Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Holiday stories

Summary: When Blair is stranded 400 miles away from home on Christmas Eve, he must cope with spending his first Christmas apart from Jim.

Author's Notes: For Becky. Brief reference to Becky's Letter Home, one of my favorite Becky fanfics, as well as Mrs. Danbush's Hot Summer Day and The Purloined Pair of Underwear.

Already There
by Robyn
December 2003

CANCELED
CANCELED
CANCELED
CANCELED...

A little knot of disappointment appeared inside Blair's stomach as he scanned the blue airport terminal screen before him. The listing was consistent, if not boring. No favoritism here, he thought as the logical part of him tried to reason with his emotional half.

It wasn't working.

The other part of him couldn't help but feel a bit singled out at being stranded almost 400 miles away from home on Christmas Eve. Actually, it was 387 miles away from home, but who was counting?

You're not the only one. Quit feeling sorry for yourself, he thought. Blair sighed. His own unwillingness to accept reality -- rather, the weather reports people had passed on to him before he'd left the hotel where the anthropology conference had been held -- was the reason he was standing here staring at the dumb-stupid-no-good airport monitor in the first place. Even the thickening Canadian snowflakes he'd seen from the taxi window on the way over to the hotel hadn't been enough to convince his stubborn mind. He'd come to the airport anyway, hoping against hope that he'd be able to get a flight out.

No such luck.

With a sigh, Blair moved away from the monitors to make way for other stranded travelers, then leaned down and pulled his cell phone out from his backpack. He'd spent other Christmases and Hanukkahs away from home, but this was different -- those times, he had wanted to be in Uruguay, Nepal, or Borneo. This time he was going to be spending Christmas alone, far away from his best friend, for the first time since he and Jim had met.

In a few brief moments, he heard his friend's voice on the other end.

"What's up, Chief?" Jim said brightly. "Sounds like you're at the airport already." The reception was surprisingly good.

"Yeah, they canceled the last afternoon session," Blair said. Something caused him to hesitate, as if delaying telling Jim the bad news gave it one last chance not to be true.

"Are you all right?" Jim asked, concerned. "Is something wrong?" Jim's voice turned suspicious when Blair didn't answer immediately. "Sandburg, has there been a bomb threat??" he demanded.

"No, no, I'm fine," Blair hurried to reassure him. "I just called to let you know it looks like I won't be making it home tonight. The reason they cut the conference short is because this city's decided to have a white Christmas, and they expect the blizzard to last through the next couple days. No flights coming in or out, man."

"Damn," said Jim, his voice dropping to disappointed instead. "I was afraid that would happen when I heard about that storm coming in from the north. And here I was going to put you to work cleaning the loft, baking cookies, wrapping presents, and decorating the Christmas tree while I lounged on the couch drinking hot cocoa," he teased.

"Chill out, you big Scrooge," Blair retorted. "Just for that, when I get back to the hotel I'm going to take a nice, long, hot soak in the tub while you clean the loft. Actually, I made up all that stuff about the blizzard. This is the only way your personal slave can get a holiday."

Jim laughed and Blair joined in.

Then the detective's voice softened. "Seriously, do you have a place to stay?"

"Yes. I'm going back to the hotel where the conference was held -- it's just down the street. Don't worry about me."

"Do you have money?"

"Yes, I have money," said Blair. "Money goes farther in Canada for us Americans, and I have my VISA. I told you -- don't worry, I'll be fine."

"All right," Jim said rather uncertainly. "You sure?"

"Jim..." protested Blair.

They laughed together again. After a few moments, Blair spoke quietly. "I wish I were already there, you know?"

"You'll be back here before you know it," Jim encouraged. "Order a pizza and watch Terminator when you get back to your hotel. That always makes me feel better."

Blair chuckled. "Thanks, Jim. I think I will."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Terminator was not on.

What was on was an infomercial for special knives with an annoying fat man, a Laverne and Shirley marathon, and the Weather Channel, which Blair could not watch because the satellite repeatedly showed the gigantic whirl of whiteness advancing through British Columbia that was ruining his efforts to spend Christmas at home with Jim, and that was downright depressing.

Blair turned the TV off and tossed the remote on the hotel bed, wondering what to do next. He'd already called a couple hours ago and left a message on Jim's phone with his hotel room and phone number. He pulled his laptop out of its case and turned it on, bringing up the notes he'd taken at his anthropology conference on Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in his life, the words swam together and held neither meaning nor allure for him. Well, maybe it wasn't the first time in his life -- there was that time he'd tried to study after the Lash incident, and that time Simon had just told him Jim was getting the Officer of the Year award, and that time when ...

He shook himself mentally. Nope, no way he was going to let himself get marooned with those kinds of thoughts. It was bad enough that he was going to spend Christmas here instead of home. He wished he could talk to Jim -- Jim would cheer him up. He reached for his cell phone to call him, then stopped himself. Jim was still on duty and didn't need unnecessary interruptions. He felt guilty about leaving Jim by himself. Yep, that was it. He ought to call and apologize to the man. When he'd brought up the just-before-Christmas-conference he remembered confidently telling his friend, "Don't worry, I'll be home in plenty of time for Christmas." And now he wasn't going to be home in plenty of time. He wasn't going to be home at all. He wondered how Jim was dealing. Jim was going to be fine. Jim had plenty of family in Cascade that he could spend time with. Still, he ought to check on him. It was a guide's duty. What if Jim was in trouble and he didn't call him? That would be terrible. It would be his fault. Yep, Jim definitely needed him to call.

Blair selected Jim's number on his cell phone and deliberately called it before his mind started going in insane circles of rationalization again.

"Hey, Sandburg!" Jim answered cheerfully, and immediately Blair felt better. He could hear a lot of voices in the background, and what sounded like the dinging of cash register drawers, beeping of bar code scanners, and the crinkling of paper and plastic.

"I take it you're okay," Blair said, feeling somewhat embarrassed. Of course Jim was okay.

"Yep, I'm okay. Why wouldn't I be?"

"What are you doing?" he asked, conveniently skipping over the question. "Did I catch you at a bad time?"

"No, Chief. I'm on my break. My shift ends in a couple hours."

"Are you at the supermarket? I thought you finished the shopping yesterday."

~Pshhhhph...shhhhrrrmrgph~ "...Coke."

"What?"

"We need more Coke." Jim loved classic Coca-Cola and drank way too much of it as far as Blair was concerned.

"What are you talking about?" said Blair. "You just bought a case of Coke from Costco last week, and I know you didn't drink it all yet."

"We need more Coke," Jim insisted. "With you gone, the energy level in the loft goes waaay down. I need more caffeine just to keep myself awake all day."

"Uh...huh. You okay, man?"

"I am wonderful, Blair. Just wonderful."

Blair raised his eyebrows. "I don't think you should be drinking any more caffeine right now."

"You'd be surprised. There anything special you want for Christmas dinner? When you get back?"

Blair sighed. "The only thing I want is one of your cups of hot chocolate. You know, with the whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkled on top." He paused as his stomach rumbled, apparently not satisfied with the two bagels he'd eaten for lunch. "And one of your turkey sandwiches and a bowl of tomato soup and my own bed," he added.

"I know," Jim said sympathetically. "It sucks being stranded in the Yukon, so far away from your own bed."

"Dude, I'm not stranded in the Yukon."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He might as well have been stranded in the Yukon.

It was snowing outside, and this far north it had been dark since 3 PM. That was over four hours ago.

Here he was, alone at a tiny table in the hotel's very empty tiny restaurant cafe, eating a tiny personal pizza with tiny spinach and tiny artichoke hearts that cost $15 US, and that was without the tip. Okay, he could admit it. He was lonely. It was too stormy outside to walk anywhere, and he didn't know a soul in the entire town. He hadn't even seen any of the other anthropologists from the conference back at the hotel -- maybe they had been able to fly out before the storm hit, or they were waiting it out at the airport. The silver and gold fake fruit on the big fake tree in the lobby looked -- well, fake. He missed the tree at home with its chili pepper lights and strings of popcorn. He missed Jim's model train with its annoying "whooo-hooooo.." and the look of utter boyish delight on Jim's face whenever it whistled.

He missed Jim.

The cafe was so quiet that he jumped when his cell phone rang.

"Sandburg, did you eat something for dinner?"

Blair looked disgustedly at the small, too-crunchy bite of pizza crust he'd left on the plate. "Yesss, moth-er," he said, accentuating the words for Jim's benefit. "Did you?"

"Yeah. Steven invited us over for Christmas Eve dinner, remember?"

Another pang of homesickness ached inside Blair's chest. "Oh yeah," he said, doing his best to sound pleased that Jim had gone without him. "Did you have fun?"

"Get this, Chief -- Steven got a brand new 2003 Expedition. It's loaded! He let me take it out for a spin." Jim revved the engine a little for Blair's benefit and laughed a laugh that would have scared most people.

"ALONE?" Blair exclaimed. It didn't sound like something Steven, or for that matter anyone familiar with Jim's past driving record, would do.

"Yes, alone. Why does nobody trust me with vehicles any more? Believe me, this thing drives smooth as butter and the stereo system is awesome. Listen!" With that, Santana's latest album boomed out in the background.

"Pretty cool, man. Just one question -- do all Ellisons buy Ford trucks?"

"Yes, of course. Did you know the back seats go down with the touch of a button? We could have really used that when we had our old Expedition."

"Cool," Blair said with a touch of forced enthusiasm. Jim was obviously having a good time, and it was probably best that he not distract him any further while he was driving a borrowed vehicle, even if it was his brother's. "I should let you go so you can get your new 'why-don't-you-just-marry-it' car back to its rightful owner in one piece."

"All right. But is your room is okay? Does the heater work and is there an adequate escape route in case of fire?"

"It's fine, Jim. They even gave me a suite with a little kitchenette in it. Don't worry about me. I'm having a great time here in the hotel." Blair wondered if Jim could tell he was lying about the great time.

"Whatever you say, Chief," Jim said.

Of course Jim could tell he was lying.

"You're sure you're comfortable?" his friend repeated.

"YES. A little bored, but this hotel has everything I need. I love my room, man."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He hated his room. He was sick of it. He'd been in a hotel room for three days now, and he hated it because it reminded him that he wasn't at home. Home was where Jim was cooking lemon-pepper-rosemary chicken and roasted baby asparagus and decadent fudge cake for Christmas dinner. Home was where Jim threatened to flush the toilet while Blair was taking a shower, but never did. Home was where he and Jim could sit around in their flannel and fleece bathrobes, respectively, on Christmas morning, watching NBA basketball while the living room stove popped and crackled and made the whole loft warm.

Home was where Jim was.

He had the room heater turned up and his extra sweater on. The Canadian thermostat said 67 degrees Fahrenheit / 19.4 Celsius but he still felt like he was freezing. There was something about being alone that made you colder, he decided.

His head propped up on one elbow and his hand scrunching one side of his cheek and mouth and eye into a funny expression, Blair stared glassily at Free Cell solitaire game #1079 on his laptop screen. He was pretty sure he'd played every single one of the 1079 Free Cell games, too, but they were all mashed together inside his liquefying brain. Blair glanced at the alarm clock next to the bed. It read 10:48 PM.

He was relieved when his cell phone rang and he saw Jim's number on the caller ID. "Hey Jim, what's up?"

"Sandburg, I need your help. I need to see through something." Jim's voice sounded distracted, even a little strained.

"You're a sentinel, Jim, not Superman."

"I'm not trying to see through lead, silly. I, uh, need to see through... it's snowing, all right?"

"You're still driving -- at this hour -- IN THE SNOW? Where'd you take Steven's Expedition, anyway?"

"Let's just say it started snowing while I was taking the scenic route -- through the back hills."

"WHAT? Does Steven know about this?" exclaimed Blair.

"Look, I called him, he's okay with it, and everything's going to be fine. Now are you going to help me or what? I'm afraid I'm going to zone on the flakes." Jim's tone was impatient, but Blair sensed that he needed help.

"Sorry, Jim. Of course I'll help you. Do you have the brights on? Turn those down and let your eyes dilate naturally."

"Okay."

"Now just relax and forget all the snowflakes. Visualize yourself seeing beyond the whiteness to the trees on either side of you."

"It's working. I can see the road more clearly now."

"Good. Focus... steady..."

For about fifteen minutes Blair helped Jim stretch his eyesight through the falling night snow. It was good to be needed instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself.

"I can see city lights up ahead, a ways down this hill now. The snow isn't falling so thickly any more," said Jim. "Thanks, Chief."

"Any time, man. Please tell me you're close to home?"

"Yep. I'll be there in no time."

"Good." Blair yawned. Helping Jim took concentration on his part as well, and suddenly he felt tired. "I think I'll go to bed now. I'm always complaining about not getting enough sleep, so I might as well take advantage. I am soooo sleeeeepy..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He couldn't sleep.

It wasn't that he hadn't been trying. He'd tried every trick he could think of -- thinking of black velvet, rehearsing Simon droning on about paperwork-this-and-that at the weekly staff meeting, listening to Gregorian chants on the one radio station that still came in, listening to his own breathing, and of course counting sheep. The bad thing was, black velvet reminded him of the dress Megan had worn to the department Christmas party, Simon's voice made him miss Major Crime, the Gregorian chants made him want to strangle all the Gregorian monks in the world, his own breathing made him want to strangle himself, and thinking of sheep just made him itchy.

Sitting in bed under the covers for warmth, his laptop on his lap, Blair again tried to work on his thesis, his lesson plans, and his ongoing list of 101 Ways to Bug a Sentinel. It was more than his brain could handle. Additionally, he also discovered that you can play tic-tac-toe with yourself for only so long before going absolutely crazy. In fact, his mind was turning into a whirling, howling whiteness, just like the storm outside. Now he felt like he was the one who needed help.

It was 2 AM. He hesitated to call Jim, even though the man did stay up late on rare occasions if he didn't have to work the next day. Jim was probably asleep, and he could be grouchy when awakened unnecessarily in the middle of the night, just like any other person. Blair wished there were a way he could tell whether Jim was still up. He should've installed that webcam in Jim's room for emergencies -- this was an emergency. He wished he knew the phone number of somebody who lived in the buildings across the street, so they could tell him whether there was a light on. He wished he had the gall to call Mrs. Danbush and ask her to knock on Jim's door.

Alas, he had none of those things, and he didn't exactly want to be assassinated upon his return to Cascade.

There was only one solution. He would simply call Jim. The worst that could happen would be that he'd have to deal with a grumpy detective, and he'd done that many times before. Plus Jim would be over the whole thing by morning, maybe even apologetic. That way Blair wouldn't be responsible for breaking any privacy laws or causing Mrs. Danbush to violate her restraining order. Well, Mrs. Danbush didn't exactly have a restraining order yet, but Blair was sure that if she knocked on Jim's door at 2 AM for no apparent reason, she would have one.

So with an anxious, hoping heart, Blair dialed.

"Ellison."

"Jim, did I wake you up? I am so sorry, man, but I just can't sleep."

"Don't be sorry, Chief. I'm glad you called. I can't sleep, either."

Blair let out a little sigh of relief. "Really?"

"Really. It's one of those 'I wish I could but I just can't' situations. Know what I mean?" Jim said. He sounded tired, too.

"Do I ever. Well, why don't you tell me about your day. Anything interesting happen?"

Jim then proceeded to tell how he, along with Henri and Rafe, had spent the day hunting down and subsequently catching the thief who had made the critical error of stealing the police commissioner's prize lit-up plastic snowman from his yard just before the judging of his neighborhood Christmas lights contest. By the time he was done relating the arduously ridiculous case, both men couldn't stop laughing.

"Remember the Toilet Paper Idiot we had to catch who was TP-ing the mayor's cousin's sister-in-law's nephew's son's doghouse several years ago?" Jim said. "I think this guy was related to him, but worse."

"I don't know about that," Blair said, unconvinced. "The Toilet Paper Idiot threw red paint on you and landed you in a miniature golf pond."

"Yeah, but because of this moron, I had to carry a gigantic plastic snowman into the P.D. past hordes of snickering officers and staff so we could get it photographed and entered as evidence. When forensics was done fingerprinting it, the commissioner decided he wouldn't press charges since he'd gotten the snowman back in one piece and he wanted it back in his yard before the contest that night. So we had to cart the stupid snowman back to his yard and hook it back up to his Mickey-Mouse, bird-nested mass of electrical wiring which was also connected to about a billion other lights and tacky objects. And in the process of plugging it back in..." Jim paused for effect.

"Oh no. You didn't get --"

"Oh yes, I did. Got the shock of my life, thank you very much. It also burned out part of the commissioner's electrical system and they couldn't get an electrician out 'til after Christmas."

"Oh no! Are you okay, man?"

"Yes, I'm okay. But wait -- it gets worse."

"Worse?"

"I was okay, but the snowman wasn't. Somehow the snowman got an extra surge of current before we could shut everything down, and the current melted him pretty bad. So we did all that for nothing. The commissioner was so steamed I thought he was going to melt."

Blair howled with laughter. "Oh man, I miss all the fun."

"Trust me, I wish you'd been here. I would've made you carry that dumb snowman."

After the two men's laughter had died down, Blair sighed. "I just wish... I just wish I could be home for Christmas."

Jim answered softly. "I know. Now go to sleep. Pretty soon you'll be back here to your regular no-sleep schedule and you'll wish you'd caught those extra hours."

"Thanks, Jim," he murmured. Blair had barely set his cell phone on the nightstand and turned off the light before he was fast asleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~ringring...ringring...ringring...~

Blair groaned and rolled over, squinting blearily at the bedside alarm clock. It was 5 AM. Fumbling, he picked up his cell phone and clicked 'Answer.' "Hel..lo?" he rasped.

"Merry Christmas, sleepyhead!"

"Juh..im? What're you doin'? Uryou...okay?" Blair slurred. Vaguely, he wondered if Jim could hear the scraping noise his eyelids made every time he blinked.

"Just a friendly wake-up call, Chief."

"Hey, I didn't order a wake-up call, and if I did, it wouldn't be until noon," Blair grumbled. "Now either hang up or sing me back to sleep."

~knock-knock~

He blinked in the direction of the door and rubbed his eyes, wondering if he was hearing things due to sleep deprivation. "Somebody's knocking on my door."

"Maybe it's room service," offered Jim.

"It's 5 AM for Pete's sake! And I didn't order room service."

Still holding the phone, Blair stumbled toward the door, clumsily messing with the inner lock before he finally managed to open it. His mouth dropped open and his eyes widened at the sight that met his eyes.

There Jim was, standing at the door, trying unsuccessfully to hide a big dopey grin on his face. In one hand he held his cell phone and in the other, a bag of groceries. "You sure you didn't order room service? I have some fixings for hot chocolate, turkey sandwiches and tomato soup, though you'll have to settle for cold cuts..."

"Jim! You -- how -- you mean all those times we were on the phone, you -- you were driving 400 miles in a blizzard???? Do you know how dangerous that was? Weren't the roads closed?"

"Glad to see you, too, Chief. You helped me through the hardest part, you know. Steven's Expedition has great snow tires, and I managed to slip through right before all the road closures. I only went off-road twice. Did you know it's actually only 387 miles to the Yukon?"

"But..." Blair stammered.

"But?" Jim smiled serenely, amused at the anthropologist's rare display of utter discombobulation.

"How much money did you have to pay Steven to lend you his brand new SUV?"

Jim laughed. "None. When I told him I was taking the pickup, he literally forced me to take the keys. One thing's for sure. I don't think I should drink any more caffeine for a while."

Blair couldn't stop staring at his friend. He felt like he was dreaming a really good dream, and the best part was that he wasn't dreaming. "I can't believe you're really here," he murmured.

"Well, I can. After we eat -- and I'm starving -- I think both of us could use a looonnng nap. Now can I come in? A flat of Cokes really makes you have to pee."

"Oh, yes, yes!" Blair exclaimed, jumping aside as he took the food from Jim's arms. "And Jim?"

Jim paused at the bathroom door. "Yes?"

"Merry Christmas."

Sometimes being stranded 387 miles from home on Christmas wasn't so bad after all.

~ The End ~

I'm already there
Don't make a sound
I'm the beat in your heart
I'm the moonlight shining down
I'm the whisper in the wind
And I'll be there until the end

Oh I'm already there
We may be a thousand miles apart
But I'll be with you wherever you are

Lyrics excerpted from the song I'm Already There by Lonestar.