by Kimberly Workman
Summary: Jim's been released from the hospital, but he has some unresolved issues that may destroy his progress and his relationship with Blair. #5 in the Broken Spirit Series.
Disclamer: Not mine.
He was getting out today, finally. After four months of being cooped up in this sterile environment he couldn't wait to escape to the world of the Loft, Wonderburger, and eventually the Station. Simon had assured him that his job was waiting whenever he was ready and Jim was not about to give up on that. He was a cop first and foremost; no matter how much the doctors seemed unconvinced. Back when he was first injured they weren't sure he would even regain his leg functions and, of course, never go back to the force. But Jim Ellison was never one to follow anyone's expectations. He always made his own rules and would not accept defeat.
He had improved, everyone had agreed. He wouldn't have been getting out otherwise. After the emotional display he showed to the guys last month, Jim had continued to improve. He laughed at himself when he thought back. Five steps had been quite a feat for him then, but now they seemed trivial. Don't get the wrong impression; he was no where near being one hundred percent. Jim still had to wear the steel cage of braces on his legs and use elbow crutches to take steps, but he was able to walk normal distances. His legs still didn't have complete feeling in them, but it was enough to allow him moderate control. Now he could at least conceive of going back to semi-normality and desk duty at the Station, when he was ready. His thoughts were broken by the entrance of Delores, his physical therapist.
"Just when I get used to having you around, you skip out on me," Delores laughed.
"Well, I can't stay here forever," Jim chuckled. "Cascade needs me back out there and besides, if I eat one more hospital meal I'm gonna die."
Delores stifled a laugh, "Now it can't be all that bad."
"You can only imagine," Jim smiled. "Anyway, I'm ready to get back to the Loft and my own bed." Jim shifted on the hospital bed.
"Well, let's get you ready before Blair gets here," Delores said. "Swing around here so we can get you locked in."
They both laughed at that jovial remark. Jim pulled his body around so that Delores could help him with the braces. As his semi-numbed legs hung over the side of the bed, both he and Delores proceeded to strap them into the steel braces. As her hands reached his waist, Jim's hand restricted her proceeding.
"What's wrong?" Delores looked at him quizzingly. Without a word Jim pulled her close and kissed her. She pulled back with a gasp.
"I love you Delores," Jim assured her.
She just shook her head. "No you don't, you think you do, but it's just a fantasy."
"I do love you Delores, I've known for a long time."
"You love the IDEA of me, not me. Patients often think they have feelings for their PT, but it's not true love." She took Jim's hands into her own. "You love what I've done for you. I helped you walk again and this emotion is just transferred to false admiration."
Jim pulled his hands away and looked down to the floor as if he had lost all hope. "I'm only half a man and now I don't even know what love is?"
"Jim," Delores cupped his chin and brought it up to her eye level. "You're the most wonderful man I've ever met and I would kill to have a chance with you, but not until I'm sure it's love and not just false admiring. You have a lot on your mind right now and I need you to focus on your recovery."
"Later? After all this is over will you give me a chance?" Jim pleaded.
"Jim, I wouldn't have it any other way," Delores smiled. "Now don't you think we should get you dressed before someone walks in and gets the wrong idea?" Jim looked down and realized that he was only half-dressed. He sat on the bed in only a T-shirt and his boxers, the braces caging his legs.
"I think that would be a wise idea," Jim smiled. He still held mixed feelings over the travesty that had just occurred, but he knew enough to let it settle. If it was truly love, it would still be there after he had recovered. After much struggling Delores and Jim finally were able to get his slacks on that he had previously laid out and he pulled on a blue sweater that was lying on the end of the bed.
"Better?" Jim asked after he had finished.
"I think you'll pass," Delores chuckled. "Let me pack up your stuff for you." With that she flourished around the room gathering cards and notes of encouragement.
"Clothes?" Jim pointed to the closet and she proceeded to pack up his spoils along with his clothes into the one suitcase Sandburg had brought the previous week. He appreciated all the attention she was giving her and knew that there was undeniable love between them. He just hoped it would hold out long enough for them to act upon it. He heard Blair coming and would rather that Delores not be present when he entered.
"Uh, Delores, how about you take all my balloons and give them to the Pediatric Wing?" Jim hoped this would get her out of the room before Sandburg came in. One thing about Blair, he could pick up on things no one else could. Jim knew that if Delores was around, Sandburg would spot the "problem" right away.
"What a sweet idea," Delores smiled. He adored that smile, he adored her, but he wasn't going to act against her wishes. If she wanted him to wait, then he would wait. She started gathering the balloons and passed Blair as she exited. They exchanged a casual "good morning," but Blair wasn't privy to the previous conversation, thank goodness.
"Jim! Finally getting sprung, huh?" Blair smiled. "I bet you're ready to leave."
"Morning Chief," Jim smiled. "As ready as ever. Have a seat, though, we still have to wait for the release papers." Jim motioned to the chair, Blair's chair. He took it and let out a sigh that revealed how tired he was. "Have you been sleeping?"
"Hey, I can take care of myself. I'm getting as much as can be expected with all the papers I've been grading lately. You would not believe how terrible the ANTH 101 term papers are this time. Not only that..." Jim just sat silently, soaking in the essence of Sandburg. No matter what he was talking about, Jim just enjoyed having him there to ground him. He was lost in the moment when Blair brought him back.
"You haven't heard a thing I said have you?" Blair looked at him with mock disappointment.
"Of course I have," Jim smiled. He heard Delores coming back. "But right now, we have company."
Blair looked up to see Delores coming into the room. He looked at her and then traced her gaze over to Jim. There was an odd look on Blair's face, but it was erased with Jim's quick wit.
"Ok, boss, how much longer till I get out?"
"Anytime you want, I just picked up the papers from the Nurses' Station," she said as she waved the handful of papers she held.
"Great, let's hit the road!" Jim ordered as he began to rise off the bed. Delores ran over to him and sat him back on the bed.
"You know the rules, now wait here till I get back with the wheelchair," Delores said.
"No, please no," Jim begged her. He never wanted to be back in a wheelchair again. Delores understood his wish, but she couldn't break the rules.
"It's just until you get to the door," she soothed. When he had calmed enough, she went out to get a chair.
"What is going on with you two? There was enough heat in here to light a fire!" Blair burst out when she had gone. Jim, startled at the sudden comment, just stared at him silently.
"SO?!" Blair tried again.
"It's nothing....well it's something, but it shouldn't be. I don't know what it is..." Jim was stammering.
"Wanna try that again?"
"I think I'm in love with her, but she isn't so sure. She said it might just be misplaced admiration, or something like that. I'm not so sure, but I promised to hold off on anything till after I recover."
"Might be for the best, though," Blair added. Jim looked at him, hurt. "Don't look at me like that. I know all about how patients fall in love with their doctors and especially physical therapists, but Jim?" He looked at Sandburg with a blank stare. "I don't think this is one of those cases. she's practically falling over her own two feet over you and you, man, you are not going to pass through a phase. Soon as you recover I bet you twenty bucks that you are going to be on the phone with her."
"I hope so, Chief, you don't know how much I hope so," Jim smiled.
"Hope what?" Delores asked when she came into the door, pushing the wheelchair.
"Hope that you would get here soon so I can blow this joint," Jim lied.
"Well, sir, your chariot awaits," she said as she braked it beside his bed. Jim once again arose and, with Delores' help, managed to get situated in the chair. She gave Jim his elbow crutches to hold.
"Sandburg, can you get the bag?" When Blair picked up the suitcase Jim proceeded. "OK, giddy-up," Jim chided Delores.
The threesome laughed and conversed as they made their way down the hall. Along the way, they had to stop numerous times to bid farewell to all the nurses and most of the doctors. By the time they reached the door, it was almost half an hour since they had left his room.
"OK," Delores said as she parked the chair, "I guess this is where we part." She was choking back sadness and the feeling was shared by Jim.
Blair knew that they needed to be alone, so he offered, "Well, I'm going to go pull the car around. Be right back." With that, he made his exit and left them to talk.
"Delores," Jim whispered, "Come here for a minute." He motioned for her to bend down to his sitting position. When she was near enough he whispered his assurances. "I will never forget you. As soon as I get healed, I'll be back. You're not going to get rid of me that easily."
Delores smiled and arose. "I certainly hope that's true." She noticed Blair had pulled up and was coming to the door. "Looks like your ride's here. Time to get going." She helped Jim up and steady himself on his crutches. He took a few unsteady steps, but soon got into a good motion and walked through the main door that Blair held open for him. Delores followed close behind, making sure he didn't fall. They helped him into the Volvo and when he was settled, Blair raced around to the driver's side. Delores leaned in Jim's window to say a final goodbye.
"Blair, make sure he stays on the straight and narrow," Delores said.
"I always do, but with him it can be a real pain," Blair laughed. Jim just sat, looking into Delores' eyes.
"Goodbye Jim, take care," she smiled through tears.
With that, she backed away from the car. Blair shifted it into gear and started driving off. Delores stood firm, waving and crying until he was out of sight. Inside the car, both occupants were quiet for more than fifteen minutes. It was Blair who finally broke the silence.
"So...you hungry, need me to pick anything up?"
"No, I just want to get back to the Loft and relax," Jim offered.
"Fine by me, I've got some more work to do anyway." They drove on, silence again entering the car. Soon, they arrived at the Loft and Sandburg quickly parked the car and rushed around to help Jim out. It was not the best idea. He opened the car door and watched as Jim brought his legs out. He was about to help Jim lock his braces, but his attempt was arrested by Jim's strong voice.
"I am NOT helpless, just let me be!" Taken aback, Blair stopped suddenly and just stared. Jim was instantly apologetic. "I'm sorry Chief, I didn't mean to snap at you," he said as he locked his braces. "It's just that I want to be able to do things for myself. I'm not used to asking for help, you know?" He tried to arise, but couldn't. After the third failed attempt, he held out his arm and smiled, "I could use some help up though."
They both laughed as they steadied him on his feet. Jim took control again and walked to the building under his own power, with Blair following behind with the suitcase. Jim and Blair were the only ones in the elevator and the ride up was one of relief for Jim. He was finally coming home, after such a trying time. He just wanted to rest, maybe kick back and take in the aura of home. The elevator arrived at their floor and Jim made his way out. Blair scooted around him and unlocked their door. Jim just stood, not entering.
"What's wrong?" Blair asked, concerned.
"Nothing, I'm just afraid that it's all a dream."
"Believe me, it's not a dream. You're home, back where you belong."
Jim was assured and he entered the Loft. He noticed that Blair had tried to clean, but failed miserably. Usually, this situation would have drove him up the wall, but right now he was too happy to be in the midst of it all. Everything screamed Sandburg and Jim couldn't have been happier about it.
"Here, sit down on the couch and rest," Blair said. Jim obliged him as Sandburg sped around the Loft cleaning up random areas. He stopped as he got to his bedroom, as if he just remembered something.
"Oh man!" he exclaimed. "I totally forgot about that."
"What?" Jim twisted around. "Something wrong?"
"Um, I was going to talk to you about this at the hospital, but I totally forgot and now..." Blair tried to explain, but was failing miserably.
"Now who's not being clear?"
"OK, I'll start again. The stairs doesn't have a railing," he said as he pointed to them. "And you gotta have a railing."
"I know there's a point to this, but I'm not seeing it."
"I had to switch the bedrooms, at least until you get better. I even got Joel and H over here to help move the beds. It's not that bad, I mean it's just for a little while and I didn't know what else to do..." Sandburg was sputtering.
"Chief, Chief!" Jim laughed. "It's okay. I think it was really nice that you thought of it and nice of the guys to help."
Sandburg breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm so glad you approve, I mean I didn't ask and with all that was going on..."
"Enough!" Jim threw his hand up. "It's fine, now how about some food?"