You Never Know
TITLE: You Never Know
"Whatcha reading?" Jim asked quizzically as he threw his keys into the basket, shut the door and sauntered over to the fridge. There were days when he was so relieved to be home.
"Oh, just a letter," Sandburg replied, airily. "Just playing catch-up, you know?" He was lying sprawled on the couch, feet resting comfortably on multiple cushions.
Jim crossed the floor to join him, beer in hand. "With?" He kicked the anthropologist's feet off the couch and flopped down himself.
Sandburg slammed the letter down onto his chest, and was about to expostulate on Ellison's nosiness when he caught the gleam in the detective's eye. He let the matter drop and folded up the letter for later perusal. Some things were better kept to ones-elf. "So how are things in the world of Cascade PD?"
"Very quiet without you!" Jim replied. "How are you feeling today anyway?" He leant forward and placed his hand on the younger man's forehead. The warmth of yesterday's high temperature had gone.
"Better, thanks. I'll come back and annoy you tomorrow."
Ellison sighed. He knew that keeping the cold-struck academic away for another 24hrs was too much to hope for. He glanced around at the used-tissue strewn floor, and figured that at least it was a smaller pile than the previous day. "Rhonda sends her love."
Blair sniffed, ran his hand across his nose and grinned. "I hope she kissed you, and told you to pass it on."
His comment was greeted with a smack around the head with one of the cushions. "You're feeling better. That's obvious." Ellison downed a good half of his beer. "What we watching tonight then, Darwin?"
"There are a coupla movies on; nothing too exciting." Blair seemed oddly distracted. "We could always rent something."
Jim grabbed up the TV schedule from the table. "Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Clause, Santa Claus - The Movie," he read, his eyebrows raised in incredulity. "Anyone would think there was a holiday coming." He threw down the magazine. "What d'you want to do for Christmas this year anyway, Chief? The semester's over so you can't claim work, and Simon's making sure I finally get one holiday without working."
"Jim, I'm Jewish. I don't celebrate Christmas." Sandburg shifted uncomfortably.
"Yeah, I know that," Ellison covered. "But we can still do something different for the day itself. Taggert's invited us over there if you're interested. I hear Tracey from auditing will be there!"
"Um, Jim, if it's all the same with you, I usually..." Blair made a big deal of blowing his nose, then rummaging for a fresh stack of tissues. His next words were lost in a flurry of used tissues, a coughing fit which sounded faked, and an urgent need to run to the bathroom.
Ellison was surprised but let the subject go. He had ways of dealing with evasive Sandburgs.
He would get his answer later.
The volume was quite low on the television to avoid disturbing Blair who was tucked up under the afghan, and had been dozing for most of the evening. Jim sat on the chair with a beer perched precariously on one arm of the seat, and the remote control on the other. He enjoyed watching movies where he could just escape, and leave the world around him well alone. He wanted a few hours where the serial killer they had nicknamed Columbus and all the associated problems could be completely ignored.
'The Santa Clause' had been showing for over an hour when Sandburg roused himself once more.
"Need anything?" He picked up the box of tissues and threw it towards his friend.
"Mhnuhh-huh." The bloodshot eyes flickered open and acknowledged Jim's question, but the brain wasn't alert enough to send enough messages to allow the mouth to utter a discernible answer. Ellison smiled and walked over to boil some water. When in doubt, fill his Guide up with chamomile tea. It would help with the scratchy throat caused by not being able to breathe through his nose.
Ellison notched up his hearing when he heard disgruntled mumblings from the couch. "The order's wrong. I so hate it when they do that."
"What's that, Chief?" Jim pretended not to have heard, his friend's illness clearly playing havoc with his mind. He brought over the soothing drink with two further caplets of Advil, and crouched in front of Blair, helping him to sit upright to swallow the medicine and down the fluid. "Hey, easy, easy." The lack of coordination nearly sent the tea flying, so the older man continued to hold the mug firmly with one hand, while supporting Sandburg's shoulders with the other.
A few slurps later and Blair flopped back down, snuggling under the blanket. "They think he's at the front, and he isn't - she is."
"Huh?" Now Jim really was bemused. "What are you talking about, Sandburg?" But the eyes had closed again, and the breathing had fallen into an even pattern.
Jim waited for a few moments before placing the mug on the table and settling back down in his seat to watch the end of the movie, reindeer and all. If he was still delirious, then his partner needed at least one more day to recuperate before he came back to work with Jim.
During one scene of Santa Claus - The Movie, Ellison could have sworn he heard a derisive snort coming from under the rug. He switched his view between the talking afghan and the scene where Dudley Moore's character, Patch, was making the proverbial pig's ear out of the toys. "As if." The mutter was clear, but when Jim turned back, Sandburg was sound asleep once more.
Three days later and Ellison was no nearer to an answer about the holidays. The two of them were outside a warehouse on Granary, staring uselessly at the exterior of the abandoned building. "So, what do you want to do for Christmas then, Chief?" The dark night didn't phase the Sentinel as he raised the dial on his vision, and watched for movement in the shadows.
"Oh that," Sandburg replied, not bothered by the question this time.
"Well, see, Jim, I'm a helper." This statement was not sufficient, and Sandburg didn't need his partner's Sentinel abilities to sense frustration. "Okay, okay, I help out with, um, folk who need my help at this time of year."
Ellison turned, surprised. "That's very noble of you Sandburg." He wasn't being patronizing. "Whereabouts?"
"Oh, here and there, ya know, where I'm needed. I go out early on Christmas Eve and get back early hours of Christmas day, then sleep off all my helpfulness - hey Jim, isn't that Ferraro's car?" The detective turned around, puzzled that he hadn't heard the vehicle pulling up. The suspect was not only in his car; he was carrying a semi-automatic weapon aimed directly at Ellison's head.
They both ducked instinctively, avoiding the melee of shattered glass and bullets that peppered the interior.
The incident effectively killed the Christmas-related conversation.
The jigsaw of small cuts were healing on both their hands and faces, but both had miraculously escaped any further harm. When Ferraro's gun had jammed, Ellison had pulled his own weapon and retaliated.
It was the paperwork involved that caused the biggest problem.
Sandburg and Ellison left Cascade PD on the evening of December 23rd, heading towards Miller's Bar on 3rd to celebrate the cessation of all work for a few days.
"I'll be up and out early tomorrow," Blair reminded his friend. "So I can't stay long."
"You still haven't told me exactly where you go, and what you do." Jim knew he was unlikely to get a clear response, and was prepared for the usual obfuscation.
"Have, too. Here and there, wherever I'm needed. I help those who need my help." Blair stabbed into his Caesar salad, and waved his fork in the air while he gesticulated. "Christmas is a tough time of year for some folk. It's not a holiday for everybody, man." He rammed the lettuce into his mouth and focused on the group of kids outside the window. Jim followed his gaze and found their snowball pursuits amusing. Sandburg was adamant he wasn't going to expand his answers any further - suffice to say it was a worthy cause, and it must be dear to his heart or he wouldn't sacrifice his holiday time so willingly. It was a shame he wouldn't share though, Ellison would be happy to help if only he was asked.
Jim was surprised when he didn't even hear his Guide leave the following morning. He rolled over in bed and crawled to a sitting position. However, the room swayed as he attempted to stand, and he realized that Blair may have left the building, but he'd left Ellison with the cold he had had.
Groaning with displeasure Jim fell back onto the bed, yanked the covers up over his nose, and tried to sleep away the germs that were multiplying in his body. That would explain why he hadn't heard the younger man leave.
The day drifted on and Ellison only rose to dose himself up with cold remedy medication and to make himself copious quantities of hot drinks, even going as far as to make himself chamomile tea. After each excursion his legs would point out his lack of health, and unsteadily guide him back up to his room.
He hoped Sandburg was enjoying being a good Samaritan because Jim sure as hell wasn't enjoying his cold. His sinuses were completely blocked, his hearing was on the fritz, his sense of taste had turned everything into mud, and he preferred to avoid looking at anything because it made his head spin.
Bed seemed like a great option.
Jim staggered back up the stairs with a fresh mug of tea, slopped it onto the floor next to his bed and collapsed back into the warmth of his duvet.
Ellison was woken by the most bizarre sound he had heard in years. He thought he heard bells.
More specifically - sleigh bells.
He tried focusing on it, but decided that the catarrh was winning and shook his head as he gave up. He plumped up the pillows and realized that he had slept through the rest of the Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day itself had dawned a murky shade of gray in his absence.
There was movement downstairs, and he could only assume it was his roommate.
"Chief?" He couldn't manage more than a croak and forced himself up and out of bed. Throwing on a robe, he eased himself down the stairs and towards the sound. "Sandburg?"
There was no one in the living area so Jim headed towards the small bedroom his friend habited. Expecting to find his friend newly arrived home, he was staggered to see him already curled up in bed and apparently asleep.
"Chief?" Jim moved forward and shook the man's shoulder.
"Hnuh?" Blair swung over and blearily looked up at his friend. A look of bewilderment came over his face when he recognized Jim. This snapped away after a moment, and Sandburg scooted up the bed. "What's up, man? Thought you were asleep. Everything okay?"
"Yeah, you..." Where was Ellison supposed to start? 'I didn't hear you leave, I thought I heard you come back less than twenty seconds ago and yet you're already in bed; you've been gone twenty-four hours and I don't know where. By the way, thanks for the cold.' "Uh, yeah, Chief. Everything's fine."
Blair cocked his head to one side, studying the pale features of his friend. "You got my cold?" He scrabbled out of bed immediately and headed towards the kitchen area. "I'll make you something that'll really clear your head."
Blair stopped in his tracks and looked back at the motionless Sentinel. "What?"
"You have soot on your face."
"I have?" He made a move to wipe off the dark dust, and resumed making his concoction.
"You're back later than I thought you'd be." Ellison dropped into one of the kitchen chairs and rested his elbows on the table, his spinning head grateful for the stability.
"Yeah I know. There were so many more of them this year, it increases every year and it's making our jobs so much more difficult. But we cope. That's our job. Christmas just wouldn't happen if we didn't."
"Now you are losing me." Ellison was fairly sure his cold was ruining his thought processes, and therefore didn't want to follow the conversation any more, but his exasperation was too much. He had to know where Blair had been - if only out of itching curiosity. "Sandburg. Look at me. I know I'm not your mother, but... Where. Have. You. Been?"
"Jim." Sandburg pursed his lips and handed over the mug of potent-smelling herb water. "You have your secret and I have mine."
"But, but - ?"
Blair's head disappeared into the refrigerator, but the Sentinel hearing had resumed enough for Ellison to hear the words: "I'd have thought that was entirely Elf Explanatory."
copyright Xasphie 02/11/03BACK