For Gail and Beth, with all my thanks ladies for helping this story take shape.
This story is set in the GDP AU, and fits into the time line after Buried in the Past.
The loft had been home to Jim since his return from Peru. But it had never been a *home*, even when he had lived there with Carolyn. He had had to finally admit to himself it had just been a place they had both shared living space in, or so it had seemed in those last months before Carolyn had walked out and they had divorced. Now as he walked up the stairs to the loft, he cast his senses out, and found the familiar heart beat of his Guide. And that to him was *home* more than any bricks or mortar.
At the same time as he was pleased to hear it, he was also puzzled The TA Christmas party should have still been in full swing, and he was expecting to spend a quiet night watching the Jags game alone. While his partner enjoyed the pleasures of Christmas party for the first time in years. He took the final flight of stairs at the double, his blessed protector mode beginning to bubble to the surface.
Jim came into the loft in a hurry, his keys missing the basket just inside the door. His mind was focused on one thing only, to find his guide and satisfy the need to see that he was all right. Blair was standing by the balcony glass doors, the room in darkness as he looked out across the City of Cascade. Seeing yet not seeing, his fingers clutching tightly at his arms where he crossed them, hard enough to bruise his flesh. Sentinel hearing heard the catch in his breath as he shivered. Instinctively Jim knew that it was not just a coldness of the body, it was of the heart as well.
It seemed that even at Christmas his Guide had demons to fight. As his Sentinel, Jim had to find out which demons and how he could destroy them. Concerned, the Sentinel crossed to his Guide. "Blair buddy, are you alright?"
The young man didn't turn round or even appear to acknowledge his friend.
Jim put an arm round his Guide's waist loosely from behind, easing him back against his chest. The tension in the smaller man relaxed slightly at the familiar warmth. Blair felt the gentle push against his mind as Jim tried to open the link between them. But Blair kept the link closed, this way his emotions were shut off from his Sentinel. If he let Jim share his present feelings he would go straight into full Blessed Protector mode, nought to sixty in a split second. Blair could try to pass it off as nothing, but Jim would know he was lying, and the Sentinel would not let it go until he had the whole story. So with a mental sigh Blair knew the only way was to talk, he took a deep breath to steady himself.
"All the TA's were getting together in The Mortar Board, the pub on Campus. You know, to kick back, drink a few beers, and celebrate". He paused and just when Jim was about to prompt him Blair continued. "One of my students, Kim Randall…” there was a pause and Jim heard his friend's heart beat increase. Gently he rubbed Blair's arm to reassure the upset man that he was here for him. "She is a member of the GLA and she came up to me in the pub and... and asked me if you had ever raped me during bonding".
"Bitch", the anger the Sentinel put in that one word was frightening, his grip tightened protectively on his Guide.
"The whole place went quiet, and they all looked at me Jim. As if they had never seen me before. I thought I was making a place for myself there, but they just stared at me, as if I were some sort of freak. It was as if they were trying to guess how much of it was true." Blair trailed off for a moment. “ Sorry, it just hit a little close to home for me. I can put up with their sick fantasies but they don't have the right to drag you into them".
Jim's right hand slowly stroked down Blair's arm as his other held him close. Words he was no good at, but Blair seemed to be able to read through his actions and understand him in a way that had, in the beginning, frightened Ellison. But now he revelled in their connection, their closeness, which transcended the need for mere words. // The kid had a right to be angry, yet all he cared about was that his Sentinel's reputation might be smeared. Didn't Blair realize he was the one that truly mattered//.
Blair's voice continued, soft and sad. "All she could see was the ugliness. To her the bond is legalised rape, she is just so scared that a Sentinel would use her as a sex slave".
"Wait a minute! You said use *her*? She's a Guide! How did you know?” For a moment his young Guide didn't answer, so Jim asked again. "How did you know about her being a Guide?" Carefully he turned the smaller man in his arms. Blair knew he had to give an answer otherwise his Sentinel would be like a dog with a bone, he wouldn't let go. And he found he just didn't have the energy to obfuscate.
"She is only a fledgling. And I've been able to sense Guides ever since I came on line as a dark Guide. A trick of the trade I guess." Blair shuddered "The GDP, if they get there hands on her…" He looked imploringly at his friend. "We have to do something, she can't go through…" he trailed off again, remembered horrors causing him to avert his eyes in shame. But a gentle hand eased Blair's head up so that the Sentinel could met his Guide's eyes as Blair continued. "They say the GDP is changing, hell maybe it is, but I can't trust it just yet, we have got to help her".
"After Christmas Blair. Then *we* see her, together. Okay buddy?" Blair's head lowered onto his Sentinels shoulder. He felt so drained. Yawning, he opened the link and felt Jim's emotions, but he still carefully held his own back until he had them under control. He felt the blessed protector emotions wrap around his mind, warming his heart, flooding him with feelings of shelter, care and affection.
"Jim, I can read you, remember? You're pissed off at her for saying what she did about us, so let it go man." Blair straightened up reluctantly. Reaching up he laid his hand against Jims face, pleased when the Sentinel turned his face into the contact, inhaling the scent. Blair felt the big man mellow as the anger slowly peeled back and steadied under his touch. Jim might be angry with her but the measure of the man was that his first reaction still was to help her.
Blair's voice had a slight tremor to it, "It freaks me sometimes when I think of what would have happened if we hadn't met"
Jim's chuckle caught him by surprise as he lightly tapped Blair's forehead with his knuckles. “For a dark Guide, a BA, MA and doctorate candidate you can be real dim Chief." His smile widened. "This was all meant to be. The spirit Guide's have been bringing us to this place and time." Then he shook his head as his eyes went wide, "Can't believe I said that. Getting too deep for me Chief. That's more your territory". His face split into a mega watt James Ellison grin. " Come on, there's a Jag's game calling us." He gave Blair a hug as the smaller man patted his back affectionately. Then reluctantly he parted from Blair, and gave him a push towards the sofa. "You park yourself and I'll get the beers and chips".
Jim collected the beers from the fridge as Blair claimed the remote. The younger man accepted the bottle and took a pull on it, savouring the drink. After the disaster when his drink had been spiked before the archaeological dig, Blair had shied away from all alcohol, scared of the reaction he had had. But then when they had come back from the dig, Jim had handed him a beer to celebrate the finding of the Temple of the Guides. The big man had sat down near him while he drank, and no demons had reared up and bitten him. Afterward he had mused about another GDP myth that had hit the dust. Guides could drink. He marvelled that something as simple as having a beer had meant to him. It made him feel like one of the guys, kicking back and enjoying a brew and a game. Not Sentinel and Guide, just friends.
The evening had been good, and some of his bad karma from the day had finally faded. He felt better in himself and even managed to eat some of the meal that Jim ordered in for them. It was with sleep heavy feet that he made his way to his bedroom.
But those positive feelings were not to last. Kim's words had awoken some of his worse nightmares, and without bidding they started to fold in on him.
Finally giving up Blair threw the blankets off. He couldn't sleep. So he rose and slowly climbed the stairs to Jim's bedroom. It was a measure of the way that Jim was attuned to his Guide that he didn't wake as Blair slid under the comforter and curled up, careful not to touch the sleeping Sentinel.
Jim's senses twitched, noting the Guide's heartbeat was now louder, the scent stronger. Cracking his eyes open he saw the thick dark curls on the pillow near him. "Bad dreams Chief?" Jim asked softly. He didn't expect an answer from the sleeping man. But his hand lightly stroked his Guides head and was rewarded with a soft sigh as Blair huddled down further in the nest of blankets.
The Sentinel spooned up behind his guide, carefully put an arm round his waist. He shifted his hand under the loose t-shirt the sleeping man wore to rest his palm against Blair's chest. Sentinel senses register chilled flesh. The kid must have been sitting up for a couple of hours before he had rallied the courage to come up., His body temperature had dropped and he needed to be warmed up. Jim pulled the blanket and comforter round them both, adding his body warmth to that of the younger man.
Even asleep Blair's body was so finely in synch with Jim's that he knew his touch and relaxed back against him. "That's it Chief, sleep. Its Christmas Eve tomorrow, you don't have anywhere to go". "I'm here and nothing can hurt you". He whispered softly into a curl covered ear. Then with a sigh he allowed himself to settle back into sleep, content to hold his Guide close. Whether the threats were real or imaginary he would protect Blair from them.
When Blair woke there was a moment of disorientation as he mind tried to figure out were he was. Then feelings of well being flooded through him, he was with his sentinel and there was no safer place on the planet than in his arms. He knew that he should get up and leave, head back to his own bed, but he was reluctant so he decided to wait a little while longer. He settled back and looked up at the moon and the stars through the skylight. It looked cold and stark outside, just like his life had once been. He shifted slightly only to be collected back again, and a voice still heavy with sleep mumbled, "Chief". The arm at his waist tightened fractionally, and Jim nuzzled the side of his neck seeking out his scent.
"Sorry about this Jim, its just I...” He felt he should try to explain; only he never got to finish it.
"Blair", Jims voice was firm, he was now wide-awake. "If you ever need to be close you come up. You're always welcome to share my bed". He lightened this tone, "It's alright Sandburg, just don't start choosing the patterns on the tea set yet. Anyway, you don't snore much, and you only drool a little. I can put up with a wet chest once in a while".
Blair laughed softly, and patted the arm that held him so protectively. "Mind if I go back to sleep?"
"Its Sunday we deserve a lay in Chief".
Blair yawned, slowly turned and settled against Jim's chest in what was his favourite sleeping position. Then he yawned again and snuggled closer
The Sentinel lightly rubbed thinner shoulders. "Anytime Chief. Anytime". His lips lightly brushed his Guides forehead, and then Jim surrendered to sleep.
It was the Christmas music that woke the Sentinel. A glance at the red digital clock display showed it was 6.29 am in the morning, to his sensitive ears it was as if the Medieval Babes where standing at the end of the bed giving him a private performance. Not that he would have minded four attractive young women at the end of his bed, but it was too early and he had promised himself a lay in. Ruefully Jim thought that must be the first signs of old age, when you preferred a bed and sleep to nubile young women.
The music died down, and with a sigh the Sentinel closed his eyes only to have the CD start up again with a rendition of Hark the Herald Angles, enough was enough. Swearing, Jim reached a hand out to grope in the bedside drawer and pull out a white noise generator. He switched it on and immediately there was blissful silence
. The younger man had rolled over in his sleep and was now laid on his stomach with his head pillowed on his arm and curly hair covering his face. Chestnut locks moved with each puff of air from Blair's lips, Jim lightly shifted the tress back from his sleeping friends face. A soft smile touched the ex-Ranger's lips, like this his guide looked so young and vulnerable. The Sentinel knew that his Guide had been channelling some heavy emotion because of that *woman*. His anger flared, and he pushed it down quickly when he heard a soft moan as Blair had reacted to the fierce emotion that Jim had broadcasted across the link. Jim's hand lightly rubbed his guides back, soothing and calming him. Now because of her, his gentle, and compassionate Guide was drained. Blair would have to centre himself and rebuild his barriers. But deep down Ellison knew that he would help the girl, because Blair wanted him too. But if she caused grief to his Guide she'd find herself in a world of pain. A simple vow, but one etched in the heart of the Sentinel. Because of the white noise generator he was unable to hear his Guide's heartbeat, and felt the loss keenly, so instead he substituted touch for hearing.
Getting comfortable again, he tugged the pillows in place and reached out and pulled his Guide towards him.
Blair started to wake; his voice was a sleepy murmur "I'm here Jim.". Then with a jaw-popping yawn he pulled himself up into his Sentinel arms, and once comfortable settled down again, never once opening his eyes, total trust in the man holding him. . Jim always found this degree of trust humbling, and he would die before he'd ever betray it.
Lying there with this precious warm bundle in his arms he began to think things through. This was his Guides first Christmas since their bonding. The kid had done so much for him, yet asked so little. This holiday had to be special for Blair.
Jim looked up at the skylight, as the first of the snowflakes landed on the glass, his eyesight telescoped onto them. Each pattern subtly different. He felt himself start to become lost in the richness of the patterns, but then the heartbeat of his Guide fluttering against his chest brought him back to the present. Blair was cuddled and held close, it might be cold out, but in here it was warm and his guide was safe.
Jim eased down to curl around his Guide letting his arms and legs cocoon the smaller man as he buried his face in the thick mass of curls at the crook of Blair's neck contented now he slept.
Christmas Eve Morning.
As Blair slid off the bed and reached for his dressing gown he saw Jim start to stir. Reaching down he stroked Jim's face with the tips of his fingers and his Sentinel settled back into sleep. Blair yawned and started down the steps to put the coffee on and get breakfast ready.
The clock said 10:30 a.m. For a moment he felt guilty, then he realised Jim was not bothered about the time, they were on holiday. And, they deserved a lazy day since the last week had been pretty heavy all round. But he still had to collect the assignments from his office before it got locked up for the holidays.
So far his Sentinel hadn't even acknowledged the holidays, bad memories probably. Pity. Christmas had always been the holiday he liked the best. He had always enjoyed the closeness of the families he and Naomi had stayed with. The Christmas tree, the bright lights the... he trailed off as he heard his Sentinel coming down the stairs. He pushed the memories away, dismissing them as childish dreams
The argument had started as the last piece of toast had been consumed, Jim could not understand how Blair could even think of going into Rainier today of all days.
Blair sat still and let the Sentinel vent, part of the problem was that the weather was turning foul and he was at the moment safe in his sentinels territory and the man was reluctant to let him leave. Getting into a yelling match with the older man would not help; he waited for him to come to a halt.
"Jim, an hour at the most, then I am all yours for the holiday. Okay big guy?"
For a moment he wasn't sure if Jim would buy it, but then he saw by the other man's expression that he had won. But even so as he left the loft Jims words were ringing in his ears to drive carefully, and to let him know if he had any car problems, and was his cell phone charged. The Sentinel had finally come to an embarrassed halt when Blair's "yes mother" has been called out over the shoulder of the rapidly retreating student.
Now alone, Jim looked round the loft. Though it was a lot homier since Blair had moved in, it still lacked something. He made his way down to his corner of the basement where each box was neatly piled according to size and colour coded. He still honestly couldn't understand why Blair had dissolved into near hysterical laughter when he had seen them. Unlocking his storage cage he pulled out the Christmas tree and decorations. Blair would be gone for a couple of hours no matter what he said and that would be enough time to get them up.
Hetty came out of her apartment; her smile was always bright when she saw one of her adopted sons. The fact that one of them was a hyperactive Guide, and the other his slightly anal-retentive Sentinel made no difference. She had seen their true hearts and those never lied. "Remember dear, the Christmas Eve party. 8:00 o'clock at the Jury Room. And make sure Blair brings the mulled wine, Jonathon has been talking about nothing else for the last week".
"We'll be there Hetty. Have the others…?"
"The gang will be there. Need some help". She motioned to the Sentinel's load as he juggled the tree, decorations, and a small box that where all rapidly heading toward the floor. Hetty caught hold of several items. Noticing the big man's rather sheepish look, she added, "You certainly do need help James". "Lead the way young man". //Jim if only I were 30 years younger// She gave a mental sigh //, they certainly didn't make cops like him in her day//.
The trip too and from Rainier had taken longer than Blair had planned. The streets were crammed with people and cars, and the bad weather had forced everyone down to a crawl. Blair's fingers in the cut off gloves beat an impatient tempo on the steering wheel. It was with a relieved "finally got here" that Blair pulled into his parking spot. He shivered. The temperature had dropped another couple of degrees if that was possible; but at least he was now home for the holidays. //Home for the holidays, it had a nice ring too it//. //A very nice ring//.
At the door of the loft Blair pressed his knee against it, balancing his books precariously as he fished out his keys, "Jim. You in there? I could do with some help man".
Nothing, Blair finally got the door open only to let the books fall from his hands as his jaw dropped. The room was criss-crossed in sparkling tinsel. A tree just over six feet tall was standing near the balcony. Made of gold and silver it was everything that he had ever wanted. Under it were several parcels in Christmas wrap.
Quickly closing the front door he went to his room and from under the bed drew out three packets. Smoothing them with his hand he took them to the tree. They were his presents for Jim. Kneeling, he carefully put each under the thick branches. With a guilty look around he then surreptitiously reached for the nearest gift with his name on it. A calculating hand ran lightly over the container. An A4 size box, but he couldn't make out anything through the paper. The next parcel gave under his hand, possibly clothing. But the third parcel was only 6 inches by 4, and had hard corners. The handwriting on it wasn't Jim's? //Who could be sending him a present// His mothers gift for him was one of the ones that he had put under the tree just now, along with her present for Jim.
"You're allowed one Chief, at Midnight". Blair spun round. He had been so wrapped up that he hadn't heard Jim enter.
Blair was about to apologies but then he saw the sparkle in Jim's eyes. His Sentinel reached down and pulled him to his feet. "No cheating ". Turning Blair towards his own room, Jim gave him a clip across his backside. to get him moving. "Now go and get changed, Hetty is expecting us at 8:00 p.m.".
Later that evening
Blair was swaying slightly as he came down the corridor toward the loft, a piece of mistletoe in his hair and a smear of lipstick on his face. Jim eased him round the fire extinguisher that he had tried to lean on and missed by a good country mile. The kid was talking a mile a minute fuelled by at least a couple of glasses of spiked punch.
Jims amused smile turned to a wide grin. His Guide was still clinging to the $1000 dollars they had won from the rest of the clans and the Major Crime Detectives that had all turned up for the party.
Earlier that evening:
Mitch Reynolds had had a few drinks and was nicely mellow. Like Jim Ellison he to had move from Vice into Major Crimes. Now while watching the dancing something bubbled up in his mind. Standing near the buffet was Captain Simon Bank. Mitch grinned "You should get Ellison on the dance floor. You would certainly see something then, he was the Fred Astair of the Vice Squad. Did he ever tell you about the time he went under cover as a dance instructor?"
"Jim? A dance instructor! You have got to be kidding".
"Straight up Captain, you should see his tango. The women use to go weak in the knees at that".
H who was standing near by immediately piped in. "I bet you 50 bucks that he can't still do it".
"Brown, we are cops, we don't bet." Simon put in, but the grin on his face belied this tone.
"Well I would certainly *donate* $100 to see that". Mitch added.
"See what?" Rafe came up keen to know what he was missing.
"It appears the Jim has been hiding his talents under a bush.” H paused for dramatic impact "He can tango".
"You're kidding! No way man".
"Had it straight from the horses mouth Rafe, Mitch has seen him ".
"Well I would pay to see that".
Jim had just greeted his ex with a kiss when he heard his name and turned towards his friends.
"Something wrong Jim", Carolyn sounded concerned. She had seen that look on his face and the tightening of his jaw before. He was not happy. As he moved away she looked round and then headed off to get Blair. The younger man was chatting up two of the young clerical assistants for the department she noted, smiling tolerantly as she spotted the mistletoe ambush in the making.
Simon grinned at his rapidly approaching Sentinel detective, "Well. Well, Fred Astair"
"Sir” Jims eyes narrowed as he saw Mitch.
"Our colleague told us all about the time you went under cover as a dance teacher. The boys seem to think that you couldn't still dance the tango".
"He did, did he?" Four words, but they made Mitch step back.
"It was a joke. Right Jimmy?" He sputtered to a halt and tried again "Yeah, a joke Jim".
Rafe cut in then, “We have a bet…um, sorry, donation of $800 dollars that says you can't still do it".
"A donation.” The sarcasm was heavy in Ellison's voice.
Just then Blair moved up from behind the huddled group.
"I wouldn't mind having…", Blair trailed off as Jim turned on him, towering over his Guide,
"That would be a felony Chief, and you would not want to confess that to a cop, would you?".
Blair put a hand up, "Peace man, okay. Ss s sh some people are soo toucheeee".
Jim plucked the cup of punch from his Guide's hand, ignored the protest and took a sniff and a sip. "Edwards." He called to the other Sentinel who was standing near the punch bowl.
Edwards looked round, "The punch has been spiked". Jim snapped out.
"Okay. I'll take care of it". Rather guiltily he pushed the small brandy bottle further into his pocket, and caught the eye of one of the other Clan Sentinel's that was just upending another bottle into it.
But before he could say anything his own Guide took the bottle from the other's hand and shot a withering look at his Sentinel David bent and picked up the bowl and headed towards the kitchen. As he passed his fellow guide Jon he said ; "children the lot of them, take a look at the cherries, their playing silly buggers with the punch so I wouldn't put that past them to have spiked them as well".
Jon shook his head in disbelief and headed towards the buffet table.
Jim's attention was on his Guide. Blair looked okay so may be he'd gotten to it in time. But even so he reached out and pulled his Guide close.
Looking at the curious faces around him Jim knew he was not going to get away with out doing it, "Chief how much was that Burton book you where drooling over the other day?".
"Make it $1000 and you have a deal".
"And if you lose" H put in.
"Then Ellison hosts the poker party for the next six months and he buys all the dips and beers". Simon put in.
"Okay you're on." Jim looked round for a partner, and his eyes fixed on his ex, "How about it Caro?"
"Sorry, but no way Jim. No way". She really liked to dance with him, but the tango had been her downfall. It wasn't that she didn't trust him, even at their most intimate, she had never been scared of him, because for all his strength and build he had been a strong but tender lover. But for all that she just could not relax when she danced the tango with him. It was as if Jim changed in a way she could not understand . If she was honest it had totally unnerved her.
Taggart given Blair a nudge, "Didn't you say you could dance Blair?"
The small Guide flushed, "Sure, but its been a while",
There was a quick check of the others in the room, but it soon became plain that Blair was the only one who not only knew the dance but also stood a chance of actually being a proper partner to Jim.
The Sentinel's anger meanwhile had begun to simmer to the surface as he had heard Taggart's words. He saw it as an insult to his Guide, whenever they bonded he was always careful not to threaten Blair's masculinity, and the young Guide knew that. What was Taggart implying?
Some of his anger must have shown in his face because Taggart backed off a step, "Jim its all right. I didn't mean…".
"Big guy", Blair spoke gently, "He doesn't mean anything bad. Right Captain?"
"Of course not".
Jim's eyes where fixed only on Blair. "You sure about this Chief?"
"Ask me in five minutes time".
Simon was watching his friend closely, he had become very good over the time Jim had worked in Major Crime at Ellison reading. It had often been the only way he could keep ahead of the game with his often uncommunicative detective. He could clearly see Jim's body language as it changed. The key to the tango was the sheer masculinity of the male dancer, the stance one of arrogance and power, and Jim was that embodied. The complete alpha male. Carolyn felt herself shiver as she watched her ex-husband, his blue eyes like twin lasers as they focused on Blair Sandburg. She had been at the other end of that look and had felt as if she was about to ignite. But the young Guide met the intense gaze levelly and reflected it right back. For the Sentinel and Guide, at that moment it was as if only they existed.
Blair moved with an inborn masculine grace. It was a dance of possession, of power, and that was what they enacted with each turn. There had been one move that Carolyn had never been able to do, lacking the courage to dip backwards with only Jim's strength to stop her hitting the floor. She watched now as Jim pulled Blair towards him, the smaller Guide moving so that the Sentinels arm was wrapped round him. Then Jim pulled back and Blair spun round and dipped, stopping with his head only inches from the polished wood floor. For a heartbeat they stayed like that. Then effortlessly Jim pulled him back to his feet and wrapped back in his arm. Jim pushed again, and Blair again went down and froze just as the music ended. There was silence and then the room erupted with yells and clapping. Jim helped Blair up and pulled him close. Then slipping an arm round a thin shoulder he escorted his ecstatic Guide to Simon to collect their winnings. Grinning widely.
"How the hell did you learn to dance like that?“ The Captain was still shaking his head in disbelief. The other members of Major Crimes echoed Simon's question.
"My father, He thought a gentleman should always be able to dance". Hearing only humour Simon glanced in surprise at Blair. There was no hatred colouring James Ellison's voice when he spoke of his father, if the kid had done that he was a miracle worker.
The evening had gone from strength to strength, and both Sentinel and Guide had found themselves much sought out as dance partners by the single ladies. Hetty as Clan mother had even claimed the right of a dance, much to the amusement of her husband and the envy of the younger women. At the end of the dance she was escorted with old world courtesy back to her husband as Jim hand bowed and kissed her hand. Then Ellison had moved to escort Carolyn onto the dance floor. As they waltzed round the room she was lost in thought at what had been, and what could be again
Blair also found him self with a full dance card. All the young ladies seemed to want to have a chance of taking the floor with him. Before the night ended more than one telephone number was pushed into his trouser pocket by a lingering hand. By the end of the evening the party had already been voted the best one ever. .
Jim came back to the present as he opened the door to the loft and guided the younger man in. Blair sank down onto the sofa as Jim went to switch the coffee on. Blair had found some of the loaded cherries that Jon has missed and was nicely mellow, not drunk, but definitely floating.
"Chief” Jim stood right in front of him, it was already past midnight and was Christmas Day, but that didn't matter. "It was a family tradition that we could all have one present Christmas Eve, but first you have to make a Christmas Wish. If you could wish for anything, what would it be?"
Blair was about to respond jokingly when he saw the look on Jims face. Behind the light-heartedness, he could see that it meant a lot to the older man, he was renewing this tradition especially for him.
The younger man got to his feet, "You have made my wishes come true already Jim. You claimed me, protected me, and gave me back my life. What more is there for me?" He saw Jim was about to speak when he added, "If there were a wish, it would be that I could be recognised as your partner in the eyes of all of them, and not just because I was your Guide".
"And your wish Jim?”
The Sentinels eyes had a soft light in them as he spoke. "I am already looking at it Chief". Blair was lost for words.
Jim extended his hand and Blair happily placed his own inside that of his Sentinel. The strong fingers tightened minutely on his hand, and he was drawn to the Christmas tree.
Jim sank down onto the carpet bringing Blair down with him. He reached under the Christmas tree and took the small box Blair had noticed earlier and placed it into this Guides hand.
Blair slowly began to peel back the paper, he hesitated suddenly unsure.
"Go on Blair" Jim prompted. Slowly he eased the paper back; a cardboard box, plain white, he opened that and a dark brown leather wallet fell out. Puzzled he looked at Jim. The Sentinel had bought him a wallet for his birthday?
"Open it Chief"
. Blair flipped it open and with a shaking finger he traced the badge on one side then the ID card on the other.
"I don't understand."
"Read the ID card".
"Blair Sandburg, Consultant Cascade PD".
There was no Guide title on the ID, nothing to identify Jim as his Sentinel. He was a person in his own right.
"I .. I ... don't… ".
"Doctor Claydove. He brought in the regulations as of midnight on the 25th of December. A present to the Guides. The leash is now outlawed and it's an offence for any GDP or Sentinel to place it on a Guide. Even a rogue Guide. It's not everything Chief, but....”
"But it's more that I could ever have dreamed!".
"The badge Chief, it's the same one as I carry, you're my partner, and an official Consultant for the PD. No one can ever doubt your right to be by my side. You're a member of the blue line in your own right now.
"Blair , are you okay with this?" He added quickly when he noticed the look on his young Guides face.
Blair's head had dropped forward and he was looking at the badge as if it would vanish any minute. He took a long shuddering breath, then straightened up and moved into his Sentinel's arms. He clutched the badge. A piece of metal with a piece of card, yet it made all the difference. Another part of his life was back under his own control. He was not naive enough to think that Claydove didn't have his own agenda for doing it, but for the moment all that mattered was he was Jims partner and a person in his own right again.
Jim pressed his lips lightly against Blair's forehead, and then rested his head on the dark curls, and whispered, "See Chief. Christmas Wishes can come true".
December 15th 2000