Gift Exchange - a Holiday Fic from my Secret Santa offerings

Disclaimer: No profit,copyright laws bent but not broken

Gift Exchange

by Roslyn

Content: Gen, No warnings. Just hanging out. Beta'd by Arianna with her usual good grace and good sense :-)

********************

"That was a great party." Under his cable knit sweater, Jim discreetly unbuttoned his pants at the beltline. "Really good food."

"Who'd have guessed that even at a 'dry' event, cops would know how to have a good time?"

"True, not that a beer wouldn't be a good idea right now." Lying back against a carefully constructed pile of throw pillows, Jim waited in vain for his indirect request to have effect. Ah well, subtlety is often lost on Sandburg. "Ahem. Hint. Hint."

"Oh, sure. Make the short guy waddle over and get the drinks." Blair did so, good-naturedly. "Here you go. By my watch, we're dangerously close to becoming morning drinkers. Christmas Eve is about to turn into Christmas morning." They toasted one another nonverbally, from opposite sides of the couch.

"Why do I feel like we ought to be wearing our jammies and holding stuffed bears?" Jim sipped and warily regarded the holiday cheer surrounding them.

"A bit more holiday spirit is in order, Jim. It isn't like I suggested waiting up for Santa. Still, it'll be fun kicking back, going through our stockings and ringing in Christmas Day together."

Nicer than you can ever know. "Well, if it's important to you, why not?"

"Careful, Jim, before your cup runneth over with sentiment." Blair grinned understandingly.

They both glanced over at the long stockings hung on the mantle, filled by each before leaving for their office party. Sandburgian touches of warm color, illuminated by a sluggishly burning log.

"C'mon, man. Haul yourself off of that couch." Blair stuck out a helping hand. Complying, Jim grabbed their stockings enroute to their tree beside the staircase. As they settled down on the wide pine floorboards, Blair looked pointedly at the marble circles that Jim carefully placed beside them.

"I can't believe you thought to carry the coasters with you."

"Well, you won't let me polyurethane the floor, so coasters are all the protection left for it." Jim smiled, slyly. But I can still campaign for it.

Blair smiled sweetly in return. "Damn straight I won't!" Nice try, Buster.

They each dove into a stocking, sounds of amusement filling the loft.

"What are these?" Jim sniffed, cautiously.

"Santa Cookies. Made 'em myself."

"What, do they contain walrus shortening or caribou hooves?" Jim ignored the wry but patient look on Sandburg's face while he pulled something round, dark and gritty from deep within the red felt material.

"Very funny, Chief."

"That's the lump of coal I put in, anticipating some sarcasm. Consider it a strong but wordless sign of disapproval."

"My apologies," Jim smirked. "But don't bust a gut restraining your eloquence on my account."

"Do I ever? But I can see that you're overcome with remorse, so I'll spare you the lecture." Grinning even more widely than usual, Blair continued, his good mood unabated. "Keep going."

"The Pocket Book of A Hundred and One Things NOT to Say Out Loud…, Hmm, Never say to a cop, ‘Hey, is that a nine millimeter? That's nothing compared to the forty-four magnum I've got in my glove compartment'. This one sounds like good advice - During your dissertation defense, avoid saying 'Well, the theory was current when I first started this sucker twelve years ago.'."

"And valuable advice it is. Personally, I thought you would benefit from the one on sexual encounters, advising you not to say, 'But I just steam cleaned this couch.'."

"Very funny. In your case, 'Table Leg', it might be more like this one, 'I thought you had the keys to the handcuffs'."

"Damn. Officer Lisa promised me she wasn't the kind to 'bondage' and tell."

"You are kidding, right?"

"Right."

"Just checking. The only officer named Lisa that I know is fifty-seven and works in records with pictures of grandkids on her desk. Oh, good, I needed new luggage tags. Very cute, Sandburg. This one says, 'Keep looking, I think yours may be in Denver'."

Blair decided to examine his own loot while Jim slowly savored his personal plunder. "Hey, new mug, cool. Oh, man, great logo, 'Instant Human, Just Add Coffee'. By the way, the mug you left for Simon had him both laughing and swearing."

"I can't remember which one I left for him. Was it the one saying, 'Your ridiculous little opinions have been noted.' or 'I'm not bossy, I just have better ideas.'?"

"The first one. You gave the 'bossy' mug to Conner. Without a signature on the card. I really admire your sense of self-preservation."

"And I wonder about your lack of it, giving her that t-shirt saying, 'Chocolate is cheaper than therapy.'. Oh, this is useful! I didn't know they had these or I'd have bought a coin organizer for myself. Perfect for the truck- the change rattling around makes me …never mind. Thanks."

"You're welcome and I never mind," Blair smirked. "Now, that desk plaque you left for Ron down in receiving was a stroke of genius. Somehow, 'FedSex, When you REALLY need it Overnight!' will go over well there and the brass won't even see it and complain."

"Yeah, well he's something of a Lothario and I owed him one for that t-shirt he gave me tonight. One of his cohorts warned me about it last week."

"C'mon, man. Give it up."

Jim sighed at such calumny. "It says, 'I'm not short-tempered, I can stay mad for DAYS!' You know, Chief, it wasn't all that funny. Here, wipe that beer off your upper lip."

"Thanks," Blair wheezed. "Look at it this way. You can always wear it around the house where it won't be giving away any secrets to me. What's this, a crime scene tape? Expecting me to give in and eventually murder you? Oh, 'Danger, Messy Room'. Got it. I'll put it up on my door. Hey, chocolate! My favorite… no, your favorite kind."

"Thanks, don't mind if I do. Well, that's the last of the stocking stuffers. Shall we?"

"Sure." Blair turned to the larger gifts under the tree. "Okay, these are from Naomi for us."

"I'll get the pail of water."

"Huh?"

"Never mind. It's a 'Joel' joke."

"Right. Oh, well my mom never worked with the Weathermen, despite her late association with Timothy Leary. Bombs aren't the first things that come to my mind when I recall her protesting experiences."

"In that case, I'll open this. Uhm, this is nice," Jim temporized. "A hemp wallet. Do I put money in it first or just smoke it as is?"

"Cute. Look! A sun tea jar. Best kind of tea assortment also. Here's the note." Laughing softly at the message, Blair shared it with his roommate. "To celebrate the solstice since a shorter day doesn't need to be less bright."

"I think I understood that. Do we keep any thorazine in the house?"

"Never mind ragging on my mom. Next, hey, when did your Dad leave gifts here?"

"Oh, Sally must've come by and left these by the door. Saw 'em when I got home the other day and her perfume was still on them."

"Nice of him. This one's for you. And this one's…for you." Blair grinned, not at all abashed.

Jim sighed. "Well, this is an assortment of dried fruits and nuts - organic, so I guess it was meant for both of us. Let's look at this one…hey! This is really nice." He held up a portable phone, much smaller than his own model. "Much easier to fit in the pocket, too. Must be the latest in technology for these things."

"Must‘ve cost a fortune! But a great choice since you hate how yours drags on your pockets. Rafe will be jealous. Look, it can be set to vibrate instead of ring. That'll be great, less annoying to your senses."

"Sounds like a good option."

"Depending upon which pocket you choose to put it in."

"What do you ...? Sheesh, Sandburg." Ignoring his cackling partner, Jim moved on to the other packages. Seemed like every year, the originally unwanted additions to the day became more valued and greater in number.

"Is that grin one of contemplation about the cell phone?"

Jim snorted at the badly done leer accompanying the risque remark. "No, Dr. Bell, it is not about the phone. Here, open this one, from 'H' and Rafe."

"Maybe I will get that pail of water."

"Too late. Oh, no. We are NOT putting these in our bathroom."

"Why not? They're great." Blair shook out the large black terry rectangles, illustrated with the chalky white outlines of a body on them. "Crime scene towels!"

"No. Just, no."

"Killjoy. Here you go. From Simon. And did you know what I sent to his house? I forgot to tell you. A doormat, saying 'Step on This' and then my picture below with the caption, 'and not on this'."

"And you think I've got nerve? I bow to genius."

"As well you should." Blair blew on his fingertips and buffed them against his shirt. "Ouch, hangnail. So much for expressive gestures. Anyway, Simon really did need a mat. Joan took his and he never replaced it."

"And you're assuming he wants to see your little portrait each night when he gets home."

"Daryl will make sure he uses it. He helped me find it."

"Simon sent us some nice hooks here for fly fishing." They studied the intricately tied creations. "Hope he likes the golf balls we sent him. The good ones you wouldn't let me keep." Jim's raised eyebrow again challenged the boundaries constantly set by his partner for his welfare.

"Hey, go find an organically kept golf course and I'll stop bitching about it. Otherwise, find another recreational sport not conducted on toxic waste dumps full of pesticides and herbicides. Not that I saw you pining to play golf, until I vetoed the option."

"Well, golf isn't really my thing, anyway. Too much down time between swings. It's boring. Lots of small talk expected, too."

"Torture, by your definition then. Let's face it. Mainly, you hate the idea of not using your senses to cinch it but are too honorable to cheat, even in friendly competition. A true, no-win situation for you." A slim package was thrust towards the older man. "Here, try this one."

"From you? Oh, hey! This is great! I've always wanted to try this since the climate doesn't make ocean surfing that attractive most of the year. What made you think of wind-surfing lessons and a lake pass?"

"A sense of desperation, when you started gazing longingly at golf balls."

"Devious. Thank you, Chief. I'm gonna love this."

"Better than a vibrating cell phone? Hey, not the hair, man!" Blair ducked just out of Jim's long reach, with the ease of long practice.

"Here, look at this one." Jim retrieved a flat package from under the tree and placed it in Blair's lap.

"A lap desk for a lap top? Great, I can sit up in bed with it now, comfortably. What's this thing taped to it?"

"A digital bookmark. It'll time how long you read or use your laptop and ring if you set it. This way you don't lose track of time and work ‘till dawn."

"This is terrific. Thanks."

"And you can wear the tee-shirt that Megan gave you when you use it. 'Talk Nerdy to Me'."

"I'm a geek, not a nerd and proud of the distinction! But I like the t-shirt too. Ookay, this package is marked, ‘Handle with Care'. Whoa, Jim. This is beautiful."

"The instructions sounded pretty easy. I hope they don't die on you."

"No, a cactus garden ought to do well with almost no attention. The ambient humidity here ought to provide lots of water for it, even if I don't remember to give it enough. And these colored pebbles in it will retain moisture, too."

"Better than sand."

"Still protecting that floor finish, are we?"

"Damn straight."

They finished looking at the small luxuries they'd bought for one another and been given by others. Two large boxes remained.

"I can't imagine what you did here but I hope you didn't go overboard, Chief."

"No, but that's because neither one of us is really acquisitive. But this is the first Christmas I've had any money available and we can both enjoy this."

Jim neatly unwrapped the box and delved into its bowels. "A DVD player?"

"Yeah, tapes are really obsolete now and they won't be making 'em much longer. Soon, you won't be able to even rent them anymore. The newer stuff and the best quality will be coming from DVDs now. This will hook up nicely to the TV."

Jim laughed softly as he dragged over the large box left under the tree for Blair to open.

Blair unwrapped a thirteen inch television with a VCR tape insert, perfect for his dresser, rested in the box. Clumsily wrapped on top of it was a headset with a long cord. "I can't believe you did this!"

"So you can tape your documentaries and see them anytime you want, even if I'm sleeping. I know how often you don't get to see your shows because of my preferences or my need to sleep in silent surroundings. And that is appreciated, along with all the rest." Jim averted his gaze to the detritus of Christmas, surrounding them. When in doubt, start cleaning. "Maybe it should have been a DVD player though."

"Are you kidding? This is great. Tapes will become really cheap now, so I can collect my favorite classics. Anyway, you still need a VCR to record shows and I love the documentaries on cable. It's wonderful." Blair pretended a mighty effort in rising from the floor and joined his friend in tidying the loft of wrapping paper and crumbs.

They met, grinning foolishly, over the trash pail where Blair took possession of the now-full bag. "I'll take this out now and avoid the morning rush." Not that we ever leave any trash in the loft overnight, in deference to the slight morning ripeness that might be detectable and irritating to Jim's nose.

"Thanks, Chief." Jim rinsed the beer bottles and put them in the recycling container.

Returning, Blair glanced at his watch and pretended to weep. "One-thirty A.M. and all's well."

"Thank you, 'Town Crier'," Jim returned, acknowledging the well-worn joke between them about his concerns for his partner's sleep patterns. "Time for all good rookies to be in bed." He put an arm around Blair and shepherded him towards his small room.

"Merry Christmas, Jim." Blair hugged his partner tightly, the embrace firmly returned. They released one another with slaps to the back, the time-honored concession of men engaging in such gestures of affection. Blair blinked in surprise when his friend broke with convention and planted a kiss on his forehead.

"And Happy... whatever, to you too, Chief." Jim's voice and expression communicated what his normal, verbal reticence restricted him from conveying more explicitly.

Blair returned the salute with tender regard, before each retired for the remainder of the night.

END

Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Roslyn.

Back to Roslyn's page.