Shiyoganai"I don't care. I hate all of these negative feelings tearing my family apart," Naomi Sandburg complained as she handed her friend a steaming mug full of tea. "Schuy's in Japan never planning to return and Blair's here scared he might have run her off and Jim's torn trying to understand both sides and I can't figure out who needs me more." Glaring at her friend as she started to laugh, she placed her hands on her hips, "What's so funny?"
By Sammi M.
Brenda DeMoss ignored the other woman's arch look and continued chuckling loudly. "You. You are such an Earth Mother always gathering your children to your bosom at the first sign of trouble and tearing your unbelievably-red-for-your-age hair out when you can't stop the hurt. The whole thing is just hilarious!" She snorted as the chuckles grew into full laughter. "Especially the Jim thing. Don't you think he's a bit too butch for the 'Mama Bear with cubs' routine? I mean you've slept with guys his age."
Naomi cocked an eyebrow, "Need I remind you that you *are* sleeping with a man slightly *younger* than him?"
"Yeah, and it's damn good!" Avoiding the swat sent in her direction, she winked. "You really should try the whole married-to-a-younger-man thing." Her eyes sparkled as she teased her friend. "There's never a dull moment and the motor's always running."
"Bren! You've become a dirty old woman."
"Uh huh. Care to join me?" Brenda asked as she winked saucily.
"Not today, dear. My family's in turmoil, remember. That's why I asked you over."
The brown-skinned woman grimaced as she tasted the tea, "Thank goodness it wasn't so I could try your latest concoction. This stuff is nasty! What road-kill did you scrape it off of?"
"Last time I checked, it was from that set of teas you gave me for my birthday."
"Oh, yeah. Now I remember." She took another quick gulp, smiling through another grimace and cough. "Good stuff." Bren looked around trying to avoid Naomi's eyes. "Well, about the kids. Nay, you've just got to let them work this out on their own. Kay hasn't said she's staying over there forever - just for a year or so, Blair's got other things on his mind so he's not fretting over this situation as much as you think and Jim's doing what he does best watching over Blair. That doesn't sound like a crisis of epic proportions."
Naomi shook her head, "Not if you don't know what you're listening to it doesn't. But, these are my kids - I can hear when they're out of harmony and I can feel when they're just slightly off balance "
"And you can see the tracks of their tears," Bren interrupted rolling her eyes. "Come on, Nay. You're just their mother not a super woman. You can't be everywhere, see everything and fix all. It's not expected of you."
"I know that and I'm not trying to fix everything just this. I can't leave this situation up in the air. I can't let this go because it will just grow and grow until it becomes something that none of us will want to deal with and I refuse to lose my family like that." The fire in Naomi's eyes grew. "I refuse to let another six years fall by the wayside when I can set things right, now."
Brenda lowered her head and took another sip of the caustic brew, coughing a bit more. "Well, since it seems you're set on this course, I suppose I can be where I usually am right beside you in front of the firing squad." She smiled at her friend, "So, whadya want me to do? I'm sure all of this wasn't so I'd give you my blessing."
The expected Sandburg smile lit up the breakfast nook and a calculating sparkle danced in Naomi's eyes, "Your blessing, of course, is always desired but what I need are your other lesser-known yet highly-disreputable talents. What I need from you is a little "
And so the plan began.
@@@@@@@@@@@@The morning had dawned bright and early for the occupants of the loft. "Too early," Jim couldn't resist muttering as he yawned at the kitchen table. His yawn soon turned into a slight frown as Naomi all sickeningly bright and cheerful graced him with a benevolent smile at the comment and continued plying the poor table with food.
"Now, Jim. You should know that a good breakfast is just the thing to start the day off right."
"I'm not denying that, Naomi. What I am denying is that it has to start off so damn early on a Saturday!" He ran his hand through his already dishevelled hair. "Look, I really appreciate your coming over *every* *single* *morning* and making sure we're taken care of before we head out, but it's not necessary on weekends and it hasn't been necessary *all* of the past weekends since you've been here."
Blair felt this would be a good time to smooth over any hard feelings as he put down the glass of milk he had been consuming since he sat. "Mom, what he's trying to say "
"I know exactly what he's trying to say and I hear it to a point." Naomi placed the plate of sausages meatless, of course in front of Jim and lowered her hand on to his shoulder. "What I'm trying to do is get you guys into the habit of eating well every day, not just when you have to be somewhere." She took a deep breath. "Besides, you should enjoy this while you can. I won't be here tomorrow to do this for you."
Hope filled sky-blue eyes. "You're leaving?"
The older Sandburg gave Jim a motherly pat on the arm as she frowned. "You don't have to sound so happy about it. I haven't been that much of a burden, have I?" When neither man would look at her, Naomi stepped back, placed her hands on her hips and gave them an "I'd-think-about-the-last-purging-I-received-before-I-neglected-to-answer" glare. "Have I?" She asked with just a tad bit more force.
Jim remembered the last time rather well and, in his opinion, he'd had enough sage in the last few weeks to "flavour" the rest of his life. "Of course not, Naomi. You've been wonderful and totally supportive and you've always been there for us *always* and *constant.* Never leaving. *Right* here "
Again, it was Blair to the rescue as he stood and moved to his mother's side taking her focus off the "space"-zoned detective. "Mom, you know we love having you around and doing things for us, but we also understand how much you've sacrificed just being here. We don't want to cramp your style and all Jim was trying to say was that you have our blessing if you need to get back to your travels."
Naomi snorted in the most unladylike way and looked down at her son. "Uh huh." She placed her arms on his shoulders and leaned closer to him. "Sweetie, as much as I adore you and can't think of my life without you, I have to tell you honestly that was the biggest load of bullshit I've ever heard."
Jim was shocked to say the least, "Naomi!"
"What? I can't help it if that's what it was. I almost ran out and grabbed a pair of knee boots, it was so thick." She resumed her food transporting activities. "I mean what kind of mother would I be if I didn't tell my son I wasn't fooled one bit by his charmed response?" She brought the last dish to the table and sat across from the detective. "If it's the language that shocked you, then I have to remind you that I've been friends with Bren for most of my life and "
"And I've heard stuff come out of Bren that have made Marines that served in-country blush," Blair added as he returned to his seat. "The woman has a gift for profanity that was never truly realised in her chosen profession. She really should have been a sailor with that mouth."
The Sandburgs chuckled as they reminisced over past memories while eating and Jim could only shake his head at them. He'd been amazed at most of the stories he'd heard about the DeMoss-Sandburg antics and a lot of times he couldn't reconcile the women he knew now with the hellions everyone else described from the past. Not wanting to really go down that path again because it usually gave him a headache, he decided to change the subject. "So, Naomi, have you heard anything from Schuyler? She's been gone a lot longer with this one than normal and I was wondering if she might have let you know when she's coming home."
"Well, the last time I talked to her, she went on and on about Tokyo and some of the other cities and areas she'd been and how beautiful the country is. I knew exactly how she was feeling because I love Nippon." She turned to her son with a smile. "Do you remember our last trip there? You and Schuy were at the ages where you had a ball because we literally biked our way all over the place and you just ate up all the classes and culture and everything."
"It *was* a blast, Naomi, and I can't wait to talk to you more in depth about it later." He frowned, "Right now though, I'd like to know what you're avoiding."
"Avoiding? Sweetie, I'm not avoiding anything."
Blair gave her a look that he'd perfected from watching Jim interrogate suspects. "Sure you're not, Mom." He shook his head, "Don't take this the wrong way or anything, but you're no better an actress than Jim is an actor. I could tell you were trying to keep something from me as soon as you smiled." He paused, waiting for his mother to respond. "Come on, Naomi. The gig's up. What's going on with Schuy?"
With a sigh of resignation, Naomi's smile faded. "Bren heard from her the other day."
Jim was confused. "So, why the avoidance tactic?"
"Because she told Brenda to check and see if anyone on the management team or any of the security teams needed a place to stay." The woman lowered her eyes. "She's going to sublet the apartment."
All of the colour had drained from Blair's face as he frowned even more at the words. "Why would she want to sublet the apartment? She's only over there to do a few jobs. It's not like she's staying."
Sympathising, Naomi reached over the table grasping her son's hand. "From what Bren said, that's exactly what she's doing. She said Schuyler had mobilised one of her groups and they were going to see about setting up an office over there. Once that was done, she was going to stay to see that everything was running smoothly."
"And how long was she thinking that would take?" Jim asked.
The older woman took a deep breath before answering. "Best estimation that Bren could give me was at least a year."
"At least a year?!" Blair couldn't believe it as he shook his head. "No, she said she was coming right back. She assured me she would come home so we could talk."
"Obviously, things changed. Bren says she already has an apartment there and she's getting settled. She's transferred several of the duties that she was performing here over there and she's given Gina, her admin assist, the choice of joining her or staying in Cascade."
The young man stood and started pacing the room, "I knew it! I just knew I shouldn't have let her leave from the Centre! It was just like before - she's running as far as she can from me."
Naomi stood and moved to stop the pacing. "That's not true and you know it." She placed her hands on his shoulders. "These last few months - with Hannah's death, Hanley coming back and Telly's problems - have left Schuy feeling out of control - just like before - and that's not a feeling she's comfortable with. She just needs a little time."
"Yeah, but who's to say it won't be like last time? Do you really want this to turn into another six years?"
"No, I don't and I don't believe it will." She lifted his chin so that she could look into his sad eyes. "Trust me, everything is going to work itself out. I don't see this going on for six months let alone six years. Okay?" When he nodded and offered her a slight smile, she pulled him into her arms and gave him a tight squeeze. "Good." The older Sandburg pulled back and looked at her son, "Now, I hate to eat and run, but I need to touch base with a couple of friends before I head out tomorrow." Turning to include Jim, she laid on all the charm. "Do you guys think you can take me to the airport in the morning? Brenda was supposed to, but Matt made her a better offer and I've found that a 30+ years friendship is nothing when compared to the wants of a 30 year old husband."
Jim found that he could no more ignore the elder Sandburg's pleading look any more than he could the younger. So, it was no surprise when he agreed. "Of course, we can. Just let us know your flight information and what time you want to leave and we'll see that you get there."
Naomi walked back to the table and reached into her bag and pulled out a sheet of paper. She handed it to Jim and then bent over to kiss his forehead. "Thank you." Grabbing the bag, she turned back towards the door and Blair. She stopped in front of him and smiled, "And you." She tugged on one of his curls playfully. "Stop worrying. Everything's going to be fine." Kissing him on his cheek, she winked at him. "She'll be back before you know it. It'll almost be like she was never gone."
Both men watched as the graceful woman left the loft with a blown kiss and a wave. Blair sighed as he shook his head. "She's delusional. Schuy's not coming back - not any time soon, anyway."
"You don't know that, Chief."
Blair turned to face his friend. "Yes, I do."
Jim stood and joined the younger man. "How can you be so sure? Naomi doesn't believe it, so why do you?"
"Because I know Schuy and that messed up head of hers. I know how she thinks how she sees things. She believes that running is her best option right now. She'd rather surround herself with strangers who have no chance of getting close to her than face me and deal with our problems."
"Okay, so we'll plot and plan with Brenda or Richard to get her back here and then we'll give her the old Ellison-Sandburg one-two punch and gang up on her until she promises us all thoughts of leaving are gone." Jim smiled. "With us working together, her fears and worries won't stand a chance."
Blair returned his friend's smile. "Yeah, we are kind of irresistible." He nodded. "Thanks, man. I should have known you would have a plan for us. You're always looking out for me." They returned to their seats and the rest of their breakfast. "Bet you never thought you'd be mixed up in all of this family stuff when you signed on."
Jim could only shake his head. "No, but only cause I was going by the Ellison version of family. I actually like the Sandburg version a lot better and I definitely don't mind being a part of it."
@@@@@@@@@@@@It was hard to believe that Cascade Airport could be so busy at seven in the morning, but that was how Naomi, Jim and Blair found it when they arrived at the woman's departure gate. People of all colours, ages and stations in life filled almost every nook and cranny of space and Jim was having a hard time keeping his senses in control amid all of the hustle and bustle.
As the three of them grabbed a few seats, Blair placed his hand on his friend's arm and nodded when the older man turned to him. That small gesture was enough to help the Sentinel regain his control and he couldn't stop his smile of relief. "Thanks, Chief," he whispered trying not to disturb Naomi. "It was getting to be a little overwhelming."
Blair grinned as he leaned in closer. "It's what I'm here for. I gotta watch your back even if it is only to protect you from some over-perfumed matron."
"What was that, Sweetie?" Naomi asked as she eyed the two men.
"Nothing, Mom. I was just commenting on the need of some women to overwork others' senses of smell just so they can perpetuate this 'air' of being in control and unfazed by the rigours of travel."
The older Sandburg wrinkled her nose as she agreed. "It is a bit much, isn't it? I just hope she's far away from me on the plane. With the amount of perfume she's wearing, she could fell an elephant." She nodded at Jim. "I'm sure it's worse for you having such a sensitive nose."
Ellison scrunched up said nose and tried to breathe through his mouth. "Well, let's just say I have a new appreciation of the merits of sage."
Naomi was about to comment when a voice announced the boarding of her flight. "I was hoping we'd have more time to talk before I had to leave." She frowned as she moved to kiss Blair and then Jim. "Oh, well, the best laid plans of moms and men "
"Yeah. It usually works like that, unfortunately," Blair commented as he grabbed her carry-on bag. The three of them headed for the queue of people and talked while it moved forward.
As they made it to the front, Naomi suddenly turned to the guys in alarm. "Oh, no!"
"I forgot to turn the iron off at Schuy's place."
Jim reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone handing it to the woman. "That shouldn't be too much of a problem. Just call Security at her building and have them go in and take care of it."
"I would, but I'm not sure they would take care of it as soon as possible." She ignored the boarding attendant as the woman asked for her ticket. "They're usually so busy it would probably be given a low priority and by the time they would remember it, all sort of things could have gone wrong and "
"It's okay, Naomi. I think we get the picture." Jim shrugged at his partner who nodded. "How about we stop by the apartment and check on things? That way, we'll all have some peace of mind."
The Sandburg smile was in full effect as the older woman finally handed over her ticket to the patient attendant. "Thank you. I knew I could count on you. I know everything's going to be fine now."
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@"Come on, Jim. You owe me for my part in that whole Simon thing. He's gonna skin me alive next time he sees me," Blair commented as they exited the lift and headed for his sister's front door. "That man can be the epitome of deviousness when he's seeking retribution."
"And I still don't see how this concerns me. I only suggested a few things to do for his birthday. You were the mastermind who set everything in motion."
They stopped at the door and Blair used his key to unlock it, motioning for his friend to enter first. "That is so wrong, man. Whatever happened to solidarity? I'll watch your back and you watch mine?"
"I'm all for it, buddy. *Except* in any case where it might involve a rampaging Simon Banks and this definitely fits the bill. I " Jim's voice tapered off as he cocked his head in his typical enhanced listening way. "Uh, Chief, do you "
Blair had recognised the classic pose and he was ready. "No, Jim, I don't hear anything outside of the normal stuff cause unlike Clark Kent, my super suit isn't just under my clothes." Placing his hand on his friend's arm despite his frustration, he dropped his voice into its guiding ranges. "Try to separate the sound from everything else and focus on it." Blair was amazed when he could literally feel when his partner grasped and identified the sound. "What are you hearing?"
"Breathing and a heartbeat. Someone's upstairs and judging from the even rhythms, he/she is sleeping." Looking at his friend, he asked, "Schuy's people couldn't have sublet the apartment so soon, could they?"
The observer shook his head. "I don't think so. Besides, Naomi would have mentioned it. She stayed here last night, remember." As they moved closer to the spiral staircase, Blair glanced around him trying to determine if anything was amiss. "Nothing seems out of place. You think I should call for some backup just in case?"
"No. I'm only picking up one person and if it is a poor, tired employee of Symmond's, I don't want to have him/her waking to a huge police presence." As he started up the stairs, he nodded. "Just stay behind me and everything should be okay."
Like the team they were, the men moved quietly towards the main bedroom. At the door, Jim hesitated for a second making sure that the person inside was still sleeping before turning the knob and entering.
It was like dιjΰ vu for both men as they caught sight of the figure sleeping peacefully in the middle of the bed clutching a very old stuffed animal in her arms.
"Schuy!" Blair exclaimed with equal parts relief and surprise. When the girl on the bed didn't respond, worry crept into his voice as he moved closer to the bed. "Schuyler? Are you okay?" At the continued silence, the older Sandburg turned almost frantic eyes on his friend hoping for a positive sign from his sentinel. "Jim, can you tell if something's wrong? She should have heard us as soon as we hit the floor."
Wanting to calm his partner and reassure himself, Jim extended his senses again and frowned. "Everything seems okay, but I seem to be getting some weird feedback now that we're close."
At the words, a light dawned within Sandburg and Ellison and all of the tension drained away at the realisation. Gently, Blair sat down on the bed next to his sister and softly placed his hand on her exposed arm. "She's us "
A yelp of fright was the only warning they had before Jim was pulling Blair safely away from the fighting and kicking body trying to protect itself from its perceived demons. Slowly, as the girl realised the threat was no longer near, she started to settle down until finally she removed the covers that had hidden her head while she struggled. Confusion was the first emotion the men saw followed close behind by anger lots of anger directed at them. "What the hell were you guys thinking sneaking up on me like that? You scared the black off me!"
Blair pulled away from his friend's protective cover and moved slowly back to the bed. "Sorry. We were just worried about you when you didn't respond."
"Why do you sound like you're talking through cotton?"
Jim, taking his cue from Sandburg, slowly moved to the other side of the girl and sat. As careful as he could, he reached up to the ear nearest to him and removed the portable white noise generator, kissing the ear to soothe it. "I think you popped these in and turned your hearing way down, so you could get some rest cause you didn't hear us at all."
Schuy pushed her hair out of her face and blushed as she removed the other device. "Oh, sorry. Massive jet lag and I didn't want to be bothered by anything." She sat back against her pillows. "You would think with all of the crap in the past I wouldn't do that, but desperate times call for desperate measures."
Blair, satisfied that things were okay, also leaned back on the pillows and eyed his sister. "We weren't expecting anyone being here since we took Mom to the airport." A forgotten memory resurfaced and had him rubbing his eye. "Once I realised it was you, I guess I did get a little excited and forgot how much you hate waking up to surprises."
"Yeah, that still hasn't changed. Thank goodness you had Jim here or else you'd be sporting another black eye or worse." Remembering what he'd just said, she frowned. "Whadya mean you weren't expecting me? Mom and Bren knew I was here." Schuy wiped at her eyes like a sleepy child. "Bren told me I had to come back to take care of some stuff personally."
Now it was Jim's turn to frown. "Well then, I don't think she told your mom cause Naomi was worried that she'd left the iron on and made us promise to drop by here and make sure the place was okay."
A weird look crossed over the young woman's face and she quickly leaned over Jim, grabbed her cell phone and pushed a button as she brought the phone to her ear. "Hey, Gina, it's Kay. Is Brenda around? Oh, really? He did. Well, that's interesting. No, she didn't mention it. Known about it for a week, huh? I see. So, who's bringing the suit against us? What? But, Brenda said So, there are no problems? Okay. Thanks. Oh, Hiro is working out great, though I can't say I don't wish it was you. Yeah, I understand . I miss you guys too and I'll probably stop by there before I head back. Take care, Gina, and kiss Roderick for me. Bye."
"Care to tell us what that was about?" Blair asked.
"That was about us being royally set up by Naomi and Brenda."
"What makes you think we were set up?"
The young woman sighed as she closed her eyes. "One, Bren informed me that one of the companies I last worked on was suing Symmonds for misrepresentation in the hopes of not having to pay their bill and the judge wanted to see me in person. Two, she said it was pretty urgent and that I needed to be at the court house bright and early Monday to meet with him. So, knowing how I am with jet lag, she booked me a flight for yesterday so that I could sleep it off today. Three, Bren and Mom picked me up yesterday afternoon and Mom and I talked until about two this morning. Four, Mom doesn't iron. Since she discovered that natural clothing store, she doesn't have to. Five, my iron is one of those that turns itself off after fifteen minutes upright and ten seconds when it's laid flat. Six, mom gave me that iron for that exact reason. And seven, Gina, my admin assist, knew nothing of the alleged suit, but she couldn't wait to tell me about the trip Matt had arranged to take him and Bren to see his folks in Holland." She smiled sweetly at her brothers. "Now, what does that sound like to you?"
Jim and Blair looked at each other and nodded. "We've been set up."
Ellison shrugged, "Oh well, it happened and I can't say that I'm unhappy with the results. It got you back home, Precious. That's all that matters." He placed his arms around her and frowned when she stiffened and barely returned the hug. He pulled away and glanced over at his friend. "We've missed you."
Blair caught the motions and did the same as Jim, getting the same response. "Is something wrong, Snip?"
"Wrong? What could be wrong?" Schuyler manoeuvred herself out from between them and headed for her bathroom without looking at either of them. "I'm just tired from the trip. Why don't you guys go back downstairs and fix some of that tea Hiroaki sent back with me while I throw on some clothes."
Neither man could contain their shock when she closed the door behind her firmly and the lock engaged.
@@@@@@@@@@@@@It had been a frustrating hour for Jim and Blair as they each tried to get close to Schuy only to have her pull away. As long as they were just talking, the young woman was her usual animated self, but as soon as either one of them tried to get closer to her, she would move physically and emotionally.
"So who's Hiroaki?" Jim asked in the hopes of getting her back to talking. "I heard you mention a Hiro to Gina on the phone and then you said he sent you back with this tea." He winked at her and gave her an encouraging smile. "Already conquering hearts?"
"Hiroaki Matsumoto is my admin assist in Tokyo. He's great and he's been so wonderful to me. He's the one who found my apartment." Schuy frowned at the last thing he said. "Hearts? Hiro? I don't think so. I don't have the right equipment for him." She sighed with a little devilish smile. "His SO, Tetsuro, would kill me and that could be really nasty considering he's my head of security over there and fiercely loyal."
Blair moved beside her, placed his arm on her shoulders and gave her a little squeeze. "Sounds like you're in good hands."
The young woman stiffened and pulled away, a pained look on her face. "Don't."
"Don't what, Schuy? What's going on here? Why are you walking around avoiding our touch like we're lepers?"
With shaking hands, she lowered her tea cup to the table and turned back to her brother. "I think you guys should leave. I've got a lot of stuff to get done before I can close up the place and head back." Taking a deep breath, she raised her eyes to Blair's. "I really appreciate you guys stopping by to make sure everything was okay and I'm sorry about the plot to get you here. I'll say goodbye now, since I don't know when I'll be leaving."
Blair watched as she turned away and something in him snapped. "No, you are not gonna just brush us off like that with no explanation of your actions." He grabbed her nearest arm and turned her forcefully to face him. "What's going on, Schuyler?"
Schuy jerked her arm free and glared at the man in front of her. "Don't you ever manhandle me like that again! I'm not some object that you can move around at whim!"
"Fine! I promise I won't touch you, but you damn well better face me and tell me why you're treating us like we have the plague."
"But, I thought this was what you wanted. You said you wanted space, so I'm giving you *space.* You said you didn't want me leaning so much on you and Jim and depending on you to make things right, so I'm leaning *away* and you're still not happy. What do you want, Blair? Cause I can't keep going on these mixed signals."
When his partner seemed at a loss for words, Jim joined the two combatants and placed himself between them, but not blocking them from each other. "All that stuff he said before was when he was hurt and angry. You can't base anything on that. Of course, he wants you here. You're a part of his family and he loves you."
She shook her head as tears fell down her face. "There's never been a question of him loving me. I know that. But, I also know he didn't deny actually having those feelings - believing in some part exactly what he said. I asked him, remember?" Schuy wiped away the tears. "So, I'm trying to do what's best for both of us and hoping it'll be enough. Distance and time healed the wounds the first time. Maybe it'll work again."
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@They'd been quiet the whole trip home - neither man really wanting to deal with what had happened at the apartment. Once they were back at the Loft, Jim steered Blair towards the couch and sat beside him. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Slightly hacked at Bren and Naomi, but otherwise okay."
"So, you're okay with Schuy running back to Japan?"
Blair stood and headed for the balcony doors, watching the day go by. "If it's what she thinks is best for her, then yeah, I'm okay with it."
"Well, I'm glad one of us is cause I'm not," Jim replied as he joined his friend. "It's taking everything in me not to go back over there and hold her hostage until she swears to never leave. Guess you're made of stronger stuff than I am."
"No, I'm not," Blair answered quietly. Anger seemed to fill his next words as his hands curled into fists, "And I'm *not* okay with any of this. I don't want her to return to Tokyo. I want her to stay here and deal with this. I want us to talk about why she ran the last time and why she's running now." As abruptly as the anger appeared, it vanished and he finished with a sad whisper, "I want to talk about why I said what I did."
Jim reached out a hand and squeezed his friend's shoulder in support. "Then this is your chance, Blair. No matter how she acts or what she says, if you need to tell her all of this, then do it."
"And, if it's not enough to keep her home?"
"Then, I'll be waiting here for you and we'll deal with it the best way we can."
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@The apartment was completely dark when Blair let himself in. None of the night lights Schuy usually kept to guide her through her home were on and if it hadn't been for the streetlights outside, Blair wouldn't have been able to move around. As he made his way towards the staircase in total silence, he worried that she might have given up and headed back to Japan. If it weren't for the little niggling in the back of his head telling him she was still there, he would have turned around and left.
Instead of heading up the stairs to the bedrooms as he'd planned, that same voice urged him to turn and go through the dining room towards the library. He didn't understand why, but he followed it and was soon rewarded when he caught the small sliver of light that peeped out from under the door. For just a second, he stopped and wondered if this was a good idea, but his resolve and Jim's encouragement from earlier had him turning the knob and entering.
"I was wondering how long it was gonna take before you came in," Schuy commented from the settee - her eyes never leaving the fire blazing in the huge fireplace. "Didn't you go home earlier? I could have sworn you left."
Blair noticed how his sister was rocking herself with her legs pulled up to her chest and her arms wrapped tightly around them. In that instant, he was reminded of how small she really was and how much she needed him how much they needed each other. Sitting on the coffee table in front of her, he placed his hands on top of hers and sighed when she visibly flinched. "I did, but I had to come back. I couldn't let you leave again with all of this between us." He squeezed her hands. "We really need to talk, Snip."
"I thought we'd said everything."
"Not the important stuff." He moved closer. "We talked about the anger and the hurt, but we didn't talk about why it was there. We didn't get to the heart of what was wrong not six years ago or now. I want to do that. Will you let me?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"Honestly, no. I gave you the choice to come back and talk both times, but instead you ran." Blair shook his head. "I can't give it to you again."
Flat, grey eyes finally turned to look at him. "Then, talk. I'm obviously not going anywhere."
Blair thought about where he should start. Like he'd told Jim, he knew how his sister's mind worked and he knew this was probably going to be his only chance to have his say and he had to do it right. After a lot of thought in a short amount of time, he finally decided the beginning was the best place. "I love you and I have loved you from the first time I ever saw you. Even before the judge gave you to me, I thought of you as mine and I was yours. When you were born, Leigh told me I was your kaka. She made me your Elder Brother way before she died and that's been so important to me." Blair held Schuy's hands even tighter. "When I was sick, the scariest part of dying was that I was gonna lose you and I just couldn't bear to think of that.
"I have never told you this, but in my heart of hearts, I know you brought me back. I can remember you coming for me and staying with me and keeping me warm. I can remember you holding me here and not letting go and you giving me your strength when all of mine was gone. *You* were my miracle I don't know how, but you were."
Silent tears flowed down Schuy's face as her rocking slowly stopped. "I couldn't let you go. Even as a little kid, I knew how important you were."
"Yeah, so important I failed you when you really needed me."
Schuy shook her head as she lowered her legs to the floor and squeezed Blair's hands back. "You never failed me. You were *always* there when I needed you. I couldn't have asked for a better big brother."
Blair stood abruptly and started pacing the room. "Yeah, some big brother I turned out to be. I led them right to you. If I hadn't dragged you into town, they never would have known about you. That summer could have been one of the best instead of the worst."
"What happened wasn't your fault and you didn't drag me any where. You were just as much a victim as I was. They almost beat you to death there wasn't anything you could have done."
He stopped in front of her and looked at her in shock. "How can you say that? I was supposed to have watched out for you, taken care of you. If I had done what I was supposed to, none of it you never would have been "
Schuyler stood and cupped his face in her hands willing him to hear her. "The rape was *not* your fault! There were five of them to your one you didn't stand a chance. I have never blamed you and I never will."
"Thank you," he whispered as he returned her gesture with his own hand. "That makes me feel better, but it doesn't stop me from blaming myself." Blair dropped his hand and turned away. "I know it makes no sense, but it's what I feel. My mind tells me there was nothing I could have done, but my heart my heart screams at me that I let you down.
"I know that I was just as helpless as you were, but there's a part of me that won't accept it was out of my control. And, that's the part that lashed out at you that day at the Centre."
"I don't understand?"
Blair turned back to his sister. "Do you remember that fight we had about you and college?" He watched as she nodded. "You told me you never expected me to make your life easier and I told you that you might not have but everyone else did." He paused as he looked deep within himself. "I was wrong. The only one who expected too much from me where you were concerned was me. And when I couldn't live up to that expectation, I felt like I failed you.
"Every time I saw you after the after what happened, I felt like I let you down and I tried to do everything I could to make it up to you. I moved back home so that I could help take care of you, I talked Mom into giving up all of the trips so that something like that could never happen again and I pulled in favours to get you accepted into Rainier without you applying. I figured if I kept you here and close, nothing else could happen.
"But you had other ideas and six years passed with occasional meetings and updates on Hanley. You wouldn't let me get close to you again and I figured you had finally realised that I was to blame for what happened."
Schuy shook her head in disbelief. "No. For the first couple of years, I told myself I was just ticked at you for trying to run my life and I wanted to prove to you I could stand on my own two feet. Blame never entered into it. Then, later, I figured out what you had tried to do and I felt stupid for rebuffing you when you were just trying to take care of me." Her chuckle held little humour. "After providing my various therapists with homes and nest eggs, I finally realised that my flight to college on the opposite coast was needed because I was getting too comfortable in the cocoon you and Naomi had me bundled in. It was just easier for my mind to accept my running as anger towards you rather than it really being my running *away* from safety, security and home."
"But that's just it! You weren't any safer *with* me," Blair railed as he resumed his pacing. "First with the r with what happened, then with Hanley and finally Telly I couldn't protect you! I let you down constantly and yet, you never stopped believing in me trusting me." He stopped abruptly, facing the wall of books. "Every time I'd look into your eyes, I'd see it and I didn't want to see it, knowing that I didn't deserve it."
The younger Sandburg walked up beside him and placed her hand on his arm. "Blair "
Dark blue eyes filled with pain locked onto the form next to him. "I told myself that I hated you being away all those years, but to be honest, I didn't." Hearing her gasp of pain, he hurried on. "Don't ever think I didn't miss *you* - I just didn't miss the guilt I felt whenever you were around. When you moved back, I honestly thought I'd gotten past it, but, the more you were here, the more I could feel it building.
"Then the rest of it happened and the guilt compounded and all I could think about was you were there for me when I needed you the most, *why* was I always falling down on the job." Blair clenched his teeth as he tried to hold back the emotions running riot within him. "I started getting angry. Deep inside, I told myself I didn't have to deal with any of this when you weren't around the anger, the guilt, the old self-hatreds, they were non-existent. So, I lashed out at you at the Centre, knowing what the outcome would be hoping what it would be because I hated living with this."
"And, now? What are you feeling now?"
Blair lowered his eyes at the sound of fresh tears in his sister's voice. "If I'm honest, all of the feelings are still there just as strong as ever. A part of me wants you to get on that plane and head back and return my peace to me, but it'd be a false peace. I don't want that cause it's not worth having you go away again." He lifted his eyes and let her see his tears and hope. "So, if you'll stay, I promise we'll work this out. If we have to drag Naomi back to mediate or Jim around to sit on whoever's being the most stubborn or pay for your therapist's second home, we'll do it. What I won't do is another six years or longer without you around." Even though he was worried about her reaction, Blair opened his arms, hoping she'd be willing to work everything out. "Come home, Snip. It's where you need to be. It's where I need you to be."
Without any hesitation, the girl moved into the circle of arms and wrapped her own around her brother. As he tightened his around her, she couldn't stop the small laugh that broke free. "Good thing Janette does family therapy. Since I keep her on retainer, looks like she's gonna get the chance to pay for her kids' college."
@@@@@@@@@@@@Schuyler quietly watched her brother sleep in the early morning light. They'd stayed up most of the night just talking and clearing the air about a lot of things. She realised they still had a long ways to go Blair's stubbornness in letting go of guilt was phenomenal, but they had made a start and that was the most important thing.
Her enhanced ears were the first things that let her know her brother was awakening. As she watched his rituals lead him to awareness, she smiled no matter how old he got, he still looked like a little boy when he first woke up.
"What are you grinning about so early in the morning?" Said little boy asked. "Did I drool last night?"
"If you did, why would I be grinning about something you've done every night since I've known you?" She made a disgusted face. "Especially since I have to sleep on that pillow."
Blair raised up and glared at her. "Well, if it bothers you that much, I'll trade this one out for one of the ones on my bed."
"What's the point? You've drooled all over those too!"
He sighed in frustration. Somebody was definitely in "little sister mode" this morning. "Would it be too much to ask for a simple, 'Good morning, Blair. How are you this fine day?'"
"A simple good morning, Blair. How are you this fine day?" She parroted as the devilment returned to her grey eyes. "Oh, and by the way, it's not a fine day. I can hear the rain hitting the roof pretty hard."
The older Sandburg reached behind him and grabbed one of the smaller pillows and proceeded to bop her one. "Brat." Ignoring her delighted laughter, Blair sniffed the air. "How long have you been awake? I smell breakfast."
Schuyler wrinkled her nose at him. "*I* haven't been up yet cause *I* didn't want to disturb you. *Jim* has been here since about 6 and noisily started making breakfast about then. I think he was worried that we killed each other when he didn't hear from you."
"Oh, man," he groaned as he looked towards the door. "I told him I'd call one way or the other and I completely forgot." He turned back to the girl, nibbling at his bottom lip. "Does he sound angry?"
"He did when he first got here slamming pots and all, but now he seems calmer." She cocked her head just a bit. "I think he's humming rather off-key."
Blair laughed, "Good. That means he's not mad. He only hums when everything is right in his world." He decided to get a bit of his own back from the teasing earlier. "He's content now that he knows 'his Precious' didn't kill me."
Schuy glared at her brother and punched him in his arm. "Go ahead and laugh, Brillo Pad. Did he ever tell you why he calls me that?"
"Not that I recall."
"Well, it seems that my hair reminds him of something from his childhood." At his questioning gaze, she continued none-too-happily. "It was his dog. He said my hair reminded him of his pet dog, Precious, and he just couldn't get it out of his head. Everyone thinks it's so sweet and Jim's so wonderful and all I can think about is he's likening me to the same Fido that peed in his shoes when he was eight."
There was no hope for Blair as the laughter took over and had him almost literally rolling across the bed. "The dog! He nicknamed you after his dog! Oh! This is classic!"
The girl moved away from the rolling, giddy figure and huddled near the edge, crossing her arms and pouting. "Bite me, Sandburg!"
Blair suddenly stopped laughing, got this weird look on his face and shot off past Jim, who was entering with a tray of food, slamming the bathroom door behind him. Schuy looked confused at her older "brother" and nodded in the direction Tornado Blair had gone. "What got into him?"
Jim smiled and winked at her as he lowered the tray to the bed. "Well, let's just say you got the last laugh. Cause, though she had that one earlier mishap, Precious was completely housebroken. Judging from the trail, doesn't look like Blair's quite there yet."