Disclaimer: Jim, Blair and Naomi belong to somebody else, but they don't let them 'exist' any longer. Well - we do!
Thank you, Annie and Xasphie, for the beta!
"What is my son doing here, with you?"
I study her carefully, that woman who's been rearranging my furniture without asking, burning the annoying sage to get rid of the bad vibes, an original hippie - taking part in a potentially dangerous undercover operation, and in the midst of it, trying to adjust to all the changes that have been taken place in the relationship with her only, beloved son.
"What do you mean?"
Those eyes that always seem to see more than you want them to; he's got that from her, I realize.
"Jim, I don't know if Blair ever told you this, but it was a good friend of mine who gave him that book about Sentinels. That was... I'm not entirely sure, fifteen years ago?" She smiled a little wistfully. "We thought it was a bit like the equivalent to Superman--" - at that, I was trying hard not to cringe - "...but he never let go of it, was really obsessed. Until he met you, it seems. All of a sudden, he's studying local subcultures, working with the police. So far, nobody's been able to explain this to me..."
"Naomi," I said, a bit uncomfortable, but also guessing that she already knew more than we had intended for her to. "Blair's an adult. Everybody changes their mind every now and then."
She traced her finger over the picture of a smiling five-year-old Blair (very cute), then closed the photo album. Leaning back against the railing, Naomi looked at me intently. "You and me maybe. But not my son, not when he's put his mind to something, believe me, I've known him longer than you," she said dryly, and it was something I couldn't argue with. "So - I've tried to come to conclusions on my own, and either this is the sweetest coming-out story I've ever seen..."
I had taken a sip of the wine at the wrong time and started coughing. She patted my back, laughing. "Come on, you must admit, it seems kind of obvious... I wouldn't mind, really, but I don't think that's it. I think you're a Sentinel, James Ellison."
For a moment, I felt something like vertigo, of the psychological kind. We'd been working hard to keep the secret, every single day, but it didn't seem to be very successful. I thought of Brackett, who had read a few of Sandburg's papers - and figured it out. Naomi hadn't needed that long either. What did that mean for our future (the alternative interpretation notwithstanding; I'd overheard enough comments at the station to guess how some colleagues explained to themselves the way Blair and I lived together).
"You don't have to confess anything," Naomi said gently. "I was kind of mad at the beginning, it's true, but I've had time to think about it."
"And meditate." I couldn't help but tease her.
"Yes, that, too. And I want to thank you."
I was a bit puzzled about that, and there was a curious silence between us, as she searched for the right words. "There's a lot I'd like to tell you, but I realize it's not my call. Just - it's true what I've said, we've become good friends, for the most part, I'd like to say we could talk about anything, still..."
"It wasn't always fun."
It wasn't that hard to guess. Blair wasn't just surface and laughs and boundless optimism - if you bothered to take a closer look, there was a whole lot more depth than many people thought, the kind that came when you'd seen the downside, too. Whatever that really meant, in his case.
"You could say that. For a while, I was even worried about that Sentinel stuff, for it seemed so - unreal. Like he was withdrawing into a fantasy world."
That was downright ironic, if you thought about it - the encounter of a real-life Sentinel sure hadn't turned out to be a safe fantasy; on the contrary. She didn't get too specific, though - good at keeping secrets, too. Maybe it wasn't all that dangerous that she knew.
Naomi poured another glass of wine for both of us, then she said, "Premature, wasn't it. I sure have envisioned different things for Blair, another line of work, but since he's got you now - I think it'll be okay."
"Thank *you*. For trusting me that much."
The moment our glasses clinked together, the sound of the key in the lock of the front door was to be heard, but that was alright, because all that had needed to be said, had been said anyway --
"Mom?... Jim? What the hell is going on..."
We just smiled at each other, both satisfied with the understanding we'd reached - and intent on having a little fun with the fact that Blair was thinking we were actually flirting with each other.
Well, maybe we were.
I'm telling you, it's hard to resist a Sandburg...