Afterwards, after the long, languid kiss in front of thousands of spectators, they are mobbed by the crew of both their rig and ship and any other crew caught on top of the massive alien craft. There is jubilation and relief and a sense of camaraderie that none of them have felt in their lifetimes.

Later, they will liken it to a post-war feeling, like soldiers wandering the streets kissing unsuspecting nurses.

Both sides, the US, and Russia and anyone else who'd been brave enough to get involved in the first place, back off quickly. Terrified by the seeming interminable walls of water, the Cold War has essentially come to a halt. How that continues in the future, no one's quite sure. But for now, humanity embraces, too caught up in the joyful relief of having dodged a sure death to care much about Russian spies.

The appropriate authorities, FBI, CIA, and several other covert organizations arrive minutes after the alien ship floats them to shore. Everyone steps on land, grateful to feel its solid but yielding surface. Questions are asked, the crew is tested, poked and prodded, until finally their health and threat to natural security is found to be satisfactory.

The rig is towed to dry land, and almost as if they're aware it's safe to go the massive craft slowly sinks out from beneath them, ships regaining their displacement in the water, and within minutes, it's gone completely.

Bud watches with Lindsey tucked squarely in his arms, both wrapped in blankets and wearing new, dry clothing supplied by the medical team that examined them, as the ships bob offshore. He's careful not to hold her too tight after catching sight of the bruises and burns on her chest resulting from her all-too-recent resuscitation. She's also got two cracked ribs from that and a host of other minor bumps and scrapes resulting from their underwater bumper boat adventure with Lieutenant Coffey.

Benthic Petroleum is profusely thankful, and happy the majority of the crew is safe. The fact that the rig is salvageable seems to be the icing on the cake. They'll all be paid handsomely and compensated accordingly, the rig crew is promised, and once the various agencies have learned that it was Bud and, in part, Lindsay, who saved humanity from certain death, promises of even more auspicious perks are mentioned. The President may want to talk to them, Medals of Honor are mentioned and even more financial promises are made.

But, for Bud and Lindsey Brigman, and the rest of the rig crew, simply a shower and a warm bed are all they need right now. So, without further ado, they're choppered off to New Orleans, and soon Bud and Lindsey are fresh and clean, snuggled together in a king-size bed in the Windsor Court Hotel, as the sun sets on the day they'll never forget.

Bud gazes out at the waning orange light, Lindsey tucked against him, sleeping soundly after a warm shower and a hefty dose of painkillers. But Bud turned down the proffered pills, wishing instead to feel every single cut and bruise, every pulled muscle. He's never felt so alive as he does right now, a man who only hours ago experienced his own impending end.

And now the woman, who, days before, ensured him she'd be divorcing him soon, lies in his arms for the first time in, god, years, in the impossibly soft, cosy bed, breathing quietly, warm against his chest. In the quiet stillness of the room he listens to her heart beating, and he almost wants to laugh with glee as it is the most beautiful sound he's ever heard.

He's nearing sleep now, he knows, and as the last vestiges of day slip down past the horizon and the city and their room darken, Lindsey's living lullaby of lubs and dubs ushers him off to sleep.

It turns out the promises made on that day are meant to be kept and soon Bud, and the rest of the crew are media darlings, with every news station clamouring for their story and how they saved the world. Despite some initial hesitance on behalf of the intelligence community, Bud, Lindsey and the crew of the rig do one interview with CNN, one week later. They are warned to keep anything classified classified, and are forced to gloss over the actions of Lieutenant Coffey.

Soon after (after, Bud gleefully informs Hip and One Night, Lindsey calls her lawyer and withdraws her petition for divorce,) they get their promised triple-time paychecks from Benthic, and then, a few days later, each of them receive a compensation check from the government that makes the first check seem utterly insignificant and leaves them all with slack jaws.

Bud Brigman hasn't been near this kind of money in his entire life. He stares at the check, as Lindsay sleeps, taking an afternoon nap in the hotel room that has been their home for the past ten days.

He glances at her, beautiful as hell even in sleep, and makes a decision. He takes a taxi to the bank and quickly deposits it, buys a car and stops by his apartment, loading the few meagre possessions he owns into it. Then he walks into a realtor (he's always loved this city) and walks out two hours later holding the deed and the keys to a two-storey four-bedroom home on four acres in River Ridge (with a pool, of course.) He heads back to the hotel.

He doesn't know how she'll react. He knew he had to do it, though. He'd been living like a frat boy in the years since they split. Hell, even before they split. He knew she had wanted structure, wanted him to finally grow up, he'd never had the money or the guts to do anything like this before.

He gingerly enters the room, finding her at the window, looking out at the city below, lazily sipping some tea. She turns and her face lights up when she sees him. His gut drops, and he steadies himself on the dresser. God, she's beautiful. And it seems almost too much when she gets up to walk over to him, that dazzling smile still on her face. He wonders, idly, if he's dying, right now, on that rocky outcrop and everything that's happened since then is merely the fevered dreams of an oxygen-deprived mind.

"Where've you been?" she asks, still grinning, stepping up to him and kissing him languidly. He needs her shoulders to steady him this time, wrapping his arms around her neck so his knees won't give out. She pulls away, her limpid brown eyes lidded, still expecting an answer.

He smiles, he can't help himself. "I, uh, was getting some things done." Some things I should have done a long time ago, he thinks but doesn't say, and hands her the two sets of keys.

She stares at the metal objects in her hands for a quick second, before looking back up at him, bemused but clearly still amused, a half smile pushing up the corner of her mouth.

"What're these for?" she asks, looking back down at them, and then back up at him. Her smile has reached the other side of her mouth now and he can tell now she's cheerfully curious.

"These," he says, delicately tapping the car keys, "are for a 1987 Mercedes 300E."

She lets out a little gasp, her head sharply rising to look at his face. "Bud, you bought me a car?"

He smiled. "Us, hon, I bought us a car. And a goddamn nice one at that."

She laughs that laugh that makes him feel all fluttery inside, and he gestures to the other set of keys.

"And this is for the front door of 234 Garden Road, River Ridge, Louisiana." He ignores her scoff of disbelief, pointing to the other key on the ring, "And this one's for the back door."

She laughs again, floored, and looks up at him incredulously. "Good Lord, Bud, you bought a house?"

He smiles. "Us, Lins, I bought us a house. And I promise you you're going to love it."

She looks back down at the keys in her hand, and when she looks back up, there are tears pooling in her eyes. She doesn't look happy, not completely, but she shares that smile of nervous hope that he's wearing right now. He can see her thinking about it, weighing the possibilities and consequences.

She looks back down at the keys, and a little laugh escapes her throat. He laughs, too, relief flooding him, his heart resuming a normal rhythm. He pulls her into his arms, hugging her to him gently, mindful of her still-healing wounds.

He wipes away a tear from her cheek, and she lifts her chin to look into his eyes.

"No crying, remember?" he says, and she half-laughs, half-sobs, and kisses him squarely on the mouth.