Summary: Steven comes to 'visit'. Not all wounds leave visible scars.
Warnings, Ratings: For a couple of words, PG. Takes place after “His Brother's Keeper” and before “Remembrance”. There are some spoilers.
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.
The knock on the door was loud and unexpected. Blair was alone, studying. He didn't expect anyone at this time of night except possibly Jim, and he wasn't really due for a half hour at least. Besides, Jim certainly wouldn't knock unless he forgot his keys. How likely was that? He'd left Jim at the precinct an hour ago after a bust. Their stakeout had been successful, and they'd wrapped it up earlier than they'd expected. When the paperwork was nearly completed Jim had sent him home to finish his own work at a decent hour.
Another, louder, knock made Blair jump involuntarily, but he still didn't make a move to the door. He had been wary of late night visitors since his abduction by David Lash. He instinctively remained still, and silent, hopefully giving no clue to the aggressive 'visitor'. He sighed resignedly when a knock rattled the door again. He moved quickly to grab his phone and entered Jim's number, hesitating only a moment to press 'send'.
“Hey, Jim,” he whispered nervously.
“What's the matter, Blair?” Jim asked, immediately aware something was wrong.
“You're quick tonight, man. Sorry to bother you, but,” at which Blair halted, as another resounding couple of knocks rattled the door.
“HEY, Brother Jim. Let me in,” yelled a very drunk sounding Steven Ellison.
“Oh, man! Jim, sorry to have bothered you,” began Blair. “If I'd checked who it was ...”
“Chief, I'll be right home. Be careful. A drunk is still a drunk, even if it is Steven. And Chief ... you were right to call me. Don't doubt that decision for a minute.” Blair could hear a weary sigh, then, “You should probably let Steven in before he wakes the neighbors though. Just try to get some coffee into him.”
“Okay, Jim. Thanks. I'll take care of him,” answered Blair. He couldn't help smiling at the concern Jim showed for him.
Jim wondered if he should have told Blair to keep the door locked. What Blair had said bothered him. He didn't want Blair to 'take care of him', he wanted him 'to be careful', but he pushed the thought away as he went to tell Simon that he had to leave and would finish in the morning.
Jim ran up the two flights of stairs when he reached home. Nearing the top he stopped to grab a breath and check out Sandburg at the same time. Blair was sitting, leaning against the wall opposite their door. He turned when he heard Jim.
“Damn it, Chief. I told you to stay away from him.”
Blair hurriedly wiped at the dried patch of blood on his cheek and winced when he touched his blackening eye. “I tried to, Jim. It wasn't really his fault.”
Jim reached out a finger to lift Blair's face to a better angle, so he could gage the damage better, and check how his eyes reacted to the light. He sighed and shook his head, knowing his friend was going to have a terrific shiner tomorrow. They needed to get some ice on it soon. At least there didn't seem to be any sign of concussion.
“YOU, stay here. I have an arrest to make,” Jim stated angrily.
Blair's good eye widened as he grabbed at Jim's sleeve. “Hey, wait. He's your brother! You can't arrest him!”
“Have you forgotten that I nearly arrested him for murder? Is he crazy, coming here like this? He's drunk and he assaulted.”
“Don't, Jim. Please! I know you two are still having problems, but this is no way to handle it!”
“Chief, Steven and I haven't been family for years. If he hurt you, then he hurt me. You're more my brother than he is. This isn't about the Ellison brothers. This is about a drunk that hurt my family.”
Blair sat speechless for a moment, which was a mistake because then he had to hurry to catch up as Jim went in the door.
Jim only had to use his sense of smell to locate Steven. There was no mistaking the essence of expensive liquor. He saw Steven sitting slouched and dozing on the sofa facing the balcony windows. He did have misgivings about arresting his brother, but Steven had crossed a line. The problem right now was that he probably wasn't in any condition to have noticed it.
“What the hell am I going to do with you?” Jim muttered.
“Don't arrest him,” said Blair pleadingly.
Jim sighed deeply as he surveyed his friend's bruises. “Are you sure, Chief? I shouldn't let this go, you know. This is serious.”
“Talk to him, Jim. When I let him in he asked for you. He said he'd heard about your visit to your cousin, Rucker. He seemed pretty upset about ... well, about you taking me along with you. Look, Jim, I think he just made a bad decision here. I'm a little bruised but I'm fine. Well, I'll look better in a week, but I'll be able to use this to good advantage with a certain lady that's new in the department,” at which, the famous Sandburg bounce appeared.
Jim snorted in amusement, knowing the distraction for what it was. “You're not going to tell me how it happened are you? Okay, okay. We'll let him sleep it off. Then we'll talk. But if he doesn't come up with a damn good story then I'll toss him in the slammer, then send him up the river, and throw away the keys.”
Blair grinned and bounced again before gathering up a blanket and pillow for their guest.
Jim set about getting Steven partially undressed so he could sleep it off. Then he made sure Blair had some ice for his eye before they all tried to get some sleep.
Jim came in the next morning with the paper and a bag of pastries from the bakery. He had decided that since he couldn't sleep anyway there were a few things that had to be done to clear his schedule for the day. He went in early, finished the paperwork for the bust, and arranged a comp day with Simon.
He wanted to make sure he got back before Steven left. What was going on with him? It was bad enough to show up drunk, but then to hurt Blair ... well, he was going to have to answer for that, one way or the other. He was not going to get off easy, no matter what Blair said. Blair could forgive and forget too easily. He was raised that way. The Ellison household wasn't as forgiving. With Dad, Jim or Steven paid for their errors, and kept paying, until one brother outdid the other. That was a heck of an upbringing.
Steven was still softly snoring on the sofa. Blair emerged from his room with his hair in it's usual morning disarray and gave him a bleary one-eyed glance as he headed to the bathroom. Jim winced when he saw his roommate's eye. He put the coffee on and settled at the table with the paper to await his roommate and Steven.
Jim and Blair were just finishing their coffee and pastry-of-choice, that is, buttermilk donut and bagel, when Steven moaned his way to consciousness.
“Up and at 'em, Steven. Sun's up. Coffee's waiting. Come and take advantage of my generousity this morning and have a couple of aspirin,” said Jim loudly.
“Ow, ow. Oh, my head,” moaned Steven.
Blair chuckled knowingly. Jim's glare made Blair stifle his good humor.
Steven stumbled to his feet, squinting at the sun. After one quick glance at Jim, he turned to the bathroom but stopped long enough to grab the aspirin and the glass of water. He looked marginally better when he reappeared, swaying only slightly. He poured himself a coffee, black, and sat at the table sipping it slowly. He cringed at Jim's glare. He needed no further clue that he would need his wits about him when he broke the silence between them.
Blair cleared his throat, “Uh, Jim. I need to get to the University but I could call in a favor and stick around for a little while.”
Jim considered that offer, but just for a moment. Calling in a favor meant it had to be returned. Not that Blair wouldn't offer to help someone anyway, favor owed or not. But, this was an Ellison problem. He didn't want to make it any more Blair's problem than it already was. He'd still have that shiner for a week.
“It's okay, Chief. I took a comp day. Steven and I have ALL DAY to talk,” Jim said with an emphasis that caused Steven to wince.
Blair's quick glances back and forth between the brothers revealed his unease. “Sure guys. Don't kill each other. Promise?”
Jim just glared.
Steven finally looked closely at Blair, seeming a little puzzled.
Blair rose, rinsed his cup and left it in the sink, grabbed his backpack and was half out the door when Jim said, “Phone, Sandburg.”
Blair stopped, grunted an affirmative and grabbed his phone. He gave the brothers one more uncertain glance and left.
The silence continued until Steven was feeling a little desperate. He didn't choose the best opening, “Um, what happened to Blair's eye?”
The silence got more inhospitable while Jim glared fiercely at Steven. Jim finished his coffee, then slammed the cup down on the table. It had nearly the effect of a gunshot. Steven jumped violently and grabbed his head in the same motion. His moaning didn't ease Jim's glare a bit. Instead he just leaned forward on the table, clasping his hands until the knuckles turned white.
When Steven had regained his wits he saw Jim's expression. He swallowed tightly and leaned back in his chair, away from his brother, and probably in fear of his brother.
“When I got home last night ... brother ... Blair was sitting in the hall. You were sitting in OUR home. What made Blair leave his own home, Steven?”
Steven didn't say anything for a moment. He didn't move. But he did slowly turn pale.
Jim was paying careful attention, and knew when Steven realized what had happened. Jim realized that he might not even remember, but he had wits enough to figure it out.
Steven pushed away from the table and made a run for the bathroom.
Jim was almost appeased. At least it seemed that Steven regretted it. He went to wet a towel and get a glass of water for him. Maybe he wouldn't have to arrest him after all.
They were back at the table a little later. Steven's color was coming back and Jim had relaxed a little.
“I hurt him. I never meant that to happen, Jim. I'm so sorry.”
“I'm not the one you need to apologize to, Steven.”
“I know, I owe one to Mr. Sandburg, too. But this is your home, and he's your friend ...”
Steven stared long enough to blink several times thoughtfully. He went on in a subdued voice, “Family. Yes, he's your family.” He sighed deeply. “I guess I've blown it yet again. I'd hoped ... but I had no right to hope that we were still family. I'll leave, and hopefully someday you can forgive my actions this time.”
Jim ground his jaw as he listened. “This time?” he grated. He saw Steven hang his head like he often had when he was a child, when he'd been caught doing something wrong. But the pain he saw when Steven lifted his eyes to him made his breath catch.
“God ... Jim. I guess I'm long overdue on that apology. I'm so sorry, for everything that happened back then. I know it's no excuse but I was just a kid then, barely a teenager. I was stupid enough to count on Dad's promise that he'd take me on that trip. I know it was my own fault that I let my grades slip. I was just so angry with him that I wasn't thinking, just reacting. I took a crowbar to his real pride-and-joy ... that '65 Cobra. I knew he'd blame you for getting in an accident with it and then I'd have my revenge on both of you.”
Jim's face was impassive as he stated, “You could have come clean about it, Steven.”
“I know. Please believe that I wish I had. Dad had changed so much after Mom left. It was like he couldn't love both of us, he'd only choose the best. And you were always the smartest, the oldest, the best at everything! It was a lot to live up to.”
Jim snorted his disbelief, “He didn't always choose me! You know that!”
Steven's head dipped in shame, “You're right. I guess I just felt like I could never be good enough. Not for the Old Man. But I went too far that time. Suddenly it wasn't just about the grades or the trip or whatever. Suddenly I knew I'd ruined everything between us, Jim. I could see that you hated me this time. But I was so scared. I thought that if I went to Dad and admitted what I'd done then he would hate me, too!”
“Well, you got what you wanted. I was gone and you had Dad all to yourself. To tell you the truth, I was glad to leave. That house hadn't been a home for a long time. Not since Mom left,” admitted Jim brusquely.
“Do you have any idea what it was like after you left? It was just Dad and me in that big old house. Dad was furious all the time, about everything. If it wasn't for Sally we wouldn't have even had a reason to sit down for meals together. But that was my fault, too. You were gone for good. Fifteen years. You never wrote, you never called. Then you went MIA in Peru. You were gone and I could never make it right between us. And in a way, I was responsible for that, too.”
shoved his chair back but Jim grabbed his hand, keeping him from
“No ... no ... Steven.”
Steven's anguish overwhelmed him. He leaned forward over the table and rested his face in his other hand. He was unable to hide the tears that slid silently down his face.
Jim slid his chair beside his brother's. He didn't know if he could find the words to make Steven understand. If not for Blair's influence he didn't know if he would have had the courage to try.
“Ah, Stevie,” he started. He placed his hand on Steven's shoulder, giving it a squeeze. “Listen to me. You can't take the blame for all of that. There's so much you don't know. A lot went on between Dad and me that you knew nothing about. I'd been so angry with Dad for so long ... that was just the last straw. I know now that I should have kept in touch with you. But I was so busy trying to make my own way that I never thought how it might be for you there, alone with Dad. I guess an apology is long overdue from me, too. I do forgive you, Steven. I hope you can forgive me. If you're willing, I'd like to try to patch things between us. I'd like you to be part of my family again.”
When Blair got home that night, Jim and Steven were on the right path, and Jim's family began to get better acquainted.