Author's notes: So after watching "Sons of the Father," specifically the end of the episode, my little heart just broke from Ed. Hugh Dillon deserves an award for his performance there. His pain was so raw and so real, it broke my heart. I hope I do him justice with this post ep. I hope you like it. (Sorry, SYuuri, Ed's post-ep came to me first, but JAM will follow soon.)
Disclaimer: The show Flashpoint and its characters were created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern and belong to them and its respective networks. I am making no money off this story and it is for entertainment purposes only. However, this particular story is my creation and should not be used without my express written permission.
Forgiveness Doesn't Come Easy
Ed was a man of control. His job depended on his ability to put everything to one side to get the job done. He couldn't afford to let his emotions rule him when it came to looking down the scope of a sniper rifle. And for the most part, he was the master of doing just that. He knew that most people had the belief that a sniper couldn't have a conscience, couldn't feel emotion at all; that that was the only way a person could perch on a rooftop and take the impossible shot. He knew, however, the same way all snipers knew, that that was so far from the truth that it was ridiculous. Snipers had consciences and they certainly felt emotion, maybe more so than the average person. A sniper that could kill without feeling anything was a dangerous person.
Ed had felt every kill he'd ever had to make. The emotions he felt each time might be different but he still felt something every time he made that Scorpio shot. And some kills were easy to get past than others. Kills where there was no question about the necessity of making the shot weren't a problem for him. Others though, times when he'd made the shot because he had to not but didn't want to, were harder to deal with afterward. In the moment, there was no doubt about the action he had to take. He could do it without thinking and more importantly without feeling. It was only in the aftermath that his mind and his heart wrestled with duty.
There had been too many of those calls, the ones that wouldn't feel right no matter how right they were, for Ed to count. But none had hit him as hard as that one shot on the rooftop of the Royal York hotel. He'd played and replayed that night over and over again in his mind like a movie he could recite word for word. Each time he proved himself right in the decisions that were made that night but each time he couldn't feel good about it.
And so his control was slipping. He hadn't thought anyone had noticed. Sophie hadn't. Or if she had noticed the number of times he'd woken up in a cold sweat during the night, she hadn't said anything. Clark and Izzy certainly hadn't. Clark was too caught up being a typical teenager to notice anything and sweet little Izzy was still to young and too innocent to notice anything other than the things that directly affected her simple little perfect child world. Even at work, he thought he'd hidden it well. He'd done his job the way he always did the job and nobody should have known anything was bothering him.
He should have known before Greg had told him at the beginning of the shift that he needed to talk to Michelle that he hadn't been able to completely fool a profiler. He should have known but it was probably more that he hadn't wanted to think about it. He scoffed at Greg's insistence that talking to Michelle would be what he needed. Nobody knew what he needed. Hell, Ed himself didn't know what he needed. But he certainly didn't think facing the mother of the woman whose life he'd been forced to take came close to fitting what he needed.
But Greg had insisted so Ed found himself pulling up a chair opposite the grieving mother. Listened to her outline his professional and personal achievements like she was reading his resume. But he'd prepared himself for her anger, was ready to meet it head on. Ready to shield himself with the mantra that he'd been doing his job and while he hated the outcome he'd do it again if the situation called for it.
But her anger hadn't come. Instead, she told him she needed to know what kind of man could do the job he did. His control started to slip more and more and then she did what he hadn't been prepared for. She'd forgiven him and her forgiveness was more than he could take. His emotionless façade was crumbling and he had to get out of the room before he lost it completely.
"I'm sorry, I can't." He pushed his chair back and was out of the room before Greg, the SIU mediator, or Michelle could say anything. He stormed out of the room without a look back even though he could now hear Greg calling his name. He thought about just bypassing the locker room all together. Leave in his uniform and walk or take a cab home since his keys were in his locker. But instead he pushed opened the door like it had personally offended him and grabbed his civilian clothes from his locker before disappearing into the shower.
If he was lucky, Greg would think he had left and wouldn't follow him into the locker room. He didn't want or need to talk to anyone. He didn't bother with the shower itself but changed clothes quickly, his emotional overload not subsiding at all in the process, but at least he'd managed to get the visible signs of his distress once more just below the surface at least for the moment. Without folding his uniform so it was neat and unwrinkled when he put it on next, he returned to the locker area to store his uniform, get his keys and leave. Only his keys weren't in his locker. He checked all over but they were nowhere to be found.
"Looking for these?"
The female voice and the jiggling of keys made him turn slowly around. Jules was standing there leaning against Sam's locker dangling his keys at him. She stepped away from the locker once he'd seen her. He reached for them but she shook her head.
"Give me those."
"Not a chance. Come on, I'll drive you home."
Ed rubbed his face and then ran his hands over his bald scalp. He didn't need this now. He'd rather face Greg or anyone else but the petite woman standing opposite him. He could later justify losing his cool and blowing up at any of the guys but not Jules. Yelling at Jules like he wanted to do right then would just add to his already overloaded emotions. "Jules, now is not the time. Give me my keys so I can go home."
She again shook her head. "Come on, I'll drive you."
His eyes narrowed and his jaw rocked. He was moments away from saying things he knew he'd regret later. So rather than saying something hurtful, he turned his back to her. If she didn't want to give him his keys, then he'd leave without them. He'd get his wallet and take a cab. He frowned as he reached for the leather billfold that just wasn't there any more than the keys had been.
"Yeah, I took your wallet too. So unless you really want to walk all that distance in the cold, you don't have much of a choice. You don't even have to talk if you don't want to. But friends don't let friends drive upset."
He turned back to her and closed the distance between him and her, invading her personal space. He was an imposing man, especially when he was angry and he was definitely angry. But she didn't flinch or take a step back. "I could take them from you."
She shrugged, unfazed. "Maybe. But I think you are underestimating my ability to take care of myself. Besides, deep down you know I'm right. So, are we going?"
Without conscious thought, his hand clenched in a fist and it collided with the locker beside her, just inches from her head. Again she didn't flinch. Instead, she reached up and took his wrist in her hand and lowered it giving it a tug as she stepped away from the locker toward the door. "Maybe taking you home will have to wait. You need to unwind a little first."
"And just what did you have in mind? If you were thinking taking me for a beer, I should warn you one wouldn't be enough. Hell the biggest bottle of the best whiskey wouldn't be enough so just one drink would probably be too much."
Jules shrugged. "Wasn't even thinking alcohol. I have something better in mind."
Ed's eyes narrowed. He didn't want to deal with anyone right then but a cryptic Jules really wasn't something he was in the mood for. He planted his feet, not letting her move him. "The only thing better at releasing tension than alcohol is sex and no offense, that's not happening."
Jules wrinkled her nose. "Definitely not what I had in mind. In case you've forgotten, I prefer the SRU officer that I sleep with to be blonde with boyish good looks. You don't quite fit that bill, thank you very much. Now you can stand there and give me a hard time but pretty soon Sarge is going to realize you are still here and he's going to insist you talk to him. Or you can come with me and not have to talk if you don't want to. What's it going to be?"
Not really wanting to give in but not liking the alternative either, Ed followed her out of the locker room and down the hall to the back stairway. Once at his car, he watched as she had to readjust the seat that was set to accommodate his much longer legs. She raised an eyebrow and gave him a withering look.
"Not a word about how short I am."
Ed shrugged. "You're the one who insisted on driving. And the saying, by the way, is that friends don't let friends drive drunk."
"Chemically impaired, emotionally impaired, not much difference in my book. You got someplace in mind that you really want me to take you, or do you trust me?"
Ed frowned. "You're driving, not like I have much of a choice."
"Glad you realized it." There was an almost annoying smile on her lips as she pulled out of the space.
True to her word however she didn't make him talk and she didn't talk either. Instead, she left him to his thoughts. Perhaps it would have been better if she had struck up a conversation because in the silence of the car, he once more went back to the briefing room ready to defend his actions that night on the rooftop but instead hearing Michelle forgive him. Once more his control started to slip. Despite the fact that Jules was sitting less than two feet away, his shoulders began to shake and the tears that had started when he had fled the briefing room once more made tracks down his cheeks. He turned to face out the passenger window so that Jules couldn't see him. Not that she seemed to be paying him any attention.
How could Michelle forgive him? He killed her daughter. Shot her down right in front of her. She should hate him. Blame him. He could handle that. He could rationalize that. He didn't know what to do with her forgiveness.
Ed was so lost in his thoughts he didn't ever recognize where Jules was taking him. When she pulled up at a dark building somewhere in a poorly lit section of town, he frowned, trying to surreptitiously wipe away the tears. "Where are we?"
"Taggert's Gym. A friend owns it and gave me a key in case I ever needed to use the place for a private workout when he wasn't around."
Ed got out of the vehicle and followed Jules up to the door. Sure enough, she selected a key from her key ring and unlocked the door. Once inside she disabled the alarm and turned on the light. Following her inside, he looked around. It wasn't much of a place, no fancy equipment like they had at HQ. But it had a grittiness to it that fit his current mood. "Sam know about this friend?"
Jules shrugged. "Yeah, he's met Al a few times." She nodded toward a picture on the wall of a smiling older man who was probably at least 70 years old. With his bushy white beard and large body, the man in the photograph looked like he probably had kids climbing in his lap anytime he sat down so they could tell him what they wanted for Christmas. "Of course, neither Al or I have told him that we met while I was dating Al's son Barry. I'd like to keep it that way."
Ed nodded. "I remember Barry. Wasn't he the guy who…"
"Yeah." Jules cut him off as it was clear by the tone of his voice that the years hadn't softened his opinion of her former boyfriend. "But just because Barry was a jerk doesn't mean his dad isn't a good guy. In fact Al was the one who helped me when things went bad. All water under the bridge and no reason to make Sam mad by telling him about it. Got it?"
Ed nodded. "So now what?"
Jules nodded toward the punching bag hanging off to one side. "There are boxing gloves in the box by the wall. Pick your size. That bag has taken the brunt of many an emotional onslaught."
She led the way over to the aforementioned box and rummaged around before pulling out a pair of blue gloves. "These should do the trick. Try them on and see."
Ed did as she ordered and found she was a good judge of size. She held the bag as he began to punch at it. At first his jabs were tentative and measured but soon he felt his control slipping once more and he truly unleashed on the bag that wouldn't bruise, wouldn't fight back, and wouldn't hold his anger against him. Time ceased to exist as he gave himself over to his emotions for the first time since the night he'd been forced to take the shot.
As he gave himself over totally to the raw emotions that plagued him, it became harder and harder for Jules to hold the bag and not let it fly away under the pounding his fists gave it or the kicks he launched. Still she held on without complaint or comment, even when a blow or two missed the mark on the bag and landed on her hands or arms holding the bag. She didn't think Ed noticed and she wasn't going to say a thing, knowing he needed the release. While it stung and might leave a temporary mark, she wasn't hurt and she'd probably done the same to Al or even Sam a time or two herself.
Once he became too tired to hit or kick or even stand, Ed slid to the ground and pulled off the gloves, tossing them aside. He pulled his knees up close to his body, letting the hot scary tears that he never would have imagined shedding at all and never in front of anyone fall.
Her own empathetic tears ran down Jules's cheeks as she watched the man she admired unravel. She didn't think she'd ever seen him this upset, not even after Lew had died. It was a little unnerving. But she didn't go to him, didn't wrap her arms around him and hold him as he cried. It wasn't that she didn't want to but more that she recognized that he needed at least the appearance of privacy to fully release the pent up emotions she imagined he'd been bottling up for weeks now.
When at last his tears were spent and he was sitting there just breathing heavily, he looked up at her. "Why did you do this?"
Jules shrugged. "Because I'm worried about you. Because we're all worried about you. Because as much as we all wanted to be there for you and support you, I knew you would never let the guys see you like this. Hell, I wasn't sure you'd even let me. Because it's what you would do for any of us if we were in your position. Need I go on?"
Ed shook his head. "You, none of you, should be worried about me. I'm fine. I just…I told Greg I didn't need to meet with Michelle. It was the wrong decision. But Greg insisted. It happened and it was bad but it's over. We should just let it be over."
Jules sat down opposite him, crossing her legs Indian style. "It's not over, Ed. I still have nightmares about that night. Questioning what I, what any of us, could have done differently. And yeah, maybe there were things that could have been done differently but I don't know that they would have changed the outcome."
"I took out an active shooter who was threatening to kill another civilian. I did my job and I was cleared by SIU. Why does there have to be anything more than that to it?"
"Because May wasn't just some random active shooter. She was a young woman we all talked to and got close to her. And no matter how justified the shooting was, it's hard to reconcile May the active shooter with May the woman who just wanted to save her mother. So at night when everyone else is sleeping you relive that night and instead of seeing a young woman who chose to take matters in her own hands and pull a gun knowing the rest of us would have to take action, you see the young woman who looked you in the eye and made you promise that everything was going to be okay."
"Michelle forgave me. Said it was what May would have wanted." Ed admitted softly.
"I figured it was something like that. You could have handled her anger. If she came at you with both barrels screaming at you that you had murdered her baby, you would have deflected her anger without a problem. You wanted her to be angry at you because you think you deserve her anger."
"I did my job…" Ed tried to remind her but she cut him off.
"Yeah, you did your job and you're good at it. You did what you had to do but it's eating you alive. Ed, we can all see it because it's eating us alive as well and we weren't the ones who had to take that shot. But you're the one who's always reminding us that doing the job and feeling good about it isn't always the same. She forgave you because she knows you did what you had to do. Now the ball is in your court."
He shook his head, suddenly very tired and wanting to slip under the covers of his bed and sleep for as long as he could before the nightmares got too bad. "What do you mean?"
"She forgave you. I'm sure that wasn't easy for her because she wants and needs someone to blame and it would be easier to place the blame on you than accept her own part, her ex-husband's part, even May's part in all this. Now you've got to decide if you can forgive yourself. That kind of forgiveness doesn't come easy."
Frowning, Ed stared at her. "I did my job. She was an active shooter and if I hadn't taken the shot she would have killed a person. Whether that person deserved saving or deserved to die wasn't a decision I or May could make."
Jules shrugged. She wondered if he was keeping a tally of just how many times he pointed out that it was all just part of the job? As if maybe he said it enough, he would actually believe it. "Yeah, but that doesn't stop you from feeling guilty about it anyway. Ed, you just said it, we can't judge whether someone deserves to live or die. That's why we have rules and protocols we follow when we have to take a life. That doesn't absolve us of the fact that we have to make the difficult decisions and because of those decisions lives are lost. Even if we save others in so doing. It's okay to feel guilty. You know that. What's not okay is getting so lost in your guilt that you can't find your way out."
"I don't feel guilty." Ed protested firmly.
"Sure you do. No matter how much you try to hide it from yourself and from us, it's there. I know you too well, Ed. I see the signs. I couldn't do much the last time you wallowed in guilt and it just about killed me. I won't let you do it this time."
Ed rose up from the floor. His earlier fatigue was quickly being replaced with anger. Anger that was directed both at her and himself. She was right and he didn't want her to be. He went over to one of the bench presses and started to noisily add weights to the bar. He looked back at her. "What do you mean, last time? I don't know what you are talking about."
Then, he laid down on the bench and started to lift the bar up and down in a series of furious repetitions. Jules joined him and put her hands on the bar to try to slow him down before he hurt himself. She frowned at how heavy it was. Just how much had he added to it? Realizing she was insistent he helped her guide it back to the holder. He looked up at her with a frown. She raised an eyebrow. "After I was shot. I know you felt guilty even though it was absolutely ridiculous for you to do so. It wasn't your fault Petar decided to wreck havoc on the city and I got caught in the crossfire."
"He wouldn't have been on that rooftop in the first place if I hadn't killed his father. He was trying to hurt me and you got hurt instead." He frowned as he realized he was just proving her point. He sat up. "Damn it, Jules. So I felt guilty; Sam felt guilty that he wasn't the one who took the bullet for you. We all felt guilty that you were lying there fighting for your life. So what's your point? What nearly killed you was an armor piercing bullet making Swiss cheese out of your vest, not me feeling guilty."
"The bullet was easier to take than you shutting me out afterward." Jules admitted, sitting down next to him. He was about to protest that he hadn't when she stopped him. "Yeah, you did. Everyone else was visiting like crazy but I barely saw you. When you did come by it was clear you weren't comfortable. I know part of it was that you were not happy that Sam and I had been dating behind everyone's back but for the most part it was the guilt."
"I knew the two of you were dating. You two weren't very good at keeping it secret. Not like you were the second time around. What bothered me more about that was that you tried to keep it a secret. In the years you've been at SRU, you've never kept secrets from me. You've always told me about your boyfriends. Hell, I even knew about Barry the Bastard."
Jules sighed but recognized he was also deflecting the conversation. "It wasn't that I was keeping it from Ed my friend but Ed the team leader who would have had to act on the information. But that's not the point. You forgave us for sneaking around the second time and that almost cost Sarge his job as well so I don't think it was a problem the first time either. It was your guilt over what happened to me that made you question whether or not I should return to Team One. When I came back and our relationship wasn't the same it hurt, Ed. I won't lie to you, it hurt maybe more than telling Sam we couldn't see each other any more. We've always had a close relationship and it was hell not having my friend supporting me. Things are better now but I'm not going to let this thing with May jeopardize that again."
He gently poked her shoulder. "I'm fine. You don't have to worry."
She didn't believe him for an instant but didn't call him on it. Pressing the issue wouldn't do anything to help the situation. He knew she was keeping an eye on his and that was all she could do for now. She nodded toward the bench press. "You want to take some of that ridiculous weight off and bench press safely? I'm going to pound on the bag a little."
"Pretend it's me?" Ed asked dryly.
She shook her head. "It was a long few seconds before any of you would tell me you were okay after that bomb went off this afternoon. I've got so issues of my own to work on."
She stood up and gave his arm a squeeze but he pulled her in for a friendly hug. "Thanks for caring, Jules. I appreciate it."
She smiled at him and planted a kiss on the top of his head before walking off. "Always."