Chapter 6


"Oh, man, I’m so nervous about this," Blair muttered, squirming as if to get more comfortable on the couch although he was already settled cozily, an afghan thrown over him.

Jim drew in his breath.

"Would it make you feel better if I weren’t here?"

"Oh, god, no," Blair said explosively, his eyes widening with alarm. "Please, Jim, don’t go, stay – "

"Okay, okay, Blair, I’ll stay," Jim said hurriedly. "But what if Dr. Worth wants to talk to you alone?"

"If he tries to separate us," Blair said, swallowing hard, "then I don’t even want to talk to him."

Gerard Worth looked very much like his voice had sounded – medium tall, mid-forties, sandy brown hair, beard and mustache, on the thin side, but somehow looking strong for all that. There was a quiet calm in his eyes, a sad sort of calm. The look of a survivor.

"Detective Ellison," he said, smiling and offering his hand. His handshake was firm, warm. Immediately, without any awkwardness, he squatted beside the couch. "Mr. Sandburg. I’m Gerard Worth, and I’m glad you’ve given me this chance to visit with you." He offered his hand without exactly extending it; Jim was impressed with the clever maneuver, and proud when Blair took his hand rather hesitantly, shaking it.

"Just Blair, okay, Dr. Worth?" Blair said shyly.

"You can call me Gerard, or Dr. Worth, whatever you’re comfortable with," Gerard said. He retreated to the armchair, which Jim had moved within Blair’s easy field of vision without having to move around on the couch or crane his neck.

"Can I get you something to drink?" Jim asked rather awkwardly. "We’ve got fruit juice, hot tea – it’s herbal, mint and lemon balm, um, Gatorade."

"Thanks, I’d love some of that tea," Gerard said easily. "Blair, Detective – "

"Jim," Jim corrected.

"Jim," Gerard said, giving a brief nod of acknowledgement. "Basically, I see this just as a sort of getting-acquainted visit, not therapy or even a formal evaluation. What I want to do is just talk generally, Blair, as much as you’re comfortable with, so that we can both decide if we’ll be comfortable working together. I also want to go over some of the resources and support network available to you. Does that sound okay with you?"

"Yeah, that’s fine," Blair said, looking visibly relieved. "Um, is it okay if Jim stays?"

Jim, pouring the tea, looked up anxiously, watching for Gerard’s response.

Gerard nodded.

"I’d have asked him to," he said. "May I ask bluntly, do the two of you have a relationship?"

"Shit! Fuck!" Jim yelped, hastily putting the pot down. Damn, his sense of touch had apparently faded out; judging from the quantity of liquid on the counter, he’d been blithely pouring scalding tea over his hand for a couple of seconds before touch suddenly kicked in at way beyond full force.

"Jim?" Blair said anxiously, half rising.

"Are you all right?" Gerard asked at the same time, standing up.

"Yeah, yeah," Jim said hurriedly, grabbing the bag of frozen peas out of the freezer and slapping it onto his hand. "Just spilled hot tea on myself. I’ll be right there."

"Are you sure you’re okay?" Blair asked anxiously, and his wide eyes and tone told Jim he was asking about more than the spilled tea – he wanted to know whether Jim could get the pain successfully dialled down.

"I’m fine," Jim said as levelly as he could, meeting Blair’s gaze. In fact it took him several seconds of wrestling with his ‘dials’ to get the pain down to a bearable level and his sense of touch back to normal. Fortunately his hand wasn’t badly burned enough to blister, but it wasn’t going to be any fun to use for the next couple of days. He mopped up the spill, finished pouring the tea and walked carefully back to the living room. "What were you asking again?"

Gerard took his cup of tea.

"I asked whether the two of you have a relationship."

Jim and Blair exchanged glances.

"Um, kind of," Blair said cautiously. "I mean, I was always attracted to Jim, but – um – "

"But I wasn’t comfortable with a homosexual relationship then," Jim finished, handing Blair his tea and sitting down on the couch, lifting Blair’s feet into his lap. "I’ve thought about my feelings toward Blair a lot since then. I love him and I’m committed to him, even though we’re not sexually involved yet."

Gerard raised his eyebrows slightly, but smiled and nodded.

"How long have the two of you been friends?" he asked.

"Almost four years now," Blair said. "We’ve been roommates for more than three and more or less working together the whole time." He grinned. "It’s always been kind of a strange relationship."

Gerard grinned back.

"Strange is relative," he said. "Well, in answer to your question, Blair: I read your file and all your old psychological records, I’ve got a pretty good idea of your case history here, and – " he chuckled. " – the pitifully few of Jim’s records the military would release, and the more recent stuff from Cascade PD. Under the circumstances, and considering what you’ve just told me, I think it’s actually very important that both you and Jim get counselling, and doing it together is probably a good thing. There will probably be times when both of you will have issues you want to discuss separately, and that’s fine, but believe me, anything that strengthens the bonds between you two will only help you both.

"Let me start right out by breaking up the old cliché," he continued. "I don’t know what you’re going through. I couldn’t possibly know what you’re going through. I understand what you’re going through. Like a few other rape counsellors, I chose this area of specialty because I was raped myself, but my experience was very different than yours, and I’m a different person than you. Every rape is different, every victim’s reaction is different. My own experience and my work with others gives me an idea of some of the feelings, some of the thoughts that may run through another rape victim’s mind, give me an insight into some of the stairsteps to recovery, but again, every person is different. There’s no one right road and no one right type of treatment.

"What I’m here to do is to help you take a sort of emotional inventory," Gerard said. "I’m here to help you sort out the issues that you want to work on. At the same time I want to help you identify your own strengths, your own coping and healing mechanisms. I want to help you learn to bring those strengths to bear on the areas that give you pain. Let’s get this straight: I can’t cure you, I can’t heal you. Only you can do that. The last thing in the world I want to do is take the control out of your hands. For a short period of time some very sick people took your choices away from you. But from here on out, you’re in charge and all the choices are yours. You heal yourself, and you decide how and when that’s going to happen. I’m just here to show you some of the tools you have at your disposal, present you with some choices you may not have thought of, and give you a sounding board when you need to be heard.

"The other thing I want to do is to help Jim learn to help you – and himself – more effectively. His love and understanding and support is a tremendous asset to both of you, and I want to help both of you learn how to use that asset to the fullest. At the same time, Blair, you have to understand that Jim’s hurting too, that he has his own issues about what happened to you. It’s likely that from time to time Jim may need to unload. He can turn to me and gripe, shout, yell, cry, cuss, whine, whatever he needs to do without worrying that he’s adding to your pain, Blair." Gerard glanced at Jim and chuckled. "I can see I just sold Jim on the idea."

Jim was glad to see that Blair had relaxed considerably; now he was looking thoughtful instead of nervous.

"How often would I need to come in?" he asked slowly. "I mean, I’m not very mobile yet."

"Actually I can’t answer that," Gerard said apologetically. "That depends on a number of factors. What I’ll need to do first is have you take a couple of tests that will help me better assess your needs. Ordinarily in a case like yours I try to make time for a patient two to three times a week, but if you need more, you get more; if you don’t need that much, that’s fine, too. Later on, when you’re comfortable with the idea, you might want to join my group therapy sessions, or, if you don’t need that much structure, one of my support groups through the Rape Crisis Center. Do you think you’ll be all right to travel by car next week?"

"I hope so," Blair said wryly. "I’ve got to see my doctor on Monday morning."

Gerard pulled an appointment book out of his pocket and consulted it.

"Then I’d suggest that if you’re interested in pursuing this, I’ll bring my testing materials and come back by Friday," he said. "I can administer the tests, talk to you both a little then, and tentatively schedule your first appointment for Monday after your doctor’s appointment, to spare you another trip out while you’re healing. That’ll give me time to go over the tests and the history, and on Monday I’ll have a better idea of what we’re dealing with. Is that okay with you?"

"Wow, a psychiatrist who makes house calls," Blair chuckled.

"I’ve made house calls, car calls, emergency room calls, and ledge calls," Gerard said, grinning. "In my line of work, I can’t get too chained to an office. The city funds some of my emergency work, and the Rape Crisis Center funds contingencies like this, people who aren’t in any shape for an office visit."

Jim had a question.

"You probably know there’s a trial coming up," he said. "How much of what we tell you can come out in court?"

"The prosecutor can choose to subpoena my records, depose me, have me testify at trial, or all of the above," Gerard told him. "Unless the prosecutor uses me or my records, however, everything’s covered under the doctor-patient privilege, and defense counsel can’t subpoena them. I’m not ordinarily called in on criminal cases unless there’s a credibility question. When’s the trial scheduled?"

"The indictment hearing’s next week," Jim told him. "At a guess, they’ll have the trial in about a month after that. The court docket’s moving pretty fast."

Gerard glanced at Blair.

"Are you filing a civil suit?"

Jim sat back, startled. He hadn’t even considered that possibility. Blair looked just as surprised.

"I guess I ought to be," he said rather sheepishly. "God, I should’ve thought of that, with all my expenses."

Gerard smiled.

"You’d be amazed at how many don’t think of it," he said. "There’s a reason for my asking. As far as the criminal trial goes, if there are matters in your private history that you don’t want to come out in court and you think the prosecutor would want to use me or my records, we don’t have to discuss those matters until the trial is over. In any event, relevancy objections will keep the defense counsel from going too far on a fishing expedition. In a civil trial, though, discovery can stretch out over months or even years, and basically anything goes. One of the components of your suit would be your emotional damages, and then my records become admissible and the defendants could subpoena them and me. When I know my clients are involved in a civil suit, I don’t take video or audio recordings unless absolutely necessary, and I try to minimize my paper notes so that I have more control over what information about my patients gets released. I have an excellent memory and my case load isn’t large. If you do want to look for civil counsel, the Rape Crisis Center has a listing of civil lawyers who specialize in those cases."

"Wow," Blair said weakly, looking a little dazed. "It’s a lot to think about."

"I know," Gerard said, nodding. "My suggestion is to let Jim deal with the legal issues and get the wheels rolling. You, Blair, should just concentrate on resting and recovering. Try not to worry about lawyers and trials. Right now your feelings and your needs are more than enough to deal with."

They chatted informally for a while, discussing some of the services available through the Rape Crisis Center; after a little hesitation, Blair told the doctor most of the events surrounding his rape. Midway through relating the story, Blair tried to shift more to his good side and grimaced.

"Hang on, Chief, I’ve got you," Jim said immediately. He slid out from under Blair’s feet and helped Blair to turn on his side, propping him in place with the pillow Blair had been using. Then, realizing he’d just taken Blair’s pillow away from him, Jim hurriedly sat down, and Blair laid his head in Jim’s lap with a sigh of utter relief. Jim smiled and reached around to rub Blair’s back gently. "Better, Chief?"

"Yeah, thanks," Blair sighed contentedly. Jim glanced up to find Gerard watching them rather surprisedly.

"Well, it looks like Blair’s getting tired, so I should go," Gerard said hastily. "What do you think, Blair? Think we can work together?"

"I’d like to," Blair admitted. "What do you think?"

"I think we’ve got a good rapport," Gerard agreed. "All right; I’ll stop by Friday at about two with all the paperwork. Okay? Good. Blair, try to have a nap and a hearty lunch beforehand; some of those tests are lengthy."

"No doubt," Blair said wryly. "It seems like all I do these days is sleep."

When Gerard was gone, Jim helped Blair back to bed, knowing that after he took his medication he’d need a nap. Blair swallowed the pills and lay back with a sigh.

"That wasn’t as bad as I expected," he admitted. "How’s your hand?"

"Fine," Jim said firmly, waggling the fingers to show Blair there was no serious injury. Then he remembered. "Blair, would you mind if I borrowed your laptop while you’re asleep? I don’t just mean today, but for a while."

"Sure," Blair said, surprised. "Going to surf the net or something?"

"Sort of." Jim grinned and picked up the folder Simon had given him. "Simon worked it out so that I can do some paperwork and online research here at home instead of taking the time off. Since you sleep so much, I figured I might as well take him up on it."

"Yeah, sure, that’s great," Blair said. Then he looked away. "You know, Jim, you don’t have to keep staying home with me, though. I mean, a few more days and I’ll be able to get around the loft by myself."

Jim put the folder down and took Blair’s hand.

"Blair, I have no intention of leaving you alone," he said flatly. "There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I’m leaving you unguarded while any of those boys are loose on the street. And when they’re put away behind bars, I will still be here until you’re ready to come back to work with me. Got it?" Anyway, the way my senses are working – or not working – right now, I wouldn’t be much good on the job without you.

Blair’s eyes filled with tears, but his smile was radiant.

"Got it," he whispered humbly, squeezing Jim’s hand. Jim sat there unmoving until his Guide drifted off to sleep once more.

Blair was so exhausted that he slept most of the afternoon and well into the evening. As a reward for getting through the meeting with Gerard, Jim let him lie on the couch and watch National Geographic specials all evening. Blair fell asleep halfway through a documentary on Tibet, and Jim carefully carried him back to bed.

Jim tried to watch TV a little longer and fell asleep on the couch, but drifted into a horrible nightmare of running panic-stricken around the Rainier campus, hearing Blair’s tortured screams and cries, knowing he was being raped and beaten but unable to find him, knowing with a horrible certainty that he would arrive too late to save his Guide. He woke with a gasp, shaking and covered in cold sweat, and heard little whimpering sounds emerging from the bedroom; apparently he wasn’t the only one with nightmares tonight. Jim scooted his cot as close to Blair’s bed as he could and held Blair’s hand, finally drifting off to sweet, dreamless sleep. When Jim woke the next morning, he found that Blair had scooted as close to the edge of the bed as he could, and curled around Jim’s hand like a talisman against evil.

Buoyed by his sleep, his successful talk with Gerard the day before, and a pancake breakfast, Blair settled confidently on the couch (more comfortable to his tailbone than the recliner) when Beverly Sanchez arrived with Simon. He stayed relatively calm as he told the whole story again. Beverly listened without commenting, then took Blair through it again, asking him questions at several points, taking notes.

"Well, your story certainly agrees with the statements I’ve got from Wyman and Kinzer," Beverly said. "Also the forensic evidence. Simon told me that he’s already talked to you about Tim Frain’s defense – his harassment story?"

Blair nodded silently.

"And he tells me that while you feel you may have bisexual tendencies, you’ve never acted on them?" Beverly continued, giving a slightly skeptical glance at Jim.

"I’ve been interested in Jim a long time," Blair said quietly. "But he wasn’t comfortable with that then, and we’ve never done anything about it."

"Then?" Beverly prompted.

"We aren’t involved sexually yet," Jim said, a little annoyedly. "If that’s what you’re asking. Even if we were both ready, which we’re not, Blair’s in no shape physically or emotionally."

"Jim, you have to realize this is exactly the angle that Tim Frain’s defense counsel, Eric Crassner, is going to be using," Beverly said gently. "Let me give you my read on this case. Blair’s got a clear, concise story and I think he’s going to make an excellent witness. He’s got corroborating stories from Wyman and Kinzer, and he’s got tons of physical evidence and medical evidence. It’s very damning. There’s no way Crassner can contest the factual evidence; all he can go for is mitigation. He’s going to have a hell of a time selling the harassment angle because there’s absolutely no pattern of Blair ever approaching one of his students before, much less a male student; quite the contrary, I can produce a number of students, male and female, who approached him and got turned down. Maybe Crassner can get a few of Frain’s hockey buddies to lie for him, back up his story, but I won’t have any problem rebutting that kind of testimony; from the students I’ve interviewed, Blair has a hell of a fan club on campus even after the academic fraud business. Therefore the only avenue Crassner can take is to attack Blair’s credibility and his image with the jury.

"The first thing he has to do to make his case is make the jury believe that Blair is gay, or at least bisexual, to sell the harassment angle. The unfair reality is that a male rape victim gets less jury sympathy than a female one, and a gay or bisexual victim gets less sympathy than a straight one, and the popular misconception is that every gay man in the world wants to jump everything with a penis that moves. Additionally, from the information I’ve been able to gather around the station, a hell of a lot of your coworkers believe, however wrongly, that the two of you are involved and have been for some time. You’ve got to admit that – " she consulted her notes. " – that a temporary observer is one thing, Jim, but taking him into your home and keeping him as your partner in all but name for three years, and then pushing him through the police academy so he can become your partner in fact, is kind of another thing. You bring him with you to precinct functions and social occasions; in fact, you seem to spend most of your time with him, on the job and off. It is notable. It’s going to be hard to get the jury to believe you don’t have a relationship."

"We do have a relationship," Jim returned evenly. "It just doesn’t include sex. Yet."

Beverly nodded, smiling.

"And that’s how we’re going to hang Crassner," she said. "We’re going to do the one thing he won’t expect, won’t be prepared for."

"Do I have to cut my hair and wear a business suit and pretend to be a yuppie?" Blair asked sadly.

Beverly chuckled.

"Quite the contrary," she said. "We’re going to present the jury with the absolute truth – the unvarnished Blair Sandburg."

Blair frowned.

"Huh?"

"We’ll have to dress you properly for court, there’s no getting around it," Beverly said, nodding. "But you’re going in there with your hair down and your earrings shining and you’re not acting, Blair. Don’t try to appear more wronged than you are, don’t try to look like the family values poster child. You go right in there and be Blair Sandburg. I’m going to throw Crassner’s strategy right back at him. You see, it doesn’t matter whether the jury believes the two of you are sleeping together or not. What matters is that they believe the two of you love each other and are committed to each other. So committed that Blair turned away from a long list of female dates; so committed that Jim Ellison, the big bad loner, was willing to turn his entire lifestyle around. So committed that Crassner won’t be able to come up with a single man Blair’s been to bed with. So committed that it’s ridiculous to even suppose that Blair would stray from this big, beautiful hunk of a cop roommate for some asshole-ish, semi-illiterate college jock. Whatever the jury thinks of gay sex, they can get behind love and commitment. And every witness Crassner pulls to the stand, every supposition and rumor about you two, is only going to work in our favor, because while what he’s trying to do is show the jury sex, we’ll be showing them love."

Jim chuckled admiringly.

"You mean – we’re going to fight lies with the plain, unvarnished truth?"

"You’d better believe it," Beverly said, grinning. "Because we’ve got all kinds of ammunition on our side, and Crassner’s going to obligingly do his part in giving us the rope to hang him with. Now, let’s move on to the rest of our strategy. Blair, you realize that Crassner’s going to try to rattle you. He’s going to hit you with everything he’s got while you’re on the stand, try to drag out every lurid detail of your assault in the hope of breaking down your testimony, because he needs to shake your credibility and so far his only weapon in that regard is the academic fraud. The problem for him is that while that was enough to get you thrown out of Rainier, it looks a little different from the public angle – you hadn’t actually turned in a fraudulent dissertation, your work was made public without your consent, and the first thing you did was go on public TV and admit that the work wasn’t real, even at the cost of your academic career and reputation, not to mention a jaw-dropping book contract. All in all, in the public eye you net out as almost unbelievably honest. So the whole fraud thing actually works for you instead of against you, which leaves Crassner scrabbling for whatever other dirt he can dig up against you. It also leaves him needing to break down your testimony, make you look unreliable in front of the jury.

"Now, I tried to get the case venued to Judge Pfitz; he’s fairly liberal and comfortable with homosexuality, and he probably wouldn’t let Crassner push you too far. But Crassner fought me on it and instead we’re before Judge Flores. Flores isn’t exactly bigoted, but he’s far from as liberal as Pfitz. He won’t stop Crassner from getting tough on you, but he’s also very by the book and he won’t let Crassner harass you unreasonably. On the other hand, Flores is also very, very tough on violent criminals, and rapists in particular. So if you can hold it together, laying the whole sordid mess out in front of Flores will work to our advantage. I couldn’t get a closed court, but I did get him to agree to keep photographers and the press out of the courtroom, and for Flores, that’s a big concession."

Blair sighed miserably.

"The other good point about Flores is that he won’t take any nonsense," Beverly continued. "He won’t let Crassner go far with his fishing expedition to besmirch your reputation. He’ll keep the testimony on track and to the point, and the trial should be short. I’ve got everything well organized, so we’ll make that work in our favor, too. Blair, I understand you’re seeing a counsellor?"

"Gerard Worth," he said, nodding.

"I’ve worked with him before," Beverly said, nodding too. "He’s a good witness. Now, let me ask you both frankly – is there anything you think I should know that might come out in court? If there’s any dirt, Crassner will find it, and I don’t want a lot of unpleasant surprises on the day of trial."

Jim shook his head.

"I used to work in Vice," he said. "I mean, I’ve been around the seamier side of town – I even did some undercover work stripping in a couple of gay clubs, but it was always in the context of my job. I suppose Crassner might pull that out. There’s really nothing he could pull out of my time in the military, even if he could get the records, which he probably can’t. That’s all I can think of."

"I’ll get those files from Vice," Beverly turned to Blair. "How about you?"

"Well . . . I’ve been pretty active in my dating life," Blair said a little embarrassedly. "Women, I mean. I could make you a list if I had to. None of them were students in my classes, at least not since I’ve been teaching. Um, I have lots of gay and bisexual friends at the university. Sometimes I’ve gone with them to gay bars. I wasn’t cruising, just socializing with friends, and they can testify that I never, you know, flirted or anything." He chuckled. "They liked having me along. I tended to end up the designated driver because I have, like, zero tolerance for alcohol."

"Again, that shouldn’t be too tough if Crassner pulls it out," Beverly said, nodding. "Blair, do you have any personal diaries or journals that mention your dating life and your feelings about Jim? Those would be useful evidence in our favor, to show how far back your feelings for Jim go, and it’s pretty much a given that Crassner will subpoena them."

Blair looked Beverly straight in the eye.

"Sorry, no," he said quietly. "My academic journals are all anthropology, I’m afraid."

Beverly gave him a skeptical look, but nodded.

"Okay. In that case, I’m going to get to work on this stuff. If either of you have any questions, or think of anything I should know about, please let me know."

When Beverly and Simon were gone, Jim took one look at the lines of pain and weariness etched on his Guide’s face and mutely helped Blair back to bed, giving him his pain medication an hour early without a word. When Blair was settled comfortably, Jim took Blair’s hand.

"You lied about the journals, didn’t you?" he said quietly.

Blair sighed and nodded.

"They could help the case, you know," Jim said softly.

"I know." Blair swallowed. "But some of the things I said in there about you are . . . Jim, they’re just too personal. I’d rather lose the case than let strangers read them. And besides, there’s Sentinel stuff in there, too. I mean, stuff you wouldn’t have wanted to go into the dissertation and so on. I’ve already put you on the front page once. I’m not going to do it again."

A lump formed in Jim’s throat, a big hard lump made of about fifty percent love and fifty percent guilt.

"I love you, Chief," he said quietly.

Blair smiled, squeezing his fingers.

"Love you too," he whispered drowsily.

This time Blair barely woke for supper, then went back to sleep, but when Jim started working at the kitchen table on Blair’s laptop, he was interrupted almost immediately by a scream from the bedroom. Instantly he was at Blair’s side, holding his shaking Guide.

"I’m sorry, I’m sorry," Blair sobbed against Jim’s shoulder. "I just keep seeing Tim Frain j-jacking off while – every time I close my eyes I see it and I feel – "

"Shhhh, it’s okay, baby, it’s all over, you’re safe," Jim murmured helplessly, holding Blair close and stroking his hair.

"Hold me," Blair choked. "Hold me tight. Don’t let me go."

"No, baby, I’ve got you," Jim said, cradling Blair’s head against his shoulder. "I’ve got you, I won’t let you go." He felt his own tears wetting Blair’s hair and impatiently wiped them away.

God, after telling the whole thing again today, no wonder he’s having nightmares. Hell, I’m probably in for a few more of my own.

"Hey, I’ve got a great idea, Chief."

"W-what?"

"Let’s turn on the TV right in here," Jim suggested. "That way I can curl up on the bed with you and hold you close, and you can watch TV and fall asleep right in my arms. Would you like that?"

Blair sniffled and nodded eagerly. Fifteen minutes later they were curled up cozily under a quilt, Blair snuggled comfortably in Jim’s arms, watching a documentary about Australia. Before the documentary was over, Blair was snoring soundly. Jim quietly picked up the remote, shut off the TV, and lay there unmoving until he fell asleep.