Author's note: things aren't what they seem. Something very horrible is implied here - be warned.
Daryl scrunched deeper into the shadows and tried to control the sobbing. He hurt so much - and he was frightened at his lack of control. The paramedic in front of him was murmuring soothingly, trying to get closer, but Daryl would have none of it. He'd seen the horror in the patrolman's eyes and the pity in hers, and wanted nothing more than to make it all go away.
Dirt ground against his naked buttocks and he'd pulled his knees up to at least cover his dignity. The jeans and jockey's he'd been wearing puddled out of reach at his ankles. He'd crawled back into the alley with every advance they'd made until he was jammed into the darkest corner he could find. His head hurt, his body hurt - the pain was everywhere.
When they'd realized he was only freaking out worse they'd offered to call his mom - who was out of town, thank God - or his dad. Daryl hadn't wanted his father to see him this way - it was too humiliating, and his dad would totally freak. Daryl didn't want to do that to his father so he'd stammered out the name and address of the one guy who would be totally cool with all this. He'd accept Daryl as he was and make it all better.
The light from the headlights of the patrol car was blocked for a moment as two men hurried into his alley. Daryl groaned aloud and whispered,
"Please, not Jim."
He buried his face on his knees and missed the taller man stopping, and catching hold of the shorter one. They murmured together for a moment before the taller man retreated. The shorter one came forward and stopped behind the paramedic, bending to pick up the blanket beside her.
"Daryl? Can I come in?" his voice was gentle and quiet. Daryl gasped - how had Blair known?
"Yes," he sobbed and Blair stepped past the paramedic and folded the blanket around the boy's body. He knelt beside the sobbing teenager and cradled him close, whispering comfort and kindness into his ears. Daryl let it all go, resting his face into Blair's neck and crying out the humiliation. After a while Blair judged the storm to have passed and said gently.
"How about we get out of here, buddy? Let's get you to the hospital and let the doctor check you out. Sound good?"
"Ok," Daryl gulped, "I can walk."
Blair shook his head and tightened his grip a little.
"You should get on the stretcher, Daryl - you don't want to hurt yourself worse," he soothed, "I'll ride with you, I promise."
Blair let go slowly and inched back for the paramedics. The smell in the alley was getting to him and he wanted to get out of there. All hope of things going right disappeared when Daryl screamed and lunged straight for Blair, wrapping panicked arms around him and holding on for dear life. Blair accepted the embrace and began his soothing monologue again. It took a little longer this time.
"Don't go away! Don't leave me here!" Daryl finally choked out and Blair pressed the teenager's face into his shoulder.
"I won't leave you, Daryl. But the paramedics have to get in here. I've got to give them a little room," Blair explained reasonably. Reason was denied with a convulsive grip and emphatic head shaking.
"No! I don't want them touching me!" Daryl yelled and Blair sighed, before looking over at the paramedic.
"How far can you back the ambulance into the alley?" Blair asked her and her eyes widened a little in confusion.
"Not far - just to the entrance there. Why? What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to carry him. Go get the ambulance in place. Bring a torch back with you - I don't want to slip on anything and drop him," Blair's voice didn't allow for argument and she got up with a resigned expression on her face.
When everything was in place Blair shifted his grip, got his feet into place and staggered upright. Daryl was an awkward bundle, but not too heavy. The paramedic led them out, her torch picking out a clear path. She and her partner both had to help Blair into the back, and the curly haired man settled on the stretcher, with Daryl's body across his lap. The ride was quiet and Daryl seemed to calm down a little. Blair spared a thought for his partner - who was doubtless already at the hospital, restraining Simon from tearing the ER apart to get to his son. When Jim had first heard Daryl's frightened whisper he and Blair had agreed that Jim would go wait at the hospital for them to arrive. Jim would also call Simon to the hospital and give the comfort and support the older man would need until he could see his son.
Blair had to carry Daryl again to the cubicle that had been prepared and gently settled the boy on his side. Daryl wrapped his arms around Blair's neck, forcing Blair to bend over him to keep the contact bearable. The doctor knew from the two paramedics that the teenager wouldn't let anyone near without Blair and the following minutes would be better if the boy could stay calm and focused.
The doctor gently pulled the blanket away and bagged it for forensics before turning to touch his patient. The boy screamed in horror and jack-knifed on the bed.
"What are you doing?" he screamed and Blair held him closer.
"They need to check, Daryl," he murmured and Daryl realized he would have to explain every humiliating detail.
"No! They didn't! Blair, they just beat me up and they broke my hands," Daryl shoved his hands into the light, realizing that Blair hadn't seen them in the dark alley, "Then they laughed and pulled my trousers down - they knew I couldn't get them back up!"
"Shhh," Blair soothed, cradling the broken and bent hands against his chest and put his face up against Daryl's, "I believe you. I believe you, but they have to check it out. You were sitting in some nasty stuff, Daryl."
Daryl began to shake and tears fell. Blair laid him back on the mattress, turning him back on his side. He cupped Daryl's cheek and pressed his face against the teenager's.
"Trust me. Close your eyes," Blair whispered and ran his free hand along Daryl's side and legs, touching his back and thighs. After a while Daryl couldn't tell which touch was Blair's and which was the doctor's. And that was ok. Blair felt like his heart would burst at the trust and faith Daryl was placing in him.
The doctor looked up and nodded - the traces were all negative. Blair's eyes lost some of their fear and he nodded, continuing the caress as the doctor wiped away the dirt.
"It's all over now. The results were negative, son. Daryl, I'm going to go and get the portable x-ray in here," the doctor said gently, "We'll x-ray your hands and make sure nothing is hurt to badly. I'll be back soon."
As soon as she was gone Daryl opened his eyes and looked up into Blair's face.
"Um, Blair - is there a blanket? It feels kinda breezy," he managed a crooked smile and Blair smiled back.
"I can't see one - do you want me to go and find you one?" Blair offered and Daryl shook his head.
"No," Daryl sighed, "I'd rather you'd stayed."
"Ok, my friend," Blair replied, oblivious to the joy that shone in Daryl's eyes for a moment - he was Blair's friend! "Roll onto your back here and let go."
Daryl did as he was bid and Blair ran his hand down the outside of his leg. He pulled the underpants up and Daryl lifted his legs a little.
"Dig in with your elbows and lift up your hips," Blair coached and got the pants all the way up. He pulled the jeans up to
Daryl's knees and took off his own belt to thread through the loops. Daryl lifted his hips again and Blair secured the jeans
and belt. He pulled the teenager's shirt down and encouraged him to lie back again. Daryl was crying again, and Blair sat on the
bed with his hand on the boy's chest. Every now and then Blair leant forward to smooth away the tears. He worried about Jim and
Simon, but didn't spare too much energy for it - Daryl was his primary focus now.
Simon paced restlessly through the waiting area. Jim had met him at the hospital and gently manhandled his captain into submitting with the doctor's requests. They'd filled out all the forms - including permission for an internal exam. Simon's face was heart breaking and Jim had followed the doctor's voice. He'd relayed the negative result and held Simon close as the big man cried his relief. Blair had told him to filter out everyone but the doctor's voice so Simon would know what was happening, but Daryl's privacy would stay intact.
Simon had only asked once why Daryl would call Blair and not his father. Jim hadn't been able to answer the question. Deep in his heart Jim though it was because the teenager had wanted to protect his father, but how to explain that idea? Jim's silence hadn't eased the tension in Simon - especially as the older man knew that Jim had seen his son in the alley.
The doctor appeared as Simon paced away from the door and Jim called him over to her at once.
"Good news," she smiled, "All results are negative. His hands were hurt pretty badly, but after some time in splints and a few weeks of therapy he'll recover fully. We're moving him to the ward right now - just give us a few minutes and you can go straight in."
Jim made the right responses because Simon couldn't and then comforted his captain again. They walked slowly to the private room Daryl had been given and Jim stopped at the door.
"Jim - come with me," Simon grated, "Please - I don't know what to say to him."
Jim put a hand on Simon's arm and stepped up to the door.
Daryl was half-lying on the bed, still dressed and wearing Blair's belt. The lights were low, but neither one of them seemed to mind. Blair was sitting on the mattress, his hand on Daryl's shoulder. They were talking quietly - Jim stretched his hearing a little and realised that they were discussing school. The blankets were folded at Daryl's feet - obviously the teenager hadn't wanted to lie in bed. Both of Daryl's hands were encased in rigid plastic splints, his fingers padded and held immobile. Someone would have to help him do everything for the next little while - even scratching an itch would be impossible. Simon hesitated in the doorway until Daryl noticed him.
Daryl smiled a little shakily and held out his arms for his dad.
Blair and Jim stood in the corner by the window and said nothing. By unspoken agreement they looked out into the darkness and ignored the whispers behind them. Simon had bolted into his son's arms and Blair had backed off the bed, turning to Jim. The Guide was exhausted - Jim could see that the effort of caring for Daryl on no sleep after a hard day of work had used any reserves of energy that Blair had left. He leaned into his Guide, offering warmth and support. Blair leaned back gratefully and Jim heard his heart rate slow back to its normal resting rate.
"No! You need to sleep!" the protest made Blair whirl to check on Daryl, but he didn't move any closer.
"Son, I'm fine. I don't want you to be alone here," Simon said gently.
"But you've got that meeting with the Mayor tomorrow!" Daryl protested, "I want you to sleep, Dad, and you won't if you're here looking after me. Go home. Blair will look after me and tomorrow you can bring me some clean clothes and we can go - the doctor said I'm only here for observation."
Simon shot an unreadable look at Blair. The younger man hoped that his assistance to Daryl wouldn't be misconstrued here. He wasn't trying to replace Simon. Did the Captain understand that? Could Blair make him understand that?
"Jim - you take Dad home and stay with him tonight. You can have my room if you don't mind the mess. Then tomorrow before Dad's meeting you can drive him back and I'll get out of here," Daryl's voice was determined - a sure echo of his father's. Simon slumped a little and stood up. He shot another unreadable look at Blair.
"All right," he conceded, "When you sound like that I know I'm outgunned. I'll be here early tomorrow. I love you, son."
"I love you too, Dad," Daryl hugged his father close, and let go reluctantly. He reached a splinted hand out to Blair, who immediately moved back into reach and sat in the room's only chair. Simon left without another word. He was silent all the way home. He showed Jim Daryl's room and went silently to bed.
Jim knew neither of them would sleep well tonight - if at all.
Simon knocked on the door and entered hesitantly. Blair was laughing at a joke his son was telling and for a moment Simon could imagine everything was ok. His son's smile widened when Simon wished him good morning and his hug was warm and vibrant. Gone was the scared boy of last night and Simon felt a rush of gratitude to Blair for doing that.
"Cool! You brought some clothes! These are starting to smell," Daryl got up happily and headed for the bathroom, "C'mon, Blair - hurry up!"
Blair laughed and moved around the bed - tossing a note onto the rumpled blankets with Simon's name on it. Simon waited until the bathroom door closed and opened the note.
Simon - he slept the night through with no problems. He's eaten breakfast and the doctor says the splints are ok. He asked me to help him change before he went to sleep last night. Simon - he didn't want to make you worry - the alley was awful. I'm not trying to get in your way here. He needed a stranger last night - today he'll need you.
Simon felt his throat close a little - when had Blair become so good at reading minds? He'd found a way to answer Simon's questions before they'd been asked. The bathroom door opened and Simon stuck the note inside his jacket before turning. Daryl was walking towards him totally naked and a little embarrassed. Simon was a little surprised he'd let Blair see him that way - but then, Blair had been in the alley.
"Do you mind helping me dress?" Daryl asked awkwardly and Simon grinned.
"I didn't mind it when you were a baby, son. I don't mind at all," Simon told him and began pulling clothes out of the backpack he'd found in Daryl's closet. He caught a glimpse of Blair handing plastic wrapped clothes out to Jim for forensics and was relieved his detectives were still working the case as well as supporting his son. Blair's belt was also in the bag and he tugged at his jeans a little as he stepped over towards them and did up Daryl's shoes while Simon did up his shirt.
"We should go to the station," Daryl said as he settled in the car and let his Dad do up the seatbelt, "I have to give a statement."
"Are you sure? We could do it later if you want," Simon hesitated and Daryl nodded.
"I'm very sure," he said solemnly, "They're not getting away with this."
Jim and Blair were in the bullpen already when Simon and Daryl entered. The other detectives had all heard about the incident and the attending rumors. They greeted Daryl happily now, not crowding the teenager, but wanting to show support. Simon gestured Blair and Jim into his office and ushered his son and the two patrolmen in as well. They all sat at the conference table and the patrolmen got their notebooks ready.
"Just take your time, and use your own words," the senior man said quietly, "Tell us everything that you can remember. I might ask some questions at the end, but I want you to tell me what happened."
"It started at school on Monday," Daryl squared his shoulders, "This kid called Bob Samuel was yelling at his girlfriend and pushing her around a little. I got between them and pushed him back. He's on the football team, but Dad taught me about defending myself a little and attitude, so I managed to back him off. He told me I'd regret doing that, but I couldn't let him beat up on his girlfriend so I figured I'd be careful at school and let it go," Daryl's voice was determined, "I guess he and his friends decided to catch me off school grounds. I was looking for a birthday present - I'm not saying whose - and they grabbed me as I went past the alley. I recognized Samuel right away and I'm pretty sure I know who the others are. They said I'd never push someone again and they knocked me over and stomped on my hands."
Daryl's voice was still and he struggled to control his breathing. He leaned towards Simon, who draped an arm around him and waited until his son was calm again. No one spoke, giving Daryl the time he needed. Jim's jaw was clenched so hard Blair wondered if he'd shatter a tooth.
"Then Samuel said they'd pay me back some more and pulled my trousers down," Daryl's voice was softer now, "I was too embarrassed to go out for help. I knew what it looked like - and then a woman saw me and called the cops and they called an ambulance and then I asked for Blair. I knew what it looked like and I didn't want you to see me that way, Dad. I didn't want you to freak out like I was."
"Oh son," Simon leant over and hugged his son, whispering words of love and comfort into his ear.
Jim took Daryl to get a soda and Simon closed the door to look at Blair.
"I know what you're doing, Blair," Simon's voice was inescapable, "I know how you help him with the homework and how if Joan and I are fighting with each other or him he goes to you."
"Simon - I'd never try to come between you. He's your son. I just listen and then tell him to talk to you or Joan," Blair spoke rapidly and Simon raised a hand sharply, cutting off the flow of words. Simon walked over to where Blair was standing, invading Blair's personal space deliberately. He needed Blair to understand something here - something that he was just beginning to get himself. Something about family not just being blood or workmates. The two could combine - and thank God they had last night.
"Thank you for being there when he needs you. Thank you for acting like a big brother," Simon whispered and pulled Blair into a hug. He felt startled arms encircle him tentatively and tightened the embrace. They stood quietly for a moment as Simon thanked God that Jim Ellison had been born a Sentinel and met his Guide in Cascade.
"But if you ever encourage him to grow his hair and join a commune I'm coming after you!" Simon growled as he let go and Blair grinned at him.
Author's note: Thanks to Starfox for the help and suggestions! J
Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Shedoc.