Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

Summary: Seventeenth story in my summer writing series. Missing scene, epilogue for Ice Man.

Choices

by Twilight (Dawn)

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He told her once that the choices we make define our lives. The decisions we make day in and day out, no matter how big or small, ultimately shape us as human beings.

Since then many things had changed in Amber's life.

Her choices had taken her down roads that even she had never dared to dream. And now, after so many years, she wasn't sure why she felt the need to reconnect with him, yet here she sat, fiddling with her napkin, waiting for his arrival.

A beautifully embroidered ivory linen table cloth hung down to drape around her lap and she worried again about her restaurant choice. This place brought back memories, some she wanted to forget and some bittersweet. She thought about meeting somewhere a little more casual, a pub or the corner bar they used to meet at down the street from the campus, but this is where it had all started for her and she guessed on some level she needed to prove to him that she was doing just fine.

She nervously smoothed down her emerald green dress, carefully chosen from her wardrobe. She had spent more time than usual picking her outfit for this evening, wanting to find something special, something that would bring out the color of her eyes.

He had always loved her eyes; at least, she thought he did.

Crossing her legs under the table, she took out her compact mirror to check her makeup one more time. She ran the tip of her tongue over the top row of her teeth, nervously tucking a loose curl behind her ear, before slipping the mirror back into her purse.

The diners around her shared in hush conversation, the room was bathed in a blue hued light and the silver service of her place setting sparkled even in the dim lighting, reflecting the single pillar candle on the small round table.

Thoughts of another time, sitting at the bar in this very restaurant, waiting on a prearranged date filtered through her memories but then she remembered sitting with him at the pub, drinking beer and sharing in casual conversation. It was those memories that had carried her through so many rough spots in those early days. And now she hoped that maybe she could return the favor.

The waiter in black suit coat and tie passed her table once again, smiling politely, if not a little impatiently, refilling her crystal water glass.

She glanced at her watch, telling herself that he was just running late.

It was hard to believe that it had been nearly three years since she'd last seen him and she couldn't wait to fill him in on her life…which was a little selfish, she supposed.

But so many wonderful things had happened and in a small way he was responsible. She wanted to thank him…well, no that wasn't the whole truth. She had made many choices in her life. Many bad ones, yes, but also many good ones and she had finally made something of herself, she had worked hard, found success, found love and she wanted to share that with him, but also she wanted to know what had happened to "them".

Sure, at first they had managed to stay in touch. They exchanged emails and talked on the phone nearly every night after she had first gotten her grant to start her studies in medicine in Seattle, a grant that he had helped her get. But over time the calls became fewer and far between. She told herself they were just both busy, school took a huge chunk of her life and he was busy with his dissertation, his duties at the university and his work with the police.

Finally they all but stopped.

And then she had met Charlie…he knew about her past and he didn't care…he told her he was only interested in the person she was now. They had spent the following summer in Rome and Tuscany, fulfilling a life long dream, married a few months later and had a daughter, Debra, named for the friend she had lost to Zeller.

"Would you like to order some wine?" She jumped, startled by a different waiter who held out the wine menu.

"Um, no thank you." She glanced at her watch as the waiter moved away.

He was nearly ten minutes late and she wondered if she should call him or should she just assume he was on his way. Obviously something had happened to delay him. He wasn't the type to just not show up.

Was he? She had changed so much in the past years, maybe he had too.

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He looked at himself in the mirror again, examining dull blue eyes he hardly recognized, running a hand over his short shorn hair.

He could hear his roommate and partner in their living room, flipping through the channels on the TV, trying to distract himself after a hard day at work.

Even though it had been two months now since he was made Jim's full time partner, they were still carefully picking their way through a minefield.

He was a fraud after all.

How did he think the other cops, his brothers in blue, were ever gonna accept a self proclaimed phony in their midst?

Of course Jim and the Captain came up with a bull shit story about Blair's thesis not being his thesis, just a work of fiction. And the release of his work and the following press conference just a cover to flush out Zeller.

The whole mess was still in litigation, therefore under a gag order, off limits…but people still talked and speculated and since Jim really was a Sentinel he had the added benefit of hearing every last freaking word.

But damnit, why should Jim suffer for his choices? He was the one that put Jim's name all over his paper. He was the one that didn't tell Jim right away when his mother sent said paper to a publisher and that the whole mess was spinning out of control…people he loved got hurt…he did that.

Plus Blair knew the whole situation was still hard on Jim, even if Jim wouldn't admit it. He could tell by the hard set of Jim's jaw and the occasional cold shoulder after a rough day on the job. They were both doing the best they could, knowing that it wasn't going to be easy.

And sure, he had given up everything, his doctorate, a best selling novel, a movie deal, the Nobel Prize nomination, his dream, his whole life's work…but more importantly it had nearly cost him his friendship with Jim.

It was a little startling at first to find where his priorities lay, how easily he had given up his dreams for Jim. But looking back he knew from their second week together, his real job, his life was with Jim, the Sentinel of Cascade and in return, he had a purpose.

"You're already late, Casanova." Jim was suddenly standing casually in the open doorway, a tiny smirk on his face, like…well like before. "Don’t want to keep the pretty lady waiting, especially if she's paying."

He tried not to let the last words hurt, but he could tell by the way Jim's smile fell that his own face must have fallen.

It was a running joke that dug just a little too deep.

But until it was settled in court his academic career was on hold. He was required to start paying back his student loans and the grant he was working on when the whole thing went down.

"Come on, Chief…stop primping, you look great." Jim moved back so he could pass, slapping him on the shoulder, his apology conveyed by touch.

Blair moved over to the door and grabbed up his jacket from the hooks that hung there. "I shouldn't be gone too long, Jim," he slipped his arm into his coat, pulling it on the rest of the way, opening the door while grabbing his keys.

Jim nodded, moving back to the couch. "Take your time; enjoy your night out, Blair."

His friend started flipping through channels even as he closed the door behind him. He had to admit he was a little nervous, the call from Amber unexpected.

He had gotten the occasional email, some postcards from her trip to Italy a few years ago, an invitation for her wedding that he missed because he was working a case with Jim and then a birth announcement. He was glad that she was making a life for herself, glad that she was able to move on from her past.

The elevator indicator was still on the bottom floor, so he hit the stairs, jogging down to burn off some nervous energy. He was curious as to why she would invite him to dinner after everything…well after everything that had happened. He tried to be friends with her, knowing that she wanted something more, something he couldn't be for her, and if he was honest with himself he would have to say, at the time, he just couldn't get past what she had been.

But now he knew, if humans are defined by the choices we make, if they make us who we are…then he was no different than her, than anybody. Each person has to make decisions based on the circumstances of their own life.

He had sold his very soul to become who he was today, to be where he was in life, to be by Jim's side doing the job he knew he was suppose to do. It might be an uphill battle some days, but the end justified the means.

He had told her once that he didn't judge, but that was a lie. We all judge, even if we don't mean to…he just hoped that she could forgive him for the choices he had made. One lesson Zeller taught both of them was that life was too short, too fleeting, not to live every last second of it.

********************

She spotted him as he hurried up to the host, glancing around the dining room searching for her. He looked so different, worn down by life…she had read about him in the paper, seen his press conference, knew all about what he had to endure over the last year and after talking to him on the phone, knew that he had lost a little of himself.

Standing, she waved at him, noting his eyes widen at her little baby belly and there it was - his beautiful smile.

She had a lot she wanted to say to him, that she understood where he was, that she wanted to offer support if he needed it or to just listen.

"Amber," he hugged her as he reached the table, careful not to squeeze her too hard. "Shall we sit?"

She thought about it for a second then shook her head. "Let’s go to O'Malley's, I really want some bangers and mash." She grabbed his arm and led him across the restaurant, leaving all those things in her past, all those bad choices behind her.

A part of her life had started with Hans Zeller and a part of Blair's ended. By the end of the evening she was hoping she could help Blair leave those choices in the past.

After all, she once had a very good friend that helped her out of an impossible situation, and if he would let her, she'd like to return the favor.

The End

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