Pre-Slash.  Rated PG.  Jim and Blair come home to an unexpected visitor at the loft.

Most heartfelt thanks to my betas, Trish and Sandy.  I was the last one to read the final version, so any mistakes are mine.


(c) Dec 2004 By Charlotte Frost


"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his." - Oscar Wilde


Blair pressed "3" and settled back against the side of the elevator. "Maybe Alberts will confess." He was stating the obvious for the purpose of conversation.

Jim shrugged and rubbed his hand over his face. "We can hope."

The elevator made its slow ascent. Jim blew out a breath and rubbed the toe of his boot against the flooring.

His brow furrowed. His head cocked.

"What is it?"  In the back of Blair's mind, he wondered if he were going to spend the rest of his life asking Jim "what" questions. To have such inferior senses, relatively speaking....

Not that he'd give up a life with Jim for anything. Over the past three months since the press conference, they'd hashed out a lot of things previously unsaid. Yelled. Argued. Gotten drunk together. And then decided that they wanted to stay together. Jim's senses were a unique gift - and problem. Blair was the only known person on Earth who understood his situation, and he enjoyed the prospect of being able to work through said problems. It was all so practical.

Besides, he loved Jim as he had never loved anyone. Jim must feel similarly, since he admitted to being just as hopeful that Blair wasn't going to be packing. Blair didn't know what kind of label to put on their love. He just knew that he felt the realness of it.

Jim said, "Somebody's crying. A woman."

Jim usually blocked out everyday activities, especially those of the neighbors. "Which floor?"

"Ours. It's coming from inside the loft."

The elevator was just now moving past the second floor. "Are you sure it's from inside? Who would have a key?"

Jim shook his head, then tilted it again. "It's definitely from inside."

Blair wished they'd taken the stairs. "Is she alone?"

"Yeah. She - "  Jim's face suddenly went blank.

"What? Who is it?"

The elevator creaked to a halt. Jim surged past the doors as soon as they began to part.

Blair hated it when Jim knew something and didn't want to bother sharing, leaving Blair clueless.

What did it say about him that he had gotten accustomed to putting up with that kind of behavior?

Maybe it means we're married.

Jim was standing before the door to their apartment. He appeared to take a breath. Then he squared his shoulders and turned the knob.

Blair watched Jim enter. Just as he started to follow over the threshold, he heard a quiet, "Jimmy."

Blair stepped into the loft and saw a gray-haired woman sitting on the couch. Though thin and frail, she had good posture. There was something in her bearing that said "breeding", though her flowered dress didn't look expensive. Strands of her hair had come out of its bun and laid in wisps about her face. Her mascara was running from her tears, which seemed to have halted for the time being. A small suitcase was at her feet.

Jim nodded as he stood before her. "Mom."

Blair's heart accelerated. Mom?

Yes, he could see the resemblance. The eyes mainly. The squared jaw, the smooth features.

What does this mean?  

Of all the questions Blair had asked Jim over the years, the one subject Jim been most stingy about was that of his mother. Blair didn't think the facts he knew about her could even fill half a page of a standard Word document.

Jim softened despite his surprise and gently asked, "How have you been?"

No hugs?

She sniffed in a way that indicated she hoped it was her final time. "I've seen better days."  Short laugh. "And many worse ones."  She swallowed. "I've come to give you some news, Jimmy."


She patted the sofa beside her. "Please, sit."

Blair knew he needed to leave. But first, "Uh, can I get you something?"

They both looked at him, as though they hadn't realized he was there.

"Coffee is fine. Black."

Blair was aware of still having his coat on. "Jim?"

Jim shook his head, then removed his own coat. "Mother, this is Blair Sandburg, my roommate and closest friend."

Ahh, Jim.

"Blair, my mother, Grace."

Blair felt awkward at the idea of crossing the room to shake her hand. He settled for a nod. "Nice to meet you, Grace."  He just managed to keep the word "finally" out of the sentence.

Jim hung up his coat and moved to the sofa. He sat down on the free cushion facing her, a good two feet away.

Blair prepared the coffeemaker, wondering if they were hoping he'd leave.

"Your Aunt Emma is dead, Jimmy."

Aunt Emma?  Blair couldn't place the name but assumed that was the sister Grace had gone to live with after the divorce. In Tennessee, was it?

A slight gasp escaped from Jim. "When? What happened?"

Grace took a deep, heavy breath. "She and Drake hadn't been getting along. After a particularly bad fight, he left. We thought perhaps he wasn't coming back."  Her voice lowered. "Hoped he wasn't, I guess."  Through the corner of his eye, Blair saw her face take on a far-away expression. "Two weeks ago Tuesday, she told me she was going to the grocery store. She didn't return. The police found both their bodies the next day. It was a murder-suicide."  Uneasy swallow. "She's the one who shot him before killing herself."


"Why didn't you call me? I would have gone-"

"I needed time."  Grace sighed tiredly. "So much has happened in this wretched life of mine. So little of it good."

Blair's mouth fell open. She'd stated it all so casually.

Jim rested his elbow on the back of the sofa. "I'm sorry. I wish you would have called."


"Does Dad know?"

Snort. "He's the last person I'd want to talk to at a time like this. You can tell him."

"What about Stephen? Have you talked to him yet?"

In the strained silence, Blair noticed that enough coffee had percolated to fill a cup. He grabbed one from the cupboard.

In measured tones, Grace said, "He was always closer to you than he ever was to me."

Blair couldn't help it. He glanced over his shoulder.

Jim looked like he was going to protest. But then he seemed to give up and was silent.

Blair wondered if it was because Jim thought it was true, or if he just didn't see any point in arguing.

Probably the latter. After all, Jim and Stephen had hardly been close after their falling-out as teenagers, though they had made up the past couple of years.

Blair set the coffee on a saucer and carried it to the living room.

Jim said, "You're going to see him, aren't you?"

"Thank you," Grace said with a tired smile as she accepted the coffee from Blair.

Blair resettled his coat on his shoulders. "Well, I'm - "   He caught Jim's sharp glance toward him. There was fear there.

He doesn't want me to leave.  

He didn't want to leave either. There was too much he wanted to know. "Oh," he glanced apologetically at Grace, "I thought I'd go to the library at the University, but I just remembered that they're fumigating this week."  He wondered if his lie sounded as hollow to her as it did to himself.

"I'll call Stephen and have him come over," Jim said as Blair hung up his coat.

He definitely doesn't want to be alone with his mother. Is it too intimate for him? Or is there some other reason?

Grace didn't reply but looked resigned.

Jim stood and got the cordless phone from the kitchen counter. He went outside to the balcony, where it was nearing the end of a grey, blustery day.

Blair watched Grace as he sat in the chair across from her. He felt he should apologize for Jim's rudeness.

She didn't look as though she expected or needed an apology.

Blair forced a smile. "So... uh, you came from Tennessee?"

"Yes. Chattanooga."

"When do you get in?"

"Earlier this afternoon. I had a taxi bring me."  She shifted slightly. "I wasn't sure how long I'd have to wait until Jimmy came home."

Hence her tears, Blair realized, from having to sit alone in a strange house with her grief. He wondered why she hadn't called first but didn't see any point in asking. Maybe she had tried the loft and didn't have Jim's cell phone number? Or didn't know which department to call at the PD?

"How long are you staying in Cascade?"

"I fly back tomorrow at noon."

Blair wondered if she had a hotel reservation. He wanted to offer that she spend the night at the loft, but he wasn't sure how Jim would feel about that.

He also wondered how she had come by a key. "When were you last here?"

"I came for Jim and Carolyn's wedding."

"Oh."  Yes, of course. He wondered if it was Carolyn who had handed out keys to various relatives. But wouldn't Jim have changed the locks after the divorce? Maybe not, especially since it had been a friendly divorce.

"Are you hungry? I could make some chicken sandwiches."

"No, dear, thank you."

"Stephen's coming over," Jim said, slamming shut the balcony door behind him. "He'll be about ten minutes."

Stephen lived and worked on the other side of town. He must have had business close to the loft this afternoon.

Jim took his same cushion, this time draping his arm along the back of the sofa, considerably more relaxed now that Stephen was coming. "What's going to happen with the house?" he asked gently.

"With Emma and Drake both gone, it'll go to me."

Jim's fingers rubbed across his forehead. "I'm so sorry you had to go through this, Mother. You shouldn't have had to handle it alone."

"I wasn't alone. Their children, Max and Camille, have been around a lot."

Despite Grace's frail demeanor, Blair noticed how she deterred every attempt of Jim's to be sympathetic. It was a trait he often saw in Jim himself.

"Max and Camille. They must be well in their thirties by now. How are they doing?"

Grace sipped her coffee, then carefully set the cup on the saucer. "They're both successful in their occupations."  She looked far away. "Max is on medications."

Blair watched Jim bite his lower lip.

"Camille is thrice divorced. She spent a few weeks in a mental institution."

Jim didn't look surprised or react any way.

Why was she in an institution?  Blair wanted to ask. What medications was Max on?

When Jim didn't pursue the topic, Blair said, "Grace told me that she's flying back tomorrow at noon."

They made small talk about flights, airports, taxis, and how the city of Chattanooga was faring.

Jim suddenly looked toward the door. "That's Stephen."  He jumped up eagerly.

A knock sounded.

Blair looked nervously at Grace, but she didn't seem to notice that Stephen's presence was known before the knocking began.

Jim opened the door

Stephen stood there with wind-blown hair and a wilted suit. And a twelve-pack of beer.

"Come in," Jim said, stepping back.

"Hey there, bro," Stephen greeted while they half-hugged.

"Let me grab that."  Jim took the beer. "Make yourself at home."

As Stephen removed his coat, Blair noted Grace taking in the beer. She didn't frown; in fact, the glint in her eye indicated... approval?

What's going on here?  What he did know was that beer and empty stomachs didn't bode well for a pleasant evening between uneasy family members.

Having placed his coat on a hook, Stephen turned to the sofa. "Mom."  He moved toward her and held out his hand.

"Stephen," she said with the hint of a smile. She took his hand and gripped it.

"It's good seeing you again."  He took the seat Jim had previously occupied. "But I'm so sorry about Aunt Emma and Uncle Drake. Jim didn't tell me much on the phone. What happened?"  Stephen accepted the open beer Jim handed to him.

"Chief? Beer?"

Blair shook his head. "Maybe just a little coffee."  Now that he was no longer in school, he was trying to cut back on caffeine and live a healthier life. He'd ended up working in the county profiler's office, which was located a few blocks from the PD. He was able to work with Jim a lot during his official hours, and often outside of them.

Grace repeated what had been said before and added further details.

Jim handed Blair a half cup of coffee, then leaned back against the dining table with a bottle of water.

Stephen was the only person in the room drinking beer.

Did he bring all that beer because he's stressed about seeing his mother?  Or does he have a drinking problem?

He couldn't recall any evidence of the latter, though he'd hardly seen much of Stephen. Still, what an odd beverage to bring when coming over for a family wake, so to speak.  Plus, alcoholics could be very adept at hiding their disease, even from those who were around them regularly.

Blair's hunger pains were getting noisy as Grace continued to dutifully answer questions directed at her about relatives or life in Tennessee.

He moved to the kitchen, taking the moment when all eyes shifted to him. "I'm having a chicken sandwich. Anyone else?"

Two heads shook.

Jim squeezed Blair's arm as he walked past. "I'll take one."

Blair listened with one ear while making the sandwiches, and considered what had already been said - and seen. It was apparent that, for all his faults as a father - and there were many - William Ellison had been the warmhearted parent in the Ellison household. Grace wasn't cold, but she was unaffectionate.

The squeeze that Jim had put on his arm only moments ago was something he doubted that Grace would ever do.

Despite his upbringing, Blair thought, Jim is such a warm person.  Well, not really. Not to people who allowed themselves to be inhibited by his authoritative demeanor. In order to access Jim's warmth, you had to be willing to love him as he was, not wait for him to cater to your needs. You had to specifically tell him what you wanted, not expect him to figure it out on his own.

But if you did that, you could be the recipient of a tremendous amount of affection.

Unless Blair himself was the only one who was a recipient of that.

No, that wasn't right. Jim could be affectionate with Simon, Taggart... old army buddies.  Just not as affectionate as he was with Blair.

"Hey, Blair," a loud voice said.

Blair turned.

Stephen held up his empty bottle. "Another, please."

"Coming right up."  

Sure, Stephen, drink yourself to oblivion. Then you'll have to stay the night.

In fact, Grace and Stephen seemed to be doing most of the talking, Stephen having become louder and more animated.

If he gets enough booze, is he going to let slip that he and Jim thought she was a rotten mother for leaving them?

Was she a rotten mother? Did they think that?

Maybe she already knew, or assumed they thought that and that's why they all saw so little of each other?

Blair put the sandwich supplies away and grabbed a beer. He turned to find Jim's hand outstretched. He gave him the beer, and Jim twisted off the cap, then handed it to Stephen.

He doesn't seem surprised that Stephen is drinking this much.

Blair took the two plates to the table and handed one to Jim. Then he sat down and started to eat, while turned sideways in his chair so he could still be attentive to the conversation.

It drifted to more distant relatives. Blair noticed that the Ellison side of the family was never brought up. He also noticed that Jim cleaned everything off his plate and spent a moment licking his fingers.

Stephen excused himself and headed for the bathroom. When he came out, he helped himself to another beer.

Eventually, there was a lull in the conversation. Jim said firmly, "I'm sure you're very tired, Mother. You'll sleep up in my bed. I'll put on fresh sheets. Stephen, you're staying on the couch. I'll put a sleeping bag on the floor in Blair's room."

Blair pretended to sip his coffee, though he'd already finished it. The living area was roomier and seemed a more logical place for a sleeping bag than his small room.

But Jim wanted to stay with him.  Perhaps for the same reason that he hadn't wanted him to leave when they came home to find Grace? Blair had thought Jim wanted Stephen around because it made him feel more secure when in his mother's presence. Maybe it did, but being with Blair obviously made him feel more secure still.

For that matter, Jim hadn't even first asked for Blair's permission to stay in his room.

Blair's heart fluttered.

The group broke up. Blair tended to the small bit of clean-up in the living room and kitchen. Jim went upstairs with fresh sheets. Grace took her suitcase into the bathroom, and later emerged with her hair down and wearing a quilted robe.

Stephen took his opportunity to stretch out on the couch and drift off into a world that involved only him and his beer. Blair tossed him a couple of blankets.

Jim came downstairs with his rolled-up sleeping bag under his arm. Blair took it from him, freeing Jim to escort his mother up the stairs.

"Stephen?" Blair said from outside his door. "Would you like it completely dark, or should I leave the light on in the bathroom and the door open a crack?"  You'll probably be pissing all night after all the beer.

Stephen waved a hand. "It won't matter. I'm zonked."

Apparently so. Still, Blair said. "I'll leave it cracked open."  He reached in to turn on the light, then tried to steady the door until he was satisfied with the small opening.

He went into his own room and was grateful to close the French doors against their guests and claim a sense of privacy.

He moved some scattered belongings out of the way, and then unrolled Jim's sleeping bag. He threw one of his pillows to the floor, wishing he had more to offer. Jim was used to sleeping with lots of pillows. He worked hard and believed in treating himself to a sound sleep.

Though a shower sounded good, Blair knew he'd feel self-conscious with guests in the house and not be able to relax much. He changed into sweats, and then pulled the curtains closed against the chill at the window. He turned off the lamp and got under the covers.

He was staying in an apartment with Jim and two of his relatives. How odd that seemed.

One of the French doors opened a couple of minutes later and Jim slipped inside and then closed the door behind him.

Something soft landed on the floor and Blair realized that Jim had brought a pillow or two from his own bed. That made sense; Grace's petite form would surely only take up a small portion of the king-sized bed.

"It's kind of a tight fit," Blair whispered conversationally.

He saw the motions of Jim undressing in the darkness. "It'll be fine for one night," Jim said.

Softly, to be sure neither of their visitors heard them in the quiet of darkness, Blair asked, "Do you wish she was staying longer?"

"No. She said what she came to say."

"Just seems like a long trip on her part to stay such a short time. I mean, all things considered, it would have made more sense to call."

Jim didn't respond. He knelt to the floor, crawled beneath the flaps of the sleeping bag, spent a minute arranging his pillows, and then zipped the bag partly closed.

More shifting. Then silence.

"Quite a surprise, huh?"  Blair wondered if Jim wished he'd shut up. He supposed, if so, Jim would give him a firm goodnight.


"She seems so... frail. And to lose the two relatives she was living with... like that."

Jim muttered something too softly to hear.

Blair pushed his covers aside and reached to the floor. "I can't hear you, so I'm coming down," he whispered, dropping next to Jim. He found the pillow he'd first tossed onto the sleeping bag and put it under his own head.

Softly, Jim said, "I said that I think she was resigned to something like that happening. Murder-suicides usually don't happen out of the blue. There's generally a history, you know, of violent behavior, arguing...."

Hesitantly, Blair asked, "What did she mean by her life being wretched?"  He could take a few guesses, but he wanted to hear what Jim had to say.

Snort. "Chief, that whole side of the family...."


"It's full of mental illness. Depression, schizophrenia, addiction, suicide, God knows what else. It doesn't take any particular form. But the genes are full of it. I don't know how many generations you'd have to go back to find a family member who was apparently normal."

Wow. But... "You and Stephen aren't mentally ill."

"Stephen's an alcoholic."

"Oh. I wasn't sure if his behavior tonight was just different since your mom was here. And you'd never said anything...."

"What was there to say? I wasn't even sure myself until tonight, though I had my suspicions because I'd smelled it on his breath at times. You  know, in the middle of the day."

"Man, that's weird. I thought...  It's hard to put into words. But when Stephen showed up with the twelve-pack, your mother almost seemed pleased. I know I'm not saying that right."

"I'm sure she was."

Blair got up on an elbow. "Huh? Why?"  He realized his voice had risen and resolved to soften it.

"That's why she came out here, instead of just calling since she obviously isn't all that interested in visiting with her children. She wanted to reassure herself that her two sons are as fucked up as everybody else in the family."  Jim's voice was devoid of emotion. "It would mean that she didn't harm us any more by leaving than we were harmed by being born in the first place."

Blair sputtered, "But you're not fucked up."  Unless Jim thought his senses....

"Chief, we came home together. I'm staying in your room. What do you think she's making of that?"

"She didn't seem to make anything of it."

"She didn't need to. To her generation, homosexuality is a sickness. So, she's got one son who is an alcoholic and another who's a faggot. She's secure in her belief that her life is truly wretched and there's no hope of it getting better. We were doomed to be fucked up by our genes, whether she left us or not."  Now there was a hint of anger in Jim's voice. "So, she doesn't need to feel guilty - not that she ever did."

Blair blinked. He slowly lowered himself back to the floor, while edging closer to Jim. This was all such a twisted, tangled web.... "How do you feel about her?"

He braced himself for an accusation of playing therapist. Instead, Jim sighed and said, "I care about her. I don't wish anything bad on her. I'm sorry she had to go through what she did with her sister and brother-in-law. But I feel no affection for her. Just a... distance."

"Was it always like that? Even when she lived with you?"

"In a way. Looking back, it was. But as a kid... you know, Stephen and I didn't know what to think when she left. There was a part of us that felt we were 'bad' and somehow caused her to leave."

Blair put his hand on the sleeping bag and felt Jim's arm beneath it.

"As I got older, I started realizing that it was more complicated than that. That there had been lots of problems between our parents and it couldn't have been about me and Stephen. When I got older still, I came to realize that it might have had very little to do with our father. She's got her own issues - manic depressive, I think - and their divorce probably had a lot more to do with her specifically than with their relationship."

Blair furrowed his brow. "Your father... strength and power were so important to him, I'm surprised that he would marry into a family where there was so much sickness."

Jim was silent for a moment. "I'm sure he had no idea. Maybe he'd heard a distant cousin was schizophrenic or something like that, but I'm sure it must have taken him by surprise when he realized that more and more of my mother's relatives seemed to have problems."  He hesitated. "I guess that's why he wanted to raise us. Maybe he thought we'd escape the 'curse' if he kept us away from her as much as possible."

Curse... freak...  Blair withheld a gasp. "When your father wanted to deny your senses...."

Jim swallowed. "He might have been afraid it was my mother's bad genes."  He swallowed again.

Blair felt a sense of dread. "Jim?" he whispered tightly. "When your senses first started causing you problems a few years back...."

"Yeah," Jim said in a rough, barely audible whisper, "I was afraid - terrified - that it was illness from my mother's family."

Blair threw his arm around the sleeping bag and snuggled closer. "But you know that's not true?" he asked, hearing the pleading in his own voice.

"Yes, I know that."

"Is that - that why you've always fought me so much on the sentinel stuff? That despite everything I'd said about Burton's work, you associated it with your mother's family's mental illness?"

"I knew it wasn't," Jim quickly assured. "Almost immediately, I had come to believe you, I think. But that fear always hovered. For a long time."  His voice firmed. "And here you were wanting to glorify my 'condition' in a book."

Blair loosened his hold and fell back to the floor. They'd already hashed this through in recent months. Jim's anger didn't affect him. He'd just never understood this particular aspect of Jim's fear. Maybe Jim hadn't either - until now - since he'd never mentioned it before.

There was a rustle of cloth, then Blair's hand was picked up and squeezed.

Blair closed his eyes and squeezed back.

After a long moment, Blair said, "You sound so nonchalant about your mother thinking you're gay."

"If she didn't think that, she'd probably be thinking something a lot less flattering."

"Don't you have a big urge to tell her how wonderful you are? How gifted? How you've done so much good for society?"

"No."  Pause. "Maybe it's because I feel she doesn't deserve to know."

"I wish I could tell her. All about what a wonderful son she brought into the world."

Blair's hand was squeezed again. "I know."  A hint of amusement now.

"I love you, Jim."  He wondered if he was going to get kicked off the floor and back into his own bed.

Relaxed now. "I think I figured that out quite a while back."

He couldn't believe the opening Jim was giving him. "Do you think it would be a natural thing for us to sort of fall in love with each other? I mean, especially since we've already agreed that we want to be together?"

"I guess it wouldn't be unnatural."

"I think I'm falling in love with you. I've never, ever felt toward anyone the way I've felt about you."  His voice softened to the barest hint of a whisper. "For a long time."

Jim was silent but there was no change in his body language.

Blair looked up at him. "Do you mind?"

He thought he could see a smile. "No, I don't mind."

"Is it okay if I sleep down here?"

"It's very okay."

Blair was aware that his heart had only quickened slightly. Sometimes, he decided, the most important things in life were easy.

He reached up to his bed and pulled off a quilt and blanket, then adjusted them until he was comfortable. He tucked his head somewhere along Jim's chest and shoulder.

A hand settled on his blanketed ribs. "Chief? I'm glad you were here for this. I don't think I could have handled...."  

"It's okay, Jim. I'm glad I was here too."

"In some ways, it's like I feel nothing toward her. In other ways, the feelings are so intense and mixed and twisted that I don't even know what's what."

Blair patted him. "It would be weird if you had it all figured out."  He let out a breath and tried to think about sleeping. The loft was quiet. Not a peep from Stephen, who was probably passed out on the sofa. "I'm sorry about Stephen. Maybe we could talk him into getting help."

"He has to want it."

"Surely, he doesn't like being an alcoholic. I mean, he's got plenty of reason. But at some point, he's got to realize that mommy is never going to love him the way he's always hoped, and he needs to learn how to cope with that and get on with his life.  He's got kids to think of."

"That sounds great in theory."  Jim's warm breath drifted across Blair's cheek. "Reality is a whole different ballgame."

"Yeah, I know," Blair relented, trying not to feel depressed.

Jim squeezed his shoulder. "We can only worry about ourselves, Chief."

"Yeah, I guess."  Blair felt himself smile. "In fact, I like that idea - a whole lot."

"Go to sleep. We'll have some hungry guests to feed in the morning."

Blair's eyes closed. "I can go down to the corner and get donuts and muffins while you make the coffee."

"Sleep, Chief."

Blair was startled awake by the opening of the French doors. Dressed in boxers and an undershirt, Stephen stood in the grayness of dawn. He looked down at the floor and frowned, his dark hair falling haphazardly over his forehead.

Blair felt an urge to scramble to his feet and say, "This isn't how it looks."  But he stopped himself. It was how it looked, wasn't it? Or, at least, that's what he hoped.

Jim opened his eyes.

Man, Jim must have been exhausted to sleep so soundly.

Stephen took a swaying step into the room. "So, big brother, it looks like you didn't turn out so perfect, after all."

Blair clenched his fists. "Shut up, Stephen."

"Blair."  Jim's voice held a pleading quality. He was sitting up now and put a restraining hand on Blair's leg.

Blair glanced at Jim apologetically, but wished he could tell Stephen a thing or two.

Jim got to his feet with a sigh. "If you need the bathroom, you'd better take it while you can."

Stephen snorted, "I've already pissed and puked my way to oblivion. Have at it. Meanwhile," he paused for effect, "our loving mother is getting dressed upstairs."

Man.  It's not like Grace couldn't hear Stephen's words in the morning's stillness.

Jim lowered his voice pointedly. "Just be glad she has no desire to see her grandchildren."

Stephen snorted. "Does she even know she has grandchildren?"


Jim waved his hand in front of Stephen's face. "Christ, your breath smells like horse piss."

Since Jim and Stephen were so determined to make brotherly cut-downs, Blair decided to slip past them and relieve his bladder. He washed up, applied deodorant, then came back out. Jim started to move past him and he said, "I'll go down and get some pastries."

Jim nodded.

Grace was coming down the stairs, dressed in slacks and a sweater, as Blair moved to the door. He nodded at her, then gratefully left.

He ate a poppyseed muffin on the way home. During the trip, he wondered if he was particularly naïve, or if the Ellison family was truly unusual. One thing he did know, it hurt his heart to see that Jim had had such a distant mother, who quickly had become no mother at all. Ah, heck, his heart hurt for Stephen too.

Everyone was dressed and sipping coffee when Blair returned. He wondered how they intended to fill the time until Grace's flight.

At least, there seemed to be cordial conversation centering around what Jim and Stephen were doing currently.

Blair had taken a few sips of coffee when there was a knock at the door. Jim shrugged at him in puzzlement, so he went to the door, since he was closest. He glanced through the peephole and was filled with relief.

"Naomi!" he greeted, throwing the door back.


They threw their arms around it other and hugged for a long time. Blair was glad of it - for his own need, and because he wanted Grace to see what mothers should be like.

"Oh, my," Naomi said when they drew apart. "It seems that I've interrupted something."  She looked back at Blair. "I'm in Cascade for a few hours and I wanted to see you."

"It's okay."  Blair took her hand. "Naomi, this is Jim's mother, Grace, and his brother, Stephen. This is my mom, Naomi."

"Nice to meet you," they all said in subdued tones.

"Naomi," Jim stepped toward her, "good to see you again."  He kissed her cheek.

Blair met Jim's eye. "I think I'll take her out for coffee, since it's getting so crowded."  He didn't want to leave Jim alone, but he felt a strong pull to speak with his own mother.

Jim nodded. "Turns out, Stephen has business at the airport. So, he's going to drive her there. She can browse the shops."

I hope he brushes his teeth first.  Blair supposed that Stephen was well accustomed to appearing professional after downing a few the previous night.

"I'll see you later at the station?"

Blair nodded. "I'll let you know when I'm back."  He'd have to first check in at the profiler's office.

Other than small talk about the weather, Naomi didn't speak until they were seated at a coffee shop two blocks away.

"Blair, honey, the negative vibrations inside the loft were palpable. Is everything all right?"

"It's just family stuff. Everything will be normal as soon as Grace and Stephen are gone."

"Where did they come from?"

"Grace flew in from Tennessee - she got divorced from Jim's dad when they were little kids. Stephen lives in Cascade."

Blair was eager to change the subject. He waited until they had both ordered, then smiled and felt himself relax. "Mom, what would you say if I told you Jim and I might have a thing going?"

"A thing?"  Her brow furrowed. "You mean - "

"Yeah," Blair grinned wider, "one of those 'things'."

She put her hand to her mouth. Then took it away. "Really?"

Blair nodded.

"Oh, Blair," she laughed freely, "that's wonderful!"  Then she said, "I had wondered, since you two have been together for so long."  She sobered. "I mean you have...," she nodded to indicate her meaning.

Blair shook his head. "No, nothing's happened yet. But the vibes are strong that something will. Very soon."

She beamed at him while their coffees were served. "I don't believe it: my little boy's about to be taken."  

"Mom, don't call me that in front of anybody else."  For all the good it would do.

She leaned toward him. "I'm so glad. It's so obvious how much you two love each other."

He studied her. Her sincere enthusiasm shone in her eyes and lit up her skin. "Mom?"

"Yes, sweetie?"

Blair's throat tightened as he thought of the family members back at the loft. "Thank you for loving me so very, very much throughout my life."  He grabbed his coffee and raised it to his lips.

"How could I not? I'm your mother."

Blair shook his head as he lowered his cup. "The title by itself doesn't mean anything."  He watched her brow furrow with concern. "I want to love Jim so much, Naomi. I want to fill his bones and pores and have him feel like he's going to burst from inside, because he's loved so much."

She reached across the table and squeezed his hand. "You have a lot of love to give, Blair."

"Because you gave so much to me."

She tilted her head, her eyes watering. "I'm glad you still feel that way."

He and Jim were long past the press conference, but she seemed to still feel guilt for causing the rift that could have been permanent. He moved to her side of the booth and put his arm around her. "I do, Mom. I do."

Blair checked in at the profiler's office and was given a file of updated information for one of the cases that Jim was working on. Good. He'd be able to work with Jim all day.

He went up to Major Crimes and found Jim emerging from Simon's office. "Hey, Chief, don't take off your coat. We've got a crime scene to go to."

Blair fell into stride beside him and indicated the file. "I've got updated information on the Spencer case."

"Wonderful."  As they waited for the elevator, Jim asked, "How did it go with Naomi?"

"Great. Did Stephen and your mom make it out okay?"

"As far as I know."  Jim's cheeks billowed and he glanced toward the floor. "I don't think I've ever been so eager to see guests leave. I love my brother, but having his anger mirror mine under the same roof as our mother...."

The elevator opened and they stepped into it.

"Yeah," Blair said with sympathy.

It had occurred to him, on the way over, that Jim might have decided that what was said last night hadn't really been said.

They were the only ones in the elevator. Blair drew a breath and turned to Jim. "Jim?"  He waited until Jim looked at him. "I just want you to know that I'm really, really happy."

Jim glanced away, but a smile was at his lips. "Guess we shouldn't rock the status quo then."

"No, no," Blair protested, though he knew Jim was teasing. "I'm happy because I'm looking forward to rocking the status quo. In a big way."

They emerged at the garage and started walking toward Jim's truck.

"Then I guess it's a good thing that I made reservations."

Blair's pace slowed as he tried to comprehend. "Reservations?"

"Yep. At one of the most exclusive restaurants in Cascade. Better press your tie."  They got into the truck.

"Why would you do that?"  

Jim started the motor without looking at Blair. "Where else am I supposed to take the most important person in my life on the most important night of our lives?"  He glanced left then right, and then pulled out into the lane.

Blair felt his throat close, even as a bonelessness crept through body. After a moment, he managed, "I love you, Jim Ellison."

Jim nudged his leg. "None of that while we're on duty."

Blair grinned. This was going to be the longest afternoon of his life.



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