Broken Lullabies


"Then the traveler in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so."

-- Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

-

He didn't know when it had changed. Not even with Sha'uri, really, because there had been her son still to save--something left to fight for, and he had been so naively unwilling to let that slip away. Sometime after that, a year later, maybe, or it might have been two.

He was the last one to notice how different he had become. Everyone else must have seen it long before, because looking back, all of the concerned glances, the hushed whispers--well, their secret purpose had become clear. Daniel Jackson was dying, and he was the only that didn't know it.

Sure, physically he was fine. He was in almost perfect condition; shocking, according to Janet, who said she'd expect more trouble for someone that had died as many times as him. He'd thought that was probably something she didn't get to say everyday, at the time, but later, he had remembered where she worked and realized she probably did.

So it wasn't that, the sarcophagus had put him back together well enough. Kept him working when he shouldn't be, and that wasn't the problem at all. He was worrying that maybe, though, the sarcophagus had extracted payment he hadn't noticed was gone--tiny pieces of his soul he hadn't thought to miss, and the loss of them hadn't added up until now.

He was walking dead. He could barely feel his own heartbeat let alone anything else, and as he leaned against the stone wall, imprints of a dead language burning into his back, he realized he didn't care. He was so god damn numb, and he didn't know how it had happened, how he had reached this point without ever noticing anything in-between.

Nothing fascinated him anymore, and though he was still doing his best to help people, it was more from some deep-seated routine imbedded within him than any actual compassion on his part. Anyone could see it, one look and they knew, and Daniel didn't understand why he hadn't recognized what had happened when he looked in the mirror.

When he saw himself he thought he looked the same. His hair was shorter now, and he wore his contacts as often as his glasses nowadays, but that was it. No tell-tale shadows under his eyes, he hadn't lost weight. If anything he'd bulked up, and he didn't remember how that had happened, either. He wasn't sure it mattered.

Jack was patrolling the area around the small alter on which he stood. He could see him in the corner of his eye, walking restless circles, his hands resting serenely on his weapon. Daniel didn't know why he bothered, he really didn't, but he didn't trust himself at the moment to understand anything--because he didn't even care about the language at his fingertips and all around him, preserved in stone and not spoken for so long the expanse of time was staggering.

He knew, distantly, that he should care. This was the kind of thing he used to dream about, when he was younger, and he still dreamed about things that hadn't caused him to wake up screaming. Not that he did that, anymore, either. He saw black when slept lately, and nothing else. Part of him thought maybe he shouldn't be so relieved by that.

His eyes lowered towards his journal, which he had let slip from his fingers to the ground. The pages were unsteady, flickering in the wind, but the words were clear enough from where he stood. It was so matter-of-fact, what he had written, and there was no tone hiding beneath the notes. No personal observations, no enthusiasm. Looking at it, he could hardly remember writing those words.

"Hey, Daniel, you okay?"

The concerned voice is measured, calculated in a way Daniel doesn't quite remember hearing from Jack before. He looked over at him, confused for a moment that he had managed to get so close. He stood just two feet away, his left hand tapping some strange tune off the metal of his gun.

Daniel smiled brightly, and with sudden, sickening realization he knew the smile wasn't real. It was some kind of weird defense he must have built up, some parody of normalcy that wasn't fooling him anymore. He hadn't smiled in a long time, but if Jack noticed it was forced, he couldn't tell. The sunglasses hid his eyes; years of experience hid anything else.

"Fine," he said, and his voice sounded so normal, Daniel almost believed it himself. "Did you need something?"

Jack fiddled with his sunglasses, his head titling momentarily towards the sun. "Nope. Just checkin' in."

Daniel thought it was more likely he was checking up on him, but he didn't let on. Jack could do what he wanted. If he thought he was helping, Daniel would let him. He turned back towards the wall, the glyphs he had never seen before today, but bored him to such an extent that he wondered if this was how Jack felt every time he looked at them. "These are…fascinating," he found himself saying, as though they really were. "I mean, can you imagine, Jack, how long it's been since anyone else has seen these?"

Jack's lips twitched upwards into a smile, but when Daniel glanced at him, he thought the smile probably didn't look anymore real than his. He could fool a lot of people into thinking he was fine, apparently even himself, but he didn't think he was fooling Jack. He turned away quickly, uncomfortable under the older man's stare. Jack had sunglasses to keep his expressions to himself, but Daniel had nothing hiding his. Not from Jack.

"You used to look at those things differently," Jack said, quietly. If Daniel had turned, he would have seen Jack's gaze was on the horizon and not him. "You used to look at them like they meant something I couldn't begin to understand."

Daniel reached out a hand, tracing gently across the grooves. He used to think they did.

Things like this, the discoveries, both large and small, used to mean everything. They were the one constant in his life, the one thing he'd clung to like some guiding star. Like everything else, it had somehow slipped away. He kept trying to capture the feeling again, but when he looked at them now all he saw was stone.

A rustling sound tore his attention away from the wall, and he looked down at his journal. The wind had finally broken through whatever invisible barrier it had been fighting against, and flipped one of the pages to the other side. The writing on the next pages was just the same, the letters so immaculate and evenly spaced it looked as though it had come from a typewriter and not from him. His writing used to be so rushed, so chaotic and hard to read--scrawled down in haste as his mind worked three pages ahead of his hands.

But the pages continued to turn and the writing on them was all the same, until it began to reach the last ones, and they started turning up blank.

The End.