This is terrible. I've already got two stories started and I have really strong bashes for two more. What to do? Sigh. Well, let me see how this one goes, OK?
They will never be mine, at least, not legally. However, they do belong to each and every one of us, at least in our hearts. After all, we're the only ones keeping them alive, now. Anyway, there is no monetary profit being made, and it won't get anyone very much if they sue me, but I thank the owners of this intellectual property for not doing so.
This one is a little different from my usual stuff (like I really have a particular 'type' of story). This is from varying points of view. It's a somewhat different take on whatever happened to Grace...
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"Oh, you must be one of her sons," the elderly woman said. I had no idea who she was. I wasn't even sure why I was here. It's not like I can even remember her. Not really.
"Yes, Ma'am. I'm Steven." Like she really cared. Even I could tell that. She just wanted someone to talk to.
"Oh, she was such a wonderful woman. So giving and caring. Always a kind word for everyone. Always the first to volunteer."
"Uh-huh," yeah, sure. Whatever you say, lady. If she was so wonderful, why did she desert us?
"Did you know that..."
No. I didn't know and I'm not quite sure that I believe it. My mother? Grace Ellison? I must be in the wrong place and this must be the memorial service for a different Grace Ellison. Yeah. Sure. I'd probably have a better time believing it if my brother and father weren't here... looking just as uncomfortable as I feel. I noticed that Jim and Dad hadn't said anything to each other, yet. Ah, Jim brought his roommate. Lucky Jim. To have someone like Blair to confide in and provide support. Yeah, I'm a little jealous. That should be my place. But dear old Dad saw to it that we didn't even talk to each other for fifteen years. Even then, it was only by some freak circumstances that we ever even spoke to each other again. Even then, he thought I'd murdered someone.
I shook my head in disgust. We'd talked, finally. The night he got that Cop of the Year award. I shouldn't be surprised that he thought I hated him. It was hard, having to compete with him. He was older, stronger, more athletic. I was never able to come even close to any of the benchmarks he set. That time I got that B... No. I was never able to match him either scholastically or athletically. So, instead, I'd cheat. Do things and made sure he was blamed for them.
That last one, though... Yeah. I got to go to Japan, but I lost so much more than I ever gained. Hell. Most of the time, I was stuck in the hotel while Dad was out doing business. Jimmy should have been the one to go. He'd earned it. He really had deserved it. He would have been able to get a lot more out of it because he was eighteen and wouldn't have been stuck in the hotel for most of the month we were there.
"You must be so proud of her."
It took me a second to catch up. The old woman thought I should be proud of my mother? The woman who thought so little of us that she left us? "Actually, I wonder why she was so able to give so much to other people and never anything to us, her family." The look on the woman's face was priceless. She obviously had no response to my words. I couldn't help the smug grin that found its way to my face.
I shouldn't have come. It's not like I can even remember her. Not really. I mean, I remember them arguing a lot. I remember her screaming at Dad. I also remember snuggling down in her lap while she read stories to me. I also remember her being gone a lot.
I see that my brother and father made it. We seem to have each taken up our posts as far from each other as possible. My father's legacy still setting us at odds with each other. It's kind of sad. At least I have Blair here with me. He's looking around at all the old ladies, then looking at me with that special, concerned expression he gets whenever he feels that the emotional crap I'm going through is too much for me to handle alone. Yep. Here comes that hand to my arm, the one meant to ground and steady me. I smile at him. I can't help it. I'm really grateful that he agreed to come with me.
Steven has a funny look on his face. Automatically, I tune in to hear what the old lady is saying to him. Huh. My mother? A wonderful, caring, loving woman? To whom? Certainly not to her sons. I realize that the look on Steven's face indicates that he's not really listening to the old woman, but thinking... remembering.
The old woman asks him if he's proud of Mom. Oh, man. What a great answer. And that smirk on his face. I can't help grinning, myself. His eyes find mine and we connect.
I don't really belong here. I'm only here because Jim needs me for a little moral support. This is like so weird. Jim's got that 'I don't want to be here' look on his face. I reach out to touch his arm. He looks at me and gives me that grateful smile. I smile back. Jim's attention is drawn to where his brother, Steven, is standing and talking to an elderly woman. Even I can tell that he's not really listening to her, but thinking about other things. The woman stops talking and Steven has to think, before he answers. His expression turns smug. Jim's obviously been listening in and likes whatever it is that Steven says. The poor old woman looks shocked and at a total loss for words. Steven looks over and focuses on Jim.
Well. I'm a little surprised to see Jimmy and Steven here. I thought that they wouldn't care. Maybe, like me, they just want to make sure she's really dead... No. That's not true. I did love Grace. Once. I just never understood why she should give so much of her time and effort to charity and other people and not to us, her family. I know that my boys blame me for her leaving us. They're only partially right, though. We've never talked about that time, why she left us. I just arbitrarily told them to never mention her again. Looking at my sons now, I realize that that's just one more mistake I made with them. I wish...
I see that Jimmy brought his little friend with him. Since that horrible mess with the kid's paper... I'm a little surprised he still lets him hang around. But then, he's been more like family to Jim than his brother or I have. Jimmy said something about Blair helps him with his senses. I can't believe the kid gave up three million and a Nobel Prize nomination for my son. I can't imagine anyone I know, or even me, giving up that kind of a fortune. Certainly not for a simple friendship. The kid's touching Jim's arm, looking up at him with a worried expression. Jimmy smiles at him. I remember that smile. I don't think I've seen it since before that man was killed when Jimmy was ten. That's the same smile he'd get when Bud would talk to him. He's never given me that particular smile. I think I'm envious. Hell. I know I'm envious.
Steven's talking to that old biddy, Mrs. Anderson. She was one of Grace's best friends. Another socialite who was so very concerned with her appearance and standing in the community... Damn. I should talk. That's what drove so much of what I did to my sons. What other people would think. It's no wonder my sons don't care about me now. I wonder what Steven just said to Mrs. Anderson? She certainly looks shocked. He's positively smirking.
He looks over and sees Jimmy. Steven doesn't even say another word to Mrs. Anderson and heads over to his brother. I wonder if they'll even speak to me? If they do, maybe we can talk. Maybe they'll give me a chance to try to explain, after all these years. Maybe...
"Jim, Blair," Steven smiled at them. Ever since that debacle with Blair's thesis, he'd decided that whatever place the younger man had in his brother's life was well deserved. He may have envied the younger man, but he certainly didn't begrudge his place in his brother's life. If there was room for him, as well... then he would feel grateful for whatever place he could find in his big brother's life.
"Hey, Steven," Blair smiled at him.
Jim grinned and patted him rather tentatively on the shoulder. "Hey, bro. I liked your answer to that woman."
"You were listening?" Steven was a bit surprised.
"Well, yeah. The look on your face..."
"Do you remember any of that stuff she was saying?" Steven was very unsure.
Jim looked up, thinking. Bringing his eyes back to his brother, with a brief flick of his gaze at his partner to include him in the conversation, "Sort of. I remember some of the arguments they had, but I didn't really understand them."
Blair looked puzzled, "Okay, can you guys clue me in, here? I didn't get to hear what she said." He grinned when the other two flushed slightly at that little bit of information.
"Sorry. She was saying that our mother was a wonderful, caring, generous, giving woman. Who always had time for others." Jim briefly explained.
Blair frowned, "But... I thought that she was seldom home while you were little?" His confusion was obvious.
"Yeah. I remember her being gone a lot, then she was gone for good and Dad told us to never mention her name again. I never understood. Did you, Jim?" Steven looked up at his older brother, wondering if his memory was any better than his.
Jim shook his head. "Not really. I have flashes of sitting in her lap while she read to me when I was really little, and lots of memories of her and Dad arguing, but not really what about," he shrugged. "Sorry. I don't really remember. I have to admit that I was a little surprised at what that woman said about her."
"Yeah, me, too," Steven glanced back at the woman, who was now glancing at them and obviously gossiping with another elderly woman.
"Uh, maybe you should ask your father?" Blair suggested, a little tentatively. "Maybe what you remember wasn't all there was to it. He's sure to remember a lot more than you two do." Seeing the dubious expressions on the brothers' faces, he continued, "I'm not saying his is the correct version, only that maybe you should hear his side and then compare it with what her friends are saying. That way, you'll have a better chance of figuring out the truth."
Steven stared at the short, younger man, then looked at his brother, impressed. "No wonder you keep him around. That's a very good idea, don't you think?"
Jim smiled and slid an arm across Blair's shoulders. "I 'keep him around' because he's willing to stay, despite my proclivities of being somewhat difficult at times." Blair snorted at those words. Jim grinned at him and turned the arm across his shoulders into a half-hug, "Hey, it's the truth," he added, defensively.
"I stay," Blair began, "Because you're the closest thing I have ever had to family, outside of my mom. Besides, I've gotten used to the roller-coaster ride that my life has become and I'm not really willing to give it up, you know?"
"Yeah. Thanks." Jim's grin widened, his non-sequitur response bringing a smile to his friend's face. Turning his gaze back to his brother, he nodded. "I think that's a very good idea. But I don't think that this is quite the right place for it, if you know what I mean. Everyone else here is one of her friends and all we'll get from them is their biased accounts... I wonder if Sally would be willing to tell us what she thinks?"
"Well, why don't you talk to your dad, first?" Blair suggested. "Then you'll have the two extreme sides and maybe Sally's will be in the middle and closer to reality?"
"I think that's a good idea, Blair," Steven agreed, looking at Jim for support.
"Yeah. It sounds good to me, too. So, should we at least sit with Dad for the service, or what?" Jim's attention had focused on his father and the sad, lonely expression on his face.
"Family solidarity, man," Blair suggested. The two taller men smiled down at him, identical smiles on their faces.
"Family, I like that," Steven said, a little wistfully, looking at his brother.
Jim met his brother's eyes, a question in them. "Family?" he asked, softly.
Straightening up to his full height, still a couple of inches shy of his big brother's, he looked him squarely in the eye. Placing a tentative hand on Jim's hand, where it still lay across Blair's shoulder, he said, "Yeah. Family." His jaw clenched in unconscious mimicry of his brother. His gaze locked with the larger man's, only to be broken when he felt the vibration under his hand as Blair began his unconscious bouncing.
The brothers looked down at the younger man. Seeing his hopeful grin, they couldn't help but smile back. Steven removed his hand, and Jim took his arm from across his friend's shoulders, his fingers ruffling the long curls as he withdrew.
"Yeah. I like that. Family." Jim smiled at his brothers, the one by blood and the one by choice, a choice now shared by blood... yeah. That was a good thing.
"Dad?" Jim, as the eldest made the approach. William Ellison looked up. He'd seen them together. Seen how Steven had overtly accepted the younger man. Seen, too, Jim's pleasure at that acceptance and his reaction to Steven because of it. He'd never been a stupid man. He understood how in business that sometimes you had to give a little to gain a lot. He wanted his sons back in his life. If he had to accept the younger man as well... then so be it.
"Jimmy. Hello, Steven, Blair." There. He'd included the kid, as well. Maybe...?
"Would you like to sit with us, Mr. Ellison?" Blair asked, unsure of his welcome."
He looked at the younger man. He'd seen the devotion that his eldest son had for this kid, seen how Jimmy had changed from the angry young man he'd remembered... that he'd created. If Blair was willing to try to help bridge the gulf that his own actions had placed between him and his sons, then he was certainly willing to allow the young man to enter into the circle. Besides, he rather strongly suspected that the only reason either of his sons was even talking to him was probably due to the influence of this young man.
"Yes. I'd like that very much." His smile was shy and a little tentative, but when the three younger men smiled back at him, he straightened his slumped shoulders and stood tall and proud of his sons being with him. Even if he did suddenly have an extra one to contend with.
Oh, man. That was hard. Jim's still processing. The memorial service made me want to gag. The way those people talked about Jim's mom. It was like she was a saint, or something. Well, maybe that's what they saw. Obviously, no one knew the other side of the story. How she was always more interested in helping other people instead of her own family. Jim's dad told us his side of it, after the service. We went to the Country Club, where he proudly signed us all in as his guests... and introduced us as his sons... even me! That took all of us by surprise. I think he just did it to make points with Jim, but it worked. Jim's smile was like sunshine on a cold, winter's day. Steven looked a bit nonplussed, but grinned at me, too.
We were in the dining room, drinking coffee... no one was hungry, even though I know that Jim hadn't been able to eat his breakfast, and I imagine that William and Steven hadn't had much, either. William was really uncomfortable. It took a while, but finally, after all the small talk about Steven's business and Jim and me at the police department... and the fiasco that had been the revelation of my dissertation, they ran out of things to say and William, with an uncertain look at each of us, told his side of the story. It went quite a ways towards explaining what happened, and I think he was as accurate as he was capable of; I'm sure he tried to leave his own bias out. I could tell that Jim thought so, too. Probably listening to his dad's heartbeat to determine if he was lying.
It would seem that Grace Ellison liked to help people. Lots of people. Unfortunately, helping other people left her little time for her own family. She was too busy with her clubs, her charities, her friends. Doing things for other people, that it left little time for her husband or, more importantly, their sons. It explains why Jim remembers them yelling so much. They argued over her being gone so much of the time. William was working, and as soon as he was gone, so was she. Steven was just a toddler then. She'd leave him with Sally to take care of and take off to be with her friends. Sure, she did good things for people, she was really big into charitable work, but now I understand what 'Charity begins at Home' means. She didn't have time to be with her family, her husband or her sons. At least, not after Steven was born.
Poor Jim. I think that all these years, he blamed himself for his mother leaving them. That it was his fault because he was a 'freak'; because of his senses. It must be quite a shock to discover that he had nothing to do with his parent's divorce, for her deserting them. It should have been a relief, but I don't think it is. Not yet, at any rate. He's so used to taking the blame for things... something that Steven is at least partially responsible for, not to mention their father for taking sides... I'm letting this go. That was all a very long time ago. I do not have the power to change the past. I can only help to reconcile them and maybe affect the future, a bit. It still annoys me, though. I can't comprehend how anyone could be so cruel as to pit their children against one another. But then, I'm an only child who was raised by Naomi. I just don't have the background to be able to relate. Still...
Jim's out on the balcony. Staring out over the bay and ignoring the beer in his hand. I can see that he's thinking, trying to come to terms with what he's learned today. I don't think they'll have to talk to Sally and get her take on those events from so long ago. I think William managed to say it all. With the distance of so many years, he was able to be a bit more objective than he could have been when it was all so fresh and painful.
I watch my friend. Waiting. I know he needs the time alone to come to grips with the reality of what happened back then. There. He just took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. He's taking a sip of his beer and his gaze has flickered away from the distance. That's my cue.
"Blair." I wonder how he knows when it's time to talk? He's very good at giving me the space I need to 'process' as he calls it. He's come out to stand beside me. I can feel the warmth radiating from him. It's cold out here, though. So I know we can't stay out here too long... at least, he can't. I certainly don't want to be the cause for him catching a chill.
I turn to look at him. He amazes me, sometimes. OK, he still amazes me, sometimes. How he can care so much. I'm certainly not worthy. I look into his concerned face and think again. To him, I am worthy... worth all the hassles... all the pain he's had to endure since he first met me. I may never understand it. How he can care about me so much. Why he should bother. I've cost him so much. He's been hurt so many times. Hell, he even died once. Even worse, for him anyway, at least I think so, was the loss of all that hard work he did. And that was directly my fault. Yet he's still here. Still with me, still helping me. This is what I always dreamed of family being about. Maybe it is...
"I'm better, I think." I reply. I see the first shiver from the cold and reach out an arm to draw him up close beside me. I like the way my arm feels across his shoulders, the way he presses against my side to absorb some of my warmth. Yeah. This is what it really means to be family. He tries so hard; working to get my father and Steven back into my life. I nearly choked when Dad introduced him at the club as one of his sons. I thought Blair was going to faint, but the look on his face... I think my dad's finally figured it out. How important this friend is. I can't help it. I chuckle.
His expression is puzzled and slightly worried. I tighten my grip around his shoulders. "I was just thinking."
"Dad at the Country Club. When he introduced us all as his sons. The look on your face was priceless. I wish I'd had a camera to take a picture."
I can feel the blush rising in his cheeks. "I know that Steven and I were surprised, too. But the look on Dad's face... I think he was the most surprised of all of us."
"He's trying, Jim. He really wants you and your brother back in his life, and not as casual, occasional acquaintances, you know?"
"Yeah. He wants it enough to adopt you," I tease, pulling away and ruffling his hair as I take my arm from around his shoulders. I take a gulp of my beer and sort of shove him towards the door. "It's cold out here, let's go inside, where it's warm."
His next words startle me, but I fully understand. He looks up at me, a little shy and tentative, sort of the same look my dad had, earlier.
"I thought it was plenty warm enough."
I understand what he's really saying, and it wasn't about the temperature. I smile my understanding and gently shove him through the door, entering behind him and closing the sliding glass portal.
"Yeah. But that warmth won't keep you from catching your death of cold, Chief."
He smirks at me and starts bouncing... I miss it when he's so serious, like he's been this past year. I smile, welcoming it back.
"No, but it's pretty nice, anyway, Jim."
"Yeah, it is, little brother. It is."
That was the right thing to say. The look on his face again makes me wish for a camera to record it for posterity. But I realize that it isn't necessary. It's an expression I'm not likely to forget any time soon. In fact, it's another of those memories I'm going to hold close to my heart for the rest of my life. It isn't often that the person you love like a brother is accepted as such by the rest of your family... particularly not one like mine. I'm well aware that my father and brother only included Blair because of me, but they obviously realize that he's that important to me. I'm glad. If they're willing to accept Blair, then I'm more than willing to accept them. And Blair knows it.
"How about we go out for dinner tonight, Chief? I feel like celebrating."
"Oh, how about someplace nice?"
He gives me what I can only describe as an appraising look, "How about we invite Steven and your dad, too?"
I know the smile on my face is enough of an answer for him, but I reply, anyway.
"Sure, I think I can handle a family dinner, if you can."
He just grins back at me and the bounce becomes more apparent.
"I'll make the calls."
What do you know. My mother has managed to do more for her family by dying than she ever did for us while she lived. Sure, we still have a long way to go... but it is a beginning. And a good one, at that.
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