||[Aug. 23rd, 2005|04:45 pm]
Jack O'Neill stared down at the stack of DoD forms and publications on the desk. He was coming out of retirement in order to do one thing, and he wasn't going to be needing a medical plan or, for that matter, guidelines for the management of logistics teamwork optimising regulations. A second later he had swept the whole stack into the circular file and was ready to be done with it. But his fingers caught on a thick binder that had been hidden in the bottom of the pile. It felt oddly familiar, like running into an old friend from high school, or seeing, out of the corner of your eye, somebody that you thought was dead--|
His hand clenched into a fist and he went down the gym to work out. He'd let himself get out of shape, and some time with the boxing gloves would probably help.
But at the end of the day, when he went back up to the bare office to grab his coat, the binder was still sitting there, and he was worn out-- wiped out-- enough to look at it without thinking. The title, printed in the standard DoD black lettering on the front, said "Manual for the use of thaumaturgical and paraphysical methods toward strategies for long-term management. (MUTMTTSLM)" Slowly, he flipped it open. The table of contents was, typically, long and convoluted and full of half-familiar technical phrases like "xenomantics" and "temporospatial claudications", but the first section was titled simply, "Oath."
He flipped it shut again. This was obviously a joke. Maybe Kawalsky thought it would be funny. He knew they'd been talking about him behind his back, that he needed something to bring him out of himself, but he right now he didn't feel like laughing. Or even taking the trouble to ferret out who, exactly, thought that mocking up a manual of magic use would be funny. All the same, he grabbed it along with his coat to take home. Maybe at least it would give him an excuse not to talk to Sarah tonight.
Jack closed up from the binder and, much to his suprise, found that it was past midnight. Sarah had given up on him hours ago and gone up to bed alone. That was fine; he'd been spending his nights on the couch lately anyway. The manual had, against his will, managed to draw him in. He was only a few chapters in; he had always been a slow reader, getting through books through sheer necessity as much as anything (He remember his mother telling stories about his boyhood, how he would read anything in English and always had his nose in a book, but that was a long time ago, before-- before a lot of things happened.)
The manual, if a joke, was an incredibly elaborate one. None of the guys would be capable of writing this, even if they'd had the attention span for it. The geeks working on those useless heiroglyphics, yeah, maybe they could do it, but he couldn't think of any reason why they'd put in the effort. They weren't part of this.
It was after two o'clock in the morning, and he knew he ought to get some sleep before heading back to the mountain. It wasn't that he wanted to, but his choices (as always) were to dream or to face the rest of the night awake and alone, and right now, he couldn't decide which would be worse. So he opened the manual again.
The pages had changed.
The section on the Oath, he was prety damn sure, had been in the beginning. He'd skipped it because the explations sounded too much like the crap that counselor had mumbled about, the courage to live and finding your own way to hope and other things he'd given up lately. But this page was in the middle of the binder, and held only the oath itself. He mouthed the words to himself, and they felt right in his mouth in a way that nothing had felt right for a very long time: "I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so-- till universe's end." and then he closed his eyes, and closed the manual. Nothing got better.
He went upstairs to sleep beside Sarah one more time. He didn't believe in any of that stuff any more anyway.