The Stocking by ainm

The Stocking - ainm

“I just don't understand what the point is. What am I supposed to put in it?”

Blair was bouncing slightly, face earnest. “It's tradition, Jim!”

Jim shook his head in bemusement. “Whose tradition? We haven't done it in all the years you've lived here, I haven't done it since I was a kid, and if you've done it, I'd be surprised.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why wouldn't I have?”

“Blair, you're Jewish. What is going on?”

Blair dropped his gaze and Jim could feel a blush starting to rise, though it wasn't visible on Blair's face. “I just want to, I think it would be nice. Is it really that big a deal?”

“To you, obviously.” Jim gave a short laugh. “Look, if it's that important to you, OK, but seriously, I don't know what I'm supposed to put in a stocking.”

Blair seemed almost relieved. “Oh, it doesn't matter, just little things --”

“-- obviously --”

“I don't know, maybe some pens...

“That sounds pretty boring.”

“Well I think I'm a little old for Matchbox cars. I'm sure you'll think of something, you're clever. And you still have a week!”

“Wait, we don't even have stockings!”

“Oh, don't worry, I'll take care of that,” Blair assured him.

Jim just sighed in resignation.

- - - - -

To say that Jim had been skeptical going into the stocking-stuffer experience would be an understatement, but he had to admit (to himeslf, probably not to Blair) that he had some fun with it. There were things Jim knew that his partner liked, that weren't really worthy of full-fledged present status, so he concentrated on those.

He had a bag from Blair's favorite organic market hidden in his dresser that held a bottle of the pricey all-natural shampoo that Blair liked best but didn't usually buy for himself, an array of herbal teas, and a few other food items – some imported cookies, an assortment of spiced nuts, a few fair-trade chocolate bars. He also had purchased a few nice pens, as suggested, and a small notebook to go with them. He felt pretty proud of himself, actually, and was looking forward to Blair's reaction when he opened his stocking.

- - - - -

“Hmm... I must admit that I didn't really think this part through,” Blair said as they both looked around the loft.

“No fireplace means no hanging by the chimney with care, sorry,” Jim teased.

Jim thought that Blair's aggravation was kind of adorable, though he would never risk life and limb by telling him so.

“Look, Chief, since Santa can't come down the chimney, he has to come through the door with his magic key, right?”

“Is that how it goes?”

“Yes,” Jim said matter-of-factly, though he wasn't all that sure. “So, look, there is the door, there are some hooks. Voila.”

Blair turned his head to look at them from different angles before turning back to Jim. “Are you saying that we ought to hang our beautiful hand-knit stockings on the coat-hooks with care?”

“Do you have a better idea?”

Blair frowned. “Well... I guess not.”

“I don't think hanging them on coat hooks will offend the... who was it again that made them?”

“The niece of the Anthro Department admin, to help her pay for next semester's books.”

Jim nodded absently. “Well, come on, are we ready?”

“I guess so,” Blair agreed, though he still looked faintly skeptical. “So, are we supposed to say something?”

“It's not a religious rite, Chief, it's big socks. We can do whatever we want.”

Jim started toward the hooks, but Blair remained where he was standing.

“OK, look, I'll go first.” Jim had to quickly pull down a few coats and a scarf from the hooks, and he smiled at the sound of Blair's gasp when he put them on the floor out of the way.

Jim held the stocking up, admiring the surprisingly intricate design. Looking back toward his partner, he said in an exaggerated voice, “Gee, I sure hope Santa fills my stocking tonight!”

Blair snorted indelicately. “OK, fine, no elaborate stocking-hanging ritual, got it.”

They each hung their stocking without further comment, then stood back to appreciate their work.

“There we go, all ready for Santa!” Blair announced.

“Yeah... but... how is that supposed to work, anyway? I mean, Santa...”

It ended up taking a bit of swapping turns in the bathroom, conspiculously avoiding looking near the door, and hiding in bed, but eventually they were both ready to settle down for a long winter's nap, to await Christmas morning and finding out what Santa had brought them.

- - - - -

According to Jim, it was altogether too early when Blair's excitement forced them to head downstairs to see what the night had brought.

“Relax, Jim, the sun's almost up,” Blair said cheerfully as Jim grumbled his way to the coat-hook "mantlepiece" to retrieve his stocking.

“That's not precisely encouraging, Chief,” he said as they settled down on the sofa with their loot. “So how do we do this? Dump them all out?”

“Good grief, no! You have to take each item out and unwrap it. We can take turns,” Blair directed.

They each sat on one end of the sofa, facing each other with their stockings between them.

“You can go first,” Blair offered magnanimously.

“Oh, no, you're the one that's about ready to vibrate onto the floor, go for it.”

Jim slowly woke up as they each unwrapped the first few items. They laughed when they realized that they both had given tea (“this will relax you, Jim, I promise, just the right herbs!”), and where Jim had given Blair shampoo, Blair had given Jim body wash (“this will relax you, Jim, I promise, very soothing scent!”). They both shared bites of the chocolate that Jim had put in Blair's stocking, until Blair put it away because they hadn't had breakfast yet (“hey, that was relaxing me!”).

Jim's first thought when he reached the small, carefully-wrapped box, was to make a flippant remark about rings. Before that came out, however, he realized that Blair was literally holding his breath in anticipation, and he stilled his tongue.

It was a jewelry box, he found as he took off the paper with as much care as it had gone on with. Not from some mall-chain store, though, but from a shop that sold high-quality art, jewelry, and gifts made by Native Americans and other indigenous peoples.

He hesitated for a moment, staring at the closed lid as if he had x-ray vision in addition to his enhanced Sentinel senses. He'd felt the atmosphere shift away from light-hearted, becoming not strained but tense with anticipation, and nearly solemn. Jim found himself almost a little nervous about opening the box.

Blair let out his breath in a rush. “Come on, open it,” he asked in a whisper.

Slowly Jim did, lifting out a chain with a bronze disk hanging from it, not quite an inch in diameter.

Jim's chest tightened for a moment when he realized what the design was. The subtly three-dimensional bas relief showed the silhouette of a panther, head and strong shoulders exuding power, yet somehow also peace.

Before Jim had the chance to say a word, Blair reached in his own stocking. “Well, would you look at that?” he asked in a husky voice that belied the humor of his words. “I have one too,” he announced, pulling out a matching box.

It was Jim's turn to hold his breath, holding his pendant in the palm of his hand while he watched Blair unwrap his own package with uncharacteristic slowness. Jim found his breath leaving him in a sigh as Blair held up his matching necklace, the amulet carrying the image of a wolf.

“I thought they were... appropriate.” Blair's voice was no longer a whisper, but still pitched low, almost reverent.

“They're beautiful.” Jim traced and retraced the image of the panther with his finger.

Blair laid the wolf pendant back in its box. “Here, let me,” he said as he reached for Jim's chain.

“No.”

Blair sat back, startled, with hurt in his eyes.

“No,” Jim said more softly. “Here.”

He opened the clasp of the chain that he had yet to let go of, and leaned toward his partner. Blair looked confused for a moment, then a smile spread until it reached his eyes. He turned away slightly and picked up the mass of his hair to hold it out of the way, giving Jim easy access to place the panther necklace around Blair's neck.

When the clasp closed, Blair turned back around, and it didn't take a Sentinel to see the sheen of tears in his eyes.

Jim picked up the wolf necklace and offered it wordlessly to his partner, turning as Blair had when Blair took the necklace.

After closing the catch on the chain, Blair leaned in toward Jim and kissed the back of his neck, right beneath the clasp.

It seemed like one single, fluid movement as Jim turned toward Blair and they were in each other's arms, just holding tight and letting everything else drift away. Finally they parted slightly, both of them smiling just a bit.

Jim gestured toward the necklace almost glowing against the dark of the T-shirt that Blair wore under his bathrobe. “I love your idea with these.”

Blair reached out and touched the wolf pendant where it lay directly on Jim's chest, warmed by his body heat. “I like your idea more.”

They leaned back in and traded slow kisses, sweet with Christmas candy and the strength of their bond.

“I have to say, opening the rest of the stockings is going to be somewhat anticlimactic,” Jim observed with a smile when they finally pulled back again.

“Well, it is still pretty early, what do you say we go back to bed now and finish this later?”

Jim's smile shifted. “Hmm,” he said, reaching out to finger Blair's pendant. “I'd love to see how this looks on you – all by itself.”

Blair groaned and hopped to his feet, reaching to pull Jim up as well.

“Come on, Jim, the stockings can wait,” he said with sudden urgency.

“Yeah, they can,” Jim agreed as he allowed Blair to lead him by the hand to the stairs.

Suddenly Blair stopped and whirled around to face his partner.

“But... the stockings were a good idea, right?” he asked earnestly.

Jim laughed a full, rich laugh and pulled Blair in against him for a tight hug.

“Right, Chief, they surely were.”

The end.

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Acknowledgments: This was written for LJ Secret Santa List, 2010. Thanks to Patt for the artwork.