Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Holiday stories

Special Times by Becky (graphic by Robyn)

Summary: Brief bits of Christmases throughout the years of Jim and Blair's partnership.

Another request from Robyn. ~grin~ A bit late, but I made it in before January 1, least in my time zone... ~grin~

The song "These are the Special Times" belongs to Celine Dion and Diane Warren; no copyright infringement intended. Tiny warning for some religious overtones. And as I am woefully unfamiliar with the Jewish faith, I've tried to leave things fairly vague. No offense meant to anyone if I go wrong.

Notes: Somewhat arbitrarily, I decided that for at least this story's sake, Christmas 1996 happened after Blind Man's Bluff, Christmas 1997 happened after Prisoner X, and Christmas 1998 happened after TSbyBS (in my universe, the fourth season stretches out from May until the end of the year to explain why Naomi just happened to be in town, holidays and all, you know). No real spoilers other than a few vague comments to indicate placement of scenes.

Special Times
by Becky
December 2000

In these moments, moments of our lives
All the world is ours
And this world is so right
You and I sharing this time together
Sharing the same dream
As the time goes by, we will find

Christmas 1996

Blair didn't move as the doors creaked open behind him, just kept leaning against the low balcony wall, coat pulled tight to ward away the chill in the evening air.

"Brr. It's cold out here, Sandburg." Jim joined him after nudging the door shut, not willing to let the loft's warmth evaporate. From below them, the singing of carolers drifted upwards.

"O holy night, the stars are brightly shining..."

Taking a deep breath, Blair closed his eyes. "I know. But this is all part of season, Jim. Cold weather. Pine boughs. A menorah. Candles. Christmas trees. Decorations. Family and friends. Presents. Mistletoe." Jim's quiet chuckle brought forth a quick grin and he looked up to meet Jim's eyes. "And carolers." He gestured to the mixed group of children and adults standing on the sidewalk below. "I always listen to the carolers. And I love this song."

"...It is the night of our dear savior's birth..."

Jim raised an eyebrow. "Uh, Chief? I thought..." He trailed off, not knowing how to phrase his question. "Uh, you know, you being Jewish and all..."

Blair chuckled and uncurled his arms long enough to pat Jim on the arm. "Again, it's okay, Jim. I know what you're trying to say. But I love Christmas carols. Christmas isn't just a religious holiday; it's also a time to remember we're all part of one family, that there's still hope in the world, no matter how cheesy that sounds."

"...Long lay the world in sin and error pining..."

"And this song is still one of my favorites. This one and Silent Night." He paused and his eyes shuttered closed again. "Soaring beautiful music."

Jim watched Blair as the carolers' voices washed over them. He could vaguely remember the days of his childhood where such songs were a yearly event, but he hadn't really done anything for Christmas in so long, hadn't really had anything worth celebrating. This year...this year was the first Christmas he'd shared with anyone in so long and it felt good. Months ago, when Blair first mentioned decorating the loft and getting a tree, Jim had balked but grudgingly agreed to let his roommate put up some Christmas stuff. Blair's words came back at him in memory.

'Just because I'm Jewish doesn't mean I can't celebrate Christmas as well, Jim. C'mon, it'll be fun!'

"...Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth..."

The detective's lips curved into a soft smile as the warmth along his side became pressure as Blair tentatively leaned up against him. Jim paused a moment, then slung an arm over his friend's shoulders, pulling him close. He let his own eyes drift shut and sent up a thankful prayer with the music winding its way up to the sky. A nearly fatal chance encounter with a potent drug had nearly taken Blair from him only a month earlier and now he realized that this holiday season, he definitely had something to celebrate.

Behind them the loft waited as a respite from the cold, but the call of music and the warmth of companionship beckoned, gifting them with an entirely different kind of respite and reminding them of the beauty of the season.

These are the special times, times we'll remember
These are the precious times, the tender times
We'll hold in our hearts forever
These are the sweetest times, these times together
And through it all, one thing will always be true
The special times are the times I share with you

Christmas 1997

Standing behind the kitchen island, carefully attending the popcorn on the stove, Blair watched his roommate slouching on the couch, sock-covered feet propped up on the coffee table. Between Jim's hands rested a steaming mug of double chocolate hot chocolate made with milk which he brought up to his lips to sip occasionally. His eyes remained glued to the TV screen. Blair shook his head again at Jim's choice of Christmas Eve movie fare and glanced at the popcorn again as the kernels began popping.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Jim's favorite Christmas movie. Who would've thunk it? I wonder why he didn't tell me this before?

Last year, they'd worked on the day before Christmas and Blair had driven down to Portland to join Naomi for a few days to celebrate Christmas. He'd felt guilty about leaving Jim alone for the holidays, but Jim had waved him off, saying he had an invitation to join Simon and Daryl for Christmas lunch and would be fine.

Wonder if he watched Rudolph last year?

Jim's low chuckle snagged his attention and he looked up to see Jim taking another swallow of hot chocolate while still watching the antics of the reindeer and elves on screen. Rapid popping and a particularly adventurous popcorn kernel flying past his face drew his eyes back to the task at hand. He stirred carefully, not wanting the already popped popcorn to burn.

"You know, Chief, microwave popcorn would've fine," Jim called from the couch.

Blair snuck a quick glance at the living room to see a commercial playing on the TV and Jim turned partway around on the couch, head propped up on his arm over the back of the couch. He grinned. "Microwave popcorn? On Christmas Eve? You must be joking. No, no, we'll have the good stuff tonight. Besides, you love the Naomi Sandburg Popcorn Special."

Jim's eyebrows went up. "The what?" He laughed.

Rolling his eyes, Blair repeated patiently, "The Naomi Sandburg Popcorn Special. You've had it before. Lots of times. It's my mom's special recipe. I think I made it for the last poker game. You and Simon kept fighting over where the bowl should sit on the table."

"Oh, yeah." Jim nodded and his eyes fixed on the popcorn with sudden interest. "Your mom's recipe, huh. Remind me to thank her next time she's in town."

Blair pinned Jim with a hard look and he pointed the wooden spoon at the detective. "Uh-huh. Just remember -- she's my mom. No funny stuff."

Jim only chuckled and turned back around on the couch as the commercials ended and Rudolph reappeared on the screen. Turning off the stove, Blair grunted and reached for the large bowl on the counter to start filling it with popcorn. It felt good to tease Jim again. After the sentinel's undercover stint as a prisoner in Starkville, things had been tense as Jim readjusted to normal life. It was amazing what only a week of imprisonment could do to a man, especially to a man like Jim who valued his freedom dearly, who had the need to protect hard-wired into him, whose very being would protest against the harshness of prison life and the attitudes of those within the confining walls, and whose senses--

In the midst of dumping the popcorn into the bowl, Blair still abruptly and watched Jim again, observing him without the other man realizing it.

He needed...familiarity...the comfort of a favorite childhood friend. What did he say earlier...? Blair's mouth dropped open in an 'oh' as he recalled Jim's brief explanation for why the movie was his favorite.

'Rudolph was...different. He understood.'

And he wanted to share it with... Oh.

"Hey, Sandburg. Where's my popcorn?"

"Coming." Shaking himself and quickly dumping the rest of the popcorn into bowl, Blair hefted the bowl and hurried into the family room, plopping himself down on the couch next to Jim who promptly confiscated the bowl and held it in his lap.

Two handfuls immediately disappeared into Jim's mouth before he realized Blair's eyes were on him rather than the TV screen. He shifted his gaze to the side and asked, "What?"

Blair just smiled and shook his head. "Nothing. Just...never mind. Watch the movie. Enjoy the popcorn." Thank you for being who you are, for letting me in, for not letting go.

Jim held his gaze for a moment longer, his blue eyes searching Blair's. Then he returned Blair's smile with one of his own. "I will. Thanks." Ditto.

Shoulders touching, the two men watched the movie, feasting on popcorn and friendship.

With each moment, moment passing by
We'll make memories
That will last all our lives
As you and I travel through time together
Living this sweet dream
And every day, we can say

Christmas 1998

"The tree's crooked."

Blair continued to spoon the last bit of chocolate chip cookie dough onto the cookie sheet, ignoring Jim as he stood in the center of the room, hands on his hips, surveying the decorations scattered throughout the loft. Soft but cheery Christmas music played in the background, turned up a bit to be audible over the ventilation fan in the kitchen. A bit of late afternoon sun peeked through the balcony doors from behind the clouds covering most of Cascade's sky.

"The colored balls are too close...too far...heck, just plain wrong. And just what is that supposed to be? A dancing...cow? dog? something extinct?"

He wiped his hands on the borrowed flowered apron and moved to place the filled sheet in the oven. Two other trays sat on the counter waiting to be emptied of their contents onto cooling racks. The smell of cookies permeated the loft and made Blair glad he'd already set aside some for Jim -- otherwise he'd pout all evening.

"The tinsel's getting kinda ratty in places; we might want to replace it next year."

Blair hummed along with 'Frosty the Snowman' under his breath as he transferred the still warm chocolate chip cookies to the racks. Tomorrow afternoon he would run this batch over to Major Crimes. Nothing like cookies to calm a bunch of grumpy Major Crimes cops who have to work on Christmas Eve.

"And stockings, Chief? Aren't we a bit old for-- Hey! This says Jimmy!"

Biting down on a chuckle, Blair finally snuck a glance at Jim, grinning at the detective's indignant stance as he paused in his stalking around the living room to stare at the stockings hanging from the doorknobs on the balcony doors. He'd dug out his own stocking -- one Naomi had made for him years and years ago -- from storage. And Jim's... His grin growing larger, he looked away, quickly transferring more cookies. Jim's inspection continued after some muted muttering.

"You think you've got enough mistletoe? Over the front door, your bedroom doors, the balcony doors...the bathroom door."

Task completed, Blair set down the spatula and turned just as Jim entered the kitchen. The older man, a stern look on his face, stopped before him and dropped a heavy hand on his shoulder. Blair just smiled at him. After a moment, the Jim's serious mein melted and he grinned, his eyes crinkling in amusement.

"It's perfect."

Blair grinned back and twisted around to pick up a cookie. "Here. Have a cookie."

Eyes lighting up, Jim accepted the sweet and still warm goody and proceeded to savor it as only a sentinel can. By the time he'd opened his eyes again after being half-lost in chocolate bliss, Blair had the rest of the batch covered, hopefully safe from a certain sticky-fingered, cookie-loving roommate.

Blair untied the apron from around his neck. "So, how long do you think these cookies will last?"

The detective licked the remaining crumbs from his fingers and chuckled before answering the question. "Knowing those guys, not long. They'll get through two dozen before you can make it back to the elevator."

Blair shook his head. "I don't know whether to be happy that they like the cookies or insulted that they'd eat them so fast without appreciating them fully." He draped the apron on the counter and picked up a towel to wipe the last bits of flour and cookie dough bits from his hands.

Jim just laughed again, then leaned sideways against the counter. He gestured to the colorfully decorated tree in the living room. "So, did Kimberly help you decorate?"

"No!" Blair protested hotly.

"You sure? Looks like a four-year-old's work to me."

"Hey!" Blair threw the towel at Jim, laughing as the older man swatted it away from his face to land neatly on the counter. "Your dad stopped by, however, and gave me that stocking. Figured it might amuse any company we might have."

"Hmph." Jim tried to look affronted, but the twinkle in his eyes belied any effort. "Better be careful, Chief. Naomi's gonna be here tomorrow. I hear she's bringing the Baby Blair pictures again." He tweaked Blair's cheek. "Maybe Megan'd like to see a few..."

These are the special times, times we'll remember
These are the precious times, the tender times
We'll hold in our hearts forever
These are the sweetest times, these times together
And through it all, one thing will always be true
The special times are the times I share with you

Christmas 1999

Jim watched quietly from the couch as Blair lit one of the candles on the menorah sitting on the small table in front of the balcony window. Blair hadn't really been practicing his Jewish faith when they'd met, but Jim lately realized the more dangerous things got, the more often religion had crept into their lives.

Especially after Blair's death -- and rebirth -- in the fountain at Rainier.

There hadn't been anything hugely overt, but Jim had noticed nonetheless. Meditation sometimes turned quietly into something more. Before they entered dangerous situations, he would hear a quickly whispered prayer, sometimes in a language he assumed was Hebrew. He'd even caught Blair discussing his faith with Megan one afternoon in the break room.

And then there was the peace he saw in Blair's eyes. Things had been rough in the last year, but they'd pulled through it together. Blair liked to attribute it to their friendship which rather than self-destructing had only grown stronger with each challenge. Jim agreed with him, but sometimes wondered if Blair's belief and faith in something bigger than himself had helped.

He and Blair had never really discussed religion. Jim had picked up enough hints early on to know that his partner was Jewish. And he'd let Blair pry out of him that his family had been Catholic, but pretty much non-practicing for most of his childhood. After he'd left home, religion hadn't played much of any role in Jim's life. Church had been reserved for a few holidays and his and Carolyn's wedding.

Sometimes he envied Blair's faith and the obvious joy and peace it brought him. Watching Blair find strength in something outside himself made Jim ponder returning to his own religious roots.

Blair's quiet whispering came to an end and he stepped away from the menorah, his eyes calm and joyful. He met Jim's eyes and grinned. "Ready for popcorn?"

Jim laughed. "You bet. What movie are you planning to torture me with this year to further my 'enlightenment'?"

"Torture? Torture??" Blair continued to mutter under his breath as he padded into the kitchen.

Still chuckling, Jim settled back into the couch cushions to wait. The light from the menorah candles caught his eyes and he whispered his own silent prayer, thanking God for sending Blair into his life and letting him stay.

These tender moments
When heaven is so close
These are the moments that I know

Christmas 2000

"Hey Jim, what about this one?" Blair held up the colorful ornament, dangling it mere inches from Jim's nose. Someone in the crowded store jostled him from hind and he steadied himself against Jim's shoulder.

Trying to keep his eyes from crossing, Jim grabbed Blair's arm and pushed it back to a more reasonable distance. Voices of shoppers babbled from all corners of the store, but by concentrating on Blair, he was able to tune them out, well, tune them out enough so he wouldn't get a headache. "You know, Chief, I remember now why I don't like ornament shopping with you. You're too excitable."

Blair laughed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. You say that every year; it hasn't stopped you yet." He jiggled the ornament impatiently. "So, what do you think?"

He looked at the ornament in question, then at Blair, then back at the ornament, raising an eyebrow at the cartoon rabbit kissing the horrified-looking hunter. "Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd? You trying to make a statement or something?" He grinned and playfully poked Blair's chest. "I'm guessing you're Bugs, but if you even try to pin Elmer on me..."

Chuckling, Blair shook his head. "Nah, I figured Simon would fit better." He lowered his voice and impersonated the police captain's gruff tones. "Be wery quiet; I'm hunting anthwopowogists."

The detective rolled his eyes and turned back to examining the shelves of decorative ornaments lining the wall. Blair had whined at their first Christmas together about the lack of creativity and "newness" in the selection of ornaments Jim owned. Every year since then, they'd gone out and bought a few unique things to put on the tree. Later that day they would be joining up with the Ellison clan and Naomi at his father's house for a large Christmas extended family get-together, but this...this was their private little Ellison-Sandburg tradition. A tradition he admitted to himself, if not to Sandburg, that he looked forward to every year, noisy crowds, oddball ornaments, and his partner's excitability notwithstanding.

"However..." Blair added after a moment.

Jim glanced to the side, seeing his partner examining the ornament seriously. "What?" He narrowed his eyes, sensing that not all was as innocent as it seemed.

Blair pursed his lips together and held the ornament out, tilting his head to the side to stare at it. "You know, the lack of, uh, natural head covering does fit you better." A giggle slipped out as he ducked behind two other customers, evading the swatting hand, though Jim's parting words followed him.

"Someday when you least expect it, Sandburg..."

These are the special times, times we'll remember
These are the precious times, the tender times
We'll hold in our hearts forever
These are the sweetest times, these times together
And through it all, one thing will always be true
The special times are the times I share
The special times are the times we share

Evening of Christmas Day 2000

On the tree in the corner of the barely lit living room , a smattering of Christmas lights twinkled amidst a collection of colored balls, hand-carved wooden ornaments, store-bought cartoon characters, construction paper crafted stars, and strings of popcorn. A small pile of torn wrapping paper and bows sat on one side next to a couple discarded boxes. Candles flickered on a menorah next to the balcony windows, tiny flames shimmering as the apartment's heater stirred the air currents. The only other noises were those drifting up from the street outside and below the third floor of the building.

Two men sat sprawled on opposite ends of the larger of two couches, legs stretched out before them, heads tilted backwards to rest on the cushions.

"Oh, man, I am so full. Stuffed. Filled beyond capacity. Ready to burst. Way past satiated and saturated and definitely over-indulged." Blair moaned and held one hand over his stomach. "Geez...I won't need to eat until President's Day."

Jim chuckled and forced one eye open to peer at his roommate. "For once, I might have to agree with you."

Blair rolled his head to one side and squinted across the distance of the couch. "Why didn't you warn me about Sally's cooking? What in the world is she doing working for your father, man? I mean, not that he's not a bad guy or anything, but, geez, she could have her own restaurant or food line or something. And how did you not get fat when you were a kid?"

"Why do you think I played football?" Jim smirked. "And I did warn you. I told you Sally was an excellent cook."

"That was beyond excellent, Jim, oh thou master of understatement. Way beyond." He sighed with contentment and let his eyes drift over to rest on the tree.

The silence held for several long minutes before Blair spoke up quietly. "Merry Christmas, Jim." He looked back at his partner, meeting his eyes with a soft smile.

Jim favored him with the smile he reserved for rare and special occasions, reminding him again of just why he gave up that trip to Borneo so long ago and how he would relive every moment, good and bad, since then if he had to. Everything. After all, it was always about friendship.

"Merry Christmas, Blair. Merry Christmas."

The special times are the times I share with you

~The End~