Spirit Babies

Jim stood in the middle of the loft, staring unbelievingly at his spirit guide. He was used to the panther showing up at odd times, taking him on strange adventures or simply confounding him until he figured out (on his own, it always seemed) what was going on but he'd felt that he was, at last, getting the hang of this spirit/spirit guide relationship.

He had been wrong. Completely wrong. And his other Guide wasn't helping much. As his spirit guide vanished, Jim looked down. Blair was kneeling on the living room floor, already holding one of the prowling panther cubs. "Jim! They're so cute!"

Embarrassed, Jim tried to maintain a little dignity and not succumb to the urge to join his partner on the floor. "No matter what she says, Blair, I'm *not* their godfather."

Blair snorted. "Yeah, right, who *else* has a panther for a spirit guide? Come on, Jim, you're baby sitting. Accept it. Deal with it. Cuddle them!" He handed one of the kittens over.

Reluctantly, Jim took the ball of fur in his hands. They stared at each other for a few moments, neither one blinking. Just as innate kitten cuteness was about to win out and make Jim smile, the kitten swiped its not-so tiny claws at Jim's arm. "Ow! Dammit.. Sandburg, get these--" He stopped as there was a knock at the door. Exchanging a confused look with Blair, he shook his head. "There's no one..." Tilting his head, he listened. The confusion cleared from his face. "Oh no."

"Oh no, what?" Blair stood up, still holding a kitten, stepping through the tangle of kittens pouncing his feet. In response, Jim walked over to the door and opened it. They saw a very large basket covered with a moving blanket. Blair knelt down and peeled back the cover and after a moment of shock exclaimed, "Oh, how cute!" He picked up a rather large wriggling puppy which immediately began licking Blair's face. Blair held the pup -- a wolf pup -- in his unoccupied hand and looked up at his partner. "Aren't they adorable? How many of them are there?" He glanced down into the basket, counting.

"There's a note, Sandburg." Jim saw the folded paper tucked into the edge of the basket. One pup was starting to chew on it, so he reached down and snatched the paper before it was eaten. The puppy followed, or tried, falling out of the basket onto its nose. It stood, shook itself, and bounded towards Jim's feet.

"There's four of them, Jim! Same number as the kittens." Blair had dug through the basket to uncover all the pups.

Jim didn't say anything -- he was reading the note and deciding he really hadn't really wanted to know. "Dear Blair, I will be out of town for a while and need someone to look after my kids. As your spirit guide I know you will take good care of them. PS - tell Jim his guide's kittens are too adorable. But my pups get the left side of your bed." Crumpling the note, Jim glared down at Blair, the basket, and the pup trying to stand on -- or jump over, he couldn't tell -- his foot.

"I'm going back to Peru." Jim started to toss the note down when he stopped, and looked at it again. "What does this mean, 'left side of your bed'? They're not sleeping with us!"

"Jim!" Blair turned aghast eyes up at him -- matched perfectly with a set of brown genuine-puppy eyes from the wolf cradled against Blair's chest. "Wolves are social creatures! You can't expect them to sleep alone, in a cold, unfriendly corner..."

"I can, and I do. They won't be alone, they'll have each other. Damn, what am I saying? They won't be here at all!"

Blair smiled briefly, then went back to the cute pleading look. "They're just babies! We can't leave them alone. They'll be scared, they'll cry all night...."

"No." Jim moved his foot out from under the now-two pups climbing on him. Behind him the other kittens had finally ventured closer. "Blair, we are not keeping *any* animals. What'll the landlord say?"

"Jim, *you* own this building."

He tried another tack. "Cats and dogs don't get along... what do you think wild animals, panthers and wolves, are going to do?"

"Come on," Blair grabbed the last wolf pup before it could head down the hallway. "They're half-spirit guide. They'll love each other!" As if to punctuate his words, one pup pounced on a cub. The cub hissed, swatted its nose, and held its ground. The pup yipped happily, and when the kitten ran, gave merry chase. Jim closed his eyes, anticipating the sounds of crashing glass, ceramic, and whatever else they knocked over.

On the other hand, the kitten and pup in Blair's hands were eyeing each other. The pup reached out with a paw and tapped the cub on its nose, and the cub responded by pawing back. Jim was about to protest again, when he looked down at his partner. Blair was now covered with furry babies, two in his hands and four in various stages of climbing over his body. They looked, Jim had to admit, adorably cute. His lover's face was shining with enjoyment as the babies played.

Jim shook his head. "Fine, but *you're* cleaning out the litter box."

"Great! Um, you wanna help me get these guys inside before they wander off?"

With a put-upon sigh, Jim squatted down and began picking squirming animals off his partner. Hands full, he stood up and let Blair stand and precede him in. Checking to see that everyone was safely inside, he kicked the basket inside and pushed the door shut. Blair had gone ahead into the living room, setting his load of cubs and pups onto the floor where they promptly began playing. Two set off to explore their new domicile, and another found invisible toys to pounce upon.

Jim gave a quick search of the loft with his hearing, wondering where the first two had ended up. Two tiny heartbeats led him into the bathroom, where he found two furry bodies curled around each other in the tub, sleeping. At rest they looked perfectly innocent and harmless. 'All right, so they're cute. But they can't stay for long!' He suddenly realised he still held three animals in his arms. They were wriggling energetically, and one was about to go tumbling onto the bathroom floor.

Quickly he knelt and let them all go. One cub and one pup spilled ungracefully, rolling to their feet and began to discover the joys of running, rather, sliding, on tile. The third, a kitten, grabbed onto Jim's leg and held on. "Jim? What're-- oh! That's so cute. Do we have a camera?" Blair stood behind him.

"Can you take pictures of spirit guides?" Jim asked, most of his attention on trying to free his leg. "What are we going to do with eight animals? We can't -- hey! Get down from there!" He called out as he spied a panther cub climbing up onto the bookcase in the living room. Blair glanced back as Jim pushed by, tripping over the kitten on his leg. With a defeated shake of his head, Jim looked at Blair. "Somehow this is your fault, Chief."

"Me? *Your* panther babies showed up first! Besides, it's only for the weekend! The folks will be back Monday to get their kids. All we have to do is enjoy them until then."

Jim leaned back against the wall. "Let's just hope the loft is still intact on Monday."

Several hours later the babies had destroyed a small portion of the living room before being corralled in the kitchen. A make-shift fence (a folding card table) had blocked off the area, a fresh coating of newspaper spread out on the floor served as damage control. They'd had three naps so far, but to Jim's dismay they woke after only a short time, full of energy. Blair was sitting on a clean spot on said newspaper, playing 'king-of-the-Blair' with the pups and cubs. Jim leaned over the counter. "I'm ordering pizza." He stared at the pile of wriggling fur encasing his partner.

Blair looked up carefully, one cub dangling from a thick lock of his hair. "Ow, let go! Good idea. Speaking of which, it's about time we fed the kids. Where'd we put their food?"

"Here." Jim lifted the bags up onto the counter and then reached for the phone. He listened as Blair tried to extract himself long enough to stand and gather foodbowls. After a moment he succeeded, and Jim watched as Blair stepped carefully over to the counter. Though he could no longer see the kitchen floor, and hence the pups and cubs, Jim could track each one. Not by his sentinel senses, but by the way Blair was manoeuvring -- carefully stepping over, around, and between the animals.

He watched, smiling at his lover, as he absently ordered their usual pizza. Blair was measuring out food -- blue bowls for the kittens, red bowls for the pups. Jim didn't know how they were going to keep them from eating each others' food, but figured they had to at least look like they were trying. Hanging up the phone, he stepped over the 'fence' -- checking first for a clean and unoccupied place to step -- and headed over to refresh the water bowls.

Several paws landed on his feet as he moved about the kitchen. Jim found himself starting to enjoy the almost homey feel, having a room full of babies. He felt almost paternal, being responsible for these tiny creatures' welfare and safety. Maybe they'd keep-- he shut that train of thought off as soon as it started. No, come Monday they were giving all of them back, and that would be the end of it. He only had to look at the empty place on the endtable where a lamp had once stood, to remind himself why. Or the books with covers bent from being thrown off the shelves, or the scratches on the couch, the bite marks on the remote control....

"Hey, Jim?" Blair's thoughtful voice interrupted him.


"I was thinking--"

Jim knew from the wistful tone what his mate was about to say. "No. Don't even think it."

"Just one wouldn't be any trouble! A regular dog or cat, not a wild animal - er, such as they are," Blair picked up a pitifully meowing cub and placed it at an unoccupied food dish. The others were pressed head to head around the other three bowls, pushing each other out of the way. The cub sniffed at the kitten food there, looked over at its sibs and playmates, and promptly went back to a bowl of puppy food. Blair grinned and left the animals alone as they ate. He looked at Jim. "But Jim--"

"No. I don't want any pets, Blair, not--"

"Jim!" This time the pleading look was toned by a stern expression that Jim knew all too well. Sometimes Blair would put his foot down and Jim would find himself, well, doing whatever Blair said. He shook his head, but Blair continued. "Two animals won't make any trouble."

"Two? A moment ago it was one!"

"Yeah, but I told you -- dogs are social creatures, and cats need companions too. We can't be home all the time, and it's unfair to leave a pet here for hours with nobody around."

"Blair," Jim shook his head, trying to ward off the begging, pleading, and whatever else might come next if he didn't explain. "I just meant I'd rather wait until we're in a house."

Blair blinked. "Oh." His stunned expression faded easily to a grin. "Cool!"

Jim wondered how long it would be before he'd have to come up with a story to back up his latest attempt to distract his partner. Last time he'd ended up actually getting them the tickets to New South Wales.

Later, after the empty pizza carton had been turned into a new and interesting panther/wolf toy, Jim tried to entice his lover onto the couch to relax. Blair had just come back from checking on the babies, and with a grin reported they were, yet again, down for a nap. "Adelto is asleep on Marion's head, and--"

"Hold it, Chief!" Jim sat forward, holding up a hand. "You're *not* naming them."

"Relax, Jim! They're gonna be here for two more days. I have to call them *something*. I can't just keep saying 'pup one' and 'cub three'."

"Why are you calling them any-- oh, nevermind. I don't want to know. Come here." He reached out and grabbed Blair's waistband and tugged.

With a grin, Blair let himself fall onto Jim's lap. "Was there something you needed, big guy?"

"Yeah." Jim leaned in and kissed Blair on the neck. "I haven't touched you -- without you holding some wriggling animal -- all day long."

Blair wrapped his hands around Jim's torso, grinning. "Well, it looks like I've still got a wriggling animal in my hands." With a muffled growl, Jim moved in for a kiss. The action was aborted when they heard a sudden distressed yelping from the kitchen/nursery. Leaping off Jim's lap, Blair headed over, a worried look replacing the expression of lust.

Jim sighed, then checked on the animal from where he was sitting. He didn't detect anything unusual, other than the initial yelp. "What's wrong, Durst?" He heard his lover's voice, all soft and tender the way one would speak to a baby.

//Durst'? Where is he getting these names?// Jim levered himself off the couch and headed over. He found Blair crouching in the middle of the floor with one pup cradled in his hands. The pup was busily licking Blair's face while two kittens sleepily nudged his legs. The other babies were still asleep, and Jim spoke quietly so as to keep them that way. "What's wrong, Chief?"

"I dunno... maybe he just needed some attention." Blair no longer looked worried. The pup was industriously trying to remove the outer layer of skin from Blair's cheek with its tongue.

Jim shook his head. "Well if nothing's wrong, why don't you put him down and come back to the couch with me?"

"OK," Blair agreed, but he didn't set the pup down.

"Blair..." Jim tried again. When his partner made no immediate move to stand up, he whimpered in a near-exact imitation of the pup. A surprised grin met his pleading expression. He hoped it was pleading; Blair sometimes called it his 'I'm about to pop' look.

"OK, I'm coming." Blair gave him an amused smile.

"Not in there, you're not." Jim waited patiently as Blair set the wolf pup down and stepped over the fence. As soon as Blair was clear, and there were no responding whimperings from inside the kitchen, Jim grabbed his lover again. Pulling him close, he gave him the kiss which had been so rudely inter--

Jim looked into the kitchen in astonishment. "It's like he knows!" He stepped closer and looked down at the folding table which served as a barricade, and saw the wolf pup braced on it, front legs as high as it could reach, body practically plastered against the table. Crying again, he gazed up at Jim with huge, pitiful, brown eyes.

"Oh, for pete's sake." Jim reached down and picked up the pup, rubbing its head with his thumb. "What's with you? I'm trying to have a meaningful interaction with my lover, here. Can't it wait an hour or so?" Apparently not. The pup, now in Jim's hands, settled down instantly and began to chew on Jim's hand with its dull puppy teeth. Looking up, he found Blair smiling smugly. "What?" he demanded.

"Nothing. Not a thing, man. You, uh, wanna watch TV or something?"

"No," Jim growled again. "I want to get this little bugger back to sleep so I can jump you." The pup suddenly began yapping, as if trying to bark ferociously. Concerned, Jim looked down and found the pup trying to stand, barking up at him. "What'd I do?"

"Oh, uh, Jim... I think I..."


"Well, his dad *is* my spirit guide. And when you growl at me like that, it sounds kinda threatening."

Jim stared at his lover. The wolf pup had quieted, though it was still trying to move in Jim's hands to get closer. "Right. I'm supposed to believe that? These pups are, what, genetically programmed to protect you?"

Blair held up his hands. "Hey, man, it's a possibility. You wanna test it? We can get one of the kittens in here and see if--"

"No. We're not doing any experiments. We're putting this one," he hefted the pup in one hand, "back in the kitchen and we're going upstairs."

"We can't leave them alone." Blair looked past him at the kitchen, as if in seeing it he could see the sleeping piles of babies there.

"We can, and we are." With that he lowered the pup back into its pen, and faced his lover again. "Unless you'd *rather* stay down here instead of come upstairs with me?"

"Now you know I'm always up for banging you into the mattress," Blair said, voice dripping with lust and come-hither. That tone vanished as he continued, "But I bet they'll start crying if we go that far away, and leave them alone."

"We are *not* sleeping with them."

"We have to! They're used to--"

Jim held a hand over his lover's mouth, firmly. "No. That's the end of it."

Half an hour later Jim had to admit he wasn't really surprised when he was helping Blair put a set of old sheets on the bed, sheets they wouldn't mind tossing out in the morning. They'd already set boxes and pieces of furniture along the railing so the babies wouldn't fall overboard, and Blair was planning on barricading the top of the stairs with the table they now had blocking the kitchen off.

Jim shook his head. One of these days he was going to learn to dig his heels in and *not* let Blair have his way. Just as soon as he figured out how his lover was managing that trick in the first place.

Once the bed was made, Blair bounced towards the stairs. "Come on! Let's go bring them up. If we play with them for a bit, it'll wear them out and they might sleep through the night."

"*Might*?" Jim followed his lover. "Hold on, Chief, I thought--" He stopped when Blair looked up at him. "Nevermind. OK, let's bring them up."

Blair gave him a grin which more than made up for any discomfort Jim might have been feeling. Making his lover happy was much more important that things like sleep. Maybe that was how Blair always got his way.

An empty box served as an animal ferry, six piled in and carried up by Jim; the other two in Blair's arms. The table was tucked last minute under Blair's arm. The babies had been awake when they'd gathered them up, and were now excited by the new activity. When Jim lowered the box onto the bed they nearly tipped it over, trying to get out and explore their new world. Hurrying to Blair's side, he took the table and blocked the stairs.

Blair was being licked to death again. He didn't blame the pups, he liked the way Blair tasted as well. He smiled at the thought.

"They're so cute at this age." Blair laughed.

"Yeah, so you don't kill them when they chew your shoes or piss in your closet."

"Well, of course!" With a grin, Blair began explaining, "It's a genetic advantage of all animals, well, mammals at least. Although I've seen some cute baby lizards; babies have to look cute so the adults will feel an emotional attachment. Otherwise the adults would take off at the first--"

Jim interrupted the lecture by taking the two animals out of Blair's hands, setting them on the floor to join their siblings who had also managed to jump, leap, and fall to the floor, and kissing him. The kiss lasted only a few short moments before tiny feet pounced on theirs.

Blair looked down and grinned. "Yeah, OK! We'll play with you." He sat down, away from the barricade on the stairs, and was instantly covered in balls of fur. Jim checked the barricades to make sure there was no chance of any animal coming to harm, then resigned himself and sat down near Blair.

Four of the animals jumped on him: three of the cubs and one pup. They seemed to find him a challenging obstacle, trying to climb up an arm or leg and tumbling to the ground at the slightest movement from Jim. He caught one kit before it landed on its back, and rolled it back over to sit on his lap. He watched as the others pounced the kitten, either vying for the preferred spot or simply wanting to play. He was glad he'd been wearing jeans -- anything else might not have withstood the energetic, and messy, play. Someone had already drooled all over his knee, as well as all the chew marks along the lower leg.

Blair was obviously enjoying himself immensely, laughing at the kittens and pups antics, encouraging them and talking to them as if they could understand every word he said. The pups yipped back as Blair talked to them, encouraging them to yip again, and the cubs were trying to balance themselves on his arms and shoulders. Somehow his lover managed to be aware of each babies' position at all times, and rescued any before it could come to any misadventure. He had enough energy to give his attention to each excited animal, Jim realised. Blair was having the time of his life, Jim could see by the sparkle in his eyes and the way he kept cooing and laughing at the babies.

It made Jim want to keep all eight animals, just so he could enjoy the sight all the time. So *Blair* could enjoy it. He was wise enough, however, to know that the wonderful sight would be heavily interspersed with chewed furniture, tripping over animals, and finding messes on the floor. His senses would go nuts, he was sure, in about three days.

He couldn't say anything less than two days, because that's how long they were going to be here, and he'd have to just accept it. He didn't need both Blair's *and* his spirit guides mad at him. Not after last week. Blair'd even made him pay for the repairs to the wall.

"Hey, Jim, what'd I tell you, man?"

Jim looked up, cuddling another pup in his arm, letting it gnaw harmlessly on his biceps. "What are you talking about?"

Blair just smirked, and looked down at the cub trying to swat his nose. "What do you want, Rover?"

"You named a kitten *Rover*?!"

"Jim, don't be so narrow minded--"

"I'm not being narrow minded. You can't name a cat 'Rover'."

Holding the cub up, he turned it to face Jim. The cub's wide green eyes stared at him and Jim felt, for a moment, that the cub knew way more about what was going on than it ought. "So what should we call him, then?"

"Oh no, Blair. I'm not falling for that." He turned his attention -- well, most of it -- back to the animals playing on his legs.

"Fine. 'Rover' it is, then."

Jim glanced up at the sleek black kitten, finding it still staring at him. "Not Rover. Maybe Chancellor." He had no idea where *that* came from. But it fit.

"Chancellor?" Blair turned the cub, looking at its face as if to gauge its acceptance of the name. Whatever he saw must have satisfied him, because he grinned up at Jim. "Perfect! It does sound better than 'Rover'."

Jim gave his lover a steely-eyed look. "Don't think I don't know you did that in purpose, Chief."

"Did what?" The all-innocent look he got confirmed his suspicions.

"Nevermind. How long do you think they'll be awake?" It occurred to him that if they all fell asleep in a pile on the floor, he'd be free to have his way with his lover without interruption.

"Who knows. They'll run around until they conk out. We can just scoop 'em up onto the bed and--"


"Yeah...." Blair obviously didn't understand what was wrong. "That's why we put down the old sheets, right?"

"Yeah, but I thought we'd... let them sleep on the floor, first."

After a confused moment Blair smiled. "Oh. That. Sorry, I don't think they'll let us. I'm not adverse to trying, mind you--"

"Oh, thanks a lot, Blair. That's very flattering." He grinned, and picked up a pup that was trying to wedge its head under the dresser. He turned it around to let it explore the other direction.

"That's not what I mean, Jim! You *know* I love you, and you *know* I'd normally jump at the chance to strip you naked and bend you over the bed. But I just don't think its a good idea... besides, do you want to have sex with an audience of eight?"

Jim looked down to find three sets of eyes gazing back at him. "Good point. But as *soon* as they go home, I'm holding you to that."

"I can do that." They sat and played for awhile longer, and soon the babies began curling up on top of them. One laid down beside Jim's leg, and another on top, a third in his lap. He didn't see how he was going to stand up without waking any of them. Blair wasn't in much better circumstances -- a cub was spread along his thigh, and another was in his lap with its head in its brother's back. Two of the pups were tangled on Blair's foot. Jim gave his lover a grin.

"Now how do we get 'em up there ?" He whispered, nodding towards the bed.

"Very carefully. Don't worry, if we wake 'em up they'll go right back to sleep."

Jim watched as his lover carefully scooped up a cub and leaned over to deposit it on the bed. He did the same twice more, then stood up. He picked up a pup from Jim's lap, and one by one they managed to get all the sleeping animals onto the bed. Blair had neatly arranged them to be near each other but leave space for the two humans.

"So.. wanna torment ourselves with some necking before we go to bed? Or should we just give in graciously?" Jim looked at the huddle of sleeping animals, back to Blair, down at the animals, then back to Blair.

"I wanna torment ourselves." Blair grinned and scooted forward, grabbing him in an embrace, planting his mouth on Jim's before he could say another word.

Jim didn't argue with him, didn't even try to fend him off. He grinned, in fact, as much as he could with his mouth engrossed in eloquent expression. The kiss lasted all of two minutes before someone started whining.

Blair broke off the kiss and looked over towards the bed, without letting go of Jim. "What's wrong?"

Jim was pleased to hear a slight tone of impatience in his lover's voice. 'Glad to see they can get to him, eventually.' The wolf pup stood near the edge of the bed, wagging its tail frantically. It was staring up at Blair, whining softly, trying to communicate its needs to Blair.

"Uh-oh..." Blair let go of Jim and quickly moved over to the pup and grabbed it off the bed. He looked around, a frustrated expression soon appearing on his face.

"What's wrong, Chief?" Jim was beginning to get worried.

"We didn't bring up the newspaper. Damn, Jim we're--" Blair stopped as they both heard the tell-tale sound of a piddling pup. Blair gaped at the pup in his hands, astonished, and Jim grimaced and headed for the stairs -- and a towel.

Grabbing a handful of towels, Jim jogged back up to the bedroom and tossed one to Blair for immediate clean-up. He spread the rest on the floor next to the bed, then stopped. "Blair?"

"Yeah?" His lover was trying to wipe off the pup without dropping it.

"How'd you know it was about to do that?"

"Huh?" Blair turned a startled look on him. Setting the mostly dry pup back on the bed, Blair began wiping the floor clean. "Oh, I... I dunno. I guess," Blair trailed off, thinking. Jim saw as the distracted expression changed into one of excitement. "He told me!" Blair leapt to his feet, waving the stained towel as he spoke. "In images, very faint, but like his father does in my visions!"

Jim carefully caught Blair's hand and removed the towel from his grasp. As he considered where he'd have to stash it so he wouldn't be smelling wolf pee all night, he realised he'd have to clean the floor again, as well. With baking soda.


"Guess I shouldn't be surprised, huh?" Jim shook his head. Spirit guides. Sheesh. Had he *asked* for this? "Do you think they've got the idea now, though?" He waved one hand towards the pile of towels. They could have rigged something better, even just a large litter box, if there had been any warning.

Blair looked down at the pup, who was turning circles in order to find the best possible orientation for sleeping. "I hope so. Otherwise we aren't going to get much sleep tonight."

*That* thought didn't appeal. Actually, losing sleep appealed a lot, but for other reasons. But as he eyed the pile of sleeping babies he realised that he and Blair would be lucky to find room to lie down, much less sleep. "So." Jim looked up at his lover. "Now what?"

Blair shrugged. "If we try to go back downstairs we're gonna have them wailing for us eventually."

"Right. So which corner do you want?"

The next day was, as one might easily imagine, much the same only longer. Jim gainsaid a trip to the park, finally convincing Blair that eight animals were simply too many to keep track of. Not to mention trying to explain to curious onlookers how they managed to get ahold of panther cubs and wolf pups.

That meant, of course, that it was either sacrifice the loft or -- in a last-ditch, brilliant suggestion -- take them up to the roof With old socks and balls of paper for toys.

That night when they rounded everyone up for bedtime (with a new, about to die set of sheets for the bed) Jim hoped the spirit guides were coming by *early* to retrieve their kids.

As Jim slept, he dreamt. He dreamt of being bombarded with small furry animals, all jumping on him and inviting him to accompany them. After trying to fend them off, he gave in and followed. The animals scurried at his feet, aiming him in more or less a single direction.

As he walked, he tried to focus around him but the sensations were dimmed -- as if they weren't an important part of the dream vision. When he realised that he stopped trying to focus and simply walked.

Suddenly they reached a sort of wall. The animals stopped, all sitting on their haunches and looking at it. Jim waited, searching for some reason, something he was supposed to do with the wall, something he was supposed to discover.

He waited.

Nothing happened.

He looked around, saw nothing but blurred colours and shapes, heard indistinct sounds one might associate with being outdoors -- or might not -- and smelled only fresh dirt and animals. He was about to ask for some hint as to what was going on when he heard, "Good babies!"

It sounded suspiciously like Blair's voice. Jim turned towards the sound and saw Blair sitting on the ground, smiling proudly at the baby spirit guides who were now running towards him.

Yapping and pouncing, the pups and cubs swarmed over the shaman who generously gave each one head rubs and praise. When he looked up and saw Jim staring, he grinned sheepishly. "Well, they have to practise on *somebody*."

Next Story: Spirit Babies, Too