Jim walked into the loft, stopping to hang up his raincoat and put away his gun before removing his suit coat. His tie was already loosened.
He'd smelled the roast chicken and potatoes as soon as he'd entered their building. Comfort food that Blair often made when he knew Jim was going to have a rough day.
"How did court go?" Blair asked, looking up from an article he was writing, his research spread all over the table.
Jim made a face. "The usual BS, but I think it went well. I don't need to go back tomorrow, so that's a good sign."
"Great!" Blair said, as he started gathering up his things. "You have time for a shower before dinner.'
Jim pulled off his tie… slowly. He watched Blair's lips curl up at the light-hearted strip tease. Then he stepped closer for a long, heartfelt kiss.
"Do we have any plans for New Year's Eve?" Jim asked as they ate.
Blair shook his head. "Just trying to stay away from the crazies. Why? You didn't volunteer us to work, did you?"
"I know better than that, babe. Simon invited us for Kwanzaa. Apparently, the 31st is a blowout day. Big party, lots of food and dancing."
"Oh, yeah, Daryl said last year's celebration was incredible. I'm sorry we were out of town. And with Simon moving into that big new house…"
Jim nodded. "It doubles as a housewarming party."
"Well, sounds like it'll be the party of the year! Did Simon say what we should bring?"
"I didn't ask, since I wasn't sure we'd make it."
"I'll talk to him tomorrow. What about a housewarming gift?"
Jim paused. "Well, he's got the household basics like pots and pans and small appliances from his last place."
"How about something to put on his mantle? Maybe frame a nice picture with him and Daryl?"
Jim shook his head. "I don't want to give him something he has to dust."
"What about something Kwanzaa-related? There's an international imports place that opened up a couple of months ago on Grove, not far off campus."
"You mean in that little strip mall that's mostly artisan stuff? 'Creations'-something?"
"Yes! Sublime Creations. I've been meaning to stop in. They're supposed to have stuff from all over the world."
"Okay, I'll check them out. You do the food and I'll get the gift."
Blair grinned. "An excellent division of labor, partner. Now, how about we pop some corn and watch the Jags lose?"
"Wow, babe, that's beautiful," Blair said, reaching out to touch the doormat Jim had picked up from Sublime Creations. Is it coir?"
Jim nodded. "And all the dyes are natural. I figure it's meaningful, decorative and it won't gather dust on a shelf."
"Practical and stylish. It's a great choice."
"I'll get out the wrapping paper. So, what do I smell?"
"Our dish for the party. It's call coulibiac. It's essentially a fish pie from Russia. I adapted it for Kwanzaa."
Jim could hear the excitement in Blair's voice, so he walked into the kitchen to give him his full attention. "Okay, Chief, blow me away."
"Okay, so traditionally, it's salmon, onions, hard boiled eggs, rice and dill, all wrapped up in puff pastry, kind of like Beef Wellington." Jim nodded his understanding. "So, you already know the Kwanzaa flag is red, black and green. I have the salmon for red, collard greens for the green and Japanese black rice for the black. The ingredients are assembled in layers, so when they cut into it, they'll see the colors of the Bendera on their plates! Collards is a traditional Kwanzaa food and the salmon is the last piece Simon gave us from his fishing trip. So, bonus points!"
"Simon's gonna love it." Jim walked over to Blair and gathered him in an embrace. "It's perfect, and so are you."
"Ah, you sweet talker, you. Wanna take a break?" Jim kissed the top of his head in answer. "Let me finish putting this together and jump in the shower. I smell like fish."
"So, what's with the basket?" Jim asked as they loaded the trunk of Blair's car. Next to the doormat and the platter with the coulibiac was a large basket filled with fresh fruits and vegetables with a small bag of black-eyed peas tucked in one side.
"Well, many traditional African cultures are agricultural. A big part of Kwanzaa is the celebration of the harvest. I went down to the farmer's market this morning and picked up collards, yams and peanuts, which are traditional foods, then added whatever looked good to make it festive. The black-eye peas symbolize good luck."
"Maybe you should get some for us," Jim smirked.
"They're soaking in the kitchen right now, wise guy. We'll eat them tomorrow."
It didn't take sentinel ears to hear the lively music playing inside Simon's house as they approached. They rang the doorbell, and it was almost immediately opened by Daryl.
"Habari gani!" Blair and Jim shouted together, extending their arms to present their gifts.
"Kuumba!" Daryl shouted back with a laugh. "Hey, guys, come on in!"
Kwanzaa doormat image courtesy of Etsy Coulibiac image courtesy of marthastewart.com