Hi, everyone! I'm back! I REALLY hope you like this new chapter because I worked really hard on it, and I love the way it turned out! PLEASE R&R! :D

Chapter 12: Special

Carlos was in the hospital for another week until the doctor deemed the swelling around his spinal cord dissipated enough….however, there was still no feeling in his legs, and he couldn't move them even the slightest bit. Everyone, including the doctor, tried to stay optimistic, but it did nothing to lift Carlos' spirits. The reality was beginning to sink in: there was a very good chance that he would never walk again.

When he was released from the hospital, he was in a wheelchair, and he was fighting to keep from crying as James wheeled him out the door and into the parking deck where Mrs. Knight's red SUV was parked. He almost lost it when James had to pick him up and place him in the car. It was even worse when they got back to the Palmwoods. The lobby was moderately crowded, as always, and Carlos felt humiliated when he had to wheel across in front of everyone. He felt like every eye in the room was on him, picking him apart and judging him for what they saw on the outside. He just wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out. He spent most of the rest of that day laying under the covers in his and James' room, crying off and on and trying to force his numb legs to move or twitch or do something to give him a spark of hope. But nothing happened, and he would just cry again.

The next morning, the real challenge began: dealing with daily life while being paralyzed. Carlos felt even worse than he had the day before. He soon found that everyone had to help him with almost everything. At breakfast, he couldn't reach his favorite cereal from the upper cabinet, so Mrs. Knight had to hand it to him. She also had to wheel him over to the table because he couldn't wheel himself and hold his bowl at the same time. His only salvation was that his wheelchair actually fit in the kitchen. The sense of helplessness continued when James had to help him out of his wheelchair and into the sturdy, white plastic chair that Mrs. Knight had purchased at the hospital the day before and placed in the shower for him. James even had to help him in and out of his clothes, but Carlos could still wash himself off in the shower.

Later on, he tried to play some video games to pass the time, but he couldn't seem to concentrate, and his character kept getting killed by the bad guys. Sighing in frustration, he tossed the wireless controller onto the bed, and scooted over to turn the game system off. Just as he did that, the door to the bedroom cracked open, and James poked his head in.

"Hey, babe, Kendall and Logan are heading to the park, and they wanted to know if we wanted to go with them." he explained.

Carlos inwardly sighed; the last thing he wanted to do was wheel around the park with more people staring at him.

"You go ahead; I don't really feel like it." he answered.

"You sure? I mean, the fresh air might help you feel better." James said.

"I'm sure. I just kinda want to be alone right now." Carlos answered.

James would be lying if he said he wasn't worried about his boyfriend. He could tell that Carlos was bothered and upset about his whole situation. He wished more than anything that he could do something to help, but at the same time, he didn't want to press the matter further and end up upsetting Carlos more. The raven-haired boy had always been somewhat sensitive, and there was no telling how on-edge he was after everything that had happened.

"Okay. If you need me for anything, just call me; I've got my phone with me all the time." James replied.

He waited for Carlos' small nod, and he made sure to tell him 'I love you' before he left the room. Not a minute later, Carlos heard the front door open and close, and he was left in silence. It didn't bother him that his friends were headed to the park; he really did want to be alone right now both to do some thinking and so he wouldn't feel like a nuisance to everyone.

As he sat there, his thoughts drifted to the situation he was in, and his mind was filled with questions. What would happen if he really was paralyzed and he could never walk again? He knew he wouldn't be able to dance ever again, which tore him up inside. He absolutely loved to dance with his band mates both on-stage and in the studio. He got such a feeling of accomplishment whenever he mastered whatever new dance routine Gustavo threw at them. There would be no more dancing, no more swimming, no more taking walks in the park with James. His heart wrenched when he thought about that last one. He so loved the walks he and James would take sometimes, holding hands proudly in front of the whole world. Then, there was the fact that if he couldn't dance, then he couldn't perform on-stage. Would Gustavo or Griffin drop Big Time Rush from the record label? If that happened, he felt like it would be all his fault, and he would letting his best friends and their fans down.

Not wanting to get all emotional for what seemed like the millionth time since he was released from the hospital, he shook those thoughts from his mind, and reached down to wheel himself around the end of the bed and out of the room. He made his way down the hall to the living room where he saw Mrs. Knight tidying up in the kitchen.

"Oh, hi, sweetie. How you feeling? Do you need anything?" Mrs. Knight asked, her motherly instinct more than evident.

"No, I'm good. Thanks anyway." Carlos answered, pausing briefly before maneuvering across the room over to the window.

Mrs. Knight had let the blinds up, so there was a clear and perfect view of the busy pool area below. Usually, the pool area was a happy and relaxing sight for him, but not today; today it was a painful reminder of the fact that he was in a wheelchair. He missed being able to walk down there and swim and mingle with his friends, and just have fun. How could he ever have fun again if he couldn't walk? When he finally worked up to courage to go back down there, how would people look at him? Would they still see him as a friend, or would they view him as a weak invalid that wasn't worth their time?

As these thoughts ran through his mind, he felt a familiar tiny burning sensation in his eyes as fresh tears formed. He tried to stay quiet as he let the tears fall, but his breath involuntarily hitched, and he sniffled loudly. He knew Mrs. Knight had heard him when a gentle hand appeared on his left shoulder.

"Are you okay, sweetie?" she asked softly.

"N-no." the raven-haired boy answered through tears.

"What's bothering you?" Mrs. Knight asked as she seated herself on the back of the couch next to Carlos.

"I'm s-scared. I don't know wh-what I'm gonna do if I can't walk again. I won't be able dance or perform, and that'll p-probably be the end of Big Time Rush. I can't s-stand having to have help doing everything. I just f-feel like a bother to everybody." Carlos just poured out, "A-and what about James? I can't be the boyfriend I'm supposed to be if I'm in a wheelchair. N-nobody wants a disabled boyfriend."

Mrs. Knight listened quietly and intently to everything Carlos said, and when he was finished, she reached out to sympathetically rub her hand along his quivering shoulders.

"Everything you're feeling is perfectly normal. There isn't a doubt in my mind that you will be able to walk again, but just think, if you aren't, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're disabled. There are paralyzed people who live perfectly normal lives everyday. And if you are paralyzed, that doesn't mean that Big Time Rush is suddenly over. You can still sing, and if people in wheelchairs can compete in the Olympics, I know we'll figure out some way for you to perform on stage." she explained comfortingly, "And as far as your relationship with James goes, the fact that you're sitting down doesn't change anything. I've seen the way he interacts with you since you've been home, and I know he doesn't see you any different. He loves you."

Trying to quell his tears, Carlos took a moment to process everything Mrs. Knight had just said. The thought never even crossed his mind about the possibility of performing in a wheelchair. That guy on Glee does it all the time, he suddenly thought, if he can do it, why can't I? He also suddenly thought that being able to perform on stage in a wheelchair would look really cool. He still wanted more than anything to be able to walk again, but now he saw that if he couldn't it wasn't the end of the world. He couldn't believe that he'd felt like he was at rock bottom this whole time, and a simple little pep-talk from Mrs. Knight could make it all better.

"How in the world do you always know what to say to make everyone feel better?" he asked, sniffling softly as he reached up to wipe away his subsiding tears.

"I guess it's all part of being a mom." Mrs. Knight answered, very satisfied that she'd managed to shoo away the metaphorical storm clouds that had formed over Carlos' head, "Now, you wanna come help me put the dishes away?"

Carlos raised his eyebrows slightly; that was the first time since he'd been home that someone asked for his help with something. Normally, he hated putting away the dishes, but it was so nice to be asked to help with something and to not feel like a nuisance to anyone, he didn't mind.

"Sure." he answered with a smile.

With that, Mrs. Knight stood up from her seat on the back of the couch, and waited for Carlos to turn and wheel toward the kitchen before she followed him.

About an hour later, Carlos was in his and James' room, reading the latest edition of Helmet Magazine when the slightly-open door swung the rest of the way open, and James stepped inside, holding a blue smoothie in each hand.

"Hey, I didn't hear you come in." Carlos greeted, happy to see his boyfriend again(he was especially happy to see him after the little talk he and Mrs. Knight had had earlier).

"We've been know to make a quiet entrance every now and then." James kidded with his usual charming smile, "I brought you a smoothie since it's been so long since you had one."

He stepped around to the other side of the bed where Carlos sat in his wheelchair, and handed the frozen blueberry-flavored treat to him.

"Thanks." Carlos said as James seated himself on the edge of the bed, and began to sip at his own smoothie.

As soon as the smooth, cold treat hit his tongue, Carlos was in blueberry heaven. He just wanted to suck the smoothie through the straw until he got a brain-freeze.

"Mrs. Knight told me about the little talk you two had earlier." James said after a minute or two.

"She did?" Carlos asked, not sure what his boyfriend was getting at.

"Yeah. She said that after you two talked, you seemed to be feeling a lot better." James punctuated his sentence by taking another sip of his smoothie.

"I am feeling better. She helped me see that even if I am paralyzed, it's not the end of the world. She said we could even figure out a way for me to perform on stage in a wheelchair." Carlos explained.

"See, I told you everything was gonna be okay." James smiled, "She, um….she also told me what you said about us. How you felt like a bother to me, and how you didn't think you could be the boyfriend that you're, quote-unquote, supposed to be."

Carlos stopped sipping his smoothie, and just stared at the floor; he didn't know Mrs. Knight would tell that part of the conversation.

"Baby, nothing could be farther from the truth." James said when it was obvious that Carlos wasn't going to say anything, "You could never be a bother to me. I love you no matter what. The fact that you're temporarily in a wheelchair doesn't change anything."

He made sure to put special emphasis on the word 'temporarily' to reassure Carlos that he had the utmost faith that he would walk again. The raven-haired boy gave a shy smile, and shifted his gaze from the floor to his boyfriend's face.

"Thanks." he whispered.

James smiled, too, and reached out to hold Carlos' free hand(the one not holding his smoothie) in his own.

"I love you." he said reassuringly.

"I love you, too." Carlos reciprocated, taking another sip of his scrumptious smoothie.


The next day was much better for Carlos than the previous day had been. He didn't wake up feeling the dread and helplessness he'd felt the day before. He still needed help doing many basic things like getting in and out of the shower, changing his clothes, and reaching things in the upper cabinets in the kitchen, but he took it all in strides and he didn't feel ashamed to accept help.

James could see a definite improvement in his boyfriend's demeanor. He was talking and socializing more, as opposed to staying in their room or under the covers like he had the day before. There was a bit of sparkle back in his eyes, and perhaps the greatest improvement was the fact that he was smiling again. James hadn't seen Carlos' beautiful smile in a good while, and it was still the most beautiful thing in the world to him.

However, James could tell that there was still something missing. Carlos still hadn't left the apartment in the two-and-a-half days since he'd been released from the hospital, and the two of them hadn't spent any quality time together since then, either. To put it simply, they hadn't gone on a date since their ordeal. James knew that the first step towards getting things back to normal was slowly re-establishing his and Carlos' love life. Of course, the physical side of things could wait until Carlos was sure he was ready, but there was nothing stopping them from enjoying each others company on a date. Carlos just needed a little something to help him feel special again.

Late that evening just after the sun went down, James made his way down the hallway to the room he and Carlos shared, a certain small, excited skip in his step because he had a special surprise planned out for his boyfriend. When he opened the door, he found the raven-haired boy sitting in his wheelchair between the foot of the bed and the small entertainment center, and he was intently playing his Nintendo DS, his tongue sticking out adorably in concentration. Carlos didn't look up when James entered the room because he was so engrossed in his game. Only when the pretty boy cleared his throat to announce his presence did Carlos glance up. He instantly paused his game when he saw James standing there.

"Having fun there?" James asked, motioning to the purple Nintendo DS in his boyfriend's hands.

"Yep! I beat Logan's high score, and I'm working on beating Kendall's." Carlos answered, bringing a smile to James' face.

"Well, do you think that can wait…." the pretty boy asked as he stepped over and seated himself on the foot of the bed, "…..because I've got a special surprise for you?"

"Ooo, what is it?" Carlos asked excitedly, quickly flipping his DS closed, and setting it aside.

"You'll see….but you have to put these on first." James answered, as he brought his hand out from behind his back(Carlos hadn't even realized that he'd been hiding something back there).

Carlos furrowed his brow slightly in confusion; held in his boyfriend's hand was a pair of his own swim trunks.

"You know I can't swim like this." he said, referring to the fact that he was still in a wheelchair.

James simply smiled and said, "Trust me."

Carlos did trust him, so he let James help him out of his current clothes and into his swim trunks and a burgundy tank top. The pretty boy also changed into a pair of swim trunks but kept his t-shirt on for the time being. Carlos' mind was racing with excitement and wonder as to what surprise his boyfriend had in store for him as James wheeled him down the hallway and toward the front door. He felt sort of timid as they entered the hallway outside the apartment; he hadn't set foot, so to speak, outside the apartment in the three days since he'd come home from the hospital.

"If you're nervous, I checked the lobby and the pool area, and no one's there." James said, noticing the smaller boy's tensed-up state.

Carlos relaxed at this, and his excitement returned. The two of them rode the elevator down to the lobby, and James wheeled Carlos around to the first door leading to the pool area. Carlos had no idea what to expect, so when they paused just outside the doorway, he was taken aback at what he saw. The entire pool area was vacant of any people, but it was far from empty; there were lots of small lit candles placed in various locations, their soft, flickering glow creating a romantic atmosphere. Adding to that atmosphere was the fact that there were handfuls of purple rose petals scattered all over the stone floor. Purple just happened to be Carlos' favorite color. On the other side of the pool, Carlos saw that one of the tables had been covered with a blue-and-white checkered tablecloth, had a small flower arrangement in the middle, and was fixed up with two place settings opposite each other.

"What's all this?" the raven-haired boy asked once he finished taking in the unexpected and romantic scene.

"It's for you." James answered, placing a tender hand on Carlos' shoulder, "After all you've been through lately, you deserve something special."

A wide smile crept across Carlos' face, and he was almost positive that he was blushing. This was the sweetest thing James had ever done for him.

"Oh, and…" James said as he reached into the large pocket of his swim trunks, and took out a clear plastic CD case, and held it around for Carlos to see, "….I made a mix-tape of BTR's most romantic songs to listen to while we dine on a fabulous dinner of your favorite foods. Just ignore the word 'girl' in all the songs."

Carlos giggled at this, and James carefully wheeled him over to the side of the table. He then turned to quickly pop the homemade CD into the red-and-black boom box setting on the small table next to the door. He turned the boom box on, and set the volume so it sounded like soft background music. The first song to start playing was All Over Again.

While James got the music ready, Carlos surveyed the contents of the plate in front of him. There was one corndog which was crisscrossed with thin lines of ketchup, a few tater tots, a small pile of French fries, a generous dollop of mac-n-cheese, and a small pile of Sweet Heat BBQ chips. In the center of the plate was a small condiment bowl containing ranch dressing(Carlos always loved to dip is BBQ chips in ranch dressing). To the upper-right of the plate was a blue smoothie in its traditional plastic cup. His mouth watered at the sight of all his favorite goodies.

"Whataya think?" James asked as he sat down opposite his boyfriend.

"Everything looks great. You even remembered the ranch dressing for the chips." Carlos answered.

James flashed his usual gorgeous smile, and with that, the two of them began their dinner. It may have been Carlos' imagination, but everything seemed to taste extra-delicious tonight. He didn't know if it was the fact that the evening was so special and romantic, or that he didn't remember ever having allhis favorite foods at once before. While they ate, he and James talked over a variety of subjects ranging from video games to their favorite movies. Everything felt just as it had before their ordeal happened. They were on a date, they were smiling and snickering amongst each other, and they felt totally happy just being together.

James found the soft glow of the candlelight flickering across his boyfriend's face to be just beautiful. He didn't find Carlos any less attractive because he was in a wheelchair; he knew in his heart that the raven-haired boy would walk again(and even if he didn't, that still wouldn't change anything).

After the pair finished eating, they were both thoroughly full and quite satisfied with their dinner. Taking a final sip from his smoothie, James stood from his chair, and stepped around the table so he stood next to Carlos.

"You wanna get in the pool for a little while?" he asked.

"I don't see how we could have much fun since I can't swim like this." Carlos answered.

"We don't have to swim; we could just sit on the steps if you want to." James explained, giving Carlos a hint of puppy-dog eyes.

Carlos could tell that James really wanted to sit in the pool with him, so he decided to indulge him that; it was the least he could do after the pretty boy set up this whole romantic date for them.

"Okay." he nodded as he backed his wheelchair up from the table.

He wheeled over to the edge of the pool, and removed his tank top, draping it over the back of his chair. James did the same, then reached down to carefully lift Carlos bridal-style out of his wheelchair just as he had done several times since coming home. He carried the smaller boy the short distance over to the steps leading into the pool, and sat down on the second step. Carlos used his arms to maneuver around so his backside was on the step, and his limp legs lay across James' lap. The night air was sort of warm, so the cool water caressing their bodies felt very nice.

"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are by candlelight?" James asked with the suave sound in his voice that he used whenever he was trying to flatter someone.

"You probably did the last time we had dinner with candles." Carlos joked.

Both of them giggled, and there was a long silence before either of them spoke again.

"James….thanks for doing all this for me…..the candles, the awesome dinner…..it was really special. It's probably the most special thing anyone's ever done for me." Carlos said.

"There's no need to thank me. I just figured you deserved something nice after everything that's happened lately." James answered.

The two of them shared a moment of eye-contact before Carlos did something somewhat unexpected. He leaned in and kissed James….on the lips. James was a little surprised at first, but he quickly responded. When it became obvious that this wasn't just a little peck, James brought his hand up cautiously to cradle the smaller boy's cheek affectionately. The kiss was nothing deeper than a drawn-out caressing of each others lips, but what made it so significant was the fact that it was the first tender kiss they had shared since Carlos' rape.

A/N: Well, there it is! Again, I really hope you enjoyed it! *super duper snuggly panda huggles to all who did* PLEASE REVIEW! :D:D:D:D