Epilogue for The Rig, in which Blair works his way through the emotional
aftermath of diffusing the bomb.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Lyn for betaeing, and Xasphie for making me think about sentence structure! Thanks also to LKY who told me about Sentinel Thursday.
At last, after the forty-some mile chopper ride, followed by both of them hauling their tired butts home in the Expedition, Blair and Jim finally made it back to the loft a little before midnight.
Blair was about to go into his room when Ellison halted him. "Hold on, Sandburg. Let me take a look."
Blair batted Jim's hands away from his head. "It's fine, man. Quit it." His head did still hurt a little, where the radio antenna had impacted as it fell on him, but all Blair wanted to do now was go to bed. And he knew that Jim was at least as exhausted as he was. "I'm just gonna hit the sack. Okay, Jim?"
Jim was frowning dubiously. "I'll set an alarm. I'll need to wake you every couple of hours. You got a bad knock there, Chief."
Blair headed towards his bedroom. "Whatever." He paused for a moment, stretching his arms up above his head as he yawned, then said, "But look, I'm fine, okay? No big deal. It was hours ago. Just get some sleep yourself, man." Not waiting to hear Jim's answer, he went inside, intending to lie straight down on the bed.
Which was currently covered in boxes, books, pens, papers, artifacts and miscellaneous other items. Items that had been scattered throughout the loft, prior to Jim's irritable tidying-up session yesterday. Thank god, Blair thought, with weary bad grace, that the ancient peanut butter and sprout sandwich Jim had discovered hadn't also been dumped here. His roommate might sometimes be a bit tetchy, but at least he wasn't petty.
Blair was just too tired to deal with this mess in any systematic way, so brushing his arm decisively across the bed, he unceremoniously swept the lot onto the floor. Then, excavating sweatpants and a tee shirt from their resting place underneath the quilt, he swiftly got changed, letting his clothes lie where they had fallen. Finally, he dove into the bed. Ah, he thought with a grateful sigh, as he relaxed into its hedonistic depths. At last.
Reaching his hand out languidly, Blair fumbled for the light switch, knocking off in the process a precariously balanced pile of books, which Jim had apparently deposited there. The digital display on the clock radio, which had been concealed behind them, was revealed.
And suddenly Blair's breath caught in his throat. The time was 0.01.
Rigid, all his languorous contentment suddenly obliterated in a flash of memory, Blair found himself unable to tear his eyes away from the display. Unblinking, he stared at it, his mouth dry, his heart pounding in anticipation.
Holding his breath, he willed it not to change.
Don't change. Don't change.
Don't change to 0.00.
The suspense was unbearable, an eternity of hellish anticipation, of a number branded into his brain during a moment of determination and terror.
Gasping in a great gulp of air, Blair bolted upright, his heart pounding like a jackhammer. It's a clock, just a clock, he told himself frantically. Wrapping his arms around himself, he consciously took deep breaths, willing his limbs to stop trembling. Clocks go forward, not back. Calm down. Just calm down. But in his mind's eye, the number still burned, eternally counting down to oblivion.
At last, averting his eyes from the livid numbers glowing with unearthly luminescence on the digital display, Blair rose and made his shaky way out to the kitchen. He pulled a bottle of water out from the fridge, and, after slaking his thirst, held the cold bottle against his hot forehead.
Closing his eyes, Blair listened to the familiar night sounds in the loft - the buzz of the refrigerator, the hum of the heating system, and Jim's soft snoring from the loft bedroom above. He smiled a little at this latter sound - his friend must have been worn out, to have dropped off so quickly.
If Jim were awake, he'd tell Blair that his reaction was normal. That the shakes were the remnants of the adrenaline still pumping around his system, and that flashbacks were the price you paid for disarming bombs with one second left on the clock. But Blair didn't need Jim to tell him stuff like that, not anymore. Because he already knew.
Calmer now, but unwilling to go back to bed just yet, Blair pottered around for a while, reconnecting with what had become to him, a haven. A safe place to deal with the mixture of exhilaration, horror and gut-churning fear that his work with Jim entailed.
At first a little aimlessly, then gradually more systematically, Blair quietly finished what Jim had started the day before; straightening up papers and books, and organizing to a more manageable level, some of the clutter he had scattered throughout the loft. As he touched and moved and put away, Jim's accompanying gentle snoring reminded Blair that he was not alone. A sense of peace and safety gradually enveloped him, banishing the shakes, and consigning the specter of glowing red numbers to that part of his subconscious inhabited by Lash, other assorted psychos and near-death experiences. No doubt to be re-visited, perhaps in his dreams, but not here, not now, not today. Not in this - his sanctuary.
Finally, yawning, Blair sneaked upstairs to Jim's room to turn off the alarm, knowing that his friend's concern about Blair's concussion would otherwise prompt Jim to get up and check on him soon. But he really was fine, and there was no need for his exhausted friend to be disturbed. Finally, he used the bathroom - not flushing of course - and made his weary way back to bed. Lying down, he turned on his side and looked at the clock. The display now read 2.04; its power vanquished.
At last, Blair turned out the light. Then, with some satisfaction, he pulled the plug from the wall, consigning the glowing red numbers to blackness.
He'd defused a bomb. Alarm clocks were a piece of cake.
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