"Naomi," Jim greeted as he stepped aside to allow the lithe redhead to enter the loft. "It's good to see you again."
"Hello, Jim." Naomi breezed into the loft, striding past Jim with only a glance in the detective's direction. "Be a dear and get my bags, would you?"
Jim stepped outside and let out a quiet groan when he saw the two large suitcases sitting in the hallway. While he liked his partner's mother found her to be very beautiful and pleasant for the most part she did have a way of grating on his nerves after awhile. Hefting the two bags, he lugged them inside and shut the door.
Setting the bags down, he faced Naomi. "At the university," he explained. "He got roped into teaching this Saturday course. It only lasted three months though and today's the last day."
Naomi gave a distracted wave in the direction of Blair's room. "You can just put those in Blair's room for right now."
"Um, sure, okay."
While Jim carried her bags away, Naomi went into the kitchen. She had a large duffel bag slung over her shoulder and began pulling items out of it when she reached the counter.
Jim walked back into the living room to find Naomi getting out several pots and pans. "Naomi?"
"Yes, Jim," she turned to look at him, a questioning look on her face.
"What's all this?"
"Oh, well, I just brought some of Blair's favorites," she answered, placing a pot on the stove. She grabbed one of the tupperware bowls and took off the lid, dumping the contents into the pot. "I was visiting a friend of mine she lives in Cascade too and I was in her kitchen and just decided to do some cooking." Naomi opened up another bowl and poured its contents into another pan. "I was planning on visiting Blair anyway, so I thought I'd bring him some things."
"I'm sure he'll appreciate it." Jim sniffed the air. "Smells good."
A smile on her face, Naomi turned around, holding a wooden spoon in her hand. "Oh, well, you're certainly welcome to have some of it too." She shook the spoon at Jim. "But don't touch the rice pudding. It's Blair absolute favorite and I haven't made it for him in a long time."
Jim started to chuckle, thinking Naomi was joking, but then he noticed the serious look in her eyes. Slightly taken aback, he sobered instantly. "All right, Naomi."
"Good." She smiled brightly at him again and then turned her attention back to the stove.
Pondering her behavior, Jim settled down on the couch, hoping his roommate would get home soon.
"Oh, man, you would not believe the day I had," Blair announced as he barged into the loft, dumping his backpack by the door and toeing off his shoes.
"Naomi!" Blair exclaimed, turning to find his mother in the kitchen. "What are you doing here?" He went over to give her a hug. "I didn't expect to see you again so soon."
"Well, I was in Cascade again, visiting an old friend, and couldn't pass up a chance to see you again." Naomi returned the hug.
"This is great." Still holding his mother, Blair looked over at his roommate. "Isn't this great, Jim?"
"Yeah, sure is, Chief." Jim stood, rubbing his hands together. "And now that you're here, we can finally eat."
Blair released Naomi, taking a step back. "Eat?" He sniffed the air, finally noticing the enticing aromas permeating the loft.
Naomi laughed. "I made some of your favorites." She walked over to the stove. "Tongue, of course, and a few other things. And " She picked up one bowl and peeled off the lid, holing it toward Blair.
"It's not You didn't " A smile lit up his face. "Rice pudding. I love your rice pudding. You haven't made it in well, forever. Thanks, Mom."
"You're welcome, Sweetie." Naomi put the lid back on. "Now, sit. Both of you." She brushed off their offers of help and shooed them toward the table.
After dinner was eaten and the table cleared, Naomi brought over a bowl and set it in front of Blair. "Eat up, Sweetie."
Blair leaned back in his chair, patting his flat stomach. "I don't think I can eat anything else."
Jim sat across from him, elbows on the table, chin resting on his fist. "Everything really was great, Naomi."
Naomi gave his a distracted smile, then immediately turned her attention back to Blair. "Oh, you can eat just a little bit more. Please. I made this especially for you."
Giving in with a sigh, Blair picked up his spoon, only to halt midway to his mouth. "What about Jim?" he asked. "Jim, don't you want some pudding? I know you like it."
"No, I'm fine," Jim replied.
"Are you sure?" Blair persisted. "Naomi, would you fix Jim a bowl of pudding?" Turning back to Jim, he missed the way Naomi's mouth tightened in displeasure.
Jim, however, didn't. "No, really, Chief, I'm fine. Besides, your mom made it for you." He chuckled. "Besides I was threatened with bodily harm if I so much as even looked at that pudding."
"Huh?" Blair looked back at his mother. "Naomi, what ?"
"I'm just kidding," Jim said. "Seriously, I couldn't eat another bite."
Blair shrugged. "Well, okay. You don't know what you're missing though." Blair plopped the spoon in his mouth, eyes closing as he got his first taste. "Hmmmm .."
Jim's smile widened. Then faded as he caught a whiff of something . His nostrils flared as he tried to track down the elusive scent. Only to realize that it was coming from the pudding Blair was eating. He could smell all the normal ingredients, cataloguing each and then immediately dismissing them. But there was one scent remaining
He shook his head, on the verge of zoning out on the smell. With a shrug, Jim made a mental note to ask his partner about it later. But, even as he turn his attention back to Blair and Naomi, he couldn't help the feeling of unease that filled him. There was just something about that smell
After dinner and cleanup, the three of them had settled down in the living room, watching TV and talking. Naomi was in the middle of another tale from Blair's childhood which had Jim laughing and Blair groaning when suddenly Blair leaned forward, groaning in pain this time and clutched his stomach.
"Sandburg?" Jim questioned, concerned. "Are you ?"
Blair lunged off of the couch and raced toward the bathroom. The sounds of retching were audible even without Sentinel hearing.
Jim and Naomi reached the closed bathroom door at the same time. Naomi nudged Jim aside and softly rapped on the door. "Blair? Sweetie? Are you okay?"
A groan was the only response.
Reaching past Naomi, Jim opened the door and was about to go to his roommate, when Naomi pushed him aside.
Kneeling down beside Blair, Naomi pulled his hair back from his face. "Jim, why don't you get me a wet washrag."
"Chief " Jim began.
"Now, please," Naomi interrupted.
With an uneasy glance at the two kneeling figures, Jim went to the kitchen. A few moments later, he returned with the wet rag and silently handed it over to Naomi.
"Oh, man," Blair moaned as Naomi ran the rag over his forehead and along the back of his neck. "I don't know what's wrong. All of a sudden, it just hit me."
"Let's get you up, Sweetie."
"I'll help," Jim offered, starting forward.
"That's all right, I can manage," Naomi rebuffed his help. "We'll get you to your room and get you settled in bed."
Leaning heavily on his mother, Blair slowly stood.
Arms wrapped around Blair, Naomi guided him over to his room. "It's a good thing I came when I did. Everything will be all right. I'm here and I'll take care of you for as long as you need me. Don't worry about a thing."
Feeling helpless, his worry increasing with each pained step his roommate took, Jim watched as Naomi led Blair away.
Hours later, Blair was finally resting comfortably in his room. He'd been sick several more times, each time increasingly more severe, and was left weak and exhausted.
Naomi had been hovering constantly, not letting Jim near his roommate, and he was almost at the end of his patience with her. Only his concern for Blair kept him from lashing out at her.
Now, with Naomi taking a shower, Jim had his first chance to assess his roommate's condition for himself. Quietly, he eased into Blair's room, not wanting to disturb the younger man but needing to check on him.
"Hey, Jim," a tired sounding voice greeted.
"Hey, Chief," Jim replied, his voice soft. He went over and sat on the edge of Blair's bed. "How are you doing?"
"A little bit better, I think." Blair shifted, groaning. "It was pretty bad for a while there though. Man, I thought I was through with this."
Those pained words set off alarms in Jim's head. "What do you mean?"
"When I was a kid, I used to get sick a lot," Blair explained. "I got so sick of being in the hospital, and IVs, and medicine Hated it. I mean, I'd be fine for a little while and then out of nowhere, bam, I'd get sick again."
"What was wrong?"
"That's the thing." Blair shrugged. "They never could find anything. They'd do all these tests and everything, but they never could find a reason why I was getting sick. And with us moving around a lot, each time we'd move somewhere new and I'd get sick, it all started all over again. The same tests, the same medicine Naomi was great though. She's stay with me all of the time. Bring me homemade food lots of rice pudding and books and magazines and stuff. All of the doctors and nurses always loved her too."
The warning bells in Jim's head grew louder. Suspicious, he asked, "When did it stop, Blair?"
"You getting sick you said you thought you were through with it. When did it stop?"
Blair's forehead wrinkled. "Um about the time I started at Rainier. Yeah, that's it. After I started going to school, aside from the occasional cold or something, I didn't really get sick anymore. I asked Naomi about it once. She said I probably just grew out of it."
Jim started to say something, when he suddenly tensed up as he heard Naomi come out of the bathroom. For a split second, he wanted nothing more than to grab her and get her as far away from Blair as possible. Then, he felt a warmth on his arm and looked down to see Blair's hand resting there. At the contact, he relaxed, but only slightly.
"Jim? What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Jim patted Blair's hand. "You just get some rest, okay?"
Blair studied Jim for a few moments, then nodded slightly, closing his eyes.
Jim waited until his roommate had settled down to sleep and then left the room. When he walked out of Blair's room, Naomi immediately confronted him.
"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded, hands on hips, eyes blazing. "Blair needs his rest. You shouldn't be disturbing him."
"I was just checking up on him," Jim explained, his voice lowered so he wouldn't disturb Blair.
"That's not necessary. He's got me. I'm his mother and I'll take care of him. Just like I always have."
"Blair mentioned that he was sick a lot when he was a kid," Jim stated, seeing that Naomi was thrown by the sudden change in topic. "That must have been rough."
"It was. You have no idea how difficult it is to see your child suffering like that, knowing that there's nothing you can do to make him better. I don't know how I got through it."
"I meant that it must have been hard on Blair." Jim stressed his roommate's name.
"Oh, of course." Naomi seemed flustered. "But he was always so brave. Always so concerned about my welfare. He was such a special little boy."
"He's still special." Jim took a step closer to Naomi, lowering his voice even more. "That's why I hate to see anyone hurt him."
"Then why do you keep exposing him to so much danger," Naomi countered, her arms crossed over her chest, her whole posture defensive. "I think the best thing for me to do is take Blair away from here. Take him someplace where he can get better in peace and quiet."
Naomi started to walk past Jim, heading toward Blair's room, when the detective grabbed her arm.
"I think Blair is right where he needs to be."
"I'm his mother, I know what's best for him." Naomi pulled her arm away from Jim.
"Then you should know that right now, he needs to rest, and that means staying put."
"For now," Naomi conceded. "But first thing in the morning, I'm taking my son away from here."
As he watched her march into Blair's room, her movements haughty, he quietly vowed, "Over my dead body."
For a moment, he stood there, hesitating. He didn't want to leave Blair alone with Naomi, but he had to do something to confirm his suspicions. Decision made, he walked over to the fridge, grabbed the bowl of rice pudding, and left.
"Jim?" Blair cried out when he felt a cool wetness caress his face.
"Shhh, I'm here," Naomi crooned. "I'll take care of you. Just like I always have. Soon we'll go someplace where you can get better."
Blair mumbled incoherently before settling back down to sleep.
"I was planning on going to California soon," Naomi spoke aloud. "There's this fascinating group I heard about. Jim would call it a cult," she scoffed. "Blair, I'll never understand why you let yourself get attached to that pig. When I told my friends about it, they were all so sympathetic and understanding. They knew how much it upset me, even if my own son didn't."
For a moment, her expression darkened. But then, with a shake of her head, the smile was back in place. "When we get to California, I'll find you the best hospital. I'm sure they'll let me stay with you, just like I did when you were little. I'll be there every step of the way, supporting you. They'll all know what a devoted mother I am. Jim should have known. I've taken care of you all night, attentive to your every need. But he didn't even acknowledge it. Imagine him questioning my judgement when it comes to my son. He's not acting the way he should he should be touched by my devotion to you. Well, we'll just have to go someplace where people still respect a mother's love for her son. Someplace where my sacrifice and dedication will be appreciated."
When Blair thrashed on the bed, Naomi stroked her hand across his forehead, unfazed when, still unconscious, he shied away from the touch.
Jim could feel the rage building inside him as he made his way back to the loft. He'd taken the bowl of rice pudding to the lab, finding Serena still there, examining some evidence from an urgent case. She'd hesitated when he asked her to run some tests for him but wouldn't tell her what it was about. But then, after seeing the look on the face of the normally stoic detective, she relented.
Then, as Jim was leaving, a scent had registered at the edge of his awareness. Acting on instinct, he followed the smell to the source a jar sitting on cluttered counter. Recognizing the scent as very similar to the one he'd smelled earlier, he asked Serena about it. Only to have her confirm his worst fears when she answered that it was arsenic.
He raced out of the lab then, feeling a sudden, overwhelming need to get back to Blair. And now, even as he approached the door to the loft, he knew he was too late. He walked into the loft to find it empty, both Blair and Naomi gone. He'd made a mistake leaving Blair alone with Naomi a mistake that his partner was going to pay for.
Impatiently, Jim waited for the phone to be answered. "C'mon," he muttered.
"Simon, it's Jim. Listen, I "
"Ellison? Do you have any idea what time it is?!"
"Yeah, but it couldn't wait. Simon, I need your help. Blair's been kidnapped."
"Kidnapped?" The concern in the captain's voice carried over the phone line clearly. "What? Who?"
Jim's hand clenched around the letter he'd found waiting for him when he returned to the loft. A letter from Naomi, stating that she was going to take her son someplace safe, someplace where he wouldn't be tainted by the influence of pigs and violence. Someplace where he would once again come to know that she was the one who loved him the most and that she was the only one who would ever care for him the way he should be cared for.
"Who?" Jim repeated. "That's easy. His mother " Even as he listened to Simon's confused exclamations, he vowed to save his partner. No matter what it took, he'd find Blair and save him from Naomi and her sick, perverted idea of love. He only prayed that he'd find Blair in time. That he'd find Blair before his mother 'loved' him to death.
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