“All done.” Ben pulled the tourniquet from Blaine’s arm, turning to throw it in the trash. “I appreciate you coming all the way out here on such short notice, I really thought I had more than that.”
Blaine smoothed the tape on his forearm and rolled down his sleeve, watching as Ben slid the vials of drawn blood into a dark plastic envelope. “No problem. I was planning on coming to see you soon anyway.”
Ben raised a brow at him, peeling off his gloves before adjusting his glasses. “Not having trouble with your medications again, are you? I thought we finally had that sorted out.”
“No, nothing like that.” Pushing himself from the chair, Blaine moved toward the counter to look at the label on the envelope. He visited Ben’s office after hours more often than during daylight, though it was a matter of convenience now, rather than necessity. But he didn’t visit as frequently anymore, no longer needing the blood supply only a doctor could give him. Convenience had forged their friendship, though it wasn’t as if Ben didn’t benefit. He’d kept Blaine fed in return for a chance to study him. A debt of gratitude kept him coming back for Ben’s research. “Just a question, that’s all.”
“You can ask questions over the phone, you know.” Ben frowned, scratching the short stubble on his dark scalp.
“And miss out on your company?” Blaine smirked, giving his friend a thoughtful look. “You doing all right? It’s not like you to forget to shave.”
Startled, Ben put a hand to his face. His jaw sported nothing more than a five o’clock shadow. Then his eyes sparked with understanding and he laughed, rubbing the new growth on top of his head. “Yeah, yeah. Just been working late a lot, that’s all. Thought I’d let it grow out a little. Might as well give myself a chance to enjoy having hair before it all goes gray.”
Blaine’s smile faded.
Ben blinked. “What?”
“Nothing,” Blaine muttered, crossing his arms. He jerked his head toward the sleeve of blood samples, changing the subject. “What’s with the black bag?”
“A thought I had the other day,” Ben said. “You know how the best ideas always pop up in the shower? Sometimes I think I should just live in there until I get this figured out. I’ve been over your blood with a fine-tooth comb. It still tests immune for everything under the sun, but the antibodies aren’t normal. I’ve thought for a while I might be missing something. Then I thought, hey, maybe it’s something I need to look for in the dark.”
Blaine glanced over his shoulder, to the darkened window with the shades still open.
“That’s what made me think of it.” Ben adjusted his white lab coat before tucking his hands into the pockets. “Remember that time I put you under one of those grow lights to see what would happen?”
Groaning, Blaine rolled his eyes. “Wish I didn’t.”
“Hey, I didn’t expect you’d burn that fast. But it did get me thinking; what if there’s something I’m missing because it’s burning up in UV light before I can catch it?”
“How could that be, though?” Blaine asked. “I’m in daylight all the time now.”
“But your blood isn’t. I figured it’s worth a shot, either way. It’s one thing I haven’t tried yet.”
“Worth a shot,” Blaine agreed.
“Yeah. Anyway, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sweep you under the rug. What was that question you were gonna ask me?” Ben grinned, his teeth as white as his coat, stark against his dark skin. He leaned against the counter, the picture of cheerful patience.
Blaine tried not to grimace. “About… options.”
“Infertility treatments. I promised Angie I would ask,” he added hurriedly.
Ben’s eyebrows climbed his forehead. “Are you serious?”
Dropping his dark eyes to the floor, Blaine shrugged. “We’ve been trying for a while. Sort of. Angie got the go-ahead from her doctor and we just kind of went from there.”
“How long have you been trying?” Ben asked.
This time, Blaine did grimace. “Year and a half or so.”
Ben exhaled sharply, rubbing the back of his neck. “Oh. Well. I mean, you’re both into your thirties now and that can make a difference for a woman’s fertility for sure. It’s not uncommon for it to take upwards of a year, but I know your case is a little outside the norm. Has she talked to her doctor about it yet?”
“She’s got an appointment next week, she was just hoping we could get a rough idea of what to expect.” Blaine found himself tightening his arms against his chest. He didn’t like the sympathetic look his friend gave him, though he’d known it was coming.
Ben sighed. “Well, there are drugs, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination… Sometimes a surgery is necessary for one partner or the other. I can’t really tell you what you’re looking at for Angie, I’m not her doctor.” He pushed his glasses up again. “But it might not be her, especially considering your medical history. Honestly, I wish you’d brought this up before you started. We could have saved some time.”
“I thought you said I was back to normal?” Blaine nodded toward the blood samples. “I mean, aside from whatever’s in there that makes me immune to disease.”
“You are, as far as I know, but that doesn’t mean anything.” Ben shrugged. “A good third of couples with infertility problems can pin the problem on the man. If that’s the case, IVF might be one of the better options for you guys. If you want to go ahead and start looking at that route, we could do a semen analysis, see if that’s a good choice for you to consider.”
“Maybe,” Blaine muttered. Then he sighed, scrubbing a hand through his dark hair. “Sure. We’ll do that. What other kinds of tests go with this?” He tolerated Ben’s research because he owed it to him, but he wasn’t fond of medical poking and prodding, something his friend knew well.
“Depends on how the analysis comes back. If everything checks out healthy, probably nothing. If not, we’d have to check for blockages or problems with the plumbing. Can’t tell you how long it’d take, we don’t know how far we’re going yet. Now,” Ben pushed himself from the counter, taking the packet of vials with him. “When was the last time you had sex?”
“Excused,” Ben said, irritated. “If you want me to do doctor stuff for you, you’d better be okay with me asking doctor questions. It’s best to give it a few days after ejaculation before collecting a sample to-”
Blaine cut him off with a groan, burying his face in his hands. “Just bring me a cup!”
Ben raised his empty hand in a gesture of defeat, turning toward the door. “All right, all right. I’ll send one with the nurse. I’m going to take these samples to the lab and make sure storage is squared away. I’ll give you half an hour or so to do your thing. If you need a magazine or something, just-”
“Ben,” Blaine growled.
“Just ask the nurse,” Ben finished, giving him a reprimanding look. “Come on, man, you’re not making my job easy. Gonna start charging you for visits if this is how you’re gonna be.” He grumbled on his way out the door, pausing in the hallway. “Half an hour, and you better have your pants on when I get back!”
Rolling his eyes as the door clicked shut, Blaine turned to face himself in the mirror above the sink. For the hundredth time since that weekend, he found himself checking the hair at his temples.