Disclaimer: Not mine. Rating: PG

Notes: Written in a hurry. AU, Message in A Bottle.

Eternal Flame

by Ana Lyssie Cotton

She doesn't know how long she's been standing there. Possibly forever. Possibly only as long as it took for the parasite to completely cover her skin. In the UV light she glows like a corpse after nine days.

The stench is sickly-sweet.

She has no wonders left in the world to discover, no life to speak of, no technological marvels to decipher.

There is, simply, him.

And he is as dead as he was the day she made the decision to stop his heart.

It gained them nothing, and the irreversible damage slowly spread.

She thinks it might cover a good portion of Colorado by now, but she stopped doing calculations sometime after Simmons died.

Daniel is there, too, somewhere leaning against the wall. Teal'c watches over the three of them, condemned to survive longer as Junior struggles against the virus.

Once, she could have made an educated guess how long that would take.

But an educated guess is what doomed this planet to its quiet death, and so she doesn't make those anymore.

Oh, they tried to stop it, once they'd realized there was no way to communicate. They'd been wrong, and random patterns had destroyed too many control mechanisms. With the gate undiallable (and locked up. Teal'c had tried, with the help of several of the larger marines), there was no way to leave the planet.

They couldn't even get a message out to the Tollan or the Nox.

Captain Sam Carter doesn't quite remember when the weight of the guilt slammed into her. When she stopped caring whether they could find a solution. This was her fault, and she had condemened a planet to die.

But it was enough that he was still impaled on a wall in the gateroom. They'd tried to revive him, tried to get his body down, but Jack O'Neill had been a stubborn man in life, too.

And so she stayed.

Until her skin glowed, until Daniel's skin shimmered, until Teal'c finally gave in completely and sat at her feet, head bowed in resignation.

The great Tauri would never ride to the defeat of his false gods.

Instead, they would dwindle into dust, their very essences consumed for nothing. No reason.

And that is the bitterest irony of all.

She has failed, and there will be nothing to come of it.