12 Things Blair would never willingly share with anyone:
That he wasn’t always afraid of heights. At least, not that he remembers. During Blair's early nomadic life with Naomi (and a rotating cast of by-and-large friendly hippie extras), he recalls having had to climb onto various tall forms of transportation (trains, buses, trucks), or being hoisted to high windows that he alone was small enough to fit through for one purpose or another. He remembers experiencing a certain discomfort at those moments, but not an outright loathing, not an inability to function. The distaste used to help him focus, long ago. To truly concentrate on what he was climbing, or on what he was flying.
When Blair was 8 years old, a nice man from the CIA whom Blair had met through one of Naomi's past boyfriends contacted him, and paid for Blair to go to Germany, and hang around a certain wall, listening and making friends. Blair was good at making friends, and at learning languages. Naomi was off traveling with a boyfriend, and Blair wasn't excited about staying with Naomi's old highschool friend and her three rambunctious children. So off he'd gone to Germany.
Under the shadow cast by the Berlin Wall, Blair had befriended two other children, 12 year old Michaela Ginevra, and her cousin, 14 year old Fernando de los Dos Santos. Fernando was the nephew of the current Prince of Montepacido, a small European principality nestled between the mountains and the sea. Montepacido had made enemies in the U.S.S.R., and Fernando and Michaela had been recruited by Interpol to gather information in much the same way as Blair was being paid to do. Their mission was to observe, but they ended up helping an Interpol agent and his companions escape from being captured on the other side of the wall. Fernando froze, going over the wall, and Blair, who had just read Sir Richard Burton's "Sentinels of Paraguay," managed to bring Fernando (Ferdi) back to the present.
Interpol and the CIA pooled their child assets. Ferdi and Michaela coined the term "Los Ninos" for the group, and so they were known. After that first excursion in Germany, Blair, Fernando, and Michaela were friends, and Blair would go over almost any wall for them. Even before he learned that his grandfather had been the illegitimate son of Fernando's great-uncle, the former Prince.
So, for a long time, Blair could handle heights. The panic attacks didn’t come until after a few bad jumps, a few bad landings, and that Himalayan bridge he told Joel about, because Joel needed to hear. But Jim didn’t need to know it was real. Really, in all honesty, most of the time Blair himself thought of it as having happened to someone else. To Then-Blair, whom he more often than not referred to as ‘Belén,’ even in his own mind. A very distinct person from now-Blair, he rationalized, going along with the idea that most of us go through many different incarnations in a single lifetime, distinct enough to be different people, like Jackie Kozinski and Brother Marcus were more two different people than the same person. Sometimes Belen, or pieces of him, as small a piece as will sufficiently fill a hole, are necessarily incorporated into now-Blair. Mostly, they can be explained as accidents (like the vending machine incident during Kinkade’s siege) or luck (like disarming the bomb on the oil rig).
Much of Blair’s past –particularly the parts lived by Bélen- are surrounded by a comfortable haze of what he might have conceivably been doing or of what other people would have no reason not to believe that he had been doing- and Blair does not care to penetrate that fog.
That they weren’t all cool. Most of them didn’t call him “Naomi’s brat,” at least not to his face. Many of them were pretty cool, all things considered. Some of them genuinely enjoyed having a smart kid to play “father-and-son” with for awhile. Most at least appreciated that Blair usually didn’t behave like a brat or “act out” even though it was pretty obvious that they were screwing his Mom. But they weren’t all cool. One of them had introduced the CIA to young 7 year old Blair as a result of a PTSD freak-out (the uncle’s, not Blair’s).
Even if it happens to come up someday that Blair’s childhood had its downside, he’d never tell anyone that even at 7 years old, randomly almost being stabbed by some normally nice guy who just happened to think Blair was a Russian assassin at the moment wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to Blair. That was reserved for a pair of half remembered hands, touching him in the dark, years before, when he had been even smaller. It wasn’t til Blair's college expeditions to isolated areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, that night time began to mean something to him, beyond just fear. Now night makes Blair think of the smell of sun-baked grass and night blooming flowers and vegetation rather than a vague sense of paranoid fright.
Belén’s life had added to Blair’s justified unease with the darkness, but man, nothing ever beat those disembodied hands for down-right uncontrolled terror. At least Belén had known why he was being chased in the dark (spying or at least information gathering in Russia or certain other nations, leading Americans, Western Europeans, or refugees across Russian lines, taking messages across Russian lines, predicting where enemies would strike, etc.).
3. Not accidents.
That a lot of things that happen around Blair aren’t necessarily accidents, and that he isn’t quite as lucky as he seems. It is, for instance, very hard to unlearn being an excellent marksman. It went beyond unlearning. Marksmanship, like creatively stretching the truth, like finding patterns in chaos (or creating chaos), were skills Blair had been born with, rather than something he consciously learned. Certain situations that Belén had lived through….had honed a number of these skills, but the raw talent belongs to Blair as much as to Bélen, and that is something that Blair doesn’t like to think about.
Pushing the vending machine onto Kinkaid’s man was not an accident. Defusing the bomb on the oil rig was not luck. Surviving David Lash, on the other hand, Blair did put down to a lucky accident. It had been too many years since he had been in the practice of watching his back, too many years since people had wanted to harm him over anything more serious than disapproving of his hair or his clothes or his ideas. Cognizant of his danger only too late, but for Jim, Blair’s life would have been over and it would have been too bad. But that hadn’t been enough to make Blair break off his partnership … or whatever it was, with Jim. Blair had never been the best at knowing when to give up, and all of the people whom Belén had listened to about when to declare a cause lost, were themselves lost to him, through death or … prudence.
Belén and all of his surviving contemporaries have out of necessity become now-versions of themselves, like he is now-Blair, and for the most part, he has nothing to do with those old friends. The exceptions are James Wilson, Daniel Jackson, and to some extent Jack Kelso, who hadn’t known then-Blair, but Kelso and Belén had known of each other. Based o nthat, Kelso could, like an astronomer observing a black hole, deduce the past existence of then-Blair from now-Blair’s occasional flashes of insight and fear. If its ever necessary, which now-Blair devoutly hopes it will not be, he plans to ask Kelso to write a book about the niños, because he trusts Kelso to get it close to right.
4. The Strangers he Trusts. That there Are About a Dozen Men and Women Blair would Trust with his life, or Jim's, even though he hasn't spoken to some of them in over a decade.
4 (a) Daniel Jackson, civilian consultant to the Airforce
Blair trusts that guy Daniel Jackson who won’t stop trying to convince him, from time to time, that it would be more interesting to be a civilian consultant for the military. Blair isn’t sure that Daniel recognizes him as having once been Belén. Belén had been younger when then-Daniel (called Danya) went off to college as Daniel, and stopped being one of the niños. Also, Danya had never been that observant when it came to anything without a few centuries of age or an interesting linguistic variance- one of the reasons that Danya hadn’t gotten to do that much field work, and Belén had done almost entirely fieldwork when Blair wasn’t with Naomi. Naomi had unknowingly done a fair amount of fieldwork as well- sneaking defectors’ kids and families over various eastern European and Latin American and Asian borders as members of that year’s group of hippies in search of enlightenment and practical communism.
Belén hadn’t worried about it at the time, to his 10 year old mind, it was o.k. because Naomi would’ve wanted to help, and because in return for that help, the CIA had looked out for Naomi, and continues to do so, to this day. Belén, like his fellow commanding niños, had greeted Danya’s departure for college with relief as well as regret – they had always worried about Danya- because although Danya could learn how to sound like he came from some obscure village in the Carpathians in the span of two hours, he would sometimes forget and start speaking another language- usually Arabic, French, Russian or English- upon seeing something interesting, such as a carving on a mountain passage way, or even graffiti on a boulder. But still, Blair trusts Daniel, because somehow absent-minded Daniel had always managed to be sound back-up, reliable in a crisis, only falling apart once everything was over.
4(b) Dr. Rodney McKay, also of the Stargate program
“Rory Kelso” didn’t join los niños until Belén was “14” (and then-Blair was 10). Rory was 11. Rory had been selected by Ferdí and Ilya, because he was almost never wrong about things like “how long do we have until this place blows up?” and “is this radioactive material safely contained?,” and the niños had already lost two of their members to radiation poisoning, and a greater number to accidental explosions. Belén didn’t know much about where Rory came from at first, except that he had a family he returned to every so often, and a fear of every medical procedure known to man.
Rory also didn’t talk. Not for years. Mostly, it wasn’t a problem – Ilya could almost read his mind, and he hardly ever needed more than one pair of hands to help him in his work. Rory could make Ilya laugh with one quirk of an eyebrow, a task that usually required effort even on Belén’s part. Ilya had always said “trust me, you like him better that he does not speak.” Then Ilya was incapacitated in the middle of what was supposed to be a milk-run, and Rory needed Belén to help him make a nuclear generator never work again (in an unspectacular, un-chernobyl like way) without showing any signs that it had been tampered with, and there was no other way to get his point across. Belén managed not to strangle Rory, and had had no problem working with him during future jobs, but he was impressed with how right Ilya had been – Rory was much more pleasant when he didn’t open his mouth..
Belén had asked Ferdí once what had happened to make Rory so difficult, but it was Ilya, recovering, who had answered “I think he had always been somewhat different, seeing technical details and not emotional nuance – but the Americans are not entirely unlike the Russians in finding out what makes the exceptional work, and what was done to him may have prevented him even more from perceiving what normal people perceive … it may even, in the beginning, have kept him from speaking, rather than his own choice.”
4(c) NCIS Agent Tony DiNozzo
Blair met Tony at a youth wilderness survival training program, which was also a CIA recruitment camp. Blair had been recuperating from an extraction gone bad, and Tony was “learning to be a man” while his father married stepmother # 2, and still getting over his own mother’s death. Tony was alone enough, and angry enough, to accept the offer to join los ninos. It was an added bonus that Tony had enhanced senses of sight and touch. Later, he became Belén’s Latin American double. Bélen and Dino didn’t work together often, but when they did, it was always with frighteningly effective results.
4(d & e) ATF Agents Ezra Standish and J.D. Dunne
Ezra P. Standish, or Eddy Jackson, had been another CIA recruit from the youth wilderness survival training program, although inititally his participation as a Nino had been compelled by a threat to his mother (until Ferdy, Su-lin and Belen found out about it, and used that incident and several others to wrest control of the Ninos program from the CIA and NATO, into Blair's and then Ferdy's own hands). Together, Ezra, Tony, and Blair (as well as several others) took turns acting as Bernard Belen, as Belen's roles grew too time consuming and complex for one teenager who also spent part of the with his Mom to handle (not even mentioning that the stints of hospital stays and physical therapy that Mr. Belen went through for his injuries would have precluded him from being at anywhere near the number of places he managed to be in time to help avert various disasters for NATO).
Eddy had quickly gained a reputation for being able to procure anything, anywhere. He was the man to see if you wanted to acquire AK-47s in the jungle, or lipstick in the tundra. Within a few weeks of getting to a city he'd never set foot in before, he could figure out who was who, both in terms of the area's legitimate power structure, and its underground. Blair had learned a lot from him, but sometimes worried not about what Eddy would do - once his loyalty was given, as it had been to Ferdi, it was absolute (although Eddy didn't understand what was wrong with side-line profit making enterprises). Rather, Belen worried about what would happen to Eddy, if he chose to surround himself with people who looked after number one first and foremost because he continued to be afraid to form real attachments, yet stayed the type of man who would step in front of a speeding locomotive to rescue the helpless.
Eddy's career as a part-time spy had ended abruptly after the wrong people, thinking Eddy was Belen, had tortured him for information he didn't have, over several weeks until a rescue team could be scrambled. It was one of the incidents that pushed Beje/Blair and Sunny into a reluctant alliance. Eddy healed, but didn't have it in him to continue. Additionally, he was nearly 16, so the military agreed to alter his year of birth in his records, and he went to college a few years early, with his memory altered by Belen such that he didn't remember his past activities (it was par for the course to hypnotize departing Ninos, the alternative option being a risky brain surgery to chemically burn out certain memories).
Belén, in consultation with Ferdí, Sunny, and Mika, had actually selected J.D. to recruit to los niños, a scant year and a half before their mass retirement. “James "Jamie" Darton” had been chosen out of a pool containing several older and more qualified computer specialists, because he possessed qualities that the four commanding officers of los niños were looking for near the end – a need for the money that covert ops work would bring him (his mother’s hospital bills) coupled with an absence of legitimate ways of earning income (due to his age), and most importantly, a deadline after which he would be able to walk away from the life without regrets (the most optimistic doctors had only given his Mom ten years).
Blair is pretty sure that J.D. wouldn't recognize him as Belen - J.D. had still been relatively new to los ninos when they disbanded enmasse, and he had only ever known then-Blair in perfected Belen mode, whom he had regarded with (Blair hoped) a memory-distorting level of hero worship. Also, J.D. had worked primarily with the other techies - Rory and Ilya, rather than with the Ninos de facto second in command, then later commander, Bernard Anastasio Belen.
4(f) U.S. Airforce Major Su Lin Smith
Belén and Su Lin (Sunny) disagreed on just about every subject it was possible to have an opinion on, and some that Ferdí and Mika thought Belén had invented just to have more reasons to argue with Sunny. Sunny was the “closest in age” to Belén, 11 to his “12” when she had been added to los niños. Sunny had enhanced hearing and sight, and an impressive temper. She was annoyed by Belén’s fake stoicism, and by his often being right about what she needed to do to use her senses safely. She was most annoyed by his reluctance to kill. Eventually, with Ferdí and Mika out of commission for over a year and the commander of los niños temporarily replaced by a man who in a month had raised their casualty stats from 20% to 60%, Belén and Sunny had become formidable allies and tentative friends. The friendship had ended after Sunny approved Honey’s request to go in after a captured Belén and Miklos, and Honey and Miklos died in action. Still, Blair had gone to active status during the golf war under the name Brian Josephs because Lieutenant Smith had been MIA.
4(g) Dr. James Wilson
"Jerry Wallis" was one of a very few who had come to los ninos without an invitation, because he wanted to spend more time with his older brother, "Mitchell West," who had been another product of the CIA's secret recruitment camps. Mitchell had been smart, psychic, and empathic. Jerry was two out of three; he could never see flashes of the future like Mitchell. Mitchell burned out completely in the early '80s, and Jerry reluctantly took his place. Jerry was frequently put on field teams - for a child of the suburbs, he had an uncanny ability not to panic under fire, and was widely regarded as the best field medic amongst the ninos. Blair still sees Jerry - now Dr. James Wilson - for yearly cancer screenings, scheduled on days when Wilson's preternaturally observant friend House is at an annual Monster Truck Rally catered by Play Boy Bunnies.
4(h) A.D.A. Siena DeLaurente Jeffries
Moving through one of those countries that was in the Soviet sphere of influence but not actually part of the Republic with several rescued British soldiers, Blair had encountered a small girl who reminded him strongly of his Sandburg cousins. He had picked her up, and carried her with him over the border in his backpack, despite the British soldiers' vociferous disagreement and even Ferdi's initial objections. Siena, as they came to call the girl, grew up with Ferdi's family, and had joined Los Ninos to help Michaela rescue Ferdi and Blair, around the time she was approximately seven. Blair had been furious, but he could never stay angry with Mika or Sia. When Blair's wife Honey died, Sia had dogged his every step on his one subsequent mission before their mass retirement, making sure he didn't make a deadly mistake out of grief. As Sia was one of the least threatening Ninos, and willing, she was the current contact person for people who asked questions about Los Ninos.
That guns have in many ways been the bane of Blair’s existence. Blair doesn't handle hand-to-hand combat at all well anymore. His days as a Nino left him with too many bad associations, he just shuts down. But he can’t help being able to put a bullet exactly where he wants it to go. He’s never lied to Jim about this, not really. At first Blair had just said that he didn’t like guns- which is the absolute truth. It’s not Blair’s fault that Jim had then drawn certain conclusions which Blair had never disabused him of. That’s not lying, strictly speaking.
It was tough for Blair to get through the hand-to-hand combat portion of the police academy because it had been so long since he’d needed to fight, and because it brought back so many painful memories. Blair had truly had to work hard to qualify. On the other hand, it was tough for Blair to get through his firearms training because even though nearly 15 years had passed, it was too easy for him to requalify (and hard for him not to qualify at the trained sniper level).
That Blair's deadliest weapon was never a gun, even with his excellent aim. Belen had been extremely dangerous in part because he liked people, and he was willing to completely contort an objective in order to help even those he had just met. Sometimes he had failed fantastically and almost gotten everyone killed, but just as often, his introduction into a group of people was likely to stiffen their resolve and increase their organization, catalyzing a hopeful resistance out of despair and anger. Belen had been justly famous, within his small circle, for his proven ability to transform a disparate protest movement into a viable opposition government in a few months' time. Blair never saw enemies as inherently different from allies, and sometimes Belen had been able to convince reluctant but faithful (even ardent) supporters of corrupt regimes to cross the lines and join the opposition, and the opposing force to accept them as members, even leaders.
When Blair posed as a social worker after his apartment was blown up and ended up in the middle of a community group organizing to stop the gang violence, it felt like deja vu to him for a moment. Jim had just asked him to go in and protect a woman by getting her into custody. But Blair could see a look in the grandmother's eyes, a look he recognized. Better things than protecting just one woman could happen there, Blair had realized, if he just supported the dignified lady with the fire in her eyes. So he followed his instincts, and expected Jim to ream him out afterwards for not following the plan. When Jim didn't, instead giving him a quiet "good job, Chief," and offering him a temporary home, Blair realized for the first time that he was in real trouble of having found a friend and partner for whom he would have to risk exposing the scars on his soul.
Where he actually learned to weld. To stay warm while getting information from a disgraced Russian scientist in a Siberian gulag. He later got a legitimate job doing it during one of his summers away from Rainier, because he liked it well enough and the pay was decent.
8. . Firehose.
That the day when Blair knocked over two bad guys with a firehose, back when he was just Jim's ride-along, had been the first day he realized that Belén and Blair might not be entirely different. Belén had always been an adrenaline junkie, and adrenaline and Blair had usually resulted in nausea. After the firehose incident, Blair didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, because perhaps Belén wasn’t so dead after all, and maybe, just maybe there was room for a little bit of Belén in Blair, and maybe that wasn't entirely a bad thing.
That Blair only bluffs about important things when it is absolutely necessary. For instance, he had not been bluffing about being able to fly a helicopter when he wrested control of Kinkade's helicopter from its pilot with just a flare gun. That situation had not been nearly desperate enough for Blair to have threatened to shoot the pilot without a replacement pilot ready, because some of now-Blair’s fear of heights came from then-Blair’s having once been in a falling chopper. He would rather have taken his chances – and Jim’s- going with the madmen. If it had been necessary, if the pilot hadn’t turned back, Blair could have flown the helicopter back, and fallen apart afterwards. After all, he had considered fleetingly before the pilot folded, Jim (and the P.D.) would have had no reason not to believe that one of Blair's many “uncles” had been a free-lance chopper pilot in some unimportant regional area, and that he might have taught Naomi’s brat to fly, trying to impress Naomi.
That he cannot foresee a circumstance under which he will ever again take drugs willingly (although peyote and certain other natural substances don't count as drugs to his way of thinking). After nearly ten years as, in addition to being a member of Los Ninos, occasionally serving as one of the CIA’s remote viewers in the first Project Stargate (which had nothing to do with the actual stargate - it was a program which used psychedelic drugs to enhance the normal psychic abilities of people like Blair, enabling them to see possible futures, or look at a map and know where in a country captured soldiers were being held), Blair knows exactly what psychedelic drugs can do to the human body, and how lucky he is to have survived that time with as few permanent side effects as he carries. The whole golden thing brought back some of Blair’s worst “bad trips,” as well as too-clear memories of people burning to death. Those memories make Blair glad he does not have perfect sense recall like Jim’s- the sight memory is a terrible burden even blurred by time - the smell, the sound, in better-than-technicolor detail for life, would be too much.
That Blair drinks algae shakes every day not for his health, or because he likes the taste, but because something about the blue-green algae is the most effective natural substance he's ever found for suppressing his empathetic sense.
That he knows why he fell so hard for Maya. That it went beyond her being attractive. She reminded Blair of his dead wife La' ani (called Honey for work, and Lahi by her friends). Not her physical appearance necessarily, but something about the girl from a foreign culture burdened by a powerful father’s shady past, a girl who nonetheless still believed (or at least Blair had thought Maya had believed) in her ability to become her own person, and in love. Of course, La'ani’s father had ended up being a loyal CIA agent playing the rogue, who had smiled when La'ani told him she was going to marry Blair, remarking that his Lahi could “do much worse,” before signing the marriage license as Blair’s guardian, because Blair had only been 15 to Lahi’s 18, and Naomi had been off on a cleansing retreat, and Big Tamu Kona was a big Kahuna on his small Hawaiian island. But Blair tells himself he doesn’t know what it was about Maya, because thinking of La'ani is still just about the most painful thing he can do to himself, and when Blair wishes he knew his father, he thinks of his father as being somewhat like Tamu, but probably without a skull necklace. Probably.
Megan Connor reminds Blair of Lahi as well, although Megan is a fully realized, wonderfully multi-faceted, adult woman, something Lahi never had a chance to be. Blair doesn't know if he would be attracted to Meghan if he were to try thinking of her as other than a friend, and he doesn't want to risk their friendship by trying, but he treasures Meghan for being a constant assurance to him that strong, beautiful women sometimes have a chance to grow up, and kick bad guy ass in the light of day, with legal sanction.
12. That Blair won't leave Jim in part because Jim reminds Blair of Ferdí
Blair and Jim hadn't had the best start to their relationship. However, even back when they first met, Blair hadn't been taken aback at Jim's brusque lack of gratitude over Blair's saving Jim's life or Jim's violent response to Blair's helpfulness in explaining "sentinel senses 101" to the bewildered cop, in part because Blair had never found people with enhanced senses to be particularly grateful for his assistance, at least not at first. Ferdy had barely tolerated Blair in the beginning- and Blair had saved his life also, that first time they met in Berlin, by distracting the East German border guards, and then by working with Mika to figure out how to help Ferdy handle everything being too loud and too bright. And Sunny - well, Sunny and Blair's mutual antipathy was a whole 'nother story.
Even on Jim’s worst days, and Blair’s, working with Jim is worth it, not because it is like working with Ferdí again, although Blair recognizes that could be said, but because its doing something worthwhile with a friend he loves like a brother. Back in the days when Belén helped Ferdí to use his eyes and ears against the Soviets (and various dictators of the month), Belén hadn’t always been sure that they were doing something worthwhile, or even that they were always better than the other guy. But even then Belén could no more have left Ferdí then Blair could leave Jim, and hindsight is always 20/20.