A Special Present
"Is that a new blend?" Jim Ellison asked, walking into his captain's office with his partner at his heels. "Smells like dark roast..." His voice trailed off when he noticed another occupant in the room who was studying the many curios on the shelves against the far wall. At Jim and Blair's arrival, the unknown man walked back toward the desk. Jim noted the strong build, short hair and military-like demeanor. A fellow officer, he knew immediately.
"Jim Ellison, Blair Sandburg, this is Detective Elliot Stabler, one of NYPD's finest."
"Detective," Jim said, holding out his hand, which was firmly shaken.
"Nice meeting you," Blair said, likewise shaking the new arrival's hand. "NYPD, I'm impressed."
Simon waved a hand toward Detective Stabler. "He's with SVU."
"Special Victims." Blair's eyebrow rose. "Oh, wow. That's a rough tour of duty."
"I like it," Stabler said, his strong voice firm but soft.
Jim nodded. "We don't have a separate division for Special Victims in Cascade. Major Crime handles just about anything that comes down the pike. I'd like to hear about your experiences." Jim's gaze met Elliot's, and he studied the man, allowing his senses to scan him quickly. He was a bit surprised when his inspection returned the verdict of immediate acceptance and a vague feeling of being drawn to the detective. He was confused at the sensation so he fell silent and sat in the closest chair. When Blair's questioning glance caught his gaze, he shrugged and in order to avoid joining the conversation immediately, he sipped the coffee that Simon had thoughtfully poured for each of the men until he had a few moments to regroup.
Simon barely glanced at Jim, long used to his strange reactions to people, and launched into his monologue. "Detective Stabler is testifying in the Amandeola trial. The defendant raped and killed two women in his district before he so kindly moved his sick crimes to Cascade. He's staying over at the Cascade Towers. I thought you might help him get settled in, find him a good meal, and make sure he has everything he needs during his stay with us."
Blair glanced again at Jim, who didn't respond to Simon's request. Frowning slightly, Blair said, "Ah... Sure, we'd be happy to. Wouldn't we, Jim?" He tapped Jim's arm.
"What? Oh... Yes. We're not wrestling anything major right now..." Jim's brow wrinkled before he cleared his throat. "Yeah, like Sandburg said, be happy to."
Blair's quizzical glance at Jim did not go unnoticed, but Jim didn't want to start with his partner's usual twenty questions right now, so he drank the rest of his coffee and rose. "Captain," he acknowledged, opening the office door.
"Go. Get things handled," Simon said with a haphazard wave, turning to the files piled on his desk. "Some of us have a lot of work to do."
Jim grinned and shrugged, leading the way across the bullpen.
"How long are you in town?" Blair asked while they walked toward the elevators.
"Three days. I fly back early on Christmas Eve morning," Stabler answered. "Look..." He glanced from Blair to Jim before he said, "Detective Ellison, it seems like you have a problem with your captain's request. I don't want to put you out. Holidays and all. I understand-"
"No," Jim interrupted. "It's fine. Nothing planned." Again, Jim ignored Blair's surprised glance. He knew he was being distant and almost rude to a fellow detective, but he was caught off-guard at the moment. His senses were actually drawn to the man. He liked the guy immediately, for God's sake, and that was strange to the usually cautious Sentinel. His nostrils flared, and Stabler's scent wafted to his nose. It was so familiar...
Blair's concerned voice broke through his mind's wanderings just as the warmth of his fingers melted through the sleeve of his shirt. He could feel the residual heat, and it made his senses sit up and take notice, as always.
"You were... somewhere else for a second there." Blair's troubled gaze met Jim's. "Headache?" he offered, giving Jim an out.
"Yeah. Right. Just a touch. What do you say we take our visitor-"
"Elliot, please," he interjected.
"...Stabler to Monty's for that t-bone?" Jim said.
Blair nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, great idea. Lobster!" He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Don't mind Jim, Elliot. He's ex-military. He calls everybody by their last name, even me, and we've been partners for five years."
"Been there. So noted," Elliot replied.
Blair chuckled and muttered, "Oh great, another one."
"Chief?" Jim inquired.
Blair turned innocent eyes on his partner and quipped, "You and Elliot. Two of a kind, it seems."
Jim looked confused, but Blair just chuckled again and entered the waiting elevator car.
Blair snuggled down into the covers on their bed and watched Jim undress from over the top of the comforter which he had drawn up to his chin.
"Yeah, man, so hurry up and get your ass in here."
"It's at least thirty out. We're having a heat wave," Jim said with a smirk.
Blair laughed. "Sure we are, and we're not going to have much more of a heat wave if you'd stop hanging stuff up and get that naked butt into this bed."
Jim's rich laughter made Blair grin even more and he waggled his eyebrows. Jim dropped the hanger he held and launched himself playfully at the bed, landing on top of his lover. Blair let out an "oomph".
"You're asking for trouble," Jim muttered, nibbling on the lobe of the nearest ear.
"Who me?" Blair's voice squeaked on the last wordwhen Jim lightly bit the tender flesh. "Never!"
Laughing, Jim raised himself up on his hands and grinned down. "Blair..." Jim chewed on his lower lip and huffed out a quick breath.
After waiting for a few seconds, Blair encouraged, "What's up?"
"I- It's- This is going to sound- Oh, hell." Jim flipped himself over and lay on his back, staring at the skylight.
Blair reached out and put a warm hand on his chest. "Just spit it out, man. You know that's the best way."
"You are so much help, Sandburg," Jim growled.
"And you're driving me nuts laying there all naked and waiting to be eaten. So either tell me what's bugging you or I'm going to torment it out of you." His fingers walked along Jim's ribs until they met up with a waiting nipple. With his fingernails, he scraped gently and said, "And you know I can do it."
Jim shivered. "All right!" He grabbed the teasing fingers and placed a kiss on the tips. "It's Stabler."
Blair rolled to his side and propped his head on his hand. "What about him? I thought dinner went great. He's a nice guy. Kind of reminds me of you."
Jim rolled over also and his gaze met Blair's. "I think that's the problem."
"What's the problem?"
"He reminds me of -- me also!" Jim said sharply.
"And that's a problem?"
Jim sighed and nodded before he shook his head. "I don't know. It's confusing."
"You mean your senses are confused."
Jim gratefully looked into his lover's understanding eyes. "How did you know?"
"Jim, man, how long have we been together?"
Jim fussed with the edge of the blanket. "A bit."
Blair chuckled. Placing a hand on the side of Jim's face, he said, "A bit is right. You know the drill."
"I know." Jim paused for a few moments gathering his thoughts, then he said, "When I did the thing that I do-"
"An initial inspection scan, right?"
Jim nodded. "Right. You know how we honed it and you told me to just -- let it happen when I first meet somebody? How accurate has it been? Maybe ninety-five percent?"
"It's probably higher than that. You've only been wrong once about your first impressions since we were able to pinpoint how it worked. Well, as much as we could, and since then, you know that your initial Sentinel scan is going to be pretty damned accurate." Blair glared at Jim. "But since you won't let me conduct any closed laboratory experiments, we have to rely on field work and gut instincts."
"Hey, you agreed with me, so no reneging on our deal."
Blair held up a hand. "A promise is a promise. No more officially collecting data, no more laboratory testing, only field testing." Shaking his head, he added, "Sometimes I can't believe you trust my personal observations that much."
"Blair, I trust you with my life," Jim said softly.
Blair looked directly into Jim's eyes and smiled. "Thanks."
Jim ruffled Blair's hair. "Anytime."
"Okay. You are such a task master," Jim groused but he cleared his throat and continued. "I did my usual thing and I immediately liked him. He felt -- comfortable and familiar. Like I'd known him all of my life. My senses wanted him to be close..." Jim shrugged, suddenly embarrassed at how the words sounded when he spoke out loud.
"Close how?" Blair asked, his tone free of jealousy or recrimination.
A warm sense of contentment wafted over Jim. Blair did trust him. He didn't accuse Jim of being sexually attracted to another man, or of not loving him enough. He just asked Jim to explain how he felt without any type of pettiness at all. Jim closed his eyes for a few moments, reveling in the welcomed feeling of being loved. When he opened them, his lover was watching him with affection and concern. Jim gave Blair a crooked smile.
"Close as in -- family. Like with my dad, Stevie and Chris, with Emma -- and you."
"He feels like family," Blair echoed before he asked, "And you get that "familiar" feeling with Simon and Joel, right? Not only with Stevie's wife and daughter, and me?"
"Yeah. A few other people also, but usually unless they're direct family, not often immediately. I have some other friends who make me feel -- comfortable, but there aren't many on this level." Blair's curiosity radiated from his entire body and his face beamed with happiness. Jim knew it was because he was well over the initial trouble he usually had opening up and talking about what was happening with his senses, and hit his stride. Blair loved it when Jim described his reactions in detail. "You've taught me to go with the feeling that first comes in. I almost don't realize that I'm doing it now since it's been a couple of years. I kind of -- center them on the person and open them all at once. It takes maybe five, ten seconds. Then I drop everything back to normal and let myself -- feel." Jim shifted a bit and took Blair's hand again. "Since I don't do it with people I already know, it's a bit intense on a new person."
"And with Elliot?" Blair gently prodded when Jim paused.
"I like him," he answered simply.
Jim smiled. "Good. So how about a kiss?"
Blair laughed. "Man, it's about time."
Jim chuckled, finally sliding under the covers. He put a hand on Blair's shoulder and in onegraceful motion, rolled Blair to his back and blanketed his lover with his long body. "Going to make you scream."
"Oh, man," Blair whispered, shivering against Jim's chest in spite of the warmth spread over him.
Jim laughed lightly, sensing Blair's anticipation, and covered the waiting mouth with his.
Simon Banks smiled at Elliot Stabler. "Good work, Detective. You're testimony definitely made an impact on the jury. It's a great holiday gift to all of us that Amandeola will never see the light of day again."
"Thank God," Blair muttered, giving a theatrical shiver. "That guy gave me the creeps."
Jim gave a scornful snort. "He gave all of us the creeps, Chief, me included."
"Coffee, gentlemen?" Simon offered, holding up the always-present pot. Three ayes echoed. Simon poured. "Sit, detectives."
The men gathered around the conference table then Jim asked Elliot, "Do you need a ride to the airport in the morning?"
"No, thanks. Got it covered," he replied. "But I appreciate it."
"Sure, no problem," Blair said. "We'll be around if you change your mind."
After finishing his coffee, Elliot rose. "I have a few things I need to do before morning. I promised the kids I'd bring them souvenirs of the Great Northwest, and Christmas is the day after tomorrow. I'd better get a move on that shopping. Any suggestions?"
"I know some great places," Blair said enthusiastically. "I'll walk you down to your rental car and give you some pointers."
"Thanks," Elliot said with a smile. Turning to Jim, he held out his hand. "It's been a pleasure, Jim."
"Me, too," Jim agreed, shaking firmly.
Elliot turned to Simon and offered his hand. "Thanks for your hospitality, Captain. Any time you need the assistance of SVU, let me know."
Simon nodded, pulling a cigar out from between his lips. "Good going, Detective." He pumped Elliot's hand vigorously. "Come back any time."
"Thank you, Captain."
"Go on, Chief. I'll catch up with you in the parking garage."
"What? You don't want to hear my suggestions of great Cascade shopping?"
Jim laughed. "Ah... no."
"Come on, Elliot. Jim doesn't know what he's missing."
Jim shook his head in mock exasperation at his partner. "Meet you in fifteen."
Blair smiled. "Works for me."
"Jim, why are we following Detective Stabler?"
Jim drove silently for a few minutes, negotiating an especially hectic intersection, before he glanced over at his partner. "When you asked me how I felt about Stabler, you didn't ask me how he felt about me."
Blair smacked his palm against his forehead. "Darn it anyway! I was going to, but you distracted me!"
"Yes, you. Somehow your tongue down my throat, in my ear, and licking my balls distracts me! So sue me. Putz," Blair added under his breath.
Always pleased with Blair's reactions to his lovemaking, Jim chuckled deeply. "Sorry, Chief," he apologized, not at all contrite.
"Your sincerity makes me cry, Ellison," Blair growled.
Jim laughed again. "So...?"
Blair turned in his seatbelt and looked intently at Jim. "Jim, how did Elliot react to you? What did you sense?"
Jim made a left turn and held up his hand for a moment, requesting silence, before he dropped it, saying, "Don't want to lose him." After negotiating another busy intersection, Jim continued. "He was accepting, and interested, and curious-"
"Those are good things!"
"Blair, will you let me finish?" Jim asked. "Geez, give a guy a chance."
Blair stuck out his tongue, which made Jim laugh again. "You're asking for it again." Blair nodded happily. "I've created a monster," Jim muttered. "Find a virgin, show him how to fly, and you have a sex fiend on your hands." When Blair laughed merrily, Jim grinned. "Anyway, I sensed he liked me -- and you -- but with me, he was also -- anxious."
"Like he was lying?"
"Not exactly. More like he wasn't disclosing everything, and was worried about it. I felt like he was -- observing me, but not in a hostile way. Like you. Curious and interested, but concerned."
"About what, I wonder?" Blair said, chewing his lower lip while he stared out the windshield.
"I ran a background check on him," Jim finally admitted.
Blair snorted. "Why am I not surprised?"
Shrugging, Jim said, "I'm a cop. I'm a Sentinel. And I'm ex-military. I think background checks are part of my nature, Chief."
"I remember when you admitted you'd run one on me, and on my mother."
Jim shrugged. "Nothing came up on Stabler. At least nothing untoward. He's a good cop in a very tough assignment. He's been with SVU for more than a dozen years. Very few officers can handle seeing that kind of violence and hate for that long, and survive."
"Oh, man. That's really rough."
"Yeah. The suicide rate among officers is pretty high."
"And just where is he going?" Blair said, glancing around. "None of the shopping places I recommended are in this part of town."
Jim's lips thinned and he said between clenched teeth, "He's not going shopping; he going to my old man's house."
"What? But why? Maybe he has an old friend in the neighborhood. Maybe he's lost. Maybe-"
"Maybe," Jim interrupted, "he's up to something... or has something to hide."
"Jim, man, I can't see a thing! Is he still in his car?" Blair shifted and peered through the windshield.
"Sandburg, you've asked me that question ten times in the last thirty minutes! Yes, he's still in his car. No, he's not talking on the phone or even to himself. He's sitting and breathing. That's it!"
"Get a grip, Jim. He hasn't done anything and it doesn't look like he's going to. Your dad's been home the entire time, and he hasn't made any sort of move to bother him."
Jim's jaw muscle jumped. "He's staking out my father's house. That's enough to be a bother."
"But why, Jim? Why would he do this? Think about it."
Jim turned troubled eyes to Blair. "Think about what?"
"You're not going to like it."
"For God's sake, Sandburg! Don't start with me!"
Blair crossed his arms. "I'm not starting anything. You know, just forget it. I'm hungry and I want to go home. It's cold out here."
"Not until he makes a move, or leaves. And definitely not until you tell me what you're thinking." Jim also crossed his arms and settled back, his fingers tapping impatiently on his own arm.
Blair was tense and a bit angry when he said, "Okay, but promise me you won't get upset when I toss this out."
Jim's voice dropped. "Blair, please... Just say it."
Blair looked into Jim's eyes, and Jim saw him visibly deflate at his sincere request, his momentarily flare of anger gone. He cleared his throat and said, "He's like you, Jim." When Jim's eyebrows rose to the middle of his forehead, Blair quickly waved a hand. "No! No! Not the senses. He's like you physically. Mentally. Emotionally. You told me about his file. He's very protective, overly so, of the victims, especially kids. He's dedicated to his job, and to his family. Physically, he's almost the same height and weight as you. He's got your eyes! They're a bit darker, but you're so much alike, it's freaky."
"Are you saying that you feel something for him?"
Blair shifted uncomfortably. "Not like I do for you, not "love," he said, making quotes with his fingers in the air, "but in my heart, I feel like I know him. It's kind of like with Steven, but more so. He's -- related to you -- in some way."
"Related? As in..." Jim considered for a moment. "You don't really think...? But what about the senses? I thought you said they could be hereditary. Why doesn't he have them? Why not Steven, for that matter?" Blair ran a hand through his hair, making the strands stick out every which way. Jim had the sudden urge to pull him close and stroke his head, taming the runaway curls. He reined himself in and urged, "Tell me why you feel this?"
"Jim, I think the Sentinel abilities happen once in a generation, so Steven -- and Elliot won't have them, but they could have other similar traits. Let's face it, Elliot has a lot of similarities in his background as you do. Military. Police work. That Blessed Protector syndrome." He glanced out the front window again before he asked quietly, "Could that be what you were sensing? He knows about the family connection, so he's curious. He obviously likes you, you got along with him and vice versa, but he's been a bit anxious around you because he doesn't know how, or even if he should tell you, since you apparently don't know about this connection."
Jim stared at Blair for a long minute before he carefully said, "So you believe one of my parents cheated on the other, and Elliot is the product of that dalliance?"
"I don't know," Blair answered honestly, "but why else would he be here at your father's house." Silence fell again before Blair added, "If he did a background check like any good cop would do, he'd know your mother isn't here. He'd know it's your father's house, so..."
Staring out the window, Jim finished, "So it's my father he's trying to see. My father could be, might be, his father also."
Blair reached out a hand and rested it lightly on Jim's shoulder. "Would that be so bad? Would you mind if Elliot were your brother?"
Jim jerked his head up and turned quickly to catch Blair's gaze. "I- I wouldn't mind. I didn't realize that until you asked, this second, just now. I wouldn't mind, in fact, I'd like that."
"That's very cool, Jim, but before we jump the gun, we'd better find out what's going on. No sense putting the Stablers on our Christmas card list until we know they're family."
Jim guffawed. "Sandburg, for one, we don't have a Christmas card list. And for two..." Jim grabbed Blair's jacket and pulled him slowly closer.
"For two?" Blair said softly.
"For two, thank you. You are the best partner a guy could have."
Blair smiled. "Thanks, but-"
Blair's lips briefly met Jim's. When they separated, he explained, "You said, until we know the Stablers are family. That means you consider us your family. Me. Stevie. Dad. I mean- I think it's- Thanks."
"Jim," Blair said, smiling softly while his hand cupped the warm cheek, "of course we're family. You. Me. Your dad and brother. Your sister-in-law and Emma. Even Naomi. We're all family."
Jim laughed softly. "And even Naomi."
"So if Elliot is part of the crew, we'll have his family to add into the mix. The more the merrier, I say. I like having a big family."
Jim nodded. "I agree, so what do you say we find out what's going on."
"Can you do this without doing the Ellison growl?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You know very well what I'm talking about. Whenever things get -- emotional, you bring out the caveman act."
"I do not!"
Jim gave Blair an exasperated look. "Dork." His head swiveled and his vision tunneled. "He's on the move." They watched as Elliot climbed from his car and slowly walked up to the front porch. He stood very still for a few seconds before reaching out to press the doorbell. "Come on." Jim was out of the truck and trotting up the sidewalk before Blair had a chance to open his door.
When the front door opened, William stood framed in the light from the entryway. He glanced at the strange man who had knocked before he looked over the man's shoulder and smiled. "Jim!"
Jim noticed that Elliot visibly started and when he spun around to face him, he gauged the emotions that flashed across his face: surprise and trepidation, mixed with a touch of anger. His heart rate accelerated and his breathing escalated.
"Stabler," Jim said, gazing intently into the man's eyes. "What's going on?"
Jim stepped up onto the porch to stand in front of Elliot. For a moment he thought there might be a physical confrontation when Elliot tipped his chin up and squared his shoulders. His hands closed into fists and his jaw clenched. His eyes narrowed and he took half a step toward Jim.
Jim remained where he was in spite of Elliot's threatening stance. He quickly realized that he didn't want an escalation of any type with Elliot, so he schooled his face into a look that he hoped reflected curiosity, not animosity. Nodding slightly, Jim offered, "Would you like to go in and talk about this?"
Elliot's face again reflected his surprise, but the animosity was instantly gone. Under Jim's scrutiny, he finally blushed lightly and looked away momentarily before he cleared his throat. "I- I don't know what to say."
"Jimmy?" William asked. "What's going on? Is there a problem?"
Jim looked past Elliot's shoulder. "No, Pops. No problem. This is Detective Elliot Stabler. He's visiting from New York."
William smiled and put out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Detective Stabler."
Elliot gave Jim a curious look before he turned. "Nice to meet you," he echoed, shaking William's hand.
"Come in! I'll put on a fresh pot of coffee. Blair, what are you doing standing out there in the dark?"
Climbing the stairs, Blair shrugged. "Hello, Bill. Nice to see you."
William waved toward the inside of the house, smiling. "It's cold! The kitchen is nice and warm. Come in before we let all the heat out."
Jim nodded at Elliot, who followed William through the house and into the kitchen.
"Take off your coats. Sit, please." William fussed with the coffee pot before he rummaged through the pantry, emerging with several bags of cookies. "Sally's off visiting her sister so there are no fresh-baked cookies this week." He smiled at Jim.
"This is fine, Dad. Thanks."
"Sure, son. It's good to see you and Blair. It's been a while."
Jim smiled. "We've been meaning to come by..."
"I know. I know. You're both busy men." After pouring coffee all around, and after glancing several times at Elliot, William sat and nibbled at a chocolate chip cookie.
Jim tapped Blair's foot under the table. Blair looked questioningly at Jim, who jerked his head toward the hallway. Blair's eyes widened and he nodded slightly.
"Say, Bill," Blair said, "would you have any extra -- Christmas decorations? The loft looks kind of bare and I thought you might have a few to spare."
William smiled. "There are several boxes up in the attic that I didn't use this year."
"Cool. If you don't mind, since Christmas is two days away, could we go and ah, rummage? Jim's not much for decorating, but I'd like to brighten up the place a bit."
"Jim, Detective Stabler, do you mind?" William asked, waving toward the stairs.
"No," both men said in unison.
William looked puzzled for a moment before he rose. Blair quickly jumped up and he followed William with a glance over his shoulder at Jim. Jim gave him a grateful smile before he turned back to Elliot.
Elliot took a sip of his coffee before he said, "You know, don't you?"
Jim shrugged. "No, I don't know anything specific. Just what I've guessed, but I'd like to hear it from you. Don't worry about sparing my feelings or any shit like that. Tell me straight out."
With a nod, Elliot said, "We're a lot alike."
"I know. When?"
"I'm sure you already know."
Ducking his head, Elliot smiled. "Yeah, I guess I do. And so did you."
Jim grinned. "I'm a cop."
"Are you going to ask him about it?"
"I think so. I'd like to."
Jim leaned forward. "So go ahead."
Elliot looked surprised. "You don't mind? I mean... It's a huge intrusion."
Jim casually shrugged. "There's not much to inherit, if that's what you're thinking."
Elliot rolled his eyes. "Not hardly." He shifted in his chair before he asked, "How do you think he'll react?"
Jim considered the question for a moment before he said, "I think he'll be okay. He's had some major -- surprises the last few years, so this will fit right in."
"You're taking this really well."
Jim looked into blue eyes much like his own. "I like you."
Giving a crooked smile, Elliot said, "I like you too."
"Do you want me to leave?"
"Won't that seem a bit -- weird to -- Mr. Ellison? You leaving your father alone with a strange man?"
"It's up to you. I can just tell him that you have something private to discuss. He'd be okay with that."
"No. Stay." Elliot looked toward the stairs. "What about your partner?"
Jim sat up in his chair and after studying Elliot for a moment, he said, "Blair knows what I know."
"Right. He's your partner."
Jim didn't add to Elliot's remark about Blair. He knew that Elliot was referring to the closeness of partners who work the streets together, and for now, that was enough. Jim rose and went to the bottom of the stairs. "Blair!" he called.
When Blair's head appeared, Jim explained, "Would you ask Dad to come down? There's something that Elliot would like to discuss."
Nodding, Blair said, "Sure, man. I'll get him."
Blair clattered down the stairs first, and placed a large cardboard box on the floor in the hallway. "Your dad has some great stuff, Jim."
Jim rolled his eyes. "You're really going to decorate?"
"Of course! I love Christmas." Blair grinned.
Elliot looked at Blair before he said to Jim, "Sandburg... Sandburg..." he said, rolling the name on his tongue. "Isn't he...?"
Jim nodded and shrugged, smiling. "Yeah, he is, but he never turns down food and gifts."
Blair smiled also, sitting down next to Jim. He reached out and grabbed several cookies. "Nope. I like presents and I like to eat. Besides, I was an anthropologist. There are thousands of cultures in the world, both ancient and modern, and celebrations are part of each and every one of them. Once I remember-"
"Chief, please." Jim said, placing a hand on Blair's arm. He smiled at his partner. "Elliot has something to say to Dad."
"Oh, right. Sorry," he said, nodding to Elliot.
William sat between Jim and Elliot. "What is it, Detective?"
"Please, call me Elliot." William nodded, then the men were quiet while they waited for Elliot to speak. He glanced nervously from one man to the other before he reached into his jacket pocket and took out a small white square. Jim could see that it was an old photograph. Elliot placed it in front of William and asked, "Mr. Ellison, do you recognize this woman?"
William's forehead wrinkled in thought before his eyes widened. "Oh, yes! Yes, I do." He smiled with remembrance. "She was a very nice young woman, but that was a long time ago. Why?"
Elliot shifted in his seat. "Did you... I mean, in '63 she lived in Brooklyn. When... my old man died, I went through some of his papers, and he had this birth certificate... in his footlocker. It had my name on it, but... My father -- never really liked me. So when I read it, I finally -- understood."
William looked quizzically at Elliot, who fell silent, before the look turned into sudden understanding and shock. "Oh, my God."
"The certificate wasn't the one I had used when I joined the Marines. It had a different name listed other than my -- the man who raised me. It had your- So you might be... are -- my father."
"I didn't know," William said softly. "She never said. I mean, I never saw her again. It was just that once."
"Did you -- love her?"
William looked startled before he tentatively reached out a hand, but before he actually touched Elliot's arm, he stopped. "It was a single night. A business trip. She was -- in this bar at my hotel, in the corner, crying... She was young and very pretty. I was -- lonely. My wife..." William shook his head. "But that was no excuse. We found each other and for that one night, we forgot our problems. I'm so sorry. I didn't know."
"I- I didn't think you did... I was hoping..." Elliot turned away. "I don't want anything," he blurted out. "Just wanted to meet you -- once."
"You're very much like Jimmy, you know."
Elliot turned bright eyes toward William. "You didn't -- when Jim was a kid, you didn't -- I mean, you seem like a nice man, a good man."
William gave a rueful smirk. "I wasn't the best father to either of my boys, Elliot, but I've tried to learn from my mistakes. I was a distant father, but back then, I didn't realize the emotional harm I was doing to my boys. After my wife left me, I wasn't here for them. Emotionally, I mean. Oh, I brought home a good paycheck, but I didn't know how to love them." William looked at Jim and smiled. "Jimmy has agreed to give me another chance, and we've finally found out that we can be a family. It's taken a lot of hard work, but it's been well worth it." William paused before he added, "If you'd like to -- get to know us, you're more than welcome."
Jim watched the emotions crash over Elliot. He saw the surprise, and longing, and relief at the acceptance he was discovering. "Family is -- family," Jim said.
Blair rolled his eyes. "What Jim means is welcome to the family. You're going to love it," he explained. "Bill is a great guy, and Steven is pretty cool also."
Elliot swallowed loudly, and his eyes looked suspiciously bright when he met Jim's gaze. "Steven, your brother," he whispered. "I have brothers and sisters also, but it's kind of -- nice finding another one." With a small smile, he added, "Or two."
"Steven's a good guy. He's married and has a nine year old daughter, Emma," Jim explained, although he figured Elliot knew this information but he hoped that the give and take of the conversation helped Elliot to relax and ask what he needed to ask.
William asked, "How is your mother, Elliot?"
"She's okay. Now that he's -- gone."
Nodding, William looked sad. "I'm sorry you didn't have a better father, and I know it's a bit late for me, but if we can be friends, I'd be very pleased."
"Thanks," Elliot said, "I'd like that."
"Jim, did you see the weather report?"
Jim trotted down the stairs. "Chief, all I have to do is look out the window. I don't need a weatherman to tell me what's happening. Besides, I have an edge," he added with a pleased grin.
Blair laughed and crossed over to wrap his arms around Jim's waist. "Breakfast?" he muttered, burying his face in Jim's neck and kissing the warm skin.
"Yeah, I'm starving."
"It went well last night. Are you pleased?"
"Dad's really a changed man, and I'm okay having Elliot for a brother." Jim turned his head and his lips found the side of Blair's face. "You taste good."
Blair chuckled. "As you well know. I didn't think you'd ever let me come last night. Man, sometimes you are just too cruel."
"And you loved it," Jim said with a satisfied grin.
"You look like the cat who ate the canary."
"Anyway, this is important, so stop distracting me!"
Jim held out his hands and stepped back. "Sorry, Chief. I can't keep my hands off you. What's up?"
"Set the table while I get the biscuits out of the oven."
"Homemade biscuits?" Jim asked, sniffing the air.
"You have heightened senses. What do you think?" Blair pulled a cookie sheet from the oven and started transferring the hot biscuits into a towel-lined basket. "There's butter in the fridge, and a jar of Joel's wife's homemade raspberry jam." Covering the biscuits with the towel's edge to keep warm, he said, "I also sliced up some fresh fruit. Bring that too."
"You're too good to me," Jim said with a smile while he fetched the butter and jam, and fruit plate.
"It's Christmas Eve Day, and we don't have to be at work until tomorrow night at six. I thought we deservedsome home cooking. Then we're going back to bed."
Jim laid out plates, silverware and napkins. "Are you tired?" he asked innocently.
Blair laughed. "Yes. I'm exhausted. I need you to tuck me into bed and rock me to sleep. After breakfast, of course." He carried the basket full of steaming biscuits and a pot of freshly brewed coffee to the table. "So eat up."
Jim eagerly dove into the biscuits, and as he munched happily, he finally remembered. "So what about the weather report?"
"Oh, right. La Guardia and JFK are closed. Snowed in. So is Newark, so Elliot won't be making it home for Christmas with his kids." Blair nibbled on an apple slice.
"What?" Jim licked his fingers. "Well, that sucks."
"Yeah, it does."
"What should we do?"
Blair bit into his biscuit and chewed thoughtfully. "We could pretend we didn't know the airports were closed, and let the guy spend Christmas alone in the hotel."
"But we won't."
Jim sighed. "So much for going back to bed."
"Hang on. I agree we should go down to the Cascade Towers and retrieve your sibling, but it's nine-thirty. I think we could still go back to bed, have a bit of conversation, take a nap and set the alarm for say, twelve-thirty. That way, we'll have plenty of time for everything. Fun, sex, sleep, and Christmas with our new-found relative. In that order. What do you say to that?"
Jim grinned. "I'd say that sounds like a plan."
Jim woke from a deep sleep with a small start. Sentinel senses jumped when he heard a sound from the floor below. He focused, hearing the low murmur of a voice coming from the first floor. When he listened further, he heard his new-found brother speaking quietly. Pulling his hearing back to give the man privacy, he lay still until he heard the voice stop and the floorboards in front of the balcony window creaking. Jim carefully rolled from the bed so as not to wake his sleeping lover. With a fond look at Blair, who slept soundly, hair askew and face peaceful, he smiled before heading down the stairs to use the bathroom. When he finished, he joined Elliot in the living room, where he stood beside his brother looking out through the balcony windows at the city lights.
"Great view," Elliot said.
"I like it. Coffee?"
Jim smiled. "I'll make a fresh pot."
"I can drink reheated."
Jim made a face. "I can't."
Giving a small smile, Elliot nodded and followed Jim out into the kitchen. While Jim fixed the coffee, Elliot watched. "Thanks for last night, and today. Your dad and the rest of the family were very nice."
"I wouldn't have let you spend Christmas alone."
"I know I talked to the kids earlier, wished them a Merry Christmas and all, but I wanted..."
Jim's gaze met Elliot's. "You miss your family, your wife. I'd be calling too, if it were me."
Elliot smiled, looking pleased at Jim's understanding. "The good news is that Kathy said the airports should start allowing incoming flights tomorrow by noon."
"Good. I'm sure they miss you."
"The kids miss my Christmas gifts," he said with a grin.
Jim laughed softly. "I'll bet." Pushing the sugar bowl toward Elliot, he poured two cups, fixing his own to taste. They leaned against the counter while they sipped the hot brew in silence for a few minutes before Jim said, "Maybe I'll get to meet them one of these days."
"They're good kids." He sipped his coffee, casting glances over the cup at Jim.
"What?" Elliot looked uncomfortable for a moment.
"You're curious about Blair."
"How did you know?"
Jim shrugged, smiling. "I'm the big brother. We know these things."
Chuckling, Elliot shook his head. "Big brothers are all alike." He sipped his coffee again before he asked, "You don't mind?"
"I'd rather you just asked than come up with the wrong conclusions."
"I agree with that. So... how long have you been with Blair?"
Jim smiled. "Almost five years."
"Isn't that against policy?" Elliot asked.
Jim looked thoughtful for a moment before he said, "There are extenuating circumstances..."
"...which you aren't comfortable revealing right now. Especially to a stranger."
Jim looked Elliot over appraisingly. "It's hard to explain, but my captain knows and understands the ins and outs of our relationship. He knows that we're a team, and he respects our work. We have the best closure rate in the city-"
"Jim, you don't have to get defensive with me. I'm -- okay with it."
"Are you?" Jim inquired softly.
Elliot considered for a moment before he answered, "I think so. I admit, it still makes me a bit -- uncomfortable. I was -- am a Catholic. But in our work, we see it all, and I can't do my job if I let myself be distracted by a victim's lifestyle."
"What about a family member's lifestyle?" Jim asked quietly.
Elliot's gaze met Jim's. "I'm not going to let anything interfere with our friendship. And I like you and Blair, so..." He shrugged. "I'm glad I found you."
"I am too. And so is Blair." Jim smiled, thinking about his lover. "He makes me happy."
"You don't owe me any explanations."
"I know. It wasn't out of obligation I said that, but out of loyalty to Blair. He deserves my trust... because of what we've been through. No matter what, I'll always stand by him. He's the best partner I could ever ask for, both on the job and here, at home."
"Thank you," Elliot responded.
"Sure. I'm better with straight forward discussions."
"Me, too. We're a lot alike."
Jim smiled. "You mean personality? Or our hairlines?" When Elliot laughed, Jim grinned. "Guess I'll go back to bed."
"I think I'll sit up for a while. Have another cup of coffee, and watch the city lights."
Jim carefully studied Elliot for a moment. "I'm glad you came to Cascade."
Jim gave a nod. "See you in the morning."
"Good night, Jim. Oh, and Jim?"
"Merry Christmas, Elliot."
Thanks to my great betas, Lyn and Ankaree, and to Ankaree for the nice artwork. You both make my stories special.