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Alternate Realities: A Tragic Story

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Out Of Touch
(Hall, Oates from the album Big Bam Boom)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_8KR-n2fBQ

Shake it up is all that we know
Using the bodies up as we go
Waking up to fantasy
The shades all around aren't the colors we used to see

Broken ice still melts in the sun
And times that are broken can often be one again
We're soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Take a look around

You're out of touch
I'm out of time
But I'm out of my head when you're not around

Reaching out for something to hold
Looking for a love where the climate is cold
Manic moves and drowsy dreams
Or living in the middle between the two extremes
Smoking guns hot to the touch
Would cool down if we didn't use them so much
We're soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Too much

 

The Chevrons lit up one at a time and the wormhole engaged. The alarm claxon sounded and the computer activated, searching for the GDO code signal from off world.

Colonel Jack O'Neill and Major General Hammond came out of the briefing room. Master Sergeant Davis turned to look over his shoulder. "It's SG-1's code, Sir."

Hammond glanced over at his second in command. "Colonel?"

O'Neill looked at the senior NCO. "Are you sure?"

Davis replied, "Yes, Sir. No mistake."

The Colonel could only shrug. "All our GDOs are accounted for Sir; I can't explain it."

Hammond looked at the troops gathering in the Gate room seeing their readiness. He pulled the microphone closer and spoke over the loudspeaker. "Head's up people, unknown traveler incoming." He looked down at Davis. "Open the iris."

As the titanium shielding rotated away from the wormhole, the rest of SG-1 arrived in a group. Sam Carter, Teal'c, and Jonas Quinn gathered behind their team leader.

The Iris opened and two male figures entered the Gate room. As they descend the ramp and the wormhole snapped shut behind them, Hammond looked from O'Neill to the newly arrived men. The colonel was frankly staring.

Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson exited the wormhole and started to moved down the ramp. When the SF's didn't immediately lower their weapons, Jack stopped and centered himself in front of his civilian archaeologist. He glanced up at the observation deck. "Oh, crap, we're not in Kansas anymore."

Daniel, who was surprised by Jack's precipitous actions, followed his friend's line of sight. "Uh oh! Looks like we missed again."

"Ya think?" O'Neill proceeded to raise his hands. Daniel followed his example. Two SF's came up and relieved them of their weapons.

They stood calmly, watching as SG-1 approached them. The newly arrived Jack O'Neill eyed his counterpart suspiciously.

Colonel O'Neill looked past him, frankly staring at the younger man who was standing slightly behind and to the right of the other Colonel.

The brown eyes glued to him, the voice was wistful. "Daniel."

"Jack," Daniel smiled at him.

"It's...it's good to see you again."

"Hello, Jack." Jack spoke up, looking searchingly at the other man.

The other O'Neill then looked at him. Jack was shocked at the age, and sadness reflected in his eyes. "Hi." The other man glanced at him briefly, then returned his gaze to Daniel.

The rest of SG-1 had come down to the floor. Carter and Teal'c had approached the foot of the metal grill ram and they were also staring at the two men. A fourth member, unknown to Jack stood off a few feet. He at nodded to the two familiar faces. "Carter, Teal'c."

"Colonel O'Neill." Carter smiled at him. "Sir, how did you...?" She waved at the Star gate.

Jack frowned at her question, "Really, we don't know. This is our second alternate mirror universe through the Star gate. We don't know the trigger mechanism. Unless," he looked over at his companion. "Daniel?"

"No, no idea." Daniel agreed. "I thought at first we'd made it back, but with two Jacks..." he shrugged and smiled at his own Colonel. "Well, it is an embarrassment of riches."

"Yes, and an obvious poverty of Daniels." Jack observed. He looked at his counterpart, who couldn't meet his gaze. "You obviously know Daniel. Where's yours?"

"Uh, he's not here...anymore."

"Oh?" Daniel looked from O'Neill to Carter to Teal'c. "Where am I...he?"

O'Neill swallowed convulsively. "He...he was...he uh, he saved a planet from a Naquadria bomb...but he was exposed to high levels of radiation..." O'Neill paused for a moment. "He was dying of radiation poisoning..."

Jack immediately understood. "He's dead."

"No...he's...gone." O'Neill looked at Daniel. "He's...ascended...he left with Oma Desala," the Colonel managed. "But we, uh, we see him...occasionally."

"Indeed, he comes...when he is needed," Teal'c added softly.

Daniel nodded thoughtfully. "Good."

"Who's he?" Jack indicated the other man standing separated from the rest of SG-1

"Oh, him? That's Jonas Quinn. He's our new fourth." Something in his voice told Jack that O'Neill wasn't overly enamored with SG-1's newest member.

"Well, as much as we'd love to stay and talk," Jack looked at Daniel. "We'd better...."

Another familiar voice came over the loudspeaker. "Not so fast, Colonel O'Neill."

Jack tilted his head up to see the other figure standing on the observation deck. "Is that you General Hammond?"

"Yes, Colonel, it is. Why don't you gentlemen come up here and visit? Let's see if Major Carter and Sergeant Siler see if they can track down your Stargate problem for you so you don't wind up on the wrong planet again."

Jack and Daniel exchanged glances, then looked at O'Neill. The Colonel nodded. "He does have a point, ya know?" He looked back at Carter.

"Yes, Sirs, maybe I can trace your trigger mechanism down for you and get you to the right SGC next go round."

Jack glanced over at his friend. Daniel gave him a small, sad smile. That decided him immediately. "Thank you General...and everyone. I really would like to get there this next time. He smiled back at his friend. "And if I know my SGCs, I'll bet they've got some coffee made up there."

O'Neill laughed sadly at the interested look in Daniel's eyes. "Come along, gentlemen, the caffeine is this way."

After several hours of discussion and Carter still not having a firm handle on the "Trans-dimensional wormhole-warping anomaly", it had been mutually decided that two VIP rooms would be assigned to them for the night.

They accepted with the proviso that they share a room. Jack wanted to keep an eye on Daniel. His friend was still emotionally vulnerable since his meeting with the other Daniel, Sha'uri, and their children. Hell, he was still taken aback from meeting his alternate self with his new wife and son. Well, as Daniel had said, at least they hadn't screwed up their lives everywhere.

The room they were escorted to was the very familiar surrounding that he knew so well. Same fake wooden paneling, color scheme, furniture, and posturepedic mattress on the double bed. They'd had worse. So they had a guard at the door? So what? He'd have done the same thing. Any Jack O'Neill was bound to be suspicious in other universes, paranoid in others, and he knew damn well that in some universes he was probably downright obsessed in the worst possible way.

At least here they had a modicum of comfort and hot running water. "You want the first shower, Daniel?

The younger man was over by the other side of the bed, opening his pack. "Do you mind?"

"No, go ahead, I'll see if they do room service here or not. You want anything special to eat?"

"You pick it, Jack. I'm going to go stand under hot water for two hours."

"No, you only get one hour. I get the second one."

Daniel flashed him a grin. He headed for the bathroom in only his BDU pants having stripped off the rest of his soiled uniform and left it on the floor. He closed the door behind him and Jack could hear the water running.

There was a knock on the door and when he answered it, Jack found himself looking at the other O'Neill. "Everything okay?"

Jack stepped back to allow him entrance. "Everything's fine." He assured the Colonel. "Does your Commissary do room service?"

"No, not really, but I can take care of that for you. Anything special?"

"Anything but meatloaf for me, and just about anything for Daniel." He glanced back at O'Neill. "Though you could probably pick it for us and know what we like."

The other man ran his hand through his short salt and pepper hair. "Yeah, that's true enough." He went to the small desk and picked up the telephone receiver dialing a number. After a few seconds, someone picked up and he ordered the two meals and a carafe of coffee.

Completing the phone call, O'Neill went over and sat down at the small dinette set that served as desk and sitting area. "I see you opted for the same room."

"Yeah, I figure we're due for some screaming nightmares tonight, and I wanted to be close." Jack sat down on the edge of the double bed and unconsciously copied the hand to hair motions of his counterpart. "We had a rather trying experience in the previous mirror universe that we wound up in."

"Oh?" O'Neill looked curious.

"Yeah, it seems that in that mirror universe, Daniel stayed behind permanently and I, well, Jack went back initially, signed the divorce decree, and came back. When the military withdrew he stayed behind and married Kasuf's niece. Daniel and Sha'uri had two kids and a third on the way. Jack had a two-year-old boy and his wife is pregnant again too. Skaara was off courting a second niece." He shrugged. "It was kinda shocking for both of us. Then that Daniel started off on a tangent about having a boring life. This Daniel went off on him big time, I thought he was gonna deck him. But Daniel being Daniel, no matter where you find him, finally worked it all out." Jack smiled and shook his head in amazement.

"Yeah, my Danny never forgave himself for not bringing Sha'uri and Skaara with us when we went to the cartouche room." O'Neill said softly. "He always thought that he could have saved her that way."

"I know, I've heard that too, but I'm not sure what the other repercussions would have been." Jack paused thoughtfully.

"So, how did it end?" O'Neill prompted.

"Well, that Daniel is a sort of civil judge or vizier. When Kasuf's gone he sort of runs the civil system. He basically gave my Daniel a speech about what would have happened if he had been there. Then he basically sentenced him to a life of learning and helping others to fight the Goa'uld." Jack nodded. "I'm supposed to be the guardian type."

The door from the bathroom opened and a warm, wet, flushed Daniel entered the room with nothing but a towel wrapped around his slim waist. "Boy, I feel like a new man, Jack."

The two men watched him. O'Neill looked over the younger man and his breath caught in his throat. Jack noted the sound as he looked fondly at his friend. "You certainly smell like one." Daniel grinned back at him and crossed to his side of the bed where his clean clothes were laying. Unconscious of the effect he was having on O'Neill, he dropped the towel and pulled on a clean pair of boxers and BDU trousers.

Jack watched O'Neill watch Daniel. There was a look of long suffering starvation in the other man's eyes. Finally, O'Neill tore his eyes away from Daniel only to be met by Jack's suspicious ones. O'Neill shook his head at Jack's concern. "Don't worry, I would never hurt him." He said softly.

"I didn't think you would." Jack assured him, sotto voce.

Daniel slipped his tee shirt on over his head. "So what's for dinner, Jack?"

"Turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, mixed veggies, pie, and lots of coffee." O'Neill answered in forced joviality. The perfect Thanksgiving meal."

Daniel looked at him in surprise. "Is it Thanksgiving?"

"No, they just do that about once a month, and today happens to be it."

"Lucky us." Jack laughed. "Maybe this is a foreshadowing for the trans-dimension-what-do-ya-call-it."

"Our luck has to change, Jack." Daniel looked at his friend. "Our Sam and Teal'c are probably going crazy by now."

A knock on their room's exterior door signaled the arrival of their meal. O'Neill rose and excused himself. Jack went with him to the door and as he let the Airman in with the tray, he stepped outside with O'Neill.

The other man turned to face Jack. "Look, I know what you're thinking..."

"No, I don't think you do." Jack replied. "But tell me anyway. What was that all about in there?"

"Look, my Danny died in front of me, well was dying. Oma," he paused, but Jack nodded for him to continue. "She came and offered him ascension. He really didn't have a choice, but...well, Danny and I were in a relationship." O'Neill watched the other man's eyes for a sign of some reaction. When he didn't get one he continued. "We were...lovers. I watched the best part of me leave that day. Now, he's back, but he's not him...not mine. He's yours. Take my advice, Colonel. Don't let that happen to your Daniel."

"But you said he comes back?"

"He's only come to me once, I was a prisoner of a Gould, and being tortured for stuff I didn't even know. Danny came and he stayed with me, till I was rescued." O'Neill closed his eyes. "Then Teal'c was dying, and he said Danny came to him also...to encourage him until he could be found." He looked up at Jack's sympathetic expression. "I miss him so much. It's just hard on me."

Jack nodded. "I can imagine."

"No, I don't think you can." The other man replied. "You're not a couple are you, I mean, you two are just what, best friends?"

"Yeah, I guess you could call it that. Maybe more sometimes, maybe less other times." Jack replied.

"Don't be afraid of it, Jack."

"I don't know what to say to you. I certainly can't promise that, I don't know how he feels about it or me...but you know...."

"Yeah, Jack I know." Both of them were getting uncomfortable with the subject and knew that nothing else could be said. "Look, go on back in there, have a nice dinner, a hot shower, and a good sleep. Things will look different in the morning."

"Thanks Jack, see ya in the morning."

That night, as Jack had suspected, was a rough one for both of them. He was sure Daniel had not slept since they had started their trip through the multiple Stargates. They had eaten a good meal, watched a little television then hit the bed hard. Jack was so tired that he really had hoped that he wouldn't have bad dreams also to compound the problem. But it wasn't to be.

Jack's dream involved his exploring a stone temple of some sort, finding a sarcophagus... Egyptian not Gould...He called for Daniel to come and translate the glyphs for him but couldn't locate the archaeologist. When he finally opened the gold case Jack found a blood-covered mummy who looked at him with Daniel's blue eyes. Then the Danny mummy started to scream.

Jack woke up to the sound to discover that it was his Daniel, wrapped in his own nightmare and fighting to awaken. The younger man was wrestling with the sheets and calling out in a polyglot of languages.

Jack grasped him by the arms, then finally enveloped him in a bear hug in a gesture of both comfort and self-protection. He held Daniel firmly, murmuring meaningless words into his hair and rocking the younger man until he finally woke up.

Daniel leaned into him, not fighting the gesture of solace and they stayed that way for some time. Finally, the younger man indicated that he wanted to be released and the pulled apart somewhat reluctantly.

Jack watched his friend as he rebuilt himself from the frightened boy child into the man capable of staring down systems lords. Then he turned to look at O'Neill.

Daniel shuddered and looked over at Jack. "What was yours about?"

"My what?"

"Your nightmare. I know you had one too."

Jack looked at him with curiosity. "How did you know that?"

"The way you were holding me. Like you were scared of something...happening."

"I guess it was when we talked out in the hall. He told me how...his Danny died."

Daniel nodded. "They were lovers, weren't they?"

"Yeah, how did you know?"

Daniel looked at him from under lowered eyelashes. "The way he was looking at me...and, well, Daniel told me."

"In your dream?" Jack asked him.

"Yes, but it was more a vision than a dream." The younger man spoke with conviction. "I was asleep, but not asleep. I could see us lying here in the bed, and that you were having a nightmare. I could tell from your face you were scared. I watched you for a while, but I couldn't move to wake you. Then I saw him, standing next to me, and he spoke to me."

"What did he look like?" Jack asked, half-afraid of the answer.

"He looked like me, he was wearing a cream colored sweater and pants. He kind of had a glow around him, but he looked like me." He glanced at Jack curiously. "Why, what do you think he would look like?"

Jack had a memory of the mummy with the bloody bandages and the terrible pain filled blue eyes. "I just didn't know, if he had stayed the same, or if he was scarred." Then he prompted Daniel again. "What did he say?"

"He said not to be afraid of myself. Then he asked me to tell you that it was all right. Then, he told me to give his Jack a message."

"What's the message?"

"The message is for him, Jack." the younger man replied. "Not you."

Somehow, that hurt his feelings. "Okay, so you're supposed to tell me that it's all right. What's all right?"

"I don't know, Jack." He looked at his friend. "I guess I thought that you'd know." Daniel looked at him as though he was an inscription to be read and understood, but he wasn't sure of the language yet. "But you don't do you?"

"No, Daniel. I don't." O'Neill looked at him curiously. "If that was your dream, why were you so scared? I mean that wasn't so bad, seeing yourself, was it?"

Daniel looked down at his hands, away from his friend. "I don't know, it was just terrifying; he showed me his death and his loneliness. He and his Jack had a falling out shortly before then, and well, Jack didn't react well." He shook his head. "It was a very painful, terrible death."

Jack closed his eyes and sighed. "No wonder Jack feels so...lost. He told me he'd lost the best part of himself, and radiation poisoning is a very bad way to die."

Daniel looked at him, "What was your dream?"

"I was feeding off this Jack's emotions I guess, I saw a blood covered mummy in a tomb, and he had your eyes." He replied softly, "and he, well, you...were screaming."

"Oh," there was nothing Daniel could say to that. Jack's brown eyes seemed only tragic pools of darkness that he could fall into. He reached for his friend and laid a hand on his shoulder. "I'm here, Jack. It wasn't me."

"I know. I can just imagine...being with someone, then watching that happen...again." He sighed and lay back down on the bed and staring at the ceiling. "He's stronger than I am. I don't think I could, or would even want to survive that again."

Daniel lay down next to him on his side, watching his Jack. "That's the message to his Jack, that his Daniel hasn't really left him. He comes around, keeps an eye on them, and helps when he can." He shrugged. "I don't think he's very happy. I think he's trying to find a way to come back, he just hasn't yet."

Jack turned to look at him without saying a word. Daniel moved closer to his best friend, laid his head on Jack's shoulder and slipped an arm around his waist. "He will, though, I know he will."

"How do you know?" Jack asked softly.

"I would."

*******

The next morning Sam Carter came to collect Jack and Daniel for breakfast. She smiled at them both and managed to link arms with Daniel as they went down the hallways, escorting them to her office work area. "You know Jonas, Teal'c, and I spent several hours yesterday brainstorming. It just doesn't make sense for it to keep happening to you over and over. If it was a glitch in the system, it should be a one time only occurrence."

"Sam," Daniel said hesitantly, "this is way out of my field of expertise, but last night I had a thought." He stopped to form a cohesive explanation. "You're looking for a problem with the Stargate, right? Something wrong with it?"

"Yes, so?" She looked at him with interest. Sam knew Daniel's mind worked very differently than hers, and she always welcomed his input.

"Well, what if it's not broken? What if it's supposed to do what it's been doing all along...but we just didn't know that it did it?"

"But we've never heard of it doing that." She replied with a frown.

"Yes, but...we really don't know what it can do." He shrugged. "They were built by the Ancients after all."

As they arrived at her office door, the rest of SG-1 joined them. O'Neill and Teal'c were both carrying take out boxes from the commissary with their morning meal.

O'Neill flashed them all a quick smile, and Teal'c extended a warm look at the two familiar strangers. The fourth member, a man slightly smaller and younger than either O'Neill or Teal'c, smiled and nodded nervously, his hands full of books.

Sam unlocked her office door and the group settled around one end of her worktable to eat their breakfast and compare notes on any new ideas they had. A small compact piece of machinery was sitting in the middle of the table.

Jack looked at it curiously. "What's that?"

Sam looked uncomfortable. "That's a prototype of a naquadria generator I've been working on."

"Naquadria? Isn't that the stuff...?" He looked at O'Neill who nodded stiffly.

"Yes, it is." He indicated the fourth SG-1 member. "Jonas brought it when he came over from Kelowna."

"It's very powerful, but unstable." Sam put in.

"So I hear." Jack commented dryly, looking at Daniel who was studying it curiously.

"Well, uh...on our way down, Daniel had an idea that I thought was interesting." Sam started.

"What was your idea, Danieljackson?" Teal'c asked.

"Well, we know the Stargate can go from planet to planet with the seven symbols, six for an address and one for the point of origin." Daniel gesticulated with his hands in the air. "And we also know that by adding more power and three or more symbols the wormhole's range can be extended." He paused and looked around at his audience.

"Like the time the Colonel had absorbed the knowledge of the Ancients..." Sam added beginning to grasp his theory.

He nodded at her, excitement shining in his eyes. "What if, and it's only an if, the Stargate can penetrate not only the space continuum but a quantum continuum as well."

Jonas finally spoke, "Like the Quantum Mirror?" He frowned, "But Doctor Jackson; we've never had any indication that that's possible."

"But we don't know that it can't either." Daniel continued, professorially. "What if, with enough power and the proper co-ordinates, you could skip from universe to universe?"

"I have never heard of this possibility," Teal'c shook his head. "None of the System Lords had this capability."

Daniel nodded, "I'm not surprised, but have you ever heard of a System Lord, or anyone for that matter, disappearing in the wormhole and never returning?"

Teal'c frowned. "I have heard of such stories, but I do not know of any in my lifetime."

The archaeologist kept going. "But there are stories?"

"Yes, once during a battle, the Stargate was struck by a ship's cannon blast. It disrupted the wormhole and over fifty Jaffa were no longer. But we believed they were killed or at least not reintegrated on the other planet."

Sam Carter had that look about her, the look that a terrier gives a bone that she's just seen the knuckle joint of and knows the rest is up there hidden. "Daniel, have you ever seen any indications or writings that would give you this idea? Some place we can research it?"

"Well, no, actually I haven't." He admitted. "But it seems so reasonable."

"What about the Quantum Mirror?" Jack asked, surprising everyone. "Where's it at here?"

O'Neill looked at him oddly. "It's at Nellis Air Force Base, Area 51. But it would be like pulling eyeteeth to get to it. We'd have to start with Hammond and just go up."

Jack shrugged, then looked at the rest of the group. "But would it be worth the effort?"

This time it was Daniel who shook his head. "I don't know, Jack. The problem is how do we recognize our own Earth. We never did figure out how to operate its controls. We could wind up in that other SGC if it even exists anymore. We could wind up in a collapsed mountain or a destroyed earth, or anywhere."

The discussion continued for several hours, until both Jack O'Neills were close to permanent brain damage, Daniel and Jonas were hip deep in the other Daniel's field journals and Carter and Teal'c were actually arguing with each other. Finally, O'Neill called a halt to the proceedings. "Look we're not doing much good here any more . Let's take a break, a lunch and a nap and come back to these discussions this evening. Much more of this and I'll go through the damned Quantum Mirror myself."

Jack nodded. "All we're doing is beating each other up now. I don't know about everyone else but a meal and a nap sounds good." He looked at his Daniel, "Doesn't it?"

Daniel rolled his eyes and shook his head..."Jaaack."

"Daaaniel, enough." He then glanced from him to O'Neill. "Besides, don't you need to do something here?"

"Oh, oh, okay." Finally, he got it. "Yes, I suppose I do at that." He glanced over at Jonas Quinn. "Maybe, we can get together in my, uh your office to try to find some reference materials that..."

"No!" O'Neill said adamantly. "I don't think that would be a good idea." He must have realized what that had sounded like, but he kept on stubbornly. "Maybe you could just bring some books and stuff with you when you come back."

Jonas looked as if his Colonel O'Neill had just struck him, but he recovered quickly and nodded. "Sure, I can do that." He agreed. "That way Teal'c and Sam can help us look." The young man got up quickly from the table. "I'll just go look and see what I can find."

"Okay, Jonas." Carter said quickly. "I'll come by and get you later." She glanced back at O'Neill with a cold look. He returned it unflinchingly. "I guess I'll go with Jonas and get some lunch."

"O'Neill does not like Jonasquinn." Teal'c said carefully.

"It's just, well the last time I left Daniel alone with Jonas.... Well, I'm not going to do that again." O'Neill looked at him. Teal'c bowed his head slightly and left the room.

Jack and Daniel sat quietly, waiting for O'Neill to say something. Finally the Colonel looked up at them. "He was with Danny. The grand experiment went FUBAR, and my Daniel shut it down... and died because of it. No, I don't blame him for my...Daniel's death, but I don't want them alone together either.

"Jack," Daniel started. "Jack, you keep referring to your Daniel as dead, but he's not dead. He's in an ascended state. He's still here, or at least he comes back when he can."

The Colonel looked up sharply at the younger man. "How do you know?"

"I have something to tell you, what Jack was talking about." He glanced at his O'Neill then back to the other. "Last night, I had a dream, a vision. I saw your Daniel."

"What? What do you mean you saw my Danny?" O'Neill demanded. "Where...?"

"He came to me last night when I was asleep. He was very adamant that I give you this information." Daniel glanced at his Jack who nodded. "Jack, he...well, he's here. He sort of comes and goes. I know he's concerned about you, and he wanted me to tell you not to give up. He misses you, and I think he's trying to find a way back so that he can return intact to you...."

"What did he look like?" O'Neill interrupted. "I mean what was he wearing?"

Jack looked at him in surprise. "Why?"

O'Neill was looking at them both rather desperately. "Because, well, sometimes I think I see him...you know like out of the corner of my eye, or I'll feel a breeze where there can't be one. Like he's a ghost or something." He glanced down then sat still with closed eyes as if trying to remember something. "Just...can you describe him?"

Daniel nodded. "He looks just like me, except his hair maybe a bit longer, and he doesn't wear glasses anymore. His clothes were a kind of creamy white in color, a sweater with a v-neck, and his pants are the same shade." Daniel leaned over and placed his hand on O'Neill's. " And there's this nimbus of light, kind of a glow, but he's not dead...Jack, you have to believe me! He's not gone; he's still here, watching you. I think he kind of sneaks away because he has to go back quickly sometimes."

"Can he come back, ever?" O'Neill asked with a look of longing on his face.

"I don't know, Jack. I think he has to spend some time there, in his ascended state, to learn some things before he can make that kind of decision."

Jack looked at Daniel questioningly. Daniel shook his head. He'd have to answer his questions later. Right now he needed the support of his friend, needed his Jack to be here with him. He looked back at O'Neill. "You shouldn't blame Jonas." Daniel said out loud.

"I don't." O'Neill replied softly. "Not really." He raised his head and looked into Daniel's eyes. "I know it was my fault...I left him behind that day."

"No Jack. You didn't leave him...he left you. He left you to save a world with his sacrifice." Daniel said firmly. "Your Daniel chose to do what he did, because if he hadn't, millions of people would have died..."

O'Neill looked up angrily. "I don't care! Why did it have to be him? Why COULDN'T it have been Jonas...or one of their scientists? Anybody but Daniel! Why couldn't it have been me?" The older man looked at him with naked anguish in his eyes.

Daniel could only shake his head. "Jack, he didn't choose what happened to him. He didn't want to leave you, but...well, he showed me what went on...what you couldn't know. The...the bomb was malfunctioning. The scientists were either too close and already dead or dying, or they were running away." He looked up at his Jack, who was sitting there staring at him, listening with rapt horror.

"Jonas isn't a scientist. He didn't know what to do, how to do what needed to be done. Daniel knew because he'd been with you and Sam for years. He had the knowledge that Jonas didn't. He also knew that if he didn't deactivate the bomb that you all would die. If that bomb had gone off, half the continent would have been affected. It was more than the lab, or that city that would have died. Sam, Teal'c, and you would have died too. And he would have died anyway. This way, Daniel was affected, but you, you who he loved, lived. He didn't sacrifice himself for Kelowna, Jack...he sacrificed himself for you and his team." Daniel put his hands flat down on the table. "Maybe, he hoped that he could be saved, that there could be a miracle, but he knew it was only a hope. He didn't want to die and leave you...but that was better than you all dying too."

O'Neill sat and just stared at the worktable's top. He remembered this was where his Daniel had sat, written, argued, laughed and even cried a little. He knew that this was where his Daniel had gained his knowledge of the skills of a physicist, the honor of a warrior, and the duty of a soldier. Where he learned to defuse a deadly bomb and where he had learned when and why to die for the people he loved. He had always known how.

As he watched the other Jack absorb what he had said, Daniel felt a presence beside him. He looked up to see the other Daniel standing there watching his O'Neill. At first he thought he was reliving his nighttime vision, that he was the only one who could see the other Daniel. The other man was wearing the same clothing as in his dream and still exuding a glowing aura. But, he saw that his Jack, sitting across the table from him, was looking at the other Daniel too. Then he realized that the other O'Neill had also seen the other Daniel. The Colonel was still sitting at the table, unable to move. O'Neill could only sit and stare disbelievingly at his Daniel.

O'Neill finally rose and came to his side of the table, still unspeaking, to gaze incredulously at the younger man standing quietly in front of him.

Daniel got up and moved silently to his Jack's side. They looked at each other, understanding at least part of what their counterparts must be feeling.

Finally Jack spoke to the other Colonel. "Look, uh, Jack. I know you're gonna need some time to process all this...I know that I would. Danny and I..."

But, as he started to rise from the table, Daniel saw him stagger a little, and an odd expression of dismay crossed his friend's face.

Jack could feel something happening to him...that something was beginning to affect him. It was starting internally, like an electrical impulse, but it was inside out. He felt like he was shaking, that his very bones were vibrating and as hard as he tried, he couldn't keep his balance or his footing. Jack vaguely felt himself fall against the table and then into Daniel's arms. He could hear his Daniel calling his name, and he felt the pain as he went down to the concrete floor. Then a sheet of white fire seemed to fill his being and he felt himself screaming.

*******

When Jack regained consciousness, he was laying on the floor with a very worried Daniel kneeling next to him and the other O'Neill peering down at him. Carter, Teal'c, and Jonas were also back in the room. As the buzzing in his ears died down, he could hear the other Daniel explaining that they had to leave...and very soon. He tried to move but only succeeded in making the world go away again, dissolving back into the incandescent flames in his head. Daniel was calling to him, but he couldn't answer.

During his next foray into consciousness, he found himself laying on something softer and there was the feeling of a damp cloth being gently stroked across his forehead and face. Now, it was his Daniel's voice that spoke the all-important phrase. "We have to go...now! Don't you understand what's happening to him? We're out of time!"

They had known that this was coming to them sooner or later. They just hadn't been sure when. Now, they knew it was here.

"Jack? Are you awake?" His Daniel's voice spoke again close to his ear. "Don't try to move this time, just lie quietly for a while."

"Danny." He managed a soft whisper.

"I'm here, Jack. Just lie still." The damp, cool washcloth wiped his face.

"Wha appen'd" His tongue felt thick, and he had trouble pronouncing his words.

"Entropic cascade failure." The other gentle Danny voice replied. "We've got to get you two out of here, and soon."

"Cowwylobbles?"

"Yes, Jack, collywobbles." He couldn't tell which one had said that. Didn't matter, whichever one it was, he was right.

"Shit, Danny, hurt's l'ke hell." He lay back and closed his eyes again.

His Daniel nodded sympathetically. "Looked like it did, too." He turned to O'Neill and his team. "We're out of time. You have got to let us go back through the Stargate."

"But what if you don't make it back to your own universe? Won't they start again?" He could hear Carter's voice.

"I don't know, Sam, probably, but we can't stay here any longer," Daniel sounded adamant. "He's had two attacks in an hour. They'll only get closer together and much worse. I don't think he can survive many more of them." That's the damned truth, that shit hurt.

"But, Doctor Jackson, we don't know how to send you back to your own universe yet." I'd call him obvious Jonas it he were mine. Then I would kill him.

"Daniel, have you had any episodes?" A curious Carter? How nice.

"No, but I haven't been exposed to my counterpart here for as long. In fact, we're not even sure that he will affect me because of his ascended state." Well, at least there's that. I may die here, but Daniel will be all right.

"But you do not know that, Danieljackson. The effects may just be delayed." And in that corner we have positive Teal'c! Thanks for THAT thought, big guy.

"Look, it doesn't matter whether I'm affected or not...Jack is. So, we've got to leave...and as soon as possible."

"But, Danny,"

"But, Doctor Jackson,"

"But, Daniel,"

"But, Danieljackson,"

"No! No buts! I am not your Daniel Jackson, I don't belong here. I belong with him, we belong together, just like your Daniel and you all belong together." Jack felt a warm hand grasp his as it lay on his chest. "And we have to go back together...and now!"

"But where?" Colonel O'Neill's voice cracked as he spoke. "Where will you go?"

"They must go home, where they belong." It was the other Daniel speaking. Jack could tell by the choice of pronouns. He knew he had to risk opening his eyes, even if it did bring on another attack. He had to know what was happening.

Standing next to his Daniel was...the other Daniel. He was still glowing with that soft luminosity; the aura seemed to radiate from him, bathing his Daniel and the other O'Neill in its soft light. The Colonel seemed transfixed by the visualization.

The ghostlike Daniel bent down and asked him gently. "Jack, how are you?"

"I'm okay. Dizzy.""

"I know, I'll get you out of here. You need to go home."

Jack closed his eyes in acknowledgement.

Glowing Daniel got back up and looked at his Jack. "How are you doing, Jack?"

The other Colonel couldn't take his eyes from him. "I'm fine, I guess. I...I miss you, Danny."

"I know, Jack, I'm sorry." He looked sadly at the older man. "I miss you too." Daniel looked at Daniel where he sat on the floor next to Jack. "How bad is it getting?" He asked gently.

"He's bad, Daniel. We really need to go before it happens again." The solid Daniel looked up at his doppelganger. "Can you help us?"

"Actually, I can." Daniel smiled at his counterpart. "You aren't supposed to be here, Oma sent me to send you back home. The Stargate was being subjected to an electromagnetic flux outside its wormhole domain field. It disturbed its cohesiveness. That's why you are here."

"Is that a natural function of the Stargate, Daniel? Or did something happen to cause a problem in its operation?" Sam Carter asked earnestly.

He turned and smiled at his teammate. "Actually, Sam, I haven't a clue." He shrugged. "Oma sent me to repair the breach in the Tran universal continuum...to do that I have to send these two back. I can only do what I'm told, how I'm told. I don't understand how it works." He looked at his Jack O'Neill, his eyes warm, "I can't stay long, because I have to become corporeal for a short time. And I'm not strong enough to do that for a long period yet."

O'Neill took a step closer to him, seemingly holding his breath. The halo effect that had enveloped his Daniel diminished then finally ceased. O'Neill took a final step and reached out to touch his Daniel. His hand contacted firm, warm flesh, and his Danny stepped into his arms.

Daniel looked up from where sat with his Jack still lying on the floor, this friend's head in his lap. He then slipped his hands under Jack's arms and shoulders to help him stand up. When his Jack had regained his feet, Daniel pulled his friend's arm across his own shoulders to support him. Jack moaned in pain as he moved, leaning heavily on the younger man. "Jack?"

"Oh, gughh. I think I'm gonna be sick...or pass out..." He could barely stand, much less walk to the gateroom.

Daniel wrapped his arms around Jack's waist in support. "Just a bit longer. Then, I think, we'll go home."

Jack holding on desperately to his Daniel, trying to hold his own weight. "Good," he managed to gasp, "I really am getting tired of this."

Carter was immediately on Jack's left side. "Colonel O'Neill, can I get you something? Should I call Janet?"

"Home, Carter... just get...home."

O'Neill, understanding the need for haste, was on the phone to the Gateroom. Danny was next to Daniel. "Come on, he is running out of time, as will you now that I'm here physically. The time you've spent away from your Earth is cumulative, so your safety margin is short.

As O'Neill got off the phone, he came back to stand close to his Danny. The intercom system came to life and General Hammond's voice was heard ordering personnel out of the hallways. Teal'c approached Jack and scooped him up in his arms like a child. "This way will be quicker, O'Neill." The Jaffa said. Jack didn't even protest.

*******

Finally, they were in the Gateroom. All unnecessary personnel had been evacuated from the large room, leaving only the few people that needed to be there. This was comprised of only a few SFs and SG-1.

Teal'c had put Jack down and he leaned gratefully back into his Daniel's arms. "Thanks, T. I couldn't..."

"Do not mention it, O'Neill." The big man assured him as he kept a hand on Jack's shoulder. "Only be prudent and return to your home safely."

"We'll do our best, Teal'c." His Daniel promised as the big man backed away, leaving them to stand alone.

Sam and Jonas were on the observation deck starting the Chevron activation cycle; Daniel and O'Neill were standing close to the power juncture from the mountain's generator to the Stargate itself. The couple seemed to be discussing something about the workings of the gate. Then, Daniel nodded to Teal'c, and the warrior left the two men standing at the foot of the ramp. As countdown began, the other Daniel seemed to be doing something with the power source. Then, as the seventh chevron thunked into place, the dialing continued on as an eighth, ninth, and then finally a tenth symbol was activated. The resultant kawoosh sound reverberated throughout the entire Gateroom, indicating a much greater than normal power utilization.

Daniel looked at the two men as they came around to the ramp. Their two counterparts were walking close beside each other; hands were touching though not intertwined. If they brushed against each other it was not a wholly unconscious act.

Daniel approached the two travelers with a small, sad smile. "I'm sorry for your inconvenience... but not the opportunity." He glanced at his O'Neill.

Daniel nodded, "I know, and thank you for the lessons."

The other man looked at him curiously. "I don't understand."

"I left some notes in a journal in the guest quarters. When you get a chance, you should both read it. They're about our universe and the other two I've seen."

The Colonel nodded; he looked critically at Jack as he struggled to stand with his Daniel's support. "I think you two need to leave now."

Daniel looked with concern at the man in his arms, then back at the other O'Neill. "Thank you for your help."

"No, problem." O'Neill said bruskly. "Just helping ourselves too, ya know."

Jack nodded weakly at them. "Thank you and...don't give up hope." He remarked to both men.

"And you two, take care of each other."

"We will," Daniel assured him. "Believe me, we will."

Then, the two visitors turned and walked slowly up the ramp into the radiance of the wormhole. They turned back for a brief moment. Daniel gave a quick wave and the two of them stepped into the watery looking luminescence.

O'Neill turned to face his Danny. "How long do we have?"

"Now?" Daniel tilted his head. "Not long now, but soon we'll have a lifetime."

"Come on then," O'Neill took his arm and led him away from the other personnel in the Gateroom towards his office on the floor above. "We can't waste what time we have."

*******

In another universe, a tenth chevron was being activated. Security Forces double timed it into the Gateroom armed with m-16s and armor piercing bullets. Major General George Hammond strode out to the observation area outside his office briefing room. Major Samantha Carter and Teal'c were right behind him.

Master Sergeant Walter Davis had been monitoring the aberration in the dialing sequence and had closed the iris as per SOP. He glanced up at his commanding officer. "It's SG-1's code, Sir with two incoming travelers."

Hammond looked down at the computer technician and gave the order. "Well, open the iris."

A brief heart beat later, two figures emerged from the wormhole. One was practically carrying the other down the ramp. As soon as he saw them, Hammond relaxed, recognizing the familiar shape of this second in command and their premier civilian consultant.

"Welcome, home men...and where the hell have you two been!"

*******

Jack O'Neill and temporarily solidified Daniel Jackson hurried into the Colonel's Office. O'Neill turned and closed the door firmly, twisting the knob to lock it securely behind him. As he turned to look at his Danny, the younger man wasted no time in slipping into the other's arms.

"Jack...."

There was no verbal answer to the plea, just strong arms and a demanding mouth on his as the two lovers tried to climb inside each other's skin. "Oh, God, Daniel. I never thought...." He managed to get out when the surfaced for air.

"I know, I know love, I know." Daniel tilted his forehead onto Jack's, not willing to separate even for an instant of their stolen time together.

"Are you okay there? Is everything what you wanted?"

"No, it's...it hard to say, but its not everything that I wanted, no. Everything that I want is here, in this room." He kissed his O'Neill chastely on the lips.

"It is for me too," Jack admitted. "Can you ever come back again, I mean permanently?"

"Jack, you know if I can't come back to you, I'll come back for you."

"I know, but I mean..."

"I understand, but you've got to realize that I've a sort of problem." Daniel looked into his eyes. "I'm not capable yet; I don't know enough of what I'm doing. Oma says I'll grow stronger the more I learn...and when I've become experienced in this form I'll have more options.

"Options? What kind of options?" O'Neill rubbed his hands up and down his Danny's shoulders and back.

"You know, more strength and skill to use against the Goa'uld, more abilities to travel through the Universe, more knowledge of what has happened before, the knack staying here longer in solid form.

"You would also be still at her beck and call, answering the whims of the Ascendeds, doing their little jobs for them, and not being able to stay with the SGC...or with me."

Daniel pulled back from him. "You're jealous."

Jack pulled the younger man to him more firmly. "Yeah, and, so, but, then, what's your point?"

"You just want me all to yourself." He said, as he allowed his partner's dominance for a moment.

"Yeahchuryabettcha." Jack tilted Daniel's face up for another kiss. "I love you, I want you to stay, I'm going nutzo here without you."

"You could come with me." Daniel whispered back brushing his lips against his lovers.

"No, I'm not ready to be all glowy yet. I want to be able to do this." Jack slipped one hand behind Daniel's shoulder blades and the other up to caress the back of his skull and snugged himself up against the lithe form he held. "I want to make love to you again, not entwine glowy tentacles with you."

"I hear that it can be very erotic," Daniel breathed into the older man's mouth as they separated for a moment.

"You hear?"

"Jack, you're the only one I want to entwine glowy tentacles with." He replied softly. "You're the only one I want to make love to." He brought his hands together behind O'Neill's ass and cupped him towards his own groin.

"Oh, Danny, how long do we have before you have to leave?"

"I really don't know," Daniel replied breathlessly. "But I'm willing to take the chance if you are."

O'Neill's reply was to grasp the younger man's shoulders and guide him towards the leather couch against his office's far wall. "Taking chances is my business, you know that."

Daniel chuckled at the manhandling. "You know, the other two...they don't have this. They aren't lovers."

"Then that Jack O'Neill is dumber than a box of rocks."

"No, just not quite as fixated."

"Only cause he doesn't know what he's missing."

"I told Daniel not to be afraid and to tell his Jack it was all right, but I don't think Jack knew what he meant." He looked up at his Jack who was pulling a cream colored sweater up from soft skin. "Daniel knew what I meant, Jack just hasn't figured it out yet."

"He knows." Jack replied. "He just hasn't realized it yet." He started to graze down the bare torso that now lay under his hands.

"I hope he hurries up." Daniel arched into the talented mouth and skilled hands of his lover. "Oh, Jack, love."

"Yes?"

"Hurry up!"

fin