Notes: Beta'd by Lyn.

'Naomi's son' previously appeared in Chinook 5 and has now timed out. Thank you, Lisa, for trusting me with your universe! This collaboration was a lot of fun, and many good things came from it - for one, appearing in a fanzine, and a strong, determined Naomi inspired me to write 'Gravity' last year.

Naomi's Son

By Demeter & L.A. Adolf

EMAIL: Demeter

             Lisa Adolf

She'd known from the very moment of conception - -the microsecond when sperm had merged with egg -- that she was pregnant, had never harbored one second of doubt. It had been as though her world had been transformed, miraculously and beautifully, by one night of love- making.

She remembered standing transfixed, hand pressed against her still flat belly as her eyes looked within and into the future, when her knowledge had been confirmed, first by the commune midwife, then by the prenatal testing that the woman had advised. Naomi had a history of miscarriage, as had her mother before her. Sandburg women, for whatever reason, did not easily become with child. This made the reality of Blair's conception all the more wondrous and precious.

The monitors beeped in counter point to the sibilant hiss of the respirator that forced oxygen into her son's beleaguered lungs. With a hollow gaze, turned within and without, just as that long ago epiphany of impending motherhood, but so differently now, Naomi Sandburg watched as Blair's chest rose and fell in cadence with the machine that breathed for him.

Drowned. In a fountain only steps from his university office. Murdered. Miraculously revived through some strange magic by the man who had been most responsible for putting him in that danger to begin with. The same man, who had, she'd learned, kicked Blair from the loft they shared for so long. Jim had performed his miracle then had taken off to Sierra Verde, ostensibly after the woman who had done this to Naomi's son. Jim Ellison had not even waited to see the man he'd called partner, released from the hospital.

Of course, Blair had followed Jim - against medical advice and at the risk, once again, of his own life. Naomi had gotten the details from Megan Connor who'd accompanied her son to Sierra Verde, knew the behavior that Ellison had exhibited, and the fact that as Blair grew ill and they'd hastened to return him to the US and better medical care, Jim had not accompanied him. Instead, the man her son so idolized had stayed behind, "cleaning up details"; to follow in a day or two.

Blair had collapsed in the terminal of Cascade International airport. He'd been rushed to Cascade General and intensive care. Pneumonia, virulent and antibiotic resistant. No little wonder, given what he'd gone through, following James Ellison, beyond all rhyme and reason.

Beyond sanity.

Naomi Sandburg didn't hate lightly... she tried not to hate at all. But the regard in which she held her son's friend had evaporated during the long hours she'd spent by his bed, called to Cascade from her retreat in the Rockies -- responding to the original message about the drowning. She'd been days late in receiving it, sequestered as she had been away from civilization and cell phones, and had arrived to news of Blair's impending return from central America.

She'd been there to see him wheeled from the arrival gate to the ambulance.

Naomi hated Jim Ellison. For sins of commission and omission. She had dozens of questions. She would have answers.

Naomi's pregnancy had gone smoothly, in spite of her past medical history. This was one child who clung to the promise of life, even as a tiny embryo in the womb. She'd never felt healthier or happier than she had carrying Blair, had savored the feeling of new life growing within her. From the first flutter, so like butterfly wings, to the strong kicking of late pregnancy, she'd loved, not only the concept of motherhood, but its actual blossoming.

She'd planned a peaceful delivery at the commune, attended by the midwife, her son drummed into his new life by the shaman they'd gathered around to learn from. When her labor had come a few weeks early, not dangerously so, the long dreamed of birth experience had begun. It had been everything she had fantasized. She found herself giving life to her child in the beauty of nature, surrounded by peace and love and positive vibrations, her pain soothed and mind eased by midwife and ministration of the wise old shaman, who'd proclaimed, putting a hand to her swollen belly, that the child she carried was special, destined for many great and profoundly spiritual things.

The birth had been long and arduous. There had been bleeding and complications after her son had been delivered. The decision had been made to transport new mother and baby to the local hospital. While not the perfect ending to her planned natural birth, it was still all right. The only thing to be regretted, the fact that she'd been ill enough from blood loss, that it had been a few days before she'd been able to sit up and hold her newborn.

But the delay had been nothing, really. For all that Naomi ached and worried that she had missed her opportunity to bond with her son in serenity after he'd been delivered and laid across her still swollen stomach, she realized that her wise little boy had understood the delay and accepted it.

As she sat in a chair in the hospital maternity ward, her son put into her arms for the first time, those days vanished into the void of memory.

Wide and oddly old and wise blue eyes had looked up and into hers, and as she'd crooned to him, he'd smiled. His tiny face had lit up, and he'd laughed, or made sounds that resonated in her soul as infant laughter, no matter how many nurses told her about gas bubbles and neurological reflexes. He accepted her breast eagerly and they'd bonded right then and there, in a split second and as though there had been no delay, no post partum illness and separation.

That bond had never been severed. Nothing, not the distance she'd created between them when he'd started college to enable him to focus on his new life and independence, not even death would do that.

The doctors told her there was no guarantee that Blair would be able to fight off the jungle-bred infection that had him in its grip. The ill advised, premature end to his prior hospitalization and the insane activity he'd pursued in the interim had left him with few resources to ensure survival, they said.

But Naomi had faith. Faith that as long as she was with him, beside him, she could keep him alive. That he would never loosen his bonds to earth as long as she was nearby. That by sheer force of will, she could keep death at bay.

So far she'd been successful.

Naomi did not realize she'd dozed, until she felt the gentle touch of a hand on her shoulder and opened her eyes to the concerned features of Blair's ICU nurse.

"You should rest," the woman was saying, "lie down for a while. Your son's roommate is outside the unit. You wouldn't have to leave Blair alone. He's asked for permission to sit with him while you take a nap."

Naomi's tiredness vanished in a blaze of white hot fury. Her eyes flew open wide and she flinched violently away. "Ellison?!" she whispered savagely, mindful, even in her anger, that her son must not be disturbed.

"Yes, Detective Ellison. He just arrived from the airport... He asked--"

Naomi did not wait to hear more. Instead, in a movement graceful yet feral, she shot from her bedside chair and stalked from the ICU room.

Jim Ellison was standing, quiet and patient near the nurses station, head bowed, shoulders tensed. Simon Banks stood near him, a hand on the other man's shoulder. Her son's friend and partner seemed oddly changed, somehow less strong and virile than he usually appeared. His face was lined with fatigue, his skin pale and gray.

The compassionate part of Naomi saw these things and noted them. But the outraged, protective mother in her dismissed any empathy she might otherwise have had for him. She allowed her heart to harden, her rage to dominate. She walked right up to Jim, looked at him with utter contempt.

"I trusted you to protect him!!" She felt as though she screamed it, but her ears told her that her voice, while fierce, was deadly in its low tone and quiet intensity. Unthinking, instinct overriding every other impulse, Naomi struck her son's roommate.


The blow, when it landed, was resounding, more like the crack of a rifle in crisp autumn air than the collision of flesh and bone upon flesh and bone. The sound, for all its startling unexpectedness, was diminished by the shock of onlookers who perceived the incongruity between the deliverer of the clout and its victim, Simon Banks first and foremost.

Jim Ellison's head snapped to the side with the force of the blow with such violence that Banks could have sworn he heard the evidence of teeth being loosened, and jaw joint being traumatized. Concern for the Sentinel was slow to become the focus of Simon's attention, thunderstruck as he was by the righteous indignation and utter hatred on the face of Naomi Sandburg.

Simon wasn't sure what shocked him more, the fact that the passionate pacifist mother of Blair Sandburg had been moved to such an action, or that her slight form and delicate hands could deliver a blow of such force.

But reality descended on the Cascade police captain. He was himself the parent of a beloved son. And if the occurrences of the last couple of weeks had occurred to Darryl and Simon had just had a crash course on the timeline and consequences in the corridor of the hospital where his child had been admitted after collapsing in the airport, chances were, he'd be acting no differently.

The fiasco of Alex Barnes, the Rainier fountain and the drowning death of Blair Sandburg were, after all, only partially negated by the anthropologist's miraculous resuscitation, and the prevention of a catastrophic disaster in Sierra Verde. And the fine details of having saved hundreds of thousands of people from the actions of a mad woman, were necessarily presently eclipsed in Naomi's mind about the price her son had paid, and was continuing to pay.

As the police captain watched, Naomi whirled and stalked down the corridor in the direction of her son's intensive care cubicle. For all that Banks understood her pain and anger; he was James Ellison's friend as well. He shifted his gaze to the man who stood at his side.

Jim Ellison stood, transfixed, hand to aching jaw, his ice blue eyes a study in devastation. "I thought I was protecting him!"

Tthe Sentinel spoke the words so quietly, that it was by the force of the anguish behind them that Simon perceived what he said at all.


She'd thought of nothing fewer than one hundred things she was going to tell Jim Ellison when next she saw him, many of them quite uncharacteristic of her general demeanor as he would have recognized it. She knew herself well enough to know that where her son -- most especially, his health, safety and welfare -- was concerned that the laid back, peace loving, meditative soul that she projected and tried to realize was apt to be replaced by someone quite different.

What she had not been prepared for was that the tongue lashing she'd been fully comfortable with loosing on Jim Ellison had, in the space of seconds, transformed into an act quite at odds with every principle she believed in and swore by. In a blaze of fury, she'd hauled off and physically struck her son's friend and roommate.

It had not been a ladylike slap from an open hand either; instead she'd connected with his jaw with a tightly clenched balled fist. In spite of her slight build and delicate bone structure, she knew she'd packed quite a wallop, had taken an immense if ultimately conflicted pleasure in the shock and pain she'd inflicted.

Even now, as she sat down at Blair's bedside and reached out to clasp the lax hand that lay on the bedclothes, her hand throbbed intensely with the ferocious pain of, if not broken, at least severely traumatized bones and joints. She probably should have someone look at it. But that could wait. Would wait. At least until Blair opened wide, deeply blue eyes and looked at her with intelligence and returning health.

She knew the part Ellison had played in her son being reduced to the condition he was in now, her own natural ability to ferret out information and do thorough detective work --which might have surprised her son and his friends -- had served her well.

She'd ultimately have to come to some sort of accord with herself, reconcile her belief in peace and nonviolence to her actions of minutes ago. She would have a great deal of processing to do, many cleansing rituals to perform, hours of meditation to complete before she could feel comfortably in balance again.

But all that would wait until she understood the reasons why Jim Ellison had thrown her son out of what had become his own home in Jim's loft; why he'd left him alone and defenseless against the murderous designs of this Alex Barnes terrorist woman, why he'd left Blair still recovering from what had been revealed to her as a miraculous escape from certain death; and then sent him home alone, in obvious distress. Well, not alone, Captain Banks had been with him; but separate, with Ellison himself lagging so many hours behind in his own return.

She didn't know the answers now. But with every breath in her body, she swore she would.

And in the meantime, she'd do what she had to. The doctor had said to use the call button if there was anything she needed, understanding her need to stay near her son. She'd left him too long as it was, to confront the man who'd gotten him killed.

Naomi pressed the button, and waited for the nurse to reappear. She'd made up her mind to do what she needed to protect her son. As his mother she had certain privileges, at least while he could not speak for himself. It might not be what Blair would want, but it was what was best for him now.

"I'll have them bring a cot in for you," the nurse responded to Naomi's quietly voiced request "The doctor did order no visitors outside of family members. You have discretion to designate exceptions, however."

"There is no one else. I'm Blair's only family. Under no circumstances should anyone else be allowed in his room." Naomi fixed the other woman with an imperious gaze.

The nurse nodded.


Blair rode the waves of heat, searching.

The jungle was dark and deep and humid, the moisture laden air as difficult to breathe as the water in the fountain had been.

He was thirsty, parched in fact. That seemed an incongruous state of affairs, to be dying of dehydration in an environment where water condensed from the very atmosphere.

It didn't matter though. Jim was out there somewhere. He had to find him. To make him see what a danger Alex was, to not allow her to kill the Sentinel as she'd killed his guide.

He'd be able to drink his fill later, once he found Jim and made sure he was safe. He'd be able to rest then too, once he knew his Sentinel was safe.

He had to keep looking, searching the jungle for the passing of the jaguar.

It was so hot. His energy was fading in the face of the inferno. But he had to keep searching. He had to find Jim. He would hang on somehow until he did.


Simon watched as Jim Ellison seemed to fold in on himself, some vital spark which had always animated the man, extinguishing before his eyes. The Sentinel turned and sagged against the wall behind him, radiating pure misery. He looked ten years older than his chronological age, blue eyes dully burning with fatigue.

Simon shook off the paralysis that had kept him rooted to the spot during the events of the past few minutes, and instinctively moved to his friend's side.

"Sit down before you fall down, Ellison," Banks growled gruffly, bodily moving his best and closest friend away from the wall and in the direction of the waiting room chairs. It wasn't an easy transition, the muscular tension he could feel radiating from the other man reminded Simon of a horse about to bolt.

"He's dying again..." Jim spoke the words with an eerie hollowness. "I saw it... visions... I thought if I stayed away, if I didn't come back..."

"When was the last time you slept, or ate anything? You aren't making any sense at all. Since when has keeping away from Sandburg ever done any good and what the hell were you really doing staying behind in Sierra Verde?"

He'd asked that question on the spur of a moment, but became instantly aware of Jim's now guarded expression. What the hell did it all mean? Even though Naomi's means of expressing her disapproval of Jim's behavior had been a bit over the top, Simon had been confused, too.

That day at the fountain, Ellison had behaved as if the loss of his partner would have been his own death sentence as well - the concept of separation had been a difficult one between the two of them right from the start - and yet, in Sierra Verde, Jim had claimed that there was no other way, and that he'd explain later.

Simon wanted that explanation now, but he was also aware of the fact that he'd have to be patient for a while longer.

Naomi might hate Jim Ellison's guts right now, but there was no denying that they had something fundamental in common.

"You're exhausted. The kid's been hitting a rough spot, but he will recover. Do you hear me?"

Who was he so desperately trying to convince anyway?

Jim, in any case, didn't seem persuaded. He was staring off into space, and for a moment, Simon feared he might zone, but no, it was the expression of a man who was so tired, he looked ready to keel over.

Simon suppressed a sigh at the thought of having to convince him to go home - because the cot being rolled into Blair's room was meant for Naomi.


Even though it felt as if she'd just closed her eyes for a couple of seconds, Naomi knew she must have slept for a few hours. Everything was quiet; Blair's condition seemed unchanged. She sighed. It was hard to muster optimism these days. He would pull through, he had to -- and as soon as he was on his feet again, he'd again risk his life in a heartbeat for his friend.

Wouldn't this ever stop?

Naomi wondered whether an explanation would make it all easier. Not too sure as to why it happened now, she remembered the words of the old shaman who'd witnessed Blair's birth, claiming he was special.

If Naomi had known that 'special' meant that his life would have already been threatened so many times at such a young age, she probably wouldn't have been as enthusiastic about it...


It wasn't even five a.m. yet, but contrary to her usual habits, Naomi craved a coffee, and she decided to step out for a moment and get herself one from the vending machine one floor below in the visitor's area.

She almost turned on her heel when she saw Jim Ellison sitting in one of the chairs, but there was no point in that, was there, when he had heard her coming the moment she had left Blair's room.

His obvious misery tore at her heart - but every time her carefully constructed mask of rejection slipped, she only had tell herself how sick Blair was now, and the reasons for it. No, now was not a time for forgiveness.

"What do you want from me?" she asked angrily, even though he hadn't spoken yet.

Jim looked up at her wordlessly, and he was right, of course, it was quite obvious.

"You know, I believe that you care about him, even though you haven't given me much reason for it." She was surprised at how her voice sounded; almost cold, and from the way Jim flinched ever so slightly, she could tell it had its impact. "But you're also willing to gamble his life time and again, and no matter what I might have said before, I can't stand this!"

Jim Ellison accepted the verdict without any objection. "I don't know what to do," he said, and his pain struck Naomi who'd been unguarded for a moment. Bad idea.

"I tried to keep him away, because I thought that was the meaning of the visions. And now -- I feel like he's slipping away. I can't..." He let his words trail off.

No. Not wanting to acknowledge their implications, Naomi hastily changed the subject to something else that had been bothering her ever since she'd been confronted with the news. "Why did you stay behind in Mexico?" she asked.

"I'm sorry, Naomi, I can't tell you."

Right. She had seen another side of Jim before, during her earlier visits, of a generous man with a kind heart and this dry humor she really liked -- but here, now, the two of them were worlds apart; this was the Ellison covert ops you can torture me, but I'll never tell you persona. Not somebody she wanted anywhere near her son -- and yet, if it wasn't for him, Blair would be dead.

The reality of this slammed into her, making her breathless for a moment.

"I deserve to know," Naomi said when she was able to speak again.

All of a sudden, he sat up straight, listening, listening to something she'd never be able to hear, making her fear for the worst.


Not much farther now...

The not so distant roar of the panther was a clear indication, making Blair infinitely grateful. He could hardly set one foot before the other any more, but he would... would crawl if he had to, to get to Jim and warn him.


The more exhausted his body got, the clearer his mind seemed to become. Even with Alex locked up in the loony bin, she was still dangerous.

He dragged himself to the clearing that opened up in front of him, starting when the sounds of the big cat suddenly came from behind him. Blair staggered, stumbling to the ground. No, he couldn't give up now!

Trying to pull himself up again, he suddenly found himself facing a pair of malevolent yellow eyes, and Blair reeled back in shock. The big cat wasn't his friend, the panther. He'd been deceived. The big paw of the jaguar that Alex had sent, connected with his chest, leaving bloody trails.

The jaguar struck again.


Even after Alex had been wheeled away by the paramedics, there had never been a moment for Jim when he could have relaxed, or let his guard down, and it wasn't just to do with Blair's rapidly worsening condition.

Somehow he'd always known that the danger wasn't over. Together with Captain Ortega, he'd been sifting through all the information they could gather on Alex's contacts in Mexico. At least in those days when she had been sane still, she never did anything without a back-up plan, and Jim had been sure she'd developed one the moment she knew that Blair hadn't died in the fountain.

And he'd been seeing a jaguar, prowling the jungle. Who could it be, when Hettinger was dead, and Arguillo and his men taken down?

Jim had made a mistake in one thing -- the danger he'd sensed, searching for its source in Mexico, had already been moving in on its target.


Naomi, between shock and amazement, watched as just another of the many facets of Jim Ellison, the Sentinel, rose to the surface.

"You stay here," he told her curtly, and was out of the room before she could voice any protest.

By the time Naomi shook herself out of her reverie, hurrying after him up one flight of stairs and along the hallway, she could already hear the sounds of a fight, breaking glass.



Blood and sweat mingling, blurring his vision...

No strength and no reason to fight any longer...

Then there it was, for real this time, the angry growl that made the beast let go of him for a moment. The rush of warmth wasn't unpleasant, but healing this time, his heart beating faster in anticipation. The heartbeat of the other beating in sync with his...

The panther attacked, and Blair knew he would survive. It was his obligation.


Naomi felt a bit lightheaded, for an instant fearing she might faint, but somehow, fortunately, it didn't happen. The scene was like a blur, the man on the floor with is hands cuffed behind his back, spouting obscenities she quickly tuned out, beside him, the bloody knife.

Her heart had missed a beat or maybe two...

...He hadn't managed to hurt Blair, as had been his intention, only just slightly nicked skin before he'd been stopped.

Jim stood beside the bed, hand clutching his arm, while blood seeped through his fingers. So lucky we're in a hospital, she thought, suppressing a hysterical giggle. His gaze was transfixed, now that the danger was averted, totally focused on his Guide.

And then she thought she was dreaming.

Blair was opening his eyes.


The only reason Jim let himself be ordered from the room by the doctor was the man's justified reminder that he should have that wound tended to, and that it wouldn't be healthy at all for Blair to have someone bleed all over him, even if that someone had just saved his life.

That and the fact that the uniforms had just arrived to pick up the man whose papers identified him as one Peter Gordon, no doubt faked.

His heart ached at the panicked gasps he could still hear a hallway away. Someone told Blair very gently not to fight the respirator, and Jim almost snorted at that. Very easy. You try not to panic with a tube stuck down your throat... He tried to listen for Naomi, who had also been banned for the room for the moment, but got distracted again.

There was no mistaking the facts Blair was still sick, but he would survive. Jim was sure of that now; there was no unexplainable tension, no threat of disturbing visions any longer.

He'd hung out with the shadiest folk down in Sierra Verde to finally establish that Alex had paid a killer before she'd headed for the Temple of the Sentinels, some kind of one-man-undercover mission he couldn't have easily explained to Simon, let alone Blair, who really needed to go back into the care of a competent hospital staff.

Jim touched the still aching spot on his jaw, smiling ruefully at the irony of having been attacked for the second time in one night, in a hospital of all places...

He might be able to come up with reasons each and every time, but Naomi was right in one thing: Blair had been hurt way too often at his side. Which meant he'd have to be much more cautious in the future, because letting go was not an option. Like Naomi once had put it - when hell freezes over.


Blair had been fourteen when they had visited the shaman again, declared gifted by his teachers, but troubled, because he had a hard time finding friends, and for all her pride, Naomi had been a little worried that he'd bury himself in books and that other-world they offered, and turn away from the real one.

The shaman didn't seem to share her worries.

"The seed has come up," he'd told her, making her all the more confused. "Don't doubt him."

One of those many books was a gift a friend of Naomi gave Blair for the next birthday.

'The Sentinels of Paraguay' by Sir Richard Burton.


Naomi could remember when Blair had chided her for allegedly hitting on Jim - well, not entirely allegedly, she had to admit, but of course their bantering had been interrupted rudely then by that criminal bitch.

Later, Naomi had indeed taken a step backwards, because for a while, she had honestly been wondering if there was more between her son and Jim Ellison than friendship.

However, she'd made the connection pretty quickly - the explanation for why Blair was suddenly hanging out with a police detective and, against all odds and reason, seemed to be happier than ever before in his life, the new kind of knowledge that shone in his eyes --

It was because he had found the dream of his life, a true Sentinel, in Jim Ellison. Blair was what the old shaman had always seen in him, a like-mind, a Guide to his Sentinel.

Naomi stood at the back of the hospital room, watching as Jim bent over the bed, stroking a curl from his friend's face in a gesture so tender everyone who saw this and was not initiated, just had to misunderstand.

For Blair, who was now freed of the respirator, but still wearing an oxygen mask, talking was still uncomfortable, but the question in his eyes, as he gazed at Jim's bandaged arm, was unmistakable.

"Don't worry about it, Chief. Just a small scratch - you should see the other guy."

Naomi hid a not-so-ladylike snort behind her hand at this understatement. Blair's attempt at a smile, however, was worth it.

All her attempts to keep Jim away from him, seemed pointless somehow, when despite all the danger, he obviously had that much of a healing effect on her son. Even Blair's immune system had apparently strengthened with their rebuilt connection.

"Jim?" she said quietly. "I'd like to talk to you for a moment."


"Should I get a bodyguard first?"

There was the wry humor again, no scorn in his voice though. The hate she'd try to cling to so hard, now felt like an alien weight on her chest, something that wasn't hers.

Naomi straightened her shoulders, as if that would get her eye level with him. "I won't apologize," she said firmly. "What you two have is special, but neither of you is immortal. You have a tendency of forgetting that."

Jim's gaze was serene now. He waited for her to continue, so she did.

"Thank you," she said, and then could hold back the tears no longer.


The shaman had wanted to talk to him alone for a moment, without Naomi. At the age of fourteen, Blair had been excited, an enthusiasm that had been clearly dimmed not much later, when the old man with the tanned weathered skin and the mysterious dark eyes had told him that he was going to die only to be reborn again, and that he'd have to rely on his inner wisdom to find his way though a web of deception and lies.

Okay, truth be told, it was of course the first part of this that had him worried. As he grew older, learning more of the many myths and truths of shamanism, he'd consoled himself with the fact it had surely been meant metaphorical - and then he forgot about it completely, until now.

The prophecy had come true in all its disturbing details, but the fact that he was still around had to mean he'd passed the test.

When Jim and Naomi entered the room together, her eyes red-rimmed, Blair thought for a moment they must have fought, but the atmosphere between them felt different. Calm.

That's how he felt now, too.

There was a lot that would have to be cleared between him and Jim eventually, but Blair had never felt this confident that they'd manage in the end - and this latest close call was only proving him true. Between the two of them, the mythical connection and, not to mention, the timing, still worked near perfectly.



- at the loft -

As Naomi embraced her son, she couldn't help but feel a little melancholic, the sentiment passing through her like a soft shiver - she acknowledged it and then let it go.

They'd always had such a close connection, even often parted by many thousands of miles, something outside observers often hadn't understood. She'd even been called a bad mother every now and then, but Naomi had always known that Blair was sure of her love.

Of course, he'd been an adult for quite some time now, but that special connection hadn't really vanished, even now, but something was different; she felt it with all her being.

Even though he was still weak, on sick leave still, she could sense the changes. There was a power, and a new responsibility within him - if Naomi hadn't believed in destiny as long as she could remember, she would begin right here and now.

They said goodbye once more, and then Jim brought her luggage down to where her taxi was already waiting. She already sat in the backseat, and he'd turned, but then Naomi hastily got out of the car. "Jim, wait!"

He looked at her, surprised.

Naomi smiled at him. "You not only saved Blair's life, he also healed faster when you were around him. The doctors said it was a miracle that he could fight the infection so soon."

His answering smile was a little hesitant, maybe because he couldn't figure out where she was going with this - but then again, maybe it was one of those subjects where Jim simply wouldn't give too much away, one of those mysterious secrets he and her son shared.

She reached out and playfully tapped with her fingers the spot where she'd punched him not so long ago. "I'm sorry," she said.

"Apology accepted."

They hugged, and then Naomi slid into the backseat of the taxi again, her heart now calm and sure.

The seed has come up.

Finally, she understood.