A/N: Blair gives Jim a birthday gift. Way schmoopy -- some days you just need to revel in the sap. But yet, not slash -- somebody take my temperature! ;-) And written in about half an hour, and rather a departure from my usual style, so hopefully I won't wake up tomorrow to find that it doesn't make any sense... :-)
It had seemed like such a good idea at the time... but now that Jim was opening the package, Blair's chest felt tight with nerves at the thought that he'd made a horrible mistake.
It didn't help that Jim was so careful and methodical with present-opening that you'd have thought the Army had included "Wrapping Paper, No Tearing Of" as an exercise in boot camp.
But finally the paper was folded and the box opened, and Blair found he was holding his breath as Jim gently lifted the doll out of the protective tissue.
The look on Jim's face as he stared at the small toy made of plant fiber and bits of loosely-woven cloth in vivid colors kept Blair silent. He wanted desperately to know if he'd done OK, but he could tell that he shouldn't intrude.
Finally Jim looked away from the doll and at his partner.
"Thanks, Chief." His voice was low and husky, and it was the tone more than the words that lifted the weight off Blair's chest.
"It's not that I think you're approaching your second childhood or anything, Jim, I just thought that you might like a piece of the Chopec that didn't involve warriors or sentinels or shamans..."
Blair bit his tongue to restrain himself from launching into complete babble mode and explaining how he'd managed to finagle the piece from a friend of a friend who'd been in Peru for the summer, anything to fill the void left as Jim silently looked at the doll as if it held all the secrets of the universe.
Just when Blair thought he might have zoned on the doll's dress or something, Jim spoke.
"It wasn't all bad," he said, as if it were a revelation... and maybe it was.
"What wasn't, Jim?"
"Peru -- being with the Chopec. I'd forgotten so much of it, and what I got back was focused on all the bad parts -- the crash, the deaths, the constant struggle to survive and to hold the pass... I never stopped to think about the good parts, the quiet parts, the kids and the laughter and the songs and the family..."
Blair watched the emotions play over Jim's face as he remembered those more peaceful memories, and seeing the joy there made his own heart lighter.
"Thanks for giving me that, Chief -- not just the doll, but the memories."
Blair swallowed the lump in his throat at his partner's unexpected openness. "You're welcome, Jim. I'm happy that I was able to find it for you, bring back some of those good times."
"They really made me feel part of their group, and not just because of a common goal... I guess family doesn't just have to be who you're related to," Jim mused, looking seriously at his partner.
A flood of warmth ran through him at those words, hearing what Jim wasn't quite saying out loud but what was clear in his gaze. Neither of them had the best of records in the traditional family department, especially Jim, but they'd become a family of two nonetheless... Blair had felt that way for a while, but he didn't realize that Jim recognized it as well.
"Very true, Jim," he said, trying to convey the layers of meaning with his eyes.
A quick, pleased smile on his partner's face showed him that he'd succeeded, and a playful cuff to the head showed him that deep and meaningful conversation time was over. OK, not a problem.
"Come on, man, time for cake -- I still can't believe you talked me into one with this much icing!"
"Give me a break, Sandburg -- it's my birthday!"
Blair smiled as his family slipped back into its usual routine.
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