From part 1
“It’s really Blair, huh?” Rafe asked, sneaking a peek through the gap in the curtains. “Man, he’s skin and bones, poor kid. Tell him hi from H and me, okay, Jim?”
“Sure, Rafe,” Jim said, not bothering to mention that Blair didn’t seem to remember anyone from his past at the moment. “Might be better if I get him out to the car on my own, sir,” he added, relieved when Simon nodded understandingly and urged Rafe ahead of him back out to the exit. “I’ll call you tonight,” he called over his shoulder.
Jim took in a shaky breath, squared his shoulders then headed back in to collect Blair. “Let’s get you cleaned up a little so I can take you home,” he said, making it more than a suggestion in case Blair balked but Blair just nodded as Jim got to work with warm water and towels from the bathroom to clean the blood of his hands. He’d have to make do with the dirty jeans and tshirt he was wearing till they got back to the loft and probably with a set of Jim’s trackpants and a sweater till Jim could buy him some new clothes but that was minor stuff, easily dealt with. Jim didn’t want to think about the harder stuff right now. All that really mattered was that Blair was coming home.
Jim unlocked the front door to the apartment then pushed it open, going through first and then standing back to usher Blair inside. He watched carefully as Blair stepped into the living room and stopped, not looking around, just staring straight ahead the same way he had in the hospital.
“Go sit down,” Jim said after a moment. He tossed his keys into the basket on the little table by the door. “I’ll make some tea. I don’t have any herbal stuff anymore but I’ve got plain old English Breakfast. You used to like that, didn’t you?” There was no answer but Jim didn’t really expect one. He was growing uncomfortably used to this quiet non-responsive version of his friend already. He shook off the unsettling feeling that gave him and busied himself with heating the kettle and making the tea, adding a spoonful of sugar and a healthy dollop of milk to Blair’s. He put the mugs onto a tray along with a plate of cookies he’d bought off his downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Edelstein’s granddaughter when she’d called round a few nights ago raising money for the Girl Scouts. “Rachel Edelstein keeps asking after you,” he said conversationally as he picked up the tray and carried it into the living room. “I keep telling her she’s way too good for you but-“ He stopped mid-sentence, almost dropping the tray in shock at the sight that greeted him.
Blair was kneeling on the floor, head down, arms behind him, wrists crossed at the small of his back.
Jim put the tray down and crossed over to him quickly, reaching down to grab his arm and try to pull him to his feet. “Blair, you can sit on the couch, buddy.”
Blair shook his head frantically, fighting Jim’s grip, his eyes suddenly huge in his too thin face, the pupils dilated in what Jim could only surmise was fear.
“Okay, okay,” Jim said, not wanting to panic him any more than he was already. “Stay there, Chief, it’s fine.” He waited till Blair had relaxed into his previous position then held the mug of tea out to him. “Take it, Blair,” he ordered when Blair didn’t respond, “you need to drink and eat.”
Hesitantly Blair looked up then settled down onto his haunches and took the mug from Jim’s hand and began to sip at it slowly.
Jim blew out a shaky breath then sat down on the floor opposite his friend and picked up his own cup. Blair looked momentarily surprised when Jim sat on the floor but he said nothing, just sipped at the hot drink, drinking it more eagerly after the first taste. He’d drained the cup in mere minutes, and Jim was glad he’d thought to put the milk in so Blair didn’t burn his tongue. “Guess you really are thirsty, hey, Chief?” he picked up a cookie and placed it in Blair’s unresistant hand. “Eat,” he said when Blair looked at him questioningly, inwardly rejoicing when Blair obeyed. “What happened to you, buddy?” Jim asked, not expecting an answer anymore. He handed over another cookie when Blair finished the first then stood up, wrinkling his nose. “You need a shower, Chief,” he said. He reached a hand down to Blair and he took it, rising to his feet then waiting as if for Jim to tell him what to do. Jim’s stomach lurched as his brain began to connect the dots : the marks from apparent floggings, the scars that showed he’d been bound hand and foot, the kneeling position on the floor, Blair’s lack of any voluntary action and the way he waited for Jim to tell him what to do. Had Blair been kept as some kind of slave? It seemed absurd in this day and age but the signs seemed unmistakable. Suddenly Jim remembered Daniel saying Olsen had been pushing him down onto the bed when Blair had come to his rescue. Had Blair been abused sexually as well? If he had been it was probably a moot point at this stage anyway. Olsen was dead. It wasn’t like Jim could arrest him for rape and he really didn’t want to put Blair through the stress of an examination for sexual abuse right now. Once he was sure Blair felt safe they’d deal with that, get him looked over by a caring, compassionate doctor, one of the medicos Jim knew through his work with rape victims.
“Come on, Chief,” he said, leading the way to the bathroom and snagging a couple of clean towels from the hamper just inside the door.
Blair followed him passively, waiting just inside the door as Jim leaned in and turned the shower on over the bathtub.
“Do you need to go?” Jim asked, pointing to the toilet.
Blair nodded. Okay, so he was just saying he needed to pee but it was the first time he’d really answered a direct question and Jim felt a small glimmer of hope at the first tiny sign of connection. “Okay,” he said, lifting the lid and seat then stepping back out of the room to give Blair some privacy. He waited a few minutes but when he didn’t hear the toilet flush he peered back round the door. “You done?” he asked. Blair nodded again then stepped back and stood with his head bowed. Jim reached past to him to flush the toilet. Apparently that was a lost skill. Maybe he’d been using a bucket as a toilet, Jim mused. Looking at the condition he was in Jim wouldn’t be surprised.
“Take your clothes off and get in the shower,” he said firmly when Blair didn’t show any signs of moving.
Blair did as he was bidden and Jim handed him a washcloth that he’d squirted some shower gel onto. He tried to avert his eyes from Blair’s naked body but found his eyes drawn to the myriad marks of abuse it bore. Faded welts, bruises, scars, and fresh abrasions littered Blair’s skin. Jim forced back the tears that burned his eyes. Pity wouldn’t help Blair now.
Once Blair had washed Jim took the washcloth then wondered what to do about Blair’s hair. It reached almost to his waist, still in the trademark curls Jim remembered so well but Blair’s hair now was dirty and matted, lank and dull. Sighing, Jim mentally shrugged then stripped off his own clothes down to his underwear and climbed into the shower with his friend. Blair froze momentarily as he did so but then he docilely stayed in place and let Jim wash, rinse and condition his hair. It took 3 applications of shampoo and conditioner before Jim was satisfied. He was pleased to discover that there were still bottles of Blair’s favorite shampoo and conditioner on the top shelf of the shower caddy, obviously overlooked when Blair had stormed out of the loft with his belongings on that awful night two years before. Jim wondered as he inhaled the herbal scent of it now if it might provoke a remembrance in Blair but if it did Blair gave no sign of it. He stepped out onto the tile floor as directed to then allowed Jim to wrap his hair in a towel turban and dry his body with another towel.
“Wait here,” Jim said after he dried himself then hurried out to Blair’s old room, wondering if Blair might have left any of his old clothes behind when he left as well as the shampoo. Jim had refused to go into the room after that night, simply closing the door up tight against the memories of his friend but now he was relieved to find a pair of Blair’s old sweats and a tshirt and sweater in the bottom dresser drawer. He detoured quickly upstairs, stripped off his wet underwear and changed into clean clothes then took the sweats back to Blair and helped him put them on, trying not to notice how they swam on him now. They’d have to do for now anyway. He’d take Blair to a store on their way to the police station in the morning, buy him some things that fitted. He combed through and pulled Blair’s hair back into a pony tail securing it with a hair tie he found discarded in the bathroom cabinet. Maybe a trip to the hairdresser was in order soon as well, Jim mused, once he was sure Blair wouldn’t be too freaked out by the experience.
He led Blair back into the living room and switched on the TV, not really surprised now when Blair chose to kneel on the floor in front of the couch rather sitting on it as Jim invited him to do. Baby steps, Jim reminded himself. Take it slow. He picked up his cellphone then went out onto the balcony to call Simon. From there he could keep an eye on Blair while preventing Blair from hearing Jim talking about him. He wasn’t sure whether it would matter if he did but for now Jim wanted to err in all things on the side of caution.
“Hi, it’s me,” he said as Simon picked up on the other end.
Simon told him that he hadn’t been able to contact Naomi herself. She was apparently halfway up a mountain in Tibet somewhere (why didn’t Jim find that a surprise?) but the person who’d taken his call had assured him that she’d be given the good news about her son’s reappearance as soon as she came back down to the village. Jim couldn’t help being a little relieved at the news. He had no doubt that Naomi Sandburg loved her son but she was volatile and emotional and Jim didn’t think that was a good combination for Blair right now. He finished the call by assuring Simon they’d be in the next morning as soon as he’d outfitted Blair with some clothes and then disconnected the call and went back into the living room, sitting down on the couch near where Blair was kneeling. The game that was on at least helped to pass the time and the next time Jim looked at his watch it was almost 6 PM.
He went into the kitchen and scouted through the fridge and cupboards for food for dinner, finally deciding on canned chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. That should be a bland enough meal to fill Blair’s stomach without overtaxing it. He carried it through to the living room and placed everything on the dining room table. It took some coaxing and some physical maneuvering by Jim but Blair finally sat across the dining table from him and ate the food. When he scraped the bottom of the bowl over and over with his spoon, Jim got the message and quickly got up and poured him another bowlful of soup. Jim watched him as he ate it then almost stood up and cheered when Blair canted a shy look up at him and the tiniest smile twitched across his lips. “Good, huh?”
Blair nodded and allowed the tiny smile to upturn his mouth again for a scant second then stood up quickly from the chair and began collecting the dishes.
“Whoa, that’s okay. They can wait till the morning,” Jim said, waylaying him with a gentle hand on his arm. Blair had yawned several times during dinner and Jim wanted to get him to go to bed for a good night’s rest. God knew he looked like he needed it.
Blair allowed Jim to usher him into the small bedroom that had once been his but balked for a moment when Jim pulled back the bed covers and told him to lie down. Finally after Jim had pretty much ordered him to, he climbed into the bed and let Jim pull the covers up over his shoulders.
“Good night, Chief,” Jim said softly. He went back out to the kitchen and pulled a beer from the fridge. He’d allow himself just one. He wanted to be on alert in case Blair had a nightmare. Jim had the feeling that whatever had happened to Blair over the past two years, there was fodder aplenty for nightmares. He drank the beer then locked the front door and set the deadbolt, taking the keys with him when he went upstairs to bed himself a couple of hours later. He lay in bed and read for a while, his senses alert to any sound from downstairs. Finally hearing nothing untoward he allowed himself to sleep as well.