I was watching an episode of Hunter a while back, and suddenly saw just how much like Jim he is. Older, to be sure, but still... So, my fertile little (OK, so maybe it's not so little, why shouldn't it be just as oversized as the rest of me?) imagination started to ask, how can he be related to Jim? Someone (Sorry, I can't remember who it was, now) suggested that he be an older brother, the product of a mad fling of William's when he was in college. I liked the idea. I like it a lot.

As usual, the characters, for the most part, aren't mine. They were created by others and brought to life by the actors who portrayed them and given to us by those who provided the funds to produce them, all of whom I am grateful to for their wonderful work. As usual, too, I make no money at this. This is simply one way I use to exercise my pitiful little brain, and I have fun doing it. Hopefully you will enjoy it as well.

Family Ties


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The big, balding man scooped up the phone on the second ring, grateful for the interruption that took him away from the pile of reports he'd been going through. "Yeah," he said into the phone, still somewhat distracted by what he was reading. Hearing the voice on the other end, he sat back in his chair, a frown furrowing his brow, surprised at the caller.

"Mom? What's up?" His full attention now on the call. "What? You want me to go where?... Why?" He listened in stunned surprise, then, "Why? I mean, why now? He was never interested before, and I'm certainly not... I know, Mom. It's just... All right. I'll see what I can do." He picked through the pile of reports, fishing for one he had already finished. Finding it and opening it, he smiled, grimly. "Yeah, Mom, I think I've got it covered... No, it's all right. Yeah. I'll see you later. Bye, Mom." He hung up the phone, wondering why now, of all times, did his mother want to contact his father... and why on earth did she want him to deliver the package... and what exactly was in that package, anyway? Not having any clue as to the answers to any of his questions, he simply shook his head and went back to the file he'd picked up when he'd heard his mother's request. Sighing, he picked the phone back up to make a call to set everything in motion.

Captain Simon Banks hated it when his work brought the wrath of the mayor down on him. Hell, it wasn't his fault that the mayor hung out with criminals who passed themselves off as pillars of the community. Unfortunately, the evidence that had come with the request for assistance had checked out, and it looked like the mayor's buddy was going to be extradited to California, if he wasn't mistaken. There were two cops from Los Angeles due to arrive the following afternoon to work the proceedings with them. Once they were here, warrant in hand, he was going to have to arrange for the arrest and transport of one of the mayor's favorite supporters, one who had also apparently defrauded the good people of California out of millions of dollars. He sighed, wishing, once again, that just once in a while, things could be easier.

"When were you going to tell me, Rick? After you got back? What were you thinking? Why on earth did you volunteer to go up to Washington to get this guy? Is it personal? Why..."

"Whoa, whoa! Give me a chance, OK? My mom called me last week. She wants me to take a package to my father..."

"I thought your dad died when you were fifteen?" His wife interrupted. Even after ten years of marriage, they still wrangled just as much as they had when they had been partners.

"He did. John Hunter wasn't my biological father, however. He adopted me when I was three, after he married my mother. As far as I'm concerned, he was the only father I've ever had, needed, or wanted. She just got this bee in her bonnet that she wants to contact this guy. I don't know. I think she just may still be in love with the jerk."

"I never knew you were adopted," she was suddenly comforting, concerned. "Tell me about it?"

It always amazed him how his wife could go from killer to comforter in less than two seconds. He shrugged. "Not much to tell, actually. They met in college. He came from a wealthy family, she was working her way through school. They met at the restaurant she worked in, fell in love, got married. Problem was, he never told his family, until he took her home and introduced them. His family had a fit and had the marriage annulled. You know how it is, if you have enough money, you can get just about anything. He hadn't told them that she was pregnant, with me. So, she left school and came to LA. She met my dad at the diner she worked in. I'm not sure she ever really loved him, until later, but she needed help, so when he asked her to marry him, she said yes. Best thing that could have happened, as far as I'm concerned. He was a great dad." He waited for her reaction.

"He had to have been. Look at you. Everyone who knew him say you're just like your father. So, tell me why you volunteered to go through that hassle of dragging Chrissman back to LA for trial? It's fraud, not murder/homicide. Not exactly your department, or mine, you know." She sat down beside him on the bed, where he'd been packing for his trip north. He automatically slid one arm around her, holding her against his chest.

"Mom wants me to take something to my father. The Chrissman case needs someone to go after him. The file was on my desk that morning; why, I don't know. It's kind of weird. Whatever it is, it lets me give my mom something she wants."

"OK. You're forgiven. My folks have agreed to take the kids, so I can go with you," and with that, she stood up and went to the closet for her own suitcase and began to pack, leaving her husband staring at her, his mouth hanging open, his jaw slack. Leaning down, she quickly kissed him, then went back to the closet to decide on which clothes she would need.

"You're going with me?" Surprised pleasure in his voice as he started to smile.

"Yep. You got a problem with that, Captain?" She stood, all five feet six of her, legs apart, fists on hips, glare at the ready.

"No, Captain. I do not have a problem with that," and he gave her the smile that had made her fall in love with him in the first place. Turning back to his own packing, he softly said, "Thanks, McCall." Even after ten years of marriage, when things got too intense between them, he would revert to calling her by her last name, even though she'd changed it to his when they got married.

"You're welcome, Hunter."

"Look, tell you what. I'll drop you off at the station with the warrant and stuff, then I'll go and deliver the package and meet you back here, OK?" He'd already made his decision, as he was pulling up in front of the police station, even as he spoke.

"You sure you don't want me there as backup? I mean, it isn't like I'm not curious, you know." She watched her husband in concern, sensing the stress he was feeling at the prospect of seeing his biological father for the first time. He was forty-nine years old and only knew of his father by name. That and the fact that the man had sent child support to his mother for most of his childhood. But the man had never, not even once, been to see his son; and that negated any responsibility on his part to the man, as far as he was concerned.

"Yeah. I think I can handle it. You take it easy, OK?" He leaned across the seat to kiss her, watching to make sure she made it into the police building. Once she was out of sight, he pulled back out into traffic and followed the instructions he'd written down for himself at home when he'd pulled up the map of Cascade from the Internet.

Every man in the bullpen looked up as the pretty woman with the long, dark, wavy hair entered. She glanced around, with a faint smile on her face as she recognized the typical bullpen atmosphere. Spotting the glassed-in office across the room with the name 'CAPTAIN SIMON BANKS' in big, bold, gold lettering on the door, she wove her way through the intervening desks and came to a stop at the door. She raised a hand and knocked. The gentle bellow of "Enter," brought a smile to her face. Opening the door, she walked in.

Simon heard the knock and looked up from the reports he was reviewing. Calling out "Enter," he waited as the door opened and a lovely lady walked in. Automatically, he stood up, "How may I help you?" he asked.

"I'm Didi Hunter. From LA. I'm here to arrange an extradition of a Marshall Chrissman."

"I was told that a Richard Hunter would be coming in for that," Simon was puzzled, she certainly didn't look like a captain in charge of Robbery/Homicide.

She smiled. "Rick had a personal errand to run. He should be here in an hour or so. We felt that I could bring in the paperwork and start the ball rolling. Rick's my husband. I'm also a captain, but I work Juvee, now. Something about some stupid rule that doesn't allow relatives to be partners." She held out her hand and Simon shook it, a bit absently.

"I take it that you met when you were partners?" Smiling at this obviously 'got it all together' lady.

Didi chuckled, "Something like that. He didn't want a partner, but they stuck him with me. I was new, and they figured he'd make me quit. They were wrong. They just hadn't found the right partner for him. He was something of a loner, if you know what I mean."

"Oh, yeah. I've had one or two of those in my time." He smiled, glancing through the glass to spot his own burden in that department, only... she was right. It just took the right partner to turn a lone wolf into a team player, and Ellison had definitely become a team player since he'd picked up the peripatetic man who had also become his best friend. Turning back to his visitor, he continued, "So, let's see what you have for us, shall we?"

"I've got the warrants, and the requests for extradition, right here..." Pulling the folders from her briefcase, she handed them over and they began to work through the various forms required to pull it all together.

It was a fairly impressive house. Best part of town. Near the country club. Manicured lawn, trimmed hedges. Privet lined walk to the front door. Very posh. Striding up to the door, he ignored the doorbell and knocked. It took a couple of minutes, but an older Asian woman soon answered the door. She seemed surprised to see him.

"I'd like to speak with Mr. William Ellison, if I may."

The man's manner screamed 'police' to her, she paled, "Did something happen to Jimmy?" she asked worriedly.

"I'm sorry? What?" He stepped back just a bit, wondering what she was talking about.

"Oh, I'm sorry, just a moment. Won't you come in?" She held the door wider and, after showing him to the living room, went in search of her employer.

He looked around. Very nice. Very cold. Very showy. No sign of any real habitation, almost like one of those model homes for new housing tracts. He shivered, suddenly grateful not to have grown up here. Hearing footsteps, he turned for his first look at the man who had sired him. Tall, not nearly as tall as he was, but probably at least six feet before age had begun to shrink him. Slender, wearing his age fairly well.

"Yes? How may I help you?" William Ellison had to look up quite a way to see the man's face. There was something oddly familiar about it, but he wasn't sure what. Perhaps they had met before, somewhere?

"My name is Rick Hunter. My mother's maiden name was Anna Burk. She asked me to give you this." He held out the rather hefty package he'd had tucked beneath one arm. He watched as the old man stiffened, paled, glared at him; and wondered...

"Get out of my house. There's nothing for you, here." William bristled. Rick flinched back, wondering what he had expected. Whatever it had been, it certainly wasn't this animosity. He set the package down on the coffee table and looked at the man who had sired him.

"I have never wanted anything from you. My mom asked me to give you this. I have no idea what it is, but there it is. I can find my own way out," and with that, he turned and stalked from the room, through the foyer and out the front door, slamming it hard behind him. Seething, he stomped down the walkway and back to his rental car, never looking back. He was still simmering when he arrived at the police station and found his way upstairs to Major Crime.

The man was tall, and big. Taller than Simon and almost as big as Joel Taggart. Definitely a force to be reckoned with. Making his way through the bullpen toward where he could see his wife in the glassed in office. With a nod of acknowledgement to the cops he passed, he stopped at the office and knocked, entering when bid to do so. The detectives exchanged looks, knowing that this must be the rest of the team from LA that they had been awaiting.

Didi smiled as her husband entered, even though she recognized his 'I'm pissed off, so don't annoy me' body language. She quickly made the introductions. "Rick, this is Captain Banks. He's going to help us through all the red tape. Captain Banks, this is my husband, Captain Rick Hunter." The two men shook hands, sizing one another up.

"Well, with that out of the way, let me assign a team to help guide you through the rest of the rigmarole they put us through in cases like this. Your first stop will, of course, be the DA's office. After that, we should be able to bring him in for you. You'll still have to go to court, because I'm sure that he's going to fight."

"I'd be surprised if he didn't," Rick smiled.

There was something familiar about the man, but Simon knew he'd never met him, before. Shaking his head, he stood, circled around his desk and, with the Hunters following him, called out into the bullpen.

"Sandburg, Ellison. My office." He could feel the sudden increase in tension in the man behind him, and turned to look, wondering what had set the man off. It was obviously anger, but why?

As the two men approached, Rick couldn't help but glare. As his gaze focused on the taller of the two men, he seemed unable to control his annoyance, "Ellison? Any relation to William?" he bit out.

Jim looked surprised. "My father. You know him?" His expression was one of curiosity.

"No. But I have met him. My mother sent him a package." Hunter's eyes narrowed and his jaws flexed, suddenly, Simon realized who the man reminded him of.

"Oh? Why is that?" Jim glanced at his captain, his puzzled confusion obvious on his face.

"I don't really know. He threw me out. Said something about there being nothing for me here. Whatever the hell that means. Not that I care. Just because he fathered me..."

Didi grasped her husband's arm, holding him back, Jim turned pale with shock, and the other members of Major Crime simply stopped what they were doing and stared. Finally, Jim shook his head, trying to make sense out of what he'd just heard.

"I'm sorry? What are you talking about?"

"You don't know?" Hunter's tone was accusing.

"Know what?" Jim's voice was plaintive and confused.

"You really don't have any idea, do you?" Hunter deflated just a bit. The younger man's attitude had shaken him. It had never occurred to him that his father had never mentioned his first marriage to his family. "I'm sorry," he shook his head, trying to make sense of it all. "William Ellison was married before. He met my mom when they were in college. He married her, but his family disapproved and had it annulled. Unfortunately, they didn't take me into account."

"Wait a minute," Blair Sandburg interjected, "Are you saying what I think you're saying? You're Jim's older brother?"

Hunter looked at the smaller man for the first time. "Yeah. I guess so. Different mothers, though."

"I...I," Jim shook his head, unable to get a handle on the information. There was an odd expression in his eyes, one that Blair recognized. He reached out to touch his partner's arm, but before he could do so, and before anyone else could react, Jim bolted.

"Ellison!" Simon shouted after the fleeing man, but Blair put a restraining hand on his captain's arm, holding him back.

"It's OK, Simon. Give him a little room, OK?" Then he turned his glare on the visitors. "Good going, chump. Nice way to make your acquaintance," and with that scathing remark, he unhurriedly followed his partner, already knowing where to find him.

Unfortunately, the rest of the men and women of Major Crime had seen it all, and the glares they turned on the visitors took them aback. Didi shook her head, scowling at her husband. "Good going, Rick. Nothing like alienating the people who are supposed to help us."

"Hey," Rick began, defensively, "I..."

"I don't want to hear it." Didi replied.

"Well, I certainly want to hear it," Simon growled. Escorting them back into his office, he softly closed his door. Then he drew the blinds, both strong signals to the detectives that they really didn't want to have to interrupt their captain for anything short of a major disaster.

"Just who in the hell do you think you are? You think you can just waltz in here, tear into one of my men and nobody care? You've got another think coming, mister. Now, before I throw you and your warrants out of here, why don't you explain to me why I shouldn't?" Didi had pushed her husband into a chair when they had reentered the office and Simon had invaded their space, leaning over them, menacingly. Didi's expression mirrored the tall black man's.

"Sometimes, Rick, I wonder how you've survived this long."

Rick shook his head. "I'm sorry," he took a deep breath, regaining control, his jaws flexing in self-recrimination. Finally looking up, he shook his head again and explained. "The reason I volunteered for this, was because my mother called me up last week to ask me to come up here and bring a package to my biological father. The Chrissman file had just come across my desk, accidentally or fate, I don't know, but it provided a means for me to combine her request with work. I dropped Didi off here and went to William Ellison's house," he glanced at his wife for a moment, then back at Captain Banks, "I told him that my mother, whose maiden name was Ann Burk, had asked me to deliver a package to him. I have no idea what's in the package. I really don't care. Ellison started yelling, told me to get out of his house and that there was nothing for me there. I left. I guess I was a little pissed off, I mean, we'd never even met, and he was treating me like some... I don't know what." He sighed, still not quite sure how the whole situation had gotten so out of hand.

"Well, it's pretty obvious that you're brothers." Simon said with a sigh. At Didi and Rick's surprised expressions, he chuckled dryly. "You don't know Jim. That jaw clenching thing, the balled up fists, the body language, pure, classic Ellison." He smirked as he saw his visitors exchange speculative looks. "Same blue eyes, too. Probably from William," Simon added.

"Hmmmm. I'd need to see your man in action to decide, I'm afraid," Didi commented, still examining her husband. "As for you, you owe him an apology, at the very least. Poor man didn't know what hit him."

Simon grimaced, remembering Jim's shock, "He's probably on his way to his dad's right now, wondering what he's going to say... cancel that. He won't care," he sighed, looking again at his best detective's older brother, "I hope Sandburg caught up with him. Otherwise, it's going to get rather intense."

Didi looked up in surprise, "His partner? The little guy?" With her six-foot-five-inch husband, most men were smaller than he was, but Sandburg wasn't much taller than she was, almost miniscule in comparison to most of the cops she knew.

"You don't know Jim," Simon insisted, "He and his dad aren't the best of friends. Up until a couple of years ago, when there was a case that involved his father, I don't think they'd even spoken since Jim joined the Army right out of high school, the Army put him through college." Rick looked up at that, "Army?" He was obviously dredging his memory, "Ten years ago, he was trapped in Peru for several months, right? Only survivor, sort of thing. I remember reading about it."

"Yeah. He left the Army right after that and came to work here. He's been in Major Crime about seven and a half years, now," Simon concurred.

"I remember that. He'd gone native, hadn't he?" Didi added.

Simon bristled, "He survived," he said, his voice low and dangerous. "He's a good cop, a good friend. He's got the best arrest and conviction rate in the entire state, possibly the entire country," he said rather pointedly.

"Sorry. I didn't mean anything by it," Didi immediately backed down. She hadn't met too many people whose colleagues were so protective of them, and it was pretty obvious that this Ellison guy was one of them; not just from the captain's reaction, but the looks they'd gotten from those in the bullpen, not to mention the man's partner. Although, partners would be expected to be protective of one another. "Is he really that good?"

Simon smiled, "He's even better than he thinks he is," he replied.

Rick shifted in his chair, "You think I should go look for him? Get that apology out of the way?"

"No. He's probably on his way to confront his father, right now. Like I said, I hope his partner caught up to him, first."

"Jim? Wait up. I'm going with you," Blair called out as he ran from the stairwell to Jim's truck, he'd managed to run down the six flights of stairs to the garage almost as fast as Jim had made it down in the elevator, but he was out of breath from hurrying.

"I want to do this alone, Chief," he looked at his friend, jaw clenched tightly enough to crack bones.

"No. You need to calm down, first. What are you going to say to him? If you go in there, guns blazing, he's going to run on you, throw you out, too. You need to stay calm, Jim. The last thing any of you need is an embattled confrontation. I admit that Hunter guy's a jerk, but cut him some slack, too. After all, he finally meets his father and gets thrown out. Not a cool thing, man. Take it slow and easy. Don't snarl, just ask. Be polite for goodness sakes," he grabbed his partner by the arm, shaking it, "Trust me, Jim. If you ever want a relationship with your family, you have to be the one to stay cool. If you keep control, you can control the situation, not let the situation control you. In fact, it might be better if you and your brother have a talk, get all the facts before you go see your dad. Come on, Jim. You're better than this."

Blair had spent a lot of time working with his friend, helping him to control his temper, getting him to calm down and step back before jumping into such emotional issues. He just hoped that reason would prevail. Jim stood, Blair still gripping his arm, his jaws flexing, his eyes focused on some invisible distance, body tense and unyielding. Finally, taking a deep breath, Jim nodded, bringing his focus back to his friend.

"OK. I'll keep calm. But I need to talk to my dad. Now. Alone." There was no mistaking his tone of voice. Blair backed down.

"Fine. Just remember to keep your cool. Now is not the time for you to lose control, man. Understand?"

"Yeah, Chief. I understand. Go on back up and start working on the extradition, OK? I'll see you at home, later," he paused, as he realized that they'd driven in together that morning.

"That's fine, Jim. I'll get somebody to drop me off at home, OK? Go on. Before I lose my nerve and go with you anyway. I'll take care of things here. Go on." Blair had to almost push his friend toward the truck as Jim reluctantly left him behind, "Look, if I need a ride, I'll call you on your cell, OK? I promise."

Jim smiled, "Deal, Chief." As he climbed into his truck, he turned back to his watching friend, "Thanks for being the voice of reason, Blair."

"Hey, that's what a guide is for, isn't it?" Blair smiled and waved as Jim started the truck and pulled out. Sighing, he turned back to the elevator, preparing himself for the confrontation he knew he was facing with the captain when he got back without his partner.

Blair smiled at his colleagues, letting them know that everything was all right, although they looked askance when they realized that Jim wasn't with him. He just shook his head and headed for the captain's office. Tapping lightly on the door, he didn't bother to wait for an invitation, but simply walked in, closing the door behind him.

"Sorry, Simon," he apologized. At Simon's questioning look, he added, "I got him calmed down, and told him to go talk to his dad. I think he needs to."

"Fine, in that case, you can take over with negotiating our visitors through the hoops to get their suspect arrested and extradited, if you don't mind." Simon kept his voice carefully neutral. Blair understood, and smiled at the visitors.

"Sure, Captain. If you'll come with me?" He held the door for the pair, then, quickly, popped back in to tell Simon, "He's calm, Simon. He just needs to talk to his dad to find out what's going on and stuff." At Simon's nod, he backed out and closed the door. Turning to his guests, he looked them over, "Well that was quite an entrance you made. You have all your paperwork?"

"Yes. I'm sorry about all that," Didi smiled at him, holding out the files. She darted a glare at her husband, who started, when she nudged him, turning to the shorter man, he apologized, as well.

"Yeah. I was out of line. Sorry about that."

"Yes, you were. But I'm not the one you need to apologize to," and with that, Blair turned away and led them from the bullpen, Rick looking after him in consternation, while Didi smothered a laugh.

"Hi, Sally. Is Dad home?" Now that he was here, Jim was vastly uncertain as to what he was going to say to his father.

"Yes. He is very upset, but he won't talk to me," Sally confided in him as she let him in. "A man came earlier, your father yelled at him and told him to leave. I don't know why. The man left a package and your father has been looking at it, ever since."

"Yeah. I met the guy. He's a policeman from Los Angeles. He's here on an extradition and someone asked him to deliver the package to Dad. He in the study?"

"Yes. You wish me to announce you?"

"No, that's all right. I can do it." He managed a slight smile, hoping to reassure the woman who had, for all practical purposes, raised him.

"Who was that, Sally?" William Ellison called as he heard the sound of the study door opening.

"It's me, Dad."

William Ellison jumped at the voice, jerking up to his feet. "Jimmy? What?" Then his shoulders rose and his demeanor became what Jim had long ago learned to recognize as anger, but not, for once, at him. "That man. What did he say to you?"

"He said you and his mother were married, but that your parents didn't approve and had it annulled. But that he hadn't been part of the equation." He could see the truth in his father's stricken expression. Staying by the door in order not to put any more pressure on him, Jim continued, "Tell me? I think I deserve to know, don't you?" His voice was strained and plaintive.

William sagged back into his chair behind the desk and looked at the articles spread across his desk. Looking back up at his son, he waved him over. Softly, Jim crossed the room, and, as indicated, sank into a chair beside his father. Glancing curiously at the stuff spread across the desk, he recognized the face in the articles.

"Tell me," Jim said softly.

William sighed and leaned back in his chair, his gaze focused on the clippings and photographs of his eldest son's life. "It happened when I went to college. It was my first time away from home. I was eighteen and full of myself. I was staying in the dorms, at first. I met Annie at the coffee shop. She was a waitress there. She was going to school, too, but she had to work, not like me. My parents paid for everything." He didn't look at his son at all, simply reminisced. "She was bright, funny, intelligent, and seventeen, but in some of my classes. We started out just talking, then dating, and finally, I fell in love with her." He closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the headrest of the chair. Jim watched him intently, gauging his father's emotions from his actions and the tone of his voice, something he hadn't realized that he could do.

"We decided, after a year, to get married. We lied about our ages and drove to Reno. It was quick and easy. She had a small apartment, and my allowance was more than enough for us to live on. What she made at the coffee shop was all put toward her education. It was the best four months of my life." William sighed, shifting forward and looking down at the history of the son he had abandoned. "At Christmas break that year, I brought her home. My father was furious and my mother was mortified. They called their lawyer and, since I wasn't legally of age yet, they had the marriage annulled. Annie was heartbroken. She was pregnant. I knew it, but I was too afraid of my father to say anything. They put her up at a hotel and paid her to go away. The look on her face... when... when I..." he shook his head, the remembered anguish of the incident still fresh, even after all those years.

"You didn't fight them. You didn't fight for her," Jim murmured, horrified by his father's spineless duplicity. "So, why didn't you ever at least go and see them?"

"At first, I didn't think it mattered, but when I heard about Richard's birth, I thought about it, but my parents told me not to think about it, that the baby probably wasn't even mine."

Shocked, Jim couldn't hide the anger, "And you accepted that? You had to know."

"Yeah, I knew. I started sending her money to help take care of him, but I never went to see them. Eventually, I convinced myself that it was unimportant. Then, I met and married your mother. When you came along, I figured I finally had a chance, but I really screwed that up, too, didn't I."

"Yeah. You did. I think maybe Richard was the lucky one, Dad." Jim stood up, "From the looks of all this, you might want to give her a call."

"What? Whatever for?" William looked up at the forbidding countenance of his son, wondering what he was thinking.

"Because, it looks to me like the two of you may still have feelings for each other," Jim informed him. "Look at this stuff, she's giving you your son back. Even to having him deliver it to you."

"But, but I threw him out," William admitted.

"Big surprise, there," Jim muttered. "Look, Dad, he's a cop. He's here for an extradition, since we expect the suspect to fight it, he's going to be here for a while. Maybe he'll be willing to try again, God knows why, but I can ask him, OK?" He wasn't sure why he was trying so hard, Hunter had really thrown him with the news, but then, his dad hadn't been any help, either. He had an older brother. A man as much older than he was, as he was older than Sandburg. The mind boggled.

William looked up at his son, "You-you'd do that?"

"Yeah, Dad, I would." Don't know why, but I will. Jim sighed to himself, uncertain as to his feelings in the matter.

"Thank you, Jimmy."

"Yeah, well, I need to get back to work, Dad. I'll let you know, OK?" and with those words, he rose and, looking at his father uncertainly, he headed out, unsurprised that his father had nothing more to say to him, not even good-bye.

Once back out at his truck, Jim sat behind the wheel for several minutes, resting his head on his arms folded across the steering wheel. Finally, he straightened up, fastened his seatbelt, started the truck and pulled out into traffic for the drive home.

Blair led the LA cops downstairs and checked out a car from the motor pool. Holding the door for Didi, he let her taller husband squeeze his own way into the back seat, much to her delight. Rick took one look at the compact sedan and offered to drive, since their rental was an SUV. Blair simply closed the door for Didi and circled around to the driver's side and stood there looking at him. Realizing that he was definitely at a disadvantage, he mumbled softly to himself and wedged himself in the back seat.

Rick said not a word on the drive to the courthouse. Didi, however, did her best to smooth things over. "So, Detective Sandburg, how long have you been a cop?" He seemed rather young to have made detective already.

"Oh, about four months." Blair replied absently.

"What?!" Didi exclaimed in shock, "Oh, you mean you've been a detective for four months," thinking he'd made a mistake.

"No. I've been a cop for four months." He could feel their questions, so to ease the way for them, he continued. "I was working on..." He had to swallow hard, to get it out, the loss of his former life and goals still hurt, although it looked now that he might just be able to regain some of that former dream. Since Jim had hired an attorney who was suing everybody and everything he could, the university had backed down, once they had it forcibly pointed out that the 'fraud' Blair supposedly perpetrated had never been turned in and that the release of it had been against his express wishes. There was talk about his being allowed to use his backup thesis in order to get those coveted letters after his name.

"I was working on my diss, and a bunch of shit hit the fan. I'd been studying the police as a closed society, and after just over three years of tagging along after Jim, they suggested that I go through the academy and become Jim's partner for real." He was concentrating on his driving, so didn't see the surprised expressions his companions exchanged.

"You must be pretty good to go from the academy straight into an organization like Major Crime." Didi replied.

"Yeah, well, Jim asked me, so I decided that it was something I was really already doing, so I might as well get a paycheck for it." He grinned at her as he stopped for a red light.

"I'll bet you had a hard time, what with bypassing all the normal steps up the ladder." Didi continued.

"Well, not too bad. You've seen Jim. He's got this whole 'Blessed Protector' dynamic. People just don't push the man, you know?" The light turned green, and Blair turned his attention back to his driving. "Besides, I'd already worked with him for three years, the only real difference now is that I get paid for it."

"And you carry a gun."

Blair frowned, "Yeah, well, yeah, there's that, too. That's the only real drawback. But the rest of it is great. I'm supposed to start back to school in the spring, so... maybe by then I'll have most of my diss ready. Once that's done, I think I'll be satisfied."

Blair turned left into the parking structure under the courthouse. Finding a parking slot near the elevators, he pulled in and turned off the engine. "Well, here we are. The DA's office is on the fourth floor." He got out and circled around to open Didi's door for her. She smiled at him as she exited the car and had to stifle a laugh, as her husband had to struggle to get his bulk from the back seat. She caught his glare, but only smiled sweetly at him and took his arm, following the younger man to the elevators.

The DA's office was bustling, as usual. Captain Banks had already informed the Assistant DA in charge of extraditions (well, in this instance, anyway), several days earlier, letting them know about the upcoming arrival of the cops from LA. Blair sat quietly, or at least non-verbally, in one corner while the others discussed the case and worked through the particulars.

"You realize that Mr. Crissman is going to fight this?" Fredricks asked the cops from LA.

"Yeah, but our District Attorney thinks that we have enough to convict," Hunter replied. "We've got names, dates, amounts, witnesses, even his own bank records and IRS reports. Even if we don't get him, the IRS will. We'd just like to get him first, maybe get some of the money back for the victims."

"Of course. I've already gotten a signed warrant for his arrest, I was just waiting for you to get here and see your evidence for myself before I issued it. Detective Sandburg?" Blair stood and approached the desk, accepting the offered warrant. "If at all possible, this should be administered tonight. There are also search warrants and seizure warrants to seal his assets and records. Use them quickly," he advised.

"Yes, Sir." Blair smiled. "I'll get these straight over to Major Crime and we'll get the taskforce in motion."

"If that is all?" Fredricks asked.

"That was a lot easier than I expected," Rick said as they headed back to the car.

"Well, we had notice that you were coming, and the information you faxed us was enough to get the warrants, but I guess everyone likes to see the originals for themselves," Blair admitted. When they got back down to the car, Didi stood by the rear door, in order to allow her husband the front seat, with its greater leg room. Blair smothered a grin as he unlocked the doors and let Rick get Didi's door.

"So, now what?" Rick asked, thinking that things were simply running too smoothly.

"Now, we go back to the station and get everyone together to pick him up. There's someone keeping an eye on him so he doesn't rabbit, now all we have to do is go get our folks together and pick him up." He fastened his seatbelt and started the car. "Damn. Jim's going to want to be in on this. I'd better give him a call."



"Hey, Jim. We've got the warrants. I'm on my way back to the station, do you want to be in on it?"

"Yeah, I do. I'll meet you back at the station," he paused to make a lane change. "I talked to him. I don't approve, but hell, since when does my approval have anything to do with my old man, anyway. I'll tell you about it later, 'cause I assume they're with you."

"You've got it, Jim. See you in a few."

Crissman never saw it coming. He had figured that being one of the mayor's buddies would, if not provide him immunity, at least provide him warning. Neither occurred. He was just getting ready to close up for the day, when half a dozen plain clothes officers swarmed in, arrested him and served their warrants for search and seizure. Shocked simply wasn't a strong enough word for it.

"Hey, Rick?" Blair called across to the visiting cop, they had quickly settled into calling them by their first names, since both of the visitors were named Hunter, "Take a look at this?" He held up a small notebook, the kind that is sold as journals or diaries filled with blank pages. This particular little book, however, was a ledger, complete with names, dates, amounts, and even bank account information.

"Perfect, here's the name of one of the complainants," Rick's voice showed his delight as he leafed through the book, "and here's another. This looks like exactly what we needed to get a conviction. Providing we can prove that it's his and his alone." He handed the book back to Blair, who opened it to the title page to show Rick that it even had Chrissman's name in the front.

"Since we're all wearing latex gloves, we should be able to get some good prints from this, don't you think?" He grinned and received a hefty slap on the back in congratulations. Oh, yeah. Definitely an Ellison, here. A bit rougher, a lot bigger, but still...

The evidence discovered with the use of the warrants looked to be more than enough to gain a conviction. The Hunters were more than pleased with the results. Now, all they had to do was hope that the court would agree that they had enough to extradite him back to California. The DA seemed to think that there was more than enough evidence to support the transfer.

After sorting through everything, the items they had gathered were checked into the evidence locker and, as it was after six p.m., the men and women of Major Crime prepared to head home for the day.

"Jim? Do you want to talk about it?" Blair asked, casting a quick glance toward the visiting cops. He'd been a bit surprised by how much alike Jim and his heretofore-unknown brother were. They both moved like athletes, were well built and powerful, clenched their jaws and fists in like manner... the similarities were remarkable, and just a little scary. He'd noticed Didi watching Jim with the same expression of confusion that Blair was feeling, with frequent glances at her husband to compare. Yep. Right with you there, lady. It's obvious to both of us that they're brothers. I wonder if they can see it, though. While Simon was talking to Rick, Blair caught Didi's eye and gestured for her to follow him. She nodded and met him in the break room.

"What is it, Detective?" she asked

"Is it as obvious to you as it is to me that they're brothers?" Blair asked, offering her a soft drink.

Smiling, she accepted the can and sat down in the proffered chair. "Yeah. It's kind of eerie, to tell you the truth. I never even knew that his natural father wasn't John Hunter. There's such a strong resemblance, if you know what to look for," Didi agreed.

"I know what you mean. Jim and his brother Steven don't look that much alike, except for the blue eyes,"

"There's another one of them? Does he do the jaw clenching, too?" Didi leaned forward, resting her arms on the table.

"Not that I've noticed. Steven has blond hair, and a lot more of it than Jim."

"Considering that baldness comes through the mother, if you look at Rick, you can see Jim in another ten years or so." She took a sip of her drink and looked at her companion. She'd watched him, when she wasn't watching Jim or her husband. She found him fascinating. Not only was he quick moving, he was also mentally fast. She'd been curious when she observed him and his partner, the subtle touch on arm or back that seemed to center the other man, the way his entire focus would be on something, questioning, probing, with Jim answering all his questions rather absently, but they did a good job. Who would have thought to look for receipts in a hollow spot under the desk chair?

"Why did you become a cop? You certainly don't fit any of the stereotypes I know of. I know you've been studying the police, but you simply don't seem the type."

Blair's eyes darkened and she could sense a sadness, almost pain, coming from him. Then he smiled, "I started out only wanting my diss and those three magic letters after my name. I figured that after I got my doctorate, I'd simply go back to what I was doing before, teaching, studying, going on expeditions... the usual thing. Problem was, I found out that I like the excitement. After the roller coaster ride of the past three years, I wasn't looking forward to getting back on the academic merry-go-round." Seeing the look on her face, he hurried to reassure her, "It's not that I get off on the excitement, or anything. It's..." he searched for the right words, but couldn't seem to find them.

"It's your partner, Jim. He's the reason you became a cop. To stay with your friend." At Blair's look of surprise, she smiled, and continued. "Hey, when you find the right partner, you try to stay together. I know what it's like. When Hunter and I got married, they reassigned both of us. That was even harder than when I was first assigned as his partner."

"Let me guess," Blair leaned back in his chair, tipped his head back, closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose with the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Making an elaborate hand gesture, he tipped back up and said, "He was a lone wolf, didn't work well with anybody, didn't want a partner, he certainly didn't want to have to work with a woman, no offense; but he was a good, honest cop. It was just that his attitude had everyone alternately hating him and afraid of him, sometimes both at once. Am I right?" He said, with a grin.

She laughed. "Dead on the money. I take it that Jim was like that?"

"Worse. From what they tell me, they were always afraid of him, because of his history in covert ops. I guess he was a pretty scary guy," Blair admitted.

"Sandburg, you may not have noticed, but your partner is still a very scary guy," Simon Banks' voice startled both occupants of the break room. "Speaking of whom, your partner wants to talk to you," giving Blair a rather pointed look.

Blair got the unspoken message and jumped to his feet. "Uh, OK. Look, Didi, I'll talk to you later, OK?" and with that, the whirlwind known as Blair Sandburg disappeared out the door.

"Captain Banks?" Didi asked, when the tall black captain turned his bemused expression on her, she continued, "They're a remarkable pair. You were lucky to get them." Her tone suggested that she had questions, but wasn't going to push.

"They're good for each other. Jim was a pretty cold sonofabitch before Sandburg came along. He's still a very scary man, but Sandburg seems to temper him," Simon admitted, cautiously.

"And what does Sandburg get out of all this?"

"Not nearly enough, I think," and with that, Captain Banks gave her a rather sad smile and left. Now she was more curious than ever.

"Hey, Jim. What do you need?" Blair asked as he entered Simon's office, where he had tracked down his partner.

"What do you think of him?" No explanation of who the 'him' was. No real need, actually.

"Well, I can see the resemblance," Blair hesitantly began.

"Not that, well, yes, that, but..."

"I think he's a good, honest cop. One who is very dedicated to his job; he's a lot like you, Jim. Hell, you even clench your jaws the same." Oops, that may have been the wrong thing to say, Sandburg, he thought to himself as that jaw started twitching. "I think the real question is, do you want to get to know him? I mean, he is your brother. One you never even knew existed until today. Maybe you need some time to process all of this. Think about it, talk about it. Sleep on it, and then decide how to proceed."

"Do you like him?"

Blair blinked, wondering what Jim was really wanting to know. He watched for those little, tale-tell clues he'd learned to read, finally deciding, he replied, "He's your brother. One your father knew about but never wanted to know. That's not your fault. You can't blame him for being bitter. He doesn't know why his mother wanted him to deliver that package to your dad. And your dad's going off on him and throwing him out, that had to hurt, you know. He had no way of knowing that you didn't know about him. So, cut him some slack." Blair saw Jim's head bob slightly as he agreed with him. "You should have seen Didi go off on him. Has he apologized, yet?" Jim's head lifted at that.

"No, why?"

"Because when we left to go to the DA's office, everyone was glaring at him, even his wife. He had this funny, chagrined, look on his face. I think he really felt bad, taking his anger out on you when you didn't know anything about it," another thing you guys have in common, Blair thought, but didn't say anything.

"So, should we take them out to dinner, or something?"

"Tomorrow, maybe. Take tonight to do some processing, man. Get used to the idea, OK?"

He couldn't sleep. His thoughts were all ajumble, and he couldn't seem to find any peace. At least not enough to go to sleep. He knew that none of this situation had anything to do with him, really; but still... Tossing and turning, he continued to try to find something, anything, to take his mind out of the rut it was digging for itself. He had an older brother. A brother who was a cop. A brother who was a lot like him; and that was part of the problem. Watching him when they were searching, he could see how thorough the man was, even felt a kinship with him... one that had nothing to do with blood ties, but simply the recognition of a kindred spirit. Finally giving up trying to sleep, he sat up and slid out of bed. With a sigh, he snagged his robe from its peg and slipped it on. Tying the belt, he shuffled quietly down the stairs. Listening, he heard his roommate softly snoring in his room, the door open. Tempting, but no. He carefully closed the French door, although he didn't engage the latch, not wanting to make any noise. With the door open just a crack, he felt it was safe now to turn on the television, hoping that the flickering light wouldn't penetrate the fabric covering the glass of the French doors and disturb his friend.

Blair awoke. He wondered what had disturbed his sleep. He'd been in the middle of a really good dream... one of the kind he liked to stay asleep until it was finished. Sitting up, he realized that there was light coming from the living room. The television. Jim must not have been able to sleep. Tossing back the covers, Blair groped for his robe and pulled it on. Then he headed out to see if he could help his friend.

Jim was staring, glassy-eyed at the television, which was on CNN Headline News. Probably the only thing on other than infomercials at this hour of the morning. Blair shuffled over and plopped down beside his friend.

"You want to talk about it?"

"Not really. I can understand why Hunter was so pissed off. I can even understand it carrying over onto me. What I can't understand is why my dad never wanted to have anything to do with his firstborn son. As proud as he is... I just don't get it."

"Did you know that they were both underage when they got married?" Blair asked softly, glad he had asked Rick about it earlier, after they'd first visited the DA and before they got back to the station. He'd needed information and had simply asked for it. He was glad Rick had been willing to talk, but Didi giving him the front seat probably had a very great deal to do with that. Jim turned to look at him, an uncertain question in his eyes. "Huh?"

"Yeah. Your dad was only nineteen and his mom was eighteen when they went to Reno and got married. They lied about their ages. You had to be twenty-one in those days, man. They were still, legally, kids. No rights. Your grandparents were perfectly within their rights to have the marriage annulled. My only question is, did they know about Rick? Can you see your grandparents ignoring a grandchild?"

Jim thought about it. "Yeah. I can. She wasn't suitable, not one of them, if you know what I mean," knowing perfectly well that Blair, of all people, would. "They disapproved of her working class background and demanded that Dad did as he was told."

"And your dad? What did he say?" Blair kept his tone soft. He didn't want to add any fuel to the fires of Jim's dilemma.

"He'd have done what he was told. His parents were just as controlling of him as he tried to be with me and Steven..." He looked at Blair, his gaze sharp with realization, "That's what you've been trying to tell me, isn't it? That my dad..." he paused, remembering the look on his father's face and what he'd said to him. He laughed, humorlessly, "I told him that he should contact her."

"What?!" Blair squawked, his voice cracking with his shock, "You told your dad to call Rick's mom? What for?" Confusion colored his words.

"I told him that he still had feelings for her," he grinned at his friend. "I'm right. I don't know why she decided to contact him after all these years, but, whatever the reason, I think she probably still loves him, too. Otherwise, why bother?"

"Wow, Jim. I never thought of you as the romantic, matchmaking sort. What brought this on?"

"I saw his face, listened to him. I mean, really listened. I never knew that I could pick up on what people were feeling, before, but listening to him tell me about her... I-I just knew that he still loves her, he probably always has, but he was afraid to look for her."

"Because he was such a coward. Letting his parents split them up. I can understand that, but why did he go off on Rick?"

"Probably because he thought that Rick was looking for something from him, that he owed something to them." He looked at his friend, "Did you know that my dad sent child support for him, all the years he was growing up? Even helped pay for his college?"

"Does Rick know that?"

"I don't know. I told my dad that I'd try to get them back together again. I guess I need to do that."

"After you and Rick sit down and talk about everything. This is totally new for both of you."

"Yeah. It is."

They sat quietly for a while, content in the silence. Offering and receiving comfort just by being there. Finally, Jim took a deep breath and yawned, "I think I can sleep, now. Thanks, Blair." He didn't bother to itemize the reasons for his thanks, Blair understood.

"You're welcome, Jim. I'll see you later... after the sun comes up." Chuckling, the two men made their ways back to their respective beds, to finish out the night in peaceful slumber.

Since the next morning just happened to be a Saturday, Jim and Blair slept in, fortunate enough to have the weekend off. When they finally started their day, it was mid-morning and, as frequently occurred, raining. Breakfast was a quiet, pleasant affair, where they discussed their plans and ideas for the day. It was decided that while Blair would work on his alternate dissertation notes, compiling and arranging them in some semblance of order, Jim would take on the task of doing their weekly grocery shopping.

"Jim? Do you want to invite Rick and Didi over for dinner?" Blair asked, looking up from his plate.

Jim paused, his coffee cup half way to his mouth. With a sigh, he set it down and looked into space. "I suppose we should. What do you think?"

"Well, you'd have the home field advantage. I could make lasagna..."

Jim smiled, "Which one?"

"Oh, I don't know. What would you like?"

"I suppose we should ask them, then go from there. Did you hear where they're staying?"

"Day's Inn," He looked at his friend, "Would you like me to make the call?"

"Nah, I can do it."

"I don't mind, really. Then I can talk to Didi and it's less confrontational for you and Rick."

"Sounds like seconds setting up a duel," Jim smirked.

"Well, hopefully, it won't get that far."


"Hey, Didi? It's Blair. Jim and I were wondering if you'd like to come over for dinner either tonight or tomorrow, I'll make lasagna, your choice of regular or vegetarian."

"I love lasagna. Let me ask Rick." She placed her hand over the mouthpiece, hoping to muffle their conversation. Blair could have had Jim listen in, knowing that he could hear them despite the hand over the mouthpiece, but he didn't bother.

"Blair? We'd love to come. Which would be better for you, today or tomorrow?"

"Hey, either one works for us. It's probably going to rain all weekend, so it's up to you."

There were a few more minutes of muffled voices, then, "How about tomorrow, then. Is that all right?"

"Sure, that's fine. What kind of lasagna would you like?"

"Whatever you decide will be fine, Blair."

"So, which is it, Chief? Meat or meatless?" Jim was working on the shopping list.

"Well, she said that whatever was fine with her, but I think I heard growling in the background, so I guess I'll chicken out and make one of each. That way, I can satisfy the Ellison carnivores, as well as my own, more delicate, sensibilities," Blair dodged the swat Jim aimed at him, laughing. "Hey, I could tell that she's still punishing him from yesterday. I think that lady has a mean streak that most definitely keeps her husband on his toes.

"Yeah. I kind of noticed that," Jim grinned back at him. "So, are you going to want fresh tomatoes, or canned sauce?"

"Well, let's go all out and use fresh, OK?"

"Right. Ten pounds?"

"Yeah. Sounds about right. Oh, and get the red onions, and get a couple of packages of queso fresco and panela, along with the ricotta and mozzarella, would you?"

Jim looked up at his friend, "Mexican cheese? For lasagna?"

"Yeah, they have a really good flavor that goes just great with the sauce, plus they have a great texture that works really well with the ricotta and mozzarella."

"You're the chef, Chief," Jim smirked as he added the items to his list. "Anything else?"

"Um... Salad mix, something that has romaine in it, maybe some croutons? Oh, and we're out of garlic... and butter. Get some real butter for the garlic bread, will you?"

"Got it. Anything else?"

"I don't think so," his brow furrowed, trying to think of anything he'd forgotten. He looked over Jim's shoulder at the list, but still couldn't think of anything else. "I guess that's it."

"How about some Chianti?" Jim asked, looking up.

"Good idea. Get them drunk and happy so they can relax and forget about any problems. No confrontation, right?"

"More like just being friendly, Chief. I don't think we want to make them enemies, even if we don't decide to be friends," Jim replied.

"How about family?" Blair's soft voice queried.

"We'll have to wait and see for that one, Chief." Glancing back down at the shopping list, he stood. "Well, if you're going all out with both regular and meatless varieties of your lasagna, I'd better get to the store. It's probably going to take all the rest of today and most of tomorrow just to get your sauce right, as I recall."

"Yep. We wouldn't want the sauce to be too raw, now, would we? What kind of impression would that make, after all."

Jim laughed and shook his head. Snagging his keys from the basket and his coat from the rack, he headed for the door. "I'll be back in a while. I'll have my cell on if you need me."


Early afternoon on a Saturday isn't always the best time to go shopping. Nor is it the worst time. This particular Saturday was fairly average. There were a lot of shoppers, but the lines were moving well and Jim managed to get finished in under two hours. Knowing full well that Blair would be busy with making the sauce for the rest of the day and night, he opted to stop off on his way home for Chinese take-out.

"Oh, man. You brought home dinner, too. Thanks, Jim," Blair enthused when he saw the distinctive bags from their favorite Chinese restaurant. "We can eat just as soon as I get the tomatoes on, OK?"

"Fine, Sandburg. I'll get everything else put away while you do your magic with the sauce."

"Great." Blair accepted the bag of tomatoes and began by skewering them with a fork and holding them over the flame of one of the burners on the stove to roast the skins until they split, then peeling them and seeding them, as well. The process was a long one, but well worth the work. By the time Blair had also roasted a bulb of garlic and added the other spices and herbs to his sauce, Jim had put the rest of the groceries away, set the table and was re-heating their dinner in the microwave. Sitting down, they enjoyed a quiet meal and avoided any discussion of Jim's family, in spite of the fact that Blair was curious about what his friend was feeling. He instinctively knew that now was definitely not the time to press.

Jim was quiet and contemplative all evening, barely grunting in response to Blair's infrequent questions. It was obvious to the younger man that his friend was very busy processing everything. Although he wondered, he decided not to ask about what his friend was thinking about. He knew that this was something that Jim needed to work out on his own, without any interference from him. If he needed any help or wanted any advice, he was sure his friend would ask... well, at least he hoped his friend would ask.

After the late news, Blair said goodnight and headed off to bed, leaving Jim still gnawing on his thoughts and feelings about the sudden knowledge and appearance of his brother.

When Blair awoke in the morning, he quietly made his way out of his room, only to discover his roommate, sprawled on the couch and with the television still on. Shuffling through the room, he stopped to turn off the television, only to jump in startlement when Jim's voice informed him, "I was watching that."

Recovering quickly, he turned to his friend and gave him an amused glare. "Oh, really?" he drawled, "So, what were you watching, huh, Jim?"

"The test pattern," Jim admitted, with a rueful grin. "Sorry, Chief." He stretched, his face contorted in pain from having slept wrong, not that he'd actually slept very much. The drone of the test pattern was what had finally driven him into unconsciousness at about five o'clock. Not that he was going to tell Blair that.

"Ooookay," Blair said, searching his friend's face for any clues. "So, did you figure it all out?"

"No. But I did make a couple of decisions."

"And those would be?"

Jim grinned. "I decided that I'll be as interested in Rick and Didi as they want me to be. That I'll talk to my dad and see if he's willing to let them into his life... Do you happen to know if they have any kids?"

"No idea. I didn't think to ask. Why?"

"Because, that could be a big selling point with my dad. The idea of grandchildren, even ones not named Ellison."

"Ooh, appealing to his desire for immortality by knowing that his bloodlines will continue? Sneaky, man," Blair enthused. "That's almost a sure bet, don't you think?"

Jim looked up at his friend, "I honestly don't know. After all, he didn't even come to my wedding."

Blair flinched. He would never understand how anyone could ever hurt his own children the way William Ellison had hurt his sons. Particularly his older... OK, his middle son. Despite his upbringing, Jim had managed to keep his heart true to his humanity, despite his father's efforts to suppress his son's sensitivity and gentle, caring heart, he had somehow managed to rise far above his father's cruelty. He hoped that someday, Jim would find the right woman to settle down with. He was absolutely certain that Jim would be a wonderful father... the kind of father he wished he'd had. Blair blinked in surprise. Now, where had that particular idea come from? Shaking his head, he shuffled off toward the bathroom.

"Well, whatever. I've got first dibs on the shower, sleeping beauty. So why don't you start the coffee?"

"Sure, Chief," Jim replied, dragging himself up and moving stiffly towards the kitchen.

Blair made sure his shower left plenty of hot water for his roommate. He knew full well that Jim would need all the hot water he could get in order to work the tension from his muscles due to the stress he was currently under. While Blair dressed, Jim made his way to the bathroom for his own shower. Maybe, if he worked it right, he'd be able to get Jim to relax and if he was really lucky, get his friend to lie down for a nap, later.

Jim spent a long time just standing under the pounding pulse-spray of the shower, trying desperately to ease the tension in his neck and back, knowing that he was no doubt also going to have a tension headache if he didn't get some relief. Maybe if he tried lying down, later...

By the time Jim finished dressing and made his way back downstairs, Blair was just finishing up the final touches to their breakfast. Sniffing appreciatively, Jim was smiling when he came to the table.

"Pancakes, Chief? Great."

"You have your choice, Jim. Banana or blueberry, or both, with maple or butter pecan syrup."

"What's the occasion?" Jim asked, surprised at the all-out breakfast. There was even turkey sausage along with the usual orange juice and coffee.

"I felt like it and I figured that if I got your taste-buds and stomach happy, maybe you'd feel like stretching out for a nap, later. You know, catching up on some of the sleep you lost last night." Blair was careful not to make eye contact with his friend for fear of pushing a button that would result in Jim's tightening up even more.

With a chuckle and a shake of his head, Jim said, "Thanks, Chief. Maybe I will. Do you need me to help you with the lasagna or anything?"

"Nope. I'll put the sauce back on for a while, then I'll put the lasagnas together and then I'll be all through until it's time to put them in the oven. Do you have anything you need to do today?"

"Just the laundry, as usual. I did the shopping yesterday and I'll start the laundry after breakfast. Other than that, I'm free. How about you?"

"Just the lasagna and my laundry. I was thinking, after the laundry's started and the lasagna's ready for the oven, what say we go for a drive or something? Maybe go play a little one-on-one at the park?"

"Yeah. That sounds good," Jim grinned. Taking two banana and two blueberry pancakes, he put a bit of butter on them, then smothered all of it with a liberal dose of maple syrup. With his first bite, he closed his eyes, allowing his senses of taste and smell to pull every nuance of flavor from the food. For many people, eating is a sensuous past time, for Jim Ellison, Sentinel, it could be among the most wondrous of sensations.

Blair smiled to himself. Sometimes all it took was the slightest appeal to Jim's usually suppressed hedonistic nature to soothe the lines of worry from the Sentinel's brow, allowing him to relax. Food just happened to be the easiest means to that end. Blair was careful not to let on about his little manipulative ploy. Good food and some healthy exercise and fun were almost sure cures for his best friend's stress.

After breakfast, still lingering over their coffee, Blair said, "I'll clean up the kitchen if you'll start the laundry. Then I'll get the sauce back on, OK?"

"Sounds like a plan, Chief." Jim rose, taking his dishes to the sink, paused to refill his coffee cup and got the milk from the refrigerator to add to his cup. Coffee in hand he then headed for the bathroom to sort the laundry. The minute Jim headed down to the basement to start the wash, Blair was on the phone.

"Hey, Didi, Hi. This is Blair Sandburg. Look, I'm going to get Jim to go with me down to the park to play some hoops. If you think you guys can handle it, why don't you join us? No, I'm not going to tell Jim. I thought maybe you could get Rick to go for a walk and 'accidentally' meet us. Sure. That'd be fine. OK, it's Bayside Park, it's only about half a mile from here, so we'll probably walk. Well, it'll probably be after lunch, say about one-thirty, two o'clock. Great, I'll see you then." He finished his call and hung up, wiped the dampness from his hands off the phone and was back in the kitchen washing down the counters when Jim returned, never suspecting his friend's duplicity.

Lunch was a light meal of leftover Chinese food, followed by changing their clothes and walking the six blocks to the park to play some hoops. Despite his height advantage, Jim and Blair were generally fairly evenly matched. Blair made sure to keep his partner's attention focused on him and the game, so that when the Hunters strolled up, the brothers were taken by surprise. Blair had just made a three-point shot and was ragging on Jim about his skill when Jim suddenly turned from him to note the newcomers. Tossing the ball to Blair, he sauntered over to greet them.

"Out for a walk?" Jim's expression was carefully neutral. He knew perfectly well that the couple's hotel was across town from where they were. He noticed Blair's heartbeat accelerate at his words and cast a quick glance at the younger man. Seeing Didi looking at Blair, he figured out their plan... and decided to play along. Looking calculatingly at his jeans-clad brother, he asked, "You play?"

"A little. Football was more my game," Rick replied, looking at the two men, seeing the sheen of sweat from their exertion, glancing at his wife to seek permission. He was surprised to see her taking off her jacket and smiling.

"How about a little two-on-two?" Didi suggested, laying her jacket across the bench next to Jim and Blair's coats. Blair beamed at her, then looked at the two men.

"Sure. Short people against tall people, or partners against partners?" he asked. Jim and Rick eyed each other and their partners, it was interesting to watch as both men came to the same conclusion, their expressions identical as each man took an involuntary step closer to their respective partners.

"Partners." They said in unison. Blair and Didi exchanged knowing looks. Rick peeled off his jacket and tossed it on top of his wife's, then he took off his long-sleeved shirt and tossed it on the bench as well. For a man pushing fifty, Rick Hunter was in excellent shape. It was obvious that he worked out regularly, as there was very little flab on the man's body and it was equally apparent that he was just as competitive as his brother when he pulled a coin out of his pocket and flipped it in the air.

"Call it."

Jim watched the tumbling coin for a moment, then, just before it was caught, he called out, "Tails." Jim's expression was smug and Rick's chagrined when the coin, when revealed, was tails.

"You start." Rick said, slipping the coin back in his pocket. Jim stepped out of bounds with the ball and as soon as the Hunters were in position, fired the ball to Blair, who surprised their opponents by spinning away and firing off a three-point shot from the middle of the court, sinking the basket with nothing but net.

Rick was surprised, to say the least at the skill of the little guy. He would have been impressed if the kid had been able to outrun and outmaneuver him, but to have him be skilled at long shots as well, threw him a little. Didi had the ball and was waiting for him to turn his attention to her, when he did, she bounced the ball in-bounds and dashed in to try and block their opponents. Rick again underestimated his smaller opponent. While he was watching Jim, expecting a move on his part, he was blind-sided by Blair who stole the ball and dribbled to the basket for an easy lay-up.

"Rick, you need to start paying attention, here," Didi hissed at him as he took the ball out of bounds to throw it in to her. Nodding he tossed her the ball. She dribbled toward their basket, managing to dodge Blair's attempt to take the ball from her. She tried a jump-shot, which bounced off the backboard. Both Jim and Rick went up for the rebound. Using his greater height and weight, Rick slammed into his brother, trying to knock him away from recovering the ball.

Jim sensed the coming foul and he managed to extend even further, snatching the ball just as Rick's body slammed into his, as he fell, he managed to flip the ball to Blair before crashing to the ground. Blair caught the ball and immediately took it down-court, where he made an unopposed basket. Turning back, he quickly dashed back, as Jim was still on the ground, gripping one knee.

"Rick, this was supposed to be a friendly game, remember?" Didi's voice was scathing in her disapproval of her husband as she bent down to see how badly Jim was hurt.

"I'm fine," Jim grumbled, massaging the injured knee. "I just landed wrong. Give me a minute." He continued to massage his wrenched knee as Blair hurried over.

"Jim?" he asked, setting the ball down and sitting on it to check out his partner's injury. "Wrenched your knee again?"

"Yeah. I landed wrong." He said nothing of the blatant foul.

"Rick fouled him on the rebound. That was an NBA caliber save, I'll have you know," Didi insisted, reaching out to gently try and see how bad the injury was. Jim pulled away from her, rolling to his hands and knees and standing. He was heavily favoring the injured joint, however. He waved off everyone's concern and carefully walked around, working through the pain.

Blair watched closely, the hang-dog expression on Rick's face, the grimace of pain on Jim's; he glanced at Didi, who simply shrugged at him, not knowing what to say.

"You going to be OK, Jim?"

"Yeah. Just give me a couple of minutes," Jim waved them all off, until he turned in his hobbling, straight into his brother, forcing him to stop. Looking up, he waited.

"Look, I'm sorry. I got a little carried away," Rick apologized, trying to ignore his wife's snort of dirision. "I, uh, I kind of tend to get a little competitive, sometimes." Jim could see Didi roll her eyes at that. Catching Blair's concerned expression, he turned his gaze upward and saw the contrite expression on his brother's face.

"Does Blair's basket count?" he asked.

Rick blinked in shock, Didi answered for him. "Yes."

"Two free throws for the foul?"

"Yeah," Rick agreed, grateful that Jim was still willing to play.

"OK, give me five to work this out," and Jim started walking slowly around the court, stretching the spasmed muscles and gently manipulating his knee.

"You OK, man?" Blair asked, falling into step beside him.

"Yeah. He plays for keeps, doesn't he."

"Oh, yeah. He's even more competitive than you are. We'll have to watch him. I don't want you ending up in the emergency room and your knee in a brace, you know?"

"I hear that, Chief. It's really not too bad. It's walking out OK. I'll be ready to play in another minute or two. I'll distract Didi, you do that hit-and-run thing you do to steal the ball."

"You really want to beat them, don't you."

"I didn't, at first. But you know how it is after a bad foul."

"Yeah, I do. OK, we'll play dodge-ball with them."

Jim made both of his free throws. Rick took the ball out of bounds and threw it in to Didi. Jim crowded her and while she was defending against him, Blair blindsided her and stole the ball. Rick simply wasn't fast enough to catch up with the smaller, younger man, who dashed downcourt, dribbling and going in for his best jump shot. Didi shook her head and took the ball out, tossing it back in to her husband, he managed to use his greater size to fend off his opponents and make the pass to his partner, who then made a basket. Blair took the ball out and tossed it in to Jim. Jim, ignoring the others, simply turned and made the shot from under the other basket, the ball sailed through the air and dropped through the opposite goal, nothing but net. Their opponents simply stopped and stared.

"What?" Jim asked, puzzled.

"With a shot like that, why aren't you in the NBA?"

"Too old, too slow," Blair quipped, as he ran after the ball. Jim swatted at him as he went past, but missed.

"A couple of specialty shots doesn't make an NBA player," Jim explained.

"A full end-to-end basket doesn't make for a possible career in the NBA? Where...? Never mind. How do you do that?" Rick was amazed that his kid brother was such a good player.

"Uh," Jim cast a worried glance at his partner, "I've got good hand-eye coordination?"

"At least. Not to mention the strength to throw the ball that far," Didi added. "So, Rick? Do you want to keep playing or just concede, now?"

Eyeing his opponents, Rick suggested, "How about a little one-on-one, halfcourt?"

"Horse?" Jim asked.

"OK. You can start."

Blair had returned with the ball in time to hear the new game rules. Handing the ball to Rick, he growled at him, "You hurt my partner again, and you'll have to deal with me."

Rick looked at the young man, thinking that for a short guy, he had big, brass, cojones, and was about to tell him so, when he saw the expression in the kid's eyes. The look promised extreme retaliation if he so much as harmed one of the remaining hairs on the little guy's friend's head. Nodding his understanding, he tossed the ball in to Jim.

Didi and Blair found themselves sitting on the sidelines, watching the two big men competing. "You know, watching them like this, I can definitely see a strong family resemblance. Maybe not so much a physical one, although it's definitely there, but more of a similar personality. Is Jim always this competitive?"

"Oh, yeah. Very definitely. I take it that Rick's the same way?"

"You can't imagine how competitive he is. There's no such thing as a 'friendly' bet with him."

Blair chuckled, "Well, Jim's not real big on betting of any kind. Not even much for friendly bets, even. I'm not sure, why."

"Well, that's one difference, at least. Rick could easily get into the habit of gambling, if he wasn't as strong as he is."

"Sounds like a lot of his 'strength' comes from you and what you'd think," Blair quipped at her.

"Well, maybe." They both turned as laughter erupted on the court. Rick was sitting helplessly on the ground, his legs splayed awkwardly, leaning one elbow on the ball as he sprawled. Jim stood over him, bent over, hands on his knees, laughing hysterically. Blair and Didi exchanged looks and hurried over to see what had happened.

"What happened, guys?" Blair asked, grinning.

"He slid on the free-throw line and fell," Jim snickered. "You OK, Rick?" he managed to gasp through his laughter.

"I think I broke something," Rick managed to reply through his own laughter. The others immediately sobered and looked at the fallen man with concern.

"Where does it hurt?" Jim asked, worry replacing amusement.

"I think I broke my dignity," Rick replied, laughing at the concerned looks around him. Shaking his head, Jim reached down to help him up.

"Your pride, maybe, Rick. You don't have any dignity," his wife grumbled at him good- naturedly, rolling her eyes at Blair.

"Oh, man. You putz!" Blair exclaimed. "Worrying us over nothing," his words trailed off as he noticed Rick favoring one ankle. "Nothing, huh? Jim?" he gestured toward the injured ankle and said, "I think we'd better check that out."

"It's fine. I just slipped and fell. Not even any road rash," Rick tried to explain, only to have the others guide him over to the bench and force him down on it. Jim crouched down to examine the injured ankle, his sensitive fingers gently seeking...

"You sprained it pretty badly, Rick. Where's your car?" Jim turned the question to Didi.

"Across the park. I'll go and bring it around. Where's the nearest hospital?" she asked, pulling her keys from her jacket pocket.

"No hospital!" Rick insisted. "It's just a sprain. I'm fine."

"Rick..." Didi began, a threatening tone in her voice.

"I don't think it's bad enough for the hospital," Jim agreed, "It's just some pulled ligaments. We can ice and wrap it at the loft," he cast a glance at his roommate, then added with a sparkle of humor in his eyes, "I'm sure we have everything needed to take care of it." He looked up to catch Blair sticking his tongue out at him. Nodding her agreement, Didi started off to bring their rental car around.

When she pulled up fifteen minutes later, the three men were waiting at the curb. Rick was leaning heavily on Jim's shoulder, as when he'd attempted to put some weight on his injured leg, it had given out beneath him, nearly spilling him back on the pavement.

With Blair carrying their jackets and the ball, Jim helped the taller man hobble over to the curb to await their ride.

Rick was glad his wife had insisted on the SUV, as he had plenty of room in the back seat to stretch out, with Blair squeezed into the corner and supporting his injured limb. Jim took the front passenger seat and gave directions. Parking in the lot in front of the loft, Jim was quickly out and opening the rear door to help his brother out, again helping the larger man by supporting his injured side. Blair scurried ahead to hold the door and as they entered the vestibule, scampered for the elevator, which for once was waiting on the ground floor.

As they rode up to the third floor, Jim fished his keys out of his pocket and handed them to Blair. As soon as the elevator doors opened, the younger man hurried to get the door to their apartment open by the time the others got there. While Jim helped Rick to the couch, Blair headed for the bathroom and the first aid kit. Calling to Didi, he instructed, "Didi? Can you get a bag of frozen vegetables from the freezer, please? There should be a big bag of peas in there."

Looking curiously around the loft as she made her way to the kitchen, she asked, "What do you want me to do with them?"

Raising Rick's leg and setting it on one of the throw pillows to protect the coffee table, Jim replied, "They make great ice packs," as he unlaced Rick's shoe and gently pulled it off, trying almost successfully to not aggravate the pain of the injured joint.

"Sounds like experience, talking," Didi commented as she brought the requested two-pound bag of frozen peas. Blair arrived with the first aid kit and a towel. Jim lay the towel across Rick's swelling ankle, and they draped the bag of peas over the injured joint, the bag wrapping most of the way around the affected area.

"That's a great idea," Didi commented, seeing how well it seemed to work.

"Pea salad tonight, Jim." Blair teased, indicating the future fate of the bag of vegetables.

"Fine with me," Jim replied, rising from his crouch. "Can I get you anything? Water, soft drinks, coffee? Maybe something to eat?"

"Water'd be nice," Rick said. Blair, handing the first aid kit to Jim, who simply placed it on the coffee table, bounded for the kitchen.

"What about you, Didi?"

"Coffee would be nice, if it's not too much trouble," she replied, still looking around. "You've got a lot of space here" Her voice showed her curiosity at the eclectic decor.

"We like it," Jim intoned, "Make yourself at home." He joined his roommate in the kitchen, preparing the coffee maker to brew a fresh pot.

Didi wandered around, looking closely at the things in the room, from the tribal masks flanking the wood-stove, to the books lining the shelves. It was obvious that there were conflicting personalities at play, here. Glancing at the two local cops, she wondered, then realized that they must live here, together.

"So, you're roommates?" she asked, the question asking much more that the obvious.

"Yeah," Jim replied, taking a support wrap from the first aid kit. "It makes things easier," he added, distractedly.

"Oh? In what way?" Didi couldn't help asking. She ignored her husband's glare.

"Well, originally, Jim was the subject of my dissertation, but that kind of fell through." Rick and Didi exchanged looks at the sadness in the younger man's voice.

"What happened?" Rick asked.

With a sigh, Blair glanced at his roommate, seeing the stiffness in his pose and knowing that it would still be a very long time before they would be completely past the debacle that had been the unintentional release of his unfinished dissertation. "A bunch of shit came down and I dropped out," he explained, without explaining at all.

Didi stared at him, suddenly remembering, "About a month or so ago?" she asked, "You were on the news... something about some kind of 'super senses', right?"

Rick noticed Jim flinch at her words. Looking down to where Jim was checking the swelling on his ankle, he remembered...

"Shit. That's what this is all about," he muttered with sudden understanding. The others looked at him in askance.

"That was what must have caught my mom's attention. She must have seen it and recognized the name..."

"That makes sense," Jim nodded. He carefully lifted the 'ice' pack and checked the swelling, then replaced the pack to do some more work. "It's going to take a while for this to go down," he said, rising. Blair was standing, holding out a bottle of cold water, which Rick accepted, taking a quick drink.

"So, how did you end up as roommates?" Didi asked, backing off from what was obviously a tender subject, passing a message to her husband with her eyes... a message he understood and let pass.

"The warehouse I was living in blew up," Blair said, blandly.

"Blew up?" Rick asked in surprise.

"Yeah. Jim and I had been working together for a bit, and he was over at my place. We were... well, working on stuff. I was doing a study on violence, my subject was a Barbary Ape. I didn't know that my new neighbors were running a meth lab, hell, I didn't even realize that I even had neighbors. Anyway, the lab blew up and my place got burnt to a crisp along with it. Jim let me move in here."

"Longest week in history." Jim intoned, smiling at his partner.

"Week?" Didi asked.

"I was supposed to just stay a week. That was four years ago." Blair explained.

"It just makes it easier." Jim agreed.


"Well, yeah." Jim didn't bother to explain any further, but he smiled at his friend.

Rick and Didi exchanged curious looks, but didn't press.

"So, how do you take your coffee?" Jim asked, handing Rick some aspirin for the swelling and pain from his ankle.

They all settled down over their beverages and some snacks that Blair 'just happened to have'. Talking about cop things, how their District Attorney's treated them, about how some judges were less likely to sentence bad guys properly or how one defense lawyer was tricky and another was an idiot. How glad they were when they managed to get them off the street and in prison where they belonged. Jim and Rick got into a heated discussion of capital punishment, with both Didi and Blair arguing against the whole idea of killing felons.

"Look you are never going to convince me that killing someone is going to deter someone else from committing a similar crime." Blair declared, with Didi nodding her agreement.

"Well, if the States actually executed these guys before they died of old age, it might be different," Rick argued back.

"Or if the Feds didn't make it so hard for the States to actually use capitol punishment. I think we're the only state that still even has hanging..." Jim said, "Of course, if they made the executions public..."

"Let's not even go there, man. We've already raised a full generation of people who think that the more blood and gore, the better the movie. People have been so desensitized to violence that they would become even more inured to it if we gave them live executions." Blair's ire became even more intense.

"But if the courts would at least stop slapping people on the wrist and just letting them go..." Didi began...

Four hours later, they still hadn't managed to change each other's minds. Finally, Blair and Didi demanded that they all agree to disagree, which the brothers reluctantly agreed to do.

Blair had put the lasagna in the oven and Jim had started to put together a salad, as Blair started working on the garlic bread. Didi, deciding to get things back on a more even keel, had checked the television listings and discovered that there was a basketball game scheduled that evening, between the Lakers and the Jags. Knowing that she was taking her life in her hands, she mentioned it to the men. Much to her surprise, it was Blair who was the most adamant supporter of the local team, not Jim. The younger man had all the stats, all the scuttlebutt, and all the information on anything and everything to do with his team. Overwhelmed, Didi looked at Jim for help.

Seeing their guest's surprised confusion at Blair's knowledge of his favorite team, he briefly explained, "He's got a signed Orvell Wallace rookie card, and Orvell got us season's tickets this year."

"You're buddies with the coach?" Rick asked, impressed.

"Well, sort of. Major Crime has a box and Orvell keeps us supplied with center court seats whenever we need them."

"How did you manage that?" Didi asked.

"Blair proved that Orvell didn't kill Roshmon." Jim explained.

"And Jim rescued his niece." Blair added.

"And then there was when Kincade took the arena hostage last year..."

"Whoa! Too much information, guys." Didi laughed. "This is all a joke, right?"

Jim and Blair stopped what they were doing and just looked at them.

"No joke. Just what happened." Blair blandly stated. Didi looked at her husband in shock. Rick just shrugged, it would be easy enough to prove, but he was beginning to take them at their word; primarily because it was just too outlandish to not be true.

Jim left Blair fussing in the kitchen and rejoined their guests. Uncertain, he broached the subject he really didn't want to, but knew he needed to. "I talked to my dad. He said that he was sorry for his behavior and was hoping that you might give him another chance."

Rick looked at his brother. Uncertain. "He really pissed me off, you know."

"Yeah. I know. He has a penchant for doing that." Jim agreed. He met the older man's gaze, seeing much of himself and, therefore, their father in the older man. "I left home right out of high school and never even saw him again until a little over a year ago." He admitted. Seeing the questions in both their eyes, he continued, "He wasn't the best or most supportive of fathers," he explained. "The only reason we ever even spoke again was because of a case. We're still a little strained, but at least we can talk, now."

"What happened?" Didi asked, honestly curious about her brother-in-law.

"When? Oh, why I left home? Let's just say that his idea of how to make men was to pit his two sons against each other for his attention. My younger brother, Steven, did something for which I was blamed and got to go on a trip with Dad. While they were gone, I joined the Army."

"Ouch," Rick muttered. "Did he ever find out the truth?"

"It didn't matter, Steven was much better at playing the game than I will ever be. He went into business, just like Dad wanted. I wound up a cop."

Despite the words, there was no bitterness in his voice. Didi looked at her husband and wondered if he could ever be so forgiving, doubting that he had the ability.

"You don't sound bitter," she said.

Jim smiled, a soft, contented smile, and glanced at his roommate, who was watching from the kitchen. "I'm not, any more, not really. Sure, I still get mad, like when you blindsided me the other day, but I'm learning to let it go." He caught Blair's grin just as the smaller man ducked his head and turned away. Yeah, he'd learned to let a lot of things go. Bitterness, anger, loneliness, the list was endless. His smile widened as he thought of all the changes in his life since his senses had come online and he'd met the man who had become his Guide, partner, best friend and closer than he and either of his brother's could ever be.

"So, is it okay for me to invite him over after dinner?"

Rick looked appraisingly at his brother, unsure. One glance at his wife, however, settled the issue. "Yeah. I guess. Tonight?"

"Yeah. Say about nine?"

"Sure. That'll be fine."

Blair's whispered "Yes!" was audible to all present, but politely ignored. Jim made the call, and reported that their father would be by at precisely nine. Instead of acting as a damper on conversation, it seemed to ease them all, somewhat.

Dinner over and the basketball game playing, with Blair and Didi arguing over which was the better team, each fiercely loyal to their home-town favorite. At precisely nine o'clock, Jim rose and went to the door, opening it to admit William Ellison, who stood, hand poised to knock. Nonplussed, he lowered his hand and hesitantly entered the room, glancing nervously at the people quietly looking at him.

"Let me take your coat, Dad," Jim offered quietly.

"Thanks, Jimmy." He looked at the others, blushing slightly at seeing his other son and the woman whom he assumed was his daughter-in-law. Blair handed him a cup of coffee, smiling reassuringly.

"Thank you, Blair." William was uncertain what to do and had no idea what to say to his eldest son.

"Sit down, Dad," Jim encouraged, nudging his father toward the couch opposite the love-seat that Rick and Didi were sitting on.

The elderly man finally gathered his courage and met the challenge in Rick's eyes. "I'm sorry, Richard, for the way I behaved the other day. You didn't deserve that. It wasn't your fault."

"I know." Rick answered, still a little miffed at the way his father had treated him. He wanted to ask why, but realized that it didn't really matter, as they had a lifetime between them and that nothing would ever be able to bridge that gap.

"How is Annie?"

Rick looked at him in surprise. "She's fine. Why didn't you ever come and see her?" He left himself out of the equation, knowing that he wasn't really important, here.

"I was too stupid to take advantage of any opportunities that may have presented themselves," he admitted.

"Do you still think about her?" Rick really needed to know, how this one question was answered would be indicative of what he would say, next.

"Every day." William's softly spoken admission effectively silenced everyone.

Pity. That was what he was feeling. Pity for the old man who had given him up so easily. Who had turned his back on the woman he loved, all to conform to his own bitter parent's need that he fit in to their world. A world he had tried so very hard to force his other, more acceptable sons to fit into. Succeeding with the one, forcing the other away. It was funny, that Jim, the one who would not be forced into the ill-fitting mold his father planned for him, should be so very much like the older brother he'd never known about. The irony would have made him laugh, if the whole thing hadn't been so very, very sad. Listening to Jim speak about their father and seeing for himself how formal and careful father and son were, he was even more grateful that John Hunter had seen fit to adopt him. Although he knew that he'd keep in contact with his younger brother and would eventually meet his brother Steven, he didn't really feel any need to become close to them. He would allow William access to his grandchildren, however, but only as much as he felt comfortable with. At the first sign of any manipulation like Jim had reported...

"Rick? Aren't you coming to bed?"

Rick turned away from the windows. "Yeah. In a minute."

"You want to talk about it?"

"What do you suppose drives a man to do the kinds of things William Ellison has done to his children?"


Rick turned at the words, "Really?"

"Um-hmmmm. He wanted his sons to be just like him, never realizing how much he had hated being made to conform to his father's needs and desires. I think you were lucky. I think Jim is, too. Each of you became the men you are by dint of hard work and stubborn pride. Your childhoods molded you into what you are, now; the men you've become. Both you and Jim are a lot alike, but his path to where he is was a lot harder than yours was. He never had a parent to tell him how loved he was, how special. You had that, Rick. Don't ever forget it"

Rick smiled, "I've got you, too. That makes a big difference, too, you know."

"Oh, yeah. Not to mention the kids..."

"Yeah." He went over to the bed and slid between the sheets, taking his wife in his arms. "And that's the best of all, you and the kids. Have I told you yet today how much I love you?"

"No. But then, we've been pretty busy."

"Mmmmm. Well, let me tell you, now..."

Jim didn't know what, if any, relationship he would have with his half-brother in the future. It was enough to know that he existed. That he wasn't a Sentinel, that he had a lot in common with the older man. If nothing else, he could become a friend. Friends was good. He decided to encourage his father to go and see Annie. If he was still in love with her, he should see what he could do about rekindling what they once had. He realized that he hoped his father could find some happiness, despite their past differences, he still loved his father and brother. And he was grateful to the circumstances that had shown him how much he still cared. Even more grateful to his best friend for encouraging him with his relationships with his father and brother... brothers. He grinned. The look on Blair's face when Rick had pulled off his long-sleeved shirt that afternoon to let them check the scrape on his shoulder and arm from when he'd fallen and sprained his ankle had been priceless. There, on Rick's Right upper arm, just below the shoulder, had been a tattoo. Of a snarling, black panther. Blair's muttered 'what is this, a family deal?' had kept him chuckling for the rest of the evening. Much to the curiosity of his dad, brother and sister-in-law. Who knew. Maybe it was a family trait. Maybe not. Whatever it was, there were changes in the future, a future which held a promise of being interesting, no matter what else it might be.

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