing with. The only problem is if he shows some progress then anyone involved in the trial might jump all over him. He could just end up taking two steps forward then running back ten."
"We can limit his involvement, and if his name gets released, we may also have a press issue as well." Gaius said.
"Great," Arthur said.
"One option was to move him somewhere with higher security, which seems a little excessive, we will have to be careful, but we know the visitors for the other residents and the outpatients don't get through to that part of the building. Anyone new arriving will just have to be checked."
"We can handle that," Elena said. Gwen nodded in agreement. Arthur diverted the subject.
"One a cheerier note, I've spoken to Freya and her parents. I'll come in on Saturday morning to sort getting her discharged. Even she seems to agree with Elena's idea, and her parents are keen to have her home again."
"I take it she's back as an outpatient?" Gaius said.
"Yes, when I see them Saturday I'll schedule in her first few appointments with her parents and have her medication ready, and we'll see how she goes this time."
"It's a good start," Gwen said. "She seemed really pleased."
"Yeah, well, we'll see how it goes," Arthur said.