Standard Operating Procedure



The distant shots fitted in neatly between his ragged gasps for air and the thud of his heart, so close together that he couldn't count them. So many; had to be Lash firing them, had to be. Jim wouldn't pump bullets into a body, firing over and over until they were ripping through dead flesh, an empty shell.

Blair kept his eyes open, even though the drug was crooningly insistent that he close them. He was going to die soon and he wasn't going to miss anything of his last moments, and he was going to spit in Lash's face and use his dying breath to curse him to hell for killing Jim and fuck the bad karma because --

"Chief!"

He heard Jim's voice before he had to suffer through slowly approaching footsteps, and gave a sob of relief he hoped Jim hadn't heard and knew he had. He'd got a notebook filled with distances Jim could see, hear, and smell over, and right now they were close enough that Jim might as well have been sitting in his lap.

And that image made him giggle, shocking him into silence because it was on the crazy side, both the thought and the sound he'd made, and he'd had enough of crazy for one night.

Jim came in fast, gun still out, looking concerned and grim and bleeding here and there. He stared at Blair, a quick, comprehensive scan, and put his gun away. "Chief?"

"I'm okay." Some lies came easier than others. That one didn't hurt at all.

"Know where the key to those chains is?" Jim looked around when Blair didn't answer and then walked straight to it, hanging on a nail, the gleam of metal lost in the candlelight.

Blair felt the weight of the chains fall away and then the warmth of a hand against his face, fingers brushing away tears flavored with frustration and hate and making room for ones of relief.

"Sorry, God, I'm sorry--"

"You don't need to be." Jim's hands were both on Blair's face now, strong, gentle hands that had saved him twice, now, because they were holding him in place so he couldn't do anything he'd regret later, like bury his face in Jim's shoulder or kiss him -- out of gratitude, naturally; well, the first one would be. After that, Blair wasn't sure he could keep them friendly.

"You did everything right." Jim unknotted the yellow scarf and slid it away from Blair's neck, releasing it immediately with a shiver of distaste. "Everything you needed to."

There had been four bullets; Blair could count them now he wasn't listening to his body panic. Four.

"Did you?" he asked tentatively. "I heard shots…"

Maybe that was how they were trained to do it? Make sure the threat was eliminated?

Jim's mouth twisted into a grin. "Oh, yeah." Blair's face got patted again. "He's dead, you're not. I did everything wrong, but I got that part right."

Blair nodded, reassured and disappointed at the same time.

Four bullets.

SOP. Had to be.


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