EVOLUTION OF FRIENDSHIP Part 2
"QUID PRO QUO"
AUTHORS NOTES: this is an AU ending to Siege and the second part to "Evolution of Friendship" (well, duh!). Obviously there are spoilers for "Siege" and "Switchman".
"Hi," Blair looked at the attractive brunette in front of him and held out his hands awkwardly. "Would you mind?"
The woman gave him a confused glance then began pulling the duct tape from around his wrists.
"Ow." He winced as the tape took hair and skin with it, feeling a burning pain across his bicep as he moved his arm away.
"You okay?' the woman asked. She raised one hand and prodded at the hole in his jacket where the bullet had torn the fabric when Kincaid's men had shot at him. "Did you get shot?"
"Um, no, I don't think so. Maybe a little." His arm was throbbing now and he touched the soreness with his fingertips, surprised to see a small amount of blood on them when he pulled them away.
"You should get someone to look at that," the woman said. "Might need stitches."
"It's okay, " Blair replied. Truth to tell, it was really hurting now. He hadn't even realized he'd been hit at all till the woman had pointed it out to him. He guessed it had opened up more when Kincaid had been dragging him to the chopper or maybe when Blair had shoved his way into the cockpit with the flare gun. He pulled at the hole in his sleeve a little but he couldn't see much so he pushed the thought of it to the back of his mind and held out his hand. "Blair Sandburg," he said. "I'm ah riding with Detective Ellison."
"Oh right, his cousin. Strange. I thought I knew all Jim's family but you don't really look like any of them." She looked him over appraisingly.
"You know Jim's family?" Blair asked.
"Of course. I'm Jim's ex wife. Sorry," she shook his hand, "Lieutenant Carolyn Plummer, Technical Support Division."
"Oh," Blair all but squeaked. *Shit, Ellison, you could have warned me I was likely to run into your ex on the job. How the hell am I supposed to keep the cover story straight if you don't tell me anything? * "Um, well, I'm like only a second cousin from a second marriage of his cousin's, you know," he obfuscated.
"Uh huh. Look, it's none of my business, Sandburg. Jim was his own man even when we were married. I just thought it was strange he wanted a sidekick, that's all. He's worked on his own for a long time now."
"Sidekick?" Blair grinned. "You mean like Tonto?"
"Yeah, sure. Hey, you've even got the hair for it, kid. And Jim's definitely The Lone Ranger,<.>" Carolyn smiled back at him. "I gotta go catch up with Simon. I want to make sure Daryl's okay. Get that arm checked out." She nodded down at his hand and Blair saw that a trickle of blood had dribbled down to his fingertips. She threw a farewell grin over her shoulder. "See ya round, Tonto."
Blair wiped his hand off on the inside of his jacket as he looked around for Jim. There was no way he could afford to go to the hospital to get his arm looked at. TA's stipends didn't run to hospital insurance. He thought about finding a paramedic but then he remembered the big detective who'd backed him up when Blair had told Kincaid he was a cop and how stoic the man had been in spite of his serious leg wound. He also knew that several people in the dispatch room had been killed and he couldn't bring himself to complain about a scratch like this. He didn't want Ellison thinking his new partner colleague, he corrected himself, couldn't cut it. He could patch it up himself at home or go to the free clinic in the morning, if necessary. He looked around for Jim, waiting till he saw Captain Banks walk away before he approached him.
"You told him, didn't you?" Blair asked as he reached Jim.
"Yeah, I had to," Jim replied, rubbing absently at his wrists.
Blair looked over to where the captain was walking through the door to the roof. "What happened? Did he, like, freak or what?"
"No." Jim turned to look at him. "I actually think it's all going to turn out to be just fine."
"Great, great. There's just one more thing I gotta ask you."
"What's that?" Jim asked, watching him, noticing for the first time the way the kid was almost bouncing in place, despite the slight pallor of his cheeks. *Adrenaline rush, * Jim decided.
"This wasn't, like, a typical day for you, was it?"
Jim began to grin as he reached up and tapped Blair's cheeks with his hands. He walked off, laughing, hearing Blair's tense voice behind him.
"Well, is it? Come on!"
Blair waited a minute, and then decided Ellison wasn't going to answer him. He jogged toward the door, stepping aside for a couple of uniformed cops to precede him. "Hey, how ya doin'?' he said as they passed, not really surprised when they didn't acknowledge him. *Closed society, * he thought to himself as he waited for them to open the door and move through. He figured this was one culture where he definitely wouldn't be going native. He started through the door behind them, biting back a grunt of pain as the heavy door swung back on its hinges and hit his injured arm.
"Shit!" he cursed as the blow caused pain to flare all the way down his arm to his hand. He looked down and saw blood was dripping over his fingers again. Muttering soft imprecations against people who didn't bother to hold doors for anyone behind them, he headed slowly down the stairs, his injured arm now tucked inside the front of his jacket.
"Hey, you," he heard as he exited the stairwell, "Who are you?"
Blair turned to see a tall bald African American man heading toward him.
"Oh hi," he began, "Um, I'm Blair Sandburg," he began.
"It's okay, Henri, he's Jim's new partner," came a voice at his other side and Blair turned to see the detective who'd been shot in the leg during the siege, being wheeled past on a gurney.
"Hey, how you doing, man?" Blair asked, pleased to see the detective didn't seem too badly hurt.
"I'm alright, kid. Hey, you did real good up there, you know? You're not really a cop, though, are you?" Joel laughed softly as Blair shook his head. "I'll see you around, I guess. You keep an eye on this guy, Henri. He had Kincaid on his last nerve up there. Dont let the appearance fool ya. Hes one tough dude. He can cover my ass any time." Joel lifted a hand in a sketchy salute as he was pushed out of the building to the waiting ambulance.
"You okay, there, Sandburg?" Henri asked as he pulled Blair's jacket aside and noticed the blood covering his hand.
"Yeah, it's nothing, man. Just a scratch," Blair replied quickly. "Do you know where I can find Detective Ellison? I need a ride home."
"I think he's up in Major Crime with Captain Banks. You want me to get him down here? Maybe you should go to the hospital?" the detective observed with a frown.
"No, I'm cool. Look, if you see Detective Ellison, just tell him I went home, will you? I know I'll have to give a statement, so he can call me tomorrow or I'll just come in, whatever." Blair began to head for the exit, suddenly feeling as if he had to get away. His heart was racing and the throbbing in his arm was keeping pace.
"Yeah, okay," Henri said. The kid had suddenly gone as white as a sheet and looked like he'd fall in a heap before he made it through the door. The detective looked up as someone called his name. "Listen, kid, you probably shouldn't drive yourself home. You dont look too hot," he said as he walked away.
"No problem, man, I don't have my car here. I'll just walk," Blair replied, pushing through the doors. He still hadnt had the money to have his car repaired after it had broken down the first night hed gone to Jims place. Shit, the towing fee alone had left him living on rice, beans and not much else until his next paycheck had come through. He stumbled down the front steps to the pavement and made it as far as the bushes abutting the building before falling to his knees and tossing up what little was in his stomach and then some. Once he was sure there was nothing left to throw up, he pushed himself to his feet and began to walk.
"Look, Jim, why don't you head home? You look beat. I'm just going to make sure everyone's been taken care of, then I'm going to get Daryl home. Joan's worried out of her mind already," Banks said as he ushered Ellison toward his office door.
"You sure, sir? There's going to be a lot of paper work to get done and families of the people in dispatch to be notified "
"I know, but there are other officers here to do most of that. I think you've already had a pretty full day, don't you, Detective? Now go on, get out of here, before I have to make it an order," Banks grunted. "You helped me get my son out alive, Jim. I think that deserves a night off, dont you?"
"Im glad Daryls okay, sir. And I am pretty beat. Thanks." Jim turned to leave, then stopped as his ex wife approached.
"Hey, Jimmy, where's your sidekick?" she asked with a grin.
"What? Oh, you mean Sandburg? I don't know. I thought he followed me down but I haven't seen him. Guess he went home." Jim frowned as he spoke. He should have either taken the kid home or organised a ride for him. Sandburg had seemed a bit shaky last time he'd seen him, which wasn't surprising under the circumstances and Ellison had personal experience of how your body could fall in a heap once the adrenaline letdown hit.
"Guess so," Carolyn said. "I told him to get his arm looked at. Maybe he went to the hospital " She jumped as Jim grabbed her wrist.
"What was wrong with his arm?" he asked, suddenly worried.
"Not much. I think he got grazed by a bullet or something. It was bleeding a little, that's all. I told him it might need stitches. Jimmy, you want to let go of my hand now?" Carolyn pulled out of his grasp and rubbed her arm ruefully.
"Sorry," Jim muttered. "I'd better go find him, make sure he's okay. I'll see you later, sir, Carolyn."
"Jim! Hey, Ellison!" Jim turned and saw Henri Brown heading toward him as he stepped out of the elevator on the ground floor.
"Yeah, H, what's up, man? Hey, you haven't seen this hippie type guy around here, have you? Name's " Ellison asked.
"Sandburg, you mean? Your new partner?" Henri couldn't keep the grin off his face. Ellison with a partner, and a hippie to boot. Who'd'a thunk? "He said to tell you he was gonna walk home. Said he'd come in tomorrow to give a statement. He only left a few minutes ago."
"Damn! Okay, thanks H. I'll see you tomorrow," Ellison replied. He suddenly realized the kid could be anywhere. Jim knew he lived on Mission Street but Jim wasnt sure of the house number. He figured he could just head over there and ask the neighbours.
"Jim, listen, the kid's arm was bleeding when he left here and he looked like he was about to fall on his face. I told him not to drive home and he said he didn't have his car and he was gonna walk. Maybe, you should try to catch him up, give him a ride to the hospital or something. Never figured you'd want a partner, though, man," Henri grinned, patting Ellison's shoulder.
"Me either, H."
"Hey, it's cool, man. From what Joel's been telling everyone Sandburg hung real tough with Kincaid. Not bad for a hippie kid who's not even a cop. Guess youd better get on out there and give him a ride home."
"Yeah, I will, H, thanks." Jim turned and shoved through the doors and headed for his truck at a run.
By the time Jim tooled the truck out onto the street he figured Blair had at least a fifteen-minute start on him. Having no idea which direction his new partner would have taken, he decided to take the nearest direct route towards the Freemont area and hope for the best. He drove slowly, pulling over whenever necessary to let traffic behind him pass. Hed almost decided to give up and head to the hospital when his sharp eyes spotted a shambling figure he recognized ahead of him.
Jim pulled abreast of his partner then stopped and climbed out of the truck. He had to put out an arm to pull the anthropologist to a halt as Sandburg kept walking past him, seemingly in a daze.
"Sandburg! Hey, want a ride home?"
"What?" Blairs head snapped up and he twisted away from the grip on his arm. "Ellison? Didnt you get my message? I told one of the detectives Id come into the station tomorrow and give a statement."
"Yeah, I got your message, Chief. I also got the message you werent feeling too good, from my ex wife, no less. How about I run you past the hospital, get that arm checked out?" Jim said, peering closely at Blairs sleeve, noticing the spreading bloodstain for the first time.
"Its no big deal, Jim. Just a scratch," Blair replied, his hand coming up instinctively to cover the wound.
"Yeah, I can see that. But its a scratch thats bleeding pretty good, Sandburg. When did you get hit? I didnt even notice it before," Jim asked, moving back toward the truck, his hand snagging Blairs good arm and towing him along with him. "Guess we need to work on my senses a little more, huh? I mean I smelled the blood in the garage this morning, yet I didnt pick up on this."
"Well, you had a lot on your mind today, man, and you still have a bit to learn about focusing on where your senses are leading you. It doesnt come with an instruction manual, you know. Anyway, I think it happened when I jumped out of the window just before Kincaids men caught me. Didnt think theyd hit me. Guess it opened up a bit when I got hit by the door on the roof," Blair explained, absently following Jims guiding hand.
"On the roof?" Jim asked. "Kincaid hit you with a door on the roof?" He sounded skeptical, but he didnt lose track of his objective, which was to get Blair into the truck.
"No, a couple of your uniform buddies hit me with the door," Blair said, smiling. "They didnt mean to at least I dont think they did. They just let the door go as I was going in behind them and it hit me where the bullet grazed me. But, Im cool, man. Doesnt even hurt much," Blair continued, as Jim opened the door of the truck and maneuvered him inside.
"Good, Im glad it doesnt hurt much, Sandburg," Jim said as he closed the door and moved around to hop into the drivers seat. "Guess youre a tough guy then who wont even wince when the doctor at the hospital stitches it up, right?" He started up the truck and pulled out, heading for Cascade General.
"Aw, geez, Jim, I dont need to go to the hospital for this, man. I told you. Its nothing." Blair shifted uncomfortably on the seat, his mind casting around for feasible excuses why he couldnt go to the hospital, besides admitting the real one, which was that he had no insurance and no money to pay for a visit.
"Didnt you learn anything from the last time we went through this, Sandburg?" Jim asked, exasperated. "The Switchman case, when you thought you could walk off a concussion? What is it with you and hospitals, anyway? Look, I know youre living the life of a retro hippie, but, youre too intelligent not to know that there are times when natural medicine just wont cut it. What were you gonna do? Go home and stitch it up yourself with baling twine?"
"Uh uh, man, no way," Blair replied, laughing nervously. "Thatd hurt too much. I am not into pain."
"Couldve fooled me, Chief. Okay, so tell me, whats the big deal with going to the hospital? One of those weird phobias or something?" Jim grinned as he looked across at his new partner, then swallowed the smile abruptly as Blair answered.
"Look, Jim, this isnt something Im exactly proud to admit but I dont have Blue Cross or anything even remotely resembling it. And I dont have the cash right now to pay for a doctor. Just drop me off at home and Ill put some disinfectant on it and tape it up and Ill go to the free clinic on campus in the morning. Its just a graze, man. Its not like my arms gonna fall off overnight, you know?" Blair smiled across at Ellison, looking like he was doing his best Clint Eastwood just give me something to bite down on spaghetti western impression.
Well, it wasnt really his business, Jim decided. He couldnt exactly handcuff the kid and drag his butt to the hospital. Shaking his head in resignation, he said," Okay, its your call, Chief. Youre a big boy. But I really think you should get it looked at sooner, rather than later."
"I will, Jim, I promise. First thing in the morning. Ah, you need to turn off at the next cross street, on the right, then take the first left and my place is the big warehouse on the left hand corner." Having given the instructions, Blair leaned back, resting his head against the window, and closed his eyes.
Jim didnt miss the fact that Blairs left hand had once again come up and was covering the bloodstained patch on his jacket as if cradling his arm against the jolting of the truck.
Experimentally he directed his hearing outward and up a few notches, hoping he wouldnt zone or spike or whatever the hell it was he did when he pushed this stuff too hard. What he heard made him take another searching look at Sandburg.
The kids heart was thundering away like a trip hammer, despite the fact that he was, to all intents and purposes, asleep. His breathing seemed to be within normal limits but it was interspersed with small judders on every second inspiration or so.
As Jim looked more closely he noticed that Sandburg was pale and sweaty and his eyes moved constantly beneath the shuttered lids, as if he was having some particularly vivid dream.
Jim followed Sandburgs street directions by rote, as his mind flipped back over the past few weeks. He never would have imagined a few weeks ago that hed end up with this hippie kid as a partner. Or that in the space of those few weeks that same kid would end up almost getting killed twice. The one thing he knew for sure was that somehow, having Sandburg as a partner had become an integral part of his life, as integral as the senses hed originally cursed. The senses Blair insisted were a gift. He was beginning to think that perhaps the gift was more the presence of the man at his side, the one who seemed to make sense of it all. Granted, hed made it through the day without Blair at his side, even managed to make use of his senses on several occasions without falling apart, thanks to Sandburgs prior coaching. But he knew, even if he couldnt bring himself to tell anybody else yet, that what had driven him forward during this horrific day was the knowledge that he had to get to Blair and make sure he was safe. That it was important, not only because hed begun to look on the feisty anthropologist as a friend, but also because, as Blair had said after the Switchman case, that they were somehow fated to do this thing together.
Making a sudden decision he pulled the truck over to the side of the road then did a U-turn and headed back towards the hospital.
Blair obviously registered the abrupt change in direction, as he suddenly straightened in his seat and turned to look at Jim with a confused expression on his face. "Um Jim, what are you doing? I think you took a wrong turn or something, man."
"Im taking you where I should have taken you as soon as I knew you were hurt, Sandburg. The hospital. I dont know what the hell I was thinking! How bout I blame it on a trip to the Sandburg Zone, Chief? What do ya think? Reckon that excusell fly?" Jim replied firmly.
"I already told you, Jim, no hospital as in no insurance, no cash, remember?"
"I remember, Sandburg," Jim said, smiling across at his friend, this friend hed almost forgotten he now had, "Ill cover the cost. No " he said, putting his hand up to fend off the expected objections, "youve more than paid for this already, Chief, just in the past couple weeks. Consider it quid pro quo, all right? Besides, what am I gonna do if you get gangrene or worse in that arm and have to take time off from backing me up? Might not be pretty."
"I wont get gangrene overnight from a scratch like this, Jim," Blair answered.
"Ah,,, Im beginning to learn that nothing is impossible in the Sandburg Zone," Jim said. "So hospital, then Ill take you back to the loft and you can get some sleep there, come and give your statement tomorrow when I go in to work and if you feel all right, Ill take you home afterwards. Okay?"
"Sounds like a plan," Blair said, letting his head fall back against the back of the seat. Truth be told, his arm was really throbbing and it was sort of nice to feel like someone was actually putting his needs first. Thinking back, he realized he couldnt remember when the last time was that had happened.
Three hours later Jims wallet was seriously depleted from the hospital fee and the sandwiches hed bought and virtually forced down Sandburgs throat on the way home, after hed heard what he thought originally was an earthquake and finally deduced as being his semi starved partners stomach growling. Ellison steered said partner through the door of the loft and sat him down, propping him precariously against the armrest of the couch. As if on autopilot, he went to the linen closet and retrieved the pillows and blankets hed replaced there after Blair had stayed the night following the Switchman case. Jeez, if this kept up, Jim figured hed have to build the kid an emergency bedroom. The sudden downward slide of his gut at the thought of this new friend continuing to be hurt every time he backed the detective up brought an abrupt end to the sarcastic turn his thoughts had taken. What the hell had he been thinking, taking on a University student, completely unschooled in police work as his partner? He sighed as he walked back to the couch and gently pushed Blair sideways onto the pillows hed placed at one end of the couch. He bent and removed Blairs shoes and socks then tucked the blankets closely around him. He waited a moment to be sure Blair was asleep, then placed a cautious hand on his partners forehead. Temperature seemed normal, if his new senses could be trusted, but the kid was out cold. No doubt a combination of the stress of the day, the injury, which though relatively minor, was probably a new experience for a grad student and sitting through having that same wound debrided and sewn up with three stitches. Not to mention the shots antibiotics and tetanus as well as a relatively hefty dose of Demerol on a virtually empty stomach, as much for its sedative effect as anything else. Finally satisfied that hed done all he could to make Blair comfortable for the night, Jim headed to bed.
The shouting woke him from the deep sleep his exhausted body had fallen into and instinctively he grabbed his gun from the bedside drawer and crept down the stairs.
Without even thinking about it, he opened up his sight to the maximum and saw Blair rolling on the floor next to the couch, entangled in the blankets Jim had tucked around him only a couple of hours before. The anthropologist was trying to pull his way free of the entangling fabric and trying to convince someone that he wasnt a cop.
"Im an anthropologist, man. I was lying." Blairs voice was tinged with hysteria but laced with enough sanity to try to convince whoever was tormenting him to believe him.
Jim set down his gun on the stairs and moved carefully towards his partner. "Sandburg?" he said, trying to keep his voice calm. "Youre dreaming. How bout you wake up now?" He reached out a hand and snagged one of Blairs wrists, shocked as Sandburg shoved a hand out and connected with a well placed punch to the big cops jaw.
Jim fell back and landed on his butt. Somehow, he had to bring Blair back to reality before he tore open the new stitches in his arm, not to mention the possibility of giving Ellison a black eye hed have to lie about at the bullpen in the morning. Ellison with a hippie partner was gonna get some ragging as it was, but a hippie who could knock the Major Crimes pitbull on his ass was something else entirely. Crouching down so as to make his body into as small a threat as possible, he crept forward till he could just barely touch Blairs fingers with his own. "Chief?" he whispered, " Its Jim. Kincaids gone. We got him you and me, partner."
Blair looked up and Jim could see clarity returning to the tearstained eyes.
"Yeah, it was just a bad dream, buddy."
"I thought youd lost me for a while there. He was gonna take me to this Camp Liberty place. Said the punishment for treason was hanging." Blairs voice was still filled with horror at what might have been.
"Didnt happen though, Chief. We got him, you and me together, just like you said it was supposed to be, remember? Nothings gonna happen to either of us while were watching each others backs. Its what the book said, right?" Jim whispered, moving closer, finally able to gather Blairs shaking body into the shelter of his arms.
"Right," Blair whispered back. "Sorry. Didnt mean to be a wuss. Just seemed to creep up on me and I couldnt control it."
"Dont sweat it, Chief. Its happened to all of us at one time or another after something like you went through," Jim said, his hand moving in small circles on Blair's back, feeling the tension still quivering beneath the skin.
"Us?" Blair asked, looking up, his eyes clear of the nightmare at last.
"Yeah, us. You know, that band of brothers. I wasnt much good at literature at school but it was something Shakespeare wrote. Youre one of us now, Sandburg, and we stick together, just like you did with me on the Switchman case." Jim waited till he sensed Blairs heartbeat slowing to a normal rate, then said, "Look kid, I dont know about you, but Im getting too old to sleep sitting up on the floor. Wanna give it another try on the couch so this middle-aged cop can get to sleep in his own bed for a few hours at least? Or if youre not comfortable here with your arm and all, you can take the bed and Ill crash down here."
Blair shook his head. "No way, man. I am not taking your bed. My arms not even hurting, with all that crap the hospital pumped into me. Im fine here, Jim, really." The tone that Jim had already learnt meant that Blair didnt want to be helped more than necessary was there in Blairs voice and Jim backed off. Blair pushed himself to his feet then tumbled onto the makeshift bed, wincing a little as his injured shoulder hit the cushions.
Jim stood and checked the bandage, relieved to see Blair hadnt reopened the wound, then covered him with the blankets again.
When he was satisfied Blair was comfortable he headed upstairs again, picking up his gun as he went. He was almost at the top step when Blairs voice reached him once more.
"It really is quid pro quo with us, isnt it, Jim? You said I was there for you last time and now here you are doing exactly the same thing for me. Only one thing I dont understand, man."
"Whats that, Chief?"
"Howd you keep everything so controlled today, even when I wasnt there? Maybe you dont really need me after all," Blair asked softly, as if dreading the answer.
"Because I had to get you back in one piece, Chief. I need the man whos teaching me how to do this stuff, and I wanted my friend to be safe. Thats what kept me online. Get some sleep, Blair. Weve both had a hell of a day."
Jim fell back into his bed and focused carefully on the lifesigns of the man below him. Blair was already asleep with no signs of the panic that had been there so recently. Jim drifted off to sleep himself, secure in the knowledge that somehow, as unlikely as it seemed, a bond was being formed, a bond that would protect as well as be tested. He had no doubt, even at this early juncture that it could withstand whatever challenge was thrown at it.
February 22, 2004