The Object of My Affection
by Kimberly Workman
Summary: Jim thinks he's ready to go forward, but he has to reconcile his past first. #9 in the Broken Spirit Series.
Disclamer: Not mine.
I want my room back, I want my life back, I want to be....whole again. OK, so I'm almost back to my old self, but almost isn't enough. Simple things, little tasks that I never gave a second thought to, have escaped me and when I regain them it's like I've won the lottery. Did you know it takes a muscle grade of seven to stand up aided? Or that you have to have a twenty pound capacity to even take one step? I never cared about it before, but it's become the main thrust of my life as of late. A life forced inside barriers, into conformative steel, meant to exist inside walls that seem like they're coming in on me.
Sandburg's room is too small, just too freaking small. I can't even turn over without hitting a table or jarring one of those weird masks of his. I'm not a bad person, but I like space. Being shut up in a chicken coop like this didn't help my mind. Carolyn and I never used this space for anything more than a sitting room, a miniscule sitting room. Now look at it. The kid's got half of South America stuffed inside these four walls and still expects me to sleep in here. I think not.
We switched because I couldn't get up the stairs after I got back from the hospital, but I think I'm more than capable now. I thought I proved myself during the museum incident, but apparently where I saw strength, my doctor saw impatience. True, I didn't have the crutches anymore, moved onto a cane that Sandburg says makes me look distinguished, but I know he's trying to tell me I'm old. I still had to wear those blasted braces for most of the time. Well, I was ordered to wear them, but I find as many loopholes as possible. Sandburg's always yelling at me because I'm being stubborn. Me? Stubborn? Where does he come up with these wild ideas?
I don't know why I'm being self-reflective, antsy, 'stubborn,' but I can bet it's got something to do with Detective Thomas MacDonald. It's been weeks since the no-count 'detective' left, but he was still haunting me. Five months of therapy, self-assurance, fooling myself, had all been shot to pieces by one man and his narrow-mindedness. I knew I shouldn't let the kid get to me like this, but he just ticked me off to no end. Not only did he put Blair down, which he won't find out if I have anything to do with it, but speculating that we're gay? Now, I'm very comfortable with my sexuality and I have quite a line of women that will back me up on that fact. Sandburg, well that kid's a walking hormone factory. I think he's done every female at the PD. Even that didn't tick me off as much as the fact that he pitied me. He looked at me and didn't see a detective who's been commended and a man who's done all that was asked of him and more. No, instead he sees a cripple who should be coddled, treated as lesser than himself, and looked down upon. Honestly, if the boy hadn't of left, I would have killed him myself. Call it emotional feedback from the injury or the Ellison temper, but he crossed the line and people in my past can verify that it's not a wise idea to cross my line....ever.
"I'm eating these pancakes without you!" Blair warned from the kitchen.
Ritual Saturday meal around here lately. Sandburg gets up at an unnatural hour of 7AM and starts rampaging through the cabinets like I can sleep through it. He innocently apologizes everytime I make my sluggish appearance on the way to the shower. Correction, bath. I still, after six months, cannot stand up to take a simple shower. It's still the same process, minus the crutches. Get up, put your braces on when I'm forced to, grab the cane instead of the crutches, go get a cup of coffee on some occasions, make your way to the bathroom, take your braces off, take a bath, dry off, put the braces on again when I'm absolutely forced to, go out to face the day. I swear, if my legs don't get stronger soon, I'm gonna shrivel up like a prune from all these baths.
"I mean it! I'm cutting them!" Blair once again teased.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," I begrudgingly admitted.
We had already gone through the bath ritual this morning, minus the braces, but I decided to rest back in the room since he was running a little behind. Pushing myself up on my cane, I sighed and began to put on my mask of flat emotion. Never let them see you flinch, my father taught me well. I'll admit that Sandburg's seen me more than flinch. He's seen me through some of the strangest and toughest things life has thrown at me, but right now he didn't need to deal with my problems. Act happy and no one asks questions.
"Bout time you got here," Blair managed to say between bites. He was already stuffing his face with pancakes, slathered with too much syrup, when I made my entrance.
"Aren't we a hungry little troll?" I teased as I eased myself into the chair. I no longer collapsed into chairs, so that was a good sign.
Sandburg noticed what was missing and was none too pleased. "Where's your braces?" he stopped his fork in mid-bite.
I sighed and rolled my eyes heavenward as if to ask for help. I should have known he would notice. I straightened up in my chair. "They're in the bedroom," I said as I reached for two fluffy pancakes with my fork and the syrup bottle with the other.
"And what you aren't wearing them because?"
"Because," I said as I opened the bottle. "I don't need them and I didn't know I was running a marathon after breakfast."
"Jim." He had that 'tone' again. The tone that says 'you're a stubborn fool who knows you're doing wrong.' "You have to wear them everywhere, that's what the doctor said."
"And Dr. Hamilton knows all, right?" I wasn't gonna stop my meal for this discussion. Cutting my pancakes, I took a bite and swallowed before continuing. "Look, I promise you on my life that I won't walk out of that front door without them on, but while I'm in here, I refuse to wear something that I don't need."
"But Jim..." His rebuttal was cut off by my warning glare. "Fine," was all he said. He knew he wouldn't win with me on this issue, so he'd learned not to push it too far.
He instead changed the subject to talk about inconsequential case details. Ok, paperwork details would more aptly describe it. Until I was back on full duty, I had to deal with the little cases. I got a little sideline of Rafe's cases, but only calls to witnesses or in-house interviews that he was too busy to do himself. Never out in the field, not till medical restriction and those stupid braces were lifted. I missed the excitement, but Simon assured me that I'd get back to it soon enough. Since the station details were limited, we continued to eat in mixed chitchat and silence till I decided to bring up something that had been on my mind a little too much the past week.
Straightening up again, assuming as much of an over-powering presence as I could handle, I blurted it out. "I'm thinking about calling Delores."
Blair paused as he cut another piece of pancake. Looking up, he was mentally figuring out whom this random name belonged to. "Delores? Delores?" His eyes showed his lack of a memory. All at once, it dawned on him who I was taking about. "As in your physical therapist Delores?" His eyes went large.
"That'd be the only one I know," I tried to casually dismiss his shock, continuing to shovel in bites.
"Why? Is there something wrong with your therapy? You getting weaker? Having spasms? What?" his words tumbled out, revealing his fear that I was backsliding in my recovery.
"Calm down Chief, lighten up on the sugar and caffeine there. I'm fine," I chuckled.
"Whew, scare a man to death why don't you?" he physically relaxed. He became cautious again, though. "So why do you need to call Delores?"
"I don't NEED to call her, I WANT to call her. I'm ready to go forward with our relationship."
Blair stopped cold at that one. "What relationship? Jim, the woman is your physical therapist. Correction, she WAS your physical therapist. We haven't seen Delores since you got out of the hospital."
"I know, but..." I paused to decide how to put this more delicately. "She said when I got everything clear and knew that I loved her, I should call." I went back to my meal, leaving Blair in utter bewilderment.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. You haven't seen this woman in two months and you suddenly decide that you love her?!"
"It wasn't sudden," I admitted as I pushed away my plate and started nursing my dwindling cup of coffee. "I always knew I loved her, I just needed time to sort it all out."
"You don't love her. She was your physical therapist, you don't love her!" Blair was becoming more adamant on that point.
"Wait a minute, weren't you the one who assured me that she was falling in love with me as much as I was with her? You bet me money that I'd be on the phone with her and now you're changing your mind?" I was getting readily peeved.
"I'm not changing my mind!" Blair threw his hands up in defiance. "Did you want to hear the truth back then? Would you have believed me if I said I didn't think it was worth it or it would last? I certainly wasn't willing to get on your bad side when you weren't ready to hear it."
"So it was a lie?" my voice became louder. "You never thought we had a chance?"
"I thought you'd see the pattern! How was I to know you were gonna keep on with this pipe dream?"
"Pattern? What pattern?" He was getting on my last nerve with this stupidity.
"The pattern you have with women. Please tell me you haven't let this slip by unnoticed, man."
"If I knew what you were talking about, I'd be a lot happier," I admitted, letting my frustration show.
I can't believe you're so oblivious," Blair shook his head. "You seek refuge with a woman everytime you're fearful or in doubt of yourself. Just look at your past," he started to count off his points on his fingers. "When your senses came back online, you had dinner with Carolyn."
"We always had dinner together and besides, Simon forced her into that one," I tried to defend myself.
"Yeah, but he didn't force you to kiss her did he?"
"That was private, I told you that in confidence and that has nothing to do with Delores!" I slapped my and on the table, barely missing my coffee cup.
"Fine, fine," Blair backed down. "Let's forget Carolyn. How about Lila? Right after you got out of Peru, you said you two had a relationship."
I didn't want to relive that memory, but I had to prove him wrong. "Yeah, we had a relationship. Is that so wrong?"
"No, not wrong at all. You were trying to re-connect to someone, to society, after you got out. She made you feel human, proved to you that you were still your old self after all those months." He was merely stating his reason, no hint of putting me down. "How about Emily?"
"I fail to see the reasoning behind this," I said in a measured tone, trying to control my building anger. I knew he wasn't attacking me, but he was testing me.
"You were involved with her to prove yourself worthy against Jack. You were scared that he had one up on you, so you went after something to prove that idea wrong. She was just convenient..."
"Now wait just a minute!" I yelled, cutting off his reasoning.
"So you loved her?" he shot back.
"Well....at the time, I thought I did," I tried to defend myself.
"Exactly, you THOUGHT you did. Just like you thought you loved Michelle?"
"And you think I was just in heat over proving my manhood?" I seethed. "What a load of crap Sandburg!"
"Hey, don't take it out on me," he shot back. "Even if you don't see it, you can't deny Margaret was the end-all to proving my theory."
"Margaret? What has she got to do with this?" I questioned, still frustrated.
"She's got everything to do with it! You went blind, you transferred your emotions to her. She was the outlet to proving you were still a man, even if you couldn't see. Don't you see it? I'm not faulting you for it, I'm just saying that I don't want you to go into this making Delores another outlet to proving you can still hack it." His hands were animate while he explained this obvious truth.
He was calm, not putting me down, talking in his professorial level of explanation. I didn't care, he was talking hot air and calling me a sex-crazed freak. I grabbed my cane and pushed myself up. "I can still hack it Sandburg, I don't need to prove it to you or anyone. I've satisfied a lot of women in my life and they weren't all pawns in some elaborate sex game."
Without another word, I went out the front door....without my braces on. If he had said one word about it, I knew I would have turned around and physically attacked him without a second thought. I was on my last nerve and I just needed something to push me over the edge. I knew I couldn't stay at the table one more minute, but I also knew I had nowhere to go really. On the ride down, I could still hear Blair moving around the Loft. He was clearing away the disrupted breakfast and mumbling about my temper.
The elevator reached the bottom floor and I still didn't have a clue where I was going, so I just started walking. Well, I started out walking, but about the third block I was hobbling. I was dead tired and fed up. Finding a bench, I collapsed onto it. Not only was I half a man, but now Sandburg was trying to tell me that I was never a true man to start with? Yes, I've had a few women, but that didn't mean I was constantly trying to prove myself did it?
Yes, Lila was the first woman after Peru, but I wasn't looking for justification. After going from the Army, where you're surrounded by men all day long, to eighteen tiring months in a society where the only women were betrothed Chopecs, Lila was a breeze of fresh air. And even if I was trying to 'prove' myself, her hasty departure left me broken-hearted and worse off than any other woman before had. She left me, just like Mom did. No good-byes, no reason, just an empty room. I questioned myself, wondered why and what I did wrong, but shortly after that I swore that no one would make me hurt me like that again.
Emily wasn't just convenient either. There was nothing convenient about doing your partner's girl, but I did it anyway. Jack made me feel like a high-strung punk, but that's because I was. I deserved all the flak he was giving me. Emily made me feel like a man, like someone who could provide for her where Jack was too busy to care. I think I was trying to hold onto the youthful lack of cares that Sandburg's now in the middle of. Jack was settled, I never wanted that when I was with Emily. I knew we weren't going in for the long haul, but she was there and I was there and I could easily walk away without any regrets. The settling would come later.
Carolyn and I had a wonderful relationship. Maybe it wasn't a perfect marriage, but it was a marriage nonetheless. We tried, even if we did fail at it. I'll admit that I wasn't ready for a wife back then, but I tried my hardest to make it work. I knew that I didn't want to end up like my father. I've always had the fear that I'd scare away anyone close to me, like he did with Mom. I was always afraid to give myself over to anyone for fear that they'd pack up one day and never look back. I could take it if I stopped the relationships cold, but not when they left me with a broken heart.
Michelle, I could honestly say, might have been convenient. I mean, there's no way around the fact that she was totally off-limits, but protecting her and then loving her was an easy step. I couldn't know she had a husband, but I was full aware of the fact that she was involved in the mob. I wasn't thinking like a cop, I was thinking like a sex-driven maniac. She fell in my accepted zone, I didn't have to end it since it was ended for us. It seemed like I was intentionally going after these unavailable women, but that wasn't' true. I didn't like the pattern that was evolving here.
Margaret was...a safety net. I never told Sandburg this. Shoot, I haven't told Sandburg a lot. He'd probably have me committed if I jumped up one day and laid it all out, all the problems, all the worries, all the loopholes I was trying to find in life. I was scared to death when I went blind. I was missing everything, the world, people, life. I went for Margaret because she WAS a grounding for me. I was sitting in a sea of light and she gave me something to hold onto. If I could just prove to be worthy to her, I was worthy to the rest of the world. I hated being less than a whole person and that's exactly how I felt back then....and now.
I hate it when Sandburg's right! So maybe I was trying to get Delores to prove myself whole again. Was that utterly so wrong? I just want proof that I can still be the man I was, accepted for being me. Margaret made me feel whole when I was blind, maybe I was hoping Delores would do the same thing now. She always made me feel like a man, even when I was lying flat on my back and couldn't even wiggle a toe. She made me feel good and that's all I wanted. On the other hand, I didn't want to ruin this with her. I wanted to be perfectly sure that I was going into this with both eyes open. I guess, if it's meant to be, it could stand a little more thought, tests of time and all that.
OK, fine, I'm putting it out of my mind. First things first, apologizing to Sandburg. He's used to me blowing up quite often, but still it was wrong of me. The kid is just trying to help me, I know that, but he's just so blatantly honest that it unnerves me when I'm already mad. Sigh, but that's what makes him Sandburg and I wouldn't trade it for anything. He's my sanity and a pretty good cook, which I'm hoping will mean a good lunch since my stomach is reminding me that I had too few pancakes.
We're gonna be fine, it's just going to take some time for me to drill it through my head.