Fan Fiction

Can’t
by ShardZ

Not only is the following work of fanfiction filled wih angst and introspection, it was also created largely while half-asleep. at which time anything and everything seems like a good idea.You have been warned.

**Disclaimer: The song "I Can't Get Next to You" was originally recorded by The Temptations. "Zebra Girl" and all related characters are copyright Joe England.**

...Zzzt...It's the bottom of the ninth...zzzt...And we're back with our special guest...zzt...Let me tell you, I looove yoooou...zzzt...That was the fourth movement of Verdelli's...zzzzt...

Like a singular galaxy in the vast emptiness of space, several pinpoints of light pierced an otherwise formless void. Yet these lights, rooted by wax and metal, were part of a realm just as alien as the void which they deflected. At the edges of the afforded glow, a floor and walls and the odd bit of furniture seemed to be the only things holding back an otherwise all-consuming force. And in the midst of what little there was, and everything there was, a loge, crosslegged figure sat quite contentedly, flipping through stations on a small, handheld radio.

Tomie had suggested that Jack work on his clairvoyance, and a good way seemed to be to through random stations and songs on the radio. Eventually, he might even be able to tell what he was likely to do next. But their main concern was always where the next evil could come from, and what it could do. And quite frankly, "from across the hall" and "plunge the entire town into crippling darkness in a matter of weeks" were answers he never again wanted to face, if he could help it.

Time seemed to slow around him; though he knew what the songs were supposed to sound like, on another level of his subconscious the words flowed languorously from their source. With his senses supernaturally heightened, he was given ample time to anticipate and then process each verse, determining how much he'd sensed correctly, and how much had been unclear. But this next song seemed like it would prove... interesting.

The soulful sounds of Motown flooded the "room," the voices of the all-male group both harmonizing and alternating. A velvety baritone, a rumbling bass, a ringing tenor... Wally would probably love this stuff.

I Can turn the greyest sky blue. I can make it rain, whenever I want it to.

Ooh. Changing the weather? A neat trick maybe, and certainly useful, but even moreso if the effects were far-reaching enough to trick meteorological satellites. Not that messing with forecasters wasn't fun, but drawing unwanted attention due to a freakish blotch on the monitor was rarely worth the trouble.

Oh, I can build a castle from a single grain of sand.

Hmmm... Did that mean multiplying one grain into many, or expanding it into a gargantuan hunk to be carved at will? When he had enough free time, maybe he'd give them both a shot.

I can make a ship sail, uh, on dry land.

Another neat trick, but depending on where it was done, a lot of unwanted attention could be attracted. Then again, he'd just been considering erecting a sand-colored castle somewhere in North America, so he supposed it would all balance out somehow. And of course, the Philadelphia Experiment guys would probably have killed to get their hands on the abilities of modern magi. Actually, they probably had, but had ignored any warnings given. Typical.

After what seemed like a small eternity, the first verse drew to a close. This was actually turning out to be pretty fun... so what was this sense of dread that was nudging at the edges of his subconscious?

But my life is incomplete and I'm so blue. 'Cause I can't get next to you.

...Oh. I can't get next to you, babe. (Next to you)I can't get next to you. (I just can't get next you)I can't get next to you, babe. I can't get next to you.

Dawn... Of all the magi who had been lost, for some reason the pain grew deeper, sharper, when he thought of her. For so long she had seemed like just a friend. Like all the others who had welcomed and guided him. But as time passed, so often stretching like eternity in the vast, bustling emptiness of the 'Net, their connection had seemed to grow stronger. All his life, he'd never really considered that there could be someone out there just for him. He probably couldn't have said if his little obsessions represented his personal preference over reality... or simply an acceptance that there might never be anything else for him. Someone he could love. Support. Share life with. Something more. But then there had been Dawn. And then she was gone.

He knew that the song had no real bearing on his situation... could never even come close. But knowing that the figurative girl in the song was still alive and well really didn't help. Just as he was wondering how much longer the torture would continue, he realized the next verse would soon begin. It was an interesting experience, really. Half-sensed words and the ghosts of emotions they might inspire, accompanied by a sort of tickling deep within his brain... even though the big bundle of nerves wasn't supposed to feel anything on its own.

I Can fly like a bird in the sky.

More pleasant memories began to wash over him... It had actually been a while before he'd figured out how to fly on his own. Broomsticks, butter churns and the like were indeed... iconic. But he'd decided they weren't really his "thing." Hey, and I can buy anything that money can buy.

Oh, I can turn a river into a raging fire.

He'd always preferred to earn his own money, but that didn't mean he couldn't conjure something he wanted. Similarly, transmutation was tricky, but often doable. Alchemists had come close, back in the day, but hadn't been able to progress much beyond their hypotheses. Still, he'd heard, some magi were quite concerned that their secrets would be discovered.

I can live forever if I so desired.

Probably, yes. But devoting oneself to learning often meant deserting the ones you loved, sometimes long before their time would come. He'd heard many tales of magi who had simply lost track of time... for decades, even centuries. Even if he kept himself "grounded," would he be able to leave his family behind? Even Crystal, perhaps... she had simply never shown quite the same interest in magic. He wondered if she'd ever considered the consequences. Did she even know?

Unimportant are all the things I can do. 'Cause I can't get next to you. I can't get next to you, babe. (No matter what I do)I can't get next to you.

As the chorus gave way to a syncopated rhythm of music and vocals, which had almost become too... peppy for his liking, Jack found a momentary, welcome reprieve:

"What could possibly inspire words like 'Chica bow chica bow chica bow mow'? No, better not think about that." All too soon, the next verse began. Try not to think about it too much. Let's see what these visionaries of the 1960's had dreamt... This was supposed to be fun! Right?

I can turn back the hands of time, you better believe I can.

Dammit.

I can make the seasons change, just by waving my hand. Oh, I can change anything from old to new. But the thing I want to do the most, I'm unable to do.

He desperately tried to lose himself in memories of the discussions he'd witnessed; the endless debate over manipulating time. Even if a magi could affect elements within it, was it right to do so? Was there ever really any "true" control, or were they all just puppets of a greater power? Of course, such magic didn't seem to work within pocket dimensions like the 'Net. Yet another painful reminder... or was that the upcoming verse niggling at his sixth sense?

Unhappy am I with all the powers I possess. 'Cause girl you're the key to my happiness. And I... can't get next to you.

Knowledge. Power. Even immortality. What was any of it really worth? What good was the ability to save someone, or even an entire world, if he couldn't save the ones that mattered most?

Girl, you're blowing my mind 'cause I can't get...(Next to you...babe)Can't you see these tears I'm crying? I can't get... (Next to you....babe)Girl, it's you that I need. I gotta get...(Next to you...babe)Can't you see these tears I'm crying? I can't get... (Next to you...babe)I, I, I, I... I can't get...(Next to you...babe)I, I, I, I... I can't get...(Next to you...babe)Girl, you're blowing my mind...

As the song faded into nothingness, searching for the next one didn't seem to appeal to him. Besides, Crystal would soon be letting them know that supper was ready, and he had some "cataloging" he wanted to get done before then. He tried to tell himself that tomorrow was another day. Everything counted for something... Yeah.

A mental hand switched the radio off as he rose and grasped Tomie in flesh that had become, in truth, more mystical than physical. As the sensation of the cool metal sigils and rough leather brought him fully back to reality, a whisper went unnoticed. "It's not your responsibility anymore, Jack. This one's up to me."