This was a story for the Sentinel Secrets' June challenge. You had to pick an album, and include the track titles within the story. The album, group and tracks are listed at the end.
"Are you sure about this, Jim?" Blair looked at the tickets in his hand. "I mean, if you'd sooner just go with Steven, I u nderstand that."
"No, I told you. Steven gave me two tickets for us. He doesn't have to pay to get in - he's running the place now that Pat Reynolds is in jail."
"Well, if you're sure." In spite of himself, Blair's voice still held a trace of doubt. He looked up as Jim stopped stirring the pasta and laid the spoon down.
"What's up, Chief?"
"Look, man, you have to spend some time alone with Steven at some point." He knew he'd hit the nail on the head when Jim unfolded his arms and turned his attention back to the pan, incidentally turning his back on Blair. "I know you've spoken to him a few times but you haven't spent any time with him alone. I just think -"
"Sandburg, it's just a day at the races. If that's going to be a problem for you, I'll ask Simon instead!"
"No!" Blair sighed and put the tickets away safely. "I'll go...if you really want me to."
Blair watched as the pasta was stirred vigorously. Oh yeah, Jim wanted him along as a security blanket all right. Well, he'd go with Jim, but that didn't mean he'd stay with Jim. The Ellison brothers needed some time to sort out their relationship, and maybe spending a day together with the distraction of horse racing would show them that the world wouldn't end if they tried to be friends.
Leaving Jim to finish assaulting the pasta, he retired to his room and checked out his wardrobe. This race day was one that normally cost a packet to get in, and he wanted to make sure he had something suitable to wear. After all, it wasn't impossible that he'd get a date, or two, out of it.
Steven whistled as he gazed at Jim's smarter-than-usual companion. "Blair, you didn't dress this way just to impress me, did you?" he asked, positive that Blair had something more than racing on his mind. He grinned as he watched the kid's eyes move around the room, resting appreciatively on the lovely well-dressed, well-groomed women who were there.
"Hey, Steven," Blair murmured absently, his eyes already fixed on a group of girls who were doing a bit of eyeing up themselves. "I'm just gonna go make a few bets."
"And flirt with a few girls," Jim chipped in.
The teasing, affectionate tone in his voice tugged at Steven's heartstrings. Time was that that tone had once been reserved for him.
Blair swung back, a grin on his face. "I'm just a good old fashioned lover boy, Jim, and some women appreciate that."
Steven grinned as the kid swaggered off. "Don't worry, Jim, I'm sure you and I can fend for ourselves."
There was a gleam in Jim's eye as he turned back to face him. "Well, it may be hard for you to find somebody to love, bro, but I have no trouble in that direction."
"Oh." Steven pretended to consider that for a moment, then he added, "So, Blair's been giving you a few pointers?" The grin on Jim's face made Steven smile again, hope surging in his heart that it wasn't too late.
"That sounds like a challenge, Stevie-boy."
His smile widened at the old, almost forgotten, nickname. "Well, if you think you're up to it, big brother."
Jim laughed, the sound easing the worry Steven felt. Maybe they could get to know each other again, after all.
"And the stake is...?"
Steven shrugged. "Loser pays for a night out for the three of us - you, me and Blair. The winner to choose the restaurant - and no Wonder Burger allowed!"
"Hey, it's a restaurant."
"What's a restaurant?"
Steven smiled at Blair as he wandered back to them. "Wonder Burger."
A disdainful snort was the answer. "Wonder Burger's not a restaurant, it's a fast-food joint!"
Jim ticked the points off on his fingers. "It has food, it has tables, it has chairs; it's a restaurant. And that's not where we'll go if I win."
"You surprise me," Steven retorted.
"Steven reckons he can get a date before I can," Jim told him, flicking a challenging glance at Steven. "Loser pays for a night out for all three of us."
"Sounds great!" Blair enthused. "Of course, I already have a date. In fact, I have two." Smiling, he tucked a couple of pieces of paper into his breast pocket.
"That was fast work!" Steven exclaimed. Maybe the kid could give him some pointers.
"We Sandburgs don't hang about," Blair boasted.
"Yeah, you should meet his mother!" Jim retorted.
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
Steven grinned as the kid squared up to Jim.
"Just that you can't tie your mother down to anything, Chief. Times, dates-"
"Hey! You better hadn't be trying to get a date with my Mom, Jim!"
"I wouldn't dream of it, Sandburg," Jim promised, raising his hand like it was a solemn oath.
"Good!" Blair turned to face Steven. "So which restaurant are you going to pick when you win, Steven?"
Steven grinned at the indignant look on Jim's face. "There's a new Japanese place just opened up near the harbour - 'Teo Torriate'."
"Hey, I know that one! Isn't-"
Blair was interrupted by Jim. "What - wait a minute! What do you mean 'when you win, Steven?'?"
"Well, look at the facts, Jim. Steven's younger, better looking, and he's the manager of this stadium."
Steven nodded, grinning at his brother as he added, "I'm rich, too!"
Jim rolled his eyes.
"There, see? Let's face it, Jim-"
"Let's face nothing, Sandburg. Now if you two have finished, I'm going to mingle."
"Detective James Ellison...mingling," Blair intoned solemnly as Jim walked away. "I never thought I'd see the day!"
Steven sighed as various women watched the tall, well-built man go. "I don't stand a chance."
Blair shrugged. "At least Wonder Burger will be a cheap night out."
Blair grinned as he watched Steven head off into the madding crowd. In spite of his earlier statements, he had no doubt that Jim could find a date pretty quickly; he was just wondering how long it'd take Steven.
The announcement for the first race brought his mind back to where he was, and Blair headed over to the windows to place some bets. He'd just turned away, betting slips in hand, when he was joined by a smirking Jim. "How'd it go, man?"
The smirk deepened. "I think we'll be eating at my restaurant of choice, Sandburg." A sudden frown was directed at him, "And no trying to get out of it either."
"No way, man, Wonder Burger's my uh...favourite thing."
"Uh huh. That would be after the ninety-seven ethnic restaurants you visit frequently." Jim smiled as Steven came up, tucking his address book back into his pocket. "How'd it go, Stevie?"
"Not too bad at all, Jimmy. I take it you beat me though?"
The smile became a grin, as Jim tucked his hands in his pockets. "Oh, not by too much, Steven; I think you can still hold your head up. I'll let you know which restaurant I pick though and let you make the reservations."
Steven looked uncertain as Jim strolled away to the stands, and he leaned in to murmur to Blair, "Why does that make me nervous?"
"Because you know Jim, that's why," Blair retorted, positive that Jim would pick the most exclusive restaurant he could think of. "Hey, c'mon! The race is almost over!" He rushed over to stand by Jim and stood on tiptoe to try to get a better view. "Who's in the lead?"
"Baker's Dozen; who'd you bet on?"
Beside them, Steven shook his head. "Waltz will never make it. Baker's Dozen is the odds on favourite."
"Oh yeah?" A grin slowly settled on Jim's face as the announcer got excited and started raving about Millionaire Waltz catching up with Baker's Dozen, pulling ahead and racing long away in front to win the race by a lot more than a nose.
"I don't believe it!" Steven sounded stunned.
Blair grinned as he waved his betting slip at Steven. "Never doubt the master, Steven." He led the way back to the betting stands, chuckling as he went.
"How did he know that horse would win?" he heard Steven demand.
"You're the one running a stadium, you tell me. How'd you do, Sandburg?"
Blair grinned as he put his winnings away. "Got enough to cover the repairs to the Volvo, man. Well, not that she needs that much doing to her...this time." He shrugged as he gazed at the two Ellisons.
Steven shook his head, smiling. "You take my breath away, Blair. Two dates in five minutes and enough winnings to repair your car."
"And he's only just started," Jim told him, a huge grin on his face.
"Better not tell him that," Blair broke in, hiding his own grin. "He's going white, man!"
"Don't worry, Stevie," Jim threw an arm around his brother. "He won't break the bank - or whatever the racing equivalent is."
"Bankrupted on the first day," Steven moaned. "I don't think I'll ever recover."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, I'll pick Wonder Burger for our night out!"
If it was possible, Steven turned even paler. "No, Jim, really. Anything but that!"
By the time the racing crowds had dispersed, Jim and Blair were in Steven's office with Steven, drinking what, Jim had to admit, was really very good champagne.
"So you think you'll be able to run this place okay, Steven?" Blair asked, the hint of a slur discernable to Sentinel ears.
"I think so, Blair." Steven propped his feet up on his desk and leaned back in his chair. "Today was kind of my make-or-break day."
"It's a good thing Sandburg didn't bankrupt you then," Jim put in, wondering how far Steven could lean back before his chair gave way.
"That's for sure! Thanks for that, Blair. I appreciate you stop - is he asleep?"
Jim grinned as he watched Blair drowse, his head sliding off his hand and heading towards the desk. "Who knew good champagne would have this much of an effect on him?" he mused, as he eased Blair down into a more comfortable position.
"I'm not asleep," Blair burbled, a hint of indignation in his half-asleep voice.
Jim patted him lightly on the back. "Course you're not, Chief, you're wiiiide awake."
"I can han'le gooo' cham'ane...."
"What did he say?" Steven asked.
"He can handle good champagne," Jim told him.
"I can tell. Don't worry, Jimmy, I'll help you get him into a cab."
"You better had. And if he's sick, I'm sending you the bill!" Jim warned his brother by blood, one hand still resting on Blair's back, the thumb rubbing soothingly across the shoulder blade of its own volition.
There was another murmured protest from Blair before his voice died away and became a snore.
Steven's grin became wider, although Jim wouldn't have thought it was possible. "I vote we have good champagne on our night out. We can make bets on how long Blair will last!"
"Champagne and Wonder Burger," Jim perched on the edge of the crowded desk and grinned at an appalled looking Steven, feeling totally at ease with the brother he hadn't known for years. "Seems to me like that will be a night to remember."
"A Day at the Races" by Queen.
You and I
Somebody to Love
Good old fashioned lover boy
Teo torriate (let us cling together)
Tie your mother down
You take my breath away
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