Bear Hug

by Jane Davitt

"If I'd known you were this good at giving hugs, I'd have--"

"This isn't a hug, Sandburg." The drowsiness behind the mischief in Blair's voice made Simon tighten his arms a little, though. "Got that?"

"Not a hug?" Blair shook his head, the movement careful, which reassured Simon that Blair wasn't drifting again. He worked a strand of Blair's hair out of his mouth with his tongue and sighed. Damn hair got everywhere.

"Feels like one to me," Blair continued. "We could call it something else, if it makes you happy, though. How about, hmm, an embrace?"

As Simon opened his mouth to reject that rewording with all the force possible given their situation, a stray tag of poetry floated through his head; something about graves. It had been a long time since he'd read anything beside reports and the sports page, but from time to time a half-forgotten fragment surfaced. With the discipline police training had imposed, he tracked down the fugitive memory and recited it to himself, the words looping over and over until he forced the mocking chanting to stop: The grave's a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace..

When they got out of this, he was going to find someone to hug.

"I'm going to pretend you didn't say that, Sandburg. Now, stop talking."

Blair stirred restlessly. "Names are important, Simon."

"Thought you didn't like labels."

"True…but--oh, wait. I've got it, man. A bear hug, 'cause if you had an animal spirit, and, hey, you might, that's what it'd be."

"Are you delirious?" Simon wasn't touching any bare skin and through the layers of mist-soaked clothing they both wore, body heat was hard to judge, but maybe he could shift his hand up to Sandburg's forehead and check for fever…

"No!" Blair chuckled. "Mine's a wolf," he confided. "Jim told me. Something about seeing me naked and then I changed into one."

"Please tell me this is a Sentinel thing because if it isn't, that's deeply disturbing. Please."

The chuckle turned into a cough and Simon felt a prickle of sweat break out along his spine as Blair's body jerked in his arms. He gripped tighter, clamping down so that Blair was held immobile, only relaxing his grip when Blair mewled a breathless protest.

"Sentinel, yeah," Blair gasped. "And you've got a dirty mind, Simon."

Surprising himself, Simon grinned. Yeah, he did, and it'd been too long since he'd let it out to play. "Sandburg, you have no idea. So you're a wolf, huh? All yap and bite. Yeah, I can see that." He thought back to the last time he'd seen Jim, snarling, his face flushed with anger. "So what's Ellison's? A pit bull?"

Blair shook his head, the matted curls of his hair brushing Simon's chin. "No. Jim's a big pussycat. Panther. Black one."

"A pussycat, huh? And I'm a bear." Simon considered that. "Okay."

"So this is a hug from a bear and therefore, logically, a bear hug," Blair said, the words pushed out slowly, the effort palpable.

"If you say so," Simon murmured.

"Jim's going to find us soon, isn't he?"

Simon could feel the rock he was sitting on steal the warmth and feeling from his body. His arms were locked around Sandburg now, his gloved hands laced together; if they fell, they'd fall together; he wouldn't let go, but he wasn't sure how much longer they had before that happened. The ledge of rock that held them was narrow, the edges friable. Below, sheer rock, above, well, more of the same. They were keeping death waiting rather than surviving, which made Simon want to laugh for some reason, but he didn't dare.

"Sure, he will." Assuming Eriksen and his men hadn't found Jim before backup arrived.

"We should make some noise. Let Jim know where we are."

Simon let his head droop a little, just the smallest tilt forward, so that his skull wasn't pressed against jagged rock. It brought his lips against Sandburg's hair and he turned his face slightly so that his cheek was resting on damp softness. "We can't," he said regretfully. "Might attract the wrong people."

"We can't yell, but we can still tell him where we are."

"Spirit animals and now telepathy?" Simon groaned. "You know, you two will be the death of me."

"Telepathy?" A spark of interest lit up Blair's voice. "You know, we haven't really explored that area. The sixth sense…yeah, no reason that one wouldn't be enhanced, too."

"Can't enhance what doesn't exist," Simon said flatly.

"When we get out of this, my brother, we'll talk some more, but right now--"

"I'm not your--stop calling me that!"

"Relax, Simon." Blair turned inside the circle of Simon's arms and his gloved hand reached up to pat Simon's face. "We're all brothers. And we don't need telepathy to talk to Jim, but no one else. You don't know what he can do the way that I can. All we need to do is say his name to get his attention. If he's out there, he's listening for us."

"We've been doing that," Simon objected.

Blair smiled, the mask of dried blood on his cheek splitting open as the skin under it shifted. "Yeah, but we've been whispering and he's not Superman." He cleared his throat and said in a conversational voice, pitched clear and strong, without carrying too far. "Jim? We're here, man, safe and sound. We fell over the cliff behind the cabin. You'll need rope and you need to hurry. Jim! Come rescue us."

"That's it?" Simon couldn't keep the incredulity from his voice. "I know you think he's good, but we're a mile from where we last saw him and this damn fog deadens the sound."

Blair nodded, his eyes closing. "He'll hear us. Keep doing it. Over and over until he hears us."

"Don't go to sleep, Blair," Simon warned. If Blair was a dead weight in his arms, it would make this so much harder. And that knock on Blair's head…

"I'll try. Can't promise…"

Simon bit his lip and gave up on caution. "Jim!" he yelled. "Ellison, get your butt over here! That's an order."

A rope snaked down after five minutes of yelling, with Ellison on the other end of it, and Simon shook Blair awake gently and then, when that didn't work, with a judicious amount of force. "He's here, kid. Let me get this rope around you."

"Told you he'd come if I called."

Simon swallowed dryly, his throat rasped raw from shouting. "Yeah, he heard you howl all right, Mowgli."

Maybe he had. Maybe it'd been that first quiet command from Sandburg that had gotten Jim headed their way. Simon didn't plan to ask. The less he knew, the less he stayed awake at night, wondering.

It was enough that they were both soon at the top of the cliff, swaying with tiredness, fending off questions from Jim and his team, because questions could wait, once Simon had been told that Eriksen was on his way to a cell, but getting Sandburg checked out somewhere warm couldn't.

Simon watched Jim lead Blair away, his arm around Blair's blanket-shrouded shoulders and followed them, clutching his own blanket tightly.

Just before they got to the police car waiting on the narrow forest road, Blair broke away from Jim and came over to Simon. Blair's eyes were hazy and yeah, he looked flushed with fever, but when he walked into Simon's arms and hugged him, hugged him hard, Simon felt strength flow into him, lifting his tiredness.

And he hugged Blair back, just this once, and felt his arms curve in a shape they'd learned on a narrow ledge and wouldn't forget.

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