Nature's Strategies

by Francesca

Author's disclaimer: Not mine, theirs, yawn.

Author's notes: Feedback please! Thanks to Owlet for her comments and for being Owlet. Next up: Cycles VI.


"Fuck me. Please fuck me — Ohhhh, it's so fucking good, so fucking fucking good." Oh god, he loved Blair, beautiful Blair, and he loved Blair's cock, Blair's beautiful hard fucking cock — and god! was he saying this shit aloud?

Apparently he was, because above him Blair suddenly stopped fucking and froze, groaning in something that sounded like agony.

"Blaaaaaair!" Jim protested, nudging forward encouragingly. Blair tightened his fingers on Jim's hips almost painfully, forcibly stilling him.

"Shhhhhhh!" Blair hissed in the darkness. "Just hang on a minute, will you? or else I'm gonna come in a second, and then this party is gonna be all over!"

"Blair, please..." Jim moaned helplessly, feeling Blair's erection hard and throbbing within him. God, it was too much, too much. Blair had to move, Blair couldn't leave him like this.

But Blair was fighting for self-control. "Just shut up and lemme put myself together here!"

Jim squirmed and clenched his jaw. "Just dial it down."

"Funny," Blair said tightly, screwing his eyes closed.

"Who won the World Series in 1997?" Jim whispered.

Blair's eyes shot open. "What?!"

"Who won the World Series in 1997?" Jim repeated breathlessly.

Blair's face now reflected both lust and confusion. "Uh...The Marlins, I think."

"Right. Yeah," Jim said, still breathing heavily. "1996?"

"The Yankees," Blair answered slowly, " — okay, I get it, it's working, go on!"


"Atlanta Braves." Blair's breathing began to even out as he moved away from the knife's edge of orgasm.

"1994?" Jim asked.

Blair frowned for a moment, and then his face cleared. "Right — trick question. No series that year. What happened, anyway? I forget."

"Players' strike," Jim replied briefly. "1993?"

"Toronto," Blair said firmly.


"Toronto again."


"Minnesota Twins — okay, okay, this is good," Blair murmured.

"1990?" Jim prompted.

"Cincinnati," Blair answered, experimentally thrusting forward again.

Jim inhaled sharply, trembling with pleasure. "No, it was Oakland."

"Cincinnati," Blair repeated, pulling back and then shoving forward.

"Oakland," Jim gasped, "First Bay Area classic."

"No, no, no — dude, that was '89, with the earthquake. In 1990, Oakland lost to the Reds."

Jim shook his head. "Oakland lost in 1989, to the Dodgers."

"No, they didn't — dammit, you in were Peru, what the hell do you know about who won the World Series in 1989?"

"Well, you were twelve," Jim objected.

"I wasn't twelve, I was twenty-one, and I was twenty-one in Oakland, watching the Cincinnati Reds beat the shit out of the Athletics with Naomi and Armando, her weird Spanish boyfriend."

"In 1990?" Jim asked, frowning.

"Right," confirmed Blair. "You're missing a year in there somewhere."

"But 1990 was the season that Oakland — "

"You've forgotten the point of this, haven't you?" Blair interrupted.

"Blair, in my current position, I'm not likely to forget."

"Well, I could just pull out and we could go look it up."

"Don't you dare!" Jim locked his legs behind Blair's back. "You finish this — finish me! — Please," he added abruptly, and Blair reached out and ran a hand down Jim's chest in a rough caress.

"Yes," Blair murmured. "Yes," and then he lifted himself up a little and thrust forward hard, driving in deeply, and Jim's breath caught in his throat.

"Good," Jim muttered, letting his head fall back against the pillow, and he could feel Blair's beautiful cock pounding into his ass, could feel Blair's hand fisting his erection, teasing the head with a circling thumb, and he just gave himself over to it, opened his senses to it, tracking the waves of pleasure as they rolled up his spine, down his arms, to his hands. His fingertips tingled.

"I love your body," Blair groaned above him, stroking Jim's cock with one hand, his thigh with the other. "Love your body — love your tight little nipples, your tight beautiful asshole — " and Blair was slamming into him now, and Jim felt absolutely crazed with lust and he gasped and heard himself begging incoherently and then suddenly he was shuddering, coming, coming hard, and Blair yelled, "Yeah! I feel it! I feel it — god, Jim!"

And Jim was spurting onto Blair's stomach and chest, and Blair threw his head back and seemed to be not so much having his own orgasm as experiencing Jim's with him, feeling Jim's muscles twitching under his hands, Jim's ass spasming around his cock. Blair's face was twisted with desire, his body was, for long moments, tense with pleasure as he shot his seed deep into Jim's body. And then he gasped, and relaxed, and looked down at Jim.

"God, I love making you come," Blair said with soft wonder in his voice. "It's like an earthquake, each and every time."

Jim reached up and touched Blair's hair gently. "You mean like the one that wrecked the Series in '89?"

Blair grabbed a pillow, and whacked him hard. "Oh for god's sake, shut up already!"  


"Well? Well?"

"All right, all right, all right already! it's Cincinnati! Jesus!"



"Well," Blair said doubtfully, getting out of the truck and slamming the door, "this may not be the middle of nowhere, but I can see it from here."

Jim nodded, glancing at his surroundings. Trees, hills, more trees, more hills. And the small wood-framed house, marked: REALTOR. Nothing else.

He looked over at Blair. "That's what we want, right?"

Blair nodded. "Right."

Jim jerked his head towards the realtor's office and started walking up the gravel-covered driveway. Blair followed him. "What name did you use?" Blair asked after a moment.

"My own," he replied, frowning. "Ellison."

Blair sighed and shook his head. "You're hopeless."

"What?" Jim asked irritably, but then the door of the house opened and they were being hailed by a pleasant-looking middle-aged woman.

"Hello!" she called to them, smiling.

"Hello!" Blair sang back, waving. They climbed three wooden stairs to the deck, and approached the door where she stood.

"You must be Mr. Ellison," the woman said to Blair, extending her hand.

"Ellis," Blair corrected blithely as Jim stared, "and I'm not, he is." He jerked his thumb at Jim.

"Ellis?" she repeated, frowning. "I'm sorry, I must have written it down wrong." She extended her hand to Jim, and he shook it. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Ellis. I'm Rose Saunders — call me Rose."

"Rose," Jim said, nodding. "Call me Jim."

"Jim," Rose said, smiling. She turned to Blair. "And you are — ?"

Blair blinked and then said, "Blair Jacobson."

Jim rolled his eyes. "Blair's my l — "

" — Lawyer," Blair interjected, smiling broadly and jerking his elbow hard into Jim's kidney. "I, um, advise Mr. Ellis about his investments."

"Oh," Rose said, doubtfully. "Well, come on in." She turned and led the way into the office. Blair glared at Jim behind her back, and Jim glared right back at him.

The main office was a homey space; a desk and two chairs were positioned in front of a roaring fireplace. Rose gestured for them to sit down, and then sat down herself.

"I have three or four properties I want to show you, Jim," she said, offering him a large white book that looked like a photograph album.

Blair quickly moved to intercept it, and Jim sighed and handed it over to him. Rose looked a bit taken aback as Blair opened the book on his lap and began intently studying each of the pictures.

"I've, um, marked the ones I thought you might be interested in," Rose said hesitantly, not sure to whom she was selling.

Blair was concentrating and didn't answer. "Thank you," Jim answered quickly. "My, um, lawyer usually likes to check everything out first. So that he can, um, advise me." He flashed her a tight smile.

"Of course," Rose said, nodding a little too rapidly. "Can I get you some coffee or something?"

"That'd be great," Jim said.

Blair's head jerked up suddenly. "This," he said to Jim, pointing down at a page.

"Which?" Jim asked, and Blair handed him the book. He looked down and saw a picture of a lonely looking cabin.

Rose Saunders frowned and got up to stare over his shoulder. "Oh, no," she said immediately. "No, no, no — we can do better than that."

Jim looked up at her. "Oh?"

"That place is ancient," Rose explained, "and there are no amenities, and — "

"We like ancient with no amenities," Blair interrupted, and then he blinked hard. "Or rather he does." He coughed and looked at Jim. "As your attorney I advise you to consider that property."

"No, no, really, you just can't. Mr. Ellis, Mr. Jacobson," she pleaded, "if you like rustic, I can show you a number of really charming cabins — with automatic air, twenty-twenty wiring, built-in dishwasher — "

Jim looked away from her and met his Guide's eyes. They stared at each other for a few moments, and then Jim nodded slowly.

"I think we'd like to see this place," Jim said, still looking at Blair, and behind him Rose sighed loudly.

* * *

The cabin was incredibly difficult to find — Rose got them lost twice on the way, even though she had directions. But eventually they turned down one dirt road, and then another, and suddenly they saw it, looking old and lonely against a background of trees.

Jim frowned and shot a look over his shoulder at Blair, who was lounging comfortably in the back seat of Rose's car. Blair nodded confidently at him and tapped the side of his nose.

Rose switched off the engine and turned to Jim exasperatedly. "Mr. Ellis, I'm sure we can find you something closer to town."

"We don't want closer to town," Blair said, and Rose blew out a frustrated breath.

"Let's see it," Jim said, getting out of the car.

The screen door nearly fell off its hinges as Rose opened it. Still, Jim thought, touching the door with his fingertips, it was solid enough underneath — it just needed to be stripped and maybe sanded and —

"Mister Ellis," Rose was saying with renewed confidence, "you simply must see now that this place isn't worth buying. Its damp — there's bound to be mold and — "

"It can be aired out," Blair said quietly, and Rose had to visibly control herself. She looked like she wanted to slug him.

The inside was simply one large room — a huge fireplace, a small kitchen, a couple of windows and nothing else. The floorboards creaked and shuddered under Jim's feet as he crossed to examine the fireplace.

Blair was poking around in the kitchen; he pulled open a door and frowned. "What's this?" he asked, looking over at Rose.

Rose glanced down at the clipboard in her hand. "Pantry," she replied tersely.

Blair nodded and shut the door.

Jim was struggling with the flue. "It looks like it'll work," he said, grimacing. "It's just dirty."

"Hang on, I'll be back," Blair said to him, slipping out the front door.

Rose took Blair's absence as a God-given opportunity to make Jim see reason.

"Mr. Ellis, really," she began passionately, "this place should be demolished. I mean, the amount of work it would take to make this place habitable — it's not worth it." She was now looking seriously annoyed.

Jim stood up and brushed his sooty hands against his jeans. She was right — the place needed work. And yet, in a way, he didn't really mind the idea of a fixer-upper.

And the Guide had said this was the place.

"Maybe," Jim answered noncommittally. "Can I ask how much it costs?"

Rose snorted and jabbed her clipboard at him. "Here."

Jim scanned down the page at the cabin's specs — square footage, acreage, diagram of the property, until his eyes finally hit line containing the asking price.

He blinked.

"It's cheap," he said, surprised.

"It's a hut," Rose shot back irritably, "of course it's cheap. There's barely any electricity and god only knows what the water and sewage situation is." She shuddered at the thought. "The only thing that's worth anything at all is the land — and there's no shortage of that around here. Land's all there is. There's no shopping," she continued, warming to her theme, "no place to get supplies, no telephone lines for god's sake!"

Jim nodded slowly. "I'll take that into consideration," he said, and crossed the cabin to the bathroom door. He inspected the facilities with a critical eye, and then grinned suddenly — one thing was certain: this was not the house that was gonna solve his and Blair's perpetual hot water problems. Still, there was indoor plumbing, and the cabin was on slightly higher ground then the surrounding countryside, so they weren't gonna have to work against nature, anyway.

He emerged from the simple bathroom feeling irrationally pleased with the place. Rose shot him a look of profound confusion, and Jim felt his grin widen — he felt for her, he really did. The more problems she raised (and they were genuine problems; he could see that they were genuine problems) the more convinced he somehow felt.

The poor woman must think they were nuts.

But Blair had been right, hadn't he — Jim hadn't even realized it, but he had wanted ancient with no amenities.

The damn place felt like home. It just did.

Rose shook her head at him; she was beginning to realize that all was lost. "Fine. Fine. The customer's always right," she sighed, throwing up her hands. "I'll wait outside in the car, give you a chance to talk it over with...uh, him," she finished, looking at Blair, who was just coming back in. She brushed past him and let the screen door slam shut behind her.

Blair's hands and face were dirty, he had a twig in his hair, and he looked very very happy. Jim laughed and shook his head in amused disapproval. "You were gone for, like, a minute," he said, smiling. "What the hell did you do?"

"I looked around," Blair replied, smiling back. "Checked it all out, you know? So, you like?" he asked, hopefully.

Jim grabbed him by the shirt front and pulled him in for a quick kiss. "I like," he said, and then he kissed Blair again, longer and deeper; Blair leaned into the kiss and opened his mouth.

"Now tell me why," Jim said when he pulled back.

Blair looked slightly dazed. "Huh?"

"Tell me why I like it," Jim clarified. "Give me the rationale." Blair frowned. "The rationale, Blair — I know you've got one, you've always got one."

"Right," said Blair after a moment. "Yeah. Rationale — of course I've got one."

"I never doubted," Jim said, crossing his arms. "So give — why is this the place?"

"Well," Blair explained, "primarily because it's defensible."

Jim looked surprised. "Oh?"

"Yeah," Blair said. "I mean — look around — the place is in the middle of nowhere, and there are windows on every side." Jim glanced around at the room: yes, there were. "I mean, no one's gonna sneak up on us here, right? You'll see them coming, you'll hear them coming — it's just perfect that way."

"See who coming?" Jim asked pointedly.

A frown flashed across Blair's face. "Whomever," he said quickly, brushing the question aside. He pushed past Jim and went to the pantry door. "And dig this, man — I love this!"

"What?" Jim asked, coming to stand behind him. "The pantry?"

"No," said Blair. He stepped inside and looked around, brow furrowed — then he reached into his pocket for his glasses, and put them on. "Help me out here," he muttered to Jim. "Do you see it?"

"See what?" Jim asked, peering over Blair's shoulder.

"The door, man!" Blair got down on his knees and studied the pantry floor. "Wait — wait — here!" he said excitedly, and then he jammed his fingers between two wood floorboards and pulled — and the floor came up.

"What the hell is that?" Jim asked.

"Fruit cellar," Blair said, grinning up at him. "Cool, huh? And there's a door down there that leads out to the wood shed — I found it on the other side. Cool as shit — a hiding place and an exit."

"Yeah," said Jim sarcastically, "and we can load up on food and water and get a couple of shotguns."

Blair was trying to shove the trap door back into place. "Yeah," he grunted, "that's a good idea. Do we need permits for — " and Jim grabbed him and dragged him to his feet.

"Are you listening to yourself?" Jim demanded.

Blair blinked. "Yeah," he answered quietly. "Yeah."

Jim instinctively lowered his voice to match Blair's. "Blair, you're scaring me. What are you planning for?"

"Nothing," Blair insisted. "Nothing. Just — you know, in case. I mean," he said tightly, "I'm the Guide, it's my job to worry about this kind of shit."

"It is?" Jim asked tensely.

"Yeah. It is. It totally is." Blair's face was grim. "It's like — everything before was a dress rehearsal. For this," he said, gesturing back and forth between them, gesturing to the two of them, together. "For usthisus, you know?" And then suddenly Blair laughed softly. "Like the old panic attacks were for practice, like the old lies and schemes were training wheels. School's out, now, man — we have to watch our backs."

Jim stared at Blair for a moment and then rubbed at his face. "Okay. Okay. Go on," he said, dropping his hands. "Defenses. Fruit cellar. Woodshed. Exit."

"Right. And then," Blair said, taking off his glasses and pointing toward the north wall with the earpieces, "beyond the woods on that side, there's a stream." He turned back, and was stopped by the look on Jim's face. "For, you know, fishing," Blair finished abruptly, tucking the glasses back into his shirt pocket.

"Fishing." Jim looked at his Guide, and it was too late now — he'd got it, he'd got the rationale, and he nodded slowly. "And for an escape by water, and for avoiding bloodhounds and other trackers."

"Yeah," Blair muttered, looking away. "That too."

"Right," Jim said quietly. "I'm with you."

"Jim, I'm sorry." Blair threw up his hands helplessly. "It's not my fault."


"It's not just that, though," Blair said, putting a hand on Jim's arm and squeezing gently. "I swear it's not. I mean — it's a beautiful place, isn't it? We can go fishing, and have privacy, and barbecues, and sex in the grass, and — "

" — and a defensive position," Jim interrupted brusquely. "And our own private safehouse, with the Anne Frank suite downstairs. Don't sugar coat for me, okay?" he added suddenly, tightly. "You've got a plan, you're thinking stuff, you let me on it."

"Okay, then," Blair said, raising his head and looking him straight in the eye. "Okay. Then I think we should try to buy the place outright." Jim raised his eyebrows at this and Blair pushed on. "Or we gotta borrow the money in such a way that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. I mean — "

"Ellis," Jim said, feeling suddenly stupid. "Jacobson. Shit," he muttered, shaking his head. "You don't want our names on the paperwork."

"Right. Yeah," Blair admitted quietly.

"Jesus," Jim muttered, turning away.

"Just in case," Blair murmured, touching his back. "Just in case, okay?"

"Jesus," Jim repeated softly.

"Jim!" Blair said desperately. "Come on, man!"

"No, it's fine, it's good, it's smart," Jim sighed, turning and draping an arm around Blair's neck. Blair took the opportunity to give him a brief hug, and Jim ruffled his lover's hair absently. "It's just — you know — covert ops in your own back fucking yard. I wasn't expecting it."

"It can't hurt," Blair said, looking up at him.

"No," Jim agreed. "It can't." He pulled Blair around so that they were face to face, chest to chest. "You thinking a lot like this, lately?"

"Sometimes," Blair admitted, looking upset. "Sometimes I just get on this thing where I keep thinking 'what if, what if, what if?'" He sighed and rested his forehead on Jim's chest. "And I get panicked, because I don't know how what to do, or how to handle it, and then I start concocting strategies and contingency plans and — I think I dream about them sometimes."

Jim frowned and tilted Blair's face up toward his. "Tell me now," Jim said seriously. "Do you know something you're not saying?"

"No," Blair answered honestly, staring up at him. "No, I swear. Just unspecified worry about hypotheticals. Nothing concrete — believe me, I'd tell you. I would."

Jim nodded, deeply relieved.

Blair stretched up slightly and covered Jim's mouth with his own, sliding an arm around Jim's neck, pulling his head down, pulling him deeper into the kiss. Jim felt strangely assured and comforted by Blair hands, his mouth, his heat and weight. Assured, comforted, and vaguely aroused.

"You wanna go home and argue about baseball?" he muttered when Blair pulled away.

Blair sighed happily. "Yeah. Sure. Love to."

"We'd better go out and break it to Rose," Jim said, nodding toward the door.

"She's just pissed because of the commission," Blair said, making a face. "The place can't be that expensive — she's gonna lose out."

"It's not expensive," Jim confirmed. "It's cheap."

"Cheap enough to buy outright?" Blair asked.

"I don't know, we'll have to see about that." Jim wanted to leave, but he was having trouble pulling away from Blair, trouble getting himself into a "this is my lawyer" state of mind.

Sighing, he stepped away from Blair and crossed the room, trying to get back some boundaries, some personal space where Blair wasn't half of him. "Okay, Mr. Jacobson," he said, pacing around a little, "let's pull it together here."

"Certainly, Mr. Ellis," Blair said, pulling out his glasses again.

"We've gotta go out there and break that woman's heart." Jim stretched a little, then shook his arms, trying to shake Blair's intimacy off him, trying to get his public face back on. "Or rather you do, as my attorney — that's your job, right?"

"Wait till you get my bill," Blair smirked.

"Great," Jim snorted, rolling his eyes. "So what firm are you with?"

Blair pondered the question for a moment, and then grinned. "Norton, Rubble, and Mertz," and Jim burst out laughing.  


"Can't you wait?" Blair said, getting out of the truck.

"Chief, if I don't eat something, I'm going to freak out or pass out."

"We're almost home," Blair objected. "And it's just gonna be crap here."

"I like crap," Jim countered, heading toward the rest stop.

Blair sighed. "Whatever. Get a hotdog — knock yourself out."

They stepped through a glass door into a small snack-shack and Blair snorted — there were hotdogs and pretzels rotating in a glass container, some candy bars and gum and little else.

"You wanna make a bet about how long those have been there?" Blair murmured, Sentinel-soft.

"You've won too many bets today as it is," Jim replied. "I don't want your ego getting out of control."

"Aw, come on, I'll give you points for the correct decade."

Jim ignored this and stepped up to the counter. "Hey, can I get a hot dog with sauerkraut, mustard, and relish?"

A bored-looking teenaged girl looked up at him. "Yeah," she said, moving to fix it.

"You want anything?" Jim asked Blair.



"I dunno. Maybe a pretzel."

"You are so full of shit."

"I will be after the pretzel."

Jim turned back to the girl behind the counter. "And a pretzel."

"With mustard," Blair added.

"With mustard."

"A lot of mustard."

"Extra mustard," Jim said to the girl, and then he stopped, and his face went blank. "Shit."

"What do you hear?" Blair asked, frowning, but Jim had turned and was bolting out of the shack. Blair followed him around the back, where there were a group of teenaged boys beating up another boy against a dumpster.

"Hey!" Jim yelled. "Hey, cut it out!" He reached out and grabbed the jacket of one kid, yanking him backward, and then he reached for another one. "Police! Lay off!" Some of the kids bolted and ran, and Jim ignored them, letting them go.

"Ha!" yelled the redhaired boy who had been the target. He wiped blood off his nose with an angry swipe of his hand. "Police," he snarled at the boy whose jacket Jim was currently holding in his fist. The redhaired boy darted up to his attacker and grabbed something out of his jacket pocket.

The boy Jim was holding went nuts and yanked himself away from a surprised Jim to make a grab for the object. The boys struggled, and Jim grabbed one kid and Blair grappled with the other, trying to pull them apart, but they were like wild dogs. Jim had a blurred glimpse of the small, strangely shiny white object that the boys were fighting over — and then, like a magic trick, it suddenly exploded in a puff, in a white cloud, a dust cloud, that covered everything, filling the air and covering his jacket, his sleeves, everything, and Jim sneezed, and someone was howling, and someone was laughing, and Jim couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe, couldn't see, hands going numb, knees scraping the ground, and his eyes were burning, and his face was against something rough, and the last thing he heard was Blair screaming, "You bastards!"  


"....dare TOUCH HIM.....EXPRESS APPROVAL!... — lawsuit so fast your fuckin' head'll spin!"

Hmm, Jim thought. Blair's angry, and he drifted off to sleep again.

* * *

And then there was a cool, dry hand on his forehead, and then on his cheek, and he didn't know this hand, whose hand it was, except he did know, it was somewhere out there on the edge of his consciousness...

* * *

And then there was another hand on his face, and this time it was Blair's, he knew it was Blair's hand, and it occurred to him that he could be dead for ten thousand years and still know the touch of Blair's hand. And the hand touched his cheek, and then he felt the warm, soft pressure of it against his face, and then Blair's lips were on his face, and he wanted to tell Blair how much he liked that, how very much he liked it, except he was too tired, too damn tired, way too damn tired now...

* * *


"Sit down for a few minutes — sit down, relax, there's nothing else you can do — "

"I know, but — " and that was Blair, Blair, his Blair.

"No buts," said the other voice firmly, and Jim thought, dimly, that he knew that voice, knew that tone, had lived with the implacable firmness of that tone.

"But if I'm wrong — god, if I'm wrong," Blair murmured.

"You're not wrong," said the other voice. "Sit down before you fall over. Even Joe Lewis stopped for a glass of water between rounds."

And Blair was laughing nervously, and it was good to hear Blair laughing, even nervously, because maybe this meant they weren't coming, they weren't coming for him, and the stream, and the door in the woodshed and yes, it was Cincinnati, he'd admitted it already, Blair shouldn't be angry about that anymore, he'd been wrong but he'd admitted it, he'd been in Peru and he didn't remember, he'd lost a year in there somewhere. That should be understandable. He heard the soft scrape of metal against linoleum as Blair sat down.

"You're doing good, you're doing fine, you're doing exactly the right thing," said the other voice, and it was downright puzzling, because he knew the voice, he knew it, and it didn't seem right that the voice should be saying what it was saying. "Save your strength," the voice added, "because they'll be back."

Shit shit shit shit shit, Jim thought drowsily. They were coming after all — where was the stream, where was the door to the stream? Shotgun. They had to get to Cincinnati — Cincinnati, not Oakland, because of the earthquakes.

"I'm going to kill him when he wakes up," Blair said finally.

"There we go. That's better," said the other voice approvingly. "You do that — kick his ass up and down the street."

"Maybe just up the street," said Blair, and Jim could hear the smile in his Guide's voice. "Or down. I'm a man of restraint."

"Up or down, it's your choice," the voice said wryly. "You've earned it."

"He just had to have a hot dog. The schmuck." Blair blew out a long breath. "But if I'm wrong," he said again, anxiously, after a moment.

"You're not wrong. You're not wrong," soothed the voice, and Jim's eyes were heavy as concrete, and it was such an effort, such an effort to open them, but he had to see, had to see it with his own eyes.

And he managed to raise his eyelids just enough to see his father comforting his lover, and now he knew he was hallucinating, because William Ellison was sitting next to his Guide and he had an arm around Blair's back and he was whispering intently in his ear, and Blair's face was pale and strained and he was nodding at William Ellison's words of reassurance, and it was a bloody fucking miracle, Jim thought, or a fever dream, and he wanted to say as much, but he still didn't seem to have much control over his own body, though that didn't matter, because by the time his eyes slipped closed the image was burned firmly into his brain: William Ellison pulling Blair Sandburg's head against his shoulder, pat-patting the cloud of hair around his head with a gentle hand.

Though he idly wondered where they'd gotten the Yankee uniforms and the hotdogs.

* * *

"I'll take the damn responsibility! I'm taking it! It's on my head, okay?!" Blair was yelling, and Jim opened his eyes easily and saw his father, sitting there by the side of the bed; his father seemed strangely surprised to see him.

"Jimmy," said William Ellison, blinking, "glad you decided to join us finally."

Jim looked at him and thought, Dad, but what came out of his mouth was, "Blair — "

This didn't seem to faze William Ellison in the slightest. "He's just down the hall somewhere," William replied, jerking a thumb back behind himself to illustrate. "He had to go fight with another doctor — he'll be back in a minute."

"Water?" Jim asked, and his father nodded and quickly poured him a glass from the pitcher on his bedside table. Jim struggled to sit up, but his father laid a hand on his chest, murmuring, "Not so fast — take it easy," and offered him the water through a straw, bending it toward his lips.

Jim sipped at the water gingerly and then his hospital door burst open and there was Blair, and Blair said, "He's awake, isn't he?"

William Ellison nodded and Blair whooped and then Blair was at the side of his bed, staring down at him and looking happy, and then Blair took Jim's head in his hands, and said, "Welcome back, asshole!" and kissed him hard, leaving him breathless, and before Jim could say anything, even, "What the hell are you thinking, kissing me in front of my father?" Blair was on his way back out the door, calling back, "I'm gonna tell Greenwood to go fuck himself!" and his father was saying, "Give him one for me," and Blair grinned wickedly and said, "You betcha," and then Blair was gone, and his father turned back to him and said, "More water?"

"Uh, yeah," Jim said blankly.

"I've got lawyers less aggressive than your partner," William Ellison commented wryly as Jim sipped. "That kid fought like hell for you, you know — those doctors, they wanted to stick you and electroshock you and god knows what else."

Jim cleared his throat. "Can I ask what happened?"

"I don't really know," William Ellison replied, frowning. "Blair said it was some kind of overdose, and that they should just give you an IV and leave you alone and you'd come out of it. With which I agreed — you used to do this all the time when you were a kid. Scared the hell out of me. But if we left you alone, you woke up eventually. Not normally for four days though," he added, making a face.

"Four days!" Jim croaked.

"Yeah," Ellison Sr. said, nodding. "The doctors started to get antsy after a few hours, and apparently there was a lot of screaming about lawsuits on both sides, and that's when Blair called me. He figured I'd have some pretty damn good lawyers, which I do — though I wish they had half the get-up-and-go that he does. We've got a injunction against the hospital — plus we've had the door barricaded, mostly." William Ellison grinned. "Just in case, you know?

"Yeah," Jim said grimly. "I know."

Ellison Sr. reached out and patted Jim's hand, and Jim thought, not for the first time, that his father looked old. "Don't take this the wrong way, Jimmy," William said quietly, "but I'm dammed glad that you're somebody else's problem now."

That struck Jim as sort of funny. "Well, don't you take it the wrong way, either, Dad," Jim said, his mouth curling up at the corner, "but I'm pretty glad I am, too, you know?" William squeezed his hand briefly and nodded.

And then Blair was back in the doorway, and his opening shot was, "So you just had to have the fucking hotdog," and Jim grinned at him, because things were okay now. They were going to argue about hotdogs, and so things were okay.  

The End