Warning: Sequel to my story "Birthright."
Disclaimers: All standard disclaimers apply. Pet Fly Productions and UPN own the characters and the series. No copyright infringement intended. No money was made in writing or sharing this story.
Acknowledgments: My thanks to Lola and Jael for catching the booboos, and to Autumn and Veronica for their encouragement.
"So, he's holding the dripping baby out at arm's length and giving me these huge pleading eyes to rescue him," Blair Sandburg said, demonstrating not only the physical aspect of the picture he was trying to paint, but the facial expressions as well.
"Did you? Rescue him that is?" Steven Ellison asked, gasping for breath as he leaned heavily against the grocery cart.
Blair walked down the aisle a bit further before he turned and graced his older brother with an impish smile. "Eventually."
Blair shrugged. "Well, after we discussed the suspension of certain house rules."
Steven staggered forward, his face splitting with a huge laughing smile, and wrapped his arms around the younger man's shoulders. "Have I ever told you that you're my hero?"
"Well, timing is everything when negotiating with Jim." Blair brought his arm up around Steven's waist and squeezed once, before stepping back to look at the organic pasta one more time. "Are you going to whine if I try to feed you healthy food?"
"Hell, no." Steven grinned. "I'm just glad you're willing to feed me at all. With Claire taking Annie back to see her mom I was looking at a week of fast food." He shuddered dramatically at the thought. "So when will Jim be back from the conference?"
Blair picked up a bag of spinach linguini. "Probably sometime Sunday afternoon."
"We're eating in front of the television, of course."
Both men chuckled at the thought of breaking one of Jim's house rules.
"He'll know we did it though, won't he?" Steven asked, his eyebrows knitted together, although he continued to grin.
Blair tossed the pasta to Steven. "Of course. But after the fact, what's he gonna do about it?"
Steven leisurely followed Blair down the aisle. "So why didn't you go with Jim?"
Blair squatted in front of the shelves and picked up a small package of spumanti rice. "Well, as the newest anthropology professor I don't have a lot of leave accumulated yet." He stood and tossed the package to his brother. "While the university has been fairly accommodating with my consulting part-time with the department, they aren't bending over backwards encouraging me to take extra time off, especially during my first semester."
"Would it be selfish to admit that I'm glad you didn't go?" Steven asked, suddenly shy.
Blair grinned warmly at him. "Not at all. I'm having fun too."
Steven relaxed minutely. "It's not that I don't want Jimmy here--"
"You don't have to explain, Steven," Blair said, turning and grasping the end of the basket. "I know you and Jim have had some rough times in the past and you both are a little protective, making sure that the other doesn't make the same mistakes with me. While I appreciate you two being careful, it has to be exhausting." When he saw his brother relax even more, Blair added, "Besides, you've both done a lot of growing up since Jim joined the Army, and I'm a big boy myself. If you piss me off, I'll knock you on your ass. Deal?"
Steven's smile returned full force. "Deal. Hey, I thought you were this big pacifist and everything?"
"Well, I prefer finding non-violent alternatives, but when all else fails..." Blair let his sentence fade, stepping backward instead of going around the aisle corner.
Steven barely missed hitting him with the cart. "Hanging with Jim--" He stopped when Blair raised his arm suddenly, one finger being held up for silence. "What?" he whispered.
Blair looked back at him, an emotion Steven couldn't quite pin down flickering over his face. "The store's being robbed."
Blair pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, and peeked around the corner. "I want you to go out the back of the store and call 911. Tell them there's a robbery in progress."
"What about you?" Steven hissed quietly as he accepted the phone.
"I'm just going to make sure things don't get out of hand before patrol gets here," Blair said softly, then tentatively looked around the corner again, toward the front of the store.
Steven swallowed hard. "I can't just leave you here. Jimmy would kill me."
Blair turned toward his brother and frowned. "Steven, this is what Jim and I do. It's our job. He would have my ass if something happened to you though. Now, get going, and take anyone you come across out back with you. Tell dispatch there are two men with sawed off shot guns and ski masks. Tell them to come in silent. Time is of the essence, man. I'm counting on you to get the cops here in a hurry."
Steven clenched his fists in helplessness as he listened to the dispatcher type the information into her computer. "It's already been five minutes," he complained quietly.
"I understand, sir. The nearest available unit is approximately two minutes away."
"My brother's still in there."
"Can you tell me your name, sir?"
Steven squeezed his eyes shut, trying to reign back the shout building in the back of his throat. "I told you, my name is Steven Ellison. There is a robbery in progress at Price's Market at 35th and Holmes. There are two men in ski masks with sawed off shot guns." The sound of a shotgun firing twice echoed behind him. "Oh my god, they've fired their weapons."
"Sir. Mr. Ellison--"
Steven snapped the cell phone shut and turned to move back into the building. A police car skidded to a stop between him and the store.
"Shots fired!" he called out in a restrained shout to the officers who exploded from the car.
One officer raised his hand, indicating that Steven should stay back, before he followed his partner into the building.
Steven jogged around the outside of the grocery store, adrenaline surging through his body. Another police car pulled up to the front of the store and officers scrambled inside with their weapons drawn before Steven could reach the front windows. Steven watched in silence, but couldn't see past the paint encrusted glass.
"The hell with this," he mumbled to himself as he moved forward.
A third patrol car screamed to a stop in front of the little grocery store, but Steven ignored them.
"Sir, you'll need to step back. Sir," a young, uniformed, Hispanic woman said with great authority as she raced in front of him.
"You don't understand. My brother's in there. Shots were fired. I have to make sure he's okay. I have to--"
"Sir, I can't let you go in there. It's a crime scene."
"I don't give a rat's ass about your crime scene." Steven glared down at the tiny woman. "My baby brother is in there and--"
"Steven," a familiar voice called out.
Steven stopped, relief flooding him as he looked into the dark blue eyes of his brother. Blair smiled tentatively and moved toward them.
"Is this clown giving you trouble, Marguerite?" Blair asked lightly, even as he laid a comforting hand on Steven's arm.
"Nothing I can't handle, Blair."
"How about I take him off your hands for a little bit?"
The officer frowned at Steven for a moment, nodded, then turned and moved into the store.
"Yo, lighten up, bro. She was only doing her job," Blair said softly, gently squeezing Steven's arm.
Steven shook his head. "I don't know how you do it, Blair. Those gun shots took ten years off my life. How do you and Jim do this day in and day out?"
"Well, believe it or not, this really isn't a typical day for us. Police work is about ninety percent boredom and ten percent action."
"You can't expect me to seriously believe--"
"Okay, in Jim's case it's about sixty percent boredom and forty percent action," Blair cut him off before he could protest.
"What happened in there?"
Blair opened his mouth to speak, but his face paled and he wobbled slightly. "I need to sit down. I don't feel so good."
Steven moved quickly in front of him and took both arms, intending to guide Blair to the curb, but the police observer gasped as Steven's hands clenched his upper arm.
"Oh my God, you've been shot!" Steven gasped, wrapping his arm around Blair's shoulders and easing him to the curb. "I NEED AN AMBULANCE!" he shouted as he stood and turned toward the grocery store, before kneeling beside his brother and gently removing his outer flannel shirt.
A tall blond officer suddenly appeared beside them. "What's going on?"
"He's been shot!" Steven growled, even as he removed his pocket knife from his pants pocket and cut the blood-soaked, left sleeve.
"Look, Steven, it's not that bad," Blair protested. "No, don't do that! Damn, Steven, this is my favorite Henley. Dave. It's not that bad, really. It's just a flesh wound," Blair said urgently, trying to keep the officer from speaking into his mike. "Please don't call for an ambulance."
The officer hesitated.
"If you call for an ambulance, then Simon's going to get involved and if Simon gets involved then--"
"Too late," a deep voice interrupted from behind.
Steven looked up into the dark face of the Captain of Major Crimes. Blair sighed wearily and laid his forehead against Steven's shoulder.
"Do you want to tell me what's going on?" Simon rumbled, not unkindly.
"He's been shot," Steven said, pointing down to Blair's wound, suddenly feeling like a teenager who'd been caught breaking curfew because his baby brother had been hurt.
"It's only a graze," Blair countered, lifting his head and frowning at Steven.
"You're bleeding like a stuck pig."
"Damn it, Steven," Blair growled.
Simon moved around the pair, squatted beside Blair, and looked at the wound.
"Please, Simon," Blair whispered. "If an ambulance is called, then Jim's going to find out for sure. You know how he gets."
Steven watched the captain's face with fascination. Anger was the first emotion to appear, but segued into concern, then resignation. "You'll go to Kenji's clinic?"
"Yes, of course," Blair promised fervently. "Right away."
"You'll still need to fill out your reports," Simon said reluctantly.
"I've already given my statement to Charles, inside."
"All right," Simon said, clearly not happy.
Blair immediately looked up at the young patrol officer standing by them. "Dave?"
"My lips are sealed. I still remember the sixth of July."
"I owe you, man."
The officer grinned. "Owe me enough to, say, give me the secret recipe for your queso dip?"
Blair winced dramatically. "That's dirty pool."
Dave made a big point of examining his fingernails.
Blair sighed. "All right, but only if you promise not to share it with anyone else."
"Deal!" the officer said quickly, obviously knowing a good deal when he got one. "Take care, Sandburg. I gotta go help Charlie finish up."
Blair waved him off with a good-natured sigh.
"I'll take the recipe as well, Sandburg," Simon growled.
Blair opened his mouth to protest, but one look at Simon's face and Steven understood why his brother remained silent.
"Yes, sir," the observer said quietly.
Simon stood, grinning, but sobered immediately. "Can you take him to the clinic, Steven?"
"Yes, sir," Steven said quietly, repeating his brother's words.
"Any chance we can get our groceries before--" Blair's words died under the weight of Simon's glare. "Never mind."
Blair walked wearily into the loft behind Steven and closed the door behind him. When he turned he was engulfed in a massive bear hug.
"Steven?" he asked quietly, confused by the sudden display of emotion.
"I thought I had lost you," his brother said hoarsely, squeezing him tighter, although being very careful not to jar his left arm.
"I'm--" he started, but stopped when Steven shook his head. Slowly, he brought his arms around his brother's waist and returned the embrace.
"I can't lose you. Not now," Steven choked out, after a moment of silence.
"You're not going to lose me, Stevie," Blair said quietly, feeling a wave of love surge through him, touched by the fact that his brother was so obviously upset.
"I mean... I know how dangerous Jimmy's job is... and I know you work with him... but I never understood... never realized..."
"Shhh." Blair brought his good arm up higher on Steven's back and held him tight. "Everything's okay. I promise."
"We just found you," Steven cried plaintively.
"I know, and I'm not going anywhere. I promise."
Steven held him for several minutes longer, then loosened his grip, sniffed and straightened. "I want your god damn queso recipe too."
Blair chuckled. "Okay. We can make it a secret family recipe or something like that."
"Steven, I don't want you to take this wrong, but go home."
Steven looked over at his brother, who had been sitting at the kitchen table grading papers, but was now looking at him with amused affection. "What?"
"You heard me. You're a nervous wreck. Jim's going to know something's up just by looking at you."
"Stevie, it's already healed. It's nothing more than a big scab. I've gone to work every day this week. We went to the Jags game last night. Come on. It's over. It's done. All your jitters are going to do is upset Jim and put him in Blessed Protector Overdrive. I hate when he goes all BP. So, please, cut your baby brother a break and go home."
"I don't like lying to Jimmy," Steven said quietly. "I promised myself I would never lie to him again."
Blair ran both hands back through his hair. "You aren't lying to him. You're just not blurting out everything you know the moment he walks through the door."
"Look, you can tell him the next time you see him. Okay? That'll give us at least another week. You, Claire and Annie are coming over for dinner next Saturday, right?"
"So, we'll find some time to tell him then. Not in front of Annie, of course, but when we're barbecuing or something."
Steven frowned, but Blair turned pleading eyes on him. "Damn," he whispered, wondering how in the hell Jim ever managed to make the kid do something he didn't want to do. "All right."
"You won't regret this."
Steven shook his head. "I already do."
"I can't believe it was really that boring," Blair laughed as he put Jim's bag in the back seat of his Volvo.
"Believe me, I was in constant danger of zoning out. I swear, next time, no matter what, I'm dragging your sorry ass with me, consequences be damned," Jim Ellison promised.
Blair grinned brilliantly at the older man. "I missed you too."
"So what did you and Steven do while I was serving my sentence?"
Blair laughed as they got into the car. "Man, now is probably not the time to tell you about the court side tickets to the Jags game, huh?"
"Come in," Steven called absently as a knock resounded on his office door. He finished the paragraph he was reading, then looked up. "Jim! What are you doing here?" Steven pushed himself off his chair, circled the desk and hugged his older brother.
Jim took the chair Steven indicated when they broke from their embrace. "I just wanted to see how you and Blair got along last week. It's the first time you two have had any sort of one-on-one time since we've learned about him being an Ellison."
Steven swallowed hard then moved back around the desk. Rubbing his hand over his mouth and chin, he sat down hard. "You know, don't you?"
"Not the particulars."
"I wanted to tell..." Steven let the rest of the sentence die off, knowing it sounded like he was blaming Blair.
"But he asked you not too," Jim finished for him, seeming to understand.
Steven nodded, miserably.
"So, having any second thoughts about missing out on his growing up years?"
Steven looked up and saw the soft smile on his brother's face. "You don't think he was like this growing up, do you?"
Jim nodded with a smirk. "I've talked with some of his friends at the university. They've told me stories that would make your hair curl."
"So why all the fuss about not telling you?"
"He says you go all BP."
Steven watched as his brother snorted silently with laughter. "Hey, I'm the oldest; it's what I do."
"Well, I, for one, can't take the stress," Steven admitted quietly.
"So what was it?" Jim asked.
"He took them out with some Campbell Soup cans."
Steven shook his head in disbelief. "I don't know. Is it important?"
Jim shrugged, a small grin played at the corners of his mouth. "So what happened?"
"He got 'grazed', as he put it."
"Left upper arm?"
Steven nodded. "It really wasn't that bad, although it bled a lot. That scared me. But it was practically healed by Saturday."
"He didn't put it on his PD insurance."
Steven ran a hand back through his hair. "No. He was afraid if he did you'd see it. He wanted to pay cash for it, but I paid for it instead. He wasn't happy, but he finally agreed to let me do it."
Jim nodded. "You get anything out of it?"
Steven shrugged. "His queso recipe."
"He won't even give me that recipe." Jim sighed, then knitted his eyebrows together. "Who else got it?"
"Some cop name Dave and Simon." Steven frowned for a second. "How did you know others got the recipe too?"
"Because you haven't had his queso yet."
"Ah, detective work."
Jim shrugged, but smiled.
"So what are we going to do?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, he said I could tell you on Saturday. But now that you know..."
"We'll just keep it our little secret for now. I, for one, want to see the brat sweat bullets."
Steven smiled. "You know, I wouldn't mind seeing that myself."
"Saturday, then?" Jim asked as he stood.
Steven stood also. "Saturday."
They shook hands.
When Jim reached the door, Steven called out after him, "Jim?"
Jim turned and smiled at him. "We're good."
"Thank you." Steven swallowed hard. "Is it going to be like this a lot?"
"Afraid so. But it's no worse than having a little brother accused of murder."
Steven laughed. "There's nothing easy about being an Ellison, is there?"
"Nope. Afraid not."
Steven sighed, then chuckled. "Well, at least he fits right in."
"That he does, bro. That he does."
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