Well, I guess I'd better at least start on the 4 July story. Just about every email I've gotten on Double or Nothing indicates that it had better come soon. I think I got more mail on that one than any of the others. Well, let's see...I left our guys (and friends) comparing notes...Oh, yes. The rather odd discovery that Jim and Mack have not only the same birthday, but were born in the same city... Oh, dear. ;)
This will probably be the last of this particular AU. I need to go back to more canonical writing. Or something. Maybe I'm just bored with this. Who knows? Certainly not me.
Thanks to DayDreamer, my first ever Beta reader. I have to admit that she had a little trouble with some of my writing quirks. She did have very valid points to make, and I think this is the better for it.
Use your imagination, here. Picture the standard disclaimers. Not only do I not make any money, I have no claim on any of the characters, as they belong to others. I'd only want them if they were real, and I could keep them. I don't make any money, so suing me won't get you very much.
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"Hello, Sally. It's Jim, Jimmy. Is my dad there? I...I kind of need to talk to him. Ask some questions." He glanced anxiously at his partner and their friend, who looked enough like him to be his twin brother. "Yeah, Hi, Dad. Uh, I've got a question, but I don't want you to get upset." He paused, closing his eyes and rubbing the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger of the hand that wasn't gripping the phone handset with white-knuckled intensity. "Dad, when I was born, was I a twin? Dad?" Stiffening with concern. "Dad?"
"So, the upshot of it is, I supposedly had a twin sister, who died at birth. I...I need to call my mom."
"Why would they split us up? I mean, I was adopted at six weeks old. I don't understand." Mack expressed pretty much the same confusion that Jim was feeling.
"I don't know. Maybe...I just don't know." He looked up the phone number, and dialed.
"Hello? May I speak to Jennifer, please?" He snatched the phone from his ear, cringing at the volume. Even Blair and Mack could make out every screamed word...
"Aunt Jennifer Grace! Phone!"
Of course she remembered. She'd never even been allowed to hold her stillborn daughter and only had the doctor's word for everything. Due to complications, she'd had to have a C-section. Jim had barely survived his birth, as well, the two of them were tangled up in their umbilical cords.
"Do you remember the name of the doctor?" Jim asked.
"Raines. I remember, because it was pouring down rain when we got there. You weren't due for another couple of weeks, but, you know how that goes."
"Well, not personally." But he smiled. "Just for my curiosity, why did Dad always call you by your middle name?"
"He thought it was more elegant than Jenny. But my friends always called me by my first name. Almost everyone always has, except for James, he always calls me 'twin'."
"Are you coming?"
"Yeah. I'm going to try to find some answers, first."
"Jim, why now? What brought this up?"
"Well, can I tell you later? I need to find out what happened, first."
"Wait, let me get James, he might be able to help you. What with his contacts and everything."
"What do you need, Jim?" No preliminaries, straight to the point.
"I need to know about when I was born, what happened to my twin, I need the truth, not what my parents were told."
"What brought this up?"
"I've met a guy, he's my height, weight, same damn receding hairline, same blue eyes, same build. Hell, everyone thinks we're twins, most people can't tell us apart. We have the same birthday and were both born in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. What does that sound like to you?"
"Like I need to pull some strings and find out what really happened. They can't tell you apart, huh?"
"Not with our clothes on, they can't. Our scars don't match, but, yeah. Same blood type, same just about everything. It's a little disconcerting."
"He's a Honolulu Homicide Lieutenant. One of the good guys."
"I'll do some digging. Are you coming?"
"Yeah. Blair and I are both coming, It'll be a couple of days, though."
"Bring him with you. Is he enhanced?"
"If so, it's still latent. Or, at the least, better repressed than I was."
"I'll find out what I can. Give me forty-eight hours."
"Thank you, Sir."
"You're welcome. Is my son there?"
"Of course." Jim held the phone out to Blair, who snatched it with a big grin.
"Hi, Dad, how's retirement?"
"You have to come with us, Mack." Blair insisted. "My dad really wants to meet you." Blair was using his biggest, saddest puppy-dog look.
"I don't see how I can. I used up more leave than I had available, Blair. I have to get back to Honolulu."
"Hey, Mack. Phone." Jim held out the phone to his puzzled double, smirking at him and giving Blair a wink.
"Yes, Sir. Not a problem. I will." The dumbfounded look on Mack's face made Blair wish he'd had a camera ready.
"So? What was that all about?" Bouncing a little in anticipation.
"My boss, Captain Herzog. He said that the Feds want me in Ohio for some sort of top secret something or other. He didn't know what, he just hoped he could catch me before I left for home..." He stared at his grinning friends. "Feds?"
"Uh, yeah. My dad's a retired...uh..." Glancing at Jim for help.
"Spook." Jim supplied. Seeing Mack's shocked response, he hurried on. "Don't worry, he's one of the good guys." They spent the next hour explaining their recently discovered extended family. Mack shook his head at the convoluted story.
"Let me get this straight. Your mother, and your father, are twins? And you never knew it until a few months ago, right?" He shook his head in wonder. Looking at the two men, it was hard to believe. "So, Blair, how come you're so short?"
Blair stiffened, but realized that Mack didn't mean anything derogatory about it. He shrugged. "Hard to say. Throwback, maybe? Dad says I look a lot like his mother, she was only about five-foot-two, that could explain it, I guess." Bouncing. "Do you think you guys were switched at birth? Why would anyone do that?"
"Slow down, Darwin. Lets wait until your dad calls us back, OK?"
"I hate waiting." Mack muttered.
When the call came, it only brought more questions than it answered. The three men took the next flight to Dayton, Ohio, and were met by Blair's father. He stared honestly at the nearly identical men. Shaking his head in wonder. "Well, I guess that answers that question. I believe it. I've got a friend who will do the DNA testing. That will prove it beyond a doubt, but I think we already know the truth." He smiled at the stranger. "I'm James Savage, Blair's father, and Jim's, and I seriously suspect yours as well, uncle. Welcome to Ohio." Offering his hand. Mack took the offered hand, unsurprised by the firm grip.
"It's nice to meet you, Sir." Feeling very much out of his element, He was reticent almost to the point of shyness. Nothing like his usual brash, impulsive self.
"James, will do. I've spent most of my life answering to names other than my own, and I kind of like hearing it now, after everything." He led the way to the luggage carousel, and then to a black van, parked at the curb. Both Jim and Blair hesitated for a moment upon seeing it, then Blair blurted out:
"Mickey's here, too? That is so great, man." Hurrying ahead to see his cousin. James and Jim shook their heads in mutual bemusement.
"Cousin?" Mack asked, softly. Unsure.
"Yeah. There are a lot of cousins. An awful lot of cousins. I don't expect to keep any of them straight. So, don't worry about it. Mickey's a spook, or did he quit, too?" Directing the question to his uncle, who had opened the back of the van for them to stow their luggage.
"He's pretty much out of the business, now. Everyone's afraid of him, afraid they can't control him. He still does a lot of work for Robert, however."
"Robert?" Mack asked.
"Jim, didn't you brief him?"
"No, Sir. We didn't."
"Not a very nice thing to do, Jim. It's going to be overwhelming enough for you and Blair, and you've had months to prepare for this."
"Oh, yeah! Dad. I almost forgot. There are a couple more, coming, as well." Bouncing excitedly.
With a puzzled frown, his father asked, "Who?"
"Um." Casting a glance at Jim for permission to tell the elderly man their secret.
"It's a surprise." Jim insisted. "You'll just have to wait for it." Casting a warning glare Blair's way.
"I hate surprises." James insisted.
The meeting with all the rest of the family was rather overwhelming. There were too many to keep track of. Too many dark-haired, blue-eyed people. There was no way they could assimilate it all. James pulled the three overwhelmed men into his study, a large, book-lined room, with it's own bathroom and exit.
"You'll be more comfortable here, I think." James said with a slight smile. "It's pretty quiet, the kids don't come in unless invited, and the other adults always knock, first. Relax. Can I get you anything? Beer?" Smiling when he guessed right and all three men immediately took him up on his offer.
Dinner was a madhouse, everyone talking and laughing. The formal dining room was enormous, but even so, was barely able to contain them all.
Jim looked at his uncle, concern etched on his face. "Where's Mom?"
"She said she had some things to do today, but should be back this evening, or tomorrow afternoon at the latest. She hasn't talked about anything but your arrival for weeks." Smiling reassuringly at his nephew. "Blair, I've set up times for your tests, the list is in the study. You'll be using one of the quieter rooms in the basement. Everyone's looking forward to answering your questions. No, they don't know what it's about." His smile broadening.
Mack was feeling a little overwhelmed. So many people, and they might all be related to him. It was a bit scary. He did his best to keep out of everyone's way, but every time he moved, he seemed to be bumping into another 'cousin'. None of them could tell him and Jim apart.
With all the excitement of travel and meeting so many relatives, the three opted for an early night. They were sharing a room. It was huge, almost as big as the great room in the loft. There were six beds, but no one else was sharing the space with them. It was set up almost like a dormitory, only with full size beds.
"So, Mack. How are you holding up?" Blair asked, tired enough to no longer bounce.
"There are so many people, I lost count." Shaking his head in dismay.
"I'm not going to worry about it." Jim assured him. "They can keep telling me who they are until it either eventually makes some sense, or not." He sat wearily on the bed nearest the door, automatically taking up the protective position. Mack chose the next closest bed from the door, and Blair the one furthest. With very little communication, the three men took turns showering and getting ready for bed.
Jim was sitting on the side of his bed and Mack was sitting in a nearly identical position on his when Blair came out of the bathroom. He saw the two men sitting there and started to chuckle.
"What's so funny, Chief?" Jim asked, looking up.
"You two. Bookends. You must shop from the same catalogue, or something. You're wearing matching plaid boxers, guys." Blair said, Chuckling.
Mack and Jim looked, both blushing at the realization. Meeting each other's eyes, they smiled and then chuckled, in sync.
It was unnerving.
Dawn found Mack and Jim awake and staring at the ceiling. Simultaneously, they sat up. Glancing at each other, they grinned. They dressed quietly, so as to not disturb Blair. Slipping quietly from the room, they went exploring. They left the house and looked around. It was strange, how they hardly needed to speak. They headed for the barn.
After thoroughly exploring the compound, they made their way back to the house. As they entered the kitchen, they found James and Mickey there, waiting for them, coffee ready. Taking the offered cups with grateful smiles, they followed James to his study. Taking seats, they sipped their coffee for a while, in silence.
Finally, Jim broke the amiable quiet. "So. What have you found out?" Knowing that his uncle had contacts that could find out just about anything.
"It's a bit convoluted." James murmured. "It seems that there is an organization that does some rather, shall we say, 'odd' research. They like twins, because one can be used as a control for the other. Especially, identical twins." He looked at the pair of mirror images before him. "I strongly suspect that they fully intended to take both of you. But Jenny had complications and there were too many people around. That and the fact that you, Jim, almost died. According to my ... contact, Mack was no better off, maybe even worse. According to their records, Mack was so difficult, and the fact that Jim had returned to Washington with his parents, they decided to simply, dispose of you, Mack. I'm sorry."
"It's OK. At least it wasn't because I wasn't wanted, or anything." Mack grinned, "Besides, my folks were great. I didn't miss out on a good childhood." Smiling with relief.
Jim looked at his brother with an expression somewhat akin to envy. "I wish mine had been."
"I haven't told Jenny, yet. She's going to take this pretty hard." James informed them. "Mickey is laying in wait for when she comes back. It's going to be pretty traumatic, I'm afraid."
"I'll bet. I'm not looking forward to telling my dad, either." Jim added, with a glance at his confirmed brother.
"He's probably not going to accept it. Even though we'll have the DNA evidence to support it. I have someone coming out this afternoon to get blood samples, just to confirm our findings."
"What about this 'organization' you mentioned? Are they still in business? Have they stolen other children? And, if so, what is being done about it?" Jim asked.
"I'm no longer in a position to interfere. They are still in business, with major backing and protection. I'm sure they have stolen other children, but I don't know what we can do about it. I do understand that they are having problems, apparently, one of their other abductees has managed to escape and is running around causing them all kinds of problems. If I ever meet him, I'd probably offer him whatever help he needed. Just on general principles." He looked at his nephews. "This should have never happened. Even though it was far from my area of expertise, I apologize."
"No need. It's been corrected as much as it can be, now. We'll just have to learn to deal with it. Can you at least tell us the name of the organization?" Jim asked, but not expecting an answer.
"They call it the Centre. It's in Delaware. I don't think you want to go there. They're liable to take you in and never let you back out."
Jim and Mack exchanged looks. Unless this 'Centre' came after them, they would let it go. They smiled and turned back to their uncle, just as there was a soft knock at the door.
"Come." James called out. The door opened to admit Blair, carrying his cup and a tray with a carafe and accouterments for the coffee.
"Good morning, what's happening?" Smiling at his relatives. He set the tray down on the desk, and offered to refill everyone's cup.
"Well, we're only waiting for the blood tests, but there's little doubt. We still don't know why, but it doesn't really matter. Say good morning to your cousin, Mack." James smiled as Blair laughed and slapped both of his cousins on the back.
"That's great. Now when they ask you, you can say yes, you are twins. Then you'll just have to explain why you have different last names...but, won't that be a problem?" Suddenly worried.
"No. It's none of their business." Jim replied. Exchanging a silly grin with his brother. "I wonder what Mom's going to say?"
Jennifer still had not returned by the time they had eaten breakfast, which was still before most of the rest of the household had awakened. When she arrived, she headed straight for her brother's study. Knocking, lightly, she entered before there was time for a response. There was only one occupant of the room.
"Hi, Jim. I'm glad you could make it. Have you seen..." She trailed off when her son looked up at her and she suddenly realized that the man sitting there wasn't her son, James. "Who are you?" Her voice barely a whisper.
"Mack Wolfe." He stood, realizing that he hadn't seen this woman before. Remembering that the only member of the family he hadn't met had been his... "You're Jennifer?" His throat tightening up almost to the point of muteness. He swallowed, hard.
"Mack... Jim called and asked about his twin...." Again, trailing of as the information sorted itself out. "You lived. You weren't that baby girl that they told me died at birth." She stared at him, almost hungrily. "They stole you." She drifted toward him. He stood as she approached, the book he'd been reading forgotten on the sofa.
She approached him. Reaching out, she allowed her hand to barely touch him, feel the warmth of the man. Staring into his eyes. Seeing his uncertainty. Feeling the tears forming and spilling over and down her cheeks. She reached out her other hand, as well, grasping him by the arm in a surprisingly strong grip. She could feel his tension, his uncertainty. "Oh, my baby." She whispered as she flung her arms around him in a hug, tears flowing freely.
He hadn't known what to expect. Certainly not that she could tell them apart without both of them being present. After all, he was just sitting there reading a book and most people couldn't tell them apart even when standing side-by-side.
She was beautiful. Her auburn hair streaked with gray, her blue eyes providing a striking contrast. She was at least five foot six, perhaps just a little taller. He could have drowned in her eyes, the way they devoured him, noticing every tiny detail. The recognition of him, even though she had never seen him. The welcome and love in the hug. He closed his eyes and returned her embrace, basking in the acceptance. They were still standing like that when the door opened and his brother, cousin, and uncle came in.
"Hey, Mack..." Blair trailed off when he saw them. Jim went straight to his mother and brother and added his hug to the mix.
"I see you've met." Jim murmured for only his mother and brother to hear. "I didn't mean for it to be quite this much of a surprise, but when we started comparing notes, it was only obvious. They didn't change his birthday or the location of birth. James did a great job tracking it all down." Pulling away from each other, Jim looked into his mother's teary eyes. "Are you OK, Mom?" Wondering how she was feeling about suddenly finding a grown son she had been told was a stillborn daughter.
"I'm fine. I want to know everything about you. Mack?" Making sure she had the name right. Mack nodded, his smile still a little shy and uncertain. Their mother looked at Jim, "I have that surprise you wanted for James. It's out in the car, still. She still had hold of both men. "You look so much alike."
"I'm a little surprised that you knew I wasn't Jim." Mack asked. "Everyone else, well, almost everyone else, can't tell us apart. But you knew right off."
She laughed, "It must be a mother thing. To be honest, I don't know how I knew. Only that when you looked up, I knew you weren't Jim. Then, what he had asked about having a twin, well, there had to be a reason. I know that I never told him, and I'm sure William never did, either. So, when I realized you weren't Jim, you had to be the twin I was told died at birth. Have you discovered who and why?"
"Yeah. We know who. We don't know why, but then, they gave up pretty quickly on Mack and released him for adoption." He glanced at his brother, who was still memorizing his mother, with a faint grin, Jim continued. "He was six weeks old when the Wolfes got him. Kinda like a puppy." He said, Smirking.
"Have you had a good life, Mack?" His mother's concern reached out to him.
"Not too bad, considering. Most of my problems have been self-inflicted. No one to blame but myself. It's been pretty good, actually. Even better since I met up with Jim and Blair." Smiling at his brother .
Across the room, Blair and his father watched the reunion. Pleased that Jennifer had accepted so quickly her lost son. Blair looked up at his father. "So, Dad. Shall we leave them to their reunion?"
Jim heard him and turned toward them. "Wait." He caught Blair's eyes. "The surprise is here. Mom brought it. Blair, if you'd bring it in?"
Blair's eyes lit up and he fairly bounced out of the room, with the admonition to his father, "Don't go anywhere. In fact sit down and relax. This is going to be too cool." Flashing a brilliant smile at his coconspirators, he dashed out.
"Do you want to tell me what that was all about?" James asked, as he took his usual seat behind his desk.
"We told you. It's a surprise." Jim admonished. "Just wait a few minutes and you'll see." Smiling at his mother and brother. They finally let go of one another and took seats on one of the couches in the spacious room.
"I wouldn't miss this for anything, well, I guess I'd miss it in exchange for meeting my missing son." Grasping a hand of each of her boys, she settled back to watch the coming fireworks.
Blair's head poked around the partly open door. "Um, Dad?" All eyes turned to him.
"Just get on with it, Blair." His father growled. Sounding remarkably like his nephews in that moment.
"OK. Here's your surprise." Blair motioned behind him, and three people entered. One woman was a total stranger to him, but the other woman, and the man...He paled, his breath suddenly became short, and he found his vision blurring on him.
"Oh, my God." He could barely whisper. He stood unsteadily, and carefully maneuvered around his desk, like a drunk trying to appear sober. He slowly approached, searching the two faces that had haunted his dreams for more than three decades. The fact that he recognized them was not lost on the new arrivals. They glanced at each other for a moment and then, in unison, approached the man that neither of them had any real memories of.
He was shaking. When they were close enough, he cautiously raised his hands to touch their faces. His eldest son hesitantly covered his father's hand as it caressed his cheek, holding the warmth to his face, as his sister matched his movement beside him.
"Oh, Peter, Penny. I...I never t-t-thought I'd ever see you again." His old stutter returning with the stress of seeing them, being able to finally touch his older children. He turned his searching eyes to his youngest son. Drawing him closer with just a look. He never noticed when his eyes overflowed and the tears streaked down his lined cheeks.
They separated into two groups, remaining in the study, occasionally one or another would change groups, usually Jim or Blair, to answer some question on how they had met up with one another, or to explain something, like Peter's sentinel abilities, the introduction of Jane as Peter's guide brought the stranger into the circle as just another member of the family.
Having been separated for so many years, not even knowing of one another's existence, in some cases, they all spent as much time with one another as they could, reconnecting as family.
The newest additions tended to stick together in the large extended family group, feeling safety in their own little clique, although they also interacted with the rest of their relatives. They were all a little surprised by how easily accepted they were by the rest of the group.
On the fourth of July, they caravanned to a large park, where they barbecued and played. There was a softball game which was dominated by the newest members of the family. Not too surprising, when considering that both Jim and Mack were cops who took their conditioning seriously, along with the very fast and athletically inclined Blair. Peter fit in just as well, being quite a sportsman in his native England. With Mickey and his brothers on their team, and the women, they were unbeatable.
There were other, less taxing games; Blair watched as his relatives played horseshoes, taking copious notes to add to his research. The entire family had been more than willing to subject themselves to his tests. He had more than enough documentation to support his theories that sentinel abilities ran in families. As well as guide tendencies. He was in his element, the researcher in a lab, even if it was outdoors and included a huge picnic with a lot of people, all of whom were willing subjects for his tests.
"Still gathering data, Darwin?" Jim asked, sitting beside his partner and offering him one of the beers he was carrying. He placed a plateful of food between them, all of it designed to be eaten with the fingers, eliminating the necessity for cutlery. Blair took the offered beer, took a sip, and reached for a piece of celery, which he dipped in the accompanying condiment and munched on absently, his right hand never missing a word as he scribbled madly away on his observations.
"Did you know that there are three other full sentinels in the family? Of course, two of them haven't reached puberty, yet. With training, they could be really awesome." He sensed his partner's discomfort. He finally looked up and took notice of his friend. "What?"
"Nothing. If they're still kids, let them be kids for a little longer, won't you?" The unspoken 'before you take off to train them' hovering, unsaid, in the air.
"I'm not cutting out on you, man. There are more than enough who are guide material to help them. I'd be willing to give them hints, what's helped you, but I don't want to open a training center for sentinels, or guides. Since the whole family finds this entire thing perfectly normal, they don't have nearly the problems you had. There is no suppression of abilities, so there isn't the need to suppress them. It's pretty cool. I can imagine your kids being like that. Supported and encouraged to expand their abilities." He looked at his friend, noting the slight discomfort he was feeling. "I know. It's too bad that you didn't have them around when you were growing up. If you had," He stopped as he realized where he was heading. Swallowing, hard, he continued. "If you had, you might not have had the need for a Guide, except in the most rudimentary way, like any good backup as a cop. Like Ben Fraser, not subject to zone-outs." His eyes searching his friend's, his cousin's, face for any reaction. He was graced with one of Jim's broad smiles.
"I wouldn't change having you around, Chief. It's been good. We make a good team, and you're the best partner I've ever had. I'm always going to need you around to jerk me back in line, help me focus. I can't see that changing. Not unless you want it to?" Worry creeping into his voice.
"You're going to have to drive me away with atomic weaponry, man. I'm in this for the long haul." Knowing how his friend needed the reassurance that his partner wouldn't suddenly take flight, reverting back to his roots. Jim smiled, grateful for the needed reassurance.
"Good. That means that we're stuck with each other forever." He picked up a piece of chicken, biting into it. "You should try the chicken, Chief. It's great."
Blair smiled as he complied. Taking a bite, he chewed and swallowed. Smiling, "Mmmmmm. You're right. It is good." Finishing and picking up another piece. He suddenly realized that, as usual, his partner was taking care of him, making sure he ate. He smiled at the realization. How they had become family before they found out that they were related by blood. He was thrilled with the idea. "Besides," Referring to the preceding conversation, "We're family. Not just because of blood, but because we chose to accept each other as such before we found out we really were.That's even better." He was pleased when he saw the last of the tension drain away from his companion. "On another note, how's Mack taking everything?"
"Quite well. He's at least as overwhelmed as we are about all these people being relatives, but he's taking it quite well. He bounces back almost as well as you do. I think he's enjoying all the attention."
"How about you? Are you enjoying all the attention?" Focusing all his attention on his friend.
"It's OK. At least they're all friendly." He said, grinning.
"Yeah. They are, aren't they. It's amazing how easily they've accepted us, isn't it?"
"Yeah. It is. But I'm grateful for it, too. I don't know how I would have handled their rejection."
"I know what you mean." Blair picked up another celery stick, dipped it, and took a bite. "Is there any more of that chicken?" He asked hopefully.
"I'll go see."
When darkness fell, the entire group settled down together to watch a professional fireworks display. Soft conversations were carried on throughout the large group. When strangers would pass and ask what business they were affiliated with, they would smile and tell them that it was just the family gathering for their annual reunion. Shocking some people with the size of the group, they were even more startled to discover that only three generations were represented.
The fireworks were, of course, spectacular. Even the most jaded of adults were enraptured by the displays.
When it was over, they packed back up and made their way back to the farm, or to their own homes, for those who lived nearby.
Blair was having trouble getting his bag to close. He'd had to purchase extra notebooks for all his data, and they wouldn't all fit in his bag. Jim saw him struggling, and came over to look.
"Let me take some of your notebooks, Blair. I've still got plenty of room in my suitcase." Jim offered.
"Oh, thanks, man." Blair pulled out half a dozen journals and handed them over.
"You filled all of these?" Jim asked in awe.
"More like twice that amount, man. I'm going to be so busy sorting through the data, but at least I have it all documented." He smiled, tired and content with the results of their trip.
"You guys ready? Mom and Uncle James are ready to take us to the airport." Mack said as he came into the room that had been their home for the preceding week.
"How's it feel to call them that?" Jim asked. The results had come back, indicating what they had known they would.
"Good. It feels good, bra." Smiling at the idea that when he called Jim 'bra', he actually was his brother. "It feels real good." He glanced at Blair. "How about you, cuz?" He said, grinning.
"Me? I like it just fine. Just don't expect me to be able to put too many names to all those faces. I heard that Peter, Penny and Jane are staying over for another month. Something about planning a wedding?" Blair smiled.
"Uh-oh. Yenta Sandburg has had his first contract fulfilled. Peter and Jane, right?" Jim asked, laughing.
"Yup. Dad loves her. So does your mom. I wouldn't be surprised to see them relocate here permanently. Just to be near each other." Pleased that his efforts had been so welcomely rewarded, bouncing a little in his excitement.
"Well, when they decide, we'll be here." Jim said.
"With bells on." Mack agreed. Matching Jim's smile.
Standing in the airport, hearing the boarding call for their plane, the realization that they were actually leaving their respective parent behind, they covered their distress with joking.
Jennifer finally brought it to an end. "I'm going to miss you both. Mack, may I come and visit you?" Still a little unsure of each other. She needn't have worried. His blazing smile was all the answer she really needed.
"You come to Honolulu, and I'll show you the best of the islands. Promise." Stepping close to give her a bear hug.
Stepping back and turning her over to Jim, who smiled and gave her a matching hug. "You come any time. Just call, or drop by." Holding her tight, he whispered in her ear, "I love you, Mom." Which was the only thing she'd needed to bring the tears.
"I'll miss you, boys. I'll try to come for a visit, soon." She stepped back, releasing her son.
Blair was looking at his father. Their smiles were comfortable and accepting of one another. Blair shook his head and threw himself into his father's arms.
"Sorry. I need a hug from my Dad to go home on. I'll talk to you soon, OK?"
"You can bet on it, son." Hugging each other tightly. Finally, the boarding call became insistent, and they had no choice but to pull away from one another. The three looked back once, as they entered the boarding tunnel for their plane, seeing those left behind standing, James' arm around his sister's shoulders, hers around his waist, smiling and waving good-bye to them. Returning the smiles and the waves, the three men turned back and disappeared down the tunnel that would take them to the plane that would take them home.
Airborne, they settled back in their seats; Blair, once again, sandwiched between his two larger cousins. "Well. That was fun. What did you guys think of all our relatives?" Blair asked, reclining his seat preparatory to settling in for a nap.
"It was good." Jim replied. "I'm never going to be able to keep them all straight, but I'll recognize them if I ever see any of them again. Good thing 'cuz' is an acceptable term. Smiling tiredly and reclining his seat, as well.
"I gotta agree." Mack added. "Too many of them to keep track of."
"I'll bet you get to know a lot more of them, a lot better than we do." Blair teased. "Now that they know they have a cousin in Hawaii. You'd better expect lots of visitors in the winter months."
"That's OK by me. Maybe put them to work in some of my businesses." Chuckling as he reclined his seat for a nap as well.
They chatted a bit more, then the drone of the engines lulled them all to sleep. Mack would be catching a connecting flight to Honolulu when they landed, so he wanted to get as much sleep in-flight as possible, to help avoid any jet lag when he finally got home.
Jim had made arrangements for his father to meet the plane when it landed. He'd also left a message for his brother, Steven, to please meet them, as well. When the plane landed, Jim scanned the crowd for the rest of his family. Finally spotting them, glaring at one another. He took a deep breath to try and prepare for the coming confrontation. He snagged Blair by his jacket and pulled him in to whisper in his ear.
"My dad and Steven are here. I asked them both to meet us, but didn't tell them why. Grab Mack and tell him what's going on. I'll try to defuse them, while you prepare him for what's probably not going to be a very nice scene."
"Why now?" Blair asked, surprised.
"I thought it only fair that they get a chance to meet him, before he goes home. I called them both last night. It was kind of a last minute thing. Go on." He gently pushed his partner toward Mack, who was watching them, curiously. Jim sped off to intercept his other brother and intervene before Steven came to blows with their father.
"Dad. Steven." Jim said as he approached. He realized that his father's expression was guarded, but Steven looked positively murderous.
"Why did you need both of us, Jim?" Steven asked, his voice giving away his distress at their father's presence. William Ellison wisely remained silent, his expression almost pleading, as he looked at his eldest son.
"Well, there's someone you both need to meet." Jim began.
"What, you getting married?" Steven grinned.
"Uh, no. Dad, do you remember what I asked you the last time I called."
"Sure. You asked about when you were born. About your twin sister."
"Twin sister? I never heard about her? What...?" Steven interjected, confused.
"Yeah, well, it wasn't a sister and he didn't die." Blair dragged Mack up at that moment. "Dad, Steven, this is Mack Wolfe. My twin brother. We've already had the DNA tests. It's fact."
The other two Ellison men stared, gaping, at the new arrival. Both thinking the same thing. Of course they're brothers. How could there be any doubt?
"I-I-I-I don't understand?" Their father stuttered, softly.
"Look, we don't have a lot of time. Mack's flight leaves in about three hours. I thought we could go to the lounge and just talk, OK? Steven?" His younger brother stared at him, jaw still slack in shock. "Blair's dad is Mom's twin brother." Steven choked.
"Well, I've tried to contact you, but you didn't return any of my calls. Our mother and Blair's dad are twins. I'm a twin. Mack was stolen the night we were born, and Mom and Dad were told he was a stillborn girl. They never thought to question it. Mack was later adopted. We met several months ago, and only recently found out about the twin thing."
"H-h-how do you do, Mack?" Steven offered his hand, still in shock. Staring from one twin to the other.
"Fine. Good to meet you." Mack replied, shaking the offered hand.
"Oh, my God. You even sound the same." Steven whispered, in awe.
"Mack?" William Ellison looked up at the son he'd never known. He was answered by a friendly, easy-going smile from his long-missing son.
"Yes, Sir?" He'd gotten used to his mother's friendly, outgoing family and, for some reason, thought he'd find the same reaction here.
"You can't be. Our daughter died at birth." His tone angry.
"Dad." Jim growled in warning. "I told you. We've had DNA tests. There is no question as to our relationship. The DNA tests prove it."
"Are you..." He cast an uncertain glance at Jim. "like Jim?"
"Dad," Steven sighed, exasperated, "It's only obvious that they're alike. If I were to meet one of them on the street, I couldn't tell them apart." Shaking his head in disgust.
"That's not what I mean. Jimmy?" Eyes pleading.
"No. You'd have liked raising him. But you got stuck with me." Unable to hide the bitterness. Mack stood, taking it all in, recognizing the stress from all three men, suddenly realizing what his father was talking about.
"Not that it matters, but I grew up just fine." Unconsciously mimicking Jim's resentment of their father.
"Wait a minute. Jim? Why don't we leave Mack with your dad and Steven? Let them get to know each other without any more baggage than necessary?"
The twins stared at him, glanced at each other and nodded.
Jim and Blair stayed within Sentinel earshot of the three Ellisons. This reunion was quite different from the one they had just come from. Steven was angry that he'd never heard of Jim having had a twin, William tried to explain that he thought the baby had died at birth. Mack looked at the two of them and wished he was somewhere else. He finally interrupted the haranguing.
"Look. It seems to me that the two of you need to do some serious talking. I realize that I'm something of a surprise to you, but I've just spent the past week meeting a whole slew of relatives I never knew I had. It was great. You two seem to be having a problem that goes back a long way. Frankly, I'm not interested in the past. If you don't want anything to do with me, that's fine. I've found a lot more relatives who do. Jim and I agreed that you needed to be told. If you don't want to know me, I have no problem with that. But I'd rather spend time with Jim and Blair than sit here and listen to you two argue ancient history." Looking at his brother, he said, "He was told by the doctor who stole me that his daughter died at birth. He couldn't have known, so stop blaming him for never telling you about it." He looked at his father. "I'm sorry this was so sudden. Jim felt that you needed to know the truth. It wasn't your fault, so don't beat yourself up over it, OK?" He was struck by the hopeful look in his father's eyes.
"You and Jimmy, you've talked?"
"Yeah. A lot. Just remember one thing, I'm not Jim." The tone was gentle, but the words were a warning.
"I understand." He hesitantly reached out to touch his son's arm. "I can't believe it. After all those years. You're real." There was a silent plea in his eyes. Mack picked up on it.
"Yeah. It would have been better, probably, if I could have stayed over a few days, but I have to get back home."
"Where is home, Mack?" Steven asked. Deciding that this twin of his brother's was too quirky to not be for real.
"Honolulu. I'm a cop. A lieutenant, actually. Homicide."
"Pretty impressive. How did you and Jim happen to meet; how did you figure out you were twins, well, you know what I mean."
"We met at a seminar in LA. Then I ended up in Cascade, got all shot up while he was on vacation and they mistook me for him."
"Are you all right?" Concern in his father's voice.
"Well, about as all right as I'm going to get. Surviving was actually more than I had any right to expect." He didn't pull away when his father grasped his arm and held on. He could feel the older man's trembling and smiled gently at this stranger's concern. "Then, the last time we met, Blair was kidding us about being twins, and we discovered we were both born on the same day, and in the same place. We figured that the odds were pretty astronomical against that, so we checked, well, Blair's dad checked, anyway, and we found out that we really are twins." He grinned, absently stroking his father's hand where it still gripped one arm.
"I'm afraid I didn't do a very good job as a father." William admitted, sadly. "I'd like to get to know you. Do you have any other family?"
"Well, my adoptive parents are still alive, I'm going to have to tell them about all this. It should be OK, though, they never tried to hide anything from me." He looked at Steven, who was still struggling with all this new information.
"I knew that Jim had found our mother," He glanced at his father. "She never knew, either, did she?"
"No. She didn't. Funny thing, she knew almost right away that I wasn't Jim. It was kind of eerie."
"Grace was always very perceptive of people." William said, softly.
"I'm surprised you ever noticed anything like that." Steven muttered, darkly. Receiving a hurt look for his trouble.
"Look, I know that you guys, Jim included need to work on this. I'm an outsider here. What you did to each other in the past is your problem, not mine. I'm not Jim. I don't have any preconceived ideas about what or who you are. If you can't separate the fact that we are two different people, with vastly different points of view on a lot of things, then this meeting is defeating the purpose of why we told you." He watched as the emotions chased each other across His father's face. Steven just watched him, as though he was afraid there was some trick. It bothered him, after the wonderful time he'd had meeting his mother's family, that his father and other brother would be so cold and distant. Except for his father's hand on his arm, he wasn't getting anything from them. "I'm sorry. Maybe this wasn't a very good idea. I...I'm sorry." He gently disengaged his arm from his father's grasp and stood. "If either of you ever want to talk to me, Jim's got all my numbers." He turned to walk away.
"Mack?" His father's voice was faint. Mack stopped, turned and looked at the aging man.
"Yes, Sir?" Not knowing the man who had sired him well enough to call him anything else, but seeing the man flinch as though struck.
"I'm sorry. Grace almost died, that night, too. And Jim, too. Everything was so...I don't know how to describe it. Hectic is too calm a word. I was so, so afraid. Afraid of losing Grace, of losing the babies, then, when the doctor came out and announced that one baby was stillborn, but the other was struggling to live...It was enough. It never occurred to either of us to question them. I'm sorry. Although, I probably wouldn't have treated you any better than I did Jimmy or Stevie." He looked at his younger son, sadness apparent on his face. "I did everything wrong. I'm sorry."
Suddenly, Jim was there, as well. "No. You didn't do everything wrong. We're both productive members of society. We may not be much like you, but that's OK, too." He looked at his younger brother, then, taking a deep breath, he forgave his father and brother. "You did what you thought was best, at least you tried." Leaving unsaid the 'even though you were wrong.' "Mack and I have spent the past week meeting a whole bunch of people we never knew as relatives. We thought you deserved the opportunity to meet, as well. This probably wasn't a very good way to go about it, but Mack needs to get home and back to work. It was the only way to do this at this time. His flight leaves in less than two hours. I-I-I-I'd like us all to at least know who each other are, before he goes. If you're not interested, you can leave now, and we won't bother you again." He waited, as both his brother and father looked at him in surprise, his statement seemed so...final.
"Please." William said, his voice wavering. "I want to know you. I'd...I'd like to get to know all of you. I missed so much through my stupidity."
Jim and Mack gave him matching smiles. Steven thought about it.
"I spent fifteen years ignoring your existence, Jim. I don't want to go back. We've at least been talking. I'd like to continue. It's just a little strange, seeing that there are two of you."
"Not two of me. One of each of us. We just look and sound alike."
"And move alike. And, man, you should hear them laugh alike." Sandburg added from behind his cousins. He smiled tentatively at his other cousin and uncle.
"So, you're my cousin, huh?" Steven asked.
"So it would appear." Smiling.
"So, Mack. What do you think?" Blair asked, not realizing just how badly the meeting had been going.
"Well. We're still trying to decide if they want to acknowledge my existence." Mack replied.
Blair flinched. "Oh." Then he looked at Jim, like he was expecting some miracle from him.
Jim sighed. This was even worse than he had expected. Mack was handling it very well. He wished his dad and Steven were. "I guess this wasn't a very good idea, Mack." Addressing the others, "If you decide you want to know anything, give me a call." He gestured to Mack and Blair. "Let's go. This isn't going to work." Saddened by they're reception.
"No, wait, please. William stood up and hurried after them, with barely a glance at his youngest son. "Please." Stopping when they did. Backing up a step when they turned to look at him, questioningly. "I-I-I want to know you. Please. I know I screwed up. I'm sorry. OK? Jimmy? Please."
Blair watched. Suddenly realizing just why Jim had so much trouble expressing his feelings. He reached out both hands to the twins, gently squeezing their shoulders and then pushing them toward their father. His soft voice pitched so only they could hear.
"Jim. Man, help him out, here. He's trying. He doesn't have the words any more than you do. Give him a hug, you idiots." Pushing just a little harder.
Mack and Jim exchanged matching looks, uncertain, fearful. With the second push from Blair, they reached the same conclusion, and went to their father and hugged him. Blair watched, smiling and rocking on his heels. He noticed Steven, standing at the table, a lost, forlorn expression on his face. Whispering, he got Jim's attention.
"Jim." He began, in his softest whisper. "Get Steven." Jim looked up, spotting his younger brother. With a squeeze to Mack's arm, they opened up and Jim gestured to Steven to come and join them. He didn't have to ask twice. The four-way hug went a long way to repairing the connections among the Ellison family. Finally finding an outlet for the expression of the love they had always had for one another. They would still have to talk, but the healing had begun, at least. Blair just stood back and smiled, pleased. Surprised when William turned and pulled him into the group, as well. Accepting him as a part of the whole.
OK. That looks like a good place to end it. I decided that it needed the epilogue, so no one got too antsy asking about how and when Jim would tell his dad and Steven. ;)
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