PAID IN FULL

By: Lyn

FEEDBACK TO: townsend297@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Di Meo, Bilson and Petfly etc. This fanfic was written for my own and others’ enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.

AUTHOR’S NOTES: I’ve had a rough couple of days, (still not over) and decided to write some H/C and smarm to cheer myself up. I hope you enjoy it too.

Not betaed. Feedback welcome, no betaing or flames, please. My life sucks enough at the moment as it is.

Blair Sandburg scrubbed a hand through his unruly curls and stretched up in his seat. This was his third night this week working at Pat Murray’s late-night grocery store and he was bone-achingly tired. He had accompanied Jim on a stake-out for the past two nights in a row, after teaching all day at the university and it felt lately as though he needed to make an appointment just to take a breath.

Two weeks ago, Blair had lost almost all of his belongings, and very nearly his own life and that of his new partner, subject and sentinel in an explosion which had rocked the foundations of the Cascade warehouse district and destroyed Blair’s home.

Worst of all, it had destroyed the camera. More precisely, the video camera that Jim Ellison, sentinel and pretty good friend had lent Blair so that he could record Larry the ape’s behavior for his grant submission. The video camera that Jim had borrowed from his ex-wife, Carolyn’s department at the PD. Blair tried hard these days not to remember Carolyn’s last words to him, but they ran along the general lines of, "You’d better pay for the fucking camera, you hippie weirdo."

So here Blair sat in a straight backed chair behind the till at the corner grocery store, waiting for a customer to break the boredom of the evening. Blair wasn’t overly upset with the lack of custom, it gave him ample time to work on his dissertation, but it was a welcome distraction to chat about the weather or the neighbor’s new baby and then attack his work with renewed vigor.

Still, at the end of the day, whether the place was packed or not, Mr. Murray paid him a few more dollars toward the camera and some new clothes and, with any luck there’d be a little left over toward the back rent he seemed to constantly owe Jim.

The detective had allowed him to move in for a week when Blair had confessed that he had nowhere else to go that would take in Larry the ape. Then after a week, when Blair had begun to pack up his meager belongings and scout the papers for a room he could afford, Jim had turned to him and said, "If you want, you can stay here and rent the room." Blair had grinned widely, not able to speak past the lump in his throat and threw his duffel bag back into the closet.

Now after two nights on a stake-out, then teaching and studying all day, Blair could feel his energy reserves burbling on empty. He glanced at his watch. 11.15pm. Three quarters of an hour to go.

He looked up in relief as the bell over the door tinkled, signaling the arrival of a customer. Two lanky young men with long, greasy hair nodded briefly at him before heading toward the back of the store. They were dressed in the baggy clothes that the young favored these days with scuffed sneakers on their feet. Blair watched them covertly for a moment over the top of his notebook, feeling somewhat foolish at his scrutiny. ‘Been hanging with cops too long, Sandburg,’ he thought and went back to his thesis.

"Hey, you serving or what?" The voice was nasal and whiny and right in his ear. Blair looked up in surprise.

"Sure, I’m sorry. What can I get you?" Blair asked, putting his book aside. The smile died on his face as a wicked looking switchblade was waved inches from his face.

"Whatever you got in the till, man, and empty them cigarette shelves too."

Blair tried to back up a step away from the menacing youth but the checkout area was merely a convenient corner in the little store and there was nowhere to go. He held both hands up in a show of acquiescence and prayed that Pat Murray would come back in from his late-night supper early for once. "Just take it easy, man. Stay calm, all right."

Pain exploded across his palm in one sure swipe of the knife and he pulled his bleeding hand toward him, cradling it to his chest, struggling not to curl around the pain. He bit back a cry and blinked away the hot tears that stung the backs of his eyes. "Don’t you tell me what to do, fucker," the boy growled. "I already gave you your orders."

He turned to look briefly toward the back of the store and called out to his accomplice. "Pauly, you done yet?"

The other teen emerged from the middle aisle, his arms loaded with bottles of alcohol. "I’m done. We’re gonna have ourselves a hell of a party."

"Yeah, yeah. Get over here and give me a hand with this other stuff." The teenager leaned over to the end of the counter and snagged several paper sacks. Blair decided to take advantage of the thief’s divided attention and reached quickly for the panic button located under the counter.

A red-hot agony engulfed his arm from fingertips to shoulder as his attacker lashed out once more with the knife, opening up a deep gash along Blair’s forearm. "What are you doing, man?" The youth grabbed hold of a fistful of Blair’s hair and hauled the anthropologist across the counter toward him. "You want I should stick this fucking blade in your gut?"

He brought the knife up until the point rested against Blair’s throat, digging in lightly. He grinned as Blair moaned softly at the stinging pain. "Or maybe I should just cut your throat now and watch you bleed to death."

Suddenly, the boy’s hand was slapped away and Blair dropped to the counter, then slid down toward the floor. "Quit playing around," Pauly said. The other boy had moved around beside Blair now and was pulling him back up to his feet. "Open the till or I’ll let him do whatever he wants," he threatened.

Blair tried to ignore the warm blood that oozed down and dripped from the fingers of both hands as he reached out shakily to press the register keys. As soon as the drawer was open, he was slammed roughly to the ground and he curled into a ball, holding both hands to his chest.

By the time he had regained his senses enough to look up, the boys were gone, the little bell on the shop door tinkling merrily in the wake of their escape. He managed to pull himself up to a sitting position, closing his eyes tightly against the dizziness that threatened. Reaching up, he hauled himself upright with his good hand though that was a relative term as even the slightest pressure on his fingers caused agony to flare from his wrist to his shoulder. He leaned against the counter, biting down hard on his lower lip and trying desperately to dispel the nausea that threatened. Smears of blood daubed the counter, the keys of the till, and now the phone as he pulled the handset toward him and dialed 911.

Finished with his call, Blair found himself sinking back to the ground as shock caught up with him in the aftermath of the robbery and he sat down hard on his backside, jarring fresh pain from his wounds. He cupped his hands to his chest, no longer bothering to hold back a moan and watched as salty tears mingled with the blood on his shirt.

0~0~0~0~0

Jim Ellison looked up from where he was slouched on the couch as a knock sounded at the front door. He looked at his watch, surprised to see that it was already 1am, and he felt a small pain clutch at his heart as he realized that he’d drifted off to sleep and Sandburg still wasn’t home.

Fear quickened his steps as he approached the front door and his nose detected the familiar scent of his guide coupled with an overpowering stench of blood. He pulled the door open just as Blair raised a bloody hand to knock again, a thin streamer of gauze unraveling from his arm. Jim’s eyes widened in horror at the sight, but before he had a chance to react to more than that, Blair whispered hoarsely, "Jim," and then collapsed soundlessly into his arms.

Jim hefted the unconscious man, mindful of the oozing gashes he could see in both of Blair’s arms and carried him to the couch. He laid the anthropologist down carefully and immediately performed a quick sentinel scan of his partner’s body. He could see no other injuries beside the ragged slashes, one in Blair’s right forearm, the other across his left palm. The detective left the unresponsive man for a moment to retrieve towels from the bathroom, which he wrapped tightly around the cuts. He was relieved to see that the oozing was already slowing.

Jim reached to pick up the phone but turned back to his friend as Blair shifted slightly and moaned. Leaning over the anthropologist, he cupped Blair’s face in his hands and called to him. "Blair? You back with me?"

Blair moaned again and then his eyelids fluttered before dazed blue eyes cracked open. He swept a dry tongue across cracked lips before he spoke. "Am I home?" he asked. His voice was rough from panic and pain, his flesh sallow and sweaty with dark circles under his eyes.

"Yeah, buddy, you’re home. Just stay still, I’m calling an ambulance."

"No, don’t." Blair’s hand flew up and Jim caught it gently before the action could loosen the pressure bandage.

"You’ve got some nasty cuts on your hand and arm, Chief. You’re going to need stitches."

Blair shook his head. "You take me. Please, Jim, I really don’t want to go in an ambulance."

Jim seated himself on the coffee table and studied Blair’s pale face. "You want to tell me what happened?"

"Two junior thugs robbed Mr. Murray’s store. One of them slashed me when I didn’t open up the till fast enough. Then he did it again when I went for the panic button. They ripped out the wires, but they forgot about the phone." He gave a hoarse bark of laughter that mingled with tears. "Couple of amateurs."

"You called the cops?"

Blair nodded and swallowed convulsively.

"Why didn’t they call for paramedics?"

Blair reddened and then pushed himself upright. Jim reached out a steadying hand as the other man wavered slightly and his face went a shade whiter. "They did. I left."

"What the hell did you do that for?" Jim asked angrily, then immediately regretted it as Blair flinched. "Sorry, I’m sorry. Why didn’t you wait for the paramedics?"

"I don’t know," Blair whispered. "I was sitting on the floor waiting and then Mr. Murray came in and the officer got up to talk to him and I just wanted to be home. I needed to see you. My heart was pounding and I couldn’t breathe right and I just left. I’m sorry, Jim."

Jim patted the young man’s shoulder. "That’s okay. I’ll call them on the way in to the hospital. Let them know you’re all right and that you’ll come in tomorrow to give a full statement."

Blair nodded gratefully. "Thanks."

Jim squeezed his shoulder. "All right. Let’s get you fixed up." The detective stood and retrieved both their jackets from the hooks by the door and draped Blair’s carefully about his shoulders. Then he helped the young man to his feet and led him slowly to the door.

"They took my wallet, Jim," Blair said suddenly. "I had almost all the money to pay for the video camera and now it’s gone. Carolyn is going to be so pissed with me. I really don’t think she likes me very much."

Jim’s eyes narrowed as he led Blair out of the apartment and into the elevator. "What did she say to you?"

"Just that it would be in my best interests to find the money to replace the camera. She was pretty angry, Jim. I was waiting for her eyes to start glowing and her voice to drop a couple of octaves."

Jim couldn’t help but chuckle at the bizarre image Blair’s words conjured up. "Is that why you took on this job on top of teaching and studying and working with me?"

"That and I need some new things since the explosion and I really wanted to pay you the back rent I owe you."

"You’re paid up to date and well in advance, Sandburg," Jim said as he helped Blair buckle into his seatbelt.

"No, I haven’t paid you anything since I moved in," Blair argued.

Jim stilled the words with a hand on Blair’s uninjured arm. "You’ve paid by helping me keep up to date with my paperwork, by helping me get these senses under control, by wrestling with the Switchman and leading Kincaid on a merry chase around the precinct. Not to mention saving my butt once or twice. Trust me, Sandburg, we’re even. Okay?"

He waited until Blair nodded, then ran around to the driver’s side and climbed in. Just as they were about to reverse out of the parking space, Jim’s cell phone rang. "Ellison. Yeah, don’t worry, Simon, Sandburg’s with me. I’m heading to the hospital now. Yeah, he’ll be all right. A little cut up, he’s going to need some stitches." He smiled a little as Blair shuddered at the words. "I’ll call you in the morning."

Jim closed the phone and looked over at his partner. Blair sat curled into the passenger seat, his eyes almost shut, his face finally regaining some color. His hands rested in his lap, the towels wrapping them daubed scarlet with the evidence of the attack, his fingers flinching now and then in response to the spasms of pain.

"I’ll take tomorrow off," the detective said. He held up a hand as Blair opened his mouth to speak. "Those hands are going to be pretty stiff and sore for a few days. You’ll need some help. We’ll make a list too, of what you lost in the explosion. Maybe we can get some victim’s compensation. Anyway, we’ll do some shopping tomorrow, get you some clothes, notebooks, whatever."

"Jim…"

"You can pay me back whenever you can spare it. I know you’re good for it. You’re not going to run out on me, you’ve got a dissertation to write."

There was a long silence before Blair spoke again. "What about the camera? And Carolyn?"

Jim allowed a small smile to grace his features and ease the tension in his jaw. "You leave Carolyn to me. She causes us any trouble, we’ll zap her."

FIN

-1st August, 2001.

 

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