GOOD WILL

By: Lyn

FEEDBACK TO: townsend297@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of others, but I’m hoping for Christmas. This fanfic has been written for my own and others’ enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.

SUMMARY: After Blair is robbed, Jim sets about instilling some good cheer of his own.

Set early Season One, just before The Debt. Blair is still living in the warehouse.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

 

Jim Ellison walked through the entrance doors of Cascade General Hospital and strode purposefully to the front desk. Pulling his shield from his pocket, he showed it to the pretty nurse seated behind the desk. "I’m Detective Ellison. I’m looking for Blair Sandburg."

The nurse smiled at him and nodded, then scanned the computer monitor in front of her. "Sandburg, Blair. Here he is, detective. He’s still being treated. If you’d like to wait, the doctor will talk to you shortly…" She stopped in surprise as she realized that she was talking to herself. Craning her neck, she was able to see the tall policeman just disappearing into Trauma Room 3. ‘Funny,’ she thought to herself. ‘I didn’t even give him the room number.’

Jim pushed open the door of the trauma room quietly and stepped inside. The anthropologist sat on the gurney with his head resting on his pulled up knees. His hair cascaded over his face and his hands, one heavily bandaged, were wrapped tightly around his legs. His upper torso was bare and Jim could see dark bruises already beginning to pepper his back. He was shivering violently, either from cold or shock or both and Jim moved quickly to his side. "Sandburg?"

Blair’s eyes popped open immediately and he lifted his head. Jim sucked in a breath as he took in the damage inflicted on the young man. "Jesus Christ, Sandburg!"

Blair’s face was white, stark bruising standing out in contrast along one bloody cheek. His right eyelid was swollen almost completely shut and the small sliver of eye that Jim could see was red and angry-looking. His lower lip puffed out enormously and his nostrils were caked with dried blood. "Sorry, Jim," he lisped, licking tentatively as a split in his lip reopened and oozed blood. "I didn’t know who else to call."

He winced as Jim took a tissue and dabbed at the blood beading on his lip. "I told them I’d be okay. I could have taken a taxi back to my place, but they wouldn’t let me leave alone."

"I should think not." Jim scanned the room, then pulled a chair over and sat down. "Do you feel up to giving me a statement?"

Blair shook his head. "I’d rather just forget it, Jim," he whispered.

"Have you seen yourself?" Jim exploded. "They beat the crap out of you, Blair."

"It was my fault."

"What do you mean? Nobody deserves to be beaten like this."

"I made them angry. I wouldn’t give them my wallet."

"It’s no excuse," Jim replied. Rubbing a hand over his face, he sighed. "Do you want to tell me why you didn’t just cooperate with them?"

"I’ve been saving my money for something special, and it just seemed so unfair that they could just walk up like that and take it away. I just saw red."

"It’s only money, Sandburg."

Blair looked away and stared at the wall. "To you, maybe."

"It’s not worth getting killed over," Jim pushed but Blair merely sighed and nodded his acquiescence.

Jim gently picked up Blair’s bandaged hand. "What did you do to your hand?"

"Broken bottle. That’s what they threatened me with." There was a soft hiccuping sob and a single tear snaked down Blair’s battered cheek. "Someone ran into the alley. They took off then and the guy from the little bookshop over on 4th called an ambulance."

"Okay. Okay." Jim squeezed a trembling shoulder. "What did the doctor say?"

Jim heard the door swing open behind him and looked up to see a white-coated young man walk in.

"You shouldn’t be back here."

"Police." Jim flashed his badge at the doctor. "Sandburg’s an observer with the PD, and my partner." He smiled a little at the flush of pleasure that colored Blair’s wan cheeks at the words.

"I’d like to keep him here overnight," the doctor said. "His hand needed six stitches and he has a hairline fracture to his cheekbone. He’s also suffering from shock."

"I’m all right," Blair put in as he slid shakily off the gurney and wobbled on his feet. "I want to go home." He turned misery-filled eyes to the detective. "Please, Jim," he pleaded softly.

Jim sighed and scratched the bridge of his nose thoughtfully, then groaned deep in his throat. Blair looked up quickly at the sound and reddened, then climbed back onto the gurney. "I’m sorry," he said softly. "I didn’t mean to put you to any trouble. I’ll stay here. It’s just…" He lowered his voice further, then leaned in to Jim’s side. "I don’t have insurance to cover an overnight stay."

"Can he go home if someone stays with him?" Jim asked.

"I suppose," the doctor said slowly. "He’ll need someone to keep a close eye on him for the next twenty-four hours in case there are complications from the concussion he suffered."

Jim nodded. "I’ve had some medic training."

"All right then," the doctor said. "I’ll just go organize Mr. Sandburg’s discharge papers and write up a prescription for a painkiller and an antibiotic."

"Okay," Jim nodded. "I’ll arrange to take tomorrow off. I need to take his statement anyway." He shot Blair a look that brooked no argument. "Where are your clothes, Chief?"

"I’m afraid the shirt and sweater needed to be cut off," the doctor said. "I’ll get the nurse to bring you in a scrub top."

"Don’t bother. It’s fine." Jim slipped off his leather jacket, draping it over the young man’s shoulders. Blair smiled his thanks and huddled into the welcoming warmth. He waited until Jim signed him out and picked up the prescriptions from the pharmacy, then hobbled uncertainly after the detective into the frosty evening.

A light snow was beginning to fall and Blair shivered at the chill in the air. "Thanks, Jim. I’ll see you in a few days when I’m feeling a little better."

Jim stopped walking and stared back at Blair in surprise. "What do you mean? Where do you think you’re going?"

"Home."

Jim shook his head and grasping the anthropologist’s elbow, steered him in the direction of the truck. "No, you don’t, Chief. I told the doctor I’d keep an eye on you. You can spend the night at my place."

Blair pulled away forcefully. "It’s fine. You don’t need to…" He put a shaky hand to his head and Jim watched his face turn an unhealthy shade of green.

"Yeah, right." Placing a supporting arm around the young man’s waist, Jim headed toward the truck. "If you think you’re going to throw up, try to give me some warning."

"Jim?"

"Oh, great."

0~0~0~0~0

Jim pulled his truck into a parking space in front of the loft and looked over at his slumbering companion. Blair’s face was still pale and lightly sheened with sweat but he seemed to be resting comfortably enough. The detective reached over and tapped him on the shoulder. "Sandburg? You with me?"

"Huh?" Blair came awake suddenly and shot up in the seat, then moaned softly and rested his head on his hands.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," Blair breathed. Jim didn’t believe him for a moment. The young man looked exhausted. Jim helped him out of the truck, steadying him with a strong hand when he faltered and his knees buckled beneath him.

Thankfully, the elevator was working and Blair slumped against the wall with a tired sigh. Once inside the loft, Jim steered him to the couch, then stood back and regarded him thoughtfully, wrinkling his nose. "Do you think you can manage a shower on your own? You’re a little on the nose there, Chief."

Blair’s face scrunched up miserably and he stood, peeling off Jim’s jacket. "I fell in some garbage when they hit me. I’m sorry, Jim. You should have said something before. You drove home in the truck with me smelling like this and your jacket…I’ll have it cleaned for you."

Jim stopped the flow of words with an upraised hand, then turned Blair in the direction of the bathroom. "Just take a shower. Don’t lock the door and don’t use up all the hot water."

Blair nodded and limped toward the bathroom. He stopped at the doorway and turned around. "I really am sorry about this. Look, if you need to go back to work…"

Jim shook his head and picked up the phone. "It’s no big deal, Chief. My shift was almost over when the hospital called. I’ve got some paperwork to catch up on anyway."

"We could work on your senses some more," Blair said, looking hopeful and Jim allowed a smile to grace his features.

"Why don’t we think about that after you’ve had some rest and some food. Remember, don’t use all the hot water."

A half-hour later, Jim had thick vegetable soup simmering on the stove and Sandburg still hadn’t emerged from the bathroom. Jim realized suddenly that Blair had only the filthy clothes he’d been wearing when he was mugged, so he climbed the stairs to his room and rifled through his closet. He came up with a pair of sweats that would probably be too big but would at least keep the young man warm.

He made his way back downstairs and knocked at the bathroom door. "Sandburg? I’ve got some clean clothes here for you." There was no reply but Jim could hear that the shower was still running. Giving an angry mutter about ungrateful people, Jim opened the door to the bathroom and stopped dead in his tracks.

Blair sat in the tub, staring at the wall. Cold water cascaded around him but he did not appear to be noticing anything at all, though he was once more shivering violently. Jim placed the clothes on the toilet lid and stepped forward to turn off the faucets. Blair gave no reaction to his presence and Jim’s concern deepened. Leaning down, he placed a hand on the young man’s chin and tipped his face up to look at him. "Blair? You okay?"

Blair’s empty gaze finally focused on him and Jim sighed in relief. He looked closely at the young man’s pupils but they seemed normal. "Sorry. What?"

"Are you ready to get out of here and have something to eat?"

"Sure, okay," Blair answered agreeably but he made no move to get up.

Shaking his head, Jim pulled a large towel from the rack and helped the young man to his feet. He stood by as Blair dried himself off and clumsily pulled on the sweats, grabbing hold of him as he lost his balance trying to get the pants on.

"Might be easier if you sit down and do it, Chief," he advised and Blair merely nodded and did as he suggested. The clothes were baggy at best and Jim tied the drawstring on the waist of the pants as tightly as he could, then folded up the legs. "You losing weight, Chief? You need to eat more."

Blair shook his head. "Been saving for something special."

Jim led Blair out to the dining room and pulled out a chair for him to sit on, then went through to the kitchen to serve up the soup. He brought large bowls of the steaming broth back to the table along with the prescription bottle of pills and a glass of orange juice. "Eat up, Chief. These pills usually work better on a full stomach."

"Thanks." Blair managed to get a half a bowl of soup inside him before his exhaustion caught up with him and his head began to droop toward the table. Jim caught him by the shoulder and got him to swallow an antibiotic and a pain pill before leading him through to the spare bedroom. Settling the drowsy man onto the futon, Jim pulled the covers over him, then fetched clean bandages for Blair’s hand from the bathroom cabinet. He traced his fingers gently over the back of Blair’s swollen hand where he could see the distinct impression of a boot in the bruising. "Sandburg? What happened here?"

Blair opened sleepy eyes and flinched a little at the pressure. "Stomped on it," he said around a yawn. "Told me it was my punishment for not giving them my wallet fast enough."

His breathing evened out into that of sleep as Jim efficiently bandaged his hand. Looking around, he found another pillow on the chair by the bedside table and placed the injured hand upon it. Blair sighed and curled around the pillow in obvious pleasure. The detective shook his head sadly at the brutal damage inflicted on the gentle young man.

"Merry Christmas," he whispered in disgust. He was about to pull the curtains shut when Blair’s soft voice stopped him.

"Could you leave them open for a while. I just…"

"Sure. No problem."

"Did you get my Christmas trees?"

"What Christmas trees?"

"In my jeans," Blair sighed. "Can’t lose them now." Then his voice broke. "Saved up all that money for them and now it’s gone. I’ll have to start all over again."

Jim stepped back to the bed and stroked his hand over Blair’s clammy forehead. "It’s okay. Just get some rest. I’ll take care of it." He kept up his mesmerizing stroke until the frown smoothed out and Blair’s even breathing filled the room once more.

Jim picked up Blair’s jeans and took them into the living room with him. He went into the kitchen and put coffee on to percolate, then set about lighting the fire and warming the loft. Finally, sitting down on the couch, he picked up Blair’s dirty, damp jeans and began to search through the pockets, unsure of what he might find. His fingers brushed a thick piece of cardboard and he grasped the edge and pulled it out. Holding it up, he smoothed out the creases and traced a finger along the outline of the Christmas tree.

These were gift tags, designed by large department stores and hung from trees in the malls. A person took a gift card and bought a Christmas gift for the underprivileged person described on the card. Jim shook his head as he riffled through the tags. There were about 10 in all, each one for a different person-mothers and fathers, grandparents, boys, girls and babies.

Disgruntled, and now feeling queasy in his stomach, Jim tossed the tags onto the table and got up to turn off the coffee. Pulling a beer from the refrigerator instead, Jim twisted off the top and took a long swig before leaning back against the counter and studying the open doorway of Blair’s room. "Shit, Sandburg," the detective swore. "Were a few gift tags worth getting the crap kicked out of you?"

0~0~0~0~0

Jim was sitting on the couch watching the morning news with the sound muted when he heard Blair stumble out of the spare room. The detective stood and walked around to offer the bleary eyed young man some assistance and led him over to sit in the living room.

Blair nodded his thanks and settled back against the cushions with a soft grunt of pain, then rolled up the cuffs of the tracksuit sleeves that had flopped down over his hands. Jim stood back and observed the anthropologist closely. Blair had slept for almost six hours, waking only briefly and somewhat irritably when Jim had roused him for neurological checks. He still looked exhausted, Jim thought, though it was hard to tell anything through the bruises that had now erupted fully over Blair’s swollen face. He shook his head and walked out to the kitchen to put the kettle on for coffee. "What a mess."

Sandburg ran a hand through his sleep-mussed curls and grimaced as he yawned. "Thanks."

"Sorry." Jim turned back to face the other man. "I found your Christmas trees. They’re on the coffee table."

Blair’s face widened into a semblance of a smile. "Oh, man, that’s great. Thanks." Leaning forward, cradling his ribs, Blair picked up the tags and thumbed through them, a frown growing on his face.

"Why do you have so many, Chief? You can’t afford to go buying gifts for all those people on what you earn, surely."

Blair tossed the tags back onto the table and sat back with a sigh. "I can’t now, that’s for sure." Then his eyebrows knitted together in concentration. "Let me see, we have…" He groaned and reached up a sleeve-covered hand to rub at his head and Jim automatically reached for the pain pills. "How many weeks to Christmas, Jim?"

Jim thought a moment, as he pulled a bottle of water from the refrigerator and brought it out to the living room, holding it out to Blair. "Take your pills. Just under three, I think."

"Not nearly long enough," Blair muttered, swallowing the pills without an argument. "I’ll just have to review what I was going to buy. Cut back on the cost a little."

Jim sat down on the seat opposite and observed the young man as he calculated and did his math. "Blair, why so many?"

"Oh, man." Blair leaned back on the couch and fingered his swollen, scabbed lip carefully. "We didn’t do Christmas. My mom didn’t believe in it. Not because we were Jewish, but because it was an establishment thing. I used to be so jealous of the other kids at school, talking about what they wanted for Christmas. A couple of years ago, I spotted these charity gift tags at the mall. You take one and it tells you who the gift is for, boy aged 5, girl aged 12, mother, grandfather." He shrugged. "Whoever. Every time I go into the mall, I can’t resist. I took one the first time but when I go back there are always more on the tree, waiting for someone to pick them, and I think, what if someone doesn’t."

"You can’t buy gifts for everyone, Chief."

"I know," Blair puffed out his cheeks. "Doesn’t matter now. Those assholes took every cent I’d saved." He slumped in the seat, looking spent and dejected.

"Tell you what," Jim said, sitting up straight. "You feel okay to come to the station now and give me your statement?"

"I guess, if you insist."

"I insist." Jim stood and went to the door and lifted two jackets from the hooks. "We’ll stop by your place on the way so you can pack some clothes and change. You can stay here for a day or two, till you’re feeling better."

Blair limped slowly over to the door and took the proffered jacket. "Thanks."

Jim patted him on the shoulder. "While we’re at the station, let’s spread a little good will of our own." At Blair’s quizzical look, he smiled as he ushered the anthropologist out the door. "I’ll explain on the way."

0~0~0~0~0

Jim looked around the assembled group of detectives and support staff. "So, instead of our annual Secret Santa, everybody takes a gift tag and buys a Christmas present for the person described on the tag. What do you think?"

Simon Banks nodded slowly, then smiled at Blair. "I think it’s a great idea, Jim. Give me one of those, Sandburg. Who have I got?" The police captain squinted through his glasses and a wide smile graced his features. "Boy, 13. Guess I can get Daryl’s advice on this one." Simon stood and clapped Blair on the shoulder. "This is a great idea, Sandburg." Leaning down, he whispered in the younger man’s ear, "and it saves me from some of the God-awful ties that everyone keeps buying me. These people have no imagination."

Blair grinned, then winced as the gesture once more split his lip. He watched as everybody stepped up to take a gift tag from his hand. He looked up as a warm hand on his neck gently massaged out the tense muscles, then reached down to pluck the last two tags from his grasp.

"We’ll hang onto these." Jim perused them quickly. "Girl, aged four and boy, aged ten. Might need your help on these, Chief. You’re the big kid around here. Come on," he added as he took in the exhaustion and pain lining Blair’s face. He put a hand under the anthropologist’s arm to lever him from the chair. "Let’s get you home to bed."

Blair nodded tiredly. He stopped at the doorway and turned to face the police officers in the bullpen. "I know it’s kind of early, but Merry Christmas, everybody."

FIN

- November 20th, 2001.

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