azombiewrites: (Midsomer Murders)
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Title: The Collected Hurts of DS Jones
Fandom: Midsomer Murders
Genre: Hurt/Comfort.
Rating: PG
Summary: 5 times DS Jones was whumped and 1 time he wasn't.
Main Characters: DS Ben Jones, DCI John Barnaby, Sarah Barnaby and Kate Wilding.
Disclaimer: Created and based on the characters and books by Caroline Graham. A Bentley production for ITV.
Spoilers: None
Word Count: 3,480
Status: Each chapter can be read as a stand-alone story.

The Obligated Concussion
Summary:
Held in a Priest hole with no way out, a flickering light and a concussed Detective Sergeant are DCI John Barnaby’s only companions.




John Barnaby’s only companion was an indecisive light, the bulb flickering on and off at regular intervals, its shadows painted across the walls of the Priest hole like ugly graffiti. It was a small, empty, confined space, the walls seemingly closing in, the room becoming even smaller, cramped. Barnaby knew it was all in his mind, but psychology degree be damned, the claustrophobia was stripping away his common sense. Cold and uncomfortable, the room was more like a prison than a sanctuary. Not the kind of place you would want to spend an extended amount of time. The decision taken away from Barnaby; led into the room under false pretences, the camouflaged entrance shut behind him before he understood what was happening.

He thought a way out would be simple. Call Jones. But his phone had lacked a signal, dead and buried just when Barnaby had needed it most. Pounding his fists against the wall in the hope of gaining someone’s attention had been futile, more painful than useful. He’d then spent what had felt like hours searching the walls, every little nook and cranny; the mechanism that would open either exit proving too difficult for Barnaby to find.

Now stuck with no way out, Barnaby slammed an open palm against the wall, grunting in pain and frustration. His mood growing even sourer, he decided to let it go, to sit down and wait, confident Jones would find him . . . eventually. Hopefully before Barnaby died of dehydration, starvation or possible boredom. Bum on the cold floor, back against the wall, Barnaby fought the sudden urge to panic when the light blinked out, hesitating a few seconds too long before flickering back on. It was playing with him, Barnaby was sure of it. Perhaps it was a feeble attempt to amuse itself, or possibly a successful attempt to scare the room’s occupant. It was beginning to work, the panic starting to churn in the pit of Barnaby’s gut.

A glance at his watch left Barnaby cursing under his breath, the sound of his own voice breaking through the thick silence in the room. The minutes were dragging by, a heavy weight clinging to the hands of time, slowing it down to an exaggeratedly slow pace. Boredom was going to take his sanity before the claustrophobia. He needed a distraction, something to keep his mind from dressing itself up in a straight jacket, the lack of stimulation giving it free rein to taunt and torment him.

Barnaby heard them first, feet shuffling along the floor outside the Priest hole, voices complaining, the words muted. It wasn’t encouraging, Barnaby worried they had come for him, deciding to get rid of the evidence before help arrived. He could talk them out of it. He had a psychology degree. The door opened, its base scraping along the floor, like nails on a chalkboard. The sound grated on Barnaby’s nerves, squeezing the back of his teeth before letting go. He stood up quickly, narrowing his eyes in a way that would allow him to see the figures standing in the doorway, their shadows stretched out before them on the floor of the Priest hole.

They hadn’t come for Barnaby. Instead, bringing him something that would only make things a lot worse, a lot more fearful, the need to escape suddenly more urgent. Jones, slumped between the two men, his weight bending them forward, backs hunched at the effort it took to keep his sergeant upright.

“I believe this belongs to you.”

With a combined effort, accompanied by grunts of complaint, they pushed Jones forward, allowing him to stumble into the room, his knees buckling beneath him. In hindsight, Barnaby knew he should have rushed the two men, an effort to escape the room, to raise an alarm that would bring in the cavalry. But a singular emotion took control of everything, dominating his every move; he had to stop Jones from making a painful introduction with the floor.

It wasn’t an easy thing to prevent; the light deciding a joke was in order, something to break the tension, turning itself off at a most inopportune time. Barnaby didn’t think it was that funny. The door closed. Blacker than black, the darkness began to choke him, Jones slamming into him not helping at all; a breathless grunt ripped from Barnaby’s chest as they fell to the floor. Jones’s warm breath ghosted across the side of Barnaby’s face, the gentle but persistent heat radiating from his sergeant’s body embraced him. Something dripped onto his face, a light patter of something wet and sticky, a strong odour of copper. Blood. Not all was right with Ben Jones.

“Jones?”

Barnaby didn’t get a response, not that he really expected one. With a determined grip on his sergeant’s shoulders, his fingers pressing into relaxed flesh, Barnaby pushed upward, shifting Jones’s weight, rolling him away to the left and onto the floor. He knew he couldn’t do much more, not in the dark; sure the light from his phone wouldn’t be enough. With the palm of his hand resting against Jones’s chest, feeling it rise and fall, Barnaby waited. Patiently at first, thinking the light would blink into existence after a few seconds and then impatiently when it refused to co-operate with him. Never before had he dealt with such a temperamental inanimate object.

As though insulted and with a need to prove itself, the light blinked, once, twice, finally deciding to stay on. Barnaby grimaced, the transition between dark and light causing a sharp stab of pain at the back of his eyes. He lifted himself off the floor, tense muscles beginning to relax and turned to face his sergeant. Barnaby didn’t like what he saw. The right side of Jones’s face covered in blood, a blatant contrast against his pale flesh. A gash so deep, you could see bone, ran almost half the length of the right eyebrow, blood still flowing from the open wound, a small rivulet. Whoever had hit Jones, had hit him hard, harder than would have been necessary.

If they had split Jones’s skull, bone cracked beneath flesh . . . they were in serious trouble, a life threatening situation Barnaby would find difficult to escape.

Breath caught in his throat, Barnaby struggled to swallow, panic clenching his chest in a painful unrelenting grip. He should have been more cautious in what he wanted; a distraction given to him, just not the kind of distraction he had wanted. However, distracted he now was, no longer claustrophobic or bored. Instead panicked and worried. Muscles cramped with tension, Barnaby took a deep breath and then another to calm himself. He had to think. Basic first aid, he needed to go through the list.

Leaning forward, palm restless against Jones’s chest, Barnaby took a closer look at the wound. No dents, at least they hadn’t caved his head in, Barnaby grateful for the small things. There were no other outward signs of a skull fracture, but that didn’t mean Jones’s skull, as thick as it was, hadn’t suffered a more serious injury. Moving on, breathing wasn’t impaired, another good sign but something Barnaby would have to continue to monitor. He reached forward, placing his hand against the side of his sergeant’s face, skin dry and warm. Shock was yet to settle in. Give it time thought Barnaby.

Jones shifted his head away, opening his eyes, the movement slow, hesitant, a groan escaping his lips.

“Ben?”

Voice slurred, Jones asked, “What . . . happened?”

Not a good sign, slurred speech an indication that Jones might have suffered a concussion. But Barnaby would take a concussion over a skull fracture any day.

“I was hoping you could tell me,” said Barnaby.

Jones raised a hand, and like a drunk reaching for their next drink, the limb was uncoordinated, a failed attempt to explore his injury, missing it entirely. “What happened?”

“Or not.” Barnaby resisted the urge to roll his eyes, adding irritation to worry wasn’t going to help, not a good combination, something that wouldn’t sit well in the pit of his stomach.

Lifting his head off the floor, Jones’s pallor grew even paler and he let it fall back with a soft thump and a muted groan. Barnaby grimaced in sympathy and hoped, silently, that Jones hadn’t eaten a heavy breakfast; the strong odour of vomit wouldn’t help either of them, not in this small space. The smell of blood was already clinging to the back of his throat, causing his own stomach to churn.

“Ben.”

“Sir?”

“This is going to hurt,” said Barnaby, knowing that Jones would already feel as though his skull had been split in two by a very blunt axe and what he was about to do wasn’t going to make Jones feel any better.

Not willing to strip down and use his clothes for a bleed that was already slowing to a trickle, Barnaby resorted to using a barely used handkerchief. Without any further warning, he pressed it down against the cut on Jones’s forehead, applying pressure; even a trickle needed stopping. The response was immediate. Jones attempted to curl in on himself: knees drawn toward his chest, arms raised to protect himself from more pain, face screwed up, teeth gritted, skin – if it were possible – going a shade or two paler as he tried to turn away from Barnaby.

And Barnaby couldn’t watch any of it, seeing the pain on his sergeant’s face just made it all the more difficult. He pushed forward, forcing Jones’s face away, allowing him to turn away from him, rolling onto his left side. If Jones hadn’t looked so pathetic, his limbs so confused, the situation would be almost laughable . . . almost.

When Jones’s breathing became harsh, chest heaving, Barnaby eased off. Removing the handkerchief, Barnaby bent over Jones’s curled form and checked the wound. It hadn’t stopped completely, but it had lessened. Not in the mood to go through that again, not yet anyway, Barnaby sat back and placed the palm of his hand against the back of Jones’s skull, trying to assure the younger man that it was okay. Jones flinched away from him, associating Barnaby’s touch as a source of pain.

Barnaby sighed. The day hadn’t turned out at all, as he had expected.

.
.
.

His only companions were a flickering light, still stubborn in nature; you could set your watch by it and a concussed sergeant confused beyond belief, his reactions slow and methodical, his inquisitive questions becoming repetitive, irritating. And through it all, Barnaby’s worry grew, like an unwanted tumour, nagging at his insides, telling him he should be concerned.

After an unsuccessful attempt to use Jones’s phone, Barnaby had moved to the other side of the room, sitting on the floor facing Jones, a better position to keep a watchful eye on his sergeant. Sleeping or unconscious, Barnaby wasn’t sure, didn’t want to disturb Jones to find out either way. As long as he was comfortable, breathing easy and not in pain. Jones had complained that his head had hurt, wanting to know why, asking the question numerous times, repeatedly; concussion stopping him from remembering what he had asked only minutes earlier. Shock still hadn’t set in, Barnaby wasn't surprised, Jones’s body probably forgetting that it was injured. At least the bleeding had stopped.

He held his breath when Jones sighed, hoping with guilt that he didn’t wake up. Jones would ask the same questions, and Barnaby couldn’t be certain he wouldn’t answer in anger or frustration. Turned out, irritation and worry hadn’t been a good combination; the mixture of emotions had left him feeling sick to the stomach. If the circumstances were different, if he could step out of the room for just a few minutes, get his mood back under control, regain the patience required to deal with someone concussed. He had a degree in psychology; he should be able to do this.

A shift in Jones’s position told Barnaby that his sergeant was waking up. Barnaby clenched his teeth in anticipation. Jones opened his eyes, his stare vacant, his gaze unmoving, still as death. Seconds passed. And then he blinked. Barnaby hadn’t even realised he’d been holding his breath, fear biting painfully into his chest. He couldn’t take much more of this. He had to find the way out.

The light, perfect timing as usual, switched itself off.

Barnaby closed his eyes, pursed his lips and shook his head, more in disbelief than frustration. He could hear Jones moving about, no doubt trying to get up . . . again. Like a broken record, everything repeated.

“Jones,” said Barnaby. “You’ve got a concussion. Don’t move.”

“What-”

“You’ve got a concussion.”

“-happened?”

Barnaby counted to ten. If he waited long enough, Jones would forget he had asked a question. Not this time.

“Sir?”

“You’ve got a concussion.”

“Is that why my head hurts?”

“Yes.”

“I hit my head?”

“No,” said Barnaby. “Someone else hit you.”

“What happened?”

Barnaby gritted his teeth, his jaw beginning to ache. “You’ve got a concussion, Jones.”

“I think I’m going to be sick.”

The light began to spasm – probably in response to the conversation – turning itself on . . . off . . . on . . . off . . . on.

Barnaby could feel a headache beginning to nag at the back of his eyes. If the persistent mood swing of the light bulb was making his head hurt, well, it must be making things even worse for Jones. Barnaby would break the bulb, put the thing out of its misery but he needed it, unable to keep an eye on Jones without it.

Speaking of Jones. Barnaby opened his eyes to find his sergeant sitting up, legs crossed, elbows on his knees, head resting in the palms of his hands; looking bloody miserable.

They had to get out.

Standing up, Barnaby turned to face the wall, eyes searching once more for the mechanism that would open either door. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, the worry gnawing at his stomach. If he couldn’t find it . . . he didn’t want to think about the consequences. Behind him, Jones was muttering to himself, voice so low Barnaby couldn’t make out what he was saying. But he could make a safe guess.

Fingertips bruised and scratched, Barnaby’s search ended in failure. He couldn’t find the way out. Hope depleting, he was beginning to believe there was no way out, sure that another search would only end the same way. They weren’t getting out of here anytime soon. The only thing left to do, the only thing he could do was wait. Earlier, he had been willing to wait for Jones, confident of a rescue, before his situation had become grim. Maybe someone at the office will notice their lack of return, common sense telling them that something might actually be wrong. Taking a sitting position opposite Jones, Barnaby settled in for what he hoped wasn’t a long wait.

Time passed . . . slowly . . . so excruciatingly slow it was almost painful.

.
.
.

John Barnaby’s only companions were a light bulb suffering from aggressive mood swings and a concussed detective sergeant who had become eerily quiet. He’d been watching Jones closely, looking for any indication that he was getting worse. He wasn’t. But he also hadn’t moved, still in the same position he’d been in an hour ago; head still in the palms of his hands, fingers digging deep into his scalp, knuckles white with the effort. It was obvious Jones was in a lot of pain. Feeling utterly helpless, Barnaby looked away, gaze roaming the walls, looking for something he might have missed.

If it weren’t for the risk of repetitive questions, Barnaby would engage Jones in conversation, an attempt to distract him. A conversation though, wouldn’t do much to ease the pain. It might pass the time. But would it be worth it, listening to Jones asking the same questions. He decided that it would be worth it, a sudden need to hear Jones speak, anything that would let Barnaby know that his sergeant’s condition wasn’t on the decline.

“Ben?”

There was no reply from Jones, body still, head down, fingers holding his head in an uncomfortable embrace. Like a nagging wife, the worry returned. Barnaby leaned forward, pressing his own fingers against Jones’s knee, trying to get a response in return. He could feel a tremor rumbling through the limb. Jones must have been struggling to hold it together. Barnaby drew back his hand, laying it his own lap.

“Ben.”

Still no answer.

With a tone full of authority, Barnaby said, “Jones! Answer me.”

Jones lifted his head up, arms falling to his sides, the movements a reaction more than a need to respond. The blood on the side of Jones’s face had dried, cracking in places, like a facial mask left too long to dry. The area around the wound had turned into a fine collection of dark purples. Not a pretty sight. Gaze still vacant, Jones stared straight ahead, looking through Barnaby. It was unnerving, a shiver running the length of Barnaby’s spine.

“Ben?”

Patience lacking, Barnaby waited. It took a few minutes for Jones to regain his focus, his gaze shifting as he took in his surroundings. Again, Barnaby waited, this time for the inevitable. He didn’t have to wait long.

“What happened?”

Smiling, Barnaby said, “You’ve got a concussion, Jones.”

“And you find that funny, Sir,” said Jones.

Now there was a different response. Things were looking up.

“Not at all.”

“What happened?”

“If I tell you, you’ll forget. Concussion and all that. I’ll explain when you’re up to it,” said Barnaby.

“Where are we?”

With reluctance, Barnaby said, “We’re in a Priest hole and I can’t find the way out.”

Jones frowned, tilting his head to the side. He lifted his left arm and pointed toward the door Barnaby couldn’t open. “Try the light switch.”

Barnaby’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “I’m sorry.”

“My head feels like it’s broken,” said Jones as he leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees, reaching upward, hands cradling his head. “And I think I’m going to be sick.”

The light went out, a heavy cloak of darkness returning to the room.

To Barnaby, a light switch had been too obvious, the device added to the room a number of years after construction. He hadn’t connected the dots, lateral thinking not working on this occasion. Someone had obviously, or not so obviously to Barnaby, replaced the original opening device with the light switch. No wonder the bloody light didn’t work properly.

Feeling like a complete idiot and thankful for Jones’s lack of short term memory, Barnaby stood up and made his way to the wall, fumbling along in the dark until he found the light switch. He hesitated, imagination out of control, an ominous feeling of being electrocuted going off like a flash bulb inside his skull. Closing his eyes, Barnaby took a deep breath and flicked the light switch, snapping his fingers away as quickly as possible. Nothing. Not even the sound of a lock disengaging.

Then it happened, a subtle shift in the door’s position, a sliver of light entering the room. The light flickered on, a poorly timed attempt to say ‘I told you so’. Barnaby ignored it. He pulled the door open, gritting his teeth as it scratched against the floor. He stepped out of the room, snatching his phone out of his pocket. A short and to the point phone call assured Barnaby that rescue was now on its way. Stepping back into the room, he closed the door; no need to let the suspects know he’d found the way out.

“Help is on the way, Jones,” said Barnaby.

Jones responded by gagging on the bile rising in his throat. He spat it out and muttered, “Why? What happened?”

.
.
.

Barnaby’s only companions were a decisive fluorescent light and a heavily medicated detective sergeant, the pain and nausea becoming too much for Jones, intervention required to ease both symptoms. Jones was now sleeping comfortably in a hospital bed, wound stitched, face cleaned, colour returning to his flesh. Barnaby, calm and back in control, had stayed with his sergeant, travelling back in the ambulance, refusing to leave the emergency cubicle when asked.

He would stay until Jones returned to the land of the living, marbles intact; he owed his sergeant an explanation. A conversation that would explain everything . . . or though Barnaby intended to leave out the fact that he’d had trouble finding his way out of the Priest hole, a concussed detective showing him the exit.

No. Jones didn’t need to know that small, insignificant, piece of information.




Chapter One | Chapter Two


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