"Harlan!" Jack peered into the gloom while the rest of his team gathered itself around him. "Harlan!"
"Comtraya! Comtraya! I'm here!"
Jack looked at Carter. She caught it and buried the grin that had just barely started to show. Jack sighed and shook his head. They were supposed to be out in the galaxy looking for friendly aliens. They weren't supposed to be friendly aliens themselves.
Harlan waddled up the steps and stopped in front of Jack. "Comtraya!"
"Would you stop that?"
Harlan bowed, smiling happily. "I am sorry. I offend you! I am learning slowly. Your synthetic other teaches me well!"
"I'll bet," Daniel said softly, off to the side. Jack glanced over sharply, but Daniel's eyes were elsewhere. Jack followed the look, and there they were.
Resurrected. Good as new, thanks to Harlan. Not that anybody from Earth had any say in that. According to Hammond, Harlan was sovereign ruler of this planet. If he wanted to reboot his only pals, they couldn't stop him.
Grudgingly, Jack had to admit they looked good. He wasn't really in favor of them being alive, but he hadn't much liked watching them die, either.
"Right," Jack said. "Captain Carter. Teal'c...two." He checked out his own counterpart. "Jack," he drawled. "You're all looking well."
"Just a few quarts low," the other Jack said. He took the steps up to the gate platform two at a time and came to a stop in front of Jack. "Nothing a little spackle and some Mary Kay couldn't fix."
"So glad to hear it," Jack said. He smiled widely, with absolutely no sincerity. "I really missed you guys."
"Jack." Daniel gave him a dark look and stepped between them, facing the other one. He stuck out his hand. "Hi. Um. Colonel?"
The other Jack took his hand and gripped it warmly. "Call me Jack," he said. "I feel like I've known you for years."
Daniel blinked. His eyebrows went up, and he threw a questioning look at his Jack.
"You have known me for years," Daniel said slowly. He turned back to the robot, his expression carefully bland. "Just...not the past two."
Oh, for crying out loud. "Daniel," Jack said. "That was humor."
"Oh." Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose, looking everywhere before finally looking back to the Jack in front of him. "Right. Sorry. Years. Very... interesting years, actually." He cleared his throat. "About that--"
"Later," the other Jack said. "There's time. I'm just glad to see you're still around." The look he threw Jack said he wouldn't have put any money on it. "You look good, Daniel."
"Hey." Jack took Daniel by the shoulder and turned him toward Harlan. "This one's ours."
"I thought he was his," the other Jack said.
"Yeah, well, he's made that mistake a few times himself. Don't give him any ideas." Jack gave Daniel an easy shove. "Now that the pleasantries are covered, can we just get this over with? I'd like to be home in time for X-Files."
Daniel glared, but let himself be moved along. Both Carters grinned down at the floor. The other Jack perked up. "Is it new?"
Jack ignored him, and followed Harlan and Daniel down off the platform. Behind him, one of the Carters stifled a giggle. He wasn't going to wonder which one.
"Well?" the other Jack shouted after them. "Hey! Is it?!"
"Jack, I'm not comfortable with this."
Daniel was hugging himself, chewing on a thumbnail, and frowning. Not good signs. Truthfully Jack wasn't all that comfortable with this himself.
"Daniel, we've been over this."
"I know we've been over it, Jack, I was there."
"You said you were okay with it."
"Now I'm not."
"Great." Jack could hang up the X-Files for the week. "Here we go."
Hammond was behind it, all the robots were behind it, even Carter and Teal'c thought it was a good idea. Jack himself wasn't sure it was a bad idea as such, now that Harlan had raised the other three from whatever passed for death in a hunk of tin. An SG-1 without a Daniel Jackson didn't fit into anybody's view of the universe, even if that SG-1 wasn't, strictly speaking, SG-1 at all.
Daniel had agreed to it three times and changed his mind twice already. It was already old after the first time.
Not that Jack didn't get it. Self-determination, and all that. And aside from that, the whole idea was just weird. Seeing Teal'c all...half-formed, and stuff...that was something he could have lived without. It was all way Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Jack was against it just on general principles.
Still, he had to be fair. He had a Daniel. The other guy had one too, according to Carter. He just didn't have any place to put him.
"Relax, Daniel. Harlan promised it would only take a few minutes. You won't feel a thing."
His mouth set in a stubborn line, Daniel glared at Jack. "That's not the point."
"Then what is the point?"
"The point is, I'm not comfortable with this!"
Jack shot Carter a look and backed off. She nodded and moved up to the plate. "Daniel, according to Harlan, the process is as simple as posing for a photograph. You lie still for a few seconds while a scanner passes over your body. The scanner creates and stores a template which can then be used by the computer to fabricate your synthetic other."
"Yes!" Harlan clapped his hands together delightedly. In the back corner of the room, both Jacks rolled their eyes. "Thank you, Major Carter, yes, that is it exactly. And then our Daniel Jackson can be downloaded into the new body. It is a very good thing our Samantha devised a way to transmit information between synthetic other bodies, a very good thing indeed. If we required a mental and emotional template as well it would take many days. As it is, our Jack O'Neill was able to accept our Daniel's transmissions all the way up until the moment of death and store them until a new receptacle could be created."
Jack looked at the other Jack, his eyebrows climbing. This was something he could respect. "You've got Daniel Jackson in your head?"
His horror conveyed what he didn't say. "No, no," the other Jack assured him. "Not all of him. My brain would explode."
"You don't have a brain."
"Look who's talking!"
"Sirs!" Both Jacks left off sniping and looked up at Captain Carter. "Daniel," she said, jerking her head at the object of their conversation.
"Right," they both said, and looked at Daniel.
Daniel was starting to look a little green. Jack went to him and squeezed his shoulder. "Daniel," he said softly. "It'll be fine." He gestured at the other SG-1. "They only want you for your body."
Daniel frowned and eased out from under Jack's hand. He took a long, slow breath and closed his eyes. "You're always a comfort, Jack."
Daniel's eyes popped open. Jack had returned to the corner to slouch next to the other Jack. The other Jack was showing his Jack a blank spot on the entirely blank wall; both seemed completely absorbed.
No help there.
"Hi. Uh. Teal'c." Daniel shot a quick, apologetic glance over at his own Teal'c, who neither moved nor spoke. Daniel nodded, finding something there anyway, and relaxed a little. "What, uh. I mean. How are you?"
"I am well. Harlan was able to mend my wounds quickly. Captain Carter and I maintained a constant exchange of data between us during our captivity lest one of us be lost. Reintegration was quick and painless. How are you?"
"Um. A little off-balance, actually." Daniel blinked. "Thank you for asking."
The other Teal'c inclined his head. "You are welcome." He waited.
Both Jacks and both Carters, expressions of amusement on one side of the room and concern on the other, waited.
Daniel cleared his throat. "Something else?"
"Yes," Teal'c said. "Our Daniel-Jackson was of extreme value to our team. Many times he proved his courage in battle."
In the corner, Jack elbowed the other Jack in the ribs. "You weren't supposed to be in battle."
"We got bored."
"Our Daniel-Jackson was a man of great wisdom and kindness, Original Daniel-Jackson. We miss his presence greatly."
Captain Carter stepped away from her counterpart and joined the other Teal'c in front of Daniel. "We really do, Daniel," she said softly. "I really do."
Daniel blushed. She was really very pretty, and he was really not supposed to notice. He liked the new thing with her hair. Which he guessed was actually the old thing. He hadn't realized her eyes were so...big.
He held her gaze for several seconds, and then looked down at the floor. He shoved his hands in his pockets, thinking. He felt like this was something he should do, but it still seemed...weird. Somehow. He was going to do it, but he needed to think about it some more first. Maybe they'd let him go away for a little while to process it. A few days, maybe. A month. Abydos was nice this time of year.
"Oh, for crying out loud."
Daniel's head snapped up in surprise. The other Jack glared at him from across the room, then came over and glared at him from right up close. "Daniel--"
"Sir!" Captain Carter said. "Don't make him--"
"What? Don't make him nervous?" He looked at Daniel, and Daniel looked back. "He's not nervous."
Daniel nodded. "No, I'm not."
Yes I am. He blinked a few times, thinking hard, while the other Jack looked at him some more with a look that said, Yes you are.
"He's just a little--"
"Freaked," they said together. Daniel nodded again, and glanced really fast over at his Jack to see how he was taking it.
His Jack was leaning against a wall with his hat pulled down low over his eyes. He didn't move. He looked like he was dozing.
"You're going to do it," the Jack in front of him said quietly, calling back Daniel's attention. "You were always going to do it."
"Yes, I am. Was. Still, you could've--"
"I didn't need to ask." Jack reached out, squeezed the side of Daniel's neck, and smiled a good, warm smile. "I already knew."
"So did I," the not-actually-dozing original Jack said from his quiet corner. "So can we get on with it already?"
Daniel couldn't help it. He grinned as little as he could manage, and ducked his head. Jack patted him on the shoulder, flashed that warm smile again, and turned Daniel around.
"Let's go, Dannyboy," he said cheerfully. "The Xerox machine is this way."
He was awake long before he opened his eyes. Processing. There were other people in the room, but he knew who they were, so that was all right. While he had the chance, he reviewed their last mission right up until the information ran out.
He'd died, and now he wasn't dead anymore. He'd never died as a robot before, but it wasn't that different. Dying still sucked.
"Welcome back, Daniel," Jack said. He was sitting in a chair by the bed, feet crossed at the ankle and propped up on the bedside table. The chair was tilted back on two legs. Daniel kept telling him he was going to fall one day if he kept doing that, and Jack kept not falling. It was starting to get on Daniel's nerves.
Jack put his feet down and leaned forward. He put a hand on Daniel's arm and patted it awkwardly. Daniel grabbed his hand and squeezed it. Jack seemed okay with that, which was good, because it took Daniel a few seconds to get ready to let go.
"Good to see you...running and stuff," Jack said.
"You too." Daniel's eyes swept the room lightning fast, skating over the people who didn't belong to him, lingering on the ones who did.
And then hitting the other ones again. They belonged to him, too. Kind of.
"So," the other Jack said. "Daniel. Report. White light, tunnel, friends and family?"
"I didn't see Elvis, if that's what you're asking."
His Jack snapped his fingers. "I knew it!"
Daniel waved an arm at the rest of the room. "I see you...ordered out."
Jack looked around. "Second string," he said dismissively, and picked up several sharp looks for it. "They did okay."
"We saved your asses." The other Jack went over to stand next to his Daniel, shoulder to shoulder. He looked at the Daniel that wasn't his, frowning. "Well, okay, not yours. But we did bring you a new one. A little gratitude would not go amiss here, guys."
Daniel blinked. "A new..."
Jack grinned down at him. "Let's just say you're not as young as you used to be."
Daniel held his hands up in front of his face. There was a scar on one of them he didn't remember. The tan line from his wedding ring was gone. He looked sharply up at his other self, frowning. He'd bought it after coming back from Abydos, as a gesture. A symbol. He'd given it up when he had to, but that tan line. That was his.
"You copied me again. Him. Again."
"Yeah." Jack looked over toward the door. "Sorry it took so long. Daniel had a bit of an identity crisis."
"I did not!"
Daniel sat up. His head felt...odd. He glanced over at the other version of himself. That version had his hands in his pockets, his shoulders tense and hunched. "Did too," he accused distractedly, reaching up to feel around at the back of his neck. The other Daniel didn't deny it again. "Hey, you cut your hair."
"Our...hair," the other Daniel said. "It was, you know. The whole..." He waved at his own Jack's head significantly.
"Right." The military thing. Still. He'd kind of liked his hair. Maybe Harlan could fix it. And the ring.
Jack tapped the side of Daniel's head. "Hey," he said quietly. Serious. "How do you feel?"
Daniel tilted his head and thought about it. He blinked and shook his head. His brain itched. "Like somebody just installed Windows."
Both Carters winced in sympathy.
"The reintegration process continues," Harlan said. "It may take several seconds. You will find that if you close your eyes and let your mind wander, the feeling of strangeness will pass. Later, during your period of rest, your neural network will automatically restore balance to the flow of information through your new mind. You will feel much better."
Jack looked over at his Carter. "Defrag?"
She glanced back at him. He could feel her estimating his IQ from across the room. "Kind of, sir."
He nodded, content. Close enough.
Jack was ready to go. So ready. He was also ready to admit the whole thing was freaking him out. Too many Daniels, too many Carters. Too many Harlans, even though there was still just the one of him. Two Teal'cs, that he was fine with. At least they were quiet, and they didn't move around much.
He stood by the gate, waiting for the others to catch up. They came up the steps in a bunch, the Daniels straggling behind, deep in conversation. Jack wondered what they could possibly have to talk about, since they were pretty much each other. He found he didn't have a thing worth saying to his own other self.
Nothing his other self was willing to listen to, anyway.
"Come on, folks," he shouted down at them. "We're on a schedule here!"
Daniel looked up at him, frowning. Not his Daniel. The same, but...younger. This one looked sadder than his, and Jack couldn't figure that out. This one couldn't have gone through half what his Daniel had. He looked over at his own Daniel, who looked back, eyebrows drawn together, troubled. There was no way to mistake them for each other, not really. His Daniel's mouth formed the word, Sha'uri.
So. Daniel had told him. Jack was pathetically glad. He hadn't wanted the job, and he hadn't yet worked out a way to delegate it. Trust Daniel to just get it done.
Jack closed his eyes for a second and hoped it was the right thing. If anybody would know that Daniel would want to know, it'd be Daniel.
Slowly, the two teams separated. The other Jack was watching them, too, smiling to himself. Jack figured they were all going to be okay.
"Time to go," he said to Daniel. "I can only take two of you for so long before I snap."
"Two of you is no picnic either, Jack. Twice the arrogance, twice the sarcasm..."
"Twice the stunning good looks," the other Jack put in.
"Exactly," Jack said, grinning. "Thank you very much."
Daniel raised his eyebrows and blinked at both of them, his lips pressed together. He threw a glance over at the other Daniel, who was wearing the same expression. He blinked again, and took his hands out of his pockets. Folded his arms across his chest instead. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but...Jack may be right. Going..." He shook his head. "Going would be smart."
Jack grinned. "Don't worry, Daniel. You'll always be one of a kind to us." His eyebrows went up. "Unless... Hey, Harlan?"
"Jack, don't even think about it."
"I wasn't gonna--"
"Oh, yes you were," both Daniels said.
The other Jack nodded to confirm it. "He totally was."
Jack looked from his Carter to his Teal'c for support. Both were carefully studying their gear in a way that said they could keep it up indefinitely.
Jack sighed. Like they couldn't occasionally use a spare. "Dial us home, Daniel."
His Daniel stepped up to the DHD. The other Daniel -- hands stuffed into his pockets, awkward, determined -- did, too.
"Um. I'm sorry," Daniel said. "Did you want to...?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Kind of...yeah. I did."
"Oh." Daniel blinked. "Oh. Okay."
"No, no," Daniel said quickly. "I understand."
"Well, I don't," Jack snapped. He was next to the gate, geared up, ready to go. "Care to enlighten the rest of us?"
The other Jack moved up to stand behind his Daniel. His face was carefully neutral. He stood there, staring at Jack from just over Daniel's shoulder, looking unconvincingly relaxed. "We don't get to...dial home...all that often."
Ever, his face said, and suddenly Jack got it. His annoyance faded. He looked at his other self, unsmiling. And then he looked at Daniel, who'd gotten it right away.
Daniel stepped aside.
The other Daniel hit the symbols one by one. When his hand came down on the seventh, it was shaking. Daniel moved up beside him and squeezed his shoulder. They hit the center dome together.
Teal'c and Carter filed through. The other Daniel watched them go. He looked at the stargate a while longer after they'd gone. The blue played over his face, and Daniel's face, just like reflections off a pool.
Two of them. Jack shook his head and looked over at his counterpart.
The other Jack looked back. "Two of all of us," he said, blank-faced.
"Yeah." Jack sighed, and shook his head. "The gate," he said.
"I mean it this time."
"I got it this time."
Jack held his hands up. "Hey, just checking. Daniel?"
Daniel came up the steps. "Ready, Jack."
Jack looked down at the other two. They stood side by side, shoulder to shoulder, just watching. The other Teal'c and the other Carter were right behind them. Carter was smiling.
Jack waved. "See ya, kids," he said, and went through, tugging Daniel behind him.
Jack looked at the active stargate, and over at his own Daniel. Daniel looked at him, a tiny smile on his lips. "So, Jack," he said.
"Daniel said--the other Daniel said, anyway--there have been some developments."
"Skaara and Sha'uri. Carter told me. Uh, the other one." Jack looked at Daniel carefully. His shoulders were hunched and tense. Not so great. Still, though. Not so bad as it could've been. His eyes were clear. "You're okay," Jack said.
"I lost her a long time ago. To him, I mean. She was never--"
"I know, Daniel." And Jack did know. Nobody belonged to any of them. Nobody but each other.
"I miss her." He smiled for just a second. "I'm sorry she's.... Well, no. I guess I can't even say that. I'm not sorry she's dead. I guess...I'm glad she's free." He looked at the gate again, and at the floor, and at his hands. Where the ring used to be, and then the tan line. Not even that now. "I'm okay," Daniel said firmly. He met Jack's eyes. "I will be."
Jack nodded slowly, holding the look. "I know you will be."
"Thanks, Jack. For bringing me back, I mean."
"Hey. When have I ever not?"
Daniel smiled and looked at the floor again. Jack waited until his eyes came back up, then grinned.
The timing was good. Daniel's shoulders came down, squared. "So," he said, refocusing. "Good news about Skaara."
"Hey, yeah!" Jack nodded. He was good with that, he could shift gears. "O'Neill told me that part. That part was good. I wish I could see him. Kicked that snake-boy's ass, didn't he?"
"Yes." Daniel smiled at the floor. "He did."
Carefully not looking at Daniel, Jack ran a finger over one of the symbols on the DHD. "Interesting stuff about the Tollan, huh? Their own stargate now."
He glanced over quickly, then away. Daniel was just as carefully not looking at him. "And the Asgard," Daniel said. "Nice to see them taking an interest, don't you think?"
"I understand Thor has taken quite a shine to me."
Daniel looked back into the event horizon, a half-smile on his lips. "We're not going to seal the gate, are we."
It was a big universe out there. Plenty of room. "Two of all of us," Jack said softly, eyes on the gate.
Beside him, Daniel nodded. "I'll tell the others."
Jack looked back at Daniel, then the rest of his team. Then the gate again. Big universe, lots of bad guys. He smiled. "I'm so loving these odds."