New Year's Blues
The characters of The Sentinel are not mine, more's the pity. This fanfic was written for my own and others' enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.
This was originally written for 'The Many Holiday Greetings of The Sentinel' foe MME Zines.
"So, Jim, what do you want to do to celebrate New Year?" Blair Sandburg asked as he waited for his partner to unlock the apartment door.
"Same as I always do, Chief," Jim replied, pushing open the door and stepping inside. He took off his jacket and hung it up, then took Blair's, placing it on the hook next to his own. "Go to bed early."
The detective walked over and lit the fire while Blair began the complicated process of unwrapping his many layers of clothing, beginning with the ridiculous fur hat on his head. "Hopefully, I'll sleep a little better this year, thanks to the sleep mask and white noise generator you gave me for Christmas," Jim continued.
Blair smiled widely, then hurried into the kitchen to fill the teakettle. "Glad you liked them," he said.
Jim made his way upstairs to get changed. "It's your turn to cook, Sandburg."
"All under control, man."
Later, watching a basketball game out of half-closed eyes, pleasantly full of beef stew and drowsy from a combination of the long day and the cozy warmth of the loft, Blair broached the subject again. "About tomorrow night. I thought we could celebrate together, seeing you're not working."
Jim stood up and switched off the TV before turning to Blair. "There's a very good reason why I'm not working." Blair managed to open one eye to look at his partner. "I asked Simon to roster me off last year after I zoned on the fireworks. I can't risk it."
Blair sat up straight, suddenly animated. "We could work on that. It's something I should have thought of before anyway. If we work on getting your senses attuned to it this year, it won't be a problem anymore."
Jim was already shaking his head and heading for the stairs. "I don't want to get used to it. It's not just the zoning. I always end up with a headache for days after from the sensory spikes. You go out, have a good time."
"It'd be fun," Blair said softly.
Jim turned at the top of the stairs. "Zoning on a Catherine wheel and having the mother of all migraines for days after is not my idea of fun, Sandburg. It also means that I'm on sick leave when I should be out on the street."
Blair sat up straighter on the couch. "That's why we should work on it..." The glare on Jim's face was enough for him to close his mouth.
"Go out with your friends, Chief. I'll be fine here. No reason that both of us should miss out on the celebrations."
The following day was exhausting and frustrating as Jim and Blair chased down a man involved in a drug pipeline who led the detective and his partner on a merry chase through the back alleys of Cascade. Then they'd spent a frustrating three hours interviewing the perp, trying to convince him to give up his accomplices. By the time Jim and Blair left the precinct at 10 p.m., the man was still tight-lipped, Jim had a jaw-ache and Blair was drooping with fatigue.
Wearily, the two men made their way into the apartment and hung up their jackets. Jim went to the kitchen and pulled a beer from the refrigerator, holding it up in offer to Blair who kneeled in front of the fire and quickly had a cheerful blaze going.
Blair shook his head, his brows knitting together as if in thought, then suddenly slapped his forehead with a groan. "Oh man, Jane is going to kill me." At Jim's quizzical look, he explained. "I told Jane Kelly that I'd join them all to see in the New Year at Dave and Stef's place. Oh, they're all friends of mine from the U and..." He moved back to the front door and pointed to his jacket. "Do you mind if I..."
Jim shook his head. "Knock yourself out, Chief. I'm going to finish this beer and crash."
Blair looked suddenly doubtful. "Are you sure you'll be okay alone? I can stay."
"I was fine on my own for plenty of New Years before you came along, Sandburg," Jim replied as he made his way to the sofa and lowered himself wearily. "Go."
"Okay, thanks. I won't be late. I'm pretty beat myself."
Jim opened one eye. "If you drink, stay there. Don't drive home and don't call me for a ride. I doubt I'll hear the phone."
Blair looked affronted at the thought and Jim felt a twinge of shame. "I'd never do that, man," the anthropologist replied as he shrugged on his jacket. "I'll see you in the morning."
Jim raised a vague hand in farewell and leaned back against the sofa with a sigh of relief. He placed the beer bottle on the table as he felt his eyelids grow heavy with fatigue, then with some effort, the detective levered himself off the couch and trudged upstairs to bed.
Jim awoke slowly, a rhythmic thumping invading his sleep. Sitting up, he snarled his displeasure as he realized that he'd forgotten to turn on the white noise generator that Blair had given him for Christmas. Sighing heavily at the unfairness of it all, the detective sank back onto his pillows and wrapped both arms about his head in the hope that he could muffle the sound. The idea made him pause and he searched for the sound once more. Throwing off the covers, he realized that what he was hearing was too regular in rhythm to be fireworks and with a sudden surety, he pulled on his robe and padded quickly down the stairs.
The rest of the apartment was in darkness, save for a small circle of light coming from the balcony. Jim walked to the glass doors and looked out but could see nothing except a light snow falling that dusted the outdoor chairs - and the small figure that was huddled in one of them, a still lit flashlight on the ground at his feet.
Unlatching the door, Jim made his way quickly to Blair's side. Reaching out, he placed his fingers at the juncture of the young man's jaw, grimacing at the icy chill he felt there. He breathed a sigh of relief as his fingers confirmed what his ears had already told him, Blair was sleeping. Perhaps a little too deeply.
The young man was curled into a tight ball, the afghan from the couch wrapped firmly about his shoulders, his breath puffing out in small smoky tendrils. Jim allowed his hand to drift to Blair's head, stroking the soft curls, then sent it lower to skate down a chilly cheek, rough beneath his fingertips with the beginnings of beard. He traced the full lips, the softness making his groin tight and cock hard in contrast. Gasping suddenly at the realization that he'd almost gone too far this time, almost let his attraction slip out of his tightly wielded control, Jim lifted his hand and left it hovering in the air for a moment. Then he lowered it to Blair's jacketed shoulder and shook him gently. "Blair? You with me, Chief?"
Blair muttered something unintelligible, then he stiffened and his eyes opened wide. His body snapped back from Jim's touch, and then he collapsed into himself, one hand reaching up to grip the sleeve of Jim's robe. "Jim! Man, you've got to stop doing that."
"Sneaking up on people," Blair panted. "You took ten years off my life."
"I wasn't sneaking anywhere," Jim answered patiently, then his eyes narrowed. "What the hell are you doing sleeping out here?"
"Well," Blair reached up and pushed his damp curls out of his eyes. "The party was kind of a bust. By the time, I got there, they'd all decided to move onto Fred Murphy's place and I was just too tired to go driving halfway across town." He shivered violently and Jim snatched up the afghan and wrapped it around his shoulders once more before pulling the young man to his feet.
"Let's take this inside."
Blair nodded and shuffled obediently to the door. Jim drew the shivering anthropologist inside, acknowledging Blair's sigh at the toasty warmth with a smile. The sentinel pushed the other man down onto the sofa and then began to bustle about, glaring at his partner's 'mother hen' aside. He fetched dry sweats from Blair's bedroom and filled the teakettle. Finally Jim tossed a thick towel over Blair's head, placed a cup of steaming tea on the coffee table and plonked himself down in the armchair opposite.
Blair nodded and his brow creased in thought once more. "Like I said, I was too tired to drive halfway across town to another party and I was worried about you, so I came home."
Jim was puzzled. "Why were you worried about me?"
"I thought about what you said and it occurred to me that if I'm your guide, it's times like these, when you're most vulnerable that I should be here with you, in case you zone."
"I told you I was going to bed," Jim reminded him.
"I know that." Blair's curls danced dizzyingly as he nodded. "But what if, after we talked about it, you just couldn't resist taking a look. I know I couldn't. There's just something about fireworks and New Year." He hugged himself tightly, reminding Jim of a small child on Christmas Eve.
Jim sat back in his chair and regarded his partner thoughtfully as Blair picked up his tea and took a sip. "Thank you, I appreciate your concern," he said finally. "But that still doesn't explain what you were doing sleeping outside."
"Well, you were asleep when I got here and I didn't want to miss out on the fireworks completely, so I thought I'd sit out there for a while and watch." He shrugged. "I guess I was more tired than I realized." He studied the detective for a moment over the rim of his teacup, blowing idly at the steam that wafted up. "Do you ever miss it, Jim?" The detective cocked an eyebrow but didn't speak, waiting for Blair to continue. "Fireworks, seeing in the New Year, celebrating with friends, New Year's resolutions."
Jim motioned to the sweats lying beside Blair. "Put the dry clothes on." He waited, trying not to let his gaze linger over the glimpses of bare skin revealed as Blair shucked off his damp jeans and tee-shirt and pulled on the track pants before the detective spoke again. "Yeah, I miss it."
Blair nodded and reached for the sweater. He looked up as Jim tapped his shoulder just as he pushed his head through the top. The detective indicated the balcony, then picked up the now warm and dry afghan from where it lay in front of the fire. "We've got a couple of minutes until midnight. Let's give this idea of yours a shot."
Blair grinned widely. "Are you sure? I don't want you to think I'm pressuring you here or anything." He was already walking toward the balcony doors.
Jim shook his head in good-natured exasperation and followed him out. Stepping up to the wall, the detective maneuvered Blair until the anthropologist stood in front of him, then wrapped the afghan about the young man's shoulders. He winced reflexively as the first crack heralded the beginning of the fireworks display.
"Put your hand over my heart, Jim," Blair instructed. "Dial your hearing down to just above zero, but dial up your touch until you can feel my heart beating."
Jim smiled and nodded as he felt the familiar pulse beneath his fingers, then swallowed as he felt Blair's nipple harden at his touch.
"Oh man," Blair breathed. He took a deep breath and squirmed a little, perhaps not aware that he was pushing himself closer into Jim's space. "Okay. That's your anchor. Now your sight, that's going to be a little bit of trial and error."
Jim leaned down so that his mouth just skimmed Blair's ear. "I thought you knew what you were doing, Sandburg."
With his hearing already dialed down, Jim felt rather than heard Blair's chuckle and he inched the dial up a fraction as the other man spoke.
"I don't want you to zone, man, but I don't want you to miss the show either." Blair looked up as a shower of brilliant rainbow colors painted the sky in crimson and blue. "Here we go. Just focus on my heart beat, Jim."
Blair shifted a little, tilting his head back to look at him. "You okay?"
"Oh yeah. I'm great."
Blair turned within the circle of Jim's arms and smiled up at the sentinel. Hesitantly, he reached up with one hand and allowed it to ghost down Jim's cheek. Momentarily startled, Jim looked down. "Blair?"
"Shh." Blair's hand moved around to cup the back of Jim's head. "Watch the fireworks," he whispered.
"I am," Jim replied just as softly as his head bent seemingly of its own accord to meet Blair's. Lips touched, a tip of a tongue snaking out, requesting permission to enter and Blair opened his mouth and let Jim in.
The first explosion of light and sound should have deafened Jim, having dialed up all of his senses to better enjoy the experience that was Blair, but the sentinel was ignorant of it all, totally focused as he was on the sensory smorgasbord in front of him. Finally, gasping for breath, Jim pulled away from the sweet mouth and enclosed Blair in a gentle hug, carding his fingers through the soft scented curls and burying his face in the juncture of Blair's neck, imprinting the essence of his guide on his soul. He gently pushed the young man around to face the front once more. Wrapping his arms tightly around him, Jim sheltered Blair in the cradle of his embrace. "Pay attention or you'll miss the show, Chief."
Blair turned to his partner as they sat, wrapped in comforters on the couch, Blair tucked against Jim's chest, sipping sparkling wine and watching the fireworks performance repeated all over the world on TV. A faint frown creased his brow. "Jim? How long have you been feeling like this about me?"
Jim laughed. "Probably forever, but it wasn't until tonight when I realized that I forgot to turn on the white noise generator and I unconsciously focused on your heartbeat from the moment you came home that I admitted it to myself. What about you?"
"It really hit me when I got to the party and realized that I didn't want to be anywhere but here, fireworks or not. I just thought I had a case of SPS."
"SPS?" Jim questioned, stroking his hands down Blair's arms and smiling when Blair sighed and leaned his head back, exposing a soft neck to his lips.
"Sentinel Protector Syndrome," Blair said and yelped when Jim nipped his neck in response. "So you can really recognize my heartbeat as distinct from anyone else's?"
"Yep," Jim replied, laving an earlobe now in the hope of averting Blair's mind from the suggestion of tests.
"Yeah?" Blair's grin split his face.
"Yeah, pretty cool, huh?" Jim's smile matched his partner's.
"Yeah. Happy New Year, Jim."
"Happy New Year, Chief."
"Mmm?" It was hard to talk around a mouthful of ear.
"Want to go upstairs and start some more fireworks?"
Jim knew he didn't have to answer that question.