God, my head hurts. The wickedest drum solo by Motorhead can’t begin to compare with the banging inside my head.

And the angry murmurs in the kitchen aren’t helping any.

Why do people think their whispers can’t be heard? Jim, at least, should know better than that.

Well, okay, the whispers have become sorta quiet voices as emotions flare.

Yep, it’s round 2 of Naomi versus Jim in the never-ending battle of Blair and his safety.

I am seriously reconsidering my stand about pharmaceutical painkillers…not to mention retaliatory mayhem.

“I hope you’re happy, Jim Ellison! My baby is lying in there hurt because of you!”

Ah, that would be Naomi’s main weapon. Guilt. Amazing how she figured out that Jim automatically blames himself when things go wrong. Something I must take up with his father one of these days…that sanctimonious bastard.

“Naomi, that’s not fair. I would never willingly put Blair in jeopardy. Why didn’t you ever teach him to stay where he’s told to stay?”

Oh, good one, Jim. That’s guaranteed to put Naomi on the defensive.

“How dare you?! I taught my son to think for himself and not to follow orders given by some jack-booted pig!”

Bad move, mom.

“Then maybe he was thinking for himself when he refused to stay in the truck! Did you ever think of that?”

Hmmm….interesting strategy, Jim. I’ll have to remember that one the next time you tell me to stay in the truck.

“What I know is that my son has once again been sent to the hospital. A trip he wouldn’t have made if not for you! Just how many times has he gone to the hospital anyway?”

Ah, Jim. Naomi could have given the military pointers on how to change strategy quickly.

“I don’t know, Naomi.”

“You mean you don’t care enough to know.”

“That’s not true!”

I don’t even have to peek over the back of the couch to know that Jim’s jaw is grinding big time. Or that Naomi has seen it…and will now go for the jugular.

Most of the time I ignore their battles for supremacy. You see, each wants to be in charge of me. Naomi because she’s my mother, and Jim because he’s my Sentinel. Naomi wants to be in charge because deep-down she feels she’s the best one to show me the path I’m meant to take. Jim wants to be in charge because deep-down he feels he’s the best one to protect me.

Both are right, and both are wrong. And sometimes I feel very flattered. But today my head is killing me, and I can’t ignore their battle. It’s time to show them who’s really in charge.

So, with a groan that I don’t try to suppress, I gradually sit up. I know without looking that both of them have taken a step away from the other and are looking at me.

“Chief, you okay over there?”

“Blair, sweetie, do you need anything?”

I turn my head to look at them. Both are so concerned about me…and guilty. Mom’s guilty because she can’t figure out a way to get me away from Jim, and Jim’s guilty because he can’t figure out a way to make me stay in the truck.

I manage not to snicker.

“Could you get me some juice, Jim? And, mom, could you come and sit with me? We haven’t had a chance to even talk since you got here.”

Before I can hardly blink twice, I have my mother sitting next to me and pulling my head onto her shoulder. A bottle of juice with a straw in it appears in front of me.

I reach up and take the bottle of juice. Catching Jim’s eyes, I slowly wink at him, pleased when he briefly smiles.

“So, mom, where have you been and what have you done?” I snuggle against Naomi and sip the apple juice through the straw.

“That’s the last of the juice, Chief. I’ll run to the store and get you some more. Anything else you want?”

God Bless, Jim. He knows I need some private time to subtly adjust Naomi’s attitude. Wonder if he knows I just subtly adjusted his? “Can you get some grapes if they look okay?”

“Sure. Anything special for you, Naomi?”

Ah, Jim’s patented olive branch. No verbal apology. He apologizes by doing something nice. And being nice to Naomi is his way of apologizing to her and to me.

“Well…what are you going to be able to eat for dinner, sweetie?”

“I was thinking of some of the vegetable soup we’ve got in the freezer. Is there enough for all of us, Jim?”

“Should be. How about I pick up some other fruit for a fruit salad?”

I glance up at Naomi who smiles at me then looks over her shoulder at my best friend. “That would be fine, Jim. You can handle the soup, and I’ll make the fruit salad.”

Jim smiles in return. “I’ll be back in a little while.”

As the door softly closes behind him, Naomi pats my shoulder. “I’m sorry you heard us arguing, sweetie.”

“I hate it when you guys do that.” I take another sip of my juice. “I’m perfectly capable of making my own decisions.”

“I hear you.” Naomi hesitated, then continued with surprise in her voice. “Jim was very worried, too.”

“I know, mom.”

“Then you should be more careful. If you don’t get hurt, then I won’t be scared and Jim won’t be worried.”

I glance up at my mother with a knowing smile. “And then the two of you won’t argue?”

“Well, at least we’d have something else to argue about,” Naomi admitted.

I feel her pat my shoulder again.

“Don’t worry, sweetie. I won’t argue with Jim.”

“Or blame him for something that’s not his fault?”

“I’ll reserve judgment on what I think is his fault.”

“He’s my best friend, mom. He feels bad enough about what happened. See…well, don’t ever tell Jim I told you this, but when he was a kid, his dad made him feel responsible for everything. And I do mean everything.”

“That’s ridiculous! What child is responsible for everything?”

“Not everyone raised their child the way you raised me, Naomi.” Okay, that’s laying it on a little thick, but sometimes it’s necessary with Naomi.

“And I’ve just reinforced that awful conditioning!”

I pat Naomi’s leg. “Don’t blame yourself. Just…give him a break, okay?”

“Of course, sweetie!”

I get a big hug and close my eyes in satisfaction.

When I open my eyes a little later, I hear soft voices in the kitchen. Well, at least they’re playing nice together.

“Any chance I can get out of the lecture?”

Excuse me, Jim?

“Oh, be a big boy, and take your medicine. I had to take mine.”

What the hell are they talking about?

“Well, it’ll make him feel better to think he’s in charge. But you’d think somebody as smart as Blair would figure out that we just have to blow off steam with each other sometimes.”

“Well, Jim, that are other ways of blowing off steam…”