Commitment by Natalie L

Commitment - Natalie L

"Jim, one week. One week, and I promise, I promise, we'll be out of your hair. Come on. One week, man." Blair in "The Debt."

December 1996:

Blair stood at the glass doors to the balcony, watching the white flakes of snow accumulate over the dust and grime of the city, turning Cascade into a fairyland of sparkling crystal. Footsteps behind him caused him to turn and cast his gaze on the austere furnishings of the loft.

"Hi, Jim." He paused, second guessing what he wanted to say. Then, taking a breath, Blair continued. "Have you ever thought of decorating for Christmas?"

"What? You mean holly, mistletoe, that kind of crap?" Jim replied, a small grin crinkling the edges of his mouth.

"A tree," Blair added. "Maybe a garland on the stairs, a few lights, a poinsettia for color."

Jim shrugged. "No. I never felt the need. Besides," he added, "I thought you were Jewish. Why are you so interested in decorating the loft for Christmas?"

"Mom always liked the holiday," Blair admitted. "She'd always find a way to get us a tree, even a small one, a few lights, some ornaments. We didn't exchange gifts, but we would bake cookies and fry up some potato latkes."

"Cookies and latkes?" Jim chuckled.

"What's wrong with that?" Blair bristled a bit at Jim's reaction. "It was a tradition for us. An odd tradition, maybe, but it was ours."

"Trees are a mess," Jim said, shaking his head. "You have to keep them watered, and they still drop needles on the floor. I'd be picking them out of the boards for months afterward. Plus, you have to drag it up two flights of stairs and back down again to dispose of it."

"I'd do everything," Blair promised. "It would brighten up the loft, really! I think you'd like it."

Jim considered, studying the earnest face of the young man who had so recently moved in for just 'one week'. "It would take a commitment on your part," he conceded.

"Anything!" Blair promised. "Anything at all. You name it."

"You're responsible for the care of the tree, for putting up and taking down any decorations, for disposing of the remains and cleaning up." Jim ticked the requirements off on his fingers. "Agreed?"

"Absolutely! Thanks, man! You won't regret this," Blair promised.

"I'd better not," Jim muttered under his breath. "Now, snow or no snow, this member of Cascade's finest has to go into work. I'll see you tonight after 5:00."

"Drive carefully," Blair admonished. "I mean it!" he added at Jim's whimsical grimace.

***

That evening when Jim came home, his senses were assaulted by the smell of pine, the twinkle of multicolored lights, and the sound of Christmas carols emanating from the stereo system. But he was drawn most by the scent of chocolate and frying potatoes coming from the kitchen.

Blair was standing over the stove, turning up the corner of a latke to check for the perfect golden brown color that indicated it was time to turn the pancake over. His sweater sleeves were pushed up to his elbows, his nose smudged with flour, and he was wearing Jim's floral apron. A plate of chocolate chip cookies waited on the corner of the island.

Jim picked up a cookie and bit into the soft, gooey center. "Still warm."

"They just came out of the oven a few minutes ago," Blair replied. "Don't eat too many. Dinner will be ready soon."

"I see you've had a busy day." Jim finally took time to look around the loft. A smallish, four-foot tree stood in the corner behind the fireplace; multicolored mini-lights twinkling merrily, with satin finished gold and red glass balls hanging delicately from its branches. The stair rail to Jim's bedroom was decorated with a faux evergreen garland and white lights. A bright red poinsettia sat next to a silver menorah on the coffee table, and a sprig of mistletoe was tacked over the front door.

"I hope it's not too much?" Blair asked hesitantly. He'd only been a guest of Jim's for a few months and was still tiptoeing around the grouchy Sentinel's 'house rules'.

"I suppose not," Jim said, secretly pleased with the warmth the decorations brought to the loft. It had been a long time since this place had felt like more than simply a place to lay his head at night. Today, it felt like a home. "Just so long as you remember the commitment you made."

"I'll take care of everything," Blair promised, "just like I said I would. Now, if you're still hungry, dinner is served." He'd fixed Jim's favorite pot roast to compliment the plate piled high with potato latkes. Steamed baby carrots and green beans on the side rounded out the meal, with the chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

Jim dug into the meal with gusto. For some reason, the food tasted better tonight, as though his senses were on overdrive. After dinner, Blair cleaned up while Jim walked over to the tree to admire his friend's hard work.

"You did quite a lot today, considering the weather and all," Jim commented, fingers delighting in the touch of the satin finish on the glass ornaments. "The loft looks really nice."

"So I didn't overdo it?" Blair asked again, wanting to be reassured.

"No, not at all. It reminds me of home when I was little, before our mother left. She always decorated like this... and more."

"I wish I could have met her," Blair said softly.

"Yeah, me too," Jim replied, equally soft. He reached out to put a hand in the small of Blair's back and guided him along the wall toward the door. "Remember what I said about you having to commit to a few rules if you were going to decorate the loft?"

"Yeah, man. Anything. I said I'd do anything." Blair looked up at Jim with questioning eyes.

Drinking in the heady scent of his companion, Jim had placed a finger beneath Blair's chin and tipped his head back just enough to create the perfect angle... Lowering his head, his lips touched Blair's and jerked back quickly as if an electric spark had passed between them. More slowly the second time, Jim pressed his lips to Blair's and found Blair's mouth open in response. Strong hands gripped Jim's shoulders, pulling him closer. He could feel the hardness of Blair's body against his, feel the heat of his skin, the reaction of his body as he quivered with excitement. The heavy musk of arousal filled the air and Jim knew that Blair wholeheartedly agreed to the commitment of his body.

When the kiss ended, Blair looked up breathlessly at the man he had loved from the first day. "What was that all about?" he whispered, hardly daring to hope.

Jim pointed to the mistletoe. "I've been waiting all evening to see how far you'd take your promise."

"I've been waiting nearly eight months for the same thing!" Blair declared, flushing scarlet but no longer afraid to voice his feelings.

"Then what do you say to committing to the rest of our lives?"

"Lead the way!"

Jim wrapped an arm around Blair's waist and led him across the room. Blair's breath caught in his throat at the thought of the big bed at the top of the stairs and the man standing beside him. But his heart never faltered at the thought of his promise as he followed his destiny up the long flight of stairs to the bed.

~THE BEGINNING...~

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Mary and "Great City" for the beta. You gals are the best!

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