<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>

<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>


Kinship 2

by ljc

8/05



Summary: Sequel to my story Kinship. I tried to address the issues begun in 'Kinship', but this turned into something a little different. Problems of communication plague families by birth, and families of choice.



Warnings, Rating: PG for a few words. Spoilers for Sentinel Too. Takes place before TSbBS.



Spoilers: Remembrance, His Brother's Keeper, Sentinel Too.



{{Brackets indicate a dream}} based loosely on a true incident.



Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, Paramount and the SciFi Channel. No money is being made. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written by ljc with the love of the show in mind.



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>

<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Prologue



As they rose to leave Blair's office that day William fumbled his hat to the floor and Steven quickly and effortlessly retrieved it. Steven threw a quick glance Blair's way. As soon as William turned to the door Steven stopped and fidgeted for a moment with his eyes downcast. He then lifted them with an imploring gaze to Blair.



Blair stifled his sigh. He understood that Steven wanted a reconciliation with Jim. But it galled him to have to ask Blair Sandburg for help to reach that goal. Even though this was a really bad time for this, Blair knew that there was no going back on his promise. For William's sake and for Steven's, but mostly for Jim's, he'd do his best. With a slight nod he reaffirmed his previous hesitant agreement to help if he could.



He realized how truly alike the three of them were. Stubborn. Prideful. Full of hurt, and fear of being hurt again. It seemed that fear based responses seemed to run in the Ellison family.



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Blair ran out into the rain, pulled the door open and threw his backpack onto the floor as he threw himself onto the seat beside Jim. Jim cringed away, futilely trying to duck the droplets flying everywhere from his dripping passenger. He started to say something then stopped. It wouldn't do a bit of good to complain about the wetness that dripped from Blair, who was soaked through and was probably about to embark on a rant about the weather, the weather in Cascade in particular, about how much warmer ... and dryer ... it was almost 'anywhere' else. Well, Jim just tuned him out before it even started.



They'd gone several blocks before Jim realized Blair had remained silent. He looked at his partner in concern, but only saw a young man deep in thought. “A penny for your thoughts?” Jim asked as he grinned at Blair.



Blair looked startled for a moment, then grinned, “Hey, man, can you afford that?”



Jim laughed, “I know how much money you make Sandburg. Take the penny before I change my mind.”



Blair grinned but shook his head no, “They're not worth it today, Jim.” Then in an obvious change of topic, “How's the case coming?”



It's all over except writing the reports. We caught him red-handed,” said Jim, allowing the subject change. He knew Blair was rarely silent for long on any topic of importance.



<>-<>



That night Blair listened to a one-sided conversation.



Hi Dad. It's good to hear from you. Have you heard from Steven?” asked Jim. “That's great. Maybe we can get together for ... Tomorrow night? Well .... Well of course I'd like to get together. I was just trying to remember if I had promised to be somewhere else tomorrow. But I'm free.” Jim gripped the receiver a little tighter while his other hand pinched the bridge of his nose. “The Country Club is a little fancy for my taste, Dad ...” Jim started to pace as he tried to cut back into the conversation. Finally, “Okay Dad. Eight p.m. Bring Sandburg. It's a date.” Jim placed the receiver back on the phone and turned to stare at Blair.



What?...” said Blair.



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Sandburg, if you've been talking to Dad behind my back, you 'will' live to regret it,” snapped Jim as he pulled out of his parking space on Prospect St.



Jim, your Dad and I have nothing in common. Why would I go to talk to him?” said Blair as he sat meekly in the passenger seat, and hiding his crossed fingers.



Jim replied with exasperation, “Call me paranoid ... but maybe because you two have me to talk about?”



Blair tried a calm approach, “I don't know why he wanted me to come along. Steven's going to be there, right?”



Yes. Don't change the subject. It's been weeks since we even talked on the phone. You're sure you didn't talk him into this?” Jim asked bluntly.



Blair crossed his heart in the universal gesture, “I swear Jim. I didn't go to talk to your father or instigate this dinner invitation behind your back,” all the while knowing the truth was a slippery slope and he could very easily be headed on a perilous downhill slide. He waited for his 'human lie detector' partner to demand the whole truth.



But Jim seemed to be more concerned with the coming dinner. The 'family' get togethers were always stressful on Jim, and Blair suspected that the rest of his family faired no better.



The Country Club was as elegant as Blair had expected. He tried to shake off the feeling of being out of place. He should be used to calculating, judging stares. Not being comfortable with his own level of stress tonight he took a slow deep breath. He should be concentrating on Jim's stress level, not his own. This was so not going to be a fun evening, but for everyone's sake, Blair girded himself to be the peacemaker. He felt like Daniel heading into the lion's den.



<>



Well, the food was good anyway, Blair thought ruefully, although he knew he'd still have indigestion. It had started out alright, with casual chitchat. Blair had made an effort to be bright, cheerful, and to keep his mouth shut whenever possible and let them do the talking. He interjected comments only in an effort to keep the conversation from fading entirely away and hoped he didn't come off as too desperate.



Jim had innocently asked Blair what kind of wine he had brought home one night for a special dinner Jim had planned for his date-of-the-moment. Blair knew that Jim had especially enjoyed it so he had made a few comments about what was available on the wine list that would likely be close to it.



Jim had caught on first to Steven's darkening mood and he'd nudged Blair's foot under the table. Unknown to Blair, Steven had always considered himself to be a wine connoisseur. Luckily Blair was quick to pick up that there was a difficulty. Jim later explained how Blair had trespassed on Steven's perceived territory. Blair found himself hoping dispiritedly that William and Steven were having second thoughts about how helpful Blair might truly be to the reconciliation they were attempting.



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Blair sat on the side of his bed, kicked off his shoes and stared glumly at a few boxes shoved in the corner. Some day he'd get around to unpacking those. He thought only briefly about Alex, and Jim, and then forced it out of his mind. He didn't want dreams of drowning to spoil another night's sleep. He turned out the lights and snuggled down into his bedding.



He forced his thoughts to the evening's events at the Country Club. Steven had not been pleased, but William had seemed thoughtful. There had been something on his mind, and he had stared strangely at Blair more than once. It stirred something in Blair's own memory, but he couldn't pin it down, and so he tossed and turned for a while, dozing fitfully until his own exhaustion wore him down.



{{Loud music came through the door. It was wide open on this warm summer night in Albuquerque. Blair walked in with small steps. When he was close enough he looked way up at the counter and waited impatiently as he repeated, “Mister. Mister.”



He was ignored for a few minutes. He tried again when the music stopped, “MISTER!”



When the bartender finally saw the kid over the countertop he yelled, “Where the hell's your parents kid? How'd you get loose at this time of night?”



Blair's eyes rounded in surprise, “I just wanted some potato chips mister. I have a quarter. See? I can pay for them.”



Kid, look. This is a bar. You ever seen one before? Well that's because kids aren't allowed in bars. So get out of here. Go find your ma. Go!” he yelled. Then the bartender turned to a buddy at the further end of the bar, hoping that ignoring the problem would make it go away.



Blair looked around nervously. He'd just wanted potato chips but the store next door was locked and dark. He turned to walk out the door but stopped before he'd gone too far. He couldn't remember ... where was mama? He bit his lip and looked over his shoulder at the bartender but he was still talking to the other man. He rocked back and forth on his feet for a moment in indecision.



Little boy. What's your name little boy?” The question came from a booth along the wall.



Blair turned slowly toward the man in the booth, “My mama doesn't like me to talk to strangers, mister.”



Well, you were talking to the bartender,” came the answer.



Blair thought a moment, “But that was different. He works here and I wanted some potato chips. See? I got a quarter, but he wouldn't give me any chips. Now I got to go home.”



Why were you standing in the door then? I bet you don't remember which way is home,” surmised the shadowed man in the corner.



Blair shoved the quarter back in his pocket and looked out the door. “It looked different when the sun was here. It's dark. And mister, it's kind of scary.”



I can understand that. I have two boys of my own. They still get afraid of the dark sometimes, but they pretend they're not,” said the man with a chuckle. “Come sit with me a moment. Maybe your mom and dad will discover you're missing and come looking.”



Blair looked back over his shoulder out into the dark street before walking slowly to the booth. “I don't have a daddy. And my mama, she was real tired. I couldn't wake her up.”



'Couldn't' wake her up? I bet you just wanted to get out on your own and find the store, right? Or maybe she, well she wasn't ... sick ... was she? Or maybe she had a good time with some friends ... well ... maybe we should try to find her and make sure she's alright,” said the shadow man nervously.



Blair was frightened now, “But mama, she's never sick. She works real hard. And if she was sick I would take care of her!”



Whoa, whoa son. I just wondered why you couldn't wake her. Probably she is just really tired. Why don't you tell me about where you live? Maybe we can find it, even in the dark. And if we can't, we can ask the police to find your home. It can't be far ....”



No, no mister. Mama wouldn't like it. Really. She hates the pigs. She told me they do bad things to people. She said they might take me away from her,” and at this, big tears started to form in the bright blue eyes.



The shadow man leaned carefully forward onto the table of the booth. He tried to speak convincingly to the worried child, “I always tell my boys that if they're in trouble they need to find a policeman. If they've done nothing wrong, then they have nothing to fear. Your mama, she's a good person isn't she?” At the very emphatic nod, the shadow man smiled, “Then neither of you have anything to be afraid of from the police. But don't worry, we haven't even 'tried' to find your home yet have we? Let's take a look before we have to make any calls.” The shadow man exited the booth and put some money on the table before ushering Blair out the door.



Now which way shall we try first? Do you live upstairs in one of the buildings above the stores?” When Blair shook his head no, the man put his hand on his shoulder and turned him back toward the door of the bar. He asked him to think really carefully about what direction he was coming from when he went in the door. After some coaxing Blair seemed to remember. As they walked the dark street, Blair's hand slipped into the man's hand. Blair felt comforted by that. When he did see his home, his hand slipped free and he ran forward yelling, “Mama! Mama! Wake up mama! I'm home!”



The shadow man stood back as a bleary eyed, but pretty ... and young ... red haired girl rushed out of the house. He was gratified to see that the girl didn't seem hung over or stoned as so many young people were these days, and she was genuinely terrified that her sweet child had wandered away in the night. The man faded back into the shadows once more.}}



Blair sat bolt upright on his bed. Oh ... My ... God!



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Blair was going to be late meeting Jim after lunch. He'd debated whether to talk to William about the dream ... memory. He hesitated to call on William but this was such a vivid remembrance from his childhood. It was pivotal in a way, about his view of his own life, and his mother, and security ... well, it had shaken him at the time. He was only three, maybe four, when it had happened and it had stayed memorable all these years, to the point where he was ninety-nine percent certain that it had indeed been William Ellison that had made sure he was safe that night. He had to know.



What he hadn't done was tell Jim. He told himself he hadn't because there was that little chance that it hadn't been Jim's Dad. And it 'had' been William that had been the one to initiate a contact in the first place. But really, it was kind of late now to worry about it.



Thanks for the coffee Ms. Wong,” Blair said as William's housekeeper, Sally, handed him a fine bone china cup. William was watching him closely as he settled back with his drink. What was he thinking?



Mr. Ellison, I'm sorry to just show up without calling,” said Blair.



William chuckled before he replied, “Turnabout is fair play, as they say. What's on your mind Mr. Sandburg?”



Well, right to the point! Blair shifted subtly , not knowing where to start. He surprised himself when he looked at William and questioned, “What were you thinking about the other night, Mr. Ellison? At the Country Club? You seemed to be, well, staring at me sometimes. I was curious about that for one thing.”



William looked surprised for a moment, then actually seemed to blush a little, “I was remembering a night during a business trip years ago. An odd circumstance in a long and boring trip.” He looked at Blair appraisingly, “You remember ... don't you?”



Blair slowly smiled, “It 'was' you.”



William chuckled, “I'm surprised beyond measure that you would remember that. You were such a tiny little boy.”



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



It was long past lunch before Blair left for the Police Station. Jim was going to be so mad. Blair hurried as fast as he could on the drive through Cascade but traffic was not cooperating.



Jim glared at Blair as he exited the elevator, which brought Blair up short. He'd actually had a very pleasant time with William. Jim's reaction at his lateness made him groan inwardly. Things had been strained with Jim since the 'incident' with Alex. He told himself to be prepared for a few stressful hours before they could head home.



Jim gathered his file together as Blair sat in the chair beside him. He looked pointedly at Blair and stood, “I need to take this report down to records.”



As he headed for the stairwell Blair released a little sigh. Well, he 'had' promised to help with that report. And he didn't call. Two major sins as far as Jim was concerned. He knew that Jim worried. Blair chuckled and turned to find something to help Jim out. Maybe he could calm the 'sentinel beast' a little.



When Jim came back he seemed a little calmer. He sat beside Blair, looking to see what he was working on. Blair looked up, surprised as Jim leaned closer and 'sniffed' him. “What!” whispered Blair.



Jim looked as angry as Blair had ever seen him. Jim started to say something then looked around gauging other's closeness, then leaning in he hissed, “You ... smell like my father's den.” With that he rose, grabbed his coat and strode from the bullpen.



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Blair took the long way home to the apartment he shared with Jim. When he got there he decided to take the stairs. It would give him a few more minutes to think, and Jim ... who would surely know he was coming ... a few more minutes to cool off. He hoped. If not, the blow up would be spectacular.



The door was locked. That was normal. It wasn't bolted and chained. That was good. Blair sighed as he let himself in to face the wrath of his truly annoyed sentinel ... and if he was truthful with himself ... Jim thought he had good reason.



Blair saw Jim ensconced on the couch with a beer. He put his things away and put his keys in the basket then went to grab a beer for himself, and tried to armor himself for the coming confrontation.



He drained half his beer standing at the kitchen counter watching Jim, then went to sit on the sofa. He set the bottle carefully on the coaster so Jim couldn't nitpick.



Jim it's not what you think, not at all ....”



Sandburg, I've seen people do some underhanded things before, but you've gone behind my back and talked to Carolyn ... and now my father. When's Steven on your list, or am I already too late for that?”



Jim, I said before that I didn't go to your father and talk about you.”



Right! So now that you'd already told me that, you felt free to do the very thing you knew I'd be against?”



Jim, listen to me. After the dinner the other night, I had some questions ... and no, they're not what you're thinking! You should know me better than that. You're my friend ....”



And he's my father. I don't expect much from either of you,” hissed an irate Jim.



Man, that's really hitting low, Jim. You ... you have no right to say that. You don't understand why ....” sputtered Blair.



Jim had risen from the couch and marched inexorably toward Blair. His rage exploded in a rush, “Haven't you ever dealt with someone where there are so many issues ... so much anger ...” Blair rose to meet him face to face but Jim's march forced Blair to stumble back. Blair flung an arm up and immediately snatched it back. This instinctive defensive move surprised Jim. Blair had never been afraid of him before.



Blair stumbled back another step. His face paled as his breath failed him. The back of his leg hit the arm of the couch. He half slid to his butt as he tried to cling to it. Losing his balance further he landed hard. It didn't slow him as he scrambled backwards, staring with widely dilated eyes. He never turned from Jim as his feet and hands slid his backside to the wall. Only then did he glance away as his retreat stalled. “Nooo. Alex. Don't shoot,” was whispered as Jim moved toward him once again.



Sandburg? Chief?” Jim questioned in growing alarm. He was afraid to step closer. He endured the flashback from a distance.



Blair's awareness returned abruptly, but his words left his friend cold, “Jim? ... She knew I needed you. Why didn't you? The water was s-so cold. I c-couldn't breathe ....” and Blair's gasps ended as his eyes rolled up and he passed out.



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Jim was sitting by Blair's bed when he woke up. Jim's slumped posture was the only indication of his fatigue. He had leaned far forward, with his forearms on his thighs, hands clasped so tightly they had to ache. Blair knew Jim was aware he was awake when Jim finally leaned back and ran his hand over his face.



How stupid can I be Chief?” Jim asked softly.



Blair couldn't speak for a moment, but he cleared his throat in preparation. Talking was what he did, especially when he was nervous. But he realized he wasn't nervous right now. He was tired. And hurt. He was really tired of dancing around Jim's touchiness about everything sentinel and family and privacy. He settled for turning his gaze on the ceiling for a moment, then just rolled away toward the wall, not wanting anything to do with Detective James Ellison, Sentinel.



He heard a whispered, “I'm sorry, Blair,” before Jim left his room and shut the door.



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Later that night Blair heard the phone ring. It rang until the machine picked up and then Jim picked up. It was probably Simon. He really didn't want to go out on a case tonight. But Jim never called him, and he heard him eventually go upstairs to bed.



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Jim knocked softly on Blair's door the next morning. He asked softly, “Chief, do you feel up to breakfast yet? Or do you want to take a shower first?”



Blair bit his lip, trying to keep his emotions in control as he replied, “Don't wait for me, Jim. It's Saturday. I don't need to be anywhere today.”



Chief. Blair. I'd like to talk a few things over when you get up. Whenever you're ready.”



Blair groaned inwardly at that prospect, and knew there really wasn't an alternative. Unless he wanted to leave. That sounded like a good plan actually. But then, how far could he run that a sentinel couldn't find him? So for a while he just laid there and listened to Jim puttering around in the kitchen and doing laundry. It reminded him how cool sentinel hearing must be. When he decided he'd hid long enough he threw back the covers and headed to the bathroom. Things might look better after a long hot shower and a strong cup of coffee. Or three.



Blair took as long as he needed and then went out and grabbed some coffee from the freshly brewed pot. Jim was being nice.



Blair stood at the counter and drank the first cup. He poured a second one and joined Jim on the balcony, grabbing up the afghan on the way. He settled into a chair and decided he'd let Jim start this wherever he wanted. It promised to be a marathon affair if one of them didn't get disgusted and storm off. He was determined he wouldn't let Jim goad him into it. Not after last night. The flashback had scared Blair and he knew Jim felt badly about it, but even Alex wasn't the whole story.



Blair could tell that Jim was hesitant to begin. But there weren't any easy outs for this. Blair tried to calm his nerves. He watched Jim out of the corner of his eye. Jim was rocking on the two back legs of his chair. That was something Blair had never seen him do before. There must be a house rule for that.



Blair, about last night ... I said I was sorry last night, but I didn't know how sorry I should be until after Dad called.”



Blair went very still. So, William had called. Blair tried to rein in his angry thoughts as his attempt to remain calm dissolved in the heat of the moment. Jim had his explanation. Good! Fine! He didn't have to take Blair's word for it! At least Jim knew he shouldn't be mad at Blair for that. “It's too bad you couldn't just listen to me, man. I told you it wasn't what you thought. I suppose you think I should accept your apology now. Well, not yet, man. You've said and done a lot of things to me Jim that deserved an apology. One, is just not going to cut it.”



Jim tensed for a moment then rose and placed his chair closer, and facing Blair. “I told you once that my father called me a freak when I was a kid. 'That', along with all the other things that went on in my life since then, really messed me up. You may think that all your questions and note taking were just an irritant to me, but it was more than that. They kept those feelings alive. That I'm different. Not normal. And not in a 'gifted' way either. I felt like I was something so hideous that it had to be hidden away, lied about. I know that this sentinel thing is important to you, but it's my life! I don't think I've ever tried to tell you how I really feel about that before. But that's wrapped up with my feelings about Dad. That doesn't explain Alex, and I don't know if I can. Chief ... Blair, I don't know how to talk to you about Alex. About drowning. About bringing you back. That flashback last night, it was just the tip of the iceberg wasn't it? What's going on with 'you', Blair? What's happening to us? I 'know' that I betrayed you. I left you alone and undefended and you're my guide. I have a gut deep feeling that that isn't a good thing for a sentinel to have to admit. I'm trying to understand how you felt about that, but you've got to tell me. Don't let me guess. Don't let me assume you're okay when you're not. This communication thing ... it's got to be two way. You can't do it alone Blair. And neither can I.”



Wow. Jim ... two way communication. Who knew it was possible? Well, don't blow it Sandburg. Go with it, and hope we're still friends afterward. “The sentinel thing is my life too ....”



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



Blair and Jim had dinner with William and Steven at the loft tonight. Blair had asked Steven to pick out a wine that would be appropriate. It was an obvious peace offering which Steven accepted with good humor.



Blair and William laughed together as they tried to beat each other to different parts of the story of their first meeting. It was a good dinner. At first Steven had seemed upset that Blair and his father had made a connection by meeting each other 'before'. But seeing that there was no added strain between his father and him, Steven eventually began to relax into a camaraderie he'd never shown before when Blair was around. Maybe there was hope for them after all. Blair definitely didn't want to compete with Steven. Not for Jim.



Blair had told Jim about the meeting in his office with his father and brother. But this wasn't the time for deeper truths. Tonight Jim was still getting reacquainted with them. The time would come for those deeper truths ... and some two way communication ... between members of the family. Like it did with Jim and Blair.



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>

<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



finis



Note: The incident in the bar with young Blair was suggested by a true story of a three year old child that wandered out of his apartment, across the street and into an all night pharmacy at three a.m. looking for potato chips. The clerk kept him busy until the police arrived to find his parents.