Hey all– first of all, I can’t guarantee how long this will be, or how many installments–but I WILL keep writing them every so often.
Second of all, I don’t think it’s going to be a novel–but, like with Scorched Haven or some of the other ficlets it WILL end up somewhere, either on Instafreebie, OR as part of Fish 4 when it’s done.
Third of all–DON’T forget to check out the new version of Regret Me Not in January, because I did the same thing and that’s where all the extras went.
That being said, a little more of Jai/George. (I may keep calling this Jai There! because I’m just that big of a nerd.)
* * *
Jai crawled into the tent about an hour after George fell asleep. George was tossing, and still feverish, so Jai woke him up with some ibuprofen and crackers–and water, that was very important. By the time Jai had stripped down to his boxers and a T-shirt, George had stilled and was sleeping like the might-maybe-live.
Jai spent a few moments curled on his side, staring at the lump of his sleeping bag in the darkness. Such a sweet man–protests of a misspent youth aside. Kind. Funny. A nurse.
No. George may have liked men, and had the yellow hair, but Jai had killed people. He was not a nice man.
Still, he would enjoy hearing another person’s breath in his space, just for the weekend.
That soothed, he fell asleep.
He woke up with a man-sized heating pad vibrating against his chest.
George whimpered and shook some more, and Jai grunted, feeling his head. “And you need more medicine.”
“Is that it?” George asked pitifully. “God. I’m going to get you sick. Shit. All you’ve done for me and I’m going to get you sick.”
Jai gently pushed him aside so he could reach to the space above him for the bottled water and ibuprofen. “Here,” he mumbled, helping George sit up. “Take some of this.” George swallowed convulsively, and Jai realized the moon must have been up and shining directly on their tent. “Now crackers.”
George grimaced. “Are you–“
“Or your stomach will cramp some more. I could give you the medicine another way, but that is a little personal, you think?”
George took a cracker, eyes wide in the dark. “You’re pretty persuasive,” he muttered, swallowing. He took another pull of water, and then, voluntarily, another cracker.
“I am not a nice man,” Jai said seriously. “I do not wish to hurt you.”
“You realize those two statements don’t fit together,” George mumbled, finishing off the cracker. He waved the rest of the package aside. “I don’t want to get sick again.”
“There is a pot next to you–you see it? I set it there when I came to bed.”
George chuckled weakly. “You have the instincts of a first class nurse.”
“Or a world class mob enforcer.” Which he had been. “Or an auto mechanic who cannot hold his sushi.” Which he most definitely was.
“Augh! Don’t say sushi.” George tried to wrap up in the fleece again, making so much noise and commotion that Jai sat up and turned on his flash light. “What are you doing?” George asked after collapsing miserably in a pile of fleece and tangled sleeping bag.
“Planning my attack. Stay still, small man.” Jai unzipped the sleeping bag, ripped the fleece off, and laid it flat. Then he lifted George onto the fleece again like a child in a bunting, and wrapped him first, then got in the bag next to him and zipped it all up.”
“That was impressive,” George mumbled, sounding dazed. “You should be a nurse.”
“Or an army medic.”
“Hey, it’s my fantasy.” George rolled over so he was facing Jai and snuggled into his chest. “I might as well make you somebody I see every so often.”
“I am no man’s fantasy,” Jai told him sadly, smoothing his sweaty hair back from his head.
“Tonight you’re mine,” George said with some dignity. “A guy who will take care of me. And make me smile.”
Jai chuckled, the sound rumbling through the tent like thunder, and George rested his head against Jai’s chest.
The next thing Jai knew it was morning, and George was snoring softly, huddled under the fleece still but not shivering.
Jai tested his forehead and while it was clammy, it wasn’t burning up.
Good. His new friend was feeling better.
After quickly dressing so he could run to the nearby bathroom, Jai resurrected the fire and started boiling water for soup and hot chocolate. He made a coffee mug of chocolate for himself and a small thermos of broth, which he planned to take inside the tent. Just as he was twisting the cap, he heard George call his name in a rather small voice.
He turned around and saw George, poking his head out.
“I need help to the head, man. Can you get me some sweats from my car?”
Jai grunted, squatted down at the tent’s entrance and scooped him up, fleece blanket and all. He was not a small man, but still, no more heavier than he had been the day before.
“This is so embarrassing,” George mumbled, but that didn’t stop him from wrapping his arms around Jai’s neck and resting his head against his shoulder.
“There is nobody awake,” Jai said. “The campground is not full this time of year.”
“That’s cause it’s fucking freezing,” George muttered. “What brought you out here?”
“It was a place to come where my boss and his boyfriend didn’t have to fuss over me, one that did not look like my apartment.”
George gave a short laugh. “I was recovering from a breakup.”
A shrug and a bitter sound. “Stupid.”
“What is stupid about it?”
“I said exclusive, and he said threesome. I said no way, and he said, ‘Fine, Gary and I will find someone else.’ And I said, ‘Gary?'”
Jai couldn’t help it–he laughed. Full fledged, from his stomach–from his toes, if the truth be known. “That is too bad. You thought he was your man?”
“I thought we were at least on the same page,” George muttered dispiritedly. “I figured I’d come camping, since it was something Harvey never wanted to do–“
“You were dating a man named Harvey?”
“No, no–I think it is fine you were dating a man named Harvey who wanted to have a threesome with Gary. So it would be Gary, Harvey, and George.”
George groaned into his shoulder. “We can’t all be giant Russians named Jai!”
“Which is probably a good thing,” Jai said, to calm his ruffled feathers. “We are here. It is freezing in there–can you make it to the toilet alone or–“
“No,” George muttered. He was shivering already.
It was strangely intimate, moving the blanket up to his shoulders and stripping his boxer shorts down. Jai left him alone for an appropriate time and returned to help him to the sink. When he was done, he scooped George up in his arms again, wrapped tight in fleece and took him to the tent. George was still tunneling into the sleeping bag when Jai appeared again with the broth.
George drank it gratefully. “You’re really good at this. I think you were wasted as mob muscle.”
“Possibly, but I am a very good mechanic.”
“Do you like your boss better?”
“Yes. He is a good man. I have been helplessly in love with his boyfriend for over a year, and he has been nothing but kind.”
George choked on his chicken broth. “In love with–“
Jai shrugged, used to it by now. “He is… small. And perfect. And I like yellow hair, like yours. And…” He frowned, not sure he could say this right. “He needs Ace. Like I need oxygen and large sized boots. I would very much like to be needed like that. But I was too late for Sonny.”
Jai was sitting cross-legged on top of the sleeping bags as George sat up inside his end. George reached out then, and stroked his hand gently. “It’s good to be needed,” he said softly.
Jai shrugged. “I have always been the biggest, and the strongest. I’ve always had the scariest smile. My friends, they have hidden behind me, and my lovers have depended on me for protection–and for pleasure. It is a thing I am good at.” He frowned. “Fixing cars too. Which makes me needed again.” Suddenly he smiled. “I will work on your car while you rest. That way it will not die after you decide to live.”
George nodded and put the lid back on the thermos. “I can’t stop you,” he sighed. “Maybe someday you’ll find somebody you need as much as they need you.”
Jai grunted. “I would not like that. It sounds terrifying. I think it’s why I’ve had such a hard time finding a man as it is. Who wants to need somebody who could break them like a twig?”
“But won’t,” George said, yawning. “It’s the won’t that’s very important. Don’t go yet. Stay there.”
“Why? What am I doing?”
“I need you here while I fall asleep. I’m sick and I’m sad, and I would have been all alone and freezing to death at the lake’s edge if you hadn’t stepped up. Just sit here and let me need you.”
Jai grunted and made himself comfortable on his side. George curled up into the shelter of his body again, and Jai, good and settled now, pulled out his phone so he could play a game. George’s breath settled, and he was asleep soon enough, but still, Jai didn’t move.
George said he needed Jai.
Even for this moment, while George was recovering from what had apparently been the mother of all stomach bugs, it was a nice thing.
Jai would lay there and keep George warm and appreciate it while it lasted.