This is written in response to a challenge on Sentinel Sanctuary -- using the following sentence: So where does that leave us?
WARNING: This is a hetero story with Jim Ellison and Naomi Sandburg in a relationship together. If you don't like that sort of thing, don't read.
SUMMARY: Jim and Naomi keep their relationship from Blair with near-tragic results.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Lyn for the beta and all remaining mistakes are mine.
By Debbie Tripp
Blair walked into the loft, unprepared for the sight that greeted him. There, on the couch, was his best friend and his mother, in each other's arms. Before either one had a chance to say a word, Blair turned around and left as quickly as he could. In his haste to get down the stairs, he tripped over his feet, falling most of two flights. He ended up at the bottom, unconscious.
Jim and Naomi had disengaged themselves hurriedly when Blair walked in. Neither one expected him home that early. Jim had thought Blair was at a seminar at Rainier, which was to take most of the evening. Blair was never home from those things before 10:00 or 10:30 PM. It threw a monkey wrench into things that he had shown up at 7:30 PM., just when Jim and Naomi were getting it on. With Blair catching them, both of them knew it was well past time to let Blair know their friendship had gone further. They watched as Blair exited the loft as quickly as he had entered, not saying a word. Jim got to his feet, intent on catching his partner before he got too far away.
As Jim reached the door, with Naomi a few steps behind him, he heard the crash on the stairs and knew without even looking that it was Blair. It was a sickening sound.
He turned to Naomi. "Call 911. We need an ambulance right away. Blair's fallen down the stairs."
"What? How do you know?" Naomi frowned at Jim.
"I heard it. I'm going to check on Blair. You call the ambulance. Now!" Jim left the loft; sure that Naomi would call the necessary people.
Jim left the loft, leaving the door open in his haste. He got to the head of the stairwell and saw Blair's still, crumpled body at the bottom. "Oh, God, Chief!" Jim ran down the stairs, wanting to take Blair in his arms and cradle and comfort him. But as Jim reached the bottom landing, he knew he couldn't do that. He knelt beside his friend, extending his senses to determine the severity of injury. He ghosted his hands over Blair's body, not quite touching his friend. He could feel the heat from the broken left leg, the broken ribs, and the broken collarbone. Along with the bump on the back of Blair's head. Blair's breathing was shallow and somewhat labored.
Jim heard the gasp behind him and turned to see Naomi standing there. Jim straightened up and walked over to her, hugging her close. "Did you make the call?"
"Y-yes. They said -- they'd be here shortly. Is he ?"
"He's unconscious. He's got a bump on the back of his head. Along with a broken leg, broken ribs and a broken collarbone. The paramedics will be able to help him when they get here. I should have known he was coming. I should have heard him."
"How could you have, Jim? You didn't know. You were preoccupied "
The words hung between them and Jim pulled Naomi closer. He wasn't willing to risk letting her go just yet.
"We should have told Blair. He deserved to know. It wasn't right keeping him in the dark. If we had told him, this wouldn't have happened."
"Jim, don't blame yourself. You couldn't have known Blair would react in such a way."
Jim released Naomi and walked a few steps away. He turned and looked at her. He looked down at Blair, lying there. He could hear the ambulance in the distance. "The ambulance is coming."
Jim kept Naomi by his side as the paramedics arrived to take care of Blair. Jim answered the questions of how it happened. That Blair had fallen down the stairs somehow. He must have been distracted, preoccupied. That seemed to be the word of the moment -- preoccupied. All of them had been preoccupied in their own little world, not thinking how their actions would reflect on the others.
Soon, Blair was immobilized and ready for transport to the hospital. Jim ran upstairs real quickly to make sure the door to the loft was locked and secure before he came back down to drive Naomi and himself to the hospital. He led Naomi out of the building and towards his truck, helping her into the passenger side before getting in himself. He leaned over and kissed Naomi before he started the drive to the hospital, wanting to comfort them both. At least this time, he wouldn't have to wait alone to find out Blair's condition.
The doctor came out of the examination room. He spotted the two people Blair had said would be there, waiting for word. He walked over to them.
"I take it you two are here for Blair Sandburg?"
"Yes. I'm Jim Ellison and this is Blair's mother, Naomi Sandburg. How is he?"
"I'm Dr. Rodriquez. Blair is going to be in a lot of pain for some time. We're going to take him up to surgery in a little while to set his broken bones and to make sure there is no internal bleeding. He also has a moderate concussion and there's a lot of pain associated with that. He asked me to speak to you both."
"He's awake? Can I see my son?"
"Not just yet. He doesn't want to see either of you. At least, not at this time. We have to respect the wishes of our patients. I hope you understand."
"No, Dr. Rodriquez. You need to understand. Blair is just a little confused. There was a slight misunderstanding before he had his accident. We need to talk to him and clear it up." Jim wanted to push past this guy and get in to see his partner.
"I'm sorry, I can't let you in if the patient doesn't want to see you."
"No, Jim is right. Blair is just a little confused." Naomi tried to make the doctor understand.
"I've given you his request. I've got to get him ready for surgery. Maybe after he comes out of surgery, he'll change his mind."
Dr. Rodriquez walked off and left Jim and Naomi together. Jim thought about pushing his way into the examination room, but he knew that was no way to deal with Blair. He had to respect his wishes and hope that sometime later, he'd allow one or both of them in to see him and try to explain things.
Blair had made it through surgery just fine. He woke up in recovery, still feeling groggy. He remembered all that had happened. It was his own stupidity that had landed him in the hospital this time. He remembered the ER doctor as he ran down the list of injuries -- broken collarbone, broken ribs, bruised ribs, broken left leg and numerous bumps and bruises, including a moderate concussion that was playing havoc with his sensitivity to light. He'd be laid up for some time.
But where would he spend his downtime? At the loft? Could he go back there? He still remembered the scene when he had walked in -- Jim Ellison, his best friend and partner making out on the couch with Naomi Sandburg, his mother. Every time Blair closed his eyes, he still pictured them on the couch, kissing and necking. It couldn't have been a first time thing, they were really into it. Which begged the question: how long had Jim and his mom been doing it? Which begged the other question: just how much were they doing? A part of Blair wanted to know and another part just wanted to deny it all and hoped it had been a hallucination. Why hadn't either Jim or Naomi even mentioned anything about an attraction between the two of them? Did they think he couldn't handle it? Even though it was obvious he hadn't been able to handle it. If they would had told him, sat him down and explained things to him, he might have been able to handle it. Instead of having it sprung upon him when he was totally unprepared.
He had caught them. He wasn't supposed to be there at all. He was scheduled for a seminar at the university. That had been cancelled due to an outbreak of colds and flu that was running through the campus. So, Blair had decided to return home to spend some quality time with Jim.
It hadn't been the first time Blair had caught Naomi doing it with someone. It was just the first time it was someone Blair knew personally. The others he got to know after the fact. Blair had been younger and more impressionable. But it was no big deal. He had accepted it all as a part of his life. Someone new every once in a while to keep his mother happy. Blair understood that his mom had needs and needed companionship. Companionship from a grown up. A male grown up. It wasn't until Blair was into his teens that he really understood his mom's needs. When he started to have needs and urges of his own.
But Blair had never taken up with any of Naomi's female friends. He never had any physical attraction to any of Naomi's friends. He would never think of doing such a thing, knowing what Naomi's reaction would be.
Blair closed his eyes again, trying to relax, trying to will the pain away. He should have paid attention to what he was doing, where he was going. He shouldn't have been in such a hurry. He had kept both Jim and Naomi out of the examination room, but didn't know how long he would keep them away from his hospital room, once he was transferred. He figured it was only a matter of time before he had to deal with his best friend and his mother. He finally drifted off, needing the rest to regain his strength.
Jim decided that Naomi needed to go in to see Blair first. He hadn't issued any restrictions to visitors, which both of them took as a good sign. It meant there was still a chance they could explain things to Blair. Jim forced himself to sit in the waiting room down the hall, while Naomi walked to her son's room. Jim didn't even extend his hearing to gauge Blair's reception to his mother. He thought it best to find out from Naomi when she returned.
Naomi paused outside the door to Blair's room, wondering what her reception would be. She was still stunned over Blair's refusal to see either her or Jim in the examination room. Naomi remembered the sight of her only son lying at the bottom of the stairs where he had run away from what he had walked in on.
It wasn't the way she and Jim wanted to announce their relationship. They had been seeing each other for over six months now. It had all started when Naomi came, unannounced, and Blair was out of town. Jim invited her to stay at the loft and he was the perfect gentleman and they found they had a lot in common besides Blair. Their coming together was mutual and it was decided to keep the news from Blair for the time being. But they met on the sly several more times over the next couple of months. Naomi would stay in a hotel and Jim would meet her there. They had meant to talk to Blair about what was happening, but the opportunity never came up. Naomi didn't like keeping things from her son, but didn't know how to explain to Blair that she was attracted to his best friend, Jim. After all, Jim was a younger man, although older than Blair. Blair never had problems with Naomi's other boyfriends. Although, she would hardly call Jim a boyfriend. She wasn't exactly sure what to call Jim.
Naomi opened the door and walked inside the room. She frowned as she approached the bed. Blair's eyes were closed, but somehow Naomi suspected her son wasn't asleep. It was confirmed when she reached the side of the bed and Blair's eyes opened.
"Mom." Blair's voice was flat, without expression.
"Sweetie. Are you in much pain?"
"No." Blair looked around his mom. "So, where's Jim?"
"He's in the waiting room. He thought it best that I come in first. Blair, about what you saw "
"Don't, mom. I know what I saw. What I want to know is how could you do such a thing? I mean, Jim is my best friend, you're my mother. Don't you think that's a little strange?"
"No, Blair. I mean, it is a mutual feeling between the two of us. It was gradual."
"How long, mom? How long have you been pursuing my best friend?"
"Blair, you're making it seem so tawdry. It's not like that at all."
"Just don't, mom. How long have you been meeting?"
"About six months. Blair, you have to believe me when I tell you that we didn't set out to fall in love. The first time was "
"Whoa! Mom, I don't need to know about the first time!" Blair was clearly starting to get irritated and upset over the conversation. Naomi noticed his agitation.
"Calm down, Blair. You need to settle down."
"Why don't you leave, mom? I'm sort of tired. And I need to call for the nurse to get my next pain shot." Blair closed his eyes to emphasis his point.
Naomi patted Blair on the arm and leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Okay, Sweetie. Do you want me to send Jim in? He really wants to see you."
"No, mom. Can you tell him I'm too tired? Please?" There was a sudden whine in Blair's voice.
"Okay, Sweetie. I'll explain it to him. You get some rest and we'll be back tomorrow."
Naomi walked into the waiting room to find Jim reading a magazine, but he looked at her the minute she walked in.
"How is he?" The concern was evident in Jim's voice. Naomi knew that Jim was worried, did worry, about Blair.
"He's okay. He was asking about us. I told him how long we'd been seeing each other. All of a sudden, he got tired and asked me to leave. I don't think I did a very good job of explaining about us."
"Maybe I can do a better job. The last thing I want to do is to hurt Blair. He's my best friend and has helped me so much over the years. I'll go and talk to him." Jim got to his feet and started to walk away. Naomi grabbed his arm to stop him.
"Wait, Jim. He told me to tell you he's too tired. He was going to call the nurse for a pain shot. I think we should let him have some rest tonight. Tomorrow, we can come back and you can take a shot at talking to him. Okay, Jim?" Naomi pulled Jim into a hug.
Jim hugged her back. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Maybe I can explain things better."
The next morning they returned to the hospital. It was decided over breakfast that Jim would go in to see Blair. It wasn't quite time to gang up on the young man. As Jim said, it wouldn't be right to push this onto Blair.
"Tell him I love him," Naomi said as Jim left her in the waiting room.
Jim made his way to Blair's hospital room and walked in while Blair was picking around at his breakfast. He looked up from the tray at Jim and quickly looked back to the tray.
"You know, if you eat all your breakfast, you'll get out of here faster." Jim tried for the casual approach, with a bit of humor thrown in.
"Well, I guess that's really not that important, is it?" Blair kept his eyes on his tray and the food there.
"What's that supposed to mean, Chief?" Jim asked, trying to gauge Blair's mood.
"When were you going to tell me that I had to leave the loft? Or were you just going to kick me out again?" Blair raised his head, looking Jim straight in the eye. Jim saw a myriad of emotions flitter through during Blair's questions -- fear, pain, hurt and anger.
"Leave the loft? Where did that come from, Blair? And I seem to remember an agreement we had that I would never kick you out of our home again." Jim was getting just a little agitated over Blair's questions.
"So, how are we going to do this then? You and mom upstairs in your bedroom and I'm still relegated to the small space downstairs? I don't know if I can do that, Jim. I'd rather live in my office at the university."
"You don't have to move out, Blair! There has been no talk of Naomi moving into the loft. And I'm not going to kick you out of your home. Our home. About me and your mom "
"Please, Jim. I already heard this from my mom. Do I have to hear it from you, too?"
"There needs to be a discussion, Blair. Between the three of us. It will happen, Chief."
"So, if you're going to start acting like my father, where does that leave us? Where does that leave our friendship? We can't have it both ways, Jim. I won't take orders from you. You're my friend! I thought my best friend! Maybe we need to rethink this whole thing! Especially since you're going after my mom."
"Don't go off the deep end, Sandburg. You are my best friend. You've helped me more than I could even think about repaying you for. Neither Naomi nor I was looking to become involved. It just happened. But we are nowhere near moving in together or even expanding what we already have. I love your mother, Blair. I know it is a hard concept for you to get your mind around. We don't know where it's going to go or if it will even last. We haven't examined those questions. Hell, it's only been a little over six months. I don't want to hurt you, Blair and I don't want to start acting like your father. All I ask is that you give Naomi and me a chance to explain things to you." Jim paused, looking at Blair to gauge his reaction.
"It was such a shock -- walking in and seeing you two on the couch " Blair stopped, unable to continue. He locked eyes with Jim, trying to understand. Trying to be happy. He wanted Jim to be happy and he wanted his mom to be happy. He just wasn't sure if he wanted them to be happy together.
Jim reached out to pat Blair on the shoulder. "You okay, Chief?"
"I'm not sure. As you said, it is a hard concept to get my mind around. I'm sorry I ran out like that."
"It was scary for a while, when I saw you still at the bottom of the stairs. I thought maybe you had broken your neck " Jim closed his eyes, lost in the memory.
"Hey, I'm going to be okay, Jim. It'll take some time, but I will be fine. Why don't you and Naomi come back this afternoon and you can explain to me what happened and why you two are involved?" Blair decided to hear them out.
Jim let the smile light up his face. "You got it! Rest and we'll be back this afternoon." Jim gently squeezed Blair's shoulder before turning to leave.
Jim took Naomi to lunch and they spent most of the time talking about what they were going to tell Blair about their relationship.
"I think we should be totally honest with him. After all, it's not like we'll be able to hide anything from him. My son is a very bright boy uh, man."
"I'm just not sure Blair is going to accept that his best friend and his mother want to be together romantically. I'd have a hard time if the roles were reversed."
"So, what are you saying, Jim? You don't want to be with me anymore? I don't remember you having these kinds of objections when we started this. You couldn't wait to get me upstairs to your bedroom, if I remember right!"
"Naomi, I'm just saying that I can see Blair's viewpoint. I understand his problem."
"Oh, now I'm a 'problem'?" Naomi dropped her fork onto the plate and stared across the table at Jim. "Well, by all means, let's indulge Blair and do what he wants! It's not that easy, Jim! I'm a grown woman, free to do as she chooses. And right now, I choose to be involved with my son's best friend. However, if you have a problem with me, too, then I'll just leave and stay out of both of your lives."
Jim bit his lower lip and looked across the table at Naomi. 'God! She even looks sexy, mad!' Jim shook his head. "No, don't leave, Naomi. We'll convince Blair that this is how it is. After all, he is a grown up also. If he can't accept us, it's his loss." Jim knew he couldn't lose her.
They walked into Blair's hospital room together. Just by looking at them, Blair knew what was going on.
"Before you begin, I have something to say. I understand the attraction you have to Jim, mom. Hell, if I was a woman, I'd be attracted to him, too! If I was into guys, I'd definitely be attracted to him! I didn't mean to sound like it was all about me earlier. You just have to understand where I'm coming from." Blair looked from Jim to Naomi and then back to Jim. "I grew up a very insecure person. I only had my mom, to myself most of the time. She encouraged me, urged me to take risks. Most of the time, when there was a guy in her life, I became invisible. I learned to do that because most guys didn't care about a kid who could be demanding and a pain in the ass. So, I would go off and study and read, doing things by myself. All the time, hoping and praying that the guy would leave soon so I'd have my mom back for my own."
Naomi looked at her son, the surprise evident. "Sweetie, I never knew! You should have told me! I never meant to make you feel invisible or that you weren't welcome."
"It wasn't you, mom. Heck, I've been a smart kid all my life. Even as a youngster, I could tell things. When I started at Rainier, I understood even more. I've never begrudged you being happy, mom. I just wish you would have told me. Can you imagine my shock when I walked in, seeing my mother and my best friend kissing on the couch? I didn't even have a clue! No one said anything to me!"
"We understand your shock, Blair. You have to believe us when we say we were going to tell you. It's difficult to come up with the right time, the right words and the right approach." Jim looked down at the floor and then back up at Blair and then over to Naomi. "It appears we still have communication problems, Chief. So, where does that leave us?"
"Well, why don't you tell me about the first time you realized it was something more than just friendship, or that you only tolerated my mother? Then, mom can explain just what her intentions for my best friend are. And you, Jim, can tell me what your intentions for my mom are. Then, you both can explain how I fit into the whole thing. I'll let you know then where that leaves us." Blair relaxed in the bed, waiting for one of them to start.