Jim woke slowly, too warm, rather stiff and cramped, but nonetheless better rested than he could ever remember feeling. Even his burned hand had completely stopped hurting. He opened his eyes and slowly took it all in.
He was lying on his back on Blairs bed with the head of the bed still slightly raised from last nights TV watching. Blair was lying on his good side curled into Jims body, one arm and one leg thrown over the Sentinel, his face buried between Jims neck and shoulder, one of Jims arms wrapped warmly around him. Blair was still snoring he snored louder since the broken nose but it was quieting down as the swelling subsided and hed drooled a damp patch on Jims shoulder. Jim knew he was going to be stiff and sore from sleeping in one position all night. He felt almost deleriously happy.
He craned his neck slightly so he could see Blair. His Guides face was utterly relaxed in repose, a slight smile on his lips. The dark circles around his eyes had faded as his nose healed; the split in his lip was gone and only a little bruising remained on one cheek. He looked as peaceful and content as Jim felt; subtract the stubble on his chin and jaws and hed look like a teenager.
Jim hated to move, but his bladder was bursting, and he could see from the clock that Blair was due for medication in a few minutes not to mention breakfast. He tried to ease quietly out from under Blairs arm and leg, but his Guides eyes opened immediately, sleepy and for once without the hint of fear and wariness that always seemed to accompany Blairs awakenings until he reestablished his whereabouts.
"Morning," Blair mumbled drowsily. He rubbed his cheek against Jims shoulder, felt the damp patch and grimaced. "Sorry, man."
"Its okay." Jim stroked Blairs hair, feeling a wave of warm, wondering love that shook him with its depth. How could he have ever denied this? "Feeling all right, baby?"
"Mmmmm, wonderful," Blair purred, closing his eyes under Jims strokes over his hair and down his back. "Sleep a little longer?"
"Sorry, but I need to use the bathroom in the worst way," Jim said apologetically. "And you need your pills before that nice, comfy feeling turns to ouch, I ache."
Blair sighed, but he relinquished his human body pillow and rolled carefully to his back, grimacing slightly.
"Ribs?" Jim guessed.
"Uh-uh. Tailbone," Blair said ruefully. "Man, what Id give to be able to lie on my stomach." He glanced up at Jim shyly. "Thanks for staying with me last night."
"I stay with you every night. But I know what you meant." He smiled. "I loved it. Im glad you were okay with me there. I was afraid you might wake up and panic."
Blair shook his head, smiling.
"Never slept better in my life. Youre better than all the drugs, you know. I just feel better when you touch me. Always have."
Jim felt a lump form in his throat, caught between that helpless, amazed love and heartwrenching guilt at how long hed denied both of them this closeness.
"Thanks, Chief," he said softly. "You dont know what that means to me." He shook his head before he bawled like a baby. "Lets get you your meds, and some breakfast, and then a little cleanup. Gerard will be here in a few hours, and Simons dropping more work by this afternoon, too."
Blair was well enough to toddle around the apartment a bit (with Jim at his elbow, hovering anxiously) but the hard kitchen chairs were still way too much, so he ate in the recliner, house rules suspended indefinitely. He could stand in the shower now, but Jim refused to allow it, or for that matter any assistance in his washing. Blair complained that Jim was babying him, but he smiled as he said it and Jim knew his Guide loved every minute.
As Gerard had advised, Blair took a short nap after his shower, while Kerri helped Jim tidy up the loft and fixed lunch. Kerri had just left when Gerard arrived, briefcase in hand and a little winded. He dropped the briefcase off on the coffee table and joined Jim and Blair in Blairs room.
"Man, you guys have something of a parking situation here, dont you?" he said good-naturedly, sitting down on Jims cot. "I had to park halfway around the block. How are you feeling today, Blair?"
"Pretty good," Blair said. "I just finished lunch weve got some spaghetti primavera left if you want some."
"Thanks, I just ate too," Gerard said. He settled himself in the chair across from Blair and pulled folders out of his briefcase. "Now, theres a lot of writing involved here. Would you rather stay in bed, or maybe sit in that recliner?"
"Recliner," Blair decided. "Jim got me a lap desk, and the recliner has massage and vibration and everything. Jim got it for me while I was in the hospital," he added, beaming at Jim. "Along with all the other living room furniture."
"Wow. Thats a hell of a present," Gerard chuckled. "Can you make it out to the living room okay?"
"Yeah, I can pretty much make it around the downstairs," Blair said proudly.
Well, that was true, but it didnt mean that Jim was going to let Blair shuffle so much as one step without Jims arm around him for support in case he got dizzy. Jim situated him comfortably in the recliner and fetched him his lap desk, an afghan and a glass of tea, belatedly remembering to fetch tea for Gerard, too. He looked at the pile of papers Gerard was taking out of his briefcase and grimaced.
"Dont worry, these arent all tests for Blair," Gerard chuckled. "But I think Ill get him started just the same. Jim, Id appreciate it if you wouldnt talk to Blair or otherwise distract him while hes taking the tests, unless he needs something, all right?"
That left Jim with nothing to do. He got out Blairs laptop and worked for a while but couldnt keep his mind on it. Ordinarily hed have vented his restlessness in cleaning the loft, but he and Kerri had just cleaned, and besides, that would probably qualify as "distracting" Blair, as would turning on the TV. He picked up a book and lay down on the couch where he could keep an eye on Blair.
The minutes ticked by. Blair finished his test; Jim helped him find a more comfortable position, added a couple of pillows and refilled glasses before Blair started the next test. After the second test a bathroom trip was required, and Jim made a pot of hot tea and a tray of fruit, cheese and crackers so Blair could keep his energy up. Gerard said there were no more written tests; the rest was verbal, word association and the like.
Halfway through the last of the verbal tests, Gerard shuffled through his briefcase and pulled out a palmtop computer. He turned it on and grimaced.
Blair glanced up anxiously.
"No, no, the damned batteries in this thing are low," Gerard sighed. He glanced at Jim. "Jim, Im not supposed to leave Blair during a test. Would you mind running out to my car and fetching my adaptor for this thing? Its the white Taurus with the pompom on the antenna. Dont laugh, my wife put it there."
"Sure," Jim said after a moments hesitation, accepting Gerards keys. He might have suspected Gerard of trying to get rid of him for a while, but he could see the low battery indicator blinking on the palmtop. "Deadbolt the door after me, okay? The men that attacked Blair are all out on bail."
"Absolutely." Jim waited to hear the deadbolt click when he shut the door; then he hurried downstairs. He located Gerards car easily, but Gerard kept his car in about the same state Blair did, and finding the adaptor in the mess of papers, academic journals and books in the back seat took longer than hed expected.
By the time Jim returned, Blair had finished the last of the tests and looked visibly wearied, and hed moved from recliner to couch where he could stretch out more comfortably. Still, he was chatting easily with Gerard, and Jim wondered again whether Gerard had sent him out deliberately. Gerard glanced at Jim and smiled, and Jim realized hed just gotten his answer. Almost defiantly Jim slid under Blairs feet on the couch, smiling a little himself at the way Blairs whole body responded to his presence, relaxing relievedly and yet somehow taking on new life.
Gerard fired up his palmtop and took what seemed to Jim a remarkably short and sketchy case history; when Blair appeared surprised too, Gerard said that he only needed the bones of a chronology of Blairs life; as relevant references and events came up, hed flesh out those bones. Similarly, he didnt probe too deeply about the rape itself. He had the case file, which gave him the factual events; what he wanted to do was talk about Blairs feelings and thoughts about the matter, so there was little need to rehash the physical events. He did probe extensively into Blair and Jims relationship, a little more astutely than Jim liked; Jim anticipated some trouble in the future in avoiding the whole Sentinel issue. But Gerard had already candidly admitted that anything they talked about could come out in court, so Jim and Blair had tacitly agreed to omit that topic altogether, issues of trust completely notwithstanding, at least until after the trial.
"Well, I think weve laid a pretty good foundation," Gerard said, putting his papers in his briefcase. "Want to come in Monday, say at eleven? Does that work out okay with your doctors appointment?"
"Yeah, Blair sees Dr. Atherton at 9:30, so that should be fine," Jim said, glancing at Blair for confirmation. "Will you have somewhere in your office where Blair can be relatively comfortable? Hes still not too good sitting for long periods of time."
"Whats a psychiatrist without his couch?" he said. "Seriously, I need a comfortable couch because I sometimes work with hypnosis. In the meantime " He handed Blair and Jim each a card. "Thats my office number, my home number, and my pager. If you have an emergency, use the pager number first; I dont even go to the bathroom without it. And dont hesitate to call me any time of the day or night. Thats what Im for."
When Gerard was gone, Jim fetched Blair another cup of tea and rubbed Blairs feet slowly while Blair drank.
"So what do you think?" Jim said. "Think Worths somebody you can talk to?"
"I dont know," he admitted. "Hes nice, friendly, I can talk to him. I like the way he works. Hes a lot different from the doctors Naomi took me to for my panic attacks when I was younger. Ill give him a try."
"But?" Jim asked softly. "I do sense a but here."
"This is going to sound really weird," Blair sighed. "But the whole psychiatrist thing sounds kind of . . . I dont know, redundant. I just feel like everything that really heals me is going to happen between me and you. I mean, I dont think theres anything I can talk about with him that I cant tell you. I dont think theres anything I can face with him that I cant face better with you."
Jim suppressed the automatic flash of pride he felt at Blairs words, forced himself to think before replying.
"Well, what you say may be true, Chief," he said slowly. "And God knows its as true for me as it is for you. But even if it is true that Worth cant help you with the aftermath of the rape any better than I can I still think hes worth the time for both of us. I mean, I dont know about you, but Ive got a lot of issues here. Im starting a relationship with a man after 37 years of heterosexuality. Youre doing the same thing, just not with as much seniority. That alone is going to be pretty damned tough, even without all the added baggage were both bringing into the relationship. Ive got one failed marriage to my credit. Youve never even tried to commit to a long-term relationship before. Then theres all the crap with the trial coming up. Rape or no, a little help might not hurt for either of us. Besides, the department isnt going to let you go on duty until a psychiatrist pronounces you fit."
Blair shook his head.
"Wow, man," he chuckled. "I never expected Id hear you trying to persuade me that we need a shrink."
"Youre a bad influence, Chief," Jim grinned. "Next thing you know Im going to be wearing my hair long and getting pierced somewhere revolting."
"Hey, a couple earrings and one nipple ring isnt revolting," Blair protested. Then he swallowed and all sense of humor fled as he glanced at Jim uncertainly. "Um, do they bother you? Ill take the rings out if you dont like them."
"God, no, they dont bother me," Jim said hastily. "Chief, I was just teasing you. You know, that thing we basically do 24 hours a day most of the time?"
"Oh." Blair let out his breath slowly. "Youre sure they dont, like, turn you off?"
"You want the truth? Actually it kind of turns me on. Why? Beats the hell out of me. I think thats why I always teased you about it so much, like your hair. Because I didnt want either of us to realize that it turned me on."
Blairs eyes widened slightly.
"You like my hair?"
"Chief, I love your hair." Jim reached over and stroked it softly. "I love how thick and soft and curly it is, how it shines. I love how long it is. And the funny thing is, I think what I love most about it is the way you carry it off. I guess its the same as your earrings. I look at you and can tell in one glance that youre marching to the beat of one hell of a different drummer, and somehow it makes me want to spend the rest of my life dancing to that rhythm."
"Wow." Blair smiled shyly. "Thats a hell of a compliment, big guy."
"You havent called me that since before this all happened," he said.
"Yeah, well, I showered with you just this morning," he said. "That kind of reminded me."
Simon stopped by later that afternoon to pick up the paperwork hed left with Jim and drop off more, plus gifts, flowers and food enough to feed a small third-world nation.
"You know, when this started out I thought I was just making work for you," Simon said, handing Jim a new folder. "But things are going smoother around the bullpen with someone to do the online research for us, free up detectives for the legwork. I may have to hire somebody full-time when you guys are back on the street."
"Hey, does that mean I dont get drafted to do it for free anymore?" Blair said eagerly.
"One of the many benefits of carrying a badge, Chief," Jim chuckled. "Along with the shitty hours, lousy pay, hazardous duty and minute retirement pension. Not to mention the grouchy boss."
"I resemble that remark," Simon grinned. "Hey, guys, everyone at the stations been asking when they can visit, and Im getting tired of lugging all the gifts and food over. You about ready for some company, Sandburg? Poker nights not the same without you two."
Blairs smile lost some of its steam and he glanced away; Simon may have missed the fingers that clenched spasmodically, but Jim didnt.
"Sandburgs had a real busy few days here, Simon," Jim said. "I think he could probably use a day off. How about maybe just one person on Sunday? Maybe Connor? And after we see how that goes, then well set up visits with the rest."
Blair shot Jim a look of utter gratitude, and Simon nodded understandingly.
"Ill tell them," he said. "Oh, and by the way, Sandburg, I got a packet from the academy, from Shirley Dean. Its the last of your written tests. Just let me know when youre ready and Ill bring them over. Just between you and me, the tests are just a formality. Youve got the grades to pass even without them. But Shirley thinks that especially in your case its important to cross all the Ts and dot all the Is, and I agree. Besides, glowing scores will help offset some of the special treatment in the brasss eyes when I push your detectives app through."
Blair, who had just taken his pain pills before Simon showed up, nodded off not long afterwards, and Simon excused himself. Jim carried Blair back to bed, hesitated only a moment, then crawled in beside him, needing the comfort of their closeness as much as Blair did. Blair curled into Jims body and sighed contentedly, and Jim drifted off to sleep on the soft drum of his Guides heartbeat.
Saturday Blair seemed quiet and unhappy, and Jim decided a change was in order. He considered taking Blair out for a drive, but Blairs tailbone was still hurting too much for extended truck travel, and besides, it was raining miserably. Instead, he built a fire, inflated the large air mattress in front of the fireplace, and moved Blair there. They ate cookies, drank tea and watched a Twilight Zone marathon on TV, and Jim gave Blair another massage; Blair told Jim he was getting "so good that its scary." Blair discovered to his delight that on the air mattress he could lie on his stomach, and by bedtime he was in much better spirits.
Jim continued to marvel at Blairs ease with his touch which was a good thing, because lately he couldnt seem to keep his hands off his Guide. Hed always been a toucher, okay, he admitted it, and more so with Blair (either because of the Sentinel-Guide thing, or maybe his attraction to the younger man went back a lot farther than Jim realized); these days, though, he constantly felt the need to touch and hold his Guide. It was probably nothing but insecurity, but thank God Blair didnt seem to mind no, in fact his Guide seemed to be happiest when Jim was touching him.
Sunday Megan showed up for lunch, bringing containers of Thai food, and to Jims (and, apparently, Blairs) surprise it was a pleasant visit; Blair even gave Megan a hug when she left, to everybodys astonishment. Jim tucked Blair into bed early, knowing they had a long day tomorrow Blairs re-exam with Dr. Atherton, his appointment with Gerard, and, if he wasnt too tired, lunch afterward.
Monday morning Blair was silent and anxious, not even cheered by going outside for the first time since hed been home. He sat pale and quiet in the truck all through the drive, and Jim knew he couldnt possibly be comfortable despite the pillows he was sitting on. Fortunately it wasnt a long drive, but the inevitable wait in the waiting room was only marginally more pleasant than the examination which followed. This time Jim asked to stay, and Blair agreed with pitiful eagerness, clenching Jims hand in an iron grip through most of the exam and almost breaking Jims fingers when Dr. Atherton checked his stitches.
Blair heaved an audible sigh of relief when Dr. Atherton withdrew his fingers. Dr. Atherton helped Blair roll back to his back, then drew the sheet back up over him. At last Blair released Jims hand, and Jim surreptitiously tried to rub a little blood back into his almost numb fingers.
"Well, Blair, youre healing up way, way ahead of schedule," Dr. Atherton said, smiling. "I bet those stitches are itching like crazy, arent they?"
"You have no idea."
"Well, you have a decision to make," Dr. Atherton said, pulling up a chair. "The stitches in your mouth Ill take out today. The other ones can either be removed, or theyll eventually be absorbed by your body. Theres pros and cons to either option."
Dr. Atherton cleared his throat awkwardly.
"I dont want to get any more personal than I have to," he said. "Until those stitches degrade, their presence causes a certain amount of constriction and irritation of the tissues, so youd have to stay on the stool softeners for probably another couple of weeks. Additionally the presence of the stitches would prohibit anal intercourse well beyond the normal healing period, probably for about four months versus three weeks, just as an estimate. Removing the stitches is a simple procedure, and from a medical standpoint its the option of choice, but its invasive and uncomfortable and pretty stressful for a rape victim. So I tend to leave this decision up to my patients."
Blair had turned positively crimson and Jim felt his own face heat. Anal sex. He and Blair hadnt talked about sex at all. Hell, Jim was far from certain that Blair even envisioned them making love ever, in any form. Much less anal sex, especially after what had happened to him.
"Take them out," Blair said abruptly. "Please."
Jim took Blairs hand again.
"Are you sure?" he said softly. "I mean, I was going to say you might as well let it go. I know this is all pretty difficult for you."
Blair turned his head and glanced at the doctor.
"Could you give us just a minute, please?"
"Absolutely." Dr. Atherton patted Blairs shoulder reassuringly. "Ill go look in on a couple patients and check back in a few minutes." He closed the door behind him.
"We havent even talked about this," Jim said slowly. "I mean . . . Ive been terrified that I waited too long. That you didnt want me anymore."
"I want you," Blair said, so softly that Jim could barely hear him. "I just I just dont know if Im going to be able to want that."
"Blair " Jim blushed. "Ive never been with a man, but I spent enough time in Vice to know theres a lot of things two men can do besides that. And even if we really had our hearts set on that one act, it doesnt mean that you have to be the one." He felt himself turning positively crimson now. He couldnt believe he was talking with Blair about anal sex. He realized hed just volunteered to bottom, and the realization stunned him.
Blair looked just as stunned.
"Jim, you cant mean that," he whispered.
Suddenly Jim realized that he did mean exactly that that he wanted Blair, yes, but more, he wanted no, he needed to make Blair happy. He wanted to earn more of those thousand-watt smiles. He wanted to touch his Guide, taste him, feel that beautiful small body pressed against his. He wanted to make Blair moan and whimper and scream with pleasure instead of pain. He wanted to build a fire between them that would warm all the cold lonely places inside them both.
He brought Blairs hand to his mouth and kissed the palm warmly, folding Blairs fingers around the kiss like a gift.
"I want you," he said simply, "any way I can have you. I dont know what Im doing, but Ill try anything you want to. Well puzzle it out together. But theres no hurry, Blair. We can wait as long as you need to. God knows Ive made you wait long enough. I can wait forever if I have to." He grinned. "Ive got my hand, and thats gotten me by for a long time."
Blair took a deep breath.
"Man, I dont know what to say," he said softly. "Im so awed, Jim." He turned his hand to stroke Jims cheek. "And I love you so damned much."
Jim turned his cheek into the caress.
"I love you too, Chief," he said. "So you see, theres no need "
"No, man," Blair said softly, shaking his head. "It just makes me more sure that I need to get those stitches out. Maybe I wont be able to do that for a while maybe never, who knows. Maybe we wont even want to. But if you can keep your options open, so can I. Besides . . . " He took a deep breath. "I already feel so so maimed. I dont want to feel crippled, too."
Jim bit his lip, wanting to protest, but he bit that back. He didnt need Gerard to tell him that if this was what Blair needed, then that should be good enough for Jim.
"Okay," Jim said gently. "If thats what you want, Blair. Want me to leave or stay?"
A look like panic flashed through Blairs eyes.
"Stay," he said hoarsely. "Please?"
Jim squeezed Blairs hand.
"Im glad you said that," he said. "I was afraid theyd have to bring in the crowbar to pry me away."
It was bad, as bad as Jim expected despite an injection of tranquillizer and muscle relaxants and some kind of potent numbing cream that Dr. Atherton rubbed on. Blair stood it as well as he probably could have, but he whimpered continuously through the whole ordeal, tears flowing down his cheeks, and once Jim and Linda Riggs had to hold him still and he knew that restraint was more horrible for Blair than the rest of it put together. Dr. Atherton examined Blair briefly one last time and put his instruments away, pulling off his gloves.
"Youre bleeding just a little," he told Blair, smiling reassuringly. "Id have been surprised if you werent, removing stitches from mucous membranes. It should stop within an hour. I want you to keep up the ointment for another week, but youre welcome to continue longer if you have any irritation or itching.
"The ribs, pelvis and coccyx are looking good, although Im sure the tailbones going to give you a certain amount of grief for months and the pelvis and ribs are going to sneak up on you now and then. The internal swelling has gone down a lot more than I expected, and frankly Im amazed that theres not a trace of blood in your urine or stools. If I could bottle your healing rate, I could buy and sell Eli Lilly. Im going to want to check you out again in two weeks. In the meantime, you can discontinue the rib wrap in bed, but I want you to keep using it anytime youre going to be out of bed or off the couch for more than a few minutes, and Im keeping you on restrictions no lifting, no bending, no extended walking, no running or jumping, no driving, you get the idea."
"Oh, man," Blair sighed unhappily. "I cant even tie my own shoes yet?"
"Sorry," Dr. Atherton chuckled. "Believe me, if you tried it, once would be enough."
"How about tub baths?" Jim asked. "And stairs?"
Dr. Atherton nodded.
"Both are okay as of now," he said. "Baths are fine with assistance in and out of the tub. But when I say stairs are okay, I mean a few stairs, like getting around the house, and I mean slowly and carefully. I dont mean dashing from ground floor to 14th up the landings to catch a crook, okay? If I have to make it explicit, Blair, youre still off work, even sedentary work not that you could stand to sit in a chair for long anyway. I see enough of the two of you as it is. Did I hear that youre joining the PD?"
"Im just about finished at the academy," Blair said proudly.
"Well, youre not going to be fit for active duty for a month at least, and a better estimate would be six weeks, miracle recovery notwithstanding. Im going to refill your pain pills, but you can cut back to twice a day or as-needed, whichever is less."
Blair sighed again.
"Im getting bored," he complained.
"Be glad youre feeling well enough to get bored," Dr. Atherton said cheerfully. "Read Harlequin romances and tabloids. Watch the soaps."
"Um " Blair blushed. "Since the stitches are out, how long would I have to wait before uh "
"Anal sex?" Dr. Atherton said. "Probably another two weeks, assuming, by the way, that youre real, real careful of the ribs and so on. If it werent for your fast healing Id say a month. Put it this way when your prostates healed, youll be ready physically, at least."
"Uh " Blair frowned. "And Ill know that how?"
Dr. Athertons eyebrows shot up.
"When sensation returns to normal," he said a little hesitantly. Lindas eyebrows raised too, and she glanced from Jim to Blair, blinking at Blairs obvious confusion. Her expression went from surprise to realization to gentle chiding as she glanced at Jim.
"Uh, okay," Blair mumbled, pulling his pants back up hurriedly. "Thanks, Dr. Atherton. Two weeks, then?"
"Unless you have any problems in the meantime. Go on, get out of here, you two."
When Jim and Blair were ready to leave the office, Linda touched Jim gently on the arm.
"Cmere a minute, guys," she said quietly, leading them into the adjoining office.
Jim glanced around the room, raising his eyebrows. This was obviously a sort of study area, full of reference books, diagrams, displays.
"Interns room," Linda explained blithely. She pulled down a chart entitled "Male genitourinary system" and took out of a closet, to Jims astonishment, a very realistic plastic model of a male torso from navel to thighs. Linda set the model on a counter and pointed to the diagram.
"Heres the prostate," she said quietly. "Inside the rectum it can be felt as a slightly raised area, not as smooth as the rectal wall. You probably felt it when you were putting the ointment on Blair." She gestured to the model. "Go ahead, see if you can find it."
Feeling incredibly self-conscious, Jim worked his forefinger into the model. He felt the raised area Linda had mentioned and opened his mouth to say so, then nearly jumped out of his skin when a buzzer sounded and a light flashed on under the skin of the models buttocks, making the plastic ass glow red.
"Sorry," she said. "The interns put that in as a joke. You deserved it for the way you fooled me and Kerri into thinking you two were old hands at this stuff."
"Hey, let me try," Blair said, embarrassed but grinning. He scrutinized the diagram, then probed in the model. He chuckled when the buzzer sounded again. "Hey, I got it!"
"Youre right, I felt that before when I was putting the ointment on," Jim said, trying not to blush any more than he already was. "So I mean, whats supposed to happen?"
"Blair had a lot of stitches on that side of the rectal wall," Linda said gently. "Because of the stitches and swelling, whatever he felt probably wasnt anything good. When hes healed, stimulation of his prostate will probably put him right through the roof and I dont mean with pain. Any other questions?"
Blair was blushing as crimson as Jim felt.
"Uh no," he mumbled. "Thanks."
"No problem." Linda grinned. "Invest in a copy of The Joy of Gay Sex. And invite me and Kerri over for dinner sometime when Blairs feeling up to it. Keep us posted or well call on the phone and nag, okay?"
"Definitely," Jim said firmly. "God, I cant thank the two of you enough for all youve done for us."
"Yeah, well, thank us by staying in touch," Linda said sternly. "Kerri and I want to be your first double date." Her eyes twinkled, and Jim knew he was forgiven for misleading them.
"Im with that," Blair said gratefully.
Now that the worst was over, Blair was more relaxed as they drove to Gerard Worths office.
"You okay, Chief?" Jim asked quietly, patting Blairs knee. "If youre too tired, we can cancel."
"Nah, Im okay," Blair said, smiling at Jim. "I wish you had a smoother ride, and believe me, after that exam Im real grateful for the pillow, but I dont know, I feel better."
"I told you, a little better every day," Jim said, stroking Blairs hair gently. "But just to be sure, youre going up in your wheelchair." He raised a hand, forestalling Blairs protest. "You may be okay now, but after your appointment youre going to be even more tired. Give in, Chief. You cant win."
Blair gave in and let Jim help him out of the truck and into his wheelchair, which they left in Gerards waiting room. Gerard Worths office was pleasant, panelled, quiet without being somber. A copper fountain sculpture in one corner provided soothing background noise. The furniture was comfortable but inexpensive, and the receptionists beautiful wooden desk, to Jims Sentinel sight, was definitely sanded and refinished. Jim was impressed.
So was Gerard.
"Youre looking great, Blair," he said, motioning them into his office and standing aside to let them through the door. As Blair passed, edging to the opposite side of the door to put as much space as possible between himself and Gerard, Jim noted the thoughtful look Gerard gave him and made a mental note to ask later. Gerard motioned Blair to the couch, then watched Jim settle him in comfortably with soft pillows and a blanket. Jim debated between the edge of the couch and the floor, but when Blair gave him a wounded look, Jim grinned and took his now-usual place on the couch, Blairs head on his lap. Gerard offered them both some hot herbal tea the same kind hed been served at the loft. Jim was even more impressed.
"So . . . Ive had a few days to score your tests, go over my initial impressions and think," Gerard said, settling back in one of the chairs. "And youve had a few days to think too. I was wondering what your thoughts were after our chat."
"Well no offense, but I had some doubts afterward," Blair said hesitantly, then outlined his conversation with Jim after Gerard had left last Friday.
Gerard only smiled.
"How about you, Jim?" he said.
"I dont know," he said. "Ill be honest here despite what Blair told you I said, Ive never really had much faith in shr- -- counsellors, probably because Im just not the confiding sort. You made a good impression with me, though." Then he hesitated. "I have to say something, though. I keep getting the feeling that there were a whole set of tests going on that you werent saying anything about. And that maybe there still is. Im not real comfortable with that. I cant trust somebody whos playing games with me."
Gerards smile broadened; he shook his head in wonder.
"Congratulations, Jim," he said. "Youre very astute. I wouldve told you anyway. Dont worry, no more games. The plain fact is that while I can have Blair fill out every test in the book, and I can squint over past records until Im cross-eyed, I wanted to get some idea of Jim Ellison, too and something even more enigmatic to me, the two of you as a couple. Because frankly our first meeting left me with more questions than answers. Give me a minute and Ill get around to that.
"Blair, in response to what you and Jim talked about, I think youve both brought up valid points. I dont pretend to be an expert on relationship counselling for same-sex couples, but I have done it, and, I believe, to the benefit of the couples. Most of that counselling has been in the context of rape counselling, but not all. Probably because of my specialty in male rape, I tend to get a lot of gay referrals. Id estimate that eighty percent of my patients are gay or bisexual. Again, Jim, Blair, Im here for you. Whatever either or both of you feel you need to deal with, thats my job. Apart from certifying Blair fit for duty, if you feel you have nothing left that you need help to deal with, then my jobs done. Seeing me isnt a decision you make once; you make it every time you come in.
"Now, the results of my tests and interview." Gerard held up a sheet of paper, then grinned, folded it into a paper airplane and sailed it directly to the trash can. "Thats metaphorical. I cant throw those results away because of the trial. Blair, youre a very well-adjusted, intelligent and insightful young man with a pretty damned good grounding in psychology yourself. I think if you hadnt been trying very hard to be honest, you could skew those tests any way you wanted to. Part of what I was trying to do in my interview, and in those extra tests Jim referred to, was to corroborate the written test results. I think you were, in fact, scrupulously honest for the most part."
"For the most part?" Jim said uncomfortably. Had Gerard somehow seen or sensed their omission of the whole Sentinel/Guide thing?
"Blairs a minimizer," Gerard said gently. "He tends to downplay his own pain and needs in favor of those around him so that he doesnt have to confront his own discomfort. Just as an analogy, if he was in a bus wreck and broke both legs, hed sit there comforting the man next to him with a sprained wrist. His reaction to the rape is exactly the same. His mental focus isnt on his own pain and trauma; its primarily on the effect its going to have on your developing relationship, and secondarily a concern about how much inconvenience hes causing you and others the university, Major Crimes, etcetera."
He turned to Blair.
"You have to understand, Blair, that while on the surface that kind of altruism looks unselfish and brave, it isnt a healthy coping mechanism," he said gently. "At least when you use it to avoid dealing with your own trauma. You can wait for somebody else to patch up your broken legs, but thats not going to happen here. Youre the one who has to confront your issues, and putting them aside endlessly to focus on others simply means your wounds arent getting treated." He sipped his tea. "Now on the postive side . . .
"You have one very excellent coping mechanism," he said slowly. "In fact, its the damndest thing Ive ever seen. I read over your departmental and military psych records, Jim, that you authorized, and Blairs past psych tests, and frankly I would never have believed we were talking about the same people. Jim, your profile clearly categorized you as emotionally insulated and rigid, fearful of intimacy, socializing only on a very superficial and goal-oriented level, completely focused on your career and with almost zero empathy. Not to mention rigidly heterosexual. This is not the man I see sitting comfortably with his male partners head on his lap, casually playing with his hair."
Jim glanced down, then grinned self-consciously. He was, in fact, twining a lock of Blairs hair around his finger.
Gerard grinned too.
"Nor is it the man who takes time off from the job thats been the focus of his entire life to provide physical and emotional nurturance to his male partner," Gerard said. "In fact, judging from your past profile alone, Id have believed you to be a person emotionally incapable of a nurturing and intimate relationship. Yet here you are.
"Blair, your tests show somewhat less contrast but are equally puzzling. Your past profile shows a man who socializes well, but on a casual level extroverted, but disinclined to emotional depth or commitment in any relationship. Your romantic relationships under that profile would tend to be physically oriented. I dont know which surprises me more to see you in a homosexual relationship, not because of any rigidity on your part but because your heterosexual love life was rewarding, or to see you in an emotionally intimate, committed relationship, especially one where youre not getting any sex at present.
"The other thing that shocked the hell out of me was your reaction to the rape. I could hardly believe how relaxed and open you were, unguarded in your responses. It wasnt until I managed to get Jim out of the apartment for a little while " Gerard glanced at Jim, grinning apologetically. " that I realized my mistake. Your body language and affect changed immediately. You reacted to me exactly as I would have expected discomfort with physical contact, increased need for personal space, defensive attitude, miscellaneous stress and anxiety symptoms. For a while that worried me. I thought that youd somehow transferred your entire emotional security to Jim, using him as a sort of living tranquillizer to keep your symptoms that much more at a distance. When Jim came back, however, and I tried a few more experiments, I realized it wasnt that at all. You still reacted typically to me, although you seemed much more relaxed and comfortable generally. After a little more observation, I realized whats going on. The plain fact is that the two of you have a symbiotic relationship deeper than anything Ive seen. You are inside each others defenses. Blair, you trust Jim a hundred percent physically; I find that almost unbelievable given your degree of trauma, but there it is. Even more astonishing, Jim, you trust Blair emotionally, and given your profile Id have called that impossible. I could write a paper on just my observations of the body language between you two. I wish all my patients had relationships as mutually nourishing as yours. So back to the concerns Blair voiced hes right. Between the two of you, you can do vastly more for each other than I can do for either of you."
Gerard got up and refilled tea mugs, then sat down again.
"What I want to do is to bring the strength of that relationship to bear on what I believe to be the central issues here," he said. "On Blairs side, theres fear, yes, but what he suppresses most rigidly is his anger. Thats one factor thats consistent with his prior tests. From what youve told me about your upbringing, Blair, youve been brought up to believe that anger is the equivalent of a mortal sin. You believe anger isnt healthy, that it puts out negative vibes in the universe, that somehow if youre angry youre hurting someone else. Also anger is a sign that youre not well-adjusted or emotionally mature. Anger is destructive and useless, therefore a well-adjusted person wouldnt become angry. Therefore you arent really angry; its something else. Moral outrage at a system that doesnt promptly punish the guilty and effectively protect the innocent. Empathy for all the students at the university who will be afraid to walk between buildings at night and for other rape victims in general. Hurt that after youve worked so hard to help your students, several of your students could commit this kind of act against you. Once again you shift the focus away from your own feelings, so you wont allow yourself to work through your anger at the men who assaulted you. I think thats an issue youre going to have to work on in the next few months, especially as the criminal and civil cases progress."
Jim shook his head.
"Hes got you pegged, Chief," he said. Blair grimaced.
"Jim, in your case the issues guilt, and once again its consistent with your prior profiles. I see a lot of this in law enforcement and in the military, especially with people who have seen active duty in life-or-death situations. Youre angry, all right, and you dont have any problem acknowledging it, but you misdirect a lot of that anger onto yourself, especially since you cant immediately vent it on the guilty parties. You dont believe youre Superman, but you damned well should be. Youre big, youre tough, youre trained and skilled and armed and experienced and therefore you should be able to protect everybody around you. Thats your job 24/7 and your personal responsibility. If something bad happens to someone you care about, its your fault, regardless. You shouldve been able to prevent Blairs assault altogether, or better yet, you shouldve come charging in like a white knight at the last possible moment to save him from harm, preferably beat the hell out of the assailants, and slap the miscreants in chains. The fact that you didnt do either makes you solely responsible for every pain Blair feels. If youd been in Timbuktoo in a straightjacket and drugged unconscious at the time, you wouldnt be any less guilty what the hell were you doing apart from Blair when he needed you anyway?"
Blair chuckled reluctantly.
"Hes got us both pegged," he said. "Jim, I take back what I said. I think this guy can help us."
Jim was silent for a long moment, his mind whirling. Hed had three meetings to monitor Gerard, and everything hed seen, heard, sensed, agreed that this man was being honest and up-front with them. Blairs insight was the last clue he needed.
"Chief," he said softly, "I think we should tell him."
Blairs eyes opened wide; he started to sit up, then grimaced.
"Ouch. Give me a hand here, okay?"
Jim carefully helped Blair up; Blair met his eyes.
"Wow, man, thats a big step," he said softly. "Are you sure?"
Jim took a deep breath.
"Almost," he said. He turned to Gerard, who was watching them patiently. "If I tell you something about myself that has absolutely no bearing on the rape case, can you keep it completely confidential? A hundred percent?"
Gerard sat back in his chair thoughtfully, not answering immediately.
"Is it something I might be asked about directly in court?" he asked.
Jim shook his head.
"If you are, the secrets already out," he said grimly. "No. The only bearing it has is on my relationship with Blair. I dont even know that its . . . necessary for therapy. Its just something it would be easier not to have to try to talk around. But its very important to me personally that it stays confidential. As if I talked about something classified that I did during my time in the Rangers, say."
Gerards face cleared and he nodded.
"Yes, on that basis I can agree without reservation to keep it confidential," he said. "As I told you before, I wont make any notes or recordings."
Jim glanced at Blair, and Blair nodded slowly.
"Go ahead, Chief," Jim said. "You tell it better than I do."
By the time Blair had finished, Gerard was grinning wonderingly.
"Fantastic," he said. "Hyperacute senses. How acute, Jim? Do you mind indulging my curiosity?"
Jim took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Smell, at least, usually worked reliably these days. Thankfully, it didnt fail him; he didnt want Blair to know about his sensory problems yet.
"You use Colgate Total toothpaste," he said. "Head and Shoulders shampoo even though you dont have dandruff. You spilled a little coffee on your left shirt sleeve this morning, and you were probably in too much of a hurry to change it so youve just kept your jacket on over it. Hazelnut creamer, by the way. Right Guard aerosol deodorant." He chuckled. "You must be starving if all youve had to eat today was a bagel with strawberry cream cheese."
"Wow." Gerard shook his head. "Thanks for trusting me with that, Jim. I can see the need for confidentiality there."
Jim let his breath out slowly. He still wasnt certain that telling Gerard had been a good idea. Still, Gerard had no way of proving it. Jim would have heard any recording devices or cameras.
"Well, that does clear up a few gray spots for me," Gerard said after a moments thought. "I read the news account of Blairs press release about his thesis, and I thought the idea of academic fraud just didnt fit his profile. Its a little easier to picture how the two of you became involved, and the development of this symbiotic trust between you. Yes, I think youre right, Jim; its helpful to me in the context of working with you two, and I dont have a problem keeping that confidential."
He glanced at his watch.
"I think thats about as far as were going to get today," he said. "Weve all got a lot of food for thought for the next time. Id like to see you both lets try twice a week for now?"
Blair glanced at Jim, then nodded.
"Then lets say Thursday. In the meantime, Id like both of you to start keeping a daily journal. Write down anything events, your feelings, your reactions to each other, anything you think about. You dont have to show me or each other what you write unless you want to, but I think itll help you both to see your progress and solidify in your own minds issues that you want to work on.
"Ive also got a couple exercises Id like you to try." Gerard turned to Blair. "Blair, Im going to give you a code phrase. Whenever you find yourself starting to feel angry in any situation whatsoever, not just relating to the rape I want you to say out loud, Rainy weather. Since you trust Jim so absolutely, try saying it to Jim if its hard saying it to yourself."
"Rainy weather," Blair repeated, nodding slowly.
Gerard turned to Jim, and Jim sighed.
"Do I get a code phrase too?" he said.
"No, youre too straightforward for that," he said. "You recognize your own guilt; in fact, I think you even realize how unreasonable it can get. I think you also realize how important it is to your relationship that you learn to express your feelings. What I want you to do is recognize your positive input. So when you start feeling guilty and inadequate over Blair, over work, you name it I want you to say, to yourself, to Blair, Im trying, and Im helping. You dont have to be all of the solution, just part."
"Got it," Jim said, sighing.
"Thats what I want you to do for yourselves, but I have three things I want you to do for each other," Gerard continued. "First, remind each other. Im sure you both have pretty good insight into what the other persons feeling. Jim, in a situation where you think Blairs angry, if he doesnt use his code phrase, prompt him. Blair, same thing. Encourage each other to recognize and acknowledge what youre feeling.
"Second, give each other permission to feel those feelings. Say to Blair, Its okay to feel angry. You have a right to your anger. Say to Jim, I know youre doing your best. Its okay to feel frustrated. Then talk about those feelings with each other if not at the moment, then later. Sometimes just saying these things out loud helps you to deal with them.
"Third, lean on each other and acknowledge what you give each other. Blair, tell Jim that he makes you feel better, that he makes you feel safe. Jim, tell Blair that he makes you feel loved and needed. Acknowledge to each other that youre getting what you need emotionally. Dont worry about the sex right now."
"I cant help worrying about the sex," Blair muttered.
Jim shrugged sheepishly.
"See, youre doing better already," he said. "You admitted it to me and to each other. Think about it all you want. Talk about it if youd like. What I meant was, it isnt time to work on that yet. Frankly, given the way you two are comfortable touching each other and your degree of trust, I dont think youre going to have as much trouble when the time comes as you think you will. Now get the hell out of here so I can eat my other bagel."
They celebrated on the ride home by stopping for pizza at Gambrettis Blairs first meal out since the rape. After two doctor visits and eating out, however, Blair was pretty much exhausted and sitting had become agony, so when they got back to the loft, Jim installed Blair comfortably on the couch.
"Do you want to use the hospital bed for one more night, or would you rather I move yours back in?" Jim said, stifling a pang of disappointment. Hed slept with Blair every night, and he was going to miss it. "Nobody will be by to pick the bed up till tomorrow, so if you want it "
"Um." Blair cleared his throat. He glanced at Jim shyly. "Any other options available?"
Jim swallowed heavily as he realized what Blair meant.
"Welllll you could sleep on the couch, I suppose," he said teasingly. "Or " He found himself trembling. "Or you could come upstairs and sleep with me in my bed. Our bed. And we could turn your bedroom into an office."
"Our bed," Blair repeated, smiling slightly. "I kind of like the sound of that."
Then he flushed and glanced at Jim.
"Uh, Jim "
"Just to sleep," Jim said firmly. "Nothing else."
"Nothing else?" Blair raised one eyebrow mischeivously. "Does that mean I dont get my goodnight kiss now?"
Jim rolled his eyes in mock exasperation.
"Okay, okay, you get your damned goodnight kiss. You get any damned thing you want, okay? Jesus, Sandburg, whatve I gotta do here, beg?"
Blair laughed, but let Jim help him up off the couch, leaning on him as they walked to the stairs.
"Oooh, Jim Ellison on his knees begging," Blair said, grinning. "Now thats an image to spur my recovery. I think well have to file that one away for later use."
To Jims amazement, he found that image Kneeling before Blair, begging, oh God, begging him to take me, sucking him stiffening his sex instantly. Oh, man, this is one for the shrink if I can actually bring myself to tell Gerard about it. Shit. Down, boy. Sit. Play dead. I know its been a long dry spell, but Blair does NOT need this right now and neither do I.
But it didnt go down, and Jim was hard-put to keep Blair from seeing it as he helped Blair into bed (clean flannel sheets, extra blankets for metabolically challenged Guides), protectively next to the wall (which coincidentally avoided the possibility that Jim might bump into Blairs injured ribs). Jim undressed and put on his robe, which was thankfully long and loose and thick enough to hide his condition.
"Arent you coming to bed?" Blair said a little anxiously.
"Yeah. But were supposed to continue the ointment, remember?" Jim said. "And I was supposed to make sure youre not bleeding anymore."
"Oh, yeah. I forgot," Blair said sheepishly. "Hey, Jim? Do you think it would be okay if I jammed my body pillow over here next to the wall, so that if I bump my ribs, its only against the pillow?"
"Good idea," Jim said, nodding. "Very good idea. Ill bring it up with me. Anything else I can get you?"
"No, thanks, Jim."
Jim awkwardly juggled the ointment, the wipes, Blairs medication, a glass of juice and the body pillow coming back upstairs, but amazingly he made it with all items intact. Thankfully the delay and shift of his focus let his erection subside. Blair took his pills and rolled over, pushing his boxers down, flexing his upper leg slightly.
"You do so well with this," Jim murmured as he carefully worked the ointment into Blair. "I cant believe how well you do, youre so nice and relaxed."
A moments hesitation.
"It doesnt hurt anymore," Blair said softly. "I mean, the first few times, even you, even as careful as you were . . . I mean, it hurt before you even touched me, and then when you put your finger inside it hurt more for a while, so I still dreaded it a little. Then the ointment made it feel better, which helped. Now it doesnt hurt exactly . . . more it kind of burns and itches, you know, like they say hemorrhoids do? And your finger doesnt hurt at all, but the ointment still feels soothing and nice. So I dont dread it anymore."
"I hated hurting you," Jim admitted. "I tried to be as gentle and careful as I could, but I knew I was still hurting you, and frightening you, and I hated that."
"You were a lot better at it, though," Blair said, chuckling slightly. "I mean, better than the doctor or the nurses. I guess its because of your sense of touch."
"Well, that might be part of it," Jim said gently, withdrawing his finger. "But I think part of it was just that you trusted me and didnt tense up on me. I noticed that the very first time I did it. Okay. No blood, Chief. You can pull up your boxers and take your pain pill, while I go wash my hands, and then if you want, Ill rub your back." Massages had become part of the daily routine, a part they both looked forward to, and now that most of the deepest bruising had healed, Jim could more freely gorge his hands on his Guides skin.
"Oh, man, Im with that," Blair said eagerly. He gulped down his pill, finished his juice, and rolled mostly onto his stomach, giving little moans of happiness as Jim rubbed the stiffness out of his back, neck and shoulders. His lower back was still a little tender, and Jim knew the massage hurt a little, but it was, according to Blair, "a good hurt." Before Jim was done, Blair was sound asleep. Jim chuckled and covered his Guide, curling up beside him in their bed.
The first night of forever, Chief.