THE PRICE OF FRIENDSHIP

By: Lyn

FEEDBACK TO: townsend297@ozemail.com.au

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Somebody, please save me from myself. I whizzed this little snippet up this morning because I was suffering from writer's block on the tail end piece of my sequel to "Presumed Guilty" Writing another short piece often clears away the cobwebs and motivates me. Halfway through, a little voice started whispering in my ear, 'I think there's a sequel in here.' I'll never get done! Sentenced to a life of writing sequels to sequels to sequels.

DISCLAIMER: Jim, Blair, Simon et al belong to Petfly, Di Meo and Bilson, not to me. Sue me and all I can offer you is a fairly old fluffy, deaf cat called Billy Ray. This story, however does belong to me, I just don't get paid for writing it.

WARNINGS: Some language.

Jim Ellison paused for a moment at the top of the stairs, then hurried forward and knelt beside the slight figure huddled against the door to the loft. "Chief? You okay?" he asked, placing a large hand on Blair's shivering shoulder.

"Lost my keys." The voice was muffled and shaky. "Sorry Jim. I'll get another one cut tomorrow."

"That's alright, Chief. Why don't you get up off the floor and we'll go inside where it's warm. Then you can tell me what happened."

"Can't, Jim."

"Why not?"

"Hurts too much."

Jim lifted Blair's chin and winced sympathetically at the black eye and split lip. "Want to tell me now what happened? I thought you and Kevin were going to a seminar."

"Yep."

"And?" Jim was getting impatient. This was like extracting teeth and his knees were beginning to ache.

"We stopped for a beer on the way home. A gang of kids jumped us." Blair paused to take a breath, one hand wrapping around the pain in his chest.

'Not the ribs again,' Jim thought worriedly. "Let me get you inside and start cleaning you up and then you can tell me the rest."

Blair nodded and a single tear tracked down his bruised face. "Sorry, Jim, I'm such a jerk."

"No need to be sorry, Chief," Jim said as he reached an arm around his partner's shoulders and began to gently lever him upright. Blair gasped in pain and doubled over as Jim pulled him up. The detective managed to get the key in the lock and pushed the door open. Keeping his arm around the smaller man, he half carried him to the couch and gently laid him back against the cushions. He swore softly as he pulled Blair's hand away from his ribcage. "Jesus, Chief, why didn't you tell me you'd been cut? Where's Kevin? Is he okay?"

Blair nodded, his eyes screwed tightly shut against the pain and his breath coming in grunts. "He drove away when they jumped us, a couple of them chased him but he got away. It's okay, Jim, it's not deep."

Jim went to the kitchen and gathered bowls, cloths and first aid supplies. Returning to the living room, he pushed Blair's legs to one side and sat on the edge of the couch, using his hypersensitive touch to feel for unseen injuries. Blair's left eye was swollen and bruised, as were his cheek and lip. He had several nasty bruises on his ribs, but Jim could not feel any breaks or cracks. The gash ran the length of one rib and had bled quite heavily but the bone had deflected the knife. Jim began cleaning the wound and then secured it with several steri strips. As he worked he eyed his partner. "So, you and Kevin stopped for a beer."

Blair sighed, wincing again as he did so, his hand going to his ribs. Jim aborted the movement and caught the hand in his, gently stroking the back of it with his thumb.

"We stopped at this little bar for a beer. We were sitting in an alcove by the window, talking about the seminar and other stuff. I saw a group of five or six guys walk past the window twice. They seemed to be awful interested in us. I don't know why, it made me nervous and I told Kevin we should leave. When we got out back to Kevin's car, there was no one in sight. Kevin was in the car and as he leaned over to unlock my door, they came out of nowhere. They tried to drag Kevin out of the car." Blair shrugged "I guess he panicked and took off, so they concentrated on me. Seems they thought Kevin and I were an item."

"Oh," Jim said, his jaw clenching "That's no excuse for beating someone up, Chief."

"Hey, man, you'll get no argument from me on that," Blair said, finally maneuvering himself into a seated position.

"Looks like you got a couple of good shots in yourself," Jim said, holding up scraped and bruised knuckles.

"Yeah, well, I was just trying to protect myself. That's when the knife came out. They took off when the bar owner came out to investigate," Blair replied.

"You can come down to the station tomorrow and make a statement, look at some pictures," Jim said as he stood and gathered up the first aid things.

"I don't know, Jim. I don't think it's worth it, man," Blair said uncomfortably.

"What do you mean, not worth it, Sandburg?" Jim turned and glared at the young man. "They beat the shit out of you, not to mention that I'm a cop and I've just learned that a crime was committed. I don't have a choice and neither do you."

Blair got up gingerly from the couch. "I'm gonna crash, man, I'm beat," he grinned weakly at the unintended pun.

"You'll make a statement in the morning." It wasn't a request.

Blair paused and turned to Jim. "Okay, but I need to talk to Kevin first. Warn him."

Jim raised a questioning eyebrow.

"Kevin is gay, Jim. That's why we stopped for a beer. He doesn't know how to tell his folks. He doesn't need this," Blair said quietly.

"That's why he took off and left you there," Jim said, anger evident in his voice.

Blair shrugged. "Maybe, maybe he was just scared. Just let me warn him." He looked suddenly hopeful. "Can we keep him out of it? I mean, he didn't see much."

"I don't know, Chief. Let me talk to Simon about it, it might be possible to at least keep his name out of it, and his parents don't need to know at all, unless he chooses to tell them," Jim answered.

"Thanks, Jim." Blair rubbed his hand wearily over his battered face. "I'll see you in the morning."

"You're a good friend, Blair," Jim said.

Blair turned back to him, a brilliant smile lighting up his face. "Thanks man, so are you."

Fin.

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