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        By Carikube and Shellie

        The truck sped sharply around a turn, and Blair yelped as he slid across the seat and slammed into the passenger door. Jim spared him a glance, then turned back to concentrate on the pursuit. Patrick Yates was not getting away this time, not if he had anything to say about it. Promising revenge, the man had threatened to hurt someone close to Ellison, and Jim had no intention of letting Yates roam free in the streets to do as he pleased.

        Just ahead, Yates' car swerved sideways and slammed into a parked vehicle. Jim watched as the man jumped from behind the wheel and ran toward the surrounding buildings. With a squeal of rubber, Ellison stopped his truck next to the abandoned car, then turned to his partner.

        "Stay with the truck, Sandburg, and call for backup."

        Blair nodded, his face pale, his mouth slightly open, and reached for his cell phone.

        Jim took one last glance at him, reassuring himself that his partner would stay in the truck, then took off after the criminal.

        He lost him in the streets. Just completely lost him -- there one minute, gone the next. Angry and frustrated, he headed back for the truck. He stepped out from the shadow of the buildings into the street, and stopped, aware that things had gone horribly wrong. He reached for his gun, but knew he was too late. He'd screwed up, and now his partner was in danger. The young man was backed up against the door of the truck, hands in the air, a look of determination just covering the blind fear that Jim could see in every aspect of his young friend. Yates had a gun on the anthropologist. The criminal Jim had tracked unsuccessfully through the streets now held a gun on his partner, his intent deadly obvious. Jim knew without a doubt Blair's life was in jeopardy. Yates was vicious and vengeful; he had Ellison over a barrel, and he knew it. Even as Jim surged forward, Yates turned and scowled, then his face split into a wide evil grin.

        The next few seconds seemed to happen in slow motion. The thug grabbed Blair and shoved him forward into the street, pushing him into the path of an oncoming car. Jim stood frozen in terror as Blair stumbled, regained his footing, then looked up.

        "God no!" Jim whispered. The kid didn't have a chance to get out of the path of the moving vehicle and Jim was forced to watch, completely helpless to save him.

        Sound exploded. The harsh screech of tires burning rubber on pavement shrieked through the air as the driver tried desperately to stop, but the amount of time and space was too small. Jim watched helplessly as the car hit Blair, throwing him against the windscreen of the car. The glass shattered with the impact. Blair's body rolled up the shattered glass, then tumbled back over the hood when the car came to an abrupt stop. Jim nearly zoned on the intricate pattern of glass and blood littering the car.

        Silence reigned for a brief second. Blair rolled to a stop and lay on the side of the road against the curb, face down, one arm trapped under the weight of his body. Ellison forgot about Yates and started running toward Blair. He refused to even entertain the possibility that the young man was dead.

        "Ellison, want to know what it feels like to lose someone you care for?"

        Yates stepped from behind the car that had hit Blair, his gun trained on the unmoving form on the ground. Jim faltered, but didn't stop.

        This is not happening.

        Shifting his gaze between Blair and Yates, he struggled to focus on both for entirely different reasons.

        "Well? How do you want this?" Yates sank to his haunches beside Blair and pressed two fingers against the young man's throat, seeking a pulse. He smiled. "He's still alive, detective, but not for long if this blood loss continues."

        Jim stumbled to a stop just a few feet away. He tore his eyes from Yates and stared at Blair. Seeing a spreading pool of blood beneath the still body made something in his chest squeeze tightly with fear and pain. The dark red fluid contrasted sharply with the pale gray of the pavement.

        "What are you going to do, Ellison?" Yates asked.

        "I arrest you and you go to prison for the rest of your life." The words held no life, only accusation.

        "Yeah, probably, but I don't care much anymore. You killed my father, put my brothers in jail and shut down my entire life, leaving me with only one goal: to make you suffer."

        "Then come here and get me."

        Yates laughed. He stood up and shoved his foot against Blair's shoulder, pushing the young man to his back, allowing Ellison to see his injuries. Blair's arm was broken. The bloody white tip of a bone fragment jutted from the horrible rip in his forearm. He moaned softly but didn't waken. Ellison hoped he stayed that way, because he knew when Sandburg regained consciousness, the pain would be incredible. And that was just the injury he could see. At the very least, the young man would have severe bruising along his left side, where he'd impacted with the car. He was probably bleeding internally. His life could be measured in minutes, as long as it took Jim to take control of the situation. He focused his attention on Yates, ready to bargain for his partner's life, but a soft sound from Blair distracted him.

        Sandburg woke up. Awareness swam in blessed oblivion for a brief moment, then pain slapped him hard. He screamed. The agony was so intense, he couldn't even tell where it was coming from; it was unfocused, throbbing through him and bringing nausea with it in rolling waves.


        Hearing his friend scream for him forced Jim to take a desperate step forward. Yates acted quickly, reaching down to pull Blair to his feet. The young man sobbed in hopeless agony, clutching weakly at the arm around his waist.

        "Oh god, help me!" He grunted as Yates tightened his arm around his stomach, adjusting his hold so he could use the other arm to press the gun against Sandburg's temple. Blair's left arm hung limp at his side, blood running down from the injury in his forearm to drip from his fingers.

        "Stay back, Ellison. There's nothing you can do to help him. He's going to die today, and it's up to you how fast it happens. Get in my way, and I'll kill him right here, right now."

        Jim groaned in frustration, muscles straining to keep from moving. "And if I don't try and stop you? Are you still going to make him suffer?"

        Yates grinned, pressing his arm harder against Blair's ribs. The young man groaned weakly, pulling his good arm up to tug at the arm pushing into him.

        "I'd say he's pretty much suffering now, wouldn't you, detective?"

        "Jim?" The name was whisper soft.

        A faint moan breathed out of Ellison, and he rolled his eyes shut against the torture of watching his partner suffer. He opened his eyes quickly, tracking Yates' movement, waiting for an unguarded moment. The criminal continued to back away. Blair hung limply in his arms, feet dragging against the ground. His head lolled back weakly as he turned his face to the sky. Tears streamed from his eyes, traveling down his face, leaving wet trails further down his throat.

        "Blair." The name came involuntarily to his lips. He didn't want to expose any weakness to Yates because the man would just find a way to use it to his advantage. If he knew how deeply Jim really felt about Blair, he'd kill the young man immediately, just to see Ellison suffer.

        "Yates!" The criminal whirled around at the shout. Two policemen, alerted through Blair's 9-1-1 call, were on the scene, and they had their guns out, pointed at Yates.

        Jim moved faster than a thought, and was behind the man in a heartbeat. He wrapped a hand around the front of the Yate's head, and braced the other on the back. One quick twist and Yates dropped, dead. Jim caught him on the way down, lowering him quickly to his back so he wouldn't crush Blair.

        "Chief." Ellison unwrapped the thick arm from around Sandburg and gently slid his arm under the young man's back. Working his other arm under Blair's knees, he scooped him up, lifted him from the ground.

        "Jim--!" Blair clutched desperately at his friend's shirt. "No, stop. It hurts . . ." he groaned, then gasped in pain.

        Scared he was causing more internal damage, he moved a few feet away and gently lowered the young man back to the road.

        "Ellison!" He turned to see one of the policemen running towards them.

        "Call for an ambulance!" he yelled, then turned his attention back to Blair.

        The young man lay rigid on his back. Restless with agony, he moaned again. Ellison moved a trembling hand over his friend's body. "I'm sorry, Blair. God, I wasn't thinking, I --"

        "Jim," Blair whispered. "I need . . . I . . . "

        "What is it Blair? What do you want?"

        "I want you--. . . hold me . . . please."

        "Blair, I can't. You're hurt. I think you're hurt bad, inside. I shouldn't move you." Ellison's face contorted with anguish. Not being able to give Blair what he was asking for was torture.

        "Jim, please. Don't carry me, just . . . hold me . . . " his words broke off as Blair threw his head back, gasping as another spike of agony stabbed through his ribs and chest. He felt Jim carefully slide an arm under him, being so gentle it brought tears to his eyes. The arm supported him, lifted him slightly off the hot pavement, and cradled him to Jim's chest. Ellison carefully felt his stomach and side. The merest touch caused unbearable pain to rip through him, and he groaned. Jim flinched in sympathy.

        "Oh god, Blair. Hang on, buddy, please. Just hang on." The knowledge that his friend was bleeding internally frightened him. Cold ice seemed to replace his blood, but he pushed away the thought that Blair wouldn't survive long enough to get to the hospital.

        "Thanks, Jim." Blair's eyes slowly closed.

        "Blair. Come on, buddy, stay awake now. Chief?" He sighed with relief when his friend's eyes opened, staring up at him, dazed with pain.

        "How much . . . longer . . . I can't--"

        "Yes you can! You hear me?! You hang on as long as it takes, dammit!"

        "Uhhhn," Blair groaned, clenching his teeth as another wave of pain washed over him, leaving a thin sheen of sweat on his brow. His right hand moved up to grip Jim's arm, clinging to him like an anchor.

        Sirens wailed in the distance.

        "They're coming, Blair. I can hear the ambulance. Just a little longer, buddy." Jim moved his arm carefully, not wanting to dislodge Blair's hand, and traced his fingers lightly down the young man's face. His skin was cold and clammy. Shock was setting in.

        In the space between one heartbeat and the next, the ambulance arrived and the EMT's were at their side. Jim was gently moved aside, though he found a way to keep Blair's hand in his own.

        Blair cried out when one of the men touched his belly.

        "Belly's rigid and distended. We need to get him assessed and to the hospital right away."

        The rest of their words melted into the background noise as Jim focused totally on Blair. The young man was in such obvious pain, and he felt so helpless, so useless. Blair was lifted to the gurney and placed in the ambulance. Without even asking, Jim joined them, staying by his Guide's side, where he was needed. The trip to the hospital was too fast to remember, and he was following as they wheeled Blair into the ER. He was stopped there, handed a clipboard of forms to fill out, and left in the lobby. He walked numbly to a chair and sat down, unaware of the hard board in his hands. He was still sitting there when he heard his name called.

        "Detective Ellison?"

        He looked up to find a middle-aged man staring down at him.


        "Are you here with Blair Sandburg?"

        Jim lunged to his feet. "Yes. How is he?"

        "We're taking him up to surgery, Detective. Among other things, he's got some severe internal injuries. Our first priority is to take care of the bleeding."

        "Is he going to be all right?"

        "I don't know what to tell you, detective. He's a seriously injured young man. We'll know more after the surgery. He seems to be in good physical condition, which will work to his advantage. I won't give you false hope, detective. His chances right now are 50/50."

        Ellison's world seemed to collapse. He felt like everything was falling away from him. What was there to live for if Blair didn't make it? Numbing shock set in, and it was several minutes before he heard the doctor, urgently calling his name.

        "Detective! Are you all right? I'm sorry, I didn't realize he was a friend."

        Jim glared at him.

        "I mean, I thought he was just a civilian you rescued."

        "He's my partner, and my best friend, doctor."

        "I'm sorry, detective. I'll let you know something as soon as the surgery is finished." Nodding curtly, the doctor left.

        And Ellison was left to wait. Yates' words echoed back to him: "He's going to die today."

        Simon arrived, his face set with shock. He'd heard the report from the officers on the scene, and he knew things weren't good. He stayed by the detective's side, offering a gentle hand on his shoulder, a whispered word of encouragement now and then, anything he could do to help. The captain felt useless, knowing the only thing that would bring Ellison relief was word of Blair's imminent recovery.

        Four hours later, the same Doctor walked wearily into the small lounge area. Blood flecked his surgical greens, and his shoulders slumped from exhaustion. When Simon saw him, he stood up immediately, placing one hand on Jim's shoulder as the detective sprang to his feet.

        "The surgery went well, Detective. We were able to repair the damage and stop the bleeding. The next 24 hours will be critical, but his chances of survival are good. We also worked on his arm, repaired the bone."

        Jim smiled, a watery smile to be sure, but it was still a smile.

        The Doctor smiled too. "He'll be placed in ICU. You can sit with him there. I'll make sure they let you know when he's settled." With one last smile, the doctor turned away, leaving two relieved men in his wake.

        Simon and Jim just smiled at each other stupidly for the next several seconds, both too overwhelmed with gratitude to say anything. Finally, a nurse came to summon Jim, and he was led to ICU, where Blair was waiting for him.

        Resuming his usual place at Blair's side, Jim sat for hours, content just to watch his Guide breath and heal, staying in contact with one hand, which he tenderly clasped in his own.


        Simon started into the room but paused at the door. Blair had been propped up with pillows, and the bed was slightly raised. More than a week after his brush with death, the young anthropologist was still pale and weak, but he looked much better than he had a week ago. Jim sat on the edge of the bed, talking softly to his friend, one hand resting gently on the young man's leg. Simon hesitated to interrupt what was apparently a private conversation, but he was eager to talk to Blair. Until yesterday, only family had been allowed to visit Sandburg while he was in ICU. He'd been moved to a private room this morning, and Simon wanted to see for himself how well Blair was doing; plus, he had messages and well wishes from the guys at the station to relay to the young man.

        Blair's eyes shifted to rest on Simon and Jim twisted around, noticing his captain for the first time.

        "Hey Simon." Blair's greeting was spoken with a tremulous voice, the volume barely above a whisper, but the words brought a wide smile to Banks' lips. Nodding his head at the two men, he continued into the room.

        "Hey yourself, Sandburg. Looks like you're back among the land of the living."

        Blair smiled, and his breath left him in a gentle huff, as much of a chuckle as he could manage. "Yeah, I should be back to my bouncy self in no time."

        Ellison reached up to gently touch his friend's shoulder. "No bouncing for awhile, Chief. We'll just have to settle for a quiet Sandburg for the next few weeks."

        "Jim, 'quiet' and 'Sandburg' do not belong together," Simon interrupted. "The guys down at the station are taking bets on how much longer Blair will be bedridden. They have confidence this 'quiet streak' won't last long."

        Jim chucked softly.

        "By the way, everyone at the station's been asking about you, Blair. They told me to send their best wishes, and they're glad to hear you're on the road to recovery."

        "Thanks, Simon. Tell them I'll will be back before they know it." Blair's eyes drifted shut, he was obviously tired from the conversation.

        Before Ellison could speak, Simon took his cue. "I gotta get back, just wanted to stop by and see how you were doing. I'll talk to you later, Jim." Casually waving, he turned and left.

        "You okay, partner?" Jim's worry folded creases in his brow as he looked at the pale young man before him. He knew Blair was out of danger, and he'd improved faster than the doctors had predicted the past week, but it still chilled him to realize how close Blair had come to death, and how weak he still looked.

        "I'm okay, stop worrying." Blair opened his eyes. Pulling his mouth into a smile was an effort, but one he'd gladly struggle through just to see Jim's face smooth into a peaceful expression. He lifted his hand and laid it on Jim's arm. "Everything's all right now, Jim."

        Ellison looked down at the fresh bandages wrapped around the broken arm resting on the pillow at Blair's side. The horrible rip in his flesh had not healed enough for a plaster cast, but the doctors were keeping it wrapped against infection. The incisions in his stomach were covered too, padded thickly to absorb the drainage from the wound, and to protect his tender ribs.

        "It was too close this time, Blair. Too close."

        "Jim." His name brought the bigger man's head up to look into the deep blue ocean of Blair's eyes. Sandburg traced the side of Ellison's face with one finger, then dropped the hand back to his side. He was tired of being tired. He was ready to have the energy to get out of the bed, to use his hands when he spoke without the gestures pulling painfully at his belly, to be able to reach up and touch Jim without fatigue forcing his arm back down. "I know, man. I know it was close. But I'm still here, Jim. You were there to take care of me, like always." His voice sank to a whisper as his strength gave out. "You'll always take care of me, man. As long as you're there, you'll always be in time."

        Jim reached out and softly cupped Blair's cheek with one hand. "I wish I had your confidence."

        "That's all right," Blair's voice was barely audible as he slipped into sleep. "I've got enough for both of us."

        He fell asleep before he could see the beautiful smile on Jim's face. Ellison stayed where he was, content to watch over his Guide while he slept.

        THE END