[personal profile] starwatcher_fic

Title: Years May Come, Years May Go
Summary: Major Crime celebrates with a friend.
Style: Gen
Size: 3,765 words, about 14 pages in MS Word.
Warnings: None
Notes: Written March, 2006, for The Sentinel's tenth anniversary.
Feedback: Not necessary, but every comment is treasured.
Email: If you prefer not to post a note that everybody can see, you can reach me at starwatcher -at- dreamwidth.org

Years May Come, Years May Go

by StarWatcher

Blair set the crockpot inside the sturdy cardboard box, packing it tightly with wadded-up newspapers so that it wouldn't shift or tip. The mouth-watering smells of his ostrich chili filled the loft; it would be tough to wait until the game started before digging in.

Jim finished slathering the melted garlic butter on two loaves of split French bread, put them back together, and wrapped each loaf in aluminum foil. It was a point of pride that everyone contribute something on poker night, so that the host wasn't saddled with the expense and food-prep time to fill the ravenous appetites that seemed to inhabit Major Crime.

"You ready, Chief? We need to get to Taggart's in time to heat the garlic bread before the rest of the gang shows up."

"Yeah, man, just give me a sec." Blair hurried into his bedroom. A few moments later, a triumphant, "Ah-ha!" echoed through the doorway, quickly followed by Blair himself, waving a handful of three-by-five file cards as if they were winning lottery tickets.

"I knew I put 'em in a safe place; I just had to remember what I thought was safe, two weeks ago." His satisfaction evident, Blair carefully tucked the cards into a corner of the box.

"What's that, Chief? A new surefire, never-fail plan for winning at poker? I'd advise against it; if you win any more than you have been, I may not be able to protect you from the angry lynch mob." Jim grabbed his keys and the loaves of bread, and waited somewhat impatiently for his friend to notice the 'hurry up' cues he was dropping.

"Aw, c'mon! You mean you wouldn't stand between me and them for like... thirty percent of the take?" Blair grinned up at his friend as he grabbed the heavier box.

Jim closed the door behind them and led the way to the elevator. "You want me to risk life and limb for a measly thirty percent? In your dreams, Junior. Besides, an officer of the law can't be bought; it'll cost you seventy percent."

Blair snorted in outrage. "Seventy! Jim, if you take that much, there's no sense in me winning at all." A calculating gleam filled his eye, as Jim waited patiently for the counter-proposal. "How about... fifty percent, and I bake you a coconut crème pie?"

"It's a deal, Chief," he agreed solemnly as they stowed their food offerings safely and climbed into the truck. "And if your system works that well, then we'll head to Las Vegas and really clean up." He raised his hand, as if taking an oath. "I swear to protect Blair Sandburg from irate poker players for fifty percent of the take and one crème pie per week. You also do chocolate and lemon, right?"

"Man, buying the ingredients for those killers will make a serious dent in my profits." He rolled his eyes and heaved a long-suffering sigh. "Okay, but only if you'll make a will so that your half reverts back to me when you die; you won't last out the year on that type of diet."

"Get, real, kid. We'll be in Vegas. Do you really think I'll leave anything behind when I go?"

"Well, you better leave enough for a decent funeral, 'cause I'm not using my money to bury you. I'll just dump your body in the desert."

"Sounds dangerous, Chief. I'll bet these sentinel senses will give me an advantage in the afterlife, too. I'll be able to come back and haunt you."

"Oh, man, you would, too." Blair scowled out the window at the passing traffic, affecting 'deep thought' as he rubbed his chin. "That's it!" he announced. "You're going to take half my money, you'll be underfoot whether you're alive or dead, and you'll have me slaving in the kitchen to make time-bomb desserts... it's not worth it. I'll just continue to play poker like all you mundanes, and skip the surefire, never-fail system."

"Atta-boy, Maverick," Jim chuckled. "I knew you'd see it my way, eventually." He grinned at the answering chuckle from his friend. "So if it's not a new poker system, what is on those cards?"

"They're for Salima. She's trying to cook healthier to help Joel lose weight, but she hasn't been too successful at finding stuff he actually likes. I told her I'd bring her some recipes -- low fat, low cholesterol, and guaranteed palate-pleasers. Joel really likes the chili; I think he'll like these others, too. You don't think she'll think it's too pushy, do you?"

"From you, Chief? Never," Jim declared. "Salima likes you even more than Joel does, and that's saying something. You're just lucky Joel doesn't get jealous."

"Well, if he didn't treat her right, he'd have reason to be," Blair said, conveniently overlooking the twenty years' age-difference between him and Salima Taggart. "I can't see it happening, though; they have one of the good marriages, don't they?"

He seemed almost insecure, looking for reassurance, and Jim reflected that Sandburg probably didn't have much experience with recognizing stable, long-term relationships. "Absolutely," he assured Blair. "Joel and Salima are solid; I can't imagine anything ever breaking them up."

Joel opened the door in response to the doorbell. "Hey Jim, Blair. Go on through to the kitchen; Salima's expecting you. I'll just finish setting things up in the den." He headed through an archway on the right, while Jim and Blair headed left; they'd been here often enough to know their way around.

In the kitchen, Salima was just pulling a shallow baking pan out of the oven. She set it on a cooling rack and picked up a knife. "Hello, boys," she smiled over her shoulder. "Blair, just put the crockpot next to the stove; there's an outlet to plug it into. And Jim, the oven's a bit too hot right now; it'll have to cool down for a bit before you put in the garlic bread."

"Wow, Salima; looks good and smells even better." After Blair had checked and stirred his chili, he'd gravitated toward the chocolaty smell. "But isn't it a little unfair to Joel? I wouldn't think brownies are allowed on his diet."

"He can have a few of these," she chuckled. "I got the recipe from one of the other teachers I work with; it uses applesauce and Splenda, so the brownies are lower in fat and calories, and much healthier. He won't mind the diet so much if he can continue to have his sweets."

"Good thinking," Blair agreed. "There are some dessert dishes in the recipes I brought -- blueberry coffee cake, acorn squash cookies, and a tiramisù that I swear you can't tell from the high-fat version. I brought some main dishes, too -- chicken parmesan and beef stroganoff and turkey lasagna and a really excellent marinated pork loin. And if Joel has some favorite dishes, I can show you how to modify them to be healthier." After he helped arrange the brownies on a serving platter, he joined her at the kitchen table. They sat together, heads bowed over recipe cards and cookbooks.

Jim, his presence completely forgotten, grinned at the sight. Salima Taggart was as friendly and easy-going as her husband, with a zest for life that rivaled Blair's; they had been fast friends since their first meeting. Together, they almost made him feel old. "I'll just go out in the den and help Joel," he suggested. Receiving no response, he shrugged and left them to their alchemy. They'd come out from under when the rest of the gang showed up.

With everyone working together, the food was soon transferred from the kitchen to the long table against the wall of the den. It was just a few steps away from the poker table, so no one would have to go far to replenish his plate. The garlic bread was a popular selection, as was Simon's mustard potato salad, and Megan's Pavlova disappeared in the first wave. She brought it to every game, and it had become a much-anticipated favorite. With plates piled high to stave off imminent starvation, they settled around the table for the real purpose of the evening.

As the poker game started, Salima sat in the easy chair nearby and pulled out her yarn and needles. She liked the mental stimulation of listening to the betting while she knitted an afghan to raffle at the next church bazaar, and she wasn't above looking over Joel's shoulder to whisper betting strategies in his ear.

During the evening, it seemed to Jim that Blair was unusually 'up'; there was an excited gleam in his eye, and he could barely sit still during play. That was abnormal, even for Blair; he was a good player, and didn't allow little clues to escape his control. Finally, even some of the others noticed.

"Sandburg!" Simon barked. "You're acting like a three-year-old with ants in his pants. Sit still, for god's sake!"

"What's up, Hairboy? You got the hots for some new lady?" Henri suggested.

"Sorry, guys, sorry," Blair said. He inhaled a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, then exhaled forcefully and settled deeper into his seat. "It's just... I had a great idea earlier, but I'll ignore it for now."

Simon grunted as he surveyed his cards. "Do that, Sandburg; we're here to play poker, not listen to another hair-brained scheme that you've cooked up. H, I'll see your bet and raise you five."

Blair settled down to the game, but the minute quiver at the sides of his lips -- a clear indication of repressed smiles to sentinel sight -- told Jim that the excitement wasn't buried; just put aside for a time until Blair could allow his glee to have free rein.

As they walked toward the truck, Blair's bouncing gait indicated that his long-suppressed excitement was ready to break free. Jim made a mental bet -- it was the theme of the evening, after all -- that Sandburg would be expounding his 'great idea' within fifteen seconds of getting his seatbelt buckled.

He lost; it took thirty-five seconds.

"Hey, Jim, when I was talking to Salima, she mentioned that their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary is coming up -- August eleventh. They were married in nineteen seventy-three, just a couple of months after they graduated from high school. Isn't that just so cool? High school sweethearts, and they've been together this long.

"So, anyway, I was thinking -- maybe Major Crime could throw them a big anniversary party, invite Joel's old buddies from the Bomb Squad, and Salima's teacher friends from her school, and the neighbors they're friendly with, and Dan and Serena, members from their church... I guess, basically, anybody they know. Maybe Joel's minister would let us use the church's rec center for a reasonable fee, and we could have a big cake, and everybody bring potluck. Maybe decorate the rec center with flowers, give it a sort of wedding atmosphere, you know, and hire a band for dancing... What d'ya think?"

"I think that's a lot of 'maybe's, Chief, but it sounds like a winner. Lot of work, though; will it be just us, or are you going to rope some other people into the project?"

Blair snorted as he shook his head vigorously. "There'll be no roping needed, Jim; people will want to help because making it a nice party will be part of their gift to Salima and Joel. I'm not sure how we'll plan it without him getting wind of it, though..." He subsided into thought, fingers restlessly tapping the dashboard.

Jim reached out a hand to still the fingers. "How about this, Chief? We really can't plan anything until we know where the party can be held. So why don't you see about booking the rec center or, if that doesn't pan out, maybe one of the big meeting rooms at the Cascade Hilton. When we know where and when, we could all meet for dinner one evening and make the plans, decide who does what."

"Excellent idea, Jim, excellent! I have two hours between classes tomorrow; I can go and talk to Joel's minister then. We have just four weeks to pull this all together; we'll need to get busy!"

"Make you a deal, Sandburg," Jim said as he pulled up and parked in front of the loft. "I'll do whatever errands are necessary to get this project going, but leave me out of the planning. That's for you, and anyone else you can rope into helping, you got that?"

"Yeah, I got that. If it was up to you, we'd just put a CD in the player and give them a card. Joel and Salima deserve way better than that."

Jim nudged Blair with an elbow as they headed up the stairs. "I agree with you, buddy; I'm just no good with stuff like that. Joel and Salima deserve the best, and I know you'll make sure they have it."

The 'Planning Committee' -- most of Major Crime, each one a staunch friend of Joel and Salima -- met for dinner at 6:30 at Uncle Guido's. With Simon as 'moderator', the basic framework of the party was hammered into shape over generous helpings of lasagna, chicken cacciatore and shrimp scampi.

Simon took a bite of chicken and pointed with his fork. "All right, Sandburg, tell us where we're going to hold this shindig."

Blair grinned, obviously pleased with himself. "We got the rec center, Simon; in fact, Pastor Davis is giving us a twenty-five percent discount -- he said it was the church's contribution to a joyous occasion, and he wants to keep Salima happy because she brings such good eats to their potluck dinners." Chuckles greeted that statement, along with nods of agreement. "So I booked it for Saturday the first. Their anniversary is August eleventh, but I thought if we had our celebration early, they could get away for a private celebration on the actual day, if they want to."

"Sounds good," Simon nodded. "Now, what about flowers, and what else will we use to decorate the center?" After a spirited discussion, Megan and Rafe were put in charge of acquiring the flowers -- preferably roses and lily of the valley, with garlands of ivy -- and Henri and Blair would help them decorate the rec center by putting up streamers and balloons.

"Streamers and balloons?" Megan asked, dubiously. "We don't want something that looks like the sock-hop scene from 'Grease'."

"Megan, it's a rec center," Blair explained patiently. "In other words, a big open room with no class or style. We can't afford enough flowers to soften it; the streamers and balloons will help. We'll do it tastefully. Besides, you'll be there to keep us in line, right?"

In the face of such sunny optimism, her protests died.

"Okay, folks, moving right along..." Simon paused and consulted his 'To Do' list. "The guest list. It's going to be big people; the Taggarts are well-known in this community, but we don't even know who-all to invite. We need to divide the task. Blair, you'll make inquiries among their neighbors -- discreetly, please! Find out who's friendly enough with Joel or Salima to be invited. And don't forget about family members -- siblings, cousins, whatever. Rafe, you talk to the principal of the school Salima works at, see which teachers should be there. Henri, you'll check with Pastor Davis; we'll just hope not every member of the church is a close enough friend to need an invite. Dan and Serena, I'm sure you can find who we should invite from within the PD. And Rhonda..." He had the grace to look slightly guilty. "Do you think you could select the invitations, and type them up as the names come in?"

She chuckled. "Simon, after working on budget reports, it'll be easy," she assured him.

"Thank you, Rhonda. Now," he gazed around the table, "who wants to tackle choosing the cake and the band?"

"Uh, Simon?" Blair felt a ridiculous urge to raise his hand, as if he were in school. "I think Jim could ensure that we get the best quality of cake and musicians." Discreet touches of his ear and nose indicated exactly how Jim would make his judgments.

"Jim it is," Simon agreed, ignoring the mock-glare that Jim cast toward Blair. "So, that takes care of location, decoration, guests, cake, and music. Guests will bring a potluck dish so that we don't have to feed all those hungry people. Anything else?"

"Yeah, um..." Blair stood, wondering a little uneasily if he was pushing things too far. "I was talking to Joel, and they never had a proper honeymoon; they were too young and too poor. But now they're established; they don't need gifts like toaster ovens or towels or whatever. So I was thinking... Well, I did some research on the 'Net, and for about four thousand dollars we could buy them round-trip tickets to Los Angeles, and a ten-day cruise on the Mexican Riviera. With as big a guest list as it looks like we'll have, if everybody chipped in forty dollars or so it would be covered, and that's well within the range of an average anniversary gift..." He shrugged in self-deprecation. "Well, it's just an idea; what does everybody else think?"

'Everybody else' thought it was an excellent idea, provided they could get around the crassness of asking the guests for money in lieu of a gift. Further discussion 'volunteered' Blair and Rhonda to construct an inoffensively-worded paragraph, to be included with the invitations, that would persuade the guests to contribute toward the cruise instead of bringing a physical present.

It was getting late; tiramisù and chocolate mud pie had been requested and eaten, and the pots of coffee were empty. "All right, people," Simon said, "we've got a good plan, and only three and a half weeks to get it all together. So get to it, and let Rhonda or me know how each part is going. Any problems, you sing out -- we don't want any holes in the arrangements. But I know you won't let us down."

With murmurs of agreement the conclave broke up, each person looking forward to the best anniversary bash they'd ever attended.

"Joel, would you come in here, please?"

"What is it, Simon?" he asked, sitting in one of the soft chairs in front of Simon's desk.

Simon poured two cups of coffee and passed one to his friend. "Well, Joel, we wanted it to be a surprise, but we couldn't work out how to get you and Salima there. So I'll just tell you -- your friends have conspired to throw you two a big anniversary celebration. Tomorrow night, you and Salima need to wear your fanciest duds, and the limousine will pick you up at five o'clock."

"But... Simon, that's not necessary," he protested.

"Of course it's not necessary. It's what we want to do. Joel," he said gently, "it's not like you twisted anyone's arms. This is a gift from your friends; accept it as such."

"We were going to have a quiet evening with just the two of us," Joel murmured.

"And you still can," Simon pointed out. "That's why we scheduled the public bash early; you can come to this one, and have your private celebration on the actual date."

"Salima will be so pleased..." Joel shook his head, as if awakening from a dream. "Thank you, Simon. We'll be ready."

Joel seemed slightly dazed as he walked through the bullpen. He didn't notice the wide smiles on the faces of his friends, or the way Blair elbowed Jim in the ribs, with the requisite retaliatory head-batt. He closed the door as he left the bullpen, but surely must have heard the cheer that erupted behind him. No matter; it was no longer a secret.

Henri had been watching for the limousine. As soon as it appeared, his strident whistle pierced the room. As arranged, the guests formed a long line at each side of the doorway.

"Dial it down, Jim," Blair whispered urgently. "And keep it down for the rest of the evening."

As soon as the doors opened, the band broke into a fanfare, and Joel and Salima Taggart walked down an aisle formed by clapping, cheering friends. Joel beamed as he escorted his beloved wife like the royalty he considered her to be, and Salima's eyes glistened with tears of happiness.

The evening was a blur of dancing, good music, good food, and friends' congratulations. Finally, Joel and Salima were urged forward to cut the cake. But first --

"Speech! Speech!" Henri shouted, and the other guests soon echoed the chant. "Speech! Speech!"

"I don't really know what to say," Joel husked. He put his arm around Salima to hold her close, and she leaned contentedly into the hug. "Just that I've loved this woman since the day we met. We've been married for twenty-five years, but I knew where we were headed three years before that." He smiled down at the shining face raised to his. "There've been some rough spots -- every couple has them -- but I wouldn't change a thing. No matter the arguments or tears, we always loved each other. I just thank the Lord that we've been together through all these years. And we thank you all for giving us such a memorable anniversary party."

The cheers and applause were thunderous. Joel and Salima started to cut the cake and pass it out to their guests. Finally, when everyone had a piece, and the noise had subsided, Simon stepped forward.

"Joel, Salima... You might be looking forward to opening your presents." He waved toward the gaily-wrapped gifts piled on another table. "Well, I don't regret to inform you that all those packages are empty; they're only decoys." With a smile threatening to split his face in two, he pulled out a slender envelope and waved it overhead. "Instead, all of your friends have contributed to this present -- a ten-day cruise on the Mexican Riviera. You'll be spending your anniversary in Acapulco!"

The resulting cheers made the earlier efforts seem like a whisper. Joel appeared stunned as he accepted the envelope from Simon, and Salima looked dazed. Joel waved feebly to the crowd, then reached for his wife and pulled her into a deep, fervent kiss as their friends continued to clap and cheer.

"We did good, huh, Jim?" Blair asked with evident satisfaction, a wide smile on his face.

"Yeah, Chief, we did real good."

The End

Story Notes

Lyrics Note: I did not build the story because of the following song. But, as I was writing, I remembered the song; the lyrics seemed to fit so well what Joel and 'Salima' would feel for each other (in my rose-colored glasses imagination). It's a lovely, lyrical piece, and expresses so well what I think we all, someday, hope to find. The title of the story, and part of Joel's speech, are taken from the song.

Years May Come, Years May Go

author unknown; recorded by The Irish Rovers

Let's take a look behind,
And see what we can find.
Last year has gone for everyone,
Passed with time.
What happened to us then
Can't happen once again,
And what's now all to me?

Years may come,
        (Many years are still ahead.)
Years may go,
        (Many years have passed.)
Some go fast,
        (They belong to yesterday,)
Some go slow,
        (Still the memories last.)
Some are good,
        (Couldn't stop the laughter flowing,)
Some are bad,
        (Couldn't stop the tears;)
For each one,
        (Thank the Lord that we have been)
Just be glad,
        (Together through the years.)

Whenever I review
The lovin' times with you,
I wouldn't change a single page
We've lived through.
It wasn't always smooth,
Sometimes we'd jump the groove,
We've shed some tears and then
Loved again.

Years may come,
        (Many years are still ahead.)
Years may go,
        (Many years have passed.)
Some go fast,
        (They belong to yesterday,)
Some go slow,
        (Still the memories last.)
Some are good,
        (Couldn't stop the laughter flowing,)
Some are bad,
        (Couldn't stop the tears;)
For each one,
        (Thank the Lord that we have been)
Just be glad,
        (Together through the years.)

Heartaches I don't doubt,
Life's sure to dish us out.
We'll beat the lot and that is what
Life's all about.
Whatever may come true
Ahead for me and you,
Some day it all will be

Years may come,
        (Many years are still ahead.)
Years may go,
        (Many years have passed.)
Some go fast,
        (They belong to yesterday,)
Some go slow,
        (Still the memories last.)
Some are good,
        (Couldn't stop the laughter flowing,)
Some are bad,
        (Couldn't stop the tears;)
For each one,
        (Thank the Lord that we have been)
Just be glad,
        (Together through the years.)

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