Blair Sandburg wryly glanced around his small room then sat on the edge of his bed. ‘Because I never put down roots before,’ he silently answered his own question.
Years of first following his mother, Naomi, around the world then his own expeditions had left little time for nesting of any sort. Roots, according to his mother, were constricting and confining. Yet, in less than four years, he’d put down roots in this small room.
Blair silently studied the items in the room. The small desk and bookcase were full and overflowing with books and papers. His laptop sat perched precariously atop three books that ominously leaned to the left. The top two drawers of the small dresser were half open with clothing haphazardly lying inside.
Blair glanced through the half open French door into the living room. He knew books, pictures, and tribal artifacts could be found in that open space. The kitchen cabinets held many of his teas, spices, and cooking utensils that he’d convinced his roommate were essential in creating healthy meals.
The young man absently chewed his lower lip. ‘The real root system is Jim,’ he admitted to himself. Without Jim Ellison in the loft, this place would have no roots for him. Then he smiled as he heard footsteps on the stairs leading to the upper bedroom. ‘Speak of the devil…’
Jim Ellison hesitated then walked to the small bedroom. He gently opened the door all the way and leaned against the doorjamb. “Penny for your thoughts.”
Blair smiled. “You wouldn’t be getting much.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Jim shrugged. “I’ve always found them worth more than a penny.”
Blair glanced around the room. “I can’t be a cop, Jim,” he finally whispered. When Jim didn’t reply, he glanced up at the older man. “I know you heard me,” he said in a louder voice.
“Yeah, I did.” Jim limped across the room and sat on the bed next to Blair. “I figured that out.”
Jim held up a hand. “Let me talk, okay, Chief?” He briefly smiled. “I had an epiphany upstairs so bear with me.” When Blair nodded, he continued. “When Simon and I came up with the idea of you becoming a cop…and my partner, we were acting on instinct. An instinct to keep you from leaving.” His smile widened. “Well, at least that’s what my instinct was.”
“Why?” Blair curiously asked.
“Ah, that’s where the epiphany comes in,” Jim explained. “I was upstairs thinking about how everything was going to work out. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t see any way around that press conference.” He quickly put a hand on Blair’s arm and lowered his voice. “I will never be able to thank you for that. No one…and I mean no one, Blair Sandburg, has ever put me ahead of themselves, their needs, their wants.”
Blair started to speak, then slowly nodded.
Jim smiled in return. “So, I realized we were going to have to make some changes in the paradigms.”
“Changes in the paradigms?” Blair asked with a smile.
“Yep,” Jim nodded. “First, you can’t be a cop here. So we go somewhere else and be cops?” He shook his head. “I can’t believe there’s any other department that could let us do what we need to do to protect a tribe.”
“I’m talking here, Sandburg,” Jim mock growled. When Blair held up his hands in defeat, he grinned. “Second, are there any other viable job options for you in Cascade?” He waited until Blair slowly nodded. “You could become a man of leisure and research to your little heart’s content while I support you.” He roared with laughter at the expression on Blair’s face.
“I don’t think so, Ellison.” Blair frowned then chuckled. “Thanks for offering, though,” he murmured.
Jim patted his friend’s leg in response. “So my epiphany was this. During the entire time we’ve known each other…worked on this Sentinel project…it’s been all about me. Not us. That’s where every mistake we’ve made has originated.” He quickly held up his hand to stop Blair from talking. “Incacha named you Shaman. We’ve ignored that. If we hadn’t, maybe what happened with Barnes and this whole dissertation mess wouldn’t have happened.”
“And maybe it would have!” Blair protested. “Jim…”
“No!” Jim interrupted. “I’m still talking, Sandburg!” He took a deep breath. “We’ve both made mistakes. But the biggest one was in thinking that the Sentinel was the most important one here. My epiphany is that the Sentinel and Guide are equally important.” He shrugged. “I’m not sure where the Shaman comes in, but we need to find that out.”
“What are you saying?” Blair hesitantly asked.
Jim took another deep breath and mentally crossed his fingers. “First I take a leave of absence so we can return to the Temple of the Sentinels so you can study the hell out of it. Second, we go visit the Chopec so you can study the Way of the Shaman. Third, while we’re gone my dad will get his lawyers to go after Berkshire and Rainier for their actions. What they did was illegal, unethical, and immoral. They need to be held accountable for those actions. We do all this so that, fourth, when we return to Cascade, we can make reasonable and informed decisions about what to do.” He stared at Blair for almost a minute. “Okay, you can speak now.” He was shocked when Blair hugged him.
“Thank you,” Blair whispered.
Jim wrapped his arms around his Guide’s shaking body. “Then you’re not going to fight me on this?” he muttered.
Blair leaned back and wiped his eyes. “Are you sure?”
Jim lazily leaned back on the futon, his weight on his elbows. “Yep.”
“Yep? That’s all you can say?” Blair got to his feet, missing the quick grin on Jim’s face. “Have you thought about this at all?”
Blair glared down at his partner. “What if you can’t get a leave of absence?”
“Then I resign.”
“My choice, Sandburg,” Jim pointed out. “Right now I’m on a medical leave of absence. Then I’ll use up all that vacation time that gives Simon headaches when he’s reviewing his budget. Then I’ll use up any sick time. After that…” he shrugged. “If I don’t get a leave of absence, then I resign.”
“What about the tribe?” Blair demanded.
“How can we…we, Sandburg, not just I…best serve the tribe?” Jim countered. “Wouldn’t we be serving the tribe best if we come back better trained and in complete sync with each other?”
“What if…what if you can’t get back on the force when we return?” Blair quietly asked.
“Then we look into getting private investigators’ licenses,” Jim reasoned. “We’ll work with the PD in general, Major Crimes in particular.” He sat up. “There are more ways than one to protect the tribe.”
“Why would your dad help?”
Jim sighed and sat up. “Because he wants a relationship with me. And this will go a long way to prove to me that he accepts who and what I am.”
Jim inwardly grinned at Blair’s outraged protest. “It’s what he understands, Chief. Quid pro quo.”
Blair hesitated. “I’m not really comfortable with that.”
“I know,” Jim admitted. “But…” he sighed. “It’s complicated…between my old man and me.”
“You can’t just use him for this, Jim,” Blair warned. “You really gotta try to make peace with him before we leave.”
Jim looked up at Blair. “So we’re doing this?”
Blair looked down at the floor for several seconds. “Changing the paradigms, huh?”
Blair slowly nodded. “We can’t leave until the doctor gives you the all-clear. No way we’re heading into the jungle with your leg still a problem.”
“I know,” Jim grumbled as he got to his feet. “It’ll give us time to plan our little expedition.” He patted Blair’s shoulder as he walked out of the room.
Blair looked around the small room. “Roots,” he softly murmured. “Deep and strong. Not confining and constricting.”
“You say something, Sandburg?” Jim called from the kitchen.
“Just changing another paradigm.”
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