Feedback: Always welcome
Summary: Epilogue for The Rig.
Notes: Eighteenth story in my summer writing project, part of a continual series
Sweat poured down his face, blurring his vision but he didn't slow down. The steps seemed endless and steep as he stumbled down, regaining his footing only to slip and twist his ankle, nearly hitting his head on the bulkhead, but he couldn't slow down.
He had to find it.
Jumping down the last set of steps he found himself facing hundreds and hundreds of fuel drums, each looking the same. His eyes searched frantically for the device, but he came up empty, only seeing row after row of uniformed blue barrels.
He jumped up on to one, trying to get some more height, trying to see over the rows, trying to find it.
It had to be here…somewhere.
Finally a flash of red caught his eye and he jumped down, racing four rows over and around a metal support beam. The descending numbers quickly came into focus and he realized that he was out of time, he was too late, the numbers rolled from one to zero.
He hunkered down, hardly having time to raise his arms to cover his head, but he knew that it wouldn't help. A thunderous noise and blazing white light engulfed him.
He was going to die here.
And then Jim bolted up right in his bed, heart hammering in his chest, air wheezing in and out of stiff and sore lungs.
He lifted a shaky hand up and over his head, rubbing at his eyes. "Oh God."
He had come so close, so close to losing Blair and he couldn't have done a damn thing about it. He wasn't even on the rig with him, had left him where he thought it would be safe and when Blair had said he was going to look for the bomb instead of getting out of there like Jim had asked…words couldn't explain the anguish, the sudden bone deep fear.
But then the blast never came.
Blair had done it and he was so elated, so high on life…they got the bad guys, saved the crew, and solved the crime…they had won…and he wondered how he could had doubted Blair to begin with.
That was until he had actually laid eyes on the man.
Blair was standing in among the other men that had been captured, twelve men that Blair had saved, talking to them and a member of the coast guard and he didn't look too good.
The white butterfly bandages stood out in stark contrast to the red and angry wound that they covered and his skin was pale, his eyes a little puffy and his legs were shaking. Not enough for anyone to notice, but Jim had taken one look and had cataloged every little intake of breath, every heartbeat and pulsing veins, his speech patterns and body language.
Then he had moved forward with purpose, ignoring Simon's call and took Blair by the arm. His friend had nearly sagged against him as they moved away and had stayed close by throughout the rest of the night, the explanations, the kidding about house rules, the flight back to the mainland, the filing of reports and then home.
Jim glanced at the bedside alarm clock, seeing that it was a just after three in the morning. He had only been sleeping for a little over an hour and he didn't think he would be getting back to bed anytime soon.
He grabbed his robe, intending on making some tea, maybe watching a little TV until he was tired enough but a little noise from downstairs drew his attention.
Blair was mumbling in his sleep.
The vat was smooth and round and he couldn't get a hand hold, couldn't find purchase to pull himself up. Each time he opened his mouth to scream for help, thick oil filled his throat and he spit it out as best he could, trying not to swallow, trying to keep as much of the gunk as he could from his ears and eyes, but he couldn't stay afloat, couldn't keep his head above the thick liquid that pulled him down.
He banged on the steel sides, trying to get someone, anyone's attention, but no one came.
He had gone under again, surfacing, smearing the stuff out of his eyes and off his face and he thought he saw someone moving over head on the maze of catwalks and corridors.
"Help!" He screamed, "help me..."
A flash of something moved and hope surged…someone had seen him.
He went under again and barely made it back to the surface, but seeing a hand reaching down to him so he grasped it with all his strength, held on as best he could but he started to slip.
He made a desperate lunge at the hand again, knowing that help was right there, he just needed to hold on.
He could feel his body lifting from the muck, but after a few agonizing inches he started to slip again. He reached up with his other hand, clutching at the checkered jacket, but still he slipped and he knew…if he couldn't hang on, if he fell back into the inky blackness below it would be the end.
Slowly his grasp slipped, his fingers became weak and he plunged back into the oil, going under, feeling his lungs fill with the vile fluid.
He was going to die here.
Blair bolted upright in bed, his head swimming and his stomach sick as he tried to open his eyes.
He could hear feet pounding down the steps over the roaring in his head and his name being called.
His heart beat triple time, but quickly started to settle with few cleansing breaths.
Finally he opened his eyes, scanning the dim lit room, checking the clock by his bedside.
Damn…three in the morning and he hadn't been asleep very long.
Jim knocked on his door frame, quietly calling his name, crouching down a little as he entered, the light from the hallway pouring in.
Blair squinted against the brightness, his head still sore and pounding as he turned from the light. "Sorry." The room went dark again, the only light coming through the blinds on the fire escape door. "That better?"
"Ye..eah…sorry if I woke you."
Jim sat on his bed, closer than Blair would have expected. "Don't worry about it, Chief. You didn't."
He wanted to ask about that, wanted to know why Jim was still up, but his head hurt too much and his whole body ached as he shifted back down and under his covers.
"Bad dream?" Jim asked after a few minutes of silence.
"Hmmm…yeah, pretty bad."
And that was a surprise. Jim never admitted to things like that.
Check your emotions at the door and just do your job, but it wasn't Blair's job, so he didn't always follow the rules.
"Want to talk about it?" He didn't think that Jim would. Assuming he was dreaming of his near drowning and knowing that Jim had lived it was bad enough.
But sometimes talking helped.
"Not really, you?"
Blair shifted again, trying to make out Jim's face in the darkness. He didn't want to tell Jim that he was dreaming of failure, so he shook his head. "I don't remember…it's vague."
And he knew that Jim didn't buy it, but he didn't want to explore his own short comings. Didn't want to tell Jim how scared he was that he had almost lost him…Didn't want to have to think about seeing Jim going under again and again and knowing that he wasn't strong enough to get him out.
When Jim spoke again his voice was a little raspier and Blair worried about his lungs. Wanted to ask him again about going to the hospital, but he knew what the answer would be. The North Star's medic had given them both a once over and that was good enough for Jim.
"How about some tea?"
Jim was full of surprises tonight, this morning, whatever. "Yeah. Sure." He pushed himself up, feeling a flare of pain in his head again, but ignoring it as he followed Jim into the dark kitchen.
"I got it, Chief. Go sit down and rest."
He dozed on the couch, hearing Jim move around in the darkness, opening cabinets and doors, filling the tea pot.
He started awake a few minutes later, images of streaky oil and death behind his eyelids.
"Yeah, just…" Just what?
When Jim came into view, he held out a steaming mug and Blair could see bruises, ugly purple and black, on his wrists. Looking down at his own it hit home again how he had nearly lost everything.
There were so many what ifs. And it hurt his head to even think about them.
They sat together, sipping tea when Jim finally said. "You did real good out there, Chief."
Blair lifted his head, looking into Jim's eyes. Not sure where that had come from. "I didn't do anything that…"
"Yes you did. I told you to get outta there, because I didn't think there was enough time, but you didn't go and you saved those men's lives."
He shook his head, denial on his lips.
He just did what he had to do.
And the bomb, the impending explosion, those things hadn't even hit him yet. He knew that he was deflecting, not ready to think too hard about nearly losing his own life along with those men.
He wasn't a hero.
"Yes, you are, Chief." Jim got up and took his empty mug from his hands and Blair belatedly realized he must have said that part out loud. "You saved those men that would have been caught in the explosion, you saved me too…"
"Thirteen in one night…not bad Chief." Jim came back into the living room with a hammer in his hand and before he could ask about that Jim went on. "Lucky thirteen. You know some people think…"
Blair let the words flow over him, not really paying attention to what was said, but how it was said. A distraction so Blair wouldn't have to think too hard about his actions or the lingering dream.
And as he watched Jim pounding a nail into the wall in the wee hours of the morning, breaking all kinds of house rules and probably noise ordnance laws, Jim went into his room and came back carrying the mask that he had tried to pack in a box earlier that day.
He took great care in hanging it up, displaying it in a place of honor. "After we get some shut eye, I'll help you organize the rest of this mess."
Blair nodded, watching Jim keep his hands busy, providing his own distraction and thought about luck.
He wasn't sure if he believed in luck, or fate…but whatever it was that kept him safe, kept both of them safe, he could get behind that.
"Ya know Jim; thirteen has significance in numerology…"
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