Letting Go By Inches

By Fish/Jiolee

You're about halfway to your lab before your realize that stalking out of the 'Gateroom was both transparent and rude, but then you realize two other things; that it's too late to do anything about it now and that you don't really care, anyway. So you keep walking. It's strange, but you're beginning to notice the details that you hadn't had time to pay attention to before, things like new doors and fresh coats of paint, little markers of the passage of time, reminders of the three months you wasted trying to rescue a man who never wanted to be saved.

You walk into your office, almost slamming the door behind you, but instead catching it at the last moment and closing it softly. Uncharacteristically, your lab is in a complete state of disarray, the accumulation of three month's worth of all-nighters. Kicking aside some of the disposable coffee cups that have overflowed from the trash can onto the floor, you drop heavily down onto a stool and rest your head in your hands. On the corner of the bench, next to your right elbow, sits the three-inch-thick final engineering schematic for the particle accelerator. All sorts of destructive thoughts run through your head; you want to torch it, shred it, throw it at something breakable. But, no. Those things would take far too much energy, and anyway, Sam Carter doesn't get angry and destroy things. So instead you settle for shoving it onto the floor, taking a perverse delight in the slap it makes as it hits the concrete and the way the pages spill out onto the floor.

There is a knock and the muffled sound of someone (Daniel) calling your name, but you ignore it, turning your head away from the door and resting one cheek flat upon the tabletop. It isn't until after the third knock when the door swings open anyway that you realize that you forgot to lock it.

"Sam?" Daniel sounds hesitant, unsure. You can't really blame him. With a sigh, you raise your head and look at him expectantly. "Um, Janet sent me. She said you need to clear medical."

You snort. Yeah, right. "Daniel, tell Janet that if Edora harbored anything dangerous, we'd know about it by now."

Uninvited, Daniel steps over the scattered papers and perches on the stool across from you. "She's just worried about you, Sam," he answers slowly. The 'we all are' attached to it is unspoken, but you roll your eyes anyway.

"I'm fine," you reply tersely. You glance about your office, looking for your car keys. "I'm going home." When was the last time you were home? Oh, God, the plants are all dead and the post office will have stopped your mail and…

"Sam." Daniel interrupts your spiraling train of thought. "I don't think you should drive right now." He's trying for reasonable yet authoritative, but all it does it make you mad.

Pushing off the table with your palms, you stand a little too quickly and your vision grays out for just a moment. When everything blinks back into focus Daniel has obviously noticed, but thankfully keeps his mouth shut as you gather your backpack from your desk drawer and throw it over one shoulder. You're about to walk out when that very small, still-rational, not-angry part of your brain prompts you to look back at Daniel, who is regarding you with the same uncertain expression he walked in with.

"Thanks," you say softly. Then you are gone.

By the time you get out of the mountain and into the parking lot it is, of all things, snowing. You'd forgotten about things like weather and seasons; the last time you checked a calendar it was September, and the shift from fall to winter is just yet another reminder of all the time you lost. Of course, time wasn't the only thing you lost.

Shivering, wearing only BDU's, you wrap your arms around your chest and dash over to your car, fumbling with your keys. Sliding behind the steering wheel, you pull the door shut and take a moment to examine the crust of dirt, dead leaves, ice and snow that now obscures your windshield. There's no way the wipers can handle that, but it'll be easier to get it off if you heat up the car first, so you turn over the engine. Or try to, that is; the starter protests with a half-hearted whine before giving out completely. Dead battery. Go figure. You'll have to find someone to jump it. Furiously, you rip your keys from the ignition and step back outside.

Suddenly, standing there in the snow, the unfairness of it all is too much for you. You don't scream, don't cry, because that's not what you do; instead, you hit something. Without thinking, in a reflexive and almost defensive move, you drop your keys, spin, and punch the driver's side window so hard that the glass spiderwebs. The reverberations from the blow rattle your shoulder, but it doesn't hurt. Standing in the snow with a broken battery, a broken window and a broken hand is nothing, nothing, compared to a broken heart.

After a while, you swallow, bend down and pick up your keys. Today you're just surviving, but tonight you'll have to patch up your knuckles, and tomorrow you can't let it get to you.

You're letting go by inches. It won't hurt as bad tomorrow, but today…today it hurts like hell.