Acceptance III: Guides

Debra Fran Baker

Jim stood in the doorway of the therapy room. Blair was too busy trying to eat to notice him. Under the watchful eyes of his therapist, he grasped the oversized handle of his fork and tried to guide the food to his mouth. Over and over again, he would twist his hand incorrectly and the food would fall out before it reached the goal. Several times, he tossed the fork down in frustration and tried to brush the hair out of his face with the back of his wrists.

"I hate this! I'm a grown man. I shouldn't have to wear a bib to eat!"

"Mr.'ve made tremendous progress in just a few weeks. You have to be patient." She placed the fork back in his hand. "It's still better than being fed."

He nodded. This time, screwing his face in concentration, he managed to get a forkful into his mouth. Jim's heart leaped at his triumphant smile. Drinking was a little easier because the plastic mug had two handles, but it was no less of a success. He added his own applause to that of the therapist.

"Jim! Don't look at me like this!" Jim took in the messy clothing, smudged face and tangled hair.

"You're so beautiful." It was simple truth. "I just had a talk with your doctors. There is no medical reason for you to stay here any longer. You're going home with me today."

Blair smiled as Jim took one of his clumsy hands.


The moment when Jim could not feel Blair's heartbeat was burned into his memory. For that brief time, Jim's life had no anchor. He couldn't see it continuing beyond that point.

Blair was his life. He knew that as certainly as he knew Simon's scent of cigars, coffee and cologne. Which meant that at that moment, Jim was also dead. Maybe his body would live on, but he didn't know and he didn't care.

And then, in answer to his cries and his pain and to the true and sincere prayers of all those around him - not just the cops - the *fellow* cops - who knew and loved Blair, but also the EMT's who'd never met him, Blair came back and Jim's life began again. With it came all the feelings he'd been denying to himself, and the sure and certain knowledge that those feelings were reciprocated.

There was more joy than Jim could contain. The paramedics, tears streaming down their own faces, had rushed in as soon as Blair's eyes had opened, so Jim had to content himself with a brief kiss. He stood and backed into Simon's waiting arms. Jim clung to his friend as he watched the EMT's attend to his partner.

"Jim, go with him. We'll take care of things here." Simon's voice was gentle.

Jim looked at all of his friends' faces; at the mixture of relief and determination on them; at Megan's tears and anger.

"Alex Barnes is *mine.*"

Megan touched his shoulder. "We'll get her for you, Jim. And for Sandy. Especially for Sandy." Henri nodded fiercely. "You be with him now. He needs you."

"Only until he's settled. Someone follow with my truck?" Simon nodded and took Jim's keys.

True to his word, as soon as Blair was put in ICU, with tubes and a ventilator and uniforms watching him and Simon watching the uniforms, Jim gave Blair a gentle kiss on his still damp forehead an