Janet spent her first two hours back at work clearing off her desk. The task would have taken less time, but she kept stopping to read the cards. So many people had taken the time to sign them, and she felt bad if she didn't read every single name. Some of her most irritatingly stubborn patients offered their heartfelt well-wishes, and she was touched to see how much they cared. One of them, Major Clarke from SG-6, said "Come back soon! The new guy is even worse than you are!," and Janet laughed before adding the card to her pin board. She'd already replied to all the online messages; one benefit of being bed-ridden was that she could catch up with her correspondence.
But now she was back at work, and she had to get back into the proper headspace. She donned her familiar white coat and went to see who was currently residing in her beds. She was in the middle of reviewing Captain Hailey's treatments when a klaxon called for a medical team to the Gate Room. Janet's heart kicked up into her throat as she began running before consciously making the decision. It was instinct now: one of the teams was in trouble. And the fact Sam was currently off-world didn't make the panic any easier to quell.
Jack was already in the control room when Janet arrived. He glanced back when she arrived and then faced the Stargate again, only a slight twist of his lips ruining his professional composure. "Doc. Glad to see you back."
"Thank you, sir. Do we know...?"
"It's SG-1," he said, and she knew he was fighting the same panic she was. Whatever had gone wrong, the rest of his day was bound to be filled second guessing himself. He should have been there, that he should have shared the damage done to the team or been there to prevent it from happening. She resisted the urge to touch his arm or attempt comfort. It would fall on deaf ears until SG-1 was safe.
The event horizon rippled, and the team came home. Janet held her breath as she watched them descend the ramp. Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell led the way, followed by a man of similar height and build. The stranger wore glasses and, more shockingly, an SG team uniform. Janet furrowed her brow, but she had been gone for two months and the man may have been a recent recruit.
"What the hell?" Jack murmured, and Janet glanced at him. The stranger was apparently unknown to him, too, and he started to the Gate Room. Janet followed and arrived at the bottom of the ramp seconds after the Stargate shut down and the entire team was standing before them. The members of SG-1 were flanked by three strangers wearing team uniforms, and Janet saw the patches that declared they were also members of SG-1. Janet would have questioned it, except... except...
She was fairly certain she would have known if Teal'c was a twin.
The Jaffa were identical in every way save two; one carried a P-90 like the rest of his team and had a full head of hair. The other Teal'c, the one Janet recognized, was bald and carried a staff weapon. She furrowed her brow as she looked at the strange blonde woman and the spectacled man who was standing beside her. Cam looked satisfied with himself, while Jack looked confounded. He blinked at the team leader.
Colonel Samuel Carter took off his goggles and gestured at the three strangers. "General, I'd like you to meet... us. From another universe."
Jack said, "We've met the team from the other universe."
"A different alternate universe, sir," Samuel said. "Meet Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter... Doctor Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c."
"Well, at least one of you looks... familiar," Jack said.
Danni Jackson smiled, and Janet realized she had been plucking at her male duplicate's clothing the entire time. "It's amazing, Jack. They're us. They're really us."
"I'll let the doc deal with the spot-seven-differences game." He looked at the female Samuel and the male Danielle, and then looked at Samuel. "This should be an interesting debriefing."
"So to speak," Danni said. Daniel looked flustered, but Samuel grinned.
"Right." Jack motioned to the airmen. "Escort them directly to the infirmary. Carter, Mitchell, briefing room. Now."
Janet glanced at Samuel as she led the way out of the briefing room. He raised an eyebrow, and Janet pressed her lips together in a suppressed smile. She knew exactly what was on his mind, and she wouldn't dignify it with a smile. A smile would be some sort of acknowledgment that she knew what was crossing his mind, and she wasn't going to give her husband that sort of satisfaction.
The first part of Janet's exam was a standard examination, followed by a requisite check to determine whether or not the person sitting on the table was true-born or a clone. It was strange to have that determination on a normal checklist, but she was grateful to have such an unusual occurance on her first day back. It made her feel at home. And unusual it definitely was. Examining Samantha Carter was surreal. She looked so much like Samuel, but different as well. Like looking at a twin, or a rubber mask pulled slightly out of shape. The eyes were different, but somehow just the same. Where Samuel's jaw was sharp, Samantha's was curved. He had thicker eyebrows and thinner lips, while Samantha seemed shorter by a few inches.
Janet eventually forced herself to stop examining the woman's features and focused on her job. She checked the results of her battery and stepped through the curtain to find Samantha waiting.
"Congratulations. You're a real person."
She smiled nervously. "Great. Good to know. What were the other options? Replicator, clone?"
"Robot duplicate. Did you have that one?"
Samantha nodded. "Yep. There's also a Replicator copy of me running around. You...?"
Janet shook her head and fought the shudder that threatened to overtake her at the thought. "No. There's a Replicator of Danni running around."
"Danni... right. I guess Five got a crush on her instead of me in this reality."
Janet nodded slowly. "I guess. Wow."
"You're telling me, wow." Sam's hands tensed on the edge of the exam bed. "This is--"
"I can't imagine what it's like." She smiled. "Am I a man in your reality?"
Janet's smile faded and she put the pieces together. The fact Samantha recognized her, and the weight behind that single syllable, told her a lot. "If I went through to your world, I... wouldn't have to deal with seeing myself, would I?"
Samantha looked up and slowly shook her head. "It... happened recently. I'm so sorry."
"No, don't be... sorry. I think I even know how..." She blinked. "Did he survive?"
Now Samantha looked confused. "Who?"
"I don't know who that is."
"Oh. She might have... named him something else, or..." She cleared her throat. "My son. Your version of me died in childbirth, right?"
Samantha's eyes widened. "No. She was... y-you recently gave birth?"
"Yes. This is my first day back from maternity leave. I've been gone for two months."
Samantha's eyes swept back and forth, doing mental calculations. "My God. You weren't on-base. You didn't respond to the call, so you survived." She closed her eyes and smiled. "You survived, because you had a child. Wow. Talk about a win-win."
Janet closed her eyes. "Oh, of course."
"I know why I wasn't pregnant in your reality." Samantha waited, and Janet regretted saying anything. "I... i-it's because I was... it's..." She swallowed and held up her left hand to display the wedding ring. "The baby is yours. Uh, Samuel's. Samuel Carter is my husband. I guess that didn't happen in your reality, so I obviously never got pregnant by you, and--" She furrowed her brow. "I'm sorry, Samantha."
"Twist of fate, huh?" Samantha said with a sad smile that become happier when she looked up again. "Zachary Carter?"
Janet smiled. "Yes. He's at home with Cassandra right now."
Samantha laughed. "A baby brother. She'll be ecstatic." Janet was sure she kept her face neutral, but obviously she gave something away. "You didn't adopt Cassandra?"
"General O'Neill and his wife Sara."
Sam straightened on the edge of the bed. "Oh. I suppose that makes sense."
"I guess our universes have differences more than just chromosomes between them, huh?"
"I guess so. I'd like to hear more about you and... Samuel. If you would be willing. I don't want to pry, I mean you--"
Janet shook her head. "You may look different, but we have the same last name. As far as I'm concerned, you're a sister-in-law he just never told me about."
Samantha smiled. "I suppose that works." She held out her hand, and Janet took it out of instinct. There was a frisson of familiarity, an almost-recognized hand, but the fingers were oddly slender and wrong-shaped. Janet closed her fingers around Samantha's hand and smiled. "I'm just glad to see you again. I've missed you, Janet."
Something in her voice clicked in Janet's head, and she realized that despite the differences in their universes, some things were bound to be the same.
Danni looked up and caught Mitchell staring at her. Again. "What?"
"Nothing." He glanced at Daniel and then quickly looked away. She met her duplicate's eye, and smiled at him. Daniel frowned, and Danni grinned. She moved her hand under the table and patted Mitchell's thigh. Poor conflicted man. Mitchell was gay, and now he was confronted with a male version of his best friend and confidante. His mind had to be going to all sorts of places.
The teams were sitting on opposite sides of the table. Samuel, Danielle, Cameron, and Teal'c were on one side, while Samantha, Daniel, and Teal'c were on the other facing them.
Dr. Janet Carter arrived with the last round of test results. Jack straightened in his chair and raised his eyebrows expectantly, so Janet began talking before taking her seat next to the Teal'c with hair. Still such a bizarre sight that Danni couldn't quite make her mind hold it. Every time she looked at him was a shock. She focused on what Janet was saying.
"They are who they claim to be, sir. Every test I've run says the same thing."
Daniel cleared his throat. "Playing devil's advocate here, not that I want to be thrown in the brig or anything, but... how can you be certain we're not clones or-or Replicators who just made ourselves look like you?"
Teal'c - the bald Teal'c, the right Teal'c - said, "Certainly your creators would ensure you actually looked proper. They would not have altered your genders."
"It's what I would do," Samantha said. She glanced at Jack. "If I was trying to make a duplicate to infiltrate someone's facility, especially one as secure as this base, switching genders would be the smartest way to reduce suspicion. The duplication wouldn't have to be perfect, because any differences would be explained by the chromosomal change."
Samuel said, "Of course, by presenting this theory, you could be setting our minds at ease so we won't suspect you."
Samantha smiled. "It would be clever of us."
Samuel raised an eyebrow, but Jack held up his hands. "Okay, I'm getting a headache. Doc?"
Janet shook her head. "It's a good theory, and it's one I addressed when I was confirming your story. There is..." She tapped her thumb on the edge of the desk and tilted her head to the side. "There's a certain anatomical... landmark... that has nothing to do with gender. Samuel and Samantha both have it." The Carters looked at each other, obviously trying to figure out what anatomical landmark they shared, and Janet couldn't help but smile as she let them off the hook. "It's a fleck of green in their right eye."
Danni coughed into her hand to disguise her laughter.
"Right." Jack looked at the team. "So where did you folks come from exactly? Sam... uh, our Sam. Samuel. Uh..." He pointed. "Colonel Carter--"
Samantha said, "I'm a Colonel, too."
"Of course you are," Jack muttered. "Stick with full names then, I guess. Samuel said they ran across you in a temple."
Samantha nodded and folded her hands on the table in front of her. The posture was so reminiscent of Samuel that Janet glanced to see if he was sitting the same way. He wasn't, but he was so tense that she knew he was struggling not to ape what his female version was doing. "We were in a temple on M34-862 where SG-10 had found some carvings."
Cam straightened slightly. "SG-10?"
Cam and Samuel exchanged a look. "So they didn't go to Maerede?"
Sam and Daniel looked at each other, and Daniel shook his head. "No."
"Don't," Cam and Samuel said together. Samuel wrote down the gate address and pushed it across the table. Samantha took it with a nod of thanks.
"Teal'c and I were searching the general vicinity of the temple when we heard voices. We investigated and found Colonel Mitchell."
Jack glanced at Mitchell. "You're lucky they didn't shoot first and ask questions later."
Cam narrowed his eyes. "At the moment I wasn't much of a threat... sir."
Samantha cleared her throat. Janet could see one of Samuel's expressions on her face, an utterly disconcerting familiarity that made her close her eyes for a moment. Samantha finally said, "General, he was indisposed. Let's just say he didn't have a weapon in his hands when Teal'c and I came upon him."
"Ooh. That's gotta sting."
"You think?" Cam snapped. "Sir."
Samantha composed herself. "We questioned him while we waited for him to, ah, finish with his business. He recognized Teal'c, but he thought we were imposters. We thought the same thing, due to his uniform. Eventually, the rest of Colonel... ah, Samuel..." Her face squinched the way Samuel's did when he was searching for a right word and coming up empty. "When the rest of the other SG-1 arrived."
Daniel said, "We compared notes, and we discovered that we were on a different planet than the one on which we had originally arrived. The topography was different, our campsite was missing, and all evidence we'd ever been there was gone. I determined something happened in the temple, but when we went back and tried to reverse whatever it was, we came up empty."
Samuel said, "We determined bringing them back here was safe enough, given who they are. Danni and... Daniel... want to go back to the planet and go over the temple with an archaeological team to try figuring out what happened."
Jack said, "Take who you need from SG-9. There's a spot open tomorrow morning, 0800."
Daniel said, "Tomorrow?"
Jack looked at Daniel and then at Samantha. "Yours is like that, too, huh?"
"Yes, sir. Tomorrow will be fine." She gave Daniel a pointed look, and he gave in. Samantha, Samuel, Cameron, and Janet stood when Jack left, and then the Jaffa and archaeologists stood as well. Danni looked at her duplicate and then let her eyes scan the rest of the opposite team.
"So we have a night to get to know each other's... each other. O'Malley's?"
Jack stopped in the doorway of his office and turned around. "No. No going off-base. As of right now, SG... one-point-five is staying where I can keep an eye on them. Base quarters will be assigned."
"Understood, sir," Sam said.
Danni shrugged. "Doesn't mean we can't still get to know each other." She smiled at Daniel. "Want to see my lab?"
Daniel's eyes widened. "Yes, very much so."
They hurried out and Cam smiled. "Can't replicate that. So... I can't help noticing your team is one member shy. Is your version of me leading SG-2, or another team?"
Samantha winced. "No. Um, our Cameron Mitchell was an X-301 pilot during the Battle of Antarctica. He was shot down and--"
Cam held up a hand. "Did I survive?"
"That's all I need to know. Don't really want the details." He nodded to Samuel and left the table. Teal'c and his duplicate left together silently, leaving Janet with her husband and his female look-alike. Janet laced her fingers in front of her and moved to stand beside Samuel.
"I told her about... us. And Zach."
Samuel nodded and looked at Samantha. "Oh. I'm sure that's a little awkward for you."
"More than you know," Samantha said. "If you don't mind, I think I'll head down to my quarters. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by it all." She forced a smile and left them in the briefing room.
"What was that about?" Samuel asked.
Janet licked her lips. "She told me that their version of me died recently." Samuel looked like he'd been hit. "I got the impression that for all the differences between our realities, one thing was... very much the same."
He lifted his chin, understanding. "Ah. So their version of you was a man? Mix and match?"
Janet shook her head. "No, she said the other me was still named Janet."
Samuel looked confused. "But you said they were lovers."
"I got that impression." She was convinced. "They were."
"But you're not--"
Janet smiled and pressed against his side. "Feeling insecure, Samuel? Worried I might leave you for a prettier version?"
He slipped an arm around her waist and smiled at her. "No, just imagining the possibilities. You, me... another me. I wouldn't even be jealous if it was another me."
Janet laughed and pulled away from him. She took his hand, guiding him to the stairs. "You're a pervert, Samuel. Come on."
"Where are we going?"
"I'll tell you when we get there. C'mon."
Danni watched her male self as he moved through her office like a... well, like an archaeologist. He picked up her purse from under the desk and regarded it with a half-smile. She grinned and rested her chin on her hand. "I guess you don't carry a purse."
"No," he said, drawing the word out. "But if I did, I'd probably carry one like this. I like the style." He put it back down and examined her bookshelf. "We catalogue the same way. It's amazing how many things are the same, but they're so... different." He turned to face her. "Sarah Gardner."
She blushed and leaned back in her chair. "We caused General O'Neill some consternation, to be sure."
Daniel smiled. "So you were an archaeologist..."
"Yes. Ah, I worked with Catherine Langford when the Stargate was first activated, and she insisted that I be allowed on the first team through. I was the one who cracked it, after all."
"Did Sam... uh, Samuel... go through the Stargate on that first mission to Abydos?" Danni shook her head. "Unbelievable. It was just because she was a woman."
"Never mind. Politics and military bullshit. Speaking of which, I couldn't help..." He gestured in the general direction of the briefing room. "Colonel Carter and Dr. Carter are married?"
Danni nodded. "They just had a baby. That must be a little mind-bending to you, huh?"
Daniel smiled. "Not as much as you might think, no..."
Samantha was lying on the bed of her borrowed quarters, staring at the wall and trying to keep her mind calm. Janet was here. Janet was alive. She closed her eyes and tried not to think about it. This wasn't home, so she would be leaving again soon. She would at least get a chance to say goodbye to Janet properly, but she dreaded it. This wasn't her Janet, but it would still be so, so painful to walk away from her. Hopefully Daniel and Danni would be able to figure out the temple quickly so they could get the hell out of this place before she blew up. She hugged herself and tried to sleep, but her mind wouldn't slow down.
She still smells the same.
The way she held your hand. That's the way Janet held it.
Her smile, that easy smile...
There was a knock on the door and Samantha jerked awake. She sat up and wiped at her eyes, stood and went to the door. "Yes?"
Janet. Samantha wiped her cuff over her cheeks again before opening the door. She started to say hello, but the first letter died in her mouth in a puff of air. She took a step back as if one step of distance would help her understand what she was seeing. Her eyes filled with tears again, but she smiled.
"And who is this?"
Janet looked down at the bundle in her arms. "This is Zach Carter, our son. Zach, this is..." She looked at Samantha and narrowed her eyes. "Well, Zach, this is complicated. Can we come in?"
"Yes! God, yes, please. Please." She let them in, and Janet walked to the bed. She sat down and sat the baby up so that his head rested against her breast. He had his hand against his mouth, blue eyes wide and searching as Samantha gently sat next to Janet. "Zachary?"
Janet smiled. "Yes. Zachary Allan Carter."
"Z.A.C.," Samantha laughed. "I love that."
"It was Samuel's idea," Janet said softly. She touched the baby's cheek and then looked at Samantha. "I thought... well. I assumed that you and I were close in your reality, too."
Samantha nodded. "We were lovers."
Janet kept her eyes on Samantha, who was watching the baby. The joy on Samantha's face was worth the effort of getting the baby onto the base. "Do you want to hold him?"
Samantha could only nod, and Janet transferred Zach to her arms. He fussed, but then twisted to press himself to Samantha's chest. Samantha chuckled. "I hope I don't traumatize the poor kid... Daddy's got boobs now."
Janet laughed and gave Samantha a quiet moment to reflect on the baby. Finally, softly, she said, "What do you want to know?"
"Everything." She sighed. "I assume I know how you met... but when did you fall in love?"
Janet bit her bottom lip. "Well, that requires clarification. We fell in love after he got back from being imprisoned on Netu...?" Samantha nodded to assure her that happened in the other reality, too. "That was when he told me how he really felt. But we'd been sleeping together for a long time previous to that. He had a crisis of self. He was blended with a Tok'ra named Jolinar, whose previous hosts were all women. He survived with memories of her, and eventually we ran into Jolinar's ex."
Samantha was nodding.
"He and Martouf spent some time together off-world. When Samuel got back, he was conflicted about his sexuality. He loved Martouf, and they had made love while they were together, but he didn't know if it was him or Jolinar making the decisions. I offered to kiss him to see if he still felt the same way about women."
Samantha smiled a little. "And?"
Janet coughed quietly. "He still liked women. So I said it only meant he understood Jolinar's feelings for her mate. It didn't mean he was... anything other than open-minded. I just wanted to comfort him, but we ended up having sex. The first time of many. And then after Netu, he admitted his feelings for me had grown. Mine had grown, too. We kept it secret until General O'Neill took over, and he gave us a special dispensation to avoid any regulation issues. We're not technically in the same chain of command, and Samuel saves the world often enough that everyone who could punish us just looks the other way."
"Wow. And Zach...?"
"A happy little accident." She stroked his pale hair. "How about you? Samuel and I had to deal with the regulations, but you... unless homosexuality isn't treated the same way over there as it is here. In the military we could be imprisoned for it."
Samantha furrowed her brow. "There were issues, but..." She shook her head. "In our reality, you adopted Cassandra. I helped you out when I could, since I bonded with her on the base, and we spent a lot of time together. Neither of us had ever been with another woman but we--" She looked up and met Janet's eye. She started to look away but forced herself to hold it. "We fell in love with each other. So slowly we didn't notice it happening."
"I'm sorry," Janet said. "That you lost her."
"She died saving someone's life. It's noble. And I think if she had to... if she could have chosen a way to go, that's what she would have wanted. Doing her job." She blinked back tears. "When Daniel and Danni have this figured out, and we have to go... I want to say goodbye to you."
Janet nodded. "Of course. Whatever you need to say. I'd be honored."
"Thank you," Samantha said softly. She bent down and kissed Zachary's forehead before transferring him back to Janet. "And thank you for letting me see him."
"Sure. Samuel has quarters on the base, and we were thinking of having you over for dinner. Nothing special, just commissary food."
An hour ago, Samantha would have given anything to just hide in her room until it was time to go home. But now she nodded. "Yes. That would be amazing, thank you."
Janet stood up, grunting quietly as she shifted the baby in her arms. "This one needs to take a little nap before he gets too grumpy to bear. Once he starts fussing, I may be tempted to send him home with you."
"Don't tease." Samantha touched the back of the baby's head and stepped back. They walked to the door, and Janet paused before stepping out.
"Oh, uh... one more thing. It's a little awkward, but I thought I would want to know in your situation. I'd at least be curious, and Samuel agreed that it wouldn't be too weird considering the fact you're basically him. The opportunity presented itself, so we decided to leave the choice up to you without making an awkward ceremony out of it. My right pocket?" She twisted her hips, and Sam took an envelope out. She could feel something stiff, square and flat within. "You can look at it, or you can tear it up or burn it or... just don't leave it lying around."
"What is it?"
Janet stepped out into the hall. "That's what your cock looks like. Dinner at six?" She wagged her fingers in farewell and headed toward the elevator, leaving Samantha dumbfounded in the door of her quarters. She finally closed the door and stared at the envelope in her hand. She didn't care. It meant nothing. Of course, it might be fun to see if the harness Janet used to ask her to wear was in any way accurate.
She opened the envelope and took out the photograph.
The picture had been taken from Samuel's point of view, and she assumed the fingers looped around the base were none other than Janet's. No doubt she had been instrumental in getting it to the... current size. She held the photo so that it overlapped her waist, tilted her head to the side, and pursed her lips as she imagined it was actually hers.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
She chuckled to herself and slipped the picture into the breast pocket of her BDU jacket. She was definitely going to be taking that home with her. She walked to the bed and sat with her elbows on her knees, lacing her fingers together. She could still feel the baby against her chest, smell the baby powder. Suddenly the idea of spending a few hours, or possibly a day or two, in this version of reality didn't seem too horrible.