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by Barbara Thomas

I don't own the guys, Pet Fly and others do. I wish things were different, but they aren't, unfortunately.

Originally posted to SENAD as a Christmas snippet

"Close your eyes, Jim."


"Go on, Jim, close them. A surprise isn't a real surprise if you walk into it with your eyes wide open."

Jim Ellison sighed and wondered how he'd managed to allow himself to be talked into something like this.

Standing in the hallway in front of the door to the loft, the infamous Sandburg 'bounce' was in full flow. Eyes sparkling, moving from foot to foot in what was almost a little on-the-spot dance, Blair looked as though with very little effort he could take off into orbit at any moment. In the circumstances, not following orders would probably make Jim feel as if he had just kicked a puppy, even if the association of Sandburg and the words 'promised surprise' made him feel unaccountably nervous.

He sighed a second time in a deliberately long-suffering way and let his eyelids fall shut. "All right, already! They're closed. Now get on with it."

"And you've turned down your sense of smell?"

"Yes, Chief!" He'd almost forgotten that particular request on the drive home, but had remembered at the last minute. The dial was turned down to near minimum. "So open the damn door!"

There was what could only be described as a snicker of amusement from his companion, followed by a whisper of clothing as Blair moved, the sound of the key turning in the lock and a faint creak of one hinge as the door was pushed open.

Must put some oil on that, Jim thought, and then was distracted when Blair's hand touched his forearm, slid down to his hand and twined fingers with his to tug him forward. The touch was warm, intimate, and he followed its urging with trusting confidence: Blair wouldn't let him trip or walk into anything in his self-imposed blindness.

After only a few steps he was halted again. There was a slight draft of displaced air and the clunk-click of the door swinging shut behind him, and then Blair's hand slid free of his. Its removal left Jim's hand and heart feeling briefly bereft.

"Okay," Blair said, a grin and excitement clear in his voice. "You can open 'em again."

Jim did so, and blinked against the sudden influx of light and colour.

The apartment he was used to had been transformed into a place of magic.

A log fire crackled in the grate. In the space between fireplace and the glass doors to the balcony stood a tall Christmas tree almost smothered in tinsel, glittering decorations and flickering lights. More tinsel, together with swags of greenery, holly, and multi-coloured paper chains festooned each wall and stretched overhead.

Imitation frost adorned the windowpanes, and twinkling lights framed the balcony doors, those to Blair's room, the bathroom, and the entrance. Similar lights, with tinsel and more sprays of holly, decorated the banister and the railing around Jim's bedroom upstairs, as well as the tops of the kitchen cupboards and the edges of the counter separating it from the living area.

The usual plain lampshades had been replaced with red ones, red and green throws had been tossed over the couch and chairs, and a red Santa and holly patterned cloth covered the table on which sat two glasses and a bowl from which wisps of steam were rising.

And when Jim allowed his sense of smell back online he understood straight away why Blair had wanted it turned down. A mixture of tantalising odours flooded in upon him: the hot scent of the burning logs in the fireplace, resin from the tree, the warm alcohol-and-spices of the mulled wine drifting up from the bowl on the table all mingled with the mouth-watering smells of dinner cooking in the oven.

It was a veritable smorgasbord of scents that would have lessened the surprise if he had smelled it in advance, as he certainly would have done.

He briefly savoured each one of them before glancing down at Blair who had managed to contain himself in silence during Jim's scrutiny of the room, but who now gave the impression that he was about to burst at any moment.

"Well?" he demanded. "Tell me...whadda ya think?"

"I'm...dumbstruck, Chief! It''s..." Jim expelled the breath he'd been holding, and shook his head. "Does 'overkill' make sense to you?"

Blair blinked. And then his face fell, the animation vanishing from his expression with startling suddenness.

"Oh," he said flatly, and swallowed, the gulp sounding very loud in Jim's ears. "You don't like it. It's too much. I didn't think I was going too far, but..." He swallowed again as he looked around. "I can easily clear some of it away, you know, it won't take but a minute..."

"Chief, wait! Don't you dare touch a thing!"

Jim snagged Blair's shoulder just as he began to move, holding him in place. Blair glanced up at him, puzzlement mingling with the hurt disappointment Jim was already internally cursing himself for putting in the expressive blue eyes. "But..."

"Blair, obviously 'overkill' was a bad word choice if it made you think I don't like what you've done here. I do like it - I love it! It's" Jim waved his free hand at their surroundings, momentarily lost for words again and struggling to find the right ones that would wipe that wounded expression from Blair's face. He took in a deep breath, and hoped he'd found them. "You know, there hasn't been so much as a sprig of holly here at Christmas since Carolyn and I split, and even when she was here neither of us bothered all that much. When you said you wanted to put up a 'few' decorations I never expected you'd do something like this. You may only have wanted to surprise me, Chief, but you've succeeded in shocking me half out of my wits instead. I'm completely...overwhelmed! I think that may be a better word, what do you think?"

"Overwhelmed in a...good way or a bad way?"

"In a very good way. The best way!"

"Then it's a great word." Blair's shoulder twitched under Jim's hand and his feet shuffled as the 'bounce' began to return. He grinned up at the taller man, eyes beginning to sparkle again. "You really do like what I've done, huh?"

"I told you, I love it." Jim surveyed the loft again, amazement written plain on his face. "I barely recognise the damn place! How in hell did you manage to do so much in such a short time? You only left the PD a couple hours before I did."

"Three hours, Jim. But I had the past week to buy, organise and plan." Blair grinned smugly. "And you know I'm good at that."

"You're good at a lot of things, Chief!"

Jim grinned back, tightening his grip on Blair's shoulder and drawing him closer. Blair willingly came the couple of steps necessary until their bodies almost touched, tilting his head back and meeting Jim's warm gaze with an even warmer one of his own. Jim brushed the fingers of his free hand through the rich curls of Blair's hair, letting them curve into a light grasp at the back of his neck as he bent his head until their mouths were only a breath apart. "I haven't thanked you for all this yet, have I?"

Blair shook his head, the warm flesh of his neck sliding back and forth under Jim's fingertips. "Mmmm, no... You've said you were 'dumbstruck', and you've said you've been 'shocked out of your wits' and 'overwhelmed', but nope, you've not actually said 'thank you' yet."

"So, you got any idea how you'd like me to express my appreciation?" Jim asked softly, teasingly.

Blair's eyes darkened by degrees. "We-ell...I'd kinda planned on us having a glass or two of wine before dinner, and then maybe afterwards I thought we might, know..." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and wrapped his arms around Jim's waist, settling their bodies closely together.

Jim chuckled. "Sounds like a pretty good plan to me, about we just cut the preliminaries and go straight to the 'you know', hmmmmm?"

He lowered his head the bare millimetre necessary to slant his mouth over Blair's willing one, and kissed him hungrily and deeply until breathing became imperative and their matching arousals throbbed hotly against one another through their respective clothing. Only then did he raise his head and watch the haze of lust slowly recede from Blair's eyes to be replaced by something deeper and more lasting, mingled with amusement as Blair's kiss-swollen lips curved into a warm, loving smile.

"That's a much better plan than mine, Jim!" Blair stepped back, sliding his hand into Jim's again. Jim's fingers closed around it and held on as he was tugged quickly and eagerly across the room toward the stairs. "Let's go find someplace comfortable. And horizontal."

"All right, Chief, slow down! I'm coming!"

"Not without me, I hope!"

Very shortly they both came together, and Blair considered himself thoroughly thanked for all his time and effort. And Jim, breathing in familiar Blair-scent, wondered for the thousandth time how - and if - he could have survived if the bundle of energy and generosity in his arms had never come into his life, taken over his heart, and refused to leave. And then proceeded to thank him all over again, this time for a lot more than his skill at Christmas decorating.

Dinner overcooked.

The mulled wine got cold.

But the 'you know' was as red-hot as it always had been between them, making such minor concerns seem totally inconsequential.

And in the large ball of holly hanging just inside the front door above where they had first stopped to survey the apartment, the tiny sprig of mistletoe accidentally hidden there in its construction developed a rather self-satisfied glow to its leaves and berries.

Its magic certainly wasn't needed in this place.

But it felt really, really good to shower it around just the same.

End MISTLETOE MAGIC by Barbara Thomas:

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