Well, here I am. No ideas whatsoever. I've got Christmas movies playing. I taped Santa and Pete. Now I wish I'd taped it in SP instead of SLP, but now I've put How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Patrick Stewart version of A Christmas Carol on behind it and still have room for another movie... which comes on at eight. I love Christmas movies (and I probably have half a dozen copies of Grinch, but who's counting?) Tis the season, etc.
Hmmm. Sounds like a title, to me!
The current discussion on Senfic is a question of 'Where is Jim?' Well... I've got him. I promise to let him go wherever he wishes to go, but for now, he's here. All by himself. Fighting the traffic of all the other Christmas shoppers. You can imagine how he feels about the crowds and traffic... But still... Oh, does anyone remember Mr. Sing? Well, he's here, too. Just as mysterious and strange as ever.
The disclaimers are still in effect. Thankfully, no one has yet seen fit to sue over my use of their copyrighted material, to whom I am most grateful for their kindness in ignoring the existence of these stories. I still make no monetary profit, only the lovely LoCs and the numbers on the hit counters that Tonya is so very kind to provide to let me know that people actually appear to be reading these things. I am, as always, grateful to Wolfpup for providing me such a nice home on the net (and I hope I don't crash the site, ever again, please God) Happy Holidays, everyone!
'Tis The Season
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Traffic was typically horrendous. Five p.m. on a weeknight two weeks before Christmas. Jim Ellison fumed and tapped his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel of his truck, waiting for the traffic to clear enough to make his turn. Creeping forward a few inches at a time, along with all the other cars on the road, he tried to think of what presents he should get for the various people in his life. He never really knew what to get. Blair, his roommate and partner, was so different from him, both in background, upbringing, and interests, that he was always uncertain what would please the younger man. Now that Blair was no longer teaching... best to not go there. Although he was grateful for what his friend had done to protect him, he still felt extremely guilty for Blair's loss of... well, just about everything. His Doctorate, his reputation, his teaching... Of course, he was also even more grateful that Blair had decided to take them up on the offer of becoming a real cop and Jim's partner. But it still didn't help when it came to finding a gift for him. He wished he had some idea of what to get his friend.
Simon was a much easier problem. Either some good cigars, or fly-tying equipment would be appreciated. As for his brother... something business related, probably, same thing for his dad. Although things were better, they would never be able to regain what had been lost between them. He still felt like a stranger to his own family, and tended to give gifts that showed it.
He became so involved with the puzzle of Christmas gifts, that he failed to notice when the line of cars in front of him moved. He was startled by the loud Beep of annoyance from the car behind him. Jerking in surprise, he inched forward the required twelve feet to appease the car behind him. Suddenly, he remembered something. With a grin, he looked for an opening, even using his turn signal to ask to change lanes, for once. Some nice person let him over and he waved his thanks. As soon as he could, he turned off the main thoroughfare and headed into the seedier part of town.
There was little traffic here. Few shops, except for small mom-and-pop places. Searching, he cruised up and down the streets, trying to remember where the shop was. Getting discouraged, he decided to try one more street, and if unsuccessful, he'd head on over to the mall. Turning the next corner, he was surprised to find the shop immediately on his right. Smiling in relief, he found a parking space right in front. Stepping from the truck, he locked and closed the door, then made his way to the shop.
It hadn't changed much in the year and a half since he'd been there. It was still a strange little shop, filled with odd and unusual items. The tinkle of the bell over the door as he entered brought the elderly owner from the back of the shop. Although it had been well over a year since he'd last been there, the shopkeeper smiled in recognition.
"Ah. Detective Ellison. How may I help you?" he asked, his giggle making his English difficult to understand.
"I'm Christmas shopping, Mr. Sing. I was hoping you might have something that would be suitable for my friends..."
"Of course. For young Mr. Sandburg? Perhaps I may have something suitable." He beckoned Jim towards the back of the shop, where his best wares were kept.
Following the elderly man, Jim smiled and relaxed. Mr. Sing probably had the precise thing for Blair. Something that his friend would really like.
"You're friends, you have thoughts for them, as well?"
"Well, Simon likes to fly-fish. I thought I'd get him some fly-tying supplies."
"Ah. Perhaps he would like this book? It is very old, over one hundred years. It shows how to make flies for fishing. Perhaps he would like it?" He took the slim volume from a shelf and handed it to Jim. Glancing at the cover, he noticed that the binding was fine leather. Opening the book, he realized that not only was it a first edition, it was even signed by the author. Looking through it, he saw a number of old-fashioned flies, complete with instructions and lists of materials to make them.
"Simon would love this. I knew you'd be able to help me, Mr. Sing. What else have you got?" Jim's smile was broad, grateful that he'd remembered the strange old man and his shop of wonders.
"You have list of friends and family you wish to buy for?" Mr. Sing asked.
"Well, there's Blair, Simon, Daryl, the guys at the station, and my dad and brother."
Mr. Sing looked closely at his customer. Generally, a person listed people in order of their importance to them. It was obvious to Mr. Sing that Jim's family came far down the list of important people in his life. Nodding, he turned to the display case in the very back corner. Opening it, he carefully removed a small statue of an African Warrior. The small statue was carved of a fine-grained wood. Jim's eyes examined the piece. Hand-carved and painted, but with natural pigments rather than commercial ones.
"It's beautiful. What is it?"
"It is carved of teak and colored with natural plants and clays. It is perhaps seventy years old, from the Mombassa tribe."
"Daryl would love this. He's gotten into his family history, of late. This would be perfect." Jim's smile became even more relaxed. Two down.
"For your friend, Joel?" Mr. Sing held out a beautiful icon. It was unusual in that it showed Christ as a black man.
"It's magnificent. Am I going to be able to afford all of this? I mean, this icon, isn't this real gold?"
"Yes. But it is only plated over silver. I have no provenance on it, so can sell it only for the value of the metal, as the artist is unknown. I suspect it is Moorish in origin, but cannot be certain.
"Moorish? That would be what, six hundred years ago?"
"Perhaps seven, but with no provenance..." he shrugged, a secretive smile quickly hidden behind his hand.
Jim didn't notice. Seeing the price sticker, he knew that there was no way he could resist the purchase. It would do very well for Joel and his wife. Three down.
"For the young man who dresses so well?" Mr. Sing held out a set of cuff links and a matching tiepin. They were easily a hundred and fifty years old, as the metal was filigree platinum, the cabochons were large, black opals, the greens, blues and reds within them gleaming like something alive.
"Mr. GQ will go nuts over these, but..." he spotted the price tag and looked askance, "This price can't be right, Mr. Sing. The platinum alone is worth more than this..."
"Perhaps, but it is an estate piece, and the estate set the price, I am merely their agent." Mr. Sing again hid his secretive smile from his customer.
Shaking his head, Jim thought, four down...
For Brown, Mr. Sing had some rare, old Blues records, the kind that had never been re- released. Knowing H's penchant for the Blues, he took the entire collection of twelve seventy- eight records. Five down.
From the same estate sale as the cufflinks and tiepin, was a lovely necklace with matching earrings. Gold with pink pearls, totally unique and at a price he could hardly believe. Shaking his head, he quickly added up the cost so far and found himself to be well under what he had budgeted for this task. Six down. Looking up, he regarded the elderly Chinese man and wondered. He always seemed to have exactly what was needed... there was something about him... but that could wait for another time.
"For your brother, tell me about him?" The others, he had met or heard about. The family, now that was something different.
"We're not close, but it's better than it was. He's younger than I am by a couple of years. He's a businessman, he works for the conglomerate that owns the racetrack."
"I see," and somehow, Jim believed this strange, old man did see. Far more than he had any right to. Yet, he trusted him, although, he could never tell anyone why.
"Perhaps..." he beckoned Jim over to another case. One in which were displayed several beautiful, old desk sets. One, a combination of marble and oak, with bronze race horses holding the pens, would look perfect on Steven's desk. It was much larger than the one he had, as well as better made.
"Perfect, as usual, Mr. Sing," Jim felt that if he smiled any more, his face would crack. Seven down, two to go.
Mr. Sing stared at Jim for several moments, thinking. Jim accepted the regard with equanimity. Somehow, Mr. Sing was about to come up with the perfect gift, yet again. All he had to do was wait for it.
"I think, perhaps, that the best gift that you can give your father, would be time spent together? He is old, yes?"
"Yes. He's about seventy," Jim agreed.
"Then, the best gift for him is your time. You can do this, yes?"
Jim thought about it; he had to agree that that probably would be the best gift, but was uncertain as to whether it would be appreciated. Sadly, he shook his head. "I'm afraid that it's not something that either of us would be very good at."
"Then, perhaps..." Mr. Sing paused, thinking, "Perhaps a gift basket? One with his favorite foods?"
Jim laughed. "Not exactly something you carry, is it, Mr. Sing?"
"No, but it is something that may be purchased by phone, or online, yes?"
"Yes. Thanks, that's a good idea." OK, so he would have to make either a stop at the mall, or make a phone call... still, eight down. The only one left was the most important.
"Now, Mr. Sandburg, yes? He is no longer at the university?"
Jim's countenance fell, "No. No, he's not. He went to the academy and is now my official partner."
"You do not like this?" Mr. Sing asked, surprised.
"It's not that I don't like it, it's just that, well, he gave up so much. His degree, his reputation. Teaching. Everything..." his voice trailed off into a whisper.
"Have you asked him what he feels? If this is what he wishes? Perhaps he is content with this?"
"I don't know. He's really good at his job, but I'm just not sure if it's what he really wants."
"You should ask him, then." He saw the younger man's uncertainty, "If he blamed you, rest assured that he would not be by your side, still, guardian. Trust him, as he trusts you."
"I do. Well, most of the time, anyway," Jim agreed.
"You need to work on trusting all the time, Detective." They met each other's eyes, the wise, aged brown eyes and the uncertain, fearful blue, Mr. Sing smiled and took Jim by the arm, "In the meantime, the gift for your friend..."
He could have searched for a thousand years and never found anything as perfect as this. Yeah, it was a couple of days after Chanukah, but still...
He wrote out the check, amazed at the small amount of money this was costing him. When he called to arrange the gift basket for his father, he spent easily half as much as he spent for the rest of the gifts he bought, combined.
Due to the increase in crime during the season, the entire crew of Major Crime was caught working late. Jim volunteered to go out and bring back sandwiches for everyone. Upon his return, he dropped off the various bags of food at each desk, hoping that no one got too curious until...
"Hey, Jim? What's this?" Brown called out from his desk. He'd just returned from booking and found not only a bag of food on his desk, but a large box, as well.
"Oh, well, it's just a little something I found that I thought you might like. Since it's Christmas Eve, I figured I'd start the holiday out right by playing Santa here, first."
"So, what is it?" Rafe asked, looking over his partner's shoulder, curious.
"Open it up and see," Jim replied.
The entire crew gathered round to see what Jim had given Brown. Tearing the wrapping paper off the box, he opened the flaps and gasped. "Oh, man. These are originals! Look everybody! These are Muddy Waters' records! I can't believe this. They're in mint condition, too. Oh, wow, Jim. You shouldn't have."
"Sure I should, H. When I saw them, they just seemed to call out that they belonged to you. Of course, you may have a hard time finding a turntable, let alone one that will play seventy- eights."
"Not a problem, man. I have one at home that was my granddad's. Thanks, man. This is great." With an enormous smile, Brown opened up his biggest desk drawer and pulled out a pile of gifts as well and distributed them to his colleagues, who repeated the process. Soon, every desk was piled high with gifts. Jim ignored his own pile, wanting to see how his other gifts were received.
Rafe opened the small package he found in with his food, knowing that it had come from Jim. Expecting a gag gift, he was immobilized by the sight of the cufflinks and tiepin. "Jim? Where in the world did you find these?" he asked, awestruck by their beauty.
"That would be telling. Do you like them?" There was a hint of worry in Jim's voice.
"Like them?! They're magnificent! Thank you. I can't wait to wear them." Rafe's smile could light up the sky. Smiling, Jim slapped the younger man on the shoulder and moved on to watch the next gift being opened.
Joel quickly tore the wrapping off his gift. He gasped, "Jim? How... where?" he looked up, shaking his head in shock.
"I'm sorry, but there's no provenance on it. Which is probably the only reason I could afford it. Do you like it?"
"Like it? I love it! Mable will, too. You know. I've seen a picture of this, once, in a book. I wonder..." Joel smiled at his friend. "I'm going to have to do some research on this. Thank you, it's wonderful," Joel set the icon up on his desk, gazing on it in rapt awe.
Simon opened his gift, next. Seeing the title of the book, he looked up in surprise. "Jim? This book has been out of print for half a century! Where on earth did you find a first edition? signed by the author!" Simon's voice rose and cracked on the words. He gaped from his book to his friend. Shaking his head, he murmured (knowing that Jim could hear him), "Do you have any money left to your name?" His words were met by Jim's smile and nod. Simon shook his head and turned back to his new book, perusing the pages in joy.
Rhonda had seen the gifts Jim had given the others and hesitantly opened her own. Gasping, she held up the necklace and pearls, "Oh, Jim, this is too much!" she exclaimed. Jim only smiled and came over to take the necklace from her and open the clasp, fastening it around her neck.
"No, it's not," Jim murmured, smiling and moving away.
When Blair returned from forensics, he found the bullpen filled with laughing, cheerful people. Seeing the shreds of wrapping paper, he knew that Christmas had begun. Finding a pile of presents on his desk, he grinned like a child and began to tear into them. Since everyone else had finished with theirs, they watched as Blair opened his gifts. Some of the gifts were the ever- present gag gifts that everyone had come to expect, others were practical and useful. The final one, the one that Jim had gotten for him, left him speechless. The menorah was obviously very old. It was made of hand-chased silver.
"Jim? This has to be nearly a thousand years old, man. Where did you find it?" and whispered, "and how could you afford it?"
"I just wish I had found it in time for Chanukah, Chief. Next year..." his words were cut off by the bundle of Blair that flung himself into Jim's arms, knocking the wind from him. Laughing, Jim returned the hug, ruffling his friend's curls as they separated. Jim was startled when the rest of the crew joined in, passing him from one to another, hugging him. He'd never in his life been hugged so much, but wasn't about to complain about it.
The day broke surprisingly clear. Jim awoke with the sun and stretched, then headed downstairs. He started the coffee before heading to the bathroom to take a shower. Afterwards, he made his way back upstairs and dressed. Going back downstairs, he poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down to admire their tree. He shook his head at the thought of how his partner always pushed him into celebrating the holidays. Looking up, he watched in amusement as said partner shuffled from his room, rubbing his eyes like a child, yawning himself awake.
"Coffee's ready, Chief," Jim said softly.
"Yeah, I can smell it, thanks, man."
"Merry Christmas," Jim took a sip of coffee.
Blair smiled, "Oh, yeah. Merry Christmas to you, too, Jim."
Returning from the kitchen with his own cup of coffee, Blair settled down beside his friend. "Thanks for the Menorah, man. That was something really special."
"Well, it looks to me that there are a lot more presents under the tree. Why don't you go and sort them out for us?" Jim suggested.
"More?" Grinning, the thirty-year-old child scampered to the tree and started pawing through the packages underneath. Pulling them all out, he divided the parcels into two piles, his and Jim's. Looking up, he asked, "So, where do you want to begin?"
"How about you open one, then I'll open one?"
Blair chose a small package, tearing the paper from it, he uncovered a small, leather notebook cover with a pen attached to it with a clip. "Is this a hint to stop losing my notebook?"
"No, just a way to make sure you have a pen, as well," Jim grinned.
"OK. Open this one." Blair handed a package to his friend.
Jim carefully took the paper off the package, careful not to tear it. Blair just shook his head at his friend. "Come on, man. Part of the fun is ripping the paper off."
"For you, maybe. But how about the number of trees that are destroyed every year to make wrapping paper?"
"Jim, I don't think recycling wrapping paper is going to help, much."
"This from 'Mr. Ecology'?" Jim teased.
"Hey, it's Christmas, man," Blair grinned.
Jim just shook his head, and opened the box. Inside, he found a leather bound book. Seeing the title, embossed in gold, he had to fight off tears. "Blair?"
"I have a friend who does special bindings. It's the only copy there is. I wanted you to have it," Blair looked shyly at his friend.
"I wish..." Jim shook his head, a single tear escaping down his cheek. "You lost so much," and it's all my fault...
"Yeah. I lost some things that were important to me. But I got so much more in exchange. No, I didn't get my Ph.D. or make millions of dollars. But that's nothing compared to what I got instead."
"What was that, Chief?" Jim watched his friend very closely, needing to hear this.
"I got a friend, a best friend. Someone as close to me as a brother. Ever since I read Burton's monograph, I wanted to find a real, live Sentinel. I did that. I never in a million years imagined that I'd become so involved with the whole thing; that I'd wind up being the guide to a sentinel. Your guide. No, this probably wasn't quite what I had in mind about what I'd be doing with my life, but I gotta tell you, man, I wouldn't want to trade it for what I had. No, I don't like having to carry a gun, but I think I'm making a difference, don't you?"
Still searching for approval. Jim smiled, shaking his head. "Yeah, you make a difference, Chief. You always have. Even if you'd never decided to become a cop; although, I'm awfully glad you did. I said it before. You're the best cop I've ever known, the best partner I could ever have, and the only one I'll ever need or want." Jim reached over and, sliding one arm around his friend's shoulders, pulled him close for a hug.
The phone rang. Pulling away, Jim reached for the offending instrument. "Ellison... Oh, hi, Steven. It did? You do? I'm glad. Really? That's great... Yeah. OK, Merry Christmas. Yeah, Thanks, I'll see you then. You, too. Bye."
"What did you get him?" Blair asked, only a little disappointed at the breaking of the mood.
"A desk set. He really liked it. He wants to get together later. I told him that it was all right for him to come over. You don't mind, do you?"
"Of course not. Now, what else did we get?" Blair turned back to the stack of presents, pulling out another with his name on it.
Leave it to Jim to provide practical gifts. A new pair of gloves, a new scarf, heavy thermal socks. Jim's gifts included new socks, a new dress shirt, and several less than practical gifts, like a membership in the beer-of-the-month-club.
The phone rang again, Blair snatched up the phone. "Merry Christmas! Oh, Hi, Mr. Ellison. Yeah, he's right here." He handed the phone to his friend, "Your dad," he whispered the obvious.
"Hey, Dad, Merry Christmas. You do? I'm glad. Yeah. Sure. Well, Steven's coming over later, why don't you join us? You will? Great. Say about two? All right, see you then... Right... OK, Dad. Bye."
The presents were all opened and put away, the wrapping paper placed in the paper-recycling bin. There had been several more phone calls, Daryl Banks to say 'thank you' for his gift, Naomi to wish them both Happy Holidays, other friends calling to wish them a Merry Christmas. When Steven and William Ellison arrived, they were greeted quietly, their coats taken and drinks offered and accepted.
The atmosphere was slightly strained, as the strangers the Ellison family were to each other each attempted to behave like a family. Blair, shaking his head in dismay, finally took charge.
"Hey, guys? How about we play some scrabble?"
Grasping at the idea like it was a life-line, William Ellison said, "I haven't played that in years. I could go for a game."
"Dad, don't let his innocent look fool you, this guy's memorized the Oxford English Dictionary along with the Modern American Slang dictionary, not to mention the Encyclopedia Britannica. How about some Monopoly, instead?" Jim suggested, casting a grateful look at his roommate.
"Oh, yeah, I can handle that!" Steven agreed. Digging out the game from his room, and whispering to Jim that he should be grateful that his roommate had the game at all, they were all soon sitting at the kitchen table and playing.
At four, still in the midst of a highly competitive and exciting game, they paused to have dinner. Even though it hadn't been planned that way, they moved the game aside and sat down together, still arguing over the game and how each of them intended to win. Blair caught Jim's eye as they prepared the last-minute items for dinner.
"Thanks, Chief. I think this is probably the best present of all."
"I'm glad I could help you get closer to your family, Jim."
With a big grin, and in full view of his father and Steven, Jim caught Blair in a headlock and giving him a noogie, said, "you're a part of that family, too, you know."
Casting a frantic glance towards the other Ellisons, he saw benign smiles, and just a bit of wistfulness on both their faces. Seizing on the idea, he called out, "Steven, help!" and struggled, weakly.
Uncertain, Steven stood up and came over. Jim looked up and saw him; with an enormous smile, he let Blair go and grappled with his brother, managing to pin him and give him a noogie, as well, scrubbing his knuckles through his brother's hair, leaving it standing in tufts like a whirlwind had been through it. Letting go, Jim stepped back to see what his brother would do.
Staring, Steven caught Blair's hopeful expression, and took advantage of the surprise attack, and launched himself at his older brother and began to tickle him. Attempting to dodge away, Jim found himself pinned between the two younger men, being mercilessly tickled. Trying, unsuccessfully, to break their hold on him, he pled with his father for assistance.
William Ellison had been watching with a great deal of interest. He'd heard Jim's words to Blair, and realized that he was going to have to accept them, if he wanted in his eldest son's life. When Blair had dragged Steven into the game, he was pleased that the kid could be so accommodating as to share Jim with his own brother. Now, his eldest son was calling on him to join them.
Uncertain, William Ellison stood and made his hesitant way over to the younger men. Blair, realizing what was happening, maneuvered himself into position for William to grab him. Gently, the older man grasped Blair around the waist and pulled him back. Blair, prepared for the move, abruptly turned and began to tickle the eldest Ellison. Laughing, as much from surprise as the tickling, William retaliated by tickling Blair back. Finally, the only way the older Ellisons were able to subdue their younger opponents, was to simply keep them at arm's length.
Panting from the exertion, they all collapsed on the couch, gasping for breath through their laughter.
"Now, what about dinner?" Jim gasped, smiling at his family... all his family.
"Fine with me, son," William panted, reaching out to ruffle Blair's curls. Standing, Jim and Blair tottered back to the kitchen to finish serving. With the ice between them shattered beyond repair, the meal was a warm and friendly time. Afterward, all four helped clean up before returning to their game.
It was nearly midnight when they finally called the game a draw. All four were too shrewd and clever to be caught off guard. As William and Steven prepared to leave, Steven grabbed his brother and hugged him. Jim closed his eyes and relaxed into the embrace, returning it. Stepping back, he smiled down at his brother. "Thanks for coming over Steven."
"Thanks for having me, bro. I think this has been the best Christmas, ever," he turned to Blair and shook his hand, "Thanks, Blair."
"You're welcome, Steven," Blair glanced up at his roommate, searching for a hint of how he should react. Seeing Jim's expression, he added, "Feel free to come over any time, man."
"Thanks, I will." Steven stepped back to wait for his father.
"Jim. Thank you." His embrace of his eldest son was even more hesitant than his younger son's had been. "I think Stevie's right, this is the best Christmas we've ever had." Stepping back, he then turned to Blair, who offered him his hand. Ignoring the offered handshake, he stepped in to hug his son's friend, as well. "And thank you, Blair, for bringing us together. I know you must have had a great deal to do with this."
Looking helplessly at his roommate, he decided not to disillusion the older man, simply smiling and repeating the offer, "Hey, any time, Mr. Ellison."
Following them to the door, Jim stepped forward, "Let me walk you down," he offered. Blair caught his eye and indicated that he'd stay behind and give him the time alone with his family. As Steven started to follow his father through the door, he turned back and reached out to ruffle Blair's long curls.
"I always wondered what it would be like to have a little brother," he grinned and followed his father out. Jim smiled broadly at them all, pleased that the day had gone so well.
When Jim returned, he found his roommate watching from the balcony as the other two Ellisons drove off. Jim stopped by the refrigerator and picked up a couple of bottles of water, handing one to his friend. "Thanks, Chief."
"Why thank me, Jim? You did it, not me," Blair looked up at his friend, confused.
"Never would have happened if you hadn't been here to help thaw us all out. I think Steven's right."
"About how I now have two little brothers. Now I'm going to have to worry about the two of you always ganging up on me."
"Nah, never happen, man."
"So you say, now. I saw how it went in the kitchen. I had to call for help from my dad, Sandburg. That's..."
"Exactly how you planned it. You can't fool me, Ellison." Blair's smirk showed that he was on to his friend's ploy.
"Well, yeah. Thanks for your help, Chief."
They stood for a while on the balcony, until the cold drove them back in. It was well after midnight, but as they headed for their beds for the night, they exchanged one last thing.
"Merry Christmas, Blair."
"Merry Christmas, Jim."
And they retired to their rooms to finish out the night in comfortable sleep, their dreams echoing the pleasures of the day.
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