"Quit your moaning and bring that over here," Sheppard said as he placed a large heavy box on the floor. He knew he'd regret telling Colonel Carter that he was available to help move things around.
"I am not moaning," McKay argued as he placed his box on the floor by Sheppard's.
"Yes, you are. If you didn't want to do this, why are you here?"
"You made me!"
"Did not," Sheppard shot back.
"Rodney!" Sheppard could feel his patience wearing thin. He hadn't realised how much stuff was needing to be moved. He had ample help in the form of the two male members of his team and a group of five other men, but it wasn't helping his rapidly souring mood.
It was his first day off in far too long and he had offered to help move things around. He was going to ask Keller to look at his head. He was starting to think he had hit it badly on his last mission.
Sheppard glanced at McKay. "You're trying to impress her aren't you?"
"Colonel Carter," he folder his arms over his chest and smirked at his friend.
"You are! You're blushing. You're doing this so she'll notice!"
"I'm with Katie, remember?" McKay argued.
"So? We all know about your unrequited lust," Sheppard teased as Ronon walked into the room and over to them.
"Over it," McKay narrowed his eyes at his friend as he turned around and walked out of the room to get another box.
"He still likes her," Ronon said knowingly as Sheppard laughed.
"Yeah, well, it's not like she's bad to look at," he said as he unfolded his arms and began walking out of the room. Suddenly, he stopped, and glanced over to the wall. He was sure he had seen something shine.
"What?" Ronon asked, following his line of sight.
"I thought I saw something," he explained as he walked over to the wall and placed his hand on it. He skimmed the wall with his hand and sharply pulled it back when a panel appeared. "Whoa."
"Another room?" Ronon asked, his eyebrows raised.
"Could be," he answered before he tapped his earpiece. "Colonel Carter? Come in please."
"Yes, let me do all the work," McKay said irritably as he walked back into the room and placed his box on the floor.
"Sheppard found a hidden panel," Ronon explained as Sheppard help up his hand to silence his friends.
"Yes, John?" Sam's voice said into his ear.
"We've found a hidden panel in the new storage room. I'm guessing for a hidden room. Want us to check it out?"
"Be careful," she said.
"Here it goes," he said as he swiped his hand over the console.
A panel of the wall slid easily to one side. The room inside was dark. Sheppard shrugged and stepped over the threshold, the second he was in the room the lights came on. He looked around the room as he heard his friends walk to his side.
The room was empty, except for a large mirror that gave no reflection.
Sheppard tapped his earpiece again. "Uh, Colonel, you might want to come see this," he said.
"I'm on my way," came Sam's reply.
"What have we got?" she asked as she entered the hidden room, coming to an abrupt halt when she spotted the mirror. "Oh no."
"You know what it is?" Ronon asked.
"Unfortunately," she nodded. "It's a quantum mirror. It allows you to travel to alternate realities. We've encountered far too many of those."
"I'm getting a headache already," Ronon said as he pinched his nose.
"Is there a control for it?" she asked as she walked towards it.
"We haven't been any closer to it than what we are now," Sheppard replied.
"Good," she nodded as she walked around the mirror, bending down to pick up the control that was behind it. "No one touches this. Understand? Nothing good can come out of this."
"No touching. Got it," Sheppard nodded as Sam walked back to the line of three men. "What exactly does it do?"
"In the first year of the Stargate program, Daniel found a mirror off world. He touched it. He got sent to another reality. One that was being destroyed by the Goa'uld. He managed to get back in time to warn us of the attack and we were able to stop it. In the third year of the program, an alternate version of myself and Major Kawalsky came through. Their reality was being destroyed. We helped save it.
"Two of the same person can't be in the same reality without severe consequences. My counterpart went through seizures until she was back in her own reality. General Hammond ordered it destroyed, but we learned pretty quickly that it couldn't be destroyed. The one on Earth has a cover stone on it so it can't be used."
"Got a migraine," Ronon winced.
"This control is getting put into secure storage. This room is to be locked and never used again. Are we clear?"
"Crystal," Sheppard and McKay said at the same time.
"You were awfully quiet during that," Sheppard nudged McKay after Sam had left.
"Shut up," McKay said as he stepped out of the room behind Ronon.
Sheppard swiped his hand over the console and watched as the door to the hidden room closed and the console disappeared.
The whole place was being destroyed. Parts of the city was falling all around him. He heard a wall crumble behind him. Flashes of blue almost blinded him as the power short circuited. He held up his hand to shield his eyes.
He could hear the Wraith darts outside. He could hear the explosions as they attacked the city he had started to call home. He knew he hadn't managed to shake the Wraith from his path. He knew they were still following him.
His lungs burned as he ran deeper into the city. He knew he would be lucky to survive. His legs ached as they carried him even faster towards his destination.
The Wraith were right behind him. He pushed himself to run faster. The walls of the city spat rubble at him as they shot at him and missed. He felt one shot buzz past his ear. Too close. He had to get away.
He wiped his face. Blood from his cut forehead ran freely down his face. His legs were about to give out. He could barely breathe. He threw his gun to the ground. He ran out of ammo a while ago.
Blood pounded in his ears. Sweat and blood ran into his eyes. He could hardly see. He had to keep going. He couldn't be captured. He had to survive.
He ran to the one room where the Wraith wouldn't find him. He skidded to a halt in front of the wall. He felt panic rise in his chest as the swiped his bloodied hand over the wall and the console failed to appear.
The Wraith were only seconds away from his position. Fear washed over him. Finally the console appeared and he swiped his hand over it. The wall slid back and he entered the room, sealing it behind him.
He pressed his back against the wall and heaved a sigh as he heard the Wraith pass by him. He was glad the room was sound and light proof. He was safe. For the time being. He was in the Ancient's version of a panic room.
He crawled over to the mirror and reached behind it. He thanked whatever God was out there that the control had not been moved.
He spent a few minutes catching his breath as he lay on the floor, mentally taking note of his injuries. He was sore and exhausted from running, but apart from the cut on his forehead and a possibly dislocated shoulder he was fine.
He knew that his shoulder was dislocated, but he had yet to feel the pain. He added being in shock to his mental list of injuries.
He activated the mirror and glanced at the reality on the other side. It was dark, but it looked safe. But he wouldn't know until he was on the other side. He had to take the chance. Anywhere, any reality, was better than the one he was already in.
He stood up on his shaky legs and touched the mirror. The small electrical current that passed through his body as he travelled from one reality to another sent him to his already weak knees.
He managed to shut off the mirror before falling unconscious.
He had no idea how long he had been out when he woke up. All he knew was that he was alone. Safe. And the pain from his dislocated shoulder was making itself known.
He groaned as he sat up and held his arm as close to his body as he could. He had to pop the joint back in. But he had nothing to help him do it.
He unsteadily got to his feet and walked over to the wall. He swiped his hand over the console and pressed his back against the wall as the door opened. He couldn't let anyone see him.
He glanced outside. It was clear. He was glad that the city was intact.
As quietly as he could, he left the room, closing the door behind him, the control awkwardly in his hand.
He knew he had to get to the infirmary. Sooner rather than later. But he had to find the base commander and inform her of the situation.
He looked out of a window as he made his way to the base commanders quarters. It was well into the night. He knew that she would most likely be sleeping. Normally he wouldn't wake her. But he was no longer in his own reality. 'Normally' no longer applied.
He was glad that he didn't run into anyone on his way to his destination. That would be the last thing he needed.
He knew that the base commander was the best person to talk to first. Despite the city being quiet and not having met a single person on his journey thus far, he kept himself hidden.
His shoulder was extremely painful. He bit his lip to stop him from crying out from the jostling he was giving it with every step he took. He could taste blood. But he couldn't decide if it was from his lip or his forehead.
He finally made it to her quarters and swiped his hand over the pad. He waited, impatiently and painfully for her to answer. After a minute he swiped again. He was about to swipe a third time when the door slid open.
He wasn't expecting the woman who stood before him.
She stood there, her long blonde hair tied up in a braid, slightly mussed from sleep. Her blue eyes were tired and annoyed at having been woken up. She wore a too large plaid shirt that fell half way down her thighs, the sleeves just covering her fingers.
Her long legs were bare, as were here feet. He watched as her eyes focused on him. Her eyes softened when she saw that he was injured.
He stared at her in disbelief. He shook his head and closed his eyes. He opened them again and saw that she was still standing in front of him.
"Mom?" he asked, his jaw hanging slack.
"Excuse me?" she asked, taken aback and wakening instantly.
He watched the tiredness leave her face. He looked at her through pain filled and confused eyes. Did she really have no idea who he was?
He felt the world tilt. He saw her through blurred eyes. She was moving towards him, her arms outstretched as if to grab him.
It registered somewhere in the back of his mind that it was cold beneath him. He saw her run back into her quarters through the ever increasing number of black spots. He briefly wondered where she was going.
He didn't have time to ponder what was going on before she was back at his side, her fingers on his neck checking his pulse. He tried to smile through the mist in his brain. He hadn't realised how much he had missed her since arriving on Atlantis those three months before.
She was his mother. She cared for him. Looked after him. Helped him in any way she could. Whether it be with his homework or talking to girls. She had taken him under her wing and helped make him the man he was. The strong and intelligent soldier that his father was beyond proud of.
"This is Colonel Carter, I need a medical team to my quarters, now!" she said into the earpiece.
Carter? he thought as he gave into the darkness.
Sam examined the bloody and beaten young man on the floor just outside of her quarters. She knelt on the floor by his side, checking his pulse again before checking him for other injuries. She hadn't failed to notice him holding his arm close to his body. She could tell by looking at him, that his shoulder was dislocated.
She had just finished giving him a quick once over when the medical team arrived.
"Colonel?" Keller asked as she came to a stand still by the two people on the floor.
"He has a dislocated shoulder, a cut on his forehead and a split lip from what I can tell," she said as she stood up, the medical team moving into place around the stranger. They carefully placed him on the gurney and wheeled him away.
"Are you alright?" Keller asked her, seeing the haunted look on her face. "Did he hurt you?"
Sam shook her head. "He rang the bell, woke me up. He called me mom."
"You don't know who he is, do you?"
"No, I don't," she shook her head. "I'll meet you in the infirmary. I want the room secured. Until we find out who he is and what's he's doing here, I'm not taking any chances. I'll call security."
"Yes Colonel," Keller nodded and followed her team to the infirmary.
The security team were already in place by the time she got there.
"Has he woken up yet?" Sam asked as she entered the infirmary, dressed in her uniform.
"No he's still out cold. We've pushed his shoulder back in and cleaned him up as best we can for now," Keller explained as she watched the Ancient's scanner move over the motionless body on the table.
The two women stood and waited until the scanner completed its task. Keller looked at the screen as the machine stilled.
"No other broken bones, no internal bleeding, no nanites. He's okay."
"Still doesn't tell us who he is," Sam mused.
"I've got the blood work running," Keller said as she watched Sam cross her arms over her chest and stare intently at the young man.
He was a handsome young man, even while beaten. A large bruise was forming around the cut on his head, but even that couldn't diminish his boyish good looks.
"Do you recognise him?" Keller asked.
"I don't think so," Sam shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Let me know when he wakes up. We need to find out how he got on the base."
Sam left the infirmary and walked down the long hall. Sheppard was walking towards her.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Uninvited guest. Human from what we can tell. Pretty beaten up," she explained as Sheppard nodded. "He thinks I'm his mother."
"What?" Sheppard's head snapped around to look at her.
"Yeah. I need you to organize search parties. Find out how he got into the city and where he came from. I'm going up to the control room to track things from there."
"Yes Colonel," Sheppard nodded and turned around, heading towards the armory.
"What have we got?" Sam asked as she entered the control room to find McKay already at one of the stations working on his laptop.
"Nothing yet. I'm looking through the city's database to find any anomaly's. So far everything is normal," he said as he quickly typed in commands.
"Let me know when you have something," she said as she walked over to her office, her hands in her hair.
Her mind filled with unanswered questions. Who was that young man? How did he get into the city? Was he even old enough to be a part of the Atlantis team? Was he even human? Where had he come from? And why had he called her mom?
Of all of the things he could have done or said to her, she hadn't expected that. Mom.
She sat down heavily in her chair and opened her laptop. She was going to look into things herself.
She was finding it hard to focus. She was far too tired to be dealing with something like this. She was convinced the galaxy didn't want her to have any time off. Just like when she was back in the Milky Way. Pegasus was proving just as stress-worthy.
"Stay focused Sam," she told herself as she felt her eyes begin to droop.
She couldn't remember the last time she had slept properly. It had been a busy few weeks and she was finally starting to get her bearings. Although she had been to Atlantis before, it was a big place and she didn't know her way around.
Sure, she knew how to get to the places she really needed to be, but she hasn't had the chance to explore the city properly. She was eager to learn the layout of the city like the back of her hand like she did the SGC.
A pang of home sickness struck her heart as she thought of all the people she had left behind.
Daniel, her fellow Geek In Arms as General O'Neill called them. Ever since they had first met on Abydos all those years ago, she had felt a strong connection to the slightly older man. He was just as passionate about his work as she was. They could relate to each other easily. Although it was far from the same thing, they had both lost their mothers at a young age. But Daniel had also lost his father on the same day.
Sam herself had lost her own mother while in her early teens. She shook her head. She wouldn't allow herself to think about that. She had other things to focus on.
Her thoughts turned to Teal'c. Her strong and silent companion. Her unlikely friend. Despite being a former enemy, they had a very strong friendship. They had went through so much together over the years and been by each others side for ten years, Sam couldn't begin to imagine her life without him. She smiled when she thought of how she could get him to hug her with just a single look. No one else could do that, with the exception of Cassie.
Cassie. She felt guilty for leaving the bright and ambitious young woman alone on Earth. She knew her three father figures would be there for her with a single phone call, but she wanted to be there too. Cassie understood, of course, but she had already lost two mothers in her short life, she didn't want to make it three.
Finally her thoughts rested on General O'Neill. Her once Commanding Officer. She shook her head. Jack. He was her husband now. She smiled at the thought. For everything other than work, she was Mrs O'Neill. Her smile soon faded. She missed him. She longed for him to hold her, to whisper things in her ear before they fell asleep.
It had taken them both awhile to get used to sharing a bed with someone else again. But they had. And now she felt lonely every night without someone there to hold her.
She sighed. Thinking about her life back home was not helping her solve the problem of who the young man was, or where he came from. Forcing herself to stay focused, she took a deep breath and examined the data in front of her.
She knew it was going to be a long night.
She had been sitting in her office for nearly two hours when McKay walked in. She had gotten nowhere. The security teams were still looking, but nothing had been disturbed or broken. There were no signs of forced entry. No evidence that he had been anywhere apart from outside of her quarters.
They had checked the atmosphere for clues and had, again, come up empty. He hadn't come by ship. He had apparently appeared out of thin air.
McKay sat himself down on the other side of her desk and passed her a mug of coffee.
"Thank you," she said softly before raising the mug to her lips and taking a long sip, letting the bitter liquid flow easily down her throat. "Anything yet?"
"Nothing. Maybe he did just appear from nowhere," he suggested as he shrugged, raising his mug to his mouth.
"Why here?" she asked as she put her mug down. "Why not on the mainland? Or another planet?"
"Didn't he call you mom?" he asked as he set down his own mug.
"How did you-?"
"Sheppard," he explained after cutting her off.
"Yes," she said, looking at her screen. "Yes he did."
"Maybe that's why he's here," he suggested.
"But he sounded surprised when he said it. Like he wasn't expecting it to be me."
"Colonel Carter?" Keller's voice said through the earpiece.
"Dr Keller?" she replied.
"He's awake. And he's asking for you," she said.
"I'll be right there," she said before tapping it off. "He's awake. It's time to get some answers." She stood up and walked out of her office, McKay two steps behind her.
He was sitting up on the bed when she walked in. He smiled brightly at her as she walked towards the side of his bed, keeping a careful distance.
"You have no idea how glad I am to see you," he said happily. "I thought I was dreaming."
Sam shared a look with Keller, silently asking if the blood work was back yet. Keller shook her head no before glancing at her watch. She held up one hand and spread her fingers apart indicating another five minutes, hopefully.
"Who are you?" Sam asked him as he reached out to take her hand.
"Mom?" he asked, his hand stilling in mid air. "You're not being serious, are you?" he looked around the room and noticed the guards for the first time. "Mom, it's me. Charlie."
"Charlie?" she repeated, dumbfounded. Surely it couldn't be…
"Charlie," he said again, looking at her with a worried expression.
"As in?" she felt her throat tighten as she looked him in the eyes properly for the first time. Oh God… they were the same shade of brown…
"O'Neill," he said, drawing out his name. "What's going on?"
"How..? Where..?" she stammered trying to wrap her head around the information that had thrown her for a loop.
"I came through the mirror," he explained, looking around the room, suddenly very nervous. "I'm not part of the Atlantis team in this reality, am I?"
"No, you're not," she said softly. "Clear the room," she commanded to all the unnecessary staff, effectively leaving just the guards at the door and Keller in the corner awaiting the results.
"Mom?" he asked looking up at her. His eyes glinted with something that she didn't quite catch before he masked it. He was proving to be his father's son.
"Why did you come here?" she asked.
"My reality's Atlantis was being destroyed by the Wraith. They had the 'gate heavily guarded. I couldn't use that to get home. I couldn't get to the jumpers. The mirror was my best option. As far as I know, I was the only one left…. Mom? What's going to happen to me?"
"Why do you call me mom?" she asked as she pulled up a chair next to his bed, far enough away so that he couldn't touch her, but close enough to assure him that she was interested in what he had to say.
"Because you're my mother."
"I'm your mother?" she asked, trying to process the information.
"Not biologically," he said quietly, looking down at his hands. "But in every other sense of the word…"
Sam looked at the obviously upset young man sitting on the bed before her. He remained quiet for a while, lost in his own thoughts. She watched him fidget with the thin blanket covering his lower body. She couldn't help the small smile that appeared on her face. He was so like Jack…
"My biological mother was killed in a car accident when I was five. We have that in common in my reality. Not the ages, just the situation. It helped create a bond between us early on. I went without a mother for three years before dad met you. He was seeing you for a little while before he brought you home to meet me. Dad says I instantly fell in love with you.
"I would follow you around the house and just stare at you. You were so beautiful. Still are. You would come around and stay for dinner, you would put me to bed, tuck me in and read me a story. Dad said I was too old for bedtime stories, but you loved reading them to me. And I loved spending time with you.
"I hated it when you weren't there. I didn't understand your relationship with dad to begin with. I just thought you were his friend. I woke up during the night from a nightmare one night. I crept down the stairs and found you and dad in the living room. He pulled you in for a kiss and I started to cry. You were by my side in seconds, wrapping me in your arms. It didn't make sense to my eight-year-old brain. I thought you were there to kiss me, not dad.
"You spent Christmas with us that year. You and dad had been together for almost a year, that I knew of. I crawled up onto your lap and wrapped my arms around your neck after I had opened the Star Wars Jedi outfit you had gotten me. I asked you if I could call you mom. You started to cry. I didn't understand why. I thought I had done something wrong.
"You just hugged me for awhile before dad asked me to move. He pulled you to your feet and knelt down in front of you. He presented you with the most amazing ring I've ever seen and asked you to marry him. You said yes. Dad kissed you then you turned back towards me and picked me up. I was crying. You hadn't answered my question. I didn't understand what dad had asked you. You said you'd love for me to call you mom as you wiped away my tears.
"It was the best Christmas ever. I can't remember Christmases with my real mom. There's photos that dads given me, and I'll treasure them forever. But for most of my life, you're the only mother I've ever known," he said to the sheets, only looking at her as he finished talking.
"Do you know my dad in this reality?" he asked hopefully.
"Yes, I do," she nodded, feeling a connection starting to form with her alternate reality step-son.
"But you don't know me," he said sadly, looking away from her.
"So what am I doing in this reality?"
"You…" she stopped, glancing around the room when she heard Keller walk over to them.
"I have the results. He's definitely the son of General O'Neill," she whispered to Sam as she handed her the tablet computer.
"Thank you," Sam smiled and glanced over the data.
"So?" he pressed softly, his gaze still on his hands.
"You are who you say you are apparently," she said just as softly. He nodded.
"So what am I doing in this reality?" he asked again. He looked towards her when she didn't answer. "Mom?" he said when she continued to stare at the tablet in front of her.
"You… died, a year before I met your dad," she said barely above a whisper, but she knew he had heard her.
"Dead? I'm dead?"
"Yeah," she nodded.
"So they're still together?" he asked, not sure if he was hopeful or not.
"No, they divorced. Your dad went through a really tough time after it happened. It wasn't fair on either of them."
"When?" he took a deep breath. "How old was I?"
"Eight, almost nine," she replied, her eyes raising to meet his.
"So…. What are you to dad in this reality? His friend? I've watched the two of you be in love since I was eight. But I understand that things are different here."
"I'll leave you to rest," she said as she stood up and moved the chair back to where it had been, avoiding his question. She didn't want to reveal too much to the apparent son of her husband. There was far too much they didn't know.
She smiled at him before turning around and leaving the infirmary, informing the guards that he wasn't to leave.
She stopped dead in her tracks once she got round the corner.
She had to tell Jack… What was she going to tell him? How was she going to tell him?
"Dial Earth," she said as she came to a stand still beside Chuck, the gate technician on duty.
"Yes ma'am," he said as he started to press the symbols on the control panel.
The wormhole established before them. Sam never tired of seeing it. After a few seconds Sam heard a familiar voice.
"Atlantis," General Hank Landry's voice said cheerfully.
"General," Sam smiled.
"Good to hear your voice Colonel. I trust everything is well on your end?"
"For the most part, yes Sir. I need you to send a message to General O'Neill for me," she said, getting straight to the point. She knew she would have to get it over with as soon as possible, before she lost her nerve.
"Of course Colonel," Landry replied. Sam could hear the smile in his voice. General Landry was one of the few people who knew about her marriage to Jack. "What's your message?"
They had decided early on that they wouldn't be keeping their relationship a secret. But they wouldn't be broadcasting it either.
"I need you to get him to Atlantis, as soon as possible. It's very important. Tell him to prepare himself for anything."
"Is everything alright Colonel?" Landry asked, worry creeping its way into his voice.
"I'll explain everything in my report Sir. But for now, this is a need-to-know situation."
"I'll send the message. Take care of that team of yours Colonel. Landry out."
The wormhole disengaged. Sam felt her stomach tighten. She knew things were starting to get out of control.
Jack stared at the forms in front of him, his face supported by his hand. He couldn't concentrate. He missed his wife. He longed to hold her, to kiss her, to run his fingers through her long hair.
It had been ten weeks since he had said goodbye to her. Ten weeks of going to bed alone. Ten weeks of waking up alone. Ten weeks of cooking for one. Ten weeks of complete loneliness.
He sighed. He was whipped and he knew it.
"General?" a voice said from his open doorway.
"Yes Marnie?" he asked his assistant, looking up to see her standing nervously under the door frame. She had only been his assistant for a week and was still incredibly nervous around the two star General.
"A message from General Landry at the SGC has just come through for you."
He held out his hand for the sheet of paper she held. Quickly, she made her way over to him and handed him the slip of folded paper.
His eyes skimmed the note quickly. He couldn't help but smile at the words.
You're required on Atlantis. Nothing dangerous.
p.s. Prepare yourself - if I could tell you more, I would.
"I'm apparently required on Atlantis," he said.
"Yes Sir," she nodded.
"Take the rest of the day off," he told her as he stood up and put on his jacket.
"But Sir I still have-"
"Finish what you're doing and take the rest of the day off," he said as he began walking out of the room.
It was late by the time he got to Atlantis. She was waiting by the 'gate for him, a serious but worried expression on her face.
"What's wrong?" he asked, trying not to reach out to touch her.
"We need to talk. Let's go to my quarters," she said as she turned around and walked away.
"Sam?" he asked as soon as the door of her quarters had closed. His stomach had fallen out of him the second she had told him they needed to talk. His mind was reeling. Was she having second thoughts about him?
"Sit down," she said as she took his hand and led him over to her bed.
"What?" he asked as he sat down beside her, his arm around her shoulder, his body heat mingling with hers.
"There's no easy way to say this," she started, her voice soft and scared.
"Say what? Sam, you're scaring me here. What's happened?"
"Jack…" she tried, her eyes filling with tears.
He cupped her face in his hands and wiped away the few tears that escaped. He bent his head towards her and kissed her softly.
"Sam, please," he whispered.
"We found another mirror," she felt him stiffen at her words. "We never used it. But someone came through…"
"Who?" he felt his gut twist. He had no idea what to expect.
"We've done scans and blood tests. Apparently he is who he say's he is-"
"Sam!" he cut her off with her name. He kissed her again before looking her in the eyes. He saw the pain there. He wished he could take it away. "Dad?"
He knew she still missed her father terribly. Especially on their wedding day. She had wanted nothing more than for him to walk her down the aisle. General Hammond had proudly filled in, but he knew it wasn't the same.
"No," she shook her head.
"Me?" he watched her shake her head again. "Kawalsky? Daniel? Teal'c?" she shook her head at every name he mentioned. "Then who?"
"Charlie," she breathed as she looked him in the eyes. She saw his eyes widen in shock. She saw the emotions flash across them. Shock, pain, disbelief, anger.
He froze. His face and eyes held no emotion. Sam felt himself distancing himself from her. He removed his arm from around her shoulder and moved away from her.
Sam watched him move. She had never felt so alone.
Chapter 4: 4
"M… My Charlie?" he stammered, his voice wavering. Sam could hear the emotion in his words. He had no idea how to feel.
"Yes," she said, wanting nothing more than to hold him, to take his pain away.
"He's okay?" he turned his head to look at her. She bit back a sob at the pain in his eyes.
"A little banged up, but apart from that yeah, he's fine, he's in the infirmary," she nodded, clutching her duvet in her hands.
"Have you spoken to him?" his voice almost broke as he spoke the words.
"He woke me up. I'm not base commander in his reality apparently. He got a bit of a shock."
"He knows you in his reality?"
"Yeah," she laughed softly. "He calls me mom."
"Mom?" he asked as he stood up and started to pace the room.
"Sarah died when he was five, a car crash. We met when he was eight, then got married. He knows that he's not alive in this reality. I explained a few things. He doesn't know we're married though."
"My Charlie?" he asked again.
"Yes, Jack, your Charlie, all grown up," she tried to smile. She had no idea how Charlie being in their reality would change things.
"I… I don't think I can do this," he said as he ran his hands through his steadily greying hair, before giving her a pained look. "I'm sorry."
Tears fell from Sam's eyes as she watched him leave her quarters. She had never loved and lost a child. She had no idea what he was going through. She didn't want to put herself in his shoes.
She knew her husband was a man who cared and felt deeply. Something that he kept close to his chest. Only people who really knew him knew that. To others he seemed heartless and arrogant. But Sam knew her husband. She knew how capable he was of losing himself to his grief and depression.
She didn't follow him. She knew that it would only make matters worse. She knew he would come back when he was ready and not before. Despite the fact that she knew him better than almost anyone, she had no idea where he would go. Or what he would do.
She didn't know if he would stay on base, or go back home.
He needed stability. And he thought he'd had that. His son had been dead for almost twelve years, and for his second wife to tell him that his son, albeit from another reality, was alive was something he couldn't comprehend.
Sam glanced at her watch. It was late and she was exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sniffing back some of her tears, she readied herself for bed.
Despite all of the thoughts and questions rolling around in her head she fell asleep as soon as her head hit her pillow, one arm stretched over the bed to where her husband would normally be when they were together.
Jack found himself on the other side of the city. How he'd gotten there, he didn't know. He sucked in a shaky breath as he backed up against the wall. He slid down it and brought his knees up to his chest. Blinking back the tears, he looked out over the water surrounding the city.
Somehow he had made it to a balcony. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. He felt his world crumble around him.
He stared at the inky blackness of the water in the dark night. It was hard to tell where the water ended and the sky began.
His son was alive…
Hank had told him to prepare for anything and everything. He hadn't prepared himself for an alternate reality's version of his son to be a part of the anything and everything.
He had no idea what to do. He wanted to see him. To talk to him. To hold him. But he didn't. He knew it would be painful, the pain still fresh in his mind, even after all of those years.
He could still hear that gunshot as if it had happened not seconds before. He could still feel the panic in his chest as he rushed his heavily bleeding son to the hospital. He could still hear the surgeons voice. I'm sorry… we did everything we could…
He could still see his son's coffin being lowered into the ground. He could still feel Sarah in his arms as she cried. He could still hear everyone's words of condolence as they headed out of the cemetery. I'm sorry Jack…
He still regretted pushing Sarah away. She deserved more than that. She deserved better than that. He hated himself for how cold he was towards her. He had tried, but in the end it hadn't worked. They divorced.
He still loved her, but he wasn't in love with her, not anymore. He still loved her, but not like the way he loved Sam.
He couldn't imagine his life without Sam in it. She made him a better person, just by being there. He didn't want to disappoint her. She made him happy. Something he hadn't been for a long time. Just the thought of her made him smile. He knew he would be lost without her.
And he had pushed her away. Distanced himself from her. The one thing he had promised himself he would never do, no matter the situation. His head snapped up when he had realised what he had done to her.
He had left her alone in her quarters as she cried for him; for the pain he was in. He cursed himself as he slowly began to stand. His knees protesting at having stayed in the position for too long. He had no idea how long he had sat there. All he knew was that he had to get back to his wife, before he completely shut her out.
They had been through far too much together over the years since they had first met to let an alternate reality's Charlie mess things up. He wouldn't allow it. He had become more vocal with his feelings since he married her. He didn't want her to feel isolated like Sarah had.
She meant to much to him to do that…
As quickly as his protesting knees would carry him, he made his way back across the city. He hadn't realised he had walked so far. It took him half an hour to reach his wife's door.
It opened for him automatically. Somehow the city knew who he was and let him in.
He found her under the covers with one arm on his side of the bed. His heart ached at the sight before him. He couldn't believe he had pushed her away. He had no idea how long he had been gone, but he knew that from the second he walked out of that door it had been too long.
He had missed her. His arms ached to hold her. His mouth ached to kiss her. He sighed as he walked around to the free side of the bed. As quietly as he could he stripped himself of his uniform.
He looked down at his wife's sleeping face. Even while sleeping she still looked worried. He knew she was worried about him. He hated causing her pain, and that was exactly what he had done.
He crawled into bed beside her and pulled her to him. He felt her breathing change instantly. Even on Atlantis she slept like she did in the field, alert, completely different to how she slept at home. Some mornings at home he found it impossible to wake her.
"Jack," she whispered as she opened her eyes to look at him in the increasing darkness.
"Sam," he said as he traced her face with his fingers, before he gently grazed her lips with his. He could feel the fresh tears on her face.
"I'm sorry you have to go through this," she whispered. "I couldn't keep this from you. I'm sorry."
"Shh," he said as he placed a finger over her lips. "I'm glad you told me. There's no need to apologise. I should be apologising to you."
"What for?" she asked, her brows furrowing.
"Shutting you out earlier. You didn't deserve that. And for that. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I know this must be hard."
"It's not okay. I made a promise to myself when we got together, that I would never do that to you. And I have. That's unforgivable."
"These aren't normal circumstance Jack," she told him as she ran her fingers through his hair.
"When have we ever had normal circumstances?" he smirked, causing her to laugh.
"I've missed you," she whispered softly, looking him deep in his eyes.
"Not as much as I've missed you," he said before leaning in for a kiss.
She moaned softly into his mouth as his tongue met hers. She felt one of his hands move from her face to her waist, pulling her closer to him. She hadn't realised how much she had missed him until he kissed her properly. She held onto his shoulders as he pulled away slightly.
He smirked at her again when he realised what she was wearing.
"I wondered where this shirt had disappeared to," he said as he ran a hand down her arm. "I've been looking for it everywhere."
"I like it," she smiled. "It's comfy. Do you mind?"
"No," he shook his head. "It looks better on you anyway."
"Have you decided what you're going to do?"
"No," he admitted, knowing exactly what she was on about. "I want to go. But I don't. He's not my Charlie. But he is. What do you think I should do?"
"Go to your son, Jack," she whispered, a smile appearing on her face. "You'll be proud of him. He's a handsome young man."
"Should I be worried?" he teased.
"No. You're pretty safe," she laughed.
"My son," he breathed. "Alive."
"Yes," she smiled brightly at him. "We've done every test we can think of. They all say he is Charlie O'Neill."
"Will you come with me?" he asked as he stood up and pulled her to her feet.
"Sure," she nodded, happy but slightly surprised that he wanted to include her.
"Mom, huh?" he asked as he reached for his clothes.
"Apparently," she replied, looking over to see his reaction. He smiled softly at her.
They dressed as quickly as they could. Jack scared that he would change his mind if he didn't go to the infirmary straight away.
They walked slowly down the deserted halls, their footsteps the only noise disturbing the city.
Jack stopped a few times on the way, his eyes darting around, looking for the nearest exit to the nightmare like situation he found himself in. He nearly fled back to this wife's quarters several times. Sam being the only thing to keep him grounded and on the path to the infirmary.
He grasped her hand as they closed the distance to their destination. He didn't care who saw. He laced his fingers through hers. He needed the strength. It wasn't every day you got to meet and speak to your dead son.
Sam patiently walked with him. She didn't mind at how often they stopped. Every time he looked around, looking for a way out, she squeezed his hand, reminding him that she was there with him.
He smiled gratefully at her as they stopped outside of the infirmary doors. Jack took a deep breath as he looked at his wife. She smiled encouragingly at him. He nodded and stepped up to the closed door. It opened for him instantly.
He took a few steps into the room, the woman he loved more than life itself by his side. His eyes scanned the room. They landed on a bed in the corner. They young man was on his back, staring at the ceiling lost in his own thoughts.
"Charlie," Jack whispered, then swallowed hard. It really was him.
Charlie didn't notice them at first, too lost in his own thoughts to notice anything else. He sighed and glanced around the room. Keller had put his arm in a sling and he was finding the restricted movement annoying. He wasn't used to sitting doing nothing.
He heard footsteps to his right and glanced over, expecting it to be some nurse checking on him. He wasn't expecting his father to be standing in the doorway, his mother at his side.
"Dad!" Charlie said happily as he struggled to sit himself up, the painkillers in his system making him slightly dizzy.
"Charlie…" he breathed out as he took a step towards his son, then stopped.
Sam looked at her husband with a worried expression on her face. All the colour had drained from his face, leaving him deathly pale. She felt him shake and knew he needed to sit down before he fell. She knew he was losing himself in his memories. She squeezed his hand, bringing him back to reality.
"Mom explained some things," he said as he lay his head against the wall behind him. "I know this must be weird."
"Weird…" he trailed off. He was finding it extremely difficult to form words, never mind a sentence. He was glad for his wife's presence by his side. He knew he wasn't strong enough to be there without her.
With a hand on his arm, Sam gently pushed Jack further into the room. He went willingly, his mind starting to whirl. Sam could feel his hesitation start to build the further he got into the room and stopped before he would consider fleeing. Letting go of his hand, she found the chair she had been sitting on earlier and put it behind him.
Jack felt the chair gently hit his legs and he gratefully collapsed on to it. He swallowed hard at the sight before him. There, not ten feet in front of him, sat his son, alive and well, for the most part.
"I can't believe this is real," Jack said as he lowered his face into his hands and rested his elbows on his knees. He felt Sam place her hands on his shoulders, playing with his stars, silently giving him her support. Slowly he looked up and stared at his son. "I buried you almost twelve years ago."
"Yeah…" Charlie trailed off, looking down at the floor. "I'm sorry about this. But I didn't really have much of a choice."
"What…." he tried to say. "What happened in your reality?" he managed to croak out eventually.
"The Wraith. They took us by surprise. We weren't ready. The had found a way of cloaking their ships. We didn't know they were coming until they attacked. As far as I know, I was the last man standing…. And barely at that. I passed out just after I came through the mirror, I have no idea how long I was out for. And I passed out again just after mom opened her door."
"This whole situation is making my head spin," Jack muttered as he buried his face in his hands again. "And the whole mom thing on top of that? Not making it any easier."
"Sorry. Do you want me to call her Sam?" Charlie asked quietly from the bed. "I'll probably slip up. I haven't called her that since I was nine."
"No… I… I just," he groaned.
Sam tightened her grip on his shoulders. She felt herself absorbing his pain, feeling what he was feeling. Totally and completely overwhelmed. Apart from being married to his father, she had no connection to the young man in the bed. But as soon as she had laid eyes on him she had felt a bond start to form. And it scared her.
Jack covered one of her hands with his own. Charlie's eyes darted from his fathers face to his hand over Sam's. He was a smart guy. He could put two and two together.
"Are you two together in this reality too?" he asked cautiously, not wanting to get his hopes up.
Jack glanced at his wife before looking back at his son. "Yeah," he answered simply.
"Just in a relationship or… married?"
"Married," Sam answered when it was obvious that Jack had lost the ability to speak.
"So, technically," he said while looking at Sam with a small smile on his face. "You are a mother of mine, even in this reality. Mom it is."
"Mom it is," Jack whispered softly to his feet. He was finding it extremely difficult to remain in the room. He had to get out. "I… I… need some air," he stammered before bolting upright and all but ran out of the room.
Sam smiled softly at Charlie as she moved the chair back to where it had been.
"Don't worry about it," Charlie told her softly. "I'm actually surprised he stayed as long."
"Yeah," she admitted. "Me too. I should…" she jerked her head in the direction of the door, knowing that he would know what she meant.
"Yeah," he nodded.
"Sleep well," she smiled before turning on her heel and leaving the room.
Charlie nodded, even though he knew she wouldn't see. She had already left. Slowly he lay himself back down. His mind raced. He knew he couldn't remain in a reality where there was two of the same person, and he was grateful he wouldn't have to find another reality to go to - or somehow come up with a way to defeat the Wraith in his own reality.
His blood ran cold as he sat bolt upright. Would the Wraith in his reality, even though they had destroyed all of the sensitive equipment relating to Earth, find a way of getting there?
Sam quickly walked back to her quarters. She knew that would be where Jack would head. She walked through the doors that automatically opened for her and saw him pacing the room, his right hand held to his mouth.
He looked up as she walked in to the room. His hand dropped away from his mouth as he stared at her. She had never seen him look so defeated before. Her heart broke at the sight of him so lost and broken.
She walked over to him and wrapped her arms around him. Jack tightened his arms around her and fisted her uniform jacket in his fists. Sam ran her hands up and down his back as he shook with the emotions he tried to reign in.
Sam pushed him back towards the bed and sat him down, and sat by his side. He pulled her onto his lap as he laced her fingers through the short hairs at the nape of his neck.
Hot tears trailed down her neck and onto her shoulder. She squeezed him tighter. She had never known him to cry before. She felt her own tears threatening to fall as they burned her eyes.
He kissed her collar bone as more tears fell from his eyes. It was enough for Sam to let go of her own.
"I don't know if I can do this. He's meant to be dead," he breathed out.
"I know," she replied.
He pulled back and looked at her. He wiped the tears away from her eyes and smiled sadly at her. Sam smiled back and wiped the tears from his face. He laughed hollowly.
"Guess I'm not the hard ass soldier you thought I was, huh?" he tried to joke.
"Jack, don't. This is your son we're on about."
"I should be happy about this. To have my son back is something I've dreamt about. I've dreamt about taking him to the cabin again, to go fishing. We could go to a hockey game. I always promised to take him to a Wilds game."
"I've known for a long time that I would never see him again. I came to terms with that a long time ago. And to see him now…"
"It's a huge shock, I know," she nodded.
"C'mon, let's go to bed. It's gonna be a long day tomorrow."
Sam nodded and kicked off her shoes. They lay in bed together, not saying anything, just holding and comforting the other. Jack felt Sam fall asleep long before he did, despite her trying to stay awake for him.
He knew she was sleeping like she did at home. He could tell by her breathing that she was sleeping deeply. He knew she was sleeping properly for the first time in ten weeks. He just wished he could do the same.
Jack woke the next morning to someone stroking his chest. He cracked his eyes open slightly and saw his wife staring off into space with unfocused eyes. He knew she would be unaware of what she was doing. He grabbed her hand and laced his fingers through hers. Her eyes snapped up to meet his. She smiled apologetically.
"I didn't mean to wake you," she said softly.
"It's okay," he tried to smile, the memories of the previous day hitting him with full force. "What are you working today?" he asked as he checked his watch that was still on his wrist. 06:32.
"I'm not. It's my day off," she replied, smiling slightly.
"Sweet," he said and bent down to kiss her. "I get you for the whole day?"
"Sure do," she said before kissing him again.
"I was thinking of going to see Charlie again today," he stated quietly.
"Yeah?" she asked.
"Yeah," he nodded as he pulled her up so she straddled his waist. "Come with me?"
"Of course," she nodded.
"I didn't expect you back so soon," Charlie said as Jack sat down on the chair a few feet away from his bed.
"Either did I," he admitted as he sighed. "No point in prolonging the pain and the inevitable. So… how ya been?"
"Pretty drugged up," Charlie responded while smiling lopsidedly at him.
Sam couldn't help but laugh at the sight before her. Four brown eyes focussed on her.
"What?" Jack asked.
"Nothing…. Nothing… you're just so similar," she said as she motioned between them.
"Yeah, so mom always told me. The amount of times she compared the two of us was scary. She said that brown eyes would be the end of her. She was outnumbered," he laughed. "Even the dog had brown eyes."
"Dog?" Jack asked, his face brightening.
"Yeah. German Sheppard. Started off as mainly brown when he was a puppy. He changed colour almost as soon as we got him home. He's mainly black. Dad said I could name him. I called him Thunder."
"She likes cats," Jack pointed towards Sam.
"So does mom," he nodded. "Dad got her a kitten for her birthday one year. A Ragdoll. She's just a ball of fluff that moves and has blue eyes. Dad said he got her a Ragdoll so she wouldn't feel so outnumbered. Her names Tinkerbell. She was so tiny when dad brought her home. Smallest kitten in the litter."
"Tinkerbell?" Sam asked.
"Ava's suggestion. She used to be obsessed with Tinkerbell," Charlie laughed, remembering some of his childhood memories.
"Who's Ava?" Jack asked, a confused expression on his face.
"Ava doesn't exist in this reality?" he asked, knowing the answer as soon as he asked the question.
"No. Who is she?"
"She's my little sister, she's the youngest. Jayden's my little brother, I take it he doesn't exist either?"
"No," Jack said, his face blank.
"Oh. I just thought with you being married in this reality too…."
"This is a pretty recent arrangement," Jack said softly.
"I was his Second for eight years," Sam said as she made herself comfortable on another chair, which she had placed close to Jack's.
"Oh. You're not in the military in my reality. You're a scientist."
"I am here too."
"So, do you have any kids in this reality?" he asked curiously, his eyes lighting up at the thought of new family members.
Jack looked over towards Sam, his eyebrows raised. Sam looked at her husband and gave a quick half smile. Jack looked back towards Charlie with a smirk on his face.
"We have a daughter," he said.
"Yeah?" Charlie asked as he reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a well loved photograph that was curling at the edges. He held out the photo, Jack stood up and walked over to him and took the photo from his hand.
It was the closest that he had been to his alternate reality son and the overwhelming urge to take him in his arms made him catch his breath. He quickly took a step back and swallowed. He sat back down on his seat and tried to control his breathing as he looked at the photo, his wife leaning in close.
"That was taken a couple of days before I left," he said sadly. "I'll never see them again."
Jack raised his eyes from the photo to look at the young man in the bed. He was obviously upset, and rightly so. Jack knew what it was like to lose his family. He again looked down at the photo and couldn't help but smile.
Charlie stood sideways, his face to the camera, smiling with one arm wrapped around a younger boy. The younger boy - Jayden - had his arms wrapped around Charlie's middle and was smiling manically at the camera. He had unruly brown hair and chocolate brown eyes. He looked almost identical to Charlie.
Charlie's other arms was holding up a young blonde girl on his back. Her long hair fell three quarters of the way down her back in soft curls. Her blue eyes sparkled as she smiled and held on to her brother tightly.
"How old are they?" Jack asked, his throat becoming tight.
"Jayden's eleven. Ava's eight."
"Bit of an age difference between you," Jack mused.
"I guess," Charlie shrugged with his good arm. "But you and mom didn't meet until I was eight. So that was to be expected."
Sam smiled and took the photo from Jack's hands. She stood up and walked over to Charlie. She handed him the photo before reaching into her own inside pocket. She looked at the photo in her hand and smiled before handing it to him.
He looked at the photo and smiled. Smiling back at him with a cheeky grin was a young girl with long brown hair and big brown eyes. She was sitting on the dock by the cabin, wearing a purple Tinkerbell swimming costume and her arms encased in purple armbands.
"She's beautiful," he breathed, drinking in the sight of his younger sister. "How old is she?"
"Three," Sam replied as she took the offered photo from his hands.
"She used to be blonde, with blue eyes," Jack grumbled. "And almost overnight. Boom. Brown hair, brown eyes."
"What's her name?" Charlie asked, looking between his parents, smiling as he realised that his dad had the same fears over Ava. He wanted her to be blonde too, Ava had stayed blonde haired and blue eyed - much to his delight.
"Danielle," Sam smiled.
"After Daniel," Jack replied as he stretched his arms out in front of him. "Miss impatient over there couldn't wait until she got to a hospital or the infirmary to have her. Daniel delivered her. She was Madison up until then."
"It must be a baby girl thing. Ava was almost exactly the same. Dad got mom there just in time," he paused. "Do… do you think I could…. Meet her?"
"We'll need to clear a few things…" Sam started.
"But I'm sure she'd love that," Jack finished.
"We might be able to get you back to your own reality to your family," Sam smiled, cupping his chin in her hand. "Keep strong."
"Do you think we can?" Jack asked as they walked down the corridor away from the infirmary.
"Can what?" Sam asked as she pulled the zip on her jacket down slightly.
"Get him back to his own reality?"
"We can try. The Wraith will be a problem, maybe too big of a problem, but we can't just sit around and do nothing."
"Yeah," he nodded, then paused. "He really does love you."
"He loves her. I'm not her."
Jack gently grabbed her arm and stopped her. He turned her to face him and he cupped her cheek in his free hand. He could see the emotions race across her eyes. She had no idea how to feel.
"In a way, you are her. Even now. You're protecting him here, in this reality, just like you done in his. Thank you."
"He's your son, Jack," she sighed.
"But you don't have to do this."
"He turned up out of nowhere on my base bloody and bruised. On top of that we find out he's your son. I'm only doing my job."
"That, and you're in full mommy mode. You're taking care of him the same way you take care of Dani."
"I miss her," she whispered.
"I know you do. And she misses you. She asks me a million times a day when you're coming home. I have to tell her I don't know," he said sadly.
"I'm sorry," she breathed.
"Not your fault Sam. You have a job to do here. She knows that. She kind of understands that. She just wishes you'd be able to give her a hug every now and then."
"She'd love to meet Charlie," Sam smiled.
"Yeah!" Jack laughed. "That could be a bit of a problem though. I dunno if they'd let Charlie on Earth, and Dani can't come here. It's far too dangerous."
"There is a chance where we can't get him back to his own reality. He'll have to stay here. It's safe here for now, and who knows what information he has that we don't know about. He could be a real asset here. We'll need to wait until Keller says his arm is okay to use properly."
"We'll have to tell Sarah. He'll want to meet her. She has a right to know," Jack's mind whirled as thoughts bounced around him his head. He ran his fingers through his hair and looked up at the ceiling.
"We can get her clearance," Sam said quietly as she nodded. "If he stays, she'll have to know."
"I've been getting Dani stickers for you. I saw a Disney Princess sticker book at the store. I've hid it from her. I've been picking up the stickers for it when she hasn't been here. I thought you'd enjoy doing that with her."
"A sticker date? I'd love that," she smiled at his thoughtfulness.
"Colonel!" A voice called out from down the corridor. "General! I wasn't expecting to see you here!"
"Sheppard," Jack nodded to the younger man as he came to a stand still beside them.
"What can I do for you John?" Sam asked, diverting the conversation.
"McKay's been looking over the city logs and we found out when our guest arrived."
"How long?" Jack asked.
"He was in the room with the mirror for five hours before he started to move towards your quarters," Sheppard explained.
"He told us he passed out after he came through," Sam told him as they began to walk down the hallway again.
"Have we found out who he is yet? I know what he's told us, but has he been telling the truth?"
"He's my son," Jack said before walking ahead of the other two military officers.
"I didn't know he had a son," John mused as he watched the General move away from them.
"Yeah. Had a son," Sam smiled sadly before walking after her husband, leaving a bewildered Sheppard on his own.
"Are you feeling up to this?" Sam asked as she stood next to Charlie's bed.
"Yes. I have to know," he said as he swung his legs over the side of the bed and moved to stand, Sam supporting him as he stumbled slightly.
"Nothing other than finding your reality will happen today. We need to make sure it's safe to do this."
"I know. Thank you," he nodded as he wrapped his arm around her neck.
Sam wrapped her arm around his waist and held on to the hand that was on her shoulder. He was still concussed and slightly unbalanced, but Keller had given him permission to move around. He was eager to see something other than the infirmary walls.
Slowly they made their way out of the infirmary and towards the secret room that housed the mirror.
"I can't wait until all of these drugs are out of my system," Charlie breathed as he stopped for the third time.
"It's more likely to be the concussion," Sam said. She knew all too well how bad concussions could get, remembering her time on the Prometheus.
"Yeah," he breathed as he started walking again. "Had a few of those. None of them pretty."
"Join the club," Sam laughed.
They entered the room to find Jack, Sheppard and McKay already there waiting for them, along with a team fully kitted out and ready to go. McKay held the control in his hands, Sheppard stood against the wall with the team, while Jack held on to the back of a chair. He motioned Charlie towards it. He gratefully sank down onto it and smiled at his dad.
"How do we do this?" McKay asked. "How do we know which one is his?"
"A friend of mine drew a smiley face on the wall opposite the mirror in glow in the dark pen," Charlie said. He could feel numerous pair of eyes staring at him. "Don't ask."
"Okay. Glow in the dark smiley face. Here we go," McKay said as he activated the mirror.
The mirror shimmered in front of them as it activated. McKay carefully navigated his way through the alternate realities before finding Charlie's ten minutes later.
"That's the one," Charlie said, leaning forwards on his chair. "Looks like they haven't found the room."
"That's a good thing," Jack said from behind him.
"You're good to go," Sam nodded towards her team.
The four men stepped forwards and placed their hands on the mirror, instantly appearing on the other side. They moved so two of them were on either side of the door. One man swiped his hand over the panel then readied his gun as the door opened.
Even from their position on the other side of the mirror the remaining members of the party could see that the Atlantis on the other side was mainly destroyed. A shot from Wraith weaponry flashed past the open door. Then three more. Parts of the city crumbled as it shook. The soldiers on the other side bracing themselves against the walls. The city was falling apart.
The door slid closed before them. The soldiers turned to face the mirror and shook their heads. Sam motioned for them to come back. They appeared in the room seconds later.
"From what I could see from the open doors, the city is crawling with Wraith, I counted seven soldiers and three others from where I stood. They seem to be having a good time destroying the place."
"There were another five in the other direction," another said.
"I'm never going home," Charlie said, sounding defeated. "I'm never going to see my family again."
"Charlie," Sam said sadly as he placed a hand on his shoulder and knelt down beside him. He turned to face her, tears in his eyes. Sam hugged him, careful of his still tender shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her and buried his face in her neck.
Jack took a deep breath and placed his hands on his son's shoulders. It was the first time he had touched his son since finding out about him. He felt his son's shoulders shake slightly as he tried to restrain his emotions.
Jack nodded to everyone to leave the room. They all filed out slowly. McKay turning off the mirror and placing the control on the floor.
"I'm sorry kid," the first soldier said, before he left. "Going back there would be suicide."
"I don't see any reason to keep him here any longer," Keller said. "As long as he takes it easy."
Jack nodded and thanked her. He turned around and saw his wife and his son sitting on the infirmary bed talking to each other. He knew his wife was trying to comfort his son. He just didn't know how it would go.
Keller had taken his arm out of the sling, claiming that he no longer needed it. Charlie had watched her take it off. He was glad he was getting to use his arm again.
He walked over to them and stopped a few steps away. Sam glanced up at him with a pained expression. That single look told him that the comforting wasn't going well.
"Keller says he's free to go," Jack said, putting his hands in his pockets.
"How about we get you a room of your own?" Sam asked as she lay a hand on his arm.
Charlie nodded and got to his feet. He looked over to Sam and tried to smile.
"We're not giving up. There's still a chance you could get home," Sam assured him, as she rubbed his arm before squeezing his hand.
Charlie looked down at their joined hands and smiled softly. Without warning he pulled her into a hug and held on tightly. He was slightly taller than her, but not quite as tall as his dad. Sam wrapped her arms around him seconds later when she recovered from her momentary shock.
"I love you mom," he whispered into her ear.
"I love you too," she whispered back, shocked at how true her words were as she ran a hand over the back of his head, feeling his soft hair.
He pulled back and grasped her hand in his. "Just in case I fall," he shrugged and gave her a small smirk. Sam laughed in response before smiling at her husband.
Together they walked out of the infirmary and towards the guest quarters. Charlie was silent the whole way there. He stopped once and held on to Sam's arm to steady himself. He started walking again seconds later.
Once inside the room Charlie walked straight over to the bed and sat down. He didn't care what the room looked like. He didn't care if he had a bed or not. As long as it was quiet, he wasn't bothered.
He pulled out the photo of his brother and sister. He held it in his hands and stared at it. Jack could see his son start to fall apart.
He walked over to him and sat down on the bed. He did the only thing he knew how to do. He grasped his shoulders and pulled Charlie to him. Jack held on tightly to his son as he hugged him. He felt Charlie's shoulders shake as he cried.
Jack was no stranger to loss. He knew exactly what his son was going through. Charlie held on to his dad tightly, grabbing his jacket at the shoulders. Sam stood a few feet into the room with her hand over her mouth. She tried not to cry. She knew that Jack had taken a big step by holding his son in his arms.
She had lost both of her parents. But not at the same time. And she still had her brother. While she could relate to Charlie's situation, she had no idea what it was like to lose her entire family in the blink of an eye.
Slowly Charlie pulled back from his dad. He smiled sadly as Jack cupped his cheek. Charlie looked down at the photo in his hands again.
"I think I'd like to be alone right now," he whispered.
"Sure," Jack said as he squeezed his sons arm and stood up.
He walked over to Sam and grasped her hand. They both looked at Charlie as he lay down on the bed facing away from them. Sam felt her heart break at the sight before her.
Jack gently tugged at her hand and pulled her from the room. Sam could feel his pain. She knew he was emotionally exhausted. She felt him falter as the door closed behind them.
"We have to think of something," Jack said.
"I know," Sam nodded.
"Hank needs to know of this. The President needs to know about this. For now, he's staying."
"Do you want me to tell them?" Sam asked, laying a hand on his chest.
"He's my son," Jack said as he shook his head.
"Mine too," she returned, a small smile on her face.
"He loves you. The two of you must be very close in his reality. I can see it in this one."
"Every boy needs his mother," Sam smiled. "Mark was the same with mom, he was almost like her shadow when he was younger. I saw how much her death destroyed him."
"He's lost two mothers," Jack murmured.
"We'll think of something," Sam assured him as she squeezed his hand.
"I should get back and tell them what's going on," he said reluctantly. "They'll be tearing their hair out by now."
Sam giggled softly. "I'll miss you," she said sadly.
"Not as much as I'll miss you," he said. He bent his head and closed the distance between their lips. He kissed her softly.
She was hesitant at first. They were out in the hallway where anyone could see them. All it would take was for one person to see them and accusations would fly. As soon as his hands tightened on her hips, she no longer cared. He was her husband. The father of her daughter. She was allowed to kiss him.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in closer as he backed her up against the wall. She smiled against his mouth and let out a soft giggle.
"What have I said about giggling, Colonel?" he teased.
"Sorry, Sir," she smiled back.
"What have I said about calling me Sir when we're kissing?" he groaned.
"Sorry, Sir, won't happen again," she laughed as he groaned again.
"You'll come home soon, right?" he asked as he pulled back and looked her in the eyes.
"Yeah, no doubt they'll want to speak with Charlie at the SGC, I'll go with him," she nodded. "Besides, I have a sticker date with my daughter."
"Bring him home," Jack whispered before kissing her again.
"I will," she replied as she tangled her fingers in his hair.
Sam watched her husband walk back through the 'gate and instantly felt alone. Forcing herself to appear happy she turned around and walked up the stairs to her office. She had just sat down in her chair when Keller walked in to her office.
"Jennifer," Sam said as she turned on her laptop.
"Colonel," she said as she sat down on one of the chairs.
"What can I do for you?"
"Nothing really," Keller smiled. "I was just out walking earlier."
"Yeah?" Sam asked, confused.
"You and the General, huh?" she smiled.
"What do you mean?" Sam's brows furrowed as she got up and sat down next to Keller.
"I saw the two of you outside the guest quarters. Kissing."
"Oh," Sam said, the shock evident in her voice.
"So what's going on there?" Keller asked, her interest piqued.
"He's my husband," she replied, not seeing anyway out of the situation.
"Seriously?" Keller's eyebrows met her hairline. "You kept that one quiet!"
"No one asked. Besides….," she paused. "He was my Commanding Officer for eight years. Some people may get the wrong idea."
"You're kidding, right?" McKay's voice floated towards her. "You're married to him?"
Sam buried her face in her hands, her elbows resting on her knees. She turned to face Keller. "This is what I mean."
"How long?" McKay asked as he sat in the last empty seat, his tablet on his lap.
"How long what?" Sheppard asked as he entered the room.
Sam groaned. "None of this leaves this room!" she said sternly as she looked at every person in the room. Ronon and Teyla had walked into the room with Sheppard.
"Sam's married to General O'Neill!" McKay exclaimed, pointing at her.
"Kill me now," Sam muttered as she stared at the ceiling.
"How long have you been married to him?" McKay asked.
"Why does that matter?" she asked him as she threw him a glare.
"Just curious," he stammered.
"Almost four years, not that its any of your business."
"So…" Keller started. "Any kids?" she smirked. Sam shot her a look. "What? We barely know anything about you! Think of this as a 'get to know you' session."
"One," Sam sighed. She was among friends. She didn't want to alienate them. She didn't want to be that Commanding Officer that thought they were better than everyone else. Keller motioned for her to continue. "A daughter, Danielle. She turned three a few days before I came here."
"Do you have a picture?" Keller asked.
Sam nodded and reached into her jacket's inside pocket. She pulled out the photo of her daughter and handed it to Keller. Keller's face softened instantly.
"She's beautiful. I take it she gets her colouring from her dad?" she asked as she passed the picture to McKay.
"Yeah. He wasn't happy about it. She used to be blonde with blue eyes."
"She's cute," Ronon said as he handed her the picture.
"She'd love you," she laughed. "The tougher looking the better as far as she's concerned," she smiled as she looked at her daughters photo. "She thinks the world of her Uncle Teal'c. She has him wrapped around her little finger. He's a Jaffa," she explained. "He joined our fight against the Goa'uld eleven years ago. Helped us defeat them."
"You don't wanna get on the wrong side of him," McKay muttered.
"He's a teddy bear," Sam smiled.
"Maybe when it comes to you and your little princess there, but anyone else…."
"What was that?" Sheppard asked as a bang and a scream resounded around the tower.
Ronon readied his gun and walked out of the office, Sheppard and Teyla following close behind.
"Get off of me!" someone cried.
Sam ran from the office and down the stairs leading to the 'gate platform. She knew that voice. Dread filled her. What the hell was going on?
She heard something smack into the wall with a sickening crunch.
"Charlie!" Sam breathed as she came to a standstill at the sight before her. "What the hell is going on?"
Charlie's chest was pressed up against the wall and his good arm twisted awkwardly around his back. His legs were spread apart by the officer holding him, and his face was painfully held against an uneven piece of wall.
"I only asked where you were," he spat out, glaring as best he could at the man holding him against the wall.
"Let him go," Sam said.
"Ma'am?" the soldier asked.
"Let him go," she repeated. "No one touches him. He's a guest here, not a prisoner. Is that understood?"
"Yes ma'am," he said as he moved away from the younger man. He nodded to Sam before walking away.
"I coulda taken him," Charlie muttered as he flexed his arm.
"I'm sure you could have. But I'm glad you didn't," Sam smiled. "Are you alright?" she asked, concerned over the sickening noise she had heard.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'll just be a bruise tomorrow."
"What did you need?"
They made their way up to her office, ignoring the glances shot their way. Sam was glad that none of her previous guests were anywhere near her office. She motioned for Charlie to sit in one of the chairs and sat down next to him.
"Where's dad?" he asked, looking around.
"He went back to Earth. He had to brief the President and General Landry about you being here."
"Oh," he nodded.
"So? What did you need?" she asked again gently.
"I was thinking."
"Getting home. Not that I don't appreciate you letting me stay here, I do. But…"
"I understand. I've been stuck in an alternate reality before too. What's your idea?"
"The Daedalus. If we can get a signal to the Daedalus in my reality, they can pick me up."
"We'd need to find a way of masking the signal so the Wraith wouldn't detect it. But if the city is crawling with Wraith you can guarantee that they'll have ships in orbit. They'll be detected and fired upon as soon as they exit hyperspace."
"We found a way of integrating the Ancients cloaking technology into the Daedalus's computers. They'll be able to pick up the message while they're still in hyperspace."
"Really?" Sam asked.
"You haven't?" he asked, his eyebrows raised. Sam shook her head. "I can help you with that. I helped integrate it."
"Really?" she asked, surprised.
"Yeah. When you have a scientist for a mother, you pick up a few things, even learn to enjoy it, get the highest grades in your school and get scholarship offers from the best collages in the country," he shrugged as though it was no big deal.
"I wish I could have met you in this reality," she mused.
"You have Dani to mould in your image," he said quietly. "But anyway. The Daedalus had just left Atlantis my reality when we were attacked. It'll take them three weeks to get back to Earth. And three weeks to get back. I don't know how long it will be until they start to head back. We have at least six weeks to work out all of the details."
"More than enough time for you to meet your sister."
Charlie smiled softly. "She might be the only sister I'll ever see again."
"Hank," Jack nodded as he walked down the ramp.
"Jack, you look exhausted. What's happening out there?" Landry asked as his friend met him at the bottom of the ramp.
"Let's take this to your office. I'm gonna have to set up a meeting with the President."
Hank led the way out of the room and up the stairs. He didn't like how silent his friend was. Jack wasn't the most talkative person, he knew that, but his current silence was dangerous. He had no idea what to expect.
Jack sat down on one of the chairs on the other side of Hank's desk. Hank took his usual seat.
"Jack, what the hell is going on?"
"They found a mirror on Atlantis," Jack said.
"A mirror? A quantum mirror?"
"Yeah. Someone came through. That's why I had to go."
"Who was it?"
"My son. Charlie. He's alive in that reality. The Wraith attacked their city. He managed to escape. For now, we can't get him back to his own reality. Sam's happy for him to stay there as long as he needs to, but he's just lost his whole family."
"You want him back here," Hank stated.
"Until we can find a way of getting him back to his own reality, it's a lot safer here. I can't have him die here again."
Hank pushed the red phone towards Jack. "You know what to do."
Jack walked into his Brownstone home as he took off his tie. He could hear his daughter talking to her sitter as he neared the living room. It had been a long day, but he had gotten the answer he had been hoping for. Charlie was allowed to stay for as long as he needed to.
He had also managed to get Sarah clearance. Something that had been a lot harder to do. But he had fought for it. If her son was going to be wandering around the planet, she had a right to know.
He placed the non-disclosure documents on the table in the hallway. He knew he would have to make another visit to Colorado the next day. He had already made arrangements with Teal'c to look after the young brown haired girl who had stolen his heart.
"Daddy!" Danielle called as she scrambled to her feet and ran over to him. He picked her up and held her close. "Where'd you go daddy?"
"I went to see mommy," he told her as he ran his hand over her soft long hair.
"Oh," she said sadly. "I wants to see mommy."
"I know you do honey. Mommy will be home soon."
"Why you see mommy without me daddy?" she asked as she looked at him with tear filled eyes.
"It's dangerous where mommy work honey."
"But…" she sniffed. "You looks after me daddy."
"Mommy has a surprise for you," he told her as he wiped her tears away.
"Yup. All for you. Because mommy loves you, remember?"
Jack walked the hallways of Cheyenne mountain with Danielle on his hip with ease. He had spent enough time in the mountain to know his way around blindfolded. He wasn't one-hundred-percent comfortable with having Danielle inside the mountain but he didn't have much of a choice.
Daniel and Teal'c had had to go on an unexpected rescue mission the day before and had only just gotten back.
Jack had arranged for the 'gate room to be sealed, so Danielle couldn't see the Stargate, but would be able to talk to her mother via the video feed.
"Here they come Colonel," Landry smiled as he looked towards Jack walking towards him with Danielle securely on his hip.
"Mommy!" Danielle cried excitedly when she saw her mother on the monitor.
"Hey baby!" Sam smiled back. She could feel happy tears well in her eyes. She missed her little girl, she wanted nothing more than to hold her in her arms and never let go. "Are you being good?"
"Uh huh. When's you coming home mommy?" she asked as Jack put her on the empty seat near the screen.
"Soon baby. Really soon," she couldn't help the smile that spread across her face.
"Daddy says you has surprise for me's," she said sweetly.
"I sure do baby," she turned her attention to Jack. "What the verdict?"
"You can come on through. Both of you. Whenever you're ready. I'll explain more when you get here," he smiled.
"Okay," she nodded, still smiling. "I'll see you both in about an hour. I love you Dani."
"Love you mommy," she said as she blew her mother a kiss.
"She is adorable," Sheppard said as he stood next to Sam in the control room.
"And she knows it too," Sam smiled. "I better get ready and find Charlie. You're in charge while I'm gone. Don't destroy the city."
Sam walked out of the control room and towards her quarters. She met Charlie on her way there.
"We're going to Earth," she told him. "Your sister is there waiting on you."
"Really? I get to meet her?" he asked.
"You know you'll need to have interviews with the IOA first?"
"Yeah," he sighed. "But it'll be worth it to meet her. Does she know?"
"She knows I have a surprise for her."
"I'm ready when you are. I have nothing to pack or do before we go."
An hour later Charlie and Sam walked into the control room. Sam nodded to the technician on duty then walked down the stairs. The wormhole established in front of them. Sam smiled at Charlie before walking towards it. Before they knew it they were walking down the ramp in the SGC.
Jack got out of his rental car with a deep sigh. He noticed Sarah's car in the drive, he knew she was home. Never in his life did he think his ex-wife would be given a non-disclosure agreement to sign. She had wanted to know what his career involved for as long as they were together. Now she was going to find out.
He put his hat on as he walked up the drive. He straightened his tie and jacket of his dress uniform as he walked up the steps to the front door. He sighed again as he knocked on the door.
He checked the documents as he waited for her to answer. Sam had offered to go with him, but he knew he had tell her alone. Sam would bring Charlie around later, once the documents had been signed and she had been told everything.
Sarah answered the door with a smile on her face that quickly vanished.
"Jack," she said, her voice worried. "What… what's wrong? Is it Sam? Danielle?"
Despite what many people thought, Jack was on good terms with his ex-wife and they spoke regularly. Sarah had been the first person Jack had told about asking Sam to marry him, also expressing his fears that she would say no. She had been the first person he called when she had said yes. She was the first person he had told about Sam's pregnancy. And she was the first person he called when Danielle was born.
He had called her first out of respect more than anything else, but to also repay the favour. Jack had been the first person she had called when her partner had asked her to marry him. They had decided not to have children of their own - as Sarah couldn't face the possibility of another miscarriage, the reason Charlie had been an only child - but also because Craig had two children from a previous relationship who would be staying with them most of the time.
"They're both fine," he smiled.
"Then what is it?" she asked, visibly relieved.
"I, ah, have this for you," he said as he held up the documents so she could see.
"A non-disclosure?" she asked, her voice full of disbelief as she opened the door further and let him in.
"Is there anyone else here?" he asked as she led the way to the living room.
"No, the kids are at school and Craig's at work. I'm here alone."
"Good," he nodded as he sat down on the offered chair.
"Why the non-disclosure?" Sarah asked as she sat down opposite him.
"It's a long story. One you now need to be a part of. You've always wondered what it is I do-"
"Jack. I came to terms with not knowing what you do a long time ago."
"Situations change. You need to know about this now."
"Why?" she asked, her eyebrows raised.
"I can't tell you that until you sign," he pointed to the documents in her hands.
Jack could see the internal war within his ex-wife. She wanted to sign the papers and find out what he had to tell her, but she didn't know if she should. She had spent all of their time together not knowing what it was that he did for a living, and she had come to accept that. She didn't like it, but she accepted it.
"What if I don't sign it?" she asked quietly.
"Then I leave. I can leave the documents with you, and if you decide later on that you want to know, then you can just give me a call. You have my home number in DC, as well as my cell, and Sam's. It's completely up to you. I'm not gonna force you to do this."
"Is it important? Would I want to know? Can you tell me that?"
Jack nodded. "It's very important. I wouldn't be here having this conversation if it wasn't. And yes, I think you'd want to know. You have a right to know."
"Okay," she nodded. "Do you have a pen?" she asked as she scanned the room from where she sat.
Jack pulled a pen from his shirt pocket and handed it to her. He could see her hand shake nervously. She blew out a long breath as she carefully signed her name on the dotted line after skimming the pages before her. She handed Jack the pen and the folder once she was done.
"Okay," she nodded. "I'm ready. I think."
Jack smiled at her. "You know you can't tell anybody about this. Not even Craig or the kids."
"I know," she nodded again, nervously.
"I'm not going to lie to you. This is going to sound like a load of bull. But I assure you, it's all true. Sam's just a phone call away if you want all the science behind it. Just try and keep an open mind. If you need proof, that's not a problem.
"In 1928, on a dig in Giza-"
"A history lesson, from you?" she laughed.
"I know, right?" he laughed back. "Anyway. They found a device way beyond anything we could ever imagine. We've come to know it as the Stargate-"
"Stargate? I've heard you mention that before."
"Yeah," he said sadly, remembering the incident with the blue crystals that took his form and then Charlie's. "It's a device that can transport you to other planets, even galaxies." Sarah scoffed. "I can show it to you if you don't believe me."
"Sorry. Go on," she said, trying to believe what he was telling her.
"I was recruited for the first official mission, because of my mental state after…. Charlie," he said sadly as he looked at his shoes. "It was a suicide mission. I wasn't meant to come home."
Sarah moved from her seat opposite Jack to sit beside him. She placed a hand on his arm and squeezed gently. She knew how depressed he was back then. She remembered how he shut her out. But she didn't hate him for it. She understood.
"But you came home," she said.
"Yeah. All because of someone I met on the other side. His name was Skaa'ra. He reminded me of Charlie. Made me realise what I had done to you. I wanted to make things right, but I didn't know how. When I got back it was already too late."
"Things had changed," Sarah said simply.
"Yeah. I know."
"Why do I need to know about this Stargate… thing? Has something happened to you?" she asked fearfully.
"No. No, not for a while, I'm okay for now. Near the end of the first year of the programme we were off world, exploring the galaxy - Daniel, Teal'c, Sam and myself - and Daniel found a mirror. He touched it, like he touches everything, and he got transported to an alternate reality."
"A device that sends you to other worlds and mirrors that send you to alternate realities? You're right, this does sound like bull."
"It's all real. I promise you that."
"This is… too much. I… need some air," she said as she stood up and walked to the back door.
Jack watched her walk away. He knew her mind would be reeling. He understood. He'd been there, done that, bought the t-shirt more times that he could count.
"Somehow, I don't know why, but I believe you. It's just a lot to take in," she said as she walked back into the living room and sat back down by his side, placing her hand back on his arm.
"I know. Just tell me if you need another break," he covered her hand on his arm with his own and squeezed back, glad that she wasn't kicking him out screaming.
She shook her head. "Tell me more."
"In this alternate reality, Sam and I were engaged. Something that would have been against regulations in this one. It was, weird. She was my Second. Anyway, in the third year of the programme, we had the mirror locked up at Area 51. Two people came through from another reality to ours. Sam and Kawalsky. Our Kawalsky had been dead for two years by this point.
"There was another incident that I won't bore you with. We've been fighting a war with various alien races since my first trip through - that can wait for another time - all you need to know for now is that we won."
"So I can sleep easy?"
"Yeah," he smiled. "The war had one amazing outcome. We found the lost city of Atlantis." Sarah's mouth dropped in shock. "Sam has command just now," he added proudly.
"Of the entire city?" she asked, dumbfounded.
"Yeah. And it's a pretty big city. She's doing a great job so far."
"But you miss her. And Danielle needs her mother."
"Yeah," Jack sighed. "But that's not what I came here to talk about." He took a deep breath. "They found another mirror on Atlantis. Sam made it very clear that no one was to use it. The room was forgotten about for a few hours. Apparently the message wasn't received by all the alternate realities out there," he waved his hand around the room. "Someone came through."
"Who?" Sarah asked, her voice full of confusion, but knowing Jack had gotten to the point where he was telling her why he was there. Her gut twisted. She felt light headed. She wanted to be sick.
Jack took both of her hands in his. Sarah knew, without him telling her, exactly who it was. She blinked back the tears as she looked into Jack's eyes.
"Charlie," he said softly. "Charlie came through."
Sam paced the corridor outside of the 'meeting room'. Charlie had been in there for over an hour. She knew it would take time, but she was almost out of patience.
She was on Earth. She wanted to see her daughter. She wanted to go home. And she wanted to take Charlie with her.
She glanced at the phone in her hand. Jack hadn't called. She knew that Sarah was getting the brief version of events, and that it could take a long time for her to get to the reason for Jack's visit.
Her phone vibrated in her hand. She quickly opened the message that she had received, disappointed when it wasn't Jack. She smiled and let out a laugh as she read the message.
'I've missed your blonde ass,' it read. She rolled her eyes. Vala. She turned around and saw her raven haired friend standing at the end of the corridor, a huge smile on her face.
Vala ran towards her and enveloped her in her arms, almost knocking her over. She held on tightly as Sam struggled to free her arms to hug her back.
"I've missed you too," she said as she awkwardly patted her friends arms.
"Not that I'm not happy to see you, I am, but what are you doing here?" she cried excitedly.
"Long story," Sam sighed.
"Give me the short version," Vala insisted, pulling back slightly.
"Jack's son came through a mirror from another reality and he can't go back. For now, it's too dangerous."
"His son? The one that Daniel told me about, the one who died?" Vala asked, her voice sad.
"Yeah, that's the one," Sam nodded, avoiding her friends eyes. "He calls me mom. Jack's explaining things to Sarah right now."
"Yeah," Sam nodded. "I just want to go home. Be with Danielle. Be with Jack. Relax. Have a long hot bath, with bubbles. Have my sticker date with my baby."
Sam's phone vibrated in her hand again. She opened the message and laughed. 'We are almost at your position,' it read. Teal'c.
She could hear someone running towards them. Someone with short strides. She turned around just in time to see her daughter running towards her. Sam beamed as she bent down and opened her arms.
"Mommy!" Danielle cried as she sprinted the short distance into her mother's arms.
Sam stood up and held her daughter close to her. Teal'c had done a good job of keeping Danielle occupied until she had gotten back to Earth. Too good a job in Sam's opinion. As they had both lost track of time and Sam had had to wait on them arriving. Her time with the IOA had been incredibly short. They didn't want to talk to her. They wanted to talk to Charlie.
"Missed you mommy," Danielle said into her mothers neck as she latched on to her.
"I've missed you too baby," Sam said as happy tears welled up in her eyes.
"Where's my 'prise mommy?" Danielle asked as she pulled back and beamed at her mother.
"You need to wait a little bit longer honey," Sam said as she wiped some tears away from her daughters face.
"Okay," she said as she snuggled in closer as Teal'c rounded the corner.
A few minutes later Sam's phone vibrated again. She readjusted Danielle on her hip and opened the message. It was from Jack. Finally.
'She wants to meet him,' it read. Sam smiled. She was relieved. Her phone vibrated again. 'We're coming to you.',/i>
Jack led Sarah down the halls as quickly as he could. He knew she was nervous. She had already halted their journey twice since entering the mountain, as well as not wanting to get out of the car.
She had made herself go with Jack. She knew that Sam would bring Charlie to her, but she couldn't wait. But she was torn. Her son was dead. He had been for a long time. But he was back. Kind of. She had to see him. To hold him. But she knew he wasn't really her son.
She knew it would hurt to let him go. She knew of the plan they had to try send him back to his own reality, to his own family. She didn't know if she could go through losing him again. But she knew if she did, Jack wouldn't distance himself again. Sam had changed him - in a good way, as had time.
He loved being a father to Danielle. He had loved being a father to Charlie. Sarah knew that Jack's main role in life was to be a father. And he was an excellent one. She couldn't have asked for a better father for her son.
She just wished that he was still there. Sarah knew that he loved Sam. She could see it every time he looked at her, or spoke of her. She didn't want to take that away from him. She never would.
Jack had told her on a few occasions that he still loved her, and that he always would, but it was a different sort of love than when they were together. Sarah understood. She felt the same way. Part of her would always love him.
They rounded one final corner and saw Sam standing in the hall with Danielle in her arms. She was with four other people. Sarah recognised two of them as Daniel and Teal'c. She didn't know who the other two were.
"Daddy!" Danielle cried as they walked towards them. "Mommy home!" she took a deep breath. "Sarah!"
"Hi honey!" Sarah greeted the energetic three year old. She smiled at Sam who lay a hand on her arm and squeezed gently.
"Are you sure you're ready for this?" Jack asked her. Sarah shook her head, then nodded.
Just as Jack was about to open his mouth again, the door to their left opened and the people in the room walked out. Sarah's mouth dropped open when she caught sight of her grown son.
"Charlie," she breathed as tears streaked their way down her face.
Charlie stopped dead in his tracks. There in front of him was his biological mother. The mother he had lost when he was five.
He couldn't believe it. They had actually gotten her clearance. He swallowed hard and blinked.
"Mom," he breathed before taking a step towards her.
Jack watched his ex wife as their son moved forwards. He could tell she wanted to run away, but could see she also wanted to run towards him. He smiled at Sam when Sarah took a step forwards.
"Charlie," she said shakily as she reached out to touch him.
Charlie stopped when he was two steps away from her. She could easily touch him if she wanted to. He wanted nothing more than to hug her but he knew the decision was up to her.
Sarah cupped his cheek and smiled. He smiled back at her and covered her hand with his.
"Charlie," she repeated as she let the tears fall from her eyes.
"Hi mom," he whispered.
"This is... I can't... How can this be real?"
"Doesn't matter right now," Charlie croaked out as he shook his head, and grasped her hand tighter.
"You're right," she agreed.
"Mommy?" Danielle asked quietly. "Who's that?"
"That's Charlie, honey," Sam explained.
"He's your big brother," Jack added as he ran a hand down her long brown hair.
"My brother?" She asked excitedly, a trademark Carter smile appearing on her face. Jack loved when she smiled like a Carter, it helped remind him that there was a part of her mother in there somewhere.
"Yeah. And he really wants to meet you. But he needs to spend some time with his mom first. He's going to be here for a little while so there's plenty of time for you to get to know him," Jack continued.
Danielle looked on and smiled as she lay her head on her mothers shoulder. She sighed happily as she watched Sarah pull Charlie into her arms. Charlie instantly wrapped his arms around her.
Danielle walked hand in hand with her parents as they walked towards the commissary. Danielle was eager to meet her big brother, but she had also decided that she was hungry and wanted pie.
Sam had laughed. She was definitely her fathers daughter.
Jack had shown Charlie and Sarah to the VIP room so they could talk in private for a while. He had told them where they would be when they were ready.
Charlie knew the SGC as well as anyone, he had spent six months working there before moving on to Atlantis. Sarah had hugged Jack before he had went back to his wife and daughter.
Jack smiled as he picked Danielle up and set her on a chair next to her mother.
"What kind of pie do you want?" Jack asked as he pushed her chair in.
"Apple daddy, please," she said as she ran her hands over the table cloth. "And cream."
Jack arrived back seconds later with Danielle's pie as well as a dish of blue jello for Sam before going to get some pie for himself.
Jack and Sam had long finished their impromptu dessert by the time Charlie and Sarah walked into the commissary. Danielle had successfully managed to cover her face and clothes in cream and chunks of apple. Sam was sure she was wearing more than she had eaten, but the three year old didn't care.
Danielle had just shovelled a large spoonful of pie into her mouth when Charlie crouched down next to her. He laughed when she turned to face him with hamster cheeks.
"You're adorable," he laughed as all three of his parents watched on.
Sarah sat beside Jack and smiled at the interaction before her. She couldn't believe she had just spent the past hour talking to her son, a son who she thought she'd never see again.
"I know," Danielle smiled around her food before chewing quickly and swallowing.
The four adults laughed at her words. Danielle wiped her face on her sleeve, causing her mother to sigh and shake her head and her father to laugh.
"Danielle!" Sam scolded. Danielle just smiled in return.
"Huggle," she said as she held out her arms to him.
Charlie didn't hesitate to take the young girl into his arms. He had instantly fallen in love with her the second he had lain eyes on her. He held on tightly as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
"You really my brother?" She asked into his neck.
"Yeah," he smiled as he picked her up and set her on his lap as he sat in her seat. "I'm your brother."
"Danielle," she said as she pulled back and pointed to herself. "Nice to meet you," she added as she saluted him.
"Nice to meet you too," Charlie laughed as he saluted her back. "I'm Charlie."
"Wanna play?" She asked.
"Finish your pie first honey," Sam said.
"No cream left mommy," Danielle said innocently.
Jack smiled. He knew his daughter loved cream. He had watched her drink most of it before she had even started on her pie. Jack reached over the table and claimed the remaining pie as his own.
Sam shook her head at him as he put a spoonful into his mouth.
"What?" He asked around the pie. "She wasn't gonna eat it."
"And you expect her to not talk with her mouth full when she's sees you do it?" Sam asked as she raised her eyebrows. "You'll get fat you know."
"Just keeping my strength up. You have left me on my own with a hyper three year old you know."
"Now you know how I felt," Sarah mused as she watched Danielle play with Charlie's watch.
"I didn't really have much of a say in that," Jack said sadly as he put the last of the pie in his mouth.
"Either did I," Sam added. Jack nodded as he pushed the bowl away.
"So this is weird," Jack said a few minutes later. "Even for us," he paused. "Shouldn't you two be comparing notes by now? Being married to the same guy and all."
"What makes you think we haven't already?" Sarah asked.
"I have whole notebooks at home about your bad habits and ways to deal with your bad moods," Sam smiled at him. Jack glared at her.
"Funny," he said shortly.
Sam and Sarah smiled at each other.
"I'm gonna need to head back to DC," Jack sighed as they walked along the path in the park, Sam and Sarah on either side of him.
His eyes followed both of his children, running along in front of them playing tag. He loved to see Danielle so happy. Her laughter floated towards him and made him smile.
Sam grasped his hand in hers and hugged his arm. Jack turned to his head to face her. He smiled before kissing her hair softly.
"She's so tiny," Sam breathed as she watched her daughter play.
"She'll grow," Jack replied as he squeezed her hand.
"You'll be wishing she was that size again soon enough," Sarah said as she watched her son scoop Danielle up into his arms and spin her around.
Sam looked at Jack and smiled. He nodded and smiled back. Again, Sarah was reminded of how much they loved each other. She smiled, glad that Jack was happy. He deserved to be. Sarah was glad that he had found Sam.
"Would you like to come to DC with us?" Sam asked her.
"When are you leaving?" Sarah asked curiously.
"Sooner rather than later. It's almost Danielle's bedtime," Jack replied as he looked at his watch.
"And you expect to get to DC in time for her going to bed? How?"
Jack looked at the sky and smirked. Sarah looked up but saw nothing. She shook her head. Of course she wouldn't.
"This day keeps getting weirder and weirder," she sighed as she pulled out her phone to call her husband.
Sarah looked around in wonder. She stood in Jack and Sam's living room. Seconds before she had been on a ship that Sam had called the Daedalus. Seconds before that she had been in Cheyenne mountain.
"What have you gotten yourself into Jack?" She muttered as she looked around.
"The coolest job in the galaxy," he replied as he set Danielle on the floor. "Bed time missy," he told her.
"But daddy!" She moaned.
"Ah! No buts. Put your jammies on and brush your teeth. It's past your bedtime. Everyone will still be here in the morning."
"Charlie brush my teeth," she reasoned.
"You can brush your own teeth. I've watched you do it before."
"Charlie do it," she argued.
"I don't mind," Charlie said as he took Danielle's hand. "I helped Ava with hers when she was three."
Jack waved them away. He turned to his wife and caught her smiling at him.
"What?" He shrugged.
Sam shook her head. "I'll make up the spare room."
"I'll help," Sarah offered.
"No, you sit down. You've had an 'information overload' kind of day. Jack will get you a drink," she looked pointedly at her husband, who then walked into the kitchen.
Sarah nodded and sat down on the couch. Jack appeared before a minute later with a glass of red wine in his hand. She took the glass from him and smiled.
"You do still drink red, don't you?" he asked.
"Yes, I do," she smiled before taking a sip.
Jack nodded and walked back into the kitchen, returning seconds later with a bottle of beer in one hand and a glass of rose in the other.
"Come and look at this," Sam whispered as she rushed back into the room and waved the other two adults over.
Together they all walked quietly down the hall and stopped outside a room. Danielle's room. Charlie was sitting on her bed with Danielle curled up at his side, a book on his lap. Danielle was fighting to keep her eyes open as she looked at the book and listened to his voice.
Charlie continued to read to her even after she had fallen asleep. He gently got off the bed and pulled the covers over her. He kissed her cheek before putting the book back in the bookcase and turning around.
He smiled at his three parents. He knew they had been watching him.
Together they walked back to the living room, where Jack handed Charlie his beer.
"You're old enough to drink, right?" he asked.
"Yeah," Charlie nodded. "Just."
"Good," Jack nodded. "Make yourself at home."
Charlie nodded and sat down beside Sarah. Sam appeared at his other side and picked up her glass of wine and took a long sip. Jack sat on the chair next to Sam with another bottle of beer in his hand.
"So," Sarah started. "Danielle's taken a shining to you."
"She reminds me so much of Ava. I miss them."
Sam lay in bed with her head on Jack's chest, her fingers intertwined with his. She smiled as he ran his free hand down her flannel shirt covered back.
"I've missed this," she smiled before kissing his bare chest.
"Me too," he agreed, kissing her forehead.
Sam moved her head back to look at him and smiled. Jack cupped her face with his hands and kissed her deeply, while flipping them so she was on her back. She laughed as she tangled her fingers in his hair. Jack moaned quietly against her mouth.
The rest of the evening had gone well; as well as an evening with your alternate reality son who should be dead and ex-wife could go.
Charlie, proving to be his fathers son, hadn't been willing to talk about his situation or lost family, but had - after Sarah squeezing his hand - told them a few childhood memories. He had laughed a few times at his stories. It warmed Sarah's heart to know her son was being well cared for in his reality.
Once loaned a pair of makeshift pj's from his dad, Charlie had insisted on sleeping on the couch. His other option being an air bed in one of the bedrooms.
Jack gripped his wife's hip softly and swallowed her quiet moan. He kneaded the skin through the his shirt.
"I've missed you," he whispered.
"I've missed you too."
"NO!" They heard Charlie yell from the living room. His voice was strained.
Throwing the covers off they scrambled out of bed. Jack pulled on a t-shirt as he ran to the door, his legs already encased in a pair of sweatpants. He pulled it open and rushed down the hall and stairs, Sam a step behind him.
Sarah was already crouched by Charlie's side, her hands on one of his arms trying to hold it down. He was moaning and sweating. Jack knew he was having a nightmare. He swallowed and took a step forwards.
"AVA!" He gasped as he sat up on the couch, his eyes flying open.
"Charlie," Sarah croaked out, her eyes scared.
"Mom," he whispered as he scanned the room. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"It's okay," Sarah said. "Wanna talk about it?"
Charlie shook his head and stood up. He ran his hands through his hair as he walked into the kitchen. He gripped the counter in front of him and took deep breaths.
"Any ideas?" Sarah asked Jack.
"No. He hasn't really said much about where he came from. Everything we know, you know," he replied, hearing a glass being filled with water.
"Any morphine?" Charlie asked as he walked back into the room, rubbing his head with one hand.
"No," Sam shook her head. "There might be some Tylenol in the cupboard though," she walked towards the kitchen and rummaged around in the cupboards.
She walked back into the living room again a minute later with two small pills in her hand. She sat down next to him and grasped his chin in her hand.
"Look at me," she told him, looking him in the eyes. "Concussion playing up again?" She asked.
"Little, why?" he asked in return.
"Follow my finger," she said as she moved her finger around watching his eyes follow it slowly. "You're unfocused again."
"I'll be fine."
"What were you screaming about?"
"Nothing," he said as he moved his chin out of her grasp and stared at the floor.
"Didn't sound like nothing," Sam said quietly.
"I don't wanna talk about it. I'm just gonna go back to sleep if that's all right?" he asked as he popped the pills into his mouth and took a large gulp of water before moving to lay down.
"Sure," Sam nodded as she stood up and walked back over to her husband. "Goodnight."
Jack shrugged and walked back into the hall before heading back up the stairs. "So apparently he's exactly like me."
After saying goodnight to Sarah for the second time Jack and Sam got back into bed. Sam curled up at Jack's side and sighed.
They both soon fell asleep.
Sam woke hours later to movement within the house. She glanced over to Jack and saw that he was in a deep sleep. Stealthily she got out of bed and crept out of the room.
She could hear Charlie moving around the living room. Running a hand through her hair she walked down the stairs and into the living room.
"Hey," she said quietly so not to startle the young man pacing her living room.
"Did I wake you again?" he asked, his voice apologetic.
"I heard you moving around," she admitted. "Are you okay?"
Charlie shook his head. "I can't get the images out of my head."
"What images?" Sam asked as she walked further into the room.
"It was meant to be a peaceful mission... turns out we weren't that lucky. I was in the village talking to one of our guides when they appeared. The villagers knew what was happening.
"One of the planets they traded with were extremely hard to please customers, who had just built some very advanced technology. Technology they knew nothing about. I doubt they knew what it was they were holding.
"They thought, since they had the technology and could use it, they were powerful. Their egos rivalled the Goa'ulds. If things didn't go their way they would use it.
"It was torture. The villagers had underground bunkers and they made use if them. The technology would emit this high frequency that would cause you to see some of your biggest fears.
"I saw Jayden and Ava being dragged away from me by the Jaffa. The Goa'uld had been defeated, but in my mind at the time, they were still very much alive and active. The villagers didn't get me to the bunker in time. We were all subjected to the images. I couldn't save them in my head.
"The technology was so powerful, that by the time it was safe to go back to the surface and the images were gone, my team were dead. As well as twenty nine innocent villagers."
"Oh god. We haven't encountered that here," Sam whispered.
"I hope you never do," he sniffed. "We don't know if the technology was meant to do that or if it was just an added advantage to them. The villagers said they had only been bringing the technology with them for the past three visits. They were about the same level as us technology wise."
"C'mere," she said, mimicking her husband, pulling him closer as a few frustrated tears escaped his tough barriers.
Sarah backed away from the open door quietly and hit Jack's chest.
"You okay?" he asked as she turned to face him.
"He's my son," she whispered. "That should be me in there."
Jack looked into the room and saw his second wife embracing his son. Despite his ex wife's words, there was no bitterness in them. Sarah knew the situation.
Jack knew that Sarah was entitled to be bitter. He knew that if she wasn't still in a information state of shock she probably would have been.
"Sam will more than understand if you want to take over," he suggested.
Sarah shook her head. "He needs her. Not me."
"You know that's not true. He needs you too. You're his mother."
"For most of his life I haven't been. She has. He'll relate to her better. She's the one who'll be helping him to get home."
"So?" Jack demanded. "He knows who you are, he has pictures of you and wants nothing more than to know you. You were robbed from him. He was five and never got to say goodbye."
Sarah stared at him in shock. She had been so wrapped up in feeling unneeded by her son that she never stopped to realise that he needed her more than she thought.
"Every boy needs a mother who loves him. He's just lucky enough that he has two. She's not trying to take your place."
"I know," Sarah nodded as she walked back to her temporary room.
Sam walked back into her bedroom quietly. As soon as she was in the room she knew her husband was still awake. She had heard him walk back up the stairs.
"I'm not trying to replace her," she said softly as she sat on the edge of the bed.
"I know that. Sarah does too," Jack whispered back.
"I know he's not my son…"
"Yes, he is. You said that yourself on Atlantis. But he knows you. He loves you. He's comfortable around you. You helped raise an amazing kid in his reality," Jack said as he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her down onto the bed.
"He helped integrate the Ancient's cloaking technology into the Daedalus in his reality," Sam said quietly. "And he's one hell of a smart kid. I don't know for sure, but I think he's in the scientific field in his reality. He mentioned getting the highest grades in his high school and getting scholarship offers from the best collages in the country."
"You turned my kid into a scientist?" he asked, mock outraged, before kissing her temple.
"Sorry," she laughed.
"As long as he can play hockey too, I'll let you off."
Charlie woke the next morning to Danielle jumping on his chest. He winced as she landed on him.
"You stayed," she said happily.
"Of course I stayed," he smiled as he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her down so she was lying on top of him. He hugged her tightly as she giggled.
"Good," she sighed as she hugged him back. "Wanna watch Toy Story?"
"Sure," he smiled as she scrambled off of him and ran back to her room. "Morning daddy!" She said as she ran past Jack as he walked into the room.
"Morning Danielle," he said as he watched her run up the stairs. "What's her hurry?" He asked Charlie.
"Toy Story run."
"Ah," he nodded. "Sleep well?"
"Your mom's worried about you," Jack said as he straightened his tie.
"Which one?" He asked.
"Both. But I don't think you real mom slept last night from worry."
"Oh," Charlie said, deflated. "I'll talk to her today."
"She'd love that," Jack smiled as Danielle ran past his legs. "Woah there squirt!"
"Sorry daddy," she smiled innocently, before putting the DVD in the player.
"That really wasn't a dream, was it?" Sarah asked as she stepped into the living room.
Charlie stared at the wires in front of him deep in thought. He was on the Daedalus helping his step mother integrate the Ancient's cloaking technology.
He had spent the previous week with Sarah when she was on her own. Mainly during the day when Craig was at work and the kids were at school. Daniel had kindly offered Charlie his spare room in the Springs, which Charlie graciously accepted.
Jack had had to stay in DC, Sam choosing to stay home with her daughter. Charlie made a point of talking to Danielle every day, either on the phone or using webcams. She was one of the things that made him happy.
He knew he might only have five more weeks of the reality he was in before he could head home. Five weeks he planned on spending with his real mother and Danielle.
He had never imagined seeing his biological mother ever again. She was dead. Had been for most of his life. He had grown up being raised by another woman; one who had loved him as her own and treated him as such.
He smiled as he remembered some of their quality time together. It was where his love for science grew.
He had found one of her unpublished papers on the living room coffee table when he was nine, shortly before she and his father had gotten married. His dad had insisted she move in as soon as possible: she spent most of her time there anyway.
She was always there when he got home from school. He enjoyed spending time with her. Something his friends didn't understand. But they had always had a mother to come home to. Charlie had learned to never take anything for granted. Especially your parents.
He picked up her paper and sat on the couch, his school bag still on his shoulder. His eyes skimmed the words. He had heard her say some of them a few times but he didn't understand them.
"Charlie?" she asked as she walked back into the room, a glass of juice in her hand.
"Hi mom," he answered automatically, his eyes never leaving the paper in his hands.
"What'cha doin?" she asked as she sat down beside him.
"Reading," he replied simply. "Did you write this?" He asked.
"Yeah," she said as she placed her glass on the coffee table. "Do you understand any of it?"
"Not really," he sighed. "Will you teach me?" He smiled hopefully at her.
"You want to learn physics?" She asked taken aback.
"Yeah. It can be a mother son thing. Some of my friends have to do things with their moms. They hate it. We don't have a thing. Physics could be our thing."
"You want us to have a thing?" She asked, a huge smile appearing on her face.
"Yeah," he smiled back. "What's an atom?"
He shook his head to clear away the memories. He missed his mother. He sometimes forgot he was in an alternate reality when he was around his step mother.
She loved him regardless of which reality he was in. Her smile for him was exactly the same. He cherished the bond between them.
He was a popular kid at school for most of his school life. He was on the hockey team - something that made his father in both realities proud - but he was also a straight A student and a nice guy.
People looked up to him. They wanted to be him. They wanted to be his girlfriend. But some also made fun of him. He remembered the taunts of "mommy's boy" floating across the classroom and playground. He remembered how it got worse as he got older.
She would pick him up from school some days to take him to various places, like the science centres or labs at the collages or Air Force campus.
He closed his eyes tightly and lowered his head. He wasn't proud of how he handled one particular situation. He'd had enough.
"Time to go home to mommy," he heard from behind him as he walked down the school hall.
He froze. His hand tightening on the strap of his school bag on his shoulder, his other hand clenching at his side. He spun around and glared at his aggressor.
Without thinking he clenched his fist tight and stormed over to him and punched him in the face. He watched with a satisfied grin on his face as the aggressor clutched his nose and sank to the floor in pain.
"You've never lost a mother have you?" he spat at the boy cowering on the floor before him before turning around and walking out of the building.
The principle had called his mother by the time he had gotten home. She was sitting in the living room waiting for him. He took one look at her and knew what had happened.
"Want to explain yourself?" she asked him calmly as she filed her nails.
"He deserved it," he said as he put his bag on the floor.
"Charlie, you're almost sixteen, you know better than this," she said looking at him for the first time.
"You and dad have always taught me to stand up for myself. That's all I was doing," he sighed as he walked over to the couch and sat beside her. He could hear Jayden playing with one of his friends in the yard.
"What happened?" she asked, turning to face him.
"It's stupid. It doesn't matter," he sighed while shaking his head.
"Yes it does. If it's enough to bother you, it's worth mentioning."
"It's been happening for years," he relented, looking at his hands. "Some people call me 'mommy's boy' and make fun of me because I actually want to spend time with you. They haven't lost a mother before; they take their mothers for granted. I couldn't take it anymore."
"Fighting isn't the answer Charlie, you know that," she paused. "But that kid you took down with one punch was two years older than you and a lot bigger built. That's one hell of a right hook you have there. I'm proud of you."
"You are?" his head snapped up and looked at her.
"Just, don't tell your dad about this. It'll be our secret."
"I love you," he said as he scrambled over to her and hugged her tight.
Neither of them had mentioned the incident to his dad, but he was sure he knew about it. He had a knack for knowing about everything they did, whether they told him or not. But he didn't mention it.
He wondered if his reality knew about the Wraith destroying Atlantis. He wondered if they had retaliated and blown their ships to hell. His thoughts again moved to his family. They would have no idea that he was still alive.
Charlie, along with everyone else on the expedition had been fitted with locator beacons. He had seen the devastation on his fathers face when he saw him for the first time. The Jack of the reality he was stuck in for the time being had buried his only son years before. He didn't want his own father thinking he was dead.
He missed his brother and sister. They annoyed him like crazy, but he loved them. He never thought of them as his half brother and sister. He knew they were, but to Charlie, it didn't matter.
Ava was always full of questions. Charlie always thought of her as the kid at the front of the class with their hand in the air asking "Why?" all the time. He laughed knowing that it was true. She was exactly like her mother, inquisitive in every way possible.
"Charlie?" Ava asked, her head cocked to the side as she watched him put on his shoes. "Where you going?"
"To see my mom," Charlie answered as he pulled on his coat.
"But moms in the kitchen," she said, her brows knotting together.
"I know that, sweetie," he said as he knelt down in front of her. At five years old she was still small for her age, but he knew how much she had grown over the past two months. "But I'm going to see my real mom."
"But she's in the kitchen," Ava replied confused.
"Ava, honey, you're my baby sister, and I love you. But we don't have the same mom," he explained.
"Yes we do," she sniffed.
"I have a different mom. She's not here anymore. She went to heaven when I was your age," he said softly.
"With the angels?" she whispered.
"Yeah, with the angels. A while later dad met your mom and had you and Jayden. She said I could call her mom too."
"Mommy loves you," Ava said knowingly.
"And I love her. We're a family. And today is my mom's birthday. I'm going to take her some flowers."
"Can I come too?" she asked sweetly.
"Sure, get your shoes," he smiled as he stood up. He smiled at Sam leaning against the door frame watching them interact while carefully cradling the large bouquet of flowers that Charlie had picked out at the grocery store.
He shook his head again. He needed to concentrate on what he was doing. Thinking and worrying about his family wasn't going to get the job done. He needed to get the Ancients technology integrated into the Daedalus to protect his alternate family. He needed to work on masking the signal to protect his real family. He would never forgive himself if anything happened to them.
Sam ran her hands through her hair and sighed. After spending just over a week on Earth she had returned to Atlantis. She had left Charlie in charge of upgrading the Daedalus, something she knew hadn't gone down well with some of the crew.
"Glad to be back?" Keller asked as she walked into the office.
"Yes and no," Sam said honestly, looking up from her tablet to her guest.
Keller nodded as she sat in one of the seats offered to her. "How is General O'Neill's son settling in?"
"Meeting his mother and half sister has helped. As well as can be expected I guess. He's busy working on the Daedalus for now. I have McKay working on masking the signal. I would do it myself but I have so much to catch up on," she sighed.
"How's the General dealing with this?" Keller asked quietly.
"Better than I thought he would. Danielle keeps him grounded, and I'm really glad that she's here, otherwise this could have gone very differently."
"If you ever need to talk," Keller offered.
"Thank you," Sam smiled. She liked Jennifer, she was easy to get along with and talk to.
"I got it!" McKay called from the other side of the control room as he practically ran towards them.
"Got what?" Sam asked, leaning her head on her hand. She knew he was working on something else when she had asked him about masking the signal.
"I have successfully figured out a way to mask our message to the Daedalus," he said smugly.
"Already?" she asked as she looked at her watch. "I only asked you about it…" her eyes widened. "Four hours ago."
"I'm a genius. Besides, my other thing didn't work out the way I wanted it to so I had to start again. This," he held up his tablet. "Was a nice distraction."
"Thank you Rodney," Sam smiled genuinely before looking over the data he presented her with.
"Yes, well, you're welcome," he stammered as he looked around the office.
Keller looked at him knowingly, a smug smile on her face. McKay glared at her and blushed before looking away.
After Sam had sent herself a copy of his work, she gave McKay his tablet back, thanking him again. McKay and Keller left the office together.
"Still trying to impress her?" Keller asked quietly as they walked down the stairs from the control room.
"What? No!" he defended himself immediately.
Keller looked at him and smiled lopsidedly. "Uh huh, sure."
"I am not!" he called after her as she walked away.
"You are not being serious," Charlie muttered to himself as he dropped his head and lightly beat it off the wall in front of him. He groaned loudly.
"Having trouble?" he heard his father ask from behind him.
"I need a wrench, but I can't let this go or I'll have to start over again. I've just spent the last hour on this. Think you could hand me that small one from the bench over there?" he asked as he turned around to face his dad, Danielle securely on his hip.
"Yeah, I can manage that," he said as he put Danielle on the floor and motioned for her to stay put.
She smiled at Charlie from where she stood. She was waiting for her hello hug from her big brother.
"I'll be with you soon Dani," he smiled at her.
"Daddy says I have to be careful and not touch anything," she said as she looked around the room she was in as Jack handed Charlie the wrench.
"Can't have you getting hurt, can we?" Charlie grinned as he tightened the bolt that would secure everything in place.
"Nope," she laughed.
Charlie began to remove his hand and wrench from the wall cavity while laughing at his younger sisters words. A shock ran up his hand and arm before slumping backwards as Danielle screamed.
"Charlie!" he heard Ava call from outside his room as she ran down the hall. "Time for breakfast!"
Charlie groaned as he snuggled deeper into his bed. He didn't care what time it was, it was too early. He had gone out with his friends the night before and knew he had had more than enough to drink. He had turned twenty-one the weekend before and his friends were taking advantage of the fact that their youngest friend could go drinking with them; legally.
His arm tightened around his duvet. He froze. He knew his duvet wasn't that solid. He cracked his eyes open and saw the back of a head. A female head; with long flowing blonde hair.
Dread filled him. The girl moaned and stretched in her sleep before turning around slowly to face him. He breathed a sigh of relief as she faced him.
"Melissa," he breathed as he tightened his arms around her.
"Morning," she smiled, her blue eyes twinkling despite her tiredness. "Do you think they heard us come in last night?"
"Dunno, but I don't particularly want to explain why you're in my bed," he smiled back.
"Think I'll be able to sneak out?" she asked quietly as she ran a hand down his face.
"Oh I don't think so," Jack said from the doorway. Neither occupant of the bed had heard the door open. Jack smiled as his son groaned in embarrassment. "Good night last night?" he asked smirking.
"Dad!" Charlie whined.
"Downstairs. Both of you. Five minutes. Breakfast is ready," he smirked as he turned away and closed the door behind him.
"Kill me now," Charlie muttered as he pulled the duvet over his head.
"I should go," Melissa said as they stopped at the bottom of the stairs.
"You're pretty," Ava said as she walked into the hall.
"Oh, uh, thank you," Melissa blushed. "Not as pretty as you."
"If you two don't get in here now Jayden's gonna have all the food eaten," Jack said as he gently dragged Ava back into the large kitchen. "Finish your breakfast," he told her before looking at the two squirming young adults in the hall. "The wife wants to feed you," he shrugged as he motioned for them to enter the kitchen.
Awkwardly Charlie and Melissa entered the kitchen. Melissa blushed and fidgeted with her clothes as three sets of eyes focussed on her.
"Hi," she said shyly.
"Told you she was pretty," Ava smiled at her mother.
"Hungry?" Sam asked as she placed a fresh batch of pancakes on the table.
"Starving," she replied as the smell of fresh pancakes, maple syrup, a selection of fresh fruit and coffee filled her nostrils.
"Take a seat and help yourself. Otherwise he's gonna eat it all," Sam nodded towards Jayden.
"I'm having a growth spurt," Jayden complained around a large mouthful.
"Nothing happened," Charlie said awkwardly once breakfast had been finished and the two younger children had left the table. He sat at Melissa's side, directly opposite his parents while nursing a mug of coffee.
"We know," Jack smiled before taking a sip of his second cup of coffee. Charlie's head snapped up as Melissa blushed. "We heard you come in last night."
"Oh," Charlie flushed red.
"So how do you two know each other?" Sam asked politely, reaching for another strawberry.
"We're in the same advanced physics class at college," Melissa said quietly, staring into her own empty coffee cup.
"I'm surrounded by scientists," Jack groaned.
"Be nice," Sam softly scolded him.
"I am being nice!" he laughed.
"Come on, I'll walk you home," Charlie said as he finished his coffee.
"I'll drive you," Jack insisted as he finished his own coffee.
"It was nice to meet you," Sam smiled as her three companions got up from the table and left.
"Girlfriend?" Jack asked his oldest son on the drive back.
"Not exactly," Charlie sighed.
"Not exactly?" Jack asked, his eyebrows raised. "She was in your bed this morning!"
"And nothing happened!"
"So this not exactly thing…" Jack tried again after a few minutes of silence.
"I like her. More than a friend," he sighed.
"So take her out," Jack shrugged.
"I dunno if she'd want to," he admitted while looking at his hands.
"She was in your bed this morning!" he repeated.
"Moms better at this than you are," Charlie laughed.
"Yeah, well, we all know that," he said as he parked in the drive again. "Ask her out. Take her to dinner. See a movie. Whatever it is you kids do these days."
"I win! I win!" Ava screamed excitedly as the small ball smoothly entered the small hole.
"No you didn't!" Jayden corrected her. "The winner is the person who has the lowest score, not the highest. You came in last!"
"Jayden!" Jack hissed at his youngest son. "Be nice to your sister!"
"Not my fault she's an idiot," Jayden mumbled as he walked away.
"I heard that!" Jack called after him. "Apologise, right now."
Charlie pulled Ava into his arms as a few tears streaked down her innocent face. "You're not an idiot," he told her as he picked her up and set her on his hip.
Charlie watched his mother grabbed Jayden by the arm and sank down to his level. He knew that he was in trouble. Sam pointed towards Ava, who had her head buried in Charlie's neck. Jayden didn't move. He looked around him before stalking away.
"I don't want to be stupid," Ava whispered.
"You're far from stupid. You're the smartest almost eight year old I know."
"I don't want you to go Charlie," she sobbed into his neck. "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you more," he told her as he walked towards the mini golf reception to hand in their clubs. "I'll come home as often as I can. I promise."
"But…" she sniffed again.
"Jayden's a jerk at times. Just punch his arm."
"Charlie?" Ava whispered as she tugged on his arm.
"What?" he mumbled as he opened his sleepy eyes. The room was dark and he knew it was way past her bedtime. It was way past his bedtime.
"I can't sleep. Can I stay with you?"
Charlie looked at his little sister. She looked lost and upset. Charlie knew she had been having nightmares more and more frequently the closer he came to leaving. He had been woken up from her screams more than he cared to think about.
He didn't know what her nightmare were about, she didn't tell anyone, but he knew they were bad enough for her not to sleep for the rest of the night. He had watched with a pained heart as his baby sister became more and more withdrawn. He had a very close relationship with his sister.
She was the youngest, but she was also the only girl. He loved Jayden but he never saw him. Between being at work and Jayden at school and with his friends, he hardly saw his little brother.
He made a point of spending at least three nights a week with Ava. She had an addictive personality - just like her mother. He loved spending time with her and loved listening to the stories she would come out with. Charlie was convinced that she would be a writer when she grew up.
Charlie had a notebook filled with Ava's stories. He always wrote them down once she was in bed. He never wanted to forget any of them. Sometimes she would make him act them out as she was telling them. He was sure his parents had recorded some of them when they thought he wasn't paying attention.
"I'm going to miss you," Melissa said as she stroked his face softly.
"I'm going to miss you too," he replied before kissing her softly.
Charlie smiled against her lips. He had taken his fathers advice and asked her out on a date. She had said yes.
"What?" she asked, laughing.
"Best four months ever," he grinned.
"They've been okay," she shrugged as she smirked.
"I know we haven't really talked about this, but I think we should," he began nervously.
"I'll be here when you get back. Waiting. Impatiently," she told him.
"Yeah?" he asked, his shoulders sagging in relief.
"Yeah," she nodded.
"I love you," he sighed.
"What?" she asked, shocked, her eyes wide.
"I love you," he repeated, louder. He shocked himself by saying the words.
"I love you too."
Charlie groaned as he woke up, his arm slightly numb. Jack appeared in his line of vision as he turned his head to the side.
"Nasty shock you gave yourself there," he said, the colour still drained from his face. "Don't do that again," he added in a whisper.
"Sorry," he sighed, as he held back his frustrations.
"Don't make a habit of it."
He needed to get back to his reality. He knew he would miss Danielle, but he needed his family; a lot more than he realised.
"I'm fine!" Charlie insisted as he continued to sit on the infirmary bed. "Just let me go back to work."
"That eclectic shock knocked you unconscious Charlie!" Jack said through gritted teeth. "In front of Danielle!"
"And I'm sorry for that! It's not like I set out to do it! I just need to get back to integrating the cloaking technology so I can get back to the Pegasus galaxy so I can get home."
"You are home Charlie," Jack sighed. "You will always have a home here."
"It's not the same!"
"I already lost you once. Don't make me go through that again!" he seethed, his face red.
"I don't belong here. You know that! I'm not your Charlie, no matter how much you want me to be!"
Jack stood at the side of the infirmary bed, his jaw clenched tight. "I know that. But I'd rather you went back to your own reality in one piece. I will not watch you die again."
Charlie avoided his fathers gaze as he scanned the room he was in. He knew Danielle was with one of the female crew members. He knew he had given his sister a scare.
"Do we argue like this in your reality?" Jack sighed after a few minutes of awkward silence.
"This is tame," Charlie breathed a laugh. "Mom's always breaking us up. You and mom decided long before you got married that you would never go to bed angry with each other. That hasn't always worked. You've slept on the couch a few times. Usually because we'd been arguing about something. Mom says we're too much alike. We tend to clash a lot."
"But most of the time we're okay?" Jack asked as he sat down on the chair by the bed. He hated the thought of being at odds with his son.
"Yeah. Most of the time," Charlie nodded while smiling sheepishly.
"Good. That's good," Jack nodded, eager to get rid of the awkward tension that filled the room. "So. Girlfriend?"
Charlie laughed. "Yeah," he nodded.
Sam sat lengthways on the couch, Ava curled up in her lap. Sam ran her fingers through her daughters long soft curls as she stared into space. A single piece of paper was held in her other hand. She knew Ava had cried herself to sleep long before but Sam couldn't bring herself to move.
The door to the house opened and she heard her husband walk inside. He closed the door softly behind him and walked into the living room. He smiled at his wife. A smile that quickly disappeared from his face when she failed to return it.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
Sam held out the letter, her fingers still travelling through her daughters hair. Jack looked at her quizzically as he took the letter from her hand. Sam watched as his eyes scanned the words, his eyebrows rising higher with every word.
"This is a joke, right?" he asked.
"Apparently not," she sighed, indicating the sleeping girl in her lap.
Jack sat down next to his wife and pulled Ava from where she sat. He tucked her in to his side and ran a hand over her hair. He kissed her forehead softly and wiped her face dry. He hated it when she cried, especially when she cried in her sleep.
"Daddy?" she whispered as she began to wake up.
"Hey sweetie," he soothed before kissing her head again.
"Are you mad?" she asked, her voice quivering as she noticed the letter in his hand.
"No, I'm not mad," he assured her. "Why didn't you tell us you were having bother at school?"
Ava shrugged. "You were busy," she whispered.
Jack gently gripped her chin and forced her to look at him. "I'm never too busy for you baby. When you need help, you ask for it. Okay?"
"Okay," she nodded.
"Now. Who's butt do I need to kick for messing up your perfect face?" he asked as he traced the ugly bruise that had started to form.
"Charlie?" Danielle asked cautiously as she walked into the engineering room again, while holding her dads hand tightly.
"Hey honey," he smiled as he fit the compartment back together.
"Are you okay now?" she asked timidly.
"Yeah," he smiled as he turned to face her from his spot on the floor. "I'm all better now. But I could still do with a hug."
Jack let go of his daughters hand and watched as she ran into Charlie's arms. He felt a smile appear on his face at the sight before him. Both of his children together. Charlie kissed Danielle's cheek and gave her a tight squeeze.
Danielle pulled back and puckered up her lips for a kiss, which Charlie instantly gave. Jack felt his heart swell with happiness and pride.
He had raised an amazing kid in the alternate universe. He was proud to call Charlie his son.
"Daddy says there's a game on later. Want to watch it?"
"You like hockey?" he asked surprised.
"I watch it with daddy," she said.
"I'd love to watch the game with you."
"Daddy says he's gonna learn me to skate," she added proudly.
"Teach you to skate," Charlie corrected her softly.
"Will you come too?"
"I'd love to," he replied. He looked up at his father. "That's it all integrated. There shouldn't be any problems. Apparently they're gonna test it tomorrow."
"Dinner and the game?" Jack asked as he pointed towards the door.
"Sounds great," he smiled as he stood up, Danielle in his arms.
"I'm gonna wear my shirt," she told him proudly. "Daddy bought me it. It had Minnesoda on it."
"Minnesoda huh?" Charlie laughed, remembering that Ava had had the same difficulty pronouncing the state's name.
"We watch the Timblewolves too. Don't we daddy?"
Jack walked down the school hall with Ava's hand in his. She clung nervously to his hand, scared of what would happen.
He walked straight passed the office's reception desk and to the principle's office door.
"Daddy, you need to wait!" she whispered, her voice full of fear.
Jack forcefully pushed the door open as the receptionist called out to him. He closed the door behind him, Ava still at his side.
The principle looked at his unannounced visitor in shock. He cleared his throat loudly and Jack could tell he was making the man uncomfortable.
"Mr O'Neill," he started.
"General," Jack corrected him as the receptionist opened the door.
"General," the principle nodded. "How can I help you today?" he asked as he waved the receptionist out.
"What kind of school are you running here Meyer's?" he asked through gritted teeth. "My little girl comes home yesterday with a black eye and a letter."
"No one actually saw what happened, General."
"Did you even bother to ask her? Because I did. Some little punk hit her. For no reason."
"We only have your daughters word for that General."
"I did not raise a liar Meyers. If she says someone hit her, someone hit her. Do you honestly think that she would do this to herself?" he demanded as he crouched down to his daughters level. "Show him you eye baby."
Ava reluctantly turned her head and let the principle see her bruised and swollen eye.
"I assure you General, we will find out who hit your daughter, if indeed someone did hit her."
"IF?" he spat at the other man. "I want that little punk found, and I want them punished. In the meantime," he picked his daughter up and she wrapped her legs around his waist. "Let's find you another school baby. One that actually cares about your wellbeing."
"Oh come one!" Charlie yelled at the screen. "How is he not getting a penalty!" he shovelled more popcorn into his mouth and shook his head.
"He's bleeding daddy!" Danielle said around a mouthful of hotdog.
"Don't talk with your mouthful baby. Mommy will kill me if she finds out," Jack laughed.
"Hit him with the stick!" Danielle cried as she watched the player get back on his feet.
Charlie chocked on his popcorn at her words. He looked over to his innocent little sister, sitting on her dads lap wearing a slightly oversized Wild's jersey, who was ramming as much of her hotdog into her mouth as she could.
"Did… did she just say that?" he asked in shock.
"That's tame," Jack laughed in response. "Maybe daddy shouldn't let you watch these games," he said to Danielle as he tucked some of her hair behind her ear.
"But daddy!" she complained around another mouthful.
"Ah. Your mouth is full."
She swallowed and looked at him with big eyes. "But I like watching them with you daddy. It's our thing, 'member?"
"It's also our secret that you stay up to watch them with me when mommy isn't here, remember?"
Danielle smiled and nodded before wrapping her arms around her fathers neck.
"Charlie?" she asked as she pulled back and looked at him.
"Yeah?" he asked with a smile as he watched the interaction before him.
"Are you staying with us forever?"
"Uh, I dunno yet honey. Maybe. If not, I promise to try and visit," he stammered out.
"But you my brother," she said in a sad voice.
"And I always will be, but I have commitments in other places," he swallowed hard at the tears in her eyes. He had never thought about the impact his leaving would have on her.
"When's Charlie coming home?" Ava asked as she pushed her dinner around her plate.
"I dunno honey," her mother answered as she lay her fork on her plate. She had finished her meal but she wasn't sure if her daughter had even started hers.
"I miss him," she said as she began to tear up.
"I know you do. We all do. Now, come on, eat your dinner."
"I'm not hungry," she sighed as she pushed her plate away.
"Ava, you need to eat something," Sam almost begged.
"I don't want to," she whispered. "I don't feel well."
Sam frowned at her daughter. She knew how much her daughter could eat when she wasn't hungry. There had been times when Ava had eaten all of her own dinner and then proceeded to eat off of both her parents plates and said she was still hungry.
Sam stretched over the table and felt her daughters forehead.
"You're a little warm. Come on. We'll take your temperature."
Ava nodded and slid off her seat. She slowly walked around the table before gripping it tightly.
"Mommy?" she squeaked.
Sam turned around and caught her daughter just before she hit the floor. Sam sat on the floor, Ava cradled against her chest.
"Thunder!" she called. A dog instantly appeared at her legs. He cocked his head to the side and nudged Ava with his nose. "Thunder, get me the phone." She moved his face so her was looking at her. "Thunder, the phone."
She had never been overly thrilled with the amount of time that Jack had spent training the dog. She was convinced that he wouldn't be able to do half the things Jack was trying to teach him. Thankfully one of the things he had managed to teach the dog was how to get a phone when asked.
Sam watched as the dog drew his ears back and ran from the room. He returned seconds later with her cell phone in his mouth.
Normally she hated it when he handled her phone. It was always covered in his drool. She wiped the screen on her jeans then punched in the more than familiar numbers.
"C'mon Jack," she muttered as she put the phone to her ear.
"Hello wife," he greeted cheerfully. She could hear the noises of her son's soccer practice in the background.
"Jack, I need you to come home," she said tearfully as she checked her daughters breathing.
"Sam, what's wrong?" he asked, panic evident in his voice.
"Ava's just collapsed," she said as worried tears pricked at her eyes.
"Jayden!" Jack bellowed from the other end of the line. "Call an ambulance. We'll meet you at the hospital."
"I'm scared," she breathed.
"Jayden! Let's go!" he called as he ran. Sam heard annoyed chatter around him. "Your sisters collapsed. We need to go." She heard her son shout to his coach that he had to go. "We'll meet you there. Sam. I need you to pull yourself together. Call an ambulance."
"I'm not sleepy," Danielle yawned as Charlie lay her down in her bed.
"Yes, you are. You're exhausted. Get some sleep, it's way past your bedtime," he said as he stroked her head.
"I want you to stay," she said around another yawn.
"I want to stay with you too," he admitted, but knew that he somehow had to get home.
Charlie stayed at Danielle's side until she fell asleep. He placed a soft kiss on her forehead before he stood up and left the room, closing the door behind him.
He slowly walked back into the living room and saw that Jack had found a re-run of the Simpson's to watch. Charlie sat in his previous seat and looked at the screen. He was again reminded of his own reality. He could sit and watch the Simpson's for hours with his dad, much to the annoyance of his mother.
"You're welcome here any time you know," Jack said quietly.
"Thank you," Charlie replied, his eyes never leaving the screen.
"I know you want to get home to your family. I understand. But, just remember, you have family here too."
"I know," he nodded. "And I'll miss it here. I'll miss Danielle. And mom."
He saw Jack nod from the corner of his eye. They continued to sit in silence as they watched the animated characters on the screen in front of them.
"So," Jack drew out, during the break. "What are Jayden and Ava like?"
"Jayden is… annoying. Very annoying. He picks on Ava a lot, and most of the time she takes it. For the most part he's a good kid, just not when it comes to Ava. He eats a lot. I think he has two stomachs. He does well in school. Loves sports, he's on his school hockey team too. Bit of a know it all. I don't see him very often. He's always with his friends.
"Ava is… amazing. She's just amazing. Danielle's a lot like Ava when she was three. She has a huge imagination, she's always telling stories about pirates and princesses and knights and mermaids. Dad's bought her so many dress up outfits over the years and she loves them. She has this vibe around her that you can't help but fall in love with her. She's smart too, and beautiful, and very funny."
"Sounds like you spend a lot of time with her," Jack smiled.
"Yeah, I do," he nodded, smiling. "I was thirteen when she was born. I helped out a lot with her. I was only ten when Jayden was born, and I did help out, but when Ava was born something just clicked. She used to cry when people held her - friends of mom and dad - and she wouldn't settle. Someone handed her to me so I could take her back to mom and she just stopped. We've always been really close."
"So what about this girlfriend? What's her name?"
"Melissa," Charlie smiled. "We'd only been together four months before I was told I was going to Atlantis."
"Tell me about her."
"She's blonde," he started.
"I'm sensing a theme here," Jack laughed and raised his beer to his lips.
"Blue eyes," he continued.
"We met in an advanced physics course at college."
"Oh yeah. Whole lot of theme going on."
"SAM!" Jack called as he ran down the hospital corridors to get to her. He took her into his arms as soon as he reached her. "What are they saying?" he asked as he ran his hands over her back.
"Dehydration and a virus," she said as she gripped him tighter. "They have her hooked up to an IV. She hasn't woken up yet."
"Mrs O'Neill?" a nurse asked.
Sam turned around in her husbands arms and looked at the nurse standing in the doorway of her daughters hospital room.
"She's beginning to wake up," she smiled.
"My husband and son," Sam said to the nurse as they began to walk into the room. The nurse nodded and let them all in.
"Hey baby," Sam sniffed as she rubbed her thumb over the back of one of Ava's hands as she woke up.
"Mommy?" she asked groggily, her eyes heavy lidded.
"I'm right here sweetie," Sam soothed, as she brushed some hair off her daughters face.
"Me too baby," Jack added as she held her other hand, careful of the IV.
"She'll need to stay in overnight at least," the doctor said. "We're giving her the fluid she needs as well as some anti-biotic's to fight the virus."
Jack turned to look at the doctor and nodded his thanks. "She's going to be okay, though, right?"
"Yes," he nodded. "She should be a lot better tomorrow. We'll be keeping her on the drip for as long as possible, it'll help flush out the virus."
"We're a little concerned about her eye," the doctor continued.
"That happened at school. She still hasn't told us who did it," Jack explained.
The doctor nodded and gathered his notes. "Don't fight sleep Ava. You need it to recover. You can all stay for now."
"Get some sleep baby. We'll be here when you wake up," Jack said softly as he watched his daughters eyes begin to close. "I love you."
Jack carried his only daughter through the open door of their house. It had been a long night. Jayden had curled up on the large padded chair in the room and slowly fell asleep. Sam had eventually fallen asleep at her bedside, her head on the mattress by her daughters hands. Jack knew she was stiff and sore from the uncomfortable position.
Jack hadn't managed to get a wink of sleep. He sat by his daughters bedside with her hand in his the whole night. He eyes were glued to her face. He memorised every inch of her skin, every freckle, every hair that fell around it. He watched as her eyes moved under her lids as she slept. He watched her chest rise and fall with every breath.
He couldn't believe that he had helped create something so perfect. He had known from the moment he had first seen her, had first held her, that she would be a heartbreaker. And he knew his heart would be the first to break.
She was so beautiful that she took his breath away. She was so young, so innocent, so loving and carefree. He knew she would shock her future teachers. She was a pale blonde, just like her mother. But she was smart. Smarter than any older child her age.
Jack had been more than proud when her teachers had informed them that she was doing work two years ahead of her peers and was having no difficulty with it. She was doing work one year below most of Jayden's friends. Jayden himself was also ahead of his grade.
He was proud to say that he had three extremely smart children. Charlie had been ahead of the curve when he had first went to school, but his grades had dropped soon afterwards. He knew that it had everything to do with the loss of his mother.
They slowly improved until he met Sam. Then they soared. In no time at all he had caught up with all of his classmates and then overtook them, leaving them in the dust.
Despite being proud that his children were smart, he hated the thought of paying for college for all three of them. He knew that college got more expensive every year and they had already put Charlie through it. Jack smiled when he thought of his son graduating a year before everyone else.
Jack lay his daughter down in bed and pulled the covers over her. Sam placed two bottles of flavoured water on the beside cabinet.
"C'mon, let her rest," Jack said softly as he took his wife's hand in his, leaving the bedroom but leaving the door wide open. Jack knew he would check on her every ten minutes anyway.
"I know it was you," Jayden said calmly to one of the older boys in his class, standing alone in one of the corners of the playground. Jayden knew he was trouble; he always had been.
"Anyone ever tell you to mind your own business O'Neill?" the eleven year old replied, his eyes scanning the playground - looking for someone to pick on.
"You hit my sister. This is my business."
"Why would I waste my time with your pathetic little sister? She's not worth the energy."
"I know it was you. I've seen you push her out of your way, I've seen you knock everything out of her arms and pull her hair. I know you hit her."
"Whatever O'Neill. Run back to Ireland where you belong."
Jayden clenched his fists and flared his nostrils. Within seconds he was at his sisters bullies side. He raised his clenched fist and connected it with the other boys face.
The other boy, James Thompson, stumbled back before retaliating.
Before Jayden knew what was going on, they were being pulled apart.
"What is going on here?!" the playground attendant demanded as he held both boys away from each other.
"He hit my sister!" Jayden yelled as he tried to break free of the hand that was holding him back.
"Principle's office, both of you, now!" the attendant Mr Barker said sternly.
Jayden sat slumped in one of the chairs with his arms folded angrily across his chest. He glared at the floor at his feet. He had never been in trouble with the principle before. The principle had called his parents while he was in the room. He knew he was going to be grounded when he got home.
Jack quickly walked into the reception area and found his son sitting alone outside of the principles office.
"Jayden," Jack said as he appeared at his sons side. "Want to explain yourself?"
"He deserved it," Jayden grumbled.
"Why?" Jack sighed. He knew it would be difficult to get his son to talk.
"He hit Ava. I know he did. I've seen him push her around."
"We don't know that Jayden."
"He picks on her! He's not allowed to pick on her. She's my sister. Picking on her is my job!" he exclaimed as he stood up and pointed to his chest.
Despite the situation, Jack smiled. He knew his youngest son loved his little sister, despite how much he denied it.
"General O'Neill," the principle said as he opened the door and let James out into the waiting room. "If you could both join me in my office."
Jayden grabbed his schoolbag from the floor. It had been resting forgotten by his feet. He glared at James as he walked into the office, Jack just a step behind him.
"Please, take a seat," the principle motioned at the seats in front of his desk. He waited until they had both taken their seats before he continued. "Jayden has admitted he started the fight, and has voiced his reasons for why he did. Young Mr Thompson is denying hitting your daughter, General."
"Have you found out who did hit her yet?" Jack asked, glancing at his son, and reminding himself to keep his anger in check.
"No, we're still looking into it."
"So what now?"
"Jayden will be suspended for the rest of the day and will have detention for the rest of the week."
Jayden groaned from his seat, his arms folded over his chest again.
"For defending his sister?"
"It was an unprovoked attack, General."
"Was not," Jayden grumbled, while rolling his brown eyes.
"Do you have something to add Jayden?"
"He insulted me. He started it."
"After you accused him of hitting your sister."
"What's your point?"
"Enough, Jayden," Jack scolded. "C'mon, grab your bag, we're going home."
Jayden stood up and threw his bag over his shoulder before storming out of the room. Jack followed a few steps behind. The last thing he wanted was for Jayden to start another fight.
"Jayden," Jack said as he started the truck.
"Whatever," he grumbled.
"Hey. Enough of the attitude," Jack said as he turned to face the angry boy in his truck. "You know fighting isn't the answer. And you know you should have told us about your suspicions on who hit Ava. But you stuck up for her, and I'm proud of that."
"Are you mad?" he asked quietly.
"A little," Jack replied.
"Am I in trouble? Am I grounded?" he sighed.
"You're not in trouble. Just promise me you won't do it again. You're better than that. And no, you're not grounded. You're just doing homework for the rest of the day."
"Alright," Jayden sighed. "Will mom be mad?"
Sam walked down the stairs leading to the 'gate platform. The wormhole before her was active and she knew who was coming through.
"Hi mom," Charlie said as he walked up to her.
"Hey Charlie," she said as he wrapped his arms around her. "You ready to see if this works?" she asked as her husband walked through the wormhole.
"Yeah," he nodded, a far away look in his eyes.
Despite it being a long six weeks of not knowing if he could get back to his own reality and family, they had went quickly. He had gotten the chance to meet the mother he had lost when he was five. He had gotten to know the woman who had birthed him and loved him for as long as he had been alive.
He had met another sister, who he loved with all his heart. Despite the differences between the realities he knew, he was surprised at the similarities.
He was glad to know that some things never changed. His parents had found one another and had married. They had a beautiful little girl - just like in his own reality.
He had gotten to know another side of his father, one who had unfortunately had to go through so much pain but had ultimately come out the other side still intact.
He had never thought about his step mother being a soldier. She was a scientist through and through. He knew of her military background in his own reality - his step grandfather had been a General there too.
It had saddened him to learn that Jacob Carter was no longer living in the reality he found himself in to survive. The Jacob Carter in his own reality had also blended with the Tok'Ra Selmak, and was still very much alive; visiting every opportunity he got.
He had watched his step mothers face become confused in her emotions at the mention of her father. She was glad to know that he was alive in Charlie's reality and had met his grandchildren. But she was sad that he had never gotten to meet her own daughter. Or to know how happy she had become by marrying the man she really loved.
Slowly the three adults made their way to the room that held the mirror. McKay stood there waiting for them, already searching for the other reality.
"Just prepare yourself for this not working," Sam said softly.
"Yeah," Charlie said as he restlessly moved around the room.
"Found it," McKay announced as the glow in the dark smiley face appeared before them.
"That's my cue," a soldier said as he walked into the room, armed to the teeth with a small box in his hands.
"Be careful," Sam said as she watched him step up to the mirror and place his hand on the surface.
Sam watched the soldier on the other side of the mirror turn on the device. His eyes never left the screen. Everyone stood in silence waiting with baited breath as to what would happen.
After five minutes of anxious waiting the soldier looked up from the screen and smiled at them. He placed his hand on the mirror and appeared before the small group of people.
"The message got through. The Daedalus is going to cloak before they exit hyperspace and beam you out. You're going home kid."
"I'm going home," Charlie breathed as Sam wrapped her arms around him.
"You're always welcome here. Anytime. We'll just need to find out which reality is yours using the Earth mirror," Sam told him.
"Thank you, for everything," he said as he wrapped his arms around her.
"Just, take care of yourself," Jack added as Charlie turned to face him.
"You too. Tell Danielle I love her," he smiled as he hugged his dad.
"I will," Jack nodded as he returned the hug and pulled back. "I'm proud of you, even if you are some geeky scientist," he laughed as he cupped his cheek in his hand.
"That plays hockey," Charlie added, laughing along with him.
"That plays hockey," Jack nodded.
"I'll look for you this time in four weeks using the Earth mirror," he said, looking at Jack. "It's going to be a long three week journey home."
"I'll be there," Jack smiled.
Charlie nodded and smiled at his parents. He gave a quick nod to McKay and the solider before taking the offered device.
"Until next time," he said before touching the mirror.
"Until next time," Jack repeated as his son appeared on the other side.
Charlie looked at the screen of the device in his hands and smiled. He looked up and waved before disappearing in a flash of blue light.
Jack looked at the floor and took a deep breath. "He's still alive," he whispered.
He felt his wife take his hand in hers. He heard McKay and the solider leave the room, the mirror shutting off at the same time.
"We'll see him again," Sam whispered into his ear.
Jack wrapped his arms around his wife's tall frame. He nodded into her neck. He was more than thankful for the extra six weeks he had got to spend with his son.
He was proud of him.
Charlie closed the car door behind him. He scanned his surroundings while taking a deep breath. He was finally home after a three week voyage on the Daedalus.
A wide grin appeared on his face when he saw Ava sitting in the front garden with one of her books, her long blonde hair falling around her face in loose curls.
She looked up when she heard him approach the garden fence. Her mouth fell open in shock before lighting up in a beaming grin. "CHARLIE!" she screamed, her voice full of excitement.
The book fell haphazardly to the ground as she bounded to her feet and ran towards him. Charlie opened the gate and ran towards her. He picked her up and spun her around before squeezing her tightly, her legs wrapping around his waist.
"Hey sweetie!" he said, his voice thick with emotion as he ran a hand over her silky hair.
"MOM! DAD! CHARLIE'S HOME!" Jayden called as he walked out of the house. He ran to his big brother and hugged him tightly.
Moments later his parents joined the huddle in the garden. Charlie felt tears prick at his eyes. He could feel Thunder jumping up at their huddle, and hear his excited yelps.
"I'm gonna go away more often if this is the reception I get," he laughed while holding back his happy tears.
"No!" Ava cried. "Don't leave again!"
Slowly the family made their way into the house. Charlie had never been so glad to be home.
"Hey Charlie?" Ava asked as she picked a photograph out of his pocket.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"Who's this?" she asked as she examined the photo of her big brother with a young girl with brown eyes and brown hair wearing a Wild's jersey, smiles on both of their faces.
"I'll tell you when you're older," he said before kissing her head.
Chapter 17: Epilogue
"So how was Atlantis? We weren't expecting you home so soon," Jack said as he handed his son a beer and sat down beside him.
Charlie had finally managed to get Ava to bed, a whole three hours after her bedtime. She had eventually worn herself out and fallen asleep on his chest.
Charlie stared at the beer bottle in his hands, a slight smile on his face when he realised that his father - in both realities - drank the same brand.
"Destroyed," he answered quietly, his eyes never leaving the bottle in his hands.
"Destroyed? What do you mean destroyed?" Jack asked, sitting up straighter and looking at his son intently.
Charlie felt his mother stiffen on his other side. She rested a hand on his left knee.
"It's gone. It's under Wraith control. We destroyed everything we could before they could access any of our systems. They started to cull."
"How did you…" Jack trailed off.
"The mirror. We found another one."
"But…" Sam started before swallowing hard, instantly knowing which mirror he was on about. "Only one version of a person can be in a reality at one time."
"I know. But I didn't have a choice."
"Did you hop between realities for six weeks?"
"No," he shook his head. "I only went to one. Lucky guess," he shrugged.
"But…" Jack frowned.
"I died as a child in that reality. They let me stay," he paused. "Mom was the base commander in that reality. Full bird Colonel," he laughed to himself, still trying to wrap his head around his mother being in the military.
"Charlie," Jack began.
"I got to meet mom," he said, cutting his father off. "She's amazing. You had to fight to get her read into the program, but you did it. And I got to see her again."
"Sarah's alive in that reality?" Jack asked as he put his beer by his feet.
"Yeah. You got divorced after I died. You remarried though," he nodded to the mother sitting by his side. "She was you Second for eight years. You have a daughter there too. Danielle," he pulled the photo from his pocket and handed it to his dad.
"You made it home," Jack breathed shakily as he pulled his son into a tight hug. Charlie wrapped his arms around his father and felt his eyes burn.
Charlie felt his mother join the hug as well as her tears through his t-shirt.
"You're not leaving again," Sam told him.
"So what's been happening here?" Charlie asked after a few minutes silence, and pulling back slightly from the embrace of his parents. He took his mothers hand in his and squeezed gently.
"Ava had to change schools," Jack said.
"What? Why?" Charlie asked confused.
"She was being bullied. Had a black eye for a few weeks. She was stressing herself out. She collapsed. She was in hospital," Jack said, looking at his hands, ashamed that he hadn't noticed the strain his daughter was under.
"Who?" Charlie ground out.
"James Thompson," Sam said distastefully.
"Seriously? I hit his cousin once. Do you think maybe that's why he was picking on her?"
"I thought I recognised the name," Sam mused.
"Jayden took a swing for him," Jack laughed.
"No," Charlie laughed.
"Yeah, apparently only he's allowed to pick on her."
"Have… have you see Melissa?" Charlie asked hesitantly.
"Yeah. She comes by at least twice a week to see Ava," Sam smiled. "She can't wait to see you again. She's visiting family out of town this week. She won't be home until tomorrow night at the earliest."
"So… what? I'm not good enough anymore?" Charlie asked, his tone light as he watched his girlfriend sit down next to Ava in the garden.
Melissa's head snapped up and her jaw dropped before a full grin appeared on her face. Quickly she scrambled to her feet and ran into his waiting arms. Charlie picked her up and spun her around before placing her back on her feet.
"I've missed you," she whispered into his chest.
"I've missed you too," he replied before kissing her forehead and running his fingers through her long blonde hair.
Melissa pulled back and met his eyes. Charlie smiled lovingly at her before putting his finger under her chin and pulling her face towards his. His eyes closed as his lips met hers in a slow love filled kiss.
"I'm glad you're home," she whispered against his lips.
"Me too," he whispered back. "I'm glad you're still here."
"I told you I would be," she smiled at him.
"I know," he smiled. "I just thought…"
"You thought wrong. I'm not going anywhere."
Jack paced in front of the inactive mirror. It had been four weeks to the day since Charlie had went back to his own reality. Back to his family. He hoped that he would be able to find the reality which had taken him in again.
Danielle sat on the floor facing the mirror, a colouring book in her lap and coloured pencils scattered around her. Her tongue stuck out the corner of her mouth slightly as she concentrated on her artwork.
"Daddy," she said quietly. Jack looked towards her. "You're gonna go through the floor," she added, causing Jack to laugh.
"What are you doing anyway?" he asked as he slowly sat down beside her.
"A Princess," she smiled at him.
"You're my Princess," he smiled back.
"And mommy's your Queen."
"She sure is baby," Jack replied as the mirror in front of them activated.
They both looked up at the noise and saw Charlie standing before them. He grinned widely and waved.
Jack got to his feet as Charlie placed his hand on the mirror. He instantly appeared before them. Charlie turned around and held out his arms to Danielle, who jumped to her feet and ran into his arms.
"Did you find us okay?" Jack asked as Charlie gave his sister a kiss.
"Yeah, McKay said you were only five jumps away," Charlie nodded.
"Do your parents know you're here?"
"Yeah," Charlie nodded again and turned around to face the mirror and smiled.
Jack looked towards the mirror again and saw that another version of himself and his wife were smiling back at him. The other Jack nodded to him, which Jack instantly returned.
"I told them everything," he said as he watched Danielle wave to the two adults on the other side of the mirror.
"Daddy?" she asked innocently.
"Yeah baby?" he asked as he bent down and started picking up her book and pencils.
"Why do they look just like you and mommy?"
"Because they are us. Just a different version," he turned to Charlie. "Are you staying a little while?"
"Yeah. I've been cleared to stay for a few days if that's okay."
"You know it is. Just turn up on the door step any time. Hell, you can have a key if you want. Just let yourself in."
"Daddy, you swore!" Danielle gasped.
"What did I say?" he laughed. He caught sight of the alternate Jack and Sam O'Neill chuckling on the other side.
"The H word!" she whispered dramatically.
"Sorry!" he held up his hands in surrender. "I'll put money in the swear jar when we get home."
"Mommy never puts any money in the swear jar," Danielle told Charlie.
"Thanks Dani," he sighed. "We ready to go?"
"Yeah," Charlie nodded and turned to face the mirror again. He smiled at his parents. "I'll be back in a few days."
"Take care of yourself," his father told him.
"I will," he nodded and waved goodbye.
"Thank you, for taking him in," Sam said to Jack as she held onto her husbands arm.
"Any time," Jack smiled and nodded as he filled his pockets with coloured pencils.
"I'll see you soon," Charlie told his parents as he smiled.
"Bye," Danielle waved to them as Charlie began to turn and walk away from the mirror.
"So I was thinking of dinner and the game tonight. It'll just be the three of us. Sam's still on Atlantis. What do you think?" Jack asked his son as they walked out of the room.
"Perfect," Charlie smiled as the mirror deactivated behind them.