This is for everyone who wrote me after reading Miracles Of Life and wanted to see more of the new family.
Hope you enjoy!
Covered now with lines and creases,
Tickets torn in half,
Memories in bits and pieces...
Traces of love....
"Traces" --Words and Music by Buddy Buie, Emory Gordy, Jr, and JR Cobb
We all have them-- photos and clippings in a shoebox on the closet shelf, in an envelope stuffed in the back of a drawer, perhaps in a folder that has fallen behind the dresser-- waiting to be placed in an album as soon as you "find the time." This is a collection of such treasures, depicting moments in the life and times of David Joseph Ellison. Blair says he's going to sort through them, but juggling the dual careers of professor at Rainier University and consultant to the Cascade Police Department, doesn't leave him much free time, and what little he has, he prefers to spend with his favorite Sentinels. Jim went so far as to purchase a couple of albums, but then a serial killer came to Cascade and, well, you know how he gets when there's a threat to the tribe. David himself has leafed through them a time or two, groaning at some, laughing at others. He wants them to stay in the box-- harder to display like that.
Now, if we don't laugh too hard, groan too loudly, or sniff too hard (some are mushy), they'll let us take an occasional peek into this box, see a little of how the three of them became such a loving unit. The box is haplessly unorganized, so the pictures may be in any order, labeling is iffy at best, and the sizes range from wallet-sized to beautiful 8X10 glossies.
Let's dip our hand into the box and see what we get:
"I can do this. I'm a cop, a Sentinel, a Ranger for heaven's sake!"
Blair heard Jim muttering to himself as he let himself into the loft, and wondered what his partner was psyching himself up for. He tiptoed up the steps to Jim's room, even though he knew Jim had heard him coming a mile away. An amused smile came to his face when he looked at the mess covering his compulsively neat roommate's floor. "Uh, having problems, Jim?"
"What does it look like?" he replied dryly.
Blair scratched his head. "I'm not sure."
"According to the box, it's a crib. According to the box, assembly is supposed to be simple. According to the box, I should have had this completed three hours ago!"
"So, you're calling the box a liar?"
In frustration, Jim threw the screwdriver he'd been holding, and watched it bounce harmlessly off his bed. "What I'm doing is questioning my judgment. If I can't put together a crib, how the hell am I supposed to raise a child?"
His amusement quickly fled as Blair squatted down beside his friend. "Hey, man, one thing doesn't have anything to do with the other."
"But my own childhood does, Chief. The doctors say David can come home next week.... What if I hurt him, however unintentionally, like my dad hurt Steven and me. What if--"
"Not possible, man."
Jim looked at him, his disbelief evident. "You took the psych courses. You know we're all products of our upbringing, that abused children often grow up to be abusers. Not that I was abused or anything," he hastened to add.
You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to. "Jim, David is a Sentinel."
"Yeah. So?" he asked, confused by the obvious statement.
"So you just proved you're not your dad."
Jim smiled. No thoughts of denying what David was, or making David deny it. His son was what he was. And they both would learn to live with it. "Thanks, Chief."
Blair was quickly learning fatherhood was an insanity unto itself. "Now, where's the instruction sheet?"
Jim ignored the other people in the room and headed toward his son, his tear-covered face touching him deeply. "You all right, Munch?" he asked as the little arms tightened around his neck. He felt the head nod. "Someone want to tell me what's going on?" he demanded.
Mrs. Beverly, the school's principal stepped forward quickly, sensing the police captain wasn't the most patient of men. "There was a bird's nest the children had adopted in one of the trees near the playground. A while ago, it was discovered on the ground. David says that he saw Malcolm here throwing rocks at the nest to knock it down."
"So, what's the problem?" He looked at the other little kid in the room, who was clinging to his mother's knees.
"David says he saw him from inside his classroom. There's no way he could have seen who it was clearly."
"I don't know why your son would lie on my son like that!" the mother screeched, thumping her son on the back.
"Malcolm?" Jim said softly and the boy looked at him, his heart racing. "I'm a policeman, Malcolm. It's time to tell the truth."
The little boy glanced at his mother, then back at the big man and sighed. "I just wanted to see what the baby birds looked like."
Malcolm was dragged out of the room by his ear, both Jim and David wincing sympathetically. Mrs. Beverly held out her hand to the remaining parent. "I'm sorry about this, Captain, but I needed to get to the bottom of this."
"I understand, ma'am," Jim said politely. "But you have to understand-- David does not lie."
"But how could he--"
"That really doesn't matter, ma'am. Just know if David tells you something, it's the truth. If there's nothing else, I'll take my son home now."
"He's welcome to go back to class."
Jim heard a softly whispered "no." "That's quite all right. I'll have him here tomorrow morning as usual. Good day, Mrs. Beverly."
"I'm sorry, Dad," David said forlornly as his father strapped him into the car.
"For what? Telling the truth?"
"For forgetting I'm not to supposed to see stuff like that."
Jim squatted by the backseat of the car. "Listen, Munchkin, I know Uncle Blair and I told you to be careful about letting people know how special you are, but don't apologize for being who and what you are, okay?"
A tear ran down his face. "He killed the birdies."
Jim folded the child in his arms, placing a kiss on his head. "It's okay, David. They're in heaven now."
Jim closed his eyes and breathed in the essence of his son. "Yes, Munch. They're with Mommy."
"Oh, man, let me take you to the basement and show you the new pool table," Blair said excitedly as he and Simon walked through the house. "I don't know if we'll get around to poker tonight or not."
"Don't tell me you figured out another way to take our money, Sandburg."
"Who me?" He put on his best innocent smile.
They looked down to see the toddler standing there holding up a bag of animal crackers. Simon bent way down and snagged a broken one. "Thank you, David." The child smiled and offered the bag to his favorite uncle.
Blair took one and continued his innocent act. "You know I can't--"
"Say, say, say," David interrupted him.
Blair looked down and tried to interpret the child's litany. He remembered the cookie in his hand and finally got it. "Thank you for the cookie, Davy."
"Good boy," David said solemnly, patting his uncle's leg before continuing his trek out to the patio to join his father. Used to the strange behavior of adults, he ignored his Uncle Simon who was laughing so hard there were tears coming out of his eyes.
For the next two weeks, every time Blair said thank you to someone at the station, he was rewarded with a pat on the back and a smiling, "Good boy."
"That was David," Jim said as he slammed the phone down. "He and his little group of friends have been drinking, and he wants us to come pick them up."
Blair grabbed their jackets and followed the Sentinel out to the car. "Jim, you were sixteen once and--"
"Don't start, Sandburg. Just don't start."
Silence reigned until they reached the park where four young boys stood. "Hi, Dad," David said, his back straight but head bowed, as his father stepped out of the car.
"Ronnie, you were the driver tonight?"
"Yes, sir, Captain Ellison." He'd known David and his father for a long time; when the captain asked a question, you answered immediately.
"Give your keys to Dr. Sandburg. He'll drive it home for you. Everyone get into the car." At the first house, Matt tried to get out as quickly as possible, but Jim stopped him. "You all know you're too young to drink, don't you? That what you did tonight was not only stupid, but illegal?"
A chorus of "yessirs."
"I could bust you all." Silence. "But I would like to think that you, as men, would learn from your mistakes without involving the police, who need to be out catching criminals and not children who act before they think." More silence. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a stack of cards. "What's more stupid than drinking, is drinking and driving. Now, you don't have any reason to ever be that stupid." They looked at the business card with his number on it and knew exactly what to do if they ever found themselves in a similar situation-- which they wouldn't, because Captain Ellison was right; real men learned from their mistakes.
At home, Jim held out his hand and David dropped his car keys into it, keys he'd only had for a few months. "Two weeks," Jim said tersely.
"Yes, sir." David went to his room.
Jim looked at his partner. "I'm going for a walk."
Blair nodded, knowing Jim didn't want any company. Twenty minutes later, he knocked on David's door.
"Come in, Uncle Blair."
"How you doing, David?"
"I'm fine. Don't worry. I don't think I'll have a hangover or anything. It was only a couple of beers."
"I figured as much. You looked a lot more steady than the others."
He shrugged. He looked at the person he loved second-best in the whole world. "Dad's really mad. He didn't yell or anything."
Blair shook his head. "Jim's not mad; he's scared. Do you know how many kids are killed every day in drunk driving accidents? Either they're driving or they get in a car that someone else is driving while intoxicated."
David's piercing blue eyes widened in horror. "Dad doesn't have to worry about that. I'm not even that wasted and I knew better than to drive. That's why I called. That's why I'll always call."
"Maybe Jim doesn't know that. When he was a kid, he probably wouldn't have."
David liked his grandfather, but he couldn't see himself calling the man either. "But Dad's not Granddad."
"Maybe he doesn't know that either."
David looked at the man whom his father called the smartest person in the world, and knew his dad knew what he was talking about. "Thanks, Uncle Blair. I suspect you weren't worried at all, were you?"
Blair grinned. "Not too much. You're gonna do stupid stuff because you're young, but you have too much of your father in you to be totally irresponsible."
"That's one of the nicest things anyone has said to me." He hugged his uncle and bid him goodnight.
When David heard his father come in, he knocked on his door. "Dad?"
"Come on in, son." He bit back a smile as David rocked back and forth on his feet, like a certain anthropologist they both knew and loved. "Something you want to say, David?"
"Umm, I want you to know I'm sorry. What I did was stupid and I wish I could say I won't do something that stupid again, but we don't lie to each other, so that's out. But I will tell you that you don't have to worry anymore about me getting behind the wheel of a car after I've been drinking, or into the car with someone else who's been drinking. I'll always call, Dad. And, Dad, I know what you've always wished is that you didn't grow up to be like Granddad, and you didn't, okay? But if you don't mind, I think I want to grow up to be like you."
"You can set your sights higher than that, David."
David wrapped his arms around his idol. "No, Dad. I can't."
"Chief, no!" Jim yelled, but it was too late.
Blair looked down at his soaking T-shirt, then over at the baby, who was wriggling with joy now that he had completed his "business". "Dave the Baptist, huh, little guy?" he groused good-naturedly as he balled up the soiled diaper he had prematurely removed, and tossed it into the waiting pail.
"I'll finish up with the operation here," Jim offered, trying to hold back his laughter, "while you go get changed." A snicker escaped as he grabbed a fresh cotton diaper.
"Next time I would appreciate a timelier warning," Blair told his friend, holding the shirt away from his body. "By the way, kid, if you want to wet some T-shirts, I know a couple of ladies--"
"Sandburg," Jim growled.
Blair winked at David. "We'll talk later, little guy."
The Cold, Hard Facts
"What do you mean that David did not get off the bus? Have you called the school?" Jim asked his housekeeper, Martha McPherson, trying to remember he was a police captain, not just the father of an apparently missing fourteen-year-old. "I'm sure it's just a case of crossed signals, Mrs. Mac. I'll make some calls and--" His senses reached out and grabbed the familiar. "Just a minute, please." He opened the door to his office and saw his son walking dejectedly across the bullpen. He looked so miserable that Jim figured the desk officer just sent him up without question. This looked like it was going to be something major. Damn. What a time for Blair to be away at a conference. He handed David the phone. "You worried Mrs. Mac."
He listened to his son apologize, trying to figure out what had happened, what had sent his son twenty miles into the city to his father's side. How the hell had he gotten there? That was the first question out of his mouth when David hung up the phone.
"I walked until I reached the city limits. Then I grabbed a ride with one of the patrolmen."
Okay, how do you yell at a kid for hitching with cops? He let it go with a sigh. David sat down in the chair before the desk, while Jim perched on the corner. Had it been nearly ten years since he'd been the one in the chair and Simon had perched on the edge? He'd have to tell Commissioner Banks about the flashback when they met for their weekly dinner. "If you needed me, all you had to do was call."
"I know, Dad. I just...needed.... I needed the walk."
What other habits have you picked up from me, David? "Do you need more time, or are you ready to tell me what's wrong?"
David hung his head, glad that he didn't have to speak but so loud. "I know about Mom," he whispered carefully.
Jim knew his son could hear his heart start to race, but there was nothing he could do about it. "What do you know?"
"Everything. That she was a criminal, that she tried to kill Uncle Blair...that she died in a prison for the criminally insane."
"How?" was the only word Jim could squeak through his clogged throat.
"The internet. I ran a search on her name."
He reached out a shaky hand to lay on David's arm. "Why? I told you that when you felt you were ready, I would tell you. Why didn't you come to me? Or Blair?"
The teen shook his head. "I wanted the cold, hard facts, Dad. You and Uncle Blair would have surrounded each incident with, 'but she loved you, David.'"
"She did," Jim said quietly.
"But that doesn't make her a good person. What she did was awful. And what's even worse is that she was a Sentinel, just like you and me. She was supposed to protect people...and all she did was kill them," he said bitterly.
Jim felt himself flinch at the brutal honesty of David's statement. Apparently, the intervening years had dulled his remembrances of his wife. He vaguely recalled the mocking Alex who had dared him to come after her, who had left Blair to die in the fountain. His mind had chosen instead to remember Alex pregnant with David, struggling to keep him safe; the Alex he had, all too briefly, fallen in love with. "I wish I could explain to you why your mother did what she did, but I can't, son. I don't think anyone could explain, even Alex herself if she was still with us. I just know that when she died, she loved us."
Blue eyes searched matching blue ones. "And you loved her. How could you?" David asked bewilderedly. "How could you be with her like that? How could you love her?"
Jim gave a sad smile, his thumb reaching out to wipe away the tears marring the face that he loved. "That's two different questions, Munch. One has to do with biology, and an instinct that was amplified by certain drugs. The other is less definable, more of a condition of the heart."
David stared unblinkingly at his father. Biology. He could deal with that. His mother had been beautiful. But what could make Jim Ellison, Sentinel and cop, love a killer? "I don't understand, Dad. Make me understand why you loved her."
Jim shrugged, then leaned forward to peck his son on the forehead. "She gave me you."
David flung his arms around his dad's neck and cried all the tears he'd been holding back since his free period in the library. Jim sensed his assistant approach the door, look in, then back away. Good. Whatever it was, could wait.
David gradually calmed down, the sobs subsiding to mere sniffles. Finally, he pulled away, ashamed of his tears until he saw the matching set on Jim's cheeks. He smiled then, understanding blooming in his heart like a rose in the light of the sun. For years, he had loved the memory of his mom, and that had all been taken away by what he'd read on a screen. But, here, in the office surrounded by all the action and chatter of a police department, the love had returned in full force. He did, and always would, love his mother.
She had given him his dad.
In his opinion, there was no greater gift on earth.
Thus ends our first visit to the guys' memory box. Who knows what we might find the second time? If you have an idea you'd like to see, or have a snippet of your own that you want to add, just contact me, D.L. Witherspoon , and we'll see if it's in the box.
The End...for now.