Nature's Visitations

by Francesca

Disclaimers: Nothing's mine but the words; everything else belongs to Pet Fly. No infringement is intended, and I'm not makin' a dime. (Who needs money when you've got love?) (Well, okay, but I'm still not making any money!) Please go away if you're under 18!

Summary: In which Jim & Blair go for lunch.

Warnings: None. Maybe language. I've got a fairly foul mouth, sorry.

Notes: This follows Nature's Relations. Feedback requested, as always. You all know the drill. ;)

"Blair, you have to get out of the truck, now," said Jim Ellison.

"Give me a minute, will you?" retorted Blair Sandburg, staring out through the front window at the Ellison house.

"You were the one who was all eager to get here," said Jim. "So what happened?"

"Yeah, well, so now I'm less eager, okay?" shot back Blair.

"But what happened?" asked Jim.

"It's the damn house, man!" yelled Blair, gesturing to it. Jim looked at the house, looked at Blair.

"What about it? You've seen it before."

"I looked at it. I didn't see it," explained Blair. "I had other things on my mind at the time — and there was a whole SWAT team — " he added, placing them in the landscape with his hands.

"Okay, so now you're seeing it sans SWAT team. And?"

"And it's a pretty fuckin' big house!" said Blair.

"Yeah, I guess," said Jim, looking at it, trying to see whatever Blair was seeing.

"Jim, there are columns, for god's sake!"

Yes, there were columns. Jim looked at the columns. "What, you don't like columns?" he asked.

"I like columns just fine," retorted Blair. "And inside — what? — oriental rugs, no?"

"Yes," said Jim.

"Fireplaces. With mantelpieces. Tasteful objets d'art arranged above."

"Yes," confirmed Jim.

"Picture frame moldings."

"What the fuck is a picture frame molding?" retorted Jim.

"I'm sure there are," said Blair, frowning. "And you grew up here?"

"Yes," said Jim.

Blair shook his head. "It just makes me feel — I don't know, like I don't know who you are," he confessed softly.

"You're a moron, do you know that?" said Jim, angrily.

"I'm serious, Jim — I just don't see you here," said Blair.

"Moron," muttered Jim. "Total fucking moron."

"This is your childhood, we're talking about. And I don't know a thing about it. And my imagination is totally failing me, man — I just can't see it. I mean, this isn't even middle class," he explained, gesturing toward the house with expressive hands. "This is serious upper middle class territory — or lower upper class — or even, in American terms — "

"You don't know who I am?" yelled Jim, smacking the side of his partner's head.

"Well, I know you're on a short fuse," murmured Blair, jerking away, a hand rising to his head.

"You don't know who I fucking am? What makes you say such stupid things?" Jim asked irritably. "What alien beams down and takes possession of your otherwise serviceable brain?"

"Serviceable?" repeated Blair, offended.

"If you don't know who I am, well, we've got a real problem, here," said Jim sarcastically.

"Jim, I didn't mean — " protested Blair.

"I could strangle you, you know that?! You're the only fucking person on the planet who knows who I am!" yelled Jim. "Okay, it's all been ass-backwards, I admit!" he said, changing tacks suddenly. "You usually don't get access to a person's deepest — -deepest — -you know, deepest shit before you know, say, where they went to high school, or what their favorite vegetable is — "

"Spinach," murmured Blair. "I know that much, at least."

"But the fact that I grew up in a house with — whatever — columns — " he exploded, flinging his hand out toward the house, " — doesn't know, doesn't mean..." Jim stopped and stared out the front window, jaw tightening.

"You're right," said Blair immediately, reaching out to touch his arm. "I'm sorry, it was a stupid thing to say. Aliens took possession of my otherwise serviceable brain. I'm sorry."

"You say you don't see me here — well, I don't see me here either," said Jim, looking at the house, the manicured lawn, the long, neat path to the door. "I never did. I certainly don't know what we're doing here now."

"We're having lunch," said Blair softly, rubbing Jim's arm reassuringly. "Just lunch, okay? I'm sorry. I'm a complete, total, fucking moron, like you said."

"You did it all ass-backwards," said Jim, turning to look at him. "Got to know me from the inside out, not the outside in. But you do know me. This — this doesn't matter," said Jim tightly, gesturing to the house. "This was never anything. This was like — like being in a coma. Alive but not. Like the rest of my fucking life. Fucking sleepwalking."

"Jim, I'm so, so sorry," said Blair desperately.

"You're the only mirror I have," said Jim, turning to him. "If you don't see me — I don't exist, you know?"

Blair squeezed his arm tightly, looked at him with sorrowful eyes. "Jim, I could rip out my tongue," he pleaded.

"Well, don't do that," said Jim. "You won't be able to have lunch," he added wryly. "And then my father will so disappointed."

"I think I've already lost my appetite," muttered Blair, and they got out of the truck, slammed the doors.

They walked up the path, and Jim knocked on the door. After a few moments, William Ellison opened it, smiled nervously. "Jimmy! I'm so glad you came. And, uh, Blair, hello."

"Hi, Dad," said Jim, walking past him. Blair hesitated, smiled, followed Jim into the foyer.

"It's just us," said William Ellison, shutting the door behind them. "I gave the maid the day off."

"Uh-huh," said Jim, automatically translating that into, I'm embarrassed. I don't really want anyone to know you're here.

"Well, um — come in, sit down. I'll get us some drinks. Blair, what will you have?"

Blair blew out a nervous breath. "Well, what've you got?" he asked, smiling and Jim rolled his eyes, knowing what was coming.

"What have I got?" repeated Bill Ellison, smiling, rubbing his palms together. "What haven't I got? Come here, look at this," and Blair obligingly followed the older man over to a large, cherry wood sideboard. Ellison Sr. manipulated the top, and it slid open to reveal an impressive array of bottles and mixers. He reached down and slid the side door open, and inside were glasses of every imaginable size and shape.

"Wow," said Blair, gamely.

"A beauty, huh?" said Ellison Sr., looking at it affectionately. "Completely stocked — as good as any bar in the world. So. What's your pleasure?"

I'd like to run screaming from here to Canada, thought Blair. "Well, how about — a martini. Dry. With an olive up."

"Coming right up," said Ellison Sr., pulling out a silver-plated cocktail shaker. Blair wandered around the room, caught Jim's eye. "Picture frame moldings," he mouthed, pointing. "Blair?" said Ellison Sr., and Blair jumped, strode back, accepted the martini glass. "That's great," he said, looking at it. "Should I leave a tip?" and Ellison Sr. seemed to find that very funny.

"What about you, Jimmy?"

"I don't normally drink this early in the day," said Jim, fixing an eye on his father.

"Oh, come on , it's Sunday," said his father. "You're not working."

"Water's fine," said Jim, and Ellison Sr. nodded and went into the kitchen. "Well you certainly hit that right," said Jim to Blair, nodding at the martini.

"Yeah, I've heard the phrase 'three martini lunch' before — never got it until now," murmured Blair, Sentinel soft. "Hope he doesn't expect me to have three..."

Ellison Sr. came back with a tall glass of iced water, crossed the room and handed it to his son, who muttered thanks. "Me, I think I'm with Blair, here," said Ellison Sr., pouring the rest of the martini out of the shaker. "Well," he said, turning with his glass in hand. "Here's to — um, here's to — "

"Cent'anni," interposed Blair and drank. "A hundred years," he translated, raising his head from the glass.

"A hundred years, eh?" said Ellison Sr. "I like that. We should all be so lucky. Sit down, let's sit down." They sat down on the formal living room furniture.

"So..." said Ellison Sr., looking at his son. Jim looked like snakes were writhing around his ankles, and Ellison quickly turned his attention back to Blair. "So, you're Jim's partner — on the force?" he amended quickly.

"Yeah," said Blair, "For...mmm, a little over three years now. First as an observer, then as a consultant, and now pretty much full time, as an officer," he explained.

"Oh?" asked Ellison Sr. "Well, that's interesting. So I take it that police work wasn't your original avocation?"

"No," said Blair, grinning, pushing a stray lock of hair away from his face. "Hardly. Actually, I'm a professor of Anthropology over at Rainier. Also. As well." He shrugged. "It's hard to explain. It started as a research project — I was interested in how contemporary police hierarchy mirrors South American tribal organization. So I got involved in the Cascade Police Department as an observer and, well, found that I had sort of a knack for police work."

"Well!" said Ellison Sr., sounding impressed. "Still — that's a radical job change."

"Radical doesn't quite cover it, actually," said Blair, making a face.

"And you met Jim — ?"

"He was the officer I was initially assigned to observe," lied Blair fluidly. "And the partnership just worked out."

Ellison Sr. nodded his comprehension. "I see."

"Then I moved in with Jim when my apartment blew up," offered Blair.

"Blew up?" asked Ellison Sr., eyebrows raised.

"Yeah, there was a drug lab next door. Who knew?" said Blair, smiling, throwing up his hands.

"So, Jimmy, did that become a case of yours?" asked William Ellison, turning to his son.

"Uh, yeah, Dad, it did. A case of ours. We closed it," said Jim, tersely.

"Actually Jim has the best case closure rate of any detective in Cascade," boasted Blair.

"Does he? Do you?" asked Ellison Sr., and Jim just nodded. "Well, that's just great," Ellison Sr. said. He looked at Jim, but Jim just stared back, refusing to engage him in conversation.

"So you're retired?" asked Blair, grabbing the conversational ball and lobbing it across the room.

"Yes," said Ellison Sr., gratefully smashing it back. "For about five years now. Oh, I do a little consulting work now and then, when someone bothers to ask me, but mostly I work on my golf game."

"Do you yip?" asked Blair, grinning, and Ellison Sr. laughed. "No, thank god — hands still steady as a rock! As of yesterday, anyway. Do you golf?"

"Oh, I love golf," Blair lied, avoiding Jim's accusing stare. "Great game," he added, miming a swing.

"We should play sometime," said Ellison Sr.

"I said I loved it," Blair amended, furiously digging himself an exit. "I didn't say I was any good at it."

"Well, it takes time," consoled Ellison Sr. "Which I now have plenty of, for the first time in my life." He smiled ruefully at Blair, then shot another nervous glance at Jim. "So, should we eat?"

"Sounds good to me," said Blair, springing up out of his chair.

" — and it turned out the pizza was laced with Golden," continued Blair, forcing himself to continue the story, desperate to disrupt the rapidly growing tension between Jim and his father, "but of course I didn't know and — "

"You know, Jimmy," said William Ellison suddenly, seizing the offensive, "you could maybe look slightly less unhappy to be here." He threw down his fork, leaned back in his chair, and glared at his eldest son. "Maybe you could just pretend to be enjoying yourself."

Oh no, thought Blair. Here we go.

"I think I'm tired of pretending," said Jim, staring coolly back.

"You know, it's not like I beat you. It's not like you ever wanted for anything — " argued Ellison Sr.

"Oh, yeah, right," muttered Jim.

"You act like you were raised in — in some slum!" said Ellison Sr. angrily. "Like you were chained to the bed and hit with a bat. You were raised with the best that I could possibly give you. You lived in a nice house in a good neighborhood. You went to good schools, got a good education — not that anyone would know. by the way — "

" — one word about Yale and I'm leaving," said Jim quietly.

"Okay, I wasn't around as much as I should have been but it's not like you were left on the street with a key tied round your neck!" shouted Ellison Sr. "You were safe, you were cared for, you were surrounded by nice people — "

"Very nice," said Jim tightly.

"Well, weren't they?" yelled Ellison Sr. "What the hell was so wrong, anyway?" he demanded, and then he crossed his arms and waited for an answer, glaring.

Jim stared at his father, and then said, quietly: "It was superficial. All of it."

"Who are you to judge?" retorted his father. "Who died and left you — "

" — Mrs. Winchell drank," began Jim, looking away. "Vodka, from the smell of it. That's why she was always so goddamned cheerful, god rest her soul. The Leopolds next door? Fought like cats and dogs — he thought she was having affairs — she was, by the way — and then he would come home from work and they would start arguing and sometimes he would hit her — with a belt, or something...something that sounded like that. Never anywhere that would show, could still smell it the next day. And she moved funny: she never wanted to wear her seat belt — it must have cut across the welts."

Blair stared down at his plate of meat and potatoes, froze, listened.

"Maggie Parnell — you thought she was so nice — you should have heard the things she said about you when she thought nobody could hear her. Who the hell you thought you were. How of course Mom couldn't tolerate you because nobody could. How you were raising Stephen and me to be stuck-up bastards like yourself. And how you were a prick — but you paid well, because you always had to be such a bigshot and she was going to get a piece of that, so it was worth putting up with the two Ellison brats every afternoon... And you were always, like, 'Say thank-you to Maggie, be nice to Maggie' — and she was a first-class bitch, Dad, and I had to smile and be polite and say 'please' and 'thank-you' and eat shit, basically — pretend that I didn't know the way she talked about you."

"Jesus Christ, Jimmy," said Ellison Sr., and his face was pale.

"Fred London molested his daughter," continued Jim dully. "You remember Sammie. That's why she killed herself — that whole psychedelic drug story they told was a lie. Sammie didn't even drink beer. And I had to watch him sobbing — sobbing at the funeral. Hypocritical bastard — I wanted to kick his teeth in, but I had to be nice. Get on line at the home, say, 'I'm sorry, Mr. London.' So sorry you drove Sammie into her grave at fifteen, you fucking evil bastard. Aaron's mother — Mrs. Lewis — she had, like, seizures or something. Aaron called them 'fits' — the whole family was in massive denial about it. In hindsight it was probably something like manic-depression, but no one wanted to admit that maybe Mom wasn't so well. So no one helped her. I'd be over at Aaron's, doing my homework, and you'd just hear — bang, bang, bang!" Jim raised his hand to his ears, closed his eyes. "Mrs. Lewis downstairs, banging her head against the laundry room door. Like I could care about social studies — the fucking French and Indian War. And then Jack, good old Uncle Jack — forget it," said Jim, suddenly. "You don't even want to know."

"I don't want to know," said Ellison Sr. quietly. "Please."

"No, you don't," said Jim, sincerely. "You really just don't. And it's not your fault — it would have been the same anywhere, probably. People are people, after all. It would have been the same anywhere — it is the same, everywhere. I know that now. But don't expect me to have — nostalgia for it," Jim said, spitting out the word. "I don't have any nostalgia, do you understand me? And don't ask me to pretend — I don't pretend to enjoy myself any more — I'm either enjoying myself or I'm not. And I don't pretend to like people any more — I stopped that a long time ago. I gave myself permission to dislike people — okay? — so stop trying to force me back in that box. I'm really through with that, Dad — through with pretending. I don't pretend any more — in fact, I pretend less and less every day," he added, jerking his head toward Blair Sandburg, significantly. "And either you deal with that — or, you know, there really isn't much else to say, anymore."

Jim stared at his father, and his father just stared back. Ellison Sr. looked pale, tired, old — and he was obviously at a loss for words. "All right," said Jim quietly. "You think about that, then. We're going," he said, standing up. "Blair?" he said, turning for the door.

"Uh, thanks, Mr. Ellison, it was a very nice — "

"BLAIR!" called Jim from the living room, striding quickly toward the door.

"Gotta go," whispered Blair. "Sorry," and then he left the dining room, hustling to catch up.

Mr. William Ellison just sat there for a while, lost in thought, eyes firmly fixed upon the chair where his eldest son had sat.

Jim and Blair drove home in silence. Once home, Jim headed immediately toward the sofa, grabbed the remote control.

"Jim," began Blair, and Jim turned to him, held up a hand.

"I know," said Jim. "And I know you know. And now, you know that I know that you know. The situation is known. Here, I'll even title it for you: Sentinel Senses and the Development of Pervasive Misanthropy, A Monograph By Blair Sandburg. I get it, see? and I know you got it, so maybe we can just skip the lengthy analysis and question and answer session and get right to the soothing Guide comfort part. I like that part," he confessed, extending a hand to his lover. "That's always the best part. Can we get right to that part?"

Blair smiled, surprised. "Sure," he said, moving forward, taking Jim's hand. "We can go right to that part." Jim took his hand, guided him to a seat on the sofa.

"Good," said Jim. "Because that's the part I like. Maybe we can even combine that part with the game? Really salvage the day?" he asked, hopefully.

"Sure," said Blair. "Here, come on," and he yanked on Jim's arm, and Jim stretched himself out on the sofa, lay his head and shoulders in Blair's lap, and flicked through the channels, searching for the game, as Blair let his soothing, comforting hands drift unconsciously, instinctively over him, feeling his Sentinel calm and relax under his touch. "Channel 12," Blair added, guiding even in this, and Jim tuned into the broadcast and dropped the remote and lay back in Blair's arms — and they watched the game, although even Blair's soothing touch couldn't keep Jim calm when the Jags were ultimately slaughtered, about two hours later, 84-62.

Jim sat up in bed the next morning, frowning, having heard the scrape of footsteps in the hallway, and then a thump. A moment later, there was a knock at the door.

"Whaa?" muttered the Blair-shaped mess beside him.

"Door," said Jim, sliding out of bed, grabbing his bathrobe.

"Goddammit," muttered Blair, letting his mussed head fall back onto the pillows.

Jim slipped down the stairs, crossed the room to the door, and opened it, confronting the postman, who was standing there with a large box beside him on the floor. "Package for you," said the postman, nodding at the box, extending a clip board to Jim. Jim frowned, signed, and then picked up the box with an grunt. He kicked the door shut, dropped the box on the kitchen table.

"What is it?" Blair called from upstairs.

"I don't know, it's a box," Jim yelled back up, going into the kitchen for a knife. "Did you order something?"

"No," said Blair, and Jim heard him slide out of bed. Jim was slicing open the packing tape when Blair, rumpled and sleepy-looking in shorts and a t-shirt, came down the stairs. "Big box," he commented, sliding tiredly into one of the kitchen chairs.

Jim grabbed at the top flap of the cardboard carton, pulled it open, yanking the staples out. He grabbed at the edges of a styrofoam mold, pulled upward, but pulled the box up with it; Blair grabbed the box and yanked down, and the mold came out in Jim's hands, revealing a large oblong chrome something, covered with complicated looking gadgets and gauges.

"What is that, a rocket launcher?" asked Blair, as Jim shucked it out of its styrofoam shell.

"No, I think its a coffee machine," said Jim, looking at it critically. He spied an envelope which had flown out, picked it up, withdrew the card.

"A coffee machine?" asked Blair, fumbling for his glasses. He reached out for the thick white instruction booklet and peered at it, flipped through briskly. "What, for the Starship Enterprise? Hey cool — " he added suddenly, reading. "It says it makes coffee, cappuccino, espresso, latte — though I think I'm gonna need another Ph.D. to figure out how it works," he said, frowning.

"Mmm," said Jim, staring at the card. "Well, with that much caffeine, you'll certainly be wired enough to do another Ph.D.. It's from my father," he added, looking up, handing Blair the card. "Which I should have figured — that's the old man's idea of a coffee machine, all right."

Blair took the card out of Jim's hand, pushed his glasses up his nose with his wrist, read it. "Dear Jim & Blair," it began. "Sorry we didn't make it to coffee. Perhaps we might try it again sometime soon. I hope you like this — the receipt's enclosed if you don't. Feel free to return or exchange. — Dad (Wm. Ellison)"

"Hmmm," hmmmed Blair, looking up at Jim to see his reaction. Jim was bent over the coffee machine, studying it, trying to see how it worked, what tubes led to what, and why. "Well?" Blair prompted.

"I like it," said Jim.

"No, I mean — " began Blair, and then he stopped. "Forget it," he said. "I'm gonna go get a shower, try to wake myself up."

Jim studied the machine for a few more minutes, then sighed and picked up the phone, dialed. "Hello, Dad?" he said a moment later. "It's Jimmy. I got the coffee machine, thanks...Yeah, Dad, I like it. No, I really like it. Yeah, honest," he said softly, and he was smiling.  

The End