Let Nothing You Dismay
A/N: Thank you to spacepixell for the quick beta.
The door to the loft flung open and Blair burst into the room…hands, hair and mouth going a mile a minute. Snatches of grumbled mutterings ricocheted off the walls.
"Season of goodwill, my ass. Selfish, self-centered, self-consumed, inconsiderate…"
The door banged against the wall before swinging back to stand ajar.
Jim flinched at the initial onslaught of the tirade of The Grinch Who Swallowed My Guide and was about to comment on the clear violation of House Rule #84, which included, but was not limited to, the proper way of entering the loft.
Before he got a chance to point out subsection b of the rule, covering leaving the door ajar, Blair had completed a frenzied circuit of the kitchen island and returned to the door. He took one look at it, slammed it loudly, and then kicked it twice.
"Um, Chief?" Jim ventured.
Blair jumped, spun around, and clutched at his chest. "Jeezus, Jim, gimme a heart attack why don'tcha?" He shot his partner a look that would make Scrooge proud.
Jim frowned disapprovingly at Blair's tone and demeanor. The younger man had bounced out of the loft four hours earlier on a shopping mission, holiday spirit oozing from every pore. The dispirited lump of guide that returned, exuding grinchiness, was the last thing he expected. Jim got up from the couch and sauntered over to the loft's center support. He leaned up against it and crossed his arms.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Nuthin'," Blair retorted unconvincingly.
"Uh-huh, right," Jim responded. "Try again."
Blair's eyes darted to Jim's face and he scowled at his partner before lowering his eyes. He started playing with the zipper on his jacket, nervously pulling it up and down until he suddenly realized he'd never removed the garment. He shrugged out of it and hung it on the back of the nearest chair. He fidgeted and began fingering the hem of his flannel shirt.
"Oh for cryin' out loud, Sandburg," Jim teased. "Just tell me what happened."
Blair's movements stilled; he looked past Jim, and then at the tree in the far corner, eyeing the three festively wrapped presents tucked beneath it…all tagged 'To Blair' and nothing but empty floor where the 'To Jim' pile should be.
"I," Blair's eyes darted to Jim and then he looked again at the tree out of the corners of his eyes. "I, um," he hesitated briefly and then let the words out in a rush. "I don't have any money to buy you the gift I'd planned on getting you."
Jim was confused; he knew Blair had been saving for months and had gone out of his way the past few weeks to put on an animated show of taunting Jim with cryptic hints about the gift to end all gifts he'd picked out.
Confusion switched almost instantly to alarm.
"Were you robbed? Are you okay? Why didn't you---?"
Blair cut him off. "I wasn't robbed." He looked at Jim sheepishly. "I don't have the money, that's all, and I don't have a present for you." He bit his lower lip, let his eyes roam around the loft, this time avoiding the tree, and then stormed past Jim toward his room under the stairs.
Jim stepped in front of Blair, blocking his path. Blair tried to step around him, but Jim just sidestepped, staying in front of him. He took hold of Blair by the upper arm and ushered the dejected young man to the couch. He sat down, pulling Blair down with him and draped an arm across his shoulders. He squeezed and kneaded the tense muscles reassuringly.
"What happened?" he asked softly.
Blair sighed. "I was on my way into the mall. Man, was it crowded. Anyway, there was this little old lady just a few feet in front of me and this guy zips outta the crowd, knocks her down, and takes off with her purse. And no one did a thing."
"Except you." Not a question.
Blair shrugged. "The guy disappeared into the mess of people. I went to help Tillie; I yelled for someone to stop him, but no one even tried."
"Tillie?" Jim prompted, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"She wasn't hurt, thankfully, but the guy got all her money, Jim." Blair looked up at his friend and Jim did smile this time, both inside and out.
"She's on a fixed income and it took her forever to scrape enough money together to be able to buy presents for her grandkids," Blair continued. A single tear rolled down the impossibly young looking face. He drew a steadying breath and finished his tale. "So I gave her my money, the money I was gonna buy your present with…" He chewed at his lip. "I'm sorry Jim."
"For what, Chief?" Jim laid a hand on straggly curls and guided Blair's head to the crook of his neck. He rested his cheek on the softness. "I can't think of a nicer present. I didn't need another overpriced fly fishing rig anyway."
Blair relaxed into his friend's embrace. "How did you know…?"
"Ha!" Jim laughed and hugged Blair a little tighter. "I didn't until just now."
Blair shouldered Jim in the ribs and chuckled.
Jim looked over at the tree and the presents.
"Tell you what, Junior," Jim whispered. "How about tomorrow I take back all the overpriced stuff I got for you and use the money to help out someone else who really needs it?" He looked down at the top of Blair's head. "I've got all I need right here."
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