What Price A Soul

"Sounds right to me."
"What does?"
"Your heart."
Holding back emotion was something Jack was good at, even when considering the old adage of there being a time and a place for everything. Right now seemed like a good time to consider his loss with more than just a fleeting recognition that he really didn't have a heart anymore, at least not in the physical sense.
Mechanical man was what he considered himself to be, when he actually took a moment to dwell on the pain and fear that became all-consuming when faced with his own impending death. The notion of dying for a good cause, for family, for friends, and ultimately for country and planet, held a greater appeal, an almost subconscious acceptance of fate when compared to giving everything up for something meaningless.
A knife to the chest. Malice and intent were fueled by drugs, and the knife wielded by a kid that had far too many years to go before he would be an adult. Jack had misjudged the situation by not looking for danger in his own neighborhood, especially when the most trouble he bought these days was found on other worlds. But he had friends in higher places who played with far cooler toys. Need a new heart? Sure! Hell, they even let him choose a color and model.
"You okay?" Daniel traced a finger down Jack's chest, paying special attention to the thin scar that marked his mechanical existence. It had faded with time, perhaps far quicker than Jack had expected, but not nearly enough to keep it from serving as a constant reminder of the imbalances in his life.
"Yeah," he grunted with a measure of enthusiasm that generally satisfied Daniel, even though he had long understood that Daniel and gratification were the strangest of bedfellows. Sexual and emotional fulfillment were polar opposites that worked in perfect synch in Daniel's world.
"You don't sound it."
Okay. So sometimes Jack could be wrong.
Daniel had stopped his downward travels to splay the fingers of his right hand over Jack's stomach, fingers sifting, kneading gently through his fine navel and pubic hairs like a cat pawing a pillow. His touch was almost anchoring, yet despite the intimacy and the added feel of Daniel's breath on his shoulder, Jack felt detached from the moment.
Mechanical man wasn't right. All this time quietly mourning the loss of something that amounted to nothing more than muscle and blood, when he should have been comparing himself to the Tin Man, and banging on his chest that all he needed was a heart. Exertion once equated to expended energy and the rush of blood to his ears that rode on the thud of a solid and strong heartbeat.
"I'm sorry." Daniel had uncurled himself from Jack's side and was now lying face-up on his side of the bed, staring at the ceiling. The air around them was suddenly heavy with the scent of unfinished words. "Stupid thing to say."
Jack understood the concept of having a soul, even if he didn't quite believe in the mysticism of it being the pure essence of a person that lives on to be reborn over and over after the physical body had died. The very notion was something dredged up from a long-forgotten philosophy class from his sophomore days, if only he had paid more attention in class.
He held his loss in the palm of his hand as he rubbed his chest, stilling for long enough that he swore he could feel a pit of cold in that place where once his heart had been, and where something totally alien now rested. And if he closed his eyes and blocked out the world around him, he could just barely hear the whoosh of blood circulating through the faint whisper of his life.
He shook his head and let his hand drop to the bed, to land on Daniel's. "Nothing to apologize for," he said and tried to sound as though he meant it, which he supposed he really did.
If death was the ultimate tax to be paid by the living, then what fee would be placed on a man with no heart?


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