Well, I had intended to do a whole lot more, but since so many people dislike original characters, I'm not going to post the original version of this. If you want to know more about Atlan, ask me and I'll send you the other part.
For those who don't like the guys with lady interests, stop now. Both Cecilia and Ronnie are in this. It's a sequel to both 'It Could Happen to You' and 'Rumor Mill'.
The standard disclaimers are just that. Standard. I do not own the characters from The Sentinel, they belong to others, to whom I am eternally grateful both for their foresight in creating them, and their kindness for not suing me for using their creations.
With A Grateful Heart, Give Thanks
The group gathered for Thanksgiving had splint into smaller groups, the majority of the Clan having separated from their guests, not being privy to their uniqueness. That left the visitors primarily with the Black Wolf family.
They had gathered out in the open at first light, The trees misty with fog and the light filtered through the trees and fog gave a slightly surreal air to the gathering. They stood in an open area, a small fire burning in the center of it. They knelt in a circle around the fire. The eldest member of the group, Black Wolf himself, stood before them, looking into the fire.
"We welcome you to our home. You are as kin to us. Welcome. Come, feast with us. We have gathered together to give thanks. Thanks for the harvest. Thanks for family. Thanks for friends. Thanks for bringing back the members of our clan. Thanks to the Great Spirit who knows and understands all and offers to guide us on our journey through life."
At this point, he took a pinch of something and offered it to the six directions: North, South, East, West, Earth, and Sky. Black Wolf softly spoke the prayer of invocation of his people, blessing those gathered there, and asking protection on those present and those who were unable to be with them at this time of reunion. He used the ancient language of his people, the Old Ones, long since passed from much of humanity, the last, purest remnant gathered in this place.
When he finished, there was a long silence as each of the assemblage thought of the past year and all they had to be thankful for.
Black Wolf was thankful for his freedom and return to his people, after nearly twenty years in captivity by a quasi-governmental lab which had sought to understand his secrets, to no avail.
John Black Wolf thought of the return of his grandfather and the removal of the 'bad place' from his clan's environs. He also thought of the renewal of his relationship with his own grandson, brought about by the events leading up to this day.
Meadowlark Black Wolf thought gratefully of the restoration of her family and the addition of a new member to the clan.
Dan Wolf was thankful that the rift that had developed between him and his family had been healed, and that his colleagues were friends who had accepted his family without fear or censure.
Simon Banks was grateful for his family, both his son, kneeling beside him, and his extending 'adopted' family, consisting of friends and colleagues.
Daryl Banks was thankful for the feast he was anticipating and the acceptance by the adults as a member of their group, no longer as a child.
Joel Taggart was thankful for all the blessings in his life, his Lord and Savior, his Wife, his children, his friends. On this day, more than most, he realized that he was thankful for everything in his life, even the bad things; for without the evil to balance, the good might be lost by taking it for granted.
Mable Taggart's thoughts almost exactly mirrored her husband's. But she was most grateful for her husband's continued presence, as he had nearly been killed the previous year. She reached over and touched his shoulder. Without looking, he raised his hand and grasped hers. Holding hands, they said their own, private, prayers of Thanksgiving, silently.
Cecilia Taggart was thankful for her God and the wonderful man in her life. She couldn't help but smile at the thoughts of him brought her.
Henry Brown was a little in awe of the company. He found himself thinking on the meaning of the holiday and realized that he had a great deal to be thankful for. Things like his family, his friends. Friends who had decided to trust them with their secrets and their confidence in him to protect them.
Brian Rafe had never been much into introspection, but here he knelt, head bowed, thinking of what he had to be thankful for. Family, of course. Friends, certainly. He found himself thinking back on all that had happened in the past year and found himself thankful that they had all survived and even thrived, in spite of all the bad things. The bad stuff seemed only to draw them closer to one another, instead of apart; and for this he was most grateful.
Megan Connor was thankful for being included in the holiday. All her family and friends were back home in Sydney. She found this group's acceptance of her to be quite nice for, in spite of her initial rough start, she had found herself fitting in quite well.
Ronnie Wells thought of all that had happened to her in the previous year. How her life had been going along, more or less in neutral, until early summer, when she had met Jim and Blair. How much her life had changed since then. She was sad that she couldn't seem to get close to her family, but found herself thankful at the acceptance and welcome from the group around her now. How they had reserved judgment until they got to know her, in spite of their dislike of her sister, who had alienated them all from the moment she had arrived. She was thankful for these new people in her life, and, in spite of the difficulties of a long-distance relationship, particularly thankful for Jim. How he was willing to try, in spite of his fear and easy discouragement about their chances. She glanced over at him and smiled softly when his eyes met hers.
He returned her soft smile. Yeah. He had a lot to be grateful for this year. Last year, he had been grateful for the growing relationship with his estranged brother, this year, he had renewed contact with his father, as well. There had been ups and downs, of course, but all in all, it had been a pretty good year. He had friends, now, not just colleagues. Real friends. Friends he could trust, depend on. People he cared about and who cared about him in return. Yeah, the bad parts had been real bad. Joel's accident. Losing Incacha. Totaling his Expedition. Almost losing Blair's friendship. Almost losing Blair... That had been the worst. He glanced over at his friend. Still amazed at the younger man's resilience and fortitude. His ability to forgive...and now, there were these new friends. Friends who's secrets rivaled his own. Who recognized him for what he was and embraced him for it. Acceptance. That was a big one. Never before in his entire life had he felt as accepted and loved as he did with this group of people. It was a totally new experience for him.
He didn't notice when the tears formed and started to trickle down his cheeks as he realized just how much he had to be thankful for. And now, there was Ronnie, as well. She had come into his life at one of the lowest points, just after Blair had almost...his breath still caught every time he thought of what had almost happened. What had happened. His shoulders shook on the almost sob at what that loss would have meant to him. He felt Blair's hand reassuringly on his shoulder, providing the support and comfort he needed. Grateful beyond all explanation for what he had.
Blair squeezed his partner's shoulder. So much had happened. Good things and bad. The bad things, he'd just as soon forget, but the good things... His new status at the department, status that provided him with a paycheck. That was nice, but not really important. What was important, was the people. From being an only child, raised more or less on the road, he'd found an extended family and a place to call home. Father figure Simon, stern, sometimes harsh, but always caring. Joel, the perfect uncle. Brown and Rafe, easily cousins. The Black Wolf clan, more cousins, more distant, however. Mable, den mother to them all. Cecilia, well...possible forever there. Ronnie, he smiled. She was good for Jim. Willing to accept them and their necessary relationship. Now that she knew why, she was one of the most supportive of them all. Jim. Man, what a roller-coaster ride the past year had been. Starting with Incacha's death. Jim's near hysteria at the loss. The cases, the fights, the working hard at their friendship, the near destruction of it, of them. Of him. Blair had heard about everything that had happened to him at the fountain, but was glad he had no real personal memories of that time. Glad that he and Jim had been able to work through their difficulties and come through stronger, better than before. Of course, the support of their friends had been instrumental in that, as well. All in all, he decided, he had an awful lot to be thankful for. He squeezed the shoulder his hand still rested against, conveying in his touch more than words could; in spite of the fact that words were one of his favorite things. Jim needed the reassurance from touch. It had taken him a long time to recognize and react to that. It had caused problems, but nothing that, with their friends, they couldn't handle.
Atlan watched the others, his pale, golden eyes reading their thoughts from their expressions and posture. He hadn't spent much time with people, having always been hurt by them. But these people...they cared. Not just about themselves, but about others. About right and wrong and had been willing to lay their lives on the line to see that right prevailed. For him. A stranger. And from that sacrifice, had come acceptance, friendship, and family. He was grateful to these people for believing him and in him. For trusting him. For following him to destroy the evil place that had held him for nine years. He knew that part of the reason they had helped him had to do with self-preservation, but still... He smiled into the eyes of Black Wolf, who had been a prisoner as well. Most of all, he was thankful for the clan. Meadowlark had searched the world to find the remnants of the old ones and had gathered them together in the clan. From that number, he had been fortunate to find a mate. He squeezed the hand of the woman beside him. She smiled shyly back at him. They were both surprised at the discovery of one another. One would think that he would have sought a mate among the wolves in the clan, but he had found her, instead. Her snow white hair and pale blue-almost white eyes fascinated him. They had met by accident and fallen quickly and irrevocably in love...and wolves mate for life.
They all remained quietly kneeling in the circle, contemplating the things for which they were grateful for several minutes. Then, the song of a meadowlark wafted across them like a benediction, breaking the silence. Black Wolf softly urged them to come and feast.
The feast began with breakfast. None of the guests had ever seen such a feast before in their lives. They couldn't imagine being able to eat half of what was offered. Then, the rest of the guests arrived. The entire extended family that made up the tribe had come. There were greetings passed from one to another, strangers met and embraced as family. Anecdotes of shared acquaintances passed around. Laughter and merriment abounding. There were games, as well. Lacrosse was the favorite amongst the tribal members. The visitors did manage to get a football game going, joined by many of the younger men and even some of the women.
Of course, they didn't stand a chance against the group from Cascade. Blair was the quarterback, since he could throw the best pass. Joel and Henry made formidable linebackers, and Jim as wide receiver was unstoppable, once he caught the ball. They played flag football, since that way they didn't have to worry about anyone being injured. They all had a great deal of fun.
There were other things, as well. Blair was ecstatic when members of the tribe performed several traditional dances. Mable had brought her video camera and surprised him with the tape, which earned her a kiss for her trouble.
As the afternoon eased into evening, the feasting began again. No one could possibly have come away from that table and still been hungry. There was the traditional turkey, but it had been spit-roasted over an open fire. There was also roast venison and wild pig. For vegetables, there were a variety of squashes, some sweet, some savory. There was a stew, served in a pumpkin and also a pumpkin soup that was also served in one of the orange squash. There was succotash, made with green beans and corn, as well as fire roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes.
After dinner, everyone was too full and tired to do much more than sit and talk. Finally, the group from Cascade decided that they needed to head for home, as they had to work the next day.
Saying their good-byes, they all loaded up in Mable's van and headed back to the city. The group was rather quiet and contemplative as they wended their way toward home.
"My family has a tradition," Joel began, once they reached the highway, "Each Thanksgiving, we pick out the one thing for which we are most thankful from the previous year." He paused, choosing his words carefully. "I'm most thankful for you, my friends. You were there when I needed you, without compunction, without pause. Thank you."
Mable immediately continued, "I'm most thankful for your friendship and help in getting Joel back up to snuff. Without you, we'd still be struggling."
Cecilia continued, "I'm most thankful for my family, for their encouragement and help, but most of all, for their love."
There was a moment of silence, as the others nervously tried to think of what to say. Then, Daryl started, "I guess I'm most grateful for my dad. This past year we've become friends, as well as father and son. I'm also grateful for his friends, who helped us figure it out." He wasn't surprised when his father gathered him close for a hug, which he enthusiastically returned.
"And I'm grateful that my son is growing into a man I'm proud to call my friend, as well as my son." Simon glanced around at the others, "I'm also glad that I have such good friends, who have stood by me when things have gotten rough."
"I guess I'm grateful for all of you, my new friends, who have made me a part of your group. I know that we didn't start off quite right, but we've managed to get past that first awkwardness, and we can now work together and be friends outside of work, as well." Megan added.
Brown continued. "I'm grateful that we all made it through this past year alive and relatively whole. We've had some bad times, but we've come through them, stronger, more together, and I hope, better than before."
Rafe took up the challenge. "I'm grateful for a lot of things, working with all of you, being accepted as part of the group. Being trusted." He glanced at Jim, smiling shyly. "You're good people, and It's great to work with you. It's also nice to be included in the other activities, to belong." A little tongue-tied, but heartfelt, nonetheless.
"I'm thankful to have gotten to meet and know all of you. Especially, Jim." Ronnie said, smiling. You're all wonderful people, and I'm honored to know you.
"I'm..." Jim had to stop and clear his throat. "I'm thankful for all of you. For Simon who knows when to kick my butt; for Daryl, who taught me how to play and have fun, again; for Joel and Mable, who always have good advice; for Megan who offered a new perspective; for Brown and Rafe, who were always there when needed, ready to back us up in anything; for Ronnie, who's given me hope." He paused, looking at Cecilia and Blair, who were cuddled up together in the rear-most seat, "For Cecilia, who helped put the sparkle back in Blair's eyes and most of all, for Blair. For all he does, without complaint, without rancor, even when I act like a complete bastard toward him. Mostly, I'm thankful that you were able to forgive me, Chief. And that you were still willing to be my friend and help me." His eyes were bright with unshed tears.
Blair stared at his partner for a moment. "Thank you, Jim. I'm thankful for all the blessings God has seen fit to give me. Most of all for friends who have become my family. And for Jim, who demonstrated what friendship and responsibility are and gave me a home that wasn't just a place to sleep. For all of you, who have taught me what love is all about." He hugged Cecilia a little tighter. "Thanks for being my family. I couldn't have had a better one than you guys."
"Here, here." Joel replied, smiling at them all.
The rest of the trip was spent in contemplative silence as each one thought on the things that they were thankful for.
"I'm beginning to hate airports, Chief." Jim complained softly as they made their way back to Jim's truck on Sunday. They had just seen their ladies off, back to Sacramento for Ronnie and to Los Angeles, for Cecilia.
"Only when they leave, though, right? I mean, I love coming to pick them up." Blair replied.
"Yeah. I guess. I just wish that once, they could come and not have to leave again." Unlocking the passenger door before making his way around to the driver's side. Once in and belted, he started the engine and, after checking for traffic, pulled out to drive them back home. There was a certain melancholy on the drive . This trip, they had only had five days with their ladies. The pain of parting was a tangible thing.
"Well, maybe next year, we can be thankful for that, you think?" Blair offered hope like a parachute.
"Yeah. Maybe. It was a good time, though, wasn't it?"
"Yeah. The best."
"You're not sorry your mom couldn't be here?" Unsure.
"Well, that would have been good, but I'm not sorry or disappointed. I had a good time. I was with people who care about me. Who like me as me, not because of what I can give them, or how they can use me; just because they do." He cast a warm glance at the larger man beside him. "Does that make sense to you?"
"Yeah. It does. Thanksgiving at my house, growing up, was always just another day, only with a big dinner. No one else, just my dad, Steven, Sally, and me. It wasn't very pleasant, actually. Just formal."
"I liked this one. It was fun. You know, this is the first time I've ever been with so many people who care about me. Who wanted me around. And I owe it all to you, man. Thanks. For everything."
Jim paled a little at the statement of his friend. He glanced over at him, unsure, but his eyes and ears told him that the smaller man was speaking nothing but the absolute truth. "I should be thanking you, Chief. For saving my sanity. For helping me with these senses. For being there when I need you, even when I'm being a total asshole. But I guess, mostly, for forgiving me." He shook his head. "Thank you." He pulled into his usual parking space in front of the loft, turned off the engine, and released his seat-belt. Then, instead of opening the door and getting out, he turned toward his friend, who looked up at him curiously, and reached across and pulled his friend in for a hug. "Thank you. For everything, Blair."
Blair was surprised, to say the least. But it took him only a moment to return the hug, understanding that his friend, never comfortable with words, was telling him everything he ever needed to know about their relationship with his touch.
"I love you, too, Jim." He murmured, smiling.
OK, That's it. Me? I'm thankful to God, who has given me everything I need, whether I wanted it or not ;) I'm thankful for my family and friends and for a lot of folks I've met on the internet this past year. I'm also thankful for my job and health (Hey, the fact I'm still alive is wonderful). I'm grateful for feedback and constructive criticism. I'm eternally thankful for Wolfpup, who has given my ramblings a home on the net. I'm grateful that I had fifteen and a half years with Raffles, who died a week ago, I'll miss her, but I have some great memories and some good pictures. I'm even thankful to UPN, who agreed to give us eight more episodes, and to the actors, writers, crew, and anyone involved with making The Sentinel come to life. I have a lot more to be thankful for, as well. I'm even thankful for adversity, for without it, life would be quite boring. How about you? What are you thankful for? Think about it, make a list, if you can. Remember to tell those you care about that you love them. Even when you're angry with each other, for you never know if you'll have another chance.
R. I. Eaton
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