In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day.
--F. Scott Fitzgerald
Blair couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept the night through. Giving up on the pretence of sleep, he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Running one hand through his hair, he fumbled on the nightstand for his glasses with the other then squinted at the alarm clock.
He was beginning to hate the number three. Every night for the past week, regardless of what time he’d gone to bed, he’d woken at precisely three AM. And the biggest problem was that he was always wide awake. No chance of collapsing back onto his pillows and hoping to drift off. In fact, he had a suspicion that most nights, he hadn’t slept at all, merely dozing, tossing and turning restlessly through a seemingly never-ending cycle of bizarre dreams where he was drowning, only this time it wasn’t Alex who stood over him, pressing his head down under the water but Jim, while his friends and colleagues from both Major Crime and the university stood by and cheered.
Christ, it was getting old. The drowning was months in the past. Alex was in a persistent vegetative state and not expected to recover. The seemingly unbridgeable chasm that had torn his and Jim’s friendship asunder had slowly been closed, though Blair worried that the easy, trusting relationship they’d once had was forever damaged. He didn’t blame Jim for that. It had been a lack of foresight and common sense on his part, and Jim had openly admitted to his own shortcomings where Alex had been concerned.
They’d moved on, gotten back to their lives, so why the hell did he feel as though there was something worse looming on the horizon? Why did he perceive an impending sense of doom?
He knew he was still suffering the lingering effects of PTSD. The therapist he’d seen for a couple of months after they’d returned from Mexico had warned him that there might still be rough patches but he’d been able to shake the overwhelming guilt he bore, that by helping Alex with her senses, he was totally responsible for everything that had occurred after.
Things were good. He was back at the university, back helping Jim. They’d cracked a couple of tough cases, his thesis was finally moving along and he could see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, why the hell did he get the unnerving feeling that the light was a freight train of disaster?
Yawning, he stood and walked out of his room, going into what had become his nightly ritual. Tea, his laptop powered up and his notes beside it. Then he sat, as he had every night before, staring blankly at the computer screen while windows tumbled lazily across it.
“You’re making a habit of being an early riser, Sandburg,” Jim said from behind him.
Blair turned in his seat. “Sorry, man, did I wake you?”
“Duh,” was the reply but Jim smiled and waved Blair’s apology away. “What’s this? The fifth night in a row you’ve been up at three? I have to admit it’s better than having to haul your ass out of bed so we can get to work on time but still…”
Blair stretched and yawned. “I’m sorry,” he said again as he stood and picked up his mug and followed Jim into the kitchen. “I tried to be quiet. I didn’t realize I’ve been disturbing you.”
“Earplugs, remember?” Jim said as he set the water on the stove to heat. “Doesn’t mean that my natural instincts don’t sense if things are a little off. You want another cup of tea?”
“Sure, thanks.” Blair set his mug down next to Jim’s and waited for the inevitable question.
“So, what’s keeping you up? Do you want to talk about it?”
Blair thought about that. They’d pretty much talked about it when they were in Mexico and again, once he’d moved back into the apartment, and really, there wasn’t anything else to say, and he had to admit that he didn’t want Jim thinking he’d been harboring resentful thoughts still when both had reassured the other that things were now back on an even keel. Besides, how could he explain to Jim what he himself didn’t really understand. It might have nothing to do with Alex or the drowning. Maybe he was just burnt out, a little depressed, just seeing the world a little darker right now.
“What? Oh, sorry. You know what, I’m fine. Why don’t you head back to bed? I’m just going to do some research. Handwriting, okay, no tapping of keys.”
“I’m already up,” Jim said, “and I’ve got my tea to drink. You go do your research. I’ll be out on the balcony.”
Blair watched Jim walk over and open the balcony door and step outside. He picked up his own mug and wandered over to the dining room table, powered down his laptop and closed his notebook. Crossing the living room, he stepped out onto the balcony and joined Jim at the railing.
Jim blew on his tea, sending fragrant wisps of steam into the air. “It’s going to be a beautiful day,” he said.
Blair gazed out over the bay to the just lightening horizon beyond. “Yes, it is.”
Maybe that freight train he thought was coming was just the dawn of a new day.