LINKS TO THE PAST

(A sequel to "Shelter")

(Part Two of the "Family Tree" series)

By: Lyn

Feedback to: townsend297@ozemail.com.au

Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are the property of Di Meo, Bilson and Petfly. This story was written for my own and other’s enjoyment and no money has been made from it.

Rating: PG (L)

Spoilers: The Debt.

Author’s Notes: After I wrote "Shelter", Ruth (aka Chryssalis) asked if I planned a sequel to it. What could I say, she asked so nicely. So Ruth, this one’s for you.

Summary: Blair tracks down his treasured photo, but finds that family disappointments linger.

Blair hung up the phone and looked dejectedly up as he heard the door to the apartment open. Jim Ellison hung his jacket up on the hook by the door and moved straight through to the kitchen to pull a beer from the fridge.

"How’s it going, Chief?" he asked, pausing to take a long swallow of his beer before setting it down on the counter. "Did you get that research finished?" Jim moved through the apartment as he spoke, picking up items of clothing, books and papers that were scattered about. He gathered it all into a small pile and then dumped the lot unceremoniously into Blair’s lap.

Blair moved the articles to the seat beside him, not noticing Jim’s pained sigh and walked into the kitchen, pulling bowls, chopping board and utensils from cupboards. "I got the study research done, that was the easy part."

"I’m afraid you’ve lost me here, Sandburg," Jim said, sitting down at the table and picking up his beer. "You were up half the night, moaning and groaning about that research and how you'd never get it done. What was the other research?"

"I’ve been trying to track down another copy of that photo," Blair answered as he rummaged in the fridge for salad ingredients.

"No luck, huh?"

"Actually, yeah, I managed to track down another copy."

"That’s good, isn’t it?" Jim asked.

Blair stopped his dinner preparations and stood facing Jim, hands on his hips. "Not exactly, man. My cousin remembers seeing the photo a few years ago. My grandmother has the original."

"So what’s the problem, Sandburg? You phone her or go visit her and ask if you can get a copy of it."

"It’s not quite that easy. My grandfather threw my mom out of the house when he found out she was pregnant with me. As far as my grandparents are concerned, my mother is dead and I don’t exist." Blair stared for a moment at Jim, then taking a shaky breath that was ominously close to tears, he turned back to fixing dinner.

"I’m sorry," Jim said, "that’s got to be tough on you and your mom."

Blair shrugged his shoulders and started cutting up tomatoes. "Not a problem for me, man. You can’t miss what you’ve never had. You want me to put some mushrooms in the spaghetti sauce?"

"Actually, I’m going out for dinner," Jim said, as he headed up the stairs to his room.

Blair continued to talk, knowing the sentinel would still hear him. "Great, thanks for letting me know, Jim. I’ve got all this food out for nothing." He slammed the fridge door shut with a muttered epithet and turned back to the counter, hacking angrily at the vegetables on the chopping board.

It wasn’t really the food. Blair had known about Naomi’s parents and their feelings toward him since he was a teenager, though he had never delved too deeply. He couldn’t bear to see the sadness and guilt that swept over her at his eager questions. Now, though, hearing the words from his cousin, the situation had become tangible, clouding his head and leaving a bitter taste in his mouth. He really didn’t want to spend the evening alone with his angry and depressing thoughts.

"Sorry, Chief, it was a spur of the moment thing," Jim said. He’d changed into a blue open neck shirt and was shrugging into his leather jacket as he walked back downstairs.

"Yeah, fine, whatever," Blair grumbled, not looking up from his task.

"I’d ask you to come along but Carolyn…"

"Doesn’t like me." Blair finished for him.

"Of course, she likes you, Sandburg. It’s just that both times we’ve had dinner, you were there and she asked if it could just be the two of us, so we could talk about some things. Look, just because you’re staying here doesn’t mean we’ve got to do everything together, okay?"

Blair finally turned to look at Jim, both hands raised in a gesture of defeat. "Whoa, man, I said it was fine, okay? I just thought you could have called and saved me the trouble of cooking all this food, that’s all."

"A couple of weeks ago I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to go out for the evening," Jim replied bitingly.

Blair glowered at him for a moment, then turned his back.

"Sandburg. Blair, I’m … Just forget it, okay?" With a growl, Jim swept up his car keys and left the apartment, slamming the door behind him.

The loud bang startled Blair and he jumped, the knife slipping and biting deeply into his finger. "Ouch! Shit!" he swore. He dropped the knife and sucked on the bleeding digit. Taking a close look at the injury, he headed toward the bathroom to find a bandage, muttering darkly about ungrateful sentinels.

* * * *

Jim smelled the blood a second after the door slammed behind him. He automatically extended his hearing to listen for Blair’s heartbeat but found nothing untoward. He paused for a moment outside the door, unwilling to leave with the heated words hanging between them.

Jim reentered the apartment just as Blair emerged from the bathroom, securing the last of the tape around his finger. As Jim stood and stared at the injured digit, Blair opened his mouth to speak, then merely shrugged and walked back into the kitchen. "Forget something?"

"No," Jim replied. "I didn’t want to leave with us angry at each other. I’m sorry for what I said, Chief. You’re right, I should have called and let you know I was going out for dinner. Carolyn and I still have some things to sort out, property and the like. I think she just felt uncomfortable discussing it in front of anyone else."

"I wasn’t angling for an invitation," Blair grumbled. "You pay for the food, I just don’t want to waste it."

"You still have to eat, Chief," Jim said gently.

Blair finally stopped fiddling with the salad and turned to face his partner. "I promised you I’d be out of here in a week. I should have started looking for something else by now. I’ll start checking some places out tomorrow and in the meantime, there’s a couch in my office, I can sleep there for a few nights."

Jim looked closely but could see no sign of the patented Sandburg sympathy look. "There’s no rush to move out. The room is there doing nothing but gathering dust." He realized suddenly how much he had missed the presence of someone else in his home and his life. " I enjoy your company. Most of the time," he added as Blair beamed. "I should go, Carolyn will be waiting."

"Thanks Jim," Blair said.

Jim nodded and smiled back, then turned to leave.

He’d been feeling on edge about having dinner with Carolyn all day, knowing that this meeting would finally bring their relationship to its official end. In truth, he had invited Blair along on the previous dates trying to delay the inevitable. The divorce itself did not bother him, he had known the marriage was in trouble within months of the wedding. What was worse was the niggling thought that he had failed at this relationship as he had with so many others.

The phone rang as he walked past it and he snagged it before it could sound a second time. "Ellison. Yes, he is, hold on just a minute."

He held the phone out to Blair silently.

"Who is it?" Blair asked as he accepted the receiver.

"A Mrs. Jacob Sandburg," Jim answered.

"Oh shit," Blair breathed. "That’s my grandmother."

"Then you’d better not keep her waiting, Chief." Jim motioned to the phone and Blair nodded, slowly raising the receiver to his ear.

"Hello, this is Blair."

//Blair, my name is Esther Sandburg. I’m Naomi’s mother, your grandmother. //

"Uh, Mrs. Sandburg, I…." Blair stuttered to a halt and Jim moved forward to place a supporting hand on the young man’s shoulder. He smiled encouragingly and Blair took a deep breath and spoke again. "It’s nice to finally talk to you. How can I help you?"

//Your cousin tells me you are looking for a photo that I have. //

"Yes, I am. Not that photo, of course, just a copy. You see, the warehouse I was living in blew up and…" Blair looked up in surprise as Jim pulled the phone away from his mouth.

"Too much information, Chief," he whispered.

"Oh God, you’re right," Blair grimaced and then spoke into the phone again. "I had a copy that Naomi gave to me but it got damaged. I’d like to have another copy, so I asked Robert if he knew where I could get one."

//Can you meet me for lunch tomorrow, Blair? //

"Yes, I’d like that very much."

//I’d like it too. Shall we say 1pm at The Glen? //

"I’ll look forward to it. Goodbye." Blair hung up the phone and sat on the couch.

"Sandburg?" Jim prodded.

Blair looked up slowly, a shy smile beginning to form on his face. "That was my grandmother," he whispered. "She wants to meet me tomorrow."

"So I gathered," Jim said. "That’s great. Now, are we okay?"

Blair grinned and nodded. "Yeah, big guy, we’re okay, thanks. Now, you’d better leave or Carolyn is going to have your ass. Besides, I’ve got to get organized for tomorrow."

Jim smiled back and walked to the door, his smile growing wider as Blair spoke softly.

"What the hell do you wear to meet your grandmother for the first time? Oh man, my hair! Tie it back, wear the glasses, yeah that’ll work, maybe I should take my earrings out."

* * * *

At almost one p.m. the following day, Blair stood in the foyer of The Glen restaurant. He glanced around at the elegant décor and bounced nervously on his toes.

" May I help you, sir?"

Blair cleared his suddenly dry throat and looked up at the maitre d’. "I’m here to meet Mrs. Sandburg, Mrs. Esther Sandburg."

"Of course sir." The maitre d’ bowed slightly and led the way into the restaurant. Blair trailed behind, feeling as though every eye in the place was scrutinizing him. He tugged on his collar and wondered belatedly if he should have worn a suit jacket rather than his leather one. Looking around at the well-dressed patrons, he was relieved that his one good pair of dark trousers had been back from the cleaners. Most of his clothes were either smoke or water damaged from the explosion at the warehouse. Some had not been salvageable and he was not earning enough money to cover rent for Jim plus other expenses and new clothes. He bumped into the back of the maitre d’ who had stopped suddenly at a small booth in a far corner of the restaurant. The man grunted, then stepped aside and smiled graciously at the small woman who was seated there.

"Your guest has arrived, madam. I’ll send David over immediately to take your order."

"Thank you, John. Give us just a few minutes." The voice was melodic and soft and Blair felt himself smiling despite his nervousness.

Esther Sandburg waited for John to withdraw, then held a delicate bejeweled hand out to Blair. "I always thought you were a handsome young man. Sit down, dear."

Blair shook her hand, then sat opposite her, his hands fiddling anxiously with his tie as he observed his grandmother from under his lowered eyelids.

Esther Sandburg was tiny, perhaps five feet tall, with a tidy figure accentuated by her tailored dark suit. Her silver gray hair was swept up on top of her head where it was gathered into a bun of sculptured curls. Her lightly lined face was devoid of makeup, save for a light touch of pink lipstick and Blair could see that Naomi had inherited her peaches and cream complexion from her mother.

"Your mother could never keep still for longer than a minute." Esther said.

Blair looked up guiltily but she was smiling kindly, deep blue eyes so like his own crinkled in amusement.

"That’s better," Esther said, "now I can see your lovely face. You have your mother’s eyes." She reached into her purse and pulled out a small photo. "Is this the photo you wanted?"

Blair took it from her hand and smiled, running his fingers lovingly over the small girl seated between a man he knew was his grandfather, though they had never met, and a younger version of the woman sitting opposite him, her dark curls matching her smiling daughter’s.

"Yes, that’s it. I felt so bad that mine got destroyed. I promised Naomi that I’d look after it." He looked across at the old woman, his face serious. "Why now? Why would you get in touch with me now? It’s not because of the photo, is it?"

"You’re an anthropologist, aren’t you?" Esther asked. At Blair’s nod, she continued, "An observer of life, of people. You’re right, my dear. Naomi is my youngest daughter. I thought your grandfather would be so disappointed not to finally have a son after two daughters, but Naomi was different. Jacob fell in love with her the moment he saw her. They did everything together; she truly was her father’s child. When she went off to college, he bragged to everyone how she was going to be a doctor. Halfway through her first year, she dropped out to protest about something or other. I begged her to return to college and make a good start to her life but she refused. She said changing the world for the better was the best career she could have. It was the first of many trips away from us and it was not the first time she was arrested for disturbing the peace. We bailed her out that time and paid her fine, two weeks later she was gone again The next time we saw her, she was four months pregnant with you."

Blair swallowed the lump in his throat and jumped suddenly as the waiter came to take their order. They both ordered salads and water, smiling a little at the duplicity.

As the waiter left, Blair leaned back in the chair. "Why did you want to see me now, when you decided I didn’t exist all those years ago?"

Esther shook her head sadly and reached across to take Blair’s hand. "I never thought that, my dear boy. I’ve followed your every move from the time you were born. Your grandfather is a proud man, Blair. He worked very hard to earn an honest living. After the war, it was important to most Jews to gather what little self-respect they still had and to try to make a fresh start. Jacob wanted Naomi to go to medical school, achieve what he knew she was capable of and had never had the chance to do himself. In so doing, return some pride to the Sandburg name. When she walked away from it all, saying she didn’t need us, she hurt him badly. When she came back, pregnant with you and expected him to take her back with no questions asked, it was more than he could bear. She broke his heart."

Blair waited until the waiter withdrew from placing their food before them. He was still not satisfied. His grandmother’s story, while filling in some of the gaps of Naomi’s early life, did not quench his curiosity. "What do you want from me now?"

"Nothing, my dear," Esther said, softly. "Except for you to indulge an old woman and allow her to spend some time with her grandson. I’m very proud of your achievements, Blair. Now, you’re working on your doctorate. Tell me a little about it."

Blair shrugged as he picked up his fork and toyed with his salad before launching into his well-rehearsed line. "I’m studying closed societies, and the police force is a prime example of that. I was given permission to ride along with one of the detectives, so I can observe the way they work and interact with each other."

"You live with this detective?" Esther asked.

Blair looked up quickly, expecting to see a grimace of distaste on his grandmother’s face, but he saw only curiosity.

"Jim, yes," he answered. "I, um, had some problems at my place and Jim agreed to let me stay for a while."

Esther nodded. " I know your grandfather would be proud of you. He’s an old man now," she smiled gently. "We’re both old. I’d like him to see that you’re achieving all the things that he so desperately wanted for Naomi, before she foolishly threw it all away."

Blair’s eyes flashed with anger at the remark. "I’m very proud of my mother," he said softly. He did not want to upset the old woman but he felt he needed to defend his mother. "The demonstrations in the sixties and seventies made a lot of changes for the better. I’m glad that she was a part of that."

"Where were you, Blair, when she was off helping all these people and changing the world?" Esther asked.

"I was fine," Blair answered evenly. "She always made sure someone was there for me or she took me with her."

"So you agree that she put herself and her interests before her own child?"

"No, that’s not what I meant. Naomi loves me. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be at Rainier now."

"Is that what you really think, Blair?" Esther stood up and gathered her small black handbag. "I think your grandfather might have something to say about that. It was he, after all, who convinced the University to accept you, despite their concerns over your youth and also the fact that your mother had the nasty habit of upping stakes and you and moving on as the whim took her. The bursary you receive each year is a result of Jacob’s generosity to the university, to be continued whether you remained or not. He felt if you chose not to continue your education, as Naomi did, then some other student could benefit from it."

Blair was aware of the color draining from his face as he registered his grandmother’s words. "My grandfather? I thought you said that he wanted nothing to do with me?"

"He was disappointed in Naomi, Blair, not you. All he wanted to do was to give you the same opportunity that he had offered to your mother. We both hoped that you would use it well, and you have. Naomi, however, while grateful enough for your grandfather’s assistance in getting you accepted to Rainier, then decided she wanted no further help from us. Jacob was prepared to finance your studies but Naomi refused and forbade us to approach you. She told us that you were not a charity case and that it was good for the soul, or some such thing if you achieved whatever you did on your own merits."

Blair nodded. "I agree with her on that. My achievements are mine and surely my grandfather would agree that it’s good to work hard for what you want in life."

"Of course, he would, Blair. Neither of us believed her reasons for a moment though. Naomi was a spoilt child. Her father’s fault, he could never refuse her anything and she was loathe to share, even then. It was because she didn’t want you to know what he had done to help you. She never wanted to share you with anyone, Blair, not even your own family."

Blair shook his head. "That’s not true," he said vehemently.

Esther nodded just as forcefully. "She was terrified that if you knew what he had done to help, you would get close to us and she’d lose you. He would never have accepted her back, of course, but we were more than willing to take you in."

"I’m all she had," Blair replied. "How could you have expected her to give me up?"

"If she was a decent mother, she would have put your wellbeing before her own selfish needs," Esther stated angrily.

With a shaking hand, Blair withdrew the treasured photo from his jacket pocket and placed it face down on the table, then laid a twenty dollar bill on top of it. "Thank you for your time," he said. "I don’t think I can look at this photo in quite the same way any more and I would appreciate it if you didn’t try to contact me again. I will not be a pawn in your bitter little game of revenge against your daughter. I love my mother," Blair whispered, aware that his voice was breaking. "Naomi loves me, she would never hurt me." He turned abruptly and walked away from his grandmother and out of the restaurant.

* * * *

Jim came home to a darkened and silent apartment, but he knew that Blair was at home. He had begun to seek out Blair’s heartbeat as soon as he arrived home, an unconscious action that he appeared to have no control over. He walked quietly over to Blair's bedroom and looked in. The anthropologist lay curled on his side, facing the doorway, one arm thrown up to cover his eyes, but Jim could tell that he was awake.

"Hey, Chief, how’d it go with your grandmother today?" Jim asked.

Blair moved to his back and spoke softly, his voice tight. "Okay, I guess."

"Are you all right, Sandburg?" Jim moved further into the room, switching on the overhead light. He switched it off again quickly as Blair winced and covered his eyes once more.

"Not again." Blair groaned and launched himself suddenly from the bed, pushing Jim aside impatiently as he stumbled toward the bathroom.

Jim waited outside as he heard Blair vomiting violently. As the retching stopped, the detective cracked open the door and poked his head inside. "You need some help?"

Blair lay curled up on the tiled floor, both hands now cradling his head as he squeezed his eyes shut.

Jim knelt beside him and gently shook his shoulder. "What’s wrong, buddy?"

"Migraine," Blair whispered. "God, it hurts. I haven’t had one this bad in a long time."

"Let’s get you back to bed, huh?" Jim said, placing both hands under Blair’s shoulders to help him up.

Blair slowly rose to his feet then bent over, moaning and clutching at his pounding head. Jim held his arm and together they managed to slowly move back to the bedroom. Jim helped Blair lay down on the bed without too much jostling, but frowned in concern as the anthropologist turned to his side and curled up into a tight ball.

"Sandburg?" Jim squeezed Blair’s shoulder and waited until blue eyes cracked open to look at him. "Maybe I should take you to the hospital."

"No," Blair groaned. "I’ll be okay. I don’t want to move again, please."

"Okay," Jim agreed, dubiously. "Let me get an icepack and some tablets for you." His concern grew as Blair agreed wordlessly. The grad student’s distaste for drugs of any kind was well known. Jim got to his feet and went into the kitchen. As he opened the freezer and rummaged for an icepack, he had an idea and reached for the phone. He dialed quickly; keeping his hearing turned up in case Blair needed him. "Hello, Tim? Jim Ellison. Yes, I’m fine, you? Good. Look, buddy, I want to call in that favor you owe me."

* * * *

Doctor Tim Page pulled the bedroom curtain closed and walked over to the kitchen counter to pack his bag. He accepted the steaming mug of coffee that Jim handed him with a grateful smile. "Thanks, man. I really need this. Okay, your friend there should sleep for the rest of the night. I gave him an injection combining a narcotic and an anti-emetic, to control the pain and the vomiting. By the time he wakes up tomorrow he should be okay, if a little hung over. If the headache or vomiting persists, tell him to get checked out by his own doctor. Apart from that, make sure he takes it easy tomorrow and ensure he doesn’t get dehydrated." He finished up the coffee and put the cup back on the counter.

Jim shook his hand and walked the young doctor to the door. "Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate you coming out here tonight. I don’t think Sandburg could have made it to the Emergency Room. Poor kid, he’s had a pretty rough time of it lately."

"Hanging out with you, Detective, I’m not surprised." Tim grinned once more and left.

Jim turned back into the apartment and began to shut things down for the night. He paused once more at Blair’s doorway, and saw that he was sleeping soundly, though his face was still pale and damp with sweat, his arms and legs askew as they tangled in the bedclothes. Jim resisted the urge to pull the blankets more thoroughly over the sleeping man. "Mother hen," he grumbled softly to himself as he wearily climbed the stairs to his bed. He realized then that he hadn’t learnt anything about Blair’s meeting with his grandmother and made a mental note to ask him the following day.

* * * *

Jim was in the kitchen scrambling eggs by the time Blair came stumbling out of his room, running a hand through his unruly curls.

"Oh man," he groaned. "Did you get the number of the truck that hit me?"

Jim smiled in sympathy and placed a cup of steaming coffee on the table as Blair sank down into a chair. "Tim said you might be a little hung over. How’s your headache?"

Blair took a sip of the coffee and sighed, then looked up, smiling. "Gone. Thanks for this, and last night. You didn’t have to call a doctor out. The migraine would have settled eventually. Give me the account, though and I’ll pay it."

Jim shrugged and waved a hand nonchalantly. "You’re welcome and there was no charge."

Blair looked at him quizzically.

"Tim’s brother was running in a gang, I helped him out, got him a job. He owed me a favor. So, how did it really go with your grandmother yesterday?"

Blair sighed again and toyed with the coffee cup until Jim’s hand closed over his, stopping the liquid from sloshing over the sides. "She gave me a copy of the photo, she said some stuff, I said some stuff and I gave the photo back."

"Oh."

"Yes, oh." Blair got up and began to pace. "She said some things about my mother that made me angry. I was really mad, so I just told her that I didn’t want the photo any more and I left. I really don’t want to talk about it right now, if that’s okay, Jim. I just need some time to process it all."

"Sure, buddy, that’s fine," Jim replied. He got up and went to the kitchen to finish serving up breakfast. "If you want to talk about it, let me know."

Blair smiled. "Thanks, I appreciate it."

"So, are you coming in with me this morning?" Jim asked as he carried two laden plates to the table.

"You bet," Blair answered, eyeing the piled plate of eggs and bacon uneasily. "I think I’ll stick to coffee and toast, thanks."

Jim shrugged and scraped the food from Blair’s plate onto his own. "Whatever. Get a move on, Sandburg. I want to finish early tonight. I’ve got a couple of tickets to the Jags game."

"Oh man, that’s great." Blair attempted to inject some enthusiasm into his tone, but it fell flat. "Are you taking Carolyn again? You two seem to be getting on pretty well. That’s good."

"I’m not taking Carolyn. I didn’t ask her," Jim said, munching on the last of his toast. "I was going to see what you were doing, but if you’ve got something more important on, I guess I could ask Simon."

"Are you kidding?" Blair jumped from his chair. "I would love to go." He disappeared into his room, emerging scant minutes later, securing the catches of his backpack. "Well, come on, man." Blair motioned impatiently to Jim. "Let’s knock that paper work over so we can leave early. Do you want to stop somewhere for dinner first? No, it would probably be best to go straight there, grab some hot dogs. Wow, a Jags game."

Jim shook his head, attempting to hide his grin and followed his still chattering roommate from the apartment.

Fin

-Lyn Townsend November 25th, 2000

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