“Unscheduled off-world activation!”
SG-1 was in the briefing room with General Hammond when the alarms began to sound. They all rose, and Jack and Sam followed the General down to the control room, while Teal’c and Daniel went over to the window to see what was happening down below.
“We’re receiving an audio transmission, sir,” Sergeant Harriman reported.
“Put it on speaker,” Hammond ordered.
“…ing. This is Colonel Jack O’Neill. Do you copy? Repeating. This is Colonel Jack O’Neill. SGC, do you copy?”
“Aw, crap!” Jack groaned.
Hammond motioned with his forefinger, and the sergeant opened a channel for him. “This is General George Hammond of the SGC. We are receiving your signal loud and clear.”
“General! Good to hear your voice! Sir, as stated, I am Colonel Jack O’Neill, but not your O’Neill, obviously, assuming that you have one.”
“What do you want?”
“Sir. We are on a diplomatic mission. We are offering to share intel and technology with you. The better to fight the Goa’uld with, sir.”
“Where do you come from?”
“Are you familiar with a device known as a Quantum Mirror?”
“We are,” Hammond replied. “And you had better know right now that we destroyed our mirror some time ago.”
“Understood, sir. We get that a lot, actually. But that wasn’t the only Mirror in your universe, sir. Sorry. Again, diplomatic mission, share information, peaceful travelers.”
“Jack. You forgot the part about…”
“Oh, yeah. You are under no obligation to share anything with us, sir. And we’re not looking for an alliance. You’re probably never going to hear from us again. We’re just looking for whatever help you’re willing to give that will help us defend ourselves, and we’re offering the same to you. Absolutely free of charge, sir.”
Upstairs, Daniel smiled excitedly at Teal’c. “There’s a me!” he said.
“So I heard,” Teal’c concurred.
“There’s never been a me before. They’re going to let them through, right?”
In the control room, Hammond asked, “How many of you are there?”
“Four, sir. Major Carter, Dr. Jackson, Teal’c and myself. Armed only with holstered sidearms. Which we will gladly surrender to you. We’d offer to come through with our hands in the air, but we’re carrying a lot of stuff, sir. Documentation. Planets we’ve been to, snakes we’ve killed, allies we haven’t pissed off too badly yet.”
Hammond exchanged glances with Jack, who grimaced and shrugged. “I’m going to allow you to come through. When you reach this side, you are to put down the items that you are carrying and raise your hands above your heads.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. O’Neill out.”
“Open the iris,” Hammond instructed.
The alternate reality SG-1 stepped through the gate and halted at the top of the ramp. They laid down their burdens and put up their hands. Every gun in the gate room was pointed at them. SFs approached them slowly and confiscated their sidearms.
Jack watched all this with narrowed eyes. Only belatedly did he recognize what that clatter of feet on the metal staircase behind him had meant. Only when Daniel shot into view beneath him. “Daniel,” he growled.
“Go,” Hammond authorized. Jack ran for the staircase.
Daniel skidded to a halt at the foot of the ramp. Alternate SG-1 was moving towards him, hands at their sides. He met the other Daniel’s eyes and felt a thrill run through him. “Hey,” he said, inadequately.
“Hi!” the other man replied, grinning. He approached slowly, with his hand held out. Daniel reached for it. Shook it, disbelievingly. Grinned inanely back. Turned towards Jack.
“Daniel,” Jack said. Twice. In stereo, and in two very different tones of voice. The man who was reaching out for Daniel looked up over his shoulder, and dropped his hand back to his side.
“Colonel, Daniel,” the Carter-clone said, smiling.
“Hi, Sam,” Daniel answered, feeling Jack’s hand descend heavily on to his shoulder. “Just greeting our guests, Jack.”
“So I see,” Jack said with as much sarcasm as he could muster. The other O’Neill was smirking at him, and Jack glared, which only served to heighten the other man’s amusement. A glance at their Teal’c gave Jack the impression that he, too, was highly amused. Great.
“Colonel,” Hammond’s voice came from the control room. “Please escort our visitors to the briefing room.”
“You heard the man,” Jack said gruffly. He gestured in a mockery of invitation, and the alternate Daniel gave him a blinding smile as he walked past, side by side with Daniel, already deep in conversation. Jack rocked back on his heels a bit, recovered, and beckoned two of the SFs to bring up the rear.
Just to make an already bad day even worse, he had to watch his own butt as it walked up the stairs in front of him. That was just wrong. And the other O'Neill undoubtedly had a lovely view of two Daniel-asses as they climbed. Alternate realities could drop dead as far as he was concerned.
They assembled around the briefing room table, one team facing the other. Hammond said, with some bewilderment, "This is without a doubt the strangest briefing I have ever been a part of, bar none."
"Just to increase the level of bizarreness, sir," O'Neill said, "I have a letter here for you. From you." Jack groaned, and O'Neill looked over at him. "Trust me, you never get used to it."
While Hammond read his letter the room was silent, the two teams eyeing each other with varying degrees of curiosity, friendliness, wariness. Hammond passed the letter to Jack. "This General Hammond asks me to provide our visitors with sleeping quarters and meals, since they should be safe to stay here for at least 48 hours."
Sam nodded her head. "Before entropic cascade failure begins."
“He also suggests that I let you people lead the way, Colonel, since you’re all experienced with this type of thing.” Hammond gazed assessingly at the other O’Neill.
“Yes, sir. We know how to best accomplish the objectives of the mission. Sir, if I might make my first suggestion? If you would all just call us by our last names, that would avoid a lot of confusion.”
All eyes turned to the other Teal’c. He inclined his head. “You may address me as Murray.”
“Ah!” Jack said with satisfaction. O’Neill’s lips twitched.
“Agreed,” Hammond said. “Last names only for the rest of your team. And your next suggestion?”
O’Neill grinned. “Well, if your men are through searching our belongings, sir, our private gear could be delivered to whatever quarters you assign us. And then we can go over some of the paperwork, just to sort through it. You can assign it to your staff as you see fit then, sir.”
“I’m going to want you all to get checked over by our doctors before we go any further,” Hammond said.
“Understood, sir. We’re healthy enough, or our own medical staff wouldn’t have cleared us for this trip, but better safe than sorry. After that, what we’ve found to work best is dividing up into teams. Each of us with our counterpart. Just to start off, sir. The Carters can talk about alien doohickeys, the Teal’cs can cover the Jaffa situation, the Daniels can spout at each other in dead languages.”
Jack raised his eyebrows. “And you and I? Will be talking about what?”
O’Neill grinned. “Fishing?”
Jack’s eyebrows stayed up. “I admire your sense of priorities.”
A palpable sense of relief swept through the room. It looked as though the two alpha dogs might be able to get along with each other after all. The Daniels smiled at each other. And Jack reminded himself that O’Neill, unlike Harlan’s robot, had a life of his own and no desire to claim any part of Jack’s. So, maybe he wasn’t a complete asshole.
Sam said to the general, “Sir, if I may?” He nodded, and she continued, “I’d like to hear more about this other Mirror.”
“Ah,” O’Neill said, and looked at his team a bit uncomfortably. “We’re not actually authorized to give out any information about its location. Carter?”
“Suffice it to say, that there is another Mirror, which we discovered in our reality. And we’re able to use it to access the SGC in realities such as your own, where they’ve destroyed the Mirror that Daniel found. Now, we kept that Mirror, and were already using it for missions like this one, but the discovery of the second Mirror really has opened up the universe for us tremendously.” Her eyes conveyed her conviction that this was a good thing.
"How do you...? Sorry," Daniel said, "I'm not sure how to phrase this. How do you not pick the same reality twice? I'm assuming you use the remote control device, and I know how hard it can be to pinpoint the right universe."
"We managed to alter the control device slightly," Carter said, eyes bright with scientific joy. "To put it in layman's terms, we managed to find a way to 'dog-ear the pages' of the realities we visited. That enables us to avoid going to any universe twice, and also makes it a lot easier to find our way home."
"So if you turn the Mirror off behind you, when you reactivate it, it goes directly to your world?" Daniel asked, brow furrowed in concentration.
"No, not exactly," Carter explained. "When you dog-ear the page of a book, if you let the book fall open," she demonstrated with her hands, "it may not fall open to the exact page you want, but it will be very close. You only have to turn over one or two pages."
"So," Sam said, "you only have to search a few realities, in either direction of where the Mirror is focused."
"Exactly," Carter said, nodding eagerly. "And we know it when we hit it, because of the dog-ear." She looked around the table. "There's more to it of course. Each dog-ear is unique, and the remote device can be programmed to look for a specific location, which usually means the home universe. I mean, we tend not to return to any alternate reality."
"'Tend'?" Jack asked sharply.
"There have been one or two exceptions. We've rendered humanitarian aid on occasion," O'Neill said bluntly. There was a brief silence as Hammond and SG-1 considered the implications of that.
“Not going to tell us where it is, huh?” Jack was the first to speak.
“Well, for one thing,” Jackson said, “do you really want to know? I mean, you destroyed the other Mirror, for reasons that I would assume still apply.”
Jack made a face at Hammond.
“When we leave here,” Murray said, “we will ‘gate first to an unoccupied world, and proceed from there to the planet which holds the Quantum Mirror.”
“So we won’t have the right address recorded in our dialing computer,” Sam said, nodding.
“Right,” Carter said. “Sorry to be sneaky about it, but it’s policy.”
“That’s why you were wearing sidearms,” Daniel said with an air of discovery. Jack frowned at him. “Well, I wondered. I mean, they had to surrender them, so I wondered why...”
“To protect ourselves between the Mirror and the Stargate. Because an unoccupied or friendly planet in our universe might not be quite as safe in the next one.” O’Neill nodded at Daniel approvingly.
“What if we want to destroy this one, too?” Jack said with an edge to his voice.
“Well, we found it,” Jackson said. “Maybe you will, too?” Jack gave him a disgruntled look. “Sorry.”
“Let’s move on, people,” Hammond said. He nodded towards O’Neill.
“Let me repeat, sir,” O’Neill said. “You are under no obligation to provide us with any information whatsoever. Truth is, sir, what we’re giving you mostly has to be taken with a huge chunk of salt. Our realities are close, or we wouldn’t bother coming here, but we have no way of knowing what the differences are. Basically, sir, if we recommend a planet with friendly natives and a huge vein of naquaadah, we may be only half right.”
“The planets in your reality may have been ruled by a different System Lord, or none at all,” Jackson added. “We can only tell you what we experienced.”
“The technology we have to share is a lot more reliable, though,” Carter added. “Assuming the same laws of physics apply here, which they should, everything we offer should be useable by you. Of course, some of it may not be new to you, but we may have found a different use, or refined it to some degree. And we also have medical information. Addresses of planets where we've found new drugs, information from our allies.”
“Bottom line, if we can give you a heads up, sir, that will save you some grief, we’re all for that. At least we can prepare you for what you might be up against, and that goes a long way in my book, sir.”
“O’Neill,” Hammond said, smiling.
“Do you think you could try not to call me ‘sir’ with every other breath? I’m finding it a little difficult to cope with that.”
Daniel shot a glance at Jack, who looked flummoxed. Then he turned his attention across the table to O’Neill, who was flushing. “Yes, of course,” he said. His eyes lowered to the table. Daniel waited for it. Sure enough, the man’s lips moved in a silent ‘sir’. Daniel grinned with delight. O’Neill raised his head and looked right at him. Gave a shrug. Smiled. And turned his attention back to the general.
"I have some phone calls to make," Hammond said, "so I'm going to ask you to report to the infirmary now. Then we'll let you get settled into your assigned quarters, and we'll meet back here to go over the documents you've brought with you." He rose from his chair, and Jack and Sam stood up as well, along with the entire alternate SG-1. "Dismissed, people." Hammond nodded and walked away towards his office.
Daniel, still seated next to Teal'c, said, "I suddenly feel horribly disrespectful."
"Indeed," Teal'c replied, looking at his counterpart. "Is this your customary behavior in your own universe?"
"It is a mark of respect to our host. A diplomatic gesture," Murray replied.
Jackson grinned. "No, we don't do it at home. And we didn't do it to make you look bad. Sorry."
"I do it at home," O'Neill interjected.
"Me, too," Carter said, grinning.
Sam laughed. "Guess military protocol is pretty constant."
"And that includes obeying orders," Jack said, "so let's get these people to the infirmary." He crossed over to the window, and looked down into the Gateroom. “Teal’c, wanna tell the Marines guarding those boxes to move them upstairs here? The bags are your personal belongings?”
“Yes, sir,” Carter answered.
“Daniel, will you organize VIP rooms?’
“Coordinate with Teal’c on getting the bags moved in.” Daniel nodded. “Ready?”
Jack, Sam, the alternate SG-1 and the two trailing SFs headed off for the infirmary.
The medical staff gave the visitors a clean bill of health, and by the time they were finished in the infirmary their rooms were ready. Jack and Sam gave them 15 minutes to settle in, and leaving the two SFs on guard in the hallway, took the opportunity, in turns, to take a bathroom break.
When the six of them, eight including the SFs, arrived back at the briefing room, Daniel and Teal’c were unpacking boxes. Carter and Murray immediately went to help them.
“Now the real fun begins,” Jack said gloomily.
“I’m sure it won’t be that bad, sir,” Sam said cheerfully.
“Maybe you’ll even enjoy it,” Jackson said, with an accompanying flutter of his eyelashes.
Jack stared at him, leaning his upper body backwards. Then he thrust his head forward again. “Have we met?”
Daniel and Carter, crouched next to a stack of boxes, looked up when they heard themselves laughing on the other side of the table. “Well, I’m glad some of me are having a good time,” Daniel groused. Carter gave an unladylike snort and began to giggle. Daniel grinned at her and chuckled. She poked him in the arm and giggled harder.
Teal’c and Murray, in the midst of opening a box, looked over at them and then back at each other. When the eyebrows went up, it was like looking into a mirror. They almost smiled.
The paperwork was introduced, explained, questioned, and inventoried. "Why boxes full of paper documents?" Sam wanted to know. "Wouldn't it make more sense to put it all on disks? Why carry all this around if you don't have to?"
"Actually," Carter answered, "there are a few reasons. One being that the military loves paperwork, and it would probably all wind up getting printed out anyway."
"Yes, all right, but you could bring both! This is all going to have to be scanned or transcribed and added to our database eventually," Sam protested.
"Another reason is that you just plain don't know us," O'Neill said. "We could be handing you disks full of funky viruses and stuff." Sam looked stricken that she hadn't thought of that.
"And there's also the possibility that, no matter how close our universes are, the technology could be just different enough that our disks would be incompatible with your computers," Carter added.
Daniel started to grin. "A universe with Stargates, but no Bill Gates?" Jack and O’Neill both groaned dramatically.
“Exactly!” Carter said with a giggle.
Once the papers had been sorted through, Hammond, with input from his team, determined the assignments that were necessary to get the right subjects into the hands of the proper individuals. Sam and Daniel could barely restrain their eagerness to start working on their respective stacks. Jack winced every time he looked at his pile, and O'Neill seemed to feel his pain. Teal'c's stack was relatively small, and as usual, his opinion was not readily apparent.
Airmen arrived to begin carting the documents to their various destinations. Sam looked after them wistfully. “Lunch?” Jack suggested brightly.
“Good idea, Colonel,” Hammond agreed. “I’ll have my aide phone ahead to warn the commissary staff what to expect.” He smiled at the eight pairs of eyes that stared at him. “You’re going to cause quite a stir.” Alternate SG-1’s heads nodded in agreement. Daniel looked faintly alarmed. O’Neill grinned.
“You’ll each pair up with your counterpart after lunch and begin to go over your assigned documents. I think we can safely say that that will take up the rest of the day?” Hammond looked around the table inquiringly. Nodding heads, and a pained look from Jack. “All right, I’ll check in with you all later. Keep me advised if anything comes up that you feel requires immediate attention.” He pushed back his chair. “Dismissed.”
Jack rose. “A moment in your office, sir?” Hammond nodded, and the two men left the room.
“Are we sharing?” Jack asked pointedly.
“I think tomorrow will be soon enough to determine if we want to do that, Colonel.”
“Oh, I agree,” Jack said. “What do I tell my people?”
“Tell them to be circumspect.” The two men smiled at each other.
“Well, if Jaffa had middle names...” Jack joked. The general snorted. “Carter’s well trained, and you know me, sir.”
“And Doctor Jackson?”
“Well, he’s a linguist, so I’m sure he understands the meaning of the word.”
“He’s not likely to give away any military secrets, at any rate,” Hammond said placidly.
“True,” Jack said with a doubtful expression. “I’ll speak to him privately.”
“You do that, son.”
“Thank you, sir.” Jack hesitated. “Just as a matter of curiosity, General?”
“You call me ‘sir’ with the exact frequency that I require,” George said, eyes twinkling.
Jack beamed. “That’s good to know, sir!”
“Dismissed, Colonel. Oh, and I think you can safely dismiss the SFs at this point.”
“Wait. Have the security cameras in their rooms been turned off?”
"I didn't instruct Daniel one way or the other, sir."
"Well, if we did it for the Goa'uld..."
“I’ll make sure of it,” Jack promised.
Lunch went well. Both colonels got the meatloaf, which O'Neill declared to be much better than the stuff served in their own commissary. Jack, who frequently took home extra slices for sandwiches, felt an absurd pride, and a little more of the ice between him and his counterpart thawed. Carter shocked Sam by choosing the strawberry jello, and the combined weight of Teal'c's and Murray's trays was very nearly enough to make the table groan.
The Doctors Jackson had the chicken. Daniel's inquiring lift of his brows when Jackson took a first cautious bite was rewarded by a smile, and a nod. It tasted like chicken.
Conversation flowed smoothly and laughter occurred with regularity. Heads turned with even more regularity, as the other occupants of the room gaped.
Even for the SGC this was something out of the ordinary.
After lunch, before they divided up into pairs and retired to their own offices to start in on the documents that they had been assigned, Jack had a quiet word with Daniel about how sharing was not always a good thing. Daniel gazed at him coolly and promised not to commit treason, or anything like that, and Jack wisely retreated while all his body parts were still intact.
When Daniel checked his PC, he found that his inbox was quickly filling up with emails from members of his staff who had already begun working on their individual pieces of the big picture. The comments he read excited him and made him feel ready to tackle anything. He and Jackson dove in head-first.
When they surfaced again more than three hours had gone by. "Break?" Daniel suggested. "I need to make a fresh pot of coffee."
Jackson stretched. "Sounds good. My brain feels like it's on speed."
"Mine, too," Daniel agreed. "So, no more business until the coffee's ready, right?"
Jackson watched Daniel making preparations. "If I were to open the top left-hand drawer of your desk..."
"Would you find chocolate?" Daniel grinned over his shoulder. "What do you think?" He started the coffee machine and came back to sit down. He pulled his drawer open and slid a candy bar across the desk, taking one for himself as well. Paper rattled. Hums of approval were heard.
"So," Jackson said, "read any good books lately?"
"We can do better than that!" Daniel protested. "We've hardly talked about anything personal at all."
"We're just so dedicated," Jackson smirked.
"So where should we start?"
"How about with something very personal?" Jackson invited.
"Such as?" Daniel asked, half-knowing the answer already.
"Oh, I don't know. Relationships?" Jackson said, with a casualness that didn't fool Daniel for a minute. He knew that face too well to be fooled.
"Just between us," Daniel clarified.
"Even if they ask, I won't tell," Jackson replied.
Well, that was plain enough. “So,” Daniel asked, with a sidelong look, “you and Jack?”
“Yeah,” Jackson said. “You too, I hope?”
“Uh huh.” They grinned at each other happily. “How long have the two of you been together?”
“Well, since Abydos, more or less. I mean it took us a little while, but basically…”
“You didn’t marry Sha’re?” Daniel asked, stunned.
Jackson shook his head. “Well, Kasuf thought I did, but I managed to make it clear to him that she just really wasn’t my type. And how embarrassing was that, having to try to get my point across using mostly sign language!”
“You’re gay,” Daniel realized. “Huh.”
“And you married the girl? Huh.”
They were quiet for a moment, both thinking of how different their life might have been. Daniel finally asked, “What about Jack’s wife?”
“Wife? Jack?” Jackson shook his head. “No wife.”
“Wow. Gay, too? Wow.”
“So how long have the two of you been together, then?”
“Just over a year.”
“Would I be intruding…”
“Jack’s divorced. My wife died.”
“I’m so sorry, Daniel. She was a lovely girl.” Jackson put his hand on Daniel’s arm.
“Thank you,” Daniel mumbled.
Jackson tapped his fingers on the desk. “Um, maybe if you and Jack haven’t been together very long, your relationship might not be quite like the one we have.” He pursed his lips and looked at Daniel sideways.
Glad to be changing the subject, Daniel raised his eyebrows. “Are we talking about what I think we’re talking about?”
“If you think we’re talking about kink, you’re on the right track,” Jackson said, grinning.
“Bingo! It took us quite a while to work our way into it, so I’m a little surprised that you’re on the same page with us.”
“Jack and I, we started out that way,” Daniel told him. “Right from the beginning.”
“Really! Did you both have experience?”
“No, just me.”
“Same here. But Jack’s a fast learner.”
Daniel nodded. “A natural. I don’t believe my luck sometimes.”
Jackson smiled softly. “Yeah. Strong, masterful, playful, tender. Everything I could ever need. We’re very lucky.” He saw a puzzled look on Daniel’s face. “You and me, I mean. Well, all of us, really.”
Daniel scrunched up his brows, perplexed. “You said ‘masterful’?”
“Jack. You were talking about Jack.”
“Sorry? You’re losing me.”
“Jack is…your master?”
“Oh, well, no. Of course not. Not really, anyway. Just…playing.” Jackson surveyed Daniel’s blank face. “You guys don’t take it quite that far maybe? Jack likes to hear me say it sometimes. Master.” He grinned, a little embarrassed. “Likes to make me say it, to tell the truth. It’s kind of hot, actually…” He broke off, staring at Daniel. “What?”
Daniel waved his hands around frantically. “We’re opposites! We’re…we’re mirror images!” Jackson continued to stare at him. “You’re a sub; I’m a dom!”
“Holy…” Jackson started to say, but was interrupted by Daniel’s panicked exclamation.
“Shit! Oh shit, oh shit.”
“What?” Jackson said, still stunned.
“We left them alone together!” The two men stared at each other in horror.
O’Neill and Jack were taking a pie break in the commissary. They’d gotten through quite a bit of information that afternoon, although staying on topic wasn’t all that easy. They’d had to trade favorite Simpsons episodes. And Minnesota had come up once or twice. And they hadn’t even gotten to fishing, yet.
They took a corner table and O’Neill snagged the chair that gave him the best view of the room, which annoyed Jack a little. But, hell, wouldn’t he do the same if the circumstances were reversed?
“Umm. Pie,” O’Neill drooled as he attacked his slice of blueberry. Jack grinned and O’Neill winked.
“So,” Jack asked, “anything you wanna talk about?”
O’Neill finished chewing, swallowed, and wiped at his mouth with his napkin. “You and Daniel,” he said, looking Jack straight in the eye.
Jack didn’t even blink, and he was just schooling his features into a look of puzzlement when O’Neill nodded. “I thought so,” he said teasingly.
Jack gave up the battle. His opponent had an unfair advantage. “You, too?”
“Oh, yeah.” O’Neill took another bite, watching Jack. “Daniel and I have a very interesting relationship.”
Jack pursed his lips. “Involving?”
Jack felt heat building in his groin. “Whips and chains?” he asked softly.
“Well, not whips, per se,” O’Neill told him, licking blueberry off his lower lip. “But chains, now…”
Jack’s eyes widened. “Seriously? Chains?”
“You two more into leather?”
Jack nodded, taking a bite of his pie to give himself a moment to recover from his surprise.
“Sometimes we play pretty rough,” O’Neill said with a small, but definitely wicked smile.
Jack reminded himself that this was not a competition. “We like that sometimes, too,” he said with a casual shrug.
O’Neill leaned over the table a bit. “Your Danny into canes?”
Jack’s jaw dropped, but he closed it swiftly. “Yeah, he has a definite ‘thing’ for the cane, you could say.”
O’Neill nodded, eyes gleaming. “I think my Danny wants it every night, to tell you the truth.”
Jack laid down his fork and willed his cock to subside. “So, how often do you actually...?” he waved his hand expressively.
“About once a week.” O'Neill shrugged.
Jack winced and shifted in his chair. “That’s an awful lot, isn’t it?”
“Suits us,” O’Neill answered, eyebrows raised.
“Sounds like sitting down would be pretty uncomfortable most of the time,” Jack objected.
O’Neill laughed. “That’s not my problem, is it?”
“What?” Jack asked blankly.
Identical expressions of shock spread across their faces.
“You’re a sub?” O’Neill hissed. His face had gone pale.
Jack froze. O’Neill, stony-eyed, pushed his chair back from the table, rose, and walked away rapidly. Jack hunched forward, face flaming with heat, eyes filled with shame and confusion.
Jackson stood up. “Oh, this is not good. We need to find them.”
“Maybe they won’t talk about anything personal,” Daniel hoped.
“I don’t want to take that ch...”
O’Neill appeared in the doorway, looking grim. “Daniel?”
Jackson hurried to his side. “Jack?”
“Jack,” Daniel said anxiously. O’Neill and Jackson both looked at him. “My Jack. Where is he?”
“He’s...” O’Neill swallowed and stared at Daniel, obviously seeing him with new eyes. “I left him in the commissary.”
Daniel pushed past the two men and went in search of his lover.
Jack was in the locker room when Daniel finally found him. He had changed into his civilian clothes and was putting on his shoes. He didn't look up when Daniel came in. "I'm going home."
Daniel licked his lips nervously. "Okay."
Jack stood up and closed his locker door. "I've put in nine hours. Hammond didn't say anything about working all night."
"No. You're coming back tomorrow, I assume?"
Jack froze for a second, his back towards Daniel. He turned and looked his lover in the eye. "Of course I am."
Daniel scratched his head vigorously. "Okay. That's good."
Jack's face was smooth and blank. "You coming home?"
"Oh! Um, not yet? I'll make sure our guests have what they need for the night. Talk to Teal'c, since he'll be here on base. Who knows, Sam might decide to stay on base, too."
A flicker of Jack's eyes betrayed the fact that these were things that should have been his responsibility, not Daniel's. "There should be a couple of SFs posted outside their rooms tonight. Not to keep them locked in."
"Concierges?" Daniel asked with a quirked eyebrow.
There was a little more warmth in Jack's eyes when he answered, "Yeah, something like that. I'll see you later."
"Later." Daniel stood, biting his lip and frowning, watching Jack walk out the door.
He had talked to Teal'c; he had talked to Sam. She would arrange for the SFs to be posted, and she and Teal'c would make sure the visitors were fed. She and Carter would probably work late into the night. He told them Jack had had a personal matter come up that had to be attended to. Sam's eyes got wide and curious, but she only said that she hoped everything would be okay. Teal'c's eyes betrayed a hint of curiosity as well, but he merely inclined his head and refrained from any comment.
Daniel lifted his hand and knocked on the door of the VIP suite that had been assigned to Jackson. When there was no answer, he knocked again. The door to the next room opened and Jackson poked his head out. "I thought that might be you," he said, coming into the corridor and shutting the door behind him. Opening his own door, he ushered Daniel into the room.
"Jack's gone home," Daniel said, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. "I don't know what happened; do you?"
"What we were afraid might happen," Jackson said, standing in front of Daniel.
Daniel scowled up at him. "Well, obviously! But what happened exactly? Did your Jack say something to my Jack?"
"I think it's actually worse than that. He just walked away."
Daniel felt a cold anger build inside him. "Then he's a son of a bitch."
Jackson was shaking his head. "It's not like you think," he pleaded.
"He walked away, like Jack was something disgusting..." Daniel shot up off the bed. "Do you know what Jack must have felt like? How can you say it's not like I think?" He was practically shouting now.
"My Jack's upset, too!" Jackson said loudly.
"Oh, he's upset! At the very thought that any Jack O'Neill in any reality would dare to not live up to his macho, military idea of what a man should be? Excuse me for not sympathizing with his ordeal!"
"He doesn't give a rat's ass what your Jack does! Daniel, will you just...calm down, and let me tell you what happened?"
Daniel took a deep breath and really looked at the man in front of him, finally seeing the signs of stress and worry that he had seen reflected in his own mirror countless times. He sank back down onto the bed. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be shouting at you, anyway."
Jackson took a seat close beside him and their shoulders brushed against one another in a way that was oddly comforting. "I'm glad these rooms are soundproof enough that Jack didn't hear that. He's already kicking himself; he doesn't need us fighting, too."
Daniel felt another brief flare of anger. "So is he planning on apologizing? Not that I think it will help much."
Jackson reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. He placed it on Daniel's knee. It was addressed to J. O'Neill, in Jack's familiar scrawl. "I haven't read it," he said quietly. "I think it's too personal for either of us to read."
Daniel stared down at the envelope, touching it with his fingertips. "What's going on?" he said in bewilderment.
"I think we could say that my Jack just collided with a new reality, and his airbag failed to deploy."