What I was thinking when I wrote this: we are grateful for Jim and Blair for our varied reasons so I figured others must have reasons too. Therefore, I wrote this from several points of views and each narrative gives us insight into why some people are thankful for our handsome duo. Hey, it's a holiday piece... please be gentle with me. :-)
Second: this piece is laying groundwork for future Family stories, therefore you may be disappointed by the lack of certain details (like conversations between the different players). Be assured the omissions were deliberate and not just my way of posting a story quickly. Think of this as a singles' mixer; it's not what's said at the party, but the dates after it that are interesting.
"Fine," Adam said wearily, wondering why he had even tried to talk them out of it. Father wasn't Father purely because of his good looks and when Raleigh teamed up with him... the fight was over long before it started. "But I want to make sure everyone knows exactly whose idea this was." The Elder was not fond of surprises.
"Don't worry, Adam," Father said as he stepped into the plane. "Raleigh and I both know who came up with the idea of a surprise trip to Cascade."
"Good," he replied with relief as he settled into the seat across from the two elder men.
Father and Raleigh looked at each other with matching twinkles in their eyes. "It was yours!" they chorused and were still laughing heartily as the plane took off.
Captain Simon Banks walked into the Major Crimes bullpen and was surprised to see a certain long-locked man sitting at his partner's desk idly batting around a tissue paper turkey. "Sandburg, why aren't you home getting my turkey ready instead of abusing that one?" he asked one half of his best-performing detective team. Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison had invited him over for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow since his son Daryl was out of town on a school fieldtrip.
"Jim had to clear up something down in lock up," Blair replied, straightening the little paper fellow that adorned all the detectives' desks. Rhonda, the unit's secretary, had gone a bit overboard in decorating for Thanksgiving. But, according to her, this was nothing compared to what she had in mind for Christmas. Simon was beginning to wonder if starting a 'morale' fund, actually a jar in the break room, had been such a bright idea. Must have come from Sandburg.
"Why don't I like the sound of that?" the captain asked with a sigh when it hit him what Blair had said. Ellison 'clearing up' something in another department. Did not bode well for someone. He wondered if he should go down now and interfere or wait until the paperwork hit his desk.
"A patrolman picked up one of his snitches for pickpocketing," Blair replied.
"Well, even our 'pet' crooks have to toe the line."
"Jim knows that, but this is Reggie." Simon just stared at him. "Reggie has a sister with Down's Syndrome. She lives over at a group home in Seattle. Every holiday, Reggie catches a bus and goes to see her. In fourteen years, he's never missed a single major holiday. Always makes sure he's not doing time or in the middle of something when it's time for him to go."
"So what happened this time?"
Blair shrugged. "That's what Jim is trying to find out."
Simon shook his head. Jim Ellison was one of those men you could never figure out. All hard military on the outside and usually hard on the inside when it came to criminals. Hell, he had been hard on the inside period until Blair Sandburg came into his life and mellowed him to consistency of a marshmallow. Now, he was trying to get a prisoner sprung for Thanksgiving? An enigma, a true enigma.
"And there he is, ladies and gentlemen, anthropologist by day, cop by night," a voice called out drolly.
Blair and Simon turned simultaneously but their reactions were far from similar. Whereas Blair's face brightened into a smile that attracted women within a 100 foot radius, Simon's glare had them retreating almost immediately. Adam Black was not one of his favorite people. Adam was part of Jim's hidden past, which unfortunately had not stayed hidden. He had discovered rather abruptly that Jim was the heir apparent to a group known as the Family. The Family was a watchdog organization dedicated to keeping science under control
"Adam! I didn't know you were visiting Mandy for the holidays," Blair said excitedly.
"Hadn't planned on it, but then two gnarled up gnomes changed my mind."
"I have a great recipe for holiday beets," someone offered dryly.
Blair jumped up with a yelp of surprise when he saw Adam wasn't alone. "Raleigh! Father!" He hugged them. "Why didn't you tell us you were coming?"
Father and Raleigh. Simon eyed the newcomers judiciously. He knew the names but had never met them. Of the Family, he'd only had contact with Adam. He had found the man to be smoothly polite but the dark eyes were cold, calculating, and sometimes scary. Okay, he would admit that maybe Adam appeared so threatening because he'd only met him in dire situations. Adam had come to provide security when an old enemy of Jim's had shot not only the detective, but his partner and captain as well. Then when Jim was hit by a car... Definitely not the best of times, but still, he had spent his whole life in a career where judging men quickly occasionally meant the difference between life and death. He would stand by his original assessment until it was proven otherwise.
"And Simon, this is Father and Raleigh," Blair was saying and he automatically stuck out his hand.
"Ah, captain. I've been wanting to meet you for a long time and thank you," Father said and Simon was instantly aware of how much Jim and Father looked alike. The eyes...
"Thank me for what?"
"Taking care of my boy--" he looked at Blair paternally and corrected himself-- "boys for so long. I know they can be a handful, but you're always there to bail them out of a jam. You don't know how much peace that gives an old man."
"Glad I could be of help," Simon replied brusquely. "Duty calls, gentlemen. The work on my desk is piling up as we speak. It was nice meeting you," he added perfunctorily, escape on his mind.
"Well, you'll get to know each other tomorrow. You're coming for the whole day, right?"
"Sandburg," Simon began, "you're going to have enough company without me. We can do this some other time."
"Ah, come on, Simon. More people will just mean more fun."
"We didn't mean to interrupt any plans you had," Father said quickly.
"You didn't. You aren't," Blair replied firmly. "Simon's coming over as planned. Right, sir?"
The captain heard the added "sir" and knew it was time to give in. The word held promises of retaliation and between the anthropologist and his partner... Simon shuddered. "Sure, Sandburg."
He left before he could be talked into anything else.
"Who are the celebrities?" Detective Brian Rafe asked his partner, Henri Brown.
"Well, Hair Boy called one of them Father, but I think it's Jim's dad and uncle. They showed up with his brother, Adam Black. Why call them celebs?"
"You should see the size of the limo they arrived in and there are bodyguards surrounding it."
"Isn't Black the head of a security agency? Maybe he trains his operatives on his family first," Brown guessed.
"Operatives? You make it sound like a spy..." Rafe looked at Adam Black again. Tailored suit, expressionless eyes... Maybe it wasn't such an off idea. "That's a strange one, isn't he?"
"Who? Black? Yeah, but he's Jim brother so he's got to be okay. Speaking of..." Brown's words trailed off as Jim came down the hall with a huge grin on his face. Words were exchanged, then he enthusiastically embraced the older men. "Sorta makes these turkeys pale in comparison."
"Huh?" Rafe was usually pretty good at following his partner's thoughts, but he'd been so busy observing the reunion by the door, he hadn't been paying attention.
"These turkeys and streamers are supposed to get us in the mood for Thanksgiving, but what's a better advertisement than that?" he asked, angling his head toward the loving group by the door. "I'm going home and calling my mama tonight."
"Like you don't do that every night," Rafe teased. "But I know what you mean, Henri. When I first transferred to Major Crimes, I never expected to see this side of Ellison. He was so tough, hard-edged. I mean I could see how he was with Blair but I thought that was a fluke. Now he's this ..."
"Poster Boy for Family Life? Still wouldn't say that to his face if I were you."
"I'm not that crazy. But..." He stopped, embarrassed by what he was going to say.
"When I'm at my family's tomorrow and we bow our heads to silently think about what we're thankful for, Poster Boy and Hair Boy are going to be on my list."
Brown patted his partner's shoulder in solidarity. "I'll add an amen to that thought myself."
"Mom! Why didn't you tell me you were coming!"
Naomi Sandburg felt her son's arms come around her in the hallway outside his home and realized he still had the power to make her feel like the most loved person in the world. "I wanted to surprise you, darling. Are you happy to see me?"
"And what about you, Jim?" she asked her son's roommate and friend.
"I'm always glad to see you as well, Naomi," Jim said, giving her a friendly hug. Naomi smiled. Although Jim's embrace didn't stir the same feelings her son's hug had, it nevertheless stirred. "Looks like we're going to have a full house for the holidays, Chief."
Chief. She didn't know why he called her son that, but the warmth in the title was obvious. She'd had her doubts when she found out Blair was not only living with a cop but acting as his partner. She had raised her son to be much more accepting than a cop, giving him rein to make his own interpretations of good and bad. Apparently, his interpretation had coincided with Jim Ellison's and for the first time in his entire unorthodox life, Blair had managed to surprise her. Starting college at sixteen, the postcards and letters from various places around the world, finding him with more hair than she had, had merely garnered smiles and warm feelings of pride. But how could her Blair-- a gentle peace-loving soul who only showed anger in times of extreme injustice have anything in common with not just a cop, but a former soldier, a hired executioner for a fascist regime?
The reality of it had defied explanation and it had taken industrial-strength meditation to resolve herself to the fact that her Blair was happy in this life of guns and violence-- meditation and the resonating brilliance of his aura when he was with his detective. "I'm not going to be in the way, am I?" she asked when she realized what Jim had said.
"Of course not," Blair assured her. "This is working out wonderfully. We just saw Jim's family to their hotel and now we have you and-- Jim! The turkey isn't going to be big enough! Adam's going to bring Mandy, right? That means we're feeding eight so far. Here, Mom, take my key and make yourself at home. Jim and I have some shopping to do."
Before she could say anything, Blair had pushed Jim back into the elevator and they were gone. Smiling at how easily Blair led the larger man around, she let herself into the loft. Hmm. It had changed slightly since her last visit. The first time she had come, Jim's strong emanations had dominated the place. The next time, her son's eclectic flair had dramatically taken over. Now, there seemed to be balance, a gentle melding of both men's essences into a soothing harmony. Somehow they had created a haven, a refuge from the negative energies they encountered in their work, a place where shattered nerves could heal and turbulent thoughts could find rest. She had been to many communes and enlightenment centers, talked to gurus and spiritual advisors, participated in purification rituals and other ceremonies, but had never achieved the state of perfection she felt enveloping her son's home.
All it needed now was a touch of incense.
"How many did you say?" Rachel Appleton asked the young man who stood before the meat counter, bouncing excitedly on the balls of his feet. She knew him to be a good man. He and his partner, who was over on aisle three taking the last bags of stuffing (she could hear him sneezing), were the best thing that had happened to this neighborhood where she and her husband had raised their five children. There had been a time when she thought the place was going to go the way of most inner city areas. Even when the detective moved in with his wife, the criminals had merely taken to the shadows. Then suddenly everything had changed. Word had it that the detective had taken in a boarder and this young man had started making himself at home in the neighborhood. Reluctantly, the detective had joined his friend in getting to know the area and the more involved they got, the more the criminals had to slink about. Finally, they had slinked off to other parts of the city.
"Eight," Blair repeated, then frowned. The bodyguards needed to eat too. Wasn't fair for them not to enjoy Thanksgiving. "Uh, make that more than eight. I already have one at home and you said you had two fresh turkeys left? Well, wrap them up for me, please. Hey, Jim? Think Simon will let us borrow his oven?"
"You can borrow mine," Rachel said. "We have a double oven upstairs."
"But don't you have your own dinner to cook?" Blair asked in concern.
She shook her head. "With all the kids living out of town, me and Ben don't go to the trouble anymore. Tell you what. I'll just cook both of these birds for you and you can come pick them up tomorrow. It'll be fun cooking for a big group again." When her children had been growing up, she'd gotten used to fixing huge meals. In fact, it had taken her months to learn to cook for just two.
"We can't accept that, Mrs. Appleton," Blair protested and Rachel realized just how much she had been looking forward to it. She was even going to do the stuffing and maybe a cake just to show her appreciation. Her disappointment must have been evident because the young man suddenly flashed her a grin and added, "Unless you and Mr. Appleton join us."
"That's sweet of you, Blair. But you already have your family coming--"
"You guys are family too. Aren't they, Jim?"
The detective couldn't have possibly overheard the conversation, but he appeared at the end of the aisle with a shopping basket straining at its seams. "Of course they are. Just give us a call and I'll send Sandburg over to haul the heavy stuff." He sneezed again. "Sage," he hastily explained. She smiled sympathetically. No wonder the poor man eats at Wonder Burger as much as he can. He's probably allergic to anything that actually has taste.
"Hey, I'm the brains of the outfit, remember," Blair was complaining. "You're the brawn, Jim."
"What would your mother say if she heard you labeling people, Sandburg? Although I did notice her admiring my rippling muscles earlier."
"That's my mom, Jim!"
Rachel laughed and, for the first in years, looked forward to Thanksgiving.
"Hey, copper!" the youth said sneeringly as he leaned against the door of the bakery.
"Who you calling copper, kid?" the detective replied, stalking over to face his leather-wearing adversary. "What are you doing back in my neighborhood?"
Matt Rodriguez smiled. "A guy can't come home for Thanksgiving? We college students need the break, man."
"As if you didn't have fall break a couple of weeks ago," Jim pointed out, shaking Matt's hand. "I have knowledge of the intimate workings of a college schedule, remember?"
"How could I forget? Without Blair's tutoring, I would never have had the grades to make it into Washington State and without your backing, detective, I never would have gotten that scholarship."
"Glad this glare showed the committee members the error of their ways. You still insisting on being a criminal justice major?"
"How else am I going to follow in the steps of my hero?" Matt grinned as the detective grimaced. Gratitude always rubbed him the wrong way. Like stroking a cat against its grain, it left him ruffled.
"Did you just drop in to say hi or are you planning to buy something?" Jim asked, deftly changing the subject. "Mr. Ricolla is in the back checking to see if he has any pies left."
"For the big family dinner, huh?" The detective looked at him. "It's all over the neighborhood. That's why I'm here, by the way. Mama wanted to know if you wanted to borrow our old highchair?"
"Yeah, a limo just deposited a woman and a baby in front of the loft. Figured it was more of your family." Matt watched as the cop seemed to focus on something else just for a second. He'd seen him do it before and he accepted it as something the detective did-- a seemingly harmless quirk because it didn't seem to hinder him in anyway.
"My sister and niece," the detective replied a second later with a huge grin. It was obvious that even if they were unexpected, they were welcome. "Tell your mom thanks. I'll be over for the chair--"
"I'll bring it over," Matt offered with a shrug. "My way of saying thanks." After all, it was that time of the year.
Margaret Atwood turned up her hearing aids and glanced at her ceiling. Finally, it seemed that the gentlemen upstairs had settled down. All day long there had been comings and goings from their apartment. From her window, she had seen limousines drop people off and neighborhood folks had brought offerings of furniture-- a baby seat and a huge dining table which they had had to carry up the stairs because it wouldn't fit in the elevator. From the voices passing by her door she figured out that family had unexpectedly shown up and a big dinner was being put together for Thanksgiving. It was really impractical to try for something that huge at the last minute, and only men would be so foolish as to make the attempt, but apparently their friends were helping out and they were going to succeed.
She sighed and used her cane to hobble over to the cedar chest at the foot of her bed. She too, was a friend of theirs. Without their help, she'd probably be living in an old folks home by now or, most probably, dead because she'd rather be dead than to be surrounded by the dying in one of those places. But they had helped arrange for Social Services to send someone once a week to help her around the apartment, a home care nurse made regular visits, and someone called every morning to check on her. On trash day, she merely put her tiny bag outside the door and it disappeared. They had even set up a button for her to push if she needed help during the night. Guess it's about time for me to show my appreciation too.
She knocked gently at their door, her hand not having the strength it used to have, but it must have been hard enough because the detective answered immediately. In his arms he carried the most beautiful baby. "Margaret, is something wrong?" he asked quickly, shifting the baby so he could take her elbow and guide her to a chair. "We haven't been making too much noise, have we?"
The other young man appeared at his side, looking at her anxiously. "I'm fine, gentlemen. What an extraordinary baby you have there, detective. She has your eyes."
Jim reddened at the implication. "This is my niece, Jamie Lin. Say hello to Mrs. Atwood, lass."
Margaret could have sworn she felt something float across the air and settle in her ear. Just the tiniest of greetings. Ah, her hearing aids must be getting feedback again. But her nose was working well. "It smells 'interesting' in here," she said delicately.
Jim burst out laughing. "Sandburg and his mother," a red-haired woman waved from the kitchen, "are making some kind of brew for tomorrow. Blair, maybe you should go stir the cauldron some more. It's getting a little strong in here."
"Oh, you are so not funny, Jim. It's a punch that has to set overnight before it reaches its peak, Margaret. It will taste like ambrosia by dinnertime tomorrow."
The detective rolled his eyes. "So, is there something we can do for you or did you just come to visit? It would be nice to participate in adult conversation for a while." A tiny hand reached up to smack his cheek while a bigger one socked him in the arm. "No one around here takes a joke very well," he explained, glaring at the two offenders.
"Actually, I came to do something for you." She held out the tissue-wrapped bundle she had tucked under one arm. "I left Germany in 1935. My family could foresee the danger ahead and they put together everything they had to buy me and my brother tickets for the steamer headed to America. I packed two dresses and this." Blair unwrapped the bundle and gasped at the startling white lace tablecloth. "My mother made lace to feed the family. After several years, she had enough material left over to make this tablecloth for herself. She gave it to me and told me to pass it down to my children so that something of hers, not just something she made for someone else but for her own family, would always exist... I never saw her again." Hands enveloped hers and she took a few seconds to compose herself.
"Outliving my husband was something to be expected. Outliving my own children was not. But I made my mother a promise and I want to keep it. I'm passing this cloth to you. Use it in good health, gentlemen."
"Margaret, we couldn't," they both began, then stopped when they realized they were both talking.
"It belongs in your family," Blair said.
"Your brother has family? Maybe you could contact them," Jim suggested reasonably.
Margaret felt tears in her eyes again. She had known this was the way they would react. So nobly predictable. "There are grandnieces and nephews somewhere, I'm sure, and will make a one-time only appearance at my funeral to make sure they get their cut of whatever crazy Aunt Margaret has packed away in her apartment. But Mama wanted this passed on to someone who would care that it was handmade, who would understand the love that was put into its making. That's why you will use this on your table tomorrow."
"But it'll get dirty."
She smiled at the younger of the two men. "It's a tablecloth. It can be cleaned. So it's all settled, yes?" She stood.
"Yes," Jim agreed. "So, do you want us to call you when dinner is ready or would you like to spend the entire day with us? It's going to be a crowd, plenty of people to talk to."
"You don't have to--"
"Because of the tablecloth? It has nothing to do with that, Margaret. We had already planned to stop by tomorrow and escort you up here. You just beat us to the punch. Speaking of-- go see what Naomi is doing, Chief. The smell is getting worse."
Blair's nose wrinkled. "You're right. See you tomorrow, Margaret."
"Jamie Lin and I will walk you home," Jim offered.
"You know you didn't have to invite me to dinner," Margaret said as the detective took her keys and opened the door.
He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Wasn't about 'have to's, Margaret. It's about family."
Margaret locked her door while the detective listened, then got ready for bed. As she slid beneath the covers, she thought she felt the touch of hands on her shoulders, pulling her into a light embrace. She smiled and looked up. "You're welcome, Mama."
Despite the number of people, the peace Naomi had sensed in the loft remained throughout Thanksgiving Day. Jim's family was a lot bigger than she had expected but she was pleased to see how everyone included her son. She was also glad that she had decided to come to Cascade since she was the single true representative of Blair's family. Of course, both families could have stayed home because Blair and Jim had created one of their own. There was the captain who was now chatting about... fishing lures?... to Father-- he insisted everyone call him that-- and the couple who ran the market around the corner was talking to Jim's brother and his lady friend. Blair and Raleigh were chatting with that nice Mrs. Atwood. Jim was on the sofa with his sister, laughing about something as they played with the baby. Serenity, she thought suddenly. That was the secret here.
"More punch, Naomi?"
She looked up from where she was seated on a floor cushion. "Thank you, captain." She reached up her cup, then decided to follow him as he headed toward the kitchen. That was another strange thing. The man seemed almost at home here as Jim and Blair. "I must say this has been an enlightening experience," she murmured as he handed the cup back to her.
"How so?" Simon asked before he realized who he was asking. Probably when Naomi said enlightening, she meant it.
"I never had any expectations of my son, except that he be happy and feel loved. He could have been an artist or a plumber, a musician or sort of a vagabond like me. That he turned out to be a scholar was a delightful surprise. Then he got involved with your department and I feared Jim had seduced him into your violent cult. But I knew his spirit was strong; it would eventually pull away from a wrong path and find its true one. But this is my son's path; to walk beside Jim is where he is meant to be, isn't it?"
Yeah, Banks, next time stop and think before making an automatic reply. "Yes, Naomi, I believe it is. I used to have my doubts; I don't anymore. As weird as it is, as opposite as they seem, they are where they should be. Guess being around them made me reach enlightenment before you."
She shook her head. "Oh, that's not what I was referring to, captain. Look around and what do you see?" He did as she asked, then shrugged. "They're nesting, Simon."
His jaw dropped to the floor. What the hell did she mean by that? Before he could ask, Sandburg was calling her across the room and she smiled and went to her son's side, leaving Simon bewildered and slightly apprehensive. What was nesting and what did it entail? Sure, they had made a home together and the feathering of it was coming along nicely. A bit of paint here, a picture hung there. But nests usually included... He glanced at the sofa where Jim sat with Jamie Lin sprawled out across his shoulder, a teddybear having dropped from her clutches and perched on Jim's lap. He could count the number of times on one hand that he'd seen her out of his arms. And when she wasn't with Jim, she had been with Sandburg. What did that mean? Do I really want to know?
Then again, the nest was also full of other "birds" as well. Old birds, young birds, contemporary birds... Naomi was wrong, he thought with relief. They weren't setting up a nest, but an aviary-- a place where all the birds could come and be protected. Just another example of the Sentinel guarding his territory.
"Something wrong, Simon?" Jim whispered as he came over to him, baby still with him. "A second ago your heart was racing."
"I'm fine, Jim. Just started thinking about something Naomi said."
"Oh. I usually try to avoid that, captain," Jim said knowingly. "Hey, I'm getting ready to tuck this wee lass into bed. Remember how it's done?"
"Could probably teach you a thing or two, greenhorn."
"Sounds like a challenge. Come on up." He moved toward the stairs which would take them up to his room. "So, how bad was it?"
"How bad was what?"
"Meeting the Family," Jim explained in an exaggerated whisper.
Simon shrugged. He had discovered that they weren't evil incarnate and maybe, just maybe, Jim wasn't been forced into anything-- coerced was probably a better word. "The jury is still out," he replied noncomittally. "You didn't tell me Father was a fisherman."
"Who do you think took the time to teach me? My dad?"
Definitely a subject to avoid. Through little things Jim had let slip out, Simon had learned to hate William Ellison on his friend's behalf. "Oh, by the way, whatever happened with that Reggie person?" he asked to get Jim's mind off his childhood, and also because the expected paperwork had never materialized yesterday.
"It seems someone had stolen his bus ticket to Seattle so he tried pickpocketing a passing businessman for the cash to buy another."
"In his haste he got careless?" Simon guessed.
"Actually, he was caught trying to return the wallet. He'd taken out what he needed and didn't want the guy worrying about his credit cards and driver's license over the holiday."
"I explained the situation to the victim and he graciously dropped the charges."
Graciously, my ass. Intimidation was always your strong suit, Ellison. "And Reggie?"
"I had one of the uniforms drop him off at the bus station."
"Where'd he get the money for a new ticket, Jim?" Silence. At the top of the stairs, Simon reached out to touch the secret philanthropist on his sleeve. "Hey, Jim, I don't think I ever got around to saying it: Happy Thanksgiving."
Jim paused, looking down at his various Family and family members, talking and laughing and smiling. "Yeah, it is, isn't it?"