Disclaimers: Boys not mine; I just borrow them from time to time when the muse moves me.
Special Thanks to my Beta Queen, Zoe, without whom I'd be doomed to a life of grammatical inaccuracy. Also God bless my beta Ari, who has the kindness and tenacity to ensure that what you read is worthy. Last, but most certainly not least, for my beautiful friend, Heather, who's incredible command of the English language allows her to provide me with individually needed words at a moment's notice.
Thank you to wolfpup for giving my work a great home.
Warnings: H/C, Angst, Smarm, Some violence, and usually a bit of colorful language. Slightly AU with a non canon past history for Blair. Hanky Warning.
Spoilers: None to my knowledge.
June 3, 1999
Blair reverently stroked the cover of the small photo album in his hands. Sucking in a deep breath, he ignored the tears that ran silently down his face, his glistening eyes barely able to register the delightful smile of the woman and child brought to life before him.
He smiled as his heartbeat settled to a more sedate pace. Thankful that Jim was at an evidence gathering conference in Spokane, he turned over on the futon hoping to achieve the dreamless sleep that always eluded him at this time of year...
June 4, 1989
"Shiri, please," Blair begged, his hands held delicately, but firmly in her long light brown hair.
Shiri sighed regretfully. "Blair, we knew this could happen. With all we've worked for in the past three years. This demonstration is what we've been dreaming of," she reminded gently, her dark brown eyes filled with compassion at his worry.
Blair studied the determination in her warm brown eyes, his strong hands framing her angular face. "It may be dangerous," he warned, beginning to bend to her will.
She smiled warmly, her expression softening with a touch of exasperation. "Sweetheart, it's a student protest. We'll be fine, love," she comforted, caressing his face with the back of her hand. "This is nothing we haven't done before dozens of times. We've marched in so many protests, I have a hard time keeping count," she reminded gently, chuckling at the memories.
He smiled, warming to her. "I just have a bad feeling about it. That something could happen. I can't explain it, Shiri. I just feel like you and 'Button' won't be safe there," he whispered, shaking his head at his own skittishness.
"Blair, Arella's going to be in the sling the whole time. I promise, we'll be fine," Shiri reassured once again as she lifted their fussing daughter, Arella, off of the bed. Shiri smiled down at their beautiful girl. "Look at her, Blair. So precious. Our little angel."
Blair looked at his wife and daughter and could not contain the overwhelming love he felt for his family. Smiling, he grabbed his day pack and herded his family out the door.
June 4, 1999 (early AM)
Blair awoke shivering in the dark, the photo album firmly entrenched in his trembling fingers. Almost against his own desires, he willed his hand to relax thereby releasing the album that stayed hidden away 363 days a year.
In the beginning, shortly after his life was altered radically and irrevocably, he kept their picture next to his bedside, but the pain was too great from the loss. He was so damn young when he met the vivacious woman who after such a short time would become his wife.
God, how he loved her. He never knew love could be like that. So strong that the separation nearly killed him. Yet as much as he love Shiri, he had loved his daughter even more.
Throwing back the blankets, he propelled himself out of bed and into the kitchen to make some tea.
June 4, 1999 (mid morning)
Blair started when he heard the key hit the lock and the door swing open.
Jim chuckled as he took in the anthropologist's disheveled appearance. "Sorry about that, Chief. Party a bit too hard last night?" Jim wheedled.
Blair shook his head negatively, hoping that Jim was dialed down to the point that his miserable condition would go unnoticed.
"What's the matter, Blair?" Jim inquired, his tone shifting into concerned as he noted the smell of salty tears and the puffy eyes in the dimly lit loft.
No such luck! Blair thought disconcertedly. "Look, I really don't... just let it go, Jim. I'm gonna get ready to go. I'll be gone all night, but I should be back by late tomorrow. I wasn't expecting you back so..." Blair cut off as he realized the rudeness of the statement and how Jim may interpret it.
"What? Not glad to see me?" Jim teased as he crossed the room to collapse on the couch.
"No! I'm glad you're back and all. I just... Today's not a real good day," Blair stumbled as he quickly gathered the few pictures strewn about him.
Jim reached out to pluck the framed photo from his hands. "What's going on here, Blair? Who's the woman in all these pictures?" Jim asked, watching his Guide curiously.
Blair inhaled deeply, the air catching in his raw throat midway. "Her name..." Blair began as he liberated the picture from Jim's overwhelming hands. "Her name was Shiri," he susurrated reverently.
Jim raised a surprised eyebrow at the softness of his partner's voice. "One of the many conquests of your youth, Sandburg?" He muttered with a touch of hesitation.
Blair huffed out a surprised laugh. "No, Not her. She wouldn't have stood for it," he said as he smiled with the remembrance of their first meeting in Stoddard's Physiological Anthropology lecture. "She was full of passion and fire... used to tell me not to even think about asking her out," he finished, laughing softly.
Jim smiled at the sudden warmth emanating from the younger man across from him.
"So what did you do?" Jim queried, his curiosity unable to let the issue go.
Blair laughed outright at that. "Hell, Jim. She was so beautiful and smart," he started, his blue eyes set in fond memory, then changing to a mischievous smirk. "I asked her out every damn day for almost three months."
Jim's laughter joined Blair's filling the emptiness of the loft. "So did she ever cave in?"
"She said she admired my tenacity, so that Wednesday night, we went to a lecture series. After that, we were inseparable. Even went on digs together," Blair related with heavy sadness.
The quietness exuded by his partner brought Blair out of his reverie. "You know what happened next?" He asked, looking Jim straight in the eye to gauge his reaction. He answered at the older detective's nod, "I married her," then lost himself in the surprised expression on Jim Ellison's face.
"W-what?" Jim stuttered, his mind whirling with this latest tidbit of information.
"We got married," Blair repeated as he opened the album to their wedding pictures.
"Holy shit, Chief. You were really married. You must have been a baby. I mean look at you in these pictures," Jim gushed in shock.
Blair smiled gently. "I was a baby. I was eighteen and thought I knew every damned thing in the universe," he spat bitterly.
"Naomi's not in the pictures, Chief," Jim noticed and felt compelled to ask about.
"No, she's not," Blair stated matter-of-factly. "Funny thing is. Shiri was Jewish, so I thought my mom would be really happy about it, but Naomi didn't approve of marriage. She kept telling me I was a free spirit and much too young to be tied down to one woman and eventually kids. She told me she had to go to a retreat somewhere in Nepal to quote 'process this tragedy' and would be unable to attend the... 'event' as she called it. In the end, I guess it didn't really matter," Blair finished sadly.
Noting the heavy sorrow in his Guide's voice, he pried imperceptibly, "She left you?"
Unable to speak, Blair nodded softly.
Taking a few minutes to gather his spiraling emotions, Blair replied cautiously, his tears already streaming down his pale face. "She died. It was so stupid, Jim. I had a feeling and I couldn't make her see. I tried to talk her out of going. I wanted her and Arella to stay at the apartment, but damnit she was so fucking stubborn. She didn't understand that I could feel the danger. I tried to stay close to her, but in the end, with all that was going on, I lost her in the crowd," he cried, helpless to the torment of relived memories.
Jim's arm on his shoulder brought Blair back from the brink of his grief. "We were part of the student demonstration at Tiananmen Square. It wasn't supposed to be like that. I mean, Jesus, Jim. We were students damnit. We weren't armed. It was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration."
Jim's eyes closed as he realized the depth of Blair's courage and pain. "Oh shit," he hissed beneath his breath.
"Shiri wouldn't miss the demonstration and we took our daughter with us. They were beaten to death... in the streets..." he gasped, vainly trying to finish. "I brought them home. My baby came home," Blair issued as if in promise, not noticing the silent tears running down Jim's face. "I wish you could've seen her, man. She was the brightest, most beautiful angel to ever grace this earth, Jim," Blair sputtered with fatherly pride, handing over the picture of his daughter. "That's why we named her, Arella. It's Hebrew and it means Angel Messenger," he relayed smiling. "The second I saw my precious Button, I knew we had to name her that."
The understanding smile on Jim's face made Blair do a double take. "Why didn't you ever tell me, Chief. I would've understood your need for solace, for remembering."
"I buried it so deeply that I only bring it out on this day. That first year, I almost died. You know why I never drink more than a casual beer with the guys on poker night?"
Jim shook his head, although his instinct told him he already knew the answer.
"I spent the first 6 months back in the states completely blasted out of my mind. That's why it's taken me so long to get through grad school, man. I was on compassionate leave for over a year trying to get my shit together. If it weren't for Eli Stoddard and Chancellor Michaels I wouldn't have made it back," Blair admitted, his eyes filled with gratefulness.
"That's why I only date around. I survived losing my soul once... barely. Did I tell you that Shiri means Song of my Soul?" He continued when Jim answered him negatively. "She was the song of my soul and my daughter was the light of my entire life. I know that I could never ever survive that pain again. You are my family now, Jim. The rest of it doesn't really matter," Blair intoned emotionally.
"You're my family too, Blair. I'm sorry about Shiri and Arella, Chief. I'm so sorry that you had to live through that. But, I'd be lying if I said that I'm not grateful with my every breath that you were not lost with them," Jim confessed, his eyes glistening with unshed tears.
Blair smiled up at Jim as he ran his fingers fervently over the framed family picture of him with his wife and daughter lying on a blanket. The picture told of a lazy Sunday picnic with great food and even better company. Pressing his lips respectfully to the glass, he allowed a rush of exhaled breath to grace them, caressing them gently.
"Let's go, Chief," Jim prodded his friend and Guide gently to the door.
"Where're we going?" Blair asked, his faith in his Sentinel unwavering.
Jim smiled at the smaller man, the love for his brother showing brightly in his eyes. Placing his hand on Blair's shoulder, he suggested, his voice filled with tenderness.
"There's some very special people I have yet to meet..."
Blair swallowed convulsively as his eyes dawned with understanding. "Thanks, Jim," he whispered sub vocally, then positioning the picture with love and care on the bookcase, he turned to rejoin his Sentinel.