Take A Little Piece of My Heart - Lisa, Duncan's Twin

Saturday, October 7, 2000 – 1:25 a.m.

They left the bar as they had arrived – together. Even on the few and far between occasions either hooked up with another guy, they always left together. Jim Ellison and Andrew Chase had met four years ago when they worked on a case together. Jim had been in Vice, and Andy had been in Major Crime. They became instant friends, and then best friends when they both admitted to being gay, especially in the definitive homophobic arena of police work. Eventually, Jim transferred into Major Crime and they partnered together.

Jim drove Andy back to the station to pick up his truck. Before Andy opened the door, Jim tossed a last jab at his friend.

“Next time, Andy, try and hook up with someone who was actually alive during the seventies!” Jim said, clapping Andy on the shoulder.

“Bite me, Jimmy!”

“Anytime!” Jim threw back, as Andy closed the truck door.

He missed the look of longing that passed briefly over Andy’s face.

Jim waited until Andy had gotten into his truck and started the engine, and then he pulled away. Andy lived north of Cascade, but they both preferred the gay bars in Seattle and the surrounding area, so Jim usually drove them whenever they planned an evening.

As he drove, Andy’s thoughts drifted back to Jim and he wished silently for the hundredth time that he could admit his feelings, but he was too worried that Jim wouldn’t reciprocate and their friendship and partnership would be lost. Andy didn’t have any anyone else except Jim, his parents had died just after his graduation from college, and he had no siblings. He only had Jim, and it just wasn’t worth the risk to lose the only family he had.

Shaking off the sad thoughts, Andy concentrated on the road ahead, and never saw the truck that hit him.

***

Jim hummed softly with the radio as he drove home. They’d had a fun evening, drinking a couple of beers and shooting pool, and in between games, they’d flirted and laughed with some college guys. Andy had tried, unsuccessfully, to hook up with one of the kids, but it was mostly just in fun; the kid had been barely old enough to vote, let alone drink.

Stopped at the red light on the corner of Prospect and Hammond, Jim’s stomach growled, and he rubbed it thoughtfully. There wasn’t much in the way of food in the loft, so he decided to grab a quick burger before going home. After all, there wasn’t anybody waiting for him, hadn’t been in the year since his divorce. It hardly counted as a marriage considering that Jim had only slept with Carolyn three times, and they’d lived together less than a month.

Found out real quick, didn’t ya, Jimmy, that a woman wasn’t gonna mend a broken heart?

Pulling up outside his loft, Jim grabbed his take out bag and headed upstairs. After a quick shower to wash off the bar scent, Jim ripped open the bag and inhaled the burger while sitting naked on the couch, watching CNN.

He went up to bed sometime later, leaving the television on and his trash on the coffee table; Jim had no one to answer to except himself, but the silence was sometimes too much to take.

Having just closed his eyes, Jim mumbled a curse when the phone rang. It was his night off, but being a cop meant he was never really free of duty.

“Hello?”

“Detective James Ellison?”

“Yes.” He could hear lots of noise in the background, unsettling noise. “What is it?”

“This is Cascade General, you’re listed as emergency contact for Andrew Chase. He’s been brought in—”

“I’ll be right there.”

The telephone line went dead in the nurse’s hand.

***

Cascade General Hospital – 2:45 a.m.

Jim hated waiting, but, at the moment, there was nothing he could do. Upon arriving at the hospital, a nurse told him that someone would be out to talk to him soon, and to sit and wait. Jim had immediately called their boss, Simon Banks, to inform him of the accident.

“Detective Ellison?”

Jim looked up from his clenched hands.

“How’s Andy?”

Sitting beside Jim in the almost empty waiting room, the nurse spoke softly.

“At this point, I can’t really say. The doctor will be out to talk to you when he knows more,” she said. “I’m sorry, but I need you to fill out some paper work.”

“Please, anything,” he pleaded.

Looking at him sympathetically, she said, “All I can tell you is that he came in with a major head trauma, but he was breathing on his own, his heart was strong and steady. They’re running tests right now. I can’t tell you any more right now.”

“Is he conscious?”

“No, he’s not,” she said gently. “Fill out the paper work, and I’ll go see if a doctor can come talk to you.”

“Thank you.”

Taking the pen, Jim tried to concentrate on the papers in front of him.

***

3:20 a.m.

“Jim?”

“Captain.” Jim stood up.

“Have you heard anything?”

“Not in a while. The nurse said it was bad, but I don’t know anything else,” Jim said, sighing. “The doctor is supposed to come out, but he hasn’t yet.”

They sat down and waited in silence.

Minutes later, a tall older man in scrubs walked over to them.

“Detective Ellison?”

Both men standing, Jim said, “Yes, and this is Simon Banks, Andy’s Captain.”

“Gentlemen, come with me.”

Jim and Simon followed the doctor to a small examining room.

Turning to the two cops, the doctor introduced himself, “I’m Dr. Tobias, I’ve been working on Detective Chase. He was brought in with a major head trauma, a broken leg and arm. He was unconscious but breathing on his own. We took x-rays to determine the extent of his injuries. He had no other internal injuries, but it was the head wound that caused us the most concern. We ran a cat scan, as well as an EEG. There has been massive damage to Detective Chase’s brain, and there is no activity. Right now, he’s being transferred to the ICU. We’ll run another EEG in twenty-four hours, but I don’t expect there to be any brain activity then either.”

“So you’re saying he’s brain dead?” Simon asked.

“At this point, it’s too early to say for certain, but it doesn’t look good. I’m sorry.”

“Thank you,” Simon said, looking at Jim.

“Detective Ellison, you’re listed as his medical power of attorney, did you know that?”

“What? Oh, yeah, he did that a couple of months ago.”

“You’re going to need to stick around, in case decisions need to be made.”

“I understand,” Jim said, still in shock.

“A nurse will come in and tell you when Detective Chase has been moved to ICU, and you can go wait up there.”

The doctor left them in the examining room, stunned into silence.

***

4:05 a.m.

Standing beside Andy’s hospital bed, Jim watched the steady rise and fall of his chest.

The logical side of him, the trained medic, knew that just because Andy was breathing on his own, it didn’t mean he would survive. Jim knew even with partial loss of the brain, that as long as the brain stem itself was intact, Andy could breathe and his heart would continue to beat, but he would be brain dead and not really living. The emotional side of him was horrified, already grieving for the loss of his best friend if Andy died.

Sighing, Jim stroked a finger across Andy’s unmarked cheek. It was going to be a long wait, but Jim would be there, just like he knew Andy would have been there for him if the situation had been reversed.

***

8:25 a.m.

The waiting room near the ICU was smaller, but they were the only ones sitting in there when a nurse came in.

“Detective Ellison?”

“Yes?”

“I’m Tammy Little,” she said, shaking his hand.

“I need to talk to you about Detective Chase.” She looked at Simon then.

“Oh, this is Simon Banks, our Captain.”

“Hello,” Tammy said, shaking Simon’s hand. They sat back down, and Tammy sat across from them. “Detective—”

“Jim, please.”

“Jim,” Tammy started again, “this isn’t an easy time, and I know that, but as Andy’s medical power of attorney you have to make some decisions.”

“What kind of decisions?”

“Did you know Andy wanted to donate his organs?”

“Yeah, we both...oh.”

“I’m sorry to have to talk about things like this, but with the extent of his injuries, and Andy’s wishes, I have to.”

“No, I understand,” Jim said softly. “I know he thought it was important.”

“Nothing has to be decided yet. The doctors are still going to do another EEG in twelve hours, so you don’t have to make a final decision until then.”

“Do you think there’s any hope?”

“I really can’t say,” Tammy said gently.

“But you’ve seen this situation before, right? I need to know what to expect.”

Studying Jim’s tense features, Tammy laid her hand on Jim’s. “If the EEG determines that there is still no brain activity, Andy will be declared brain dead. If you agree to donate his organs, they will be taken and transplanted into the next viable recipient, and someone will have a chance to continue living because of Andy.”

Jim let the information sink in, feeling Tammy’s and Simon’s eyes on him the whole time.

“Do you have any questions?” she asked after a minute.

“Where do I sign?”

“You don’t have to make that decision yet, Jim.”

“No, it’s what Andy wants...wanted,” Jim paused, taking a deep breath. “He always wanted to help people, that’s why he became a cop, why he wanted to be a donor.”

“Okay.” Tammy handed him the clipboard and indicated where he should sign. “This won’t become effective until after the second EEG and a determination of brain death. Even then, you’ll still have a chance to say goodbye.”

“Thank you, Tammy.”

“I’m very sorry.”

***

Sunday, October 8, 2000 – 3:40 a.m.

Twelve hours later found Jim standing at Andy’s bedside. The second EEG had been a flat line, and Andy was declared brain dead. There was nothing left for Jim to do except say goodbye.

Holding Andy’s cold hand, Jim spoke softly. “It’s been fun. I’m glad...I’m glad we met. I’ll never forget you.” With a soft kiss to Andy’s forehead, Jim said goodbye the only way he could and then left, not able to stick around for when the doctors turned off the machines.

***

Bayside Apartments - 4:25 a.m.

Across town, a pager beeped incessantly, waking Blair Sandburg from a sound sleep. He threw the heavy covers off and stumbled across the dark room, kicking a hiking boot along the way.

“Better not be another wrong number,” Blair muttered, squinting to read the glowing message.

Heart is on its way, get on your way, NOW!! Meet you in pre-op. Trina.

“Holy fucking shit!”

***

4:57 a.m.

Trina Edwards had been assigned Blair’s case four months ago when he’d first been placed on the list, and they’d quickly become friends. She had held him while he cried after the first transplant had fallen through; he had been so hopeful, and then so disappointed. She had opened her heart and her family to Blair, knowing his loneliness despite his never saying a word.

Waiting for him in pre-op, Trina wondered again where Blair’s mother was throughout this whole time. If Blair was my son...well, let’s just say I would have been attached to his hip until he got his new heart she decided, irritated at the thought.

Finally Blair was wheeled into pre-op. The preparatory blood work had already been done at his last appointment, so there was little to do until the final go ahead was given by the surgeons. Trina held his hand while another nurse shaved his chest in preparation. She could feel him tremble, and knew he was anxious and hopeful that this time he would get the heart that would extend his life.

The ringing of the phone startled them, and they listened carefully while the nurse received her orders. They couldn’t tell what was happening from what was said, but when she turned around, the smile on her face said it all.

“Looks like you’re going to get your new heart, Mr. Sandburg.”

“Oh, god,” Blair mumbled, letting the realization wash over him for the first time.

“Congratulations, Blair,” Trina said, squeezing his hand.

“I never really thought,” Blair started, but he choked on his words. “I never thought it would happen. I can’t believe this is real.”

Trina leaned closer and whispered in his ear, “It’s real, and I’d pinch you, but it would leave a mark.”

Blair grinned in response, and she kissed his cheek.

He was sedated, and Trina continued to hold his hand until it was time for him to go into surgery.

“I’ll see you in recovery, Blair. Good luck,” she called to him as he disappeared into the operating room.

***

11:20 a.m.

The first thing he felt was something rubbing against his forehead. He tried to move away from it, but trying to move made him hurt all over.

My heart! Suddenly it all came back to him: the page, Trina in pre-op, going into surgery.

Trying to draw in a breath, Blair panicked when he couldn’t breathe. His eyes popped open in fear and shock, but Trina was there, looking into his eyes when he opened them.

“Calm down, Blair,” she said, continuing her gentle stroking down his cheek. “Everything went fine, but you need to rest now.”

He tried to move his hand, but it felt weighted down. Trina noticed his distress, and took his hand to reassure him.

“Blair, you have to calm down. You have a breathing tube in your throat. I know it feels like you’re not getting enough air, but you are. Relax.” His hand gripped hers hard. “Your hands are restrained, Blair, so you don’t move around too much and cause yourself any harm. Okay? So, just lay back and rest.”

Relief flooded through him, and he relaxed for the first time since the whole nightmare started. He hadn’t told his mom about his condition because he didn’t want to worry her, but now he wished she was there.

Trina straightened up, and Blair used all his strength to grip her hand.

“It’s okay, Blair,” she said reassuringly. “I just have to start my shift in a little bit, but I’ll be back later.”

Nodding once in understanding, Blair closed his eyes.

His last thoughts before drifting off were about the future and his second chance at life. Not everyone got a second chance, but he was going to make the most of his.

***

Saturday, October 14, 2000 – 9:30 a.m.

Lieutenant Andrew Chase was buried with full police honors. Over one hundred police officers were in attendance, some from as far away as California where Andy had worked a case over a month ago.

Jim had been asked to give the eulogy, and he’d spoken somberly about the man he had called his partner. He talked about how Andy devoted himself to his job, about his work with the Big Brothers and Sisters program of Cascade, about how generous Andy was. Jim talked about everything except what mattered most: how much he was going to miss Andy and his friendship and his understanding. The way Andy always laughed at his own jokes. How he always managed to get the biggest piece of cake or the best donut. Jim would miss the way Andy always called him ‘Jimmy’ even though he hated it when anybody else did. Jim would miss everything about Andy.

***

10:15 a.m.

As much as he hated wheelchairs, Blair enjoyed the hell out of his current ride in one. He was going home. With his new heart. With the hope of a normal life.

Trina was walking beside him, carrying his small duffle bag and a manila envelope with all his instructions. She was driving Blair home, and they were meeting with the home care nurse he had picked out. The nurse would come in a couple of hours a day and help out for the few months.

Blair rode in silence, looking around like it was the first time he was seeing Cascade. Everything looked so clear, like a veil had been lifted, and he found himself smiling.

“What?” Trina asked, seeing the smile.

“What, what?”

“What are you smiling about?”

“I don’t know, I just can’t stop.”

She just nodded.

On Freemont Street, Trina had to stop the car when a motorcycle cop stopped traffic to let a funeral parade pass.

Watching the somber parade pass, Blair asked, “Who died?”

“A city cop.”

“Sad.”

The funeral parade passed, and they continued on their way.

***

Sunday, December 31, 2000 – 7:35 p.m.

Andy had been dead over two months, and Jim had felt that loss every day. He had been unable to clean out Andy’s apartment right away, and had left it virtually intact, only cleaning out the kitchen the Sunday after Andy’s funeral and then not returning until two days ago.

All of Andy’s furniture had been donated to the Cascade Women’s Shelter, and the clothes were donated to a homeless shelter, except for a tee-shirt Jim kept. It was a souvenir from a trip they’d taken right after Jim’s divorce from Carolyn.

Wearing his Disney World tee-shirt, Jim held Andy’s in his hand. The memories of that trip were so vivid, Jim felt like he could almost reach out and touch them. All of his memories since returning from Peru were especially vivid, but his still couldn’t remember his childhood, and something told him that wasn’t a bad thing.

Laying the tee-shirt aside, Jim reached for the envelope on the coffee table. One of Andy’s traditions on New Year’s Eve, instead of making resolutions he knew he wouldn’t keep, was to write a letter about what he wanted for himself over the coming year. Jim was holding the hopes and dreams of his dead friend in his hand.

He wondered if he shouldn’t just burn the letter. Surely, Andy never intended anybody else to read it, but longing for the warmth of Andy’s friendship, Jim couldn’t stop himself from ripping the envelope open.

Smiling, Jim read the part about what Andy wanted to do with his career, to make lieutenant and get some more drugs off the streets. Andy wrote about Mike, the little boy he was big brother to, and all the things he wanted them to do. Jim had to laugh when he remembered Andy telling him about taking Mike camping and Mike asking where the bathrooms were.

Jim made a mental note to call and check in on Mike. The poor kid had been devastated at losing Andy, having lost his father in a car accident also.

Focusing back on the letter, Jim’s hand trembled. Andy wrote about him. About their friendship, their partnership, how Jim was like family to him. That he loved him. That...that...Andy was afraid that if he told Jim that he’d fallen in love with him, that he would lose Jim’s friendship.

What the fuck? Jim crumpled the letter in his fist and flung it away. Son of a bitch!! Why couldn’t you tell me you loved me while you were alive? Aww, Andy.

Jim dropped his head into his hands and felt the tears he’d never spent.

“Why couldn’t you just tell me?” Jim yelled to the empty room.

Seeing Andy’s tee-shirt beside him, Jim grabbed it and pressed it to his nose, inhaling deeply, trying to find any trace of his friend, but it was gone. The only thing left of Andy was memories and a few words written with longing.

Sliding to the floor, Jim crawled over to the crumpled letter and gently smoothed the paper. He reread the whole letter and then turned it over, seeing for the first time Andy’s attempt at poetry.

My heart beats to your tune,
I stop and stare at the moon,
Wondering what to do,
Lost in how much I love you.

New tears stung Jim’s eyes, and he clutched the letter and the tee-shirt against his chest and leaned his head back against the couch. He stayed like that for a long time.

***

8:20 p.m.

“You’re gonna be late,” Blair said, laughing as Trina waltzed into his apartment.

“I don’t have to be there until nine, so don’t you worry your pretty little head!”

She took off her winter jacket, shedding the outside cold and then hugged him.

“Happy New Year.”

“Technically not for another three and a half hours.”

“Technically my butt,” she said, producing a small liquor bag from behind her back.

“What’s that?”

“What else?” She pulled a small bottle from the bag. “Champagne!”

She handed him the bottle and went in search of glasses, ending up with two small juice glasses. The cork popped out of the bottle and the champagne bubbled up. He quickly tried to pour it into the offered glass, but they were giggling and a good portion ended up on the floor.

“Clean it up later,” she laughed. “I have to make a toast!”

“But I don’t have a toaster,” he said with a straight face.

“Are you gonna help me or am I gonna have to explain to my husband why I’m late for our date?”

“Okay, okay. I’m serious now,” he said, still smiling.

“Good. Okay.” She paused, looking at him intensely. “To saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future, and living every minute with love and happiness.”

“And to good friends. May they always be good and may they always be friends.”

They clinked glasses and drank the bubbly liquid.

She returned their glasses to his small kitchen, and did a quick survey of his meds on the counter.

“Everything okay, Blair?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?”

“No reason, just the nurse in me.”

Smiling, Blair grabbed her coat and held it open. “Get out of here. And have fun!”

“I shall, trust me. What are you doing tonight?”

“Very exciting things. I’m watching them ring in the New Year in New York, and I’m writing letters.”

“Letters? To whom? Are you finally going to tell your mom what’s been going on?”

“No, not that kind of letter,” Blair said, explaining. “See, every year, instead of making resolutions that I know I won’t keep, I write a letter about what I want to happen over the next year.”

“So, what does your letter say?”

“Well, I can’t tell you. It’s kind of like making a wish when you blow out a candle on a birthday cake. You can’t tell, or it won’t come true.”

“Oh, okay. Well, good luck, Blair. And I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“And you better tell me everything.”

“I will.”

Trina let herself out, and Blair curled up on the couch with his paper and pen and let his thoughts and wishes flow.

And sometime as he wrote, the old year ended and a new one began.

***

Wednesday, February 14, 2001 - Valentine's Day – 7:25 a.m.

Coming off an all night stake out, which hadn't yielded anything, Jim climbed out of his truck carrying his take out bag from a fast food restaurant. He climbed the steps wearily, more tired than his age should allow. He was almost 39 years old, and except for his receding hairline, he didn't look a day over 35. Especially when he smiled. But lately, smiling was something of a foreign concept to Jim. Losing Andy four months ago had devastated Jim. In Andy's absence, Jim had taken to his old ways, working long hours, dangerous cases, pushing himself to the edges, and spending almost all his off duty hours alone, sometimes with a bottle to ease his pain. The only real fun in his life was the hours he spent with Mike, Andy's, and now his, little brother. Every Wednesday, Jim would pick Mike up from school, where Mike was a hardworking fourth grader, and they would go on an adventure. Sometimes they would go to see a movie, approved of by Mike's mom, Gina, or they would go bowling, or any number of fun activities. Jim had even helped Mike make a diorama of the solar system for a class project. While the Big Brothers program was supposed to help the child, in this case, it definitely helped the adult as well.

Unfortunately, since Valentine's Day fell on that Wednesday, their scheduled outing had been cancelled because Gina was taking Mike out to celebrate. Jim knew Mike would enjoy the attention Gina paid to her son, but he was also a bit jealous of their closeness, wishing he'd shared that sort of relationship with his mom.

Shaking off his depressing thoughts, Jim unlocked his front door and let himself inside. He shrugged off his jacket and dropped his keys on the counter beside the food bag. Unclipping his holster from his belt, he slid the gun out, ejected the magazine and unchambered the bullet. Sitting at the dining room table, he unlaced his hiking boots and kicked them off, then stood and stripped off his clothes. Draping his shirt over the back of the chair, Jim threw his dirty jeans, underwear and socks in the general vicinity of his spare room, where his laundry basket sat in the doorway.

Standing, he stretched and then retrieved his carry out bag. He tore the bag open, and several foil wrapped bacon and egg breakfast tacos fell out. Unwrapping one, he grabbed a packet of salt and liberally sprinkled his taco. He ate the first taco in three bites, and was halfway finished with the second before he stopped for a breath. Laying it down, he went to the fridge for a beer and brought back some salsa as well. It didn't matter that it was only nine in the morning, he was going to bed after he ate anyway, not due back on duty until midnight.

He finished his fourth breakfast taco, discarding part of the tortilla, and then leaned back in the chair. Sighing, he looked around his quiet refuge from the outside world, and suddenly wished for something not so quiet, and not so alone.

Sighing again, he reached for his beer and chugged the liquid down.

I just need to get fucked, Jim thought, as he headed for the shower, leaving his breakfast mess on the table.

Starting the shower, Jim pulled the curtain back into place, to let the cold porcelain warm up, and then turned to the mirror. He studied his face for a minute before letting his eyes travel down his hairless chest, flexing his pecs, and then further down. His earlier thoughts about getting fucked returned, and he felt a throbbing low in his gut.

He pictured it...bent over a table...legs spread...a hard cock pounding into him...his hands bound together across his back...blindfolded...taking him, fucking him...jerking him off...

With two strong tugs, he was coming all over the place.

Weak-kneed, he leaned against the sink and reassessed himself.

"Shit, I need to get out more."

***

4:20 p.m.

Waking up from a nap, Blair shuffled to the bathroom, not bothering to open his eyes; he knew his apartment like the back of his hand, having spent ninety percent of his time since the transplant in it. Blair stroked the zipper-like scar down his chest, said another silent prayer, and then flushed the toilet.

He snickered, thinking about his life being so much like the toilet he had just flushed; it was all down the drain. Everything he'd worked so hard for, for so many years was gone.

The rainforests of Brazil had been a wonderfully enlightening place, and he had enjoyed his experiences there very much, even when he’d had to suffer through what seemed to be a minor case of the flu. Coming home, Blair had immediately started the fall semester, teaching a full load of classes and doing his usual thing. Sure, he'd been more tired, more run down, but he'd attributed it to getting older; he was nearly thirty, and his youthful vigor had to give in some time. It wasn't until he passed out after a staff meeting that he thought he might go to his doctor.

A week and a half later, and more tests than he could remember, came the outcome. His heart was damaged beyond repair, a result of a tropical infection he'd picked up in Brazil. The only solution was a heart transplant, and since in all other areas, he was perfectly healthy, he was judged a viable candidate.

Now, four months after the transplant, a year after initial diagnosis, Blair's life was completely changed. He no longer taught, unable to be around a large number of people and their respective germs lest he get an infection. His outings were limited, both in duration and scope. But his weekly check ups had changed to bi-monthly. And the doctors were very pleased with his recovery thus far. Now all he had to do was keep the money coming in to pay for his meds, and the home health care nurse that came in twice a week, and the rent that was due regardless, as the management said, of his illness, plus all the other bills that came monthly.

Thinking about his finances again, Blair sat down at his desk and pulled out his checkbook. Time to transfer some money outta savings, he sighed, and picked up the phone. Paying some bills, Blair thought back to the early years with his mom.

Growing up, Blair had never really wondered how he and Naomi had managed to travel despite her never working. It wasn't until he was in his teens that he found out about the trust fund that supported them. Naomi's parents had died when she was seventeen, and she’d found herself living with the executor of their will, who was also named as her guardian. The day she turned eighteen, she left and never looked back, just collecting monthly allotment checks.

Once Blair decided to start college, a small fund had been set up for him, financing his whole education, and upon receiving each of his degrees, more money would appear in his education fund. Or as he referred to it, his 'smart bastard' fund. But regardless of the money, Blair still worked to pay his own way, only withdrawing funds when there was no other way to pay his tuition or for car repairs. Blair was a self-made man.

When the day came that he'd had to stop teaching and concentrate on his health, he'd turned to the money he'd long ago pushed aside. Blair still wrote articles for anthropology magazines, psychology journals, and anywhere else that would accept them. He also set up a website about anthropology, and spent many hours answering questions that it generated, occasionally from former students at Rainier.

It was a hard thing, giving up teaching, but there hadn't been any other option after getting his transplant; it was just too much of a threat to expose himself to large groups of people with any number of infections. But even giving up teaching hadn't been as hard as giving up his freedom. Dating, shopping, going to the movies, even going to the library were things he'd had to give up, especially in the first few months after his transplant, and even now, they were things he tried to do in the 'off' hours. He would go to the early movie when it played the cheap, thus smaller, theaters. He'd go to the library as soon as it opened. He frequented the grocery store that was open 24 hours a day at two in the morning. But dating had dropped off to nil. How was he going to meet someone when he was staying at home most of the time?

Thinking about his non-existent dating life depressed him even more, and considering it was Valentine's Day, Blair felt totally cut off from the world. Naomi hadn't called since the middle of January, but he'd gotten a post card from her last week, and she was happy, in love and sunbathing topless in the south of France. Except for Trina and Janelle, his home health care nurse, Blair had no other visitors.

Looking at the plant Trina brought him that morning, Blair had to smile; it was a barrel cactus. She'd included a card that read, 'It reminds me of you, because it can be transplanted and still keep fighting!'

Feeling decidedly less like a fighter and more like a monk, Blair plopped down on the couch and turned to his only constant companion, the computer. He had a cable modem installed in his apartment so he could have access to his email and the internet without the waiting of some dial-up mail services. And with the freedom of unlimited service, Blair had spent hours surfing the web, finding many interesting things. First, the porn, both female and male, and then later, support groups for transplant patients. It helped talking to people who understood, who knew what he was going through. He'd also taken to reading two newspapers a day, and had subscribed to numerous news magazines to keep his mind active.

But it still wasn't human contact.

When was the last time a lover touched me? When was the last time I kissed a woman? Or for that matter, a man?

Hitting the year mark, Blair stopped counting. If he wanted any sexual contact, it would have to be with his loyal right hand. Or for variety, his left hand.

But, he rationalized, a hand doesn't want you to sleep on the wet spot or make breakfast in the morning, and it already has a commitment.

Shrugging off his bathrobe, Blair pulled up his porn bookmarks and debated between male and female, then proceeded to jerk off, though it was unsatisfying, and he felt lonelier afterwards. It was, at least, some relief, and that was something.

***

Saturday, March 24, 2001 - 6:45 p.m.

Jim straightened his tie for the third time, and checked his reflection again.

"What are you doing?" he asked his reflection.

Turning to leave the relative safety of the restaurant's bathroom, Jim plastered a smile on his face and went back to his date.

Kyle Travis was an assistant district attorney, thirty-five, tan, tall and very handsome. The moment Jim had walked into his office Monday, Kyle had shown his interest, and had pursued Jim with a fervor that made Jim blush with its intensity. There had been no way Jim could have said no. And in truth, he hadn't wanted to, so lonely for a little bit of human companionship.

So, now they were sitting across from each other at Strapazza's, drinking red wine and talking, and all Jim could think of was how he wished he were home watching television.

"...so I told her there was no way I would sue her ex-husband for visitation rights for their dog." Kyle paused, waiting for a reaction, and then continued, "You haven't heard a word I've said, Jim."

Guilty eyes flashed up to meet Kyle's deep brown ones.

"I'm sorry, Kyle," Jim said, taking a sip of his wine.

"No, Jim, it’s okay. If you'd rather not have dinner, that's fine. I just thought you were interested."

"I am," Jim said. "It's just been a long week, you know."

"Sure, sure."

Their dinners arrived, and they ate in silence. Over coffee, Kyle tried again to interest Jim, making a not so subtle overture, and inviting Jim back to his place and into his bed.

But Jim couldn't accept. He'd had enough one night stands to know that he was looking for more. He was looking for a connection to someone, an interest that went past physical; he was looking for someone to love and be loved by. Nothing about Kyle Travis made him want to know more.

"I wish I could, Kyle," Jim said carefully, not wanting to hurt Kyle unnecessarily, "but just recently I lost someone close to me, and I'm just not ready. I thought I was..."

"Oh."

"I really am sorry. I didn't mean to lead you on."

"No, you didn't. I was just hoping.... Thank you for being honest with me, Jim."

The check came then, and Jim insisted on paying. Kyle let him. They left in separate cars and went home alone.

At home, Jim stripped to his boxers and watched the news and then Sports Center. Feeling an emptiness inside, Jim got a glass of milk, hoping it would help. Finally, he went to bed, the empty feeling accompanying him, and he realized that it had nothing to do with food or drink. He was alone, and empty inside. And deep down, he knew that if he had gone home with Kyle, he would have been even more alone.

He lay in bed for a long time before he fell asleep, and he wondered how long a person could live when they were empty.

***

Saturday, April 14, 2001 – 7:15 p.m.

Fuck, I hate blind dates Blair thought, trying to decide what to wear. How did I let Trina talk me into this again?

Trina had insisted Blair get out and start meeting people. It had been six months since his transplant, it was time to face the world again, and stop hiding out in his apartment. He had agreed to call Marianne, not actually intending to make a date, but Trina had seen through his facade, and made the call herself.

Blair looked at the clock. Jeez, she'll be here in fifteen minutes!

He finally picked out a dark blue dress shirt, but noticed it was wrinkled. Tucking it into his black jeans, he knew there wasn't enough time to iron it, so he hurriedly sorted through a pile of sweaters before settling on a tan one that had stripes of blue running across it. He pulled on a second pair of thick wool socks, and slipped his fleece lined hiking boots on. While it was mid-April, most nights still dropped down into the 40's, and he was taking no chances on catching a chill.

Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, Blair deliberated between pulling his hair back or leaving it down. What the hell does it matter? She's not gonna like me, and I'm not gonna like her Blair resigned himself. It was better not to get his hopes up.

Leaving it down, Blair flipped the bathroom light off and went to find his wallet and keys.

Forty-five minutes later the doorbell rang.

"Blair?" Marianne asked when he had opened the door.

"Yes-"

"God, I'm so sorry. Would you believe I got half way out the door and my mother called? She wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise, talking and talking. And finally when I told her..."

Blair tuned her out, nodding in the appropriate places. He finally got her out the door and they walked to the Italian restaurant around the corner, and she never stopped talking.

"What are you gonna order?" Marianne asked, not pausing to let Blair answer. "I'm a vegetarian, but I don't mind if you want to eat an animal. I mean, who's to know..."

Blair smiled and ordered a beer when the waitress came around.

"Beer? With Italian food?" Marianne said with some distain. "And in your condition?"

"My condition?" Blair managed to say when she took a breath.

"Well, with your poor heart. Oh god, should I have driven us over here? I never even thought about it. You know, my aunt..."

Blair surveyed the menu looking for just the right...

"The veal looks good," he quietly mused.

"Veal!" her voice echoed loudly.

Nodding, Blair listened to her rant.

"Do you know how..."

He tuned her out, and ordered pasta primavera when the waitress dared to come take their order.

"Do you believe how rude she was? I can't believe..."

Blair sat across from Marianne and counted the minutes until he could go home. He couldn't decide if he just wanted some silence or if he wanted to call Trina and ask her what kinds of drugs she was taking to make her think that he would get along with Marianne.

Blair wasn't sure how Marianne finished her dinner with all her talking, but when the waitress asked if they wanted dessert, Blair took charge of the conversation.

"No, we'll just take the check, please."

"Oh," Marianne said, obviously looking forward to dessert. Then he saw the mental gears shift in her head.

"Sure," she said, "we can have dessert at your place."

He couldn't believe her gall. When had he given her any signals that he was interested in any sort of physical contact with her?

"Actually, Marianne, I can't have dessert anymore." She looked confused. "You know, in my condition."

Blessedly, that shut her up. Silence reigned as he paid for dinner, and they walked back to his apartment. With a sympathetic pat on his shoulder, Marianne left.

Laughing to himself, Blair let himself into his apartment, and back into his peace and quiet.

***

Tuesday, May 8, 2001 – 11:15 a.m.

Gripping his head in pain, Jim wished for death.

It had all started two weeks ago with a stake out. He had spent five days alone, watching the silent house from a makeshift shelter in the tree line, waiting for a suspect to show. The suspect had eventually been picked up in Seattle, and the ringing of Jim's cell phone was his first clue something was wrong. He had fallen over, paralyzed by the loud, uncompromising sound. Eventually, he'd been able to turn the phone off and try to recover. He brushed it off and packed his stuff to go home.

In the truck, he'd been overwhelmed by an odor so intense, he'd actually had to stop and get out. Realizing a little later that it was his own body odor he had smelled, Jim had driven home hastily and taken a shower, the truck windows open wide.

Halfway through his shower, he had noticed the way the soap felt. Or rather, the way the soap didn't feel. It wasn't as soft and smooth as usual, it felt gritty and filmy, and it made his skin itch. He had washed off in pure water for several long minutes until his skin felt somewhat normal.

He wasn't even sure how to explain the next two occurrences. He just knew that the intensity of them scared him, and made him seriously doubt his sanity.

He had gone into the kitchen for a glass of water, filling it straight from the tap. The first taste made him frown. The second made him spit the water out. The water didn't taste right; he could taste iron and fluoride, and it was so strong, too strong. He had then held the glass up to the light and...nothing. He had 'woken' up on the floor, a broken glass and a puddle of water beside him.

His first thought was that he'd been poisoned or drugged somehow, and he’d immediately taken a sample of the water and gotten dressed and gone to the police lab to have his blood tested. The results on both the water and his blood had come back normal. He hadn't been sure what to think, but he bought bottled water after that, and was more than normally wary of eating or drinking anything he couldn't control.

But the incidents continued to happen.

Like today. He'd been doing laundry, and after starting the whites, he'd gotten a terrible, pounding headache, and the smell of the bleach had been exceptionally strong, making him gag.

These fits struck him randomly, ranging in severity from incapacitating to distracting, and he was never sure what set them off. Jim had visited his primary care physician, and he had found nothing wrong. In fact, he had told Jim that he was in wonderful condition for a man of his age. Jim had insisted on x-rays and further tests to rule out any possibility of debilitating disease, and paid out of his own pocket for the reassurance the clean test results gave him. But still the fits happened.

Ibuprofen helped with the headaches, but it upset his stomach, which was fine because most food didn't agree with him anyway. Comfy cotton undershirts and boxers helped with the itchy, red skin. He wore sunglasses a lot to avoid the glaring lights.

As a last option, he was considering going to a psychiatrist. He just didn't know what to do, only that he couldn't live like this for much longer. There had to be a solution.

***

Friday, May 11, 2001 – 12:20 p.m.

Blair glanced at the cafeteria clock and fiddled impatiently with his straw. Trina was meeting him for lunch, and she was late. The cafeteria at the hospital was a busy place, so Blair had gone ahead and gotten his lunch and a table.

"Sorry, sorry," Trina said, setting her tray down.

"It's okay," Blair said with a smile.

He let her get two bites into her salad before he dropped his bombshell.

"I want to meet the family."

"What?" she asked, pausing mid-bite.

"I need to meet the family."

She knew exactly who he was talking about; they had discussed it before and after his transplant, and he had decided that not knowing about the person whose heart was beating inside him, would be for the best. And now he wanted to know.

"Why?"

"Tri, I don't know if I can explain it. I just feel this," he paused as if searching for the right word, "compulsion to know whose heart is inside me."

"It's your heart, Blair."

"But who had it before me? What was he like? Or she, what was she like?" Blair said, frustrated, running his hands through his hair. "Trina, I need to know."

Staring at him for a long minute, she decided. "Okay, I'll get the information."

"Thank you!"

***

Monday, May 21, 2001 – 8:15 a.m.

Late spring was slowly giving way to summer. The spring blossoms were full and fragrant in the well-kept flowerbeds in Chandler Park. The smell of fresh cut grass hung in the air, the morning dew still clinging where the bright sunshine hadn't warmed it away.

The park was virtually empty at the early hour. A few joggers were making their rounds, and a faithful pair of older men were setting up a chessboard on one of the many tables in the sunlight. It was silent except for an occasional bird calling out its morning greeting.

Blair felt peaceful sitting in the warmth of the sun, feeling its healing rays. The almost reverent feel to the morning filled him with hope for his meeting, assuring him that this was the right thing to do, the necessary thing.

Trina had told him what she could about his organ donor. It had saddened Blair when he learned that Andy had not had any family, but Trina had quickly told him about Andy's partner, about Jim Ellison, and how he had never left Andy's side, even when the doctors had told him it was hopeless.

In fact, when she was seeking information about Andy, Tammy Little, who had handled Andy's paperwork, had spoken glowingly about Jim Ellison and his devotion to Andy. Though she had done her job numerous times before and since, no one had stuck with her as much as Andy and Jim. She had helped Trina set up the meeting, believing that it was the right thing to do.

Now Blair sat on a park bench waiting to meet Andrew Chase's partner, Detective Jim Ellison. Jim was supposed to be bringing coffee, and that was how Blair was to recognize him. Blair was nervous, not knowing exactly what to expect, and yet wanting to expect some kind of epiphany at the momentous meeting. He still wasn't sure what had been driving him to this meeting, but it was beating strong within his heart. His and Andy's heart.

"Blair?"

Heart pounding, Blair turned his head and looked up into the most sensitive blue eyes he had ever seen.

"Jim?"

Smiling broadly, Jim nodded and offered his hand.

Blair couldn't catch his breath; there was something so compelling about this man, something that was calling out to him on all levels. Looking at Jim's outstretched hand, Blair had a moment of premonition, that if he took Jim's hand, he would never be able to let go. And with a smile, he realized that this was exactly what he'd been looking for.

He took Jim's hand.

"It's nice to meet you."

"You, too."

Jim opened a sack and pulled out two Styrofoam cups.

"I wasn't sure how you took it," Jim said apologetically.

Smiling, Blair said, "With a little cream."

Jim thoughtfully removed the lid, careful of the steam, and added creamer, then handed it to Blair.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Blair noticed that Jim added some sugar to his coffee, and then they sat there in silence sipping their coffees. Jim pointed out a squirrel scampering across the lawn. Blair watched Jim look across the park, the detective's eyes taking in everything. Blair laughed when a second squirrel joined the first, and they chased each other. Jim watched Blair laugh, and noticed the way his eyes sparkled.

Jim finished his coffee, reached for Blair's empty cup and disposed of them efficiently, and then stood in front of Blair.

Looking up Jim's length, Blair found himself admiring every inch, feeling the heat of attraction surge through him. When his eyes met Jim's, it was as if Jim could read every thought in Blair's head, and Jim then returned the admiring gaze. Jim's eyes caressed Blair's face, his hair, his shoulders; he could smell desire, Blair's desire, and unlike other prior instances, Jim was pleased with having this special gift.

Stretching out his hand, Jim held his breath and waited to see if Blair would take it.

Smiling wholeheartedly, Blair stood and took Jim's hand.

They walked down the paved path, slowly, meandering along, not in any hurry. There was a special aura that surrounded them, and they were loath to speak and possibly break the spell.

Near the pond, they sat again, closer than they had earlier; they still held hands. The sun was overhead, and its heat, combined with their generated heat, made Blair start to sweat a bit. Jim released Blair's hand, and he reached for the collar of Blair's jacket and helped him take it off. Smiling in gratitude, Blair couldn't help but stare at Jim's face, studying his lips, his serious eyes. And then suddenly, like a cold breeze, Jim's eyes were vacant pools.

"Jim?" There was no response. "Jim, tell me what's happening!" Blair tried to keep calm, knowing he had to help Jim.

Gripping Jim's hand tightly, Blair squeezed, and said, "Jim, come back to me. Talk to me."

And as suddenly as it had started, the warmth was back in Jim's eyes.

"Are you okay?" Blair asked, rubbing Jim's hand against his face.

"Yeah. Yes," Jim said, softly. "I'm sorry."

"What happened?"

"I don't know. It's like one minute I was looking into your eyes," Jim smiled, "and the next, I don't know...it felt like I was falling in."

"Falling into my eyes?"

"Falling into you." Jim smiled shakily at Blair. "I hope that's okay."

"Yes," Blair said, nodding happily. "It's very okay."

Jim slipped his arm around Blair's shoulder, and Blair leaned into the embrace. Blair was unsettled; something about that spell of Jim's had touched off alarms in his head. There was something so familiar about the way Jim had zoned out... oh, god!

"What's wrong?" Jim asked, hearing, but not understanding how it was possible, Blair's heart pounding.

"Nothing," Blair said, smiling reassuringly. "I'm okay."

Jim didn't say anything, but kept studying Blair.

"I used to teach anthropology at Rainier. Before."

"Do you miss it?" Jim asked softly.

"Yes, some of it."

Nodding in understanding, Jim remained silent.

"Let me tell you about my dissertation."

And with that, Blair opened up a whole new world of possibilities to Jim. The same possibilities and options that Jim had opened up for Blair when he had donated Andy's organs.

It was a beginning.

To be continued...

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Author's Acknowledgements: First, I have to say that I have NEVER seen the movie "Return to Me" with David Duchovny and Minnie Driver, regardless of the similarities between this story and that movie. Hell, I didn't even know they were similar until one of my friends commented on how close I was to that script, and how great this was gonna be for the movie ezine! Jeez! :)

Thank you to Amy for being my medical point of contact. I tried to be as realistic as possible without being too graphic. I also used a medical reference site, so anything wrong is ultimately my fault.

Thank you to Diana for betaing my work. As always. And for rewording awkward passages and making sure my message was clear. You make me shine.

Thank you to Patt and Mary for their constant support (read slave driving!) when I was writing and when I wasn't.

And final thanks to all the other wonderful people who are so supportive and encouraging. {{{Hugs}}}