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Before Blair met Jim Ellison, he'd never seen a dead body. Although the first person he actually saw die was Danny Choi, the first body he'd seen was a uniformed police officer. He'd been killed and disposed of in a trunk, like so much garbage, during the siege of Cascade PD's main precinct. Blair was sorry he never learned the man's name.

He'd admitted to Christine that he was having flashbacks from seeing Susan Frasier's body in her bathtub. But that was nothing compared to watching Dylan Juno's autopsy, or having to deal with animating Dylan's body enough to convince Tommy Juno that his brother was still alive. He wasn't sure just how he got through it, except that Jim was in trouble and needed Blair's help.

There were more bodies since then, some already dead, some dying. Sweet Roy Williams, Janet Myers, Incacha--their faces came back to Blair more often than the others. So many others.

Until Blair met Jim Ellison, he'd never come face-to-face with a killer. At least, he didn't think he had. Within two days of meeting Jim, Veronica Sarris shoved a gun in his face. Minutes later, he was grappling with her while Jim searched for the bomb she'd planted on a tour bus.

Some killers he'd met were crazy, like Veronica and David Lash and Warren Chapel. Some were guns for hire, like Zeller, the Juno brothers and Anthony, the man who posed as a monk to kill Jackie Kozinski. Some did it for personal gain--so many. The Archers and Ray Aldo, Mitch Yeager, Brad Ventriss, Lieutenant Williams, Laura and the McCarthy brothers. And some were just cold-blooded killers, like Garrett Kincaid and Alex Barnes. So many killers. And now, Blair Sandburg.

He couldn't close his eyes without seeing the face of the man he'd killed, how the light went out of his eyes as he died. Oh, it would be deemed justifiable. After all, he'd shot the man who was about to kill his partner. There were plenty of witnesses who'd testified to that fact. But in the end, he was the one who'd pointed his gun, he'd pulled the trigger, he'd taken a life.

He looked around the room. Every candle he owned was lit and sandalwood incense smoke swirled as his breath moved in and out of his lungs. He blew out the candles in disgust. No amount of meditation was going to calm him or make everything all right. He dropped his head into his hands.

The front door opened and Jim entered quietly, taking in the scene. He saw Blair sit up from his bent position, knew that little straightening of his shoulders meant he was going to put on a brave front. It was the last thing Jim wanted. He came over to sit on the couch next to where Blair was on the floor. He placed a tentative hand on Blair's shoulder.

"How'd it go?" Blair asked.

"Pretty much as expected. There were plenty of witnesses, both cops and civilians from the neighborhood. The next-door neighbors said that Wilson was brandishing his gun and had fired off a few rounds before we arrived. Everyone within earshot heard you, me and two others clearly identify ourselves as police. Five people saw him point his gun at me. No one disputes the shoot was rock-solid."

"No one except his mother, his brother and his sister."

"Who were nowhere near the scene."  Jim sighed. "Blair, everyone has family who will mourn their passing. Capone had a mother. Hitler had a mother. Wilson's family's love for him doesn't change the fact that he was acting like a mad dog. He didn't give you any choice except to kill him or let him kill me. I'm sorry that he's dead. I'm glad I'm alive." He squeezed Blair's shoulder, turning him. Jim looked into his eyes. "Thank you for that. Thank you for my life."

Blair's eyes were clear and strong. "You have to know I don't regret saving your life. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I just… I guess I just hoped I'd be one of those cops who never had to pull the trigger during their career. Stupid to hope."

"Hope is never stupid. I'd hoped the same thing for you," he added quietly.

Blair sighed. "So, what's next?"

"You're on paid administrative leave while I.A. goes through the formalities. Simon said you can have longer if you want it. You have to be cleared by the department psychologist before you can come back." Jim looked down at his hands. "Do you want to come back?"

"I don't know; this is so new, so raw. I'm having trouble getting a handle on it." Blair got up and walked to the balcony, looking out at the pouring rain. "I'm thinking of going away, maybe to St. Sebastian's." He looked at Jim. "I'm not running out on you," he added quickly. "I just need a way to get my equilibrium back, you know?"

Jim walked over to him. "Yeah, I know. Listen, Chief... Blair. Whatever you need to do for yourself is okay with me. If you can't go back to the force, that's okay. If I need to quit the force, that's okay, too. If we need to leave Cascade, we will."

Blair's eyes grew wider with every sentence. "Jim, what are you saying?"

Jim smiled gently. "What, has becoming a cop drained away some of those IQ points? I thought I was making myself pretty clear. You and me--we're more important than any place, than any job, than anything else. I needed you to know that, especially before you go to St. Sebastian's." He reached out to caress Blair's cheek. "It'll give you something to contemplate besides your navel."

"Would you like to come with me?" Blair asked shyly. "You know, 'cause it got a little crazy there last time. I could use some back-up, just in case."

Jim's smile widened into a grin. "Can't have you going anywhere without back-up. In the meantime, you want to spend the night upstairs? We don't have to do anything, just… I just want to hold you for the night."

Blair rushed away so quickly, Jim thought he'd blown his chance. Blair entered his room and came out with boxers, then made a beeline for the bathroom. Jim upped his hearing and relaxed when he heard Blair shaving, then brushing his teeth. Blair came out wearing the clean boxers and nothing else and headed up to Jim's bed. "Get with the program, man," came floating down the stairs. Jim made his own trip to the bathroom.




Blair lay awake, lying next to Jim as he slept. They hadn't done anything more than hold each other. But, with Jim's arms around him and Jim's warmth permeating him, Blair was able to close his eyes and not see those bodies and those killers. He could face himself and feel okay for the first time since pulling that trigger.

Before Blair met Jim Ellison, he'd never known what is was like to be the center of someone's universe--to care and be cared for so deeply. Tomorrow, they would begin the next stage in their relationship. But for now, it was enough--so much more than enough--that Blair was able, finally, to be at peace and to sleep.




~~the end~~