Production No. BPP-606

written by:
Lori Wright

edited by: Melanie, Kay Kelly, Saga and Christina.


The night before.

The pounding on the door woke Jim from a slight snooze. Blair was out, doing who-knew- what, which left Jim home enjoying a football game in relative peace. The score flashed on the screen, then the camera panned to one of the players. "Damn, the game's over," he muttered to himself as he sat up, yawning.

"Jimmy, you in there?" a distraught voice yelled out, and the pounding resumed.

Jim blinked, recognizing the voice. "I'm coming, Steven," he replied, rising from the couch.

Steven practically trampled Jim as he pushed his way in. His stride carried pent-up anger and dispersed it throughout the room. Jim noticed the clenched jaw, so reminiscent of his own, and backed up, allowing his brother room to enter. Steven's fists were swinging back and forth with controlled fury, knuckles white, while his feet pounded the floor with each step.

"What happened?" Jim asked, concerned.

Steven halted and turned furious eyes on him. "Our father is an asshole," he said, then resumed pacing.

'That was a no-brainer', as Blair would say, Jim thought to himself. "What did he do now?" he asked cautiously. Many things came to mind, but none that should upset his brother to this extreme.

Steven ignored the question and continued venting his anger. "I can't believe he has the nerve to tell me who I can date, who I can socialize with, who I can--"

"You have a new girlfriend?" Jim interrupted, intrigued by the idea.

"Yes! And she's wonderful," Steven replied defensively.

"Has Pop met her?"

"Good God, no. I like Michelle. Why would I put her through the torture of a minute of his company?"

Jim wasn't sure what Steven wanted him to do. It was his experience that whenever people came to him and told him about their problems, it was because they wanted him to solve them. William Ellison was a strict, power-hungry, unaffectionate jerk, and nothing was going to change him. One had to ignore this character flaw in order to have a civilized conversation with him. It seemed Steven had yet to learn this.

"Did you tell him about this Michelle?"

"No. But some very caring employee," Steven explained sarcastically, "happened to see us at a CPO concert the other night and went running to him with the news."

His brother went to a Cascade Philharmonic Orchestra concert? He didn't know that Steven liked classical music. "What did Dad say to you?"

"The usual. 'Is this how I raised you, to be taken in by a two-bit hustler?' and, 'Why can't you find someone more suitable to your position?'"

"Pop thinks that she's after your money?"

"Oh yeah. That's because she's not another power-hungry mongrel, like him."

"Mongrel means dog, I think you mean mogul."

"No, I mean mongrel," Steven snapped, then took a deep breath. "I will not let him interfere in my life. I'll date whom I choose, when I choose."

"I agree with you." Jim felt as though he was stepping through a minefield. He was lucky that when he had married Carolyn, he hadn't yet started communicating with his father. Then he stopped to think about it. They really weren't communicating now, just an odd conversation here and there. Then he started to feel guilty about his thoughts. When the cabin had been needed earlier in the fall to protect Steven, William had not only agreed, but came down to see Steven because he was worried. That led to a reconciliation of sorts. It was bad luck that it didn't take long for William to find something to complain about.

"Michelle is beautiful inside and out," Steven continued to describe her. "She doesn't have an avaricious bone in her body. Just because she doesn't work in an office, wearing thousand dollar suits, makes Dad say that she's not fit to associate with." He snarled the last bit.

"I don't think anyone would be good enough," Jim commented dryly. "A paragon, in his eyes, is someone who is a CEO of her own company, that's not a rival to yours. She'd have to worship the almighty dollar and be faithful unto it."

Steven turned to him in surprise and Jim noticed his lips turning up in a little smile at his semi- joke. "Is that what Blair said about Dad?"

"How did you know?" Jim responded with a twinkle in his eye. He felt relieved that his joke had eased his brother's bitterness. The distinctive music that heralded the beginning of the local news penetrated Jim's consciousness. His eyes drifted from his brother to the TV set. "Can you stay awhile? I'd like to catch the highlights of the game I just slept through."

"Just a little while," Steven responded, then walked over to the living room area and plopped down on the couch.

"Want a beer?" Jim asked, opening the fridge.


Jim opened up two bottles and brought one in for Steven. After handing his brother a beer, he sat down on the love seat. He took a large swallow from his own bottle, savoring its taste, and turned his attention to the television. "The score was seventeen-fourteen, last time I noticed," Jim muttered, setting the bottle down on the table. The game had ended with a score of twenty-four to seventeen.

The television flashed a few commercials, then the anchor came on with news about a charity dinner. Jim tuned it out and focused on his brother.

"Sorry I woke you," Steven apologized, sounding a bit embarrassed.

"Hey, no problem. It's the rest of the building you have to worry about," Jim told him, cracking a grin.

They shared a smile. The weatherman came on with a gloom and doom forecast of some early snow. Jim took the opportunity to grab them each another beer. Steven had finished his and Jim's bottle had only backwash left. A bag of pretzels was sitting on the counter, so he grabbed that, too.

For the next five minutes, both men watched the sports broadcast with only a few monosyllabic words thrown in for good measure.

"I should leave when the news is over," Steven spoke aloud. "This is a weekday, and the morning comes way too soon."

"I'm glad you stopped by," Jim said sincerely. "We should get together more often and not just when you need to let off steam because of the old man."

"Yeah, we should," Steven agreed. Jim stood, took the empty beer bottles into the kitchen and rinsed them out.

Steven followed him in. "You haven't asked any questions about Michelle," he stated, leaning on the counter, crossing his legs and then uncrossing them. His hand came up and pushed his hair off his forehead.

"I figure when you're ready to tell me about her, you will." Jim was bursting with curiosity despite his casual manner.

"I'd like you to meet her." Steven fidgeted some more.

Was Steven waiting for him to invite them over? "I'd like that. You both want to come over here for dinner? I'm sure I can get Blair to whip something up." Jim purposely included Blair, wanting to see how Steven would react to it. In the last few months the two men had buried their differences and become friends--although there were times when Jim swore that Blair acted slightly jealous, or maybe envious of his having a brother.

"That would be great. I'll call Michelle and find out her schedule, then we can plan a night."

"Fine," Jim agreed, already looking forward to it.

"Night, Jim." Steven opened the loft's front door. "Thanks for the beer," he called out as he walked down the corridor to the elevator.

Jim closed the door behind his brother. The quiet evening alone had turned interesting after Steven had arrived. The clock read a little past eleven-thirty. He wasn't sure what time Blair would be getting home, and he was too tired to wait up any longer. Tomorrow would be soon enough to tell Blair about Steven's visit. Yawning widely, Jim climbed the steps to bed.

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