Never Too Late

By Lyn

EMAIL: Lyn

Happy Anniversary, SA! Thank you for being such a warm, welcoming group of people. I joined SA in 2001. It was my safe haven when I first started writing fanfic. Now, I think of it like family. Smarmy, I know, but true. Hope you enjoy this little anniversary fic. And Dawn, thanks for having the smarts to create this list.

 

Blair stared in disappointment at the dining room table. He'd laid it with Jim's best china and had even bought an expensive wine out of the last of his grant money to accompany the meal. The food had been simmering away for too long already and would soon be ruined. "Shit, Jim!" he swore.

It wasn't as though they hadn't planned this. When Jim had mentioned a few days before that it had been exactly a year since Blair had first walked into the examination room, looking like a kid playing dress-ups, Blair had immediately suggested he cook them a gourmet meal to celebrate. Jim had agreed with alacrity, as Blair had known he would.

Blair left the PD early, wanting to get a start on cooking the mustard crust roast beef Jim loved and Jim promised to be home on time. Blair sighed and walked into the kitchen to turn off the oven and stove top. He supposed he sounded a bit like a whining wife but the anniversary had been important to him and he'd thought it had been to Jim too.

He supposed Jim could have been called out on a case but even when that had happened before, Jim always called, explaining the delay. There was only one explanation - Jim had forgotten. He'd thought of calling Jim himself but having heard some of the snide remarks made once Jim had let him move into the loft, decided neither he nor Jim needed any more of that crap. Besides, it was too late now. Dinner was ruined and Blair's appetite was gone.

Desultorily, Blair scraped the dried out vegetables down the refuse disposal and examined the beef critically. He supposed it might be all right for sandwiches. Once he was finished cleaning up the evidence of his labor, he wandered out into the living room and slumped down onto the couch. He channel-surfed aimlessly for a few minutes then gave up at the lack of anything decent to watch and fired up his laptop. But tonight, with the ire that was growing over his partner's absence, his heart wasn't really into adding anything useful to his dissertation, save for a slightly spiteful 'Sentinels have notoriously bad memories'.

Well, there was no reason why he couldn't celebrate on his own. He actually had a cash flow this week, a timely turn of events, considering the anniversary, and Paddy's Bar was not that far away, was frequented by several of his buddies from the university and, he was pretty sure, had a band playing tonight. Mind made up, he got up and grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. He debated clearing the table then decided to leave it. Maybe it would prod a small amount of guilt into his absent partner.

~o0o~

Blair aimlessly kicked a soda can along the street as he headed home. The pub had been a bust. None of his friends were there and he'd belatedly remembered a faculty dinner that he'd decided to forego in lieu of celebrating with Jim. The band had been awful, some kind of cabaret - country and western blend and his heart wasn't into celebrating without Jim anyway.

He'd go home, clear the table and just head to bed. Maybe next year, they'd just forget about anniversaries. It wasn't as if it was that important really. It was just another date on the calendar after all…

Something hard dug into his back and a hand grabbed at the collar of his jacket. "Wallet, now," a voice rasped in his ear.

Blair froze, automatically holding his arms out from his sides. "Okay, man, just take it easy."

The object punched at his back forcefully and Blair hurriedly scrabbled in his pocket for his wallet. "All right. Here." He held up the billfold and it was quickly snatched from his hand. Any thought that the mugger might make a quick escape fled when the hand on his jacket didn't relinquish its hold. "Take it," he said.

"Planning on it," the thief said. The grip at his neck finally loosened but before Blair could move, his arm was grabbed and he was spun around to face his attacker. Something flashed in the light from a street lamp and Blair reeled back as pain exploded in his cheek. He felt himself falling backward but even before he could register the impact of the pavement, fists and feet descended upon him, leaving him curled up into a ball, his hands wrapped around his head, desperately trying to ward off the violent blows.

Dazed, his entire body screaming in agony, it took a while for Blair to realize his attacker had gone. Carefully, he rolled to his back and stared up at the dark night sky. It was several minutes before he could summon a coherent thought. Phone. Phone the police. He patted clumsily at his jacket before remembering his cell phone was still sitting on the kitchen counter, forgotten when he'd left in a funk.

He managed to get to his knees, groaning as his bruised body protested the movement. Dizziness almost sent him back to the ground and he stayed where he was for a moment, his head hanging, watching with a disconnected curiosity as blood dripped from his face onto the ground.

Where was everybody? Didn't anyone help anyone anymore? Apparently not.

He reached out a hand and pressed it against the shopfront beside him then staggered laboriously to his feet. If he could make it home, he'd be all right. It took a moment of dazed and bleary checking in each direction before he figured out which way to go. Head pounding, body shaking and a mass of pain, he stumbled back toward the loft.

~o0o~

Jim waved away a second beer from Simon. "Thanks, Simon but I'd better get going. Sandburg will kill me if I'm late for dinner, especially tonight."

Simon chuckled as he put the beer back in the refrigerator. "I still find it hard to believe," he said, shaking his head.

"What's that?"

"I'm not sure what's more amazing. Sandburg sticking with you for an entire year or you sticking with him - or any partner, for that matter."

Jim shrugged. "I don't know. It's different with Blair. Sure, he annoys the hell out of me sometimes, then he'll come up with something totally out of left field with my senses." He paused for a moment, unsure how to phrase it. "He cares," he said finally. "He's not just here for his dissertation. It means a lot to him that I get control."

Simon nodded. "I can see that." Then he snorted. "Get out of here before I start crying."

Jim slapped Simon's back good-naturedly then glanced at his watch as he headed for the front door. "Shit! That can't be the time." He looked at the wall clock in Simon's hallway. "I'm late! Really late!"

~o0o~

Jim slammed on his brakes as his headlights picked up a figure staggering down the sidewalk. It only took a moment for sentinel sight to recognize his partner. He was out of the truck before he registered he'd parked. "Sandburg!"

Blair kept moving forward, his gait wavering, his eyes glazed and dull. Jim grabbed his partner's arm and carefully halted his drunken advance. He winced at the bruises and cuts marring Blair's face and noted the way Blair had one arm wrapped around his stomach. "Jesus, Blair!" Gently, he cupped Blair's chin in his hand and tilted his face up. "What happened, Chief?"

Blair squinted at him. "Jim? Zat you?"

"Yeah, Chief, it's me. Let's get you over to the truck, okay? I need to call an ambulance."

"No!" Blair pulled away from him, grimacing in obvious pain. "Have to get home."

"I'll get you home, buddy," Jim assured him. He wrapped an arm around his partner's waist and drew him closer, locking his knees as Blair suddenly slumped downward. Gently, he lowered Blair to the ground and turned him onto his side, performing a quick check of his unconscious partner's vitals before phoning for help.

~o0o~

"You back with us, Chief?"

Blair couldn't hold back the groan that scraped past his lips as returning consciousness brought with it a myriad of aches and pain. He shifted in the bed, desperately seeking a more comfortable position but discovered quickly that there was none.

"Blair?"

Carefully, he opened heavy eyelids, squinting at the light that assaulted him and took his headache to an agonizing level. He moaned, a little embarrassed at the mournful sound.

A large hand squeezed his. "I'll let the doctor know you're awake."

"Shim?" His lips felt too large and he couldn't seem to get his tongue around the name. He tried again. "Sh - Jim?"

"Right here, Chief. How you feeling?"

"You have to ask?"

Jim's chuckle warmed him and some of the pain seemed to dissipate. "You got mugged. Your wallet and credit card are gone. I phoned your bank. You have a concussion and two cracked ribs, not to mention some spectacular bruises." Jim leaned over him and Blair saw the worry in his blue eyes and… something else. "You scared the hell out of me. I'm sorry, Sandburg."

Blair's brow creased into a frown. "What for?" There was something else he should be remembering but his thoughts were scattered and nebulous and he could feel himself being tugged back toward sleep.

"I'm sorry for being late."

Late? Oh, right. Anniversary. Dinner. Dried out beef. "Dinner's ruined," Blair said.

"Yeah, I figured. Simon asked me for a ride home since his car's in the shop and I stayed for a beer. The time just got away from me."

Blair started to nod then aborted the movement as his headache went up a notch. "You owe me," he began even as his eyelids began to slide closed.

"Owe you what, Chief?"

"Dinner," Blair muttered. "Ruined dinner, lost m'money…"

"I owe you for a whole lot more than just tonight's dinner," Jim replied. "From now on, every anniversary, dinner's on me."

END

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