Dearth

A person can do a lot of things in seven seconds. I've recently discovered all I can do, and I check the list once more. Let's see - I can tie both of my shoes, open fifteen cans of beer and drink one, floss my teeth and recite the alphabet in three languages all in seven seconds. Not all at once, of course. No, that would be impossible. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Why on Earth does it matter what can be done in seven seconds? It shouldn't matter at all; it matters so much. The answer is lying down in the infirmary. Seven long, torturous seconds in which I did nothing put Jack O'Neill there. Cut down right in front of me. Seven goddamn seconds.
Sam says the situation was beyond my control; Teal'c assures me not even Bra'tac could have saved Jack. But I know better. My research has proved, and facts don't lie. One or both will come looking for me soon, worried at my seclusion, worried because I'm not at Jack's bedside. I can't be there, I can only be here. Research to conduct. Listening and watching the video evidence of my failure, my complete ineptitude, while one of the truest friends I've ever known slips farther and farther away. The screen is blue again. I rewind the tape, suffer my penance one more time and set up my next challenge.
//"Hey, Daniel, come look at this!" Jack calls out, sounding far too excited.
I don't know what he's so excited about. This whole mission has been a bust as far as I'm concerned; no signs of civilization PLUS there's something nasty floating around in the air, making my allergies flare up with a vengeance. It's not pretty for me, and I know my temperament is the primary reason Sam and Teal'c offered to split from Jack and me. I sigh deeply, fingering the video camera. I hit record and pan across landscape that's frighteningly dull.
"What is it, Jack?" I know I sound like a tired housewife, which is okay because I feel like one, too. One who's stuck in a car with a husband who finds the new term life insurance he sells utterly fascinating and has to share every blessed detail.
"Do you see that down there?" Jack's pointing into a deep ravine. Odd, I didn't notice it before. It seems really out of place. "Those look like buildings. This could be your lucky day."
Okay, I can see why that would excite me but it should make him cranky. I take a step closer to him and he takes a step closer to the edge. Sighing with exasperation, I nudge a little closer. Which is when I notice it - the foundation at the precipice is obviously eroding. Realization strikes as Jack takes one more step away from me.
"Jack!"//
It's here where the seven seconds come to play, so I grab the package of cookies, wait for the exact moment and then shove as many as possible into my mouth.
//He teeters on the edge as if he can somehow salvage the situation, and I'm frozen. I can't move, can't breathe at all. Jack turns slightly, his eyes catching mine and then he falls.//
I can cram thirteen mini Oreos into my mouth in seven seconds! I add it to my tally and keep watching the tape. The video camerawork itself leaves much to be desired but that doesn't matter. I've got my own images. I know I should rewind at this point and try again; thirteen seems a small number. I bet I can do more than that. I hover my thumb over the rewind button, deciding that won't do me any good. The real self-punishment part of the piece is coming up.
//All I can do is watch as his body bounces terribly down the slope, though I can see he's trying to retain some control. The drop isn't vertical, but it's steep enough he's steadily building speed. Gasping harshly, I unfreeze at last, far too late. I don't even think about it. Still clutching the camera in one hand, I plop onto my butt and scoot to the edge to follow Jack down.
I can see exactly where his fall is taking him. Oh, God. I don't want to see this, I have to see this. Jack's flopping now, and I hope he's unconscious. There's a huge boulder about halfway down the cliff, and he's on a collision course for it. I can't stop him now, no. My chance has already passed. Panting, I ignore the discomfort of sharp rocks as they dig into my legs and butt, determined to at least be at his side.
"Jack!" I scream stupidly as he finally impacts the rock with an ominous thud I swear echoes back to me a thousand times.
I reach him, scrabbling and crawling to his side. There's blood all over him and the boulder. Oh, God, his eyes are open, unfocused. How can he even be conscious? Shakily, I pat him down. I don't know what to do what can I do Jack's going to die here. I rip off my jacket and press it to his head, where the bleeding's the worst.
"Sam! Teal'c!" Please help, please, please help me! Help Jack.
"Dan..." I can barely hear him, but the words are loud in my ears. Blood is trickling out the corner of his mouth now. "Dan...iel?"//
"Daniel?" Goddamnit, I forgot to lock the door. I turn off the tape. That's mine alone, not for anyone else to see.
It's Sam, the harbinger of doom and gloom and sisterly love. Two of the three I've already got plenty of, and don't really need the announcement for anyway. Gloom and doom have become my forte. The third? Not really lookin' for love in all the wrong places, so she might as well pack that one right back where she found it. Wherever that is. I spare her a glance. Oh, shit. She's got the doe-eyes going. I've seen them every second she's been with me ever since it happened. I wonder if I could pluck all of the eyelashes off those doe-eyes in seven seconds flat? Probably shouldn't want to. I turn away from her, find the other blue eye staring me down. I can't escape, it seems.
"What do you want?" I'm uncommunicative. Unwilling. Unreceptive. Unenthusiastic. Unforthcoming. Un-everything. Surely she's picked up on that.
"I think you know."
"I don't want to talk about it anymore." See above catalog on how set I am on that, Sam. Come on, you're smart. If the past couple of days haven't already clued you in, I prefer to be alone. "Please go away."
"Politeness won't get you out of this, Daniel. We're all worried about you. It's been two days. The colonel is going to be fine, I'm sure of it," Sam says in a calm, artificially soothing tone, as though she's talking to a suicidal person perched right on the edge. I'm not suicidal. I'm determined. There's a difference, a huge one. My death is not the issue here. "Janet says he's showing marked signs of improvement."
"Great. That's why he's still in a coma, right?" I snap out, instantly furious with myself for rising to the bait. Refusing to look at her, I stare into the hypnotizing blue monitor.
"Damnit, Daniel. You're not the only one who's concerned for him. We're all down there, we need you there, too! The colonel...Jack needs you," she cries, but her words are lies.
I'm not needed down there because I'm needed here. Jack would understand. I'm not going to explain it to her. "Please. Go away. I'm very busy."
"Too busy to eat? Too busy to sleep? Too busy to open up to your friends? You can't be too busy, not if you managed to drink all of this beer. On base. You do realize where you are, don't you, Daniel?" Ooh, she's being snide now. PissySam.
"I'm in my office, Sam," I retort in my aggravating singsong voice, giving her this one skirmish. She wants to talk? Fine. I should tell her she's wrong about me not eating - I just ate thirteen mini Oreos, after all, and the beer, don't forget the beer - but I won't embarrass her by offering up the correction. When I speak again, my tone is flat. "I'm not stupid. I'm doing research."
"Research."
"Oh, you betcha." Jack would be proud I managed to get that across my lips. Jack. "You're interrupting me. Are you going to leave, or shall I call security?"
"Why are you being like this? I just want to help you, Daniel."
"Help me what? How can you help me, Sam? Tell me that."
She's moving closer, I can see her out of the corner of my eye. Too close. She should really back up, get as far away from me as she can. Holding up my hand makes her freeze, but she doesn't retreat like I need her to. Away. Go away before it's too late, Sam. Please.
"What is this?" she asks at last, clearly unable to come up with a way to help me. No hope for the hopeless. "What is this?"
She's given me no choice but to look up, damn her anyway. The tally notebook. She's got my inventory of achievements. I wasn't ready for anyone to see those yet! Not done with the study, there has to be a thousand things to add to it. I stare at her silently as she reads it, her lips moving unconsciously, her eyes flitting around the room as she comes to particular items on the list. But she doesn't know one thing, doesn't know what it all means. She's holding my sanity and insanity in her slender little hands. I'm not sure how I know, but I do.
"What is this?" Sam repeats for the third time, her voice thick and strange and all wrong. Fear. She's scared. "Daniel?"
"I can do all those things, Sam! Don't you see?" I finally break down, spilling my secret to her. "Every last one of them."
"I don't understand." She takes a step forward, and this time I'll allow it only because she's now in on the experiment. I can't keep from stiffening, though. She stops. "Tell me what you mean, Daniel."
"I mean what I just said." Well, I thought she was intelligent but I might have been wrong on that count. "I can do all those things."
"Daniel."
"In seven seconds, Sam! It's amazing, really, what I've managed to accomplish. Don't you think?" I'm beaming now, even though somewhere deep down I know I shouldn't be proud at all.
"Oh, Daniel," Sam sighs. She sounds so sad. So, so sad. Dropping the note pad on my littered desk, she lifts both hands to her face and covers it. Can't look at me. "Oh my God."
"Do you see now why this is so important?" I ask. She must, unquestionably. "I can't stop now, can't until I can't do anything else. I've got a long way to go."
"No, Daniel. You have to stop. This won't help anyone, and it's hurting you."
Blasphemy. Denigration of the only truth I've known for two days. I'm on my feet, arms swinging and sweeping everything off the top of my desk in a fit of anger. Sam jumps back as I rail on the products of my research, kicking beer cans and crushing cookies into sugary black dirt on the floor. Foam spills from one of the cans, turning the dirt to mud and filling my nostrils with its terrible yeasty smell. I gag, shove a hand over my mouth because I know she's right.
"Daniel," softly, cautiously, Sam speaks into my ear. At my side and I don't know how she got there. Her arms are around me like a welcome warm blanket I want to shove off but can't. She's relentless and strong, refusing to allow me leave. "Please, let it go."
"It's not. It's not!" I sob, turning my face into her shoulder at last.
"It's not hurting you?"
"It's not helping! It's not. Nothing can. Why can't anything? It should. Why can I do all these things when I couldn't help Jack? I don't understand why," I wail, unable to stop this as I was unable to stop the tests. Her hands are rubbing up and down my back, circling and offering comfort I know I don't deserve.
"I wish I could give you an answer, Daniel. You know I can't," she simply whispers. Through my anguish, I'm glad she's not going to continue with the false declarations of my blamelessness. "I do know nothing you do now can change what happened then. You can't keep torturing yourself like this. Jack wouldn't want this, and you know it."
I try to twist out of her hold. She still won't let go, won't ever let me go. Sam's right about Jack, too. God, but that doesn't help me either. There's something so big and sinister and scary in me, chilling the outer edges of my mind and spirit. I don't know how it got there, and I don't know how to rid myself of it. Shuddering, I feel my legs giving way and expect pain to follow as I hit the ground but none comes. Sam guides me down, keeping a tight rein on my shoulders as we form an awkward pretzel of arms and legs. I hear her whispering, though can't understand the words. We're moving in a slow rhythm, back and forth.
And back. I see it on the floor, hapless and forlorn where it once was the crowning illustration of my triumphs. Breaking slightly from Sam's arms, she's resistant to my departure but I can't let her stop me this time. She sighs and follows, hand ever present on my shoulder. Lifting it, I flip through the pages until I find my masterpiece. I trace the many words with a fingertip and hear Sam's breath catch in her throat as she waits. I know what I have to do.
Roughly tearing the sheet from the book, I shred it into tiny fragments and let it flutter like confetti to the floor atop the sick mud already there. For Jack.
For me.
The End

 

 

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.