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.

The Settlement

(After TSbyBS)

by Leesa Perrie

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He's leaving, I know he is. I can tell; the little signs. I can… feel it. I thought he was staying, but it seems I was wrong. He's leaving, just like almost everyone else. And those that don't leave, I push away. Have I finally pushed him away? I didn't mean to, or at least I don't think I meant to. I thought we'd sorted things out. I thought he was staying. After all, Cascade is his territory, as much as it is mine. The Loft is his home, in all but name. He is the Shaman; my Shaman, my Guide.

But can I blame him? After all that I said and did? And how did I fix it? A few words of praise in the hospital and the offer of becoming my partner. But did I say I was sorry? That I wanted, needed, him to stay? My Guide, my Shaman, my partner, my friend, my soul?

I'm no good at words. Well, no, I'm quite good with words actually. Just the wrong kind of words; words of anger, fear, betrayal; not words of friendship, brotherhood, love. Sorrow.

So he's leaving, even though he said he wanted to be my official partner. Even though Simon pulled some strings so he didn't have to cut his hair - after all, he'll be going straight into Major Crimes, not on patrol first. He even said he'd deal with the gun thing, learn to cope with carrying one, even using it when necessary.

I thought he was staying. He said he was. But I know he's leaving. And I can't blame him, even though I want to. Even though I want to grab him and shake him until his teeth rattle, and shout that he can't leave me now! Part of me wants to handcuff him to something in the loft until he agrees to stay, but another part just wants him gone. Wants everything to be over. So I can lick my wounds and never trust anyone again, knowing I was a fool to do so in the first place.

I hear the elevator doors open, and the familiar sound of my Guide. And catch the smell of… burgers? Fries? Wonder Burger? Oh no, he's going to tell me tonight. The food is the eye before the storm - the pleasure before the knife twists in my guts.

I can't do this! But I must.

The door opens.

"Hey Jim," and he enters the Loft, heading for the kitchen with the bags of food.

"Hey Chief," I reply, casual. This is Sandburg's game, not mine. "What's with the food?"

"Oh, I thought you might like a treat, you know, after, well, after everything…" he trails off, uncertainly.

"Thanks, Chief."

We set the table, and Sandburg dishes out the food. I notice he has a salad from the deli, while I have a Wonder Burger with all the extras and fries.

"Not hungry, Chief?"

"Oh, I just fancied something light and healthy, that's all." And there's a glint of amusement in his eyes, as he looks pointedly at my plate. I shake my head, and continue demolishing my food.

The meal continues in silence, not so unusual these days. There doesn't seem to be much to say any more. Maybe that's part of the problem, part of why he wants to leave.

After we've eaten, cleared away the dishes and washed up, working together as only a well-oiled team can, we retire to the couch. He looks tense, uncertain, nervous and his heart's beating a tattoo in his chest.

"You're leaving." Crap, I didn't mean to blurt that out. He looks at me in surprise, and then looks away and sighs.

"What makes you think that, Jim?" He asks, not looking at me.

"Little things. Like not bringing the stuff from your office back here. Like the clutter in your room slowly disappearing. I don't know, other things. I just feel it, somehow. Am I wrong?" Please, let me be wrong.

He sighs again. Still not looking at me.

"Yes, I'm leaving," my heart plummets, "but it's not like you think."

"Where are you going? No, where are we going?" He looks up in surprise at that. "I'll go with you, Chief, where ever you want to go." Don't leave me, please.

He smiles. And then he laughs. How can he laugh?

"Oh, I was thinking about this place I've heard of. Heard a rumour that it has seven different kinds of rain and that it just might be the most dangerous city in America. It's not far from here. In fact," he pauses, a twinkle in his eye, " it's not far at all. Called Cascade and it's in Washington State. Ever heard of it?"

I smile. He's staying in Cascade. Relief washes through me, followed quickly by uncertainty.

"But then where are you going?"

Blair looks thoughtful.

"Well, you see, Naomi contacted a lawyer friend, who persuaded Berkshire Publishing to make a reasonable settlement rather than face a law suit. It's not enough to make me rich, but enough to pay back my student loans, get the Volvo fixed up and buy myself an apartment in an okay part of town."

I look at him in surprise.

"You didn't say anything about the settlement."

"I didn't want to, not until it was a done deal. And the apartment, well, I wasn't sure how to tell you or how you would react, so… well, I guess I've been putting it off." Sandburg looks sheepish, and also nervous. Unsure of my reaction. I take a deep sigh.

"Okay. I can understand that. But why move out? You don't need to." I don't want you to.

"I know. But, well, we're going to be working together as well as living together, and I think it might be too much. I mean, I know we've been doing that to a large extent already, but I've always had other commitments and I've been able to go to my office in Rainier if I needed some space. That's not gonna happen now. I figured it would be better to have a little distance, you know, just so we don't end up getting on each other's nerves too much."

This was said at speed. One of those things I find both endearing and annoying about him, his ability to talk fast and long. Though this was actually short by Sandburg standards. I can also see his point, but, damn it, I don't want him to leave. But do I say that?

"So, where is this apartment of yours," Please let it be near, not the other side of Cascade.

"Oh, I found a nice place not far from here. Actually, it couldn't be much closer, come to think of it," he pauses and smiles again, "it's at 852 Prospect. I think you know the building in question?" He looks at me. I raise an eyebrow, and he laughs, "Apartment 306, right next door." He smiles in triumph, though I can detect he's still unsure of my reaction.

"Next door, eh?" I smile, relief flooding through me, "I guess that's not too far from here. But, you know, you'll have this neighbour who's real sensitive to noise. Do you think you can cope?"

"I don't know, man. Do you think he will cope?"

We smile. Everything's going to be okay. It's going to work out. It has to, I won't have it any other way.

"So, when do you move in, and do you need any help?"

The End

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