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Blair spotted Collings at the top of the staircase leading to the upper level of the warehouse. He ran up the stairs after him, and as soon he hit the landing, he shouted, "Freeze, Police! Drop your weapon!"

Collings swung around and fired his gun. Blair ducked behind a large wooden crate. A moment later, he peered around the edge cautiously and saw Collings headed to another set of stairs, his head swiveling around frantically as he tried to spot Blair. Blair knew he couldn't let the convict get away.

Blair stayed low, and keeping to the shadows, crossed to behind another crate.

"Come on, Collings. Give it up, man!"

Collings triggered off another shot. Blair leapt to his feet, aimed, and fired.

Collings collapsed.

Blair heard both Jim and Simon sprinting up the stairs long before the last echo of the gun shot sounded throughout the upper floor of the warehouse. A moment later they stood at his side, looking down at the body on the floor, blood spilling outward from the hole in his head.

"Oh, my God, Blair…" Jim began to say, one hand reaching out toward him.

Blair didn't look at either at them. He held out his gun. Simon took it, and Blair walked away.

Tenth months before, he had taken the badge he was given and graduated in record time from the academy.

Collings was his first kill shot.

^^^

When Blair woke up on Saturday morning, he wasn't surprised to find Jim already absent from the loft. He looked out the balcony doors and saw that the truck was still parked in its usual space. It took him only a minute to realize where Jim had gone and to make his decision. Four days of silence were too much. Jim would go too far if Blair didn't stop him now. Enough was enough.

He threw on some clothes, grabbed his keys, and left the building.

He found Jim sitting near the edge of the jetty, the tilt of his head telling him that Jim wasn't lost in a zone, but gazing out into the surf.

Blair knelt in front of him, placing one hand on his knee, looking up into Jim's face, hating the unbearably sad expression his friend wore. "I'm okay, Jim. I'm really okay."

Jim stared at the horizon. "How can you say that, Chief?" His mouth twisted with grief. "I saw your face…just after…I saw your face."

"Jim…"

"No, Blair. No more. Ever since you met me you've done nothing but get hurt. You gave up everything for me." He paused, his head bowed as he passed one hand over his face. "Hell, you died because of what I did! I don't want you to lose your soul, too."

"Stop this now, Jim! You listen up and you listen good." Blair lifted Jim's face up to his, making sure his friend's gaze was firmly fixed on his. "I haven't given up anything, and you haven't taken anything away. I died because of Alex, not you. Everything I've done has been my own choice. I chose this. I chose to be a cop and all that comes with it." He sat down next to Jim. "I'm okay."

Blair lapsed into silence, and they both sat there quietly for several moments, letting the wind and sand scour them.

"Why do you do it, Blair? Why do you stay?"

"You know why, Jim."

Blair's arm curled around Jim, his hand sliding down his arm. Jim laced his arm over Blair's leg and let his head fall to Blair's shoulder.

Blair knew that Jim understood his answer.

-1204-