Prequel to Dawn's Strangers in the Night
AUTHOR'S WEBSITE: http://brothersinarms.tvheaven.com
DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of others. This story was written for my own and others' enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.
RATING: PG (Violence)
AUTHOR'S NOTES: For Dawn, thank you for creating this great list. Happy birthday, Sentinelangst!
SUMMARY: Prequel to Dawns' great fic, Strangers in the Night. One of my favorites because it shows how much Blair has come to depend on Jim and because it's a great snapshot of life in a busy ER.
Dawns story, Strangers in the night can be found here:
Blair was almost past the store before he remembered. It was his turn to cook dinner and hed promised Jim a steak with all the trimmings. They'd both been running on fumes the past week, grabbing a bite to eat whenever they could, more often than not, not even registering what they were eating, just grateful to keep the hunger pangs at bay and their energy up.
The serial murder case they had been investigating, along with Homicide, had tied up pretty much the entire team. The killer was vicious and without remorse and his crimes were escalating. Jim was exhausted from stretching his sentinel abilities to the limit in an attempt to find some kind of clue in time to catch the guy before he struck again.
Blair couldn't remember ever feeling this tired or drained before. In his time riding with Jim, he'd seen some pretty bad stuff but this case made him physically and emotionally sick. The dismembered bodies invaded his dreams and even ambushed his waking hours.
Finally, they'd caught the murderer, in the act of strangling a poor homeless woman, thanks mostly to Jim's perseverance in following clues that were all but invisible to the normal human eye. Now all Blair wanted to do was go home and sleep for about a year but Jim wanted steak and Blair, desperately needing to regain some normality, some measure of familiar comfort, had agreed to cook.
The steaks were at home, defrosting in the refrigerator, but the trimmings were not. Sighing, Blair pulled into a park opposite the store and racked his weary brain in an attempt to dredge up what he needed to buy. Giving up, he climbed out of the Volvo and ambled across the street, hoping his memory would be nudged once he got inside and wandered around the aisles. He patted his jeans' pocket with his hand, relieved to find he'd at least remembered to bring his wallet. Reaching out, he pushed on the door then froze as something sharp jabbed into his back.
"Around the corner. Now!" Each word uttered was punctuated with a tiny stab from the knife and Blair was in no doubt that it was a blade and a sizable one at that. He'd worked with cops long enough now to be intimately familiar with the feel of this particular weapon.
Swallowing dryly, he tapped his knuckles quickly against the glass of the door, hoping to attract someone's attention and doubled up when a fist slammed against his lower back. Before he could drop to the ground, his arm was grabbed and he was hauled, stumbling, into the alley that ran alongside the store. By the time he regained enough of his senses to stand without assistance, he'd been shoved against the wall at the far end and was facing a large unfriendly looking youth.
Blair's assailant tossed the knife nervously from hand to hand and licked his lips. "Wallet," he demanded, holding out his free hand.
"Sure, man, no problem," Blair agreed readily. He slid his hand into his pocket and pulled out his billfold, his gaze flicking to the mouth of the alley in the hope someone might pass by. But the street beyond was silent, save for the swishing of cars driving past. It was getting dark. Most people were safely at home, where he should be, with Jim
"Twenty bucks!" The thief pulled the notes from the wallet then threw it to the ground in disgust. "That's it?"
Blair tried to back up as the man advanced on him but the wall stopped any escape. "Sorry, man. That's all I have but you're welcome to it. Why don't you just go -"
"I don't think so." The tip of the knife was suddenly under Blair's chin, digging in slightly and Blair felt a trickle of blood snake its way down his throat. "What else you got? You got a watch?"
Blair started to shake his head then thought better of it. "Don't wear one." He yelped in surprise as his arm was suddenly grabbed and he was spun to face the wall, then slammed against it, his head crashing into the brick so hard that his vision grayed out for a moment. When he came to, his attacker was frisking him with one hand while the other held the knife once more against Blair's back. "Well, well, what have we got here?"
Blair turned as his arm was released and saw the youth hold up a leather case, snapping open the top to reveal Blair's precious Swiss Army knife. It was all too much. Naomi had given Blair the knife as a Bar Mitzvah gift, but more importantly, the case had been a Christmas gift from Jim after the debacle with Alex Barnes. After all that had gone between them during that terrible time, while Blair struggled to recover from the drowning and both men took the time to reaffirm the friendship and mutual trust they had thought lost, the small token from Jim meant more to Blair than the most expensive gift. It was Jim's way of asking for his friend's forgiveness and Blair, fighting his own demons of guilt, was overwhelmed with gratitude by the simple gesture.
Now the unfairness of this man's greed, Blair's exhaustion and utter disgust at the suffering and cruelty he saw every day came surging up. "No!" he countered, anger replacing his earlier fear. He pushed away from the wall impetuously, unthinking, forgetting the weapon in the thief's hand in his distress, one hand held out in an aborted attempt to take back the precious item. "Not that, please! It was a gift- Oof!"
Air exploded from his lungs as a fist slammed into his stomach. Gasping, struggling to draw in a breath, Blair staggered forward and screamed as white-hot pain lanced through his leg, seeming to turn his muscles to jello. He collapsed to the ground and curled around the agony, both hands encircling his thigh, feeling warm liquid seep between his fingers. Darkness encroached on his vision and bile burned its way up his throat, and he fought to stay awake, his eyes widening in fear as the young man loomed over him, the knife, now tinged with Blair's blood, hovering menacingly at Blair's throat. His limp arms were lifted and his jacket stripped off, leaving him shivering in the sudden chill. When he felt his shoes being removed, he kicked out weakly then yelped as the movement sent shards of pain through his leg.
Through eyes clouded with tears, his heart hammering triple time in his chest, Blair saw his attacker bend over him once more, the knife upraised, ready to strike. He managed to raise one hand in a futile attempt to ward off what was certain to be a killing blow. There was a shout from the street and the youth straightened then ran. Blair's strength deserted him and he dropped his head to the cold ground, hearing footsteps running up the alley toward him.
A warm hand touched his shoulder, then stroked the hair away from his forehead. "It's all right," a heavily accented voice soothed. "I'll call the polizia."
Blair wanted to ask his savior to stay, terrified his attacker would return but the man was already hurrying away and Blair felt himself drifting, even though the cold night air sent chills shuddering through his body, stirring the throbbing pain in his leg to a crescendo of agony. He existed in a twilight zone, unable to respond to the paramedics that attended him, finally succumbing to oblivion as he was lifted into the back of the ambulance.
"Sir, I'm Doctor Casey. Can you tell me what happened to you tonight?"
"I'm not sure. Do you know where you are?"
Blair cracked open his heavy eyelids and immediately slammed them shut again when the glare of an overhead light drilled into his pupils and straight through to his brain. A ragged, hoarse moan forced its way past his dry lips. "Hurts."
"We'll have that fixed shortly. It seems you were mugged. You have a knife wound in your leg and a nasty bump on your head. Do you hurt anywhere else?"
Blair had to think about that. He hurt everywhere and his brain didn't seem to be capable of singling out one spot over another. He settled for a cautious shrug.
"Okay." A hand patted his shoulder. "The leg wound doesn't look too bad. We'll get that stitched up and let you get some rest."
"Doctor Casey," a voice said from far away. "We have a GSW coming in. Chest wound."
"Okay, I'll be right there. Sir? The paramedics found a wallet in the alley where you were discovered. Is your name Sandburg, Blair Sandburg?"
Blair nodded. "Call Jim. P-Partner."
"The nurse will attend to that shortly. Mr. Sandburg? Blair, can you open your eyes for me?"
Blair struggled to do what he was asked and finally his eyes opened. He winced as his headache flared to new heights. A dark-haired man with glasses and a mask covering the lower half of his face nodded at him. "Things are pretty busy here tonight. I'm going to get one of our residents to suture your wound and when you're feeling a little more awake, you can give the nurse some details so we can contact your family to come and take you home. The police asked to be contacted when you're up to giving a statement but right now I want you to rest for an hour or two."
"Jim." Blair nodded, reassured. Jim was his family. He'd come and get him and take him home to the loft. Home. He licked at his lips, tasting the metallic tang of blood. "Thirsty. Water?" he asked hopefully.
"When you're a little more awake. Let's make sure you don't have anything more serious than a concussion first, okay?"
Blair felt the familiar comforting shape of the cell phone beneath his hand. Relieved, he picked it up and squinted at the numbers on the pad, racking his brain for the number he needed to call. Should have been easy. He hadn't had to think this hard when Lash was breaking down the door He shivered, wishing he hadn't thought of Lash.
I can be you.
Blair started in surprise, unaware he had pressed the numbers he needed. "Jim?"
"Hey, Chief, where are you? I'm almost done here. Should be home in half an hour. I hope those steaks are ready for the grill."
"Jim, I'm sorry. I got robbed. He took my knife and the case you gave me. I tried to stop him but he had a knife already, Jim. He stabbed me. Can you come get me?"
"Sure, buddy. I'm on my way. You hang in there."
"What about my knife case?"
"I'll get you a new one."
Relieved, comforted by the knowledge that Jim was on his way, Blair let the cell phone drop to the bed.
"Mr. Sandburg, can you hear me?"
A gentle hand patted his shoulder. "Your leg's been stitched. I know it's probably pretty sore still but the doctor doesn't want to give you anything for pain until you're a little more awake."
"Water?" Blair asked hopefully.
"In a bit."
A commotion sounded just outside the door, sounds of shouting - a man's voice screaming. "It hurts! Help me. I'm dying!"
"We're going to put you outside in the corridor for just a bit until we can find you a cubicle. Things are a little crazy here tonight."
"Just rest. You're going to be okay."
Huddled against the wall, his legs dangling over the side of the gurney, Blair watched the frantic pace of the ER personnel, the sounds of distress and anguish jarring against his eardrums, his own rapid heartbeat keeping rhythm with the pounding in his head. Despite the frenetic activity, the deafening sound, the crush of people coming and going, he'd never felt more alone.
But Jim was coming. He just needed to hold onto that and everything would be fine.
Now, please go read Dawns story: