Partners, Friends, Family and Christmas
Jim looked at his list once more. There were only three items left to purchase and then he would be finished with his Christmas shopping. Jim couldn't keep the smile from his face. His thoughts automatically turned to Blair. It was because of Blair that Jim celebrated Christmas, Thanksgiving and many other holidays.
Before Blair came along, Jim acknowledged the holidays, but he did very little to celebrate or participate in them. When Blair hooked up with Jim, they started doing different activities together, such as fishing, camping, and hiking. And celebrating holidays.
Their first Thanksgiving together, Blair talked Jim into going to the homeless shelter to volunteer to feed the less fortunate. It had been an interesting day, as Jim watched Blair talking to everyone who came through the line, especially the children. Later at home, Blair explained to Jim there had been several times growing up when he and Naomi had been in such a line for a meal. There would always be someone there who would take the time to talk to him specifically. It always made him feel important and he vowed to do the same to the next generation. So, it became a Sandburg-Ellison tradition to take several hours out for others on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a tradition Jim didn't mind participating in.
Jim finished the last of his shopping and headed to his father's house, where he had dropped off Blair. Jim didn't trust leaving Blair by himself with his injury and the best compromise was to leave him in the care of someone both Jim and Blair trusted. Both men came up with Sally, knowing she'd make sure Blair rested.
Jim walked into his father's house and pinpointed Blair in the study down the hall. Jim headed in that direction, wondering what Blair was doing. Jim knocked on the closed door. He heard his dad say 'enter'. Jim walked inside the room, seeing Blair and William sitting there. Blair looked over at Jim and smiled.
"Hey, Jim! You finished shopping already?"
Jim walked over to sit in the chair beside Blair. "Yep. I was able to get everything on the list." He patted Blair on the knee. "I thought you'd be resting."
"Nah, William wanted to know how my studies were going. And he wanted to show off his library. It's impressive. And I did take a nap earlier." Blair sounded a little defensive.
"As long as you weren't running around on that sprained ankle." Jim tried sounding gruff, but failed miserably.
"He's had it elevated the whole time, Jimmy," said William as he looked between his oldest son and the man who was becoming special to them all. William saw the way Jim looked at Blair and the way Blair looked at Jim. Brotherly love. Jim and Steven looked at each other the same way. William was glad Jim had such a friend that he let get so close.
"William wants us to come over on Christmas day. I told him it would have to be after the midday meal at the shelter." Blair turned to face Jim.
"Well, I could drop you off here that morning."
"What are you talking about, Jim? I have to go to the shelter. We have to go to the shelter. It's a tradition."
"You'll still be on your crutches, Chief. You don't need to be trying to maneuver around the shelter on crutches. I'll convey your good wishes to everyone."
Blair sighed and leaned back in the chair, closing his eyes. "Damn! I was hoping to be there. Couldn't I just "
"You promised the doctor, Chief. And if you want to go back to Rainier after winter break, you'll have to follow his instructions."
Blair sighed once again. "I know. I'm just so tired of this injury slowing me down." Blair hadn't opened his eyes.
"Couldn't he sit at the shelter? Does he have to be up and moving around?" William was trying to help.
Jim shot his father a look of exasperation. "He doesn't need to be out running around. He's lucky he didn't break his ankle with the fall he took. I'd feel much better if he was here sitting. At least, he'd be resting."
"You'll have to forgive Jim, William. He thinks sometimes that he's my father and mother, big brother, Blessed Protector and guardian all rolled into one. He forgets that I'm almost 37 years old and I know right from wrong."
"And you'll have to forgive Blair, dad. He thinks sometimes that he's a kid, still in his teens or twenties and can bounce back from any injury the way he did back then. He forgets that he's almost 37 years old and that he has to take care when recovering from an injury."
"Jim, you just -"
"Boys! Boys! Both of you are acting like kids here. Christmas is still a week away. Why don't you both wait until closer to the day and see how Blair feels then? If his ankle is still tender and swollen, Blair can come here while Jimmy goes to the shelter."
Both men agreed to the arrangement. They stayed for lunch before Jim and Blair went home.
Over the next week, when Jim wasn't looking, Blair experimented with walking without his crutches. There was some pain, but nothing unbearable. However, he knew the real test would be when Jim examined his ankle with his sensitive touch. Jim had originally diagnosed the sprained ankle after Blair fell chasing a fellow TA on the football field at Rainier. It had been a silly way to be injured, but Blair had enjoyed the football game up until the injury.
On Christmas morning, Blair got out of bed and walked around his room without his crutches. There was no sharp pain and he smiled to himself. He got dressed, grabbed his crutches and left his room, going out to the kitchen, where Jim was preparing breakfast.
"Merry Christmas, Chief! Have a seat! Breakfast will be ready in a jiffy."
Blair sat down at the table, looking over at the Christmas tree, noticing the lights were on and blinking. Well, at least Jim was in a good mood.
A few minutes later, Jim brought over breakfast, consisting of eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast, along with juice and coffee. Both men dug in and ate in silence for a while.
Then Blair spoke. "I think my ankle is much better."
Jim didn't even look up at Blair as he continued eating. "We'll see after breakfast and we exchange presents."
Blair went back to eating, wondering if Jim was still going to ship him over to William's while he handled the shelter. Jim was good, but not nearly as personable and open as Blair was. Blair did a much better job at relating to people on a one to one basis, understanding where they had been and their situation. Not only was it because he had been in the same situation, but it was also because of Blair's anthropological background that helped him to understand people as he observed them. Much of it ingrained into Blair's being since he had been young.
As soon as they finished breakfast, Blair helped with clearing the table, showing Jim his ability to maneuver with the crutches and not put undo pressure upon his ankle. They moved over to the living room where they sat down by the tree, Blair on the couch so he wouldn't put pressure on his ankle. Jim pulled out the presents from underneath the tree, surprised to see so many for himself from Blair. He looked questioningly over at Blair.
"Hey, I'll have you know that I have ways of getting things. And no, I didn't hobble around to the shops with my crutches and bum ankle. Some of those presents I've had for months."
Jim passed out the presents without another word. Blair looked for reactions to the presents he had given Jim, but there really weren't any. Jim would crack a small smile, but that was about it.
Blair, on the other hand, gushed over the gifts Jim had given him. He thanked Jim over and over, even when Jim said it was no big deal.
"But it is a big deal, Jim. You're my best friend and for you to buy me these things, even if they are *practical* gifts, is special to me. I've never had a friend like you. Just think we've been best friends for almost ten years. That's the best parts of our lives."
Jim got to his feet and went to get a garbage bag for the paper and throwaway. But Blair had noticed the pained look on Jim's face. Something was wrong and Jim's good mood from earlier had dissipated.
When Jim came back, Blair patted the cushion beside him on the couch. "Sit down, Jim. We need to talk."
Jim rolled his eyes and ignored Blair, starting to pick up the wrapping paper.
"Okay, you don't want to sit down, fine. But we are still going to talk."
"There's nothing to talk about, Sandburg."
"What happened to your good mood?"
Jim avoided looking at Blair. All that greeted Blair was silence.
"Okay, you want my theory of why your good mood took a hiatus?" There was still no response. "You still blame yourself for my injury. This is the most unreal, silliest thing I've heard of in my life. It wasn't your fault, Jim. Whenever I get hurt, it isn't your fault. I'm a grown-up and I made the choice to play in that football game. If you had played and you were injured, I wouldn't be blaming myself. You know what, Jim? Shit happens. It's just the universe getting back at people for having their way so many times. At least that's an anthropological explanation for things. Give up the guilt, man. Your shoulders aren't wide enough to carry it all." Blair paused, looking over at Jim, still picking up minute bits of wrapping paper and other trash. "We've talked about this before, Jim. It's all well and good for you to be my Blessed Protector and it's neat having a sentinel watch out for me, but you aren't God. I'm going to survive this. I'm going to live. And it will probably happen again, especially if I play against guys ten to fifteen years younger than me. Maybe I should give up football. My best days are behind me."
Blair got to his feet, making a show of grabbing his crutches and walked over to Jim. He placed his hand on Jim's shoulder. "We good, man?"
Jim looked up into Blair's face, a smile coming across his face. "We're good, but why do you need to give me the same speech every time this happens?"
"Because you're hard-headed, one-minded and a loyal friend. You know, I'd probably do the same thing if we reversed the roles. Maybe it's a sentinel/guide thing or just two close friends caring for one another. We're family and family is there for each other."
Jim nodded his head and finished picking up the paper and trash. "Go sit on the couch and I'll check your ankle."
Blair smiled and made his way back to the couch, sitting down. Jim came over and knelt down in front of Blair, gently taking the left ankle in his hand, removing the sock and then slowly undoing the bandage and wrap. He dropped the bandage and the wrap and probed the ankle with his fingers. It didn't hurt. Jim looked at the ankle and Blair could tell he was looking for swelling and bruising. Then Jim rotated the ankle slightly from side to side, checking Blair's mobility with the limb. Jim replaced the bandage and the wrap and even put Blair's sock back on.
Jim looked up at Blair. "You can go to the shelter, but you need to have your crutches with you. If you get overly tired, you'll sit down. Understand?" Jim punctuated his words with a slight squeeze to the area above Blair's ankle.
"Yeah, I understand, Jim. Thanks. I promise I won't overdo things."
Jim got to his feet, shaking his head. He took the garbage bag out to the kitchen, not sure at all that Blair wouldn't overdo things. But he'd keep a close eye on his friend, just in case. Jim knew Blair all too well and knew he would push the limits.
When they arrived at William's house around 4:00 PM, both Jim and Blair were in good moods. William was pleased to see them.
"How did it go at the shelter?"
"It was fantastic! Of course, Jim tried to keep a reign on my activities, but you can't keep a Sandburg down!"
Jim and William exchanged a look and a knowing smile. They let Blair continue about the shelter, the people and the whole experience. Both men knew it would take some time for Blair to wind down.
Jim grabbed Blair's arm, leading him to the dining room and the meal waiting for them there. He sat Blair down in a chair. Blair finished his sentence and looked at the table.
"Wow! Sally outdid herself. Is she going to be joining us?"
"No, her children came to take her out to eat, so she could spend time with them and her grandchildren. I invited them all over, but I think they wanted to spend time together and thought it might be a little much with the four grandchildren."
"Well, Jim and I will help clean up afterwards, won't we, Jim?" Blair lightly smacked Jim on the arm.
"Yeah, we'll help out, dad."
"Let's just eat."
It was early evening when William, Jim and Blair finished cleaning the kitchen and the dining room. Jim was finishing the last of the dishes while Blair was making hot chocolate for all of them. William stood back and watched, pleased to have a happy holiday with his family.