Disclaimer: The Sentinel is a Pet Fly Production and all related characters belong to those who hold legal copyright.

Author's Notes: This is based on a scene in Sugar and Spite by GA McKevett.




It came to here while she was meditating on a sunny bench by the koi pond at the botanical garden. Something calling her to Cascade, telling her she needed to go there. A life spent serving and being served by serendipity had Naomi trained to listen to those little impulses. She was on a plane that afternoon.

And arrived in Cascade one day after William Ellison's funeral.

Jim greeted her with an attempt at a smile, and she dithered for a moment over imposing, but decided to stay. Staying in the background, no feng shui, no sage, no bumbling into an investigation. She asked Blair what Jim's favorite foods were, and made them.

She did manage to make Jim almost-smile a few times over dinner. Shallow smiles were a start. Anything she could do to help ease the pain that shrouded the loft. Jim's aura was so gray... loss was in the way he carried himself and the look in his eyes. Blair was a riot of frustrated empathy, all muddy greens and golds.

She was asleep on the futon when a sound intruded, every mother's nightmare, a crying child.

"Blair, sweetie, I told you not to eat a whole bag of carob chip cookies..." she mumbled, sitting up, still half dreaming as she got to her feet and froze in the open doorway.

Blair snored quietly on the sofa. This was not the whimpering of a child with a tummyache. Deep, heart-wrenching weeping. She looked upward, at her sleeping son, and then hesitantly climbed the stairs.

"Jim? It's Naomi, are you..."

At the top of the stairs, she could see him, curled up under the covers, broad shoulders shaking with the force of his sobs.

"Oh, sweetie..." Without thinking, Naomi threw herself onto the side of the bed and gently rolled him over. Jim reached up to wipe tears away from his wet face.

"He's dead. My dad's dead," he said hoarsely.

Naomi made a helpless, soothing sound and moved closer.

"He's gone... I can never tell him..."

Naomi quickly kissed Jim's forehead. "He knows, honey."

"No," he moaned. "We fought, he thought I hated him... thought I was a freak..."

A freak? Naomi filed that tidbit away to interrogate Blair over later. But it reminded her of her own struggles with her parents over her chosen lifestyle.

Firmly and with great conviction, she told him, "Jim, you know that's not the truth in your heart. Parents love their children, and sometimes their fears for them cause them to express that fierce love inappropriately. Look at what I put poor Blair through over the carjacking case! Whatever else was between you, your father loved you, and knew that you love him."

The shaking stilled. "He kept a scrapbook... after I left..."

"There," she cooed, rubbing his back. "See? He was proud of you, Jim. Maybe too proud to let you know that."

"Yeah... I'm sorry Naomi, I can't believe I..."

"Shhhh," she continued to stroke his shoulder. She'd felt a little womanly thrill when he first pulled her close, but sternly quashed it. He was Blair's friend, and that wasn't the kind of comfort he needed. He'd lost a parent. She was a mother. She planted a chaste kiss on his salty cheek. "It's okay. You don't have to put on a brave face in the dark. Tell me about your dad."

She let him talk for awhile, and got a better picture of a man trying to be strong for his family in the only way he knew how, giving his sons everything except what they needed from him.

Slowly, the flow of cleansing memories stopped, his voice growing slower, breathing deep and evenly. Naomi brushed one last tender kiss on the thinning spot on the crown of Jim's head, then slipped out of bed and crept downstairs.

She expected a certain awkwardness the next morning. But Jim seemed to be back to normal. She decided to broach the subject over breakfast, setting an algae shake and toasted bagel down before Blair, watching Jim tuck into his scrambled eggs and sausage as she sat down with her own oatmeal.

"You know, Jim, grieving is a natural process, there's no shame in it."

Blair caught his breath and gave her a warning look.

Jim took a sip of his coffee to wash down the mouthful of food she'd caught him with, then responded. "Yeah... I miss him. Wish I could cry, y'know, get it all out. I think it's great that you raised Blair to be so open, in touch with his emotions, but I'm just more of a stoic guy, reserved."

Naomi stared at him. Had she dreamed last night? Did Jim believe he had dreamed it? Then she noticed how he wasn't meeting her eyes, and smiled, understanding.

"I hear that," she nodded.

~ End ~

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Page last updated 12/11/03.