SVS-07: Regrets
by VampyrAlex


Disclaimer: This story is an episode of The Sentinel Slash Virtual Season (SVS), produced by FiveSenses, Inc. SVS is based on characters and concepts developed by, and belonging to, Pet Fly Productions. This story is intended for private, personal enjoyment only. No money is being made, or will be allowed to be made, by the author of this story or by FiveSenses, Inc. from the writing and distribution of this story. Any original characters introduced in an SVS episode belongs to the episode author and to FiveSenses, Inc. and should not be used without their permission.

Author's notes: Warmest thanks from FiveSenses, Inc. to Dark Cherry and poyznelf for their much appreciated contributions in beta reading this story, to WoD for all the hard work she put into this, and to PJ for the medical advice.



Blair was signing the paperwork from their latest case when the door to Captain Simon Banks' office opened wide and the usual bellow reached their ears.

"Ellison! Sandburg! My office!"

The two partners glanced at each other trying to figure out what they'd done recently to deserve God's -- or at least Simon's -- wrath, then shrugged and rose to answer the summons.

"You called, Simon?" Jim queried, as both he and Blair took their places leaning against the conference table side by side.

"Jim, have you finished the report on the Trodat case yet?"

Ellison handed Banks a file, "Signed, sealed and delivered. We were reviewing it when you called."

"Great," Simon turned his attention to the young man. "Sandburg, I assume you're still living at the loft?"

The other two exchanged confused glances. Simon knew more than well Blair still lived there with Jim.

"Uh, yeah," Blair answered nevertheless.

"Good, good... And I'm sure you still remember the address. Am I correct?"


"Then why do I keep receiving mail sent to the station with your name on it, Mr. Blair Sandburg?"

"Still trying to impress the girls by giving them this address, Chief?" Jim teased, but Blair could hear the seriousness and the warning behind the banter.

"Hey, man! I haven't given this address to anyone in months! And it's not like I'm going to impress anyone by telling them I'm a cop!" he joked back, his own warning just as clear. No more women between them. "I mean, just look at you guys, you tell everyone you're cops and you can't get anyone to go out with you. Maybe I should give you two a few pointers or something," Blair grinned.

"Yeah, right!" Simon snorted. "Here."

Blair accepted the envelope Banks extended in his direction. He examined it carefully noting there was no sender address. The stamp stated it came from some place called Wolf Point.

"I don't know anyone in Wolf Point," Blair muttered. "I don't even know where in the hell Wolf Point is!"

Opening the letter he read it to himself, his face turning suddenly pale, "Oh, my God!..."

"Chief, you okay?"

Without a word, Blair handed the sheet of paper to Jim, who read it aloud for both his own, and Simon's benefit.

"Dear Blair,

I don't exactly know how to begin this, but I guess I should start by telling you who I am. My name is Anna Sandburg and I'm your grandmother. I don't know if, or what Naomi told you about me and your grandfather, but I'm sure either way you'll be surprised to receive this letter.

I've been trying to contact your mother for over two months without any success. I found out through some friends of hers that you work with the Cascade PD, so I decided to chance it and send this there. I only pray it reaches your hands soon.

I'd like you and Naomi both to come and visit us. Your grandfather is terminally ill and has less than a month to live. I think it's about time he got to know his grandson and make peace with his daughter. He needs this closure, we all do.

I do hope you come. We can't change the past, but maybe we can do something about the future.

I'm counting on you.

Anna Sandburg

101 U.S. Hwy 2 East
Wolf Point, MT 59201
(406) 653-1300"

After an uncomfortable silence, Jim placed his hand gently on Blair's shoulder, "Blair? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah..." he breathed softly. "I guess it was the shock. I wasn't expecting to hear from them, not after so long," the young man replied somewhat wearily.

"Are you going?"

Blair took a deep breath, letting the conference table hold all of his weight up, "I'm not sure. Naomi told me they threw her out when they found out she was pregnant. But..."

"But?" Simon echoed, and watched as Blair shrugged.

"I... I want to meet them, to know why. If I don't go I'll only wonder, I'll always regret it. For better or worse, they are family. And if he's dying... I don't know why, but I have to go."

"And Naomi?" Jim prompted.

"She called a couple days ago from somewhere in Brazil. Said she was going to the Amazon with some friends and wanted to let me know she'd be unreachable for the next month or so."

"Next month or so? But by then..." Simon began.

"She might be too late, my grandfather might already be dead," Blair interjected softly. "I know, but there's nothing I can do about it. I'll leave messages with every friend she has there, but I'm not going to wait."

Jim nodded, "Okay, that's settled then. I have a couple weeks vacation coming, so I'll take them now. That is, if that's okay with you, Simon?"

The black man leaned back on his chair, "Yeah, it's okay. Trodat's case is closed. I can assign any new cases to other detectives. Things have been kind of slow, so it won't be too bad."

Blair turned to his partner, seeming somewhat surprised, "You want to go with me?"

"Of course, Chief! You didn't think I'd let you go through all that alone, did you?"

Blair smiled gratefully at the older man, his heart missing a beat at the love he could see in Jim's sky blue eyes, "Thanks, man. I appreciate it."

"Maybe you should call your grandmother and tell her you're coming?" Simon suggested.

Blair cleared his throat, "I guess I should," he replied, forcing his eyes away from his lover's with a regretful sigh.

"Use my phone. It'll allow you more privacy than the bullpen. We can wait outside," Simon rose from his chair.

"Thanks, Simon. Actually, I'd like Jim to be here... If that's okay with you, man."

"Sure, Chief."

Simon nodded, understanding Blair's need to have his best friend with him. "I'll be with Rhonda."

Once the Captain left his office, the young man took a deep breath.

"Ready?" Jim queried softly, caressing his lover's silky curls after checking to see if the blinds were closed.

"As I'll ever be, man, as I'll ever be..."

Blair dialed the number written on the letter and listened to the ringing until finally a female voice answered on the other end, "Hello?"

"Uh, hi. Is this Anna Sandburg?"

"Yes, who's speaking?"

"It's Blair."

"Blair!" she sounded extremely happy to hear from him. "I see you got my letter."

"Today, yes."

"Are you coming to visit us?" the voice on the other side seemed uncertain all of a sudden.

Blair nodded, although she couldn't see, "Yes."

"Good! How about you come next Saturday? How long can you stay?"

"Saturday's fine. And I can stay for two weeks. Would that be okay?"

"Excellent! And Naomi?" Anna's voice wavered as she mentioned her daughter's name.

"She's in Brazil right now, I'm not sure I'll be able to reach her. But I'll leave a message with some of her friends."

He could hear Anna's sad sigh clearly, "Oh, okay. I'll be waiting for you then."

"Uh, Mrs. Sandburg?"

"Anna, please. What is it, Blair?"

"Can I bring a friend? My partner's on vacation and..."

"Of course he can come!" she interjected and Blair could almost feel her smile through the line. "I'd be more than happy to meet your partner too," there was a pause. "Blair, thank you. I know it would've probably been easier to ignore my letter than to have to face this. It means a lot to me."

"It's okay. So, exactly where is Wolf Point and how do we get there?" Blair queried, causing Anna to laugh. They spent the next few minutes making all the necessary plans until Blair finally nodded. "Okay, I think I have enough information. See ya Saturday, Anna. I'll call later and let you know what time we'll be arriving."

"Right. I'll be waiting. Thank you again, Blair. Bye."


Blair hung up and sat down with another shuddering breath while Jim called Simon back. Once he was back inside, Blair faced him.

"Simon, will it be okay for Jim to take the next two weeks off? I mean, I know you said yes, but we didn't actually agree on when he could take the..."

"Blair," Simon interrupted the nervous babble, his tone soft. "It's okay, I already said yes. But I expect you two to finish up all the late paperwork for the rest of the week," he remarked with a smirk.

Jim muttered something unintelligible, rolling his eyes, but he was grinning at his lover. Blair was unable to stop from grinning back, ignoring the fact that they were both in the middle of Simon's office looking like complete fools.

"Hey, Beavis, Butthead! What are you two still doing standing there?! Back to work, gentlemen!" Simon resisted the urge to roll his eyes as his best team suddenly began to laugh like the cartoon characters. "Oh, brother!..." but he couldn't help the chuckle that escaped his control. "Shoo!"

With a final smirk at his mock-glaring Captain and friend, Jim followed Blair out to the bullpen. Time to drown in paperwork.



Wolf Point turned out to be in Roosevelt County, Montana. They arrived a little after lunch and decided to rent a truck to drive around town. After driving twice through the same block, Jim swore under his breath.

"Can't find the right street. We'll have to stop and ask for directions."

"There's a restaurant," Blair pointed out as the sidewalks were deserted. "We can ask there, Jim."

They parked the truck and walked inside the establishment. Being mid-afternoon there was no one around, with the exception of two men who seemed to be caught in a heated discussion.

"You can't do this, Bill!" one of the them, a young man about Blair's age, snapped angrily at the other one.

Bill turned around and faced the young man, "Look, Shane, I'm sorry. I really am. I didn't want to just quit on you, but I can't do this anymore. I just can't."

"But you can't leave, damnit! I have no one else to take your place, especially on such a short notice! I can't run the restaurant by myself!"

"I know, and I wish it didn't have to be this way. But I have my own family to think about. This place is sinking to the ground and you know it, Shane. Sell it to Boyden and end this once and for all! You know he'll give you a good price for it!"

"No!" Shane growled in frustration. "This restaurant was my parents' dream and I am not going to give it up to that bastard without a fight!"

Bill shook his head sadly, "You can't fight him forever, Shane. Boyden's already winning. People are scared to come here. Boyden has been threatening to do some hurting if anyone dares to eat here. You know the crowd is getting thinner by the day! And then there was the poison in the milk we had delivered, the brick someone threw from a passing car that almost killed that little girl sitting beside the window... Give it up, man. It's not worth it."

Having said that Bill left, leaving Shane standing dejectedly in the middle of the room, eyes looking down desperately at the marble floor beneath his shoes.

Jim cleared his throat, "Excuse me?"

Shane turned to them and for the first time the two partners got the chance to have a good look at him. He had wide jade green eyes and long, curly hair that ended just below his shoulders, so dark it had blue highlights shining on it.

Shane threw them a suspicious glare, "If you're working for Lewis Boyden, you better just turn around and leave. He's wasting his time. I'm not selling this place!"

"We don't work for anyone. We just came to ask for directions and couldn't help but overhear. Is everything okay?"

Shane sighed wearily, "Yeah, I guess. Bill and I were the only ones working here at the moment. I cooked, he waited tables and did the dishes. Don't know how the hell am I going to manage tonight without him... I'm sorry, you have nothing to do with my problems. Where do you want to go?"

"Anna Sandburg's house."

Shane's face lit up with a huge smile, "Anna? Now, there's a classy lady! She and her husband are some of my best customers! Come on, I'll show you how to get there."

He took them outside and explained the way. As it was, they weren't that far away. Thanking the young man and wishing him luck, they went in search of Blair's grandparents house.



Jim parked in front of the Sandburgs' house and turned off the engine. They stayed silent for a moment, just enjoying each other's company, thankful yet again at having been brought together. Jim held one of Blair's hands gently, lacing their fingers together.

"Okay?" he asked softly, his tone one of concern.

Blair smiled a little shakily, "Yeah. I'm a little nervous, I guess. I can feel the proverbial butterflies fluttering in my stomach. I don't know how to react, man, I never had any other real family besides Naomi."

"That's to be expected, Blair. You never met them, don't know what they're like... Just be yourself and everything will be okay," Jim reassured, squeezing the hand he was holding.

Blair smiled lovingly at his partner. "Thanks, man. For the support, for being here, for loving me... I don't know if I would've been able to do this on my own."

Jim returned the smile, "Yes, you would. But I wanted to be here with you," he stated. Without caring who might see, he brushed his lips tenderly against his lover's full ones. "Love you. Now come on, Chief. Time to go."

Blair blinked to clear the sudden fog in his mind, then took a deep breath. He grabbed the bouquet of red roses they'd brought for Anna, got out the truck and moved to the beautiful white house, his lover right beside him.

Blair rang the doorbell with some trepidation, bouncing slightly on his feet as they waited for the door to open. The man who answered the door was about Jim's height, with a slight frame, and about the right age to be Blair's grandfather. Chocolate-brown eyes blinked at them from a gaunt face surrounded by snow white hair.


"I'm... uh, Blair."

For a moment the man tilted his head in confusion as if he couldn't place the name, then his face contorted in rage, "What the... Anna! Anna! Where the hell are you?"

The two partners looked stunned at each other, even as Anna Sandburg appeared at the door. She was smaller than her husband, quite petite in fact, with a head full of salt and pepper curls and deep blue eyes. It was easy to see who Blair took after.

"What's the matter, Joseph? Oh... Blair?"

The young man nodded, suddenly uncertain. There was something quite not right going on there.

Anna smiled and it was Naomi's bright, happy smile, "I wasn't expecting you until later tonight!" she told them, as she hugged them both warmly. "You must be Blair's partner."

"Jim Ellison, Ma'am," he nodded, and she chuckled.

"God, don't call me Ma'am, makes me sound old!" she laughed loudly, her eyes shinning with amusement. "Anna is just fine."

Jim was powerless against her exuberance, "Okay then, Anna. We managed to catch an earlier flight. I'm sorry, we probably should've warned you, but we didn't have the time."

As he spoke, Jim moved closer to his lover in a protective stance. After that initial outburst, Joseph Sandburg remained silent, standing by the door as he watched his wife greet the two of them. And if looks could kill, both Jim and Blair would've been six foot under in less than ten seconds.

"Here, these are for you," Blair gave her the roses with a smile.

"Oh, my God!" she exclaimed, smelling the roses for a second in obvious delight. "They're beautiful! Thank you so much!"

Still unaware of her husband's reaction to the newcomers, Anna whirled around to face him, her joy plain for anyone to see. Another thing she and Blair seemed to have in common, very expressive faces.

"It's Blair, Joe," she chirped. "It's our daughter's son!"

"I have no daughter!" Joseph Sandburg growled, glaring at them. "What the hell were you thinking woman?"

"Joseph, please!"

"No! I don't want him here, any of them! And you'd better not be bringing this subject up again! Nao... my daughter died thirty years ago." He stormed inside the house, somehow managing not to slam the door behind him.

Anna turned to her grandson, all joy gone from her eyes, only pain shining in their depths now, "I'm sorry, Blair. This is all my fault. He wasn't expecting you, I didn't tell him you were coming. I thought that if he just saw you..."

"It would make things easier," Blair understood her way of thinking.

"Yes. But I think the shock was too great. You shouldn't have gone through that, my child. I'm so very, very sorry!..."

Blair tried to force a smile, "It's okay, Anna. At least we gave it a try."

She shook her head, "Don't give up on him yet, Blair, please. Let me talk to him, try one more time."

"I saw an Inn, Homestead Inn, I think, in front of the place we went to ask for directions. We could spend the night there," Jim suggested. Anna turned her warm blue eyes on him, smiling with gratitude.

"That would be a good idea, thank you, Jim. Look, you guys, I'm not saying Joe had the right reaction, and again I'm sorry for what happened. It was my fault, but I've been desperate. I need to end this... hate in our family," her eyes filled with tears. "I can't stand the idea of him dying still mad at Naomi, without getting to know you. I have to do something!"

Blair hugged her tightly, "It's okay, grandma," he whispered, and heard her chuckle in his ear. "We won't leave without trying a few more times. I promise."

"God... I can't believe I'm hugging my grandson, after all these years," she sobbed softly, her arms tightening their hold. "No matter what happens, Blair, I want you to stay in touch, and I want you to know that I never, ever stopped loving Naomi. She was, is, and will always be my little girl. But as I was saying, Joe's reaction wasn't all his fault, there's much more to this whole story than you know about. Maybe if I tell you everything... it won't excuse him, but maybe you'll understand better."

Her grandson wiped the few stubborn tears that fell from her eyes and kissed her cheek, "Okay, how do you want to do it?"

"Meet me tomorrow at nine for breakfast at the McKenzie Restaurant. If you're staying at the Homestead Inn, it's right across the street. The owner, Shane McKenzie, is a good friend of ours. We'll be able to talk without any interruptions."

Blair and Jim traded amused grins, "Yeah, we've met Shane. Tomorrow then?"


She kissed her grandson lovingly, her hand caressing his cheek, "My grandson," she whispered, the awe clear in her voice. "My beautiful grandson... I think Naomi did a good job raising you, my child. I'm so happy you are here! So very, very happy!"

Anna's eyes filled again, and Blair hurried to embrace her once more, "So am I, Anna, so am I. See you tomorrow."

She hugged Jim as well and then, with a last wave, walked inside the house, leaving the two men there in the entrance staring at each other.

"Blair?" Jim looked worriedly at his lover. He wished he could've made Joseph Sandburg behave differently toward his grandson. It must've hurt Blair badly to hear those angry words. He smiled ruefully at himself. He was being over-protective again, wanting to save his lover from pain, wanting to shield him from other's wrong doings. Too bad life didn't always allow it. He'd gladly take on the weight of the world, if it saved Blair from hurting.

Blair looked up at the concerned tone in his lover's voice, "I'm okay Jim. Although, that certainly wasn't what I expected!" he huffed. "But the day wasn't a total waste. I loved Anna, and like she said, even if things don't work out with Joseph, I'll always be able to stay in touch with her. And I'm not going to give up hope on him just yet either."

"Yeah. Shane was right, she is a classy lady. Come on Chief. Let's go to the Inn and get ourselves a room. And then..."

"Then?" Blair purred seductively, enjoying the way Jim's nostrils flared.

"Then I'm going to undress you, bathe you, spoil you rotten with a head-to-toe massage, feed you, and finally fuck you through the mattress. Repeatedly."

Blair couldn't help but chuckle, "Jim Ellison, romantic extraordinaire!" He almost ran to the truck, feeling some of his sadness easing a bit at Jim's amused chuckle. Things could have definitely been worse. He could have been alone.



At nine sharp the next morning they were at McKenzie's Restaurant waiting for Anna to show up. Since it was Sunday, only two or three tables were full, giving them plenty to pick from. Thinking that the conversation would undoubtedly be emotional, the two men opted for a secluded table by the farthest wall.

Shane approached their seats, a happy smile on his face, "Hey, guys! Good morning! Did you find the Sandburgs' house okay yesterday?"

"Hey, Shane! Yes, we did. Thank you. How did you manage alone last night?" Blair queried.

Shane grimaced. "I was up until 2 am cleaning this place. Thank God I live above the restaurant or I wouldn't even have bothered going home."

"That bad, huh? Can't you find someone to replace Bill?"

"Not in this town! Everyone's afraid of what Lewis Boyden might do if they come to work for me," Shane shrugged helplessly. "Excuse me, new customers."

They watched as he moved to another table to greet a couple and take their order.

"That sucks, man."

"Yeah, it does," Jim agreed, his brow creased in thought. "I might pay a visit to this Lewis Boyden guy today. I can't do anything officially, but maybe having someone in his face will make him back off. And the Sheriff's office isn't out of the question either."

Blair smiled tenderly, his hand caressing his lover's thigh under the safety of the table, "You just can't help yourself, can you?"

Jim didn't pretend to misunderstand. He grinned sheepishly, "I just don't like seeing people being pushed around. If Shane doesn't want to sell, it's his right."

"It's okay, Jim. That's one of the reasons why I love you."

"Yeah? What other reasons are there?" Jim joked, but before Blair could give him the wanton reply shining in his eyes, Anna walked up to them and sat down at the table.

"Sorry I'm late," she sounded a little breathless. "But I ran into Mrs. Davenport. I swear, that woman should work for our local newspaper. She knows everything about everyone!"

Shane approached the table as he saw her, "Anna! Nice to see you again! How's Joe?"

"Fine," she replied, her smile clearly forced, and Shane nodded in understanding. "And how's everything going with you? The restaurant?"

Shane made a face, "You don't want to know, Anna, believe me!" then he smiled again. "What can I get you nice folks?"

They ordered breakfast. Jim waited until the young man was out of hearing range to ask Anna, "What's the deal with this Lewis Boyden character?"

She frowned unhappily, "He and his brother Tom came to Wolf Point about five years ago. Apparently he had some capital and decided to invest in the real estate business. Pretty soon he was established and ended up staying in our town. I'm not sure he uses legitimate ways to get what he wants, though. There are rumors about blackmail, beatings, strange accidents... and I've always been a believer that where there's smoke, there's fire. About two years ago he decided Wolf Point needed a big shopping mall and set about to buy every building in this block, the perfect location for his shopping mall. According to him, of course."

"Isn't this town too small for something that ambitious? You have a shopping mall already, we saw it when we arrived yesterday."

"Precisely! We're under three thousand inhabitants and between the mall we have already and the traditional shops, it's more than enough. The worst part is how this is dividing the town. The ones in favor of progress want the new mall, the small business owners are afraid another big surface is going to make them lose clientele. Then there are others, like Shane, whose businesses are their only means of survival."

"He really loves this place," Blair observed.

"True. His parents died in a car accident last year. This place was their pride and joy, so Shane decided to keep it open. It hasn't been easy though. No one could prove it, but Boyden has tried to sabotage the restaurant a few times. Someone threw a brick that crashed through the window out of a passing car. A little girl was hit with it on the head and nearly died. I thought Shane was going to die of guilt. He almost gave up and closed this place. Joseph and I had a hard time convincing him to keep it going."

"Oh, man... Poor Shane," Blair muttered, angry at what money and power made people do.

"Anyway, soon after Boyden began to buy the buildings in this block, the rumors about his methods began again. Sheriff Ashwood has been trying to get evidence against him, but no one's come up front and admitted to having been threatened or whatever. And without those statements..."

"He can't do a thing," Jim finished for her.

"Exactly!" she replied excitedly. "I hate to see Shane go through all this. His parents were good friends to us, we were there when he was born... He's like family."

The two partners nodded in understanding. It was hard to see someone go through so many problems while being helpless to lend a hand. Jim thought he was definitely going to have a word with Lewis Boyden later in the day.

Anna turned to her grandson, her mind already on another subject, "Blair, I tried talking to Joe again last night, but..."

"He didn't change his mind," Blair guessed.

She sighed wearily, "I'll keep trying though. I refuse to just give up. I swear, that man's as stubborn as a mule! Something, I might add, he and Naomi have in common! They're so much alike, it's scary."

"What's wrong with him?" Blair asked suddenly, in a rather blunt way.

Anna turned devastated ocean blue eyes on her grandson, "Cancer," she replied softly, her eyes beginning to mist. "We found out about three months ago. In spite of his age Joe has always been a very active person, he was in very good shape physically. All of a sudden, he began to get tired a lot, even when he wasn't doing anything strenuous. Then came the occasional dizziness, the trouble breathing, weight loss and abdominal pain," she sighed. "Took me nearly a month to persuade him to go to the doctor and even so, I had to force him," Anna shook her head, seemingly unaware of the tears rolling down her cheeks. "By then it was too late. The doctors discovered the cancer in the lung and kidney area, but it's spreading throughout his whole body."

Blair tried to swallow around the lump in his throat. He was suddenly grateful for Sentinel senses and the knowing hand rubbing soothingly over his back. Bless you, Jim.

"Couldn't he do some kind of treatment? Chemo maybe?"

"We discussed it. The doctors told us this is a rare kind of cancer, very aggressive. They said chemotherapy would probably increase Joe's life span for a year at most. That night we had a long talk about it. We knew what chemotherapy did to the human body. Joe decided it wasn't worth it, that he'd rather have three months nearly pain free, able to live a relatively normal life, than having to suffer through that torture for just a few more months. It was a... terrible decision to make, but I couldn't deny him that. I love him. We've been spending these months like we're on a second honeymoon. I want to make him as happy as he can be before he..." she sobbed softly. "Before he dies. And I'll always have these memories, good ones. Not awful memories of Joe connected to some machine, his face contorted in pain. I wanted him to die f-free..." she couldn't go on, crying openly now, so Blair rose from his chair and embraced her, his own eyes shinning with unshed tears.

"Oh, Anna..." he whispered. "I wish it didn't have to be this way, that I could help somehow..."

She took a shuddering breath and backed away a little, her eyes locking with Blair's, "You are helping, Blair. You're here. I can't tell you how that makes me feel. Thank you," her gaze turned to Jim's as well. "Thank you both."

Blair sighed sadly, "God, I wish I'd known sooner, maybe things could've been different somehow."

"Blair, what did your mother tell you about us?"

Blair gazed into the depths of the blue eyes so much like his own, knowing in his heart that the answer he was about to give wasn't the whole truth, "She said you threw her out when she got pregnant."

Anna's shocked gasp was confirmation enough, Naomi had lied to him. "She told you that? Oh, God!"

"What happened all those years ago, Anna?"

She just shook her head, "It's not that simple, Blair. Maybe it was our fault, maybe we did throw her out in a way. Maybe it was because we were parents so early ourselves and we didn't know how to raise a child, I don't know. I'll always regret the way things happened, how they turned out," she sounded incredibly sad and exhausted. "She was never like the other kids her age, you know? Was always too independent, too headstrong like her father. She never listened to anyone, always had to do what she thought was right no matter what everyone else thought about it."

"That's Naomi all right," Jim chuckled. Under that easy going way was a strength Jim had only seen in Blair before. It was very deceiving. People saw the hippie and overlooked everything else. A mistake he and Simon had made more than once.

"When she was in her teens things got worse. Naomi and Joe fought like cats, always at each other's throats, too much alike for either of them to back down. When she turned to all that hippie stuff, we almost died. You have to understand, we didn't understand that way of thinking, of living. It was too foreign for both of us. We were raised in a very strict environment. And Naomi didn't make it any easier on us. She was never home, and when she did come home it was in the middle of the night. We never saw her with the same boy twice, never knew where she was... Joe found some pot in her room and tried to punish her by grounding her. She escaped by the window and disappeared for days."

Jim whistled. He knew Naomi tended to be wild, but this was a surprise.

"Then there was the time she got involved in a peace protest and ended up getting arrested for hitting what she called a 'pig'," Anna sighed wearily. "I thought Joe was going to have a stroke when the police called us at 4 am that night. We thought... we thought she was hurt or worse, we were scared out of our minds. So when Joe went to get her, I guess he was a bit too high strung. They had a terrible fight and stopped speaking altogether. The final straw was when she proudly announced she was pregnant and didn't know who the father was."

"What happened?"

"Joe decided enough was enough. He forbade her friends from coming around our house, locked her in her room and found a local boy to marry her and raise the child with her."

"She must've loved that!" Blair smiled.

"She broke everything in her room," Anna nodded, sharing the smile with her grandson. The smile vanished as she proceeded. "Then she packed a bag and disappeared. Left a note saying she wanted her child raised in love, not in a place resembling a prison. We tried everything to find her, called everyone we could think of -- friends, relatives... no matter how insane, we tried it. After a while Joe was ready to just about forgive her for everything she'd done and what she hadn't either. Each time we managed to contact one of her new friends she'd already be gone, and after some time we completely lost track of her. We even put ads in some newspapers," she shrugged. "Then we gave up. And little by little, Joe's sorrow over losing her became anger. To a point he doesn't even mention her name anymore. We know she kept in touch with a few of her cousins, it was through one of them that we learned she'd had a son called Blair, but no matter how many times we called and pleaded with them, none ever told us where she was staying."

The partners remained silent for a while, digesting what they'd been told. After what was becoming an awkward pause, Anna asked, "Think she'll come?"

"I have no idea, Anna. Depends on if she gets the messages I left for her. I hope so."

"So do I. The past doesn't matter anymore. I just want us together, I want Joe to see her at least one more time before it's too late." Pulling herself together, she rose from her chair. "I have to get going now, I'm afraid. There's a Town Hall meeting about the mall and I want to be there. What will you two be doing?"

"I was planning on going to have a word with Lewis Boyden, but he'll probably be at the Town Hall meeting." Jim told her.

Anna chuckled and shook her head, "I don't think so! Shane tried to flatten his face during the last meeting. Even knowing Shane isn't going to be there, I don't believe he'll chance it. A lot of people don't like Lewis. What about you, Blair?"

"Well, since Jim'll be busy with Boyden, I thought I might lend Shane a hand around here. What do you think, Jim?"

The older man nodded with a smile, "Good idea Chief. I'll meet you here when I get done, 'kay?"


Anna kissed them both on the cheek, "And I'll come by later myself, to see how things are going. Don't lose hope, Blair. It might not look like it now, but your grandfather is a good man and he'll come around, I promise."

The young man nodded, "It's okay. I'm a patient man," he stated, ignoring Jim's amused snort. "I'll wait."

And he would. For as long as it took, he promised himself.



Finding Boyden's office wasn't hard at all. The first person Jim questioned about it as he stepped out of McKenzie's Restaurant supplied him with the directions. The building was one of the most modern ones in Wolf Point. Boyden's office was on the fifth floor. The elevator doors opened into a large hall where Jim spotted a young black man sitting at the reception desk dressed somewhat shabbily for his job. The tight black jeans and Hustler t-shirt were definitely not what Jim thought of as appropriate attire for the receptionist of a company such as Boyden's.

"Good morning, Sir. How can I help you?" the young man queried politely. "If you're looking for Catherine, she called in sick today."


"The receptionist. My brother couldn't find a replacement on such short notice, so he called me instead. I'm cheaper too," he chortled, and extended his hand. "Tom Boyden. So, what can I do for you?"

Tom was about thirty, tall and well built, with short black hair and warm cocoa eyes. And he was the kind of person you immediately took a liking to, Jim thought ruefully, hoping his brother was just as friendly. Somehow he doubted it, though.

"Jim Ellison," he shook Tom Boyden's hand. "I need to talk to you brother, Lewis."

"You're out of luck. He and his assistant, Eric, are going to be away the whole day. I don't know where they are. Can I ask what you want with Lew?"

"I want to talk to him about Shane McKenzie," Jim replied, not missing the sudden hammering of Tom's heart at the mention of Shane's name.

"Something wrong with Shane?" Tom asked, all humor gone from his face.

"No, he's fine..."

"Thank God!" Tom breathed softly, his relief obvious even without the aid of Sentinel senses.

"...But I need to talk to your brother about his attempts to buy Shane's restaurant," Jim finished.

Tom sighed and shook his head, "It won't work. Believe me, I tried that already. I love my brother, but I don't agree with what he's doing. I tried talking some reason into him, but he's obsessed with that damn mall. He won't listen to me. And he won't listen to you either."

"I think I'll try anyway."

Tom shrugged, "It's your time to waste, man. Try tomorrow around this time, he should be here by then. Catherine will be easy to bypass, but be careful with Lewis' assistant, Eric Bangle. The man's a creep!"

"Okay, thanks. Will you be here tomorrow?"

"Not if I can help it!" he chortled and Jim couldn't help grin back.

"Nice meeting you, Tom."

"Likewise, man. Any friend of Shane's..."

Jim nodded and left. Since having a talk with Lewis Boyden was out of the question, it was time for him to get to know Wolf Point's Sheriff Ashwood.



Shane felt like things were finally beginning to improve for him. Blair's help over lunch was unbelievable -- he was even better than Bill. He cooked, washed the dishes, helped wait tables and still had time to chat with the customers. It was so much more than he could have hoped for.

Shane looked up to see Joseph Sandburg at the entrance of the Restaurant, sweeping the place with his eyes. He walked up to the older man.

"Hey, Joe!" he greeted his friend with a smile. "How are you?"

"Fine, fine," Joseph replied somewhat distractedly. "You haven't seen my wife, have you? We were supposed to meet here for lunch."

"She didn't come back from the Town Hall meeting yet. Sit down somewhere and wait for a while. It shouldn't be long now."

"What's he doing here?" Joseph pointed to Blair with his head.

"Helping out, thank God! He and his friend were here when Bill quit yesterday and today he offered to lend me a hand. Blair has been here throughout lunch and Jim went to have a word with Boyden. I don't know why they're doing it, but it sure feels nice to have their support! I couldn't have made it through the morning without Blair to help me. You sure have nice friends, Joe."

"He's not my friend," the older man remarked with a thoughtful expression.

"No? But he asked directions to your house yesterday and had breakfast with Anna!"

"Has he told you his last name?"

"Umm, no. I kinda forgot to ask."

"His last name's Sandburg and he's my grandson. Can you ask him to bring me a coffee while I wait for Anna?" Joseph queried, unconcerned of Shane's shocked expression.

"Um... sure. He'll be right here."

Not two minutes later, Blair was handing Joseph the requested coffee, fidgeting slightly under the old man's unreadable gaze.

"Sit down for a minute, will you, Blair?"

Blair obeyed, somewhat thrown by his grandfather's soft tone. After the scene the day before, he hadn't been expecting that. He sat quietly in front of the older man, watching as Joseph's curious eyes turned fully on him.

"Why are you here?"

Blair blinked in confusion, "Because Anna wrote..."

"No," the other interjected, his voice still soft. "Why are you here, working here?"

The young man turned and focused on Shane for a second, watching as he spoke with a few customers, his face lit by a huge smile, his hands and body moving gracefully as he replied to something being asked.

"Because he needs help; because I'm here for two weeks and have nothing else to do; because I hate power hungry bastards like Boyden; because it's right," he shrugged slightly and looked back at his grandfather. "Take your pick."

"About my reaction yesterday..."

Blair nodded in understanding, "It's okay. Anna told me what happened all those years ago. And I'll understand if you still refuse to have me around, but none of this is or was my fault," He leaned forward. "And I know you probably don't want to hear this, but the Naomi Anna told me about doesn't exist anymore, hasn't existed in a long time. She's not the same person she was then, she's changed a lot."

Joseph looked lost in his own troubled mind for a moment. "This isn't easy for me, Blair," he finally said. "What she did... I won't say it was all her fault, I know I'm not the easiest person to live with, but we left hundreds of messages over the years with friends of hers, cousins, uncles, even school colleagues she hadn't mentioned or talked to in years. I don't believe she never got them, even if just a half a dozen. She could've called us and let us know how she was, how you were doing."

"I know. And she shouldn't have lied to me about you either. But I know Naomi and I'm sure she regrets it and has been regretting it for most of her life. But we all make mistakes and we're all human, man. And you know, sometimes, no matter how much it hurts, it's easier to live with that mistake than to face it and try to make things better. Maybe she wanted to call and thought you wouldn't forgive her for running away; maybe she was too ashamed of what she did; maybe she didn't have the courage after a while. Whatever it was, you both have to let it go and start over. Please... give us a chance. Give me a chance to get to know you."

Joseph's heart melted at the pleading look in the bright blue eyes that gazed into his, eyes that reminded him of his beloved Anna so much. He remembered the pain of not knowing if his daughter and her child lived or died; he looked again at the young man begging to be allowed to know his own family, his own grandfather. Maybe it was time to give his hurt pride a rest and welcome his grandson into his life.

"So, what kind of music do you like?" he asked, startling Blair with the sudden change of topic.

"Uh... well, most kinds, I guess, just as long as it's good. I have some amazing tapes with music made by some South American tribes, I use them to help me meditate. Um, what about you?"

Joseph gave him an unexpected grin, "I'm a Rolling Stones kind of man myself," he replied, and smiled as his grandchild laughed heartily. It was a beautiful laugh, one that lit up Blair's whole face. Once again Joseph thought how much he resembled Anna. And he felt glad of his decision to let go of the past and enjoy his grandson. Now he could die without the regret of never having met his daughter's child, and he knew that after he was gone Anna wouldn't be alone.



When Jim finally arrived at McKenzie's Restaurant it was already mid-afternoon and the place was deserted. He was pleasantly surprised to find Anna and Joseph Sandburg sitting at a table with Shane and Blair, the four chatting excitedly.

Blair was positively glowing with happiness and Jim felt his heart miss a beat. No matter how much his partner had dismissed it the day before, the cop knew Joseph's reaction had hurt Blair deeply. He was glad to see that things seemed to be changing between them.

"Hey, Jim!" Blair grinned as the Sentinel approached the table. "How did it go?"

"Boyden wasn't there. I talked to his brother."

"You talked to Tom?" Shane seemed a little flushed suddenly, and Jim noticed with interest that the young man's heart picked up speed as he mentioned Tom Boyden.

"Yeah. Seemed like a nice guy."

"He is," Anna confirmed. "Nothing like his brother at all. He's been trying to convince Lewis to stop that shopping mall idea, but it's no use."

"And the Sheriff?" Blair asked as Jim sat down next to him.

"I liked him. He really wants to get his hands on Boyden, but without proof..."

"Are you going to try Boyden again tomorrow?" Blair queried, although he already knew the answer.

"Yes. I may be out of my jurisdiction here, but I still want him to know someone's keeping an eye on him."

Shane smiled, "I don't think it will work, but thank you both for what you're doing."

"No need to thank us, man," Blair grinned. "It just gives new meaning to the motto 'to serve and protect.' I serve, he protects," he chortled, laughing out right with the others as Jim groaned at his bad pun. Things were looking good, real, real good.



Dinner was over and the restaurant was long deserted at last. Shane was cleaning up the place as he waited for his love to show up. And as usual, he thought with a rueful smile, his love was late. He heard the door opening and swiveled around with a smile, but to his disappointment, it wasn't who he'd been waiting for.

"We're closed," he said.

"I know." one of the two huge, bulky men blocking the entrance to his restaurant told him with a cold smile. They began to advance and something in their faces made Shane move back.

"What do you want?"

"Not what, who," the second man said. "And the answer..." he drawled as he pounded his right fist menacingly into his left palm. " you."



They lay in bed snuggled against each other after an intense lovemaking session; Blair's head resting comfortably on the older man's shoulder, his hand caressing the smooth chest beneath it.

"A penny for your thoughts," Jim whispered and could feel Blair's smile.

"I was just thinking about how the pieces suddenly all fell into place."

"What do you mean?"

"All that traveling Naomi and I did... I mean, don't get me wrong, it was great to spend a whole summer with my uncle Tom driving the rig across country, or spending some time with my cousins in Forth Worth checking out all the rodeo action, even hanging around Robert and learning just which horse or team to bet on," Blair quipped with a smile. "And going to other continents, all the cultures and people we met... I wouldn't trade it for the world, but sometimes I had this feeling that Naomi didn't really want to leave. It was more like she had to leave. Now it all makes sense."

"She couldn't afford to stay in one place too long for fear her parents might find her," Jim voiced the unspoken thought.

"Yeah. And to be honest, after what Anna told us, I wasn't expecting Joseph to surrender this fast. But this afternoon was so cool, I'm really glad he changed his mind about me. I could still feel him holding back, but at least we're talking and getting to know each other."

"He's a good man," Jim ventured.

"Yes, he is. Naomi's leaving hurt him a lot, I get the feeling she was everything to him, that's why he was so mad."

"There's a thin line between love and hate," Jim quoted and felt Blair nod against him.

"Exactly. I don't think he ever hated her, but he was so hurt it was easier to think she was dead. God, I do hope Naomi gets my messages before it's too late! It would be so cool to see the three of them together again... Did you notice the way they kind of adopted Shane? They took him under their care and watch over him as if he's family. I think it's really sweet," Blair chuckled. "You know, I have a feeling Shane was up to something tonight. I offered to stay after dinner to help with the cleaning, but he told me I didn't have to, practically threw me out of the restaurant!"

Jim tilted his head, listening, "He's still there, I can hear him talking to someone," he frowned suddenly.

"What?" Blair asked, raising his head as he felt Jim's body tense up.

"There's something... Shit!" Rising from the bed in one swift move, Jim donned his jeans rapidly and grabbing his gun, ran out the door.

"What the...? Jim!" jumping from bed as well, Blair put on his jeans and followed his lover across the street and into Shane's place. He saw Jim bursting into the restaurant and as he walked in seconds later was greeted to the sight of Jim aiming his gun at two men. One of them was holding Shane's arms behind his back allowing the other to hit the young man at will, without fear of retribution.

"Let him go," Jim growled, and Blair was relieved when after exchanging a brief glance the two men released Shane and stepped back. "Blair, call Sheriff Ashwood and tell him to come and pick up this garbage."


Blair made the call while Shane tied the criminals together under Jim's watchful eye. Better safe than sorry.

"Who do you work for?" the cop queried, and was met with stony silence. Jim shrugged at the two young men. He was supposed to be on vacation anyway. Let the Sheriff deal with the two thugs.

Ashwood arrived promptly with two of his deputies not ten minutes after Blair made the call. He shook everyone's hands with a friendly smile, "Good evening, folks. Harry, John, take these two to the car. I'll be out in a minute," he told his deputies.

"Right, Sheriff."

They watched the criminals being taken away, then Ashwood turned to the others, "You know, it won't do any good to arrest those two. It will be just like the others before them. They never talk, never say who hired them, and most of them are out on bail before we finish the paperwork."

"You mean you caught some of Boyden's goons before?" Blair queried, surprised.

Ashwood grimaced. "You mean 'alleged' goons. We never could prove they worked for Boyden. And yes, we managed to catch a few of those bastards. And the end result was always the same: every single one of them were outsiders, they were never the same ones, none would say who paid them to do the job. It's a vicious circle and I doubt these two will be any different," he sighed wearily, then looked at Shane's somewhat battered condition. "Need someone to have a look at those bruises, son?"

Jim shook his head. "I'll do it, Sheriff. Thanks."

Ashwood nodded. "In that case, I'll go and take care of those two. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Sheriff."

After Ashwood left Jim turned his attention to Shane. The young man's handsome face was already showing the signs of his close encounter with the two men, the worse being a split lip and a rapidly darkening bruise on the left cheek. Jim could only imagine how his body must look and feel like.

"You have a medical kit?" he asked.

"Behind the bar."

"Okay. Let's do something about those cuts and bruises."

Jim was almost done when Tom Boyden stumbled through the door, his mouth open wide as if about to say something. He stopped short as he took in the scene before him. Jim Ellison, the man he'd met that morning in his brother's office -- barefoot, wearing tight black jeans with the top button undone, his chest bare for the world to see and apparently caressing Shane's cheek lovingly. Tom saw red.

"What the hell is going on here?!" he growled, taking a menacing step closer to Ellison.

Before things could get any worse, Shane stepped in between the two men, "Tom, take it easy! It's not what it looks like."

"What do you mean it's not..." he stopped suddenly. "What happened to your face?" Tom brushed the bruised cheek tenderly.

"Two bastards just walked in here and tried to make pancakes out of me. What do you think?" Shane snapped, then sighed at Tom's hurt expression. "Damn..." he pulled the black man to the kitchen. "Excuse us." he said to Jim and Blair.

As soon as he closed the door, Shane embraced Tom eagerly, keeping him in his arms until he felt his lover relax against him.

"God, I missed you..." Tom exhaled softly, his arms embracing Shane's slender frame. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Jim and Blair got here just in time to stop the creeps. I'm sorry I snapped at you, I didn't mean it," he gave Tom a mock-pout. "And you're late, again!"

"Sorry. Lew dragged me to another boring business dinner. He's still trying to get me to join the company," He paused, as if weighing what to say next. "Tom, I want to tell him about us. I love you and I want the whole fucking world to know."

Shane sighed sadly. "Love, we talked about this already. What do you think will happen if your brother finds out you're in love with another man, especially if he hears that man is me? You think I enjoy this situation? Having to meet in secret, never being able to go anywhere together, never being able to spend any time together..." He looked away with an odd expression and Tom frowned.

He used his hand to cup Shane's chin and raised his head until they were locking gazes, "What's wrong, Shane?" Tom queried gently, his thumb sliding over his lover's pouty lips.

Shane flushed a little in embarrassment, "I... It's just that this is getting too intense for my liking. Before, Lewis was just trying to ruin my business. You know how much I hated what he was doing, hell, I nearly gave up when that little kid almost died, but... now he's making it personal. The idea that he wants to hurt me..."

Tom suddenly grabbed hold of Shane's dark coal hair with both hands, possessively, their faces inches from each other, "Listen to me! I love you, I won't let anything happen to you, I won't let him hurt you! I promise, Shane..." he vowed fiercely, and Shane found himself believing the words somehow.

They kissed tenderly, their hands roaming each other's bodies until Tom brushed across a particularly painful bruise causing Shane to whimper softly.

"Sorry, Love. Come on, let's get rid of your guests and get you in bed. I'm spending the night, no way am I going to let you out of my sight tonight. I'll make up some excuse for Lew tomorrow, your health is more important."

They said their goodbyes to Jim and Blair, and after locking the restaurant, went up to Shane's apartment on the first floor. Tom undressed his lover tenderly, kissing every bruise to make it better. Shane enjoyed the feeling of being pampered too much to get annoyed at his lover's whimsical mood. He just allowed the mother hen routine, then sighed happily as they climbed into the bed and Tom spooned behind him, his arms around him to keep him safe. Shane soon fell into an exhausted sleep; he never noticed Tom standing guard and watching over him the whole night.



Back in their room at the Inn, Blair settled down on the bed with his own contented sigh.

"Man, what a night!"

"Yeah," Jim mumbled, his head resting comfortably on his lover's shoulder. "You know, I suddenly feel like a character on the Westside Story but with a twist," he chuckled ruefully.


"Tom and Shane are lovers."

Blair looked down at him, surprise written all over his face. "You're kidding?"


"Oh, my God! How did you know...never mind, Sentinel senses. I take it Lewis Boyden doesn't know about it?"

"I didn't want to pry on them, but I think he doesn't know, yeah. If he did, things would be even worse for Shane."

"Damn... It can't be easy for them! Still going to talk to Boyden tomorrow?"

"Oh, yeah! I want to have a word with him now more than ever. It's obvious he sent those guys tonight to beat Shane up, he's turning up the heat."

"Come by the restaurant when you're done, I want to know what happened. I promised Shane I'd help out the whole day."

Jim bit him gently on the junction between neck and shoulder, "I will. Goodnight, Blair."

"'Night, Jim."

They snuggled together and were soon fast asleep, the worries of the day forgotten in slumber.



The next morning Jim and Blair had breakfast with the Sandburgs at Shane's place. McKenzie was grinning from ear to ear in spite of multiple injuries and the two partners couldn't help chuckle at the obvious reason; they'd seen Tom leaving the restaurant wearing the same clothes from the day before. It didn't take a detective to realize that the younger Boyden had stayed the night.

Halfway through the morning, Jim left to have his long awaited conversation with Lewis Boyden. As he said, Tom wasn't there. In his place was a woman who Jim guessed was the Catherine Tom mentioned the day before.

"Good morning. How can I help you?" she greeted softly, a fake smile plastered on her face.

"My name's Jim Ellison, I'm here to see Lewis Boyden."

"Do you have an appointment?"

"No, I don't. That's his office, isn't it?" Jim queried, already moving towards the mentioned door.

"Wha...? Sir, you can't go in!" She tried to stop him, but it was too late. In two easy strides Jim burst through the office door where two men stood up to face him.

"What's the meaning of this?" a tall black man standing by the desk demanded. By the imposing way he stood and the other man's submissive body language, that had to be Lewis Boyden.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Boyden, I tried to stop him..." Catherine began with a whine.

Boyden shooed her away with a wave of his big hand, "It's okay, Catherine. You can go."

After the receptionist walked out, Boyden turned his chocolate brown eyes on Jim, "Please sit down, Mr. Ellison. What can I do for you?"

"I'd rather stand, thank you," Jim replied, as he watched Boyden and Bangle settle back into their seats. The Sentinel raised an eyebrow quizzically, "You know my name." Somehow it wasn't a question.

Boyden smirked, "News travels fast and Wolf Point's a small place. Nothing much happens in this town without me knowing. Besides it's not every day that Joseph Sandburg's long-lost grandson comes for a visit."

"So you must know why I'm here."

"To talk about my attempts to buy McKenzie's Restaurant."

"Attempts that seem to be a little too forceful, Mr. Boyden," Jim commented, his steel blue eyes never leaving the black man's dark ones.

The other man in the office, a Hulk Hogan look-alike squeezed into an Armani suit, jumped to his feet, his face red with fury, "Just what do you mean by that?"

Boyden glared at his assistant, "Eric!" his hard voice echoed through the room. "You have to forgive my assistant, Mr. Ellison. He tends to get upset very easily. Those 'forceful' attempts as you call them are just rumors. I never did any of those things I'm being wrongfully accused of. I admit I want to buy Shane's place and maybe I've been a little... intense in my negotiations with him, but that's all. All the rest is just vicious rumors started by those who oppose progress."

"Call it what you like. The fact is Shane doesn't want to sell and that's his final word. Sheriff Ashwood has his eye on you and for as long as I am in Wolf Point so will I. Remember that, Mr. Boyden," Jim nodded his head in a parting greeting. "Good day, gentlemen."

Silence reigned in the office for a few minutes. Then Eric walked over to the window and watched as Ellison crossed the street and drove away, "We have to do something, Mr. Boyden," he said.

"I agree, Eric. Are you sure the two men arrested last night won't talk?"

"Yes, I paid them enough to shut up. They know better than to double-cross me."

"Good, good... Find someone else for tonight. Someone... nasty," Boyden finished with a grin. "I want Shane McKenzie dealt with once and for all."

Bangle smiled back, "I know just the person for the job. Consider it done, Mr. Boyden. By tomorrow afternoon the McKenzie Restaurant will be yours." He paused for a moment. "And this Cascade cop?"

"He has no jurisdiction here and Ashwood has nothing on us. I own Wolf Point and I want to keep it that way. No one will stop me or get in my way." Boyden's eyes had a hard glint in their depths. "No one."



Shane put up the 'Closed' sign and collapsed on a chair with a grateful sigh, "God, I thought dinner would never be over!" he huffed, grinning happily at Blair who was seated next to him looking just as tired and just as happy. Both their grins disappeared as they took in the cleaning job ahead of them. The restaurant looked a mess.

"Shit, might as well get to it," Blair muttered, silently cursing his lover for offering to drive the Sandburgs home after they all had dinner at Shane's. They could really use another pair of hands to help out.

The two young men rose and were preparing for the hard task ahead when Tom Boyden crushed through the door, "Shane, you have to get out of here!" he said in a frantic voice.


Tom stood in front of them panting with exertion, "I heard... Lew and Eric talking over dinner. Eric hired someone to get rid of you tonight after the restaurant was closed."

"We're closed now, that means... Oh, man!" Both Blair and Tom turned to see why Shane had suddenly gone white as a sheet. They found themselves face-to-face with a monstrous looking man aiming a handgun at the three of them.

"Too late," Tom whispered brokenly.

The man grinned, "Hello, boys! Name's Riche Caddy, at ya service. I wasn't expecting such a crowd, but you know what they say, the more the merrier."

"What do you want?" Shane queried with a strange feeling of deja-vu. He'd asked that exact same question just the night before to the two men that had beaten him up.

"Well, let's see. I was hired to kill you, but I'm easy. If you pay me double what I was offered before, I might just let you all live."

"How much?"

"I was paid 10,000 dollars, so for you I'll make it 20,000 dollars."

Shane grimaced, "I can't get that kind of cash. Business hasn't exactly been booming lately."

The man raised his gun, "Too bad then, isn't it? I'll just have to kill you."

"Wait!" Blair interjected frantically. "Uh... My... my grandparents, yeah, my grandparents have money. They can get you the 20,000 dollars, maybe even more."

He was prepared to bullshit the guy some more -- after all, no way in hell someone would have that kind of cash available these days and all the banks were closed, but the man got a thoughtful expression on his face then simply nodded. Apparently he was big on muscle, not on brain. He moved to the bar where the phone was resting, his eyes never leaving the three young men. He practically threw the phone at Blair.

"Call them."

Blair made the call, silently thanking his good fortune at having memorized his grandparents' number. He listened as it rang, hoping Jim was still there, then Anna answered the phone, "Hello?"

"Hi, it's Blair. Is grandpa Jim still there?" he tried to keep the wavering from his voice, but wasn't completely successful. Hard to do that with a gun aimed at your face, he thought ruefully.

"Grandpa Jim? Child..." something in Blair's voice must've registered, because when she spoke again, she sounded frightened. "Is everything okay?"

"No. I just need to talk to him."

"Oh, God... He's talking with Joe, I'll go get him, Blair, hang on."

Not two seconds passed before Jim's worried voice came through the phone line. Blair suddenly felt safe. As long as he could talk with Jim, things would be okay.

"Blair, what's wrong?"

"Well, there's this guy here at the restaurant, he was paid to kill Shane, but if we pay him double of what he was given before, he'll let us live. I was thinking you could pay him, grandpa."

"Shit, Blair," Jim's voice choked. "What's with you and psychos?" A deep breath, and Jim the cop was on the line, replacing Jim the frantic lover. "What kind of fire power does he have? Is he alone?"

"Just one, grandpa. And yes."

"Right. One gun, and he's alone. Thanks, that should help us some. Hang on, okay? I'll be there in a few minutes. Anna will call the Sheriff as soon as I hang up. Just... don't do anything stupid, okay?"

"Right. He wants 20,000 dollars for the three of us."

"Three?" Jim queried, and Blair could almost see him frown.

"Me, Shane and Tom Boyden."

"Damn! I'm on my way, Chief."

"Uh... grandpa Jim?"


"I love you."

"I love you too, Blair. It'll be all right," Jim vowed gently, the love plain to hear in his voice. "I promise."

"It's done," Blair told the man once he hung up. "Now we have to wait."

Unnerved by the slightly dazed look of the man that held them captive, the three young men wisely sat quietly down close together to wait for help.



As soon as they arrived at the restaurant, and after making sure every possible escape route was covered, Jim and Sheriff Ashwood began to think of strategies to apprehend the man without hurting the hostages. The Sentinel had lost precious time convincing Blair's grandparents to stay home and wait for news. They were both worried sick about both Blair and Shane and had wanted to come along. But having them there would only make things worse, and Jim had finally managed to win the argument, promising to call as soon as he had freed the young men.

A car pulled over and Lewis Boyden and Eric Bangle got out, cutting through the gathering crowd to meet with Ashwood.

"What the hell is going on?" Lewis demanded. "One of your deputies called me and said my brother had been taken hostage in some situation at McKenzie's Restaurant."

Ashwood nodded, "It's true. Shane, Tom and Joe's grandson, Blair, are inside with a man holding them hostage at gun point."

"What? And what are you doing to do rescue Tom?"

"Whatever I can," Ashwood's voice turned hard. "To rescue him and keep him and the others alive. Now, if you'll excuse me..."

Whatever he was about to say next was lost as the restaurant's door was suddenly opened and the armed man walked out with Tom Boyden held against his chest as a shield against the cops.

"I have hostages!" he shouted. "I want my money. Now!"

He took a couple of steps back, dragging Tom with him, but when the young man began to struggle against his hold, the criminal lost what little patience he had. "That's it, kid! Time to make an example out of you." He lowered the pistol from Tom's temple to his leg and squeezed the trigger. Tom cried out as the bullet hit him, then fell to the ground.

"Pick him up and carry him inside!" the big man ordered, and Blair and Shane rushed to obey, the latter feeling as if his heart were about to stop as he gazed at his wounded lover. If Tom died...

The two young men busied themselves tying a tourniquet on Tom's leg to keep him from bleeding to death.

Out on the street, Jim and Ashwood lowered their guns with a curse, never having had time to get a clear shot of the bastard to end the young men's torment. Things could still get worse.

"My God..." Lewis whispered in shock, his eyes bright with unshed tears as he turned to his assistant. "What kind of psycho did you hire? My brother..." his voice broke on the last word. "Tom's the only good thing in my life, the only thing that truly matters... You bastard!" he suddenly roared, his face inches from Eric's.

"I only did what you wanted!" Eric shouted back. "A nasty bastard to kill Shane, that's what you said, isn't it? Well, Caddy's the sickest bastard I ever met, an ex-con with no conscience. He was perfect! Not my fault that weakling you call a brother got caught in the middle!"

Before things could get any worse between the two men, Sheriff Ashwood approached them, a huge grin lighting up his face, "Gentlemen, you are both under arrest. You just confessed to hiring that man to kill Shane McKenzie in front of several officers of the law." he chuckled. "No getting out this time, Lewis. Mr. Bangle, would you be so kind as to tell us the name of the man you hired? It might save us some time."

"Richard Caddy," came the sullen reply.

"Thank you. Harry, take them away and read them their rights. I don't want anything to go wrong with the arrest."

"Yes, Sheriff."

"Well," Ashwood told Jim after the two men were taken away. "Half the problem's gone. I can't believe it was that simple. Especially after years of trying to get Boyden to make a false move. Who would've thought his love for his brother would be his downfall?" the Sheriff shook his head in perplexity. "Now we need to get that guy to release the hostages without any more bloodshed."

Jim nodded wearily, "That's what I'm worried about, Sheriff," he muttered, his senses straining to keep tabs on his lover. For the moment Blair was okay, although his heart was hammering in his chest, but they still had to stop the madman.

"Sheriff!" the criminal yelled from inside the restaurant.


"You have two hours to get me my money. After that I start shooting again."

"Right!" Ashwood turned to Jim. "What money is he talking about?"

Jim told him about his phone conversation with Blair and the Sheriff nodded in understanding. "You have a very smart partner, Mr. Ellison. That money and the man's greed are probably the only thing keeping them alive. Now if we can only keep them that way..."



Time was ticking away at an unbelieveably slow pace for everyone involved in the hostage situation. The cops tried to negotiate with the man, but Caddy refused to answer the phone or to speak through the window. He remained seated on top of a table in the back of the restaurant, his eyes resting on his hostages, occasionally straying to the clock on the wall.

Blair and Shane watched helplessly as Tom grew weaker by the moment, both sitting close to the injured man, both silently hoping the people outside managed to get them out of that terrible mess before it would be too late.

"You tricked me," Caddy told Blair suddenly, his voice sounding oddly calm.


"Your grandparents can't have that much cash at home and the banks are closed. You called the cops instead, didn't you? That's why they suddenly showed up outside. Get up!" he ordered angrily. "Both of you, get up!"

"The two hours aren't up yet, maybe they'll..." Shane tried desperately.

"I won't fall for that again! I'm getting out of here and the two of you are going to help me. Now, let's go!"

When the door of the restaurant opened anew, every law officer in the place reached for their guns and aimed, Jim included. Maybe this time they'd get lucky.

Blair and Shane walked out first, slowly, side by side, Caddy hidden behind them.

"I want a car to drive out of here, or these two'll die!" Caddy shouted. "Do you hear me, Sheriff?"

"I hear you, hang on a minute. I'll see what I can do."

"Make it fast!"

Blair peered over his shoulder, "What about us?"

"I'll let you go as soon as I'm safe," Caddy told them, but both Blair and Shane could tell he was lying. The two young men locked gazes. They had to do something before it was too late.

'Right', Shane suddenly mouthed and Blair frowned in confusion. Shane moved slightly away from him, to his own right and Blair understood. 'Left' he mouthed back and saw Shane nodding very lightly so Caddy couldn't see.

Blair looked straight ahead, his eyes finding Jim and locking with his lover's, "Jim," he whispered Sentinel soft. "Get ready," he could see Jim's jaw clenching as he understood Blair was up to something, then the cop said something to the Sheriff and both men took careful aim. "Shane and I are going to move away just about... Now!" Blair shouted and jumped to the left, as at the same time Shane jumped in the opposite direction.

Caddy blinked as he found himself without his human shields, but by the time his drugged mind told him to react it was too late. His shot was lost amidst the confusion. Jim's was not. By the time everyone began to take stock of what had happened, Richie Caddy lay dead on the ground.



Richie Caddy, it turned out, was an ex-con with a drug addiction and no money to support it. It was already dawn when everything was finally taken care of and Sheriff Ashwood allowed the two partners to go back to the Inn for some much needed rest.

"Did you call your grandparents?" Jim queried as they were undressing for the night. Or the day, he thought ruefully.

"Yeah. They were so relieved when they heard my voice... made me feel really good, you know? Anyway, I swore I was okay, and that Shane was too, gave them a short version of what happened and told them about Tom. We're going to meet them in the afternoon and drive to the hospital to see Tom. Think he'll be okay?"

They snuggled down on the bed. Jim spooned behind his lover, surrounding the sturdy body with strong arms. "Yes. You and Shane did a great job keeping Tom from bleeding to death, and the hospital isn't too far. Plus Shane is with him. Those two will be just fine," the Sentinel finished with a smile.

"Just like us," Blair grinned.

Jim chuckled, "Just like us. Sleepy?" he purred, his groin sliding enticingly over his lover's bottom.

Blair chortled, "Not any more!"

He rolled over slowly, smiling up at Jim who was crawling languidly on top of the younger man, blanketing him with his larger body.

"You know, Blair, one of these days we're going to have a little talk about those stunts you pull to get yourself out of danger. Jumping out of Caddy's way might not have worked if the man hadn't been drugged to his eyeballs."

"Hey, it was Shane's idea, not mine!"

"Right," Jim told him sarcastically. "I didn't see you arguing with him."

Blair grinned, "I couldn't, could I? Caddy would know something was up."



"Shut up," Jim ordered with a teasing smile, leaning over for a passionate kiss. Blair was there with him, alive and pliant in his arms, and that was enough. It would always be enough as long as they were together.

Their mouths met again in a slow, lingering kiss, their tongues dueling for supremacy while Blair's hands traveled down his lover's flanks, down to the powerful hips and thighs, taking the Sentinel to higher levels of arousal. Their hard cocks brushed against each other, the touch inflaming them, and control was a thing of the past. They rolled about in the bed, bodies entwined, wrestling playfully, until Jim finally used his bigger bulk to pin his lover down.

Jim found his partner's mouth anew and nipped on that enticing full lower lip, his tongue sliding over it sensually, dragging a small whimper out of Blair. Jim released the lush mouth with a regretful sigh, then began nibbling his way down Blair's neck, kissing and licking the musky skin, feeling as his lover wrapped his arms around him, nimble fingers caressing his back.

"Jim..." Just a whisper, Sentinel soft, but it made the older man shudder.

Blair thrust his hips up against his lover's, frantic, wanting Jim to make love to him. He moved his body against Jim's, flesh sliding over heated flesh, stroking the taut chest with greedy hands, caressing the strong pecs, fingers brushing over pebbled nipples.

Jim pushed down against Blair with his whole body, trembling as his lover thrust back. They were both lost in delirious sensation, in the pleasure, touching every part of the other they could reach, hands and mouths caressing, lapping, sucking, nibbling, calves and thighs sliding together as body moved against body.

Rubbing their bodies together with fierce passion, lips locked in a devouring kiss, they drove each other closer to the edge until Jim's lips parted from Blair's, his voice suddenly filling the room as he shouted his lover's name, head thrown back, body rocking as he came, the shattering release shaking him utterly.

His fingers closed around Blair's still erect cock, pumping a couple of times as his lover thrust into his hand. It was all it took for Blair to climax as well, shuddering in ecstasy.

"If that was my punishment for going along with Shane's plan," Blair panted a few seconds later. "I have to tell you, I think you're going about it all wrong, Jim."

"Moron," came the mumble from his lover. Jim was draped over Blair's smaller form, their legs entwined, his head resting on Blair's shoulder.

The younger man snickered, and embraced his Sentinel, "I love you," he whispered softly.

"I love you too," Jim replied just before surrendering to his exhaustion, but his lover didn't hear him; he was already fast asleep.



The phone disturbed them a few hours later. From the sun coming in by the window, Jim guessed it was already midmorning.

"Hello?" he muttered, his voice rough from sleep.

"Jim, it's Anna. I'm at the hospital," her breath hitched. "Joe collapsed during breakfast. The doctors told me the cancer has spread, that's what caused the collapse. He had a complete system failure, his body is shutting down... Oh, God! Jim, he's dying... my Joe is dying..." she began to cry earnestly and Jim felt utterly helpless. It wasn't a feeling he was comfortable with. He was used to reaching out, doing something, taking action. But not even him, with the Sentinel gift given to him, could fight this terrible disease.

"It's okay, Anna," he said gently, with a calm he didn't really feel at the moment. "I'm going to wake Blair up, we'll be there soon, I promise. Hang on tight, okay, Sweetheart?"

He could hear her take deep, shuddering breaths in an effort to control her emotions, "I'm okay, I just... Thank you, Jim. I'll be waiting."

Anna hung up and Jim turned to his peacefully sleeping lover, shaking him gently, "Blair, wake up. Blair!"

"This better be good, Ellison!" came the mumble from under the covers.

"Come on, Chief, we have to get up."

Blair sat up and blinked sleepily, his eyes settling on his lover's pale face and worried frown, "What's wrong?"

Jim took his hand gently in both of his, "Anna just called, Blair. Joseph is in the hospital."

"Oh, God! What happened?"

"From what I understood, the cancer spread and caused his body to shut down. Blair," Jim hesitated slightly, wondering if there was an easier way to say it. He couldn't find it. "...he's dying."

Blair turned hurt filled eyes on his lover, "Jim..." he seemed to be pleading for something, his blue orbs shining with unshed tears.

Jim hugged him tightly, sharing his lover's pain, "I know, Blair, I know... We'll be okay, it's okay..." he rocked them together until Blair was calm enough to get up and get dressed. Jim figured he must have broken every traffic law in existence to make it to the hospital.



Blair's breath caught painfully as he walked into the hospital room and his eyes fell on his grandfather's too still form resting on the impersonal white bed. He looked so frail lying there, with all those wires and machines beeping all around him.

Blair moved closer and reached gently for Joseph's cold hand, keeping it secure between his own warmer hands.


The young man looked up and found his grandfather's shining eyes resting on him. He tried valiantly to smile in an effort to hide his despair from the older man.

"Hey, there... thought you were sleeping."

"Nah," came the whispered reply. "I'm glad you're okay... we... I was worried last night. I know... we talked on the phone, but... it's great to actually see you..."

This time Blair's smile was genuine, if a little shaky, "I know. I could tell how scared you were when I called. I... it meant the world to me, Joseph... to know you cared, I mean..."

The older man closed his eyes and was silent for so long, Blair thought he'd fallen asleep.

"Blair," Joseph finally whispered. "I think... I'd like it very much if you called... me grandfather or grandpa if you prefer," he said, his eyes filled with amusement.

"Okay," Blair choked, his vision blurring suddenly. He blinked the tears away. "Shit... I'm sorry," he muttered, wiping a few rebellious tears from his cheeks.

Joseph squeezed his hand weakly, "It's okay, Blair, honest... I suspect my death will be a lot harder on all of you... I accepted the fact that I was dying some... time ago... I had a good, long life... lived well... my only regret..." he seemed to be tiring rapidly. "I need you to do me a favor... when you see your... Naomi, tell her that... I never stopped loving her, that I forgive her and hope she forgives me too, that... that it's okay..."

Blair nodded brokenly, completely incapable at the moment to stop the tears that fell freely down his face. It wasn't fair! It wasn't supposed to be like that! He was supposed to get to know his grandfather better, Naomi was supposed to get there in time... He wanted to shout out his pain, to break something, to cry until there were no more tears, to crawl somewhere and never come out again. He wanted to make Joseph healthy again, he wanted a miracle to happen so that everything would be okay once more. But nothing happened, nothing changed. No miracle. Joseph was still lying in the hospital bed... dying.

"And Blair..." Joseph caressed his grandson's cheek with a thin, shaking hand. "I'm damn proud of you... I couldn't have asked for a better grandson... the way you help others, the way you care... I'm glad you came and... I love you, Blair..."

Moved beyond words by the emotion he could see in the older man's eyes, Blair leaned down and brushed his lips over his Joseph's forehead, "I love you too, grandfather... I'm glad Anna wrote... I love you..."

Joseph brushed his fingers against Blair's cheeks, wiping away the fresh tears. He smiled and nodded, a peaceful expression settling over his face.

"I'm going to sleep now. Call Anna for me?"

Blair nodded back, "Okay. I'll be back later to see you again, grandfather. Sleep well," giving the older man another tender kiss on the forehead and squeezing the hand he still held, Blair finally left the room feeling totally drained and completely numb. Soon the numbness would disappear and the pain would be unbearable, but for now it allowed him to function and help Anna through her own pain. Jim would be there for him later when it was time for him to grieve.

He wiped his face and took a deep breath before joining the others in the deserted waiting room. As soon as she saw him, Anna rose and nearly ran to embrace him.

"Okay?" she asked softly, her voice muffled by his shirt.

"Yeah," Blair sighed tiredly. "We talked a bit. He... said some stuff I needed to hear. What about you?"

Anna nodded slightly, sighing in gratitude as they both felt Jim wrap his arms around the two of them in silent support, "I knew this moment would come, thought I was prepared, but still... it's so very hard!" she said fiercely. "I love him so much, I don't want to let go..."

"I don't want him to die either, I've only just met you two. But... there's nothing we can do," Blair said softly, feeling his eyes blurring again. "At least there's no pain and... I don't know how to explain it, but I feel a sense of peace coming from him... I think he's finally at peace with himself and what happened with me and my mother," he took a shuddering breath. "God, I wish she were here!"

"Things don't always work as we want them to," Anna sighed and backed away from the two men. "But you being here has been more than enough. And I can't tell you what it means to me. Thank you both."

Blair kissed her gently on the cheek, "He wants to see you. Think you'll be okay?"

She smiled sadly, "Yes. I promise to call if it gets too hard."

They watched her walk silently into the room, then Jim turned his gaze on his lover, "Blair?"

"Jim, would you do something for me?"

"Of course, Blair! What?"

"Kiss me... please?"

"Oh, God..." Jim moaned and embraced his lover gently, leaning down and letting his mouth cover Blair's in a desperate kiss. They both poured every emotion they were feeling into the kiss, the pain, the hurt, the anger, the sadness, the helplessness...

It took them both a few minutes to realize they were no longer alone. When they parted, they found themselves face-to-face with the woman standing frozen at the room's entrance.

"Naomi!" Blair exclaimed, his voice a mix of dread and happiness.

Naomi stood before the two men, her usually animated face for once showing only a blank expression.

"I take it this is a recent thing?" she asked in a casual tone, but Blair thought he could see her lips twitching slightly.

The two lovers exchanged an embarrassed glance, "Pretty much, yeah," Blair finally mumbled.

"Good," she stated finally, a grin crossing her face although it didn't quite reach her eyes. "We'll have to talk about this later. And Jim, hurt my baby and your ass is mine. But now... I went to the Inn and they told me you were here. My father?" she asked in a pleading voice, chocolate irises bright with unshed tears.

Blair took her hand tenderly, "Come with me."

He took Naomi to Joseph's room and knocked lightly on the door before peeking inside. His grandfather was awake, talking quietly with Anna who sat by the bed, holding his hand lovingly. They smiled at him.

"What is it, Blair?" Anna queried gently.

"I have a surprise for you." Blair held open the door, allowing Naomi to enter the room.

"Naomi!" Anna shouted, rushing to her child and hugging her fiercely, both mother and daughter crying brokenly. They never noticed Blair leaving the room.

"Oh, mom..." Naomi whispered, her own arms embracing Anna just as tightly. "I'm sorry for everything, I'm so very sorry..."

They stayed locked in each other's arms until Anna run out of tears. She pulled back regretfully, her eyes roaming over her daughter eagerly, "Naomi," she breathed softly. "You look wonderful!"

Naomi smiled sadly, "So do you, mom. And God, I never realized how much Blair takes after you!" her gaze turned to the bed and the man lying there watching her with an unreadable expression on his face. "Dad?" even to her own ears, Naomi's voice sounded small and hesitant.

Joseph Sandburg extended a hand towards his daughter. It was all it took. Naomi ran to him and fell on the bed, her head on her father's shoulder as she hugged him as fiercely as she'd hugged her mother.

"God, I missed you so much... I'm so sorry..."

"Shh... it's okay, Naomi, everything's okay now, Butterfly," he soothed as he caressed her head lovingly, his fingers carding through her silky hair. "I love you, Naomi..."

"I love you too," she raised her head and looked at Joseph, "Can you forgive me? I've always regretted running away like that, but after a while it was easier to just keep running than to come back and face you. All I could think was how disappointed you had to be... I didn't have the courage to turn back and I should've. I..."

Her father stopped her gently, a finger brushing over her lips, "I forgive you, Butterfly... We both made a mistake and we both paid... for it... It's time to let the past rest... You're here and... that's all that matters..."

Naomi nodded, "I love you, dad, always have."

Joseph smiled at her, then turned his gaze on his wife, "You were right... we all needed the closure..." he sighed tiredly. "I think I'm going... to sleep a little more now," his eyes were filled with love as he looked at the two women. "I love you both," he whispered softly.

His eyes closed slowly, his heart gave one last beat, then everything was over.



They were the last ones leaving after the funeral. Blair watched as Jim wrapped a gentle arm around Anna, guiding her to the waiting car, while he and Naomi followed a little behind.

"I never asked how you ended up getting here on time," Blair said.

"We returned from the Amazon earlier than expected. One of the friends I was with broke a leg, so we all decided to come back, and I got the messages from the people you had contacted. I called Simon, and he told me you were at the Homestead Inn, so as soon as I got here I drove to the Inn. The receptionist told me what happened."

"Why did you tell me they threw you out?" Blair asked suddenly, a question that'd been plaguing him for days.

Naomi took a deep breath, "I started regretting running away almost from the day I left. At the time I was just so angry! Angry with my father for wanting to rule my life, for wanting me to marry some guy I didn't even know just because I was pregnant, angry at my mother because she always supported his decisions... I never thought about what my behavior was doing to them, how much they were also suffering. All I wanted was to live my own life," she sighed unhappily. "And once I was out on my own I realized the mistake I'd made, how hard life really was when you had no one to depend on, but by then..."

"They would've taken you back."

"I know that now, but at the time I didn't think so. So I kept going, living my life as best as I could, raising you the best way I could. And then you began to ask about your family and I just couldn't bring myself to tell you the truth. It was easier to make something up, something that would make you never want to look them up. So I told you that they threw me out and you never asked again," Naomi sighed again, her eyes following her mother's weary form. "You know, I heard a song yesterday that said something like 'What I used to be ain't what I am.' If I could just go back in time... We lost so much time..."

"But you said good-bye to your father and you and Anna are together again. Joseph was right, let it go, Naomi, or it'll eat you up alive. Stay here with Anna for a few months, help her recover from grandfather's death, get to know her again. It will heal you both."

She turned to her son and smiled softly. "When did you get to be so wise?"

Blair smiled back, "I take after my mother. You did a good job raising me, you know?"

She nodded, accepting the statement as the truth, then turned serious eyes on her son. "Blair, about what I saw at the hospital..."


"Just how seriously are you and Jim involved? Are you sure this relationship is what you want for your life? You know I love Jim and I'm not really surprised with the way your relationship changed, I could see it coming for some time now, but I can't help worrying. I mean, being a gay couple isn't exactly an easy thing even now, especially in the world Jim works in and..."

"Naomi," Blair interjected softly. "Jim's 'The One.' He showed me what I really want from life, mom."

"Which is?" Naomi queried, a gentle smile caressing her face.

"Someone to be there alongside me until the death do us part thing. Someone to laugh with, to cry with, someone to fall asleep by my side and wake up next to me, bad breath and all," he quipped. "Someone to talk to, be silent with, to agree with, to fight with, someone to share the magic, the good, the bad, and the lousy stuff in life, someone to pick me up when I'm feeling down, someone I can offer shelter to on a rainy day," he shrugged. "Someone, Naomi. And Jim's definitely that someone."

She stopped walking and turned to her son with a smile, "Then I'm happy for you both. I'll always worry, but I understand," she hugged him tightly. "You can count on me, Sweetie."

He sighed happily, "Thanks, mom."

Naomi nodded and they began walking back to the car again. She took one last look at her father's final resting place, a deep sorrow inside her heart. Yes, she'd said good-bye and had been forgiven, and she was slowly rebuilding her relationship with her mother. But the regret would always be with her -- a part of her would always wonder what those thirty years could've been like if she'd stayed. But it was too late now. The only thing left to do was learn to live with the past, let it become a part of her, and concentrate on the future.

Breathing softly, Naomi wrapped a loving arm around her son's shoulder and continued walking through the path that lead out of the cemetery.


Final note: This story contained original artwork. If you want to see the artwork done for story or if you want to read any of the other stories in the SVS, click on the link below.

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