DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of others. This story was written for my own and others' enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I asked Leanna about Sentinel Thursday, and she sent me the information along with this week's challenge and the muse woke up.
This is a stupid idea, Blair thought as he pushed the gaily-wrapped parcel under his bed. He and Jim had returned from Peru two days previously after rescuing Simon and Daryl. That same night, Blair had refused the offer of a lifetime to go to Borneo with his mentor, Eli Stoddard.
"It's about friendship," he told Jim, without a twinge of regret. "I just didn't get it before."
Jim's grateful smile had suffused him with warmth. They'd gone through a lot this past year. In his wildest dreams, Blair hadn't envisaged that signing on as guide to a sentinel would be the roller coaster ride of a lifetime.
The one thing that had kept him going back even when his insides quaked and his stomach rebelled was the visible proof that he was helping Jim. The sentinel's control of his hypersenses was improving steadily under Blair's tutelage, though Blair knew that it was often a case of the blind leading the blind. He was making a lot of this up as he went along, using his own skills of observation and relying heavily on the observations of an anthropologist whose words were long forgotten.
There had been several bumps in the road but Blair knew this was where he was meant to be. His mother might call it karma and Blair was inclined to agree with her. Over the year, their partnership had developed into a close-knit relationship that was closer to brotherhood than Blair had ever experienced.
This afternoon, Blair had spotted a very ordinary item in a toy store window that had stopped him in his tracks. Hurrying inside, he bought the gift and hurried home to wrap it. Now, looking at the clumsily wrapped present and hearing Jim's key turn in the lock, he wondered if he'd done the right thing.
Standing, he pushed the package further under the bed with his foot and walked out to greet his partner. "Jim! Hey, man. How was your day?"
Jim shrugged out of his jacket one-handed and hung it on the hook behind the door, keeping his other hand concealed behind his back. "Pretty quiet, Chief. How about you?"
Blair shrugged, then leaned sideways trying to glimpse what Jim was hiding. "Oh, you know. Same old, same old." He inclined his chin at the mystery thing Jim was hiding. "Whatcha got? Somebody's birthday?"
He was astonished to see Jim blush, even the tips of his ears turned red. "Nothing," the detective replied. He sighed. "Actually, it's for you." Abruptly he held out a medium sized rectangular box covered in red and blue striped paper.
Blair beamed. "For me?" His smile faltered. "What for? It's not my birthday."
"I know that." Jim seemed discomfited. He pressed the gift into Blair's hand and headed for the kitchen. "It was silly, really. I was out interviewing a witness to that bank heist on Main Street and I went by this store and saw this in the window. It reminded me it's been exactly a year since you walked into the hospital room, looking like you were playing dress-ups in that white coat." He stopped in front of the refrigerator door and gave an embarrassed shrug. "Happy anniversary, Sandburg."
Blair stared down at the object in his hand, a sudden unexpected sting of tears burning his eyes. "Thanks, Jim. This is so cool."
"You haven't even opened it yet," Jim said, a little brusquely. He cleared his throat. "You want a beer while you do?"
"Yeah, thanks." Blair was still staring at the gift, his heart pounding, finding it hard to draw in a breath. Setting the package on the couch, he hurried into the bedroom. "Be back in a second," he promised.
When he returned to the living room, Jim was sitting on the couch, two beers sat on the coffee table. Blair sat down beside him and held out his own anniversary gift. "It's not wrapped very well," he said apologetically as he looked at the untidy corners barely held together with tape. "It was kind of awkward to wrap and I ran out of tape."
"It's fine," Jim said, his voice suddenly hoarse. "Thank you."
Blair gave him a whole body nudge. "So open it."
Jim shook his head. "You first."
"Okay." He tore off the wrapping eagerly. "Oh, wow, Jim! This is so cool!"
"It's stupid," Jim muttered.
"It's perfect," Blair replied sincerely. He broke open the box and pulled the small garbage truck from within, smiling. "Thank you. Now open yours."
Jim did as he was asked and grinned as the paper fell away to reveal a bright red frisbee. He threw back his head and laughed uproariously with Blair joining in a moment later. "Great minds, huh, Chief," he chuckled finally. He sat for a moment and just stared at his gift, then looked over at Blair and smiled. "So you wanna celebrate?"
"Sure," Blair replied, still staring at the garbage truck, a small shudder shaking him at the memory of that day, and all they'd endured together since then. "Your treat? Your choice then."
Jim frowned. "Actually I'm a little strapped, Sandburg. Wonderburger, okay?" He ducked, his timing perfect after a year of living with his partner and Blair's swat sailed harmlessly past his head. He held up his hands in surrender. "Kidding. How about Thai?"
Blair gave the garbage truck a small pat then sat it carefully on the couch cushions and stood. "Perfect."
17th February 2004