"Joel, wait a minute," Jim said quietly as they exited the elevator and neared the loft door.
"Jim, you aren't supposed to be up long."
"Please, Joel," Jim interrupted, trying to hear what Naomi Sandburg was saying. Readjusting his crutches, he grimaced at his already sore underarms and ruthlessly ignored the throbbing pain from the gunshot wound in his leg.
Joel rolled his eyes, but complied, halting their forward momentum so Jim could listen. Naomi was on the phone; Jim could tell that much right away. He tilted his head and focused his hearing unconsciously, letting it sharpen until he could hear both sides of the conversation.
"I don't care, Sid. I never promised you that Blair would go along with it. Just give it some time, I'm sure he'll come around."
"Naomi, it won't matter if he does! He's ruined his credibility! That press conference-"
"Doesn't matter to me. It did what I needed it to do, and so did you, Sid. You owed me, remember?"
"Well, now we're even, Naomi. Do me a favor and lose my number."
A sharp click signaled the end of the phone call, but a series of beeps signaled the fact that Naomi was placing another call. Joel shifted restively beside Jim, and Jim gave him a desperate look.
"Just a few more minutes."
"What are you hearing?" Joel whispered almost soundlessly. Jim gave him a questioning eyebrow and watched Joel shrug. "Come on, Jim, you didn't seriously expect me to believe Blair told the truth at that press conference, did you? I know you both too well."
Joel's steadfast faith made Jim's throat ache. Too bad he hadn't had that much faith in Blair, but what was done was done, and obviously, his secret couldn't be completely put back in the box.
"Naomi's on the phone."
Joel nodded, allowing a near-silent sigh as Jim's attention turned back towards the inside of the loft.
"Naomi! What's going on? I saw Blair on TV!"
"I did it, Charlie! I've finally gotten my baby away from those pigs!"
"Naomi, what did you do?"
Charlie Spring didn't sound too thrilled, Jim thought, pushing down his own growing fury. Just what *had* Naomi done?
"I told you. I had to do it, Charlie. He wouldn't leave voluntarily, so I fixed it where he *has* to leave. My baby's finally going to be free of this violent lifestyle."
"It was so easy, Charlie. I released Blair's dissertation because I knew Jim Ellison would fail Blair, and I was right. Once Jim believed Blair had betrayed him-"
"You're telling me you set up your own son? You've ruined his life!"
"I SAVED his life, Charlie!"
There was a long silence. Jim could practically see the bulldog expression on the little psychic's face. It was better than thinking about what his own face must look like. He squeezed his eyes shut against the way they suddenly burned and prickled.
"But, Naomi, your karmic debt-"
"Fuck my karma. If you want to worry about somebody's karma, worry about Jim Ellison's," she hissed, and Jim felt himself pale at the hatred in her voice.
How was it he'd never seen how Naomi Sandburg really felt? Then he realized he *had* seen it, the very first time she'd come to the PD. She hadn't bothered to hide her disdain then, and he should have realized from the way she treated Blair just how possessive she was. He should have realized- should have-
"What's Blair going to do?" Charlie asked unhappily, drawing Jim's attention back to the conversation.
Naomi gave that tinkling little laugh that Jim used to think was so charming, and he wasn't surprised to find it nauseated him now.
"He's going to come home with me, of course. There's nothing left for him here."
"This isn't right, Naomi."
"I'm his mother, and I say it is."
"If Blair finds out-"
"He won't. We'll see you soon, Charlie."
Naomi hung up the phone. Jim listened to her start a pot of tea, and then grimly reset his hearing. Leaning against the wall for support, he tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling, pain wracking him from head to toe as he tried to decide what to do.
What could he do?
Naomi was going to take Blair away, and even if he told Blair what he'd heard-
No, Blair would never believe him, not after what had happened. Blair would never turn against Perfect Mother Naomi with her floaty sheer dresses and her bright prattling about energy and friendship. Maybe if he hadn't fucked Blair over so badly himself, with his accusations and his dark suspicions...
"Jim? You all right?"
Shit, he'd almost forgotten Joel was standing there.
"No. No, Joel, I'm not all right," he muttered in a rare moment of weakness, wishing with all his heart that he had Blair with him right now to lean on... but he'd left Blair at the hospital, sitting with Megan.
"Tell me what Naomi said," Joel ordered, and Jim dipped his head to meet an unexpectedly hard stare. His mouth worked, the intended brush-off sticking in his throat like a fishbone.
"Report, Detective," Joel Taggart demanded sternly, and Jim's spine stiffened involuntarily as he responded to that tone.
"She set Blair up. She sent the dissertation in deliberately, to ruin his career and get him away from the Cascade PD."
Joel Taggart's eyes frosted over.
"I wondered. That woman. I always thought there was- Never mind." Joel audibly ground his teeth, biting back whatever it was he'd started to say. "Are you going to let her manipulate you and Blair like that?"
The question struck Jim like a harsh sea wind, blowing away the dull gray haze he'd been in for over a week- something he realized now had been shock. He felt his own jaw firm up, and met Joel's gaze squarely as something settled inside.
"No, sir, I am not."
"That's more like it," Joel replied with an approving nod, turning Jim back towards the elevator. "Come on, we need to talk to Simon. We've got some plans to make."
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