- To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.-

A pale boy watches the men dig at a shallow grave. They dig with plastic tools, carefully clearing away the fine dirt of the mountain. It's dark with blood and the dew. He turns away to watch the sky, the pre-dawn glimmer of the sun coming over the crest in the valley.

-A time to be born, and a time to die.-

It's the first time he's been outside in a long time. The ground is cool beneath his bare feet, and it's a pleasant change. He watches the birds make the first journey-flights of the morning, because it's easier than watching the other stand over the grave with his hand pressed faintly to the place where the symbol of Christ used to reside.

- A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.-

Something dark catches his eye down the path a bit, and with a final glance over his shoulder, he heads away from the grave and its contents. Brushing the tall grass aside, he discovers a small black note book. The sun disappears as he stands and finds himself in the shadow of a God of Death. Its grin is impartial but there is nothing of humor in its eyes. It holds out its hand expectantly. He stares at the dark cover.

- A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.-

Without hesitation, he shoves the note back into its waiting palms and mutters quietly.

"Bring no more."

But the God of Death only laughs….

Henh henh henh.

…And he flies away into the dawn. Behind him, he can feel cobalt eyes upon his shoulders.

But Near is tired, and continues down the valley to the waiting cars.

- A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate.-


He sets his small bag down outside the office doors. A rush of students barrel past, pressing him to the wall to avoid injury. As he stares after them, the door at his back opens, and his smile fades, but only for a moment.

Roger hugs him tightly about the chest, and he dimly realizes that he still smells of peppermint and pipe tobacco. The small familiarity is cherished in silence.

The old blue eyes that meet his are quiet with worry, and he's seen enough of that to last him until the next forever. He offers a small smile, though false, and it seems to comfort him. There is an old pain behind both masks that will have to fade as the years pass, but as of yet, it is a fresh wound. The other will be sorely missed; a piece of home that went away and never came back.

…And he knows, already, that the guilt will never fade.

For now, though…and possibly for the rest of his life, there is only this, and here. There is peace, and quiet.

He bends to gather his things. As he straightens, he starts violently, for a paper airplane just brushes his ear as it sails past. Turning slowly, the detective's eyes find a child kneeling in Roger's office.

Auburn hair and quiet, contemplative eyes meet his stare.

Without a word, he holds the older man's gaze as he slowly rips another page from his note book with a quiet hiss.

A shiver travels his spine and he knows…the guilt will never, ever fade.

- A time of war... and a time of peace.-

Ecclesiastes (ch. III, v. 1-8)