So of course I'm going to go. I mean, in light of what happened last year, I have to. He gets into trouble you see. He never notices it coming and before you know it, he's swilling cocktails and swimming naked in people's pools.
Last year... well let's not go into that. Despite his protestations to the contrary, there is still a pernod and blackcurrant stain on my rug. And as for the beat cops who picked him up? I still owe them big time for bringing him home rather than taking him in.
So yeah, I'm going. I'm not happy about it. But someone has to watch his back. Someone has to protect Blair from himself.
"Jim, look at all that food! You hungry?"
There's a buffet table stretching along one wall with just about every piece of festive fare known to man on it. Blair's eyes are out on stalks. I can't help but smile. He's like a kid in a candy shop. "Go ahead, Chief, pig out."
I leave him to fight my way to the bar. It helps being six four and Special Forces trained, of course. Before long I'm bellying up to the bar and Yuri comes right over.
"Jeem. Vat are you heving? I got beer, I got vine, I got those leetle vodka shots all the keeds love?"
"Just gimme a beer, Yuri. And a coke for Sandburg." No doubt he'll find a bowl of punch before the night is out, so I don’t need to get him anything alcoholic at this point.
But Yuri is shaking his head in disapproval. "Blair vill not be tanking you for coke. He like tequila slammers. Or maybe long slow screw up against wall, no?"
"No!" I might have just choked on my tongue. It's a cocktail. I know it’s a cocktail. But for a moment there... "Coke. No ice!" It's obscene what he does with an ice cube. I don't need that sort of stress this early in the evening.
By the time I fight my way back to the buffet, he's nowhere in sight. I swear, I'm gonna hang a bell on him. I spot Henry trying to coach Maxine from Records to join him under the mistletoe and make a mental note - make sure Blair stays well away from hanging foliage. I don't call him a dog in heat for no reason. He has no concept of appropriate behaviour when he's face to breast with a woman.
"Jim, you owe me a slow dance."
Whirling, I almost collide with Tina Bryce, one of the uniforms that brought Blair home last year. She stands five two and I can't imagine how the hell I could dance with her, but a promise is a promise. I can find somewhere to put down the drinks maybe I could lift her up and ... no, no, she's wearing a skirt. That won't work. I could get down on my knees maybe?
Thankfully, someone puts a nickel in the jukebox and something loud and upbeat assaults my eardrums. Dial down Jim. Dial down. "You betcha, Tiny. Next slow one, you got a date."
"You're card is marked, big fella, and don't call me tiny!"
And I'm backing away just as fast as I can while scanning the multicoloured dimness for my absent partner. He can't have finished with the buffet already? I wasn’t at the bar that long.
"That better not be coke, man. I am so in the mood to get shit-faced." A hand reaches out from the crowd.
He's liberated the glass and downed half of it before I'm fully turned around in the tight quarters. He looks flushed and my senses suddenly focus on him with dizzying speed. I hate it when this happens. And it happens all too often. Its like for a moment, he's the only person in the room and I'm cataloguing him for damage.
He looks hot and a little wired, but I can't smell anyone else's scent on him... fuck! I am not sniffing my partner. I'm not.
"You okay, Jim? You look a little freaked."
"I'm fine." One glass of ice-cold beer goes down my throat and I'm already wondering how long it will take me to get to the bar for another. This time, I'm taking him with me. I want to see how he reacts to Yuri's cocktail choices. Probably won't even bat an eye, if I know my partner.
But before I can grab a handful of Sandburg, someone beats me to the punch. Willie the mail boy is waving a piece of mistletoe over Blair's head and puckering up for a wet one. And Blair is laughing his ass off and moving forward.
I don’t ... I don’t know what to do. The room is full of cops. A more homophobic bunch of guys you are not likely to meet and Blair is about to lip lock another guy in front of them. Willie is drunk, there's an excuse for him.
"Hey Jim, get out of the way, man," Blair's hands are on my chest as he shoves me gently to the side. I didn’t even know I'd stepped between them. And there's nothing I can do. Not without looking like an asshole.
I watch in horror, as Blair leans forward, lips pursed, eyes drifting closed and at the very last moment... he veers to the left and plants one on Willie's cheek. The room goes wild. My knees go weak.
Okay, he's a big boy. He's not stupid. And he can look after himself. I get that. I may die of a heart attack before the night is over but I get it. And I may end up with a perforated eardrum if there are many more catcalls and wolf whistles like that.
I think I might be a little drunk.
I've lost count of the beers a long time ago. I've lost count of the cups of punch. I have not lost count, however, of the number of times my partner has been caught under that fucking mistletoe. I'm thinking he might be doing it on purpose. What am I saying? Of course he's doing it on purpose. This is Blair we're talking about. There are some pretty hot women in the precinct and now he has a legitimate excuse to kiss every one of them.
And yeah, let's not talk about the guys he's kissed. Simon, for crying out loud! And no one even cared! I guess everyone else is drunk too. But no matter how drunk I am, I'm still totally aware of where Blair is at every single... shit, where did he go?
"Boo!" He comes up behind me and scares me half to death. He's got this goofy grin on his face, and he's radiating heat. I don’t need to be a Sentinel to feel it.
He smells great. Yeah, okay, I am sniffing my partner. If he can get away with French kissing Simon at a cop bar, then I can damned well get away with sniffing him. Blair that, is, not Simon. Fuck. I am so drunk.
"You had enough yet?"
Huh? Enough what? Is he talking about the sheer torture of watching him flirt with every damned person in the room except for me? Yeah, I've had enough of that. I know I'm not exactly the best catch in the room, but it's Christmas, and would it hurt him to give me a little attention? I'd settle for a smile right now. Confirmation that he actually wants me here.
"Only I called a cab. I thought you might want to go home."
My heart contracts so hard I think I'm having that heart attack. That answers my question. I must be cramping his style. I thought I'd been subtle about watching over him. I thought... I'd hoped... But he doesn’t want me. Here or anywhere else.
I let him guide me to the door, let him help me into my coat then watch in amazement as he shrugs into his coat too. "You're coming too?" I say stupidly.
"Too right, man. Willie has been stalking me all night. I think he wants to slip me some tongue. I am so outta here!"
Then we're out the door and on the sidewalk, where a taxi cab is just pulling up to the curb. Blair lays a hand on my arm and leans in close.
"Listen, Jim. I know you're a bit drunk right now, but I wanted you to know that I do appreciate you watching my back. You're always there for me, man. So tomorrow, when you sober up, I'll show you what I have in my pocket. And hopefully, you won't kill me right away. You might even like it."
He bundles me into the cab and slips in beside me. I don’t say anything. I don’t have to. He forgets that even drunk, I'm still a Sentinel, and I can quite clearly smell the sprig of mistletoe in his jacket pocket.
"Merry Christmas, chief." I say, snuggling into his side.
"Wow, that's... encouraging, Jim. And a Happy New Start," he replies.