Home For Christmas
"Great, Ellison. Another crappy Christmas alone," Jim mumbled to himself. After parking the truck in his usual spot outside the loft, he yanked the keys from the ignition and leaned his head back, briefly closing his eyes. "Christmas I hate Christmas."
Spending Christmas alone didn't usually bother him. Hell, most years, he'd worked right through the holidays, only taking Christmas Day off if there was enough manpower on the roster -- or if Simon insisted. But this year was supposed to be different. This year he'd planned on spending some time with Blair. He had been excited about it, for the first time, because in the four years Sandburg had lived with him, they'd never spent Christmas together. His friend had always left to join his mother in whatever place she happened to be living in at that time. This year, Sandburg and Naomi had planned on leaving Cascade on December 29th to spend a week in Lake Tahoe and to celebrate the New Year together. But, much to Jim's disappointment, plans had changed at the last minute and Blair had rushed to get a plane ticket to leave on Christmas Eve morning instead.
Climbing from the truck, Jim slowly made his way across the street and into his building. As he rode the elevator up to the third floor, his thoughts drifted back to earlier that morning.
Blair's flight had been scheduled to depart at 9:15 am, so there was plenty of time to drive Blair to the airport before having to head into work. He had parked in the unloading zone and helped Blair heft his bag out of the back of the truck. When his friend had turned to wish him a Merry Christmas, Jim surprised them both by pulling Blair into his arms and hugging him tightly. After they moved apart, Jim couldn't help but smile at the stunned expression on Sandburg's face.
"Have fun, Chief," he said, ruffling Blair's curls.
"Hey, man, not the hair." Blair chuckled and batted at Jim's hand, but when he spoke again, the laughter left his voice, "Im sorry that plans changed. I really was looking forward to spending Christmas with you."
"It's no big deal. Don't worry about it." Jim lied and tried to keep his tone light. He wanted his friend to have a good time and not worry about how upset he really was feeling. "Besides, that means I get more turkey at Steven's tomorrow."
With a laugh, Blair poked a finger into Jim's stomach. "Now, Jim, don't go getting all flabby on me while I'm gone."
"What? Wouldn't you love me anymore if I got fat?" Jim joked, placing a hand over his heart and feigning hurt.
"I'll always love you, Jim," Blair replied, his voice serious.
Their eyes had met and locked, and for a brief second, the world had seemed to stand still. Sometime over the past few months, Jim's feelings for Blair had changed and he had found himself falling in love with his best friend. But he was afraid to tell Blair about his true feelings. Afraid that it would screw up the one relationship that meant everything to him. So he had built a wall around those feelings and had locked his love deep within his heart. But it was times like right now, staring into those beautiful blue eyes that Jim found it so incredibly hard to hide behind his wall.
Unable to stop himself, Jim reached a hand up and cupped Blair's cheek. At that moment in time, he had wished with every fiber of his being that he could dip his head and press his lips to Blair's. Instead, he allowed himself to lean forward and place a light kiss to his guide's forehead. At the gentle gesture, Jim could hear the sudden spike in his friend's heartbeat and he wondered if he had overstepped his bounds. His worry was set to rest when he looked at Blair and saw bright, happy eyes watching him.
"I'll miss you," Blair said softly.
"I'll miss you, too, buddy."
"Jim, I- "
"Go on," Jim interrupted and nodded toward the entrance. "You don't want to miss your flight."
"Okay." Blair gave a little smile. He grabbed the handle of his suitcase and after taking a few steps, called back over his shoulder, "I'll call you."
"See you later," Blair said with a wave.
"Bye, Chief." Jim returned the wave and watched his friend disappear through the airport doors and get swallowed up by the crowd.
The sudden stop of the elevator brought Jim back to the present. When the doors slid open, he excited and walked toward his apartment. The delicious smell of cooking food caused his stomach to grumble and he dialed up his smell to breathe in the aroma of roast beef. Accompanying the delicious smells was the sound of soft Christmas music playing and a melancholy feeling washed over him. He couldn't stop himself from wishing, once again, that this Christmas Eve could have been spent with the man he loved.
"Oh, well," he muttered. "At least the neighbor is having a nice Christmas."
Jim was about to unlock his door but froze when he suddenly realized that the smells and the music were coming from within the loft. Quickly pulling his gun, he quietly slid the key into the lock before slowly pushing the door open. As soon as he stepped inside, he lowered his weapon, his jaw hanging slightly open at the sight that greeted him.
The loft had been transformed. The lights were dimmed, a fire crackled happily in the fireplace, casting a cozy glow throughout the room, and a cluster of big fat candles burned brightly from the center of the coffee table. A large Christmas tree was set up in front of the balcony windows, its limbs fully decorated with multi-colored balls and ornaments, and little white lights twinkled in amongst the green boughs. A red tablecloth covered the kitchen table, green and white candles glowed merrily at each end, and the shiny cutlery indicated that a meal to be served was for two people.
A noise from the kitchen caught Jim's attention and as he turned to look, the culprit turned around as well and jumped slightly at the sight of his presence.
"Jim!" Blair happily exclaimed. Placing the ceramic dish that he had been holding onto the counter, he rushed over to Jim, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Hi," he greeted.
"Blair?" Jim blinked a few times just to be sure that what he was seeing wasn't some sort of walking daydream. He lightly touched Blair's shoulder and when his fingers felt solid flesh, he released a relieved sigh.
"I don't think you need that," Blair said, pointing to his gun and then began to laugh. "What? Did you think that a robber broke in, decorated the place and cooked dinner?"
With a smirk, Jim shook his head, thinking to himself that is was rather funny. "So, why are you here? I thought you were with your mom," he said, holstering his gun.
"Why don't you go shower first and I'll explain when you're done?"
Deciding to go along with what Blair asked, Jim gave a nod and moved toward the bathroom.
"Yeah, Chief?" Jim asked, turning back to his friend. A little frown creased his forehead when he saw Blair avoid his gaze and fidget in place.
"I -- umm-- I hope you don't mind, but I laid out some clothes for you upstairs," Blair responded hesitantly.
"Blair, what's going on?"
"I want to explain, but for now, please just shower and change, and then I promise we'll talk. Okay?"
Seeing the worry etching the features of his guide's face, Jim quickly reassured with a smile, "Okay. I won't be long."
Jim took a quick shower, dried, slipped into his robe and headed toward his room. As he passed by the door to Blair's room, his hearing told him that his friend was inside changing his clothes. Curious, Jim hurried up the stairs.
Once upstairs, Jim stopped at the foot of his bed and looked at the clothes that lay on the comforter. There was his red Cashmere sweater, a gift Blair had bought him last year for his birthday, along with his softest pair of black jeans, black socks and a pair of black silk boxers. Since he didn't own black silk boxers, he paused while he fingered the fine material. The thought that Blair had bought them for him caused a little shiver of excitement to run up his spine. Another thought entered his mind. The soft, sensual clothing he was asked to wear, the cozy romantic atmosphere of the loft and Blair's behavior all seemed like some kind of courting ritual. Jim wondered if it was possible. If he could have missed the signs that Blair was in love with him also, and tonight would be the night that his friend would tell him. Knowing that he could be reading the whole thing wrong, Jim tried not to let himself become too excited. If he gave in, allowing his walls to fall, and discovered that Blair wasn't in love with him, he would be so devastated that he wasn't sure if he'd be able to recover.
"Well," he muttered to himself, "the only way to find out what's going on is to get dressed, go downstairs and listen to what he has to say."
Hurriedly, Jim dressed, loving the feel of the clothing as it rested against his skin. After slipping his feet into a pair of comfortable black loafers, Jim ambled down the stairs and found Blair waiting for him by the kitchen table. His steps faltered at the enticing vision standing before him. His guide's hair was loose, the curls framing the angelic face, coming to rest against his shoulders, and he wore a dark blue silk shirt tucked into a pair of midnight-blue casual pants.
Jim licked his lips and cleared his throat before speaking. "You look really nice, Chief."
"Thanks." Blair smiled warmly. "So do you." Picking up two wine glasses filled with red wine, Blair walked up to Jim, handing one to him. "Come join me on the sofa?"
"Okay," Jim responded with a nod.
Following his guide into the living room, he waited for Blair to sit down, before seating himself next to him.
Jim watched Blair take a long, slow sip of his wine before placing his glass on the coffee table. His friend inhaled deeply, which Jim knew was a calming gesture, before turning to look directly into his eyes.
"I was at the airport this morning, sitting around waiting for my plane to board when I suddenly realized that I was making a big mistake."
"What mistake was that?" Jim held his breath, trying to keep any emotion from showing on his face. Hoping that Blair was about to say what he'd been praying to hear for months now.
"Well," Blair dipped his head before looking up again, "Christmas is a time to be spent with the people we love, right?" At Jim's slight nod, he continued, "And as much as I love Naomi, there's someone I love so much more. Someone that I'd much rather be with for Christmas."
"Who would that be?" Jim asked softly.
"You," Blair whispered.
Hearing Blair's heart race and his breathing quicken, Jim quickly reassured, "It's okay, Chief." Gently, he brushed the back of his hand against the side of his guide's face, hoping the gesture would calm him. "I love you, too." As he spoke the works, Blair closed his eyes briefly, a soft smile spreading across his face.
"I've picked up on different things you've said and done over the past months. At first, I wasn't sure if it was just wishful thinking on my part, and if I was imagining everything, or if maybe you really did have feelings for me. But after the way you acted at the airport, I was pretty sure that you felt the same way about me as I did about you. So, I called Naomi to let her know that I wouldn't be coming, then spent the rest of the day decorating the loft and cooking dinner."
Jim took a moment to look around his home before settling his gaze on the man who meant everything to him. "You did a terrific job. The loft has never looked so great. You know, I used to only think of this place as somewhere for me to sleep and eat when I wasn't out working. It wasn't even close to being a home until you came along. You made this place a home for me, Chief."
"Thanks, Jim." Blair beamed. "That means a lot to me. I fell in love with this place the second I walked in the front door."
"Ah, so that explains why that week turned into four years," Jim said teasingly.
Blair chuckled. "That's one of the reasons," he answered, lightly placing his hand on Jim's knee.
Their eyes met and held for a few seconds before Jim spoke. "So?" he asked, smiling. "May I kiss you now?"
"God, yes," Blair said with an inviting smile
Placing his glass next to Blair's, Jim moved closer, reaching out to lightly touch a curl with his finger. He then rested the hand against the side of his guide's cheek and brought the other up to frame his beloved's face between his palms. Bringing his lips to Blair's, barely touching their softness, he delicately nibbled at his lower lip. With a quiet moan, Blair shifted his body to press against his and parted his lips. Jim used the tip of his tongue to trace the outline of the luscious lips before claiming his lover's mouth in a long, passionate kiss.
When Jim broke the kiss, Blair panted breathlessly for a few minutes before saying, "Oh, man."
Resting his forehead against Blair's, Jim laughed softly. "You said it, Chief. I feel like I've been waiting forever to kiss you." He leaned back into the corner of the sofa and with a little tug, pulled Blair against his chest so that the smaller body covered his own. Blair nuzzled closer to him, his hand moving to gently stroke a broad shoulder.
"Merry Christmas, Jim," Blair said, his voice full of love and happiness.
Jim kissed the top of the curly head. "Merry Christmas, Sweetheart."
"Mmm 'Sweetheart' -- I like the sound of that."
Burying his nose in Blair's hair, Jim inhaled deeply, cataloguing the different scents of his guide. He smelled of vanilla shampoo, and pine sap, and roast beef, and lemon dishwashing liquid. The wonderful smells reminded Jim exactly what Blair meant to him. He smelled of love, and life, and home... and Christmas.
Jim chuckled softly, jiggling Blair, who raised his head to gaze into Jim's eyes.
"What?" Blair asked quietly, a warm smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
With a quick hug and a wide grin, Jim said, "Have I told you how much I love Christmas?"
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Kat and Elaine for the great beta work.