Written August 11, 1998

Spoilers: Fallen Heroes 1 and 2. Also, I have no recollection of Kay's reaction to Mahoney being shot, so please forgive me if I'm forgetting something.

Summary: We can't just leave Kellerman like that. This is partly to satisfy a debt to K; mostly a story to redeem Kellerman for all of us who loved him.

Disclaimer: Characters belong to Baltimore Pictures and NBC. No copyright infringement intended and no profit being made from their use.

Mike Kellerman picked up the phone and called the one person who might be willing to listen to him anymore.

"Hey."

"Mike? It's three in the morning -"

"I know, I'm sorry. I just - I need to know, how... how they're doing."

"Bayliss is still out. Gharty might need more surgery once he's stronger. Ballard's okay, at home now; she'll be back in two weeks." A pause. Silence from him. "Where are you? I've been looking for you -"

"I took the boat up the coast. I'm in Boston."

"For how long?"

"For fucking ever, Kay. Gee all but fired me, Pembleton can't even fuckin' look me in the eye, and Meldrick... well, Meldrick blames all this shit on me."

"Mikey. You know this isn't your fault, hmm?"

"Thanks, but you can save it. I have a hard time believing that if I hadn't killed Mahoney all this might have happened anyway."

"Maybe, but running away doesn't make anything better."

"No, Kay, you're wrong. Running away is exactly what will make this better." A pause. A sniff. "Nobody wants to see me down there anyway." An obvious grab at sympathy.

"I want to see you."

"You just want to make sure I don't blow my brains out." The truth.

He heard her sigh on the other end of the line, hundreds of miles from her now. "If I had any pull in that department anymore I'da talked to Gee, Frank -"

He snickered bitterly. "Thanks, Kay, but it's really pointless now. They wouldna listened." She remained silent, knowing it was true, and he became uncomfortable. "Listen, I just called to see how they were doing. Just to let someone know where my sorry ass is. I'll call you, okay?"

"Don't say it if you don't mean it," she warned, serious.

"I've never lied to you, Kay. No reason to start now." He could see her clearly, sitting up in bed, maybe running a hand through tangled red curls, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"What are ya gonna do now?" she asked, voice wavering a little with worry.

"I'm gonna take a vacation. Sail around for a while. Then, maybe, I'll start all over, somewhere else. Who the fuck knows."

She sighed again, this time in resignation. She couldn't save him; she couldn't save any of them. "Take care, Mike."

"I will. You too."

She listened until he hung up the phone. Now awake, she stood up from the bed and shuffled out into the kitchen for a glass of water. Sitting at the table, staring out into the darkness of the kitchen, she remembered the night that Kellerman had come to her, the night after Mahoney died.

She was curled up on the couch, watching the latest episode of The Practice, being a sucker for laser blue eyes like Dylan McDermott's - whatever you say, honey; just keep looking straight into the camera -, when she heard the knock on her door.

Paranoid as ever, her gun was in her hand when she peeked through the peephole. She did a double take and set the gun down on the side table, sliding the dead bolt and pulling open the door.

"Kellerman?"

"Hi, Sarge," he said nervously. Mike Kellerman was barefoot, dressed in jeans and an old white t-shirt, and agitated. He seemed equally surprised to see her, probably because it never occurred to him that Kay could look different at home than at work; she was wearing a black tank and plaid boxers, and her hair was wet from the shower. Kellerman was trying to remember if he'd ever seen her legs before.

"What's wrong?" Kay asked immediately.

"Can I come in first?" he asked, looking anxiously down the hallway of her apartment building. She stepped away from the door and he walked in a few steps.

She locked the door behind him and led him toward the couch, where she clicked off the TV. They both stood, facing each other.

"Okay. What's up that you had to come over to my home at ten-thirty at night in your bare feet?" Kay asked, crossing her arms over her chest, raising an eyebrow at him.

Puzzlement crossed his features and he looked down at his feet.

"Shit," he breathed, not realizing he hadn't put on shoes. It seemed to faze him, and he sat down with a thud on her couch, his face between his hands.

She moved closer to him, realizing he was upset, and it only took her a moment to figure out what it might be. "Is it Mahoney?" she asked softly, sitting down next to him.

"I killed him," Mike confessed into his hands.

"What are you talking about?" Kay asked. All of this was already in the report on Gee's desk; he, Meldrick and Stivers had turned it in yesterday afternoon. Mike's shoulders jerked, and Kay, horrified, thought he might be crying.

"He wasn't... he wasn't holding the gun on Meldrick when I shot him," Mike said softly, afraid he might be heard, afraid she didn't hear him and he'd have to say it again.

Kay's eyes widened. "Maybe you should tell me everything, now, hmm?" she said, her voice edgy.

The firm tone made him look up at her, watery blue eyes frightened. "Forget it," he said hastily, starting to get up from the couch. "I don't know what I was thinking-" A firm hand on his arm brought him back down.

"Mike. Mike." She repeated his name until his eyes met hers again, wary and concerned.

She made her voice quiet, soothing, and kept her hand on his arm. "I'm not going to do anything but listen, okay? You can tell me this. All of it, hmm? It will be okay," she said earnestly.

He looked at her then, really looked, seeing her honest gaze, her concerned features, her damp hair already forming into curls. He moved his free hand slowly, slowly toward her, giving her credit for not flinching in surprise, though she showed it on her face, and he touched her hair gently, running his fingers over the damp curls.

"I don't why. None of this makes any fuckin' sense. But it has to be you I tell it to. Nobody else," he said determinedly, his hand coming to rest on her cheek, cupping her chin.

Kay remained perfectly still. "So tell me."

He told her everything, quietly, without emotion, like a report he meant to give earlier. She listened without reacting to him, keeping her thoughts blank as best she could until he finished. At the end, he turned his face from her, anticipating what she might say, and when she was silent, he finally asked.

"So now what?"

She hesitated, knowing that her words mattered to him. "I don't know, Mike. I honestly can't say that, in the same situation, if he had threatened you, Munch, Beau - I can't say I wouldna shot him," Kay admitted.

"Yeah, but you wouldn't lie about it," Mike pointed out miserably.

"Maybe not. But I'd do almost anything to protect a partner. Lewis messed up. He should've never let it get that far. You protecting him isn't something to feel guilty about."

"It wasn't just... protecting Meldrick," Mike said, dipping his head further toward his chest, his hands grasping the nape of his neck.

Kay frowned. "I know."

Mike shook his head, wishing he could shake the thoughts, the feelings out of himself, but just grimaced and turned pained eyes to Kay. "What do I do, Kay? How can I go put down murders when I... I -"

His voice broke around the words, and he turned away from her. She felt her heart split a little, her eyes threatening to tear, and she reached a hand out to his back, feeling the trembling of the muscles, the intake of breath as he tried to control himself.

"I don't know, Mikey, I don't know," she said as soothingly as she could, her arm over his back, her hand rubbing his shoulder. He twisted in her arms, at first she thought to get away from her, but then his arms were suddenly around her waist, pulling her to him fiercely. She stiffened at first, strongly aware of the strength of his distress, and that she didn't know much about him, despite having worked together over the years. But when he sobbed against her neck, warm breath ragged against her skin, she melted into the embrace. It had been a long time since she had seen a man cry, a long time since she had been the one to hold him while he did. Her arms slipped around his neck.

"It's okay, sweetie, everything's going to be okay." The words slipped out of her without conscious thought, consolation coming naturally from her. She remembered holding Ed the same way, after Meredith was killed.

"It's okay."

His hands wove into her hair, holding her impossibly close, and she mirrored him, weaving her own fingers into his blond locks, pressing him to her. She made quiet sounds, breathing them into his ear as he tried not to go insane, hair prickling as she held him, senses painfully aware of her closeness.

He sniffed mightily, untwined his hand from her hair, and pulled away from her gently.

"I'm sorry," he said, taking a swipe at his nose with the back of his hand like a goddamned kid.

"No, it's okay," she rushed to assure him. Why is it okay, exactly, Howard? Because he came to you, trusted you? So you reward him with silence? That's what he expected - a sucker for blue eyes, someone he could confess to safely. Her face twisted around the thoughts, and his eyes hardened to see it.

"It's okay. I think I knew you'd tell," Mike said, nodding just a little. He snorted a spiteful laugh. "Maybe that's why it had to be you." He looked away then, staring at his own hands, hands that a moment ago had held her to him.

"Kellerman," she began, and his self-detesting smile grew a little. Kellerman, now. Not Mike.

"I know you guys all think I'm a goody-goody -"

"Well, we're not wrong, are we?" Mike asked defensively.

"All I'm saying is.. is -" She pursed her lips. "I've kept secrets before," she said with a shy tilt of her head.

Mike stared at her, incredulous. "I killed him," he said firmly, as though she hadn't been listening.

"Yeah. You killed Luther Mahoney. And he tried to kill your partner. Two seconds earlier, Mike, and you wouldn't even feel guilty about all this, huh?" she argued, half of her conscious mind telling her she was insane to be consoling him. Murder was murder, wasn't it? Any other suspect, and she'd be on the phone to Gee in a heartbeat; she knew that. Any other cop - no, that wasn't true. She pictured Bayliss, Lewis, telling her the same

words and knew she would treat them the same.

"Two seconds," Mike repeated, still unbelieving.

Kay shrugged. "This kind of stuff..." She hesitated to continue, but knew he would want an explanation for her understanding, her leniency. She focused on his eyes, narrowing her gaze as she focused on his incredibly blue eyes. "It always comes back to you somehow, Mike."

"What, like karma?" Mike asked, fascinated, forlorn.

She reached out a warm, small hand to his cheek. "You don't need me to even the scales," she explained sincerely. "Telling me like this, here - you didn't expect me to tell. It's not my job to tell."

His eyes looked toward her hand on his face, and he leaned into the gesture, just a little, closing his eyes. "Whadda ya mean, 'not your job'?" he asked softly, hoarsely, his lips near her fingers.

"It's your job. You either walk into Gee's office and tell him everything..."

He seemed to stop breathing.

"... or you don't."

He lowered his head a little in recognition, but she wouldn't let go.

"And what if... what if I don't?" he asked, barely whispering.

She felt her heart stop again, and she took a shaky breath. "You have to live with yourself, Mike. You have to take care of your own soul."

She felt him smile miserably against her palm. His hand snaked up to hers, taking it gently from his face. He looked up again, and the desolation was evident in the pale fire of his eyes.

"You seem so sure I *have* a soul," he said, voice like gravel.

She refused to let him get away with that. "If you didn't, you wouldna come here, hmm?" she argued with a thin smile.

He gave her a lop-sided grin for that, then sobered.

"Thank you. Kay."

She smiled and bent her head shyly, never having accepted compliments well. She looked up again to see him watching her with admiration, gratitude...

The air between them seemed heavier, magnetic; she felt his hand on hers tighten the slightest amount. His eyes seemed to shimmer at her; she felt the pull.

"You oughtta go," she said suddenly, more huskily than she expected. She cleared her throat gently. "Before we, uh. Before we..." she trailed off, not a hundred percent sure she wanted him to go - only a good eighty percent, she thought, but falling; damn laser blue eyes.

His gaze changed. He understood. "Before we do something stupid," he finished for her gently.

She smiled nervously, and he squeezed her hand genially. "I'll see you tomorrow, Kay," he said, returning them to a safer topic, a safer tone of voice.

He stood from the couch, and she followed him to the door, opening it for him.

"See ya tomorrow, Kellerman," she said; and he was gone.

The months went by; Kellerman didn't tell Gee. Kay was transferred to fugitive and stayed, only seeing the guys now and then, in the halls, at the Waterfront. She watched Mike self-destruct, witnessed his soul unraveling and his fellow detectives, his *friends*, abandoning him, rejecting him one by one.

He could probably see the worry in her face when she ran into him; he probably couldn't stand that she knew what was tearing him up. But it wasn't her job to tell. She would smile, say an awkward goodbye; and he'd call her, late at night, drunk, upset.

But he never came over again.

"Mike?"

"How'd ya guess?"

"Still in Boston?"

"Florida."

Silence.

"How... How are they?"

"Stu'll be back in a month. Laura's back already. Bayliss is doing better, still in the hospital... How are... how are you?"

"I'm okay."

"Gotta give me a little more than that, huh?"

He laughed. "I'm back in arson; Metro-Dade." A pause. In a lower voice: "Figured I'd stay away from Homicide for a while."

She smiled to herself. "Yeah. Me too."

THE END.

I don't know if it redeemed him completely, but I feel better.

Comments greatly appreciated.

=)