Nurture

By Rhianne



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A/N: Sequel to Everybody Runs. Unbeta'd. Slash overtones, nothing graphic.

Warning: This isn't exactly the conclusion to the story that I thought it was going to be, but after I looked up 'resolution' in the dictionary to try and get some inspiration, this seemed to fit. Besides, the Jim-muse finally agreed to co-operate, but was determined to end this here. There might be more, but I'm promising nothing. *g*

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Resolution: n. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination ~ (Dictionary.com)

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Standing in the doorway of Sandburg's room, Jim leant against the wall, arms folded across his chest as he silently watched Blair pack. Sandburg's head was down, his hair forming a barrier between them that it seemed neither man was prepared to break.

Sandburg refused to even acknowledge Jim's presence as he methodically packed his clothes into a bag. Both men were silent now - the angry words and protests already shared between them until there was nothing more to say.

Blair was leaving, and Jim, it seemed, had run out of arguments.

Sandburg was the very picture of cold, unfeeling determination, but Jim had years of experience in reading his partner's body language, in hearing all the words he didn't say, and right now, that body language was talking louder than a thousand Sandburg's ever could.

The hands that were currently pulling books from the shelves were shaking, every muscle in his body tensed with adrenaline - the very picture of a fight or flight response. His jaw was rigid, the lines on his face tight with pain, and his eyes shone suspiciously bright in the dim light of the room.

In spite of what some people thought, Jim was not a stupid man. Admittedly he sometimes had a tendency to play dumb; allowing people to underestimate him and his abilities was a serious advantage in his police work, but that didn't mean he was blind. Just as Blair's skills as an observer made him a great cop, Jim's skills as a cop and ex-army ranger meant he was a damn good observer.

Reading other people was one of the first skills you learned as a ranger - knowing how the enemy was going to react, and why, was a vital survival skill. One his sentinel abilities had enhanced even further.

He knew his limitations, of course - as a ranger overconfidence was the quickest way to get yourself killed, but he'd learned to be a good judge of character.

He'd spent a lot of time watching Blair over the last three years. At first he'd been deeply suspicious of the hippy who was claiming to be his salvation, and then he'd watched more out of curiosity, wanting to know everything about the man who had appeared in his life like a whirlwind. He'd seen the desperate need to belong that bubbled under Sandburg's confident fašade, the self-conscious uncertainty in his eyes in the early days whenever someone at the PD made it clear he wasn't part of the crowd.

Jim had wondered, at first, what had made Blair so unsure of himself, why his self-worth was so shaky when everything he'd found out about Blair's past had suggested that he was one of Rainier's success stories - hauled out to perform at so many of the university functions. He was the young prodigy made good.

He'd heard all about Blair's past and his beautiful mother long before they'd ever met. The grad student had regaled him with incredible stories of the places they'd traveled and the things they'd seen; humorous tales artfully created to show just how much Blair had enjoyed his years traveling with his mother.

At first he'd dismissed Naomi has a harmless hippy - seeing the effects of Blair's upbringing in his more free-spirited personality traits without ever realizing what that meant.

That had been his first mistake. Blair was a product of his upbringing just like Jim was a product of his, but what Jim hadn't realized was that Naomi's influence over her son was more dangerous to their relationship than any of the madmen they'd come up against in their years together.

Then Jim had met Naomi, and suddenly everything had started to make sense. Suddenly Jim had been able to read between the lines of all of Blair's amusing childhood stories and hear everything that Blair hadn't said. The constant moving from town to town had given him no security in his life; he'd never been able to find his niche because he was always the new kid. Never able to make a real connection with those around him before Naomi decided it was time to move on without any regard for the needs of her son.

There had been a time when Jim had envied Blair his upbringing, seeing in Blair's stories all the freedom he had once longed for as a child growing up under the stringent rules of William Ellison's household.

He knew better now.

In a different way, Naomi's love for her son had been just as stifling, just as damaging, as William Ellison's love for his. Both children had learned that they were less important than their parent's own wishes, and Jim would lay down money that Blair's childhood intellect had been rolled out to impress and amuse Naomi's friends just as Jim's prowess at sport had been such a status symbol for his father. In many ways, Jim and Blair were more alike than either of them had realized.

But while Blair's unconditional love and support for Jim had gone a long way towards healing the wounds that William Ellison had left behind, Jim had always backed off from questioning Naomi's parenting skills. Blair was fiercely protective of his mother, and Jim had instead tried to express his support with actions rather than words. Tried to show Blair that he belonged, that he always had a home here - a home that no-one could take away.

But just as Jim's own fears had once stopped him from accepting his sentinel senses, it seemed that Blair's fear of needing someone, of giving himself to another person and risking the rejection and hurt that he believed always came hand in hand with love was now threatening to come between them, and there was no way in hell that Jim was ever going to let that happen.

If that meant Jim had to fight the ghost of Naomi Sandburg and everything that Blair's upbringing had taught him, then so be it.

In a way, Blair had been fighting William Ellison's influence since the day they first met, and Jim owed it to Blair to do the same.

Jim smiled to himself then - a grim, determined smile that didn't reach his eyes. If Sandburg thought that Jim had given up fighting and resigned himself to Blair's departure, then the man didn't know him very well.

This was just the interval before Round Two.

Sandburg wasn't going anywhere.

Fin



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