Author's Notes: No profit, copyright laws bent but not broken; Beta'd by the generous Arianna - remaining errors are mine.
Spoilers: Post TSbyBS and Blair is a detective.
Mothers and their Officer Sons
The crowd around the Bullpen's bulletin board was thick and Blair sidled over for a look at the item snagging everyone's interest. Jim had heard enough of the comments to understand what was happening just before they got off the elevator. Daily, he automatically scanned the offices auditorally before the elevator doors opened - just in case trouble was waiting. Well, today there might be a spot for Sandburg, Jim mused, while awaiting his young partner's reaction.
"Oh, MAN!" Blair pushed through the crowd and tore down the photo tacked to the corkboard. Laughter, and a few protests from the female officers, accompanied the swift removal. It was a picture of Blair, aged three and naked as a jaybird, carrying a pail and shovel at the beach.
Megan spoke for the females, "Hey Sandy, that's a cute little baby butt. Show us how the current one compares!"
Subduing thoughts of violence, Blair satisfied himself with tossing the Aussie inspector a venomous glare. Stomping over to his partner, he hissed his protest, "Man, you have got to stop corresponding with my mother!"
The sonorous tones of their captain's voice suddenly came from behind Blair. "Your mother sent that to me, Sandburg. Guess she figured if I thought of you as her baby, I might keep you on safer assignments or desk duty." The evil grin accompanying that speech was swiftly replaced with a scowl. "And I would prefer NOT to correspond with Naomi or receive more photos from your obviously misspent youth."
Jim had never seen Blair's face precisely that shade of red before but enjoyed the show, despite a trace of sympathy for his friend's embarrassment. Although Naomi had voiced her nominal support on the day Jim had tossed Blair his badge, she remained convinced that being a cop was a dehumanizing experience. The correspondence with Simon was just another opportunity taken to emphasize to all and sundry that her son had been reared as a civilian pacifist.
Blair shook his head in frustration. Posting that photo was well within the bounds of cop humor, but also a way to encourage him to cut down on Naomi's campaign efforts. She could be pretty wearing. "Okay, Simon. I'll email her right away."
"Not from the office, Sandburg. Wait 'till you get home," Banks directed. It was a good opportunity to reinforce his policy prohibiting the personal use of departmental computer terminals. Mission completed, he returned to his office.
Jim watched the angry rookie return to his own desk and grab for his backpack. That well-used laptop was still in residence and his intentions clear. "Not now, Chief. Wait until you've had time to cool down. You don't want to say anything you'll regret later." The senior detective knew how much Blair valued his limited contacts with his mother, in spite of some lingering resentments over her role in the dissertation fiasco. It was less clear how Blair felt about the sudden shift from 'observer' status to a full-blooded member of the closed society he had studied. Naomi had raised a conscientious but free-wheeling soul that Fate had planted within the loft apartment of one tough ex-Ranger. For all the complaints and teasing regarding 'house-rules', Blair had flourished within the confines of that structured, shared existence. He seemed to be adapting to the regimentation required of someone who had been issued a lethal weapon.
Of course, some resistance was still, occasionally, encountered. Blair's response to his partner's order was a single, upraised finger that had Jim chuckling as he admonished, "Don't let 'Simon the Censor' catch you at that, Chief. You know he's been on the warpath lately about deportment in the department." He grinned at his own alliteration as he watched a dejected Blair slide into his chair. Coming up behind his guide, Jim rested two hands on the slumped shoulders.
Blair was not proof against the offer of comfort. "It could have been worse, I guess," he admitted, his sense of humor somewhat restored.
"How's that?" Jim asked as he returned to his own desk chair.
"I think she has some contraband photos of us at a 'clothing optional resort' we stayed at when I was fourteen."
"You were at a nudist colony? With your Mother?" The incredulous question positively radiated with disapproval.
Blair smiled. "You're just jealous that I got my education in female anatomy 'live', while you were stealing glances at Playboy centerfolds. Actually, I wasn't very comfortable with it and usually wore a skimpy bathing suit. Everyone dressed for dinner. Naomi talks a good game but she did seem to go out of her way to be out of MY way when going starkers."
His partner laughed at those observations and again marveled at his partner's mercurial childhood. How it had produced a personality like Blair's instead of a juvenile delinquent was beyond his understanding. Although the kid had stolen that microscope...
The unusual solemnity of Blair's call interrupted his reverie. "Yeah, Chief?"
"Naomi went over the top here and I have to do something about it." Blair's teeth gnawed worriedly at his lower lip. He hated getting into arguments with his mother. She either put on her 'ethereal' personality which was virtually untouched by reality, or heaped recriminations upon her son's head, causing him pangs of guilt. This was not shaping up to be a peaceful week for anyone.
"Chief, it's her problem to resolve. She only needs to be told to stop 'sharing' her problem with the people in your chosen environment. Put some limits on her actions without actually condemning her for her fears."
"Okay, who are you and what have you done with my partner, James Ellison? That remark was extremely sensitive and insightful so you must be an imposter!"
Jim pretended to take offence at this reasonable expression of astonishment over his rare sojourn into the human psyche. Still, he was satisfied that his point had been made. All cops dealt with concerned relatives who resented having to fear for their loved ones on a daily basis. Sandburg was new at dealing with this stressful aspect of being a cop despite the lectures on that subject given at the academy. His guide would need a guide of his own to facilitate that adjustment.
Distracted, Jim gave up on the report in front of him and rose to head for the break room.
Enroute, he stopped to place a comforting hand on Blair's shoulder. He was rewarded with Blair's release of muscular tension and a slowing of the heartbeat. Jim inwardly acknowledged the gratification which came to him at his guide's touch. It contributed both sensory clarity to the sentinel and comfort to the isolated man. However, he rarely referred to it directly and wondered how that contact actually felt to Blair. Somehow, it did not sit well with him to touch Blair and then ask, 'Was it good for you, too?' Jim choked briefly on that thought but refused to satisfy Blair's curiosity as to the source of his amusement.
Jim returned with two steaming mugs, one for each of them. They worked peacefully for the next half hour before hearing 'The Call of the Wild'.
"ELLISON!" Banks barked out the summons for his senior detective.
Shrugging in response to Blair's questioning look, Jim strode into Simon's office. Taking a seat at his boss' nod towards a chair, he waited expectantly.
"What gives with the kid and his mother, Jim?" Simon seemed unusually concerned. "I hate it when the rookies get distracted in their early days by the family members hounding them with disapproval for taking on a cop's responsibilities and risks. It's not only unfair but dangerous. The kids lose their concentration in a crisis, worried that 'Mom' or 'Sis' will get a call about them being shot or killed. Are you going to need extra backup for now? I can have Megan work with you occasionally until Sandburg either adapts or kills his mother." On that sardonic note, Banks sat back and studied his detective's face for clues as to how he really regarded the risks versus what he was willing to admit aloud.
Jim smiled appreciatively at Simon's cogent appraisal of the situation. "I think he'll cope, Simon. He was my backup before the badge, so a lot of his performance is reflexive at this point. He'll take care of business before thinking about his Mom's worries."
"It's more than that, Jim. It's the hesitation he'll always have before taking down a suspect to avoid a violent confrontation. Naomi's campaign helps to keep him at that early stage of development in a cop. It could kill you both. Besides, since he has been your backup for so long, why the sudden escalation on Naomi's part?
"Sandburg's philosophy of life is part of what makes him a unique 'force' on the force and guide to my sentinel. I don't think he will actually move beyond that stage, with or without the maternal histrionics."
"I already have to deal with the reality of the increased risk to you both in the field, given the kid's way of viewing the world at large. You are both my responsibility, as well as my friends. Can Detective Blair Sandburg move through this stage successfully without losing the greater part of his personality and 'mission' in life?" Banks chewed his unlit cigar as if, by doing so, he could chew through this dilemma.
Jim chose his words carefully. "I don't think Blair would ever want to move into a frame of mind that assumes taking life is something to be done automatically. Any motivation to kill would come out of the conviction that someone other than himself might be killed if he didn't act." He, himself, frequently worried that the kid might not value his own hide as sufficient cause for taking another life. However, it was not to his advantage to bring that concept up with his Captain. Jim gave silent thanks when Simon appeared unaware of the omission.
"You haven't answered my question about why Naomi would suddenly turn her attention to these issues now."
Jim's cynical side was in full force. "I just wonder if Naomi's current concerns have anything to do with the embarrassment value of having to confess her son is now a 'pig', if you'll excuse the expression. I don't have the faith in her that Sandburg has. His view of his childhood as some grand adventure is not as solid as it appears. I know he values the roots he's put down here."
"Here with you, maybe. Well, Naomi's convenience does seem to rule the frequency of her contacts with her son. But it can still distract him and I think I have to have a conversation with him about this. Send him in when you go back to your desk." Banks raised a hand to ward off Jim's imminent objections. "Don't worry, the kid didn't do anything wrong and I will be 'gentle' with him. Just don't let anyone else know that little tidbit!"
The pair stared at each other in shared frustration. A trip into the Sandburg Zone was not a journey to be taken lightly.
Dinner in the loft had been unconsciously ingested without recognition of its components or flavors. Jim knew Blair was completely preoccupied when he ate the 'seconds' slipped onto his plate. As his 'Protector', Jim had no compunction about taking shameless advantage of any opportunity to feed his stressed guide. Not to mention the second dessert Jim got to enjoy, without any annoying references to imminent 'middle-aged spread'. After all, he still ran daily. Well, almost daily.
Blair was now staring at the screen of his laptop, trying to compose a note to his mother. Naomi was currently in Singapore for some obscure event with which even he was unfamiliar. Grimacing, he reflected that it was too bad she wasn't somewhere without a photo lab and post office! Finally becoming aware of his roommate's scrutiny, Blair realized he'd been ignoring his friend all evening. "Oh, thanks for dinner, Jim. It was... what did we have, anyway?"
"Well, Chief, you made good inroads on the Wonderburgers I picked up and ... Ouch!" Jim exaggerated his response to the swat connecting with his arm as he passed Blair on the way to the kitchen. His chuckle certainly denied any injury. "Okay, just kidding. You had two broiled lamb chops with rice and peas. And an éclair for dessert."
"Bet you had two!" Blair accused with a mock scowl.
"No confessions until I get a lawyer here, Chief. I got rights!" Jim whined like some perp caught with his hand in the till, clowning to lighten the mood of his solemn partner.
Blair laughed weakly and returned to the second draft of his email. The first had been cathartic to write but was promptly deleted as inappropriate. His lips thinned as he scanned the words on the screen to determine whether these would pass muster. This effort had forced him into some painful introspection about aspects of his childhood that were hard to reconcile with his preferred memories from that period. "It's okay, man. You can read over my shoulder now, if you want."
I'm not going to go all chatty in this email. We both know you passed all bounds in your recent 'correspondence' with my friend, Simon Banks, who also happens to be my superior officer. That distinction is not inconsequential but a fact to be respected. Your actions have caused him to question my fitness for duty. You see, all officers are weighed down by thoughts of their loved ones when confronted by the hazards of the job. However, the ones whose family members are most unaccepting of these risks, are more likely to be hurt on the job due to their divided attentions.
Is this what you want? Of course not, but you leave me with two equally unacceptable alternatives. Either I carry your fears with me into work each day or I 'detach with love' to protect myself and my colleagues. Your preference that I give up a life path that was probably 'predestined' for me, is simply not an option. Please don't tell me my expectations for you are cruel or unfair. I wouldn't change a thing about my childhood but you sometimes made choices that were hard for me. I didn't get to choose my peace of mind over your occasional need to go to dangerous places or pursue difficult causes, while I waited in some safe place for you to return to me.
You helped shape the adult I have become. It seems unfair that you would force me to choose between my own causes and your peace of mind. I love you, Mom, but we would both lose if such a choice had to be made. 'No one ever won by selecting the safe path.' Does that phrase sound familiar? I recall it well, as you soothed my nervousness at being on my own for the first time when I entered Rainier, at the age of sixteen.
Blair wasn't aware of the tear that slipped down his cheek as he hit the 'send' key. Jim ached for him, his two large hands closing firmly upon the slender, shaking shoulders.
Over the next few days, Blair went through his routine in a mildly distant manner, which did not escape the notice of his concerned Captain. Jim was careful to apply frequent 'comfort' touches, drawing his partner out of his occasional lapses into somber contemplation. Blair threw him appreciative glances, tinged with surprise. Jim realized that he'd rarely touched his partner in public since the kid had earned his badge. The shield made physical contact somehow... well, wrong for the setting. Jim shrugged off his uncertainties. Headquarters was no place for this kind of reflection.
Blair, now on break, opened his laptop to anxiously check for Naomi's reply to his painful ultimatum. He suddenly bounded up out of his chair, the burst of energy startling his partner. "Man, you've got to read this letter that Naomi mailed to Simon. She emailed me a copy and it's terrific!"
Jim watched a beatific smile break over the treasured face and felt a surge of joy at the return of his friend's 'bounce'. He hurried over to read the good news.
Two days later, Simon cursed as he slid a letter opener into the envelope carrying a Singapore return address. What now?, he thought. Locks of Sandburg's baby curls? As if I don't see enough of all that hair as it is! The Captain looked out upon his 'turf' and spied the sedately tied back hair of his off-beat junior detective. Jim hovered over him, pointing out something or other in a report they were writing together.
Returning to the missive before him, Banks was surprised to see a short note of apology from Naomi which, apparently, was copied to Blair's email address. It was short and sweet:
Dear Captain Banks,
I just wanted to convey my apologies for burdening you with a mother's concerns. I know you are aware of the worries every officer's family faces and share them as well. I'll adapt as life demands, dealing with the inevitable changes in the lives of those closest to me.
Thank you for your patient understanding.
cc: Officer Blair Sandburg (by email)
Simon's gratification at the tone of the note died a sudden death as he saw the small item taped to the bottom of the letter. Naomi was irrepressible. Banks refrained, with the greatest of efforts, from rashly informing the rookie detective about the baby tooth enclosed with the note. Blair must have seen an emailed version of the letter and regarded it as perfectly supportive. Naomi likely knew that Simon wouldn't 'rat her out', so to speak, to her officer son. However, his restraint was not unlimited. There was another party with whom he could 'share' this newest tidbit.
"ELLISON! MY OFFICE, NOW!"
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