250 gazed wearily at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. With a sigh, he prodded the weathered lines in his face with a finger, his eyes drifting to his receding hairline. His graying hairline.

He thunked his forehead against the mirror and sighed again. God, he felt so old. He was still muscular, still in shape, but fatigue seemed to settle further in his bones during every idle moment. When he called for his body to work, it worked, but how much longer would that last? Every step was a chance for some joint to creak, every stretch a chance to agitate a scar. Today he was being plagued by a mild headache that made him dizzy when he turned too fast and heartburn turning his chest into a pressure cooker. Tomorrow it could be arthritis or something worse for all he knew.

With a final, heavy sigh, he shuffled out of the bathroom and down the stairs. 300 was already awake, seated on the sofa with his usual newspaper. The question was out before 250 could consider its consequences:

"Does it ever bother you?"

Glancing up from his newspaper, 300 cast a curious look in the direction of his partner. "What?"

250 ran a hand through his fading hair. "That I'm, y'know..."

300 stared at him in utter confusion, trying to finish the sentence. After a long minute, he wrinkled his brow and ventured, "...Gay?"

"No!" 250 said, giving him an incredulous look. "Old."

300 blinked. "What?"

Rubbing the cross-shaped scar on his left cheek, 250 sagged onto the couch beside his partner and sighed again. Fatigue washed through him. His headache only seemed to worsen as he sat down, and sweat began to dampen his shirt. "I mean, you're in still in your thirties, and I'm nearing fifty..."

300's appalled expression silenced him. "I am in my late thirties. You are in your mid forties. Hardly cradle-robbing."


"No." 300 snapped his newspaper shut and dropped it on the coffee table. "For the last time, the only way I'm leaving you is if you kick me out." At his partner's downcast expression, 300 exhaled and clasped one of 250's hands in both of his own. "Honestly, how are you still so insecure about this?"

"I just..." 300 raised his eyebrows, and 250 finished quietly, "I just want you to be happy."

The sentence settled on the air. 250 sat hunched over his knees, his right hand still clasped in 300's, his left still rubbing the scar. 300 frowned. Freeing one of his hands, he pinned 250's shoulder against the back of the couch and straddled his lap. 250's eyes widened as 300 seized his face and pressed a determined kiss to his lips.

"300?" he panted.

"Shut up," the Scot replied, reaching for his belt.

250 would've been happy to comply, but the worsening light-headedness and the growing pressure in his chest didn't feel like symptoms of joy. He clenched his fists and felt the sweat dripping from his palms. He gasped in another breath. "300, something's wrong."

He registered his partner looking at him in confusion before his vision went black.

- -NIELS & GANG- -

250 awoke in yet another hospital bed, his left hand once again trapped in someone's grasp. His eyes slowly opened to find 300 seated beside the bed, clutching his hand tightly. The Scot had laid his head on 250's stomach. His eyes were lowered, deep in thought, as they focused on the left side of 250's chest. The silence hung over them thickly. "...Hey," 250 attempted.

300 made no effort to answer or even to move. Narrowing his eyes, he continued his stare-off with his partner's heart, his grip on the man's hand tightening.

250 tried again. "300?"

"Never do that again."

300's words were low, firm, and directed at 250's chest. The American furrowed his brow. "What?"

The Scot's eyes flicked toward 250's face. He squeezed his hand even harder. "If you ever call yourself old again, I will break your arm."

250 looked at his partner, still slumped over his stomach with his hand in a death grip. The shadows under 300's eyes tugged at him, and he squeezed back, letting an amused smile stretch his face. "Is that your favorite threat?"

"Yes." 300 lowered his eyes back to 250's chest. "Now promise."

250 watched the Scot, who remained unmoving, waiting for an answer. When the American finally spoke, his voice was rueful, even a little admonishing. "300, you can't stop a heart attack."

300's grip managed to tighten even further. "If you say one word about heart attacks, I will break your arm."


"Break. Your. Arm."

250 could feel his partner trembling through the hospital bed. Shifting slightly, he stretched his other arm to clasp 300's hands in both of his own.

"All right. I promise."

300 made no attempt to answer. His eyes stared in the direction of 250's errant heart, but they were unfocused, lost in thought.

"300?" 250 tried.

"We're getting married."

250 blinked. "What?"

300's eyes refocused, sliding to look at 250's face. "I am going to marry you."

250 stared back at his partner blankly. "...Is that even legal in this state?"

"I don't care."

250 blinked one last time, and that seemed to settle matters for him. He squeezed 300's hands. "Okay then."

A small smile curved 300's mouth, and they sat there in companionable silence. 250 gazed at his partner, who still laid across his stomach, refusing to let go of his hands. A quiet joy tugged at his old heart.

"So," he grinned, "do I have to end up in the hospital every time I want you to upgrade our relationship?"

In a flash, 300 was on top of the hospital bed, 250's face in his hands. "Don't joke like that." He pressed a fierce kiss to his lips. "Don't even joke like that."


250 is so insecure. I imagine that the age difference, however small, would come up at some point or another.

Originally this was going to be longer and more tragic (and, if the title wasn't a clue, it would have involved Niels being a troll), but I chickened out. All that sad stuff is a continuation of this, though (as opposed to a change to this), so maybe I'll write up an angst-filled sequel another time.

According to Wikipedia, typically if a victim of a heart attack falls unconscious, they are dead. End of story. But blacking out for a scene cut is more dramatic than, "Okay, I'll call the hospital."

And no, I don't know why I always start my 250x300 fics with the same exact setting.

Let me know what you think and, as always, thanks for reading.