by Southy

© June 2005


Steven Ellison told himself that he wasn’t nervous when he knocked on the door of his father’s house.

Lightning crashed overhead.

The door opened as lightning flashed across William Ellison’s face. “Steven, please come in.” He stepped back.

Steven wiped his feet on the mat and then moved into the foyer. “Dad.”

“Here, let me take your coat. Sally’s visiting with her niece.”

Steven relinquished his coat. “Her niece’s asthma is acting up again?”

“Yes. She never seemed to grow out of it.” William gestured. “Come on in and sit down. Would you like a brandy?”

“Sure.” Steven wondered why his father would think he needed something that strong.

They moved into the living room and Steven sat down. 

William handed him a glass. “I’m glad you could make it.”

“Thanks.” He took a sip, deciding to relish the flavor. “So, you need to talk to me about Jim? The press has finally stopped calling.”

William nodded as he sat down, perched on the edge of the chair. “Yes. After that boy finally spoke up. Damn shame all this had to happen.”

Steven realized that there was something he’d never asked his father before – or his brother. “Is there any truth to it? About Jim’s abilities?”

William gazed at him for a long time. Then he softly said, “I would have thought Jim would have told you.”

Steven forced a smile. “We’re back in touch now, but Jim’s still the same Jim. He doesn’t like to share much about his life.”

The older man released a long breath as he glanced away. “Yes, that’s how it is with me, too. For everything he reveals, there’s two or three more things he’s so careful not to mention.”

Steven was relieved that their father and Jim hadn’t made up any more tightly than he and Jim had. “What about it? His senses?”

William looked at him squarely. “What do you think?”

“Looking back, I can see how it makes sense.” Steven shifted with the discomfort of challenging an authority figure. “It’s just that, if Jim truly had special abilities, I don’t know why you and he had such a difficult relationship. Or why,” he looked away, feeling the old hurt, “neither of you would have told me.”

“I didn’t acknowledge it.” The senior Ellison sounded unusually guilty. “Jimmy and I have come to terms with that. That’s why I thought he might have told you.”

Steven shook his head, feeling left out again. He was eager to move the conversation along. “Then why did that grad student – that Sandburg – deny it to the press?” He then realized he knew the answer to that. “To protect Jim, I guess.” Like he and his father had, as family, when reluctantly talking to reporters.

William stood and turned to one side – a gesture that reminded Steven of when his father was bothered by something. It always meant the conversation had turned serious and humor wasn’t allowed. “What we don’t know is if Sandburg decided himself to protect Jimmy, or if Jim had it out with him and made him do it.”

The enemy was identified. Steven relaxed back in the chair, relieved that it wasn’t himself, though there wasn’t any reason why it would be. “Sandburg still lives there, as far as I know. Jim won’t say much about him, so I don’t know what’s going on between them. Most of our conversations have been about the press, and more recently about Jim’s leg.”

Still looking toward the fireplace, William said, “Thank God it wasn’t something more serious.”

“Yes.” Steven hesitated, wondering if he was violating ‘privileged’ information from his brother. “He’s been shot quite a few times. In the army and with the police force. He has lots of scars.”

William nodded slowly and Steven knew he hadn’t known that. “He’s always had courage.”

Which Steven didn’t. He was silent as he sipped his brandy.

The elder man bowed his said. “I need to ask you something, Steven. I want you to be honest.”

The old childhood hurt flared, bordering on rage. When had he ever not been honest with his father?

Yes, that stupid Cobra. He’d never 'fessed up to his part in that. But that was all. He wasn’t a liar by nature. Why had his father always thought he was?

He wanted to say, right now, that he’d always been honest with his father, and let his father see the hurt he’d carried all his life because of not being trusted by the man whose trust meant the most.

But he didn’t.

William sipped his drink while gazing at the fire. “Do you think your brother is a homosexual?”

What? “No, Dad. Why would you think -- ?”

But inside he was glad. Glad that his father didn’t think ‘courageous’ Jim was perfect.

“He’s living with that boy.” William finally turned to face him. “That’s rather unusual, don’t you think?”

“In a way.” Steven was relieved that it was all right to admit it. Still, he felt noble, defending his brother. “But Blair, he’s a graduate student. They tend to be poor. Catherine never had much money when I was dating her.” After his father used the ‘h’ word, it felt good to be able to speak of his wife. They were still married even if he sometimes wished she’d come home and announce that she was in love with someone else. What had he been thinking? “If he’s writing his thesis about police departments, and is hanging out with Jim and doesn’t have any place to live....”

Suddenly, one plus one equaled two. “Do you think it’s because of Jim’s condition? That he really does have something to do with that?” He looked away, puzzled again. “But then why would he lie to the press?”

“Like you said,” William stated with deadly calm, “to protect Jim.”

Steven felt bolder now. “Because they’re in love?”

William snorted and moved back to his chair. “You can’t really believe that. Those types don’t fall in love. They just want to cross pollen, however infertile it will end up being.”

Steven hadn’t known very many ‘gay’ people in his life. He was under the impression that they were highly promiscuous, hence God sending a disease to wipe many of them out. He saw now that sometimes, even though he was an adult, his father knew best. 

“I know I made mistakes with you boys.”

Steven glanced up, shocked to hear his father admit that. “W-What do you mean?”

“Jimmy is all messed up.” He regarded Steven with hesitation. “You don’t agree with how I raised you, either, do you?”

No, he didn’t. But how could he say that to this man’s face? “It doesn’t matter now, Pops.” He turned the attention away from himself. “The supposed experts say that homosexuals can’t help how they are.”

“Jimmy is not a homosexual,” William declared. “He’s just let himself get sidetracked.”

Steven wondered if such excuses would ever be made for his own failings that his father had never approved of.

“He had a bad marriage,” William went on. “He’s spent too much time around other men. Then that student comes along, and knows more than he should about Jim’s senses. What do you think that sort of knowledge would do to a man who hasn’t dated many women in his life?”

Steven withheld a gasp. He wasn’t sure how his father could be so confident about Jim’s dating history – when Jim had had little to do with them both for so many years – but puzzle pieces were falling into place. 

Of course. Extra sensorial abilities would mean the sexual experience would be enriched beyond... well, beyond anything Steven himself could imagine. If that student who knew all about sentinels knew just how to touch Jim.... Hell, he could even control him. What man would turn down wanton pleasure?

Steven stared into his drink and allowed the jealousy to take hold. After a long moment, he quietly asked, “What do you want to do?”

William was on his feet again. He put his brandy aside and placed his hand on his hip. “We need to get rid of that graduate student. You need to talk to Jim about it.”

“Me?” Inwardly, Steven cringed. He’d spoke without thinking. He knew he’d sounded unmanly to his father.

But William didn’t seem to notice. “You and he are starting to get close again. If I say anything, he’ll see it as interfering in something that’s none of my business. If you say something, he might listen to you.”

“I doubt it.” Still, it felt good that his father had such faith in him.

“Hell, I’ll give the little pervert twenty thousand dollars to get lost, if that’s what it takes.”

Steven nodded. He didn’t dare reveal his thoughts. When he’d been short for tuition one semester, his father had refused to help him out, and said he had to pay his own way “like a man”.

Yet, he’d throw money at “the little pervert” just to get rid of him.

The thing of it was, Blair Sandburg was a pretty likeable guy. He’d been openly concerned about their father when he’d accompanied him and Jim to the hospital, after the Aaron Foster situation.

“Maybe he’s already making plans to leave,” Steven said hopefully. “Maybe he’s just hanging around until Jim’s leg is healed.”

“You need to find out.” William was facing the fire again. “Jim needs to give himself a chance to find love again – of the female kind.”

“Maybe it’s risky for him. If what you say is true about the effect Blair has on Jim, then how can Jim ever explain his condition to a woman? You can’t really blame him for being skittish about romance.”

“We all have our burdens to bear.” William turned to face him as lightening flashed outside the window. “Better to live proudly alone than turn to the wrong side of the fence.” He looked directly Steven. “He needs our help, son.”

Steven slowly nodded. He took a large swallow of brandy. 

He couldn’t remember the last time his father had called him “son”.

He had visited Jim in the hospital the day after he’d been most recently shot. Still, Steven wasn’t prepared to see Jim looking so vulnerable when he entered the bar where they’d agreed to meet.

It was the cane that created the impression. Obviously, it was necessary and Jim looked good and the injury wasn’t considered serious. Nevertheless, it felt strange to see his older brother – always so strong, so smart, so brave, so powerful – walking with assistance.

Jim smiled warmly when he spotted Steven. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Steven waved at the waitress and asked Jim, “What will it be?”

“It’s going to have to be iced tea,” Jim said as he took the seat across the small table. “I’m still on the painkillers.”

Steven wondered if the senses made the pain more intense than it would otherwise be.

He ordered from the waitress, getting a second beer for himself.

For that matter, he wondered what this busy, smoky bar would seem like with heightened senses.

“You’re looking good,” Jim said. He started on the basket of peanuts that the waitress placed on the table. “The press found better things to do, huh?”

Steven nodded. “Yes, that’s all over.”

Jim shook his head. “I’m really sorry that you and Pops got dragged into that.” He looked genuinely remorseful.

It was the opening Steven needed. “Is it true? What they were saying about you?”

Jim paused, his hand poised over the basket while holding a couple of peanuts.

Slowly, Jim cracked the shells, eyes on his task. “I’m surprised you haven’t figured it out by now.” 

Steven felt stupid. “You were my older brother,” he stated as calmly as he could. “I thought you were superman. I had no reason to think anything about you was unusual.” He’d just stopped himself from saying ‘abnormal’.

“And now?”

Steven wasn’t sure he was handling this well. The conversation was going too fast. “I saw Pops the other night. He confirmed it.”

Jim focused on cracking more peanut shells.

“You aren’t mad, are you, since you thought I already knew?”

Jim shook his head but wouldn’t look up.

The waitress brought their drinks.

“How is Pops?” Jim asked after an awkward silence.

“Good,” Steven said with an emphatic nod.

Jim looked up then, his expression calculating.

He’d always seemed to know when people around him were lying, even if only via omission. “He’s worried about you,” Steven decided to admit.

“I’ll only need the cane a couple of more weeks, at most.”

“I didn’t mean that.”

Jim’s hand slowed as it brought more peanuts to his mouth.

Steven grabbed one, hoping the act of cracking it would help him feel more casual. “It’s the other thing he’s worried about.”

“What do you mean? The press bought Sandburg’s retraction.”

“Sandburg,” Steven began, wishing he wouldn’t sound so hesitant. “He's still staying with you after all of this?”

Jim shrugged. “We haven’t talked about it. But even if he decided to move, he might become my official partner.”

“Partner?” He hadn’t seen that coming.

Jim nodded. “Banks offered him a position, if he goes to the Academy.” He looked around at the crowd in the bar. “I’m not sure he’s going to take it though.” Now he looked directly at Steven. “He’s already been a great partner to me, but he’s not sure he’s cut out to do outright police work.”

“If not, then what?” 

Jim paused again, his brow furrowing. Then he tossed the nuts he was holding back into the basket. “What is it you want to know?” His voice carried an edge.

Steven sipped his beer. “Just wondering. Dad and I got to talking about it, and neither of us is really sure why Sandburg’s been staying at your place all this time.” Steven sipped again. “Is it – you know – " He wasn’t stating this well. “Is he really an expert?”

Jim eyed him. “You mean on freaks like me?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“He’s gotten me through all of this,” Jim said, more relaxed. “I couldn’t have done it without him. I thought I was losing my mind when my ‘condition’ kicked in a few years ago.”

Steven wasn’t sure how he could go about his questions without bad-mouthing Blair. “Weren’t you mad at him for leaking the story?”

“His mother did it,” Jim said, tossing peanuts into his mouth. “It was all a big misunderstanding. It didn’t have to happen, but it did.” He glanced at the crowd again. “We all make mistakes.”

Ah, so Jim had been mad at Blair.

“You’ve forgiven him?” Steven sipped his beer as he watched Jim nod. It had taken fifteen years for Jim to forgive him for the incident with that damned Cobra.

He wondered what to say next. If he kept asking questions about Sandburg, his intentions were going to be obvious. He may as well come out and say what he wanted to say.

He put the beer down and leaned forward on the table. “What I meant about Pops being concerned is that he thinks there’s something going on between you and Blair.”

“Like what?” Jim took a deliberate sip of his tea.

Steven shrugged. “You know.” He was glad they were in a bar so Jim couldn’t see him blush.

Or could Jim see his skin tone change, with the senses?

“What do you think?” Jim asked, pushing the empty basket toward the waitress who walked by.

Of course Jim would ask that. “I’ve never had any reason to suspect anything. But you have to admit, it’s not an everyday thing for a middle-aged guy to live with a younger man who’s so... so... liberal.”

Jim sat back and crossed his arms, obviously calculating how he wanted to answer.

“It wouldn’t change anything with me.” He’d better make that clear. “I just, well,” Steven lowered his eyes. “I don’t believe nature meant it to happen that way.”


When Steven forced himself to look up, Jim was still staring at him with his arms crossed.

Jim spoke softly, his expression unchanged. “Don’t throw religion in my face.”

“It’s wrong,” Steven said simply, telling himself he had the courage to voice his beliefs. 

Jim’s mouth twitched in amusement. “I don’t suppose you gave Pops your opinion on the subject?”

Steven quickly lowered his eyes. Of course, he hadn’t. Their father would never understand how opening his heart to God had changed his life. He’d been hesitant to tell Jim when they had started talking again. Thankfully, Jim had seemed accepting, but also made it clear that he wasn’t swayed by any of Steven’s arguments about the tremendous good that could come from establishing a proactive relationship with God.

Steven leaned forward, his concern for his brother boosting his courage. “Do you really think it’s coincidence that a disease suddenly appeared that wiped out a huge portion of the gay population?”

Smoothly, Jim asked, “So, what’s the sin in people that causes them to get cancer?”

Steven always hated when people tried to argue against religion with logic. As though God could be reduced to logistics. “Listen, Jim, me and Dad are concerned. We both think that Blair isn’t good for you.”

Jim gathered his cane.

Of course, he was going to run off.

But he didn’t try to rise. Instead he leaned over the small table, his voice low and menacing. “What the hell gives you the right to think you know anything about me and Blair?”

Steven made himself hold Jim’s gaze. 

“It’s only because of him,” Jim spat, “that I’ve made any kind of effort at re-establishing a relationship with you and Pops.” Pause. “The effort wasn’t worth it.” He braced the cane and stood.

He was fishing through his wallet. Steven had invited Jim, but Jim wanted to insult him by throwing money on the table. 

Jim leaned on his cane as he awkwardly pushed the wallet back into his pocket. Then he stepped closer. “I want and need Blair in my life. I don’t need you. Or Pops.” He turned toward the door and began limping toward it.

Great. Just great. Just like old times when they were teenagers and used to fight.

Steven couldn’t bring himself to take advantage of Jim’s crippled condition. He waited until Jim was outside the door before taking off after him.

It was dark and a cold rain had started.

“Hear me out,” Steven said as Jim fished for his keys while standing beside the pickup. “No matter how close you and Blair may be, you don’t have a right to make his decisions for him.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Jim asked as he unlocked the door.

“Pops will give him twenty thousand dollars to get a new start somewhere else.”

With one hand on the door, Jim turned to face him, water dripping from his hair. “You stupid, pathetic shit.”

Yes, this was just like when they used to be teenagers. Name-calling and cut-downs.

Jim took an awkward step toward him. “Blair turned down three million dollars and destroyed his academic career to correct the mess made by his mother.” He made a point of looking Steven in the eye. “You and Dad can take that twenty grand and shove it up your collective asses.” He turned back to the truck.

Three million? 

Steven snorted derisively. Like Jim would ever say the “shove it” line to their father’s face.

Steven stood there, in the rain, as he watched the truck drive off. While he felt a pang of grief, he also felt satisfaction. 

He had obeyed their father and lost his brother. Again. It was a small comfort that some things never changed.

Jim flung the door open when he arrived home. “Hey, Chief, how would you like twenty thousand dollars?” He pushed the door shut.

Blair emerged from his room, dressed in sweats and his hair in an untidy ponytail. “Uhhh... sure. What’s the catch?”

“Pack up and hightail your butt out of town.” Jim rested his cane against the wall so he could pull off his jacket.

Blair shook his head with a nervous laugh. “What?”

Jim picked up the cane again and limped to the dining table. “You’re a bad influence on me, Chief. My father is so concerned about your bad influence that he’ll pay you twenty grand to get the hell out of Dodge.” Jim leaned on the table.

“What?” Blair asked again, this time soft and serious.

Shit, he’d hurt Blair. He should have known better than to expect Blair to have the sense of humor about this that he himself did.

How could let's-all-get-along Blair ever understand his father’s disapproval?

Jim picked up the cane and slammed it sharply against the table, breaking it in two with a loud THWACK.

“Jim!” Blair was at his side, arms around his waist. “What is it? What happened?”

Jim let himself slide ungracefully to the floor.

Damn, that hurt his butt and back. And especially his leg. But the pain suited his mood.

“Oh, God! Oh, God. Jim!” Blair squatted beside him, trying to wrap his arms around his neck. “What happened?”

Jim covered his face with his hand.

“Jim,” Blair softened his voice, “please, buddy, tell me what happened.” His arms intertwined with Jim’s.

Jim kept his face covered, debating whether he could allow himself emotional collapse in front of Blair. “I hate them,” he said in a whisper.


Jim rubbed at his eyes. “My father. My brother.”

“No,” Blair pleaded. But he sounded confused. And hurt. “It’s because of the mess my mom caused?”

Jim snorted and made himself take his hand away. “That’s not even the biggest thing.”

He started to put his hand up again, but Blair took it and held it back. “What is?” Blair asked with dread.

“Apparently,” Jim said, still intending to inject some humor in his voice, “you’re a bad influence on me because you’re obviously humping my brains out. And since I apparently don’t have the backbone to say No, their getting rid of you will solve the problem for me.”

Blair took a few breaths. Then, “They think I’m making you have sex with me?”

Jim nodded.

“Have they not noticed that you’re, like, fifty pounds heavier than me, five inches taller, and could bash my head in if I tried to do anything to you that you didn’t want?”

Jim bowed his head and hid his face again. He whispered, “My father thinks I’m so weak.” He wanted to cry out his anguish. “After everything I’ve done, everything I’ve accomplished, he still thinks I’m weak.” The one thing he could be sure of is that Blair would be sympathetic toward his pain.

Blair was silent for a moment, and Jim realized that he had no idea what to say, having only had a family of one additional member – and that member neither a father nor a brother.

“What about Steven?” Blair finally asked, his hand rubbing across the back of Jim’s shoulders. “I thought you and he had united as brothers. Why would he join your father against you?”

“He’s found God.” Jim snorted at the irony of that statement.

“Oh. Since when?” Then he asked, “Which religion?”

“It’s non-denominational. But he’s got all these moral judgments now. He thinks God brought AIDs on all the faggots for a reason.”

“Man,” Blair said softly. Then, “How does he reason that lots of innocent children and other people have suffered and died from it?"

Jim shrugged.

“Does your father think that too?”

Jim wasn’t sure what Blair meant. But he knew what he wanted to say. “Our father doesn’t know that he’s found God. He’s too chicken to tell him because Dad will consider depending on God to be a weakness.”

Blair rested his forehead against Jim’s shoulder. “I know your father means well, but he’s a jerk. He’s a nice old man and kind of sad in a way. But he’s a jerk.”

Jim reached up and clasped Blair’s cheek.

The closeness felt good.

After a long moment, Blair said, “Your father thinks we’re doing it, too?”

“I guess.” Jim let out a sigh as Blair sat back on his rear. “I can’t stand to hear them bad-mouth you, when all you’ve ever wanted to do was help – in a way that they never did.”

Blair wrapped his arms around his knees. “If I try to step back and look at it objectively, I can sort of see it from your father’s side. He was raised in a generation where being gay was unacceptable. Surely, no parent from that generation wants to believe that their child is ‘different’. It’s easier to blame someone else for being the cause of it all.”

“Damn it,” Jim said wearily, “don’t defend him. Or Steven.” He rubbed at his eyes.

“Jim,” Blair said after a long moment, “don’t let this destroy your recent strides toward behaving like a family again.”

Of course Blair would say that. “I don’t want people in my life who claim to love me and then go off and judge the people I love.” Jim put his hand down. “What gets me most of all is that they feel free to do it. That they can’t just let what’s between us be our own business, end of story.”

Jim became aware of a throbbing pain. “My leg hurts.” Plus, his nose was running.

Blair got up on one knee. “You’ve broken your cane. We aren’t going to be able to do anything about that tonight. It’s too late.”

Jim shrugged. “Maybe it’s just as well. It’ll keep me from going to my father’s and giving him a piece of my mind – like that’s ever done a damn bit of good.”

Blair grinned. “Sounds like my mom.”

Jim felt a flair of indignation that Blair would compare the loving relationship with his mother with that of the horrible relationship between himself and his father.

Blair had no idea.

“Let’s get you off the floor, man.” Blair reached for him.

Jim sniffed and wished he had a Kleenex. 

It was awkward, but he was able to put his weight on Blair and then push off of him until he made his way to a kitchen chair.

Blair knelt before Jim and looked into his eyes. “It seems like those of us who love you the most are the ones who have hurt you the most lately.” His head bowed, and then he moved away.

Jim watched him grab the box of Kleenex from an end table. “Their kind of ‘love’ isn’t what I need.” When Blair held out the box, Jim grabbed a tissue and blew his nose.

“In their own minds, they’re doing what they truly think is best.” Blair sighed while Jim finished with the Kleenex. “I know, I know. I’m defending them again, even though I’m mad as hell at them for hurting you.”

Jim tossed the tissue aside. “The hardest part is that I know there’s absolutely nothing I can say that will change their minds about you. Or make them believe that I’m quite capable of choosing my own friends – and lovers.”

Blair smiled at him as he took a chair next to Jim. “Yeah.” He lowered his gaze. “I wish I could say something to them too. But like you say, it won’t matter.”

Jim rubbed his face again. He was tired, but he was enjoying how comfortable the room felt right now. He grinned back at Blair. “It’s damned tempting to give them what they want.”

“What do you mean?”

“We could go over there, to my father’s house. I could carry you over the threshold.”

Blair jerked his head back. “No. No way am I wearing white. And you can’t carry me with your leg, to say nothing of being without a cane. Plus,” he mock sputtered, “it’s just plain undignified.”

“Well, then,” Jim said, getting into the fantasy, “we could have our arms around each other’s waists. Snuggle, kiss, while carrying on a conversation with my father.”

“Not the lips though.”

Jim shrugged.

Blair put a finger to his own lips. “Well, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Especially if there’s not any spit or anything.”

“I’m the one with the senses. Anything we did would be ten times more gross for me than it would be for you.”

Blair nodded thoughtfully. “Good point.” 

“My leg hurts.” He was whining now.

Blair rose. “Then I guess it’s time for your pills and to put you to bed.”

As Blair turned out of the grocery store parking lot, his conscience took refuge in the fact that he hadn’t lied to Jim. He really had gone to the store to buy more cream for coffee in the morning. He’d helped Jim up the stairs, put him to bed, and then announced that he had to go out for the cream. First, he’d taken time to change clothes and neaten his appearance.

The pills would insure that Jim fell asleep quickly. Therefore, he would have no need to know that Blair wouldn't be returning home immediately.

Blair cursed the wiper that made a lopsided sweep against the windshield. The rain had almost turned to sleet.

It was difficult finding the correct street. But once he had, the addresses on the houses were well lit.

Here it was.

Blair left the Volvo and quickly trotted up the sidewalk. Lights were on from within, so he didn’t feel rude for knocking loudly.

The door opened and a very puzzled William Ellison stood looking at him. “Blair? What are you doing here?”

“I’d like to take you up on your offer.”

Thankfully, the rain left the older man with no choice but to step back and invite, “Come in.”

“Thanks.” Blair spent a long time stamping his feet on the doormat.

Ellison paused in the doorway. “When you say offer....”

“The twenty grand. A personal check will be fine.”

Ellison nodded and continued down the hall. “This way.”

“Have a seat,” he said when they’d entered an office area. He proceeded to a large mahogany desk while Blair sat down. “Can I offer you anything?”

“Just the money.”

Ellison pulled open a drawer. “I’m glad you’re being reasonable about all of this.” He looked up as he opened a ledger. “Really, there’s no hard feelings. You’re obviously a very intelligent young man with a good head on your shoulders. Hopefully, this money will help you get a good start with anything you want to do.” He looked up, pen in hand. “How do I make it out?”

“Blair J. Sandburg. Sand-burg. With a u.”

“Will you be leaving tonight?” Ellison asked as he wrote.

“No. Jim’s already in bed. I’ll say goodbye to him tomorrow.” Blair was surprised that his eyes were watering. “He doesn’t know yet.”

Ellison laid down his pen and looked up. “Maybe it would be easier on both of you if you left tonight. I can tell him.”

Blair shook his head. “That’s not my way.” He shifted, drawing a breath as Ellison began to tear the check from the ledger. “I really love him, you know.”

Ellison nodded. “I can’t say I understand it, but he’s obviously fond of you, too.”

Blair cocked his head. “Is it really that hard to comprehend? I helped him to understand what was going on with him – when no one else was there for him.” He wondered if the older man would pick up on the accusation in his voice. “Since riding with him over the years, I’ve been in some pretty tight stops. He’s saved my life quite a few times.”

Ellison held out the check to him.

Blair took it and gazed down at it, the words not registering. “More importantly, he’s saved the lives of many dozens of people – if not hundreds – throughout his career.” He looked up. “I’m sorry that you don’t seem to recognize that.”

Ellison furrowed a brow. “What do you mean? Of course, I recognize that. He’s my son. I’m very proud of him.”

Blair slowly folded the check. “Maybe you’ll actually tell him that some day.”

“These are family matters, Mr. Sandburg. They’re no business of yours.”

Though Blair had suspected that Ellison felt such, it still hurt to hear. He decided to switch subjects. “If there’s anything I can help with, as far as Jim’s gift,” he put a slight emphasis on the word, “please don’t hesitate to call. I only want what’s best for him. And frankly, sir,” Blair made a point of putting the folded check in his jacket pocket, “I’m the world’s greatest living expert on sentinels.”

“If we need your help, you’ll get paid accordingly.” Ellison started to turn away, and then paused. He turned back around. “Have a seat, please, Mr. Sandburg. There actually is something you might be able to help with.” He plopped into a chair, looking old and tired.

Blair took the chair opposite him, puzzled as to what was on the other man’s mind.

William crossed one leg over the other. “I assume that there’s, shall we say, ‘special’ things that you do for Jimmy, that you know about.”

Blair furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”

“To seduce him,” the other man said. “With your knowledge of his gift,” the word came out awkwardly, “surely, you know how to please him best.”

Blair’s mind raced ahead with possibilities he had never considered before.

“Is what you do for him something that a woman could be taught?”

Blair fondled the edge of the check with his fingers. “Umm... umm....” He made himself look up. “Being a man, it’s difficult for me to say how things would be from a woman’s standpoint.”

The other nodded. “I see.” Then he said, “Maybe it’s just as well. If he took a wife, it probably wouldn’t be good if she was able to control him totally.”

Blair understood now. Completely. “Oh, yes. The controls. Controlling him. Yes.” He leaned forward in the chair, warming to his subject. “Yes. If the person in bed with Jim knows exactly how to touch him, considering his heightened senses, they can have complete control over him. He won’t be able to help himself. He’ll do it with anybody, if you push the right buttons.” Blair feigned thoughtfulness for a long moment. “Of course, his heart will be empty.” He glanced up at Ellison. “But you obviously don’t care about that.”

A look of puzzlement crossed Ellison’s face. Then he said, “You’ll make sure I can get in touch with you in the future?”

“Yes. But this little bit of information, it’s on me.” Blair patted his pocket as he stood. “Thank you so much, Mr. Ellison.” He held out his hand.

William stood and reached across to shake it.

“I’ll be on my way.” Blair headed for the hallway.

“Mr. Sandburg?”

Blair turned.

Ellison was standing over his checkbook. “I’ll give you another five thousand if you leave tonight.”

Blair shook his head. “I can’t do that. I love him too much.”

Ellison nodded, as though resigned. Then he asked, “What if you can’t get up the nerve to leave?”

Blair smiled as he patted his pocket. “This insures that I’ll have the nerve.” He moved quickly to the hall, trying to calculate his exit.

William followed behind. “Again, Mr. Sandburg, I’m glad you’re being reasonable about this. And I appreciate what you did for Jim with the press conference.”

Blair paused at the door, and then turned to face him. “Do you believe that I love Jim?”

William seemed to relax. “Actually, I think you do.”

“Do you think it’s a loving thing for me to take off on him?”

“He’ll be all right. Hopefully, he can settle into a more normal life.”

Blair studied the eyes of the man who had helped bring Jim into the world. “He’s a hero, you know. His senses are a special gift and shouldn’t be wasted. He’ll need somebody near to stop him from zoning and things like that.”


“Yes, zoning.” Blair shrugged. “But I suppose you’ve never cared enough to find out about stuff like that. Stuff that threatens his life.” His head tilted thoughtfully. “I wonder how long he’ll live, with nobody near who knows about his special qualities.”

Quickly, Ellison said, “If I can talk him out of police work, he should be fine. There’s a place for him at the firm.”

Blair had to work hard at not visibly snorting. Jim behind a big, mahogany desk.... Instead, he said, “You don’t care if he dies inside, do you?”

Ellison’s voice hardened. “What are you talking about?”

“Just the simple concept of being happy. I don’t think Jim’s had a lot of happiness in his life. But he has it now.” Blair lowered his eyes. “Of course, now that I’m leaving him....”

“You let his family worry about that.” Ellison reached for the door. “It’s late and you should be on your way. I assume you’ll want to make an early start in the morning.”

Blair planted his feet in front of the door. “You seem to be assuming a lot of things.”

“What?” Ellison looked so confused that Blair almost pitied him.

Blair felt his eyes water again as he reached into his pocket. He took the check, held it out, and tore it in half. Gruffly, he asked, “Did you really think I’d choose money over him?”

Ellison stepped back. “What are you doing?”

“I only came here to see if you’re the monster that Jim insists you are.” Blair swallowed thickly. “I’m sorry to find out that you truly are.” He shook his head, a tear threatening to spill. “Trying to send away the one person who loves him with all their heart -- that’s not love. Nor is trying to take away his innate need to protect the public.”

“How dare –"

“Stop it!” Blair shouted, his fists clenched. 

Ellison took another step back.

“He’s the most caring, the most courageous, the most kind, the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. I’m so, so sorry for you that you’ve never tried to find that out for yourself.”

Blair tossed the ripped check at him. “You’ve seen the last of me. And probably the last of Jim.” Blair leaned toward him. “And now that you’ve given me an idea about how I might have a special ability to pleasure him, maybe I’ll even ask some day if he wants me to try it out on him.”

He threw the door open and left, leaving Ellison’s open-mouthed shock behind.

He looked up at the sky as he approached the Volvo, so the harsh rain could wash away his tears.

Steven listened to Catherine’s deep breathing in the bed beside him. The sleeping pills always knocked her out so that they didn’t have to deal with each other until morning.

The phone rang. He quickly picked it up. “Hello?”



“That Sandburg was just here.” His father didn’t sound happy.

“What? Why?”

“He’s a cunning son of a bitch.”

“What happened?”

“It doesn’t matter. Obviously, you didn’t convince Jim.”

“No.” Failure. Steven drew a breath. “He got mad, of course, and walked out on me.”




“I’m not sure that there’s anything going on between them.”

“I don’t think there is either.” He sounded defeated. “But Jimmy’s condition, it makes him vulnerable to somebody like Sandburg. I still don’t think it’s right.” Silence. Then, reluctant, “Jim is a grown man. He’s going to have to make his own choices. I may not agree with them but there’s nothing I can do.”

Steven sat up in bed. “Dad?”

“What is it?” 

“When Jim and I were teenagers?”


“There was that time that the Cobra got smashed up. Remember?”


“You were going to take me with you to Japan. But then I got a B in Poly Sci on my report card.” The shame was almost as strong now as it was then. “So, you told Jim that he could go instead.” Steven felt distant from the words he was speaking. “I was mad – really mad – and I took a crowbar to the Cobra. You thought Jim had taken it out and dinged it up. He told you he hadn’t but you wouldn’t believe him, and then I got to go to Japan.” He felt a stab of pain as he demanded, “Why didn’t you believe him?”

“That was a long time ago, son.”

“It created a rift between Jim and I that lasted more than fifteen years. Then we made up. And now I’ve messed it all up again by attacking Blair. You should have seen the look on Jim’s face. He was so hurt.”


“It was wrong. Trying to talk to him about there being something immoral about Blair hanging around, it was wrong. We don’t know what it’s like for him, with his abilities.” His voice choked. “We’ve failed him as a family and I’m so sorry.” He put his hand over his mouth so his father wouldn’t hear the sob that escaped.

“It’ll be all right, son.” It was as though he was trying to be comforting.

“I’ve got to hang up.”

“All right.”

Steven put the receiver back in its cradle. He wiped at his eyes.

During lunch hour tomorrow, he was going to stop by the church. It would re-energize him and put this awful night into perspective.

In the meantime....

He reached over his sleeping wife and grabbed a few pills from her prescription bottle.

Blair entered the loft with well-practiced quiet. He removed his damp jacket and hung it up.


Blair froze. Then he moved to the stairs. “Jim? Do you need something?” 

Why drag out the inevitable? He started up the stairs.

Jim had turned on a bedside lamp when Blair emerged on the landing. “You’ve been gone nearly two hours.”

“Sorry. I thought you’d be asleep or I would have mentioned that I wasn’t just going to the store.”

Jim waited.

Blair sat on the edge of the bed with a sigh. He felt rain droplets drip down his hair to his shirt. “I went to see your father.”

“Oh God, Chief.” Jim looked away. "Tell me you didn't."

“I had to, Jim. I had to.”

Jim firmed his jaw. “What did he say?”

“I’ll give you the play-by-play in the morning. For now, let’s just say that I can’t imagine ever defending your father again.”

Jim closed his eyes and put an arm behind his head. “I wish you wouldn’t have.” Pause. “Don’t you realize how it makes me feel, that you had to go to bat for me in front of my father?”

“I went to bat for me.”

Jim’s eyes opened. “What do you mean?”

Blair waved hand. “Like I said, I’ll give all the details in the morning.” He shifted on the bed. If he didn’t tell Jim what he knew, it would be a lie of omission. “Jim?”


“I understand now why your father – and I guess your brother – thought we were doing it.”

Jim gazed at him. “Why?”

“They thought that since you’re an extra-sensitive sentinel, and I’m an expert on sentinels, that I seduced you with my ‘special’ knowledge.” Blair waited but Jim didn’t react. “So, it’s not that they thought you were weak and couldn’t or wouldn’t fight me off. It’s that my power over you was so overwhelming that I controlled you. Your senses made you completely vulnerable to me, and I took full advantage of that.”

Jim huffed.

“They really believed that,” Blair emphasized. “Your father was even wondering if I could pass that information onto a female.” He couldn’t hold back a laugh.

“You and he talked about it?” Jim asked, indignant.

Blair waved his hand again. “It wasn’t really like that. I’ll tell you in the morning.” He rubbed his fingers across the bedspread, thinking that the lamp created an interesting effect on the fabric.

“What else?” Jim prompted.

Blair gave himself a moment before answering. “You know, I’ve always wondered about sex and your senses.”

“Uh-huh,” Jim said warily.

Blair continued to study the comforter. “It’s dawned on me that maybe your father and your brother were onto something. I mean, I’ve always wondered what the sex was like for you with your senses and you never wanted to tell me about it.”

“And still don’t,” Jim said firmly.

“What I never considered,” Blair glanced up bashfully, “is that maybe I really do have a special knowledge. Or at a least a special appreciation that your other bed partners could never have.” He ran his fingers over the comforter again. How soft it was.


Blair looked up and shrugged innocently. “I’m just putting the thought out there on the table. It’s up to you whatever you might want to happen with it.” Blair smiled. “Goodnight, Jim.” He stood and moved toward the staircase.

Jim switched off the lamp. Then, “Chief?”

Blair turned around, his foot on the first step. He waited.

“You’re joking. Right?”

Blair smiled again and shook his head. “No, Jim, I’m not joking.”

He turned and started down the stairs.


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