I'm totally depressed. I've lost my story disk, with two unfinished stories and the rest of 'With a Grateful Heart, Give Thanks'. I'll recreate it when I have time and the home computer is brought back to life. It's been over two weeks, and it's still dead, Jim. Sigh. At least I can remember how to write...I hope.

The standard disclaimers still apply, I don't own them and am grateful to their owners for not suing me for using them, as I make no money for this.

This also fits the requirements for the Auction story. Beth wanted something along these lines, so blame the owies on her, as well as Detective Rafe's part...

This Year Was Supposed To Be Different


[ Reader comments ] [ Add your comments ]

Blair awoke to the smell of hot coffee and...eggs and something... He crawled from beneath the covers and shuffled out to see what was going on. He glanced at his alarm clock on his way out...just a few minutes after seven and Jim was up and cooking breakfast? Something wrong with this picture.

"Hey, Chief. Happy Chanukah." Jim called out to him as he opened the French doors to his bedroom and wandered out, slightly dazed.

"Uh, yeah. Thanks. Why are you up so early?" Looking around for the pod...

"I just woke up early and decided to make you breakfast for a change." Jim was already dressed for work. "The hot water should be recharged by now. You've got time for a shower before breakfast is ready."

"So, what are you making?" Blair asked cautiously.

"That Matzo Brie stuff you like. I thought ..." He stopped talking and took a look at his friend. "Well, I thought you might like it for breakfast." He trailed off, uncertain.

"Cool. Let me grab a shower and I'll be right out." There was a fresh bounce to his step as he headed for the bathroom. There was no way he was going to dash Jim's mood by informing him that Chanukah didn't start until sunset.

Breakfast was a quiet, pleasant affair where they discussed their schedules for the day. Jim would be catching up on paperwork, while Blair would be at the university, dealing with academia.

Blair was busy all day dealing with last-minute problems with a number of his students. Term papers were due and the finals were a week after the holidays, so he was busy all day. Just as he was getting ready to leave, he received a telephone call. He was a little slow getting out, thinking about the call, wondering how to pose it to his partner...

When Blair arrived home, he was surprised to discover the loft decorated in blue, white and silver. There was a menorah set up in the middle of the dining-room table, complete with candles, ready to be lit. Sniffing, Blair could tell that his roommate had been busy. There was matzo ball soup and what smelled a lot like...

"Jim? What...?" Finding the older man in the kitchen, wearing an apron, leaning over the open oven, basting a chicken. He just stood and stared.

"Oh, hi. Your mom called. She's in Tel Aviv, said that she'd call you again in a couple of days." Looking up, a little sheepish, he continued, "I got the recipes from her. Rosemary stuffed chicken, matzo ball soup, and blini?" Unsure, even after having worked so hard on the meal.

"Yeah. Um, why?" Unaware of the silly grin on his face.

"What do you mean, 'why'?" Straightening up and looking slightly embarrassed.

"Well, I mean, why?"

"Why not?"

"Wait a minute, since when do you do Jewish holidays?"

"Since you're Jewish?" He turned away, thinking he had made a mistake, and closed the oven door.

"Thanks. No one has ever cared all that much about it." Including me, he thought to himself, the silly grin widening. "Seriously, I mean it. No one has ever done anything like this for me, before."

"I just thought that, well, it's only fair, you know?" Turning back around to look at his friend. His expression softening and relaxing when he saw the silly grin, unable to avoid matching it. "So, dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes. You've got time to take off your jacket and dump your backpack."

"Oh, right." Still grinning, he turned back to set his backpack down and remove his jacket, hanging it on its hook. He then picked the backpack up again and dug through it on his way to his room, pulling out the stack of term papers he had to grade, setting them on the coffee table for later. He dropped his backpack off and sat down on his bed for a few minutes to remove his hiking boots, then stood and returned to the other room just in time to see Jim setting the food out on the table. He also had the matches ready for Blair.

"I don't know how to do any of this, so, could you...?"

"I'd love to." He had memorized the prayer for the first night on Chanukah in Hebrew, and recited it softly, almost embarrassed by the solemnity of his friend. When he was finished, having lit the first candle in the Menorah, Jim gestured for him to take charge of their meal.

Dinner was spent with Blair waxing eloquent on the history and meaning of the holiday. Jim listened intently to the story of the Macabees and their fight to retain Jewish sovereignty, without interruption; a contented smile on his face. After dinner, they settled down to watch some television, quiet and content. Blair got up to make some tea, and when he got back, there was a small package on the couch where he had been sitting. Looking at it in surprise, he shifted his gaze to his roommate.

"Jim?" He was met with a bland, innocent look.


"Nothing. Thanks. Do you want to play dreidle, next?" At Jim's look of confusion, he hurried on, "Never mind. It's a kid's game, you spin the dreidle, that's a top with four sides with the Hebrew words for 'A miracle happened here' on the four sides. You spin the top and get Chanukah Gelt, Chocolate coins?"

"Oh, sorry. Your mom didn't mention it, or I would have." After three years as partners and roommates, not to mention friends, Jim had come to the conclusion that he didn't know very much about his friend and was working to correct that, deciding that recognizing and celebrating the unfamiliar Jewish holidays would probably be a good place to start...He was right. Soon, Blair was regaling him with tales of Chanukahs past, making for quite a pleasant evening. The laughter when Blair opened his small gift to find a pewter teddy-bear wearing a yarmulke and holding a Menorah setting the tone for the rest of the night.

Jim went out of his way to make sure that Blair's Chanukah was one to be remembered, the small gifts each evening, the special foods, all worked together to make for a pleasant week. On Friday, after dinner, Blair decided that it was time to make his request. It had been another mellow day, Blair at the university and Jim at the station. It had been fairly quiet for the police, for once, the usual grinches out stealing from shoppers being somewhat easier to catch, for a change.


"Hmmm?" Looking up from his newspaper.

"I need to ask you something."

Jim put the paper down and turned his attention to his roommate. He was feeling mellow and laid back after the dinner that Blair had cooked, one with a lot of meat and various vegetables. "Sure, what do you need?" Knowing that it would be a request.

"Well, I have this friend, she's moving and I told her I'd come and help her, you know?"

"Sure, Chief. So, what's the problem?"

"No problem. I was just wondering if I could borrow the truck for a few days." Holding his breath, waiting for the answer.

Jim's brow furrowed for a moment, then, "Sure. I don't see why not. I'll have to use your car, though. When did you need it?"

"Uh, next week."

"Which day?"

"Well, I was hoping for the whole week. I was going to go down on Monday, and be back by Thursday."

"But..." He paused, But Thursday's Christmas Eve... He schooled the hurt from his eyes and shrugged, not meeting his friend's eyes. "Sure. I don't see a problem. Just know that any damage will come out of your hide, Chief." His voice a little harsher than he intended.

"Hey, no problem, man. Thanks." He watched as Jim simply nodded and buried himself back in his newspaper, hiding his feelings.

Blair wasn't fooled, however. Even when on Monday morning, his eighth Chanukah gift was left on the breakfast table, Jim having already left for the station. They'd been playing the game all weekend, Blair trying to lead Jim into a conversation about his feelings and Jim dodging the subject. He smiled at his final gift, a military style compass... He hoped that Jim would forgive him when he got his Christmas gift, but in the meantime, he had a friend to help move.

The call came in shortly after noon. Jim and Megan caught the assignment, as the rest of their fellow officers were out to lunch. The report stated that there were three or four teens who had tried to hold up a jewelry store. One of the clerks had managed to push the silent alarm. The kids were holding at least six people hostage. Because Jim had promised to take care of Blair's car, he allowed Megan to drive. She was getting the hang of driving on the right, finally. Although she still had a few problems, Jim didn't mind her driving...much.

They pulled up behind the perimeter tape, close to the building that housed the jewelry store. Jim paused upon exiting the car, his head tilted in the distinctive way Megan had come to recognize as his 'psychic reception' position. She waited while he seemed to be listening to something of interest.

"What've you got, Jim?" She asked, watching as the uniform in charge approached.

"Four perps, probably all juveniles. They actually work for someone else." He turned toward the uniformed officer. "What's going down, Davis?"

"Three or four kids, armed, half a dozen employees and customers, holed up in the shop. The kids won't answer the phone." He handed the detective the bullhorn. Jim grinned, taking it.

"Thanks, Joe. Got the number?" He accepted the slip of paper with the number on it. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed, no answer. He lifted the bullhorn, "This is the Cascade Police. We have the building surrounded. I'm going to dial in on the phone. Answer it." He handed the bullhorn back to officer Davis with a nod of thanks. He hit re-dial on his cell phone, and waited.

The voice that answered the phone sounded like a pre-teen, frightened, trembling. He leaned against Megan, apparently by accident, but really to ground himself from zoning out as he stretched his hearing to it's fullest, listening to the conversation going on in the background; Megan absently placed a hand on his shoulder, providing exactly the tactile support he needed.

"Let me talk to whoever's in charge." Jim spoke softly, not wanting to frighten the boy any further.

"W-what if I say I-I-I'm in charge?" the boy stuttered.

"I'll know that you're lying. Let me speak to him." He listened as the four boys discussed the situation. They were all terrified and justifiably so, he thought as the SWAT team arrived.

The next voice on the phone was a bit older. "We want a car and nobody following us." He demanded.

Jim laughed. "Not going to happen. Look, I know you're all juveniles. You haven't hurt anyone, yet, so you're not looking at being charged as adults. Give yourselves up and no one will get hurt. Least of all, you. The SWAT team just arrived and they're a little fast on the trigger. If you give yourselves up before they deploy, it'll be all right. I just need you to come out with your hands over your heads and with your weapons held by the barrels. Can you do that?" He listened in as the kids discussed their options.

"Call me back in a couple of minutes." The boy in charge demanded before hanging up.

Jim turned toward the SWAT team. "I've got them about to give up, they'll be coming out with their hands in the air, guns held by the barrels. You can all stand down."

"I'm in charge here, Ellison. My men will deploy as usual and..."

"Grimes, back off. It's handled. If any of your people fire off a single shot, I'll file the complaint myself. These are juveniles. Kids. There's no need for all the artillery." He turned his back on Grimes and didn't see the expression of rage cross the other man's face before he turned away and began to deploy his people anyway. Several of his men reluctantly followed instructions, glancing at Ellison as they worked their way around the perimeter.

Jim, meanwhile, re-dialed the store. When the boy answered the phone, he asked, "Well? It's up to you. The SWAT team wants to shoot you. It's all up to you, now. What do you want to do?" He smothered a smile at one voice that said 'go back and start today over and not do this'.

"We'll do like you want. We're coming out. Guns held up by the barrel."

"Smart boy. I'll meet you out front."

The four boys came out, hands high, guns held by the barrels. Jim had started out to meet them. He was about halfway to the boys when he heard the ominous sound of a round being chambered, he turned to look and saw Grimes aiming at the boys, turning back, he launched himself toward the kids, intending to knock them out of the way. The shot caught him in the back, throwing him forward to land at the feet of the four horrified teenagers.

Megan heard the sound of a pistol slide being worked and turned to see Grimes take aim, she was a nanosecond too late. As she grabbed his wrist and disarmed him, her eyes sought out her partner and saw him convulse through the air and land in a heap just in front of the four boys, a fountain of blood squirting up from his back.

Tommy Collins, the erstwhile leader of the group fell to his knees beside the fallen officer. He dropped his gun and reached out to try and staunch the flow of blood. Officer Davis was there in a matter of seconds, adding his hands to help stem the tide. Another uniformed officer was on the radio sending for an ambulance and paramedics, while others (including several of the SWAT team) finished subduing Grimes. As soon as he was in cuffs, Megan ran to her fallen comrade. The other three boys had set their guns down and were waiting quietly to be arrested, staring in horror at all the blood from the fallen man.

"How bad is he?" Megan gasped. Davis had pulled Jim's shirt up to better see the injury.

"Looks pretty bad, Connor. It missed his spine, at least, but he's bleeding real bad. I don't dare move him, in case the bullet moves and causes more damage. Where are those paramedics?" He and Tommy were doing their level best to stop the flow of blood.

"Here. They've just arrived. Is he conscious at all?" Reaching down to touch Jim's cheek. "Jim? Can you hear me?" The only response was a faint groan. The paramedics ran from the ambulance to the injured officer, quickly assessed the situation and proceeded to pack the wound with sterile sponges to help stop the bleeding. Cautiously turning him to his side, they realized that there was no exit wound. They inserted an IV to start pumping fluids into him, then, once they were satisfied that he was stable, lifted him face-down onto the gurney and prepared to transport him.

"Oh, wait. He's got some bad reactions to medications." Megan called out.

"Is he allergic to penicillin?"

"No. Just things like sedatives and such. Damn. His partner's out of town, and he's the only one who really knows everything. Please..."

"We'll do the best we can, but right now, we're more concerned with keeping him from bleeding to death."

Megan kept kicking herself. She should have been faster, reacted in time to keep Jim from being shot. She stayed in the waiting room of the hospital, pacing, worried sick, wondering how she was going to ever be able to explain what had happened. Furious; with herself, with Grimes. What the hell had he been thinking?

"Connor." The tall black man waited quietly for her to acknowledge him. When her eyes finally focused and recognized him, he continued. "Seems that Tommy Collins is Grimes nephew. He was using the kids to pull heists, because if they did get caught, they'd be juveniles and basically get off. I don't know if he meant to kill Jim or Tommy. He's not talking...at all. How's Jim doing?"

"He's still in surgery. Hanging on, I guess. Have you called Blair?"

"He's out of town, his cell phone is out of range and the number I have for where he is has been disconnected."

"How am I ever going to be able to explain it to him? I let his partner get shot. What can I say to him?"

"Hey, hold on, there. Blair isn't going to blame you. If he blames anyone, it's going to be himself for not being there. For now, let's just concentrate on Jim. We've got everyone donating blood, so if you want to..."

"I-I can't. I had hepatitis A, several years ago and can't donate blood any more." Her depression deepening. Simon gently placed an arm around her shoulders.

"Hey, don't beat yourself up over it. It isn't your fault. Take it a little easier on yourself." He stopped talking as the door opened and the surgeon came in.

Megan was instantly in his face, "How is he? Will he be all right? When can I see him? How bad is it?"

"Megan!" Simon said, sternly, "Let the man talk." Turning his attention toward the obviously weary doctor.

"Well, the bullet ruptured his spleen, which was why there was so much blood. The force badly bruised a kidney and the bullet also nicked his liver. It took some time to repair the damage. The most difficult problem was that he woke up on the table three times. I understand that he has unusual reactions to medications?"

"Yes. Particularly depressants. Unfortunately, his partner is out of town. He knows a lot more about it than I do." Deciding to insist on a written report from the anthropologist covering all Jim's reactions...and if Blair didn't know, he was going to hold their Sentinel down while Blair ran the tests, if necessary. He prayed that it would be necessary.

The doctor nodded. "Well, he's out, now. I have no idea how long he'll remain unconscious. I've got him on a morphine drip for the pain. We'll be keeping a close eye on him, but, if he makes it through the next couple of days, he's got a pretty good chance. He's going to be in ICU at least until he wakes up. He seems stable, but with his drug reactions, I'm not willing to take any chances." Simon thanked him and received permission to see Jim, only one person at a time, and only for five minutes, but at least that much was granted.

Without discussing it, the officers of Major Crime set up the vigil timetable. There would be one of them available for Jim 24/7, until Blair returned. They just wished they could get hold of Blair. Jim was stable, breathing on his own, but not waking up. Showing no signs of regaining consciousness. It was beginning to wear on them all, but particularly on Megan and Simon.

Blair had the truck and U-Haul trailer packed when she got home on Tuesday evening. Her van was packed as well. Most of her household goods would be moved by professionals, but her plants and most precious breakables, as well as clothing and her bedroom furniture, they would be taking. They decided to go ahead and start, stopping along the way for dinner and planning on driving until they were tired before finding a motel for the night.

They caravanned for several hours before Blair's stomach insisted on being fed. He signaled at the next town and they pulled up in front of a restaurant. They laughed and joked over dinner, pleased that they had gotten such an early start, with luck they would be in Cascade the following afternoon, a full day ahead of schedule, the difference being the use of Jim's truck.

After dinner, they continued their journey, around midnight, nearly to the half-way point of their journey, they found a motel and pulled in for the night. Surprisingly, the motel was nearly full, it being a popular stop for truckers, so they had to share a room. At least there were two beds. They were both tired enough not to care, and slept the sleep of the just.

They were on their way, again, by nine the next morning, after a hearty breakfast at the diner next door to the motel. Blair was looking forward to getting home. He hated leaving his partner alone for so long, but had needed to help this friend, as well.

It was mid-afternoon when they arrived in Cascade. Blair had the directions and keys to the house and drove straight there. Pulling into the circular drive, he parked next to the garage, which was attached to the tall Victorian house.

"Oh, Blair. It's beautiful! However did you find it?" She asked, staring in amazed pleasure at the old house. It was obvious that the house needed some serious work, but the lease/option had been irresistible.

"Well, actually, Joel and Mable found it. They did all the work, getting the paperwork done and such. They were really pleased that you trusted them to do this for you."

"Well, they're your friends, as well as Jim's. If you guys trust them, so do I. Besides, I liked them the minute I met them." She smiled. "So, let's get unloaded and I'll buy you dinner."

"Let me make a call, first. I got the guys to promise to come help us unload." He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and hit the auto-dialer for the station. It was answered on the first ring.

"Hey, H. It's Blair. We're here and need some strong backs along with weak minds to unload..." He paled at what he was hearing. He looked at his friend in horrified shock. "It's Jim. He was shot Monday afternoon. He's in the hospital. I-I gotta go." He was distracted by shouting from the phone, he blinked uncertainly at it. His friend took the phone from his suddenly lax fingers and lifted it to her own ear.

"Hello? Oh, hi, Henry. What happened?...How bad is it?" She listened for several minutes while the detective filled her in on what had happened. "Well, we still need to unload, so if you could maybe... Thank you." She disconnected the call. Looking at Blair, she said, "Henry and Rafe are getting some of the guys to come help us unload. As soon as we've done that, we'll head over to the hospital. He's stable, but hasn't regained consciousness, yet. Come on. Let's get started. The sooner we get the truck empty, the sooner we can get to the hospital." She followed her own advice, her stomach churning with worry about Jim, but, first things first.

It was half an hour before the group of helpers arrived. The somber mood unlightened by the pleasure of Blair's return, as well as his friend. They quickly manhandled the furniture into the house, haphazardly setting it up, promising to come back and do a better job later. Within an hour, they had both the truck and the van empty, as well as the trailer.

Blair drove Jim's truck, dropping the U-Haul trailer off at the local rental place on their way to the hospital. His friend riding with him, partly because she was unfamiliar with the city, partly because neither of them wanted to be alone...

Simon was on duty, sitting outside of the ICU, waiting for some sign from his detective, his worry growing by the hour when Jim failed to regain consciousness. It had been more than forty-eight hours since he'd been shot, and he was still unconscious. Even the doctors were showing signs of worry. He heard the anxious rumble of voices and immediately picked out the one he'd been waiting to hear for the past two days. He was standing when they blew in.

"How is he? Is he conscious, yet? How bad is it? Will he be all right? Why wasn't anyone watching his back? How'd it happen? Where..."

"Wait a minute, Sandburg. Let me answer one question before you start another." Simon almost bellowed, causing the duty nurse to glare at the entire group.

"Sorry. Sorry. How...Who...What?" Unable to decide which question he needed answered first.

"Give me a chance, and I'll tell you all about it. Now, sit down!" the tall captain gently pushed the much smaller man toward a chair. Blair sat, for a moment, then bounced from the chair and started pacing while he listened to everything that had happened while he was gone. When Simon got to the part where the doctor had put Jim on a Morphine drip, he exploded.

"HE WHAT!?!" Nearly shrieking. "Oh, man. Oh, no. No. NO! Don't you remember what happened when he just touched that opium bead? Oh, man. Simon, however much morphine they're giving him, it's too much. Oh, man. Didn't they read his records? Didn't anyone tell them how sensitive Jim is to drugs? Where's the doctor. We've got to get him off the morphine, NOW!" Speaking so fast that the others could hardly follow him. Megan realized what he was saying and ran for the doctor.

At first, the doctor didn't want to listen to anything Blair had to say. He had taken one look at the long hair and earrings and tuned him out. It wasn't until Simon backed up the younger man that the doctor finally began to pay attention. When Blair snatched Jim's file from the man and leafed back and showed him the pages from the time he was hospitalized by simply touching the opium beads, the doctor paled and hurried into Jim's room. He immediately disconnected the IV from the needle in the back of Jim's hand and called for a nurse to bring him a standard IV solution. Blair, his friend, and Simon all followed the doctor into the ICU room and stood, watching him work on their friend.

"I'm sorry. I should have been informed of this. Why didn't anyone say anything?" The doctor asked. Horrified at what could have happened.

"Why didn't you read the file? All the reactions are listed on the inside cover of the file. All the allergies, all the reactions. Everything." Blair muttered back, still incensed at the doctor's cavalier attitude.

"He should wear a medic-alert tag. Then there would be no question."

"He has odd reactions to most medications, except antibiotics." Blair snarled.

The doctor finished setting up the new IV and turned to Jim's friends. "You need to go back out, now. I'll have the nurses keep close watch on him."

"Fine. But I'm not going." Blair stood his ground, his feet apart, arms crossed on his chest, leaning forward, slightly. "I'm staying right here with him. There is no way I'm leaving him alone. Give me a few hours and I'll have him awake and responsive. In the mean time, just leave him alone."

"That's not how it works..." the doctor began, but was interrupted by the tall, black, police captain.

"Well, it's how it's going to work now. Sandburg knows more about Ellison's drug interactions than anyone else. I'd feel better if he was in here with him. Besides, when Jim wakes up, he's going to need his partner around to tell him that everything's going to be all right." Simon had stepped into the doctor's personal space, using his height and size to intimidate the smaller man. Blair just stood back and watched, a faint smile on his face. Once the doctor had been suitably cowed, Blair smiled at the captain and moved over to his partner's bedside. He looked closely at his friend, noting the pale, clammy skin indicating the slight overdose. All they could do now, was wait.

Blair and his friend watched over Jim throughout the night. He was still unconscious when the sun rose the next morning, although he at least had shifted a bit during the last couple of hours before dawn, a soft moan accompanying each movement. When the day shift came on, they were forced out of the room while the nurses attended to Jim's needs.

"I'm going to the ladies room, Blair. I'll be back in a bit. I'll pick us up some coffee, while I'm at it." His friend told him before turning away. Blair was staring at Megan Conner, who was dozing in her chair in the waiting room.

He stared down at her, angry beyond all reason. He shook her, violently. When she startled up and saw him, she began, "Oh, Sandy. I'm so, so, sorry. I..."

"What the hell did you think you were doing? You were supposed to be his backup. Where the hell were you? This shouldn't have happened. Why didn't you cover his back? What..." He didn't notice that he had the exchange officer in tears. She'd spent the past two-and-a-half days kicking herself over what had happened, trying to figure out how to have prevented it, worrying over what Blair would say, what Jim would say, how she could ever make it up to them...

"That's enough, Blair." A soft voice interrupted his tirade. Blair spun around to see Detective Rafe standing there. "Back off." He brushed past his agitated friend and crouched beside the sobbing Megan. "Shh. It's all right. He doesn't really mean it. He's just upset and worried about Jim. Come on." Continuing to murmur soft platitudes while he gently hugged her. "Shh. Come on. Buck up." Glaring at Blair over the distraught woman's shoulder. When she finally regained control, he gently lifted her up and pushed her toward the ladies room. "Go on. Get yourself put back together and come back when you're ready. It's OK." He watched as she shuffled down the hall. Once she was out of sight, he rounded on the smaller man.

"What the hell do you think you were doing? We've been trying to help her since it happened. She blames herself. There were more than a dozen cops there. She wasn't even the one closest to him, but she was the first one to react and she was the one to disarm him. No one expected one of our own to shoot. The kids were coming out, giving up. I guess Jim heard Grimes' jacking the slide on his pistol. He turned and saw what was happening, and just like Superman, he tried to save the kids. He jumped in front of the bullet. Everyone saw it. They all watched in horror as it happened. Megan is the only one who didn't see him get shot. She was too busy disarming Grimes. It wasn't until after she'd taken his gun and the others rushed to help her that she turned around to see that Jim had been hit. So, don't you go blaming her for what happened. Lay that little burden down right where it belongs, on Grimes' head. He is the only one who should be blamed for this." He stopped when he saw the stricken expression on Blair's face.

"No. I should have been there. I should have been watching his back. If I hadn't left him alone, this never would have happened." He was fighting back tears.

"Oh, Hell!" Rafe groaned. He reached out and took Blair by the shoulders. "What, do you think you're God, now? If you had been there, you probably would have jumped between Jim and the gun and gotten yourself killed. I do not want to have to take care of Jim if that should ever happen. I remember what he was like before you came along. He was a real cold-hearted son-of-a-bitch. Those who hated him were numerous. Those who liked him were few and far between. Everyone feared him, some respected him. But no one really liked him. He was a lone-wolf. Aloof, hard. He's a better cop because of you. He's a better person because of you. I didn't want to know him before you came along. I was too afraid of him." He admitted, slowing down to breathe.

"He's a better cop because he's a Sentinel." Blair insisted, softly.

Rafe barked out a laugh. "Only because you're his Guide. Without you, he's an overbearing, stubborn, opinionated, cold-hearted, mean bastard."

Blair stiffened, his head coming up, instantly defensive of his friend, "Wait just a minute," He began,

"No. You wait a minute. The only person to blame for any of this, is Grimes. It all comes down to him. You can't second-guess everything. Megan's been wracking her brain, trying to come up with a different ending. She reacted as fast as she could. No one could have been fast enough. All the rhetoric does, is make the hurt last longer. It's over. Jim's alive. He's going to be all right. Grimes is in custody, the kids are in Juvee; You're back in time for Christmas..." He debated with himself and decided to plunge ahead, "Do you have any idea how hurt Jim was that you were going to be gone this week?" His voice had softened. "I mean, there he was, breaking his back trying to give you a good Chanukah, because your mom wasn't going to visit after all, and you take off." Seeing his friend's stricken expression, he hurried on. "I know. We all know. We were in on it, remember? There really wasn't any other way to do it, although I think that borrowing Jim's truck was a little much." He encroached further upon the smaller man's personal space, his arms reaching around him in a loose hug.

"Blair, it's going to be all right. Jim's going to be fine."

"Once he wakes up. They've had him overdosed on morphine for more than two days, Brian." Blair said with plaintive bitterness.

"So? This is just one more thing that we all have to get through. It's a lot easier if we do it together. Don't go laying blame anywhere but where it belongs. You might as well blame Jim for getting shot because he was trying to protect those kids, who were patently in the wrong. But that's Jim. It's how he is. What he is. Do you really want him to be any different?" He drew back a bit to look Blair in the eyes, "Well, do you?" When Blair shook his head in the negative, he pulled the smaller man closer, hugging him against his chest. "I didn't think so." They stood quietly for a minute, then Brian felt Blair begin to shake, as the tears finally released. He held his friend until he could regain control.

By the time Blair was able to control himself, Megan had returned. Her eyes were red and puffy, and she felt like hell. Blair looked up, his own eyes swollen and red. Pulling away from Rafe, he moved over to Megan and enveloped her in a hug. They both started crying again. When Brian saw Blair's friend returning with a tray of coffee, he intercepted her, murmuring explanations. She simply nodded and quietly set the coffee down on the table, handing one to the detective and taking another for herself.

Once Blair and Megan had made their apologies and forgiven one another, Brian offered to drive her home for some much needed sleep. He knew better than to try and uproot Blair Sandburg from his self-appointed vigil at his partner's bedside.

Blair smiled weakly at his friend, as he sat beside her and picked up a cup of coffee. "Sorry about that." He mumbled, embarrassed.

She patted his arm and, with a smile, reassured him. When the doctor finally exited Jim's room, they were both on his case.

"So, has he woken up yet?" Blair demanded.

"No. Although, he has begun moving around a little. I'd rather he not move any more than absolutely necessary. The movement may aggravate his injuries. I'm very concerned about the bruised kidney and damaged liver. We're taking blood samples every few hours to make sure that those organs are functioning correctly." He looked at how ragged the pair were. "Why don't you go home, get a few hours rest, come back later?" His voice soft and concerned.

"No, thanks. Can we go back in, now?" Blair asked, chin raised in challenge. With a sigh, the doctor gave in and left them to their vigil.

It was Christmas Eve. Jim was showing more signs of regaining consciousness, but it was a painful process. He would shift a bit in the narrow hospital bed and whimper or moan. Blair was right there, holding his partner's hand, speaking softly to him, gently encouraging him to awaken and talk to him.

Finally, Jim started showing some real signs of waking up. Blair had drawn a chair up as close to the bed as he could. Sitting on the edge of the chair, hunched forward and gently speaking to his friend. The woman whom he had helped move (and who had yet to spend more than five minutes in her new home), was standing on the other side of the bed, gently rubbing Jim's shoulders, afraid to touch him any lower, due to his wound; afraid that she might hurt him. Blair got her to help him shift Jim onto his side, as he seemed to be rather uncomfortable. Once Jim was positioned the way Blair wanted him, he showed his lady friend how to gently rub Jim's shoulders and neck, and the way the big man would relax and lean into the touch, even while unconscious.

"Yeah, like that. If you want, you can sit on the bed on that side." Watching her closely to see that she followed instructions. Pleased when she did, without challenge to his authority.

"I'm sorry. It wasn't supposed to be like this. I figured we'd get you moved in and then... well, it didn't work out quite as planned."

"It's not your fault." She told him, her voice soft. "You love him a lot. I don't think I quite realized just how much, before." She nodded to herself. Then, with a gentle smile, she continued, "I can accept that. He needs you to be protective of him, doesn't he?" Fairly certain of her facts.

"Yeah. Almost as much as I need him to protect me." He smiled, a little sad, a little embarrassed. "I can't tell you how many times he's woken me up from a nightmare and then stayed with me until I could fall asleep again, only to wake up later and find him cramped up on the edge of my bed or on the floor or wedged into a corner of the couch, standing guard, making sure I felt safe. It's nice to be cared for that much, you know?"

"Yeah, I do. No wonder all your friends worry about him. You keep him sane, don't you." It wasn't a question, but Blair answered it anyway.

"Well, with his senses, he has a little trouble, sometimes, keeping in control. He zones-out, focusing so hard on one sense that he forgets everything else, sometimes even to the point of not breathing. It scares him."

"I don't wonder." She smiled, accepting it all. Suddenly, she tensed. "Blair?" She whispered, "He moved. I think he's waking up." Her hands gently kneaded the tightening shoulders.

"Jim? Can you hear me? It's Blair. You're in the hospital, as if you didn't know. They screwed up. They forgot to read your file and pumped you full of morphine. I'd really appreciate it if you'd open your eyes and say something, man." Blair held Jim's non-catheterized hand, gently rubbing circles with his thumb on the back of the lax appendage.

He felt Jim's breathing change, a slight tightening of muscles as the pain registered. Finally, the pale blue eyes opened, the pupils were still somewhat dilated, and as soon as the light registered, Jim snapped them tightly closed with a whimper of pain.

"Sorry, man. I'm sorry. Dial it down. I'll..." He looked up, surprised when the room's lights went out, pleased to see his friend had realized what was needed and responded without prompting. "Thanks." He told her, then turned back to his finally conscious friend.

"OK, Jim. The lights are out, now. Open your eyes."

Cautiously, first one eye squinched open, then the other, finally opening wide. His breathing was cautious, as though he expected the pain to increase at any moment. Hands gently rubbing his upper back and shoulders elicited a soft moan of pleasure as Jim leaned back into the touch. Looking up into his Guide's concerned face, he finally found his voice, "How long?"

"It's Thursday. You were shot on Monday." Blair softly spoke.

"Oh. I guess I won't be home for Christmas." Jim murmured, his eyes drifting back closed as natural sleep overtook him.

There were tears in Blair's eyes as he looked up from his best friend to the woman who gently rubbed comfort into the Sentinel's back. There were tears in her eyes, as well.

"We haven't really celebrated Christmas all that much. I mean, the first year, Jim worked, so all the guys with families could spend it at home. Then, last year, we had a little tree and did some decorating, even, and exchanged gifts. This year, he remembered Chanukah..." He turned away, sad that Jim's holiday had been spoiled.

"Well, there's always Orthodox Christmas."

Turning to look at her, Blair looked blank. "Huh?"

"Eastern Orthodox. They celebrate Christmas on January sixth. I don't think he'd mind. We can probably have a little celebration here, tomorrow; then have the big party on the sixth..."

"That might work. I mean, it's not like he's actually religious, or anything." Smiling, he began bouncing around the room, reaching for the phone and making calls.

Smiling tiredly, she cautiously slipped her legs up on the bed beside the injured Jim, carefully arranging herself against him, her right arm under her head, her left arm wrapped gently around the sleeping man's waist.

When Blair had finished making his calls, he turned to speak with his friend, only to see her sound asleep beside Jim. Watching them, he smiled and slipped out of the room to find a restroom and some food...

When Jim next awoke, his return to consciousness was slow and easy. He felt warm and comfortable, the soft, warm body spooned up against his back bringing a smile to his face, thinking about how tired Blair must have been to... he opened his eyes to see Blair asleep in a chair next to the bed, his hands gripping one of Jim's, his arms cradling his head in sleep. Confused, Jim tried to move, to see who was beside him. The movement brought a gasp of pain and awoke both of his companions.

"Shh. Easy, Jim." Blair intoned, lifting his head and using one hand to gently stroke Jim's cheek. Jim missed the pressure of the other body as it eased away from him, causing him to moan at the loss of warmth and to lean back to try and regain contact.

"Jim?" The woman's soft voice warmed him right down to his toes.

"Ronnie? What are you doing here?" Surprised.

"It's Christmas. I thought I'd surprise you." She softly replied, her hands once more returning to rub his back and shoulders. She smiled as he attempted to lean into her touch.

"Easy, Jim. Don't try and move." Blair admonished, gently.

"How bad is it?" Jim asked. Brow furrowing, he dredged up the memories of his last awakening, "I've been out for four days?" Dismay apparent in his voice.

"Yeah. They screwed up. They put you on a morphine IV. Not at all cool, man. They finally took you off Wednesday afternoon. After I showed the doctor your records. Then he couldn't get you off them fast enough. You were overdosed, but not too seriously. How do you feel?"

"Like I took a sledge-hammer to the back." His eyes unfocused for a moment as he tested his own feelings, relieved when he felt his toes wiggle on command. "How bad was it?"

"Ruptured spleen. Bruised kidney, and the bullet nicked your liver. Oh, and a broken rib. They're more concerned about your kidney and liver than anything else. You're on an IV and you've been catheterized." The look Jim gave him informed him that his Sentinel was quite well aware of that particular piece of information. "So, other than that, how do you feel?"

"Not bad. How soon can I go home?" All three looked up as the door opened and the doctor stepped in.

"Oh, good, you're awake." Smiling at his patient. Jim wasn't impressed. Turning to the others, the doctor asked them to leave while he examined his patient.

Blair and Ronnie took advantage of their enforced time away from their friend and took advantage of it, making use of the facilities and getting coffee and food. As they returned to the ICU, they saw the rest of Major Crimes waiting for them.

"Merry Christmas." Ronnie greeted them with a smile. She was greeted with a chorus of 'Merry Christmas's' in return. While they waited for the doctor to finish, they discussed the postponement of their Christmas party for the two weeks until the sixth. When they were finally allowed back into Jim's room (totally ignoring the rules about the ICU, how long they could stay and how many would be allowed in at any one time), they gathered around Jim's bed, smiling, pleased that he'd awakened in time for Christmas.

In spite of how hard everyone was trying to cheer him up, Jim was feeling rather depressed. He had wanted this Christmas to be special. It was, but not in the good way he had wanted. He had felt abandoned and then had gotten himself shot, only to finally wake up to find that it was Christmas and he was going to be stuck in the hospital for at least another week. What a lousy way to end one year and begin another. Particularly since he was of the firm belief that what you were doing on the first of January indicated what you would be doing for most of the year. He was not looking forward to a year of hospitals and rehab...

When his doctor returned, several hours later, the annoyed man chased everyone out. He was finally being transferred from ICU to a regular room. He found that if he moved slowly and carefully, he could maneuver himself without too much pain. Demonstrating his ability to his doctor got him a 'we'll see' about going home within the next few days.

Blair and Ronnie had been sent away, as well as all the others. As he lay in his quiet room, Jim felt all the depression of past holiday disappointments crashing down on him. The year his brother had gotten the new bicycle that he had been begging for, the bicycle that was too big for his little brother. The first year in the Army, away from home, no friends, no family. The various missions he'd been involved in during his military career, the year in the jungles of Peru, the years he'd worked so that others could celebrate, the two Christmas's he'd spent with Carolyn, neither of which had really been very happy. The past two years, when he had come to realize what he'd been missing, all the work and planning he'd done to try and make this year different.

He realized that he was full of self-pity, but was unable to stop it. When the door opened, he didn't even open his eyes to see who it was.

"Jimmy?" The soft voice caused Jim to snap his eyes open in shock. He turned his head to see, yep. That was his old man, standing in the doorway, as well as his little brother...

"Dad? Steven?" His voice much weaker than he thought it should have been.

"Yeah, Jim. It's us. We've been calling, but they said that you weren't awake yet. Merry Christmas." Steven Ellison's smile was a little hesitant, unsure of his welcome.

Jim smiled, totally surprised that his father and brother would have bothered to visit. "Yeah, Merry Christmas." He winced as he shifted, trying to turn onto his back and sit up. Both of his visitors rushed to assist him, their hands unsure about where they could safely touch him. He grasped their forearms and used them for leverage to sit up. His father found the bed controls and lifted the head of the bed so Jim could sit up a little more comfortably.

"So, how are you feeling, son?" William Ellison was still rather shy around his son. He recognized that he'd made some mistakes when dealing with his eldest child and was now trying to reconcile with him.

"Well, I've been better." No matter how hard he tried, where his father was concerned, he became the same unhappy 'freak' he'd been growing up. At least he had managed to control his anger, but that still left all the hurt to be dealt with; and without a great deal of work and communication on both their parts, the best that could be hoped for was polite aloofness.

"How's business, Steven?" Jim asked, gratefully turning his attention to his younger brother. They had made great strides in their own relationship in the more than a year since they'd first run into each other at the race track. Things weren't nearly as strained as they had been. Each man respected the other; without envy or embarrassment.

"Better, since the Japanese market has been so bad." Smiling a little smugly. "But how are you doing? Are you going to be OK?" Concern bringing a furrow between his eyes as he critically looked his brother over.

"Yeah. I guess they forgot to read my records and gave me some drugs that I react to. I'm OK, now. Hope to be home before New Year's."

"That's great." Steven replied.

They tried, they really did, but they were uncomfortable in one another's presence, not knowing what to say, or how to say it. It was with great relief when the nurse finally came in with Jim's dinner and they had to leave.

The visit from his closest relatives left him drained. He was so tired. He just picked at his food, pushing it around on his plate to make it look as though he might have eaten something. The nurse wasn't fooled, but didn't call him on it.

Christmas. Alone. In a hospital. He turned his face to the wall and tried to sleep, ignoring the trickle of tears that escaped from his eyes.

Blair dropped Ronnie off at her house and headed for the loft. Once there, he realized just how cold and desolate it was without his partner there. He stared at the menorah still set in the middle of the table, the candles straight and tall in their places. He thought of all the trouble Jim had gone to, to make sure he had a Chanukah to remember. Now, it was Jim's Christmas holiday, and he was stuck in the hospital...alone. Feeling a little melancholic, Blair put his suitcase in his room, then wandered into the bathroom, took a shower and then dropped onto his bed, falling asleep almost instantly.

Ronnie wandered around her new home, pleased with what she saw. Pulling some of her clothes from their packing, she dug out sheets and towels, as well. She quickly made her bed and then took a nice, hot shower. Afterward, she lay in her bed, but couldn't sleep. It was Christmas, and she didn't want to be alone. With a sigh, she arose and dressed. Debating whether she should stop by and get Blair, she decided that that would probably be a good idea.

Blair awoke to pounding. Someone pounding on the door. Glancing at the clock, he realized that he'd only been asleep for a little more than an hour. Jumping up, he snatched a pair of sweatpants from his dresser and pulled them on as he hurried to answer the door.

"What's wrong?" Anxiously poured from his mouth as he pulled open the door and saw Ronnie standing there.

"Nothing's wrong. I just didn't want to be alone. Well, actually, I want to be with Jim, but I figured that you'd want to be there, too." Smiling a little self-deprecatingly, she added, "I couldn't sleep. I was feeling lonely. I want to be with people I care about."

Blair smiled. "I'm down with that. Come on in. Give me a few to get dressed and I'll be good to go. You want anything to eat, drink?"

"Well, how about we stop along the way and pick up something for Jim, too? I don't know anyone who can subsist on hospital food."

"Yeah, OK. I'm sure Jim will appreciate it." Blair headed for his room to get dressed.

"Blair?" Ronnie asked, her voice a little tentative.

"Uh huh?"

"I know how much you and Jim care for each other. Do you think there will be room for me?" Serious.

Blair stopped. "What do you mean?" Cautious.

"I mean will I be in the way? A distraction, or something." Looking around the loft and seeing just how much of the anthropologist was involved.

Blair came out of his bedroom, carrying his socks and shoes. Sitting down on the couch, he began pulling them on. "I can't provide everything Jim needs. Yeah, I'm his guide. He uses me as an anchor for his senses..."

"Don't sell yourself short. The man loves you. Maybe not as a lover, but certainly something at least as important. I don't think he could survive without you." She stopped wandering around the room and sat beside him on the couch. "So, is there room for me?"

"Jim deserves so much more than he's ever had. Do you know about his family?"

"Only that his childhood wasn't the best. He didn't go into details. Was it something about his senses?"

"Yeah. His dad made him repress them. Not only that, he pitted Jim and his brother Steven against each other for his 'love and attention'. Jim ran away from home straight out of high school and into the Army. You know he was married before?" Watching her for her reaction.

"Uh huh. He said that he wasn't able to 'open up' to her, always keeping a part of himself back. I think he was just afraid of being rejected and hurt again."

"Got it in one. I guess he's changed a lot. The guys say it's because of me; that I don't let him get away with avoidance and repression. They're right, I suppose. But he needs more. He's been so much happier since the guys found out about his abilities. He's got more support and, more importantly, acceptance. He needs approval. He needs to be told that he's OK, that he's not the 'freak' his father always said he was." He looked up from tying his shoelaces. "He needs to be loved. Unconditionally. No matter what else, he needs to be accepted as he is. You can't change him. I won't let you, or anyone else try and make him fit some mold he's not designed for."

"I wouldn't want to interfere. I," She paused, thinking, "I love him too much to want to try and come between you two and what you have. That's why I need to know if there's room for me? Is there a chance for us? As a couple?"

Their eyes met, searchingly. Each seeking the answers they hoped for...

"If you remember that it's about Jim and his abilities, without trying to make him into something he's not...yeah. I think there's a good chance. This past year's been pretty hard on him. A lot of junk's happened. It's been a real emotional roller-coaster. I just don't want to see him fail, or get hurt." He could read the understanding in her eyes.

"I'm willing to take it as slowly as necessary. I'm in no hurry to rush into anything. I just want to know that I'm not wasting everyone's time and emotions." She saw his smile reach his eyes.

"According to Joel and Mable, that's the only way to go. 'First, become friends, good friends, best friends. The rest will come if it's meant to be.'" He quoted. "I'm finding out that I agree with them. After all, they've been married for thirty years, raised a couple of great kids, and have demonstrated that their theory of how to make a relationship work actually does work." He reached out and squeezed her hand. "So, are you glad you came?"

She laughed and he joined in. When they recovered, they left the loft for the hospital.

They snuck into Jim's room without being spotted by the harridan on duty. Creeping up close to the sleeping man, they noted the traces of his emotional turmoil. Exchanging concerned looks, they quietly pulled chairs up close and sat beside him, waiting patiently for him to awaken.

He knew that he was dreaming. After so many years he was accustomed to his father spoiling his dreams with his accusations of Jim's 'freakishness'. This dream was no different. Only this time, his memory of his father wasn't attacking him so much, but telling him why and how he wasn't good enough for Ronnie. He argued with his dad, trying to explain that he was in love with her, only to have the words spat back at him that he didn't even know what love was, let alone being worthy of being loved...by anyone. For once, Jim had the right words; he turned on the elder Ellison and pointed out that he certainly hadn't learned about love and what it was from him. He told his father about all he had taught his sons was selfishness and self-loathing, but that he had managed, with a great deal of help from his partner, to overcome it. He insisted that he was worthy and deserving of being loved, for himself, the man he had become, faults, foibles, and abilities notwithstanding. He had the pleasure of seeing his father back down when he felt a gentle hand on his back, he turned his head and saw them standing beside him, backing him up, forcing his father to back down. He smiled at them.

"You know how much I love you both?" He murmured, slipping into wakefulness. His words were met with a pair of blazing smiles.

"Hey, we love you, too, man." Blair spoke for them both.

"Is it still Christmas?" Hopeful.

"Yeah. Ronnie couldn't sleep, and once she got me up, I didn't want to be alone, either. Boy, do we deserve each other, or what?" Blair's soft words drifted out.

"I hope so." Jim replied. Turning his gaze to Ronnie, his smile softened, "Sorry to screw up the holiday so bad."

"Hey, it wasn't your fault. Defecation does occur, after all. Unfortunately, with much too much regularity in our line of work." Smiling.

Jim returned her smile and reached out to touch each of their faces. "Thank you." Looking at Blair, he added, "My dad and Steven came by...It was like a couple of strangers." He shook his head, sadly. "Sometimes, I just wish..."

In unison, Blair and Ronnie reached out to place gentle fingers on his lips to stop the words and in chorus said "Don't. It isn't your fault." All three smiled at their being so in sync.

They visited for a bit, until Jim drifted off to sleep. His visitors soon following him into slumber sitting beside his bed in the uncomfortable hospital chairs.

Ronnie's household goods arrived the next day, so she was unable to spend much time with Jim. He just assumed that she had returned to her home in California and tried to ignore the pain of the separation. Blair spent every possible minute with him, however. Jim had tried to tell him where his Christmas present was, but Blair kept changing the subject. He was a little disappointed that his fellow officers didn't visit very much, but when they did stop by, they all looked so tired, that he figured that they were extra-busy at work.

Things went on in this manner for several days. Blair spending as much time as the hospital would allow with Jim, the others dropping by for a few minutes in the evening. Finally, his daily tests came back with the news they'd been waiting for. His kidneys were both functioning normally, as was his liver. He was still in pain from the broken rib, and his back ached from the damaged muscles, but he was finally going to be able to go home. Just in time for New Year's.

Blair drove. The New Year's Eve party was being held at the Taggart's home. Cecilia had come home for the holidays, and immediately absconded with Blair the moment they arrived. Jim felt a little out of place with his friends. He'd lost so much time. At least he wouldn't be spending the first day of the new year in the hospital. Everyone was so solicitous of him, it made him nervous. He was the only one there without a date, and he found himself again fighting the depression of loneliness, in spite of all the friends around him. His friends were unsurprised when he asked to go home early, although they were mistaken about the reason. They just thought he was tired. Joel offered to let him rest in one of the spare rooms, but Jim wanted his own bed. Blair made his good-byes and started out.

"Just drop me off out front, Chief, and then go back to the party. I'll be all right."

"No way." Blair insisted. He knew the real reason behind Jim's lack of festive spirit and wasn't about to leave him alone. "Tell you what, why don't you stretch out on the couch and I'll fix us some hot cocoa. How does that sound?"

"I...That's fine, Blair." With a weariness far exceeding his age, Jim sagged onto the couch, toed his shoes off and stretched out, falling asleep fairly rapidly.

Once Blair was certain that his friend was asleep, he grabbed the portable phone and carried it into his room to make a call.


"Hey, Hi, it's me. Blair. Look, you need to talk to Jim. He's pretty down. We just got back from the Taggart's and he's flaked out on the couch, asleep."

"Are you sure he's not just tired? I mean, he's only been out of the hospital for a day..."

"No. He's depressed. Christmas Blues. He tried so hard to make it special and it didn't work out anything like he hoped. Would you call back and talk to him? He thinks you went back down to Folsom. Please?"

"Of course. Let him answer it, OK?"

"You've got it, and," He paused a moment, "Thanks."

"Hey, it's all part of the service. Right?"

He awoke to the ringing of the telephone. He found it set beside him on the coffee table. He glanced around and didn't see Blair. With a sigh and a grimace, he sat up and answered the annoying device.

"Ellison." His voice still raspy with sleep.

"Hey, Happy New Year."

"Ronnie?" Straightening up.

"Who were you expecting?"

"Well, no one, really. Uh, Happy New Year to you, too."

"I miss you."

"I'm sorry. I guess I wasn't much use for the holidays this year."

"I'm just sorry I couldn't stay with you."

"Hey, remember? No commitments." Yet. Please let there be a 'yet'.

"Well, as far as I'm concerned, I'm committed to playing it out and seeing where it goes."

He sighed. "I wish you were here." Some of his despair seeping through.

"Hold that thought. We'll figure out something."

They talked for a while longer, until Jim relaxed and some of the joy she gave him took hold. By the time he hung up the phone, he was feeling much better.

"Thanks, Chief." He called out, as he got up and placed the phone on the charger. "That was exactly what I needed."

Blair smiled at him as he walked from his room to the kitchen to finish fixing them their hot cocoa. "You're welcome."

They spent the weekend quietly. Seemingly forgetting their missed Christmas. By Monday, however, Blair could hardly wait to get Jim out of the apartment and back to work. He'd be on light duty for a couple more weeks, but at least he wouldn't be moping at home.

"I'm telling you, Simon. He's driving me nuts." Blair complained. Jim had gone down to records to find a file, allowing Blair enough time and privacy to fill their captain in on how things were going. "I've never seen him so depressed, man. It's scary."

"Well, he never talked about it, but I get the feeling that he wanted this to be a really great Christmas. It's not like he's had all that many." Simon reminded him.

"Yeah. I know. Well, Wednesday's looking really good. Where are we meeting?"

"Ronnie's new place. Although, I still think having her hide out until he needs some forensics help would be more fun."

"Well, we could always send him down there, just before leaving? Let him ride with her?" The two men smiled conspiratorially at one another.

"Jim, I need that report from forensics. Go get it for me, will you? Wells said she had it done, but she's a little short handed at the moment." Captain Banks requested, easily hiding the glee at the notion of how shocked his best detective was going to be.

"Yes, Sir." Jim replied. Unaware of the speculative glances he received from the others in the bullpen.

While Jim waited for the inordinately slow elevator, the rest of them slipped out the other way and down the stairs to the basement, staying out of sight to watch what would happen when Jim saw Wells...

Jim had all his dials turned down, and didn't notice the excess heartbeats and stifled giggles. He looked around the Forensics department, looking for someone, anyone, to help him. Sighing, he called out, "Wells? Where are you? Simon sent me down to pick up a report you're supposed to have ready for him." He heard a sound behind him, but didn't turn around, until he heard the voice.

"It's on the counter there, just to your left." The voice froze him for a moment, then he turned and stared, dumbfounded.

"Ronnie? What? But... How? I..." He stopped and stared. She smiled.

"Well, after Thanksgiving, Cassie decided that she couldn't bring herself to come back. Terminal embarrassment, I think it's called. That left an opening, and I just happen to have a couple of friends who suggested that I would be able to do the job. I sent my resume and recommendations from Folsom PD, and, well, here I am." She looked up at him, a little shyly. "Merry Christmas."

He was dumbfounded. He just stood and stared at her for at least a full minute. Then he stepped toward her and wrapped her in a bear-hug. He started laughing. "That's why Sandburg needed to borrow my truck? To help you move here?" Laughing joyfully as understanding dawned. While he'd been trying to create one sort of happy holiday spirit, his friends had gotten together to surprise him with the one thing he had thought was out of his reach. "I'm gonna kill him." Laughing and hugging for all he was worth.

"Well, if you're going to kill the kid, I guess you'll have to kill me, as well." Simon said, emerging from the office, the rest of Major Crimes right behind him.

"You'll have to kill all of us." Henry Brown added, his infectious grin spread wide across his dark face.

"OK, people." Simon called out, as the merriment continued. "Let's go. We have a holiday to celebrate!"

They adjourned to Ronnie's new house. Jim was impressed, it was large, spacious, and solid. The repairs needed were mostly cosmetic. As soon as the weather was warm enough, they planned to paint and make any other repairs that might be needed. He couldn't get over how his friends had managed to keep their secret from him.

The party was all any of them could have asked for. When Jim and Blair finally got home, the older man immediately went up to his room to bring down Blair's final gift. He hadn't been able to give it to him before. When he returned downstairs, he found a colorfully wrapped package waiting for him, as well. With a smiling Blair bouncing beside it.

"You weren't really in the mood for Christmas, so I decided to wait. Oh, and it is Christmas, today. Eastern Orthodox, but still, Christmas." Jim just smiled.

"Yeah. I know." He held out the package to his friend. Blair took it and motioned to the package on the coffee table.

"You first." Sitting at one end of the couch.

Jim hesitated for a moment, then sat down, reaching for the package. Carefully removing the ribbon, he then gently pulled the tape off, then slowly unwrapped the package, uncovering a box. He folded the paper and set it aside before pulling the top off the box to look inside. There were several things. He pulled out the first one, a framed photograph of everyone from Major Crimes, all smiling for the camera, the frame was pewter, with 'There are good ships, and wood ships, but the best ships are friendships' engraved on it. He smiled with delight and set the photo up on the coffee table. Looking back into the box, he found an Aran sweater of knitted cotton, in a soft shade of Prussian Blue, nearly the color of Blair's eyes, Jim thought, as he lifted the bulky garment from the box. He smiled at his friend and gently stroked the soft fabric. The cable-knit pattern fascinating to his sensitive touch. His eyes dancing with mischief, he held it up to his friend, noting Blair's expression of surprise. Still smiling, he folded it neatly, once more and set it beside him. Looking in the box, there was one last item. It looked like...a book? With a concerned expression on his face, Jim lifted out the final item. The binding was a rich brown leather, the title embossed in gold. Realizing what it must be, he darted startled eyes to his friend and back to the book. Opening it, he reverently traced the words written therein.

"This is your thesis. It's finished?" Looking up.

Blair shrugged. "Your copy. To read, tear up, burn. Tell me I'm full of shit. But I'd like you to read it. I promised that you could before I submitted it. So..." He waited.

"Thank you." Jim said, simply. Running his fingers over the book, as though trying to read braile. When he looked up, his eyes were dancing with mischief. "Open yours." He insisted, gently.

With an enormous grin, Blair tore the wrapping from his package. Inside were a pair of plane tickets, to Los Angeles, with an appointment with the Huntington Library to go through their Burton collection...for the following weekend!

"Jim? This is for this weekend. I..."

"Yeah, I know. The tickets are for tomorrow afternoon. We'll be staying in Pasadena, you'll get to have all of Friday and the entire weekend to go through the collection. I'd have tried to get more time, but that was all that was available. Is it OK? I mean, well, since you've finished your paper..." Suddenly unsure.

"Oh, man. It's wonderful. I can hardly wait. This is so cool." He started bouncing, unconsciously. "You're going to go with me?" Hopeful.

"Well, if you want me to. I mean, if you'd rather someone else..."

"NO! No, man. This is great. I can hardly wait." He smiled up at his best friend. "Thanks, Jim." He said simply. Pleased with Jim's return smile.

"You're welcome, Blair." Gently reaching over to pat his friend on the shoulder. "And thank you. For everything. Taking care of me, helping Ronnie. Just...thank you." His voice had gone hoarse from emotion. He'd never had anyone care about him the way Blair did. He wasn't used to it and had a little trouble believing that anyone ever could...but he was learning.

"Yeah. You, too." Blair replied, just as choked up.

They sat and looked at one another, silly grins on their faces. Finally, Jim just shook his head. "Come here." He commanded.

Blair's eyes widened for just an instant, then scooted closer, to find himself enveloped in a Jim Ellison bear-hug. Careful not to put any pressure near Jim's still tender injuries, Blair returned the hug, just as fiercely.

"Merry Christmas, Blair." Jim whispered.

"Merry Christmas, Jim." Blair replied.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to


Search for another story