In the two weeks that he’d been out of the cell, he still didn’t know who he was. He knew Blair. Knew him from the rich smell of his armpits to the soft curls on the top of his head to the missing pinky toe with its rough scarring on his right foot. He’d spent the last two weeks studying Blair and the other man seemed to have no boundaries when it came to having his space invaded.
He knew Simon, though the black man had been introduced to him. And he knew Dan, because the doctor had examined him that first day back home. Home. He knew home, too; the scent soothing and fresh, so clean, and the rooms filled with light.
Blair stayed with him all the time, comforting and solid. He made food and kept a glass of water on hand, anticipating his thirst even before he knew he needed it. Blair slept with him, whether it was to nap on the sofa or at night, in the big bed upstairs. Blair let him hold onto him, didn’t seem to mind the suffocating tightness that he needed to hold Blair with. The nightmares woke them both, terrors of being back in his cell. There had as yet to be a full night’s sleep, which was why they napped during the day.
Gentle fingers combed through his hair and he sighed in contentment, listening to Blair’s heart beating beneath his ear.
“I thought we could go outside today?”
It was a suggestion. Blair was always careful to phrase things so he had a choice. He froze at the thought of leaving the safety of home, not sure if he could.
Blair’s hand slid down his back and rubbed there in soothing circles. “We don’t have to, love. It’s up to you.”
He wanted to, though, because if he didn’t, maybe he never would. He let out a huff of air and said, “Yes. I want to.”
Blair kissed the top of his head and said, a smile in his voice, “Good! Why don’t we go now, while we’re thinking about it?”
So he didn’t have time to overthink it and get too scared to go, he knew. He nodded and pushed into a sitting position. Doing so no longer made him dizzy, which was great. He’d also put on a little weight, eating so regularly and so frequently. Small meals with intense nutrients, according to Blair, designed to get him back to health. And he definitely felt healthier, even with the interrupted sleep. His bruises had faded to almost nothing, his balance had returned, and he could go up the stairs to bed without assistance.
Blair hopped to his feet and took his hand. “You can put on the flip-flops instead of sneakers if you want.”
He nodded and slipped his feet into the flimsy footwear by the door, taking the jacket Blair handed him and pulling it on. The weather had turned sunny, but it was still cold out, at least to him. He kept hold of Blair’s hand as they walked into the hall and he couldn’t help squeezing a little tightly. Blair smiled at him, reassuring, and tugged him down the hall to the elevator.
It opened with a chime and he reluctantly got inside the small, metal box.
Blair put an arm around his waist and said, “It’s just a short trip. You can do it. You’re doing really good here, honest.”
The doors opened just as his tension started getting overwhelming and he rushed out, into another hall. There was no one around, but he stopped short anyhow, looking everywhere to be on the safe side.
He turned to Blair and found him over by the door. He hesitated, but ultimately walked over to join him. Blair again took his hand and smiled as he pushed open the door and walked outside.
The first thing he noticed on following Blair out was the blinding sun. He had to stop and squint, blinking rapidly to clear his vision. Next was the breeze, it was strong and smelled like salt water. Street noise struck without warning and he gasped at the almost painful audio level.
Blair stepped right into his space and cupped his face, pulling him down a little to look right into his eyes. “If the noise is too loud, lower the dial.”
Still wincing, he asked, “What dial?”
“In your mind,” Blair said firmly. “Picture a dial with numbers. Picture it and then lower the dial numbers until the noise is reasonable.”
It took some doing, but finally the noise receded to bearable levels. He gasped in relief and looked at Blair in amazement. “Does that happen to you too?”
Sadness tinged Blair’s face as he shook his head. “No, love, it’s just you. You’re unique.”
Comprehension dawned. “That’s why they wanted me. Because I can hear, what, everything?”
“Not everything, but a lot,” Blair hedged.
It was the first time the other man wasn’t completely honest with him and an unexpected pang went through him.
Blair must have sensed his dismay, because he squeezed his shoulder and said, “I don’t want to tell you too much, love. You need to remember it on your own. I’m not lying, I swear, I’m just not telling you everything.”
That made sense and this time, there was no wavering in the other man’s voice. That was the truth. He relaxed a little. “Okay.”
Blair sighed softly and smiled again. “Do you want to take a walk?”
He looked around and saw it wasn’t really all that busy out. Being the middle of the afternoon, people seemed to be busy elsewhere. Something teased at the edge of his mind and he frowned, trying to pick at it. Something about people… why they weren’t nearby… He straightened in surprise. “People are at work.”
Blair’s smile widened. “They are, yeah. It’s Wednesday.”
Pleased by the knowledge, he said, “We can take a walk.”
Blair nodded and said, “After you.”
They walked to the pier, which wasn’t all that far away. He could turn around and still see the building they’d come from. He even saw the doors of their balcony. There were only a couple of old men on the pier, fishing and talking together on rickety chairs.
The moist air felt really good on his face and he leaned on the railing, closing his eyes and letting the breeze wash over him. Blair was a warm presence at his side and for a few minutes, he just stood there and existed without pain or fear. He was safe and content for the first time in a long time. They’d never done this before, he realized. In all the years Jim had known Blair, they’d always been on the move with work and life and being a Sentinel. Even their vacations seldom turned out to be restful.
Jim opened his eyes and smiled.