*Okay, this one deals with issues in the episode "Remembrances" so SPOILER alerts are issued.
*No, this one was never listed in the "What's New & What's Coming" section because I wasn't sure I was going to write it. It's really close to being a "missing scene" and I've never had the audacity to do one before. Not that there's anything wrong with missing scenes... I just happed to prefer operating in my own universe, which by the way crashes into this story with a heavy "oomph". So even though the following extends from an episode, everything below is strictly IMHO.
*One last note (at the rate I'm going the intro is going to be longer than the story): this story doesn't contain the usual brief background/history lesson I usually include (just couldn't get it to fit probably because of its missing scene status), so if you're a recruiter, converting friends and relatives to fans of our beloved show, you may want to start with another story :-).
Blair Sandburg cursed when he heard the knock on the door. They couldn't be here already. Dinner wasn't ready yet. He wasn't ready yet. Everything had to be perfect. How could they be here? Then he slapped himself on the forehead. They weren't here, he realized with relief. If it was who he had thought it was, no one would have knocked; Jim would have used his key to let himself... and his father in. So that meant the knocker had to be Simon. And that was definitely someone he wanted to see.
He opened the door and nearly dragged the much larger man inside. "I'm so glad you're here early, man. Can you set the table? I have to keep an eye on my yeast rolls in the oven... Shit! The rolls!" He hurried toward the stove. "You know where everything is. Thanks, Simon."
Captain Simon Banks blinked, trying to process everything the younger man had crammed into his 10-second monologue. Oh, the kid wanted him to set the table. He strolled into the kitchen where the anthropologist was painting rolls with melted butter. Painting? Yeah, that was a brush in his hand, wasn't it? Somewhere in the back of his mind a little voice told him it was a pastry brush. Interesting, the bits of information he'd picked up as a bachelor.
"Sandburg, why are you spazzing like this?" he asked as he gathered silverware and picked up a pack of paper napkins.
"No, not those," Blair said, handing him freshly pressed linen napkins. "And I'm not spazzing. I just want everything to be nice for Jim's dad."
"So does Jim apparently," Simon pointed out. "Is there a surviving speck of dust in the entire loft?" Being a Sentinel made Jim a cleaning nut. But even he had outdone himself this time.
"Uh, Jim didn't do the cleaning. I did."
Simon stopped and stared at the alien in front of him. "What the hell is going on inside that head of yours, Sandburg?" he asked, not only puzzled but concerned. Sandburg normally cleaned like Simon's young son, Daryl-- a lick and maybe a promise if pushed.
Blair blushed. "You're going to think this is silly, Simon."
"And when has that stopped you from talking to me before?"
Blair sighed and perched on a stool. "Well, this dinner... It's like having in-laws over for the first time, man. I really want to make a good impression, you know." He hadn't had an opportunity to make any impression the only other time he'd met William Ellison. He'd been too busy helping the older man off the ground where that psycho from Jim's past has tossed him. Then he'd spent the rest of the time worrying about Jim because he'd gone after the psycho. Then when Jim had everything under control, he'd taken his father to the hospital and home. William Ellison probably didn't even remember his son's curly-haired partner at all.
Simon wanted to argue with Blair, to tell him he was making a big deal out of nothing but hell, maybe the kid had a point. He and Jim weren't married and they didn't sleep with each other, but they were ... co-habitating. They not only shared the same living quarters but they divided the household chores, did each other's laundry, rotated cooking and shopping duties, left messages if one or the other was going to be late getting home, argued over money and choice of friends, had mutual friends over for dinner, vacationed together, held vigil at the other's hospital bed. And let's not forget the times Naomi came to visit...
"Simon! You zoning on me, man?"
Simon jumped slightly, then headed toward the table. "Uh, just letting you fill my head with foolishness as usual. You know whatever you do, no matter what William Ellison thinks of you, it won't change your relationship with Jim."
"Glad to see you're taking it so well, Simon," Blair said as he hopped off his seat to check the wild rice he was cooking.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Simon bellowed as he tried to remember which side the fork went on. Hell, why couldn't it be like when Jim had the guys over-- put the silverware in a pile and everyone was happy.
"That means that he's sort of your in-law too."
Simon laughed nervously. "You're stretching, kid."
"I'm serious, Simon," Blair said as he reached out to straighten a fork. He yelped as his hand was summarily slapped. "Think about it, man. In-laws are two families joined by a common denominator, right? You and I are like Jim's family. He looks after us, nagging us when he feels something is wrong. He trusts us, confides in us. And most of all, when he needs help, who does he turn to? Us. Now he invites us to sit down with his father, his 'other' family. That makes us both in-laws, captain."
Simon was shaken. Sandburg was making a lot of sense-- too much actually. "So what, Sandburg? I have nothing to worry about. I've had in-laws before."
"And did you get along with them?"
Simon scowled as he thought of Joan's parents. "Don't ask questions you don't want to hear the answers to, Sandburg." He caught himself reaching out to straighten the crooked fork and wanted to slap his own hand. The kid had it right the first time; this was silly.
Maybe it was time to inject a dose of reality into the situation. "Why should we be trying to impress this man? Didn't Jim say he admitted to knowing Jim had enhanced senses, but accused the boy of lying anyway? And you know what he did to Jim and Steven, the way he had them competing against each other. So why the first class treatment?"
Blair reached out to touch the captain's arm. "For Jim, Simon. He needs to make peace with his past and we have to help him. For his sake."
Simon shook off the anger he felt. "Okay, Sandburg. For Jim's sake."
The dinner was going well, even in Blair's exacting opinion. The food disappeared, the conversation flowed, and everyone was smiling. Then something went wrong and Blair knew the nightmare every newlywed had.
The disintegration started innocently enough with Simon passing on a message to Blair from Daryl. "He says he needs that book you were discussing last weekend."
"Daryl?" William Ellison questioned politely.
"My son," Simon said proudly.
"Oh, you're married?"
"Divorced." Simon gave a small shrug as he said it. He'd made peace with his status long ago.
"So you're raising the boy on your own?"
Jim cleared his throat. "Daryl lives with his mother, Dad."
Blair felt the evening slipping out of his grasp. "Let me get that book for you before I forget." He got up from the table and headed toward his room.
"Try the upper shelf, Chief," Jim called when the Sentinel heard Blair searching. "The other morning when you slammed out of here because you had that early meeting with your advisor, I heard something fall and when I went in search of your latest disaster, I found the book on the floor. I put it on the only shelf that had space."
"That's because I have to stand on something to reach that shelf, Jim."
The detective smiled and excused himself from the table. "More coffee, Mr. Ellison?" Simon asked, being the only host left in the room. He had figured out a long time ago that he wasn't considered a guest at the loft.
William waved away the coffee. "Blair lives here? With my son?" he asked in a shocked voice.
Before Simon could reply, Jim reentered the room. "Yeah, Dad. Blair lives here. Is there a problem?"
William's face turned an interesting shade of red. "No, of course not, Jimmy. You'd just never said anything about that."
Jim shrugged, trying to hide his anger. "I guess I'm so used to people knowing. I mean the whole squad at the station knows, don't they, Simon?"
"Make that the whole station, Jim," Simon said, angry as well. How could a father be so out of touch with his own son? "I think it's one of the reasons they work so well together. They're the best team I have."
Blair started to speak, to clear up the misunderstanding, but Jim's glare cut him off. "I'll remind you you said that, Simon, the next time you and Blair are sniping at each other."
William was starting to lose his flush. In fact, he was becoming noticeably pale. "You don't live here too, Captain Banks?"
"Nah," Simon said with a smile. "But I have my own key."
Jim reached for their coats. "Come on, Dad. It's getting late so I need to get you home. You'll stay, Simon, won't you? I want to thank you and Blair properly for making the evening so nice. And listen, guys, just leave the dishes. I'll do them when I get back."
"We definitely won't pass up an offer like that, will we, Blair?" Simon asked, laying his hand on Blair's shoulder possessively.
Blair, still trying to figure out how everything went downhill so fast, mutely shook his head and clutched Daryl's book in his hands as Jim ushered his father out.
"You just can't do it, can you, Dad?" Jim declared as he pulled into the driveway of his childhood home.
"What can't I do, Jimmy?" William asked tiredly. Sally, his housekeeper was going to show up in the morning and want to know how the evening went. She'd been so pleased to learn he was going to his son's for dinner. How was he going to explain what went wrong?
"You can't accept me for who I am."
"If you're talking about your lifestyle..."
Jim's hand smacked against the steering wheel. "That's exactly what I'm talking about. Whether I'm gay or straight, whether I want to win or just merely play the game, or whether I can see and hear better than everyone else, shouldn't matter, Dad. You should accept me just because I'm me, just because I'm your son. But you haven't changed in all these years. If I don't meet some personal standard of yours, then I'm the one who's supposed to change. My life doesn't work that way anymore, Dad."
He continued when his father just sat there, staring into the darkness. "I'm not gay. Blair lives at the loft because it's convenient. We work together, share a lot of the same interests... He's also there because I want him to be. He's not only my partner, but my best friend. He and Simon are my brothers. We have the kind of relationship I never had with Steven... because of you."
"I thought I was making you and Stevie stronger. You have to believe that."
"I don't know what I believe, Dad. I didn't talk to my brother, my flesh and blood, for fifteen years because of you. Neither of us see much strength in that."
"So you and Stevie are back on speaking terms?"
"We're trying. It's too late, too much has passed between us, for us to have the relationship we should have had but we're working toward something... satisfactory to both of us. I was hoping the same could be said for us."
William finally turned to face his son. "So now what, Jimmy? Fifteen, twenty more years of silence between us?"
Jim recalled with bittersweet clarity the thick scrapbook he'd found on his father's table. That was what William had lived on all those years: scraps of his son's life. Could he condemn the man to that barren existence again? Could he condemn himself to more years of "what ifs" and "should haves"? He chuckled as he heard his roommate's voice in his head. "If Blair were here, he would be telling me that I cannot go on to my future without letting go of the baggage of my past. I let you control my past, Dad, but my future is in my hands."
"And that means?"
"I don't hate you anymore." William flinched as if he hadn't considered the possibility that Jim hated him. He knew that his son had left as soon as he was of age and never returned, but that happened in families sometimes. Had he really hurt him enough to make his eldest child hate him?
Jim missed his father's reaction, too caught up in his own thoughts. "I don't like the things you did, the things you taught Stevie and me to do, or the way you made us live. But I don't live like that anymore. I am not a replica of William Ellison and for that, I am grateful." He sighed and looked into eyes very similar to his own. "I've learned to forgive, Dad, and therefore, I am willing to see this through. Are you?"
"Yes," came the whispered reply.
Jim gave a short, jerky nod. "Okay. I'll check schedules and see when the four of us can get together again."
"Can't it be just you and me, Jimmy?" William pleaded.
Jim shook his head. "I need you to accept all of me and that includes Blair and Simon. Perhaps when I see you acknowledge them as important aspects of the man I've become, maybe then I'll trust you, trust being alone with you. But not now... I may be able to forgive, Dad, but I haven't forgotten."
William nodded, saddened to realize Jimmy was shielding his heart from his own father. What was startling, however, was that the man was allowing his friends to play a role in the protection. The boy he remembered had always stood alone. Maybe he was to blame for that too. "These friends... brothers of yours, do they know about you?" He pointed to his son's eyes and ears.
Jim smiled. "They not only know, but they help me with these gifts I have. And that's what they are most of the time, Dad, gifts-- gifts meant to protect, to help."
"I'm glad it worked out for you. I just didn't want you to be different--"
"We're all different, Dad, in one way or another, " Jim interrupted. "Because of your desire for me to be normal, I almost denied who I am. If it hadn't been for the time I spent in Peru, when I went back to using my senses without even thinking about what I was doing, I would have continued to repress them and God only knows what my life would have been like. But I found myself eventually and a life that makes me happy."
Happy. William vaguely remembered the emotion briefly flitting into and out of his life. The birth of two sons and, "I learned you were alive from the television, Jimmy. When they thought you were dead, they came to my door. 'We deeply regret to inform you, Mr. Ellison, that your son's helicopter crashed in Peru. Unfortunately, there have been no signs of survivors.' But they didn't know you, did they, son?"
Jim reached out and took his father's hand. With his Sentinel sight, he had seen it trembling in the darkness of the truck. "No, Dad, the Army didn't know me. They didn't know how hard I fight for what I want; whether it's survival or peace with my father."
William looked down at their entwined hands and smiled. "You were always a stubborn cuss, Jimmy."
Jim grinned. "Guess I took after my old man after all."
The first thing Jim noticed when he let himself into the loft was that the dishes had been done. The second thing he noticed was that both of his friends were anxious, although they pretended not to notice his arrival. Too bad their increased heartbeats gave them away.
"I thought I told you I would do the dishes," he said as he hung up his jacket.
"It was my penance, Jim," Simon called from one of the sofas, dismissing the idiotic comedy on the television.
"For my part in tonight's fiasco."
Smelling the faint scent of alcohol, he plucked three bottles of beer from the fridge and joined his friends in front of the television. Blair sat on the floor apparently engrossed in the program, yet attentive enough to hold up his hand for the fresh beer in exchange for his empty bottle. "Hell, Simon, you were only following my lead."
"Apparently that just compounded the sin." Simon took the offered beer and pushed the old one aside.
Jim sat on the opposite sofa and glanced at the reticent figure at his feet. "So am I going to get the silent treatment all night?"
"If you're lucky," Simon informed him as he took a swig of the beer.
"So did you tell your father you'd see him again the next time hell freezes over?" Blair asked calmly when a commercial appeared.
"You think it'll take that long for the three of us to get our schedules in sync again?" Jim asked with amusement.
Blair's head swiveled around quickly. "You're gonna have dinner with him again?"
"The three of us, Chief. I'm not ready to face Dad alone."
"If you and Sandburg need an evening off to see your dad, Jim, I can arrange it," Simon offered. Sandburg was right, Jim needed to get this behind him.
"When I said the three of us, Simon, I wasn't including Dad. You're part of this too, Watcher."
"There's no way this comes under the heading of Watcher duties," Simon objected. "We're talking about your personal life, not the Sentinel's."
"I beg to differ," Blair said quickly and Simon dropped his head in defeat. Whenever Sandburg got that tone, an argument was all but over. "One, what affects Jim affects the Sentinel. And two, it was Jim's father who caused him to repress his Sentinel talents in the first place. It only seems logical then if the Sentinel is doing battle with the enemy that bound him in chains once, that he goes into the battle fully-armed, which means Guide and Watcher."
"It's really useful having an academic in residence, don't you think, Simon?" Jim commented with a grin.
"Shut up, Ellison." Simon glared at the bottle in his hand. If he hadn't had the second beer, he could have left in the middle of Sandburg's discourse. Now he was stuck for at least another hour.
"You surprise me sometimes, Jim," Blair said as he plopped on the sofa beside his roommate in order to be on the same level as his friends. "I thought for sure you'd blow up at your dad and this whole reconciliation thing would go into a stall. But you held your cool, man. I'm proud of you. Of course, you lose points for misleading your father about our relationship. You did explain, didn't you?"
"Of course, Chief. I told him I wasn't that kind of man! I would never, ever, come between you and Simon like that."
Jim managed to duck the pillow sailing toward his head on the right, but was pummeled by the one from the left, and eventually found himself buried beneath a mountain of fabric, foam and stuffing. Through it all, Jim Ellison laughed. Not just because of the joke he played on his friends, but because he could play it on them yet know without a doubt when the time came that he needed them by his side, they would be there.
That was the miracle of family.