Basira didn’t cry when Tim was declared dead at the scene. She didn’t cry when the ambulance took Jon away. She didn’t cry as she searched for Daisy, long after the first responders had told her there was no one left there, and long after the sun rose and proved them right. She didn’t cry as she sat silently in their car, the shock blanket she was supposed to be wearing discarded, forgotten, in the passenger seat beside her.
She didn’t cry when the engine snagged and she had to turn the key back and try it again, gentler, the way Daisy had shown her to. She didn’t cry as she pulled the car onto the highway, almost empty this early in the early morning, and picked a route towards London.
Basira didn’t cry when the news on the radio reported about the blast, didn’t cry when they got everything wrong, and when she got most of it wrong trying to mentally correct them. The Stranger had a horrible effect. She didn’t cry when the next channel over was halfway through her favorite song, right at the part where Daisy always messed up the lyrics.
She didn’t think about what she would do next. If she was honest with herself, she hadn’t expected to be alive this morning. But she was, and they weren’t, and she didn’t cry.
She’d seen and done a lot of things as a sectioned police officer that she had cried over, after all the reports were filed away and no one else was looking. She wondered if maybe she was just empty now. If she didn’t have any more tears left. Maybe that was a good thing. They didn’t do anything for her anyways. She needed to drive, and so she drove. She didn’t miss the exit. She thought that maybe that was something that people who were grieving did, got so distracted they stopped checking the road signs. She checked every sign she drove past. She didn’t cry.
She didn’t have to drive back to the Institute. Today was her day off, it seemed. No secretive force compelled her into work like it always did. She wondered if she was free of it forever, because now she wasn’t needed by it. It wasn’t likely. She still didn’t cry.
The front entrance looked bigger than it had when she’d left. Absolutely monstrous, towering above her that way. She straightened her hijab and took a deep breath, then stepped inside. She didn’t think her shoes had always clicked on the tile. Maybe she was walking differently. Maybe she’d always been preoccupied before. What a funny thing to concentrate on now. She had to concentrate on something. Her footsteps were as good a thing to concentrate on as any.
Basira didn’t cry as she drifted through the halls. She didn’t pause by Elias’s office. He’d seen it all, and he wouldn’t be there if things had gone right. If they’d gone right. She wasn’t sure, but she thought they might have. They stopped the Unknowing, they saved the world. That was the plan. Things had gone according to plan. She did not cry.
Melanie and Martin were in the archive. They looked tired, but they were speaking animatedly. They fell silent when she entered. They probably expected her to say something. She didn’t speak.
“Well?” It was Melanie. “How’d it go? Where is everyone?”
She didn’t cry. She didn’t speak, either. She looked between them, and slowly formed words in her mind. They waited.
“We- It’s stopped. The world isn’t ending.” She was quiet again. It didn’t feel true. It felt like she was saying it had been a success. It hadn’t. She decided. It really, really hadn’t.
“And the others?” Martin this time. But he knew that. He had to know. They both had to be able to tell from the look on her face, from the fact that they couldn’t hear Tim crowing their victory down the hall, from the fact that Jon hadn’t been the first back to the archives with a tape recorder running, from how absolutely barren and empty the Institute felt without Daisy. They had to know already. She couldn’t understand why he’d ask.
“Basira? Are you okay? What happened?” She suddenly couldn’t see them. Her vision was blurred, and then doubled, and then just blurred again, and she panicked for a moment. It looked just like what the Stranger had done, but her mind was sane now. She thought it was. She thought she could trust her senses again.
And then she blinked and the tears fell down her cheeks. She couldn’t stop them, and they followed, one after another, twin streams running away with the dirt she was coated in, as though they meant to cut away at her until nothing remained.
She didn’t know which of them was hugging her and she didn’t really care. She buried her face in their shoulder and cried. She wasn’t entirely sure, but she thought that they were crying too.