ďFaithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.Ē

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† -J. R. R. Tolkien

 

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Four months, eight days, three hours, and fifty-seven minutes.

 

Thatís how long itís been. I can tell without even having to look at a watch now-my obsession with time these last few months has evolved into a sort of sixth sense about it, an internal clock so infallible that itís a curse because my head counts every second consciously, the tick-tocking more recognizable to me than my own heartbeat.

 

But as Iím pretty sure that my heart hasnít been working at all for the last four months, eight days, three hours and fifty-eight minutes, thatís not really a surprise.

 

Everything else has been working in hyper drive, refusing to rest until I knew how to fix it. I have no idea how much Iíve slept since we left him here, but I bet Daniel and Tealíc could tell you as easily as I could tell you that itís been four months, eight days, three hours, and fifty-nine minutes since the ice overtook him and I saw him last, my trembling hand against the cold that imprisoned him. They could probably tell you every piece of food Iíve eaten-Iím sure it isnít much. When your soul is stuck at sub-zero, itís hard to remember trivial things like food.

 

But this is the moment, the one that could make all the difference. Weíve worked until we were dead on our feet, weíve worked until our ankles swelled and our eyes blurred, weíve worked until we hit a brick wall, and then we buckled down and broke through it. So here we stand with some Ancient gadget weíve all agreed is our best shot and we cradle our last splinter of hope, which is even more fragile here in the punishing cold.

 

AndÖwe hesitate.

 

Iím holding the only chance we have in our hands, and yet I pause. Because it is our only chance, and if this doesnít work, itís over. Iím not sure I can face that possibility. Itís never been an option in my mind, never an outcome I entertained because it would mean that some part of me believed that his goodbye had been my own.

 

I canít say goodbye to him.

 

For the first time in four months, eight days, four hours and two minutes, time seems to stand still as I quake in the face of my own crisis of faith. Daniel shoots me a look, the concerned one he gets when his brain seems to slow down enough for him to hear his heart and he gets it. And itís enough to push me into action-I flip the switch, Daniel chants a few words, and the room is filled with a brilliant light, not blue like the Stargate we all love so much without reason, but silver. Itís intense and cold and terrifying, but then itís all over and with a rush of freezing water and a groan, heís falling.

 

Falling straight out of his coffin and into my ready arms.

 

Heís soaking wet and with him clinging to me like this, so am I. But I donít feel it, even as it hardens on my skin. All I feel is the rush of his warm breath across my neck as his head lands on my shoulder, the firmness of his chest against mine, and the quakes as his body coughs and sputters back to life.

 

And then he groans again, and his brown eyes look up at me and mutter one word: ďSam.Ē

 

My heart starts beating again with such a violence that it actually hurts. My fingers tangle in his wet hair and my tears burn on my wind-burnt face and for one blessed second, itís just him and me, together.

 

It fades of course, Tealíc points out that we have to get him back to the surface, to safety, to medical help. Daniel is grinning like an idiot and weíre all stumbling to get out of here. I, for one, never want to see snow again.

 

In the helicopter heís stripped down out of the wet clothes-I avert my eyes through a sheer act of will-and rolled in dry blankets, and he looks like Jack again. He turns to us and the first words out of his mouth actually donít have a punch line. Itís just a simple question, ďHow long?Ē

 

I can feel everyoneís eyes glide towards me and I donít even think to hesitate to answer because by now, itís habit and they all know it anyway. ďFour months, eight days, four hours, and three and a half seconds, Sir.Ē

 

He raises an eyebrow and the corner of his mouth turns up, but he knows not to say anything and I glare back at him defiantly, willing him to try. He doesnít take the bait, and I see his own eyes spinning. ďItís July 27th?Ē he asks finally, and I frown, lost.

 

Dates long ago stopped making sense to me-time was relevant only with regards to those four months, eight days, four hours, and three and a half seconds. After a nod from Daniel, I shrug and nod in confirmation and this receives a huge grin from Jack. ďI didnít miss it!Ē

 

I want to know what ďitĒ is, but he refuses to explain and because I just got him back and am still reeling with the glory of it, I let him get away with it.

 

Itís not until later, when heís tucked into the Infirmary after having us hang over him for hours, drooping off with sleep, real sleep, and Iím standing there beside him alone that he smiles at me, the smile I donít see too often now but remember clearly all the same, the smile he uses just for me. He smiles it and it still makes my heart jump, but itís his words that make my head reel.

 

ďEight years, 12 hours, 7 minutes, and thirty-two seconds ago,Ē he says certainly without having to look at a clock, ďwas the first time I saw you.Ē

 

I make some sort of surprised sound, something next to an undignified squeak, and he smiles again from my no doubt shell-shocked expression. ďHappy anniversary, Sam.Ē

 

He slips into sleep easily, leaving me with nothing to do but gaze down at him in wonder.

 

I guess Iím not the only one who suffers from an obsession with time.