Oh Danny boy, the pipes,
the pipes are calling
From glen to glen,
and down the mountain side
Jack knew it was a risk, but one he was willing to take. His orders regarding the mirror were clear, but there was so much at stake: what more did he have to lose anyway? His existing loss was so deep, so complete, that going against orders seemed so much easier than facing his dark madness.
He looked at the control in his hand, then at the quantum mirror. The odds were against him, he knew that. But the odds didn't favor survival under the present circumstances either.
Jack pressed the button, the mirror activated and opposite, the same room, only empty. All he had to do was reach out and touch.
A jolt of electricity... then nothing.
Jack leaned forward, peered into the mirror, and smiled. On the other side, the side that had been his side, an ancient Egyptian urn sat on a small table. An urn he'd left to help him find his way back to the right universe.
He'd made it.
Jack tucked the control device into his leather bomber jacket, took a resolved breath and walked over to the door. He closed his hand around the knob, tightened his fingers -- and opened it. Peering out, he finally stepped out and closed the door.
As hoped, this universe had been experimenting with the mirror too and he was in the SGC. Smiling, he turned right and headed to the elevator.
For the first time in weeks, Jack O'Neill felt hopeful -- and human.
Daniel threw down his pen and groaned. He was getting nowhere on this translation and he was getting there fast. He reached for his ever-present bottle of aspirin, shook out three, tossed them into his mouth, then swallowed down a gulp of--
He spat out the pills, the very cold coffee, and the green fuzzies that had collected on the top of the very, very old coffee. Daniel swiveled in his chair, pulled out several paper towels and started dabbing at the mess. As he cleaned, he searched his worktable and counted one, two -- three different mugs in various stages of old, older and oldest coffee.
He really needed to take charge of his life again.
Really, he did.
Daniel tossed the wet towels, grabbed all four mugs and carried them to the sink. He doused them with the green dishwashing liquid Sam had given him for just this purpose, filled them with hot water, then set them down in the sink to soak for a few days, or weeks. He took yet another mug from his stash, this one declaring the fact that "ice hockey is man's best friend", and poured hot (thank God) coffee into it.
Daniel swallowed another three aspirin and washed them down with the hot coffee. He was so tough. Hot coffee and he barely blinked. Heh. Daniel flexed the muscle in his right arm, then his tongue. Conan the Archaeologist. His stomach growled, reminding Daniel that he hadn't eaten since returning from SG-1's latest mission. He reached for the bag of chocolate-chip cookies and cursed when he felt how light it was. He shook it anyway and groaned. Like his personal life of late, the bag was empty.
Okay, crackers. He turned back to his storage cupboard, opened it -- and let out a string of expletives in three different languages. No munchies. All right, fine. So it meant a trip to Sam's office. She was always good for something to eat. Of course, it was usually diet and sugar-free, but his stomach wouldn't care.
Daniel walked into the hall, closing the door behind him. As he turned toward Sam's office, Jack rounded the corner.
"Okay, you're here late. What's up?" Daniel asked. He watched Jack stop, then watched as a strange and beautiful grin suffused the other man's face.
"Danny?" Jack said the word more as a prayer than a question.
Suspicious and certain Jack was about to play a practical joke on him, Daniel said, "Ja--ack?"
Smile firmly in place, Jack made fast work of getting to Daniel's side. Before the younger man could move, Jack had his arms around him and his mouth fastened onto Daniel's.
Gee, suddenly Daniel's headache was gone.
Jack's tongue invaded Daniel's mouth at the same time as someone, probably Jack, opened the door to Daniel's office and pushed them both backwards until they were inside. All of that, plus one of the hottest kisses Daniel could remember? Jack was one amazing man. With one amazing tongue. And Daniel thought he had a strong tongue?
Daniel didn't have a clue as to what had finally given him this gift, this dream come true, but he'd be lighting candles for the rest of his life in thanks. He decided it was time to kiss the hell back. He wrapped his arms, the same arms that had been waving uselessly in the air, around Jack's waist and pulled him in.
Emotions and feelings swirled around him, setting his body on fire. Daniel's mind was dead, but his dick was alive, his skin tingling and it was all Jack. Jack was doing this to him, giving this to him.
Daniel lost himself in the kiss, gave into it totally, hungrily, and needily. When he felt Jack's hands on his ass, he nearly crawled into the man's mouth. Then he was being pushed back -- and back further -- until his body hit the table.
God, Jack was going to -- he was going to -- hell, Daniel would help him, push the stuff out of the way, jump up--
"Daniel, I need--WHAT THE HELL!?"
The yell registered in a part of Daniel's brain he didn't know he had. The voice registered throughout his body because it was Jack's voice. Jack was yelling at the same time that Jack had his tongue halfway down Daniel's throat.
The SGC had shown Daniel that the impossible was most certainly possible -- however, this was most certainly not possible. Therefore, it wasn't real.
He pulled away with a groan and looked over Jack's shoulder -- at -- Jack.
Understanding and awareness came to Daniel in a blinding flash of such incredible pain that he would gladly have accepted death at that moment. His world darkened, sickened, and finally -- died.
The man in his arms turned, spotted -- the other -- the real -- the this Jack, and jumped back, exclaiming loudly, "SHIT!"
No, Daniel realized, both Jacks had said it. His stomach was in the middle of a revolution and he really needed to find -- he needed to -- throw up. He couldn't look at either man, dared not look at either man. Blindly he reached back, prayed to find something solid, and his hand connected with the table. The same table he'd almost--
Right. Don't go there.
"Daniel," Jack said, then faltered.
"Daniel," the other Jack said, then faltered.
"Jack," Daniel said, then faltered.
Groaning, he turned, grappled for the waste basket, and tossed his cookies. Only he was out of cookies, and crackers too.
Tell that to the waste basket, which was being rapidly filled.
Fuck, he was going to die. That was all there was to it. Maybe Jack, either Jack, would do him a favor by taking out their service revolver and putting a bullet in his head?
Daniel thought, as he continued to retch, that at least one Jack would be more than willing to put a bullet in his head.
"Ssh, it's okay, Danny, it's okay."
Words spoken, words that if they'd been spoken by the right Jack, would have warmed Daniel's heart, but now only made him shiver uncontrollably. A hand began to make soothing circles on his back and Daniel flashed on a time when he was six and his mother had done the same thing after a nightmare about mummies.
Mummies he could handle. Two Jacks he couldn't. Especially after having become very intimate with the tongue of one of them.
Breathing in short painful gasps, Daniel pushed the trash can away and tried to stand. He made it, but only with the help of the wrong Jack. When he'd completely straightened, he shoved the helping hand away and stumbled to the sink. He turned on the water, cupped his hands, then said, "Fuck it," and stuck his head under the faucet.
Maybe by the time he was finished drowning, both Jacks would be gone.
A question, followed by an answer. That was all Colonel Jack O'Neill had wanted as he'd made his way to Daniel's office. It was late, he was disgruntled about still being in the mountain, and then he had to walk in on -- what? This? Yeah. This.
He had to walk in on himself in a liplock with his -- with Daniel. Daniel. And now the guy had his head buried in a trash can. Go figure.
He watched himself kneel by Daniel's side, whisper nonsense into his ear, and rub circles on his back. Oh goody.
"Leave it to General Hammond to decide not to destroy the damn mirror and allow Carter to do her stupid experiments," he finally said as Daniel stuck his head under the faucet.
Leave it to Jack to bring the whole thing into a warped kind of perspective. The asshole.
Daniel didn't have a towel handy, so with eyes tightly shut, and again pushing a helping hand away, he felt for his jacket, found it, and used it to dry his face. The SGC patch scratched at his chin and he found himself staring at it, forgetting for a moment that there were two Jacks in his office, both staring at him. He ran his finger over the oddly beautiful design, then set the jacket down and turned to face -- the other -- Jack.
"Why did you come through?"
Chocolate brown eyes, warm and full of a strange kind of sad love, stared back at him as the mouth Daniel had so recently visited, said, "I came for help."
There was a moment of silence following the declaration, then the wrong Jack added, "I'm sorry, Danny, I rounded the corner and there you were. I -- it was so -- I just didn't expect it."
"Are you alone?" the other Jack, the right, unattainable Jack asked.
"I'm alone. In fact, I went against orders by coming here, but I believe that our salvation could be found through the mirror."
"Isn't it always," Jack said dryly. He picked up the phone on the wall, punched in two digits, then said, "General Hammond, please, this is Colonel O'Neill and it's an emergency."
While Jack stood waiting for the General to take the call, Daniel sat down in his other chair, doing his best to avoid looking at the wrong Jack.
"Sir? Yes, sir, we do. We seem to have another alternate reality visitor. Yes, sir, right now." Jack hung up.
"Okay, let's go, buddy. You and I have an appointment with General Hammond."
"General Hammond? That's a good sign," the wrong Jack said. "He's our general too."
"Sweet," Jack said, not really meaning it at all.
Daniel remained in his chair, but looked up long enough to say, "You go ahead, Jack, I'll be -- I need -- I'll be there."
Jack's eyes narrowed in concern, but then he nodded and with a jerk of his head, indicated that his counterpart should follow him. It was amazing to him how natural all this seemed. Gee, just another alternate reality guy. Okay, not so natural. This one had been kissing Daniel.
And no, Jack admonished himself, Daniel kissing another Jack was NOTHING like Jack kissing a heartbroken Sam from another universe. So there.
Jack, followed by Jack, left Daniel's office, but Jack, the puzzled but right Jack, didn't really like leaving him, he just wasn't certain why.
Once the two Jacks were gone, Daniel dropped his head onto his arms.
So close to having it all. For a few brief incredible and earthshaking moments, he'd been in heaven, happier than he could remember. God, he could still feel Jack's lips on his, Jack's hands on his ass, squeezing tightly--
Okay, enough. It wasn't Jack. It was Jack. You were not being kissed by Jack, you were being kissed by Jack. Get over it.
Except that... now Jack knew.
No way could Jack have missed the small detail of Daniel kissing Jack, the wrong Jack, back. No way could Jack have missed Daniel's arms around the other Jack. Nor could he have missed the intimate moans of pleasure that Daniel had been making in his throat. So Jack had to know, and when he finally thought about it, thought about the fact that Daniel had enjoyed being kissed by the Jack who wasn't because he'd thought he was, well, nothing would be the same ever again.
Daniel lifted his head and gently touched his lips. One brief moment. It was going to have to be enough for all time because when the truth of what Jack had seen hit Jack, he was going to be very uncomfortable around Daniel.
Daniel got up, grabbed his slightly damp jacket, slipped it on, then headed out. He wondered if SG-9 had found their replacement archaeologist yet. Come to think of it, shouldn't he know that anyway?
General Hammond stared at the two Jacks and shook his head. He'd been able to handle two Carters, but two Jack O'Neills? Not hardly. As he sat down at the head of the conference table, he wondered just how different this Jack's reality was from theirs, and what were they about to be asked to do to aid this other reality?
Major Carter strode into the room and did the obligatory double-take, then took her seat opposite the Jack she clearly believed to be the other Jack. Until the Jack she was seated next to, did a matching double-take. Wrong Jack. Too late to move now. She hoped this Jack wasn't married to Samantha Carter, or Major Carter, or Captain Carter, or Doctor Carter.
"No, Carter, this O'Neill isn't in love with his Carter," her Jack said.
"Oh," she said. "That's -- refreshing."
"Ain't it just," her Jack said.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "I have seen two of myself, two Major Carters, and two General Hammonds, but this is the first time I've seen two O'Neills. It is most -- odd."
Jack raised his scarred eyebrow. "What, two Carters, two Hammonds and two Teal'cs aren't odd?"
"Somehow -- no. Two O'Neills seem more than any universe can handle," Teal'c stated firmly.
"I see that Teal'c has picked up your sense of humor, Colonel," Hammond said without a smile.
"Not at all, sir. That was Daniel talking, and speaking of the devil, here he is."
All eyes turned to watch as Daniel entered, started for his usual chair, pause, then change course and take the seat beside Teal'c.
"Well, now that we're all here, Colonel O'Neill, why don't you tell us why you went through the quantum mirror and what you believe we can do for you," Hammond said as he faced the other Jack.
"We are being invaded by the Goa'uld, sir. They have also attacked our beta site. We estimate that within fifty hours, the beta site will be no more, and that within seventy-two hours, they will reach Cheyenne Mountain. I'm here because we found something we believe can help us.
"A device was discovered by our Captain Carter while exploring the same planet where we found the quantum mirror. She believed the device was a weapon, based on its location within the laboratory where it was found. Unfortunately, we've not been able to figure it out."
The right Jack looked slightly amazed. "What, your Carter hasn't been able to tear it apart and put it back together again blindfolded?"
"Our Carter is currently trapped on the beta site. She was our only hope. It was my thought that I could find another Carter through the mirror. We're almost out of time. The attack on Earth is gaining momentum, the beta site can't hold out much longer and we can't get them home."
During his recitation, the wrong Jack had kept his eyes glued to Daniel, but now he shifted his gaze to Hammond. "I'm hoping that you'll allow me to borrow your," his eyes flicked briefly over to Sam, noted her rank, and finished, "Major Carter long enough to confirm that what we have is weapon that could aid us. Once that's established, I'm also hoping she'll be able to get the device up and running."
The alternate Jack paused to allow all that he'd said sink in, then added, "We also require someone who can translate the markings on the device. It seems to be a combination of languages that we've been unable to decipher. Our language experts are at the beta site and we've no one else proficient enough."
Hammond and O'Neill looked at each other, then at the other O'Neill. Hammond finally put their question into words.
"What about Doctor Jackson? Isn't he a member of your SGC?"
The other Jack lowered his head as he answered softly, "No. My ... our, Daniel Jackson only joined the SGC a few weeks ago and was killed on his very first mission with Captain Carter and SG-2. But even if he were still alive, languages were not his area of expertise."
Shock and surprise traveled around the table as General Hammond and SG-1 absorbed that news. Finally Hammond changed the subject by asking, "How much of your world have you lost to date?"
"The entire Eastern seaboard. We lost Washington just a few hours before I came through the mirror. But the President and Joint Chiefs made it to Cheyenne Mountain."
Jack glanced over at Teal'c, then at the wrong Jack. "Does your reality have Teal'c as a member of SG-1?"
The other Jack's eyes were drawn to the Jaffa and he shook his head. "No, but I have -- seen him in a transmission. He is leading the attack ship that is working its way to the Mountain."
"You don't seem surprised to find him sitting at our table," Jack asked, his eyes narrowed.
"I'm not. Prior to the attack, we had a special team who did nothing but experiment and use the mirror. This is not the first alternate universe to have Teal'c as a member of the SGC."
There was silence as they all pondered the idea of any alternate universe utilizing a special quantum mirror team. Then Hammond leaned forward and said, "It would appear that neither our Colonel O'Neill, nor our Teal'c, would be able to accompany this O'Neill back, but I'm curious, Major Carter. How would you be affected considering that your counterpart is light years away?"
"I can only guess, sir, but I suspect and have hypothesized that the closer in proximity the two people, the sooner the cascade failure would occur. In this case, I suspect as long as their Carter remains at the beta site, I'd be safe."
"Then it would appear that only you, Major Carter, and you, Doctor Jackson, would be able to go."
Both O'Neills said at the same time, "Daniel?"
Only slightly taken back, Hammond looked at the other O'Neill and said, "You need an expert to translate the markings on the device and unless I miss my guess, that means our Doctor Jackson, who is," he said with a smile directed at Daniel, "extremely proficient in languages."
Two pairs of brown eyes shifted from Hammond to Daniel. Daniel looked down at his hands. The two pairs of brown eyes shifted back to Hammond.
Jack, the right Jack, cleared his throat. "Sir, I'm not comfortable with this. Since they have less than seventy hours--"
"Sir," Carter interrupted, "you would suffer temporal entropic cascade failure within forty-eight hours, Teal'c would have slightly longer. There is no guarantee that Daniel can complete the translations within that time, nor that I could get the device up and running before you suffered--"
"I'm willing to take that chance, Carter," Jack interrupted.
"As am I, Major Carter."
"But I am not," General Hammond said. "Major Carter, are you willing to take on this mission to another alternate reality?"
Sam looked at the other O'Neill, saw the desperation in his eyes, and nodded. "Yes, sir, I am."
Two Jack O'Neills held their breaths, but one of them was uncertain as to why.
Daniel, without lifting his head, said, "I'm willing, sir."
But come ye back when summer's
in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed
and white with snow
Sam and Daniel spent over two hours with the other Jack, listening to everything his team had already tried with the device in question. He'd even drawn a rather odd looking diagram for Carter. Unfortunately, he couldn't give Daniel any of the markings, but at least Sam had a good idea of what she'd need to bring with her.
By 1400 hours, she had everything assembled in her lab and was just packing it up when Jack walked in.
"Looks like you plan on staying a month, Carter."
Sam smiled. Her Jack. "Just a few items that might be needed, sir."
"Gee, Daniel is probably taking a pad and pencil."
"Actually, he isn't. I suspect they have paper and pens in Colonel O'Neill's -- in his -- in--"
"I get it, Carter. I get it. So Daniel will be empty-handed, yet you don't think the other SGC will have what you need?"
Sam glanced down at her bag, then shook her head. "Hardly, sir, but I don't know what my counterpart has done or experienced--"
Jack held up a hand in surrender. "I get it, Major, I get it."
Grinning, Sam added, "As for Daniel, I suspect he'll have a case of books at the very least." Sam zipped up her tool case, added it to the pile of "must haves", then straightened. With a guarded look at her commanding officer, she asked lightly, "Is it a relief to know that you and I aren't engaged or married in his reality?"
Jack picked up an oddly shaped tool and peered at it as he said, "Carter, you're taking the fact that you're heading off to a war zone rather well."
She shrugged. "What can I say? At least I'm not dead, and I don't have to worry about close proximity to my alter ego." She took the tool away from her CO and added with a worried note, "But this is the third time Daniel's been dead. Come to think of it, you don't have a great track record in the staying alive category either, sir."
Jack ignored Sam's last words, took back the tool, and said thoughtfully,"You know what's odd?" Without waiting for an answer, he went on. "Daniel was a brand new member of the SGC of this, er, that O'Neill's universe, yet--"
"Well, apparently, that O'Neill is -- has had -- a -- relationship -- with Daniel."
Sam watched Jack play with the tool, his busy fingers telling her more than he knew. Careful of how she'd sound, she said, "Interesting."
Jack glanced up from the tool to look at her. "Interesting, Carter? Interesting choice of wording."
"Sir, there are an infinite amount of combinations possible in alternate realities, you know that. So the idea that it would just be, for instance, you and I, is mathematically impossible."
"But Daniel and I?"
"Well, perhaps there's a universe where you and say, Janet, are a couple. Or maybe you and -- Maybourne."
"Carter, for that one, you will pay." Jack gave an exaggerated shiver at the thought of him and Maybourne. "Daniel is infinitely more desirable than Maybourne."
"Yes, sir. I would think so."
A bit self-consciously, Jack checked his watch. "Well, looks like we need to get you downstairs, Major."
As they walked out, Jack said, "Carter, watch him."
Sam nodded her agreement, but wasn't exactly sure which 'him' she was to watch. Daniel or the other O'Neill? As they walked down the hall, she decided to watch out for Daniel... and watch the other Colonel Jack O'Neill.
Daniel, Teal'c, General Hammond and the other Jack, were in the lower lab storage room with the mirror by the time Carter and Jack arrived. Hammond immediately warned, "Sixty hours, Major. Device working or not, you have sixty hours, then you and Doctor Jackson are to come back through the mirror. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir. Sixty hours."
Hammond nodded. "You have a go, then. Good luck."
The wrong Jack O'Neill saluted Hammond at the same time as Carter, then said, "I can't thank you enough for this chance, General. Whether we succeed or not, you have my world's gratitude."
"Let's hope we can be of assistance, Colonel."
With that, Daniel turned on the mirror.
"I left... an urn on a table so that we'd be able to find my reality, Daniel. That isn't it."
Daniel nodded and turned the dial slowly. It only took three attempts before they spotted the vase.
"That's it, that's my world."
Significant looks were exchanged between all in the room, then O'Neill stepped through, closely followed by Daniel. Before Sam could join them, Jack said quietly, "Take care of him, Carter."
"I will, Colonel." This time, she knew exactly who the Colonel was referring to.
As Jack watched Daniel turn off the mirror, he let out the breath he'd been holding and looked at Teal'c, who shrugged. They left the storage room.
When they parted, Teal'c to go to his room, Jack to his office, Jack felt unaccountably alone. Once at his desk, he proceeded to ignore his work, choosing instead to look around his office. Leaning back and putting his legs up on his desk, he said out loud, "I need a window."
Jack realized his desire for a window was rooted in the idea that if he had one, he could gaze out of it and see anything but Daniel kissing -- him. Jack. The other Jack.
The storage lab looked almost exactly like theirs. Daniel let his gaze dart around, nodding as he spotted many of the same items in this lab as they had in theirs.
Daniels musings were interrupted by the other Jack's voice.
"We'll need to check in with my General Hammond, since I'd been given very explicit orders not to try the mirror. Of course, if I were smart, I'd take you two to see him after you solve the mystery of how the device works."
To Daniel, this Jack sounded, for the first time, like that Jack. His Jack. Their Jack. Whatever.
The whole quantum mirror thing could get very -- weird, Daniel thought. His, theirs, ours, this one, that one, the right one, the wrong one.
The three of them stepped into the hall and without waiting for directions, Daniel and Sam forged ahead of Jack, turning right and walking steadily toward the elevator that would take them up to Hammond's office.
Jack paused in the corridor and with a wry grin, said, "Maybe in my universe, the General's office is located someplace else?"
Daniel rested against the wall next to the elevator and said without much curiosity, "Is it?"
"Um, no. But that isn't the point. It could have been."
Daniel rolled his eyes and Carter gave a very unladylike snort. Still grinning, Jack slid his card down the slot and a moment later, the elevator arrived. It was patently obvious to Daniel and Sam that now that this Jack was on his own turf, he was much more comfortable and thus becoming more and more like their Jack.
Daniel didn't think that was a good thing.
As they stepped out of the elevator, they were all brought up short by the man in front of them.
The man's eyes widened as he took in his second-in-command apparently standing next to a woman who was supposedly fighting off the Goa'uld several light years away. Not to mention an archaeologist that was several weeks dead.
"Colonel, my office. Now."
With a glance at Sam and Daniel, Jack shrugged his shoulders, held his finger to his temple, then mouthed, "Bang."
The three of them followed silently behind Hammond.
"Maybe he'll send us back."
"Is that what you want, Daniel?"
"No, not if we can truly help them. But--"
Sam patted his arm. "I know, Daniel. I know. This is old hat for you, isn't it?"
"Old hat? No, I don't think that's the best way to describe this one, Sam." He looked at the closed door of General Hammond's office from his seat in the outer room. "No, old hat doesn't work this time."
"Are you bothered by the idea that this Jack and his Daniel were, you know--"
"Were you bothered by the fact that in two other universes, you and Jack were a twosome?"
"That's hardly the same thing, Daniel. I was a civilian in both universes and any relationship between myself and Colonel O'Neill would be considered perfectly normal, if somewhat," Sam exaggerated a shiver, "odd and icky."
Daniel grinned. "Icky, Sam? Are you trying to tell me that you haven't entertained ideas about Jack?"
Sam looked down at her hands. "I'd be less than human if I hadn't, Daniel." She looked back up at him and smiled slyly. "But then, I've also entertained ideas about you and me, and Teal'c and me. I'm nothing if not an all American red-blooded woman. Besides, what woman in her right mind, working with three good-looking men, wouldn't do a little daydreaming?"
"That's all you have to say, Daniel? Just 'huh-uh'?"
"You're hopeless, Daniel."
"I've noticed that."
Before she could respond, the door opened and Jack motioned them inside, but his wink told them all they needed to know.
They were staying.
Sam walked around the table, eyes fastened on the tall odd-looking object sitting in the middle of said table. She was already finding it difficult to believe that anything this small, and shaped like a -- bird could be the answer to protecting this Earth from the Goa'uld.
"Daniel, anything jump out at you, markings wise?"
He was seated at the table, already deeply immersed in the symbols, pencil racing across the pad provided by Jack. He pointed the eraser end at a set of glyphs and said, "This warns that any 'evildoer' will be rendered, and I quote, 'dead, yet alive again, should they attempt to claim our world', endquote."
"Our world? Are the people who created this identified?"
He nodded, then turned it so that the side he'd been reviewing was now visible to Sam. Again using his pencil, he pointed at two pictographs. "The shape of the device is an important clue to what this thing can do. You can see that the shape has been duplicated here." He tapped one of the pictographs. "This is a raven. What's amazing is that the markings on this thing are actually a very unique blend of Celtic and Ancient Egyptian. To the Celtic people ravens were sacred. A you know, ravens have the reputation of being scavengers, so we further have to understand how Celts viewed that particular trait. Especially when combined with Egyptian mythology."
"All right, Daniel. I'll bite. Why is such a trait important?"
He smiled, the first genuine smile in days. "What have we accused the Goa'uld of being time and time again? Parasites? Scavengers? Feeding off of others?"
Nodding, Sam agreed. "Okay, I see that. But how does it relate to this device and the people who created it?"
"Well, first off, I believe the world where this came from was originally inhabited by people from Ancient Ireland. But the fact that the symbols here are a mixture of two distinct Ancient languages tells me that somehow, at sometime, there was a degree of cross population. Maybe the Goa'uld brought slaves from Abydos to their planet, who knows?"
"Daniel, I don't see the Abydosians being advanced enough to ever create a weapon of this sophistication."
Daniel ran a finger over the beautiful symbols. "No, you're right. But the Celts? I can easily see the Ancient Druids protecting the stolen ones against the Goa'uld by helping them find a way to destroy their masters, or as this says, 'evildoers'. And I can see them doing it by working with, perhaps ... magic?"
Looking skeptical, Sam said, "Uh, Daniel? Magic?"
"Come on, you know the legends surrounding the Druids. The power they supposedly possessed, the Faiths, the cenad--"
"Whoa, Daniel. You need to slow down. Faiths? Cenad?"
"Faiths could cast spells, foretell future events, bring forth the mists, that kind of thing. A cenad was like a trance and once in this state, they could see into the future."
Daniel turned the device and said, his voice low and encouraging, "If you consider the power we gave our Egyptian gods, and where we've now discovered that power originated, well, to what could we attribute the myths surrounding the Druids? Who were they? Where did they get their power? What if we're talking about the Ancients? The 'Gate builders?"
Sam studied the raven-shaped object and she had to agree that while it was unlike any Goa'uld device she'd ever seen, it did bear an uncanny resemblance to many Celtic artifacts she'd noticed in Daniel's books. The significance to their world didn't escape her.
"Okay, I'm buying this so far. But how does the raven fit in?"
"Well, we're back to scavengers. See, the Celts believed that while the scavengers were loathsome, they still taught a very valuable lesson, namely that we all must take in the life of another to sustain ourselves." At Sam's expression of disbelief, he added patiently, "We take the life of a cow to eat? Chickens? Fish?"
Looking a little foolish, Sam nodded her understanding.
Daniel tapped the engraved figure and added, "This bird's association with death, and life through death, is what gave it its mysterious power. The Celts believed that ravens served as messengers from the Otherworlds. They believed that to see or hear one's cry was an omen of great change within the observer's life. A death of one thing and the rebirth of another.
"In essence, the Celts believed that the raven's gift is literally "beginnings in endings". This ancient wisdom is what ravens carry with them, this is their terrible and wonderful magic."
Daniel was looking at Sam now as if she should have figured out the key to the device. The expectant expression on his handsome face was quickly making her wish the ground would open up and swallow her whole. Daniel, sensing that his explanation had been less than helpful, said hopefully, "Think... Thor's Hammer?"
Sam stared at him, then at the harmless-looking and unobtrusive device.
The light bulb went on.
"My God, Daniel. Are you saying that this can destroy the symbiote, but leave the host unharmed?"
Eyes shining with scientific glee, Daniel nodded. "I think this emits a sound, Sam. Like the Raven's call. And that sound somehow destroys the symbiote."
Looking skeptical again, Sam picked up the device and turned it carefully several times. "Daniel, I can see where that would work, but not on a scale that would protect an entire planet. I mean, I could see where this would be used in close proximity, perhaps even protecting this base. But a sound powerful enough to do what you say on a global basis? I don't think so, Daniel."
Daniel straightened from his position bent over the table and his shoulders slumped. "Sam, how is that after all these years of seeing and doing the impossible, you still set up walls around ideas? Do you know what power," he pointed with some exasperation at the device in Sam's hands, "that has inside? Who the forces were behind its creation?"
"Of course not, but--"
"Okay then, would you just this once do away with 'but'? Push the walls away, pretend they don't exist. Just -- dispense with what you know and give into what's possibly impossible. Remember what you did when Teal'c was trapped inside the 'Gate?"
Taken back by his words, Sam's face flushed red. Daniel took the device from her hand, spun it around and pointed to a pictograph of a rising sun. "This is how you open it without harm. Press here," he lightly touched the sun, "and you're good to go. I've done my part, now it's up to you." Daniel handed it back to her, turned on his heel and walked out.
Sam stared after Daniel, stunned by both his words and the sadness she'd seen in his eyes. She tried to feel insulted, but found that she couldn't. Too much of what Daniel had said was true.
All right then. No barriers, no walls. Let's take this thing apart and see what makes it tick.
It was only once he was outside that Daniel realized he had no place to go. As seemed to be the norm, the Daniel Jackson in this universe was dead, hence, no office. Fine, he'd go to the mess and get some much needed coffee. He pushed himself away from the wall, looked to his right, then his left, and paused.
Jack was once again just rounding the corner. The older man's face split into a huge smile when he spied him.
"Daniel. Taking a break?"
"Um, yeah, sort of. I've turned the thing over to Sam."
Jack stopped almost mid-step, eyes wide with surprise. "What, you finished the translations already?"
Not sure where the surprise was coming from, Daniel simply answered with a slight shrug.
"Well that calls for a small celebration. You're really making me and my decision look good, Daniel. How 'bout I buy you lunch upstairs?"
Realizing that he was indeed hungry, not to mention in desperate need of coffee, Daniel agreed. He had his misgivings about being in this Jack's company, but he was finding that he couldn't seem to ignore the look in this Jack's eyes. The look of happiness at simply being in his presence. Daniel wasn't used to such a look, not since Shau're.
Jack took his arm, and together they headed for the elevators.
Apparently the Jack in this universe didn't think he ate enough either. Daniel looked at the tray being set down in front of him and marveled at the amount of food. Teal'c would have difficulty downing all of this, he thought.
"Eat, you're too thin," this Jack said as he sat down next to Daniel.
"I am not too thin and no one could eat all of this. No one," Daniel said as if the conversation had come up time and time again, which it had, with the right Jack.
"Well, give it the old college try, okay?"
Shaking his head in fond exasperation, Daniel picked up his fork and dug in. As he ate, he was painfully aware of the other man's interest in him. Finally, after a gulp of coffee, he said, "Tell me about -- me -- in this universe? If I, I mean -- he -- didn't have languages, why was he a member?"
Jack's expression saddened as he started to fiddle with the salt shaker. "Daniel was an archaeologist, like all the Daniels so far. Very brilliant, a globe-trotter, very popular. He even had his own television show--"
Daniel choked on his food. Coughing, he reached hurridedly for his water, drank it down, then gasped out, "Television show?"
Unable to hide his smile, Jack nodded proudly. "Yes. It was called Land of the Ancients. He toured various tombs, brought Ancient Egypt back to millions of people every week. He'd won two Emmys."
"Uh, gee. I take it he... um, er, me, he, was highly published too?"
"Several novels and non-fiction books on Egypt, yes. His last book, 'Hathor, Venus on Earth', was number one for twelve weeks."
Daniel gazed around him and muttered, "I could really use a drink...."
Sam stared at the device. How long had they been here? Five hours, and already their mission was a bust. Maybe it was time to ring the Asgard? She sat back and let the screwdriver in her hand drop to the table. All this work for nothing. The power source had been damaged. She pushed the small, empty, glass ampule, not unlike the one found inside Teal'c's staff weapon, away from her. and groaned.
What on Earth could have been inside that thing, she wondered. The mechanism was far too advanced for Naquadah to have been used, so what element had powered this thing?
Sam stood up, stretched, then smiled self-consciously when her stomach growled. Food. Maybe if she fed her brain, she could get a few more miles out of it. With that thought, she headed out and up to the Mess Hall.
"How long have you been a part of the SGC, Daniel?" Jack asked, now that Daniel was eating again.
"Um, if you don't count my initial experience, four, almost five years."
Jack sat back in his chair and let out with a loud huff of air. "You're kidding?"
"Um... no, actually."
"But what about your career?"
Daniel gave out with a dry laugh. "Let's just say that my career wasn't exactly on a par with your Daniel's."
"And yet you managed to translate the weapon, which our Daniel could never have done."
Daniel shrugged as he cut into his pie. "Who did you have as your linguist?"
"Doctor Erskine. But he's at the--"
"The beta site?"
Smiling, Jack nodded.
"So why... or should I say, how, did my counterpart end up here? He certainly doesn't sound as though he needed the SGC."
"Oh, well, that was... because, well, because of me. Our Egyptologist, Doctor Robert Rothman, was killed on a mission. Is that how you came to the SGC? To take your Rothman's place?"
Daniel bent his head over his food as he said, "Um, no, not exactly. I... recruited Robert. He'd been my research assistant--"
Jack held up a hand. "Wait. Your research assistant? But Rothman was a good five years older than Daniel and was definitely not Daniel's assistant."
"Yes, well... I, um, received my doctorate pretty early. Anyway, Robert and I were on a mission when I was kidnapped by an Unas--"
"You were kidnapped?"
Daniel glanced up and nodded. "Yes, why?"
"Rothman was kidnapped and sacrificed by an Unas. We didn't get to him in time. They tore him apart in some sort of rite of passage thing. We destroyed them all, not that it did Rothman any good."
Appalled, Daniel said tersly,"Wait. You killed Chaka and his people?"
"Chaka? What, you gave those creatures names?" Jack asked, equally appalled.
"Chaka and I, we sort of bonded. I've, we've -- studied them."
"I guess this is why they're called alternate realities, right?"
"I guess so," Daniel said lamely. He poked a few holes in the crust of his pie, then took another sip of coffee.
For a moment, both men were quiet, then Daniel asked, "You said you were the reason your Daniel joined the SGC?"
"Oh, yeah. I'd gone to fund raising event in Washington, you know, full dress uniform, eat dry chicken, charm the blue-haired old biddies?"
At Daniel's sympathetic nod, he went on. "Anyway, you... er, my Daniel, was there as a guest of the President. We met, sparks flew, and the rest, as they say, is history. For several months, we carried on an affair, Daniel's schedule being flexible and all. Then Rothman died and well, you're -- I mean, Daniel, is -- was, an Egyptologist, so it was pretty simple at that point."
"I can see that, him being so -- famous -- and all."
"Well, that didn't hurt, especially with the fundraising. The women ate him up, and so did quite a few men."
The need for a drink was growing. Daniel didn't think he'd ever even been asked to raise a dime... anywhere. He suddenly felt sorry for his universe. They'd been stuck with him when they could have had a television star.
Sam wasn't surprised to find Daniel and Jack at one of the tables, with Jack pushing plates toward Daniel. Then she remembered where she was. She paused just inside the mess to watch, and realized that what she was seeing was very similar to her Jack with Daniel, yet, not. She was further struck by the fact that what she was seeing, had been sorely missed for quite some time in her universe.
As she continued to observe the two men, Jack leaned in and took Daniel's fork, buried it in the piece of apple pie, then pulling out a chunk, he waved it under Daniel's nose. Their heads were close together, the Colonel's gray hair almost touching Daniel's lighter brown hair.
That's when she felt it.
They looked right, together, and yet -- wrong. Because of course, it was the wrong Jack.
Pulling her shoulders back and lifting her chin, Sam strode over to their table.
"Hey," she said.
Both men looked up even as Daniel was swatting Jack's hand away from his mouth.
"Sam? What's the news?" he asked hopefully.
And all my dreams will warm
and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell
me that you love me
Sam pulled out a chair and sat down. She was fully aware of the expectation of both men and hated that she was about to disappoint them. As a stalling tactic, she grinned at Daniel and indicating his barely touched pie, asked, "You gonna eat that or study it?"
Daniel glanced down, then with an answering grin, pushed it over to her. "I'm gonna study you eating it."
"You are such a pushover, Daniel," she teased.
As she dug in, Jack repeated a variation of Daniel's question. "So, what's the news?
Chewing thoughtfully, Sam made eye contact with Daniel and shrugged.
"Huh-oh," Daniel said. "I don't think it's good."
Sam quickly swallowed, reached for Daniel's coffee, took a swig, then after wiping her mouth with Daniel's napkin, said, "I'm afraid that whatever the power source was, it's gone. There's been some internal damage and my best guess is that the liquid, and it was liquid, either evaporated, or drained out."
Frowning, Daniel said, "What about Naquadah?" He turned to Jack. "You have found Naquadah, right? You have--"
Nodding excitedly, Jack said, "Yes, yes, of course. We can easily--"
"I'm afraid not, guys," Sam interrupted. "Whatever the source, it had to have been considerably more powerful. The elements of the device, and what it can do, tell me that. And Daniel, you were right on. The machine does emit high frequency sound waves."
"Okay, I may not be the sharpest pencil in the box, Major Carter, but I do know that sound cannot travel in a vacuum and space is a vacuum. How then could this weapon defend us against a Goa'uld attack?"
Before Sam could answer, Daniel jumped in. "But couldn't it work the minute, say, a Goa'uld mother ship entered Earth's atmosphere?"
"But a mother ship can destroy us from space. They'd never have to enter our atmosphere."
"But that's not their way when conquering a world," Daniel argued. "They want hosts and they want to dominate. They can't do either if they've destroyed us .... um, you. Us. Whatever. And you haven't pissed them off like we did. They do want to conquer this Earth, not destroy it."
"Okay, that may be true, but--"
"Uh, gentlemen?" Sam finally interrupted.
Both men turned to Sam and simultaneously asked, "What?"
"The people who designed the machine found a way to convert electromagnetic waves into powerful sound waves."
Sam sat back with a smug expression on her face and waited. For a moment the two men simply stared at her, then Jack said, "Electromagnetic waves? I... um, unless I'm wrong, those can travel through a vacuum. Unless... I'm wrong."
"You're not," Sam said with a grin.
His expression one of satisfaction, Jack preened and said, "I'm not?" Then he poked Daniel in the arm and said, "See? I'm not. I'm right."
Daniel, forgetting for a moment that this Jack was not the right Jack, patted him soothingly on the arm and said, "Yes, Jack, you are. Good boy." He turned to Sam and asked with a wicked gleam in his eye, "So you're saying that the impossible -- is possible?"
"That's what I'm saying, Daniel. As best as I can tell, while the wave created by the device is electromagnetic in form, it acts like a sound wave with the appropriate vibration. The frequency must be higher than anything we know. I suspect that it literally causes the symbiote to disintegrate. It also has to be assumed that the frequency of the wave is such that humans remain unaffected by the sound, so to speak."
"But can you be sure?" Jack asked, worried.
"Well, two things give us that assurance. First of all, it was designed to protect humans, and second, the normal human ear is capable of detecting from about 20 to 20,000 vibrations, or hertz, per second. This machine goes beyond even the high pitched sound that a dog whistle makes. To be honest, I don't think the vibrations per second given off by the weapon will even be calculable by us.
"The truly odd thing about the device," she went on, "is that it will perform on two levels. One, aimed at outer space and operating on the electromagnetic level, and two, it can be shifted to the appropriate sound wave for immediacy."
Daniel leaned forward, arms on the table. "Immediacy? What do you mean?"
"My best guess is that the creators of the device thought it possible that some symbiotes might survive the electromagnetic hit, so the device is designed to give off a secondary sound wave hit. The second hit requires close proximity, meaning within Earth's atmosphere.
"The machine will pile compressional wavefronts along the conical edge of the wave pattern it creates. These wavefronts pile up and interfere to produce a very high pressure zone. Or in other words; a sonic boom. But again, we wouldn't hear it. Only the symbiote would."
Several minutes passed as both Jack and Daniel digested Sam's information. Finally Daniel raised a finger and frowning in confusion, asked, "Wait, wait. If I remember correctly, electromagnetic waves are produced by the vibration of electrons within atoms on the Sun's surface, right?"
At Sam's nod, he added, "Okay, then they travel through the vacuum of outer space subsequently reaching Earth. Which is why we're here. So if I understand correctly, this machine literally harnesses the power of the sun, or should I say, recreates it, on a level that destroys the symbiote?"
"You've got it, Daniel," Sam acknowledged.
"My God, but that's, that's--"
"Incredible?" she finished for him.
"Incredible," he agreed. "Is there any way that once back home, you'd be able to duplicate it?"
The light of discovery went out in Sam's eyes. "No, I'm afraid not. The materials that were used to construct the machine are as important as the power source. And I've never seen anything like it. What I can tell you is that I know what to look for when we get back."
Jack had only been half listening, but now he stood quickly. "I don't know about helping you recreate the machine, but I think we have a power source that would work, Major Carter. I need to confer with General Hammond. I'll be back in a few."
Sam's gaze flicked over to Daniel, then back up to Jack as she nodded. Once Jack was gone, Sam and Daniel stared at each other until Sam asked, "What do you suppose--"
"I don't know. What could they have found that we haven't?"
"Well, their whole universe is just different enough that their journeys through the 'Gate have been a series of hits and misses, so they could have stumbled onto anything."
"What do you mean?"
"While working with their Siler, who, by the way, is considerably more talkative than ours, I found out a great deal. For one thing, their 'Gate has only been open for two years. They never went to Abydos, so they don't know about the cartouche you found. It was their Carter, along with Catherine, who finally got the 'Gate to work. But, they're doing it much like Ernest did back in the forties, hit and miss. The only difference is that this Carter did account for the interplanetary shift."
Daniel glanced down at his hands and said, "So that means that -- Shau're is alive."
Sam leaned across the table and placed her hand on his. "It's possible, Daniel. Very possible. But if she is, then her people are still slaves to Ra. He's alive here, since he was never destroyed by you and Colonel O'Neill. He's leading the invasion against this Earth."
Daniel nodded, showing no shock at the news that Ra was alive and well. Sam gave his hand a squeeze and in an effort to change the subject, asked, "So, did this Jack tell you anything about your counterpart?"
"Oh, yeah," Daniel said with a wry grin. "Seems I was not only a best selling author, but a television star as well."
Hammond looked across his desk at his best officer, eyes full of doubt. "Jack, you're asking me to use it on something we have no guarantee will work. I don't think I can do that."
"Sir, if Major Carter is right, and I have every faith that she is, we won't need it for anything else. Half our world is gone, General."
Hammond stood up and walked over to the far wall. He gazed up at the oil painting of an Air Force captain saluting the American Flag that flew over a beautiful rendering of the White House. The painting was almost ethereal, thanks to the artist's use of color and blending. It never failed to bring a lump to General Hammond's throat.
Staring at it now, knowing that the building represented was gone, the lump was almost painful. Without turning around, he said, "Permission granted, Colonel O'Neill."
"Thank you, Sir." Jack started to leave when Hammond said, "Is this Jackson really that good at translations?"
Turning back, Jack answered, "Yes, sir. Major Carter told me that he speaks over twenty-five languages. And at least two of them aren't spoken on Earth."
"Perhaps while waiting to see what Carter can do, he'd be willing to look at that book SG-7 brought back from P3X-452? It's supposed to hold hundreds of Stargate coordinates. He can use Doctor Jackson's, office."
Jack winced, but said, "I'm sure he can help us with it, General. I'll take him down now."
"Good, good. The book is in Rothman's lab. I'll have Airman Walker take it over to Doctor Jackson's office."
"Yes, sir." Jack left quietly, knowing that at the moment, General Hammond was thinking of those he'd lost. His daughter, his grandchildren -- his entire family.
Sam was disturbed, but she wasn't certain why. Daniel's voice had held a trace of, what? Bitterness? No, nor sadness either. Whatever the elusive emotion was, her thoughts on its discovery were temporarily put on hold by Jack's return.
"Major Carter, the General has given permission for me to show you something. I believe it's just what you need for the weapon, power wise. And Daniel," he added as he placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder, "the General has a request of you."
Looking up at brown eyes he knew so well, yet not at all, the younger man said, slightly puzzled, "What more can I do?"
"Another translation, we hope. It seems that one of our teams found a book that we believe might hold the secret to hundreds of planetary addresses. Would you--"
Daniel didn't bother to let him finish. He stood up and with a soft smile, said, "Lead the way, Jack."
"Great, Daniel, and thanks. I'll show you to your -- to -- Daniel's office, where you can work undisturbed while Major Carter does her magic."
"Magic?" Sam responded as she too rose to her feet. "I don't think so. But with your Siler's help, along with a few others, we'll do what we can." She moved ahead of Jack, her body language failing to conceal her eagerness at finding out about the mysterious power source.
Both men smiled ... and followed.
As they walked down the halls of the SGC, Daniel knew instinctively that he would not be led to a lab, to his lab, and he was right. His, or rather the other Daniel's office, was on the same floor as Jack's and was exactly that; an office. Jack pulled out a set of keys, found the right one, inserted it and unlocked the door.
Daniel and Sam waited as Jack stood poised on the threshold, yet not moving. Both understood the reason for the hesitation and waited patiently until Jack flipped on the light and allowed Daniel and Sam to enter.
"This is it." He stuffed the key back into his pocket and said rather apologetcally, "I haven't -- cleaned it out yet, so all of our Daniel's things are still here."
Embarrassed, Jack cleared his throat, then went on in a more businesslike manner. "General Hammond said he'd have the book delivered," Jack checked the desk, "and there it is. Make yourself comfortable, Daniel. There's a coffee maker behind the desk and supplies in the cupboard below. I imagine this is pretty similar to yours."
He missed the look that passed between Sam and Daniel as he continued. "If you need any reference materials, just pick up the phone, hit the star key, then twenty-one. That will connect you with Doctor Patricia Henderson and she'll be able to assist you. She won't be surprised by your call," he finished with an uncomfortable smile.
Daniel moved to the desk, feeling more than a little uncomfortable himself. The differences between this spacious, immaculate and very tastefully decorated office, and his rather overly stuffed lab were almost ludicrous. Overriding his curiosity about the office, however, was his interest in the book that rested in the center of the large mahogany desk. He pushed the chair out of the way and immediately, but carefully, opened it.
Sam, seeing that they'd already lost him, gave the office a quick curious look. She discovered more than she expected about the other Daniel. Turning her attention back to the Colonel, she said, a smile evident in her voice, "If we back out quietly, he'll never miss us."
Jack was watching Daniel, a puzzled frown on his face. At Sam's words, he gave his head a little shake, then followed her out, quietly shutting the door behind him. In the corridor, he paused, the frown still in place. Sam cocked her head and asked, "Sir? What's wrong?"
Without taking his eyes from the door, he said in an odd voice, "I've -- I don't think," he paused, shook his head again, then said, "I've never seen him like that." Now it was Sam's turn to be puzzled. "Like what?"
"So -- intense, so focused. He actually didn't hear us leave, he was that immersed. I've just never seen that level of concentration in Daniel before. It was odd."
"Sir, that isn't your Daniel," she reminded him gently.
Brown eyes still glued to the door, Jack said thoughtfully, "No, it isn't, is it?"
Giving himself a mental shake, Jack turned toward the end of the hall and said, "Let's get to it, Major."
Jack couldn't have said why he suddenly needed to go to Daniel's lab, but after finishing a ream of paperwork, that was exactly the urge that overtook him. He packed up his desk, pulled on his leather jacket, locked up his office and headed to the Daniel-empty lab.
Letting himself in, he turned on the light that sat on Daniel's worktable, then stood quietly and simply absorbed. Jack breathed in deep and there, just on the edge of his awareness, was the faint odor of Daniel's aftershave. Jack had no idea why he needed to be here, but he acknowledged that it was, indeed, a need. He glanced down at the worktable and smiled indulgently. Jack knew that the table was organized, but only Daniel would be able to lay his hands on anything that might be asked for or needed.
Oddly enough, only one coffee cup sat on the surface and Jack found that very wrong. There should be four of five cups, in varying degrees of decay, littering the table. He craned his neck and could just see the tops of several mugs in the sink.
Well, what do you know, he thought. Daniel actually made an attempt to wash a few.
Smiling now, Jack made his way to Daniel's chair and sat down. In front of him sat a yellow legal pad and on top of it, Daniel's Air Force pen, the one Jack had given him two Christmases ago. He picked it up and as his fingers ran up and down the silver length of it, he could almost feel Daniel's warmth coming off of the implement.
Glancing down, he stared at the handwriting and wondered who had taken the time and care to teach Daniel such a beautiful hand. Most men wrote in a way that could be only be compared favorably to chicken scratchings, but not Daniel. Maybe it was all the schooling and reports he'd spent hours writing? Or perhaps some foster mother sitting at a kitchen table with him for hours on end as he practiced? Jack didn't know, but he was grateful just the same. The beauty of the handwriting seemed to be indicative of the man himself and Jack liked that idea.
He gazed around the lab, smiling at the artifacts that Daniel used for supposed decoration. Jack knew what each and every one of them meant to Daniel. The man had beautiful taste, his apartment a testament to that. The taste wasn't rooted in convention or fashion either, but rather in the simple, truthful beauty of the past; and like Daniel's handwriting, that also suited Jack just fine.
A few photographs sat nestled in the bookcase behind Jack and as his gaze settled on them, he frowned. Funny, of all the times he'd been in here, Jack couldn't remember ever seeing them. He walked over, picked up the closest, and felt a pang of sadness. It was obviously a photo of Daniel's parents, and in their arms, a small Daniel.
He looked to be about five and he was one very dirty little boy. Behind them, Jack could see a tomb, a few camels, and several workers. It was obvious that Daniel had been playing when his mother and father had picked him up. Daniel was grinning broadly, his small white teeth gleaming in the tanned and dirt-smudged face.
Jack experienced a sharp jerk within his chest as he stared down at the glimpse of Daniel's past that he held in his hand. He touched the cheek of the boy, then swallowed hard and put the photo back. Next to it was a photo that brought a grin to Jack's face.
An impromptu game of tag football played on P3Y-811 with SG-1 and SG-2 pitted against each other. They'd finished a long and tiring diplomatic mission only to find a problem with the 'Gate, namely that while others could dial in, they couldn't dial out. So while waiting for parts to come through for Carter, they'd started playing ball.
The weather had been such that most of them had shucked their shirts and jackets, as well as boots and socks. In the photo, he and Daniel had been captured by Captain Marsh (who'd been forced to sit out the game since SG-2 had one more team member than SG-1) and his digital camera. Daniel had just scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown. Daniel, shirtless, breathless, and grass stained, was laughing while trying to hold the ball out of reach. Jack was just about to tip the ball away when Marsh had snapped the picture.
God, could anyone look as incredible as Daniel? Had Daniel ever looked happier? The sparkling blue eyes were trained on Jack, Daniel's lips slightly parted in his laughter.
In spite of Jack's hand reaching up and Daniel straining away, their faces had been so close that even today Jack could remember how delicious Daniel's breath had felt on his cheek. One could imagine that if he'd just turned a fraction of an inch, their lips would have met.
Jack closed his eyes and pretended just that. He tried to imagine the warm, moist, sweet lips meeting his, and the laughter swallowed by their meeting. He tried to imagine the smell of the grass becoming a part of them as his tongue dipped in and tasted all that Daniel had to give him--
Jack's eyes shot open and his body trembled as the photo slipped from suddenly nerveless fingers. The framed picture landed harmlessly on his foot before sliding to the floor, but Jack wasn't aware of it. He brought his hand to his mouth and felt his lips, certain that he could feel the taste of Daniel on them.
Daniel had been kissing Jack back. He'd been kissing -- the -- other -- Jack -- back.
Jack slowly bent and retrieved the photo, then carefully restored it to its place on the shelf. He walked back to the table and sat down among Daniel's things.
Daniel had believed that the man he'd been kissing had been -- him. Jack O'Neill. This Jack O'Neill. And as a result of that belief, he'd kissed him back with all he'd had to give.
Jack could see that kiss as clear as day.
He could hear Daniel moaning deep within his throat, moans of desire, want and -- need. He could see the way Daniel's arms had wound around that other Jack, and he could see the way his Daniel had molded his body to that Jack.
It should have been ... him. This Jack.
Standing suddenly, Jack promised himself that when Daniel got back -- it would be.
With no intention of going home now, Jack decided to get his sleeping bag and camp out in the storage room. He was going to be there when his Daniel returned.
The summer's gone, and all
the flowers are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go
and I must bide.
Daniel closed the book carefully and set it aside. His notes sat in front of him and for a moment he stared at his handwriting, no real thought in his head. His translation was complete, his scribblings providing over a hundred Stargate destinations.
It had only taken Daniel a few minutes to understand that what this SGC had discovered was obviously a book done by a human slave of Ra. The slave had been given the task of writing down the same Stargate addresses that Daniel had found on Abydos. The book next to Daniel was probably one volume of many, but at least it would give this SGC a start, if they defeated Ra and survived.
Daniel stretched his neck, then did a few moves designed to help him relax his muscles. He stood up and did the same for his spine, then stretched his arms out in front of him and flexed his fingers. Without his computer, he'd worked them hard with the pen, covering page after yellow page with addresses, printing them out meticulously and accurately. Now his eyes were red-rimmed and burning, his body stiff and sore.
After a few minutes of relaxing moves, he let his eyes finally roam around the office that had belonged to a version of himself. The first thing that caught his eye was what could only be called an 'award wall'. Daniel didn't have anything like it, but he'd seen enough of them to recognize one.
He stepped around the desk and over to the wall to get a better look and immediately gave a low whistle. The Daniel of this world actually had sports awards.
Shaking his head, Daniel wondered where the hell this -- that -- Daniel, had found the time for tennis, and holy shit, baseball too. The guy had MVP awards in baseball and All City awards in tennis. As Daniel continued his perusal of the wall, he noticed the numerous certificates for speaking engagements and the many framed photos with celebrities, all of whom had their arms slung over Daniel's shoulders.
Daniel wasn't surprised to find this Daniel's doctorate on the wall, framed and displayed prominently. He doubted that he even knew where his doctorates were.
Daniel walked the length of the wall, ducking his head up and down as he peered at every photo, certificate, trophy, and awards, including the Emmys. He would have them here, on a military base.
Daniel was pretty sure he had a handwriting award from the eighth grade -- somewhere. And didn't he have a couple of science awards from high school?
He went back to looking at photos.
One of the pictures showed Daniel in white tennis shorts and shirt, racket in hand, as he waved and smiled at a camera. Hell, this guy probably didn't even know what a geek was. This Daniel had been a GQ posterboy.
Two other photos really captured Daniel's attention: they were of -- Jack and Daniel. In each picture, the men were careful not to touch, but their love was obvious in their grins and eyes. Daniel could imagine that somewhere other photos existed where the two men were more engaged with each other. He also knew that he wouldn't want to see those, not and keep his own heart intact.
Quickly moving on, Daniel found that his brain simply could not reconcile the life this Daniel had led, with his own. They were as different as night and day. He also began to realize that the Daniel of the wall was a Daniel that his Jack would have loved.
The Daniel of the wall was full of humor, life, energy, and spirit. With a sense of being the wrong Daniel, the lesser Daniel, he realized that the Daniel revealed on the wall was a Daniel of jokes, laughter, and ease. This was a Daniel secure in himself and his life, a Daniel that had never failed -- at anything.
He was about to turn away when another set of photos caught his eye. Squinting, he moved closer, then stopped cold. A low moan escaped as he gazed on one particular photo. In it, this Daniel was standing in front of an airport window, arms around -- his parents. A grown-up Daniel. A Daniel, judging by his Air Force jacket, that had met Jack O'Neill and was perhaps leaving for Colorado.
Daniel's parents were alive in this universe.
Daniel felt his stomach flip-flop as he stared at the photo of -- his parents.
Alive, greying at the temples for his father, laugh wrinkles around the eyes for his mother, but otherwise, the parents he remembered, the parents he loved.
God, he had to sit down. Now. Before he fell down. Daniel made his way back around the desk and dropped into the cushy chair.
God damn it, no wonder this Daniel had everything. Literally. He had fame, fortune, Jack, and his -- parents. Okay, the guy was dead, but he'd had it all.
"GOD DAMN IT TO HELL!" his mind screamed in agony as his gut clenched and the pain of it ripped through him. Unable to stop himself, Daniel stood long enough to take the photo from the wall, then sit back down. He held it in his hand, fingers moving over his father's face, then his mother's. Daniel's eyes lifted and his gaze fell on the phone, then strayed to the small rolodex next to it. Would he have their phone number in a rolodex? No, surely not. Wouldn't he have memorized it? Yes. But maybe--
Daniel watched his hand reach out and pull the box toward him, watched as nervous fingers flipped through the alphabetical cards until he found the 'J', then flipped another few cards until he found one that said, "M&D's new number in LA."
M&D. Mom and Dad. And LA? Los Angeles? God, he hoped so. He prayed that they no longer returned to New York the way the swallows always returned to San Juan Capistrano. The Eastern seaboard was - gone. He continued to finger the card.
"I can't do this," he whispered, even as he lifted the receiver from the cradle.
Eyes on the number, brain on pause, he punched them in, held his breath as it rang on the other end, then closed his eyes as a deep voice said hurridedly, "Jackson residence."
Not his father's voice. Not. His.
Clearing his throat, Daniel said, "Doctor Jackson, please?"
"Just a moment."
Daniel could hear the man as he called out, "Jackson, it's for you!", then he heard footsteps and his father's voice say, "Who is it?", followed by a muffled, "How the hell should I know? What, I'm your God damn butler or something? And we've got to get going, man. Everyone is leaving the city!" There was a tense pause, then, "This is Doctor Jackson."
Daniel's fingers tightened around the phone as his pulse raced and sweat broke out over his body. He tried to say something, anything, but his mouth wouldn't work. Tears sprang to his eyes so he closed them tightly as his father said, "Hello? This is Doctor Jackson."
He was just about to hang up when another voice, light, lyrical voice, asked, "Honey, who is it?"
The tears fell freely as Daniel whispered, "Mom?" A sob caught in his throat and he was about to slam the phone down when his father said, "Daniel? Is that you?"
Oh, God. Didn't they know? Didn't they know their son was dead? How long ago had Jack said it had happened?
"Daniel?" his father asked again, less certain this time.
Nothing hurt as much as hearing that word while hanging up. Nothing.
The tears continued to fall, unchecked.
Sam stared at the protective container, her expression one of disbelief.
"It's called Naquadria," O'Neill said quietly. He ran a finger over the top of the box and said in a chillingly detached voice, "This is what we received for Daniel's -- death."
Sam had been about to pull the box toward her when Jack's words froze her motion. "What?" she said, shocked.
"This is why he died, this is how he died, and because he died, we have this small sample." Jack tore his eyes from the container to focus their dark depths on Sam. "Quiet planet, folks just like us, we thought. Experimenting with something they found in their explorations. They just wanted to build a wee bit of a bomb."
His expression hardened as his tone went from cold to sarcastic as he added, "A bomb only big enough to destroy their world. But something went wrong, like it always does, and Daniel died, along with several of their scientists. They apologized, and gave us this," he patted the box, "in reparation for our loss."
Sam stared at the hand on the box. She remembered Jack telling them that Daniel -- his Daniel -- had died on his very first mission.
Sam needed to know more.
"What function was Daniel serving on that mission, Colonel?"
"Diplomat. SG-2 is our follow-up team for first contacts, but in this case, they went in first, Daniel with them to get negotiations going." Jack's eyes softened and took on a faraway, almost dreamy look.
"Daniel could charm anyone," he added wistfully. "People could listen to him for hours and hours. That's the real reason why Hammond okay'd his joining. I mean, we have men and women with more knowledge of Egyptology than Daniel, so we didn't really need another expert in that field. But with his charisma, Hammond and I figured him a sure thing in follow-up negotiations. Not to mention that with his name attached to the SGC, well, funding for the program skyrocketed, as you can imagine."
Jack paused, his eyes once again changing, now a liquid brown full of sadness. "If only I'd been there. Hell, if only I'd kept him out of the SGC. We were doing okay with our life as it was, but damn, I needed him, no, wanted him near me--"
His voice trailed off as he realized how much he was revealing to another officer, even if she was from another reality. He brought his fist to his mouth, coughed a bit, then said, "That was more than you needed or wanted to know, eh, Carter?"
Sam looked into the face she knew so well, and recognized the signs of great loss that were etched around the eyes and mouth. She flashed on a moment in her reality, a moment years ago when they'd believed that Daniel was dead, thanks to Nem. She remembered a hockey stick through the General's car window and Jack stalking back into his home with the exact same look of unnatural and extreme loss.
Slowly Sam brought her hand to her mouth as it hit her.
Her Jack -- loved -- her Daniel.
Oh, he might not know it, she realized, but he did. The look she'd seen that day told of a man more lost than the one standing before her now. Her Jack had been so much more devastated that he'd been ready to quit, to retire again.
Because Daniel was gone.
Turning inward, Sam felt the stab of her own loss back then. God, she'd felt so desolate, so empty when she'd believed Daniel gone.
How would it feel now?
She lowered her head because she knew. For all their friendly banter and competition, and yes, she knew the competition was on her side, not Daniel's, Daniel had always been the person to keep her focused. Even as he tried to lead her along the edge of some new and terrifying idea, like today.
Daniel's strength lay in the ability to get those around him to open their minds to possibilities. He'd always been able to see beyond the basic black and white of a scientist's life, and in doing so, had helped SG-1 do the same. For Daniel Jackson, the world was full of an infinite number of colors. Black, white, even grey, were the very least of them.
Chaka was, perhaps, the perfect example of Daniel's world of infinite colors. To Sam and Jack, the idea that humans would be in jeopardy if Chaka armed himself and fought, had been deplorable. Even the idea that they might have to harm a human to save Chaka had been impossible to face. But not so for Daniel. Daniel had seen the truth.
A truth very few could handle because it struck at the very heart of the human ego. And ego that decreed that humans were supreme. Humans were gifted, and thus worthy of life more than Chaka and his people.
But Daniel had shown time and again that such a universal truth was in fact, a dangerous fallacy.
Sam closed her eyes and thanked God that she had Daniel. It was selfish, but it was heartfelt. Her world needed Daniel. It was as simple as that. She needed him. Teal'c needed him -- and yes, Colonel Jack O'Neill needed him. Badly.
Not that Daniel was perfect, but damn, he was special.
With some effort, she brought herself back to this reality and this Jack. Curiosity and fear forced her to ask, "How exactly--" "Radiation poisoning," Jack bit off tersely. "Don't ask me any more about it," he warned, his voice dangerous with emotion.
Sam didn't need to, her imagination was fueled only too well by her vast knowledge. She groaned low in her throat and in reflex, pushed the box away from her -- and just as quickly pulled it back.
She had a job to do, and damn it, she would do it.
"Who's the expert on this stuff?" she asked gruffly.
Jack closed the lab door behind him and resting against it, let out a long breath. He'd spent hours with Major Carter, Sergeant Siler and Captain Morrison, as Carter was brought up to speed on the Naquadria. Then as she and the others set to work, Carter had asked questions about his Daniel, the kind of questions he hadn't minded answering. The kind that kept bringing a fond smile to his face. But now, now he was relieved to let them do their thing, to hide from the questions and memories.
He ran his hand through his short hair, then pushed away and without conscious thought, headed for Daniel's office. He didn't make it, his pager going off instead. Jack pulled it from his pocket and winced. It was General Hammond.
Hammond was in the control room, face pale and pinched. The others around him looked almost as bad and Jack knew immediately that something horrific had occured.
Without turning away from the equipment in front of him, Hammond said, "We've lost communication with the beta site."
"Jesus," Jack breathed out.
"It gets worse, Colonel. The Goa'uld mother ship that was attacking the beta site is now on a course for Earth, for us. That means the previous timetable is history so please tell me you have good news with regard to the device?"
Still recovering from the idea that they might have lost the beta site, Jack managed to nod and say, "The Naquadria may have been the original source of power. They're working on it now, but Major Carter had no prognosis when I left. I'll go back down, let them know."
The General nodded guardedly, then said, "You can stop Doctor Jackson as well. It looks as though we won't have much need for those addresses after all."
Jack frowned, then stepped closer to the General. "Sir, one of them might be adequate for another -- for a second beta site?"
Without blinking, Hammond said, "There isn't time, Colonel. If Major Carter can't get that device up and running in two hours, you'll need to send them back to their world before it's too late."
Jack hurried back to the lab, dodging scientist and soldier alike. Word had spread and the halls of the SGC were full of quiet organized panic as people readied themselves for battle. He couldn't believe the beta site was gone, that their Carter was gone. On the other hand, if he were a betting man, he'd bet on Carter. If there was chance in million for survival, Carter would have found it.
He pushed the lab door to find Major Carter and the others bent over the device. At his intrusion, they looked up, impatient at the interruption. He decided on short and sweet.
"We believe we've lost the beta site. Ra is on his way here and we have less than two hours. Major, can you get it working?"
Sam straightened, a worried frown marring her beauty. She glanced back at the weapon, then said, "If we can't get it up in an hour, we won't be getting it up at all, sir."
Jack looked anxiously at the other faces and saw their agreement. "All right then, go to it."
The others went back to work, but Sam said, "You'd better get Daniel down here, Colonel."
She didn't have to say anything else, her meaning was clear. He nodded, pivoted and exited the lab.
Daniel scrubbed at his face, then dried himself off. He draped the towel back over the bar, scanned his reflection again, and satisfied that his emotions no longer showed, snapped off the light. He walked back into the office and with careful hands, picked up the photo of his -- parents. With great care, he placed it back on the wall.
Turning away, the sight simply too painful, he was startled when the office door flew open.
"Daniel, forget about the translations, I need--"
"They're done, Jack," Daniel said quietly as he looked at the clearly upset man.
Daniel's words froze Jack in place, his eyes blinking rapidly. "You're -- what? Did you say you were done?"
"Yes." He reached over and picked up the pages to hand to Jack. "Here you go. One hundred Stargate addresses. It appears that what you found was--"
Jack took the papers, his eyes on Daniel. "One hundred addresses?" he asked, shocked.
Daniel nodded, then asked, "Is something wrong?"
Unbelieving, Jack stared at the pages in his hand as he said, "Ra is on his way here and we have less than two hours. I need to get you down to the lab."
"I see. Does that mean the beta site--"
"We think it's gone, but I have faith in Captain Carter. In the meantime, we have to get that weapon up and running."
"Then let's go."
Daniel sat a few feet from where Sam and the others were working. It had been over an hour since Jack had retrieved him from the other Daniel's office. Suddenly Sam looked up, made contact with Jack, and said, "That's it. This thing will either work, or it won't -- ever."
Jack jumped up and hurried to her side. He took the device out of Siler's hands. "So what now?" he asked self-consciously.
Sam handed him the instructions Daniel had translated earlier and said, "You go up top and turn it on. As we discussed before, you'll know soon enough if it's working. Later, all you'll then need to do is change its frequency, and again, the instructions are there." She pointed to the paper in Jack's hand as she added, "Then sit back and watch. If it works, Ra won't attack, because there will be no Ra."
Jack stared at the device, then looked at Sam. Something flickered in his dark gaze, but all he said was, "You'll want to go back now."
Sam looked over at Daniel, who said, knowing what she wanted to do, "I think we'd like to stay long enough to see if it does the job, Jack."
"Of course," he said, sounding relieved. "Do we have any idea how long it will take to stop the Goa'uld already here?"
"You should see signs within several minutes of turning it on, but it will take considerably longer when you switch over."
"Right. Okay then, Siler, if you'll take this up top, we'll move to the control room and monitor the situation."
The sergeant took the device, and with his team, headed out, Jack, Sam, and Daniel following.
Thirty minutes. Daniel checked his watch again and nodded. Yep, it had been about thirty minutes since Sergeant Siler had activated the device. He and Sam were seated in the conference room while Jack and General Hammond conferred with the President and Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Apparently the device had worked, but it had taken longer than anticipated to make the final determination. Daniel guessed that was probably due to Jaffa activity on the attacking ships. Soldiers suddenly left bereft of symbiotes, faced with confused hosts who were no longer gods -- yes, he could very well imagine what was happening on board every one of those attack ships.
He could even guess, or hope, that the Teal'c of this world might be as anxious for freedom as their Teal'c, even though this one served Ra and not Apophis.
"You ready to go home, Daniel?"
Sam's words brought him back and he had to blink in order to bring her into focus. "Oh, um, yeah, of course," he managed to say.
"You don't sound very--"
Her words were interrupted by Jack's entrance. Both of them turned to the man with almost identical expectant expressions.
Jack gave them a soft but triumphant grin. "It's over. The ships are leaving. Ra's First Prime, the Jaffa you know as Teal'c, has taken command and called off the attack."
Sam stood up, her face flushed with both pleasure and pride. "It worked," she said almost breathlessly.
Nodding, Jack said, "It worked, Major Carter. The symbiotes are dead, gone. We've switched to the other frequency and should be hearing shortly that Ra's ship has left its present course for Earth and headed back out into space." He moved closer to her and added, "We owe you a debt that can never be paid, Major. Thank you."
He saluted her smartly and held it until with bright red cheeks, she returned the salute. Smiling at her embarrassment, he said, "I've been asked by the President to extend an invitation to meet with him and the Joint Chiefs before I take you back to the quantum mirror. They'd like to personally thank you. Will you accept?"
Daniel watched as the red in Sam's face darkened even more. Smiling, he said, "Go on Sam, do it."
Unable to speak, she simply nodded. Jack turned to the airman behind him and gave a small nod. The man opened the door and said, "Major Carter, if you'll accompany me, I'll take you to the President."
With a shy grin aimed at Daniel, Sam gave him a self-conscious shrug but followed the airman out, leaving Daniel alone with Jack. "I'm glad things worked out for your world. You'd better get a medal for this one."
Jack perched on the edge of the table next to Daniel and his scarred eyebrow rose as he asked, "Why should I get a medal?"
"You brought Sam here. You followed your instincts and used the quantum mirror. That makes you the real hero in this."
For a moment, Jack didn't say anything, he simply looked at Daniel. Finally, "I used the mirror for only reason, Daniel. You. I told myself that I was doing it to find another Carter, to get help, but the real reason was to find -- you."
With that, Jack pulled Daniel between his legs and before the younger man could blink, he kissed him with all the love, hurt, passion, and sorrow inside of him.
And all my dreams will warm
and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell
me that you love me
It was happening again.
His dreams colliding with reality. Hard lips over his, an insistant tongue dipping in and tasting liberally, hands moving, urging, feeling, and stroking freely.
Daniel's head was swimming with wordless 'nos' that were being betrayed by his body's many 'yeses'. His brain was yelling at him to stop, his body was screaming that his brain should shut the fuck up, and his heart was splitting into two jagged pieces. Daniel let the kiss go on. He had to. It was all that he'd ever have and he wanted this. Wanted to pretend that this was his Jack and that Jack loved him as much as this Jack had loved the charismatic Daniel of this reality.
Once again he melted into the body of the man he could believe for now, was the man he loved.
Daniel moved his hand up to cup the back of Jack's head, to feel the silky sharpness of the salt and pepper hair. He sighed into the kiss, even as he held Jack in place. He was loved, he could love in return. That was his mantra as they deepened the kiss and as their bodies fit together tightly, groin to groin.
Finally, the kiss changed, moved to smaller, darting pecks that covered chins, stubbled jaws, soft temples, and fluttering eyelids. A voice, feather light and carried on the faintest of breaths, whispered in his ear, "Stay with me, Daniel. Stay."
Oh, God, he could. He could stay. He could live with this man, crawl inside and never come out, revel in his love, and give it back tenfold, and ... he could have ... his parents back.
Groaning, Daniel pulled back enough to see Jack's face. He frowned as he watched a tear track down the older man's cheek. Catching it with his finger, he stared at the drop of moisture as Jack pleaded again, "Please, stay here. I love you, Daniel. And I know you love me. Stay."
What is it they say about truth and setting a soul free? It was a lie. The truth killed. Daniel was proof of that.
Slowly he slipped from Jack's arms and took two steps back as he said, "I can't, Jack. I can't stay."
Sam was escorted back to the conference room and left at the door. Before entering, she stood a moment, wondering why everything felt so wrong.
Hadn't they pulled off another miracle and saved another reality? She should be delirious, yet she felt nothing but this sense of -- wrongness. She felt as if something important was missing.
Sam thought back to her meeting with with this President Markham. He'd been very similar to their Markham, if more open, so why then did her moment of glory seem hollow?
Wait. Her moment of glory? Hers? What had she been thinking? It wasn't her moment, she hadn't done it, they had.
The word hit her like a sucker punch.
She and Daniel. Daniel and her. They had done it. Nothing would have happened at all if Daniel hadn't been able to translate it, not to mention possessing the knowledge to understand what he was translating and how it related to the weapon.
Sam leaned her head against the coolness of the wall and closed her eyes.
She'd done it again.
Accepted credit that was only partially due. Accepted credit that should have gone to Daniel in equal measure. Frowning at a sudden thought, Sam lifted her head and opened her eyes. My God, she thought, everyone here, Daniel included, had allowed the credit to land on her.
Okay, she could understand the people here. Their Daniel hadn't had a quarter of her Daniel's abilities. This SGC simply wasn't used to having him, let alone experiencing his worth. But damn it, why had Daniel had allowed it?
He hadn't even blinked when they'd been told that the President wanted to thank her. He'd just grinned and pushed her forward and straight into the limelight.
God, she had medals, promotions, and commendations, thanks to working with SG-1. But the Carter in this reality was still only a Captain, and why? Because the team of SG-1 was not the same. Because Captain Carter led SG-2, because there as no Teal'c, and no -- Daniel.
How could she not have see it? Hadn't she implied as much to her counterpart from another reality all those years ago?
How had she missed the fact that her life was so much richer, thanks to SG-1? And thanks to -- Daniel.
So what did Daniel have to show for his work? Commendations? No. Medals? None. When was the last time he'd even been thanked by anyone?
Sam turned and started to enter the conference room, but voices from within stopped her.
"I can't, Jack. I can't stay."
Sam rested her head against the door and without shame, watched and listened.
"Yes, you can, Daniel. You can. And I know you want to, I can see it in your eyes. You love me."
Daniel wanted to look away, but he couldn't as he said, "I do love Jack O'Neill, but I love the Jack of my world. I can't deny how very much like him you are, but the ultimate truth is that you're not -- him."
Face pale, eyes wide and dark with sadness, Daniel stepped close once again. Placing a hand on Jack's cheek, he noted sadly, "Even if you were exactly like my Jack, the fact is," he looked away for a moment, "I'm not your Daniel. You need to understand that. I'm not even close. The differences between your Daniel and me too great.
"I look like him, but that's it, Jack. Eventually you'd catch on. You'd see the truth, the glaring differences, and you'd resent me. Maybe even -- hate me because everything you love about him," Daniel spread his arms out, "simply isn't here. I'm who I am and I can't change that."
Jack jerked back, grabbed Daniel's hand, and said, "No, no--"
"Yes," Daniel said gently. "Your Daniel had a great life. He never lost his parents. Jack. He led a totally different life and you've got to understand that. He was everything that I'm not." Suddenly he smiled and said, "Hell, our O'Neill would be the first to tell you that I'm nothing but a science geek. I drive him crazy all the time. I argue, we fight, I can never shut up. I suspect he'd love to have traded Daniels."
Daniel dropped his hand as he painfully added, "I even think my Jack would have -- loved your Daniel as much as you do."
Eyes going dim with the aknowledgment of what Daniel was trying to tell him, Jack said listlessly,"You're going back."
"I'm going back."
For a brief moment, both were silent, then Jack looked into the blue eyes so like his Daniel's, and said, "One kiss. One more. We'll give each other permission to pretend, all right?"
Daniel couldn't say no. He wanted the pretense as much as Jack. He nodded. Jack's look softened as he ran his thumb over Daniel's lower lip, then bent his head slightly and pressed his mouth gently against Daniel's.
Sam brushed the tears away with the back of her hand even as she held back a sob. She thought her heart was breaking with Daniel's.
"O'Neill, why are you here?"
Jack turned on his side and looked up at his friend. Propping himself up with his arm, he said, "Oh, gosh, it's just so damn decorative down here, Teal'c."
One eyebrow rose. "Indeed?" Brown eyes took in the dull grey room, then came to rest on Jack. "Perhaps you should consider redecorating your home in a similar manner, O'Neill?"
"Oh, I am, Teal'c. I am."
"I see." Teal'c glanced over at the mirror, then back to Jack. "They have only been absent for a day, O'Neill."
"Thanks for the update."
"I have every confidence in Major Carter and DanielJackson. They will return safely, O'Neill."
"Don't doubt it for a minute, Teal'c."
Teal'c tilted his head at Jack, then said enigmatically, "I see."
"Don't you have some Kel-no-reeming to do somewhere?"
Jack gave his friend a wry smile and patted his sleeping bag. "Then take a load off and we'll wait together."
Teal'c crossed his legs and lowered himself into a sitting position on the floor.
"So, pick a number between one and a hundred," Jack said humorously.
Jack walked down the hall, Daniel and Major Carter just behind him. There had been some discussion of the two remaining so that Carter could gather more information on how the device worked on Ra's ship, but a message had finally come through from the beta site. Tremendous damage had been done by Ra's attack, and many lives lost, but Captain Carter had managed to find safety and save over a hundred of Earth's best and brightest. She would be arriving any minute, which meant that staying for the length of time required to further study the device was now out of the question.
It was time to go home.
They entered the room with the quantum mirror but before Sam or Daniel could move toward it, Jack took a position in front of it.
"I guess this is it," he said softly, his brown eyes looking with yearning at Daniel. "I guess so. You and the SGC have quite a job ahead of you, Jack. The country needs rebuilding and you have new worlds to journey to. You'll be too busy to wonder about -- anything," Daniel said, his voice gentle.
"You're right, of course. We do have our work cut out for us."
Sam stepped up beside him, saying, "With the device, you and this SGC can do what the rest of us can't. You cannot only protect Earth, but you can free other worlds, Colonel."
Jack looked down into her blue eyes and nodded. With some regret, he said, "I wish we didn't need it anymore so that I could give it to you, Major. But as you said earlier, there are other Gou'alds out there, including this Apophis, who will undoubtedly try to launch his own attack."
There was nothing either Daniel or Sam could say to that. Their own thoughts had followed similar paths. It was odd that once again they were saving an alternate world, yet could not themselves, directly benefit. Although Sam had faith that if the device had been found in this universe, it would be found in hers.
With a last glance at Daniel, Jack turned and faced the mirror.
"How many guesses am I allowed, O'Neill?"
"Then I have lost."
Teal'c cocked his head. "Do you intend to inform me of this number between one and one hundred?"
"It was eighteen."
"I see. I was surprisingly close, if you consider my odds of correctly guessing the secret number you had chosen."
Jack sat up, swung his body around so that he could rest his back against the file cabinet behind him, then stretched out his aching knee. Rubbing it absently, he said, "Close only counts in horseshoes."
"I disagree, O'Neill. I believe close counts in many things."
Jack looked up at his friend and with an 'Oh, yeah?' expression, asked, "Such as?"
"Close counts in a near miss."
It was Jack's turn to cock his head. "A near miss? Have you ever really considered what a near miss is, Teal'c?"
"Actually, I believe the phrase 'near miss' is a misnomer. But that is the way of you humans. Obviously it should be a 'near hit'. I would find it hard to believe that Anubis would say, after firing a staff weapon and striking you in the chest, 'And I so nearly missed you'."
Jack wrinkled his nose, then scratched it as he said, "Teal'c, I'm only supposed to feel this way when Daniel is talking."
"What way is that, O'Neill?"
A movement out of the corner of his eye caught Teal'c's attention and he turned toward the mirror.
"O'Neill, I believe DanielJackson and Major Carter are about to return," he said, indicating the mirror with a nod of his head.
Jack scrambled to his feet, as did Teal'c. As they moved to stand by the device they could see the other room, but only Carter was visible, as someone's back was blocking most of the view.
"I believe that is you, O'Neill."
"My shoulders are broader," Jack responded as he willed the other Jack to move the hell out of the way so he could see Daniel.
The other Jack did exactly that and now Carter was staring at them, a small smile on her face. She gave them a thumbs up, then looked over at Daniel.
"He does not appear -- well, does he, O'Neill?"
Jack was too busy watching his counterpart move closer to Daniel to answer. He frowned as the two men stared at each other and thought that if that Jack kissed his Daniel the way the alternate Carter had kissed him, he'd have to kill the guy. Which would be tough, as he'd be killing himself, albeit an alternate self.
As Jack continued to watch, he found himself in agreement with Teal'c. Daniel didn't look good. There was a pinched quality to Daniel's face, and even from Jack's vantage point on the other side of the mirror, Daniel's eyes seemed to carry the sadness of two worlds in their blue depths.
Jack's heart suddenly ached for his friend. At that moment, Daniel and Sam both reached out to touch the mirror, and suddenly, they were there, beside he and Teal'c. For Jack, the room was too crowded.
Daniel blinked, then stared at the other Jack, now in the mirror. He had the crazy urge to reach through and stroke the man's cheek, but instead, simply stepped back and away. He watched as Jack lifted the control device and a second later the mirror was dark. That Jack and his world were gone.
"Well, kids, glad to be home?" Jack said cheerfully.
Daniel turned away from the mirror to face his Jack and said easily, "Always good to be home."
The four members of SG-1 stared at each other, then Jack coughed slightly and said, "General Hammond is anxious to hear how it went, Carter. I take it from the thumbs up you flashed us, that you two succeeded?"
"We did, sir. The device worked, thanks to Daniel's translation efforts."
Daniel blinked oddly, then looked at Sam as if she'd sprouted two heads. Before he could say anything, Jack said,"Well, naturally. That was a given. Our Danny's the best."
Sam shot her commanding officer a grateful grin, one that he didn't understand in the least. He shrugged anyway and said, "I'll let the General know you're back. He wanted to set up a meeting the moment you both returned."
"Uh, Jack?" Daniel asked hesitantly, "I'm not really needed in the debriefing, so do you mind if I go straight to my office? I left a table of translations that need finishing. Since Sam's the expert on the device, she can fill the General in."
Jack was about to disagree when he caught Carter's head motion out of the corner of his eye. She was giving him a barely discernible nod and the expression on her face told him to let Daniel go -- for now.
Daniel's homecoming hadn't turned out quite as he'd hoped, but that seemed to be SOP of late. Jack gave Daniel an understanding nod and said, "Go, Daniel. We'll take care of everything."
Without looking at Jack, Daniel nodded, then as he walked out, said, "Go get 'em, Sam."
When the door closed behind him, Sam looked up at Jack and said, "Thank you, sir. I think he needs to be alone, right now."
Jack didn't say how much he needed to be alone right now -- with Daniel, instead he simply shrugged and led them out of the lab. They had a rendezvous with General Hammond.
As Sam followed Jack and Teal'c through the halls of the SGC, she found herself contemplating the telling of a lie. Or if not an actual lie, then certainly the withholding of vital information.
She wondered if she could do it.
To be or not to be, that was indeed the question. A question almost as big as to lie or not to lie.
Withhold and thus protect one, or divulge all in order to protect all?
By the time they arrived at the conference room and had taken their customary seats Sam still had not made up her mind, and hated herself for that indecision.
Daniel sat down surrounded by his comfortable clutter and promptly put his arms on the table and head on his arms.
Dreams were vital to the psyche of a healthy individual, and some were even meant to come true. But for the most part, the dreams one keeps hidden away were not meant to be even partially realized. Daniel knew that, had always known that. People all over the world had dreams they'd never share. Dreams too outlandish to happen, too farfetched to take seriously.
Being loved by Jack O'Neill was probably not all that farfetched, but it had been a dream kept hidden away in the dark. No, dream wasn't even the right word. It had been a concept. An idea, and on the best night, a hope. But now Daniel had tasted it. Touched it, felt it, experienced it.
It wasn't going to be enough.
Talk about your dark side. Fuck.
Daniel lifted his head, blinked owlishly, pulled his glasses off, and rubbed hard at his eyes. He should probably talk to Jack later. Face the music. Daniel shook his head. No, this one time Jack would have to set the pace. And Daniel suspected that Jack was going to ignore it all.
Okay. Daniel could do ignorance. Daniel could shore up, cement in, hold back. But damn it, there would be days when he would take out his memory of being kissed by the other Jack and he'd pretend. But other than that? Dreams, hopes, concepts, or whatever he was given to call them, were no longer. Didn't exist. Poof. Gone.
He had his job, his fish, his friends. And no matter what else happened, Jack, in denial mode, was and would always be, his friend.
Daniel pulled his work toward him and got to it.
"...I only wish we could have remained long enough to find out how it worked in outer space, General."
"Understandable, Major, but the right call was made. And as you say, there's a chance that we may come across it, or that we'll be able to recreate it now that we know what we're looking for, thanks to you."
General Hammond sat back and gave a slight shake of his head. "You have to wonder though," he said thoughtfully, "how we've managed to save two alternate versions of ourselves--"
"Not to mention thanks to another alternate universe, Daniel was saved. And as a result, brought back the information necessary to save us at a critical time," Jack interjected.
"I'm well aware of that, Colonel O'Neill. I'm just wondering how to write this one up. Somehow I don't think the NID or Senator Kinsey will be thrilled to know that alternate versions of ourselves now have a viable weapon against the Goa'uld, thanks to Major Carter--"
"And Daniel," Sam added.
"And Doctor Jackson, but we do not." Hammond looked at the three present members of SG-1 and said with a half smile, "A few years ago, I'd have been less than thrilled myself."
"It must be the company you're keeping, sir," Jack quipped.
"Of that, Colonel O'Neill, I have no doubt. And speaking of company," he looked over at Sam, "Is Doctor Jackson all right?"
Sam looked down at her hands, then said, "He will be, sir. This trip was considerably more difficult for him."
"Anything you can share?" Hammond asked gently, concern for his archaeologist evident in his voice.
"There were several differences between our Daniel and theirs, but perhaps the most significant was the fact that Daniel's parents were alive, sir."
The shocked silence that greeted her words was enough to bring forth another lump in her throat. The silence stretched until finally Hammond cleared his throat and said rather gruffly, "I see. Well, I believe we're finished here. SG-1, you're not slated for another mission for six days. I suggest you use the time wisely and off base. Dismissed."
The three members of SG-1 watched Hammond move to his office, then slowly all three stood and without another word, filed out.
Once in the hall, Jack turned to his 2IC and said, "Your office or mine?"
His voice told Sam it was an order couched as a simple question. She responded with sharp precision, "Mine." It might be his order, but this conversation, the one she knew they were about to have, would happen on her turf.
Jack nodded and moved to allow her to take the lead. Neither one of them were in the least bit surprised that Teal'c followed along.
As they drew closer to her lab, one thought circled within her brain. She'd done it. She'd kept back vital information during the debriefing.
As she unlocked the door, then stepped aside to allow the Colonel and Teal'c to enter, she acknowledged the wisdom of not telling Daniel everything about the device and the Naquadria. Especially the Naquadria. At least his report couldn't contradict hers now.
Of course, there was still one major decision remaining, but for now, that was on hold.
And I shall hear, tho' soft
you tread above me
Listened as he'd never listened to anything or anyone in his life. From the moment he'd told Carter to start talking, he'd known that hearing her would be the key to understanding a man he doubted could ever be understood. As Carter told them of the other Daniel, of his charm, celebrity status and many awards, Jack was even able to hear between the lines.
When Sam finished, her face creased with worry for her friend, Jack put all his thoughts into one shrewd observation. "So that Daniel was nothing but a pretty face, eh?"
Sam blinked up at him, then a wide smile took over. "Yes, sir. That about sums it up."
"But a pretty face with parents," Jack added quietly.
And his very own O'Neill, Jack added silently.
Eager to get to his archaeologist, Jack started to stand, but Carter's body language warned that something else was amiss. He cocked his head and asked, "What aren't you saying, Major?"
Cheeks went pink as Sam dropped her gaze to the floor. "Nothing, Colonel."
"Carter? Better out than in. Spill."
Squaring her shoulders and looking him straight in the eyes, Sam admitted, "I really blew it, Colonel."
Jack glanced at Teal'c, who merely shrugged and said, "It would be safe to assume that you do not mean an error with the device, Major Carter?"
"No, Teal'c, not the device. I blew it with Daniel. I -- I don't know how to--"
"Carter, do I need to throw you over my shoulder and burp you to get this out?"
Allowing herself a small smile, Sam shook her head. "No, sir. You see, their President Markham wanted to thank me, so I was escorted to the conference room. And afterward -- I realized that I -- I mean that I understood how it should have been -- both of us, sir, and I never said anything, but neither did Daniel. He never--"
"Batted a hand," Teal'c finished for her.
"Eye, Teal'c. Never batted an eye," Jack automatically corrected as he stared at Carter.
Teal'c inclined his head, then said, "It is not his way, Major. He would not consider his contribution to be on the same level as yours." One eyebrow arched as he added, "It is his -- make-up."
"In his make-up, and actually," Jack said thoughtfully, "it isn't. Or at least it wasn't."
Teal'c and Sam stared at him, waiting for the explanation they knew had to be forthcoming. Jack didn't disappoint them.
"When I first met Daniel, he was pretty odd." Jack raised a finger, "But, he was also oddly cocky. Odd and oddly cocky, that was Daniel. And innocent, oddly enough." Jack sighed as he spotted the glazed looks on both Carter and Teal'c, "I'm being kinda odd right now, aren't I?"
"Yes, sir, you are," Sam offered helpfully.
"Look, Daniel didn't have a clue about how to get us home from Abydos, but he led us to believe that he could, and easily."
Looking from Carter to Teal'c, Jack sighed a second time. He wasn't doing this very well. He tried again.
"Daniel was just so damn sure, see? He didn't know how, but he knew if there was a way, he'd find it. He never doubted his abilities for a minute, nor did he allow us to doubt them. So off we all went, blindly trusting this odd genius. And of course, he couldn't get us home, but then, later, he could. He found what he was looking for and figured it out, and we came home."
Sam nodded slowly, understanding filtering in like a fine mist. Teal'c gave a small nod, as if he too was finally getting it. Jack felt like he'd just run the Los Angeles Marathon.
"So what's happened to Daniel, sir? With all that he's accomplished, why didn't he so much as blink when I was the only one called in to see the President? What's changed?"
"I still do not believe that DanielJackson sees his accomplishments as we might, Major Carter," Teal'c answered for Jack. "What he has given to the SGC is not as quantifiable as what either you or I have provided. Ideas and beliefs rarely are. This truth takes nothing from all that you have discovered, Major, nor from all that any member of the SGC has contributed. It is simply a fact."
"Then it's a fact that needs changing," Sam said vehemently.
"That isn't likely to happen, is it, Carter?" Jack asked. "Not with the current mindset in Washington. Technology is our goal, not ideas, cultures, or history."
"One should not exist without the other, O'Neill."
"You're preaching to the choir, Teal'c."
Looking thoughtful, Carter said, "Daniel and I had a discussion about holistic medicine a few weeks ago. He said that whether Janet knew it or not, she practiced it. He also said that it was how he saw our endeavor. But Daniel also acknowledged that he understood he was alone in that idea. At the time, I honestly didn't get it because what we do here seems so simple to me, for all the complexities. Now I think I know what he meant."
"Care to shine that flashlight over here, Carter?"
Smiling at her commanding officer, she answered, "The SGC needs to have this -- holistic -- view of what we do. I mean, why bother trying to save Earth, if Earth isn't worth saving? If we don't learn and grow? Branch out? So there simply can't be only one priority, there must be several in order to better serve the whole. And each priority has to carry equal weight."
Teal'c nodded in agreement. "I remember as a child my father talked of our early belief system, as expounded by the great and noble priest, Emec'tac. In the language of our ancestors, his name was a combination of two words: 'emecta', meaning single soul, and 'byon'tac', meaning 'tribe'.
"It was Emec'tac's belief that while providing for the good of the whole tribe was a vital necessity, the tribe should never forget the importance of a single soul. He taught that there would be many times when the needs of one soul would and should outweigh the needs of the tribe."
"Ah, yes, Teal'c. We too had a great leader who expressed a similar belief. His name was Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise," Jack said with a straight face.
"Yes," Teal'c acknowledged with an equally straight face, "I believe I have seen that Star Trek episode, O'Neill. I was impressed to find the teachings of my ancestors on Earth television."
Jack's eyes narrowed as he looked hard at his alien friend. It had become increasingly difficult to tell if Teal'c were joking or not, and Jack blamed Daniel for that.
"Actually, Teal'c, it wasn't an episode of Star Trek," Carter corrected. "It was the second Star Trek movie. You know, the one where Spock sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise by exposing himself to radiation poisoning in order to--"
Her voice trailed off suddenly as she paled, then brought her hand to her mouth.
Jack patted her shoulder and asked with concern, "Carter? You okay?"
It took every ounce of will-power she possessed to regain control of her emotions, but Sam did it. Allowing her hand to drop easily to her side, she gave the Colonel a smile and said, "Fine, sir. My mind took a detour thanks to the mention of Star Trek. Sorry."
If Jack had any doubts about Carter's truthfulness at that moment, he hid them well. "Yes, I can see how Star Trek would bring such a reaction. I always go teary-eyed myself whenever I watch 'The Trouble with Tribbles'."
"I agree, O'Neill," Teal'c said, his straight face even straighter than usual.
Sam looked from one to the other, then rolled her eyes dramatically. Jack, who'd been sitting on the stool next to Sam's worktable, stood and flexing his leg, said, "Thank you for filling me in on your adventures in quantum mirrors, Carter. Now I think it's time I paid our archaeologist a little visit."
"Sir? Would you tell him for me -- no, never mind. I'll -- I need to tell him myself. Daniel and I need to have a nice long talk--"
"Later. A nice long talk -- later. Right, Major?"
"Oh. Right, sir. Later. Much later."
The door to Daniel's office was closed, but the light coming from under it told Jack all he needed to know. He knocked, then per his usual behavior, walked right in.
"Don't say it, Jack," Daniel warned.
"Don't say what?"
"Don't say, 'Whatcha doin'?'."
"Oh. Okay." Jack scratched the back of his head, then with a cheerful smile, said, "Hey, Daniel, whatcha working on?"
Daniel groaned and dropped his head into his hands. "You jerk," he mumbled.
"Daniel, you asked me not to say 'whatcha doin', so I didn't."
"Jack," Daniel said patiently as he lifted his head and gave his friend a bleary-eyed look. "What do you want?"
Pulling out the other chair, Jack sat down, then scooted it closer to Daniel. "Ah, what do I want. Now that, Doctor Jackson, is a loaded question. I want a great many things, but as a famous British rock band once shared, 'You don't always get what you want--"
"Yeah, yeah. Get to it, Jack." Even as Daniel spoke, he lifted his pencil and went back to work.
Jack reached over and took the pencil from Daniel's hand, set it down, then pushed the papers and two open books away. Daniel frowned and was about to let the older man have it when he looked at Jack's expression. His impatience and anger melted in the face of the sadness he saw mirrored back at him.
"Jack? What's wrong?"
With a dry chuckle, Jack said,"Where do I start, Danny?"
Huh-oh. Here it comes, Daniel thought. The 'talk'.
Daniel had really been hoping for Jack's impression of an ostrich, but apparently this one time Jack had decided to actually discuss.
Okay, time for some defensive maneuvers.
"Jack, if this is about the other Jack, and what you saw when you came in -- unannounced, well, you have to understand--"
"I do, Daniel. I understand. And yes, that's exactly what I want to talk about."
Daniel closed his eyes briefly, then said, "It wasn't what you think, Jack. He took me by surprise, that's all."
"Did he now? So if I took you by -- surprise, you'd respond in the same manner?"
"Jack, that was you, as far as I was concerned. And what manner? He kissed me, I stood there. What 'manner' is that?"
"Stood there, Daniel? Stood there? I distinctly recall your arms were very busy, as were your legs."
"My arms?" Daniel tried to look puzzled. "I don't remember doing anything with my arms, or legs for that matter. I just stood there, shocked."
Jack watched Daniel's hand as the younger man reached out and picked up the pencil again. As long slender fingers played with the writing implement, Jack placed his hand over Daniel's. With a gentle smile, he said, "You kissed him back, Daniel. Which means you kissed -- me -- back."
Jack could actually see the war playing out over Daniel's features. And he spotted the exact moment that Daniel surrendered.
"All right, Jack. All right. You want to talk about this, then we'll talk. When that Jack took me in his arms and kissed me, every dream I'd ever entertained, thought about, or hoped for, came true. Your buddy has the hots for you. There. Now it's been said."
Daniel pulled his hand out from under Jack's and stood up. Blue eyes fastened on Jack's, then narrowed. "But I'm not leaving SG-1 because of this. I can deal. I've been dealing and you never guessed.
Nothing has to change, Jack. You've always been pretty good at pretending, so do it again. Pretend you never saw anything. Pretend that nothing happened. This conversation never took place. And if you can't do that, then you transfer, 'cause I'm staying. I'm not the one with the problem."
With a twinkle in his eye, Jack said, "Daniel, if you love me, believe me, you most definitely have a problem."
"You don't need to worry, neither Sam nor Teal'c will ever--"
Daniel stopped. Tilted his head. "What?"
"I said, if you love me, you most definitely have a problem. I mean, come on. Loving me? Rough days ahead, buddy. I'm a handful, in case you've failed to notice."
"I -- I've -- noticed," Daniel said uncertainly.
"Of course, if I do say so myself, and I do, I make up for any shortcomings in bed. Although I'm not restricted to bed. I can make up for all my shortcomings on a couch, in the back seat of a Jeep, in a tent on some blue planet with scruffy natives, in a Death Glider, in my laundry room at home--"
"Laundry room at home?" a stunned Daniel squeaked out.
"Dryers. Spin cycle. You. Me. 'Nuff said?"
Daniel shifted in his chair, lifted his left ass cheek up, wiggled a little, then gave a strangled kind of groan. "Spin -- cycle," he repeated slowly.
"Spin cycle," Jack said, his own voice growing hoarse with need.
Daniel smiled, and with that smile, years dropped from his countenance as hope flared. "So," he finally said.
"So," Jack agreed.
"They have industrial sized dryers down in the laundry, Jack."
"They have industrial sized airmen manning those dryers, Daniel."
Jack took Daniel's hand again and linked their fingers. He gave a pull strong enough to roll Daniel's chair into Jack's.
"I love you, Daniel. I'm only sorry I didn't realize sooner. I've been going through hell thinking of you on the other side of that mirror, with a Jack who loved you--"
Daniel shook his head. "You're wrong there, Jack. He didn't love me, he loved his Daniel, and believe me, we were nothing alike. I was nothing more than a temporary stand-in that reminded him of what he'd lost. That's all."
As he looked at Daniel, a flood of affection rushed through him, a rush so strong he had to pull the younger man into his arms. Wrapping Daniel in his embrace, he whispered, "No, Daniel. The other Jack only now knows what he's truly lost. Can't you see that? What he had before meeting you was the pale imitation, a cartoon cut-out version. You're the real thing, Danny."
Jack kissed Daniel's temple, then said, "I'm not saying that you're not hard work, because you are, but damn the payoff is great."
At Jack's words, something inside of Daniel untangled itself and relaxed. He closed his eyes and rested his head against Jack's.
Jack loved him, just as he was. For who he was.
Because of who he was.
"Thank you, Jack," he whispered.
"No, thank you," the right Jack whispered back.
Sam's office was lit by a single desk lamp. She sat at the table, a small piece of paper clutched in her hand. She'd been staring at it for over two hours. It represented her final decision.
One soul -- or the tribe?
But of course, it wasn't that easy.
Variables. There were so many variables.
One variable was the inescapable conclusion that knowing the possible future of one soul could keep it from happening. After all, wasn't that exactly what happened the first time the quantum mirror came into play?
Daniel had learned the fate of one alternate universe and had used that knowledge to keep it from happening to their world. Couldn't Sam do the same thing?
She stared at the symbols on the wrinkled piece of paper. The symbols to P2S-4C3. The planet where the Naquadria had been found -- and Daniel Jackson had died.
There was nothing to say that the same thing would happen in her universe. Nothing. There was everything to say that Naquadria could be a vital addition to Earth's battle against the Goa'uld. Not to mention crucial should they ever find a device similar -- or exactly like -- the one she'd worked on in the other universe.
Major Samantha Carter continued to sit and stare at the small piece of paper -- her inner battle waging.
There was a difference. A huge difference. A monumental difference.
His Jack kissed completely different from--
Daniel moaned into Jack's mouth as he enjoyed the feel of those sweet lips on his. He loved the intensity that his Jack brought to the simple but highly charged act of kissing, and found himself giving it right back, tenfold.
Kissing this Jack, his Jack, was an exercise in athleticism. There was no part of Daniel's body that wasn't as involved as his mouth.
Somehow, during the initial kiss, he and Jack had ended up on the leather couch in the corner, and now the sound of their urgent love-making was being echoed by creaking leather. Each man was in a different state of undress, but neither completely unclothed. At the moment, Jack's right hand was down the front of Daniel's open BDU's, while Daniel's was down the back of Jack's.
As Daniel squeezed Jack's ass, he actually managed to notice that no matter what their bodies were doing, their mouths remained firmly attached to each other. They'd become human suction cups and Daniel was fine with that. His body was receiving so much stimulation from so many sources, that he'd have been babbling incoherently if not for Jack's mouth plastered to his.
He would never have imagined in his wildest dreams, dreams centered around exactly this kind of action, with this exact individual, that the simple act of hooking his leg around Jack's waist would be such a damn turn-on.
With an electrical start, Daniel realized that Jack had started to -- pump.
In -- out, in -- out, with his tongue, and his body, and his hand on Daniel's dick, and his own dick against Daniel's leg--
In -- out, in -- out--
Had Jack locked the do--
In -- out, in -- out--
Daniel was going to die.
In -- out, in -- out--
Jack O'Neill sat in his living room, a glass of whiskey in one hand, a photo of a smiling Daniel playing tennis in the other. On the stereo, the London Philharmonic Orchestra was playing Grainger's Londonderry Air. Or 'Danny Boy', as most people knew it.
Slowly, he placed the photo face down. He'd lost not one, but two Daniels, and somehow -- it was more painful losing the alternate Daniel than his Daniel. Why was that?
Jack downed the last of his drink and tried not to remember how kissing the alternate Daniel had felt.
As the music surrounded him, the lyrics came, unbidden--
"Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling. From glen to glen, and down the mountain side"
Oddly enough, it was the last line of the song that brought Jack comfort as he sat alone in the dark, drinking.
"I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me."
Jack sat on his couch, a bottle of beer in one hand and "The Molecule Hunt: Archaeology and the Search for Ancient DNA" in the other. Stretched out with his head in Jack's lap and a book entitled "Hockey for Dummies" open on his chest, Daniel slept the sleep of the innocent and recently and forever loved.
Sam needed the computer in the control room.
Stuffing the piece of paper in her pocket, she got up, shut off the lamp and entered the hallway. Closing the door softly behind her, Sam understood that there really was no quandary. None at all. Not when you got down to the basics. Not when you tried to envision a world without Daniel.
A warm heat suffused Sam's face while at the same time she felt hot moisture prick at her eyes. She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat at the very idea of a life without Daniel and continued making her quiet way through the halls of the SGC.
In the control room, she smiled at Sergeant Davis and Doctor Evans, then sat down at the computer in the corner. Sam didn't need the piece of paper currently burning a hole in her pocket, she'd long since committed the address to memory.
With a few deft strokes of the keys, the list of 'Gate co-ordinates found by Daniel on Abydos, and not yet traveled to by the SGC, came up on screen. Sam scrolled through them until she found the one she wanted.
She never paused.
One moment it was there -- and the next -- it was gone. Not just locked out, but cast out, never to be seen or used by anyone.
With a smile, Sam rose and said good-night to Davis and Evans.
It was time to go home.
As she walked out of Cheyenne Mountain, her smile continued to grow.
For one soul.
Oh, Danny, how we've missed ye....
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