Four Minutes *R* 1/1
Deslea R. Judd
DISCLAIMER: Situations not mine. Interpretation mine. Deal.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name and headers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: X Files Movie (FTF) - missing scene.
CATEGORY: Angst, baby! Vignette. SAC Darius Michaud POV.
RATING: R for low-level sexual situations and language.
SUMMARY: SAC Darius Michaud has four minutes to live. Funny how that changes your point of view. Written for the Purity "What's Your POV?" challenge.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This one is kind of experimental and fragmented. Whether you think it works or not, I'd love to know what you think.
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com/
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. firstname.lastname@example.org
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: First Place, "What's Your POV?", Purity Fanfic Challenge. Recommended by A Quiet Place To Read (June 2001), YMMV (July 2001), Through The Looking Glass (August 2001), and Lara's Favourites (October 2001). Finalist, 2001 Spooky Awards (Outstanding Other Series Character Characterisation - SAC Darius Michaud).
It occurs to him that counting seconds is probably not the best way of using the ones remaining.
It's like one of those Zen questions. Which would you prefer - instant death with its accompanying oblivion, or a drawn out death with all its dread? Darius Michaud had always thought the latter. He liked to be prepared. Now, though, he knows that no preparation is enough. His whole life has been a preparation for death, and it isn't enough. It isn't the first thing he's been wrong about in his life, but he suspects it might be the last.
Patriotism. Such a petty value. All his life, he has cast his loyalties on the strength of arbitrary divisions of geography. He has done so without question - but never, never without reflection. Maybe it isn't such a petty value, then. Still, looking back, he wonders whether it was the right one.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
It was a simple task he'd been entrusted with. Search for a bomb in all the wrong places, and when it couldn't be found, evacuate the vicinity with four minutes to spare. It was, perhaps, somewhat ignoble work; but it wasn't all bad. Straightening his shirt that morning, he'd rationalised that lives would be saved. Whatever murky agenda lay beneath the devastation to follow that day; that, at least, would be a good thing.
He can still leave, he supposes.
He can run out; he can say the incendiary device is not one he has seen. No-one would blame him. No-one at all.
Except he *has* seen one before, and that's something that will come out. Before Oklahoma and its endless, righteous investigation, he could have deluded himself otherwise; now, he knows the truth. If he runs, it will all be for nothing. Risking these people's lives will have been for nothing. And he will be a coward, to others, and to himself.
He could leave another way, perhaps. There's a fire escape out the back, and he doubts it's guarded. But if his body isn't found...well, that would open a whole new can of worms, wouldn't it? Besides...he thinks faking his death is just about the cruellest thing he could do to his kids.
And he'd still be a coward. For a man of principle and heroism, that seems to be an oddly recurrent theme. He thinks with sour irony that he'll probably be given a medal after he dies. If only they knew that heroism isn't what keeps him here, second after second as every atom in his being commands him to go. It's cowardice - merely cowardice of a more self-absorbed kind. The special cowardice of those who fear being cowards.
It occurs to him that wondering about motives is a pretty dumb use of the two minutes, forty-nine - excuse me, forty-eight seconds remaining.
The last faces he saw were those of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Jeez. Lucked out there. They weren't bad people, but what a pair of fuck-ups. It took a special kind of fucked-upness to get thrown out of the X Files. That was a bit like being thrown out of wiretapping. Darius Michaud, of course, had excelled at wiretapping. He hadn't stayed there very long, and soon he'd excelled at everything else. His boss liked to call him a good, solid man. Good worker, good thinker. But he wouldn't have found that bomb. It took fuckups like Mulder and Scully to do that. That pissed him off. It pissed him off because of pride, maybe even more than it pissed him off that he would have to die for it. Now, with two minutes twenty-something seconds left, it pisses him off still.
He can't suppress just a touch of admiration, though. He doesn't try. He suspects a little goodwill, even at this late date, might be good for his soul.
He thinks a change in topic might be in order. After all, he has only a finite amount of time left.
Scully. Pretty redhead. He imagines pushing her against a wall and laying his mouth over hers, but it isn't really Scully, of course. It's his wife, Kathy; and that's one person he just might see again in the near future. He hopes so. Being blown to bits just might be worthwhile if that were so.
He did a good job with the kids. Better than he did by her, at any rate. It's pretty hard to do worse, but with the wisdom of retrospect, he can't think too badly of himself. Who the hell knew about postnatal depression in 1972? Her death was almost an afterthought to a year of confusion - his, as well as hers. If he owed her anything, he thinks he's paid. If not - well, he'll soon know.
It occurs to him that he will go out with a bang. Pity there's no-one here with whom to share his rapier wit.
That seems less funny now than it did a few seconds ago.
He decides that he doesn't want to know exactly when death is about to come. He bows his head in his hands.
Who knew that time could go so slowly? Maybe he should jerk off to pass the time. Except then they'd find him with his dick in his hand, and that would be even more humiliating than dying for Mulder and Scully.
It saddens him that everything important in his life can be thought of in less than four minutes.
Mulling it over, he can see that his thinking has become fragmented. Is this his mind shutting down, closing the curtains and turning off the lights, locking up and walking away in anticipation of demolition? Will he be left here, a mindless shell when the end comes? Some might be comforted by the thought; Darius Michaud is not. It makes him panicky and desperate, clawing at his sanity to keep it for himself.
He will die in his right mind.
It is at one minute twenty-three that the shakes set in. He knows this even though his hands are over his face, because he can see the numbers move between the gap in his fingers. Fifty-two years old, and he's peeking like a kid playing hide-and-seek. He'd laugh, but he knows it will come out a shuddering moan, and if anything can blow his composure to bits, that's it.
Through the pounding in his head he reflects that that was a bad choice of words.
Unbidden, an image of his daughter rises in his mind. He slams it back. If anything can make him run, that can. No parent has the right to do what he's about to do. No parent has the right to willfully leave his child to fend for herself, whether she's nine or twenty-nine or forty-nine. But he has no choice, so thinking of her is something he can't afford to do. Pretty crappy farewell, honey. Sorry about that.
He really has to stop looking at that clock.
He wonders what it will be like.
The blast will throw him back against the rear wall - he knows that much. Will he be dead by then? Probably. The force will tear his body to pieces in an instant. He'll land against the wall in a spray of blood and tissue. With clinical precision, he wonders whether he'll still be thinking when that happens - whether the blood powering his brain will keep him going for a few final seconds before shutting down. Decapitated chickens do that, he remembers dimly. So do lizards. They swing whatever's left of their bodies, searching blindly for their tails and their legs. A sudden image comes to him, cartoon-like, of his head (or part of it) lodged into the wall behind him, looking across to a stray limb. "I could use a hand here." There's a macabre sort of humour to the thought. Perhaps he should have been a horror writer. Or an undertaker.
There will be a funeral, of course. Something dignified and proper. Stars and stripes draped over the casket, that sort of thing. His son will give a eulogy and his daughter will do the bible readings. He hasn't been to Sunday mass in years - he's strictly a Christmas-and-Easter Catholic - but they'll do a funeral mass nonetheless. He wonders whether they'll give him a full casket. He supposes they will, but it strikes him as horribly wasteful, considering they'll probably only recover a few bones and teeth. He hopes they'll at least have the sense to cremate him.
One benefit to not leaving a recognisable body is that no-one will dress him. They won't put on his service uniform or his medals. Vietnam wasn't his war, and it pleases him that it won't define his final rest. He's glad he went, but he's even more glad that he came home.
Too late now. Even if he leaped to his feet and fled as fast as his legs would carry him, he couldn't get away in time now. He is in limbo - too early for death, too late for anything else. Twilight time - between the light and the dark. He's fast discovering a long-neglected poet in his soul.
0.38. 0.37. 0.36.
Time is speeding up. The shaking is worse, and the pounding in his head is louder and faster. His skin is cold, but perspiration streaks down his face in torrents. He is brave, he is strong, and he's scared as all hell. And he's hard - hard as a rock. Harder than he's been since he was eighteen years old. The confusion of instincts makes a strange sort of sense. Reproduction is the opposite of death, after all - the ultimate expression of life. Little wonder his most primitive instinct would be to procreate in the moment of death. The ultimate rebellion. If there was a woman here, any woman, he has no doubt he'd be screwing her right now.
0.31. 0.30. 0.29.
He closes his eyes beneath his palms, but still he marks the time on the audible ticks of his wristwatch. If Kathy were here, he'd push her against the wall, as far from the bomb as he could. He'd cover her with his body, shielding her however he could, and then he'd be ripping at her trousers (funny how he sees her in today's clothes, not the lime-coloured flares she died in) and she'd unzip him and let him lift her against the wall. He'd drive into her, none of the gentleness he'd shown her in life, no finesse, just the primitive transmission of life. He'd feel her hands clawing at his back, and he'd bury his face in the exposed slope of her neck as she arched and panted. He'd slide urgent hands up beneath her clothes and search for her breasts, cupping her, needing to feel her one last time. He'd give her what he had and feel her milking him, and then at the final moment, they would come together, and he'd be so busy feeling her that he wouldn't feel-
0.04. 0.03. 0.02.
For one insane moment, after the clock stops, he feels hope.
It didn't work. Oh, God, thank God, oh, God! WhitelightWhitelightWhiteli
A Quiet Place To Read described this story as a "Fight the Future fic with a seldom seen character, terrific mood and tension." (June 2001)
YMMV said, "Remember Darius Michaud, the movie FBI agent who was prepared to let a building full of people go to hell? Here's his viewpoint, rendered in startlingly effective prose." (July 2001)
Lara Means wrote, "Minor characters can be a lot of fun to play with. That's especially true when the character only has a scene or two and we learn just enough about him to be intriguing. Darius Michaud from Fight the Future is one of those characters. The first time I saw the movie, I remember asking myself, "What the hell is he doing?!?" Deslea gives us a few answers to my unspoken question -- not the big answers, but the little ones. Michaud comes vividly to life here, particularly at the end, in a way that makes me sorry he had to die." (October 2001)
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