Sunshine Down

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Mini-Angst, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  9
Spoilers:  A Matter of Time, Point of View, Scorched Earth, Chain Reaction, Avalon 1 & 2, Origin, The Ties that Bind, Ex Deux Machina, Prototype, The Fourth Horseman 1 & 2, Ripple Effect
Size:  143kb
Written:  December 10-17,21,26-29, 2007, January 2,4-6,31, February 1-2, 2008
Summary:  SG-1 survives another mission, only to be tossed into a confusing situation that lands them into a sea of SG-1 teams.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “Careful What You Wish For”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Sara, Jo, Mair, Melissa, Linda, Tonya, Lissa, Pam, Claudia!

Sunshine Down
by Orrymain

“This'll be a piece of cake,” Jack spoke confidently as he took possession of his P-90 in the gate room.

“Or a mud pie,” Daniel retorted.

“Maybe it'll be like soufflé and fall like a rock,” Sam jested.

Jack stared at the lieutenant colonel and then responded, “Nice try, Colonel.”

Sam just cocked her head and made sure her P-90 was comfortably in place.

Suddenly, Teal'c spoke, “ColonelCarter's soufflé is preferable to mush.”

Jack, Daniel, and Sam stared at one another, not really knowing how to respond to the remark.

Finally, Jack said, “Right.”

The brigadier general looked up at the control room, nodding at Major General George Hammond.

Leaning over slightly, Hammond spoke, “SG-1, you have a 'go'.”

“This one could be dicey, Sir,” Jack called out expectantly when he realized that was all Hammond was going to say.

“Watch your backs.”

Jack frowned and then asked, “Aren't you forgetting something, General?”

Hammond smiled knowingly and then spoke, “God speed.”

“Much better,” Jack replied with a smile.  “Let's move out.”

====

“Survived another one,” Jack spoke eight hours later as the team approached the Stargate, ready to return to Earth.

“Made it through the rain,” Daniel quipped.

“It is not raining, DanielJackson,” Teal'c pointed out, his face expressionless.

“It's just a ... saying, Teal'c,” the archaeologist explained as he walked over to the DHD.

“He's just saying we survived another fight, right, Dannyboy?” Jack spoke with a pleased smile on his face as he tapped his lover on the shoulder.

“Right,” Daniel replied dryly, deciding not to push the issue, as he began to dial Earth.

The team's mission had been to check out a report that the System Lord Ba'al was hiding out on the planet.  Ba'al still posed a minor threat to Earth, so SG-1 had been sent to evaluate the situation.  While Ba'al was nowhere to be found, the team had run across Jaffa still loyal to the Goa'uld.  Although there'd been a brief battle, the team had safely escaped capture and injury and was now eager to return to the SGC and warn their various allies about the small Jaffa presence on the planet.

“O'Neill!” Teal'c exclaimed.

“Oh, great!” Jack groused as he caught sight of the Jaffa running towards them.  “Hurry it up, Daniel,” he ordered, ducking down and opening fire on their attackers.

“I'm dialing; I'm dialing,” the archaeologist called out, ducking down and barely missing the discharge of a Jaffa staff blast.

Finally, the Stargate opened, the kawoosh of the wormhole thundering through the open field where the circular object was located.

“Sir, they're not returning the code,” Sam called out from her spot behind a large rock, having sent the team's IDC over her GDO.

“SG-1, divert,” a voice came over the team's radios.

“Divert?” Jack called out incredulously.  ~Who was that?~ he wondered, not immediately recognizing the voice, a fact which immediately put him on edge.

“Jack, we can't hold them off for long,” Daniel shouted from behind the DHD, just before clicking off more rounds with his Beretta.  ~Maybe I should have taken a P-90, after all.~

“SG-1, I repeat, divert to another location, and redial Earth,” the voice ordered.

Jack fired a few more rounds and then grabbed his radio, saying sternly. “Listen, I don't know who you are, but this is Brigadier General Jack O'Neill.  We don't have time to divert anywhere.  We're about to become burnt toast.  Open that iris *now*.”
 
A moment later, and there was still nothing but silence from the SGC.

“Sir, what do we do?” Sam called out.  “We don't have any decent cover.”

Jack calculated the team's choices and the odds of any of them surviving if they stayed put long enough to redial the Gate.  No matter how he looked at it, they had only one choice, and time was running out to make that happen.

“SGC, we're coming through, so unless you want to explain to Washington why you *killed* a brigadier general, the man responsible for opening the Stargate in the first place, the leading scientist in keeping this techno-junk operating, and the leader of the Jaffa rebellion, then get off your butts, and open that iris.”  Jack waited thirty seconds as he fired some more.  When he felt it had been long enough, he instructed, “Follow me, Kids.”

“What if they don't open it?” Sam asked.

“Bugs on a windshield,” Jack answered.

“Splat, and it's over,” Daniel called out, firing his weapon a few more times.

“We're dead, if we stay here,” the team leader pointed out.

“If you're asking, I vote for the Stargate,” Daniel stated, firing off more rounds.

“I second that,” Sam responded as she, too, fired again and narrowly escaped a staff blast to her right arm.

“SGC, we're coming through ... *now*,” Jack shouted, running quickly to the event horizon.  **Love you, Angel.**

**Love you, too,** the younger man replied as he fired his last shot and then turned and ran after his soulmate.

Taking a gamble, SG-1 ran through the Stargate, relieved when they realized that the iris had been opened.

As soon as he was clear of the event horizon, the general shouted out, “Okay, what's the big deal in not opening the i...ris.”

Almost in unison, the team came to a screeching halt midway down the ramp.  Daniel looked back behind them, seeing the Gate shut down.  That looked normal. Jack cocked his head to the side as he tried to decipher what he was seeing.  Sam stood with a surprised look on her face, while Teal'c just took a stoic look around the SGC curiously.  They recognized the man standing there to meet them, and they definitely knew the identity of the tall, dark man at his left side.

“Welcome to the GCS of the universe,” Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell greeted them, amusement lacing his voice.

“GCS?” Jack asked quizzically.

“Grand Central Station; at least, that's what the SGC has been for the last day-and-a-half,” Mitchell explained.

“What's going on?” the general questioned in confusion as he walked to the edge of the ramp, his team following his lead.

“I know this is weird, but you'll get used to it.  These gentlemen will escort you to a holding room, and we'll get to you just as soon as we can.”

“As soon as you can?” Jack asked a bit sarcastically as he stepped onto the floor and glared at the man.

“You're number nine, and there's a line,” Mitchell replied cryptically, the hint of amusement still in his voice.  “I have to admit, I was surprised to hear your voice, General O'Neill,” he stated in an upbeat tone.  “You're the first of you to come through.”

“The first of ... me?”

“Yep.  We haven't had a single O'Neill until now,” Mitchell commented.

“I was sure that was just aspirin I took this morning,” Jack spoke out of the side of his mouth to his teammates.

Looking up at the control room, Mitchell saw his teammate approach the monitors and called out, “Hey, Sam, we've got an O'Neill.”

“What?”

“What?”

Sam walked forward a few steps on the ramp with a quizzical look on her face, while the Sam in the control room stared downward in surprise.  Both had spoken within a second of the other.

“Teal'c, what's going on?” Jack asked.

“I do not know, O'Neill,” the Jaffa on the ramp answered.

“Not you,” Jack answered.  He motioned with his head towards the other, similarly dressed alien standing next to Mitchell.  “Him.”

“You are from another reality,” the Teal'c of this reality spoke.

“Oh, crap,” Jack whined.  He turned to look at Sam and groused, “Carter, I don't even want to know, but ... get with yourself and find out how to get us out of  here, sooner rather than later.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam acknowledged, walking down a few more steps.

“Whoa there, Sam,” Mitchell called out, moving to his left three steps to block the blonde's movement.  “This is my reality; not yours.  For now, you need to go with the SFs.”

“Does it say general anywhere on my uniform?” Jack asked pointedly.

“Actually, Sir, no, it doesn't,” Mitchell smirked before turning and walking out, followed by the Teal'c of his reality.

“Great,” Jack sighed, looking back at his teammates.

“If you'll follow us,” one of the Marines requested.

“And if I don't?” Jack asked.

“Jack,” Daniel called out, walking forward until he stood beside his lover.  He looked at the SF and smiled.  “Bad day.”

“He's not the only one,” the SF replied with a sigh.

Before anyone had taken a step, the klaxons began to blare and the Stargate began to move.

A bit wearily, the sergeant called out, “Unscheduled off-world activation ... again.”

“I get the feeling we're not going to be the last ones here from another reality,” Daniel spoke.

“Just as long as we're the *first* ones to leave,” Jack said, following the SF to the doorway.

“I get the feeling Harriman is getting tired of all these arrivals,” one SF remarked to the other.

“Harriman?” Jack questioned, having recognized the man in the control room as being Chief Master Sergeant Walter Davis.

“Yeah, Walter Harriman.”

“Harriman?  Not Davis?” Jack queried curiously, getting nothing but shrugs in response.  ~Odd; that's definitely odd.~

As the team reached the entrance to the corridor, a new crew of SFs entered the gate room.  The Stargate opened, and another SG-1 walked through, though it caused Jack to grimace.

“Hey, where am I?” Jack questioned, noting the four-person team was made up of a Mitchell, Carter, Jackson, and Teal'c, dressed in green camouflage BDUs.  ~Come to think of it, what do they mean I'm the first O’Neill through the Gate?~

“Maybe you had a dentist appointment,” Daniel quipped.  “Come on.”

====

Despite the team's objections, each member was taken to a different holding room for questioning.  While they waited for whatever was going to happen next, each of them pondered their current situation, all four coming to one definite point of agreement: they didn't like alternate realities.

Finally, as Daniel tapped his fingers impatiently on the table in front of him, the door opened, and Mitchell walked in, carrying a cup of coffee and a tape recorder. Pressing the 'record' button' on the recorder, he placed it and the coffee down on the table and smiled.

“Sumatra Mandehling: one cream, two sugars,” the pleased man announced, pushing the cup towards Daniel.

Daniel stared at the cup for a second and then up at the colonel as he responded, “So?”

“It's your favorite,” Mitchell stated.  Misinterpreting the archaeologist's stare, he continued, “Call it a lucky guess.  I usually have instant, myself.  So, I'm guessing this almost feels like home, doesn't it?”

“For one thing, this isn't my favorite; not even close,” Daniel stated.  “Thanks, though,” he said, deciding to take a sip since he was long overdue for his next caffeine fix of the black brew.

“It's not?  All the other Daniels said it was.”

“All the others?”

“Ten at last count.  We're having an unplanned SG-1 convention,” Mitchell spoke. “Old home week.”

“Not exactly,” Daniel refuted.  “If this were home, I'd be there, asking you questions, and you'd be here, answering them.”

“I think I've heard that a time or eight before,” Mitchell said as he looked off for a moment.  “I'll give you a shot at my two favorite scenarios.”

“Oh, please do.  I love a good challenge,” Daniel responded dryly, his hands caressing the coffee cup.

“First, Carter's right, and you're from an alternate universe, in which case we'll do everything we can to get you, and the other SG-1 teams, back home.”

“Or?”

“Or, you're lying, and we need to find out what you're really after,” Mitchell stated.

“You mean me and the other ... eight of me are all lying.”

“Well ...”

“Sort of an inter-reality conspiracy, all to do in this one little reality of yours,” Daniel taunted, rolling his eyes.  “That's what you're saying?”

“I'm just looking for answers.”

“There is a third scenario,” Daniel put forth.

“Don't you guys ever say anything different?  I know, you're going to say that I'm not who I say I am, and it's up to you to find out what we're after.”

“Nicely said,” Daniel responded.  “Just one thing.”

“What?”

“We're not the first team here, so you have to have figured some of this out already.”

Mitchell relaxed a little and answered, “We're working on it.  Sam's pretty sure about the alternate reality thing.  The proof seems to be walking the corridors.”

“I do have a question.”

“What's that?”

“Who are you?” Daniel asked.  “I mean, I remember you as being one of the pilots involved in the fight over the Antarctic, but ...”

“I saved your butts,” Mitchell claimed.

“Thank you, but, uh, you weren't alone up there, and I recall there were ... several heroes that day.”

“There were, but ...”

“You got the credit and the glory,” Daniel surmised.

“Hey, I shot down that al-kesh that was headed straight for you, and I crashed into the ice.  Cockpit shattered from the impact; I almost didn't walk again.  The Brass gave me the golden ticket, and General O'Neill gave me the chance to experience my dream, so here I am.”

“What dream?” Daniel questioned.

“To be on SG-1.”  Mitchell smiled and said, “And then the dream escalated, and I got to lead SG-1.  Now you can't beat that one.”

“Leading SG-1,” Daniel echoed, blinking a couple of times.  “What about Jack?”

====

“So what you're saying is that we're experiencing a multi-verse?” Sam asked her counterpart as they talked in another holding cell.

“Exactly,” the other Sam affirmed.

Sam couldn't help but feel a little excited.  According to the multi-verse theory of quantum physics, there were parallel universes, an infinite number of ever growing alternate realities that exist concurrently.  This seemed to prove the theory true.

Looking at her other self, Sam replied, “The theory holds that anything that can happen, will happen, if not in this reality, then in another.”

“And that's part of what we've seen from the teams that gated in,” the other blonde stated.  “While we've noted a myriad of similarities and common events, there have also been a vast number of differences.”  She swallowed and stated quietly, “Dad is alive in several of them.”

“Jacob?” Sam asked, not sure how to feel.  “What about Selmak?”

“He was never even close to death in most of the realities.”

“But he's dead here,” Sam deduced.

“Yes.”  The other Sam asked, “In your reality?”

“He held out as long as he could,” Sam spoke solemnly.  “I never really knew if he approved of Pete or not.”

“Apparently, he didn't in most of the realities he's still alive in,” the other Sam informed with a helpless shrug.

“No one's good enough for his daughter.”

“That's what I thought,” the other Sam agreed.  “The point is, this meta-verse we're a part of is constantly creating individual sub-universes, and, as we've discussed, the differences between realities can be staggering.”

“You know, if this happened here, it could happen in our reality, too,” Sam stated. “What can you tell me to look for?”

“I'm supposed to be questioning you,” the other Sam replied a bit lightly.  “Actually, all the ...me's have been asking questions, and I've been doing all the talking.  You'd figure it out pretty quick, anyway, though.”

“Okay, so what's the trigger?”

“When the second team just showed up, we ran a gate diagnostic, but there weren't any irregularities,” the Sam of this reality stated.  “We still don't know the particulars, but the average travel time between Gates is ...”

“... Point three seconds,” both Sams said together.

“Right, but the second team clocked in at three-point-four seconds, suggesting a significantly longer trip.”

“That's all you know?” Sam questioned.

“It is now, but we're working on it.”

Just then, a buzzer went off and an SF entered, saying, “Colonel Carter, the general said you may want to check out the last team that arrived.  Doctor Fraiser is with them.”

“Janet?  Oh my gawd!”

“What?” Sam asked her look-a-like when the door closed.  Suddenly, she pulled back, “Janet really died here?”

The other Sam looked up and admitted, “I miss her a lot.  She's ... not dead in your reality?”

“No,” Sam answered.

“I left the SGC for a while earlier this year.  Cassie was having a hard time, and I just figured she needed me,” the other Sam spoke.

“Where'd you go?”

“Area 51, and I was working on the Prometheus.  Then the general called and asked me to come back.”

“The general?” Sam questioned.  “Um ... which one?”

This reality's Sam cocked her and asked, “You have to ask.”

“Yes, of course,” Sam answered.

“Jack.”

“Jack?  General O'Neill.  Are you saying that you're ...” Sam began, shocked by what she was hearing.

“No.  We've flirted, but that's as far as it ever got.  I had a crush; that much I'll admit, but he always had eyes for someone else,” the other Sam answered.

~That I believe.~

====

“Jack!” a friendly voice called out as he entered the holding cell.

Jack, who had been staring at the back wall, turned around and cocked his head in surprise, replying, “Hank?  Hank Landry!”

The two men approached each other, smiles on their faces and shook hands across the small table that separated them.

“It's good to see you, even if you are from another reality,” Landry spoke.

“So it seems,” Jack said, looking around and seeing another SG-1 team that had arrived recently.

“You're free to go,” Landry stated.  “This was all routine, but it's beginning to become extremely tedious.”

As the two entered the corridor, Jack saw the latest SG-1 team to arrive and was surprised to see one of its members.

“Martouf?”

“Doctor Fraiser is the big surprise there,” Landry stated.

“The Doc?” Jack asked curiously.  “She actually handles a weapon pretty good.”

“For a dead doctor?” Landry questioned.  He sighed, “At least, she's dead here, and in all of the other realities we've come across thus far, except for that one.”

“And mine.  She's alive and well,” Jack explained.

“I never had the pleasure, but I understand she was quite an asset to the SGC,” Landry spoke.

“She loves a good needle,” Jack quipped.  “Where's Hammond?” he asked, not having seen any signs of his close friend and commanding officer.

“He's in charge of Home World Security,” Landry spoke.

“Where am I?” Jack inquired.

“You're attached to the Pentagon.  I report to you, and you report to Hammond.”

“Nice,” Jack responded wryly as the two continued to walk towards the VIP room that his SG-1 had been assigned to.  “Why aren't I here?”

“A while back, SG-1 went back in time and retrieved the ZPM.  Afterwards, you all decided it was enough.  Doctor Jackson wanted to go to Atlantis, Colonel Carter wanted to spend time with Cassandra Fraiser, and Teal'c wanted to devote himself to the formation and success of the new Jaffa Nation.”

“It was that easy?  We just walked away?” Jack asked incredulously.

“As I understand it, you and your team went to your cabin for a few days to fish and relax.  When you came back, you brought letters of resignation with you.  Of course, they weren't accepted, but it did get you the assignments you wanted.”

“You're telling me that *I* wanted to be a pencil pusher ... *voluntarily*?” the silver-haired man questioned with disbelieving eyes.

Landry laughed, while nodding and replying, “You did.”

“Hank, this reality is very odd,” Jack opined.  He shook his head, thinking, ~And a little bit creepy.  I can't believe the other me let Danny go to Atlantis.  Idiot.~

====

“Learn anything?” Jack asked when his team was reunited.

SG-1, as did those teams that had arrived before them, now had free access to specific areas of the SGC, including the mess hall, recreation room, and infirmary.

“The Jaffa Nation is free.  Master Bra'tac is our leader,” Teal'c announced a bit proudly.

“Really?” Daniel asked.  “Good choice,” he opined.

“What I want to know is, where the heck am I?” Jack asked.  Seeing the odd reactions from the other three, he clarified, “I mean, the me of this reality, or the other ones.  I keep seeing Daniels, Carters, and Teal'c's ... and a lot of Mitchells, but I can't believe I'm the only me still on the frontline.”

“Apparently, Washington's been your calling, Sir,” Sam stated with a shrug.

“Well, it doesn't sound like me,” Jack refuted.  Then he sighed, “I don't like just sitting here.  Let's do some snooping.”

“Snooping?” Daniel asked lightly.

“Intel,” Jack said, rephrasing his original statement.  “Code word.”

“Sir?” Sam asked.

“Carter, we're in a reality full of Carters, Jacksons, and Teal'c's.  I'd like to make sure that if we get separated and things get messed up, we can make sure we know who's who.”

“Of course, Sir,” Sam replied, feeling a bit silly that she hadn't realized that.

Jack stared at the security camera.  He didn't want to be overheard, so he went to each member of SG-1 and whispered the word 'Steenburgen' in their ears.

“Move out.”

====

“You do not believe ColonelCarter's analysis is correct?” Teal'c asked one of the Mitchells in the mess hall later that day.

“Look at the history,” Mitchell replied.  “Six years ago, SG-1 woke up in what they think is the SGC, but it turned out they're not even on Earth, but in some Goa'uld laboratory.  Last year, in the Pegasus Galaxy, a team from the Atlantis base gated through to what they thought was the SGC, but was another planet.  They'd been manipulated by aliens.”

“Then you think we are on another planet?”

“I'm just saying I don't know,” the alternate reality Mitchell spoke, shrugging and beginning to walk away.  “For all I know, everyone else is some kind of weird holographic images, or clones, or synthetics.  How do I know you're real?” he asked, looking over his shoulder.

After a brief pause, Teal'c stood and answered in a raised voice, “Perhaps we should ask the same question of you,” after which he walked away in the opposite direction.

====

“The Ori?” Sam questioned.

Another Sam replied, “We weren't able to stop the Ori from establishing a second beachhead.  By the time we realized it, it was too late.”  The blonde, dressed in a blue camouflage uniform, continued, “They'd already sent their ships through.  The Sam of this reality said it hasn't happened here yet.”

“But it could, of course,” Sam said, going along though not really certain what, or who, they were talking about at the moment.

With a sigh, the blue-camo-dressed Sam spoke, “They've destroyed so many worlds.  Chulak was the hardest to take.”

“Chulak?”

“They blew it to bits.  They took Dakara and most of the other Jaffa strongholds as well.  Earth will be next.  We really need to get back.”

“Did ... ah, this reality's Sam give you any idea of her progress?” Sam questioned.

Nodding, the blue-camo-dressed Sam answered, “General Landry heard a loud noise before the first team came through, and there was an unidentifiable energy spike just before the first alternate reality team arrived.  Whatever happened had to have occurred between the moment when each of the teams stepped through the gates in our individual realities and when we walked through here.”

“There's a problem with that,” Sam responded.  “The gate system ...”

Nodding, the other Sam spoke in unison, “... isn't designed to transport matter between universes.”

“How about abnormal weather patterns or ...”

“No, and no solar flares, either,” the other Sam spoke.  “None of the teams experienced that; at least, none of the ones I've talked to.”

“Then it has to be something else that affected the wormhole; maybe a black hole,” Sam theorized.

“Until another SG-1 came through, that is, the second one from another reality, the Sam of this reality had been certain that the two teams had crossed the same section of space, bisecting a specific singularity, that being the black hole that was created when we destroyed the Ori beachhead.  She theorized that as they bisected the singularity, subspace was ruptured, creating a rift in the space-time continuum, and that was what had brought that first SG-1 into this reality; but then the other teams, like us, arrived, and she had to revise her theory.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Sam quipped.

“She clearly underestimated the rupture.”

“We probably would have done the same; she had no way of knowing more than one team was involved,” Sam spoke.

“Right; so now she thinks it's possible that the first spatial tear may have caused a ripple effect across several realities, transforming an area of their subspace into a kind of funnel that's redirecting their gate travel to this universe.”

“So that any wormhole passing close enough to the black hole is being drawn into the singularity and re-routed here,” Sam expounded.

“Right.  This is main station,” the other Sam stated.

“Grand Central Station, according to Mitchell,” Sam interjected.

“And we're all working on figuring out the solution because we all want to go home,” Sam said, looking around the room that was full of blonde colonels.  “Are we all colonels?”

“No.  There's a major in here somewhere,” the other Sam answered.  “Look at her -- long hair.”

“I've always wanted to wear my hair long,” Sam remarked.

“Too difficult to manage,” the other Sam responded.

Just then, one of the other Sams walked over and sat down, saying, “I'm just curious.  How are your worlds doing in the battle with the Ori?”

“Not good,” the other Sam replied.

“Okay, wait,” Sam interjected.  “Who are these Ori that everyone keeps talking about?”

“You don't know the Ori?” the other two Sams responded in shock.

“No,” Sam admitted, seeing the surprised expressions on the faces of the other two women.

“You will.  They've invaded all the other realities.  They're worse than the Goa'uld,” the newcomer to the conversation opined.

“They preach their belief of Origin, to the worlds they visit, claiming that Origin leads to ascension.”

“Ascension?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, like when Daniel was ascended for that year,” the other Sam spoke.

“Year?” Sam asked, her eyes bugging out of her head.  “Wow.  The general must not have liked that.”

“General O'Neill?” the third Sam inquired.  “He missed him, of course, but ...”

“Missed him?” Sam queried.  “Come on.  I bet he ...”  The woman stopped, realizing that her two counterparts had clueless looks on their faces.  “I bet he was happy when he came back.”

“Arum,” the third Sam said, referring to the name Daniel had been given after returning to human form.  “The naked one.”

~I don't even think I want to ask,~ Sam thought.

====

That evening, Jack walked into the slightly modified recreation room and was confronted by a few Teal'c's, a couple of Daniels, and a bunch of Mitchells.  The Sams of the multi-verse were apparently all gathered together trying to solve the current problem that had brought them all together.

The general felt like the odd man out as he roamed the large room, one of three that had been put aside for the use of the 'visiting' SG teams.  This one had several tables in it as well some basic athletic equipment.  He listened in on various conversations as he subtly hit the punching bag, worked out with the hand weights, and then shot a few hoops with the basketball.  Along the way, he picked up a few morsels of information.

“The man has a sense of humor,” one Mitchell said to the other.

“We could use Landry in our reality,” the other Mitchell replied.  “We have an idiot named Bauer.”

“Eww, not-so-good guy in our history; ordered Carter to build a bomb and almost blew up the Mountain,” the first Mitchell replied.

“She did it in my reality -- bad scene for a long time.  He's still in charge, and he's not into humor,” the second Mitchell stated.

--

“We have this place all to ourselves,” a brown-clad Mitchell spoke to a Daniel, who was dressed in a gray and white BDU as they worked out in one corner of the room.

“Sam said that's because we're the frontline team, so the most likely to get into trouble and need to be let through the Gate,” an alternate Daniel replied.  “Apparently, though, they've turned away almost sixty teams as of tonight, and some of those have been other teams: SG-2, SG-3, even an SG-11.”

“That's not exactly what I meant,” the brown-clad Mitchell said in an attempt to sound both smooth and seductive.

“It's not?” the gray-and-white-dressed Daniel asked, wondering what the man could have meant if not that the SGC was now full of SG-1 teams.

“There's a lot of confusion going on around here, and the SGC is a big place.  We could get lost pretty easy,” the colonel suggested quietly.

“Excuse me?” the alternate Daniel responded.

Listening in while by the punching bag, Jack was so distracted that the bag banged into him, causing him to stumble back a couple of steps.  He grabbed hold of it, gritting his teeth as he listened to the exchange.

“Come on.  You know what I mean,” the Mitchell responded.

“Uuuh, I think so, but I'm not sure Sha're would approve,” the Daniel from another realm spoke.

~Sha're?~ Jack thought.

“I thought she died?”

“Maybe in your reality, but not in mine,” Daniel said with a smile, getting up.  “We have two children,” he added happily before walking away.  “Hi, Jack,” he said, passing by the general as he walked away, smiling.

Jack waved and then looked over at Mitchell, who smiled and said, “Time's on my side; not to mention an abundance of archaeologists.  I have plans for at least one of those Daniels.”

~What's that supposed to mean?~ Jack asked himself as he watched the unusually open man leave the room.  ~If it's what I think it means, I'll ... wait a minute.  *My* Daniel is mine.  Where the heck are the Jacks?  They need to get their butts in gear and save *their* Daniels from the princess; ah, from the Mitchells.~

The general frowned, not really wanting to understand his own thought.

--

“They haven't had the second beachhead scenario here yet?” a Mitchell inquired of one of the Teal'c's.

“No, they have not.  My counterpart here has taken the precaution of contacting Master Bra'tac.”

“What's he going to do?”

“He dispatched a mother ship to the location provided by ColonelCarter.  If the Ori attempt to establish a second beachhead there, the Jaffa will be able to alert the SGC of this reality,” the alternate Teal'c spoke.

“I hope it works, but they don't seem any smarter than we are, so I'd say it was just a matter of time,” the alternate Mitchell opined.

“Indeed, the particulars of the variant universes have remained remarkably similar.  My SamanthaCarter ...” the Jaffa from another place in time spoke.

~*His* Samantha Carter?~ Jack wondered with an amazed expression.  ~I'll bet there's a story there.~

“... also believes that it is the proximity of these realities in relation to each other that has precluded the occurrence of entropic cascade failure,” the alternateTeal'c completed.

“Entropic cascade ...” Mitchell began thoughtfully.  Suddenly, he snapped his fingers and said brightly, “When a Carter and Kawalsky from another reality showed up at the SGC using the quantum mirror Jackson found on P3R-233.”  Seeing Teal'c nod, he continued, “Temporal entropic cascade failure: it's a side effect of quantum mirror travel, on the cellular level, caused by the increased entropy generated by duplicate people existing in the same reality.  It makes the duplicate go all wonky-blurry.”

~Wonky-blurry?~ Jack sighed with a bit a frown.

--

“Let's shoot some hoops,” one of the Mitchells said, patting one of the Daniels on the back, his hand lingering a bit too long for Jack's taste.  When the alternate Daniel stunned Jack by removing his shirt, the alternate Mitchell exclaimed, “Now *that's* what I'm talkin' about.”

~Not in my reality,~ Jack vowed, deciding he'd had enough of the alternate SG-1's for the moment and leaving the area.

====

**This isn't exactly what I had planned for us tonight,** Jack communicated to his lover via their special near telepathic way of talking.

**Me, either,** Daniel sighed.

The four members of SG-1 were lying in their cots in the VIP room.  Actually, there was one bed and three cots.  Under the guise of being a gentlemen, Jack had given the bed over to Sam, although she knew the truth was that he was afraid that he and Daniel would slip up if they shared the bed together.

The team had arranged cots so that one lay opposite the bed and the other two were side by side.  Thus, the couple were lying on their sides atop their cots, facing each other and wishing that they could close the small gap that lay between them.  The lights were out, but their eyes had adapted to the dark, and they could see the other's facial expressions.

**Danny, I saw a couple of things today.**

**Jack, it's okay,** Daniel responded.

**How do you know?**

**Because I can sense Mr. Jealousy a mile away.  I may not have witnessed whatever you did, but I certainly felt it.**

**Some of those Mitchells are after all those Daniels,** Jack explained.  **Two of them were pretty overt about it, too.**

**That's because in three of the realities that I know of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' isn't an issue.  It's legal.**

**You're kidding?**

**No.  I found that out after ...**

**After what?** Jack questioned suspiciously, sitting up a bit on his elbow.

**Jack, chill out.  One of the Mitchells ... well, you know, but I told him I wasn't interested, and he backed off.  The fact that he tried on base got me curious, so I talked to him a while, and to a couple of the Daniels.**

**I can't believe some realities are ahead of us,** Jack opined.

**The people I talked to told me there have been very few problems since the laws were changed.**

**That's a big surprise,** Jack sighed sarcastically.  **Danny, I miss you way over there.**

**I miss you, too, Babe.  Maybe tomorrow, they'll get this figured out, and we can go home.**

**I bet the girls are worried,** Jack relayed, referring to the couple's two beagles, Bijou and Katie.

**They always are, but Mrs. Valissi will take care of them until we get home.**

**Danny ...**

The thought trailed off as Jack really didn't want to communicate through words; he just wanted hold his husband.

**Jack, let's get some sleep.  I love you.**

**Love you, too, Angel.**

With some reluctance, and missing their normal physical closeness, the lovers closed their eyes and eventually managed to go to sleep.

====

As Jack walked the corridors of the SGC the next morning, he turned a corner and almost bumped into this reality's Sergeant Davis, who Jack remembered wasn't named Davis here.

“Sorry, Sir,” the man said, continuing on his way.

“Ah, Walter,” Jack called out, turning around and walking over to the other man. He looked down for a moment and then looked up, staring at the man's black nametag.  “Harriman.”

“Yes, Sir?”

“Why Harriman?”

“It's my name, General.”

“I thought it was Davis,” Jack admitted, carefully watching the sergeant for a response.

“Sir, you noticed!” the man exclaimed with a happy smile.  “I didn't think anyone here would ever make the connection.  I should have known you would.”

“Of course, I would,” Jack spoke.  “What connection?”

“My twin brother: Norman Walter Davis.  He was assigned here until last year.  I replaced him,” the sergeant spoke.  “Some people say we look a lot alike; I don't really see it, though.”

“Twin brother?” a surprised Jack echoed.  Then, as if to cover his absence of knowledge, he stated, “I knew that.  Walter?  You're both Walters?”

“He's Norman Walter, and I'm Walter Norman.  My parents had an odd sense of humor,” the sergeant said.

“But ... your last name.”

Harriman laughed, “My father died, and my mother remarried.  I decided to take my stepfather's name.  Norman stuck with Davis.  We both answer to both.  It's less complicated.  I really have to go, Sir.  Thanks for noticing; no one else ever has.”

“Anytime,” Jack replied, making a funny face as the man walked off.  ~That's the weirdest story I've ever heard in my life.  I'll bet he was just pulling my leg.  Maybe he just got married and decided to change his name.  Geez, that's even creepier to think about.~

====

SG-1 had spent most of the day observing the SGC of this reality.  Jack spent time with some new recruits and later with SG-3.  He'd also watched C-SPAN and the local news to see what he could learn about the world he and his team were currently stranded on.

Daniel had spent most of his time talking with the staff of his counterpart and seeing what he could pick up about some of their recent missions.  He also visited with some of the stranded teams.

Sam's time was spent mostly with the other Sams, all of whom were still focused on assisting with finding the solution to the current situation.

Teal'c meditated for a while, challenged some of his counterparts in boxing, and then hung out in the control room, seeing what he could learn there.

Just before dinner, the team gathered together in their VIP room.

“What's the latest?” Jack asked when Sam walked in, the last member of the team to arrive.

“This reality's Sam, along with the first team's Carter stranded here, and Martouf came up with a possible theory,” Sam stated.  “Sir, you remember P3W-451: when we couldn't shut down the Gate because of the black hole?”

“Thanks for the memories,” Jack answered dryly, a pained expression on his face. “The time in the infirmary was so nice.”

“Well, the reason we couldn't shut down the Gate was because we were still connected to the singularity's gravitational field through the open Stargate; the connection couldn't be severed.  What we finally ended up doing was use a shaped charge to deliver an energy surge to the matter stream, forcing the matter stream to jump to a different Gate, thereby severing the connection.”

“Have any aspirin?” Jack asked his lover, who just shook his head in response.

Ignoring her CO's disinterest, Sam continued, “It would explain a lot of things, Sir.  It's possible a supernova or a gamma ray burst, discharged at the exact millisecond that wormhole passed through that singularity.  It would be a bit of a freak accident that subspace was ruptured, creating the point of confluence that drew the affected realities into this one.”

“Carter, get to the point,” Jack begged.

“Basically, they need to recreate the circumstances that caused the breach in the first place and seal the bridge between the multi-verse.  That would prevent more teams from entering this reality.”

“Uh, not to be selfish or anything, but ... what about us?” Daniel queried.

“We, and all the other SG-1 teams already here, would be stranded in this reality; we couldn't get back,” Sam answered.

“Great plan,” Jack spoke sarcastically.

“They've just finished meeting with Kvasir of the Asgard,” Sam elaborated.  “He's helping them.”

“Who?” Daniel asked.

Sam shrugged, saying, “According to Blue-Camo Sam, Thor and Heimdall are on business in another galaxy.”

“Blue-Camo Sam?” Daniel questioned with an amused grin.

“It gets kinda confusing calling each other Sam, especially when talking about each other, so we're trying to go by uniform or something unique in appearance.”

“Why don't you just number yourselves?” Jack questioned.  “The first Carter to come through would be Carter 1, the second Carter 2, etc.”

“Well, Sir, we could, and, um, well, we thought about it.”

“But?” Jack groused, sensing the Carters didn't like his idea.

“Unless we wore number tags, we still wouldn't know who's who.  Most of us look pretty much the same,” Sam explained.

“Of course, you do,” Jack stated dispassionately.

“Sam, are you sure they can't reach Thor?” Daniel asked hopefully, wanting to move their conversation along.

Seeing his second-in-command just shake her head, Jack spoke exasperatedly, “Send them a message.”

“It's not my decision, Sir,” Sam reminded.

“The little gray butts owe us,” Jack stated.

“In our reality; I'm not sure of the playing field here,” the colonel admitted.

Jack glanced at his lover and sighed.  Sadly, Sam was right.  There were a lot of things about this reality that they didn't know.  In addition, like it or not, they were simply observers during this crisis and had virtually no control over anything that was happening.  Mostly, he didn't like it.

“So ... how's Kvasir going to help?” Daniel asked, his arms crossed in front of his chest, a result of him feeling skeptical about everything that was happening around him.

“He brought a time dilation device with him, but he doesn't have a lot of confidence in the plan,” Sam reported.

“Why not?” Daniel asked.

“He says it's a long shot; in fact, he gives the odds of success as being less than twelve percent, and that's provided they're able to enact the plan before the black hole's gravity destroys the ship they use.”

“And all we can do is sit here and wait to be stranded?” Jack asked, getting looks of acceptance.  “It's a bad plan,” he said, walking over to the TV and turning it on. “It's time for 'The Simpsons'.”

Sam closed her eyes and frowned, something Daniel noticed.

“Hey!  This is definitely *not* 'The Simpsons',” Jack whined, seeing a scruffy looking dog chasing a cat around a backyard while well-dressed people tried to get out of the way.

“Um, well, Sir, apparently, in this reality, 'The Simpsons' was cancelled,” Sam revealed.  Noticing Daniel's and Teal'c's curious looks, she said, “I heard one of the Mitchells talking about it.”

“Mitchell?” Jack groused.  ~I really don't like that guy.~  Letting that thought go, he exclaimed, “Homer would never be canceled!”

“Uh, Sam's right,” Daniel said, having walked over to the computer and googled the animated TV series.  “Jack, it was canceled last year.”

“Blue-Camo Sam told me it only lasted one season in her reality,” Sam offered.

Looking at his teammates, Jack groused, “This reality sucks!”  With a growl, he walked out of the VIP room, needing to walk off his frustration from what he'd just learned, not just about his favorite TV show of all time, but about the helplessness he felt to control his, and that of his team's, destiny.  ~I do not want to be stuck here forever.  No Homer?  What kind of reality is this, anyway?~

====

Jack entered the mess hall, grimacing when he saw the place was full of Mitchells.

“Did you see that little Asgard guy?” one Mitchell asked the other.  Seeing the other nod, he grinned and observed, “Sure wasn't what I was expecting.”

“Me, either.”

“What were you expecting?” Jack interjected.

Together, both Mitchells chuckled, “Well, pants for one.”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack responded, shaking his head and walking away from the two men.

====

Daniel, meanwhile, had decided to take a walk, too.  Soon, he found himself in one of the multipurpose rooms where teams were meeting to talk off and on.  This room had a few beverages available, as well as some snacks.  There were tables and chairs and a TV in the corner, but that was pretty much it.

At the moment, there were several Daniels present, though other alternate teammates were present, too, including the alternate Janet, who had recently had an unpleasant meeting with General Landry in his office.  She was definitely not happy about the man's comments and lack of sympathy for the critical situation in her reality, where a plague had already killed many people.

“He just wouldn't listen,” Janet said.

“He can't ignore the moral implications of what they're doing,” one of the Daniels spoke.

“He's protecting his reality,” another Daniel, wearing a beige and white uniform, pointed out.

“So, our reality is the only reality?” a blue-clad Daniel questioned.  “Is that what you're advocating?”

“No,” the second Daniel denied.  “I'm just saying you can't blame him.  General Landry has a right to protect this reality.”

“At what cost?” Daniel asked, joining the moral and ethical debate.

“Right,” Janet agreed, standing up and walking around in anger.  “In my reality, Earth is suffering a plague.  They've already been through that plague here.  They have the cure.  All we need to do is find a way to get home.  I'm not talking about a few hundred people; I'm talking about an entire planet.”

“He should have given us more time,” the first alternate Daniel stated.

“And how many more teams could potentially come through while we're searching for an answer?” the second Daniel challenged.  “And what if the solution is never found?”

The group stared at one another, each of them contemplating the answer to the question.

“You know, there's more to be considered,” another Daniel stated, walking over to join the debate.

This Daniel was the only one to be sporting long sideburns as well as a mustache.  It was quite a different look for the other Daniels to get used to.

“What?” three Daniels asked at the same time.

“The Ori,” the mustached Daniel answered.  “We all know what a menace they are.  We have to fight them proactively, and while the SG-1 of this reality is working on this problem, they can't be out there fighting the Ori.  Who knows how much ground they could lose as a result.”

“I understand that,” the blue-clad Daniel stated.  He sighed and then added, “But does that mean we put a war ahead of compassion?”

“I empathize with General Landry,” Janet stated.  “And I agree that there is a bigger picture.  That's exactly what I tried to explain to him.  This goes beyond this world, beyond this galaxy.”

“I agree, but how can we choose the right path for this reality?” Daniel asked.  “Remember 233.  That Earth, that Jack O'Neill, sacrificed himself for my reality.”

“Mine, too,” the first alternate Daniel agreed.

“Mine, also,” the second noted.

Others also acknowledged the event, and then Daniel stated, “He didn't have to do that.”

“No, but that Earth was already losing the war,” the beige-and-white-dressed Daniel argued.

“But those people -- Jack, Catherine, Sam -- they could have gone to safety.  Instead, they gave up their lives for me, for my reality.”

“So, what's your point?” the blue-clad Daniel questioned.

“I'm not sure how we can say one group of lives is more important than another,” Daniel stated.

“That was my argument with Landry,” Janet pointed out.  “I asked him what made my Earth any less important than his.”

“Nothing, Janet,” Daniel answered.  “That's the problem.”  He looked out into the room.  “We all have realities outside of this one.  We all deem our Earth, our universe, important, but who makes the final choice?  Who says you stay, you go; you die, you live?  There isn't a rule book for us to follow, or for General Landry.”  He paused and then looked at several members of the debate before asking, “If this was happening on your Earth,” he faced another, “in your reality,” he looked at Janet, “and you were the one responsible for making the call, wouldn't you make the choice to do what you had to do for your reality first?”

“I'm just asking for a little more time,” the first Daniel stated.

“It's only been a couple of days,” the second Daniel stated.

“That's not long enough to make the decision to strand us here,” the blue-clad Daniel put forth.

“Yeah, I know,” Daniel agreed.

“Daniel,” Jack called out as he entered the room.

“What?” eight or nine Daniels responded.

“*My* Daniel,” Jack clarified.  ~And I do mean *my* Daniel.~

“What?” Daniel asked with a small smile.

“I'm hungry,” Jack stated.

“So, eat,” Daniel replied.

“I'm thinkin' Froot Loops.”

“For dinner?”

As Jack shrugged, one of the Mitchells asked, “What's Froot Loops?”

“You're kidding me,” Jack responded incredulously, getting a clueless shrug in response.  “Mitchell, whatever reality you're from, sucks,” he said, motioning for Daniel to follow him out.

Daniel smiled and looked around at the others, knowing none of them worked with Jack anymore and were wondering why he was.

The archaeologist smiled and said, “It's my world, and ... I'm actually quite happy with that.”

====

“Daniel, that was one of the most insane moments of my life,” Jack said as the lovers walked down the corridor.

“That's saying a lot,” Daniel replied.  “Uh, what exactly are you talking about?”

“Listening to you argue with ... you,” Jack answered.  “The odd thing is it didn't feel like anyone was actually arguing.  I mean, none of you seemed to stick with your argument.”

Daniel chuckled, “We see both sides of the situation, Jack.  There isn't a right or wrong, and I think I, uh, we, all knew that.”

“So you just aired the laundry,” Jack teased.

“Something like that,” Daniel mused.  “How long were you listening?”

“Not long, but I heard enough.”

Daniel looked over at his soulmate and commented, “You feel left out.”

“Daniel, what I want to know is, why am I the only me here?  I don't get it,” Jack admitted.

“I have an idea, but I'm still ... working on it.”

“Well, let me know when you get it figured out.  If I see one more Mitchell, I might ...”

“Daniel, let's shoot some hoops,” an alternate reality Mitchell walking towards the man requested.

“Ah, no, I'm not really big into ... basketball.”

“We play all the time,” Mitchell said.

“Then why don't you go get your own Daniel to play with,” Jack suggested a bit snarkily.  He coughed seeing his lover's disapproving stare.  “I just meant ...”

“What did you mean, General?” the Mitchell asked.

“Never mind,” Jack said, tugging slightly on Daniel's arm to keep them walking.

====

“Checkmate,” Daniel called out.

“Geez, Daniel,” Jack whined.

“It would appear DanielJackson is a better chess player than you are, O'Neill, in any reality,” Teal'c stated.

“Let's play gin,” the general suggested.

“Actually, I'm hungry.  I think I'll go get something to snack on,” Daniel stated.

“Don't get lost in that sea of SG-1's out there,” Jack warned.

Daniel chuckled and left the VIP room.

“Carter, wanna give it a shot?” Jack questioned, pointing at the chess table.

“Sure, why not?” Sam answered, taking Daniel's seat.

====

“Hello,”  the alternate Daniel from the present reality spoke politely as he approached Daniel.

“Hello,” Daniel replied as he took the power bar from the vending machine.  “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” the other Daniel responded, nodding towards the corridor.  “I have to get back, but you can walk with me.”

“Great,” Daniel replied as they headed toward the elevators.  “Uh, I guess what I wanted to know is, when things changed for you; I mean, when, or why, or ... well, why leave SG-1?”

“Oh,” the alternate Daniel expressed as they reached the elevator, where he slid in his key card through the slot.  “After we went back in time and got the ZPM from Ra, we took a team break at Jack's cabin.  It was the first time it was the four of us there together, and we just decided we'd saved the world enough.  It was time to move on.  I think the conversation began because Sam had gotten a call from Cassie.”

“The Janet Fraiser of this reality is dead,” Daniel stated.

“Right.  I couldn't save her.  One minute she was there, saving a life, and the next thing I knew, she was gone.  That didn't happen for you?”

“Actually, it did, but it wasn't really Janet.”

“It wasn't?”

“It was her clone.  Um, Loki.”

“Oh, I see,” the alternate Daniel responded with an understanding nod.  “I wish ... I guess there's no point in wishing.”

“You were talking about Cassie,” Daniel prompted as they continued to wait for the elevator.

“Right.  Cassie was having a hard time adjusting.  Sam thought it might help if she wasn't traipsing off-world two or three times a week; plus, she had steadier hours at Nellis.  Then Teal'c told us that Bra'tac had asked him to return to Dakara and help the new Jaffa nation formulate.  He was so much a part of their freedom that he felt it was his duty to comply.  It was like a momentum thing.  Sam started it, Teal'c continued it, and then Jack ... well, out of the blue,  he said he'd been offered a post in D.C.  I ... was a little stunned by that.”

The two Daniels entered the elevator, and the doors closed.

“You're close,” Daniel spoke about the Jack and Daniel of this reality.

“We were,” the alternate Daniel replied.  “I mean, we are.  We'll always be ... close.”

Blue eyes met blue eyes, and the truth was there for both to see.  The words were unnecessary.

“Once Jack had made his decision, my choice was simple: Atlantis, and the sooner I could get there, the happier I'd be, not that happy really entered into it,” the other Daniel confided with a sigh.  “After the cabin trip, Teal'c packed up and left almost immediately.  Sam was gone within two weeks, and Jack ... right after that.  I sold my house and rented an apartment.”  He chortled, “I grew a beard.  Gawd, I wanted to hide behind that beard.”

“A beard?” Daniel echoed.  “Wow.”

“Like I said, I wanted to hide.  I'd put just about everything I had in storage.  When Mitchell showed up, trying so hard, I tried to hand him the keys to the apartment.  I think I'd been there all of six times.  I'm not sure if he took the key or not; I never even thought about it again.  I got another place that was more than just four walls once I knew I wasn't getting to Atlantis.”

“Um, what about ...” Daniel hesitated, but he had to know.  “Dogs.  Do you have ... dogs?”

“No.  I've never had a dog.  Almost got one once.  Jack mentioned it, but that was right before we went back in time.  We ... almost made a lot of plans ... almost,” the alternate Daniel revealed, the sadness in his eyes supporting the regret in his vocal tone.

“Did Jack say why he wanted to go to Washington?”

“Promotion; he said something about working closer with General Hammond.  I ... think he just ... didn't want ... you know.”  Just then, the doors opened, and the alternate Daniel stepped out.  “It's okay now.”

Holding the doors open, Daniel questioned, “Is it?”

Again, the two Daniels locked eyes for a moment, until the archaeologist of this reality spoke, “Sorry, I have to go.  Kvasir isn't the most patient Asgard around.”  He sighed, “I really miss Thor.”

Daniel watched as his counterpart walked away.  He pulled his hand back, and the doors shut.

~All those doubts and fears.  They obviously didn't get married here, but it sounds like they were close to at least considering it.  They don't have the girls, either.  I just don't get it.  It's not just his Jack, but also all the other Jacks I've found out about.  Why?  What's the common thread?  There has to be a reason, a link.~

====

**Danny, you've been quiet ever since you came back with that power bar,** Jack pointed out as the two were once again on their cots, facing each other.

**It's just ... Jack, what's going to happen to the girls?  We'll be okay.  Somehow, we'll figure out a way to survive here, but Bij and Katie, they ... they depend on us.**

**Mrs. V will take super care of them,** Jack reassured.  **She loves them.**

**I miss them, Jack.  I don't want to be in a reality without them,** Daniel said, suddenly turning over and pulling the covers taut to his face.

**Danny, they'll be okay.  Angel, I promise.**  Jack sighed.  He wanted to hold his husband, to reassure him with physical touch, and he just couldn't do that right now.  ~Crap, Danny.  I don't want to be in a reality without them, either.~

Resigned to his sleepless state, Jack lay on his back and sighed.  He truly hadn't felt this helpless in a long time.

====

A few hours later, Jack was still awake, but he was tired of staring at the ceiling. Restless, he got up and dressed.  He left the VIP room and headed for the commissary.

~At least they have blue Jell-O here.~

Once in the commissary, Jack stared at the food container that was a bit barren at the moment.

“You're lucky.  They have your Jell-O,” Daniel spoke softly, reaching inside and taking out a dessert for his lover and one for himself.

“Did I wake you up?  Sorry, if I did,” Jack said quietly as they headed over for a table away from the food.

“You didn't,” Daniel replied.  “Jack, I didn't mean to tune you out; it's just ...”

“I know,” Jack said.  “Bij and Katie *will* be fine.  We have people who will make sure they are.”

“I love them.”

“I do, too,” Jack acknowledged.

“O'Neill, DanielJackson,” Teal'c greeted as he entered the room.
 
“I don't think you're ours,” Jack spoke as he studied the Jaffa.

“Indeed, I am not.  This is my reality,” Teal'c informed as he stood by the table, his hands clenched behind his back.

“Aren't you working on the ... whatever the Carters are working on?” Jack questioned.

“My services are not required at the moment.”

“Oh, well, how about joining us and telling us a little bit about life in this, your reality,” Daniel requested.

Nodding, Teal'c sat down and prepared to talk about his reality with the two men.

“Start at the beginning,” Jack suggested.

“My parents ...”

“Not *that* beginning,” the general sighed, shaking his head.  “Start with ...”

“When Colonel Mitchell took over SG-1,” Daniel interjected after his lover had trailed off.

“I was not present when ColonelMitchell arrived at Stargate Command, but I will endeavor to tell you what I know.”

“That'll work,” Jack said with a nod of approval.

“ColonelMitchell was eager to take command.  He was, however, disappointed when told he would be leading a new SG-1.  O'Neill had led him to believe he would be working with us.”

“Bet that made his day,” Jack quipped.

“It did not.  He was not a happy hiker ...”

“Camper,” Jack corrected, cringing at the glare Teal'c gave him.

“... when told that ColonelCarter had already begun her new assignment at Area 51, I was on Dakara, and DanielJackson was about to board the Daedalus to go to the Pegasus Galaxy,” the Teal'c of this reality spoke.

“It would be nice to get there one of these days,” Daniel heard himself say.  Seeing Jack's glare, he added, “I'm just saying ...”

Jack groaned and looked over at the alien, stating, “But he obviously kept the team together somehow.”

“With luck and time,” Teal'c confirmed.  “ValaMalDoran arrived ...”

“Vala?” Daniel asked in surprise.

“That femme fatale that space-jacked the Prometheus?” Jack questioned at the same time.

As Daniel rolled his eyes at his lover's phrasing, Teal'c of this reality informed, “She brought a tablet from the Ancients with her, promising that it would lead to buried treasure on Earth.  She also announced she was pregnant, and it was a one in ten chance that DanielJackson was the father.”

“What?” both Jack and Daniel asked in surprise.

“She was lying.”

“Of course, she was,” Jack replied, staring at a shrugging Daniel.

“What about the tablet?” the archaeologist inquired, not even wanting to think about the con artist's lies and innuendo.

“ValaMalDoran did not wish to lose her share of the treasure.  She placed a bracelet on DanielJackson's wrist, and another on herself.  The bracelets linked them together so that they had to remain in close proximity to each other or suffer great pain.”

“Joy,” Daniel spoke sarcastically.

“That is when I returned to the SGC, to be with DanielJackson,” the Jaffa of this timeline spoke.

“Thank you, Teal'c,” Daniel replied obligatorily.

“That's sweet,” Jack spoke a bit mockingly, only to be glared at by his husband.  “The bracelets?” he prodded.

“I had heard a story that Cronus had once used them in transporting prisoners, affixing one to the prisoner and one to the Jaffa.  Should they become separated, they would both fall ill and die.  I did not know how to break the control they had over their subjects.”

“You said it caused pain if Vala and ... Daniel weren't ... uh, together?” Daniel asked a bit hesitantly.

“They could not be apart for more than thirty minutes before becoming ill.”

“That must have been a hard choice,” Daniel stated.

“What, DanielJackson?” Teal'c asked innocently.

“Thirty minutes apart and becoming ill, or five minutes together and dying from frustration,” Daniel replied.

Teal'c just stared for a moment and then continued, “You were not a happy camper.”

“Indeed,” Jack teased wryly.

“I do not recall ever seeing you quite so agitated,” the Jaffa stated to Daniel.

“I'm not surprised.  Vala is very ... she's just ... gawd, she's ...” Daniel trailed off, the veins in his neck uncharacteristically bulging as his blood pressure rose as well.

“Daniel, it's okay.  She's not here,” Jack soothed, patting the top of his lover's hand with tiny touches.

“What?  Oh, yeah, good.  She was just so nauseating on the Prometheus,” the archaeologist complained.

“We know,” Jack stated.  Looking at Teal'c, he asked, “Then what?”

“Since the Daedalus had departed, DanielJackson continued to research the tablet.  He identified the signature on the tablet as that of Myrddin, one of the Ancients who had returned to Earth from Atlantis after the Wraith's first siege on Atlantis.”

“Myrddin?” Daniel asked, his mind piecing together the name with bits and pieces of things he'd studied in the past.  “Just out of curiosity, could that be ...”

“Merlin, in Earth folklore and myth,” Teal'c responded.

“So, Merlin is an Ancient?” Daniel questioned, seeing a nod of affirmation.  ~That actually makes sense.~

“King Arthur's Merlin?” Jack asked.

“That is the one, O'Neill.  DanielJackson believed Merlin carved the tablet, encoding it to lead the reader to buried treasures within the magical stronghold of Avalon.”

“In England?” Jack questioned.

“That is where Avalon is, Jack,” Daniel spoke.

“He believed the treasures were in a series of catacombs beneath the Glastonbury Tor.”

“Hey,” Sam called out, walking in and joining her teammates and the Teal'c of this reality.

“Couldn't sleep?” Jack questioned.

“Looks like I'm not the only one,” the blonde spoke as she walked over to get a fresh cup of coffee.

“Teal'c is telling us what happened here after SG-1 broke up,” Daniel informed, looking over at his friend.

“I've heard some of the stories,” Sam acknowledged as she filled her cup and then sat down next to the archaeologist.  Just as she sat down, she saw the Daniel of this reality enter.  ~Doesn't matter what reality he's in, Daniel sure is cute.~

“Hello,” the Daniel of this reality greeted.  Turning to the Jaffa, he said, “Teal'c, General Landry wants to see you in his office.”

Nodding, the Jaffa stood up and left the room.

“Your Teal'c was filling in some pieces for us.  How about picking up where he left off?”

“Uh, well, I guess I can for a few minutes,” the other Daniel agreed, getting a cup of coffee and sitting down.

“How's it coming?” Sam questioned.

“Slow.  Sam's about to fall asleep.  That's why I'm here: just to get away for a few minutes.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Jack spoke.

“So, what do you want to know?” the Daniel of this reality questioned.  After being informed where the story had stopped, he continued the tale.  “Okay, well, the Prometheus picked up the catacombs on their sensors, so we beamed in, through the barrier.”

“What barrier?” Daniel asked.

“Didn't Teal'c mention that?” Daniel asked.  With a cocking of his head, he said, “I suppose not.  The Ancients placed a shield over the catacombs to protect its location.”

“When you say 'we' beamed in ...” Daniel prodded.

Nodding, Daniel affirmed, “Vala, too.”  After the collective sighs, he continued, “Long story short, we split up, Mitchell pulled the sword out of the stone and ended up fighting the knight.”

“What stone?” Daniel asked.

“What knight?” Jack questioned.

“Teal'c didn't tell you that, either?” the alternate Daniel sighed.  “Uh, when we first arrived, in the town square, there was a large stone with a sword protruding from the top of it.  Mitchell tried, but couldn't pull it out.  Then Merlin appeared and said that only those with 'truth in spirit' could have his treasures.  Uh, we got split up in pairs, got trapped in rooms, and had to pass several tests to prove we were worthy and then, well, not die.”

“It must have been hard with Vala there,” Daniel intoned.

“Trust me, it was.  We're lucky we didn't die,” the other Daniel spoke.  “Anyway, after we passed the tests, Mitchell was able to pull the sword out of the stone; only then a black knight appeared.  Uh, Mitchell won, eventually.”

“Good for him,” Jack responded dryly.

“More long story short,” the Daniel said, rolling his eyes, “Teal'c, Vala, and I ringed up to the ship, leaving Mitchell there.  We thought the treasures would be revealed if he was there alone, since he was the one who had solved the puzzle and defeated the knight.  As soon as we left, though, the catacombs began to collapse.”

“Vala,” Daniel sighed.

“Exactly.”

“What'd she steal?”

The Daniel of this reality laughed at the correct assumption of his counterpart and answered, “A coin.”

“So much for truth in spirit,” Jack spoke with a frown.

“Yeah, and not the way to make friends with someone who was big on honor and integrity,” the Daniel of this reality added.  “We didn't actually know she'd stolen the coin until Mitchell ringed up and told us what was happening in the cavern.  She forked up the coin, Mitchell returned it, and the real treasures appeared.”

“Gold, silver, gems?” Jack questioned.

“And books: very important books,” the Daniel of this reality stated.  He paused for a moment, thinking about his own Jack.  It was the way Jack had just tilted his head and the sound of his voice, which had almost been playful in his tone.  “Uh,” he began, regaining his composure.  “It talked about the Alterans, their travel to space over thousands of years, how they had built a new world on Avalon, and also built many Stargates.”

“So the Ancients didn't originate in the Milky Way Galaxy, but came here from someplace else,” Daniel surmised.

“Yes,” the other Daniel confirmed, still sounding a bit excited by the discovery.

“I have a hunch that gave you a Twinkie-high like never before,” Jack teased lightly.

“Uh, yes,” the other Daniel spoke, still recovering from the unusual way of saying that he'd been excited about the revelation.  “I convinced General Landry that the Stargate Program needed to focus on finding the other races, the, uh, civilizations that the Alterans left behind.  I mean, we weren't learning much from the Ancients.”

“Yes, they do like to keep their secrets,” Jack agreed a bit mockingly, since the Ancients had never been on his list of favorite alien races.

“Jack, stop.  This is ... it's ... if what you're saying is true, then he's right.  Jack, we have to find this when we get ...”

Daniel's blue eyes had been bright and full of discovery.  Then he remembered the two of them were stranded in a universe that was alien to them, and they weren't likely to ever get home.  He saw understanding and sadness in his soulmate's eyes, and they helped him to feel a little bit better.

“I'm sorry,” Daniel spoke.  “Please, go on.”

“Well, then we found another device, a long-range communicator that worked with the Ancient telepathic stones.  They link two people together psychically, allowing them to see each other's lives, sort of.”

“We know about them,” Daniel replied.

“The stones were intended to be used with the communication device we found in the catacombs,” the other Daniel stated.  “At first, we thought the users had to have the Ancient gene, but Doctor Lee was able to reset the devices, and then it was just a matter of turning the machine on.  So, Vala and I each put one into the slots at the base of communicator.”

“Why Vala?” Jack asked.

“Because she's a pest you can't get rid of without swatting her dead, and we got tired of arguing with her.”

“What happened after you affixed the stones?” Sam asked curiously.

“It ... didn't work out so well,” the other archaeologist admitted.  “A few seconds after placing the stones on the communicator, we both collapsed.”

“Definitely not good,” Daniel spoke.

“Especially since we were suddenly in the bodies of Harrid and Sallis.”

“Who and who?” Jack asked.  Frowning, he added, “And you were *what*?”

“Somehow, our consciousnesses went to another place, into the bodies of a married couple, Harrid and Sallis.  They lived in a village occupied by Alteran' descendents.  They were curators of their people's history.  They knew about the stones.”

“Is this another long story?” the general questioned.

“Very,” the alternate Daniel spoke.  “But I'll give you the summary version.  Apparently, the communication device was also a type of ... mental transporter that allowed for communicating with others without actually transporting to their world.”

“A phone would be simpler,” Jack sighed.

“So, while inhabiting these bodies, we met the Ori.  Actually, it was a bit of a ... resurrection experience.”

“What are you talking about?” the confused general questioned.

The other Daniel answered, “Uh, as a point of background, the Ori have a holy book, called the Book of Origins, and their representatives are called priors.  They're sort of ... missionaries, I guess you could say.  They call themselves 'beacons on the road to enlightenment'.”

“Beacons?” Daniel echoed.

The other Daniel continued, “The priors wear long robes and walk with staffs that are some source of energy.  Their eyes are ... odd.  They have a lot of power, mostly from those staffs they walk around with.  Here's the thing.  Once upon a time, the Ori and the Alterans were one human society, headed towards ascension.”

“But?” Jack prompted when the other Daniel paused.

“The two wanted different things.  I guess you could say they had a philosophical parting of the ways,” the other Daniel answered.  “The Ori grew more and more fervent in their religious belief and tried to destroy the Alterans.”

“But they didn't succeed, obviously,” Daniel interjected.

“The Alterans chose to leave their galaxy and come to Earth.  Both races did ascend as they evolved, but the how and why of doing it is vastly different.”

“The Alterans work more ... covertly,” Daniel assumed.

“And the Ori created their religion, passing it down to the humans they created.  Interestingly, their power comes from more than from those staffs they keep with them.  There is a real, physical transfer of energy that occurs when humans believe in them.  For it to be measurable, it requires massive numbers of humans relinquishing their will, but unfortunately does happen.”

As Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, the other Daniel continued, “The Ancients may be a little smug and arrogant in some ways ...”

“Snooty?” Jack questioned.

“Yyyyeah,” the other Daniel agreed.  “But the Ori impose their will on others, and not going along with them can be deadly.”

“Glorified snakeheads,” Jack snarked.

“Well, to be honest, scarier,” the alternate Daniel opined.

“So much for background,” the general stated.  “What happened next?”

“Oh, well, Vala was burned to death on this altar, but a prior showed up and for some reason, brought her back to life.”  The alternate Daniel sighed, “I know it's crazy.  Look, I can't stand her, but I didn't want her to die.  I'm not sure how the prior did it, but, apparently, he was trying to prove a point with me.”

“Follow us, or we can kill you,” Jack quipped.

“Probably,” Daniel agreed.  “He took us to the Plains of Celestis, their city of the gods.  One of the priors came to us there, wanting us to tell them who the disbelievers were.  They really believe there's a path to enlightenment.  Staying on the path keeps you rewarded; disbelieving could ...”

“Cause you to end up a charred piece of toast?” Jack completed.

“Something like that,” the other Daniel acknowledged.  “I finally convinced the prior that I needed to speak with their leader.  I swear, this guy looked like the devil.  He knew who I was.”  He looked down, shaking his head.  “Gawd, I led him to our galaxy.”

“You couldn't have known,” Daniel reassured.

The other Daniel smiled softly and said, “That's always the case with us, isn't it?  We have only the best intentions, but we're so eager.  We want to know so much, and we want to make friends with the ... meta-verses out there.  Well, the Ori aren't interested in friendship, and they're here now, because of me.”

“We all take chances,” Jack rationalized.  “Don't be so hard on yourself.  What happened with this devil?”

“I tried to get him to understand, that fear wasn't the way to go, that free will had to be the way.  I told him nothing he could say would ever change my mind about that.  He opened the door to this chasm of fire, like a big, big wall, that was outside.  They call it the Flames of Enlightenment.  A ball of fire entered him, and he was ... suddenly speaking in another voice.”

“Snakes,” Jack sighed.  “Glorified snakeheads.”

“The Ori said that the Ancients were protecting us, which was a bit of a surprise, but I guess their silence, while frustrating, was just part of their style.  The Ori believe that the Ancients should have told us, everyone, about ascension.  They believe the Ancients to be evil, and now their goal is to make sure all humans hear the word of the Ori.  They know about us because of me,” the other Daniel said, unable to escape his guilt at the moment.

“Let it go, Daniel,” Jack said softly.  “They would have found us sooner or later.  This isn't your fault.”

Daniel looked over at his lover with great love.  He had just comforted the Daniel of this reality, and that touched him.

The archaeologist of this universe nodded in gratitude and continued, “Fire:  they're really big on fire.  I think maybe that's why fire is associated with evil on Earth; you know, fire bad, Ori thrive from fire, therefore, Ori bad.  I think maybe the Ancients helped us to shape that opinion.”

“An allegory,” Sam stated.

“Fire, the devil, and ...” Jack began, pointing down.

“A warning, the only kind of a warning the Ancients could give us, given their propensity to silence,” the Daniel of this reality admitted.

“These priors are now in this galaxy,” Jack stated as a question.

“Yes, wanting us to see the light and follow the path.”

“And if you don't?”

“You're cleansed,” the other Daniel responded.

“Zestfully clean, no doubt,” Jack quipped.  Seeing his joke about the popular brand of soap hadn't been appreciated, he requested, “Okay, so back up.  You were in those other bodies.”

The other Daniel sighed, “Well, we were returned to the village to become examples.  At the same time we were being burned to death, Mitchell and Teal'c tossed the communication device through the Stargate.  It broke the link, and Vala and I returned to our own bodies.”

“Harrid and Sallis?” Daniel asked with wide eyes.

Seeing the other Daniel's expression, Sam spoke in horror, “You mean they awoke to ...”

“Being burned to death at the altar,” the other Daniel affirmed.

“Ouch,” Jack expressed with a grimace.

“Yeah.  The Ori are dangerous, Jack.  I wish the Ancients would have interfered, but they're kinda like the Tok'ra.”

“Only if it serves their purposes,” Jack assumed.

The other Daniel nodded, “The Ancients let it happen, and the Ori began to show up on various planets, preaching their religion.”

“What about the bracelets?” Sam asked curiously.

The other Daniel rolled his eyes and replied, “Vala finally took them off, but we weren't free of their effects.  By the way,” he looked at Jack, “you showed up, to give Mitchell a pep talk, I think.”

“Never,” Jack refuted.

“Jack, he's doing the best he can, and you're the one who left the SGC,” the other Daniel spoke in his teammate's defense, his tone a bit sharp.

“Not this Jack.”

**Jack, he's not happy about it,** Daniel communicated.

**I get that.**

**I sense anger.  I think maybe you might have ... jilted him.**

**That can't be right.  There's not a Jack O'Neill in the multi-verse that would jilt a Daniel, Daniel.  You can find out what happened later.**

“It was good to see him,” the alternate Daniel admitted.  He looked away and then said, “He's the only ... never mind.  You asked about the bracelets.  They were a pain in the mikta.  Vala is a pain in the mikta,” he sighed.  “We sent her through the Gate, and I thought I'd finally get some peace again, not to mention actually being able to get some work done.  That woman talks non-stop, and it's nothing but bad material from 'Saturday Night Live'.”

“I take it the peace didn't last,” Daniel surmised from the other man's tone and expression.

“I collapsed about an hour after she left, and she showed up again right after that, in the same miserable condition.  We were still tied together, bracelets or not.”

“So the technology wasn't what she thought?” Jack asked.

“Doctor Lee speculated that the bracelet technology sorta bonded with the Ancient's communication device, creating a third ... bond,” the other Daniel explained.  “I really didn't care why; I just wanted the link gone before I developed some kind of schizophrenia from having to be so close to Vala all the time.”

“Not a fan?” Jack mused.

Daniel sighed, “She's not my type.  I know she's had a hard time, but, to be honest, she's one princess I really don't want to be responsible for rescuing.  She gets bored easily and thinks it's fun to make me miserable.  She thinks sex is a hobby.  You know, Teal'c likes her.  I wish she'd focused on him more than me, or even Mitchell.  They have chemistry.  She's so impulsive, compulsive, obsessive, possessive, annoying ...”

“Daniel!” Jack called out in an effort to stop the ranting.  “So, how'd you finally gain your freedom?” he questioned.

“Sorry.  I do feel sorry for her, but she doesn't know how to deal with that emotion. She's like a spoiled child who only thinks about herself.  She has to be the center of attention, using sex as a weapon.  She ...”

“Daniel!” Jack shouted, raising his eyebrows in an attempt to get back on track.

“Oh, uh, so, Vala admitted she'd stolen the bracelets from some old flame or something.  We hoped that if we found him, he might know how to break the link. Gawd, what a nightmare and an intergalactic waste of time.  For days, she led us from world to world on a ... scavenger hunt that got us nowhere.  After all that running around, all we knew was that the effects of the bracelets *might* wear off in time.”

“I assume they did,” Jack surmised, his sentence also an impatient question.

“It'll remain a mystery,” the Mitchell from this reality interjected, coming into the room and looking at the alternate Daniel.  “Carter needs your help.”

“Okay,” the other Daniel acknowledged, standing.  He stared at Jack and asked, “Why didn't you leave in your reality?”

“I don't want to,” Jack answered bluntly.  “I don't believe any me would want to,” he added, causing the alternate Daniel to blink.  As Daniel reached the doorway, he called out, “I bet he'd come back.”

“I'd lose my job,” Mitchell retorted.

“Too bad,” Jack spoke dryly.  “It's story time,” he added, pointing at the now-vacant seat.  “Sit,” he ordered.

“You do know you can't order me,” Mitchell said, though he sat down rather quickly.

“We'll see,” Jack said.  “Why was it so important to you to keep SG-1 together?”

“They're the best.  I'd read every mission report from the start of the Program, and I was jazzed.”

“Jazzed?” Daniel asked.

“I was handed the opportunity of a lifetime, any posting of my choosing, and I chose to join SG-1.  I wanted to learn from the best, and when General O'Neill told me he was moving to Washington and there was an opening on the team, I jumped at it.  I was stunned when General Landry told me that Colonel Carter had taken a post at Nellis.  Still, I was determined to make my dream a reality, even after General Landry told me that Jackson had requested reassignment and that Teal'c had left the SGC over a month before.”

“How'd you change their minds?” Sam asked curiously.

“Luck, and their own bonds.  I knew if I could convince just one, the others would come back.  It was you,” Mitchell said, looking at Daniel with a smile.  “Okay, not you, but the you in my reality.”

“Me, I mean, Daniel?” the archaeologist questioned.

“Yeah.  I went through the motions of interviewing potentials for the team, but I picked the worst ones I could find; anything to drag out the decision and give you a chance to get your feet wet again.”

“Daniel wanted to go to Atlantis.”

“Yeah, he did, but that was where luck came in.  Vala Mal Doran: now there's a character.  Hugh Hefner would love her outfits: they show off her boobs, uh, assets well,” Mitchell stated.

“Let's forget about her ... busty assets,” Jack said with a snarl.

“Without Vala, it may not have happened, but once Daniel missed the ship, I knew I had him.  It's the peaceful explorer thing.  Even after all these years, it's still what makes you, him, tick.”  Mitchell leaned back in his chair and smirked, “Vala kept Daniel here just long enough for that old feeling to come back.  Then Teal'c did the concerned bit, and even though he left once, I knew he'd come back.”

“What about your Carter?”

“She was tougher than I thought, but I'd also spent more time with her in the past,” Mitchell said, smiling and drifting off in thought.  “I really wanted to work with her.”

Sam felt a little uncomfortable.  A part of her did find the man a bit attractive, but her heart was taken.  It belonged to Pete, even though their relationship was an on-again, off-again thing.  She wondered if Pete was in the picture for the Sam of this reality.

“Mitchell, Carter?”

“Oh, just remembering,” Mitchell responded, leaning forward again, his arms on the table now.  “I kept on her, and then I suggested to General Landry that he add some pressure.”

“How?” Sam wondered.

Mitchell smiled in Jack's direction and said, “He called you, and you put the razzle-dazzle on her.  It took a couple of tries, but you convinced her, and she came back.  They still played hard to get, but they all took the team patches when I handed them out after one of the briefings.  I love it when a plan comes together.”

~I wish he'd stop talking like me,~ Jack thought.

“Look, I'd love to stay and chat, but we're working all night to get that time dilation device ready.  Kvasir is a real slave driver,” Mitchell stated, standing up.  With a squinty face, he added, “I really wish he'd wear pants.”

Jack, Daniel, and Sam watched the man leave the room and then sat quietly for a moment.

“Shouldn't they be working on the Prometheus?” the general questioned.

“I'm sure they are, Sir,” Sam responded.  Realizing she needed to be clearer, she added, “The Asgard beaming technology.  I think they're going back and forth.”

“Aw,” Jack acknowledged.

“It was Myrdden ... um, Merlin,” Daniel suddenly sighed.  Seeing Jack's quizzical expression, he expounded, “Once Daniel learned about Merlin, he couldn't back off.  It's a mystery, one of the biggest mysteries ever, just like Atlantis was.  Imagine: Merlin, an ascended being.  It's ... incredible.”

Jack sighed, aware that his lover was already hooked on the intrigue just from hearing about what his counterpart had gone through.  He had no doubt that his Daniel was right and that the Daniel of this universe had remained on SG-1 to explore the myth of King Arthur and Merlin.

“The Ori: what if they come to our galaxy in our reality?” Sam asked.

“We have no way of warning them,” Daniel lamented.

“Crap, I hate being choiceless,” Jack whined.  “Let's go back to the room.”

“And what?  Sleep?” Daniel asked, knowing none of them would be able to get any rest.

“No,” Jack answered as he stood up.  “Pretend to sleep.  We don't want to worry Teal'c,” he quipped as he walked out of the mess hall.

Sam and Daniel exchanged a look and a shrug before following their team leader to the VIP room.

====

At breakfast time, while most of the alternate SG teams were eating in the mess hall, the Mitchell of this reality walked in and chirped energetically, “Showtime!”

“Don't you have any of your own catch phrases?” Jack asked in disgust as he lowered his spoonful of oatmeal down to the bowl.

“Uh, not many,” Mitchell said.  “I studied you carefully, General.  I did my homework before taking this gig.”

“Why?” Jack asked skeptically.

“I figured the more I sound like you, the less the team would miss you,” the Mitchell claimed.

“Mitchell, ever heard the saying, 'less is more'?”

“Okay, maybe I'm going a little overboard.”

“A little?” Jack asked pointedly.  “Be your own man, and you'll get further with the team, and with everyone else.  Trust me.”  After a pause, he asked, “So, what's the 'showtime' bit about?”

“I just wanted you all to know that SG-1, *this* reality's SG-1, and the first alternate team that came through will be leaving on the Prometheus in one hour.  The time dilation device is set, and Carter is just doing a final systems' check before we go.”

“Is Kvasir going with you?” Daniel inquired.

Mitchell laughed, “No.  He said if the calculations weren't totally correct, the Prometheus could be blown up.  He couldn't beam out quick enough.  I thought the Asgard were braver than that.”

“They are,” Jack stated.

“I miss Thor,” Daniel spoke.

“That's what Daniel said,” Mitchell acknowledged with amusement.

“You haven't even met Kvasir,” one of the other Mitchells in the room pointed out.

“I just don't think Thor would have left without making sure the time dilation device worked.”  Looking at Mitchell, Daniel opined, “Thor would have been there with you.”

“Cream of the crop,” Jack spoke about their ally, realizing that even among the Asgard, there were less courageous individuals than the one they considered to be a friend.

“Yeah, well, Kvasir bailed, and I have to go,” Mitchell stated, turning and making a quick exit.

“I wonder what they've done to the Asgard to piss them off,” Jack pondered.

“You do not believe Thor and Heimdall are away?” Teal'c questioned.

“No, I'm sure they are.  It's just ... odd, that's all,” Jack said, eating some oatmeal while continuing to think this reality they were stuck in was just crazy and insane.  ~I *so* don't want to live in this reality.~

====

Later that afternoon, with the Prometheus and its crew of two SG-1's on board and well on their way towards the singularity, the other teams continued to meet and discuss past events.  Some were familiar to SG-1, particularly older events, but many of the missions from recent months were not, something that Daniel was intrigued by.

“They bought that?” Sam questioned one of her counterparts.

“I know it was a bit of a stretch, but how do you explain a high rise tower just disappearing?” the longhaired Sam asked in reply.

Sam cocked her head and, as she raised her coffee mug to her lips, answered, “I guess a gas leak is as good as anything else they might have come up with.”

“The important thing is that we sidelined Ba'al again.”

“We haven't heard from him in a while,” Sam stated.

“I wish we hadn't,” the longhaired Sam responded.  “Of course, it meant I got to see Malcolm again.”

“Agent Barrett?” Sam asked.

The longhaired Sam smiled her acknowledgement and said, “He's very nice.  It wouldn't work for the long term, but he's a nice diversion since the colonel is out of reach.”

“The ... colonel?” Sam asked hesitantly.  “Cam?”

“Of course not.”

~Don't ask what you don't want to know the answer to,~ Sam told herself, after which she stood and excused herself from the table.

--

“Gerak sacrificed himself to save Earth from the plague,” one of the Teal'c's commented.

“Who is Gerak?” Sam asked, sitting down next to Jack as he talked to the Jaffa.

“Gerak was the First Prime of Montu, a minor Goa'uld who served Ra.  When Ra was killed, he joined Ba'al.  After the Jaffa won their freedom from the Goa'uld, he became the leader of the Jaffa High Council.  Unfortunately, he chose the wrong path to help the Jaffa.”

“What do you mean?” Sam asked.

The alternate Teal'c answered, “Gerak read the Book of Origin and believed it held the answers for the Jaffa.  He became a prior and attempted to sway the Council and the Jaffa to follow the teachings of the Ori.”

“You were talking about a plague and Gerak sacrificing himself when I sat down.  What does that mean?” Sam inquired.

“The plague had killed hundreds on Earth already.  I knew the way to stop it was with the help of the Ori, of which Gerak was now one.  I met with him under the guise of joining his cause.”

“But it was just a ruse?” Sam surmised.

“You are correct, ColonelCarter,” the alternate Jaffa confirmed.  “I intentionally met with Gerak on Chulak, at the place where the Battle of Tazek'Sur is commemorated.  It was there that Gerak's father had been killed in the rebellion against the Goa'uld.  I wanted him to remember why the Jaffa fought so hard for our freedom.  I wanted him to realize what freedom was.”

“He was successful,” Jack interjected.  “Gerak returned to the SGC and used that staff magic of his to cure the dying.”

“But you said he sacrificed himself,” a confused Sam reminded.

“The Ori are strong, ColonelCarter,” the alternate Teal'c stated.  “Betraying them set off a failsafe in Gerak's body, so that he was consumed in flames almost immediately.  It was fortunate that he was able to cure those on the base.  After this, Doctor Lam was able to isolate an antibody and manufacture a vaccine that was then used to cure those around the world who were inflicted with the plague.”

“I see,” Sam acknowledged quietly.

--

“Okay, so you were determined to go to Atlantis,” Daniel asked one of his counterparts.

“Weren't you?”

“Well, so why didn't you?” Daniel questioned, ignoring the query that had been put to him.

“I don't know.  I guess I could have caught the next ship, but this is ...”

“Home?” Daniel suggested.

“Yes; at least, it was until ...”  The blue-clad Daniel sighed and then confided, “Sometimes, I wish we'd never gone back in time.  Sometimes, I wish we'd just stayed there.  And ...”

“What?” Daniel prompted when the image of himself hesitated.

“Sometimes I wish we'd never taken that trip to the cabin.  It changed everything, and not because Sam went, which is what a lot of the gossip mongers have said.”

“I think I understand,” Daniel stated.  He'd already talked to most of the other Daniels, and he had a theory.  Still, he wanted to talk with the others before he finalized his conclusion.  Spotting one of the Daniels he hadn't talked to yet about this subject, he excused himself and walked over to join the other archaeologist.  “Mind if I sit here?”

“Does it matter?” the other Daniel replied.  He was dressed in the most unique BDU of all the teams assembled.  It was a dark purple with one bright red, horizontal stripe across the chest.  He'd explained that it was supposed to stand out in a crowd, though he had never been fond of the attire himself.  “I've watched you questioning all of us since we got here.”

“Well, aren't you curious about the others?”

“Not really,” the man in dark purple answered truthfully.  “We can't change anything here, so we might as well just go along.”

“Go along,” Daniel echoed, the phrase having a deep, personal meaning for him that wasn't all that pleasant.  He wondered if his counterpart using the phrase now was just a coincidence, or if it spoke to something deeper in the man's soul as to why he had remained more distant than the other Daniels.  “But we have to try our best to get home.”

“Why?”

Daniel blinked, a bit taken back by the strength of the query, but then surmised, “So, you're prepared to stay because ... this reality is as good as the one you come from.”

“Maybe better.  There's nothing back there.”

“Are you sure?” Daniel probed.

“Yes,” the purple-outfitted archaeologist spoke instantly as he looked down and then away, his anguish about his past showing through to Daniel.  “I don't really have a good history; one reality is as good as another,” he spoke, his voice haunted by a past that he clearly hadn't gotten over yet.

“When's the last time you talked to Jack?”

“When he showed up to talk to Mitchell.  I confided in him, that I was scared about the Ori.”

“And?”

“And we did lunch,” the purple-clad Daniel responded.  “Actually, lunch was good. We talked, and he managed to reassure me that we'd survive to fight another day; even that we'd defeat the Ori, like we had the Goa'uld.”

“That's a good thing,” Daniel opined.

“Then he took Mitchell for a flyby, and he returned to Washington, to push papers,” the somewhat bitter Daniel from the other reality spoke.

“Maybe you should think about everything that's happened some more,” Daniel put forth as strongly as he could.

“Your Jack didn't leave,” the other Daniel spoke a bit emotionally.

“Maybe yours didn't really leave, either.”

“What are you saying?”

“I'm just saying ...”

“Daniel,” Jack called out, motioning for his lover to join him at the side of the room.

Daniel sighed and then spoke quietly, “I'm just saying that maybe if you go back and really think about everything that's happened, that maybe it's not quite what you think.”  Standing, he began to walk away, but then he turned back and queried, “Seriously, when you think back, does it make sense that Jack would go to Washington to ... push papers?  If it doesn't, then maybe you should stop feeling sorry for yourself and start thinking about ... possibilities.  That's what I'm saying.”

Daniel walked over to his lover and smiled weakly.

“What was that all about?”

“Faith.  Belief.  History,” Daniel answered.

“Oh, well, that clears that up,” Jack responded, not having a clue what his soulmate meant by his answer, but deciding to not worry about it.  “I'm hungry.  Let's eat.”

====

“Come on, Hank.  It's me,” Jack implored.

“Jack, you know the rules.”

“Yes, I do, and I know they can be broken.  Thirty minutes.  Come on,” he begged again.  “Keep the SFs on our six.  We just want to see the stars.”  After a moment, he added, “You do know that if the teams on the Prometheus succeed in their mission, that means lives for us here, outside the Mountain.”

“The Pentagon isn't too happy about that.  How do they explain all the doubles?”

“They can't keep us locked up, not with all the knowledge we have.”  Jack stared at his friend.  “Oh, great.  They're going to ship us off to some other planet.”

“It hasn't been decided,” Landry confided, seeing his friends 'oh, come on, we both know the truth' look.  “Okay, Jack.  Thirty minutes, and don't make me look bad for saying 'yes'.”

Landry walked away, motioning to the SFs to do as Jack had requested.

“Great!” Jack exclaimed, rubbing his hands together.  “Just give me a minute,” he said to the SF as he turned and walked into the VIP room.  Inside, he called out, “Dannyboy, field trip time.  Carter, Teal'c, you, too.”

“Where are we going?” Teal'c questioned.

“Outside.”

“You're kidding?” Sam questioned, wondering how her CO had wrangled that.

Five minutes later, though, with two SFs lagging behind, SG-1 wandered the mountaintop of Cheyenne Mountain.  Sam and Teal'c walked ahead, leaving the lovers to enjoy their nation of two, as long as they were quiet.

The stars were out, glittering in the skies of Colorado Springs.

“It's almost as beautiful here as it is at home,” Daniel spoke a bit emotionally.

“Danny, they may not let us stay here.”

“I figured as much.  I mean, uh, that's a lot of identical people, all working in similar lines of business.  I don't see how they can let us out.  This is the last time, isn't it, Jack?”

“Probably,” Jack answered as he looked up, trying to capture the shining stars in his mind.  If this was going to be his last memory of Earth, he wanted to capture every fragment of it in his mind.  “It is beautiful, our Earth or not,” he said, his voice cracking.

“Jack,” Daniel began, turning to face his lover.  He looked back at the SFs, who were pretty far back in distance.  Gazing again into his Love's eyes, he spoke, “If this is our last time here, I want you to know that I love you with all my heart.  I know we'll be okay wherever we end up, but I want to say it here, now, how very much I appreciate your not letting me run, all the times you came chasing me, all the times you didn't let me hide: I ... Jack, I just love you, so very much.”

Fighting back a tear, Jack replied, “With all my heart and soul, Danny, I love you. You and me, we're forever, in this reality, or any other.  I wish ...”  He took a breath and then said, “I wish I could get the girls.  Crap, I wish there was a way.”

“They'll be okay.  Mrs. Valissi, or Catherine ... someone.”

“Yeah,” Jack agreed.  In a sudden move, he pulled his lover behind a tree and kissed him passionately.  He held the kiss as long as he thought was safe, and then some.  “I love you, Daniel, forever and always.”

“Forever and always,” the younger man agreed with misting blue eyes.

“Hey, Guys,” Jack said, smiling at the SFs who had sprinted forward, afraid Jack and Daniel had been trying to give them the slip.

The lovers grinned at each other and then continued on their walk.

====

As the next day ticked on, Jack became more and more ticked at himself, or rather at his alternate selves.  He was tired of watching Daniels, Sams, Teal'c's, Mitchells, and the handful of assorted others that made up the SG-1's currently stuck in this reality.  No matter how much Daniel had tried to soothe his unrest, he felt an uneasiness and distress that he couldn't come to terms with.

Finally, putting his covert skills to use, he put the slip on the SF who was responsible for staying close to him.  He slunk, unseen, into Landry's office.

~Thanks for cooperating, Hank,~ Jack thought as he sat down at the man's desk and stared at the phone, smiling when he saw the phone list code that included his name on it.  ~Okay, O'Neill, let's see what you have to say for yourself,~ he said as he picked up the phone and pressed the appropriate button.

“Jack O'Neill.”

“Jack O'Neill, it's ... Jack O'Neill, and we need to talk.”

====

Three hours later, the Jack O'Neill of this reality walked into Landry's office where Jack and Landry were talking.

“Hank, would you excuse us?” the Jack of this universe requested.

With a compliant nod, Landry stood and walked out of his office, closing the door and motioning for the curious onlookers to get back to their jobs.

“So, Jack.  You don't mind if I call you Jack?” Jack asked his look-a-like, who was wearing his dress blues.

“Why not?” the other Jack asked as he sat down in Landry's chair.

“Hammond's chair was better,” Jack opined.

“Yes, it was.  I'm here,” the Jack of this reality stated.  “What did you want?”

“I want to know why you're a pencil pusher when you've spent your whole life avoiding paperwork,” Jack stated bluntly.

“Salary, the par...”

“Oh, please, don't give me the parking space line.”

“No, I actually don't have to drive myself anywhere anymore, if I don't want to,” the dressed-in-Air Force blue-man responded.

“I'm not buying this little yarn you're pulling,” Jack stated as he sat down in a chair in front of Landry's desk.  “Cut the act, Jack, and tell me the truth.”

“The truth, Jack, is that I was tired of saving the universe.  We're not spring chickens anymore, and it was time to kick back and relax, so I convinced Hank to step in and take over.”

“Bull,” Jack refuted.  “You'd hated it when you took over for Hammond.  This I know for sure.”

“Look, I wanted out.  I sold my house, my car, and my motorcycle, and I ...”

“Motorcycle?  What motorcycle?”

“It was a gift, from Carter, for Christmas.  Sorry you didn't get one in your universe,” the other Jack replied sarcastically.

“This is odd,” Jack responded.  “You don't like motorcycles, and why would Carter give you one?”

“You're nosey.”

“Sue me,” Jack retorted.  “Why would Carter give you a motorcycle?”

“You'd have to ask her.  Look, I kept the thing, rode it a few times, and now I've sold it.  That's all there is to it.”

“I still say it doesn't make sense,” Jack maintained.

“According to Carter, there are differences in each reality,” the other Jack stated.  “Apparently, you and I have some major differences.”

After fifteen minutes of going around in circles, Jack probing for answers and the other Jack not giving an inch, the man of this universe stood and announced, “It's been fun, but now I have to return to Washington.”

As the other man headed for the door, Jack stood and called out, “Why'd you leave Daniel?  He's angry about that.  He's also hurt.  I want to know why you'd do that to him?”

Turning around, the Jack of this reality spat, “Daniel is none of your concern.”

“Oh, no, that fish doesn't cut bait, General,” Jack spat in reply.

“I don't care whether it does or not.  This is my reality and my Daniel, not ...”

“Oh, so he *is* yours?” Jack interrupted, walking forward until the two men were just inches apart.  “Why did you leave him behind?”

With a smirk, the other Jack replied, “I thought you knew, General.  I never leave anyone behind.”

Brown eyes glared at brown eyes, and then the other Jack turned, opened the door, and walked out, leaving Jack confused.

~I just don't understand him.~  Jack sighed as he evaluated his other self.  ~He was cold, heartless, unfeeling, like when Charlie died.  What happened to me here?  How could I leave Daniel?  I couldn't.~  Finally, he stormed out of the room.  Passing Sergeant Harriman, he growled, “Harriman, your reality stinks.”

“Yes, Sir,” the man acknowledged and then continued on his way.

====

“He didn't give you any answers?” Daniel asked his husband late that night.

The two men were in the rec room, happy that no one else was around.  They were sitting by the bench press, facing each other as they chatted quietly.

“He was stone-faced, totally devoid of expression.  He reminded me of how cold I was after Charlie died.  He was empty, Danny, and I just don't understand that.”

“But he reacted when you asked about Daniel,” Daniel responded.

“He got a little angry, and he left quickly.”

“Babe, it's not you, so let it go.”

“It hurts, Danny; it hurts that anyone who's me would hurt anyone who's you,” Jack expressed with sadness.  “Geez, what a confusing statement,” he opined, shaking his head.

“I know,” Daniel said, reaching out and daring to take his soulmate's hand.  “I believe there's a reason why he acted that way.”

“Care to share?”

“Not yet,” Daniel stated.  “It's still a theory; I want it to be a proof before I tell you,” he said, a sweet smile on his face.

“Do you know how much?”

“I think so, and you do, too, right?”

“Definitely,” Jack assured.  “Ping pong?”

Daniel laughed his agreement as the two men stood to continue their night of normal un-normalcy.

====

The next morning, Sam and Teal'c had both gotten up early and had already left the VIP room by the time Daniel had awoken.  Jack had actually been the first one to wake up, but he'd dressed and was sitting in a chair, reading a book.

“J'ck?” Daniel called out as he woke.

“Hey, Beautiful,” Jack responded, getting up and walking over to the cot.  He sat down and kissed his lover.  “I love you.”

“Mmmm, love you, too,” Daniel said as he draped his arms around the older man's neck.  “Missed you,” he crooned as their lips connected for another, longer, and much more lingering kiss.

“No more missing me.”

Suddenly, Daniel sat up, having remembered where they were.

“Jack, what ...”

“Shhh,” the general ordered, his finger running across the younger man's lips.  “Danny, what are they going to do if they find us?  They're going to ship us off to some beach paradise somewhere anyway.  It's not like we're in the Program anymore.  I want you, and I don't want to wait any longer to be close to you.”

“I don't, either,” the anxious archaeologist agreed.  “My sexy Silver Fox; you always know what to do to make me feel better.”  Daniel smiled and said, “I love you so much.”

“I love and need you more than I need anything else in life.  You're mine, Danny, and this Jack O'Neill is never going to let that change.”

“Promise?” Daniel asked with sparkling eyes.

“Oh, yeah,” Jack said.

With the door locked, Jack and Daniel made love.  They hoped no one would discover them, but it didn't matter if anyone did or not.  They were two men in love, and it was eternal.  Nothing could change that.

====

After their early-morning lovemaking, the lovers ate brunch in the commissary and then worked out in the weight room.  As mid-afternoon approached, they entered one of the multipurpose rooms and once again met with several of their SG-1 counterparts.  They spent the next couple of hours learning about more missions and the realities of the other SGC personnel who were stranded in this reality.

As the evening hour grew near, the conversation turned towards an event that had stunned the SGC.  Not long ago, SG-1 had gone to P3X-584, where they discovered an underground lab.  There, they found a man in suspended animation.  Mitchell, being an amateur at finds like this, pressed the button that ended the animated state, something Daniel hadn't been thrilled with.

It turned out that Anubis had replicated his pre-ascension DNA using the genetic manipulation device.  He had then combined it with human DNA to create a genetic hybrid capable of evolving to the point of ascension.  That was the man Mitchell had revived, and it was the man who had almost destroyed the SGC before a covert plan had taken the hybrid out, ending the threat.

“He never knew what hit him,” the blue-camouflage-clad Mitchell stated.

“It was the same in our reality,” the brown-clad Mitchell confirmed.

“And in mine.  Jackson was dead on with his shot,” yet another Mitchell stated, patting his Daniel on the back.

Having heard enough, Jack barked, “You're all out of your friggin' minds,” and then stood up and walked out.

“We'll be back,” Daniel stated calmly as he got up and hurried out of the room, catching up with his lover at the end of the corridor.  “Jack, calm down,” he urged as the older man walked swiftly through the gray walkways.

“Calm down?” Jack questioned incredulously.  “Did you hear that stuff Mitchell was saying?  An alien tramp on SG-1?”

“It was just temporary, until the link was permanently severed.  It's not like she was officially on the team,” Daniel pointed out.  “We both know that would never happen in our world, and that's not what you're upset about.  You've known about Vala for a couple of days now.”

“You're right; that wasn't the topper,” Jack agreed in a raised voice.  “No, he has you playing assassin with Anubis' clone child.”

“It's not me,” Daniel refuted.  “It's the other me, one of them, or maybe all of them, but it's not me.”

“Daniel, who are you in this reality?  And are you that way because of ...”

“Jack, it doesn't matter,” Daniel soothed, walking up to his lover and kissing him gently, not caring if they were seen or not.  “There could be thousands and thousands of realities, but the only one that matters to me is our reality.”

Jack let out a large breath and walked passed his soulmate, stopping at a table.  He rubbed his hands through his silver-gray hair and then looked back at the younger man.  There was more on his mind, questions that he needed answers to, questions that even the Jack in this reality hadn't been able, or willing, to answer.

“I wanna know why all the other versions of me left.”

“You left for all the me's,” Daniel spoke.

“What?”

“Jack, it didn't work out the way any of them planned it, but by then it was too late,” Daniel spoke.

“Speak English.”

“Atlantis.”  Seeing his lover's intense stare, Daniel elaborated, “It's the most important thing to me in the world, *professionally*.  I'd never go, though.”

“Because of us,” Jack said.

“Jack, you've sacrificed for us over and over again.  You always want what's best for me, and I think the you's in all of these realities did the only thing you knew to do, to give me my dream of visiting Atlantis: you left.”

“I guess I'd do something like that,” the older man admitted hesitantly.

“The Daniels are so empty.  They're ... playing basketball and ... have you noticed that I sound a lot like you in this reality, and the others?  I have.  The things they do, the way they act: it's keeping you with me, here in these realities.”

“You didn't get to Atlantis.”

“By the time you knew that, Vala had me trapped with those bracelets, and you were committed to Washington.  What were you going to do, Jack, have Landry ousted?  Demote Mitchell after promising him the team?”  Daniel moved closer to his lover again and added, “Did you know that the Jack of this reality was responsible for convincing Sam to come back here?  And you know why?”

“Why?”

“If you couldn't be here, you wanted to make sure the team was together; you wanted to make sure *my* six was covered.  In these realities, we're apart right now, but I don't believe it's for forever.  I think you're going to wait for me to get to Atlantis, and then I think you'll find a way to fix it.”

“You do?”

Daniel grinned and said, “You love me, Jack.  It's killing you to be on the other side of the country.  More than that, it's eating at your soul to let me go through the Stargate without you, especially with those ... Ori things out there.  When the time is right, you'll make me smile again.  I think that's what all of these Daniels are waiting for.”

“The other me's could have just retired.”

“And done what, Babe?  Sit home and watch hockey?  They wouldn't let you go to Atlantis with ... me, and the me's would know that.”

“Guilt,” Jack stated.

Daniel smiled shyly, but shook his head, saying, “The me's love their Jacks.  There's no way they'd go on an extended trip to Atlantis.  I mean, uh, a dig for a few weeks is one thing, but Atlantis would be longer term.  They also know you'd be worried and miserable.”

“I had no choice.  They ... had no choice,” Jack surmised, seeing his lover's agreement in his eyes.  He let out a sigh, releasing that portion of his own guilt, even though he himself hadn't done what so many of the alternate Jacks had done.  “Daniel, does the fact that I don't want you going to Atlantis without me, that I'm keeping you from living that dream that I *do* know you have, make me one selfish son-of-a...”

“It means you love me, so much,” the younger man interrupted.  “It's just a different choice, and it's one I wouldn't change.  Jack, I'm ... happy.  Most of those other Daniels are miserable. They live in their offices with their artifacts.  I treasure the discoveries we make, and I have passion for the artifacts in my office, but I have a life outside of that office, and that's because of you.”
 
“I love you, Danny.”

“And I love you, in every reality.”

The lovers risked another kiss and then headed for the commissary to get something to eat.  Afterwards, they played Monopoly with their teammates and then, no longer caring if they were discovered or not, Jack and Daniel gave the SFs the slip and made out in a storage room, just like they'd done many times before on their Earth.

====

“So ... you and Jack never ...” Daniel began as he talked to one of his counterparts in the corner of the commissary early the next morning.

“No, of course not,” the other Daniel responded, looking down at his coffee.

This Daniel still had shaggy hair, and his green BDUs matched SG-1's except for an additional patch that was over the chest on the black shirt and a narrow red, white, and blue stripe that ran across the shoulders on the jacket.

“Are you ... interested?”

“It's crazy.”

“Is it?” Daniel asked.

“We're friends, that's all,” the other Daniel stated nervously.

“Maybe when you get back, you should call him,” Daniel suggested.

“He's happy in Washington.”

“Are you sure?”

The questions and comments were rapid fire, not allowing the shaggy-haired archaeologist to think very much before answering.

“Why wouldn't he be?”

“You're close ... friends,” Daniel stated as a semi-question, noticing how much the other man was looking down, licking his lips, and downing coffee in the hopes that the conversation would go away.

“Yes.”

“Then your Jack knows you want to go to Atlantis.”

“Of course, he does, but I ...”

“... wouldn't really go?” Daniel challenged with raised eyebrows.

“It would be the chance of a career,” the other archaeologist spoke quietly.

“What if you had to choose between the chance of your career and the chance of a lifetime?  What if there was more than artifacts waiting for you?”

“I don't know what you mean.”

“Jack is a constant,” Daniel stated, maintaining contact with the other man who was still more slender and less athletically built than he was.  “He protected you on Abydos, right from the start.  You felt it.  I know about Sha're.  I loved her, too, but it wasn't the same.  I know you don't know the half of what I'm talking about, but all I'm saying is that Jack never changed in wanting, needing, to protect you.  Over time, he wanted what was best for you, too, even if it costs him personally.”

“I really don't know what you're saying.”

“I think you do,” Daniel insisted.  “Look, just ... call him.  Tell him Atlantis is a bust.  Maybe someday you'll go, for a few weeks.  Tell him you're more interested in here, or, rather, there, wherever there is for you.”  He took a breath to toss off the confusion of this last statement and then concluded, “You might be surprised, if you open the door.”

“He likes woman,” Daniel stated hesitantly.  “So do I.”

“You can ignore me, if ... actually, no.  It's not me you're ignoring, it's yourself.  How many museums has Jack gone to for you?  How many hockey games have you endured for him?  I bet you've seen every Mary Steenburgen movie ten times, and you've also spent hours watching Egyptian documentaries on TV.  Why?  Because you're best friends?  And, um, just exactly how many dates has Jack gone on?  For that matter, how many dates have *you* gone on?  I'm guessing the number is the same -- zero.”

“You'll never believe it!” one of the Mitchells called out loudly, interrupting all of the various conversations that were going on in the room.

“Think about it,” Daniel stated with an encouraging nod as he stood and walked over to join his teammates to find out what the news was.

====
 
The news was a huge surprise to the SG-1 and their counterparts stranded on this Earth.

The Prometheus had aborted their mission and returned to Earth.  Apparently, while en route to their destination, the first alternate SG-1 team to have arrived in this reality had forcefully taken command of the ship.  Their plan had been to go to Atlantis and take the ZPM that was used for Gate travel between the Pegasus Galaxy and Earth and return with it to their own reality.  While they'd managed to put part of their plan into play, their success was short-lived when this reality's SG-1 outsmarted them.  In the process, this reality's Sam had deduced the solution to sending all of the SG teams back home.

Upon their return to the SGC, the 'black' SG-1 as they were now being referred to, a symbolic nickname for them being the bad guys, were kept under closer guard, with two SFs assigned to each team member.  Actually, Landry had considered simply keeping the team in a holding cell, but he decided on another option.  With the SF's keeping watch, 'black' SG-1 was taken to the multipurpose room to face the music from the other teams for a while.

Once there, it didn't take long for the news to spread through the room.  Quickly, the SG-1 teams began to murmur, and then they shared their anger with the 'black' team.

“This was *your* idea?” Jack questioned 'black' Mitchell.

“Our ZPM is depleted.  We needed the one in this reality to power the Ancient weapon in Antarctica.”

“So you decided to screw everyone else just to protect your little corner of the multi-verse?” Jack accused angrily.

“The billions of lives that would be saved on Earth is worth the inconvenience of schlepping back and forth on the Daedalus in this reality,” 'black' Mitchell rationalized.

“If this reality is like mine,” one of the Mitchells stated, “they need that ZPM to cloak Atlantis.  If the Wraith returned and discovered Atlantis was still intact, they'd attack.  This galaxy would be their next target.”

“Too many ifs,” the 'black' Mitchell refuted.  “The threat we face is more immediate.”

“That's very arrogant of you,” one of the Daniels stated.

“I'm just stating the facts,” the Mitchell claimed.

“You planned this from the beginning,” Sam surmised.

Daniel looked at his teammate and then added, “Not caring what damage you could do to anyone else.”

“We opened a wormhole through the black hole and then blasted a bridge into this universe,” 'black' Sam explained.  “This Sam almost figured it out.  Once we were gone, it would only be a day or two before she'd get all of you home.”

“Confident, aren't you?” Jack asked.

“Yes, Sir,” Sam responded without hesitation.  “This reality's Sam figured it out on the ship right after they regained control of the ship.”

“What is the solution?” Sam inquired curiously.

“They're going to connect with PX7-455 ...”

“Why that planet?” Daniel queried.

“Because that's where we came from,” 'black' Sam answered.  “They'll fire the directed energy weapon through the Gate.  That should reverse the space-time rupture, effectively inverting the convergence effect.  Once the convergence effect has been reversed, they can dial the point of origins for wherever you guys came from.  The wormholes will follow the inter-universal pathways already created by their initial trips and ...”

“We'll get home,” Jack interrupted.

“Yes, Sir.”

“How will they know if it works?” Daniel asked.

“Timing,” Sam answered, looking at her counterpart.

“That's right.  If they create this first stable wormhole in three-point-four seconds, which is how long it took us to travel through the Gate to get here, then it's worked, and we can all go home,” 'black' Sam stated.

The Teal'c's were all facing down the 'black' Jaffa, who was managing to hold his ground.

“On Chulak ...”

“Chulak's gone,” 'black' Teal'c stated.

“Not in my reality, and that is where I wish to go.  You would have no place there,” Teal'c stated, walking away from his counterparts.

'Black' Sam let out a sigh as she watched the Jaffa walk away.

“You really think you were right to do what you did,” Sam stated.

“You would have done the same thing; you've also done worse, and for other reasons,” 'black' Sam accused, looking over at Jack.  She looked back at Sam and the other blondes and exclaimed.  “Hey, I'm you, all of you.  If your world were ...”

“We've heard the story,” Jack interrupted.  “You crossed the line.”

“Sir, with all due respect ...”

“Don't 'Sir' me,” the general rebuked.  “Yes, I'm all for breaking the rules when it's necessary, and I'm all for saving my own butt and those of my team's, and the good ole Earth, but you weren't just playing with this reality and the billions of people here, but with *my* reality, and his, and his, and hers, and his, and hers ... you get the idea,” he stated, having looked over at various Sams, Daniels, Teal'c's, Mitchells, Martouf, and Janet.  “You played with all of our lives and all of our realities, potentially changing them forever.  *You* decided that it was okay to put your billions before our billions and billions and billions.  Are you going to tell me that it's okay to do what you did; what you were planning to do?  If my Carter did that, she'd be out on her six so fast she couldn't see straight; and don't bring up the Enkarans.”  He sighed and, looking over at his lover, communicated, **I'm sorry**.  Verbally, he continued, “We're talking one man versus a planet full of people.  Was Carter wrong?  Probably.  I was, too, and, Carter, so are you, now.”

'Black' Sam swallowed and bowed her head, not saying anything in reply.

“She was just following orders,” 'black' Mitchell defended.

“If that's the excuse she wants to live with , it's no skin off my nose,” Jack replied.  “What's your excuse?”

“Hey, you picked me for this gig,” 'black' Mitchell pointed out.  “It wasn't easy, but I did get the band back together.”

“I'm smarter in my own reality,” Jack claimed.  “There, you're not even at the SGC.  Okay, you saved our lives.  Colonel, airmen are saving lives every day.  Thank you for doing your duty, but I'd never give you command of SG-1, not *even* if you were my son.”

“You know, I've heard rumors about that,” one of the other Mitchells called out.

Jack looked over and said, “That's because giving you command of the flagship team of the SGC is ridiculous.  The me in your realities had to be under some alien influence.”

“Or something,” Daniel mused lightly.

“I requested this gig at General O'Neill's invitation, and I earned it,” 'black' Mitchell stated.

Suddenly, all the Mitchells began to murmur and mouth off in their defense of being the leader of SG-1.  At the same time, the Daniels were trying to keep the peace, while all of the others were just standing back and watching.  Jack, of course, was in the middle.

At the point, the Mitchell of this reality walked in and called out, “Whoa! We're a team!”  In a more normal voice, he walked over to the archaeologist and asked, “Hey, Sunshine.  What's all the fighting about?”

“Okay, that's it,” Jack said.  In one smooth move, the general reared back and landed a solid right jab against Mitchell's face, the lieutenant colonel falling backwards and slamming down against the cold floor.  He walked over to the downed officer and said, “*Stop* calling him 'Sunshine', and he's not supposed to do your dirty work. You're the military officer; he's the scientist.  Remember that the next time you need a hit man.”  As the Special Forces personnel approached, he glared at them with intensity and barked out, “What?”

The two men looked at each other and backed off.  It didn't matter what reality they were in: Jack was a general, and an intimidating one to boot.  Quickly, they backed away.

“What's it to you?” Mitchell questioned as he rubbed his jaw.

“Jack,” Daniel called out in warning, not wanting the scene to escalate or to get too personal.

“Just ... don't,” Jack advised, shaking his hand quickly a couple of times.  ~Geez, that felt good.~

Standing up and rubbing his jaw again as he studied the general, Mitchell asked, “You don't like me in your reality, do you?”

“I don't *know* you in my reality.  I dropped by the hospital and said thanks; we all did, but that's it.”

“You got me in.”

“That Jack O'Neill must have been having a bad day,” the general insisted with a scowl.

“Yeah,” Mitchell sighed.  “Okay, time to go.”

“It worked?” Sam asked.

“It worked, and, don't take this the wrong way, but I'd just as soon as have my own reality in peace and quiet,” Mitchell put forth.  He looked around and said, “It's a little crowded in here.”

“I couldn't agree more ... Sunshine,” Jack snarled and walked out of the room, with Teal'c following close behind.

Stopping by Mitchell's side, Daniel said, “My counterpart really lets you call him that?”

“He's never said anything.”

“Piece of advice: stop, or one day, he might do what Jack just did,” Daniel cautioned with a slight smile before moving forward.

As she reached the doorway, Sam paused and looked back, finding a gentle pair of blue eyes.  She smiled at Martouf and gave him a nod.  She hadn't actually talked to the Tok'ra, but that was just a technicality.  Her heart felt goodness for the alien, even though he wasn't the Martouf she had once cared so deeply for.

“Carter, you planning on staying?”

“No, Sir,” Sam called out without looking back.  Giving Martouf a last smile, she turned and caught up with her teammates as they headed for their quarters to get their gear.  “I was just saying goodbye to a friend.”

====

Inside the control room, Sam was overseeing the procedure that would send 'black' SG-1 home.  A few minutes ago, the team had been led to the corridor outside the gate room to wait for the bridge to their reality to be opened.  Knowing what was about to happen, Daniel made his way to the corridor and stood, staring at his counterpart.

Tired of the stare, 'black' Daniel walked over to the archaeologist with his two SF's remaining right behind him.

“What do you want?” 'black' Daniel asked irritably.

“I want to know how you could be a part of that plan.”

“Survival.”

“You had choices.  You had to have known you were playing with other people's lives.  There were no guarantees that your plan was going to work; in fact, it didn't.”

“But no one got hurt.  In fact, it looks to me like a lot of people gained from our little plan.  One reality is being given the cure to the plague; they weren't close to developing it on their own.  A few of 'us',” he said, referring to the Daniels, “seem to be a bit happier, or more hopeful now.  See?  No one was hurt.”

“I don't understand you, how you could play with all of our lives like that,” Daniel challenged.  “We've been here for days; you have no idea what has been happening in all of our realities in that time, to our SGCs, to our families, to ...”

“You don't live in my world.  It's not as rosy there as it is here, in this one,” 'black' Daniel responded.

“Then fix it.”

“Too late.”

“It's never too late,” Daniel opined forcefully.

“Is that what you told the others, that it's never too late, that he'll come back?”

“Is that why you did this, because of Jack?”

“It doesn't matter.  I did what I had to do, for my reality.  I don't really care whether or not you understand that,” 'black' Daniel spoke.

“Wow.  I hope whatever part of me you are, stays very, very buried,” Daniel stated, his blue eyes staring into the blue eyes of the other man.

“Jackson, it's time,” 'black' Mitchell called out.

“Don't worry about me,” 'black' Daniel stated.

“I won't, but I hope you lose that bitterness that's eating away at you,” Daniel expressed tolerantly.

“Bitterness?”

“You've been hurt, like we all have, but for some reason, you haven't been able to grow past it.  I don't know why, but I do hope that someday, you find some peace.”  Daniel paused and then suggested, “You might try opening up.”  As the other man began to speak, the archaeologist raised his hand to stop him, saying, “I have a hunch you're the exception to the other Daniels here, the ones suffering in quiet because Jack left.  I think maybe you're the one Daniel who drove him away.”  He could see the truth reflected in the soulful eyes he was facing.  “The thing is, he'd come back.  I believe that.  You just have to forgive yourself for all the muck you've lived through.  If you can do that, you *can* be happy.  It really is that simple.”  After another moment, he spoke a quiet, “Goodbye,” and then turned around and walked away, leaving the other Daniel to ponder his words for a moment before rejoining his own team.

====

“Get any answers?” Jack asked when his lover joined him in the VIP room where the team was waiting for the archaeologist.

“No,” Daniel replied quietly.

“Daniel, I'm sure that Daniel had good reasons for ...” Sam began.

“No, Sam, none of them did.  I was just hoping to understand why he'd go along with it, but ... well, I guess maybe there's a tiny dark side to all of us.  I'm okay with that.”

“Are you?” Jack questioned, full of concern.

“I left him with some questions, Jack.  Maybe one day he'll find some answers that will lead him down a different path,” Daniel spoke.  “Uh, you know, we'd better say goodbye to the other teams.  They were about to send 'black' SG-1 through when I left.”

“Good idea,” Jack agreed, following Daniel out of the VIP room.

====

“Hank, it's a pleasure in any reality,” Jack said a few hours later, shaking Landry's hand.

“You're a handful in any reality, too, Jack,” Landry stated.  “I just heard you decked Mitchell earlier.”

“C'mon.  Don't you think he's trying too hard to be ... me?”

“Maybe, but when you do leave your SG-1, someone is going to have to step into your shoes, and they're pretty big shoes to fill,” Landry offered.

“Yeah, well ... there's that,” Jack agreed hesitantly.  “You know I never imagined you assigned to the SGC, but it looks like a good fit.  Maybe I'll put in a good word for you in my reality, when Hammond retires.”

Landry laughed and patted Jack on the arm before turning around and heading for the control room.

--

Near the doorway, Daniel was talking to his counterpart from this reality.

“I think you could be right,” the other Daniel agreed.  “It wouldn't surprise me, anyway.”

“Would you change it, if you could?” Daniel asked.

The alternate Daniel looked over at Jack and then up at the control room, where Landry now stood with Mitchell and Teal'c by his side.

“Probably, but I can't, so I have to do the best I can with what I've got.”

“Get to Atlantis; the sooner, the better,” the archaeologist advised.

The other Daniel sighed and said a bit reluctantly, “You know it's one of my big dreams to go.”

“But ...”

“New Guy needs SG-1, and now that Sam's back, it's not that bad.”

“Trust me; trust what I said.  Call him, and keep in touch.  You'll see,” Daniel asserted.

“You sound very confident.”

“I am.  Look, break in the new guy, kick some Ori butt, spend some time on Atlantis, and then go home, to your real home.  Maybe it'll take a couple of years, but home will always be home.”

“It was good meeting you, Daniel,” the archaeologist of this reality spoke with sincerity.

“Good luck,” Daniel responded, shaking hands with the image of himself.

“You, too,” the other Daniel replied, watching as Daniel turned and walked over to wait for the final chevron of the Stargate to engage.

====

Several minutes later, SG-1 returned home to their own reality, via one very quick stop to the planet where they'd seen the Jaffa that were still loyal to the Goa'uld.  Seeing Hammond in the gate room, Jack let out a huge, happy shout.
 
“Welcome home, SG-1,” Hammond greeted.  “You're two days late.”

“We took a bit of a reality detour, General.”

“Sounds like it'll be an interesting debriefing,” the lieutenant general spoke.  “We'll meet in one hour after you've changed and been examined by Doctor Fraiser.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged, leading his team out of their gate room.

====

“Daniel, you want me to do that?” Jack asked as his lover fidgeted with the key.

“It's just ...”

“I know, Love.”

Daniel calmed himself and opened the door.  Then he hurried to the patio door, grinning as widely as he ever had in his life.  As fast as he could, he unlocked it, letting in the love and joy that came in the forms of Bijou and Katie.

“I missed you so much,” Daniel told the two beagles, kneeling down while a couple of tears slid down his cheeks as the beagles greeted him a slew of hello kisses.  “Gawd, I almost didn't get to see you again.”

Jack knelt down and began to say his hellos to the two canines as well.  As he did, he watched his husband carefully.  He knew he'd been scared, but the relief he could feel from his soulmate was even deeper than he'd thought.  Of course, he realized that he'd covered up his own emotions a lot, too.

“Hey, Girls.  Geez, you two are beautiful!”

“Woof!” came a couple of eager and happy replies.

Daniel sat down on the floor, not wanting to move.  Jack didn't, either, so he settled in on the carpet as well, happy to play with their girls.

“Love you both, so much,” Daniel spoke amid happy laughter.

“Yeah, me, too,” Jack added.

====

Jack held his soulmate close after they'd showered and changed into casual attire.

“Too many days of not being able to do this whenever I wanted to,” Jack sighed.

“Yeah,” Daniel agreed, smiling over at Bijou and Katie, who were sitting on the bed, wagging their tails.

“Daniel, I was talking about holding you, not watching the girls.”

“I know,” Daniel said, walking over and picking up Katie.

Jack shook his head and walked to the bed, picking up Bijou.

“They need us, Jack.  They need us to be here, not Mrs. Valissi, or Catherine, or the general.  They need us, and ... and ...”

“We need them,” Jack said, getting a kiss from Bijou.  “Come on, Girls.  Our company will be here soon.”

====

Within fifteen minutes, the rest of SG-1 had arrived for a team night.  There was plenty of pizza and beer for the four, and they felt free to enjoy themselves since they had the next day off.

“They ended up with twenty teams,” Sam stated.  “They refused to open the Gate for another sixty or so.”

“Twenty Carters,” Jack chuckled.  “All single?”

“Actually, Sir, I was married to Daniel quite a bit,” Sam chuckled, ignoring Jack's glare.  “I was Narim in one reality, with Martouf in another; oh, and I was with Agent Barrett in one.”  She smiled as she thought about her other couplings.  “Pete and I were together in a few, and,” leaning against the Jaffa, she chuckled, “we were together in a couple.”

“It would be an honor, Samantha,” Teal'c responded.

“What about the Teal'c's, Big Guy?” Jack questioned.

“Drey'auc was alive in some of the realities.  She was an honorable woman,” the Jaffa acknowledged about his dead wife.

“What about Ishta?”

Teal'c nodded and said, “Among others.”

“Not telling, eh?” Jack responded lightly.

“What of the DanielJacksons?” Teal'c asked.

“Single mostly, though Sha're was alive in a couple of the realities.  I was with Sam in a couple.  There was one reality where Janet and I had a relationship before she died.  Mostly, I was just devoted to my work,” the archaeologist spoke, though he knew the truth was that most of the Daniels had been involved with the Jacks of their realities, though a few of them still weren't lovers, at least, not yet.

“Sir, what about the Ori?” Sam asked.

“You heard Hammond.  We know what to expect if they show up here, so we can be vigilant.”

“We have to search for Merlin's treasure, Jack.  We have to find what's there,” Daniel insisted.

“Daniel, is it worth the risk?”

“I'm not sure, but we have to at least consider it,” the archaeologist stated.

“Whatever we do, we have to move slow.  Look, I know you're all excited about Avalon and those catacombs, but there could be other mistakes we could make that could alert the Ori to our presence.  Weigh the costs, Danny; that's all I'm asking you to do before you hit Hammond with your request.”

“What makes you think I'm going to do that?” Daniel asked.

“Aren't you?”

“I don't think so.  I'd ... like to search for the catacombs.  I'd like to find out more about Merlin, but you're right, Jack.  How can I weigh my excitement about Merlin with the existence of the Milky Way galaxy?  I'm not sure right now that what we could learn from Merlin would negate the Ori threat.”

“I'm proud of you,” Jack spoke, knowing how hard that was for his lover to say what he just had.

“I can't believe that Janet was dead in so many of the realities,” Sam lamented.  “I told Janet she was on SG-1 in one reality, and you should have seen her grin.”

“A Napoleon-sized Rambo,” Jack teased.  “Carter, have you been seeing Mitchell?”

“Cam...eron?” Sam asked, coughing afterwards.  “Well, Sir, I have known him a long time, and I did present him with his Congressional Medal of Honor.”

“Carter!”

“I've seen him a few times, but nothing like the Sams in the other realities.”

“Well, tell him he's *not* getting on SG-1,” Jack instructed.

Sam chuckled, “I don't think he's expecting to, Sir.”  After a moment, she said, “You know, it really is good to be home.”

“Where Homer lives on,” Jack said proudly about his favorite TV character, causing everyone to laugh.

“You know, the differences between the realities weren't all that major, except for ...”

“Me,” Jack answered.

“Actually, I've been thinking about that,” Daniel interjected.  “I talked with just about everyone, comparing their histories, and there's one very obvious difference between our reality and the others.”

“O'Neill,” Teal'c spoke.

“Yes, but more than that, it's the ZPM.”

“What do you mean?” Sam questioned.

“We're the only team that *didn't* go back in time.  The others all did,” Daniel reported.

“Close enough wasn't close enough,” Jack stated, recalling a line from the end of the simulation Sam had conducted at his request.

The team all exchanged looks of concern and gratitude.  Had it not been for the simulation that proved they could not go back in time and then return without changing the timeline, they might all be like the other realities.

“It's not that they're worse or anything, but they are different,” Daniel pointed out.

“And our look into their realities was limited,” Sam noted.  “We really don't know how widespread the changes are because they went back to get the ZPM.”

“Well,” Jack expressed quietly.  “I guess that explains a lot, too.”

“The Jaffa Nation was affected,” Teal'c stated.  “In most of the realities, Gerak was the leader of the Council and almost led the Jaffa into a civil war because of our differences.  Here, we are free and without the conflict of the other realities.”

“Because the Ori haven't come here, we didn't go through the plague, either,” Sam stated.

“But you do have the notes, right?” Jack asked.

“Yes, Sir.  We know what to do, if it ever becomes necessary.  We also have the specs on their anti-prior technology.  We're going to start working on that, even if we don't have anything to test it on.  If we do have to fight the Ori, we will have a head start,” Sam stated.

“Catherine was dead,” Daniel stated.  “I checked on the computer.”

“That's depressing,” Jack replied.

“There is one thing that did not change,” Teal'c put forth.

“What's that?” Jack asked.

“You cannot play ping pong in either reality, nor in any timeline,” the Jaffa said smugly, bringing much-needed levity to the previously serious conversation.

====

It was after midnight, and the lovers were seated on the wooden deck of their rooftop paradise.  Jack was leaning against the wall, and Daniel was in front of him, leaning back against his Silver Fox.  The older man's arms were wrapped around his Love, his hands caressing the soft skin of his lover's abdomen.  He placed a kiss at the side of Daniel's neck.

Leaning his head back, Daniel spoke, “We're so lucky, Jack.”

“Our stars are better,” Jack replied as both men focused on the starry night above them.

“Jack, I think a lot of those Jacks and Daniels will be reunited, and I think some of the others will, uh, get together.  I ... I feel it,” Daniel opined.

“I hope you're right,” Jack replied.

Daniel twisted around a bit so that he could look into his husband's eyes and spoke, “Babe, Jack and Daniel belong together, forever and always, in all realities.”

Jack cocked his head slightly, thinking about the few realities where the Daniels were with Sha're, Sam, or Janet.

“Well, almost all,” the younger man spoke lightly, realizing what his soulmate was thinking about.

“It was hard on you,” Jack suddenly said.

“Being in an alternate reality?” Daniel questioned.  “I don't think that was easy on any of us.”

“That's not what I meant.”

“Oh, okay, uh, well, what did you mean?”

“The other Daniels, being apart from their Jacks, and the 'Black' Daniel,” Jack spoke.

“Well, I guess we all like to think of ourselves as making the right choices.  I mean, uh, I've always been so ... um ...”

“Passionate, insistent, argumentative ...”

“Hey, are you trying to comfort me or pick a fight?” Daniel questioned teasingly.

Jack chuckled, “Just filling in the blank, Love.”

“I think it would have been harder if I hadn't already come to terms with ... gawd, having a dark side.”

“What dark side?” Jack questioned, jutting his head back just a tad in surprise.

“Shifu's dream, remember?”

“Russia go kaboom,” Jack spoke in an amused tone.

“We can laugh now, but after I had that dream, I was scared.”

“I remember,” Jack acknowledged, placing a kiss on lover's neck.  “It was just a dream, Danny.”  He sighed and then said, “I know what you're saying.  It's that little corner we all have inside of us somewhere that isn't our good side.”

“Exactly.  I faced that back then, but it was still hard to see me, or someone who was supposed to be like me, have such little regard for billions and billions of people over so many realities.  I understand he was hurting, but ... well, Jack, even if you hadn't ... saved me from all that hurt as a child, I just don't think I could ever make the choice he did.  I mean, even if he couldn't talk them out of it, I should have.  He should have been the one to argue against it.”

“Maybe you got him on track now,” Jack spoke, squeezing his lover to him confidently.  “You're the best negotiator in all the realities.  I'm betting things will change for him now.”

“I hope so, but, Babe, I'm okay.  I feel bad for him, and all the sadness I felt from the other Daniels, but I really do believe they'll find their forevers with their Jacks, and ... 'Black' Daniel,” he nodded against his husband's chest, “yes, I think he'll find his way back now.”

For a few minutes, the couple enjoyed the peace and serenity of the night and just being together.  Silence wasn't awkward between them or uncomfortable.  Rather, it was just a part of being so in tune and connected that their voices didn't need to be speaking all the time.  Right now, they were happy to communicate with their touches.

Jack's mind began to wander, focusing in on another part of their trip to the alternate reality, to what they had learned about Atlantis and other wonders.

“Danny, about Atlantis ...”

“You're my Atlantis, my Merlin, my everything, Jack.  Please don't second guess us, not now, not after everything we've been through.”

“Just checking,” a happy Jack responded before kissing the younger man.  “I love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too.”

Their nation of two strong and pure in this, the reality of their truth, Jack and Daniel warmed themselves with tender touches and caresses.  Their fire grew stronger with reaffirming looks of love and glances of eternity.  Following the rhythm of their beating hearts, they began the foreplay of their passion beneath the night sky.  Then they went inside, to their bedroom and made love, while downstairs, Bijou and Katie rested peacefully in their beanbag by the fireplace, dreaming happy dreams of their 'parents' and the large bones they'd been given that night.

For Jack and Daniel, Bijou and Katie, life in their reality was the best there was.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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