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Summary: Epilogue for The Rig.

Author's Note: The first part of this story (Blair's POV) was written back in February 2004, and was the first snippet I ever wrote for [livejournal.com profile] sentinel_thurs. The latter half (Jim's POV) was written in February 2007 as part of a writing meme in my personal journal, and was requested by[livejournal.com profile] begonia125rose. I've decided to post both parts here together as one complete story.





Sanctuary
By Fluterbev

February 2004/February 2007




At last, after the forty 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.

He immediately discovered, however, that the bed 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.

Then...

0.02

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.

Eventually, yawning, Blair sneaked upstairs to Jim's room to turn off the alarm, knowing that his 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.

***

The distinctive sounds of morning in Cascade intruded on Jim’s dreams, beckoning him out of a deep sleep. He stretched languorously, luxuriating in the comfortable feeling of soft, sleep-warmed sheets against his bare skin, and contemplated dozing off again for a while.

But then he snapped awake, right on the edge of slumber. He’d forgotten something. Something important; something he was supposed to do. What the hell was it?

Abruptly, he remembered. Blair had a concussion. Jim had intended to get up at intervals and check on him. Instead, it seemed, he’d slept the whole night through.

Damn.

Reaching out to his alarm, he saw that the switch was set in the ‘off’ position. “Sandburg,” he muttered, knowing full well that he’d switched it on before he’d gone to sleep, and knowing instinctively just who had switched it off. “I’m gonna kill you, Chief.”

Well, he'd just have to wake him up now, and hope that the stupid little klutz was okay. Jim stood, stretching until his joints popped. He yawned, and glanced down over the balcony. And did a double take.

The loft was spotless.

Jim blinked. Had Blair gone out of his mind? He’d been injured, for Christ’s sake. Exhausted. Yet he’d turned off Jim’s alarm, then presumably stayed up half the night to clean up the apartment. What the hell had gotten into him?

“Sandburg!” Jim bellowed, grabbing his robe and pulling it on.

He heard movement in the room below, fabric rustling as Blair turned over in bed. There followed slurred mumbling. “Yeah, yeah. Five more minutes, man.” A moment later, Blair sounded a little more alert. “Hey, what time is it, anyway?”

Jim knotted the belt on his robe as he plodded downstairs. Peering into Blair’s room, he was treated to the sight of his partner on hands and knees, one hand scrabbling around at the back of his nightstand. As he watched, Blair unearthed a power cable with a plug on the end of it. “Aha!” Blair exclaimed, as though he’d discovered something deeply meaningful. Then he turned his head, and smiled up at Jim. “Oh, hey, Jim. Sleep well?”

“You turned the alarm off,” Jim said pointedly.

“Yeah, I know.” Blair grinned, brandishing the cable as he rose, which Jim could now see was attached to Blair’s alarm clock. “I defused it, actually. What a hero, huh?”

That made about as much sense as the rest of it, so Jim let it go. “No, not that alarm. My alarm.”

“Oh, yeah.” Blair shrugged. “I was fine, man. There was no need for you to be disturbed.”

“Right,” Jim drawled skeptically. He had to admit, however, that Blair looked well enough, but for the spectacular bruising on his forehead. His eyes were clear and focused, and he seemed to be alert and aware. He wasn’t making much sense, sure enough. But that was pretty normal for him.

Nevertheless, Jim would have been remiss not to pursue the matter. “Is your vision okay? Any headache?”

“Of course I have a headache, Jim!” Blair retorted. “A radio antenna fell on my head!”

Shaking his head in amusement – relieved that, despite his involuntary dereliction of duty, Sandburg was fine - Jim turned to go. But he couldn’t resist one parting retort. “If you get hit over the head again, will you clean my truck?”

The pillow which hit Jim square on his head as he turned to flee, proved quite graphically that Blair’s vision was entirely unaffected.


The End



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