With a sigh, Jim stood upright as the elevator doors opened, remembering the previously scheduled Christmas activities.
‘We need to get a tree, Jim.’
‘We need to go Christmas shopping, Jim. No, not at the mall! We can hit a bunch of little shops and find something personal!’
‘We need to get wrapping paper and ribbons, Jim.’
‘We need to decorate the tree, Jim.’
‘We need to shop for Christmas dinner, Jim.’
‘Where’s your Christmas card list, Jim?’
“So help me, if Sandburg’s got anything on his ‘to-do’ list tonight, I’ll…” Jim muttered under his breath as he unlocked the door.
Inside the loft, he took a deep breath and smiled. The loft’s kitchen was warm and inviting with mouth-watering smells coming from the stove and oven.
“That’s chili and cornbread,” Blair Sandburg called down from his bedroom. “I figured we could eat that while watching the Jags game. How did court go?”
“Not good,” Jim admitted as he stored his gun and shrugged out of his jacket. “The defense may get the search thrown out.”
Jim shook his head even though Blair couldn’t see him. “Can we talk about it later? Like tomorrow, maybe?”
“Sure. Sorry, Jim.” Blair’s soft words floated across the loft.
“No, it’s me,” Jim admitted. “It’s been a long day.” He glanced at the television, grimacing when he saw Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the screen. Thankfully, the sound was on low.
“So hit the shower, man,” Blair called out. “I’ve already showered and left you some hot water. And put your sweats on the counter.”
“Thanks, Chief.” Jim gratefully headed for the shower, tugging off his tie and tossing it onto the nearby chair. He glanced at the tree sitting by the balcony doors. The lights weren’t on but he saw some wrapped packages lying beneath the branches. ‘Been wrapping already, huh?’ With an inward shudder, he closed the bathroom door behind him. He paused for a moment, and cocked his head.
“Freaking reindeers,” Jim muttered, recalling what he’d seen on the television. Deciding to rebel against his upbringing, he proceeded to take a long and leisurely shower.
Almost a half-hour later, Jim opened the bathroom door and walked out. Fully relaxed, he smiled when he saw Blair, wearing new pajamas with reindeer on them, sitting cross-legged on the couch eating chili from one of their larger bowls.
Blair widely smiled. “Grab some food and come on. The game’s about to start.” When Jim started towards the kitchen, he continued, “And no comments about crumbs on the couch either.”
“Yes, dear,” Jim teased. Barely a minute later, he was sitting next to Blair on the couch, their drinks sitting on coasters, and a small plate of cornbread on a plate between them. Jim settled back on the couch and began to eat as the players were being introduced.
“What the…” Jim glanced out the balcony window.
“What?” Blair looked at him in confusion.
Jim shook his head. “I thought I heard bells.”
“Bells? Like church bells?”
“Maybe some carolers are using them,” Blair suggested. Then he grinned. “We should go caroling, Jim. I could get some bells and…” He stopped when Jim’s open right hand appeared in front of his face. Blair saw Jim’s stern expression. “Just a suggestion.”
Jim tried very hard to maintain his expression but knew from Blair’s smirk that he’d failed. “Keep it a suggestion.” He settled back on the couch.
A comfortable silence fell between them as the Jags began the game against the TrailBlazers. Barely two minutes into the game, one of the Jags stole the basketball and with a teammate closely following, drove the ball down the court for a basket.
“Yeah!” Blair cheered, throwing one fist into the air.
“What the HELL?!” Jim jumped to his feet and glared down at Blair. “Is that noise coming from you?”
“I was just cheering that move,” Blair defended himself. “What’s with you, man?” He leaned forward and placed his empty chili bowl on the table.
“What’s with me? What’s with me is that I keep hearing bells jingling.” Jim’s blue eyes narrowed. “What’s with the pajamas?”
Blair looked down at himself. “I got ‘em the other day. Because it’s so close to Christmas, they were on sale.” He looked up at Jim. “Why?”
Suddenly Jim reached down and grabbed Blair by the arms. He pulled the younger man to his feet and gently shook him.
“It is you!” Jim accused, releasing Blair who took a few steps backwards. “Where are you hiding them?”
“The bells!” Jim shouted.
“I’m not hiding anything.” Blair extended his arms out to either side of his body and turned around.
“The bells are part of the jammies,” Blair continued. “Cool, huh? They’re called Jingle Jammies.”
“Jingle Jammies!” Jim closed his eyes and counted to ten…then to twenty when he heard Blair softly snicker. “Get rid of them.”
“Don’t wanna.” Blair tried to keep from smiling, when Jim’s eyes snapped open. “They’re warm…cuddly…Christmassy.”
“Sandburg, I’m warning you…” Jim took two steps forward.
Blair deftly took two steps away from Jim and smiled. His smiled faltered when Jim slowly smiled in return…a fiendish smile. Blair squealed and ran around to the other side of the couch.
“You can run but not for long,” Jim warned, trying not to laugh.
With a burst of energy, Blair jumped onto the couch and ran along its length. At the end, he vaulted over the arm of the couch and ran towards his bedroom.
“Got ‘cha!” Jim triumphantly laughed as he caught Blair by the waist and swung him around. Tossing his partner on the couch, Jim straddled him and began tickling.
“Jim! Ackkkk…stop tickling…”
Blair bucked upwards and Jim allowed himself to fall onto the floor next to the couch. He leaned back against the coffee table and began laughing, softly at first and then harder.
Lying on the couch, Blair smiled and patiently waited.
After a few moments, Jim took a deep breath. “Simon called, didn’t he? About the problem with the evidence?”
“Yeah,” Blair admitted. “So did Joel and Beverly. Apparently you made your displeasure known to more than a few people.” When Jim began to growl, he reached out and gently punched the older man on the arm. “We’ll work it out. If the evidence is tossed, we’ll find new evidence. Carson’s guilty as hell and we’ll get him.”
“I just get so tired sometimes,” Jim murmured. He turned his head and started at the Christmas tree. “This is Christmas…a time for miracles. Carson’s going to walk away, and we all know that bastard killed his parents for the inheritance!”
Blair briefly closed his eyes. “I know,” he whispered in return. “But miracles aren’t limited by the calendar, Jim. And there’s no statute of limitations on murder. We’ll get him.” He sat up and ran both hands through his hair. “C’mon. Let’s finish watching the game. I’ll grab us some eggnog, okay?”
Sitting on the floor, Jim had to chuckle. Sandburg was jingling his pajamas to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’.
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