A Hell Of A Time
Written for Sentinel Bingo Challenge. Prompt – Nightmares.
Epilogue for Flight. Part 11 of the Life Is A Bridge series.
Summary: Blair reflects on the consequences of going with Jim to find Simon and Daryl.
“Hey, Jim?” Blair nudged his dozing partner gently, jumping a little when Jim startled at his touch, almost instantly wide awake and on alert. While the beer they’d had when they’d arrived home had settled Blair’s nerves somewhat, it didn’t seem to have done the same for Jim.
Jim yawned and settled back on the couch. Once a sentinel, always a sentinel, Blair thought, especially after your senses have disappeared and then magically returned.
“What’s up?” Jim asked. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah. Sorry I woke you.” Blair hooked a thumb toward the bathroom. “I’m gonna take a shower.”
Jim’s eyes were already closed again but he waved one hand in assent. “Go for it. Just don’t—“
“Use up all the cold water,” Blair finished for him. “I won’t.”
The warm water was a soothing balm on Blair’s aches and bruises, but the soap stung as he carefully washed the myriad of scrapes that adorned his body and face. Mindful of leaving enough hot water for Jim, and feeling a growing lassitude threatening to overwhelm him, he quickly shampooed his hair and then turned off the faucet.
“Hell of a time,” he muttered, then wished he hadn’t as the memory of jumping out of the plane ambushed him. He could feel his stomach drop again as it had as he’d descended rapidly, numbed hands fumbling for the cord, hearing Jim’s exasperated instructions to him but barely understanding them in his panic. His throat closed up as he remembered his parachute swinging wildly out of control, making him dizzy, watching Jim disappear from sight and calling out a desperate plea for Jim to find him, not knowing if he’d heard or even if Jim would survive to come to his rescue. Then, a bone-crunching thud as he hit the top of the trees and kept going down, feeling every branch slam into his body along the way. “I’m gonna die.”
“Sandburg?” A loud knock on the bathroom door brought him back to the present and he realized he was cowering on the bottom of the tub, shaking like a leaf, his eyes clenched shut. Chilled to the bone, feeling like an absolute idiot, he hauled himself up and stepped out onto the bathroom floor, wrapping his towel around him.
“Almost done,” he called out, hoping Jim couldn’t detect the quaver in his voice. There was no reply so he took a moment to put his hands on his knees and lowered his head, taking a few slow deep breaths until his heart stopped hammering in his chest. Once he was sure he’d recovered enough that Jim wouldn’t notice anything amiss, he wrapped a towel around his waist and exited the bathroom, heading for his bedroom. “All yours, man,” he called out to Jim.
Dressed in his usual sleep attire of t-shirt and trackpants, he made his way to the kitchen and brewed himself a hot cup of chamomile tea, which he knew was bound to soothe his still slightly frayed nerves and hopefully guarantee a decent night’s sleep.
Settled on the sofa, he sipped at his tea, sighing as warmth suffused him from the inside, chasing away the last remnants of chill. He was a little surprised that he didn’t feel more upset at telling Dr Stoddard that he was turning down what he knew was the opportunity of a lifetime, and could likely have set his budding career on an upward path. He’d meant what he’d said to Jim though when they’d first met, he’d made a promise to help him out and they’d made a solid quid pro quo arrangement.
He heard the bathroom door open behind him and turned to look over the back of the sofa as Jim padded past on his way upstairs to his bedroom. Gathering his courage, knowing his curiosity would not be sated, he said, “Jim?” When Jim turned to look at him, Blair continued. “About your senses coming back in Peru—“
Jim waved his question away before he could finish. “Like I said, Chief, not now, okay? It’s late and I just want to go upstairs and crash out for at least 6 hours.”
Blair nodded. “I know. Me too, but...” He stood up then and walked around the sofa, leaning against the back of it, arms crossed, pausing for a moment to find the right words. “I meant what I said when we were out on the balcony, that it’s about friendship, that I didn’t get that before, but this is not just about friendship.”
“This?” Jim shook his head. “I’m not sure where you’re going with this, Chief.”
“We made a deal that first day we met. That I would help you with your senses, and in return, I’d be able to study you… your abilities.”
“And?” Jim was starting to look impatient as he hitched his towel a little tighter around his waist.
“I can’t help you with your senses if you don’t tell me everything that happens with them. What if it happens again? Maybe we could utilize what brought them back this time.”
Jim appeared to be at least mulling over what Blair had said. “I just… I need time to process it myself first. I promise if it’s anything I think you need to know, that might be of help down the track, I’ll tell you. Okay?”
Blair nodded but he was disappointed. This whole sentinel thing was such a mystery to the both of them still and Blair knew that most of the time he was flying by the seat of his pants when it came to figuring out stuff that would help, enhance, or tone down Jim’s senses as necessary.
As though sensing Blair’s deflated mood, Jim stepped closer and placed his hands on Blair’s shoulders. “I came close to losing three very good friends in Peru. I’d rather not revisit those memories for a while.”
Blair frowned. “Three? Oh!” Warmth flooded through him at the realization of what Jim meant.
Jim patted the top of Blair’s head. “Yes, three, Einstein. That friendship spiel of yours goes both ways, you know. Now, you mind if I go get ready for bed and catch some shut-eye?”
Blair shook his head, smiling, knowing he was blushing and not caring a bit. “Why are you still here, man?” He made a shooing motion with his hand. “Go already. We’ve got an early start.”