AN: My second "The Streets of San Francisco" tale. I hope you'll enjoy it. I'll try to update soon. This story came about as a response to a hurt/comfort writer's challenge. Reviews are appreciated should you have the time to leave me feedback, thanks :-)


After parking his Porsche at the curb, Steve Keller whistled a tune that refused to vacate his mind, as he walked up the steps of Mike Stone's home. Raising his hand, he started to rap his knuckles on the door, when it suddenly swung inward. Strange, the young inspector mused silently as he realized the door mustn't have been shut properly. He knew Mike well enough to know the older man was never careless when it came to the security of his own home. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, Steve entered the house as he would any other time he visited. He closed the door behind him and ducked his head into the living room. His keen eyes scanned his surroundings but found nothing that appeared to be out of place. To Steve, Mike was a neat freak and with his daughter arriving that evening, it was unlikely his standards would've dropped. With nothing to indicate a disturbance, Steve's unease began to settle. Heading toward the kitchen, he opened his mouth to call out Mike's name when a noise froze him in his tracks. The sound of drawers being slammed shut with unnecessary force drew him toward the hallway which he knew led to Mike's bedroom. Something's not right. The uneasy feeling returned and settled in his gut as he slowly made his way toward Mike's room. A shadow fell across the floor and spilled out into the hall. Mike? Reaching into his jacket, Steve rested his hand on his revolver. It became apparent to him the closer he edged himself toward the room in question, that whoever was in the house besides himself, was not Mike Stone. Someone was desperately searching for something as the sounds of furniture being mistreated could be heard distinctly. Drawing his pistol from its holster, Steve continued toward the source of the commotion when suddenly a figure dashed out of the room.

Like a deer caught in an oncoming car's headlights, the heavyset figure stopped as he faced the young man blocking his path. Seeing the man was armed, he decided to take his chances and raised his own weapon.

"Hold it right there! Drop your weapon!" the SFPD Inspector called out as he raised his own pistol and pointed it at the intruder. Dressed in jeans and a black sweater with a balaclava pulled down over his head, the gunman's eyes locked on Steve's in a silent battle of wills. "I said, drop it!" Steve repeated the command.

The gunman began to lower his gun and held his free hand up in a gesture of surrender.

Steve kept his eyes trained on the suspect as the man finally allowed the weapon to fall from his fingers. "Alright, on the floor, now!" Steve ordered as he hastily moved toward the crook. Before he could reach the intruder, a shot rang out and he felt himself propelled off his feet as a searing pain hit him in the side, below his ribs. The .38 service revolver fell from his grasp and slid across the hallway, out of his reach. Through the confusion and the pain, Steve looked up from where he lay and saw another intruder wearing a balaclava step out from Mike's room. He realized he'd given the first gunman all his attention and failed to see the suspect's accomplice step out from his hiding place. Rolling onto his hands and knees Steve attempted to rise from the floor, but collapsed, as the pain robbed him of breath and left him gasping in agony. The last things he heard were hurried footsteps and voices speaking in urgent tones before darkness swallowed him.

As the last rays of sunlight disappeared below the horizon, Jeannie Stone took her travel bag from her father's hands as he fumbled with the keys to his house. Still laughing at a joke he shared with his daughter, Mike inserted the key to his front door into the keyhole and noticed the door wasn't locked. The laughter died on his face as he pushed the door open and motioned for Jeannie to stay outside on the doorstep. He could've sworn he had locked the front door before leaving the house. Hitting the light switch, Mike stepped over the threshold and decided to take a look around. After the recent spate of home invasions in his neighbourhood, Mike wasn't taking any chances. He reached inside his coat and wrapped his hand around the handgrip of his gun. Peering into the living room, the seasoned cop saw nothing peculiar and proceeded toward the hallway where he thought he noticed something catching the light. Upon closer inspection, he could clearly see that a revolver lay on the floor. Pulling out his own piece, Mike quietly approached the hallway. A moan sounded nearby. Tightening his grip on his pistol, Mike quickened his pace until he saw a still form lying on the floor in the hall. Flicking on the light, his heart skipped a beat and his jaw dropped as he recognized his partner. He hurried toward the young man and knelt beside him. Placing two fingers against Steve's neck, he silently prayed to find a pulse. With a heavy sigh, Mike thanked the Heavens when a weak throbbing pulsated beneath his digits. He's hurt, but where? Mike's eyes and gentle hands searched Steve's body and head for any visible injuries. A sticky substance coated his fingers as they brushed against Steve's side, close to the floor. With as much care as he could, Mike turned Steve over on to his back and swallowed hard as he became aware of the crimson stain that soaked the lower half of Steve's light blue shirt.

"Mike?" Jeannie's soft voice startled her father.

"I thought I told you to wait outside!" Mike snapped in a low voice as his head whipped up to see Jeannie's worried gaze.

Jeannie reply turned into a choked gasp as her blue eyes fell on the bleeding detective lying unconscious on the floor.

Stowing away his pistol, Mike shrugged out of his coat and folded it into a makeshift pillow then placed it underneath Steve's head. Not knowing if whoever hurt Steve was still in the house, Mike didn't want to let his daughter out of his sight. "Sweetheart, I need you to call for an ambulance. Tell them to hurry, please," Mike instructed Jeannie as calmly as he could. From where he knelt beside Steve, he could watch over his daughter as she made the call from the living room. A part of him also didn't want Jeannie to see the extent of Steve's injuries. The sight of his bloody shirt had already caused Jeannie's face to lose color. The young woman nodded in understanding before turning on her heel and hurrying to the living room. Mike leaned back and peered at Jeannie from an awkward angle. Once he saw her pick up the receiver and speak animatedly, he returned his attention to the wounded young man. With trembling fingers, he tore at the buttons of the blood-soaked shirt. Hang in there, Buddy Boy. Mike had seen enough bullet wounds to determine that Steve had been shot with a hand gun. There was no way of knowing how long his partner had been lying on the floor but he was mildly relieved to see the bleeding didn't appear to be arterial. He knew that didn't mean Steve wasn't hemorrhaging internally, but any glimmer of hope was better than none. Using a handkerchief he pulled from his pocket, Mike placed it over the wound and applied enough pressure to staunch the blood flow but gently enough not to cause more damage. Steve's eyelids fluttered and he began to regain consciousness. A groan escaped his lips and his pale face broke into a sweat.

"Steve? Can you hear me, Buddy Boy?" Mike asked softly.

"M-Mike?" Steve mumbled.

"I'm right here. Just hold still. An ambulance is on its way," Mike replied soothingly.

"Two…two men...they…" Steve began as he drifted in and out of oblivion.

"Easy, just take it easy. Don't talk." Mike placed a hand on Steve's shoulder to reassure him and to keep him still as he grew restless from the shock and pain.

A breathless Jeannie returned to Mike's side. Her porcelain face was etched with worry and fear. "They're on their way. What can I do, Mike?"

After a moment's silence, Mike looked up into his daughter's face and nodded. "I need you to stay with him and hold this over the wound. Can you do that, sweet heart?"

"Of course. Is he going to be okay?"

"I don't know, but the sooner the ambulance gets here, the better I'd feel. I need to check the rest of the house. Whoever did this could still be around," Mike replied as Jeannie took over his place by Steve's side and replaced his hand with hers. Steve cried out in pain as Jeannie pressed her hand against his side.

"I'm sorry!" Jeannie recoiled and lifted the pressure of her hand. Her eyes watered as she saw the agony etched on Steve's face.

"Keep the pressure on no matter what," Mike instructed as he held his hand over hers and showed her just how much pressure she should be applying. At Jeannie's nod of understanding, Mike straightened up and wandered through the rest of the house as he systematically checked each room for any sign the perpetrator was still around.

Jeannie bit her bottom lip as she held her tears in check. Keeping one hand firmly in place over the wound, she gently took Steve's hand in her free one. His skin was cold and slippery from his own blood and sweat. "Steve?" Jeannie whispered. At the sound of her voice, Steve opened his eyes and tried to sit up. "Hey, hey, lie back down. It's okay, I'm here," Jeannie coaxed.

"Where's Mike?" Steve gasped in between shallow breaths.

"He'll be right back," Jeannie replied, softly as she gave his hand a light squeeze. She felt his fingers twitch weakly in response.

"I'm sorry you have to…to see me like this," Steve murmured.

Jeannie leaned in closer to hear the young man speak. She shook her head and held his hand tighter. "No, don't say that, Steve. I'm sorry this happened to you. You just hang in there, okay?" Planting a soft kiss on his damp forehead, Jeannie felt a tear roll down her cheek.

With a shuddering sigh, Steve closed his eyes as waves of fresh pain rolled through him, leaving him exhausted and breathless. He tried to push Jeannie's hand away from his body so he could wrap an arm across his wounded midsection but his strength gave out and he felt himself sinking into a black abyss. He could hear Jeannie's voice calling out his name fading away.

By the time paramedics and a sea of SFPD units arrived, Mike had established that whoever shot Steve and ransacked his room was long gone. Though he couldn't be certain, it appeared to be a random break and enter and Steve had stumbled into his place at the wrong time. So far, Lessing had found the empty jewellery box lying on the floor, which had housed several irreplaceable trinkets that had belonged to Helen, including a gold watch passed down to her by her grandmother. Though the items were a keepsake to him and a reminder of his late wife, they were inanimate and lifeless. He didn't need them to keep Helen's memory alive. He saw her looking back at him through his daughter's eyes. Steve on the other hand, was very much alive and Mike knew he would give his own life to save him. He was worth more to him than anything he could ever possess. Nothing and no-one could replace Steve if he lost him.

"Mike, how did Steve get to your place?" Lessing questioned, breaking the Lieutenant out of his melancholy thoughts.

"We didn't see his Porsche out front, but that's what he would've driven," Mike mused aloud, his voice sounded distant.

"It's not out there. His keys and wallet aren't in his pockets either," Lessing revealed.

"They shot him, robbed him and left him for dead! What kind of people…" Mike's anger started to boil dangerously close to the surface.

"What was Steve doing at your place? Did he know you weren't home?" Lessing diverted Mike's anger to focus his energy on more clues to the attack.

"Jeannie's bus broke down a few miles before the bus station. I thought I could pick up Jeannie in time before Steve arrived for dinner. I didn't know Steve left the office early. I should have called him," Mike's anger subsided and transformed into sadness and regret.

Lessing placed a hand on Mike's slumped shoulder. "I'm sorry, Mike. Steve's a tough young man. He'll pull through. In the mean-time, the lab crew are checking that lock on your front door and lifting as many prints all over the house as they can. We'll catch whoever did this, don't you worry."

All Mike could do was nod his thanks before he turned away and walked toward his fallen protégé who was surrounded by a team of paramedics.

As the medics carefully lifted the pale, injured detective on to the gurney, Mike placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and gazed into his half-closed eyes. "You're going to be just fine, Buddy Boy. Jeannie and I will see you real soon." Smiling wanly, Mike squeezed the young man's shoulder and watched him loaded into the ambulance. Turning to the last medic to board the vehicle, Mike grasped his arm. "How is he?" the Lieutenant questioned gravely.

"I can't say until we get him into the ER," the medic replied with a sigh.

Mike needed to know more than that for he knew once Steve reached the hospital, it could be hours until anyone gave him any more news. "You mean to tell me that's all you've been able to find out? There must be something you can tell me!" The desperation and anguish cut through the normally stoic cop to the core as he pleaded more than demanded for the medic to provide him with something firmer to hold on to. Some glimmer of hope.

"Mr. Keller took a bullet to the abdomen. His condition is listed as serious. Judging from the blood loss and clotting around the wound, he may have been left without medical treatment for up to an hour, maybe longer. We can't find an exit wound which means that bullet is still inside him and will have to be removed as soon as we have him stabilized. Right now, we're having trouble keeping his vitals stable, especially since he's also going into shock. That's all I can tell you, for the time being, I'm sorry."

Mike could do nothing more than nod weakly as the medic's words sunk in. He'd heard them spoken this way before and each time, the victims didn't pull through. If Steve was starting to go into shock, he knew his Buddy Boy was in serious trouble. He wanted nothing more at that moment than to ride in the ambulance but there was only room for one and he couldn't leave his shaken daughter at his house while forensics experts went through it with a fine toothed comb. He also needed to take care of the pool of blood on the hallway floor before Jeannie saw it. The seasoned detective knew the waiting game would be a painfully long one but he had to stay calm for his daughter's sake. He felt, rather than saw, Jeannie lean against him, placing her head on his shoulder. Instinctively he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and held her trembling form as she quietly began to cry. Together they watched the ambulance speed off into the night as they said a silent prayer for the young man who came to mean so much to them.

You just had to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time, Buddy Boy.