October 8th, 2000
A pair of friendly bantering voices at the far end of the corridor was the first thing that Jenna Peters heard. One was particularly distinctive. In the past nineteen years it had deepened slightly, matured. Almost by instinct, her hand moved to check her hair was tidy. Damn it, Jenna. Get a grip. It's been almost twenty years. After what you did, and what you're here to tell him, the last thing you need to be concerned about is your hair!
Voices and footsteps grew closer. Jenna took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. Her eyes widened as the owners of the voices stopped in front of her. The photographs that her investigators had given her hardly did them justice. Detectives James Ellison and Blair Sandburg were two incredibly handsome men.
God, Jimmy, I missed you!
"I don't believe this! What the hell are you doing here, Jenna? How did you find me? How dare you--"
Jenna flinched slightly. She'd almost forgotten that anger. Amazing her, his partner dispelled it with a gentle touch on his arm, saying, "Jim, I have no idea what's going on here but unless you want to give the neighbours another story for the urban legend that is our lives, you might want to consider moving this inside."
Jenna watched as Jimmy took a deep breath and said, "You're right, Chief."
Sandburg's "As always" was met with an amused scowl and a muttered, "Funny, Chief. Really funny."
Chuckling softly, the younger man took out his key and opened the door to #307, Prospect Avenue, and said, "Please come in... Jenna, wasn't it?"
Ten minutes later, Jenna put down the empty coffee mug that she had been holding in her nervous fingers, saying, "Jimmy... Jim... I need your help."
Ice-cold eyes glared at her as James Ellison looked at her and said, "You've got a lot of nerve. You completely disappeared out of my life almost twenty years ago. No explanations. No messages. One day you were there and the next you were gone!"
"No! I don't know you any more. I don't know that I ever did! Why should I help you - with anything?!"
"Because our daughter's been missing for almost four months!"
Complete silence fell for several minutes. Jenna slumped back, drained. She hadn't wanted to tell him like this.
Jenna looked into his raging and disbelieving eyes and flinched. Taking a deep breath, she told him something that she should have done a long time before. "I was pregnant when I left, Jimmy. That's why I left. My parents insisted.
"Daddy was a freelance consultant. You remember that? He could work from anywhere. When I told my parents I was pregnant they almost spontaneously combusted. Daddy was ready to kill you and he wasn't best pleased with me either.
"Daddy said we had to move; to cut all ties. The only reason I agreed to it was he promised not to take any out of it out on you. I pointed out that it took two to do what we did. He wasn't exactly pleased... He said that he wouldn't do anything as long as I agreed to the move and to cut all ties with you.
"You were due to report for training the following month. I convinced myself that my parents were right. You never had to know. We were nineteen... the rest of our lives in front of us. My family had the money to look after a single mother; you weren't even talking to yours...
"I thought it was for the best..."
Her voice trailed off as she saw the pain in his eyes and the clenched jaw that signified he was trying to prevent himself from saying something he would regret.
Again, it was a gentle touch from his partner and 'this time' several minutes worth of quiet murmuring, but whatever was said, Jimmy regained his control. He moved to the kitchen area and returned with three bottles of beer and handed them out.
Sitting back in his chair and taking a long swallow of beer, he answered the questions that were understandably burning in his partner's blue eyes.
"Chief, I told you about what happened between me, my brother and my father that made me leave home after graduation. I travelled about for a couple of months getting odd jobs here or there, I had money in trust funds, I avoided them if I could, my father couldn't do anything to block my access to the money - it was mine - but I knew that if I used it, he'd know where I was. I realised eventually that he just didn't care...
"Anyway, I ended up in a little town just outside Seattle. Two things happened there. I decided I was going to enlist, and I met Jenna.
"Considering my age, and my family background, the recruiting officer did his best to dissuade me from joining up, but I was stubborn...
"Sandburg. Will you stop laughing! Jenna, not you too!"
Eventually, though, he too saw the funny side. 'A bit stubborn' was understating things just a bit. He was, and always would be, an obstinate SOB, but with Sandburg's patience and guidance, he was mellowing.
Getting back to his story, he said, "Anyway, as I was saying, I was stubborn. So was the recruiting officer. He got me to agree to wait till I was nineteen. If I still felt the same way, he'd process my application.
"I got a summer job in a local nature park, I loved the outdoors, and it was easy work. I met Jenna there. As is now obvious, we became an item. We had a glorious few months together and then she vanished..."
That brought the focus attention firmly back to Jenna. Quietly, she said, "I know I should have told you before now. I'm so sorry I didn't.
"I heard that your team was all MIA in Peru and a piece of my heart died that day. I was so happy when it turned out you had survived. I don't know why I didn't tell you then. A couple of years later, I was passing through Cascade and I decided to phone you. Touch base. See what you're life was like; if you'd even be interested in an unknown daughter.
"Your wife answered the phone. You were just back from your honeymoon. I decided that you had a new family, that you didn't need to be burdened with an unexpected child at that point in your life.
"When she disappeared, I had investigators do a discreet check on you. They told me about the divorce and that you had a new roommate, your police partner.
"I know that I have no right to ask, but all other avenues of investigation have been exhausted. You two are my last hope. Your reputation is impressive. If you can't find her then I doubt anyone could."
Jenna watched as Jim and Blair exchanged a wordless glance. Jim said, "She's my daughter, of course we'll help." In a hesitant tone, he added, "You never told me her name."
Jenna flushed slightly. "I'm sorry, I can't believe I forgot to do that.
"Her name's Jaime, Jaime Peters."
Jenna and Blair both watched as a stunned look of pleasure appeared in Jim Ellison's eyes. Blair grinned and said, "Well, it looks like this could be a long night. I'll take the couch and Jenna can take my room.
"Jim, why don't you call for take out, while Jenna takes out the photo albums that I presume are what is taking up so much space in that bag?"
Closing down the 'Eyes Only' signal Logan Cale took a deep breath and consciously began to relax, the meditation techniques his mother had taught him as a child had seen him through a great deal. Post-Pulse, post-shooting and 'knowing Max', they had definitely re-attained their status as a part of his daily routine.
Calmer, he turned his wheelchair and it was only by sheer strength of will that he persuaded his heart to return to the position that it had taken in his throat... Max.
"Give a guy a little warning that you're there, Max!" said Logan in a gently teasing tone of voice.
He frowned slightly as Max failed to respond with one of her multitude of sarcastic comebacks. His eyes swept over her worriedly - worry that increased when she didn't call him on his actions - and took in the slight tremors that racked her body. Form fitting black clothes looked good on her, a sack would good look on her, but the black also accentuated pale skin, wan features and pain-filled eyes.
"How bad?" asked Logan, hoping desperately that she couldn't hear the worry in his quiet voice.
"I t-took the triptophan over an hour ago... these seizures just don't seem to want to leave. I... I didn't want to be alone. Can I crash here?"
Wheeling his chair forward, Logan placed a gentle hand on Max's wrist and said, "Of course you can. Anytime. I told you that before." She gave him an attempt at a smile and Logan swore he could feel his heart constricting in his chest. She's never been this bad! Pasting a smile on his face, he said, "Shall we move this to the couch?"
Max nodded, but paled before Logan had managed to get her to walk a few steps, saying, "Logan, would it be OK if I just lie down for a while?"
Logan's breath caught in his throat. She'd never let herself show this much vulnerability before. Why were the seizures so bad this time? Softly, he said, "Do you mind if we use my room? The guest room is more awkward for my chair."
She nodded absently, wrapping her arms around her midriff in an effort to stop shaking. A few minutes later, at Logan's insistence, she'd kicked off her boots and was lying under the sheets, face pale against the pillows. Logan moved to wheel himself out of the room when she said, "No. Stay. Please."
He looked at her and whispered softly, "Are you sure?"
For once dropping her barriers that she kept round herself, she said, "I know it doesn't make any sense. I feel better when you're around... Please?"
Logan smiled gently. "Never let it be said that I turned down a request from a friend. Just give me a minute or two."
Wheeling the chair to the bedside table, he switched on a lamp. Using a remote on the table, he then switched off the overhead light. He turned the chair slightly so that he was able to manoeuvre himself on to the bed. Using the strong muscles in his upper body, he moved to sit with his back resting against the headboard of the bed, cushioned by a couple of pillows.
As soon as he was settled, Max moved out from underneath the sheets and reached down to grab the comforter from the bottom of the bed. She nestled close to him, resting her head on his shoulder and reached down with his help to pull the comforter up to cover them.
With a gentle hand, Logan made soothing strokes through her hair, murmuring, "Rest, I'll take care of you tonight." Inwardly, Max marvelled. Each stroke seemed to ease some of the tension out of her. Pain eased, tremors lessened, and serenity enveloped her. What is it about Logan's voice, his presence, that does this? If I could bottle it, we'd rake in a fortune.
Sighing softly, she nestled closer and, almost without her realising it, her right hand ended up lying directly over Logan's steady heartbeat. Almost inaudibly, she murmured, "Thank you, Logan. I don't think I could have got through this without you."
The sensation of the cessation of pain was so intense that she thought that the feather-light touch that she felt on her brow was just her imagination. Logan raised his lips from her brow and the gentle kiss that he'd had to give her. He murmured one word. "Rest."
Two days later, Logan Cale got the surprise of his life when an unexpected visitor knocked on his door.
He looked at a smiling face, graced with surprisingly few lines, twinkling blue eyes and an unruly mop of hair that was more accentuated than marred by the streaks of grey that ran through it.
"Oh my God! Uncle Blair, is that you?"
"Hey kid, long time no see."
Logan was so surprised that he literally couldn't move. Blair was here! In Seattle!
A dearly remembered laugh filled his ears as Blair said, "So, Logan, are you going to move that chair out of the way and let me in?"
Blushing furiously, Logan moved his wheelchair to allow Blair access to the penthouse. Inwardly, he smiled. Blair hadn't changed. He'd accepted the wheelchair without a qualm, and he wouldn't push for an explanation. He'd listen if he wanted to tell him about it, that Logan knew with certainty; whatever he chose to do, Blair would accept. It was one of Blair Sandburg's greatest gifts. Acceptance.
Logan wheeled himself into the kitchen and returned with a couple of bottles of beer, this surprise merited a toast or two.
"What brings you to Seattle, Uncle Blair?"
Blair made a face and laughed. "Can we lose the 'uncle', Logan? I'm fifty this year. I don't need another reason to feel old. You were just a kid the last time I saw you. Turned out good, though. Your stories have always been a joy to read.
"As to why I'm here, we'll get to that in time. Tell me about you. What are you up to right now besides 'Eyes Only'."
Logan gaped at him in shock.
"What did you... how did you... Blair, how did you know that?!"
Blair shrugged and said, "Instinct. I don't know how I knew. I just knew. The first time I caught a broadcast that originated from a station in Washington and you hacked it, I knew it was you. The only person I mentioned it to was Jim, I'd never tell another soul, Logan. I hope you know that."
Still shocked, Logan just nodded. One of his most vivid childhood memories was when Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison had come to visit. Blair wasn't really his uncle. He was his mother's cousin. Paula Gerard Cale was Naomi Sandburg's youngest niece. They had arrived in the summer of 2001 for a family reunion and while on vacation had managed to help the Seattle PD solve a string of ritual murders and catch a serial bomber and called it a quiet month!
"The reason I'm here is that--"
Bling's arrival for Logan's daily physio session put his explanation on hold. It was just as well; Blair's mind was reeling.
Not from the wheelchair, he knew with a deep abiding certainty that Logan would not be in it forever. It was something that Logan needed to experience. With a Shaman's insight, Blair looked at his 'nephew'. He looked at the quiet determination on his face as he went through his exercises under Bling's supervision, and at the spirit guide that sat at the foot of the exercise table.
Blair's wise eyes assessed Logan. He was a good man, he'd recognised that potential eighteen years before when he had last seen him. He was decent, imbued with hope and belief in the power of good. That still didn't explain the spirit guide at his side. The arctic wolf met his gaze for a brief moment and inclined its head in an almost regal manner. What is going on here?
Later that day, over dinner, Blair explained the reason for his visit.
"...And we were getting closer, Logan. That's the thing that is so hard to take. We'd called in every marker that either Jim or I had ever been owed and managed to track Jaime as far as Wyoming in 2008. We lost her trail after that. We went out to Wyoming in the winter of 08 but we couldn't find anything. We were supposed to be going back in the summer of 09 but post-Pulse it was always the wrong time. We just couldn't get away. It was two years before we could get the chance to head back but it was too late; all trace of her had vanished."
Logan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It couldn't be... Or, could it? In a taut voice, he said, "Do you have a picture of Jaime?"
Puzzled at the question, Blair nodded. He reached for his wallet and pulled out an obviously well travelled and oft-fingered photo and handed it to Logan.
With trembling finger, Logan took it, looked at it and breathed, "Max."
Blair's eyes widened. "Who is Max, Logan?"
Logan said, "Go to my bedroom and open the bedside cabinet on the left hand side. Look at the picture in the small frame in the top drawer. Bring in it here and compare it with the one of Jaime.
"Meanwhile, I'll call Max. This is her story to tell."
Three hours later, Blair, Logan and Max, were all sitting in Logan's penthouse apartment where a disbelieving but unsurprised Blair had been told the story of Project Manticore.
His kind eyes never left the slender form of Max, sitting cross-legged on the floor beside Logan's wheelchair. Her fingers unconsciously rubbing gently over the photo of Jaime, the likeness was unmistakable. Jaime Peters was her mother.
Logan had related to Blair the story Hannah had told Max about her mother's attempted escape when she was seven months pregnant. It had come as no surprise to Blair, nor to Logan now that he knew whom her father was; Jim Ellison's daughter would never have surrendered without a fight.
Blair's eyes also saw beyond the physical in that room. He once again saw the arctic wolf that was Logan's spirit guide; this time curled up beside a slightly smaller black panther than he was used to seeing. This obviously female spirit guide was Max's. Like grandfather, like granddaughter.
Blair sighed inwardly. What the hell had this Project Manticore done? Max should have been a Sentinel. Her abilities were enhanced; yes. Had those military cretins enhanced her natural gifts right out of her, though?
Another thing was patently obvious too. Logan Cale was Max's Guide. The fact that when her seizures got so bad that not even the triptophan helped - only Logan's presence - was a clear enough indication of that. Their own version of a zone out that needed the presence of a Guide.
There were things that they needed to be told. Blair looked at Logan and said, "I need to call, Jim. I have to tell him about Max."
Max looked up at that. Eyes vulnerable, she said, "Will he want me?"
Blair smiled, partly at the sight of her hand unknowingly seeking and hanging on to Logan's, and partly at the hope and terror in that expression. The Ellison gene for thinking that 'they were unlovable' was obviously alive and well in the younger generation.
"I've been your grandfather's best friend and partner for over twenty years, Max. I think I can safely say that he's going to be out of the door and on the way to Seattle the minute he hangs up after my call."
She and Logan both laughed at that. Their eyes widened in astonishment when Blair made his call, hung up with a laugh and said, "He's on his way."
When Jim Ellison walked through Logan's apartment door, Max stood poised ready for flight. It was the only the calming presence of Logan that kept her from bolting. Finding her Manticore family was one thing; this was her mother's family. Her grandfather had been a highly decorated police officer for almost thirty years and was currently Chief of Police in what was widely acknowledged was the least corrupt police department in the country.
Would he want her? A granddaughter that was an escapee from a military experiment, a granddaughter that knowingly stole; with an altruistic reasons sometimes, but not always.
She got her answer soon enough. His blue eyes locked on her face in an instant. A shy smile graced his face as he opened his arms and said, "Max."
She was wrapped in a bear hug before she even realised she had moved; so much for the detached, 'emotions are a weakness' training of Manticore; wrapped in her grandfather's embrace, Max felt the strongest connection of family that she had ever known.
The emotional reunion was somewhat marred when Jim and Blair finally told her that her grandmother had died two years before. Apart from that, there was a family dinner and lots of talk and laughter.
When they had re-situated to the living room and settled in for some more talk, was when Jim and Blair sprung their own secret on the younger pair. Unknowingly, they did something that would have astonished anybody that knew Logan and Max; they rendered them speechless.
A demonstration of Sentinel senses followed, Max and Logan gaped in wonder. Her touch was enhanced compared to other humans - it came in handy for picking locks when she didn't want to just pull them from their doors; Jim's sense of touch was enhanced to a level that she hadn't believed possible. Their full attention was focused on Blair when he talked to them.
After explaining about him being a Shaman, Blair told them about their spirit guides and the connection he shared with Jim as Guide and Shaman to his Sentinel. With blue eyes that echoed wisdom far beyond his years, he said, "I don't know if Max will ever exhibit fully enhanced senses. Those military doctors may have screwed up her natural genetic abilities beyond repair.
"Then again, the Sentinel genes are amongst the strongest and rarest in the world and she has got them. She's also got the urge to protect her tribe, no matter how much the military tried to train it out of her. The potential is always going to be there.
"As for you, Logan. You've always had the right instincts to be a Guide, now that Max is in your life they're bound to come to the surface. Incidentally, that's why you can help Max through the worst of her seizures. It's instinctive behaviour between the two of you. Don't fight it."
The conversation continued long in to the night and it was with great reluctance that Jim and Blair left the next day. It was unavoidable. Blair was Captain of the Major Crimes Division and as they had already said, Jim was the Chief of Police. They couldn't take any more time away from work. Cascade still attracted all the psychos; the Pulse hadn't affected that trend at all.
Addresses, telephone and pager numbers, and email addresses were all exchanged. An invitation for Christmas vacation stunned both Logan and Max; particularly Max. She'd never had a family to spend the holidays with before.
Hugs and kisses were exchanged. Blair saved his hug for Logan for last of all. In a tone that removed all possibility of doubt, 'his Shaman's voice', he said, "I'll see you soon, Logan. Whether it happens before you come to visit or not, I promise you this; you will not always be confined to that chair."
The smile on Max's face at that statement put the sun to shame.
Once they were safely returned to Cascade and had reported in to the Police Commissioner - Simon Banks - Jim and Blair returned to their apartment. Their wives had been killed in a riot in 2014, having no children; they'd given up their adjoining apartments and moved back in together.
It was past the point now where they could live apart. The line between where one of them stopped and the other started was no longer there, everyone accepted them as a matched set. Best friends for this life and beyond and brothers of the soul. Where one was, was where you would find the other.
Settled back in after their trip, they raised their beers in a toast. It was Jim that put their feelings into words. "To interwoven strands."
Blair smiled and returned the toast. Jim was so right. Who would have thought that their families would have found each other in the later generations? When Megan and Helen had died, they'd thought that that was that. Once they were gone it would be over.
Somehow, in the crazy post-Pulse world, Jim's granddaughter Max had found the guide that she needed; Blair's 'nephew' Logan.
Interwoven strands, indeed.