Part 4 of the "Family Tree" series. Sequel to "Ties that bind."
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DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Di Meo, Bilson and Petfly etc. This fan fiction was written for my own and others enjoyment. No money has been paid. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHORS NOTES: This is the fourth and probably final part of the series "Family Tree." Im not sure that I can take it any further, then again who knows? This story follows "Ties that bind." It will make more sense if you read that first.
Thank you to the many, many people who have taken the time to write and tell me how much they have enjoyed this series. I have been overwhelmed by your kind words.
Coda a more or less independent passage, at the end of a musical composition, introduced to bring it to satisfactory close.
"Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
Its too late when we die
To admit we dont see eye to eye" "The Living Years Mike and the Mechanics."
Jim Ellison shifted in his bed as the word was shouted in increasing volume.
Finally, the shout broke through his consciousness and the sentinel sat upright and extended his hearing to the rooms below. He heard the pounding heartbeat and ragged breathing; the rustling of bedclothes then jumped slightly at the sudden loud bang that assaulted his ears.
Jim was halfway down the stairs as the cry of pain rang out and he pushed his way into Sandburgs room without bothering to announce himself. Dialing up his sight in the almost pitch black of the room, he spotted Blair lying on his back on the floor, the sheets from the bed twisted around his ankles.
Jim rushed forward and knelt beside the fallen man, pressing him back gently to the floor as he struggled to sit up. "Stay there for a minute, Chief, and catch your breath."
Blair pushed back against his restraint briefly then gave up and lay back. He raised a tentative hand to his head, rubbing gently at the bump on his forehead.
Jim moved his hand away and switched on the bedside lamp. "Let me take a look," he said softly.
Blair winced as Jim's sensitive fingers pressed over the small bump already beginning to purple.
Jim finished his examination then held out a hand to help Blair to sit leaning back against the edge of the bed. "Doesnt look too bad," he smiled. "Just needs an icepack."
Blair nodded, his face still looking somewhat dazed from his sudden awakening. By the time Jim returned, hed moved up to sit on the bed, his head resting on his pulled up knees.
"You okay, Sandburg?" Jim asked, laying a hand on his shoulder. Blair nodded again. "You going to talk to me at all?"
Blair sighed. "Sorry, I woke you up, man."
"Thats all right," Jim assured him. "Bad dream?"
Jim tilted Blairs head back to rest the wrapped icepack on his forehead. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"No, not really," Blair answered. "Just a stupid dream. I should be over this by now. Anyone would think I was two years old."
"You were kidnapped and almost killed by a serial killer." Jim grasped Blairs chin in his hand as he started to look away and angled his head to look up at him. Youre not the only one whos suffering from them, buddy."
Blair looked at him steadily. "Got to you too, huh?"
"Oh yeah," Jim agreed. "Im a cop. I should have pegged Lash from the start. I should have checked his credentials out more thoroughly, should have known "
"Whoa, whoa, Jim." Blair raised both hands. "This was not your fault, man. The guy was a certified nut. You couldnt have known."
"Maybe not," Jim finally said. "I just feel guilty that I didnt pick up my cell phone when you called. Ill never forget the feeling of not knowing where you were, not knowing where to begin looking, feeling so useless and lost."
"But you did know where to look. If you hadnt seen the feather in the tub drain " Blair shivered and pulled his comforter up around his shoulders then took the icepack from his head. Both men were silent for a time, lost in their own thoughts and nightmares.
Then Blair looked up and smiled weakly, his features still pale, the bruise startling in contrast. "Still, its over now, right?" he asked.
Jim grinned at him and reached over for the icepack, holding it against the bump. "Yeah, now its over. Do you think you can go back to sleep?"
"Im going to try," Blair answered. "Tomorrows a big day. I do not need to look like something the cat dragged in."
"Oh, right. Youre going to see your grandparents. They agreed to meet with you?"
"Not exactly," Blair muttered.
At Jims questioning look, he tried to explain. "I figured that if I just turn up, they might listen to what I have to say. After the way I treated my grandmother, I was worried that if I called first, she might just slam the phone down in my ear. I was going to get Robert to run interference for me, but hes gone to California to visit his folks."
"What if they slam the door in your face?"
Blair lay back on his pillows and then turned to face the wall. "Ill detach with love and come home," he replied quietly.
Jim ruffled the dark curls and left the room.
Blair pressed his finger to the doorbell and waited, nervously tightening the tie in his hair. After what seemed an interminable length of time, during which he very nearly turned tail and ran, he heard footsteps pad slowly toward the front door. The door was cracked open an inch or two, still held secure by a chain and his grandmothers now familiar face peeked out.
"Grandmother, its me, Blair."
"No need to announce yourself, dear. My memorys not that bad," Esther said, her face crinkling into a wide smile. "Ive been expecting you."
She shut the door and removed the safety chain then opened it wide, ushering him into the dark hallway.
Blair followed her in then stood, flat footed in front of her, twisting his hands before finally folding them protectively over his chest.
"Let me take your coat," Esther said. She leaned forward and Blair placed a quick kiss on her cheek, smiling as she blushed with pleasure and reached up to enfold him in a hug.
"Its nice to see you too." Her eyes twinkled and she took the jacket he offered and turned to hang it on one of the hooks by the door.
"I came to apologize to you," Blair began, looking down at the floor, "and to speak to my grandfather. There were things left unsaid and I think we need to clear the air."
Esther shushed him with a clucking sound and steered him into the living room. "The apologys not necessary, Blair. Sit down, dear while I go tell your grandfather we have company."
Blair obediently sat in one of the old fashioned winged back armchairs but was immediately up on his feet, prowling the room the instant his grandmother disappeared from sight.
The room was large and smelled of lavender, a roaring fire crackled at this end of the room while another wall was totally taken up by a floor to ceiling bookcase of dark wood, the bottom shelving making way for cupboards inlaid with innate carving and heavy brass handles. The rest of the room was furnished in similar heavy wooden furniture, its dark look complemented by the brocade curtains, hanging from picture windows, the drapes drawn back now to capture the winter sunshine.
His perusal of the room was interrupted by a tapping noise behind him and he turned to see an elderly man standing in the doorway, his walking stick knocking on the wooden doorframe.
Blair took a step forward and held out a shaky hand. "Hello, sir, Im..."
"Blair." Jacob Sandburg smiled and took Blairs proffered hand before motioning his grandson to sit once more. "Your grandmothers in the kitchen making tea," he wheezed. "Seems to think its the answer to the worlds ills."
"I tend to agree with her," Blair ventured.
His grandfather harrumphed and pointed toward the cabinet at the far end of the room. "In the bottom cupboard, far left. Well, go on, before she gets back and hides it again," he instructed at Blairs blank look.
Blair stood and walked to the cabinet and opened the small door. Bending down in front of it, he spotted a bottle of scotch and two glasses. He pulled the bottle and one glass out and straightened, holding them up.
Jacob grinned and nodded. " And a glass for yourself. Doctor said one or two a day wont hurt me."
"The doctor said one a week would be all right." Esthers voice came from the doorway and both men started guiltily.
"Its manners to offer a guest a drink, Esther," Jacob said, turning to his wife as she bustled into the room with a laden tray. "Im sure Blair could do with a drink to calm his nerves."
"Im sure he could, dear," Esther agreed.
"Cant let him drink alone, can I?"
"Not at all, dear. Very bad manners."
Esther took the glasses from Blair and placed them on the table, then watched as Blair poured a shot into each glass. She patted his shoulder then took the bottle and disappeared once more from the room. "You two chat," she said over her shoulder. "Get to know each other while I put the hooch under lock and key."
Blair laughed outright, feeling himself begin to relax despite the awkward beginning and reached down to pick up the glasses, offering one to his grandfather. He clinked his glass against Jacobs. "Its nice to finally meet you."
By the time Esther returned to the living room to pour tea, Jacob had moved to the large overstuffed couch and Blair sat beside him. Both heads were bent over a photo album and she sat back contentedly and compared the two. The similarities were readily seen in the slight wiry build of each man and the curls, though Jacobs were now white and becoming sparse.
She watched as Jacob whispered something to Blair and Blair laughed shyly and looked up to catch her eye. She smiled back encouragingly and Blair looked down again at the book in his lap. Both men suddenly froze as the next page was turned and Esther sat straighter in her chair, knowing that this was the moment she had been dreading.
Jacob looked up at her angrily and picked up the photo album, slamming it onto the coffee table in front of them with a resounding bang. "I thought I told you to remove all of her photos."
Esther squared her jaw and glared back at her husband. "Shes your daughter, Jacob, and Blairs mother. I thought when you agreed to see Blair that "
Jacob struggled to his feet, shaking off Blairs supporting hand and reached for his walking stick. "I was hoping that Blair was here because he understood what happened with Naomi and because he finally wanted to be a part of this family."
"I do want to spend time with you, Grandfather," Blair began softly. "And while I will try to respect your feelings regarding my mother, you must understand me. Naomi is my mother, she gave me a good upbringing and she loves me as much as I love her. I could never turn away from her."
"What about your schooling?" Jacob asked. "If it wasnt for the bursary I arranged you wouldnt have been accepted at Rainier or anywhere."
Blair shrugged. " Im not saying I dont appreciate the assistance you gave me, though Ill admit to being pretty angry at Naomi for not telling me about it. But if I hadnt been accepted at Rainier then I would have had to do something else and get on with my life. Naomi was... is a fighter, Grandfather and she taught me to be resourceful. She had to struggle at times to keep me but she loved me enough to make the sacrifices necessary to do that."
"Until it came to giving you what you wanted most of all," Jacob said bitterly. "A chance to study anthropology. Then she came begging to me for help, expecting me to welcome her back with open arms."
"Then she made the biggest sacrifice of all," Esther interrupted softly, her eyes brimming with tears. "She asked you to help her son and agreed to your conditions never to set foot in this house again."
"She reneged on that agreement," Jacob shouted. "She took my son away from me, turned him against me."
Blairs eyes widened at the statement but his grandfather appeared not to have noticed the slip.
"Youre making it sound like a business deal. What about Aunt Helen and my cousin Robert? Did they have to agree to your terms and conditions in order to stay loved?" Blair asked.
Jacob began to pace the room then reached down to drain his glass. "It was different for Helen. She married a Jewish boy and then they had Robert." His hands flailed as he tried to explain himself. "It was different," he repeated.
"Im sorry if Ive upset you both," Blair said, his voice breaking. "I meant no disrespect. I thought if I could talk to you about my mom, youd see what a good person she is." He wiped impatiently at a stray tear that dribbled down his cheek. "I nearly died a few weeks ago," Blair said softly. "My partner, Jim, saved my life. That experience made me realize how short life is, how quickly it can be taken away. How easy it is to do or say things that you may always regret. I came here to tell you that I want to be a part of your lives and if you cant accept my mother, then so be it, but I will not turn my back on her as well." Blair looked at Jacob, willing him to understand. "Shes your daughter," he said. "Your flesh and blood."
Jacobs features may as well have been carved from stone. "My daughter is dead."
Blair made his way slowly to the front door, hoping to hear his grandfather call him back. The exhilaration that hed felt a week before at finally meeting his grandparents was totally submerged beneath a weight of despair and anger. His head was beginning to pound once more and he was bone weary.
As he put his hand on the door handle, he heard a crashing sound come from behind him accompanied by a frightened scream. Turning, he ran back to the room then stood stock-still, overwhelmed with shock at the sight before him.
Jacob Sandburg lay amidst the ruins of the coffee table; his scotch glass rolling from nerveless fingers as his hands clutched at his chest. Esther knelt at her husbands side, her shaking hands raised to her mouth.
"Jacob! Jacob! Please, talk to me!"
Blair hurried to his grandparents side and knelt beside the ailing man. Grasping his grandmothers shoulder, he pulled her to face him. "What happened?"
Esther merely shook her head, appearing unable to answer and Blair decided not to waste precious time. "Is anyone else here? No? I need you to go call 911, all right?"
Esther remained staring at Jacobs now unconscious body and Blair shook her forcefully. "Grandma, go call for an ambulance."
This time she roused and nodded, then got shakily to her feet and hurried from the room.
Blair turned his attention back to his grandfather, noting the gray pallor of his face and the light caste of sweat coating his skin. Jacob took a couple of shuddering breaths, then his eyes rolled up and he stopped breathing.
"Grandfather!" Blair shook the old mans shoulder and repeatedly called his name but Jacob remained unresponsive. Blair automatically got his grandfather onto his back and tilted his chin up, then proceeded to blow several breaths into his mouth. He checked for a pulse and finding none, tore open Jacobs shirt and began chest compressions, praying continually to hear the welcoming sound of sirens.
Time appeared to stand still as Blair continued to keep Jacob alive and he was startled when a large hand moved him out of the way and a soft voice spoke in his ear. "Youve done well. Let us take over now, son."
It took a moment for the words to register then Blair nodded slowly and moved away watching as the paramedics took his grandfathers vitals and began to hook him up to IVs and monitors. As the two burly men lifted Jacob onto a gurney, the first one looked over at Blair and smiled. "You got him breathing again. Go take care of the lady. You okay to drive to the hospital?"
Blair nodded mutely, wavering a little as his exertions caught up with him and he felt suddenly light-headed. He stumbled over to where Esther stood sobbing in the doorway and gathered her to him. "Grandma, Ill drive you to the hospital."
Esther turned her tear-streaked face up at him and nodded. Blair helped her to his car then climbed into the drivers seat, waiting until the ambulance pulled out of the driveway before following its flashing lights.
Jim stood at the doorway to the ER waiting room and scanned the area until his eyes alighted on Blair. He was tucked away in a far corner of the room, his feet pushed up on the seat, his arms clasped tightly about his legs, and his forehead resting atop his knees.
Blair started at the voice and looked up, almost toppling from the chair in the process.
"Jim! Thanks for coming."
"Not a problem, Chief. You want to fill me in?" Jim sat on the chair next to his friend and checked him over.
Blairs features were pale and exhausted, his body tensed tightly with worry. He put his head back down on his knees and resumed his rocking.
"I had an argument with my grandfather and walked out. As I was leaving, he collapsed. He had a heart attack." He looked up at Jim. "It was my fault. If he dies, I will have killed him."
Jim could think of no words to comfort Blair that wouldnt sound trite and condescending, so he kept silent and squeezed the others shoulder gently.
"It seems to me that you saved his life," a soft voice said.
Both men looked up at the words and then stood as Esther smiled gently at them.
"You must be Jim," she said, extending a hand to the detective. "Its very nice to finally meet you."
Jim smiled at the old woman, noting the likeness to Blair and wondering idly if Naomi shared the similarities. "Its a pleasure to finally meet you, Mrs. Sandburg. Im sorry to hear about your husband." He placed a hand under her elbow and ushered her to his seat. "Why dont you sit down. You look exhausted."
"I am at that," Esther agreed. She stroked a gentle hand along Blairs cheek then sat in the chair, drawing Blair to her, keeping his hands entwined in hers. "Jacobs doctor has been telling him for months to slow down, get more rest, change his diet, give up smoking. Your grandfather is a very stubborn man, Blair. Always insists that he knows whats best and once his mind is made up, its almost impossible to change his mind."
Jim grinned a little at that comment and wondered perhaps if Blair was more like his grandfather after all.
"The doctor says that he had been expecting this to happen, given that Jacobs taken absolutely none of his advice. He thinks hes very lucky that you were there when it did occur or he may not be with us now." Her voice broke on the last word as tears overflowed from her eyes.
Blair moved quickly to envelope her in a hug. Jim bent and tapped Blairs shoulder. "Im going to go give Simon a call. Let him know well be late."
"Thanks, Jim." Blairs voice was a rough shaky whisper but his eyes smiled with gratitude.
Grandmother and grandson sat in silence for long minutes, drawing strength from each other before Esther finally took a deep breath and sat back. She fumbled for her purse and withdrew a delicate lace handkerchief from within to dab at her eyes then reached into the bag again and withdrew Blairs treasured photo. "You left this behind last time. I do hope youll take it with you now."
Blair looked down at the picture, stroking a finger lovingly over the three faces. "Thank you."
"Theyre taking him up to the cardiac unit in a short while. Hell be here for several days but the doctor says hell be fine. He wants to see you."
Blair began to shake his head but Esther reached for his hands once more. "He doesnt blame you any more than I do. In fact, this incident has served to make him think deeply about many things. The doctor said it would be all right for you to visit with him for a few moments."
"Okay," Blair said. He placed a gentle kiss on his grandmothers forehead then stood up. "Do you want to come in with me?"
Esther shook her head. "I think this is something best done between your grandfather and yourself." She looked over and smiled as she saw Jim approaching. "I think Ill see if I can convince your friend Jim to buy me a cup of coffee, perhaps fill me in on what youve been up to these last few years."
Blair nodded and turned toward the trauma rooms. He stepped up to the door and knocked. Hearing a soft voice inviting him to enter, he took a deep breath and pushed open the door.
"Finally," Jacob said, struggling upwards on the examination table.
Blair hurried forward and helped his grandfather to settle back on the pillows.
Jacob motioned to the hook on the wall by the door. "My clothes are there. Bring them over here and go and find that damn fool doctor. Find out when I can get out of here."
Blair grinned a little then sobered and stood in front of his grandfather, twisting his hands nervously. "I think theyre going to want you to stay for a few days to make sure youre really going to be all right."
Jacob harrumphed impatiently. "Doctors not even old enough to be out of school. Doesnt know what hes talking about." He paused then conceded, "He was probably right about the cigarettes though. Should have given them up years ago."
There was a moments uncomfortable silence before both men spoke at once.
They both looked up then and grinned and Jacob gestured to the bed. "Come sit down, Blair. We need to talk."
"I dont know if we should," Blair said uncertainly. "If you get upset "
"Im not going to get upset," Jacob retorted. "Ive had some time to think, lying here, waiting for them to get their damn tests out of the way. It was wrong of me to take out my disappointment in Naomi out on you." He gestured again at the bed and Blair finally sat down. "It was also wrong of me to try to turn you against your mother. Regardless of how I feel about how shes handled her life, shes done an admirable job in raising you."
"Thank you. I need to apologize too," Blair began. "I was wrong to criticize you. I do appreciate the opportunities youve made available to me through the bursary. I wish I had been told about it but thats something I need to talk to mom about, not you. I wouldnt have refused the grant if Id known about it. If anything, I would probably worked even harder to deserve it."
"You do deserve it, Blair," Jacob replied. "Id secretly been disappointed when Naomi was born, you know? Another girl. Esther was delighted, of course and I didnt want to upset her so I pretended that I wanted another girl. But Naomi was clever, smart as anything. I had such high hopes for her. When she left, then came back with you, I saw it as a chance to finally have the son Id wanted so badly."
"You called me your son," Blair said softly. "Back at the house before this." Then he looked curiously at his grandfather. "What about Robert?"
Jacob bristled. "Roberts a bum," he said sternly. "Helen married a very well-off man. Robert never wanted for anything, he dropped out of high school, he never had to work for anything he wanted and lives off his parents. His mother defends him. I couldnt let Naomi do that to me and I hoped that you wouldnt either."
Blair looked up as the door swung open and a nurse bustled in. "Im sorry, Mr. Sandburg. Time for you to be moved upstairs. Perhaps your grandson would like to accompany you?" She looked hopefully at Blair who grinned.
"Im sure my grandson has better things to do than keep an old man company," Jacob groused.
"Actually, Id like to talk with you some more. Ive left Jim outside with Grandmother and I do need to go to the police station with him for awhile. Is it all right if I call back tonight?"
Jacob waved him away. "Go!"
Blair stood up to go then turned back to the bed for a moment. "Can I ask you something?"
At his grandfathers nod, he continued, stumbling a little over the words. "Um, my father. Did Naomi, do you ?" His voice trailed off.
"Naomi never said," Jacob replied. "I dont think she ever really knew for sure." For a moment, Blair saw a spark of bitterness in his eyes then it was replaced by resignation. "I think you need to talk to your mother about that and about a lot of other things."
Blair nodded and walked to the door. "Ill see you tonight."
"When you see your mother, can you give her a message from me?"
"Tell her I miss her."
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