Changes, continued...

Marty cradled the back of Thomas’ head in her left hand, while she squeezed water from the cloth over his hair. The room was warm, and Marty felt the sweat bead on her forehead and between her breasts. She didn’t trust her voice, so the only sound in the room was the gentle trickling of the water as she dipped the washcloth in the basin.

Marty opened the bottle of shampoo, and smiled at the mild, masculine scent. She had been pleasantly surprised to find the toiletries in the bathroom. She hated the antiseptic smell of the hospital brand. She poured some into her hand, and began lathering Thomas’ hair.

Thomas had closed his eyes and remained silent as well. However, as Marty began to scrub in earnest, Thomas smiled and opened his eyes. Marty’s breath caught as her eyes met his. She could not seem to look away, and spent several minutes trapped in his gaze, while her hands caressed his scalp of their own volition. Thomas was the first to break away.

“You have no idea how good that feels,” he whispered hoarsely, looking at the ceiling.

“Wait until you try out the bath...” Marty started, and nearly choked when she realized what she was saying.

“Is that an invitation?” Thomas asked, not daring to meet her eyes again.

“We’ll see…” Marty could not bring herself to say what she really felt at that moment. In fact, Marty had no words, only the image of Thomas partially submerged in the large tub; and she knew she wanted to be the one with the soap… Marty tried to shake off the image, and only partially succeeded.

After scrubbing and rinsing his hair several times, while Thomas softly moaned in pleasure, she gently toweled it dry. She bit her lip. His hair was a soft, sun-kissed gold, with glints of red. She wished she had an excuse to keep running her fingers through it. Marty removed the mat and towels from beneath his head, and replaced the headboard. She maneuvered the bed back into place against the wall, and raised the head of his bed. Thomas simply watched her, his crooked smile belying the intensity of his gaze.

Marty realized that in spite of the towels, the sheets and his johnnie were damp. The thought of calling an aid to change him was surprisingly unpleasant. She brushed his bangs to the side, and then suddenly realizing how comfortable that intimate gesture seemed, she thrust her hands into her back pockets and smiled. “Do you still want that shave?”

“Might as well, I’m soaked anyway.” He grinned as she shook her head.

She took a deep breath. His beard was much darker than his hair. She could not wait to shave it off.

“Well, in that case, are you sure you trust me with this?” She held up the razor, the light glinting on the blade.

“How many times have you done this?” He eyed the blade nervously. “You’ve never killed anyone, have you?”

“I think it’s a bit late to start asking questions, don’t you?” She flashed her most evil grin.

She set up the mirror on the bed table so he could watch. Marty sprayed the foam into her palm, and hesitated only a moment before reaching for his face. She tried to regulate her breathing as she applied the shaving cream. He was lathered up, and the smell and feel of shaving cream on his face added to his excitement. He almost felt… normal. Something dark rumbled in his mind, and he closed his eyes.

“I was teasing, I won’t hurt you.” She frowned. She recognized the fear, the doubt, and the pain. She put down the razor, and sat on the edge of the bed, so she could look him in the eye. “I mean it. I will never intentionally hurt you. I won’t lie to you. It’s not going to be easy, but I honestly believe we can make progress. You have to trust me, though. We have to believe in each other, okay? Now, hold still.”

“Yeah, like I have any choice.” He smiled to take the edge off the words.

“Oh my God, was that a joke?” They both laughed.

Marty scraped the blade across his skin. She took her time, because his beard was so thick. She knew when feeling was lost in one part of the body, it could be enhanced in the remainder. Thomas just watched at first, but after a few minutes, with Marty’s encouragement, began helping by performing the exaggerated facial expressions that used to be second nature. She concentrated on the task, silently biting her lip as she revealed his face.

She gently wiped his face after sponging off the remaining shaving cream. She could tell his skin was raw, despite the care she had taken.

“Don’t worry; I’ll fix you right up.” She was surprised when her voice cracked. She cleared her throat and reached for the shaving lotion. The setting sun was now shining through the window. His hair shone like gold. His jaw, now revealed was strong and firm. He was simply beautiful.

“Impressive. This stuff actually smells pretty good. You know… you look pretty fantastic without the beard.” She felt her face flame as she gently applied the lotion. She grinned like a fool, enjoying both the feel of his skin under her hands, and the look in his eyes.

“I’m sure.” He smiled. His mouth was full, expressive, and not quite symmetrical. She wanted to just stare at him. Suddenly, his face froze. He felt the moisture slip down his chin. He closed his eyes and turned away when she reached up with the towel, the moment shattered. “This is worse.” His voice was raw. “It seems more real. It doesn’t make any sense.”

She laid her hand on his shoulder. She squeezed gently. He turned to face here, eye to eye. “It seems more real, because it is. What has happened to you probably seems like a bad dream, a nightmare. I am going to help you to the best of my ability, beyond if necessary. You have to be here, though. You have to be here emotionally. That’s why it seems worse now. You are awake now. Welcome back.” She attempted a smile.

She willed him to stay with her as she held his gaze. His eyes filled with tears. She could see the rage, and beyond that, the pain. She instinctively moved her hand to the back of his neck, and slid closer. He did not shut her out. She could see that his jaw was clenched.

“Let it out…” she whispered, as she slid her arms around him. At first she thought she had misjudged him, but an instant later, she felt him shudder. He buried his face in her shoulder, and sobbed. She held him forever.

When he had stopped shaking she sat up and leaned back. She returned his hesitant smile.

“Do you do that for all your patients?” His voice was fragile, as if it hurt to speak.

“No.” She whispered as she wiped his cheeks. “I’m going to get a cool cloth for your face. Your eyes are all red.” She tried to laugh lightly, and failed miserably.

“You might want to check your own.” His voice followed her.

Marty kneeled in the bathroom with her head against the cool of the sink. She scrambled to collect herself. She had been shocked to discover tears streaming down her own face. She looked at her watch. She had been with Thomas long over the scheduled hour. At least it was the end of her day. She could do her notes at home. She reached up and turned on the water. She pulled herself shakily to her feet, and splashed cold water over her face. She puzzled over her dazed reflection as she rinsed the basin, and realized she was stalling.

He smiled that devastating smile when she emerged from the bathroom. “I was beginning to think you fell in.”

“I did.” She laughed, as she thought, in more ways than one. She gently smoothed the cool cloth over his face. “I am also WAY out of time for today. I don’t want them to think I over-worked you on your first day… look at this mess!” She removed the cloth. He was still smiling.

“You’re rambling. And anyway, you can’t leave yet. If you leave me like this, I could catch a chill.” He gave a half-shrug, indicating the damp sheets and johnnie.

Marty looked at the clock. She was a little surprised that no one had come into the room in the time she had spent with him. She knew dinner would not be brought around for another hour or so.

“When did they last check your vitals, or re-position you?”

“I don’t know, a couple of hours ago, I guess.” He looked sheepish. “I haven’t been the nicest guy, and the nurses only come in when they have to.”

Marty made a show of checking his chart, pushing the half-formed thoughts away, only to have them push back. She chanced a look at Thomas, and the smoldering gaze he sent back made up her mind.

“My parents usually show up right before dinner…” He answered her unspoken question. “I don’t get any other visitors.”

“Right. I’ll get the linens.”

To be continued...