"Look, man, you got to pick last time."

Jim cocked his head as he strolled two paces ahead of his partner."So? You can pick next time."

"That's what you said last time! No way, this time, man." Blair came to a sudden halt as Jim stopped at the corner. "I am *not* going to some grease pit for lunch. You go where you want to go, and I'll go where I want to go. Okay?"

Jim's lips twitched and he raised an eyebrow at his young friend. "Sure, Chief. See ya later."

Blair's eyes narrowed, and his chin came up a fraction. "You think I won't go? Huh? You think I'm gonna cave in and follow you? Well, no way, man. I've eaten by myself plenty of times, you know. Makes no difference to me. I get much better attention from the waitresses when I'm alone, anyway."

Jim nodded and pushed the WALK button on the post. "Okay." His hand gave a dismissive wave. "See ya after lunch. Have fun."

"Fine." Blair turned around and headed back the way they'd came.

Jim listened to his partner's retreating footsteps and watched the young man out of the corner of his eye. His lips twitched upward, but a crease of uncertainty lined his forehead. Was Blair really serious?

He didn't mind eating alone, but he had to admit this battle of wills wasn't exactly fair considering he *had* gotten his way last time.

He saw a change in the light from red to green and stepped off the curb. His ears picked up a strange ticking sound, like something rattling. It was an oddly hollow, inviting sound...


His body jerked backward, thrusting him to awareness. He blinked,realizing he was standing in the middle of a street. A car horn blared, growing fainter as the vehicle flew ahead.

"Come on, man, let's get out of the street."

A hand yanked him backward again, and he turned around, stumbling as he yielded to the tug. Blair had a hold of him, hurrying toward the sidewalk as he dragged Jim with him.

Sudden realization slammed into him. Damn, he'd zoned. In the middle
of the street.

"Man, oh man." Leaping up the curb, Blair spun around and pulled Jim toward him. "Damnit, Jim!" Blair now had both hands on Jim's arms, his grip almost painful. You scared the shit out of me!"

Jim took a deep breath, still a bit disoriented from the experience. His ears picked up another sound -- the frantic beating of his friend's heart. The hectic rhythm drew his attention more fully on his partner, and he realized Blair was shaking all over, his face
pale and his breathing rapid.

With a smile, Jim's hands rose to rest firmly on his friend's shoulders. "It's okay, Chief. I'm fine. Thank you, buddy."

"Y-Yeah, well, be more careful next time."

Blair released Jim and took his own deep breath, running his fingers through his hair. He swallowed hard, his gaze shifting to the traffic flowing in the street. His right hand once again gripped Jim's arm, and Blair hit the WALK button on the post.

"Come on, man." The anthropologist grinned shakily at Jim. "If this is how you get your way, you win. We'll go to the grease pit."

Jim raised his eyebrows and smiled, sliding an arm across Blair's shoulders. "Nah, considering you just saved my life, I'll treat you to the restaurant of your choice."

Blair chuckled, but it sounded nervous. "Y-Yeah? So I have to fling myself in front of moving vehicles to win an argument?"

Jim raised his hand from Blair's shoulder just high enough to swat the kid on the head. "You didn't win this argument. I'm just being generous."


The End