Mundus Vult Decipi

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Title: Mundus Vult Decipi
Category: AU, Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, some Hurt/Comfort
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Colonel Jackson and Doctor O'Neill use the Quantum Mirror to find a human linguist fluent in Goa'uld. He's not quite what they were expecting.
Author's Note: Inspired solely by the three words of the title, perhaps proof positive that I shouldn't be left to my own devices for too long at dolls' house fairs ;) - I wrote most of the prologue at Kent earlier this year during a lull or three in people coming by our stand.


"...And in a related incident, Captain Harmen Aldwin was today killed during an off-world mission. The fatality was believed to have been an accident, and only a minimal investigation is expected to be carried out. SGA spokesman Paul Davis earlier made this statement..."

"Bastards," Daniel muttered, reaching over for the remote control and switching the small television set off. He scowled into the now darkened office. For good measure he grunted a couple of times, then got up out of his chair and left the room. He strode through the concrete corridors of the SGA; at this time of evening nobody was around, or maybe they were just avoiding him, keeping well out of his way. Either way, Daniel didn't stop to think for too long about it. Within a matter of minutes he'd reached his destination, namely Hammond's office. Put his hand on the handle, and was about to pull it down to open the door when...

It opened. And Daniel found himself face to face with not one, but two military officers. The first looked him up and down.

"Jackson," he said, courteously enough.

"Samuels," Daniel nodded back. Then, to the officer behind the colonel, "General."

"Daniel," Hammond smiled. "Come on in, the colonel was just leaving."

Daniel nodded and stepped around Hammond and Samuels. A second later the general joined him back inside the office and shut the door behind them. He walked around to his chair, and motioned for Daniel to take the other one. Daniel stood by it, but didn't sit.

"Is there something you wanted to discuss, son?" Hammond asked him.

It took Daniel more than a second to restrain himself from an irrationally angry response. Instead he took a deep breath and with calm, evenly measured breaths, said, "I was under the impression that there was a seventy-two hour bereavement period before deaths were announced to the media."

Hammond looked troubled. "You caught the news as well, then?"

"Yes!" Daniel all but exploded. "What the hell happened?"

"We're still trying to work that one out," Hammond replied. "And rest assured, Major Davis has done all he can to smooth over the leak."

"So it's a leak now?" Daniel asked sarcastically.

"It's looking that way." Hammond sounded saddened, and Daniel couldn't help but agree with him; the day-to-day situation at the SGA was tenuous enough already without a possible leak to add to the mix.

Daniel finally sat down, followed a second later by Hammond on the other side of the desk. The charge that had been in the room during the verbal exchange had all but dissipated now, leaving just two emotionally exhausted men.

"Any idea about who could do something like this?" Daniel asked after a while.

Hammond sighed. "More than a few ideas, but it's just speculation at the moment. All we can do at the moment is sit tight and hope whoever's doing this will catch themselves out sooner rather than later."

There was no point in arguing at the moment; it was nothing more than speculation. But after a few more moments of near melancholic silence, Daniel again spoke up. "Captain Aldwin was a good man," he said, the words coming out perhaps more forcefully than he had intended. "One of the best. He deserves more than this!"

"I know," Hammond replied quietly.

Daniel continued, really beginning to let loose now. "His family deserve more than this, for crying out loud! I've met his wife. He's got three children. All without a father now, and I bet they heard about it on the news rather than from one of ours." He stopped again, and took some deep breaths, running a hand through his short hair. "This is becoming seriously screwed up, General."

"I know, Colonel," Hammond replied, with a surprisingly wry smile. "And that's why we're going to fix the leak before it becomes a flood." He stood up, motioning Daniel to do the same. "Come with me. There are a few more developments you missed today while you were off-world."

"That reminds me," Daniel mused, allowing the general to leave the office first, a step and a half behind the senior officer. "I haven't seen the rest of my team since we got back - where are they?"

"Down in one of the laboratories," Hammond replied, half turning his head back to Daniel as they walked through corridors. "Where you would be as well if you hadn't decided to shut yourself off from the world for the last four hours."

Daniel bit back the less than professional reply to that, and instead followed Hammond down to the expanding science department in the bowels of the mountain. Past the glass windowed-doors showing lab coats performing weird experiments with half constructed naquada reactors, and right on to the room at the very end. Hammond knocked on the door before opening it, and inside the room itself Daniel found a rather motley group of people - his motley group of people, to be precise. "John," he nodded, coming over to stand next to the archaeologist. He looked over to the main table. "What have we got here then, Major?"

Meyers looked up, apparently only registering Daniel's presence for the first time. "Sir!" she grinned. "Where'd you come from?" When Daniel simply grinned wryly in return and raised an eyebrow, she got back on topic. "General Hammond, Colonel Jackson," she added with a quick glance back in Daniel's direction, "I think we may well have found the solution to all our problems."

"An unobtrusive yet portable lie detector?" Daniel asked facetiously, garnering a puzzled look from John next to him. He mouthed the word, 'Later', and John nodded in response before they returned their attentions to the lab table. For her part, Meyers was unfazed; instead of looking back at Daniel and John she rested her hands on the table and stared evenly at General Hammond. For the first time Daniel noticed what was on the table, but he couldn't quite remember where he'd seen it before. Although he knew he should recognise it.

"Which problems are we talking about, Major?" Daniel called out, taking half a step closer to the table before going the whole hog and stepping right up to the table, John right behind him.

Meyers looked at him. "The negotiations, sir," she replied, almost breathless with the anticipation of it all. She switched her attention back to Hammond. "General, I really think this could work. I think it has a high possibility of working."

"Slow down, Major," Hammond said easily, smiling slightly as he held up his hands in front of him to reinforce what he had just said. "Take it one bit at a time."

Meyers flushed. "Yessir... You remember what Thor told John, a couple of weeks ago?" she asked, the three men, looking around at each of them in turn. She waited for them all to nod before continuing. "That's what John and I may have the solution for."

Shooting a questioning look at John - which yielded no result whatsoever - Daniel turned his attention back to Meyers. "The negotiations?" he asked, seeking further clarification.

He got it; she nodded fervently.

"Because the fact of the matter is that we have nobody on this planet suitable to fill our corner of the negotiating table," John added, speaking for the first since Daniel had arrived.

"Until now," Meyers finished, grinning. She reached onto the table and picked up the small device that had been sitting in it. "SG-3 found this four weeks ago on a recon mission to the Distarium," she began.

Daniel recognised the name of the planet where they had originally found the Quantum Mirror, and instantly he made the connection. "You're planning on using the Mirror?" he asked, almost incredulously. When Meyers and John both nodded, he turned to face Hammond. "General?" he asked. "Is this seriously going to be considered as an option?"

"Unless you can find a human both fluent and willing enough to face down Cronos and two other System Lords at a negotiating table, Colonel, I think this is the only option we have left."

"Besides," John interjected placidly, staring at the device in Meyers' hand, which Daniel now realised had to be the thing that operated - controlled the Quantum Mirror, "Thor made it pretty clear to me that if we missed out on the talks, then the likelihood of a Goa'uld attack on Earth would become a distinct reality."

"And this is what you've spent this afternoon doing?" Daniel asked John and Meyers. "Just... sifting through alternate realities?"

"You were the one who chose to isolate yourself this afternoon, Colonel," Hammond added, good-naturedly enough.

"That's not quite the term we'd use, sir," Meyers replied, with another smile of her own, "but it works in this context. Now, this..." holding up the device for all to see, "acts like a remote control for the Quantum Mirror. The level of inflexion you use to differentiate between the two points determines how far apart the two realities are, based on their fundamental roots."

"I think that makes sense," Daniel said slowly, mentally trying to wade through Meyers' habit of using a dozen words instead of a couple. "So what does this have to do with finding a representative?" Although he already had a fairly good idea...

Meyers pulled a face. "It was difficult to begin with," she told Daniel earnestly. "Most of the realities we viewed through the Mirror were either Goa'ulded completely or else the Mirror was still back on the Distarium. Until... we found... this reality."

In the brief silence that followed, Daniel wondered just why the hell nobody had thought to actually call him at all that afternoon. Then John spoke up again.

"The alternate reality's Mirror is located in a small laboratory exactly identical to this one," he explained to Daniel, holding his arms out to emphasise the point. "And since Elise and I were not fired upon by either military-issue guns or staff weapons, it's a safe bet to say that that reality is neither Goa'ulded nor unaware of just what the Quantum Mirror can do." He shrugged, almost helplessly. "It's as good a place as any to start. And without anything permanent to work from, there's no way I'll be up to a level suitable for the negotiations this side of the next blue moon."

"We know from John's experience in the other alternate reality that entropic cascade effect would begin to take root within forty-eight hours," Meyers said, picking up the conversation thread from John. "Therefore, General, it would be advisable that we send as few people through the Mirror as possible."

"Like Colonel Jackson and Doctor O'Neill?" Hammond asked her.

She nodded. "Yessir. Using John's experience as a base factor, it's reasonable to hypothesise that John and the colonel are constants in almost every reality we're likely to encounter. Also, the Colonel Jackson that John encountered in the other reality did imply that there were more versions of this combination 'out there', so to speak. Sending the colonel and John through would be better in terms of actually getting something accomplished."

Daniel was caught up on the mention of 'more versions', but before he could say anything on the matter, Hammond was already nodding. The general looked over at Daniel. "Colonel?" he asked. "It's entirely up to you."

And just like that, the fate of the world was left on his shoulders. Before he passed judgement... "So, what exactly are we going to do in this other reality?" he asked nobody in particular. "Trade our Doctor O'Neill in for theirs for the negotiations and hope for the best?"

Again, Hammond simply smiled. "It's entirely up to you, Colonel," he repeated. "Due to the extenuating circumstances and the very fact that there are no conventional options left to take, I'm giving you full jurisdiction in this matter. Do whatever you have to do in order to secure us a speaker for the negotiations."

Because if I don't then Cronos is going to pop over in a mother ship and blow us to smithereens while he wonders what to have for lunch.

Daniel kept that thought to himself, and instead turned slightly to look at John. "Are you sure you're okay with the idea of this?" he asked quietly.

John nodded. "From a purely anthropological point of view it really is difficult for me to say no," he replied equally as quietly. "I don't mind doing this, Daniel."

That last reassurance was all Daniel needed; he turned back to Hammond and, firmly damping all of his own inhibitions about actually going to an altogether different reality, found a smile from somewhere. "When do we leave?"

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

"Mundus vult decipi." (Lat.): The world wants to be deceived.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter One

In the dim lighting of his office, Daniel ran a hand through his hair and sighed. He'd been at this for more than three hours, and he was still nowhere nearer to understanding the pictorial alphabet Major Aldwin's team had found on an uninhabited planet the day before. He knew there was a link with the traditional Kanji variant of the Japanese pictorial alphabet, but damned if he could see what it was.

Nope, it was no good. He sighed again and leaned up and away from the desk, at the same time rubbing his eyes with one hand. Blinked tiredly at the printed photographs and photocopies of mission reports on his desk then got up and left the office, grabbing his mug as he went. Daniel went straight to the main control room, wondering too late why he'd brought the empty cup with him before spotting the small coffee maker Siler kept stashed at the back of the room behind one of the storage cupboards. A man after my own heart.

He quickly refilled the mug, and cupping it in his hands he took a good look around the control room. At the stretch of computers lining the window through to the 'gate room, he could see Harriman and one of the other SG team leaders hunched over what looked like telemetry reports. Sighing, Daniel started to drink the coffee as he ambled to the back of the room and up the stairs to where the briefing room was. Again he had little to no idea of what he was doing, just that he was pretty much wandering aimlessly until he felt as though he could handle another round with the translations.

As he got closer to the briefing room, he could hear voices behind the shut door. Daniel immediately recognised General Hammond's voice, and there were two other male voices as well. One of them belonged to Jack, which struck Daniel as odd as he was pretty sure that Jack had taken Teal'c to the cinema this afternoon, as part of the Jaffa's "cultural education". Inverted commas most definitely intended. The third voice also sounded vaguely familiar, although Daniel couldn't quite place who it was.

He pushed his glasses back up his nose before moving to open the door. He'd just got his hand on the door handle, and was about to turn it when the door opened in front of him, revealing General Hammond.

Daniel jumped, almost losing his grip on the still steaming mug. "General!" he managed, taking half a step backwards. He held up his mug in front of him - as if that would explain what he was doing wandering mostly aimlessly around base in the middle of the day.

But instead of berating him, or anything else that Daniel suspected he would do, the general instead smiled. "Doctor Jackson," he said quietly, "I was just about to send somebody to locate you."

Immediately Daniel's mind started racing. "What? Why? Has something happened?" he asked quickly.

And instead of answering him directly - which would have helped - Hammond instead did his equivalent of pulling a face and motioned to the briefing room. "Perhaps you should step inside," he said cryptically.

Shooting the general a really rather bewildered look, Daniel stepped inside the briefing room. Still staring at Hammond, he saw one of two people sitting at the briefing table stand up, and Daniel turned around to face them.

Coming face to face with himself.

Daniel blinked, taking a step backwards. "Woa," he muttered.

The other Daniel Jackson looked almost affronted, until Daniel realised that his "counterpart" was wearing full Air Force dress blues and was not wearing glasses, and the confusion he'd been feeling before only increased.

Daniel stared at the bottom of the coffee mug for a second before meeting Jackson's eyes again. He then blinked stupidly for a couple of seconds. He stuck his spare hand out. "Doctor Daniel Jackson. It's, um, nice to meet you."

Inwardly he cringed and swore a few times in Abydonian.

Opposite him, Jackson raised an almost curious eyebrow, just about managing to cover up the split second of shock he'd shown on hearing Daniel's introduction. He shook the proffered hand. "Colonel Daniel Jackson, United States Air Force," he replied briskly before quirking the eyebrow again. The next sentence was tinged with a dry humour. "Obviously not this United States Air Force."

Daniel smirked back before turning to Colonel Daniel's companion. And did the stupidly blinking routine all over again. Coming over to stand next to the colonel, and wearing almost exactly the same military-issue BDU's that Daniel himself wore during off-world missions, was a near-perfect replica of Jack O'Neill. Except that this version of Jack had longer than was strictly military-issue grey-brown hair, pulled back into a short ponytail. So... he had to be a civilian then, right?

The man offered his hand as well. "Doctor Jonathan O'Neill," he said quietly, confirming Daniel's suspicions. "John," he added as an afterthought.

Right... Daniel shook John's hand. "Well, this is just a little strange," he said to himself, turning back around to the door. Sure enough, General Hammond was still standing there, having watched the introduction silently, and likely with that small smile still in place throughout. He cocked his head to one side and raised both eyebrows at the general, silently asking the man what he probably wouldn't dare to ask him verbally. Just what the hell is going on around here?

Luckily for him, Hammond seemed to understand, and came over to the briefing table, standing between the two Daniels. He looked at Daniel first, rather than Colonel Daniel. "Colonel Jackson and Doctor O'Neill came through the Quantum Mirror just under three hours ago," he explained calmly. "They've been... debriefing me on their situation."

"Which is...?" Daniel asked, letting the question trail.

Opposite him, Colonel Daniel took up the conversation thread. "Doctor Jackson, may I ask first how many dealings you've had with an Asgard named Thor?" he asked.

Daniel considered it for a second. "Well, we've encountered the Asgard a few times, if that's what you mean," he replied. "As for Thor specifically... um... we've had... a few times where it was specifically him rather than the Asgard generally."

"Good," the colonel replied, obviously relieved with that answer, even with all its vagaries, although it didn't necessarily show on his face. "And a System Lord by the name of Cronos?"

Daniel allowed himself to wonder just where this was all going before replying, "Just the once... negotiations for a peace treaty between the Goa'uld and Earth."

Colonel Daniel exchanged a surprised look with John - obviously they hadn't been expecting that answer.

"So, um, just what is going on here?" Daniel asked, taking what he hoped was a surreptitiously quick sip of the now-cooling coffee.

"A few weeks ago, we were... approached by Thor regarding a section of the System Lords who were apparently willing to negotiate some kind of peace treaty with us," John explained, "although at the moment we don't think it's any more than an attempt to slow the SGA down."

Colonel Daniel quirked a sardonic half smile. "According to Thor, we now pose a threat to them since we killed Apophis in Earth's orbit," he added.

Daniel said nothing. After all, there was every likelihood that in their reality, Apophis really had been killed. But he wasn't going to disabuse them of the notion anyway, just because in this reality, the "god" had survived.

He did, however, nod. "So, stop me if it sounds like a stupid question, but what exactly does this all have to do with the two of you coming through the Mirror?"

"It's not a stupid question," Colonel Daniel told him. "The fact of the matter is that these talks are to be conducted in the language of the people who made the... request for the talks in the first place."

"The Goa'uld?" Daniel asked, seeking further clarification.

Colonel Daniel nodded. "Yes."

John spoke up again. "I've never been able to get a hold of the main dialect of the language," he explained to Daniel. "There's nobody else where we come from who we could trust to represent us, and there's also no way I'll be fluent enough in time for the talks."

"When are the talks?" Daniel asked him.

"Exactly twenty-four hours after we name our representative to Thor," Colonel Daniel replied bluntly.

"And we can't keep putting it off for much longer," John added.

"So that's why you used the Mirror?" Daniel asked, knowing full well he was re-treading ground here, but he still wanted to make sure. "To... find someone to represent you?"

At that, John broke out into a smile and nodded. Next to him, Colonel Daniel did the same, although with him the motion was a lot more subdued.

General Hammond, mostly silent up to this point, looked around at the three men. "I'll call in the rest of SG-1, and we'll try and come to some sort of arrangement," he told Colonel Daniel, who looked grateful at the decision. With that, the general turned back to Doctor Daniel, and said, "Perhaps in the meantime, you could stay with them. I'll get a security detail up here as well, just as a precaution," he added quickly, catching the look on Colonel Daniel's face.

It quickly changed again. "Yes sir," the colonel replied. "I wouldn't expect anything less from our General Hammond."

Hammond nodded back to him, smiling slightly, before leaving Daniel, his counterpart and John to it in the briefing room. Sharing another look, Colonel Daniel and John sat back down at the table, leaving Daniel still standing, and still with the coffee mug in his hand. He took one last look at the tepid liquid before crossing to the far side of the room and refilling the mug from the Thermos. He stood there for a couple of minutes, testing the coffee before swirling more sugar into the mug, and while he had his back to the other two men, he could hear bits of the quiet conversation between them.

"Two civilians, John? Meyers is going to pay for this one."

"She did say almost anything was possible when dealing with this kind of thing."

"No, she said that there were more versions out there, and she said this one would be closer to ours. Not the same thing."

"Look, don't worry about it, Daniel. Wait for their O'Neill to show up, we'll see how things go from there."

Daniel frowned to himself as he tried to decipher what was going on behind him, before finally deciding that he'd probably find out sooner or later, anyway.

Sam was the first person to arrive in the briefing room, confirming the fact that that she'd probably spent the afternoon holed up in her lab in much the same way Daniel had been in his office. And she was a lot better than Daniel had been at covering up her surprise at seeing another Daniel, this time wearing full dress blues, although she did take the time to study Colonel Daniel's stripes before offering her own hand to him. "Colonel."

"Carter," Colonel Daniel replied, just as formally, although his voice was tinged with recognition. "Have you made Major yet?"

"A few months ago, sir," she replied, smiling and not a little flustered.

Colonel Daniel nodded. "Well done," he said sincerely. "We're still waiting for the paperwork to go through before our Carter can get the promotion."

Sam nodded, albeit a little uncertainly, and turned to John, blinking at the fact that he wasn't wearing Air Force uniform, and that neither did he look anything like military. "Call me John," he told her, offering her a hand and a bright smile both at the same time.

Sam nodded and returned a lesser version of the smile before blurting out, "You're a civilian?"

Daniel smiled to himself as it became John's turn to look flustered. "Well, yes," he replied.

Before Sam or either of the Daniels could say or do anything else, the briefing room door opened again and General Hammond came back in, followed closely by both Jack and Teal'c, who were both in civvies. Upon their entrance, both Colonel Daniel and John did visible double takes, and for a split second Colonel Daniel's mouth actually hung open, much to Doctor Daniel's amusement. Colonel Daniel then regained his composure - quite superbly, really - before turning back to Hammond.

"General, permission to get this show on the road?"

Hammond looked amused at the choice of words, but he still nodded. "By all means," he replied, waving a hand towards the briefing table.

At Jack's confused look, Daniel sidled closer to him. "Meet Colonel Jackson and Doctor O'Neill," he said wryly, indicating their counterparts with his mug. "They've got another forty-four hours until entropic cascade sets in."

Colonel Daniel coughed loudly, tacitly drawing attention back to himself. "Please," he enunciated, indicating the table. Slowly Jack moved towards the table and sat down, with Teal'c, Daniel and Sam sitting down from his left. John took the seat directly opposite Jack, while Hammond and Colonel Daniel remained standing at the head of the table.

They exchanged a few whispered words before Hammond took a few steps back from the table. "Colonel," he began.

"Yes?" Jack and Colonel Daniel both said at the same time. The latter stared at the former with something akin to shocked surprise running across his face; the same playing out across John's as well.

Switching his gaze from Colonel Daniel to John and back and forth a few times, Jack simply smiled. "Didn't I get the chance to introduce myself properly?" he asked sarcastically, focus back on Colonel Daniel again. He flashed the other colonel an equally dry smile. "Colonel Jack O'Neill."

"Colonel?" Colonel Daniel repeated, sounding incredulous.

"Jack?" John repeated, sounding sceptical.


Everyone stared at Teal'c, who merely raised an eyebrow back at Jack. It was his version of anybody else's grin, and Daniel just about resisted the urge to snigger into his mug, settling for blinking into the mug instead.

This time it took Colonel Daniel a couple of seconds to fully regain his composure; still staring longways at Jack he turned to face John, who nodded in amusement to something that Daniel couldn't figure out, although he suspected it had something to do with the Meyers person he had heard mention of before Sam and the others had arrived. Contrary to John's blatant amusement over whatever the issue was, Colonel Daniel just looked sorely pissed off, and it was another couple of seconds before he turned back around to face everyone else at the briefing table. "Okay, okay," he began. "Without intending to cause offence, General Hammond, Colonel O'Neill -" with a surprisingly dirty look in Jack's direction, who bristled, "- we were assured by Major Meyers that this reality would not be too dissimilar to our own." He vaguely motioned towards himself and John, and then to Daniel and Jack.

"Uh, Colonel," Sam interjected, staring at Colonel Daniel, "what does the difference between civilian and military have to do with your situation?"

John sighed, looking resigned. "As we explained to Doctor Jackson here before the rest of you arrived, we've got quite a situation building up back in our reality."

Colonel Daniel nodded, and leaned heavily on the briefing table, hands out either side of him, and looked directly at Sam. "Put as simply as possible, if we don't put forward the name of a person fluent in Goa'uld very soon for a few rounds of negotiations, then our Earth becomes toast. Literally."

"And Doctor O'Neill here doesn't speak Goa'uld," Daniel added to a confused-looking Sam.

Jack frowned. "How can you not be able to speak the language?" he asked his counterpart. "I mean, I assume you can read it." He looked over at Daniel, sitting the other side of Teal'c. "Is that even possible?"

Daniel nodded. "In this instance, although they are of course interlinked, the written Goa'uld language operates on an entirely different system to the spoken equivalent. It's possible to know one without the other, although it would make things difficult."

Although the statement hadn't been intended as an insult, John still bristled. "We've gotten along alright so far without the need to speak it," he said archly.

Daniel held up his hands in front of him. "I didn't mean it like that," he replied quickly. "I was actually wondering why you never got the chance to learn the spoken language."

John considered this for a moment. "Well... I assume you got your language skills from Teal'c?" he asked, indicating the Jaffa.

"Yeah," Daniel nodded.

Jack leaned forward in his seat, and motioned to Teal'c sitting next to him. "He still serving Apophis where you come from?" he asked.

Teal'c raised an eyebrow at Jack, while at the head of the table Colonel Daniel shook his head. "No," he said simply.

Daniel glanced over at John. It was clear there was more to that one word statement than the colonel was letting on, but now wasn't really the place, nor was it the ideal time. "Okay," he began, drawing back everyone's attention to himself, "I was told earlier that the two of you were looking for someone to represent you in these talks. What do you mean by that, exactly?"

Colonel Daniel stared silently at his counterpart for a second. "The original plan, loosely speaking, was to travel to an alternate reality not too dissimilar to our own," he said pointedly, repeating his earlier words, "and find an alternate version of John who could come back with us and head the negotiations on behalf of our SGA."

Jack held up a single finger. "Yeah, slight problem with that," he said. He shrugged, and smiled brightly at Colonel Daniel. "The extent of my languages is... well, let's just say that it's not very much." He jabbed his thumb at Daniel sitting two seats down from him. "Doctor Jackson's the one you want talking the snakes to death."

Oh boy... Daniel wondered about the merits of poking Jack for that... appraisal, but then realised he'd have to reach around Teal'c to do that, which wasn't such a bright idea after all.

"Besides," Jack continued blithely, now staring directly at Colonel Daniel, "he's already done it once for our side. And may I just add," he continued with a winning smile in the colonel and John's directions and with what was more than a likely a real death wish, "that he's the most qualified person you're likely to find in any reality for this sort of thing."

"Absolutely," Sam added earnestly.

Teal'c merely raised another eyebrow. "Colonel O'Neill speaks the truth, Colonel Jackson," he stated.

Colonel Daniel frowned. Meeting the other Daniel's eyes, the frown deepened, and both men stared at the other for some time.

"Well," Jack said loudly, breaking the stare, "now that you two have done the mutual admiring thing, how about we get back to business?"

"Agreed," John murmured, sounding amused and avoiding eye contact with Colonel Daniel.

Around the rest of the table, everyone else nodded as well.

"Right," Jack continued, slipping back into the role of leader with ease, "how long do we have until these talks in your reality?"

Colonel Daniel eyeballed him. "As I told Doctor Jackson before you arrived, the negotiations begin twenty-four hours after we name our representative to Thor."

"Thor?" Jack asked brightly. "Gotta love that little grey guy."

Colonel Daniel sent him an exasperated look before sighing heavily. "This... this isn't going to work."

"What do you mean?" Jack and Daniel asked at the same time; Sam nodded her agreement to the question and Teal'c inclined his head slightly as well.

Daniel's counterpart sighed again and waved a hand in Daniel's direction. "He's the linguist," he said quietly, though with force. "He's the... the freaking linguist."

Jack visibly bristled. "Problem with that?" he asked archly.

His tone of voice made Colonel Daniel to look up, and then swallow nervously against the fierce look now on Jack's face. Everyone else around the table, including John, physically seemed to shy away from the tension building rapidly between the two colonels.

Eventually, Colonel Daniel spoke, and when he did, it was in a quiet, sombre voice. "All our extrapolations were based on the fact that I'm military and John isn't," he said simply. "We've had direct contact with one alternate reality, who in turn have had contact with two others. There was nothing in those realities to suggest that there would be any real change to that balance."

Sam frowned. "But surely you must have been able to hypothesise that totally different combinations were still viable," she replied cautiously, and at the head of the table, Colonel Daniel shrugged.

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what Meyers didn't tell us before we came here," he shot back dryly.

"Well..." It was Jack again. "You're here; I'm a colonel; Daniel's the geek." At that Daniel bristled, catching a curious glance from John at the same time, but he didn't say anything, and neither did John. "And what we just told you sticks. Doctor Daniel Jackson, out of all of us here, has the most experience dealing with the Goa'uld, and managed to get us out of our own... tight spot when Cronos and the gang came here." Jack shrugged. "All I'm saying is... think about it, Colonel."

Colonel Daniel nodded, then looked lost; it was the first time Daniel had seen anything resembling that in the couple of hours that he'd been in the same room as his counterpart. The look did not belong with the Air Force demeanour, not one bit.

Jack obviously caught the other colonel's hesitation as well. "Tell ya what," he continued in a sudden bright tone of voice, "let's change your plans just a little." He looked at John as well as Colonel Daniel as he went on. "Instead of taking me back with you, which would really be pointless, how 'bout you take Doctor Jackson instead?"

Colonel Daniel simply looked confused all over again. "But... there can't be more than one of us in the same reality for longer than -" he began before being cut off by Jack.

"For crying out loud," he enunciated, "you switch places with Daniel, Daniel." He blinked and shook his head before looking over at the Daniel sitting the other side of Teal'c, and raised his eyebrows in the direction of the other colonel.

Daniel nodded back to him, getting what was going on here. And it would also be less confusing all round if he laid out the rest of Jack's idea, which - in its own way - did actually make sense under the really rather bizarre circumstances of this situation. "What Jack's trying to say, Colonel," he began as carefully as he could, "is that instead of switching John with his counterpart, how about switching yourself...?" He trailed off at the now unreadable look on his counterpart's face.

"Not going to happen," Colonel Daniel said shortly.

"Why not?" Jack demanded before anyone else could butt in, likely with the same question judging by the expressions Daniel could see on his teammates' faces. "Not that hard to think around the box where you come from - is it?"

At that, Colonel Daniel muttered something to himself that made John smirk, and that Doctor Daniel could only just about make out. "I like the box. The box is there for a reason."

Daniel smiled slightly to himself - even he'd been able to pick up the heavy sarcasm underlying his counterpart's words - but before he could say anything else, Colonel Daniel looked up again and continued, louder this time. "Okay..." he admitted, "I don't want it to work like that."

"Why not?" Jack asked challengingly.

Colonel Daniel thought about this for a second. It was clear he was taking his time in forming a response. "Because..." he began. "Because it's my job to look after John," he said quietly, not looking at his colleague. "And I can't do that if I'm stuck in some other reality."

"You can't do that if he's stuck in some other reality," Jack countered.

"No," Colonel Daniel admitted, "but there would be another me to do that job in my place."

"And what does that make him?" Jack asked, jabbing his thumb back over at Daniel. "Chopped liver?" He sighed. "Colonel Jackson, looks like you're suffering the same streak of stubbornness that our Daniel suffers from regularly," he carried on brightly. "Now, Doctor O'Neill here is a big boy, I'm sure he's capable of taking care of himself, much like Daniel here is... with supervision," he added with a conspiratorial look in Colonel Daniel's direction. Jack then jabbed a thumb in John's direction. "Trouble magnet?"

While John glared at his counterpart, Colonel Daniel actually smirked at Jack. "Oh yeah."

Jack grinned, and sitting two seats down from him Daniel got the distinct impression that he, John and the others really could have been anywhere else in the universe for all these two colonels seemed to notice or even really care at the moment... huh. "Same with our archaeologist," Jack replied. "But he's getting better... kinda."

"Colonel, is there a point to this?" Colonel Daniel asked, a little testily.

"Sure," Jack nodded. "Send these two back to your reality, let them do their geek thing with the Goa'uld, and let somebody else keep an eye on them for however long."

"That's the other thing," Colonel Daniel admitted, back to being quietly spoken again. "Aside from Meyers and General Hammond, I'm pretty sure nobody else knows yet that we've come... this far to look for a representative. If he comes back with John, and it depends on how many of our people are to know what's going on, Doctor Jackson may well have to hide the fact that, well, that he's not me."

There was something in his voice that Daniel couldn't quite identify, something telling him that there was more to this alternate reality than either Colonel Daniel or John were letting on, but for the moment Daniel decided to let it slide.

Jack looked over at Daniel, jerking his head back at the counterpart colonel as he spoke. "Think you can do that?" he asked.

Daniel shrugged then, realising a more definite answer would be needed, nodded.

Jack rubbed his hands together, turning back round to face the rest of the table. "Settled then!" he declared. He then cocked his head to one side, as if something had literally just occurred to him. "General?" he asked. "Do we need Doctor Jackson urgently over the next few weeks?"

"Nothing that can't be rescheduled, given the circumstances," Hammond replied, smiling slightly, and Daniel realised that he'd been standing pretty much in silence by the wall the whole time the six SG-1 members had been... talking. Daniel wasn't too sure whether to be relieved or not about the general's answer to Jack's question, either.

"Okay then," Colonel Daniel said. "Okay." He sounded relieved. "John, you'll have to explain to General Hammond when you get back about the... change in plans."

John raised his eyebrows. "You're going to stay here, then?" he asked, surprised.

Colonel Daniel shrugged. "Jack here's right... we need their Jackson, and we don't exactly have a lot of options left."

"No," John agreed. "Sure you're going to be alright?" he added, much quieter now.

The colonel shrugged again. "Yeah. I'll be fine."

John turned to look at Jack, who in turn stared right back at John. "Look after Daniel, you hear?" they both asked at the same time, and everyone else around the table tried not to smile or otherwise react.

Hammond, however, did smile, and he finally stepped back up to the briefing table. "I'm glad you managed to reach a decision on your own," he said sincerely, addressing all six people, and Daniel couldn't quite decide if that was a back-handed compliment or something else altogether. He decided on the former, just to be optimistic, and threw one last rueful look into the empty coffee mug before looking up at the others.

"So, um... what happens now?" he asked.

Colonel Daniel glanced at him briefly. "You and John go back to our reality and get these negotiations over, done with and hopefully in our favour," he said. "After that, come back here and we switch back to our own realities."

Jack nodded. "Sounds like a plan," he agreed, and opposite him John nodded his own acquiescence.

"Well, then," Hammond declared, "looks as though that's settled, then. Doctor Jackson, is there anything you'll need to take with you to the alternate reality?"

Daniel shook his head. "Nothing I can think of," he replied after a second's thought.

Hammond nodded, and looked across at John who, along with everyone else at the table, had gotten to his feet. "I believe it goes without saying that we expect you to take good care of Doctor Jackson while he's a... guest at your facility."

John nodded. "Absolutely General. And on behalf of our General Hammond, I expect no less for Colonel Jackson while he stays here."

"You have my word, Doctor," Hammond said sincerely.

"Now that's all settled," Jack declared, rubbing his hands together, "shall we escort the two geeks back to another reality altogether?" He led the way out of the briefing room.

"You know, Jack," Daniel called out to him, beginning to smile, "anyone would think you were trying to get rid of me."

Jack simply whistled and picked up the pace. After a few minutes, all seven people, Hammond included, were assembled in the small laboratory where the Quantum Mirror was now stored, and where Colonel Jackson and Doctor O'Neill had... arrived just a few hours earlier. It had been put in there for safekeeping after the incident with Doctor Carter and Kawalsky coming through and ending up in Area 51, and Daniel looked at it for a moment, the device seeming so... innocuous in amongst evidence of abandoned experiments and old computers and such. Sam rummaged around on one of the shelves and after a couple of seconds pulled out the control device for the Mirror. She hesitated for a second before handing the device to John. "You know where you're headed," she told him with a smile.

John accepted it in kind, and used it to activate the Mirror. Instantly the 'glass' showed a scene of smoke-filled carnage, and the seven SGC personnel on this side could hear someone screaming in pain, followed quickly by the unmistakable sound of a Goa'uld and then by a staff weapon being discharged. John grimaced, and quickly tweaked the control. For maybe half a minute he flipped through 'deactivated' Mirrors, obviously where the location of the other Mirror had been destroyed altogether, until eventually the Mirror showed a laboratory identical to the one he and the others were standing in. From his vantage point behind and just to the right of John, Daniel could see a low-slung table with a cardboard sign standing on it. There was a message written on the sign, and Daniel took a step closer to try and read it.

John caught his motion, and Daniel could see him grin. "You know what that says?" the older man asked in amusement, indicating the sign in the other universe.

Daniel nodded; it looked like Greek. "Home is not where the heart is, but where you can smell the bacon frying," he read out in English; the general reaction in the lab was amusement, although Daniel himself frowned.

"It's one of Major Meyers' pet sayings," John explained, and Daniel nodded in partial understanding. He took another step closer to the Mirror, so that now he and John were right next to each other, the surface of the Mirror well within touching distance. And when Daniel turned to look behind him, he could see Jack and Colonel Daniel standing right next to each other as well; both had their arms folded across their chests. When Jack saw Daniel watching them, he nudged the colonel next to him. "You ever get the feeling we're letting two small children go somewhere completely unsupervised?" he asked conspiratorially.

Colonel Daniel took a second to smirk in response. "All the time," he replied, eyes still on John and Daniel.

"Hey, Daniel, good luck over there," Sam told him, and beside her Teal'c nodded his own agreement with her statement.

"Good luck, Doctor Jackson," Hammond added. "I'm sure you'll do a good job."

Daniel nodded. "Thanks," he said.

Jack shrugged. "You'll do fine, Daniel," he told the archaeologist confidently.

Daniel smiled quickly, then turned back to John. Together, both of them reached out to touch the surface of the Mirror and in a brief flash of light, they disappeared through.

In the laboratory, Jack watched as Carter shut the mirror down before leaving, with both Teal'c and Hammond behind her, then nudged the other colonel one more time. "Come on, let's getcha checked out by Doc Fraiser," he told Jackson.

Jackson nodded, and the two colonels left the lab.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Two

In another laboratory, so identical to the one Daniel had just left, but at the same time so completely different, Daniel watched as Sam shut down the Quantum Mirror from the other side, and he and John were left - quite literally now - on their own in the laboratory.

Daniel watched as John turned to pick the Greek sign up off the table and lay it flat on the metal top. "Come on," he said to Daniel, "better get you to the general first."

Mutely, Daniel nodded, and followed John out of the lab and into the corridors of somewhere that looked an easy ninety-nine percent identical to the SGC, but every so often he saw something that was just ever so slightly different, and the feeling of disorientation would surface again. Most of the personnel they encountered in the corridors ignored them altogether, although a few of them did shoot strange looks at Daniel; every few people he and John passed, Daniel could make out a small patch on their right shoulders with an SGA emblem embroidered on it.

No Toto, he definitely wasn't in Kansas any more. Daniel smiled to himself as he and John reached one of the elevators, and John stepped aside to let Daniel go in first. One the elevator was in motion, John looked over at Daniel. "Off-putting, isn't it?" he asked.

"What - what is?"

John raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Being in a different reality," he replied nonchalantly.

"Yeah," Daniel nodded. "Although the first time it... happened I was all but arrested and then sedated and locked up for a few hours before anybody would even begin listening to me."

John looked sympathetic. "I know what you mean. Had a similar thing happen to me once as well."

Daniel smiled at him; the rest of the short journey in the elevator was then carried out in awkward silence until the doors opened again, and John led the way to General Hammond's office. He knocked a couple of times on the door. A muffled, "Come in," floated from the inside of the office; John pushed the door open, Daniel right behind him, a little uncertain as to what he would find once in there.

It looked almost exactly like General Hammond's office in the SGC; letting his eyes flick around for a second, Daniel tried to spot the differences. Instead of the one red phone on the desk, there were four altogether - one red, one blue, one green and one grey - but in the same basic design. The emblem on the wall once again read SGA, and where "his" General Hammond had had certificates lining the wall, here there were framed photos of people who could only have been Hammond's family, although he couldn't see either of the granddaughters there anywhere - not that that meant much, of course. Eventually - although it could only have been two or three seconds at the most - Daniel tore his eyes away from his surroundings, and looked at General Hammond.

"You look a little disoriented, Colonel," Hammond said easily, and before either Daniel or John could respond, he continued. "Have you been to see Doctor Meyers about that?"

Daniel floundered. "Um..." he began half-heartedly before John got in there - and with a much more coherent sentence to boot.

"Uh, General, this is Doctor Jackson," he said, sounding slightly awkward.

It was Hammond's turn to flounder. "E - Excuse me?" he asked, looking directly at John.

The archaeologist smiled and rubbed the back of his neck. "Can't you tell the difference?" he tried to joke, but it kind of fell flat in the terseness of the atmosphere in the office.

For the first time in the minute or so they'd been in there, Hammond took a proper look at Daniel. "Yes, I can," he admitted to John.

Sensing his cue, Daniel stuck his hand out. "Doctor Daniel Jackson," he said.

Hammond shook the hand. "You're the linguist?" he asked, more than just a little sceptical.

"Um... yeah," he replied.

"And you can speak the Goa'ulds' language?" Oh yes, this general was a sceptical little bunny rabbit, he was.

Daniel nodded rather than say anything. He could sense this would be an ongoing thing while he was here. "I'm the... linguist and archaeologist on SG-1," he replied, confirming the evident suspicions of the other man.

The general nodded in response, and then looked back at John. "So, is it really pointless to ask where Colonel Jackson is right now?" he asked, eyes twinkling, reminding Daniel instantly of the general back in his own reality.

John smiled slightly. "With all due respect, General, you were the one who told him to do whatever it took to get ourselves a negotiator," he replied steadily. Then, "It was Daniel's call, sir. He and Colonel O'Neill... came to an understanding."

It was impossible for Daniel not to notice Hammond starting a little at the mention of Jack's rank, but really it did come with the territory with something like this; he could remember his own shock at encountering General O'Neill and Colonel Hammond during his first journey through the Mirror, after all.

It was just a matter of perspective, that was all.

"Well, son," Hammond said, and it took Daniel a second to realise that the general was talking to him, "if your language skills are anything like Doctor O'Neill's, then I'm sure I speak for everyone in the Stargate Alliance when I say that you're more than welcome to represent us in the negotiations with the Goa'uld."

There was a definite smile in the general's voice, and Daniel couldn't help but smile back, feeling a little more reassured at the same time. "Thank you, General," he replied, mentally noting that now bashful could be added into the mix as well, "I'll, um, I'll be sure to do my best."

"That's all anyone can ask of you, Doctor," Hammond replied sincerely.

"Right then." It was John. "Daniel, if we get you down to the medical wing now, just for a check-up, and, uh, if you've got any questions about this reality, then..."

Daniel nodded gratefully, and after one more look at Hammond he followed John out of the office, down to the main control room and then out into the corridor proper.

"What names do I need to know?" Daniel asked quietly as they walked side by side in the direction of the infirmary.

John glanced over at him before replying. "SG-1 consists of Daniel, myself and Major Elise Meyers."

"What, just the three of you?" Daniel blurted out before he could stop himself.

John shook his head. "Our fourth, Captain Aldwin... died two days ago during a mission," he said quietly.

Daniel nodded silently and let the answer slide; in his reality, Major Aldwin was the team leader of SG-3 following Maybourne's... departure from the SGC.

Meanwhile, John carried on. "Since our colonel's now no longer in this reality, it's likely General Hammond will assign SG-2 in all its entirety if we have to go off-world for the negotiations."

"Who's on SG-2?"

John paused for a second as they bypassed a couple of lab-coated technicians. When he and Daniel were back side-by-side again, he continued. "Major Charles Kawalsky, Captain Samantha Carter, Lieutenant Timothy Barker and Doctor Carla Bowen. Of course, Sam's on SG-1 in your reality," he added dryly.

"Yeah... right," Daniel nodded.

The two men came to a stop just outside the medical wing of the SGA. "Doc?" John called out ahead of him as he led Daniel past the row of hospital style beds to not one, but two small offices right at the far end. Again Daniel felt confused, unable to help himself from feeling that way. It was a completely new situation for him, he had to keep reminding himself, there were bound to be things that were new in this reality. And in a way he was surprised with himself for keeping from remembering that. Maybe it would take a little time then.

"Doc?" John called out again, poking his head around one of the office doors. A second later, a tall brown-haired man wearing one of the medical white jackets, complete with stethoscope around his neck, came out of the other door. Daniel silently watched his eyes flicker first to Daniel himself and widen in almost comic surprise, then towards the back half of John poking out of the other office.

The doctor grinned briefly. "Behind you..." He had an English accent, Daniel noted.

John started, and then backed out of the office. He grinned at the doctor. "Jonathan, meet Doctor Daniel Jackson," he said, motioning to Daniel next to him. "Daniel," he went on, "this is Doctor Jonathan Meyers, one of our chief medical officers."

Daniel raised his eyebrows before nodding and taking a step forward, offering his hand at the same time. "It's, um, nice to meet you," he said quickly.

Jonathan took the hand in a surprisingly iron-tight grip, and held it for a few seconds before releasing it. Daniel quickly checked he could still move all his fingers before looking back up at the doctor.

"So you're the chap they've brought back for the talks?" Jonathan asked him, obviously not expecting an answer to the rhetorical question. He cocked his head to one side, looking Daniel up and down before motioning to the nearest bed. "Up you get, Doctor, this shouldn't take more than a few minutes."

Daniel hesitated for a second before moving, and glanced at John. "Two Meyers?" he muttered, knowing he probably sounded stupid.

And if he did, then John didn't pay any attention to it. "Yup. Doctor and Major Meyers," he replied equally quietly, with half a grin. "And it's Doc Fraiser you want to be worried about."

"Oh, I know her!" Daniel laughed, finally sitting himself on the bed and letting the doctor start examining him.

"So," Jonathan began casually enough, pulling a clipboard from the end of the bed and making some notations on the chart. "What are you a doctor of, Doctor Daniel Jackson?" The last three words were said with a smile.

"Um... archaeology," Daniel replied quietly, well aware now that both Jonathans' attentions were focused directly on him; John was now leaning against the opposite wall from the bed, arms folded over his chest but still paying attention to what was going on. "And archeo-linguistics as well." Well... languages were the reason he was here, after all.

Jonathan let out a low whistle, whipping out a syringe at the same time. "Just a small blood sample," he offered, catching the sudden look on Daniel's face. "You can never be too careful."

"Yeah," Daniel replied noncommittally, pulling his sleeve right up past the elbow and offering the joint to the doctor, who covered up a brief moment of surprise before preparing the skin and taking out a minute amount of Daniel's blood.

After he'd done, Jonathan looked back at Daniel. "I take it you're used to this kind of thing, then," he asked. It was not a question, but Daniel nodded anyway.

"Um... can I ask you a couple of questions?"

"Of course." Jonathan looked surprised again. He made a couple more notations on the chart before, "What did you want to know?"

"Well..." Daniel gestured vaguely at the rest of the infirmary. "Where are the rest of the medical team, for a start? I mean, there has to be more than just you," he added, staring directly at Jonathan as he spoke.

The doctor smiled. "Ah, now that I can answer," he replied brightly, continuing to take basic checks on Daniel - temperature, pulse and a couple other things to do with medical instruments that Daniel couldn't quite remember the jobs of. "Today's a day off for most of the med staff, and Doctor Fraiser's off-world with SG-2 and the other three of our doctors at the moment over something to do with a possible treatment for the symptoms of gastrointestinal related cancers."

"Oh," Daniel nodded. "Just, um, just one more question."

"I can't promise I'll answer it, mind you." But Jonathan's eyes were twinkling, and behind him Daniel could see John trying to hide a smile as well.

"You're English..." he trailed off.

Jonathan moved over to one of the tables and set the chart down on it, face up. "I'm a surgeon," he replied simply. "Doctor Warner requested my... presence a couple of years ago to assist in the removal of a young Goa'uld symbiote that had implanted itself into one of the SGA personnel." He shrugged. "I decided to stick it out here after the other doctor was killed, and nobody's complained so far," he added with another smile. "I'm still affiliated with the RAF, naturally, although everything now goes though the USAF, of course."

"Of course," Daniel echoed faintly. He was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed now, and it was probably starting to show on his face, as John ambled over from his previous position against the wall and came to stand next to Daniel. "Is it - is it worth asking when I'll get to meet this Major Meyers?" he asked John, although he didn't really mind which of the other two men answered him.

It was John O'Neill. "Sure thing, but come to think of it..." He turned to Jonathan. "Shouldn't she have been waiting for the return trip through the Mirror?" he asked him.

Jonathan shrugged. "No idea," he said honestly. "I would have thought so, but she did mention something about going to see how Alice and the kids were coping with things," he finished somewhat awkwardly. "Captain Aldwin's family," he added, catching the latest confused expression on Daniel's face, who then nodded with something as close to understanding as he possibly could manage. "Elise should be back soon, though," the doctor added, moving back around to the table where Daniel's chart was. "She reckoned you wouldn't be too long in the other place."

John grinned and glanced at Daniel. "This should be fun to explain to her, then," he replied easily

"Absolutely," Jonathan replied dryly, his attention already diverted elsewhere. "General's orders are not to let Doctor Jackson off base until his identity is confirmed, so do find something to amuse yourselves with! He called while you were on your way down here, by the way. Said you were to go back up to the main control room after I've done with you."

Daniel exchanged a look with John before both men nodded, and John made as if to leave the infirmary. About to follow him, Daniel turned back to Doctor Meyers, meaning to say thanks or something probably equally as corny under the circumstances, but before he could say anything, the medical officer simply smiled at him and raised his eyebrows in the direction of the door. Turning back around, Daniel saw that John was already gone, and hurried out after him.

The other archaeologist was waiting in the corridor, and matched pace with Daniel as they headed back the way they had come from Hammond's office.

"Hey, Daniel," John said after a couple of minutes. "You feeling okay?"

Daniel half turned to look at him as they rounded another corner. "I'm fine... well, maybe a little overwhelmed," he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck briefly. "Feels like I've just realised what I've agreed to do here."

Letting Daniel into the elevator first, John shot him a strange look. "Not having second thoughts, are you?"

"No, not at all!" Daniel replied. "I just... it's overwhelming," he repeated lamely.

"Okay," John nodded. The elevator then stopped, and a few minutes later the two archaeologists entered the control room again. This time there were several people manning stations and computers rather than the one Daniel had seen then they'd left Hammond's office, including Paul Davis, wearing dress blues and what looked like the rank of major on his shoulder. And speaking of Hammond... the general was standing at the main computer lining the blast window, next to a seated technician with his back to Daniel and John. The two men came over to stand by Hammond.

He looked up as they approached. "Doctor O'Neill, Doctor Jackson," he said. "I trust everything went well with Doctor Meyers." He sounded hopeful.

"Yeah," Daniel replied quickly.

"General," John replied. He looked out at the dormant Stargate, then back at Hammond, who had already returned to staring out at the 'gate room. "Are we waiting for something to happen here?"

Hammond nodded, not taking his eyes off the Stargate. "SG-2's deadline for return has just expired," he said. "And we've not had word in over six hours."

"They've been out there for just under two days," John added, mostly for Daniel's benefit, now looking concerned as well. "It was supposed to be a simple recon mission to collect the last of the samples from the local population."

"And now they're overdue," Hammond added, mostly for emphasis, although there was a definitely ominous undertone in his voice. It didn't quite seem to fit, not really.

"By how long?" Daniel asked.

Hammond turned to look at him. "Ten minutes."

At that, Daniel frowned slightly. "Well, it's only ten minutes," he said. It wasn't too unreasonable, after all.

And at that, Hammond shot him an unreadable look. "I don't know what things are like where you're from, Doctor Jackson," he began, stressing Daniel's title. Then, with a brief look at an unaware Major Davis, he added, "But around here there are too many implications of a tardy team return than we care to have to deal with."

Daniel frowned again, both at the general's choice of words, and the fact that he'd glanced over at Davis, however briefly. And again he was reminded of Colonel Daniel's... demeanour in general back in the briefing room of the SGC. He was definitely missing something about this reality... but he just couldn't figure out what it was.

Meanwhile John was still staring at the still dormant Stargate, although he too now shot nervous looks in the direction of Davis every few seconds, which the major either ignored or, again, was just completely unaware of. "He's right, Daniel," John said quietly. "After what happened over Harmen's death, we can't afford another leak to the press about anything."

Stunned by that... well, it was hardly a pronouncement, but still... stunned by John's words, Daniel too allowed himself to stare at the 'gate as he began to mull over things in his mind. And in his mind, a 'leak to the press' could only really mean one thing.

"This is a public program?" he asked, blurting out the words before he could stop himself. Fortunately for him, right at the same time the alarms and klaxons went off, with the result that John sent him a strange look, but it was unlikely that he - or anyone else - had heard Daniel's question.

"We have an off-world activation, sir!" the seated technician called out above the growing cacophony. He pressed a couple of buttons on the array in front of him and instantly the noise cut out, leaving just the alarm lights, bathing everyone in the 'gate and control rooms in an eerie red light for one second out of every two.

And before Daniel could say anything else, either to John or simply out loud, the technician leaped in there again as something showed up on his screen. "That's SG-2's GDO, sir!"

Hammond seemed to literally melt with a palpable sigh of relief. "Open the iris, let them come through," he ordered, shooting one last disdainful look in Davis's direction before the metal casing over the Stargate slid open to reveal the wormhole and a few seconds later, people began to emerge through it, landing on the 'gate ramp. Through the sea of camouflaged helmets and Army-style jackets, Daniel could pick out the faces of people he recognised; Sam and Janet through the Stargate first, then after everyone else had made it through, Kawalsky and Doctor Warner side-by-side right before the technician up in the control room shut the wormhole and sealed the iris behind them.

Hammond picked up the microphone. "Report to Doctor Meyers in the infirmary, then debriefing at 1400," he told the assembled group in the 'gate room.

Looking up at the blast window for the first time, Kawalsky trailed the faces of the people lining the window. His eyes narrowed at the sight of Major Davis, and Daniel wondered just how common a reaction to the man that was in this reality. Kawalsky nodded his affirmation of the order to Hammond before sliding his gaze over to look directly at Daniel. For a moment the major looked slightly puzzled before something else took over his expression for a second that Daniel couldn't put a name to. Then it was gone again and Kawalsky was leading the rest of SG-2 and the doctors out of the 'gate room.

The technician sitting at the main computer pushed another couple of buttons and the control room quickly returned to normal illumination. Still staring at the Stargate, Daniel barely noticed when John touched him lightly on the shoulder and motioned out to the corridor, where there was at least a semblance of privacy from everything else going on around them.

But... before either John or Daniel could say anything, the sound of ringing erupted from John's pocket; rather sheepishly he pulled out a cell phone, motioned to Daniel with a finger, took a step and half a turn away from Daniel, and answered it. "Hello?... Oh, it's you... look, I'm kinda busy with something at the moment, I - hey!" With the last word his tone of voice changed abruptly from annoyed and irritated to something more akin to... gentleness, almost. And affection.

Meanwhile, John's side of the conversation was continuing. "Have a good day?... Yeah? That's good," he said sincerely. Then a small pause. "No, I don't know if I can make this weekend or not. I told Mom something came up at work, I don't know if I'll be able to get away for that long... Yeah, I know it sucks! Hey - listen," he added with a quick flicker of the eyes in Daniel's direction. "How about I see if me and you can meet up this afternoon for a few hours? Yeah? Like the sound of that? No promises, I'll see what I can do, okay? Alright, gotta go now... yeah, I love you too."

As John shut the cell off and put it back in his pocket, Daniel again found himself trying to process just what was happening... he really was trying to hard to relate his reality to this one, and it was difficult to let 'his' one go, at least for the moment. Almost at the same time John turned back to face Daniel, thinking for a moment before realisation dawned on the older man's face. "Uh... what time is it?" John asked him suddenly.

Well, that one wasn't expected. Daniel blinked a couple of times and checked his watch. "One fifty-seven," he said slowly.

"Okay," John nodded. Then, "What was that in there?"

"What was... what?"

"When the sirens came on," John responded, impatient now. "When the sirens came on, you said something, I couldn't hear it. What did you say?"

Daniel hesitated. "I said... 'this is a public program'?" he repeated, making sure to enunciate the question in the statement.

John stared at him for a second. "Well, yeah," he replied, as if the notion were the most natural thing in the universe - and in this universe, Daniel again reminded himself firmly, maybe it was.

But that didn't mean he had to be able to wrap his head around the concept. "I... just how can that work, exactly?"

John frowned. "How can that not work?" he countered slowly. He looked as though he was about to say something else, as well, but before any of that could happen one of the technicians poked his head out of the connecting corridor from the control room. "Doctor O'Neill, Doctor, uh... Doctor Jackson, general wants you in the briefing room now."

Daniel and John took one look at each other, the awkwardness factor escalating quickly, and - almost gratefully - the two men went back up into the control room at something close to a sprint and almost ran one after the other up the stairs. John, in front, did not wait for Daniel when he got to the top, although he did hold the door to the briefing room open for Daniel when he went through.

Letting the door shut behind him, Daniel took a good look around the briefing room. General Hammond was there, at the head of the table, standing in front of another SGA emblem. Sat along one side of the table were the four members of SG-2, including Kawalsky and Sam, and on the other side, with their backs to Daniel, but already turning around, Janet and another woman Daniel didn't recognise, but who could only have been the so far elusive Major Meyers. She'd gotten back quickly, if you went by Doctor Meyers' thoughts and indeed the idea that it was her sitting there. And John was already sliding into the seat directly next to the second woman - interestingly, Major Davis was nowhere in sight - and all eight people around the briefing table got a long few seconds to openly stare at Daniel as he finally left the relative safety of the door (somewhere to run from...) and slowly come over to the table and to a spot just behind the empty chair on the other side of John, although he did remain standing.

From this new vantage point, Daniel could clearly see the expressions of interest and outright curiosity playing out across the faces of the SGA members not including either John or General Hammond, and he fidgeted slightly under the intense scrutiny, but defiantly resisted the urge to break off the stares with the other people.

Finally the general took pity on him, so it seemed. "Doctor Jackson, take a seat," he told Daniel, gesturing to the chair in front of Daniel.

At that, almost everyone around the table quite literally gawped at Daniel; again he felt more like the prize specimen on display in some museum rather than an actual person at that point. He sighed, and sat down, and he remembered something that Colonel Daniel had said in the SGC briefing room... just who was Daniel going to have to keep his civilian... ness hidden from?

He strongly suspected the System Lords.

Over and up from him, Kawalsky's mouth was hanging open. "Doctor?" he repeated, sounding incredulous.

Daniel sighed again. This really was getting to be repetitive now, despite his earlier attempts to make himself understand that there were in fact very inherent differences between this reality and the one he belonged to. "Yes, Kawalsky, I'm a doctor, not a colonel."

"And not from this reality, either," John added.

"A doctor of what?" Kawalsky demanded sceptically at exactly the same time.

"Wait a minute," Sam interrupted, leaning in towards the table. "Not from this reality?"

"That's what I said, Captain," John replied calmly.

"A doctor of archaeology," Daniel said at the same time, but instead addressing Kawalsky, whose frown only deepened.

Sam frowned. "Then where's the colonel?" she asked immediately.

"Back in my reality, taking my place while I take his," Daniel replied to her.

Sam whipped around to look at him. "Why are you here?" she demanded, blunt in her question.

And to Daniel's surprise, it was John who got the reply in first rather than himself. "Because in the other reality he's the linguist, and he can speak fluent Goa'uld, and therefore will be representing the whole of humanity in order to save our collective group of sorry little butts."

Daniel stared at him. The sarcasm was all Jack, through and through.

And at that, Sam didn't know who to look at - her gaze kept darting between Daniel and John, with varying degrees of disbelief. "You speak Goa'uld?" she challenged Daniel.

Not quite seeing where this was going, Daniel nodded slowly, pushing his glasses back up his nose at the same time.

Almost imperceptibly, Sam's eyes narrowed. "Prove it."

For a split second Daniel floundered. He always got like this whenever he was put on the spot unexpectedly; although he had immediately started thinking in the 'target language' as much as possible, it always took at least half a second for his brain to connect with his mouth - and in that split second Sam looked almost triumphant, as if she had won the stand-off that wasn't really a stand-off to begin with, and in that oh-so-brief moment Daniel stared at her - although she'd only said a few words to him, he didn't think she could be any more different to the Major Sam Carter back in his own reality.

But the ubiquitous half-second passed, and the linguist in Daniel kicked into gear. "Tal'mac Daniel," he told Sam, the words coming out much harsher than he'd intended, but it was too late now, and besides - he was kinda out to prove a point here... nobody else had actually thought to check up on Jack's announcement that he could speak the language; it was either proof that people of all realities trusted an O'Neill at his word, or these people really were so desperate for a trustworthy speaker to help them... "Mik'ta-ha - kree!"

In the stunned few seconds of silence that followed the two statements, Daniel caught sight of both Kawalsky and the other woman on SG-2 - Carla Bowen, he thought John had told him, had to be the linguist/archaeologist - staring at him with something close to outright admiration. Even the general looked somewhat pleased.

Kawalsky reached across the table and poked John with a ballpoint pen. "Hey Doc - you get any of that?" he asked with a grin and a jerk of the pen in the general direction of Daniel.

Slowly John nodded. "My name is Daniel," he translated, looking at Daniel as well, although he was a lot more nervous about it than Kawalsky. "And then kree, which is the general call to attention. But... mik'ta-ha... I don't know that one..."

Instantly all attention at the briefing table diverted back to Daniel, including Kawalsky and the two women on his team, although the latter two probably for very different reasons. Daniel fought to keep from blushing or otherwise reacting. "It's, um, it's one of those words that can't be translated easily," he managed from somewhere. "It... means something similar to kree, but more... attention-getting." That was perfectly justifiable, he thought to himself... rather a loose definition of the translation, but it worked well enough. There was a part of him that felt guilty, very guilty for calling Sam - any reality's Sam - an asshole, but at the same time it wasn't like anyone was going to be able to translate that one any time soon. Didn't make him feel any better about it, though, even though this Captain Carter's behaviour maybe left a little to be desired.

Kawalsky turned back to Hammond. "General, regulations may prevent me from knowing the whole story behind this... switch, but I'd still like to know what SG-2 is doing here."

Hammond nodded. "As soon as we get in contact with the Asgard commander Thor -" with a significant look in the direction of Major Meyers, who nodded silently in response, "- we then have a twenty-four hour period before the negotiations with the Goa'uld take place. And until that twenty-four hour period is up, we won't know where the negotiations are to take place." Daniel strongly suspected that this was all for his benefit rather than for Kawalsky's, something he was grateful for. "Therefore I'm placing both SG-1 and SG-2 on stand down from all pending missions until these talks are completed. If these negotiations are to take place off-world, then I want as much back-up to go with Doctor Jackson and SG-1 as possible."

The major nodded, satisfied with that information, and leaned back in his chair again. He still kept one eye on Daniel, who shifted slightly on his seat under the scrutiny.

"And - Doctor Jackson?" Hammond swung back around on the spot to face Daniel again.

"Yes?" Daniel asked.

Hammond smiled slightly. "You've got clearance to leave this base as long as you remain in the presence of someone from the SGA. It's the best I could get for you."

Daniel smiled. "Thank you, General."

Opposite him, Kawalsky grinned, and looked up and down the table. "So, who's gonna be babysitting Jackson?" he asked everyone before grinning directly at John, who put his hands up in a sign of defeat.

"Sorry Daniel," John said sincerely. "Family stuff tonight. I, uh... I can't let him down."

Daniel nodded to show he understood the sentiment if not the specifics - had to have done with the cell conversation back downstairs, though.

"But you know, if you wanted... you'd be more than welcome to come along," John added. He smiled. "I know Charlie wouldn't mind meeting someone from work, loosely speaking."

Daniel didn't respond. He found that he couldn't.. He was simply stunned by... by the so casual reference to... "Charlie?" he managed weakly, garnering looks from the others at the table, including General Hammond.

John nodded. "My son," he elaborated, obviously assuming that either Daniel didn't know who Charlie was, or that his counterpart in Daniel's reality hadn't had kids at all. "I, uh, get access to him most weekends when I'm not working..." He smiled again, although the expression this time around was more strained, a lot more uncertain than just a few seconds before. "I... you wanna come meet him?"

"Hey, hey, hey John," Meyers interrupted, leaning across the archaeologist and closer in towards Daniel. Leaning heavily on John's shoulder, she twisted around to face him. "You never checked to see if anybody else wanted Doctor Jackson!"

On the other side of the table Daniel could see Kawalsky and Barker grinning. "Nice talk for a married woman!" Kawalsky called out, half forming a megaphone round his mouth with one hand.

Meyers ignored him, instead focused her attention on Daniel. "After the meeting, mind if I borrow you for a couple of hours while John goes and does the family thing?" she asked him.

Daniel wondered if she had any idea of just how much she'd saved him from something there, and shook his head. "No, not at all," he replied sincerely.

"Great!" Meyers grinned. She sat back down, and John cranked his shoulder around a couple of times before it clicked loudly, and he mock glared at Meyers who simply smiled sweetly back at him. Daniel watched the interaction with interest. It really was obvious these two were teammates and friends.

Back up at the head of the table, Hammond sighed, evidently resigned to having temporarily lost control of the two SG teams plus Daniel. "SG-1, Doctor Jackson, consider yourselves dismissed," he told them. "SG-2, Doctor Fraiser, we still have a debriefing to carry out."

"Yessir," Kawalsky nodded, reverting to professional mode in the blink of eye.

Quietly Daniel, John and Meyers got up and left the briefing room, and on his way out Daniel could feel several sets of eyes boring into his back, although he didn't turn around or do anything else until he was outside and Meyers closed the door behind them. Daniel let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding in, and the three people looked at each other, the atmosphere suddenly more awkward than it had been.

John was the first to break the silence. "I'd better get going," he told the other two. "Sara hates it when I'm late to pick Charlie up."

"Then go," Meyers told him firmly, though she was smiling at the same time. "I'll keep an eye on Daniel, you won't miss anything tonight."

"Okay," John nodded. He looked over at Daniel. "I'll probably see you either later on or tomorrow."

"Okay," Daniel replied, although he couldn't find it in himself to smile back at John. Charlie was alive... "Like the major said... you go have fun with your son."

John grinned briefly at the two of them before disappearing round a corner and out of sight, leaving Daniel and Meyers in the corridor.

"Right..." she began. "Well, then. Come on, Doctor, I'll need you with me when I contact the Asgard fleet, then after that I just want to get your perspective on inter dimensional travel."

"Um... alright," Daniel agreed, nodding. He followed her away from the briefing room, and in the direction of the science labs.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Three

Jack took his hands off the steering wheel and groaned. The traffic jam had lasted for more than an hour already, it had just started to rain, and now there were road works along one part of the intersection that nobody had bothered to tell him about - complete with temporary traffic lights that had just flashed red. In the passenger seat, Daniel snorted, not taking his eyes off the view out of the passenger window.

"Is that an attitude I sense there, Colonel?" Jack drawled, chancing a look away from the Lexus driver farting around in front of him and over at the colonel.

"Oh, I don't know," Daniel replied with amusement. "Is that a poor sense of direction I sense there, Colonel?"

Jack resumed his glare at the driver in front of them. "Huh?"

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Daniel smirk. "If you'd heard Siler's traffic report back in the mountain, you'd have realised that this area of the road was out of bounds if you wanted to get anywhere before twenty hundred tonight."

Jack stared at Daniel. "Siler gave a traffic report?"

The smirk erupted into a full-blown grin. "Yeeeeah..."

"Our Siler?" Jack asked. "Siler from this reality?"

"Yeah, your Siler," Daniel replied easily.

"Must have missed that memo," Jack muttered. He leaned forwards on the steering wheel as the traffic light turned amber, then green; now, all he was waiting for now was for the Lexus driver to get their butt into action and shift gear.

"You did," Daniel said bluntly as finally - finally! - Jack got the car moving again, driving through the light drizzle that made it all the more difficult to see what was going on outside.

After the traffic light fiasco, it was only five or six minutes before Jack pulled up in his driveway, and by then it had stopped raining. Both men got out of the car, and Daniel waited by the passenger door for Jack to lock the car and then open up the front door before following him inside. Jack went right the way through the ground floor of the house, switching some of the lights on as he went, and it was only when he turned around again that he realised Daniel had been following him, albeit a good couple of steps behind. "Okay," Jack began, trying to cover the momentary jolt of surprise, "this is my house, there are some rules you have to stick to."

At that, Daniel actually looked a little nervous. "Rules?" he repeated.

"Yeah," Jack said. "No loud music, no sleeping past oh-eight hundred, no women."

Daniel blinked for a moment, reminding Jack briefly of "his" Daniel, before he chuckled. "I think I can handle that," he replied easily. The similarity was all the more highlighted by the fact that the colonel was at the moment wearing a spare change of Doctor Jackson's civvies that Jack had found in SG-1's locker room, his Air Force uniform having been left on base.

"Well, good," Jack shot back. He moved into the kitchen. "Wanna beer?"

"Please," Daniel answered, and Jack opened the fridge and pulled out two bottles, tossing one of them to Daniel; he caught it easily and looked around for an opener before spotting it next to the toaster. Opened his bottle, then took Jack's and did the same for him, handing him it back when he'd done.

Jack stared at the bottle in his hand for a moment, then looked back up at Daniel. "You're good," he said approvingly, grinning slightly at the same time.

Daniel simply raised an eyebrow, and the two men moved back into the living room where they took seats on opposite sofas. It was a couple minutes of quiet, almost contemplative drinking before finally Jack broke the silence. "So, uh, how'd you join the military?"

"Huh?" Daniel looked up from a visual inspection of his surroundings, obviously surprised by the question.

"You - Air Force," Jack said, pointing at Daniel with the butt of his beer bottle. "How'd that come about?"

"Doesn't that mean I can ask the same of you as well, then?" Daniel shot back with a grin.

Jack shook his head. "Nuh uh, Colonel Jackson, I asked first. So shoot."

"Well," Daniel began. "My parents were both archaeologists, but when I was eight there was this near miss in a museum in New York, they were nearly killed by this huge headstone," he explained, using the hand with the beer bottle and his free hand to demonstrate the scale of what he was talking about. He then caught the expression on Jack's face. "What? What'd I say?"

Jack swallowed, wondering why his throat was suddenly dry. "No - nothing," he managed. "So, uh, headstone, and...?"

Daniel shot him an unreadable look. "Near miss with a headstone," he repeated, "and my mom decided to give up on active archaeology altogether, took up a teaching post in Oregon. Dad kept at it, so they agreed that three months every year we'd do the archaeology thing wherever Dad could get a grant to lead a dig or take part in one, and let Mom teach the rest of the year."

"How... how'd that get you into the military?" Jack asked him.

Daniel shrugged. "New York kinda did it for me as well," he explained. "I think up to that point I was all for taking after Mom and Dad when I grew up and being an archaeologist, but at the same time I didn't want to die because of it. When I finished high school Mom and I sat down and had a talk about my future, and I told her I wanted to join the Air Force." Daniel shrugged again. "That's pretty much it. So what about you?"

Jack simply mirrored Daniel's shrug. "Almost the same as you," he replied carefully. "I'd always wanted to fly, so as soon as I was old enough I enlisted." And that pretty much was all there was to it. The Air Force thing had pretty much been a constant dream for as long as Jack could remember. He downed the rest of the beer in one swallow, and nearly spat it back out again - the taste had suddenly become really bitter in his mouth, and Jack threw a single contemptuous look at the bottle before setting it down on the low table next to the sofa. When he looked back at Daniel, he noticed that the younger man was no longer paying attention to him, or anything else in the room, for that matter. "Daniel?" he called out. "Daniel!"

Daniel jerked up, and blinked a couple of times before focusing on Jack. "Huh?"

"You looked kinda spaced out there," Jack told him. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," Daniel replied noncommittally, taking another swig of the beer. "Tired, I guess."

Jack wasn't fooled, though. "He'll be alright, you know."

Daniel frowned. "Who?"

Jack sighed. "You're worried about him, that's natural," he said patiently. "I know I don't like the idea of Daniel being out there somewhere without Teal'c or I to cover his six if something happens."

Daniel nodded slowly, downed the rest of his beer. "Feels weird, but in my head I can almost see what's going on over there." At Jack's raised eyebrow, he elaborated. "It's just after nineteen hundred now. General Hammond will have dealt with the idea of there actually being a Doctor Jackson, and also introduced him to SG-1 and either SG-2 or 3. Meyers will have stolen him away for a few hours to contact the Asgard and tell them we've got someone as a speaker for the negotiations before doing the scientist thing with him for a few more hours. After that, Doctor Daniel will either be offered a VIP room in the mountain or - knowing John and Meyers, it's more likely one of them will offer him a spare room at one of their places until further notice." He paused, and caught the look on Jack's face. "They'll look after him," Daniel told him. "I know they will, and John'll be having the time of his life with another archaeologist to talk geek with."

To show he'd got all of that, Jack nodded, but there was still something there... "Meyers?" he asked.

Daniel blinked a couple of times before raising an eyebrow.

Jack sighed. Again. "Who is Meyers?" he elaborated.

"Major Meyers is the scientific influence on my team," Daniel explained. "You really don't know her?"

"Nope," Jack shook his head. "Not a single Meyers in the mountain - I'd know."

"Strange," Daniel mused. "We have two of them." Then his head jerked back up. "What about an Elise Liley?"

"Liley?" Jack repeated, frowning. He thought about it for a moment. "Pretty sure there's a Liley on Carter's science complement somewhere. That who you're thinking of?"

"Uh huh," Daniel replied, nodding. "Liley got married, became Meyers about three months after SG-1 was formed." He grinned slightly. "I didn't really know her before that, I'm more used to calling her Meyers!"

Jack grinned, appreciating the sentiment. "Know what you mean," he said, getting up and moving back through to the kitchen, raising his voice as he went to the fridge, and fetched and opened another bottle each for him and Daniel. "Just imagine - if Carter got married, it'd screw me up for a while, trying to figure out what to call her." He came back to the living room and handed Daniel a beer before sitting down again.

"Took me about two weeks to stop calling her Liley," Daniel smiled, taking a swig of the drink. "But like I said, didn't really know her well enough to have the first name ingrained in my memory."

Jack drank some of his beer. "No Carter in your reality, then?" he asked.

To his surprise, Daniel nodded. "Mm," he mumbled, wiping his mouth with the back of his free hand. "Captain Carter's the second-in-command on SG-2."

"Not a bad gig."

"No, it isn't."

Jack put his beer down on the table, next to the first empty bottle, and leaned forwards, a little closer to the other colonel. "Can I ask you something?" he asked.

Daniel set his beer down on the carpet a little way away from his left foot, and leaned forwards as well, mimicking Jack's position. "Sure," he replied, the curiosity evident in his voice.

"In your reality," Jack began slowly, "what happened to Teal'c?"

Daniel's expression was guardedly blank. "What do you mean?" he asked.

Jack cocked his head to one side. "The look of shock on your face when Teal'c and I got to the briefing room was kinda hard to miss," he said pointedly. "And you said he wasn't doing the First Prime thing any more... he isn't, is he?"

Slowly, Colonel Jackson shook his head. "No he's not," he said quietly.

"Can I ask what happened to him?" Jack asked equally as quietly.

Daniel raised an eyebrow. "You already have," he pointed out.

Jack was unfazed. "Could you tell me anyway?" he asked, and when Daniel looked at him with that expression again, Jack shrugged. "Morbid curiosity," he explained.

Daniel nodded, then sighed quietly. "You remember Apophis' holding cell place on Chulak?" he asked, not bothering to ask Jack if he'd actually been there or not, and Jack could see why - they had Teal'c at Cheyenne, it was a pretty easy - and pretty straightforward - assumption to make.

Jack nodded.

"Well," Daniel began. "After Apophis told Teal'c and the other Jaffa to kill the rest of us, Meyers - she was Liley then, of course - and I managed to persuade Teal'c to help us, and we... killed... the other Jaffa and started to get the people out of there, and Teal'c stayed behind to lay down cover fire in the event someone figured out what was going on before we got to the Stargate and SG-2 in time." He paused for a few seconds, closed his eyes tightly, and audibly swallowed. He opened his eyes again and stared steadily at Jack. "When Kawalsky and I went back to find him, all we found were a bunch of bodies. Someone had figured out we'd escaped, and had sent another bunch of Jaffa after us. Teal'c got them all, but he'd been wounded in the process. He was on the ground, dying. He... he made me kneel next to him while he gave me the names of other Jaffa who shared the same beliefs as him, and also his family so that if - when I found them, I could tell them how he died. The last thing he did before he died was give me his staff weapon to give to his mentor as proof that I was who I said I would be."

"No - no wonder you looked shocked," Jack muttered, at a complete loss for anything else to say.

Daniel nodded. "But it's good to know that, in another reality, at least, he made it back here," he said quietly but forcefully, and Jack nodded, completely and utterly echoing the feeling there.

Then Daniel laughed suddenly, and picked up the beer, taking a gulp. Opposite him Jack raised a curious eyebrow. Daniel caught the expression, and smirked. "I don't usually tell people that much when I've just met them," he explained with a smile. "Must be an O'Neill thing."

"An O'Neill thing?" Jack repeated, more than just a little sceptical at the sound of something like that.

Daniel looked at him with sheer amusement written all over his face, then, more soberly: "Yeah... God knows I trust John with my life."

Jack nodded. "Must be a geek thing," he replied conspiratorially, reaching for his own beer as well now. "I've put my life in the Spacemonkey's hands more often than I wanna think about."

Daniel frowned. "Spacemonkey?"

"Yeah," Jack replied, scratching the back of his neck. "One of those spur-of-the-moment, he's-cheated-death-again-and-I'm-feelin'-all-relieved-'cause-I'm-glad-he's-alive kinda things. Daniel jumped from Apophis' ship to the Alpha Site to the 'gate at the SGC, when he really should have died on the ship. Spacemonkey," he stated, shrugging his shoulders.

Daniel nodded, grinning slightly. "I wouldn't dare to give John a nickname like that," he retorted dryly.

"That would be a good thing," Jack allowed. "Especially if he's anything like me."

Instead of replying, Daniel simply gave him a quiet look and drank some more of his beer.

"...Looking forward to tomorrow?" Jack asked blandly, more out some weird desire to keep a conversation going than anything else. And yeah, he'd admit it to himself - he did want to get to know this Colonel Jackson a little better as well, now that Jack had him on his own, away from the generalised chaos of the SGC.

Daniel nodded. "I just can't believe General Hammond authorised me to join SG-1," he commented, sounding just as surprised as Jack had seen him look when it had been announced back in the mountain.

"Well, not just you," Jack pointed out. "Hardly a first contact team without a linguist."

Much to his surprise, Daniel snorted, despite the mouthful of beer. When he'd swallowed, he said dryly, "I did grow up speaking Egyptian, you know... just not the ancient kind. Besides, I didn't think Rothman counted as a linguist."

Jack nodded. "Yeah, but give him credit where it's due - he can speak a few languages," he replied, "and he has had experience being on the same team as Carter and Teal'c."

Daniel raised en eyebrow. "Is there another reason there you're not giving me, Colonel?" he asked wryly.

"Oh yeah," Jack replied. He figured it couldn't hurt to elaborate. "All the other linguists in the SGC are either too busy with helping cover Daniel's end of the translations for the next however-long, or they're too intimidated by Teal'c to spend off-world time with him."

For the first time since he'd arrived in the SGC, Daniel laughed properly. When he finished he had to wipe flecks of spit off his face, and for the first time since Hammond had approved Colonel Jackson onto SG-1, Jack started to think that something like this could actually have a chance of working. Though in the short term, naturally.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Four

It was gone seven by the time Meyers had finished with him, and leaning back in his chair for the first time in almost five hours, Daniel let out a long, tired breath, pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose a few times. Over opposite him, he could just make out Meyers watching him with either curiosity or amusement - couldn't quite figure out which one it was.

"Thor certainly seemed to like you," Meyers commented suddenly, and Daniel simply sniffed in response. "So," she continued, "you sure you got what the conversation was about?"

Daniel slowly put his glasses back on and raised his eyebrows at the major. "Pretty sure," he replied dryly; the Asgard commander, rather than using the translators to have everything he'd said come across as English, had opted to carry out the conversation with Daniel in one of the old Nordic dialects - thankfully it was one Daniel knew. "Well... there was this one line near the end, it was either, 'the Tau'ri delegation will be expected at the location within one of your days', or 'your mother screeches with the consistency of a nocturnal bat'," he added, going with whatever came into his head first. "It's all in the inflection and intonation," he added with mock-seriousness.

To his surprise Meyers actually laughed out loud at that - she had set herself up for a response like that, after all. After a few seconds she sobered up, and asked, "So how long do you think these negotiations will last?"

"There's no way of knowing," Daniel replied, shrugging his shoulders. "Well, from what happened in our reality, we had a similar situation although the SGC hosted the actual negotiations rather than a neutral location like we're doing here."

"Right..." Meyers said.

"So," Daniel continued, "our talks lasted a little under three days altogether, but then again we did have an... incident with a System Lord named Nirrti, and I still don't know if she's one of the two Goa'uld coming with Cronos. He and I are the only two named representatives attending the talks," Daniel explained. "Anybody else almost has an open invitation, although of course no weapons permitted inside the actual chambers where the talks take place."

"But we could have, say, a couple of SG-2 posted just outside with P-90's in case anything does happen inside these... chambers?" Meyers asked.

"Yeah," Daniel answered. "That shouldn't be a problem."

"Which just leaves one thing left for us to sort out," Meyers continued happily enough, getting up from her seat, now towering over Daniel.

"Yeah?" he asked.

"Yeah," she replied without missing a beat. "What're you doing tonight?"

Immediately Daniel flustered. "Well, I guess I hadn't really thought about it," he replied honestly. "I mean, I know General Hammond said earlier I could leave the mountain if I was with someone else, but I assumed I'd stay on-base, in one of the... VIP... rooms..." His voice trailed off as he watched Meyers' reaction to that. Sceptical was probably the best word to describe her face right now.

"There's a spare room at our house," she told him bluntly. "Colonel Jackson's been there a few times before, so the neighbours won't get suspicious. And," she added, more conspiratorially now, "my husband does the best home cooked breakfast this side of Texas."

Daniel was reminded then of the bacon quote that had led John easily back to this reality, and tried not to smile at that, although he did let himself react to the offer, although politeness jumped straight in there before he could do anything about it. "If you're sure I wouldn't be imposing..."

"Nonsense," Meyers replied immediately. "You're more than welcome. Come on," she added, motioning for him to get up. "It's late, Jon will be wondering where we've gotten to."

Daniel decided she could only have meant Jon Meyers rather than John O'Neill; he nodded, got up and followed her out of the small lab. When they were out in the corridor, he asked, "Doesn't it ever get complicated, you know, having two Jonathan's?"

Meyers shook her head. "Can't think it's ever been a problem," she told him as she began to lead him out of the complex. "I mean, my Jon's always either Doctor Meyers or Jonathan to people here, and John O'Neill's always been just that - John."

"Right," Daniel replied, nodding. As they went on, he noticed that there were significantly less people around than there had been earlier, a testament to how long he and the major had been holed up in her lab. Daniel had to quicken his pace to keep up with Meyers a couple of times, and after a couple of minutes he realised they were heading back up to General Hammond's office. It made sense. Meyers would have to report back to the general on the communication with Thor before the SGA delegation left sometime tomorrow morning, whenever that would be, exactly.

They got to the control room, which was empty side from Siler manning the main computer, and it was in the control room that the major left Daniel while she went up the stairs to Hammond's office to catch him before he went home. The SGC's General Hammond rarely left base before seven or eight in the evening, and it was coming up to a quarter past now, so by Daniel's limited reckoning, the general should still be here - there were no real differences between the two generals that he'd yet made out.

Daniel walked up to the blast window lining the 'gate room, stopping just away from the computer consoles, and stared out at the Stargate. After the return of SG-2, the 'gate was now inactive, and being attended to by a team of five technicians; by the looks of it they were simply running system and maintenance checks on the interfaces that connected the 'gate to the control room. Daniel couldn't help but wonder at just how different the worlds out beyond this particular Stargate were as well... he didn't claim to be any kind of an expert on alternate realities - hell, he wouldn't want to - but it didn't make sense that it would only be Earth that was different in each possible reality. Maybe somewhere out there, there was a reality where the Goa'uld weren't as strong as they were in other realities, and conflicts against them had been won. People of all races dead or alive or in other states from almost insignificant differences in the linear timeline that normally you wouldn't blink twice at. When Daniel had first told Jack and the others about the Mirror, the colonel had made some smart ass remark about there being a version of him somewhere who hadn't crashed his parents' car at sixteen, and Daniel could only wonder how that particular Jack O'Neill would have turned out as an adult, or if there would be any difference at all.

Daniel was then interrupted by the sound of someone coughing - looking over, he realised it was Siler. "Hey, Jackson," the sergeant - yes, he was a sergeant here too, Daniel noted - hissed, leaning back over the back of his chair.

"Yes?" Daniel asked, turning to face him.

Siler grinned. "Got something to ask ya." He motioned for Daniel to come over to his chair, and Daniel did so, the confusion growing with every millisecond that passed. When he got there Siler turned back to the computer, pulling something up on the screen, a few lines of text Daniel had to squint to even try and read.

"Is it reasonable to assume you speak Ancient Egyptian?" Siler asked, and it took Daniel a second to realise that he'd leaned right in, over the sergeant's shoulder, in order to read what was on the screen. Daniel twisted his neck ever so slightly to the left, looked straight at Siler and nodded before focusing back on the screen again.

"That... that's not Ancient Egyptian," Daniel stated after a second's proper perusal of the text. For one thing, it was text, not hieroglyphics. Big give away, right there.

It took less than a second for Siler to hit back with, "It's phonetic, got it from a recording a couple hours ago... try forming the words as you go along."

And Daniel did that, smiling as it began to make more sense to him.

"Well?" Siler asked him. "Is it anything... important?"

"Depends on your definition of 'important'," Daniel replied.

Siler stared at the side of Daniel's head; almost reluctantly Daniel turned to look back at him. "Well?" Siler repeated. "What's it say?"

"It's an extract from one of the old Egyptian myths about their gods," Daniel told him. He blinked back at the text quickly. "Uh... Ra, Lord of the Sun did survey that land which he did call."

"Call what?"

Daniel tried not to smile. "I, um, did say it was an extract," he said to Siler, standing back up straight, stretching his back at the same time. He then looked back down at Siler. "So... how many people know that I'm..."

"Not the colonel?" Siler finished the question for him, and Daniel nodded. "Well," the sergeant continued, "pretty much everybody who's laid eyes on you. Glasses and the lack of camo gear do kind of give it away," he added, motioning to his own face and uniform to help make his point.

Daniel nodded. "Fair enough," he allowed, right at the same time he heard the sound of footsteps and voices behind him. He turned around on the spot and Siler swivelled around on the chair to both greet the newcomers.

Meyers flashed another grin at Daniel. "You ready to head home?" she asked him, and it took Daniel a long second to realise she meant her house rather than his reality, but he nodded nonetheless.

Beside her, General Hammond smiled at Daniel also, although his smile was a lot more subdued, of course. "I trust your afternoon with Major Meyers was... productive?" he asked. He could only have asked the question to get Daniel's opinion on the matter, since it was obvious Meyers had already passed on the specifics and the really vital stuff to the general in his office or the briefing room or wherever. She'd evidently also said something about the Nordic conversation he'd had with Thor, because as soon as Daniel nodded his assent to the question, Hammond's next words were, "It would also appear you certainly have a... knack for languages." He then assumed a much more formal stance, and the amused timbre vanished from his voice altogether. "SG teams 1 and 2 will be departing from the SGA at precisely eleven hundred tomorrow to attend the negotiations with you," he told Daniel. "I've notified Doctor O'Neill and Major Kawalsky, and he will in turn contact the other members of his team. Major Meyers here will have overall command of the mission although - of course - you will have a certain autonomy alongside her once you actually get to where the negotiations are being held."

"Okay," Daniel replied, his eyes flicking to Meyers when her name was mentioned.

"Go back with Major Meyers, and make sure you get plenty of rest for the morning, Doctor Jackson," Hammond added, his eyes twinkling and the smile firmly back on his face. "I think it goes without saying we're all counting on you now that we know you're capable of doing this."

A little abashed again, Daniel simply nodded in return.

"All due respect General," Siler piped up from beside him, "I think you're intimidating the kid."

Daniel shot a look at the sergeant, who simply grinned back, flipped a mock salute at him and returned to whatever it was he'd been doing with the computer before Daniel'd come into the control room.

"Go on Doctor," Hammond said. "I think you're done here for tonight."

Daniel nodded again, waiting for Meyers to start walking out of the control room before he followed her. He caught up with her back out in the corridor, and they walked in silence up and out of the mountain, and through the parking area to Meyers' car. "It's open," she told him, sliding into the driver's seat.

Getting in, Daniel frowned.

"Car has one set of keys," she explained, reaching for the keys - which were on the dashboard. "Jon's dumped his stuff and some of mine for today back there," she added, indicating the general area of the back seat and boot; looking back there, Daniel could certainly see some haphazard piles of papers and box files, "and he'll have taken the bike home. Jobs're too unpredictable for us to take just the one car to work," she added, looking over at him with another smile, and Daniel couldn't help but agree.

Meyers revved the car up and backed it out of the space. When they got to the entrance/exit, she fished around in one of the files at Daniel's feet - he hadn't realised until then that was why one of his feet was higher than the other - until she found the IDs for the two of them and showed them to the airman on duty, who then opened the barrier and waved them through.

As soon as they were on the road proper, Meyers started fiddling with the radio set, trying to make out the labels on the dials in the relative darkness, and grunted a couple of times when she got nothing but static.

"Here," Daniel muttered, sensing trouble ahead, "let me." He slid down a little in his seat to get a better vantage point on the radio, and within a few seconds he got music coming out of the speakers. "So, what do you want?" he asked after getting a couple of decent receptions. "A little bit of Beethoven, or some half Mexican guitarists who've been breathing helium?"

"Classical, definitely," Meyers replied, the amusement evident in her voice despite eyeing down the Lexus driver in front of them at a red traffic light. Daniel tweaked the knob back around to the left ever so slightly, and an instant later the car was filled with the rather soothing sound of a concert of violins with brass backing. Eventually the traffic lights - and the Lexus - gave way, and it was maybe another thirty-five or forty minutes until Meyers pulled into a driveway and declared, "We're here."

Taking care not to knock any of the files at his feet, Daniel got out of the car and took a look at the house. It was a modest looking suburban detached house, two floors and a gate to what could well have been a decent sized garden, given the distance between the house and the ones either side of it. There was one light on downstairs and one on upstairs.

On the other side of the car, Meyers was fishing around in the back seat, and automatically Daniel went around to help her. "Take these," she instructed, dumping a heavy load into his arms before taking an even bigger pile of paperwork and stuff herself. The two of them just about staggered up to the front door, and before Meyers had to balance everything on one arm to find her keys - which could easily have been a catastrophe from Daniel's point of view - the front door opened.

"I'd have helped you with those, you know," Jonathan said amusedly, taking some of his wife's load and stepping aside to let her in. "You certainly shouldn't have roped Doctor Daniel into doing the dirty work as well. Daniel," he added, allowing the archaeologist to step through the front door before closing it behind all of them. "I take it you're staying here tonight?"

"According to the major, yes," Daniel replied, starting to feel the ache from carrying the files.

From out of nowhere Meyers reappeared, completely file-less, and she took the ones Daniel had been carrying. "Should have told you earlier, call me Elise!" she threw back to him, vanishing down the hallway and off into some other room.

"Um... okay," Daniel called back loudly as Meyers... Elise once again reappeared, rejoining the two men in the hallway.

She gave her husband a quick peck on the cheek and smiled sweetly at him. "Is that dinner I smell cooking?"

"Might be," Jonathan replied, squeezing past her and right down to the end of the hallway - beyond him Daniel could see the white and pale yellow of what was obviously the kitchen.

Still standing next to him, Elise looked Daniel up and down. "Jon's clothes should fit you, at least for the moment," she said thoughtfully. "You've not brought anything else with you, have you?"

"No." Daniel shook his head, staring down at the blue issue overalls he'd been wearing all day. Almost idly he wondered what Colonel Daniel would do for civilian clothes - he'd been wearing his dress blues when he'd gone through the Mirror, after all.

"Right," Elise continued, still matter-of-fact. "We'll get you out of those, find you something of Jon's to wear until we get back to the SGA, and if you're still hanging around for a while after that, we'll break into the colonel's apartment and find you something we can guarantee will fit you!" She grinned. "Right... come on, while Jon's sorting dinner out, I'll show you the spare room."

With the kitchen door open, it was clear Jonathan could hear the conversation in the hallway. "Timing was pretty good," he called out. "You've got less than five minutes."

"Sure," Elise shot back to him, before jerking her head in the direction of the stairs. "Coming?"

Daniel nodded, and started up the stairs after her. The upper floor consisted of a relatively tiny L-shaped landing with five closed doors. Going from right to left, Elise pointed them out. "Jon's office, our bedroom, bathroom, spare room - which'll be yours - my office," she told him.

She showed him the spare room. It wasn't a bad size for a spare room; a double bed tucked in the corner, a freestanding closet up against one of the walls, a few mostly empty shelves and a bedside cabinet. A large window dominated one of the walls, with blinds covering it. "It looks great," Daniel said honestly, smiling slightly at the same time. "I... thanks for this."

"And like I said already, it's not a problem," Elise replied. "Come on," she continued, leading Daniel out of the guest room, "I think dinner's ready."

Dinner turned out to be a surprisingly spicy tomato and basil pasta, which Jonathan served up to Daniel and Elise in the dining room - little more than the back half of an elongated living room - before sitting down to join them himself. For the first few minutes there was nothing more than the quiet sound of eating, but it wasn't very long before Daniel's sense of curiosity beat the sense of propriety - again - and he stopped eating for a moment, playing with the pasta with his fork.

"Um, can I ask the two of you something?"

Elise looked over at her husband, then back at Daniel, immediately concerned. "Of course - something wrong?" she asked him.

"No!" Daniel answered quickly. "Well... maybe."

"Why don't you just tell us what it is," Jonathan suggested gently.

"Okay." Daniel stared down at the tomato for a moment before looking up. "What if, hypothetically speaking... what if, to me, the idea of the Stargate program being completely public was... hypothetically speaking, of course... what it the concept to me was... all wrong?"

"All wrong?" Elise repeated, frowning. "What do you mean?"

"Earlier, in the control room, when SG-2 were due back," Daniel tried to explain. "John said something about not being able to afford 'another leak to the press', and a couple of minutes later he agreed the SGA was a public program..." He trailed off uncertainly.

Elise and Jonathan shared another look. "So what you're saying is..." she prompted him.

Daniel shrugged. "What I'm saying is... where I come from, the SGC is a top-secret organisation."

"Woa," Elise muttered.

"Yeah," Daniel said. "I just... how can the SGA being a public program work?"

"Well..." Jonathan broke off, staring at his wife for a moment before she took up the reins.

"Maybe we should tell you what happened in the beginning?" she suggested to Daniel, who nodded gratefully. "Okay," she said, swallowing a quick forkful of pasta while she thought about it. "Best place to start's probably when they unearthed the Stargate in the first place. Forties, I think it was. Late thirties, early forties, something like that. There was a huge furore back here in America when they finally got it shipped over. Alien conspiracy theories, government conspiracy theories - you name it, they came up with it. There was a huge newspaper interest in it - all over the world - this weird looking ring thing that didn't do a lot except gather dust because nobody could figure out what the hell it was built to do." Elise grinned briefly. "I think Britain's papers at the time called it a twentieth-century Stonehenge. But anyway, wasn't until a few years ago they finally got people in to begin to decipher the symbols and writing on the 'gate and the cartouche it was found with. And that was where John came in. Catherine Langford and General West - he'd been in charge at that point - had heard about the archaeologist who was claiming that the pyramids predated everything else supposedly built at the same time. His theories were based on time he'd spent in Egypt and what he called discrepancies in the geological make up of the pyramids."

"So they got John in to... see if his theories applied to the 'gate and the cartouche?" Daniel guessed.

To his left, Jonathan nodded. "Long story short, Doctor O'Neill figured out how to open the Stargate, and there was a period of nearly a month when the world went crazy about it. Egypt's government tried to have the 'gate sent back to North Africa, claiming it was theirs since it had been found in their country and appeared to have to do with their mythological heritage. The Chinese and the Russians wanted the 'gate out of American hands, full stop, and the EC - European Community, before the European Union was created," he added, catching the momentary confusion on Daniel's face. "The EC wanted a greater world share in this new chapter of possible human exploration." He smiled dryly. "Naturally the Americans told them where they could shove this idea of theirs, although eventually a compromise was reached, just before the first mission through the Stargate."

Elise took up the conversation thread again. "America promised to allow the rest of the world to keep an eye on what it was doing as long as there was minimal interference in what went on... by the time Colonel Jackson was cleared to take a second team back through the Stargate after Apophis and the Serpent Guards showed up here, they'd begun to establish the boundaries."

"What do you mean by boundaries?" Daniel asked.

"The United States President has final say over questionable issues involving the Stargate Alliance, since the base is on American soil and therefore under American jurisdiction," Jonathan explained crisply, using the SGA's full name for the first time. "But the remaining ninety-nine percent of the time, there's a small council made up of representatives of the United Nations, NATO, and also the Russians, Japanese and Chinese - which altogether is pretty much all of the world's major powers." He paused for a moment before adding, wryly, "Like all diplomatic institutions, the SGA Council like to think they actually influence what happens inside the SGA."

"I take it they don't, then," Daniel frowned.

Jonathan shook his head. "Their perception of the SGA is completely different to the reality inside it. Take me, for example," he explained, pointing at himself with his spoon. "I'm probably the best working example of it. When I got approval to transfer to the base to assist Doctor Warner, I had a fixed idea of what the place was going to be like based on the media and the newspapers etcetera." He shrugged. "Couldn't have been more different if they'd tried."

Elise looked sad for a moment. "The simple fact of the matter, Daniel," she told him, "is that however much this world likes to think it's ready to deal with the concept of aliens and interplanetary travel, it... it simply isn't. The SGAC likes to believe we're some kind of peacekeeping force, out there to stop everyone else from killing each other, and destroying our world in the process." She sighed. "The world still wants to be deceived into thinking and believing what it wants to think and believe, and as long as that happens, we simply can't take any of the chances that could severely damage the Goa'uld and try to force them into retreat."

"Like with the negotiations," Daniel said slowly, finally beginning to understand just why his counterpart's reality would consider something as drastic as the Quantum Mirror simply to find someone fluent enough in an alien language, and both Elise and Jonathan simply nodded rather than say anything.

"And you might have noticed that not a lot of people on base seem to... like Major Davis," Jonathan commented suddenly, and when Daniel nodded, he continued: "Truth is, he's got the hardest job out of any of us, including the SG teams. He's faced with the reality of what the likes of SG-1 do," he explained, indicating his wife with the same spoon as before, "and he's got the job of taking the reality and creating an illusion for the rest of the world to enjoy."

"This may be a stupid question," Daniel began, "but... wouldn't it be maybe better if you did tell the world the truth about what's out there rather than lull them into this false sense of security?"

Jonathan smiled. "Once again, not a stupid question, Doctor Jackson, but rather an intelligent observation. We tried," he said simply. "We tried to do that the first time Doctor O'Neill went through the Quantum Mirror, and came back telling us about an impending threat from two Goa'uld mother ships on their way to Earth."

"General Hammond tried to explain to the SGAC what was going on, once we'd decided John was telling the truth, but nobody wanted to listen to him," Elise told Daniel. "Nobody wanted to deal with the reality, which was there was a hugely powerful enemy out there, sending forces to Earth - forces which could obliterate us from orbit before we could even figure out they were there, let alone try and defend ourselves."

And all of a sudden Daniel wasn't hungry any more. He pushed his plate in slightly towards the centre of the table, and Elise caught the motion. "Been a long day for you, Daniel," she said, covering up his sudden discomfort with a good excuse. "Jon, if you clear up the plates and stuff," she added, smiling sweetly at her husband, "I'll take Daniel upstairs."

"No, no, that's okay," Daniel muttered, not looking at either Elise or Jonathan. I can, uh... I can go up on my own."

"Are you sure?" Elise asked, looking directly at him - and Daniel could see a concerned expression on Jonathan's face as well.

"Yeah," he replied quickly... "I... dinner was great," he added to Jonathan, "and I'll see you two in the morning..." Daniel was more than aware that he was beginning to babble - it always happened to him when he got uncomfortable like this. Not really daring to say anything else, Daniel got up from the table and walked as quickly as he could out to the hallway and the stairs without actually running, although it was close.

He'd not got further than the second step when he heard voices floating out from the dining room, but Daniel didn't want to stick around to eavesdrop. Quickly but quietly he climbed the rest of the stairs and went into the bedroom Elise had shown him before dinner. Closed the blinds the rest of the way over the window, turned back around on the spot and stared at the bed. Daniel stripped down to his boxers and got into the bed, leaving his glasses on the small table next to it. It was comfy enough, and he moved around for a few moments before settling down right in the far corner, up against the wall. He lay on his side and stared across at the covered window.

It felt as though the full scope of what he had agreed to do for the SGA had only just sunk in for him. It was strange just how different a place could be even if it looked and sounded familiar. And it was this kind of situation that Daniel would have willingly... skipped and danced into, almost, as long as he knew he had the rest of SG-1 backing him up. But as far as this reality was concerned, Jack was John, Sam was on a different team altogether, and Teal'c was probably dead. Oh, nobody had said it out loud, but back in the SGC’s briefing room Daniel's counterpart had said that Teal'c was neither First Prime nor with the SGA - and that didn't leave a whole load of options left to pick from.

Daniel had nothing against John O'Neill, and the afternoon had proved to him that Major Elise Meyers was a very nice woman, another good scientist, and extremely good at what she did, but... it wasn't the same, the team he called SG-1 did not exist in this reality, and Daniel knew that mentally whining about it wasn't going to change a damn thing. It would just be interesting - and not a little worrying, in a sense - to see how he would deal with the new situation. And of the two SG teams who would be going to the negotiations in the morning, there were only two people who bore any real resemblance to people he knew in his reality. Kawalsky he had coped with on Abydos, and could cope with in any reality, and since meeting her for the "first" time in the briefing room of the SGA, Daniel had wondered if he and Captain Sam Carter would be able to get along.

But that was the kind of thing he would only be able to figure out in the morning, and right now he really could do with some sleep. Daniel sighed, rolled over onto his back in the middle of the bed and stared up at the ceiling. He ended up getting lost somewhere in his thoughts, he didn't know for how long, but after a while he heard someone slowly open his bedroom door. Immediately Daniel rolled onto his side and feigned sleep.

He heard the door open.

"Daniel?" Elise's voice asked quietly. "You still awake?"

For a second Daniel thought about not answering. "Yeah," he admitted. "I'm awake."


Daniel opened his eyes, and in the darkness could just about make out Elise stepping inside the door, although she didn't close it. "I just wanted to tell you something," she said quietly, "and I wanted to make sure you were awake for it."

"What is it?" Daniel asked, leaning up on his elbows.

"And I want to make sure it comes out right," she told him.

"Elise," Daniel said firmly, using her first name, "what do you want to tell me?"

"We're all screwed up, Daniel," she replied, "and for different reasons. I saw you downstairs, and back in the SGA earlier, how you reacted to stuff we all told you. He's dead where you come from, isn't he?"

Daniel took a shallow breath. "Who's dead?" he asked.

Elise smiled sadly. "Charlie. John's kid. He's dead, isn't he?"

Slowly, and knowing that she would be able to pick up on the motion, Daniel nodded twice.

Elise nodded back, and looked as though she was about to say something in direct response to that before she ran another hand through her hair and looked straight at Daniel. "Big day tomorrow," she said softly, although there was a beginning of a smile there as well. "Should let you get some sleep. 'Night."

"Goodnight," Daniel echoed quietly, and a moment later Elise left the bedroom.

Suddenly feeling painfully empty inside, Daniel turned onto his stomach and groaned into the pillow, closing his eyes at the same time. He took a deep breath, then another one, then a few more.

When he opened his eyes again, he was lying on his back and there was sunlight streaming in through the partially opened blinds. Didn't I close them... last... night?

He reached over to the bedside cabinet for his glasses, and instead brushed a very hot mug of - something, his fingers recoiling instantly from the sudden hotness. He sniffed. It was coffee. Someone had left him a coffee, and had obviously opened the blinds at the same time. Now that makes sense. And true to... one of the conversations with Elise last night, there was also a small pile of clothing on a chair in the far corner of the room.

Rather bemused with the current situation, Daniel got out of the bed and sat on the edge of it for a couple of moments, waiting for the fuzz in his head to disappear. He pulled the coffee mug towards him with one hand and started to drink it, keeping his other hand on the quilt to help keep him balanced. It wasn't until a few minutes had passed that Daniel felt alert enough to actually let go of the bed, cross the bedroom and sort through the clothes on the chair. Elise - it had to have been Elise - had left him a pair of trousers, a shirt and a pair of socks. They were all just about the right size for Daniel, which either meant that he and Jonathan really were the same size in clothes, or that she'd snuck out in the middle of the night and - like she'd joked - actually gone and raided Colonel Daniel's apartment for clean laundry.

Somehow Daniel doubted that the latter was the case.

He finished getting dressed and took the coffee downstairs with him, rather surprised to find that nobody else was up. It didn't bother him that much, though. He padded through to the kitchen, spotted the small coffeemaker in the corner next to the bread bin, and refilled the mug before wandering back through to the living room. During his trek so far Daniel hadn't noticed a clock of any kind - then again, he hadn't really been paying attention to anything other than avoiding walking into doors or walls in a house he wasn't at all familiar with. The Meyers lived in a part of Colorado Springs that, to his knowledge, none of Daniel's friends or colleagues lived in.

Back in the living room, Daniel stared thoughtfully at the television for a few seconds. He then looked around for the remote, finding it on the mantelpiece next to a single photo frame, which showed Jonathan and a remarkably different-looking Elise on what was obviously their wedding day. Daniel picked up the remote and stepped backwards to the centre of the room again, looking away from the photo and at the television.

His only intention with this little exercise was to find the news or something else that would tell him the time so that he could turn the television off again and get on with the morning and wait for someone else to emerge from upstairs. So Daniel switched the television on, and flicked right through a whole slew of movie channels until he reached a local news channel. A clock in the bottom right corner of the screen told him it was twenty-three minutes past nine. Out of boredom, Daniel turned the volume up, recognising the newscaster from his reality (although there she worked on a rival channel).

"...related topic, a spokesman for the SGA has in the last twelve hours announced that it intends to send a representative to a series of off-world negotiations with the Goa'uld who comes from an altogether different dimension from our own. Using the Quantum Mirror device in a completely unprecedented move, General Hammond has authorised a go for a Doctor Daniel Jackson to head a team..."

The remote control in Daniel's hand fell to the ground, although he didn't realise. The coffee in his other hand was only saved from a similar fate by Elise, who had appeared almost from out of nowhere, next to him, and grabbed the mug before he'd let that go as well. She followed Daniel's gaze to the television, where the female newscaster and an academic-looking guy were now discussing the implications of using the Quantum Mirror.

And as far as the one part of Daniel's brain still paying attention to the outside world was concerned, Elise summed it up pretty well.

"Oh, shit."

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Five

"And as you can tell from the telemetry reports here and here -" Carter pointed at the two patchiest parts of the screen with her ballpoint, "- the constant thunderstorms in the area of the continent where the Stargate is located has had an effect on the local population in the last half year."

"They're drowning?" Jack offered sarcastically, fidgeting with a sheaf of reports in front of him.

At the head of the table, Carter shot him an amused look, while opposite Jack both Daniel and Rothman stared at him, something akin to disbelief on Daniel's face, and flat out surprise on Rothman's.

"Actually, sir, it looks like they are," Carter told him, and Jack tried to hide his surprise. "Technologically they're about fifty years behind us, but they do recognise an apparent offer for help when they see it."

Both Jack and Daniel frowned at that, while next to Jack, Teal'c simply raised his eyebrow. "How do you mean, Major Carter?" he asked.

By way of answering Teal'c, Carter picked up the small television remote off the table, and skipped forwards through several minutes of the MALP's footage until she got to where she wanted to be - a distinctly human face right up close in the small camera the MALP was equipped with. He had a... large nose, and instinctively Jack drew back away from the screen, something that Daniel obviously found amusing, judging by that snigger.

On the screen, it was difficult to make out the man's first few words with the interference from the storm. But then the wind died down a little, and the assembled group in the briefing room could hear the man pretty much loud and clear.

"Help us! Please! The towns are being destroyed! If you can hear me, please - help!!"

Then the screen went blank.

"That's where the electrical interference from the storm damaged the MALP's communications beyond immediate repair," Carter explained. "And that was more than twelve hours ago."

"So... are we going to go help them?" Daniel asked, frowning again.

Standing next to Carter, Hammond nodded. "That's the idea, Colonel," he replied, and Daniel nodded back at him.

Rothman's face was a picture, and he shot yet another indescribable look at Daniel. It had to be the seventh or eighth time he'd done so inside the twenty minutes since the briefing had begun, and finally Jack had had enough.

"Something you want to share with the rest of the class, Rothman?" he asked, leaning closer into the civilian and clasping his hands together - tightly, to prevent him from doing anything else with them... like strangling certain civilians, for example.

"I... no!" Rothman retaliated, looking mightily affronted at the question. "It's just... are you sure he's a colonel?" he asked Jack with what he was probably thought was a discreet indication of Daniel with the side of his head.

Jack sighed in exasperation, and was about to answer Rothman very, *very* directly when he was stopped by a hand from Daniel. "Why don't you let me handle this?" he asked, his amusement with the situation written all over his face.

"By all means," Jack gladly allowed. He shared a look with Carter and Teal'c, the other two obviously as interested as he was to see just how this would play out.

Daniel half turned on his seat to face Rothman, and twirled a finger to show that the linguist should do the same as well. Once they were facing each other, Daniel regarded Rothman solemnly, not saying anything. After a couple of seconds of this silent treatment, Rothman began to look more than a little awkward.

"Fortunately we didn't have you working with us for very long in my reality," Daniel began suddenly, catching Rothman and pretty much everyone else in the room off-guard, "and do you know why that's fortunate?" Through the sentence Daniel's voice had become silkier and silkier, more and more menacing with every intonation, and Jack had to admit that he was very impressed. Jack wasn't any kind of expert, but he was pretty sure you didn't learn those kinds of tactics on digs in the middle of Egypt or wherever; it was now clear to anyone with half a brain that this Daniel Jackson was a full-blown United States Air Force Colonel.

It quickly became clear, however, that Rothman did not fall into that particular category of people. He stared stubbornly back at Daniel. "You tell me," he challenged.

Daniel sighed, the exasperation coming off him in waves. "Because where I come from - and here I mean no disrespect whatsoever, General," he added quickly in Hammond's direction, not taking his gaze off Rothman, "the SGA likes to employ people with open minds. Trust me, you don't fit the bill," he finished bluntly. Daniel then turned back to Carter and Hammond. "Sorry about that," he apologised sincerely. He looked over at Jack. "Where were we...?"

"We were just discussing whether or not SG-1 would travel to this planet to offer assistance to the native population," Teal'c offered, nodding slightly to Daniel as he spoke.

"And I see no reason for that not to happen," Hammond interjected, obviously relieved to have some control over proceedings again, but Jack noticed he didn't seem too... put out by it this time around. The general smiled at the two colonels at the table. "Colonel O'Neill, Colonel Jackson, you have a go. Assess the situation and offer what assistance you can. Dismissed."

Down in the locker room, Jack was amused to notice that the makeshift SG-1 team had left Rothman all on his own in one corner while they got booted and kitted up. This quickly became a good thing after Rothman started sneezing, doubling up over a huge wad of tissues each time. And by the time that he was recovered sufficiently enough to stand up straight again, Rothman was just in time to watch Jack issue Daniel with the same gun that he and Carter carried on missions. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack caught the latest stupefied look, but said nothing. He silently directed Daniel, Carter and Teal'c to follow him back up to the 'gate room, only once looking behind him to make sure that Rothman was still with them.

They got up to the 'gate room just in time to watch the seventh and final chevron lock into place, and the wormhole form. A quick look along at the team, and then up and behind him at the control room, then back at Daniel. "Wanna go first?" Jack asked him, making a sweeping motion with his spare hand up towards the Stargate.

Daniel merely shot him an amused look before he and Carter went up the ramp together first, followed a second later by Teal'c, leaving Jack with Rothman still at the very bottom of the ramp. "You ready to go?" Jack asked him.

Rothman nodded, fixing his helmet firmly on his head and trying not to knock his glasses off at the same time. The tactic didn't work, and Jack had to quickly reach out and catch them before they crashed to the floor, reminding him of the early days when "his" Daniel used to do the same thing with his glasses. Rothman took them back off him, looking embarrassed. A second later he looked as though he was finally ready to go, and Jack was half a step behind him as they went through the Stargate.

He emerged on a platform at the edge of a town that looked as though it had been bombed a few times over. Where there obviously should have been several buildings, there was only a pile of rubble and rocks, and there was only one structure left wholly undamaged that Jack could see. No people anywhere, not that they'd want to stick around to see this kind of aftermath, though.

Carter, Daniel, Teal'c and Rothman were down by the DHD, and Jack hopped down off the 'gate platform to join them. Carter had been studying the DHD, and she looked up at Jack. "It's undamaged, sir," she said, obviously relieved.

Jack nodded back at her. "Teal'c?" he asked. "Ya think there are people left here?"

"The storm was pretty severe, sir," Carter offered. "It was all SG-3 could do to get the MALP back in one piece."

"Okay," Jack nodded. "We'll split up," he decided. "Carter, Teal'c, take the..." he waved vaguely in one direction after realising that north could pretty much be anywhere from here as far as he knew. "You two go that way. Daniel and I'll take Rothman..." and he waved off in the opposite direction. "Radio if you find anything."

Daniel, Carter and Teal'c all nodded their assent before the team split into the two groups and headed off in their directions.

Jack and Daniel's end of the town was the end with the intact building; as they got closer, Daniel quickened his pace ahead of the others and held up his hand behind him to indicate Jack and Rothman slow down. Twisting around on the spot, Daniel met Jack's eyes, pointed back at the building and held up two fingers. Two fingers plus a head jerk at the house more than likely equalled two people that the younger colonel could hear, although Jack couldn't make out anything, just the silence. Jack nodded back and ushered Rothman further away from the building, an instruction which, thankfully, the civilian heeded - without making a sound, either, which was a bit of a surprise, but then again, Rothman wasn't a complete idiot... just most of the way there.

All that separated Colonels Jackson and O'Neill from the possible people inside was a rather sturdy looking door, made of something Jack couldn't figure out. It was too smooth to be wood, but didn't look like plastic or metal. He and Daniel shared a silent look - So how we gonna open this thing? - before Daniel shrugged, unhooked the P-90 from its resting place over his shoulder and, after pressing the palm of his hand against the door, slammed into it with the butt of his gun.

The door moved inwards slightly - enough to encourage Daniel, who took a step away from it and slammed into it again, harder, with the butt of the P-90. He then kicked the door in completely.

It opened, squeaking on what must have been the hinges.

Still not saying anything, Jack blinked a couple of times at Daniel, unsure whether to commend the younger man, or berate him for that course of action. But then again... it was exactly the same thing he would have done - or tried to do - had it been just him and Doctor Jackson here.

He let this one go, and looked back at Daniel for some kind of direction now that the door was no longer... an obstacle. Still holding his P-90 like a battering ram, Daniel looked back at Rothman and jerked his head to the doorway. To his credit, the scientist only hesitated for a second before following Daniel over the threshold, wiping his nose with a handkerchief as he went. Bringing up the rear, Jack was right behind them.

Jack blinked against the sudden darkness inside the house. It took him a couple of seconds to adjust to the change in light, which was probably a good thing since all of a sudden he could see a group of people huddled in the corner - four in total. One of them, a man, slowly got up and approached the three men. After a quick inspection of Jack, Rothman then Daniel in turn, the man turned back to Rothman. Probably to do with his lack of P-90, Jack thought.

The man pointed to himself, then back at the others, then started rattling off in some language Jack didn't recognise. Startled, which to Jack's mind was an odd reaction for a supposed linguist, Rothman shot a scared look at both colonels either side of him before tentatively talking back to the guy in front of him.

It seemed to work; there was a fully fledged two way conversation starting to develop here, although Jack could have sworn the guy the MALP had recorded had been speaking English - scratch that, the MALP guy had been speaking English, so why the gobbledegook here?

And before Jack's train of thought could go any further down that particular track, Rothman had already turned back to face him. "They don't know where the rest of the population have gone," the scientist told Jack, indicating the man next to him just in case it wasn't clear which storm-ravaged population he was talking about; Jack gave no reaction to this other than mentally rolling his eyes. "But that assumes they've survived."

Jack raised an eyebrow at that, but decided to go with something else he'd been wondering about. "The MALP telemetry showed someone speaking English," he said bluntly.

Rothman nodded. "Ah - about that," he began - and left it right there.

Frowning somewhat, Jack waved his fingers around in a circle. "What about it?" he asked expectantly. Behind the scientist, Daniel smirked but kept quiet.

"That one's definitely dead," Rothman told Jack, visibly putting effort into not being intimidated by the colonel. "N'duur says he saw many dead before they took shelter from the storm. The, uh, the guy from the MALP telemetry is some kind of translator... uh..." he frowned. "I think it translates literally as 'mouthpiece for the gods'."

"And there's only one of those?" Jack asked.

Rothman nodded. "Looks like," was all he would say.

Jack turned to Daniel. "Stay with them," he said bluntly before stepping back outside the house and pulling his radio out. He flicked the switch and tried to avoid static by moving around the outside of the house. "Carter?"

"I read you, sir," Carter's voice replied; the reception was fairly scratchy, but not as bad as it could have been.

"We've got some survivors at this end," Jack said, squinting against the sunlight. He wondered whether or not to find his sunglasses, but decided it wouldn't be worth the effort. "How 'bout you?"

"Nothing yet," Carter answered, "but Teal'c thinks he may have found a cave network some of them could have found shelter in."

"Go check it out," Jack ordered, "but be careful."

"Yessir," Carter replied, and there was a slight smile in her voice. The radio crackled in one final act of defiance before going dead altogether. Jack put the radio away and went back inside the house, instantly blind again for all of three seconds. Oh, for crying out... Eventually he could make out Rothman chattering away earnestly in the corner with Dopey, or whatever he had said the other guy's name was.

Daniel sidestepped around Rothman and Dopey up to come stand next to Jack. "We may have a problem here," he said quietly.

Jack blinked, and twisted round to eyeball the colonel. "Problem," he repeated.

"Yeah," Daniel said shortly, slinging his P-90 back over his right shoulder. "N'duur - the guy Rothman's been talking to - has apparently just told him that our dead guy - the mouthpiece for the gods -" the last four words with heavy scepticism attached, "- was waiting by the Stargate for a specific purpose when the MALP came through."

"I'm guessing he wasn't our welcome party," Jack shot back dryly, not really liking the options of where this conversation could be going.

"Nope," Daniel continued. "In fact, he was waiting for their god to arrive."

"Anyone we know?" Jack asked, immediately tensing up.

Daniel shook his head. "They won't say. The mouthpiece is the only person who spoke with the god - obviously another Goa'uld - and therefore the only person who had to know intimate details about them other than the snake ran their lives."

Things began to click in Jack's mind. "Lemme guess - he's due to make a visit here."

Daniel hesitated. "Actually... he's already here."

"What?!" Jack didn't bother to keep anything in check, knowing that Daniel and Rothman were the only two in there able to understand him anyway.

Opposite him, Daniel frowned. "Wannabe System Lord, hiding out in some cave network while the storm was at its worst..." he trailed off, uncertain now.

Jack blanched - it must have been obvious, even in the darkness of the house.

"Where are Carter and Teal'c?"

Jack didn't answer him - instead he started for the door. "Make sure they don't go anywhere!" he told Daniel before bolting out altogether. Again he was accosted with the harsh sunlight, and once he could see again he tried to regain his bearings, tried to remember which way he'd sent the other two members of his team.

It took Jack less than ten seconds to spot the Stargate and, breaking into a run, he wove through the remnants of the town. Right past the 'gate platform and further on into the area he'd directed Carter and Teal'c to take. There were a bunch of trees off to one side that looked as though they'd taken a real battering in the storm as well. And just beyond that...

Oh crap.

Jack ducked behind a tree.


Three of them. Three of them, too far away from Jack for him to guess their snake allegiance, but they were all armed with staff weapons - and they all looked like they were looking for something.

Say... another two members of SG-1.

Jack considered his options. Going on the sketchy information Dopey had given them back there, courtesy of N'duur or whatever his name was, the arrival of the MALP had to have missed the snakes by a few minutes at the very most. So they'd spent the night in the cave, which gave them... Jack figured it to be a six hour advantage over SG-1. He'd heard nothing from Carter or Teal'c, which either meant they'd been caught or were hiding out somewhere else; either way Jack didn't want to risk things further by trying to radio them.

Right then. Making sure to stay as hidden as possible, Jack moved to another tree, a little further away from the others and from behind which he had a much better view of the opening of the cave. Without warning, two of the Jaffa he'd spotted before walked right across the entrance of the cave, and Jack ducked right back out of sight. A second later he peeked back out again and watched as one of the warriors revealed a small communication device from... somewhere on his person... and began to speak into it. He spoke quietly, but the words just about carried over to where Jack was hiding - and not a single one was in English, nor were they words he recognised at all.


After about half a minute, the two Jaffa walked off again, leaving Jack staring at the empty cave entrance. He looked quickly to either side of him, still trying to figure out what the best course of action would be when he heard the sound of a staff weapon going off somewhere to his right, followed by the unmistakable sound of someone hitting the ground. Hard.

Judging the situation safe enough to actually move and risk making small sounds, Jack finally pulled the P-90 off his shoulder, and removed the safety, moving backwards quickly from the tree at the same time. As quietly as he could he moved around to his right, following the source of the noise. Teal'c was standing over the body of the Jaffa who'd been using the communicator, his staff weapon aimed at a point Jack couldn't see.

He looked over as Jack got closer, and hesitated for a split second. Then he knelt down and grabbed the staff weapon of the dead Jaffa at his feet. "O'Neill!" he called out, tossing him the weapon.

Jack caught it, slinging the P-90 back onto his shoulder at the same time. "Where's Carter?" he called back, activating the weapon in his hands.

Using his own staff weapon, Teal'c pointed. "That way!"

The two men took off at a run, Jack half a step behind Teal'c. From the new angle he and Teal'c were approaching the cave entrance, Jack could see what he'd missed while hiding behind the tree.

Right inside the mouth of the cave opening, Carter was on her knees; it looked like her hands were bound behind her back but otherwise she just looked pissed off and uncomfortable. There was another dead Jaffa lying in front of her, her eyes were closed and she also had a zat in the side of her head. The Jaffa holding it noticed Jack and Teal'c's approach - he'd have had to be blind not to.

As one, both Jack and Teal'c raised their staff weapons and took aim. Slowly Jack walked in closer and closer to the cave opening.

In response the Jaffa activated the zat, extending the weapon out; not moving himself, Carter's head was jerked right and she left it there, breathing heavily. Her eyes snapped open at the movement and locked onto Jack, tracking his movements as he came to a stop five metres from the edge of the cave opening.

But the enemy Jaffa's attention was no longer focused solely on Jack.

"Shol'va!" he shouted.

Looking behind him, Jack spotted Teal'c coming in to cover his six, and pulled a face. "Oh, for crying out loud... don't you guys ever get sick of calling him that?" he asked snippily, refining his aim at the Jaffa behind Carter.

And instead of rising to the apparent snake-bait, Teal'c instead inclined his head to one side. "He is in the service of Heru'ur," he quietly informed Jack, indicating the black tattoo on the Jaffa's forehead.

Inwardly Jack groaned. "And no sign of him round here, right?" he asked back, taking neither his eyes nor his aim off the warrior in the cave. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Teal'c shake his head ever so slightly.

"Dammit," Jack muttered. "He's here somewhere, he has to be. And as for you," he added in a louder voice, turning back to address the Jaffa in the cave, "you're getting right up my ass as well."

He fired at him - going for the neck, which was the target furthest from Carter's body that was safe to aim at. Without making a sound the warrior collapsed forwards over Carter's left shoulder. She tried to move out of the way, but could only lean backwards enough for the alien to land on her lap. Jack went up to her and managed to pull the body off her completely. Awkwardly, she used the body as leverage to stand up on her own, and turned around to show Jack the rope her hands had been bound with. A couple of slashes with his knife quickly sorted that little obstacle out, and Jack handed her his P-90, leaving him with just the dead Jaffa's staff weapon before they both returned to Teal'c.

"Where'd Heru'ur go?" Jack demanded, foregoing niceties of any kind. Teal'c and Carter were alive - what more was there to have to think about at the moment?

"He and three more of his guard went back where you've just come from," Carter replied quickly.

Jack swore under his breath, wondering how he'd managed to miss them. "Come on!" he said, breaking into another run, right back in the direction of the solitary house. The three of them got as far as the 'gate platform before Jack stopped again. "Start dialling home," he ordered Carter. "Teal'c, stay with her. I'm going to get Jackson and Rothman, and we're getting out of here."

"Sir," Carter replied, almost timidly, "what about the -"

Jack cut her off with a single hand. "Screw the humanitarianism, Major," he said harshly. "These people still want our help, we'll bring the Marines with whoever else the general sends to help. Start dialling. Now."

He was halfway across the rest of the town by the time Carter had begun dialling the DHD. Jack circuited part of the levelled town, reached the house, and instead of running inside, which would have meant three second blindness, he stopped just outside the doorway,. "Colonel? Rothman? Get your asses out here - now!"

There was no response, except for N'duur slowly coming out of the house and staring in undisguised terror at Jack, and the staff weapon Jack was still holding. He didn't say anything - Jack knew they both knew that would be a pointless activity - but instead pointed at a spot directly behind Jack's right shoulder. Jack hadn't seen sign of anything on his way to the house, which could only have meant there was something he'd missed - very unlikely - or there was someone who had been hiding from the colonel's sight who was no longer hiding. Slowly Jack turned around.

Partially hidden by the rubble of a few structures, Jack could just about make out the smugly triumphant face of Heru'ur, plated in full armour and openly leering at the colonel, even from this distance. There was a single Jaffa warrior standing next to him - just one of them, not the three that Carter had told him about - and instantly Jack realised that it was the ruins of the town that had prevented him from laying eyes on any of the snakes before. It was a perfect area for hide-and-seek, in a strangely sadistic kind of way, though Jack still couldn't comprehend not having noticed the snakes on his way through the town.

Jack started trying to make his way through the veritable obstacle course to where the Goa'uld was still mocking him, but he'd not gotten more than halfway before Heru'ur began to retreat, the Jaffa right behind him, although he fired a couple of times in Jack's general direction for good measure. The colonel had to duck to avoid the blasts either side of him - shots intended to confuse and disorient rather than hit and kill, and one of them far too close for comfort - and by the time he was on his feet again he couldn't see anything for dust clouds and thick grey smoke.

He had to navigate his way around the next couple of former buildings at a painfully slow pace, but eventually Jack was out of the clouds and back into relatively open air. Thoroughly disorientated, he looked all around him. Carter was no longer by the Stargate, and Teal'c - Teal'c was nowhere to be seen, either.

No - wait, there he was, slowly making his way back to the 'gate, with someone slung over his shoulder.

From this distance, Jack couldn't tell who it was, and he didn't know why Teal'c would have quit pursuing the snakes. Unless... he was carrying a member of SG-1...

Jack raced over to the Stargate. Teal'c was still holding the unconscious figure, although the man was now cradled in the Jaffa's large arms rather than the previous and somewhat unceremonial position of over the shoulder.

It was Rothman. Unconscious, and with blood flowing from two cuts on the side of his face; they didn't look life-threatening, although medical attention wouldn't have gone amiss at all.

Jack closed his eyes briefly, still trying to regroup mentally, and get the remaining dust particles out of his nose. A second later he looked up at Teal'c. "Carter?" he asked.

Teal'c raised an eyebrow and inclined his head to one side. "Oh great," Jack muttered to nobody, knowing full well what that gesture represented. He wondered just how much of the action he'd managed to miss while Heru'ur's Jaffa was firing pot shots at him and pulled out his radio again. "Carter, where are you?"

A couple of seconds later - a couple of seconds too many, in Jack's opinion - the radio crackled to life under the two-way transmission. "Sir?"

"Where are you, Major?" Jack repeated.

"Opposite end of the town," Carter replied. "I've just lost Heru'ur." She sounded exhausted, even through the radio, and there was panic creeping into her voice. A small pause. "It's the colonel, sir."


Another, longer pause.

"Colonel Jackson, sir," Carter reiterated. "He's missing."

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Six

"Who the hell would do something like that?" Kawalsky exploded.

Half the briefing room turned to look at him before looking back at the general. "The sad truth of the matter is I have no idea, Major," Hammond told him.

"Well, on the upside at least no one's refuting what the Quantum Mirror is actually capable of any more," John muttered, and next to him Bowen from SG-2 nodded her assent.

Opposite Daniel, Kawalsky and Elise shared a look. "General," she began, "we can't call this thing off now, I -"

"Major," Hammond interrupted, "right now there is nothing in this universe that could prevent your teams from leaving for the negotiations." He sighed. "Maybe it's for the best that it's all come out now."

Kawalsky looked surprised. "General?"

To everyone's surprise, Hammond actually smiled. "I might actually enjoy my next conversation with someone from the SGAC," he remarked. Then, changing the subject rather neatly, "No, this mission is still authorised to go."

"Yessir," Elise and Kawalsky nodded at the same time; around the briefing room, everyone else nodded as well.

As Hammond started to lead everyone down to the control room, Daniel lingered behind for a second. Catching the action - or lack of it - Elise hung back as well. She waited for Sam to leave the room before peering at Daniel. "Sure you're okay?" she asked him, echoing her repeated questions in the car on the way in here.

Daniel fingered the collar of his shirt briefly. "Sure," he answered. "Why wouldn't I be?"

Sighing, Elise settled for shooting him a strange look before leaving the briefing room. Daniel hesitated for just a second before following her down the stairs. By the time he got down to the control room there was only John there as well as General Hammond and the technician manning the computers; everyone else was obviously waiting in the 'gate room by now. John shot Daniel a grin, although Daniel struggled to return the sentiment.

"You okay?" John asked him, the smile faltering.

It was exactly the same question Elise had been asking him all morning, but this time - with John asking him - Daniel found he couldn't help but shake his head. "Can't help thinking I'm screwing things up for you already," he muttered, making sure that the general - standing over next to the technician at the computer - couldn't hear him.

"Nonsense," John shot back. He grinned slightly. "We were screwed up plenty before you came here."

At that, Daniel finally smiled. "Major Meyers said pretty much the same thing to me last night," he replied.

"Well then," John said brightly, "if we've both said it, it has to be true."

Jack would have said exactly the same thing, Daniel thought, although he didn't voice that particular thought aloud.

"It's all a matter of perspective," he did tell John, nodding; he wasn't quite sure what the point of the sentence was, whether it was supposed to be reassuring, or whether Daniel was thereby implying that things were just as messed up in his reality as well or if it was simply a case of pulling something out of his ass to cover a could-be awkward moment.

But either way it didn't seem to really matter. John simply nodded back at Daniel, straightening the edge of his shirt at the same time. Daniel's earlier reservations about possibly having to pose as his colonel counterpart to the Goa'uld seemed not to have been too major an issue with the SGA, for some reason; both he and John were wearing near identical suits for the negotiations - maybe it was something he'd ask Hammond if he got a chance later on, at just what point along the line it had been decided that it no longer mattered that Colonel Daniel Jackson was obviously not the Daniel attending the negotiations.

Although... Daniel remembered Kawalsky and Doctor Carter coming through the Mirror and ending up in Area 51 - before they'd found out about the entropic cascade, General Hammond had told the visitors they would be allowed to stay in the SGC's reality despite there already being a Captain Carter and an officially dead Kawalsky... Daniel mentally sighed, and his earlier advice to himself came back to him then. This was just a matter of perspective. The reality of the Stargate Alliance had already proved the capability of open-mindedness, even if the actual ability seemed to be lacking. Who knew if anyone really did give a monkey's about the background of Daniel Jackson at the talks, as long as there was one and the talks went as much in Earth's favour as possible. Yeah. Who knew?

Elise, who would be the third person with them, was in dress uniform, and SG-2 were all in BDU's and fully armed, including Carla Bowen, who Daniel had subsequently learned was an Air Force officer with the rank of captain, the title of doctor and a degree in archaeology.

General Hammond also chose that moment to turn around to face John and Daniel. "Doctor Jackson," he began, "there's very little more I can say that hasn't already been said. You have the full backing of the SGAC and the United States Government to carry out the negotiations and any concessions as you see fit. Just - not too many if you can at all help it."

"I understand, General," Daniel replied, somewhat bemused now.

"Well then, get going," Hammond told him - and John - with a smile, ushering them out of the control room. The last thing Daniel heard before rounding the corner with John into the 'gate room was, "Start dialling Esteria."

That was the name the Asgard had given the neutral planet where the negotiations were to take place, Daniel realised. He came to a stop at the bottom of the 'gate ramp next to John, and on his other side Elise came up to flank him. The other side of John, Kawalsky snapped Daniel a jokey salute, while the other members of his team all nodded to him. The chevrons on the Stargate had begun to rotate and lock as per Hammond's orders, and as each encoded chevron was announced over the microphone by a suspiciously familiar sounding male technician, Daniel realised that this really was it. Why he'd been... well, borrowed from a whole other reality when there were no other options remaining. The events of the last twelve to eighteen hours or so felt like a dry run compared to the sheer trepidation now taking up residence where he was fairly sure his stomach used to be.

And as the Stargate burst into life in front of the seven assembled people and the stable wormhole established, Daniel lingered at the bottom of the 'gate ramp for a couple of seconds before leading the way through the Stargate, unknowingly echoing the actions of a Colonel Jackson in an SGC in a different reality.

The world that Doctor Daniel Jackson emerged into scant seconds later could not have been more different than the one he'd left behind. He stumbled on the uneven paving of the 'gate platform; by the time he'd righted himself again, John and Elise were standing next to him, and SG-2 were surrounding their position, guns not out but most definitely at the ready.

Currently they were in an open space that was at the same time enclosed and encircled by tall buildings with sheer white surfaces - a courtyard, Daniel's mind belatedly supplied. They were in a courtyard. The Stargate was at the very centre, atop a fairly low set stone platform and surrounded by lawns of pale yellow grass and vegetation; the DHD was off to one side from the "front" of the 'gate, and set facing a different angle. A thin, gravelly path wove from the 'gate platform through the grass to the outer perimeter of the courtyard. Two Asgard were waiting there for them.

Daniel was the first to actually jump down off the platform and make his way over to the Asgard, although everyone else was less than a split second behind him. The taller of the two small aliens looked up at Daniel as he came to a stop in front of them.

"Welcome, people of the Tau'ri," he said, utilising the same Nordic dialect Thor had when Daniel'd spoken with him, and instantly the linguist in him understood why - what other sure fire method was there of confirming his identity?

Daniel smiled slightly before turning to John and Kawalsky, the questions more than obvious in their expressions. "That was the greeting," he told them quietly. He turned back to the Asgard but before he could say anything in reply, the alien got in there first.

"Who are the other members of your representative group?" he asked Daniel solemnly, having already given Kawalsky's P-90 his version of the evil eye.

"Uh... Doctor Jonathan O'Neill and Major Elise Meyers," Daniel replied in Nordic, trying not to smile at the starts from the two of them at the mention of their names; despite the situation, it was clear they weren't expecting to be introduced straight off the bat.

"Very good," the alien replied. He shot one more, possible disdainful look at the gun strapped to Kawalsky's shoulder. "The weapons are not permitted in the negotiating chambers."

Kawalsky eyeballed Daniel. There was no way he could have missed the second once over of his gun, even though... "What'd he say?"

"Just a reminder - no weapons where the talks are being held," Daniel replied, taking about half a second to mentally revert to speaking - and thinking in - English again.

Kawalsky sighed. "Mind telling the little guy that since you're not ours to begin with, we have to be a hundred percent absolutely sure that you make it through the talks without anything happening to you?"

"There is no need for that," the Asgard interrupted Daniel before he could reply; the small alien stared intently at Kawalsky.

"Wait a minute," Kawalsky demanded, taking half a step closer to the two Asgard, and behind him Sam, Bowen and Barker all discreetly came to attention. "You can speak English?"

The alien stared back at him. "It is a simple matter of choosing whether or not to activate the translators, Major Kawalsky," he retorted calmly.

Daniel intervened, opting to address the major directly. "It's their way of ascertaining that I'm definitely the person Thor spoke with last night," he muttered. "You just have to... roll with it."

Kawalsky looked like he very much wanted to roll his eyes at Daniel's choice of words, never mind roll anything else, but he didn't. Instead, he nodded at Daniel to concede the point, and looked around at the rest of SG-2. "Barker, Bowen, stay out here, keep your radios handy. Carter, you're with me." Then, back to Daniel. "Let's get this party started, Doc."

Daniel did his best not to react to that - it sounded far too much like something Jack would say if he were here - although both John and Elise successfully smothered small smiles.

Evidently taking Kawalsky's statement to mean that that Tau'ri were ready to leave the courtyard, the two Asgard stared up at Daniel one last time; the one who had spoken before indicated that Daniel and the others follow them, leading the five humans around part of the courtyard's perimeter to a thankfully tall set of double doors that Daniel could have sworn weren't there a few minutes before. They opened as the party approached.

The inside of the building was the same sheer white as the exterior walls, reminding Daniel of the conference halls on Tollana that his SG-1 had frequented before. He wondered briefly if this planet was an Asgard one as well, or whether the facilities here were simply on loan from whoever else. The two Asgard led the humans through the wide, curving corridors until they reached a large, sparsely furnished room. There were two low-slung chaises and three oversized, soft-looking cushions, but little else.

"This is where you are to wait until the representatives of the System Lords arrive. I will be back when that happens to escort you and your representative group to the negotiation chambers," the first Asgard told Daniel, once more speaking Nordic. He made as if to leave and shut the door behind him, but Daniel started forwards.

"What's your name?" he asked.

The Asgard stopped in his tracks and stared owlishly up at Daniel. It was obvious that sharing that particular piece of information literally hadn't occurred to him until now. "I am Bragi," he replied. "I will return shortly."

And with that, he left the room, leaving Daniel, John, Elise, Sam and Kawalsky inside.

Daniel stared at the closed door for a couple of seconds before turning back to face everyone else. Bragi... of course. In its own way it was even funny, had the situation not been so serious.

"What was that about?" John asked him. Like everyone else, he was still standing.

Daniel smiled. "The more talkative of the two Asgard," he explained. "His name is Bragi."

John considered this for a second before smiling back. "Nice," he said.

Standing in the centre of the room, Kawalsky eyeballed the both of them in turn. "Care to share the joke with the rest of us?" he asked, although his tone was amused rather than annoyed.

"Oh, of course," Daniel replied. "Bragi... the Norse god of poetry."

Elise smirked. "And I thought only the Goa'uld dealt in irony," she remarked dryly. Switching back to a more serious demeanour, she then asked Daniel, "How long do you think we're going to be in here?"

"I don't know," Daniel replied; he was well aware that he was once again the centre of attention. "Cronos could arrive in the next ten minutes, he could show up in six hours. I really don't know."

Kawalsky nodded; as one he and Sam slid their P-90's off their shoulders and sunk down onto two adjacent cushions, both making sure that their weapons were in easy reach.

Following their example, Elise opted for one of the chaises, and experimentally stretched out her legs across the fabric surface before bringing them right in underneath her, more than mindful of the amount of leg showing underneath the skirt part of her uniform. At the same time John collapsed rather unceremonially onto another cushion, leaving Daniel with the one remaining chaise. He perched at the top end, and tried not to fidget with the lining of his jacket.

"So..." Kawalsky rubbed his legs a few times. "Uh... Daniel, the general said something about you having already gone through the negotiations thing in your reality."

"Yeah..." Although Daniel had a pretty good idea, he still wasn't a hundred percent certain where this was going. "But it's not exactly the same, and what happened with us was based on a completely different scenario."

"Completely different how?" Kawalsky demanded.

Fortunately for Daniel, John interrupted before he could - or had to - say anything. "Teal'c... Teal'c's still alive in their reality," he sombrely informed the major, confirming Daniel's private suspicions from the previous night. "Alive and working with the SGC. I saw him."

"He and Cronos have... history," Daniel added, watching the look of confusion on Kawalsky's face grow. "It... increased the volatility of the situation."

"Okay," Kawalsky nodded, evidently satisfied with the partial explanation. "What sort of deal can we expect to make here?"

He was asking all the right questions, Daniel mentally noted. "Again that depends on the specific activities of the SGA in this reality," he answered. "We had to fight to keep our Stargate - it could be a similar demand with you, or it might be something as simple as staying away from the planets annexed by certain System Lords or deleting planet addresses from the database, something like that."

Kawalsky and Sam both frowned at that. "And what would we be getting in return?" she asked him.

Daniel considered the question for a second before answering. "It's not so much as something you'd be getting as something you'd not be getting," he replied, struggling to phrase his thoughts. "I..." He sighed. "Okay, put it this way, Sam," he said, noticing her reaction to his using her first name rather than Captain or Carter. "It's like laying down the rules to a fair game. Say for example, you're restricted from certain planets for reasons the System Lords won't tell you. In return you could have an assurance that as long as you stay away from those planets or make no advances on their supremacy on other worlds then they won't kill you as soon as look at you. Given the difference in power and power bases, that's a fair deal."

"We'd be negotiating to stay alive a little longer?" Sam tried.

Daniel nodded. "It may not be fair from your - our - perspective, but when you think about it, the idea that the Goa'uld have called for negotiations of any kind in the first place proves that the SGA is no longer insignificant. It's beginning to become a thorn in the side of the System Lords, and therefore something that they would want to curtail as much as possible. Using that idea, it's then the job of myself, John and Elise in the negotiating chambers to keep the curtailing from being too restrictive."

"Speak for yourself," John muttered wryly. "You're on your own here, Doc."

The other side of him, Elise grinned. "He said it," she told Daniel, "it's your job to prevent the curtailing, nobody else's. Your analogy, your job," the major finished brightly.

Daniel nodded back, allowing himself to smile slightly. "Then after all of this is over, and it's business as close to usual as possible in the SGA, then I start teaching John to speak Goa'uld."

John started. He clearly hadn't been expecting that. "You - you'd do that?" he asked.

Daniel nodded again, pushing his glasses back up his nose at the same time. "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day," he quoted.

"But give a man the means to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime," Elise finished, picking up the thread.

"Exactly," Daniel smiled. "And this way," he added, looking directly at John, "if anything else like this ever comes up again for the SGA, you should be able to handle it on your on." There was no condescension whatsoever in his voice - and the sincerity apparently got across, because John then nodded and smiled back.

Just then the doors behind them opened again, and an Asgard came over to stand in the makeshift circle of humans - Bragi, Daniel noted. He could just about recognise him, and he'd said he would be the one to return for them, anyway.

"The Tau'ri delegation will now be escorted to the negotiating chambers for the commencement of the talks," he announced in English. He then gave Kawalsky the evil eye equivalent. "The guards will be permitted outside the main entrance to the chambers, but not inside."

If Kawalsky and Sam felt perturbed at all by their sudden "demotion" to guards, they didn't show it. In fact, Daniel realised, both officers looked relieved that they would be allowed that close to the main event. They both picked up their P-90's, made a show of hooking them back over their shoulders again - out of the way but not unobtrusive - and waited for Daniel, Elise and John to get up and sort themselves out, ready to go.

Bragi then led the five of them out of the room and down a completely different corridor to the one that had brought them there in the first place. It was another twisty, curvy one, and it took Daniel all of two seconds to give up trying to keep his bearings. He didn't say anything out loud about it, but he could only hope that Elise, Sam or Kawalsky were having better luck in that department.

After a couple of minutes they reached what was unmistakably the entrance to the negotiating chambers. Larger than life doors barely discernible from the surrounding wall; on one side a hanging drape depicting the pyramid shaped symbol of the Tau'ri; on the other an identical drape with what Daniel recognised to be the symbol of Cronos, a silhouette of two hawk-like wings outstretched and almost meeting at the tips.

Without breaking stride Bragi walked straight up to the doors - they swung open for him, revealing a small... almost like a reception area before another set of doors with the same pair of drapes either side again. Outside the second set of doors stood two Jaffa warriors, one on each side - both with the representation of Cronos tattooed on their foreheads. Instantly Kawalsky and Sam's guards were up - evidently sensing their opposite numbers in the Tau'ri delegation, the two Jaffa tensed up and reached for their staff weapons. In response, both SG-2 members unhooked their P-90's and held them at the ready.

There was a tense moment of standoff before Bragi came to stand inbetween the two pairs of warriors, eyeballing each of the four in turn. The result was quite remarkable; as Daniel, John and Elise silently watched, the two Jaffa and the two Air Force officers returned their weapons to their keeping places and resorted to staring at the opposite members, although there was still a fair amount of tension crackling in the air.

"You can just smell the burning testosterone," Elise muttered under her breath, speaking low enough that only Daniel could hear it; he snickered quietly but said nothing.

Still not saying anything, Bragi turned to face the second set of doors - which swung open, apparently of their own accord, like all the other doors in this place, revealing what was definitely the negotiating chambers.

A long white table dominated the elongated room, with chairs running down each side and one at the head. Behind the chairs lining the right-hand side of the table were three figures, although from this angle - with the System Lords in profile and two of them partially hidden behind the unmistakable form of Cronos - Daniel couldn't make out who they were.

As if acting on unspoken directions, both Sam and Kawalsky lingered behind in the reception type area with the two Jaffa, each pair retreating to opposite ends of the small room and resorting to stubborn stares with their opposite numbers, though - thankfully to Daniel's mind - the weapons stayed out of the equation. Interesting to Daniel's mind was the idea that the two SG-2 members and the two Jaffa as well were allowed so close to the actual events of the negotiations - maybe because they were on neutral territory?

Bragi led Daniel, John and Elise into the main negotiating chamber; as they got closer, Daniel was able to see the three System Lords more clearly, see who they were.

Cronos now in the centre, looking as supremely arrogant in this reality as his counterpart had done whilst swanning around the SGC and ordering Daniel round like a skivvy.

To his left - Daniel's right now that they were facing the table - the distinctive features of Yu. Still a relatively unknown quantity to Daniel.

And on Cronos' right, a tall woman Daniel didn't recognise. She had long, flowing blonde hair, blue eyes that were filled with scorn and a contemptuous expression on her face.

Cronos must have caught Daniel staring at the three of them, the woman in particular. "Lord Yu and Amaunet," he unexpectedly announced in English, with throwaway indications at the two Goa'uld either side of him. Cronos then openly sneered at the SGA representatives. "The widow of slain Apophis gains a seat at the talks with his slayers."

Daniel could only stare at the woman. He didn't recognise her - not that that meant anything except...

He swallowed.

It meant Sha're was probably still on Abydos.

Probably on Abydos as in she was still alive.

He glanced sideways at John and Elise, and was surprised to see disbelieving recognition playing out on both their faces. Daniel stepped backwards, away from the table. "You know her?" he muttered as quietly as possible. He didn't care who answered.

As it was, it was John. "Sergeant McKenzie," he replied in an equally low voice.

Daniel frowned. "I don't... who is she?" he asked, literally at the same time as remembering where he'd heard the name before; a small memorial service less than two days after SG-1 and Teal'c had returned through the Stargate after the mission to Chulak. Sergeant Deborah McKenzie, the Air Force sergeant who'd been kidnapped by Apophis from Cheyenne in the search for a host for Amaunet. Kidnapped... and later killed, as witnessed by Teal'c.

The realisation must have shown on his face because John simply nodded. "That Sergeant Mackenzie," he said softly.

"Didn't think she'd be here," Elise whispered, staring directly at Amaunet. "Really didn't think she'd..."

There was the tiniest flicker of uncertainty on Cronos' face as he watched the three humans; it quickly disappeared and he regarded Daniel with the same open contempt as before. "And the humans you would have with you?" he demanded, reverting to speaking the native Goa'uld tongue.

Of course - just as Cronos' name had been passed onto the SGA, so Daniel's would have been passed to the System Lords in turn... even though it was next to impossible that the System Lords wouldn't know half of SG-1 when they saw them. Maybe it was more some kind of a formality then, since Cronos had already introduced the two Goa'uld with him. "Elise Meyers of the military and Jonathan O'Neill, a scholar," he replied instantly and sharply.

If Cronos and the other seemed at all put out by Daniel's swift use of and retaliation with their language, they didn't show it. Instead he glared over at Bragi, who had - quite unobtrusively - taken the chair at the head of the table. "Shall we begin?" the System Lord demanded in English.

The Asgard inclined his head to one side in acquiescence. "That would be a wise course of action," he replied calmly, using the same language.

Slowly, and without saying anything, the two groups of three delegates sat down at the table. It interested Daniel to note that where John and Elise took the two seats directly to either side of him, the three System Lords all sat with at least one chair inbetween them, Cronos remaining in the centre and directly opposite Daniel.

Cronos wasted no time in getting started. "You know why we have called you here, Tau'ri," he stated in his native tongue, managing to sound both brusque and challenging at the same time.

Daniel took a deep mental breath. Time to play diplomat again. Yippee. He folded his hands together in front of him on the table, put on what he hoped was his best innocent expression and leaned slightly in the direction of the Goa'uld. "Remind me," he replied, once again slipping into the Goa'uld language with ease.

"You have become a plague in this galaxy!" Cronos shouted back, slamming a fist on the table and rising slightly off his chair, drawing shocked and surprised reactions from John and Elise - they didn't know what exactly was being said, although they could probably guess - John especially. "You must be dealt with!"

Daniel tried to keep from smiling. Cronos was almost at the point of playing directly into his hands. "And yet you have not done this, otherwise we would not be in mediation discussions at this moment in time," he stated.

Almost reluctantly, Cronos sat back down.

"Human," Yu sneered, interrupting Cronos as he was about to say something, "what would you do to keep us from destroying you?"

"And what would you do to prevent another attack such as the one that destroyed the false god Apophis?" Daniel calmly asked in return. It was now beyond any doubt to him that as far as this particular reality was concerned, that Apophis truly was dead.

Over and to his right, Amaunet's eyes flashed in response to the question, although she remained silent and did not otherwise react.

"Your people do not have the true capability of destroying a Goa'uld mother ship," Cronos stated bluntly, drawing Daniel's attention back to him once more. "There would then be no chance of you achieving that feat once more if we were to attack without warning."

"Is that a risk you would be willing to take?" Daniel challenged.

"Luck does not constitute skill or talent," Amaunet declared, speaking for the first time.

Daniel allowed her the liberty of seeing him look surprised at her self-inclusion in the exchange before he clamped down on his expression again.

"It is arrogance on the part of the Tau'ri to assume you are capable of the same again," Yu added in continuation to Amaunet's statement.

Daniel gave himself a second or two to formulate some kind of response. "I have no wish to be here any more than you would," he said coolly, looking at each of the Goa'uld in turn. "We should lay down our terms for this negotiation, come to something we will all agree on and then we can leave this place." That said, he pulled off his glasses, wiped one of the lenses clean with one of the cuffs of his jacket, and calmly replaced the glasses back on his nose.

Cronos' eyes flashed. "You dare to give us orders?"

"I give orders to nobody," Daniel replied blandly. "But I tell you this for your negotiations. We will not surrender the Tau'ri chaapa'ai. We will not surrender those of my people who were not felled on the field of battle. We will not," he continued, growing fiercer and fiercer with every inflection and intonation of word, leaning forward on the chair again, "We will never surrender to you without giving you a fight to the death first."

During the long few seconds that the System Lords apparently thought about the little... speech, Daniel leant heavily against the back of his chair, took some deep breaths and tried to think where the veritable outburst had come from. It felt as though he'd been channelling Jack there, which was a weird feeling.

Daniel felt rather than saw Elise nudge him. "What was that about?" she asked him in a whisper.

Staring down at the edge of the table, Daniel could see John watching him as well. "I think I just gave them an ultimatum," he whispered back. He felt light-headed, slightly dizzy.

"That's a good thing, though," John chipped in, leaning in closer to the other two.

Daniel nodded slightly, still not looking up from the tabletop. "I think so," he replied. After a few seconds, the dizzy feeling subsided, and Daniel looked up and over at the three System Lords.

Cronos was openly watching Daniel; there was something in the System Lord's eyes that Daniel couldn't identify. "The fight to the death will not be needed for the negotiations," he declared in Goa'uld with the bare minimum of anything in his voice. He then shot a brief look at Bragi at the head of the table before returning to glaring at Daniel. "Neither will we demand custody of the Tau'ri chaapa'ai." Cronos smirked - he actually smirked as he delivered the next sentence with almost theatrical perfection. "The Tau'ri have become a source of irritation but they do not yet pose a great danger to the alliance of the System Lords."

Daniel knew he was supposed to be offended by that, but still he kept his expression schooled into one of what Jack had in the past called "infuriating calm". It had proven to be... effective in the past, and it had already proven to be useful for Daniel already today. He also didn't want to provoke the issue any when it actually looked as though the SGA was going to benefit from the negotiations; Daniel may have... enjoyed the activity of "snake baiting" in the past, but even he knew where the lines were.

All three System Lords were visibly affronted at Daniel's lack of open reaction, although their reactions were muted somewhat. It was another couple of seconds before anything was said.

"We appear to have reached an understanding," Amaunet announced to the SGA representatives, although interestingly she looked to Cronos before actually saying anything. She regarded each of the humans in turn. "You have made your demands clear and from your... outburst, it is clear that you appear to know ours," she continued. Then, like Cronos barely a minute before, Amaunet looked briefly up to the head of the table at Bragi. "It is the recommendation of the System Lords that the talks are adjourned for a short period of time."

Bragi looked to Daniel for some kind of affirmation, which he gave with a curt nod of the head, at the same time avoiding the questioning looks from the major at his right.

As Bragi then gave his final confirmation for the delegates to rise and leave the chamber, Daniel waited for Cronos and the others to stalk out of the double doors before silently leading John and Elise out of the chamber and into the middle room. Sam looked over at them as they got closer; Kawalsky had been pacing the outer perimeter of the small area and he only stopped at the sound of Elise coughing discreetly to catch his attention.

"Well?" Kawalsky asked expectantly. "We just saw the snakes march right through, took their guards with them. What happened?"

Daniel felt four pairs of eyes land on him and he tried to bear up under the sudden, intense scrutiny. "The talks have been adjourned for a short while," he said quietly, not meeting anybody's eyes. "We should probably head back to that room, be safer to talk in there than out here."

On the periphery of his vision, he saw Elise nod and silently directly Kawalsky to lead them back to the room they had started out from. Once the door was closed behind them, Kawalsky looked at Daniel. "Well?" he asked again, his tone challenging.

Daniel took a breath. "Well..." he began, "I think I got their attention. A lot of it was posturing more than anything else," he quickly added, taking in the reactions of the military personnel around him, and John as well.

He then proceeded to fill them in on the specifics of what had been said between himself and the three System Lords, going through everything right up to the was-it-wasn't-it ultimatum John and Elise knew of but not about. When he'd finished, Kawalsky let out a low whistle.

"You really have done this before, haven'tcha, Doc?"

Silently, Daniel nodded.

"So what happens now?" Sam asked him, the challenging, almost defiant tone she'd used with him the day before completely gone now.

"We wait for Cronos, Amaunet and Yu to... well, to come to a decision," Daniel told her. "Whether we like it or not, they're the powerful players at these talks, and -"

"And hopefully he's given them a big enough kick in the ass to make it count for us," John interjected. He caught Daniel's expression. "Sorry," he apologised, though not entirely sincerely. "Think it had to be said, though."

"We could be here a while," Sam announced to the small group, probably of some small desire to restore order amongst the five of them again. She glanced round at each of them. "Maybe we should make ourselves a little more comfortable while we wait."

"Agreed," Elise replied.

The cushions and chaises were still where they had been the first time around, and obviously hadn't been touched at all - there were still indents in the surfaces where they'd been sat on. Everyone sat where they had done before leaving the first time; there was a sudden sense of awkwardness in the air, and it was escalating rapidly.

Kawalsky was the first to break the minutes-long silence. "I know it seems kinda petty in light of what Doc Jackson's doing here," he told the group, "but when I get my hands on whatever asshole's been leaking stuff out of the SGA, I -"

"Not petty," Elise replied. "And whatever you do to him or her, I'll back y'up."

"Look," Daniel said suddenly, "I, um, I'm sorry about all of this... I... if it wasn't for me, don't think you'd be in this mess..."

"Nonsense," Elise told him firmly. She went to say something else, but stopped, then sighed. "Look, remember what I told you last night, after dinner?"

Slowly, Daniel nodded.

"It's been going on a lot longer than one day," she explained to him. "Okay, so you being here's probably made things worse than they were already, but," she hastily added, catching Daniel's face fall in shock, "it was gonna happen sooner or later anyway, that something like this was going to happen, something big and not necessarily PC that we were doing getting leaked to people, and -"

John interrupted her mid-flow with a raised hand. "What my esteemed colleague here is trying to tell you," he said to Daniel with a slight smile both on his face and in his voice, "is it's not your fault, so don't blame yourself."

"Hey, if Daniel here really is escalating the situation," Sam volunteered with a quick glance in the archaeologist's direction, "then maybe there's something else we can consider."

John looked over at her. "Like what, Sam?" he asked.

Sam shrugged. "Maybe Daniel can find out who the leak is," she replied. "It's not like anybody's going to suspect him if he starts asking questions about the SGA and how it works, because he's from an altogether different reality to begin with."

Kawalsky stared at his second in command for a second. "That's brilliant," he said. He twisted back around to look at Daniel, eyebrows raised. "Whaddya think?" he asked. "Feel like helping us out somewhere else as well?"

"You'd be doing us a huge service if you could," Elise added, the sudden enthusiasm in her voice almost overwhelming.

And yes, Daniel was most certainly overwhelmed. "I... um... I don't even know if I've managed to help out with the negotiations yet," he replied quickly. At John's sceptical expression, which was pretty much mirrored on everyone else's faces as well, he added: "I mean, if I've done any good or not telling Cronos exactly where he can shove some of his demands from the SGA."

Before anyone could say anything in reply, the door to the room swung open again, revealing Bragi. He trotted over to the small circle of SGA personnel and Daniel.

"Your presence is required back in the negotiating chambers," he announced in English to the group. "The System Lords have decided upon a reaction to Jackson's words."

"Which means what?" Elise asked him.

The small Asgard peered intently at her for a second before replying.

"It means they have proposed a treaty between your people and theirs."

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Seven

"We lost Daniel. We lost Daniel!" Jack was pacing around the control room and he knew he was getting angry, but he really, really didn't give a flying monkey's right then. "And he's not even our Daniel."

At the other end of the room, Carter didn't rise to the bait. She didn't even smile - but it was a lousy joke and she knew it.

Jack quit pacing and spun around on the spot, arms spread wide. "Just how are we supposed to explain that to his commanding officer?"

"It has only been two hours," Teal'c spoke up from next to the major. "Colonel Jackson is capable of taking care of himself."

Jack didn't lower himself to answering that statement directly. "How many Jaffa did you say were with Heru'ur?" he asked Carter.

She bit her lower lip. "We saw three that weren't taken out, sir."

"See, Teal'c?" Jack rounded on him, coming closer to shouting with every split second. "Two hours, and Daniel's up against three Jaffa and a snake with a god complex. Two hours," he repeated forcefully. "I don't like those odds, even if he is me."


Jack sighed. "For all intents and purposes, Colonel Jackson is just another version of me. I... what would Daniel have done if I'd told him to stay put with another civilian. Our Daniel," he clarified.

Carter frowned. "He'd have... stayed with the civilian," she said slowly.

Teal'c shot her a sidelong look before regarding Jack. "Doctor Jackson would have assessed the situation and if he thought it safe to leave the civilian out of harm's immediate reach, he would have left to offer you any assistance he thought himself capable of."

"He'd have stayed with the civilian unless he thought there was a chance we'd be in real danger," Carter added.

Jack pulled a face. "Neither of you two are helping here," he declared, advancing on the two of them. "The point is, Colonel Daniel Jackson is on P7J what freakin' ever, with nothing but a P-90, Heru'ur, a few cronies and a real death wish. I'm trying to blame myself here, so if you don't mind..." he finished pointedly.

"Our Daniel would have stayed with Rothman, definitely," Carter said quickly.

"Indeed he would have," Teal'c concurred with a slight inclination of his head. "Despite the training he has received during his time with the SGC he still does not feel himself capable - or indeed suitable - for a fire fight at close quarters."

"Thank you," Jack replied dryly though sincerely. He spotted General Hammond coming down from his office. "See, I feel better already... What took ya so long, General?" he continued, turning on his superior officer in an instant. "Might I remind you that -"

"I'm more than aware of the situation," Hammond replied wearily. "And I'll have you know, Colonel, that the only delay we've been having with the rescue mission as it stands is that I'm unwilling to send incomplete teams out into the field."

Well, that knocked Jack for six. "What?"

Hammond gestured to the blast windows. "Have a look for yourself."

Slowly Jack stepped up to the window, Teal'c and Carter half a step behind him. Down in the 'gate room were twelve men and women that Jack hadn't seen go in there, all facing one side of the room, standing stiffly at attention and - Jack was more than happy to note that all twelve of them were armed to the teeth. "Just twelve, sir?" he asked, not taking his eyes off them.

"SG units 2, 3 and 14, Colonel," Hammond replied. "And even that was a close call. They're the only complete units available at such short notice. SG-14 have just returned from a mission of their own," he added. "I think it's one of the quickest debriefings I've carried out in a while."

"They're good," Jack replied absent-mindedly. "Very good. We'll take 'em."

"I just have one question, sir," Carter piped up from somewhere behind the colonel.

Jack mentally sighed. Hadn't they gone over everything several dozen times already? "Yes, Major?"

"How do we know Colonel Jackson's still going to be on the planet?" she asked him.

"Remember the conversation we just had?" Jack asked back, rhetorically. "This Daniel is just like me, and if that were me out there I'd stay on the planet and wait for reinforcements to come save my ass. Then there's the little issue of him not having a GDO," he reminded her blithely. "He can't really get any air miles back in this direction without one of those. Two hours," he finished, speaking to himself now, staring down at the three SG teams in the 'gate room.

And it had been a long two hours. Jack had only taken the original decision to return through the Stargate because of the cuts on Rothman's face. After making sure from Janet Fraiser that the scientist was going to be okay, Jack had then made sure that Carter was looked at by the medical staff, in case anything had been done to her while she'd had the zat in the side of her head, blowing off any examinations of himself although muttering under his breath about three second blindness at the same time. A quick and armed return through the 'gate to P7J-783 had then been further delayed by Teal'c's insistence that they not return without assistance. A frantic rush had then ensued inside the mountain to muster up as many teams as possible.

Still in the control room, Jack, Teal'c and Carter were still in the BDU's they had been in two hours previously, and their weapons were laid somewhat obtrusively on a table at the back of the room, next to one of the filing cabinets. Jack sighed, finally moving away from the window. "Time to get this party started," he announced to nobody in particular. He grabbed his gun from the table and slung it over his shoulder. He then strode out of the control room, and down and round into the 'gate room, not waiting for Teal'c and Carter - they'd catch up with him within a few seconds.

In the 'gate room, Jack snapped a salute to the most senior officer in there - Major Aldwin, commander-in-chief of the Marine Ass-Saving Brigade more commonly known as SG-3 - who promptly saluted him back. The colonel walked around to the bottom of the 'gate ramp; the three SG teams snapped a ninety degree turn to face him dead on, and Jack waited for Carter and Teal'c to make their way up next to him before speaking.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began. "you know the drill. Daniel's missing and we've got to go find him." The first part of the sentence was more than fair - of the twelve assembled, there were nine men and three women standing in front of the Stargate, and the second part of the sentence was something Jack dreaded having to repeat out loud. But it still happened, and far too often for comfort.

"There is however one vital difference to this rescue mission," he continued loudly. "Colonel Daniel Jackson could probably kick most of your asses in a fair fight. Meaning, if you find him and a Goa'uld, and he looks even vaguely capable of carrying a weapon, for crying out loud give him something to fire with. Do I make myself clear on that?"

Directly in front of Jack, Aldwin quirked a half smile. "Loud and clear, Colonel," he replied briskly.

"Good," Jack said. He looked up at the control room, and saw the general nod to the technician sat next to him. A split second later the Stargate began rotating, and within a minute the wormhole was established and ready to travel through.

As one the twelve SG team members at the base of the 'gate ramp readied their firearms; a fraction of a second later Jack and Major Aldwin led the combined forces through the Stargate, back through to P7J-783.

The town was much as it had been two hours previously; the rubble still dominated the immediate landscape, and two piles of former houses were still smoking from staff weapons fire. There was still a cloudless sky and Jack shielded his eyes from the bright sunlight, waiting for Teal'c and Carter to come through the 'gate. They were the last two, only coming through once the rest of the other SG teams were through.

Jack had absolute faith in very few things, a rare example being Teal'c's scouting ability. The exception was proved when the Jaffa moved around the base of the Stargate platform and studied the dirt beneath his feet and resting staff weapon. "There are no new footprints in this area," Teal'c announced, standing back up. "Heru'ur remains on this planet."

"Okay," Jack acknowledged with a nod. He looked over at Aldwin. "Major, take your men and SG-2 towards the trees." Once back at the SGC, Carter had confirmed seeing Colonel Jackson chase Heru'ur and the Jaffa into the trees, but she knew very little beyond that.

The major nodded. "Yessir."

"Captain Langley?" Jack continued, raising his voice.

One of the women from SG-14 stepped forward. "Liley, Colonel. It's Liley."

Jack looked her up and down, then caught the name badge sewn onto her jacket. "Why, so it is," he replied, smiling slightly, just then remembering where he'd heard the name recently; Liley was the maiden name of Colonel Jackson's second-in-command on his SG-1 in the other reality. "Liley, your team's with me."

"Aye, sir." Liley looked back to the rest of SG-14. They all snapped to attention immediately.

"Teal'c? Carter?" Jack waited for the two of them to come over. He then addressed the group as a whole. "We're taking the cave network."

One by one the six people in front of him nodded their assent to the order.

"Okay then." Jack fidgeted slightly with the strap of his P-90. "Let's go."

Liley nodded to the rest of her team, and the four of them followed Jack, Carter and Teal'c as they led the way to the cave network, making as little noise and disturbance as possible.

Including the cave entrance where one of the Jaffa had had Carter tied up, there was only one other entrance into the network; a much smaller hole in the side of the hill about twenty feet up a sharp incline, partially covered in vines and moss and other natural looking green stuff. It looked more like an exit than an entrance, and an emergency one at that - Jack didn't much fancy the idea of someone from his team coming out of that hole and having to fall or jump twenty feet to solid ground.

As the two SG teams got closer to the larger, ground based cave entrance, there was still no indication of any kind that there was anybody at all inside the caves. But that meant nothing in a case like this, and unwilling to give them away to anybody inside who could be listening out for... visitors, Jack motioned with a hand for Teal'c to go in first. Again the Jaffa's scouting abilities and stealth would be an advantage here.

Watching Teal'c disappear into the relative darkness, Jack motioned for Carter and SG-14 to fall back to the trees he himself had taken cover behind to avoid Heru'ur's Jaffa. It was a safe enough distance for them to be able to talk very quietly without risk of being heard from inside the caves, and it was Carter who broke the silence.

"What if they've got Colonel Jackson, sir?" she asked Jack urgently, her voice barely above a whisper.

Jack shook his head. "No, Carter. We do not go down that route."

Carter looked as though she really wanted to say something back to that, but thankfully - to Jack's mind - she didn't. Sure, there was a large part of his mind thinking it was inevitable that Colonel Daniel Jackson had somehow gotten himself kidnapped or held hostage by Heru'ur. The rest of his mind was simply singing loud tuneless songs and reciting Simpson's episodes to try and drown out the pessimistic part altogether.

And before Jack could actually say anything out loud to his 2IC, the sound of crunching footsteps floated out from the cave Teal'c had just gone into. They were slow footsteps, sounding heavy on the ground.

The cause of this phenomenon quickly became apparent; less than five seconds after the first sounds of footsteps, Teal'c emerged out of the cave, cradling in his arms someone who could only have been Daniel Jackson. The Jaffa's demeanour did not suggest one little bit that he was being followed or that there were any hostiles in the vicinity. Jack and Carter left the cover of the trees and quickly went over to join Teal'c, SG-14 probably wise in their choice to stay behind the trees, the four of them maintaining active watch on what was going on around the makeshift flagship team.

Jack tried not to wince when he saw Daniel close up. And he strongly suspected that the only reason that the colonel was currently being carried by Teal'c was due solely to the fact that he was, indeed, unconscious. Bruises were beginning to form wherever there was skin exposed. No signs of visible surface bleeding, not that that meant very much.

"I found Colonel Jackson unconscious approximately fifteen metres inside the cave entrance," Teal'c informed Jack and Carter. "It appears that whoever was with him left, and did so with haste."

Didn't wanna be around when we showed up with reinforcements. Jack let the thought, however close to the truth it could have been, slide. "You said nobody left by the Stargate," he did say out loud, not taking his eyes off Daniel.

"They did not," Teal'c replied simply.

"But..." It was Carter. "If they came through the Stargate like Rothman told you they did, then where are they?"

Teal'c turned slightly to face her. "I do not know," he replied.

A second later, the sounds of staff and gunfire erupted from back in the direction of the Stargate, instantly negating the Jaffa's words.

Jack darted looks from Teal'c and Daniel, to Carter, to SG-14, and he made his decision. "Go!" he yelled to Liley and her team, pointing to the source of the weapons fire. "Teal'c, where's your staff weapon?"

Teal'c nodded to the ground just inside the cave entrance. A quick glance from Jack, and Carter ran to grab it. She gave the staff weapon to Jack and readied her own P-90. Jack didn't bother to ask if Teal'c would be able to run while carrying an unconscious two hundred odd pound colonel. He glanced over at Carter, and without any further communication of any kind the two of them took off at a run.

Mama told me there'd be days like this, Jack thought, the full extent of the carnage coming into view. Three Marines had taken cover behind a nearby pile of flattened house and every so one of them poked into view and fired at one of the two Jaffa in the clear space in front of the Stargate platform, who in turn were firing back, the fallout of the staff weapons setting fire to small patches of grass and vegetation near the Marines. Four SGC uniforms were lying on the ground, either unconscious or dead. The third Jaffa had taken tentative cover behind the DHD and was firing his staff weapon at the last two SG unit members Jack had yet to mentally account for - from this distance he could tell that one had taken damage to the right shoulder, while the other was nursing a likely broken arm.

Completing the tableau of violence was the Stargate, at the centre of everything. The wormhole was active, but Jack wasn't willing to bet that Doctor Fraiser's medical teams and the SGC were waiting at the other end for them.

The generalised chaos also meant that so far Jack and Carter's arrival on the scene had gone unnoticed. Jack motioned with 'his' staff weapon for Carter to hang back with Teal'c. Slowly Jack advanced on the Jaffa crouching behind the DHD, bringing the staff up to eye level to aim at the alien. He activated the weapon with a push of his right thumb; the noise was swallowed up by everything else going on around them. Out of the corner of his eye Jack saw SG-3 lay off shooting at the Jaffa - obviously didn't want to risk hitting the colonel.

The kneeling alien didn't see or hear Jack. Well, not until Jack was right behind the kneeling alien, and even then it was too late. Jack fired the staff at the Jaffa's back and watched him crumple to the ground, unconscious and giving off a faint electrical charge from the excess energy of the staff weapon.

Jack circled the DHD, careful not to turn his back on anything that was going on. He glanced at the lit co-ordinates on the surface of the dialling device.

Wherever they led, it certainly wasn't Earth.

A noise off to Jack's right made him look back up, and instantly he had the staff weapon held high again, activated and more than ready to do some damage.

One of the two remaining Jaffa was simply standing still right in front of one of the fallen SGC uniforms. He was unarmed, staring directly at Jack. There was a staff weapon lying on the ground less than a metre away from the Jaffa - it would be easy enough for the alien to dive onto the ground, roll, grab the staff and aim and fire at Jack, all within three seconds.

But the Jaffa didn't move, didn't do anything that Jack expected he would do. He just kept staring at Jack.

"Colonel!" he dimly heard one of the Marines yell, and instantly Jack realised what the Jaffa in front of him was staring at - and it wasn't him.

Without moving, Jack swivelled his gaze around to the right. The second Jaffa warrior, staff weapon aimed at the colonel's neck.

How the hell did I miss that?

Jack didn't move an inch. He didn't even have the time to think about moving - an instant later he heard the familiar, oh so ominous sound of a staff weapon discharging behind him, and Jack mentally braced himself for dying again; the spot of hot searing pain on the back of his neck before coldness took over, and everything started to go numb. The sensations didn't come; confused somewhat Jack turned around, making sure to keep an eye on what was going on on the other side of him as well.

There was a dead Jaffa warrior lying splayed on the ground by Jack's feet. The staff weapon the alien had been holding had rolled maybe a foot away from his outstretched hand. Jack turned all the way around. Ten, twelve metres away, Teal'c stood with another staff weapon he'd gotten from somewhere; he lowered the weapon.

Dimly, Jack heard good old-fashioned gunfire behind him, followed by a few anguished yells, and out of the corner of his eye he noted that the final Jaffa had fallen.

Jack stared at Teal'c some more. "Someone kill the wormhole, start dialling home!" he heard himself shout. Then, to Teal'c: "Where's Daniel?"

Teal'c dropped the staff he'd been holding, and walked over to Jack, his footsteps sounding very loud in the sudden silence. "He is with Major Carter. I believed my services would be more effective with a weapon."

Jack acknowledged the blunt statement with a slight nod of the head. Without saying anything more, Teal'c disappeared again, presumably to fetch the other two SG-1 members, heading towards what looked like the back end of a small enclave within the storm ravaged tree line. Either way, Daniel had been out of the way of the fighting, and that was something for which Jack was profoundly grateful. The younger colonel looked in bad enough shape already without anything else to add to the list of probable injuries.

Trusting Teal'c to make sure that Daniel would be okay, Jack turned back around on the spot to survey the post battle scene. Smoke was pouring from out of the destroyed house the Marines had taken firing positions behind - Where there's smoke, there's one hell of a fire - and there were five SG personnel out cold on the ground that Jack could see, one more than the four he'd noticed right before the staff weapon aiming at his neck. Of the seven still standing, or capable of standing, all but one of them were beginning to assess the damage for themselves also.

Major Aldwin, the exception, was standing over the DHD. Even from here Jack could see blood on the side of his face and uniform, although it wasn't necessarily *his* blood. The previous wormhole had indeed been disestablished, either through natural or manual interference, and Aldwin looked like he was taking his time looking at the buttons before he attempted to dial Earth and the SGC.

Jack hoped it wasn't a concussion on the major's part, but found himself walking over to the DHD nonetheless. He pulled out his GDO. "SG-1's code is pre-programmed with the white button," he muttered, indicating where on the small device the major should press. "Coolest part's the red button. Tells the people back home some shit's hit the fan and makes doctors appear in the 'gate room with lotsa drugs and... stuff."

Yup, there was definitely a concussion on the list of Major Aldwin's injuries - the normally rapid reaction times of the SG-3 commanding officer seemed almost non-existent here and now. Aldwin barely even blinked at the colonel's latest pathetic attempt at a joke - for one thing, all the GDO's came with the emergency red buttons - and neither did he look up from his quiet contemplation of the buttons on the DHD. But he did accept the GDO, holding it in his left hand, hanging limply by his side.

After that, things seemed to start to happen in slow motion. The SG personnel still able to stand and walk were beginning to organise themselves into picking up and carrying their fallen colleagues, some of whom were already beginning to regain some level of consciousness.

Jack sensed rather than saw Teal'c and Carter return with Daniel, although a few seconds after realising their return he saw out of the corner of his eye Carter helping one of SG-14 to his feet, slipping an arm around his waist to help him walk. A Marine was struggling to get a woman to her feet; Jack went over to help. It was Liley. It looked like she'd taken a couple nasty staff blows to her chest and arm, and she was drifting in and out of consciousness. Jack waved away the Marine, directing him back to Aldwin at the DHD. Liley was lying on her side in a slightly contorted position from where the weakened Marine had obviously been attempting to manoeuvre her so that he could pick her up. Jack had no such shortcomings with his immediate physical condition - although the adrenaline was going, and going fast - and he easily picked up the captain, cradling her smaller form against his chest as he stood back up, all the while making sure that he didn't come into any contact with her injuries - they may not have looked too serious, but Liley was still unconscious and Jack knew all too well the risks of unnecessary extra infection in cases like this.

Keeping his movements slow and steady Jack watched Aldwin push the last couple of buttons on the DHD, bringing the Stargate to life once more, and then fiddle with the GDO the colonel had given him.

Jack mentally counted to five, more than enough time for Janet and her teams to run for the 'gate room in the SGC, and took a deep breath. "Alright, get moving!" he shouted. "Let's get everyone through!"

The order seemed to be just what the Marines needed. Two of SG-3 stood either side of the Stargate, encouraging the others to step up onto the 'gate platform and go through the wormhole; many of them supporting one or two of the walking wounded as they went.

Again Jack sensed Teal'c and Carter's presence behind him. "Carter, stay behind 'til the end, make sure everyone gets through," he told her before turning to Teal'c, who was still carrying Daniel in much the same position Jack had Liley. Wordlessly the Jaffa nodded, and they took their 'loads' through the 'gate.

As two of the last to go through, when Jack and Teal'c emerged on the SGC's side of the wormhole, it was to a scene of controlled pandemonium. Doctor Janet Fraiser and a male nurse were waiting for them at the bottom of the 'gate ramp, each with a gurney and IV drip.

Jack let the doctor's orders wash over him, letting himself follow her directions to laying Liley out on the long bed and helping her attach the drip to the captain's arm. Janet and the nurse wheeled Liley and Daniel out of the 'gate room as quickly as they could get through the corridors, leaving Jack and Teal'c as somewhat redundant parts. Behind them Carter and the last two Marines had just come through the Stargate also, with the iris casing sliding back into place behind them before the wormhole was shut down altogether.

It was only then that Jack realised General Hammond had been watching them from the other side of the blast window, in the control room. Instead of using the microphone to communicate with Jack, Carter, Teal'c and the last two Marines - which would have been the expected course of action, really - the general instead walked out of the control room and came down and round to the embarkation room.

He stopped less than a metre in front of Jack, looking up at him. "Briefing room, Colonel," he ordered, though sounding gentle, nodding to Teal'c and the other officers as well. The general must have caught the expression on Jack's face - hell, it would have been difficult to miss it, judging by the reactions of the other Air Force staff in the embarkation and control rooms - as he quickly added, "It's an order. I assure you Doctor Fraiser will take the best care of Colonel Jackson and the other wounded, I just need to hear a version of events."

Jack nodded. He still felt dazed and kind of weird inside, like all of a sudden he was watching things happen rather than actually doing those things himself. He and the others followed Hammond out of the 'gate room, back round and up to the briefing room. Teal'c and Carter took seats directly opposite Jack, with the two SG-3 officers down to his left. The general started asking questions about the rescue mission; Jack found himself taking a mental back seat, letting his 2IC take over the majority of the briefing, with Teal'c adding in information here and there as well. Even the Marines chipped in with bits and pieces also, but Jack was the only one who remained silent.

He kept his head down, not meeting anybody's eyes but rather keeping his gaze focused wholly on a small speck or spot of something on the surface of the briefing table. When Teal'c had brought Daniel out of the cave, there had been no signs of inflicted physical wounds or breaks in the skin, nothing that would indicate any kind of physical torture in any way, shape or form. And that was the word that the little voices in Jack's head kept returning to - physical. There was no conventional physical damage, aside from the bruises, which could very easily have been caused by a series of falls or Daniel running into something. But this was Heru'ur, for crying out loud. There was no way in Jack's mind that the snake hadn't had something to do with Daniel's condition, otherwise the colonel wouldn't have been found unconscious in the cave where said snake had been hiding out in the first place. Jack had ordered Colonel Jackson to stay with Rothman and the town's inhabitants; Daniel had obviously disobeyed those orders because to his mind there was obviously no way that Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter and a rebel Jaffa would have any real chance against a System Lord, three cronies and God knew how much backup or weapons that they didn't know about.

But Jack couldn't find it in him to blame Colonel Daniel Jackson for any of this... because... it was exactly the same thing Jack would have done himself if it had been him being given the order to stay behind while team members went to face down a bunch of aliens. And regardless of the conversation he had had with Carter and Teal'c in the control room before going back to find Daniel, Jack knew that "his" Daniel would have done exactly the same thing had it been him there and not his colonel counterpart. Which really did throw everything into perspective. Jack and Colonel Jackson were far too alike to successfully operate on a mission, and Jack couldn't help but wonder what John O'Neill was like and whether he and Colonel Daniel made the same kind of combination as Jack O'Neill and Doctor Daniel in this reality.

"...wouldn't you agree, Colonel?"

Startled, Jack looked up. "Huh?"

Opposite him, Carter smiled. "I was just saying that you and Colonel Jackson seem very alike, wouldn't you agree, sir?"

Jack briefly wondered if the major had developed telepathy all of a sudden. "Guess I've noticed some of the similarities," he allowed, sounding gruff, and Carter smiled again while next to her Teal'c raised an eyebrow and looked vaguely amused.

Not able to dredge up that particular emotion for himself just yet, Jack instead looked over at General Hammond. "Are we dismissed, General?"

"I think so," Hammond replied easily with a slight twinkle in his eye. "And I'm sure Doctor Fraiser and her colleagues won't mind your being down there as long as you don't get in the way of anything."

"Me? Get in the way?" Jack asked instantly, getting up from the table. "Nah..." The smart remark had come out of his mouth before he'd realised he was thinking it, and finally Jack found a small smile from somewhere, shooting it at the general before leaving the briefing room altogether, Teal'c and one of the Marines right behind him, who broke away from them at the second intersection, going off towards the locker rooms. Teal'c easily caught up with Jack after that, and the two of them walked the rest of the way to the infirmary in silence.

Things seemed to be mostly under control by the time they did get down there. The five SG personnel who had been badly wounded during the rescue mission were all in beds, being monitored. Daniel and Rothman, who was still unconscious but more likely from sedation rather than any injuries sustained, had the two beds furthest away from the main entrance to the medical wing, where the civilian was right up against the end, Daniel had the second bed in; it was straight over there that Jack and Teal'c went.

Janet Fraiser was standing at the bottom of Daniel's bed, making some notes on a clipboard. She looked up from what she was doing as the colonel got nearer.

"How's he doing, Doc?" he asked quietly, stepping around Janet to stand on the other side of Daniel's bed.

"Well, there are no signs of any physical injuries that we've been able to identify as being living third party inflicted," she replied briskly, not reacting at all when Teal'c came to flank her other side, pretty much trapping her between him and Jack.

Jack frowned for a second, looking down at Daniel. "So what does that mean?"

Janet sighed. "It either means that nothing happened to him during the two hours he was on that planet, or any injuries that Colonel Jackson has sustained have nothing to do with physical contact or skin lacerations."

And if Jack hadn't been worried before... "Meaning?"

"An instrument such as a Goa'uld ribbon device would be able to cause the subject severe pain without leaving any physical sign of its use," Teal'c said suddenly, interrupting any possible comment from Janet.

"Teal'c is right, Colonel," Janet added. She set the clipboard on the end of the bed. "But we're not ruling anything out until the more detailed scans and tests have been done. I've added a mild pain relief to Colonel Jackson's IV drip, just to take the edge off the worst that's going on in there. However, we won't know anything for certain about his condition until either the tests come back or the colonel wakes up. I expect Colonel Jackson will wake up of his own accord fairly soon now that he's in a safer environment, and the tests should be back in a couple hours. By then we should know a little more about what's going on." She smiled warmly at Jack and Teal'c before looking once more at Daniel. She left the three men to tend to another patient further up the line of beds.

Jack slid onto the chair next to Daniel's bed, while Teal'c remained standing at the end of the bed, much like a guard-dog, the smart-aleck in Jack noted.

"Is that what you think happened?" Jack asked after a while, twisting around on the chair to look up at Teal'c. "That they used a ribbon device?"

Teal'c inclined his head to one side. "It is an effective method of torture in a confined space, something well favoured by the System Lords when endeavouring to extract information in a short space of time."

Puzzled, Jack looked back at Daniel's sleeping form. "Why would they want information from him?" he wondered out loud. Then it hit him. "Unless..."

"They would have believed Colonel Jackson to be Doctor Jackson," Teal'c stated bluntly, although from experience Jack was more than able to detect the hint of anger that laced the Jaffa's voice.

Instantly Jack made the vital connection. If the differences between the two realities were great enough... "Daniel wouldn't even have known what they were talking about."

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Eight

When Daniel emerged on the SGA's side of the Stargate, he wasn't entirely sure what he was going to find there. Either side of him, John and Elise had said almost nothing since Bragi had recalled them to the negotiating chambers, and behind him Daniel knew that SG-2 had, on the whole, found the whole mission deeply boring. Aside from some almost ritualistic posturing between the Air Force personnel and Jaffa, Kawalsky and his team had had to do nothing while on Esteria, or whatever General Hammond had called the planet before the delegation had left Earth.

When Daniel emerged on the SGA's side of the Stargate, he was somewhat surprised by what he found there. SF's lined the back perimeter of the 'gate room, although Daniel didn't know if that was normal in the SGA or that was because they had just returned. There were several people lining the window to the control room, including Hammond and Paul Davis, plus some other uniforms and suits that Daniel didn't recognise right away. His gaze darted to either side as SG-2 emerged from the wormhole also, two either side of himself, John and Elise.

He watched General Hammond reach for the microphone, the movement clear and distinct even from this distance. "Doctor Jackson, SG-1, SG-2, we weren't expecting you back this soon," the general told them, "although there aren't any complaints... yet. Report straight to the briefing room."

"Ah, the time of reckoning," John muttered from Daniel's left.

He fingered the small scroll in his pocket, more out of an instinctual need to know he still had it with him rather than anything else. As overly dramatic as it sounded, the scroll was currently the only thing keeping this Earth from either being conquered or fried to a crisp - and Daniel knew it. He swallowed, and hung back just enough to let Elise lead the way out of the embarkation room and up to where the general was waiting for all of them.

John fell into step beside Daniel as they rounded the first corner, although in keeping with the unspoken agreement that had been in place since the halls on Esteria, neither of them said anything. Daniel didn't even look up from the backs of Elise's shoes, using them as a guide for when to turn, when to slow down and when there were steps or slopes coming; he didn't know what John was doing other than walking next to him. Nobody else was saying anything, either; the only sounds really were the ones of footsteps on the concrete floors.

After what felt like an eternity they reached the briefing room. General Hammond was at the head of the long table, and he motioned Elise, Daniel and John to the chairs on the near side while SG-2 took up positions along the edge of the room. For the first time Daniel noticed there were people on the other side of the table. Major Paul Davis he recognised, although the woman and a second man in corporate looking suits he didn't know at all, and neither John nor Elise spared the two of them a second look as they sat down, although Elise did glance briefly at Paul.

Hammond must have caught Daniel staring at the two newcomers; the general was quick to set down the files he had in his hand and motion to each of them in turn. "This is Laura Deayton and Colin Thressel, two representatives of the Stargate Alliance Council."

They both nodded at Daniel, and Deayton quirked a half smile at Daniel. "So you're the linguist," was all she would say before she and Thressel sat down. Now, quite literally, the last one standing and not entirely sure how he was supposed to react to Deayton's... appraisal of him, Daniel quickly pulled his chair and sat down as well.

Back up at the head of the table, Hammond was obviously inclined to getting things underway. "For the enlightenment of the representatives here for the SGAC, Doctor Daniel Jackson has, along with both SG units 1 and 2, undertaken negotiations with representatives of the Goa'uld at a neutral location on an Asgard controlled planet."

So the planet was theirs. Daniel didn't say anything, instead limiting himself to watching the reactions and expressions of the two politicians - he didn't really think there was any other way of describing them, and Elise and Jonathan last night had all but ruled out the idea that the SGA Council dealt with diplomacy at all. Where Deayton so far seemed to be a perfectly controlled mask of polite calm, Thressel's eyes were much more interesting, widening at the actual mention of Daniel's civilian title, and darting between him and the general almost every half second.

"And," Hammond continued, "I'm hoping that the early and somewhat unexpected return of the SGA delegation means that the negotiations have been completed and completed successfully."

"It would certainly seem to be that way, General," Elise replied smoothly; as the officer in overall command of the mission, it made sense for her to reply first, Daniel thought. "However, if it's specifics you're looking for, then I suggest Doctor Jackson take the stand, since he's the only one here who can as yet speak Goa'uld." The major's words were laced with good humour, and Daniel appreciated her choice of words - it seemed she really did agree with the idea of Daniel teaching John the spoken language that had so far eluded him.

And once again Daniel also knew his cue when he saw it. He glanced at Hammond quickly, who moved slightly off to one side of the briefing table, leaving a space free there.

Daniel stood up, again fingering the scroll in his pocket as he rose. That could come out in a minute, when he'd gotten that far in whatever he was about to tell the SGA Council. He came round next to General Hammond, shot the general a quick smile and then turned to face the table head on.

From beside him, he heard, "The SGAC will just want a general overview of the negotiations, as well as the concessions we will be expected to make, and also what the System Lords will be offering in return."

Daniel wondered briefly whether the sheer gratitude was showing on his face right then. He hoped not. "Right. Well... there were two teams of three representatives at the negotiations. Cronos, Yu and Amaunet were the System Lords present."

"I wasn't aware Amaunet had gained the status of a System Lord," Deayton interrupted, fixing Daniel with a cool stare.

Fortunately for him, Elise got in there first. "Following the death of Apophis, Amaunet has taken over his territory and position among the Goa'uld," she replied, matching Deayton's glare point for point.

Interesting... that was almost what Daniel was going to say, although he simply nodded. "Thank you, Major."

Elise grinned back at him before settling back in her chair and eyeing Deayton with an almost predatory look.

"As I was saying, Cronos, Yu and Amaunet represented the System Lords, and for the SGA we had myself, Major Elise Meyers and Doctor Jonathan O'Neill. There were two main parts to the negotiations, the first part being little more than ritualistic posturing not unlike anything currently found in Earth's socio-political structures," Daniel said blithely, looking at Deayton during the last part of that. Because hey, if she wanted to mess with fire...

She rose to the bait. "You mean, Earth's socio-political structures in the reality you come from."

"No." Daniel shook his head. "From what I've been able to gather since being in this reality, the fundamentals are so similar as to almost be the same. And it's also been my experience that any socio-political structure dominated by humans of any race, nationality - or even reality - incorporate a lot of posturing when it comes to dealing with an opposite number. Throughout humanity's history as a self aware species and quite possibly for some time before that rough point of evolution, it's always been a survival tactic, and a proven successful one."

He could go on all day lecturing about this, and Deayton seemed to get the message as well; she sat a little further back in her chair, making herself seem less intrusive, and without taking his eyes off the SGAC rep, Daniel could see the looks of surprise on the faces of all the SGA personnel in the room, including Kawalsky and Sam at the side of the room. He made a mental note to talk to either John or Elise about it later on if he could, just how many people actually took on the SGAC around here.

Beside him, Hammond cleared his throat quietly, and Daniel got the unspoken message. "But as I was saying," he continued, almost as if Deayton's second interruption hadn't happened at all, "the first part of the negotiations was this ritualistic posturing. The System Lords made it quite clear that they thought very little of the SGA's... capability to inflict further serious damage to them or to any ships etcetera, and I -"

"Gave them a verbal kick in the ass," John muttered, drawing the shocked looks of Deayton, Thressel and almost everybody else in the room as well; the only exceptions were Elise, who simply looked amused, SG-2, who simply looked professional, and Daniel himself, who simply tried not to laugh out loud.

"What he said," Daniel added, indicating John with a slight tilt to his head.

Thressel looked supremely concerned, and Deayton audibly sputtered, but said nothing, maybe remembering what had happened the two times already that she'd challenged Daniel over something.

"But anyway, the first part of the negotiations - the posturing - set the scene for the second part of the negotiations," Daniel continued, still using the same blithe tone of voice as before. "And this was where the main aims of the System Lords and SGA were laid out in full with no chance for error on either side."

At mention of that both Thressel and Deayton perked their attentions right back up again; the atmosphere in the briefing room seemed to get sharper accordingly.

"Given what we came up against in my reality, the demands of the System Lords in the Esterian halls were fairly routine," Daniel told the listening group of Air Force personnel, politicians and civilian. "The, well, I guess it was a speech I made that John just referred to as the verbal kicking in the proverbial behind, the speech seems to have been the most likely cause of the fact that Cronos made no demands on the SGA's Stargate. I, um..." Daniel paused for a second, rubbing the back of his neck a couple of times. "I was pretty adamant in that regard, that we wouldn't give up the chaapa'ai."

Deayton frowned. "The what?" she asked.

Daniel frowned back. "The chaapa'ai," he repeated. "You... you don't know what that means?"

Deayton looked like she wanted to roll her eyes at him. "Obviously not, otherwise I wouldn't have asked," she replied icily, fixing Daniel with a similar degree of stare. "As I recall, the only reason you've been brought to this reality at all, Doctor Jackson, is that you're fluent in the Goa'uld language when nobody here is."

"But even so," Daniel replied, still frowning, "you should know the English meaning of chaapa'ai, if from nothing else than the context I've just used it in. But still... it's the most universal term going for the piece of equipment sitting out in the embarkation room. It's been indelibly etched into more than a hundred languages used by societies of transplanted humans across the galaxy, and -"

"Spare me the sociology lesson," Deayton interrupted coldly.

"Well then, spare me the politics lesson," Daniel replied instantly.

She stared at him. "What are you implying, Jackson?"

That you're not the most... enlightened bunch of monkeys this reality has to offer, Daniel's mind supplied, but he resisted the urge to say it out loud. He wasn't stupid, after all.

"Absolutely nothing," he said instead, sounding as innocent as he could. "Anyway," he continued, turning back to everyone else at the table, "I was adamant in that the SGA wouldn't give up their Stargate -" with as heavy emphasis as possible on the English word, "and it seems that the System Lords were secure enough in their own self maintained image of absolute power and superiority that a compromise was reached fairly quickly and with minimal disagreements on either side."

Finally Daniel reached back into his pocket and pulled out the scroll Cronos had almost disdainfully shoved along the table to him during the second part of the negotiations. John and Elise, who had seen it the first time around, but had not had the opportunity to ask Daniel what the significance of it was, now became very focused indeed on Daniel and the rolled up piece of parchment in his hand.

"The compromise was simple enough," Daniel said, now addressing the briefing room as a whole rather than just the people sat around the table. He unrolled the parchment and showed first General Hammond, then the briefing table, who would be able to see what was written on it much more clearly than anyone else in the room. "This is a list of Stargate addresses. Fourteen in total. The compromise is that these fourteen addresses are deleted from the SGA database within a day of our return from Esteria. In return the SGA carries on with its off-world missions and general activities as normal."

Thressel leaned forward slightly. "Where do the addresses lead?" he asked.

Daniel shrugged. "I have no idea."

"But you're just going to wipe them from the SGA's database - just like that?" Thressel seemed only a little confused, although even as he asked the question he was nodding to himself.

"Well, that's the point," Elise spoke up again, looking directly at Thressel for the first time since she had entered the briefing room. "They could be strategic bases for Goa'uld armies, they could be hiding construction sites for God-knows-what kinds of ships or weapons for all we know."

"But as long as we want the treaty to go through and stand tight, then we have to go through with what they want," Thressel finished off the thought in Elise's place, surprising pretty much everyone in the room, not least the major herself.

"Well... yeah," she admitted, nodding at Thressel, her surprise at the politician's acuity written all over her face.

Thressel simply smiled back at her, and nodded.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Deayton interrupted. Well aware that that sinking feeling was crawling back into the recess where he was pretty sure his stomach used to be, Daniel turned to face her; she carried on before he had the chance to even open his mouth. "That's it?" she asked Daniel, her tone challenging.

Daniel frowned again. "I... um... what's it?"

Deayton sighed impatiently. "The SGA wipes more than a dozen Stargate addresses off its computers and we get nothing in return?"

"Hey!" Someone interrupted Deayton before she could say anything else - to Daniel's utter surprise, it was Sam. She took a step forward away from her team members. "The whole point of these negotiations is that Earth isn't fried to a crisp while we sleep, and that we don't get killed next time we have an off-world mission!"

Beside Daniel, General Hammond looked shocked. "Captain Carter!"

"I just... With all due respect, General..." Sam began, and Daniel could have sworn that her eyes darted quickly to himself and then to Hammond - who softened considerably and nodded - before bearing down on the politician once more. "You have no idea what it's like out there," she began, pointing towards the embarkation room, where the top part of the Stargate was still visible. "You have no idea how many times SG teams have either been killed or haven't made it home, or have been injured beyond their capacity to do their jobs any more. This is the front line, Senator Deayton, and these negotiations have been worthwhile, no matter what you personally have to say about the matter. Doctor Daniel Jackson has proved that interstellar diplomacy can be achieved your way, and I think I speak for the SGA when I say he's done a damned good job, and that... that we'll be staying alive a little longer."

The tirade now finished, Sam suddenly seemed a lot more uncertain. Her energy was gone, but despite the sudden change in her demeanour, she did look over at Daniel again, and smiled slightly.

Daniel sent her a small smile in return, accepting the small olive branch for what it was worth - a lot, considering - although inside he was reeling. He'd been taking part in a... a verbal pissing contest with a senator?!

Fortunately enough for him, nobody appeared to have noticed his momentary distress, and General Hammond was surprisingly quick to carry the proceedings on from that point.

"Major Davis, is there anything else you need to know?" he asked.

Surprised, it took Daniel a couple of moments to realise that throughout the minor confrontations with Deayton, Paul had been sitting right on the other side of her, unobtrusive and almost completely forgotten. But he seemed fine with it; he'd quietly been making notes all the time Daniel had been talking - or trying to talk, as the case probably was - and as the general asked the question, Paul pulled up his pad of paper and stood up.

"I think I've got everything I need, General," he answered briskly. Then, with a brief glance in Daniel's direction, "Well done, Doctor Jackson." Paul's voice was carefully neutral, which made it impossible to know in what context that last four words came in. Daniel didn't mind, though; he just nodded at the major as he took leave of Hammond and Elise, and left the briefing room.

As soon as the door closed behind him, Deayton stood up also, pulling on a jacket at the same time. "We have no further reason to stay here either, General Hammond," she announced curtly; instead of looking at the general as she said it, she was staring down at Thressel, still sat in his chair.

Thressel nodded back, and got up himself, though he looked apologetic, almost, as he nodded his own goodbyes to everyone in the briefing room. He hurried to catch up with Deayton, which soon left just the SGA personnel and Daniel standing or sitting around.

"Well." It was Elise. "That went well."

It worked; the tension in the room disappeared almost immediately. There was a collective sigh of relief, and everyone's shoulders visibly relaxed. Even General Hammond seemed in better spirits than just a moment previously. He picked up the files he'd had in his hand when Daniel and the others had first arrived, and nodded, mostly to himself, so it seemed.

"SG-1, SG-2, consider yourselves dismissed with a week's leave," he announced to the room with a smile. "I think you've more than earned it. Doctor Jackson, if you could just wait behind a moment..."

"Uh, sure," Daniel replied, staying where he was. He watched everyone else file out of the briefing room, Sam flashed him another quick smile as she left with Kawalsky and the rest of her team, and Elise motioned to him that she and John would be waiting outside for him, to which Daniel nodded quickly.

When it was just the two of them left in the room, Hammond set down the files again and turned to face Daniel. "Doctor Jackson," he began, "I don't think words alone can express our gratitude for what you've done for us today."

"I... um..." Daniel began rubbing the back of his neck again; flustered at the general's words, he didn't really know what he was supposed to say. "It... it really was nothing."

"Nonsense," Hammond interrupted firmly. He then softened slightly. "You're almost as bad as Colonel Jackson when it comes to taking the credit for something you've done. Believe me, there are a lot of people in this reality who are very grateful for what you've done for us. If there's some way we can repay the favour - any way..."

"Uh, there's... there's nothing I can think of," Daniel replied quickly, the awkward feeling from yesterday coming back again in waves. "I just... well..."

"Yes?" the general encouraged.

"Iofferedtoteachjohnthespokengoa'uldlanguage," Daniel blurted out quickly in one breath.

Hammond frowned.

Daniel took a deep breath. "I, um, I offered to teach John how to speak Goa'uld," he said, much, much slower this time. "It was the reason you had to use the Quantum Mirror, after all, and I thought that maybe, if I did this, then -"

Hammond held up a hand to stop him. "I understand perfectly, son," he said firmly but gently.

Smiling sheepishly, Daniel rubbed the back of his neck again. "Felt weird to have this all over and done with inside a day," he said eventually. "I don't know, I guess I imagined the negotiations taking a lot longer to complete."

"Based on what happened in your reality?" the general asked.

Daniel nodded. "Yeah. But then again, we did have a lot more... I guess you could call them catalysts... to stir things up a lot more than here. Which reminds me!" he suddenly remembered. "General, do you mind if I have access to the SGA's computer systems for a short period of time?" He held up the sheaf of parchment with the Stargate addresses. "One of the conditions attached to this was that I erased the addresses from the database rather than anyone else."

Hammond smiled. "You will have supervision," he reminded the archaeologist.

"Of course!" Daniel nodded. "I wouldn't really expect anything else."

"Alright," Hammond said. "We can organise for you to do that straight away, in order to keep up our end of this agreement."

"Alright," Daniel echoed, grinning slightly. He felt a little giddy inside. Felt weird to describe, but now that it was just himself and General Hammond left in the briefing room, Daniel's emotions were beginning to come back up right near the surface. It was almost unreal to him, to his sensibilities, that the Goa'uld would... sign and seal something that cost the Tau'ri so little as a few, really rather measly Stargate destinations. Daniel had wondered about it sometimes, if the System Lords' ultimate weakness in the long run - hopefully there wouldn't be one - in the conflict with Earth would be their arrogance.

It was the smallest comfort, and not much of a straw, but Daniel was more than willing to try and grab it if he could.

"Uh, General," he added as Hammond led him out of the briefing room. "I... it might be a good idea for me to head back through the Mirror briefly, just explain about what's happening. I mean, I know Jack'll appreciate knowing what's going on, and so would 'my' General Hammond..."

"And without knowing any of the context, you know how weird that could sound?"

It was John, coming up beside Daniel and falling into step with him on the way down to the main control room; although he didn't look behind him, Daniel could hear more footsteps that could only have meant Elise was following them as well. So they had been waiting outside the briefing room for him. It felt a little weird, being flanked by people he didn't really know, but at the same time it was like Daniel had reasoned with himself just last night. In this reality, SG-1 was Colonel Daniel, John and Elise - and John and Elise had apparently taken it upon themselves to look out for Doctor Daniel while he did the living dictionary thing with the Goa'uld. And as Daniel had been finding out over the last day or so, it was something he really didn't mind.

Once again it was just Siler in the control room, doing something with MALP telemetry on one of the computers, and he looked up as General Hammond, Daniel and the others got closer. "Sir?" he asked the general.

"Pull up the address database for the Stargate dialling system, Sergeant."

"Yessir," Siler replied. He shut down the screen with the telemetry on it, and set to work on another keyboard. A few seconds later one of the monitors at the far end of the room started to scroll down a long list of sets of co-ordinates. A nod from Hammond, and Daniel moved over to the computer keyboard the monitor was connected to. He laid out the hand-written list next to the keyboard and, using a trick that Sam had taught him while Jack had been trapped on Edora, started up a search pattern for the first address on the list Cronos had given him.

While the computer searched for the match, Elise came up to stand beside him. "That's a nice trick," she said, indicating the search pattern.

Not looking up from the screen, Daniel nodded. "Something Sam showed me how to do," he replied quietly.

"Sam Carter?"

"Yeah," Daniel clarified. He flipped a hand at the technology around them. "In the SGC, she, uh, she was heavily involved with getting the Stargate to work, putting the technology in place and making sure it worked."

"Yeah?" Elise asked. "Huh. She did the same thing here as well."

Daniel checked the computer quickly; it was still searching for the first address he'd put in. He stood up again and regarded Elise. "If it's not too personal a question," he said quietly, "how come you're on SG-1 and not her?"

"Hang on a sec," Elise replied. "Captain Carter's on your SG-1?"

"Yes," Daniel replied, "although in she's a major in my reality."

Elise pulled a face. "I don't know the politics behind it, or even if there were any," she said sincerely, "but Sam Carter turned down the position on SG-1 before it was offered to me. And that was long before Colonel Jackson got authorisation to return to Abydos."

Daniel frowned. This was getting more complicated by the second; all the information about the history of this alternate reality inside twenty-four hours was starting to get all mixed up in his head, no matter how hard he tried to stop it from getting that way. He remembered what Elise and Jonathan had told him the night before, about the background of a public Stargate program, and the Council, two members of which he'd met just now. Maybe it was just Daniel, going off on some random tangent here, but it kept feeling to him like the people in this reality was preoccupied with how the SGA appeared to the outside world.

He was saved from having to say anything in return by the computer, which beeped twice to signify a match for the destination he'd typed in.

Daniel deleted it from the SGA's database, and began the process over again with the second address on the list. Again it was fairly slow going, and he looked up to see John, Hammond and Siler watching him - and what he was doing with their computers - with interest. "This could - this could take a while," he told them, sounding almost apologetic.

A second later, almost as if to counteract what he had just said, the computer beeped.

No match.

Alright, then. Daniel input the third address and started the search again.

"So, Doctor Jackson," Hammond began, "what were you planning to do regarding the... extension of this mission?"

"Well, like I said, head back to the SGC and inform my General Hammond on what's happened today," Daniel replied, once more keeping all his attention focused on the scrolling information in front of him. After a second or two, and before his eyes started to hurt, he glanced briefly at John. "I meant it earlier, about teaching you the main aural dialect," he added, smiling slightly.

"And like I should have said earlier," the older archaeologist grinned. "Cool."

Daniel mentally groaned, resuming staring at the rows and rows of Stargate destinations on the computer monitor. It took a good five, six minutes for him to go through all fourteen addresses on the list; twelve on them had been on the database and were duly erased, while two weren't on there at all.

After he'd deleted the final address, Daniel stood up again, stretching his back out. "I'm done," he announced.

Hammond nodded. "Doctor O'Neill, Major Meyers, if one of you could take Doctor Jackson back down to the laboratory -"

"We can both go, sir," Elise interrupted, looking to John for confirmation. He nodded his agreement, and after another acquiescence from Hammond, the two of them and Daniel left the control room, Daniel stuffing the list of addresses back into his pocket before leaving.

The lab was pretty much as Daniel remembered it, although that wasn't really saying - thinking? - anything. The Greek sign was still lying flat and face up on the table where John had laid it down, and the Quantum Mirror stood in state in the centre of the smallish room. Elise rummaged around on one of the shelves; after a few seconds she pulled out the control device, and came back around to stand in front of the Mirror. She activated the Mirror and began flipping through the different realities on the other side. As with yesterday, most of the time, the Mirror was black where the other Mirror was either destroyed or completely buried beneath whatever.

Eventually Elise slowed in her ministrations. "Hey, Daniel," she called out. "This looks like the lab - what do you think?"

"Um..." Daniel crossed the room and stood next to Elise. He peered into the view of the other laboratory. True, like Elise had said, the lab was virtually identical to the one he was standing in at the moment - oddly enough, there was even a military-issue jacket hanging up in one corner as well - but that on its own was still not concrete. Which also meant there was no real way of telling if the other lab was located in his SGC or not.

Until someone walked into view.

"Jack!" Daniel blurted out, startled.

And obviously sound didn't translate across the Mirror, as Jack didn't react to Daniel's cry, although he did react to the fact that the Mirror was on on his side. The colonel whirled around on the spot and stared at Daniel through the Mirror, and his face lit up.

"Yeah, that... that's the one," Daniel told Elise, starting to smile himself.

On the other side of the Mirror, Jack frowned for a second before saying something. Daniel could only see his lips moving, no sound coming through the dimensional divide, and shook his head. Can't hear what you're saying, Jack.

Obviously getting this, Jack held up a finger in thought, then motioned towards the Mirror with his hands, large sweeping movements.

"I, um... we should move back," Daniel told Elise. They did.

Jack watched this, and then vanished out of view. He reappeared a second later with a couple of large files in one hand, and stepped right up towards the Mirror. Put his hand out to touch it, and in a flash of light he appeared on the SGA's side.

"Woa," he muttered. Turned around. "Hey, Daniel," he grinned.

"Hi Jack," Daniel replied. Then he remembered where he was. "Um, John you already, um... know, and this is Major Elise Meyers."

"Nice to meet ya," Jack told her, holding out his hand. "I'm Colonel O'Neill."

Elise's eyes visibly widened; although she seemed too surprised to actually say anything, she did shake the proffered hand a couple of times before letting it go.

Although John was just as surprised, he did chuckle. "So, what brings you here, Colonel?" he asked his counterpart. "Is Daniel all right?"

Jack pulled a face, and inwardly Daniel groaned a few times. "Well..." the colonel began. "That's kinda why I need to talk to General Hammond. I am right in thinking it's old George running this place, right?"

John smirked. "As long as you don't call him that to his face, should be okay."

"Great," Jack grinned. He straightened up the files he was still holding. "Whenever you're ready, uh... Doc."

By now standing next to each other, John and Daniel shared a look; Daniel wasn't entirely sure which of them Jack was referring to, and if he really thought about it... did he even want to know?

Elise was the first to recover. "Uh, this way... Colonel," she managed, straightening her skirt at the same time.

Jack's only reaction to the confusion he was causing was an even wider grin than before; he motioned to John to go in front of him, with himself and Daniel bringing up the rear, side by side. Through the corridors of the SGA, and the people who had reacted mildly to seeing Doctor Daniel Jackson over the last twenty-four hours or so were practically falling at their feet from shock at the sight of two nearly identical O'Neill's strolling oh so casually through the corridors of a not so top secret military installation. Daniel couldn't blame them; seeing the civilian John for the first time in the SGC's briefing room had been enough of a shock to his system, and Jack in the SGA more than exuded military... ness, much like everywhere else he was. Not that Daniel would ever admit that to his friend's face, of course. It would only garner a retort that Daniel had yet to understand the ways of the military man, or some other comic book induced statement.

But one way or another, Daniel and the others presently ended up back one level up from the main control room, just outside the door to General Hammond's office. In their wake Jack and Daniel had indeed left the majority of the on-duty staff of the SGA staring at their backs, and if the situation had been anything other than it was - or possibly was, since Jack still hadn't explained exactly why he'd come through the Mirror - Daniel would have found it all rather amusing.

Elise knocked on the general's door, glancing sideways at John at the same time, avoiding staring again at Jack. It was almost exactly the same kind of self-restraint Major Sam Carter had shown at seeing John and Colonel Daniel in the SGC, and here and now in the SGA Doctor Daniel wondered when - if ever? - he was going to stop making mental comparisons between the two SG-1 teams.

And somewhere along the line in this train of thought, there must have been an answer of some kind from inside Hammond's office, as the next Daniel knew, the door was open, Elise holding it and motioning for the three men to go in ahead of her.

Inside the office, General Hammond was leafing through a report.  He looked up just as Daniel shut the door behind him and Jack, Elise having moved further into the office with John, and did a visible double take.

Jack wasted no time. He crossed the small office in two steps and handed the general the folders he'd been carrying. "General. I'm Colonel O'Neill, CO of the SG-1 unit that Doctor Jackson here is on. You, uh, might want to read that," he finished in one breath, indicating the brown folders in Hammond's hands.

The general didn't open them. "Colonel O'Neill?" he enquired.

"Or you can just call me Jack," Jack retorted with a smirk, and at the far end of the room Daniel was the only person to see John grimace again at the variation of his name.

"If you're with the SGC, then what are you doing here?" Hammond asked Jack, and once again there was the impression that this particular General Hammond was that much more openly sceptical than the General Hammond back in the SGC.

Jack didn't respond to what was obviously a rhetorical question, but instead went with, "Please read the report, General. It... concerns Colonel Jackson, and I don't know the right medical babble to tell you straight off the bat."

Daniel frowned. It wasn't that Jack never usually said that much out loud in one go - well, he tried not to if he could help it. But still Hammond's question rang true, and Daniel couldn't help but wonder what had happened back in his reality in the last twenty-four hours that Jack was this side of the Quantum Mirror now.

Finally opening the folder, Hammond pulled out the topmost sheet and began to read what was written there. After a few seconds he frowned. "Major," he said, not looking up, "go down to the medical wing and find either Doctor Fraiser or Doctor Meyers, and tell them one of them is needed up here right away."

"Yessir," Elise nodded and left the room.

After maybe half a minute, when there was still no information forthcoming, Daniel stepped right up next to the desk. "Uh, Jack...?"

Jack looked at him. "Daniel?"

"...Dare I ask what happened to Colonel Jackson?"

Jack raised his eyebrows briefly. "Off-world mission," he replied nonchalantly, with the kind of tone of voice that implied the three words explained everything.

Worryingly enough, from Daniel's perspective, it almost did.

John stepped up to the desk as well then, awkwardly completing the tableau. Moments later the office door opened again, and Elise and Janet came in. Janet barely batted an eyelid at Jack, making a beeline straight for Hammond. "General?"

"Doctor Fraiser, read this." Hammond handed her the report he'd been holding.

She began leafing through the first few pages, then looked up. "Exactly the recommendations I would have made," she told the general, evidently confused with what she was reading. Janet then held the report out in front of her. "Would someone like to explain this to me?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah. We had an off-world mission to P7J-783 scheduled for this morning. Colonel Jackson and Doctor Rothman were the additions to the team as per... our... General Hammond's orders. We ran into an unexpected firefight, and we believe Colonel Jackson was taken by Heru'ur and the Jaffa accompanying him. We rescued him after a two hour delay, and at the moment we don't know any more than that."

"That's not quite what I meant, Colonel," Janet replied instantly, looking directly at Jack as she said it.

Jack frowned - so did pretty much everyone else in the room, really. The obvious question in Daniel's mind was how this reality's Janet Fraiser knew to address Jack as a Colonel, specifically, but instead of asking that, Jack simply pulled a face and instead asked, "So what did you mean?"

Janet held out the report to him. "Well, this report is in my handwriting, but thinking about it, I can only assume there's another version of me in your reality's Stargate program."

"Yeah," Jack told her, not really looking surprised at all. "So, uh... she made the recommendations you would have made?"

"Which would be what, exactly?" John demanded, entering the conversation for the first time. He came right up to the desk this time, standing next to his counterpart and crossing his arms at the same time.

"Absolute bed rest for Colonel Jackson for forty-eight hours minimum until the full extent of his injuries has been confirmed," Janet replied crisply, not missing a beat. "After that recommendations to be left to doctor's discretion." She looked up at Jack again. "It's not written in here, but going on my own judgement of what has been included about the colonel's physical state, I'd give him anything up a week to recuperate, regardless of the injuries."

This time Jack really did look surprised. "And Doctor Fraiser said the same thing."

"Really?" Janet raised her eyebrows. There was a brief look of amusement on her face before she turned back to Hammond. "General, as much as I consider Colonel Jackson my medical responsibility, I agree fully with the report."

"Alright," Hammond nodded. "Colonel O'Neill, you'd best inform your Doctor Fraiser she's got a week to bring Colonel Jackson as close to normally healthy as possible. And besides," he added, his eyes twinkling now, "that doesn't seem too impossible a time frame for Doctors Jackson and O'Neill to finish what they already seem to have started."

Jack frowned again. "Daniel?" he asked, cocking his head to one side. Daniel was, by now, used to the look on his face when Jack said his name like *that*, but the others in the room weren't, for obvious reasons, and Daniel could see some of them smiling slightly.


Jack sighed. "Whatcha cooking up this time?"

"Well," Daniel began, "the only reason I was asked to take part in the negotiations was because John doesn't speak Goa'uld. I offered to teach him the spoken language so that if there's a next time -"

"Daniel," Jack interrupted good-naturedly, "the idea of these things is that there isn't a next time."

"Doctor Jackson," Hammond said, "are you sure you can teach Doctor O'Neill the language in a week?"

"Well, I learned Abydonian pretty much in one night," both John and Daniel said at the same time; the two archaeologists looked at each other in bemusement, completely missing the general exasperated expressions of amusement playing out around the rest of the small office.

Jack was the first to recover enough to speak. "They'll be fine, General. Really! See?" he continued, waving a hand at John and Daniel. "They're both language geeks, they'll love it."

Daniel pulled a face at that, although he said nothing; beside him John was similarly silent.

"That's settled then," Hammond replied, diplomatically choosing to ignore Jack's last sentence. "It's Friday today, so barring any unforeseen circumstances with Colonel Jackson's condition, if we arrange to switch the colonel and Doctor Jackson back through the Mirror to their own realities next Friday."

"So eight days instead of seven?" Jack asked.

Hammond nodded.

"That seems reasonable enough," Jack replied. "Thank you General, Doctor Fraiser."

Janet beamed. "Just take good care of our colonel," she told him.

"Oh, don't worry," Jack told her. "I know better than to cross any Janet Fraiser," he added before muttering something right under his breath that sounded to Daniel's ears suspiciously like 'Napoleonic power mongers', although he could just have been imagining things.

Janet simply smiled back, and on the other side of the desk, Hammond now looked a lot more at ease than he had done before. "Colonel, I'll escort you back to the Mirror, if you don't mind -"

Jack shook his head. "No - not at all."

"- and everyone else, dismissed."

The general and Jack stayed behind in the office for a few seconds as everyone else began to file out; Daniel lingered behind as well, staring at Jack for a second before his friend shooed him out with a hand motion and what was probably supposed to be a reassuring expression on his face. Not a little confused, Daniel quickly caught up with John, outside the office. Elise and Janet had already vanished down the corridor and were more than likely on their way back down to the medical wing.

"This day just keeps getting weirder and weirder," John muttered, and Daniel couldn't help but smile. then the older archaeologist continued. "You don't think Daniel's been too seriously hurt, do you?"

"No..." Daniel shook his head. "I... Jack was much too, um, light hearted for it to be anything life-threatening. It was probably just that he wanted to make sure you were all up to date on the colonel's condition, whatever that may have... whatever that is."

"Yeah." John nodded, shifting a little on his feet and looking uncomfortable.

Just then something occurred to Daniel. "John?"

"Yeah, Daniel?"

Daniel paused for a second, trying to get the wording right. "Could you tell me where I could find Major Davis?"

"Paul?" John asked, his frown deepening. "He'll be in his office..." Realisation dawned as he cottoned onto the fact that Daniel was talking about figuring out who the SGA's leak was. "You know, I think we were mostly kidding when we asked you about that, I -"

"It's just an idea I had back in the briefing room," Daniel interrupted him, holding a finger up to prevent the other man from speaking, "I don't know how much it's worth, but..."

John regarded him for a moment. "Yeah, sure," he replied. "C'mon, I'll show ya."

Daniel smiled in thanks, and followed John deeper into the SGA.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Nine

True to his word, General Hammond escorted Jack back to the laboratory where the Quantum Mirror was. He stood off to one side as Jack picked up the SGA's control device and started to flip through the different realities until he found his own one again. The lab on the other side was empty, bar Jack's green jacket, which he'd purposely hung up in the Mirror's view so he would know which way was home - his home.

Well, didn't this just feel like the general was walking him home after a date together? Jack mentally grimaced at the implications of that thought, at the same time turning back to look at Hammond, shifting Fraiser's medical reports from his right hand to left. "I hate repeating myself," he said, "but thanks again."

Hammond smiled. "You're quite welcome... Colonel."

Jack grinned at the general one last time before reaching out to touch the Mirror. In a flash of blindingly white light and a little jolt to the stomach, he was back in his own reality. He looked through the Mirror's surface, and saw the alternate Hammond give him a slight nod before walking out of view altogether, which left Jack on his own in two realities' labs. The control device Carter had given him to operate the Mirror was on top of the filing cabinet by the door where he'd left it, and it was simple enough for Jack to pick it up again and use it to switch the thing off again.

He left the lab, and headed back down to the medical wing. The simple five minute walk gave Jack far too much time to think about things as they currently stood. Eight days. The SGC had eight days to get Colonel Jackson to a level of health good enough to let him go home. Meanwhile Doctor Jackson had eight days to do the geek thing and teach an alternate version of Jack how to talk to snakes. On the surface, two reasonably simple and uncomplicated tasks to be accomplished, but Jack had long since given up thinking in black and white. Everywhere he looked nowadays there were shades of grey, not least when it came to the concept of alternate realities - and actually dealing with them. Jack supposed he should just be grateful that their Daniel was in good hands on the other side of the Quantum Mirror - he even seemed to be enjoying himself a little, judging by the way Jack had seen him interact with the alternate SG-1.

But right here and right now, the situation was a grey and complex as it could likely get under the - odd - circumstances. One bed from the end in the SGC's medical wing was an alternate version of one of Jack's closest friends and colleagues - and Jack had to figure out how to deal with him in order to get the ball rolling and try and sort out this whole goddamned mess. Starting with why Colonel Daniel Jackson had apparently disobeyed a direct order, getting both a civilian injured and himself kidnapped in the process, with Christ-knew-what going on inbetween that and the farce of a rescue mission.

The rescue mission may have been a farce, but it had been a costly farce. And re-entering the medical wing only proved to Jack just how farcical the farce really was, and at the same time making himself acknowledge that he really could do with something for the headache.

Three members of SG-14, and three from SG-2 were all on beds and hooked up to various drips and machines; there was a single Marine sitting on the bed closest to Jack, having a small bandage applied to his wrist before the nurse would let him stand up, and the other Marines were standing guard over their fallen SGC colleagues. And at the far end of the infirmary, Teal'c was still standing his own, far more imposing guard over Daniel's bed. Jack stalked down the ends of the beds to get to them, tossing the medical reports with her counterpart's signature to a surprised Janet. She left her patient and followed Jack, but she didn't say anything, and he didn't stop for her.

"Has he woken up?" Jack asked Teal'c, finally coming to a stop at the foot of the younger colonel's bed.

Teal'c shook his head slightly. "He has not, O'Neill. Doctor Fraiser has informed me that this is not unusual."

"And Doctor Fraiser also informs you for the latest time that you should probably get those seen to," Janet interrupted, indicating the scrapes and shallow cuts down Teal'c's left wrist.

"I have already made it clear that it is not a serious injury," Teal'c replied without missing a beat; looking from the former First Prime to the small Napoleon incarnate standing opposite him with hands on hips, Jack wondered just what he'd missed while he'd been away. And whether or not it was worth risking his immediate health if he asked.

He didn't, although the idea of it was amusing enough. "The, uh, other Doc Fraiser agreed with what you said about Daniel," he told Janet.

She beamed. "That would be the idea, Colonel," she replied, still sounding far too cheerful for her own good, although she did sober up considerably when she came up to stand level with Daniel's pillow. "Teal'c," she began, looking at him, "if you could -"

She pointed at one of the machines on the other side of the bed, and as Jack watched, Teal'c stepped around to pass her the clipboard balancing on top of one of the monitors hooked up to Rothman. Jack spared the civilian a quick glance. His condition hadn't been too critical when he'd been brought in after the original mission to P7J; at the moment it just looked like he was sleeping, the cuts on the side of his face and neck cleaned up and covered.

Daniel, on the other hand, didn't look so hot. Despite the extra stuff being pumped into him by various drips and things, he still looked very pale, showing up some of the bruises as much darker than they actually were, although by now some of the smaller ones were starting to fade. And now that he had time to map out the specific parts of Daniel's body where the bruises were, Jack was reasonably certain that most of them had been the results of falling heavily - or being pushed - onto hard surfaces, like rocks or stone walls or floors. They were consistent with a clumsy or inexperienced rock climber, but it was the method of the bruises actually being induced in the first place that still had Jack worried.

Kinda ironic, really, that when "his" Daniel had vanished through the Quantum Mirror with John O'Neill, that when Jack and Colonel Daniel had joked about the two civilians getting themselves into deep trouble of one kind or another without the colonels there to keep a watchful eye on them, it was actually one of the colonels who got himself into deep trouble of one kind or another.

And lost as he was in these theoretical wanderings, Jack was almost - but not quite - scared out of his skin at the sound of, "J'n?"

"Hey, Daniel!" Quickly, Jack slipped around to the head of the bed, while Teal'c and Janet made respectfully hasty retreats - he accompanied her back to her previous patient, one of the enlisteds on SG-2. "How're you feeling?"

Daniel frowned. "I don't... what happened?"

Quickly Jack began to fill him in on the basics of the two missions to the planet - the official one and the rescue one.

Wincing at the lights above him, Daniel held up a hand to stop Jack. "Hang on a sec," he began, speaking slowly. "John, there wasn't an off-world mission scheduled for this morning."

Huh? Jack frowned. "Daniel...?"

"Quit playing games with me, Doctor O'Neill," Daniel snapped back, the intended effect ruined by the visible effort he had to put into getting the words out. For the first time he looked up the row of beds to his left. "What's going on here?"

Jack floundered for a moment, but before he could say anything, Daniel had caught sight of the person lying in the bed directly next to him. "Meyers," he said slowly. With a sudden burst of movement he made as if to get up and out of the bed, but Jack had him pinned before he could actually get anywhere.

"John!" Daniel began to struggle, causing Jack to put more effort into keeping the younger man as close to lying down on he bed as possible. "John, what the hell d'you think you're doing?"

"I'm not John!" It came out a lot louder than Jack had intended, and it was loud enough to attract the attention of Janet, Teal'c and two of the orderlies, all of whom came down the infirmary, stopping short at the distressed expression now on Colonel Jackson's face.

At Jack's forceful statement, Daniel was visibly stunned, and slumped back down onto the bed, physically exhausted at the very least. He looked up at Jack. "Then who are you and where the hell am I?"

Jack sighed, not sure how safe it was to let go of Daniel just yet. "I'm not John, and she's not Meyers," he told Daniel, jerking his head to the next bed over. He sighed again. "My name's Jack O'Neill, and you're in the medical wing of the SGC."

Daniel actually smiled at that one. "You really have got it all wrong," he informed Jack. "You snakes really need to get your facts right. I'm with the SGA."

Jack ducked his head, trying not to sigh again. What was it he'd been thinking in the briefing room about Daniels and snake-baiting? "Doc?" he called out. At least she'd be a familiar face to Colonel Jackson - and with the right name as well.

As Janet approached the bed with more than just a little trepidation in her step, Daniel looked over her shoulder - and saw Teal'c standing there. "No..." the colonel whispered. "No, that... that's impossible."

Frowning, Janet looked behind her, still confused when she realised Daniel was staring at Teal'c. She looked over at Jack, who jerked his head towards the Jaffa and jerked a hand across his neck in a slashing motion. She nodded with understanding, but Daniel hadn't paid either of them any attention.

"What is impossible, Colonel Jackson?" Teal'c asked, taking a step closer to the bed.

Daniel stared back at him, open defiance taking over the pain and confusion in his expression.

Jack sighed. "Daniel, do you trust me?"

"I don't know who you are!" Daniel shot back instantly.

"Okay." Jack took a deep breath. "I should have seen that one coming. Daniel, will you listen to Doc Fraiser? I guarantee what she'll have to say is the truth."

Daniel didn't deign to respond to that statement, although he did switch his gaze from Teal'c to Janet. She smiled, still looking somewhat uncertain, and sat down on the edge of her patient's bed, waving the two orderlies away at the same time. "Colonel O'Neill was right, Daniel," she began. "You're in the SGC. Now," she continued, holding up a hand to forestall any further interruption from him, "we don't know exactly what happened to you during the mission this morning, but at the moment it looks like you've suffered mental trauma and slight concussion, which will explain why your short-term memory has been affected, but that shouldn't last very long." Janet smiled. "With me so far?"

Slowly, still with furtive glances to Teal'c, Jack and the still-conscious Liley in the bed next to him, Daniel nodded.

"You're in an alternate reality," Janet explained to him. "In this reality, Daniel Jackson is the civilian, and John O'Neill -" she pointed at Jack with a ballpoint, "- is the Air Force Colonel, although here he's called Jack."

"That's crazy," Daniel muttered.

Janet smiled. "It sounds it, doesn't it? But it's the truth. How else do you explain Jack and Teal'c?"

Daniel glanced at both men in turn, finally coming back to look at Janet. "I can't," he admitted. Then, "How long have I been here?"

"A little over twenty-two hours," Janet informed him.

Jack glanced at Daniel, and could only wonder at what the guy was going through in his head. The closest Jack could come to saying he knew what the younger colonel was going through was when he, Carter and Daniel had woken up in Hathor's mock-up of the SGC. Except that there was one vital difference - this time, Colonel Jackson was being told the truth. But he didn't know that, and there was a very thin line between knowing instinctively what the truth was, and when to give up on instinct and rely on the people around you, what they were telling you was the truth.

"Colonel Jackson, can you remember what happened to you at all today?" Janet was asking him, and Jack had to literally force himself to start paying attention to the two way interaction again.

Daniel frowned. "Bits and pieces, I guess," he said slowly. "It's all kinda confusing." He looked over to the bed next to him. "Is she going to be all right?"

Janet followed his gaze. "Captain Liley should be fine," she told Daniel, a small smile on her face.

The smile was echoed on his face. "They're okay," he murmured, and when Janet frowned, the smile grew slightly. "Jack and Liley, John and Meyers," he told her solemnly.

Jack couldn't help but grin. "She's on his team in the other reality," he informed Janet, indicating Liley with a hand; he was still bent over, leaning on the other side of Daniel's bed from the doctor, "but, uh, married."

"I got that part, Colonel," Janet smiled back. She then turned back to Daniel. "You said you remember bits and pieces," she encouraged him. He nodded. "Which parts can you remember?"

Daniel's head dropped to his chest, gaze firmly rooted somewhere in his lap, and it was a long moment of hesitation before he met anyone's eyes again; he looked directly at Jack, and there was something in the younger colonel's eyes that scared the living crap out of him.

"I was in a cave," Daniel began slowly and haltingly, not once taking his eyes off Jack...

An unexpected backhand sent him tumbling to the ground; in the darkness and unfamiliar with the terrain, he slipped and fell hard onto his back; outstretching his arms proved futile and he felt a sharp pain run right the way up his left bicep and back down again. One of his legs kicked out from underneath him. It hit something hard but living, and milliseconds later the leg was pushed back in his direction, causing more pain.

He couldn't see the person who had hit him, could barely hear anything over the blood rushing in his ears, although once or twice he fancied that he could make out the harsh breathing and grunts of at least three different full grown men, maybe four.

The pounding in his ears eventually subsided, only to be replaced with the sound of footsteps on some kind of rock - no, gravel. Grains of dirt larger than sand but smaller than actual rocks.

The footsteps stopped just behind his head. When he tried to get back up again a hard, almost metallic boot landed on his chest, pushing him back down to the ground again.

Jack closed his eyes, too easily able to conjure up the images that Daniel had provided them with. When he opened his eyes again he noticed first that someone had drawn the privacy curtains around Daniel's bed, and also that Daniel was still staring at him with a strange look in his eyes; Jack wondered if that gaze had left him at all during those few minutes Daniel'd been talking.

That would... that would explain the bruising covering his arms, not to mention the other areas underneath his clothing - now underneath the medical gown - Jack realised. Daniel hadn't fallen, as he'd been thinking... hoping... or rather, he hadn't fallen in the sense it was of his own lack of volition. Someone else had been there, and it was the consequences of the someone else, like Janet, Teal'c and Jack had already discussed that were now the biggest concern of the latter there.

And not just him, either. Teal'c took a step closer to the foot of the bed, still maintaining some distance between himself and the colonel. "Colonel Jackson, were you able to identify those who attacked you?"

Daniel shook his head, the movement tiny and almost nonexistent. "One of them was a System Lord," he blurted.

Jack frowned. "How would you know?"

Daniel glanced at him. "It's like a symbol of their status; most System Lords' boots have parts or all of the soles embedded with a thin layer of metal," he explained. "Believe me, it hurts a lot more than leather. But I don't know which System Lord it was - which it would have been," he added.

"Since it would appear that only your memories of the last twenty four hours have been affected," Teal'c began, "is it a prudent question to ask whether you have previously encountered a System Lord by the name of Heru'ur?"

Jack had to hand it to the big guy; nobody else in the infirmary would have had the balls to be that blunt when dealing with Daniel - any Daniel - when he was in this state. Well... except maybe Janet, but she seemed too focused on playing good cop at the moment; she was the only constant in Daniel's mind right now, after all.

Frowning, Daniel shook his head again. "Heard of him," he replied, "but no, we've never run into him before. Amaunet's been our main adversary." His head snapped up. "Why d'you ask?"

Oh boy... Jack ducked his head again before resuming his stare at Daniel. "Because it was him who had you in the cave," he told the colonel. He waved his hand around for a second, trying to figure out the best way to phrase the next part correctly. "We... we've run into him before."

Teal'c raised his eyebrow in Jack's direction, while Janet shifted somewhat uncomfortably on the bed. It was one of the understatements of the century, at least as far as Teal'c and Doctor Daniel Jackson were concerned.

Colonel Jackson, on the other hand, looked as though he hadn't heard Jack's words; instead, he was frowning again, and his eyes were distant, unfocused, like he was looking through Jack to someplace else entirely. "If I'm here, then Doctor Jackson's in my reality," he said. It wasn't a question, more like a simple statement of fact; Jack nodded.

Daniel looked directly at him. "You told me about him last night," he informed the older colonel, smiling slightly. "I know you did because I can remember telling you he was like John, and then there was something how they'd be fine without us there to watch their sixes."

"You can remember?" Jack asked him, glancing quickly at Janet. They were in silent agreement, so it seemed - it must have just been a particularly nasty concussion for the confusion with short-term memory to have started to go so quickly. At least it was nothing long-lasting, or permanent.

Daniel nodded. "It's still kinda messed up, though," he told Jack. Then, "Are you sure John's okay?"

Nodding back, Jack said, "I went to the SGA, to give your General Hammond Doc Fraiser's medical report on ya. Saw John again, met Major Meyers, saw Daniel - they're all fine."

"Good," Daniel said, but the smile in his voice wasn't echoed on his face.

Jack watched him for a moment before saying, "Something else there, Daniel?"

Daniel was frowning again. "Why... didn't you tell me Doctor Jackson had kids?" he asked slowly.

Well, that threw Jack for six, and he tried not to react too openly, succeeding, too - for the most part. Janet glanced briefly at him before turning her attention back to Daniel. "What do you mean, Colonel?"

"I'd have thought that was obvious," Daniel replied. "I mean, I've been here for nearly a day, why did nobody think to let me know that my counterpart has children?"

It was Jack's turn to frown again. "Daniel," he began, "Colonel Jackson. Our Daniel - Doctor Daniel Jackson, however many letters after his name, does not have children. He doesn't even have a wife - well... not any... more..." he finished lamely.

The pale anger on Daniel's face quickly vanished, leaving behind simple and open confusion. Opposite him, on the bed, Janet caught the look. "Something else from in the cave?" she asked him.

Once again, Jack felt Daniel's gaze centre in on him. "Yeah," the younger colonel admitted.

Leaning heavily on the bed again, Jack closed his eyes. Good old fashioned instinct was giving him too clear an idea of what could be coming next.

"Answer me!"

He kept silent. He couldn't have answered them, even if he had thought about wanting to - besides which, admitting the inability to provide answers would only have led, however eventually, to his death.

Another hard kick to the chest had him gasping air, the frantic movement of his airways momentarily the only sound in the otherwise silent cave. He was flat on his back again, still blind in the near darkness. There was a dim light source now, coming from somewhere behind him and to the right, but it wasn't very effective; all he could see of his tormentors were blurred shadows that occasionally moved, making it hard to distinguish them from anything else around him.

A rush of cold air, and suddenly the foot was pressing down in the gravel on his left side, and on the right, he felt a metallic hand - one designed to hold a ribbon device in the palm - wrap its fingers around his neck. "The boy," the voice hissed in the dual voice of the Goa'uld. "Tell me... where the boy is. The child you would keep from my possession."

He kept silent. Sour breath puffed against his ear; seconds later the snake withdrew, and the light behind him brightened enough for him to be able to make out the man standing over and above him, one foot planted either side of his hips. "If you will not tell me of your own free will..." the Goa'uld began, raising his right hand directly in line with Daniel's forehead.

Milliseconds later the ribbon device activated - Daniel's head jerked back against the ground as various images began to assault his mind, and the pain he was feeling all over began to intensify more than tenfold.

"Everything... everything after that is pretty much the same," Daniel told a silent group of listeners. "He kept asking me about this child, this boy he was looking for, and each time I didn't answer, he - he'd do something a little worse. Eventually they just left me to it, I think. Next thing I know, I'm waking up here." He looked over at Jack again, who reluctantly met his eyes. "So, uh, do I get to know what's going on here, or do I have to beat it out of you with an IV drip?"

Jack huffed a little, amused at least with the weak joke. It was a good sign - something he'd have done himself if it were him on the bed, and given the current circumstances... maybe not that good a sign, then. "If you feel like going against *two* Doctor Fraisers' orders and actually getting out of bed," he told Daniel seriously, "then by all means, try and beat the saline outta me."

Janet smiled slightly, something at the other end of the infirmary catching her attention then. "Well, gentlemen," she began, getting up from the bed and picking up the clipboard also, "I think you'll all understand if I have to go see to some other patients now. Colonel Jackson - stay in bed, or else. Colonel O'Neill, if that headache starts giving you real trouble, see one of the nurses. And Teal'c," she finished blithely, turning to the Jaffa, "if you're absolutely certain you don't want the grazes seeing to -"

"I am certain, Doctor Fraiser," Teal'c interrupted smoothly, fixing the small woman with an almost imperious stare.

She sighed. "Fine. Colonel Jackson, someone will be along shortly to check everything's in order physically."

Daniel nodded, then smiled. "Thanks, Doc."

Janet was already headed towards her next patient. "You're very welcome, Colonel."

Jack watched Janet's retreating back for a moment before sneaking Daniel a sidelong look. "She likes you."

Daniel stared back, narrowing his eyes.

Unable to help himself, Jack grinned. "Too easy," he muttered to himself before sobering up. Then, "You sure the, uh, mind thing's...?"

Daniel sighed impatiently. "Yes, Jack, I'm in full possession of my mental faculties, I know exactly where I am and why I'm here, thank you very much."

Jack held up his hands in mock defeat. "Just checking!"

Daniel pulled a face, wincing at the contortion. "Yeah - right." Then, "So, uh, do I get to know what's going on with this Heru'ur guy?"

Now there was a loaded question if ever he heard one. Sighing, Jack looked first to Teal'c before turning back to the other colonel. "Are you sure we can't save this conversation for another time? I mean, you've probably been through enough today, and -"

"Jack..." There was a definite threat of danger in Daniel's voice.

Jack sighed again. He didn't like this, not one little bit - but he knew it had do be done. It would have happened sooner or later, at least that was what he'd figured out that morning on the way into the mountain. "Teal'c?" he asked, not looking up. "Do me a favour, go find out where Carter's gotten to."

He didn't have to be a genius to figure he was getting the silently raised eyebrow treatment; that would last about a second, then Teal'c would stare at him some more, probably at Daniel as well, just for good measure, then go off to do the little chore for his team commander.

And sure enough, when Jack looked up a few seconds later, Teal'c was gone, and it was just him and Daniel there.

"Well?" Daniel had an eyebrow raised now, as well. "What was that for?"

Jack floundered for a second. "It's personal," he said finally. "And it involves Teal'c." At that, Daniel only frowned again, which left the elder colonel in a simple enough quandary; get on with the story now, or risk a crotchety patient.

He grabbed one of the folding chairs from the very end of the infirmary, just around the other side of Rothman's bed - yep, the guy was still sleeping - and folded it out as close to the head of Daniel's bed as he could. Sitting down, Jack was just inches away from Daniel. "Daniel was married," he began simply, after a few seconds of circular thinking and coming to the realisation that there was no really easy way of putting any of this. But this was his friend's story, maybe there was some middle road he could find to try and keep the impact of it to a minimum.


"She... she was one of the Abydonians we met on the first mission," Jack said. "Daughter of the chief there."

"Sha're," Daniel murmured.

Jack raised his head, looked at the other man. "You knew her?"

"Sure," Daniel replied. "She was the one who taught John to speak their language. Her father tried offering her to him as a gift, but, uh, John managed to avoid it without getting the girl killed for being turned down."

"The..." Jack waggled his fingers near the base of his neck. "That medallion thing?"

Daniel nodded. "The Emissary of Ra," he said, as if recalling something from a particularly fleeting memory.

"That's the one!" Jack snapped his fingers. "But, uh, Kasuf gave Sha're to Daniel, and they were... uh... happy together." Smooth, O'Neill, real smooth.

"He brought her back here?" Daniel asked, puzzled.

Jack shook his head. "No. He, uh, he stayed behind on Abydos, practically insisted on it. He, uh..." He swallowed. TMI at twelve o'clock... "He told me afterwards it was one of the first times he'd felt like he had a proper family."

The look of sheer puzzlement on Colonel Jackson's face would have been funny had the circumstances not been so... like this. And Jack sighed again, exhaling the breath in one long, loud puff. But maybe there was a way he could get around this...? "Daniel, remember you said last night about there being that near miss with the headstone in New York?"

Daniel nodded slowly, looking at Jack; the older colonel simply shook his head, and the look on his face had to have been telling Daniel more than was implicitly necessary; Daniel closed his eyes briefly.

There was a sudden feeling of nausea growing in the cesspit where Jack's stomach used to be, and he was hit with the equally sudden urge to get this over and done with as quickly as was humanly possible - Not my story to tell... - and he did so, speaking in a low monotone, staring at the rack next to Daniel's bed, the one holding the IV drip upright, as he spoke. "Apophis took Sha're from Abydos, made her the host for his queen. Teal'c picked her, right before he came with us. Daniel saw her once more before she was killed. He delivered her child, Apophis' son before taking him away from both Apophis and Heru'ur, who was out to score points against his rival. That... that's pretty much it." And now he'd like a bucket to retch into, thank you very much. Never mind the nasty sensation in his stomach region, there was something pretty awful in his mouth as well now, and Jack wanted nothing more than to be rid of it.

"So, that's the kid Heru'ur was looking for?" Daniel asked. It was clear even from just the tone of his voice that he was looking for a final, simple clarification; there was nothing there that suggested he wanted to repeat any of it any more than was absolutely necessary.

And Jack couldn't bring himself to reply. He just kept staring at the thing holding the IV drip at a right angle; Daniel said nothing more.

The two colonels stayed like that for a while, each lost in their own worlds of pain and loss, neither quite able, or so it seemed, to bring themselves to say, or do anything that would break the unspoken spell.

Eventually, however, Jack became acutely aware of two people coming up to stand near the bottom of the bed; he could recognise Teal'c's quiet footsteps a mile off, even in a place like the medical wing. Logic - plus Teal'c's own sense of duty and tact - meant that the other person could only have been Carter.

It was her. "Sir? General Hammond's down here as well... how're you feeling, Colonel?"

Having still not looked up by this point, Jack could only assume that the question at the end there was directed to Daniel rather than himself.

It was. "Guess I've been better," Daniel told her.

Finally Jack raised his head, looking around - and unwittingly completing the awkward tableau. Of the four SG-1 "members", nobody was meeting anybody else's eyes, and even Teal'c and Carter looked uncomfortable now.

Up at the other end of the infirmary, Jack could indeed see Hammond chatting with Janet and one of the Marines - Aldwin, he noted. He got up off the chair. "Be right back," he muttered, patting the side of the bed as he went.

Both Hammond and Janet looked up as Jack got closer, and Aldwin's back got visibly taller and straighter as well. "At ease, Major," Jack muttered, and the Marine relaxed again. Then, "I know I should have reported to you first, General," he continued, speaking at normal level again. "To be honest, I don't know what came over me, I -"

Hammond interrupted him with a hand. "Under the circumstances, I think I'll let it slide this time, Colonel," he replied, with a slight smile. "And how is Doctor Jackson?"

Jack waved a flippant hand around. "Alive, well. Planning on teaching another version of me how speak Goa'uld. He's fine, sir."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it," Hammond said sincerely. "And... Colonel Jackson?"

Janet stepped in. "Physically speaking, sir, there's nothing wrong with the colonel that a little bed rest and time to properly recuperate won't fix." Her eyes were twinkling as she continued. "And until Doctor Jackson returns, I'd strongly recommend SG-1 be stood down. It might be a little safer for all concerned, that way."

When Hammond looked over for confirmation, Jack just pulled a face and shrugged his shoulders.

"Right! Well," Janet began, probably as much to fill the sudden silence as much as anything else. "I... have patients to see to, General - Colonel, I'll need to speak to you shortly about what's going to happen to Colonel Jackson once he's been released from immediate care here. And Major, if you could just come with me, Lieutenant Morgan could probably do with a friendly face while I redress his bandages." There was no arguing with the doctor's commanding tone, nor her cheerily bright grin; Jack just resisted the urge to smirk at Aldwin as he followed the doctor back down the infirmary.

"Well?" Hammond asked quietly, drawing Jack's attention back around to the general. "Both Daniel Jacksons?"

Jack nodded. "Like I said, sir, our Daniel's in good hands in the other reality. Colonel Daniel Jackson, on the other hand." He paused for a second, thinking. "I'll see what he has to say to a week at my place, away from the mountain and everything else. I, uh, think we've got enough in common to keep from killing each other - if it's okay with the doc, of course."

Hammond smiled slightly. "Just make sure you tell her exactly where her patient's going to be at any given time," he gently reminded the colonel.

Jack grinned back. "Yeah, sure." He glanced at the general one more time before beginning to walk back down the row of hospital beds again. Hammond nodded slightly, and Jack's pace automatically quickened. Daniel's head jerked up as he got closer, and he kept tracking Jack with his eyes until the older colonel came back around the bed to stand next to where Janet now was. "Jack..." Daniel began. "Can't you get me out of here?"

Jack was thrown briefly at how much the colonel sounded like his civilian counterpart there, before getting a mental grip, and shaking his head. "What did the doc say?"

"My least favourite words," Daniel shot back sarcastically.

"Oh?" Jack's eyebrows went up, and to his right, both Carter and Teal'c were sporting impressions of vague amusement.

Daniel scowled. "Rest and recuperation."

Jack grinned. "Well, you can always do that at my house. I'll even do the waiter thing to keep ya from exerting yourself." The grin quickly turned to a smirk. "Just don't expect me to get the little French maid's outfit out again - shows off the hairy knees."

Carter's hand flew up to her mouth to hide the chuckle that escaped; Janet openly grinned, while Teal'c simply looked confused - which really was a good thing!

Even Daniel looked amused - mission accomplished, then - although the look soon vanished, only to be replaced by a frown. "Is there another option?"

Jack looked at him. "Huh?"

Daniel waved his arms around him. "Well, there must be something I could do around here for a week."

Jack blinked, and tried to comprehend this. "Complete rest and relaxation, and you're offering to work?" he asked.

"Yeah," Daniel shrugged.

"We'll talk to General Hammond," Janet reassured him with another smile; she got up off the bed, and once more left the makeshift SG-1 team to their own devices.

"I don't want to have to think too much," Daniel explained, obviously aware of the sceptical expression still on Jack's face. "If I can distract myself with enough paperwork, or briefings, or whatever, then..."

"Hockey's much more entertaining," Jack offered. He diplomatically chose to ignore the reactions of his other team mates.

Daniel pulled a face.

"Well, Colonel," Carter began, coming in a little closer to the bed. "What would you do in the SGA?"

"If I was like this, you mean?" Daniel asked her, indicating himself and the bed; she nodded. "Well..." he said slowly. "I guess I'd go hang out with either John or Meyers for a couple days. I don't like being on my own all that much."

Jack's eyes flickered briefly to the bed next to Daniel's, where Captain Liley was still resting and covered in bandages. "The whole 'different reality' thing could be a problem with doing some of the more sensitive stuff around here," he said, more or less stating the obvious. "But if you really wanted, you could probably just hang around the place and do stuff while you're... recovering."

Daniel hesitated for just a second before smiling. "Thanks, Jack... I appreciate that."

From somewhere inside him, Jack found the energy to smile back.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Ten

"Well?" Elise looked up from the microscope.

Daniel sighed, letting John shut the lab door behind them. "Absolutely nothing," he replied, circling the room's main desk and perching against the side of it.

Elise frowned.

"Looks like Major Davis did as quick a runner from the mountain as his little legs could take him," John explained. He pulled a face, ignoring Elise's amused expression. "Well, either that or he's invisible." Smirking, he added, "He could be watching us right now."

"I think it's safe to say that Paul's gone... wherever it is he needs to go with the reports from the meeting up in the briefing room," Daniel put in.

Catching the look on his face, Elise set down the slides she'd been holding, and stared at Daniel. "You know, you don't *have* to turn this into a one-man mission to figure out who's been leaking information," she said.

"I know that," Daniel replied.

"So why are you letting it bug you still?" she asked bluntly.

Daniel shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know," he admitted. "Maybe it's the fact that Colonel Jackson and I switch places, and within twenty four hours it's all over the news, despite the obvious fact that General Hammond didn't want that to happen, that he wanted to control the timing of that piece of information reaching outside ears."

"And how would that be obvious?" he asked, frowning.

"Well..." Daniel began. "Elise's... eloquent language over the news item this morning is a good place to start - as are the reactions of Kawalsky and the general before we left for the Asgard planet earlier."

"Okay, maybe I phrased that question wrong," John replied. He held up a hand in front of him, not unlike Daniel himself did when he was trying to think out loud. "How would it be obvious that the general wanted to control the timing?"

"Just a hunch," Daniel replied, realising he had no concrete answer for that. "I guess... it was just an impression I got."

"John, aren't we getting off the point here?" Elise asked.

Both men frowned at her. "I don't really recall there being a point to this conversation, in particular," John told her. "Daniel and I came down here after Paul was a no-show. We didn't have a specific agenda in mind in the coming down here part."

"No," Daniel said slowly, "I think the point was that I'm a little preoccupied with the situation in the SGA."

"The leak," Elise said, staring pointedly at John.

The elder archaeologist sighed. "Can't I just blame Jack?" he asked. It was rhetoric in every sense of the word, and he grinned. "We spend five minutes in the same room, I can just feel my IQ dropping."

"Jack's an intelligent guy in his own right," Daniel replied, immediately going on the defensive.

"I don't doubt that," John said, then sighed. "This really isn't going well at the moment. What I meant was... ah, forget it. I'll just be digging the hole deeper anyway."

Daniel smirked. "Maybe what you meant was that despite the obviously different careers, specialist educations and maybe even upbringings the two of you have had, you're more similar to Jack O'Neill than you care to admit," he said.

John shot him a black look, though it still seemed good humoured enough. "I never wanted to join the military," he informed Daniel. "Jack O'Neill is... he's the first... other me who's been in the Air Force."

"Really?" Daniel asked. "That's weird."

John raised an eyebrow. "And why would that be?"

"Because you're the first... other Jack," Daniel began, using John's own words, "who's been civilian."

"That might make sense," Elise interrupted the two of them. "I mean, we only got through so many realities the other day before we found the SGC and decided it was our safest bet. The way I explained it to the general and Colonel Jackson was the further away the two points on the control for the Quantum Mirror, the less alike the two realities are going to be. Bearing in mind the variables can be anything from a career choice in either direction -" with a significant glance in John's direction, "- right down to something so small as an X or Y chromosomed sperm inseminating an egg."

"Let me see if I've got this," John said, brow furrowed. He shot a sidelong look at Daniel. "Are you trying to tell me there could well be a reality out there with a female version of me running around in military blues?"

Daniel resisted the urge to snigger. "Or," he added, his mind coming up with one of the unlikeliest combinations, "a reality where Teal'c's ancestors weren't taken from Earth, but, say... one of the earliest men who would eventually become an O'Neill."

"Me as First Prime?" John asked, pulling a face. "Why not you?"

Daniel grinned at the idea. "It's definitely something worth thinking about," was all he would allow himself to say. The idea of Jack's twin sister, for all... genetic intents and purposes, doing his job made almost an almost too perfect form of blackmail.

Hmm... and once again, Daniel's inner voice was beginning to take far too much after Jack for comfort. He ignored the thought, and instead forced himself to return to the original topic - more-or-less - of the conversation. "So... what are you planning to do about this leak?"

Elise glanced at him. "Well... nothing, really, for the moment," she said.

Daniel frowned. "What are you talking about?" he asked. "The last I was aware of, this was becoming some really serious thorn in your side."

Elise shrugged. "Think about it laterally, Daniel," she told him. "The leak - to us - is the equivalent to what the NID was in the alternate reality John visited the first time he used the Mirror."

While John nodded in agreement, it took Daniel a second to process this information. "You don't have an NID?" he asked. "What... what about, um, a... Colonel Maybourne?"

"Never heard of a Maybourne," John replied.

"Look," Elise interrupted. "I won't deny that the leak is a pain in the ass, but -"

"But you specifically told me at the negotiations earlier that I'd be doing you a huge service if I could help in figuring out who this leak is," Daniel interrupted back, staring at the major. "And I know you were being sincere about it." He shook his head slightly, trying to work it out. He couldn't. "So - why are you saying this to me now?"

John and Elise shared a look - something Daniel noticed. Something else then occurred to him. "It's about Major Davis, isn't it?"

Frowning, Elise tracked Daniel as he moved away from the table and began pacing up and down one side of the lab. "What do you mean?"

"I should have seen this earlier," Daniel said, mostly talking to himself now. "Or yesterday, even. Jonathan told me last night that very few people here didn't actively dislike him, and General Hammond was virtually the only person in the briefing room who even acknowledged..." He stopped dead in his tracks, and turned around on the spot to face Elise and John. "You think Major Davis is the one leaking the information, don't you? John, I - what would you have done if Major Davis had been in his office when..." He paused again, and in front of him Doctor O'Neill had the good grace to look suitably abashed. "Why do I get the feeling we were nowhere near Paul's real office?" Daniel asked slowly, not taking his eyes off the older archaeologist.

John didn't say anything, and Daniel sighed.

"Look," Elise repeated, "It wasn't our idea to have you chase after the leak, and Captain Carter had no real right to bring that up in an off-world setting."

"But she had a point, though," Daniel replied calmly, "otherwise the two of you wouldn't have been so enthusiastic. Now I repeat my previous question - you think Major Davis is the one leaking information out of the SGA, don't you?"

"Well..." John began, and when Daniel all but glared at him, the older man relented. "Yeah," he admitted. "Nobody says so out loud, but -"

"But they all think it's him," Daniel replied.

John simply nodded.

"Wow... well, is there any real... proof to support that kind of accusation?" Daniel asked. "I mean, has anyone around here even bothered to do any investigating into the matter, where the leak could be getting their information from, that sort of thing?"

John started to say something then, but Daniel stopped him with a raised hand and a pointed look. "You know what?" he asked. It was a rhetorical question through and through. And suddenly Daniel found that he no longer cared about holding back, or trying to avoid hurting people's feelings. "I know my opinion won't count for very much on the matter, but maybe a little... active investigation into the matter would do some good, rather than idly sitting around and coming up with half-assed accusations that remain completely unfounded."

"It's under control," Elise insisted, though even to Daniel's ears even she sounded unconvinced of what she was saying.

"But it can't be, otherwise there wouldn't have been that reaction either from you at your place or from Kawalsky here before we left for Esteria," Daniel pointed out reasonably. "Is any of the leaked information dangerous for any reason?"

"Well, no," John admitted. "It's always been information that was going to be released at a pertinent date - when the SGA was ready to release it."

Daniel sighed; he wondered if finally he was beginning to get a grip on this reality after all. "But that's the nature of a public program," he replied. "And human nature. There's an innate desire for knowledge embedded deep into the human psyche, whether each individual person is willing to admit it or not. I think you were right last night, Elise."

"I was?" she frowned. "Which part?"

"Your world does want to be deceived," Daniel told her. "And it doesn't just want that, I think it needs it."

"You really think things are that much better in the SGC?" John asked, taking a step closer to Daniel. "With nobody knowing anything at all?"

"That's not what I'm saying!" Daniel protested.

John stared right back at him. "Well, that's what it sounds like."

"Look!" Daniel began; instantly he floundered. Time to play diplomat again... "I... appreciate that I'm not from your reality, and that as such I don't have the same understanding as -"

"Damn right you don't!" John interrupted him, loudly and harshly. "So why now are you bent on criticising our modus operandi?"

"Because..." Daniel fished around for an answer he strongly suspected he wouldn't be able to find. "Because I don't think Paul Davis is the person guilty of leaking information out of the SGA."

John looked at him; there was something in his eyes that Daniel couldn't quite identify. "This is the... these are the ideas you mentioned after Jack was here?"

"Yeah." Daniel nodded.

John raised his eyebrows and, in a motion much like something Daniel himself would do, stuck his hands in his pockets and spun around slightly on the spot. "Well?" the older archaeologist asked.

Daniel tried not to smile; out of the corner of his eye he was aware that Elise had pretty much abandoned whatever it was she was working on, and was now watching the two civilians with a keen look of interest. "It came to me this morning, with the news article we saw at Elise's place, that the information leaked seems to be related to the activities specifically of SG-1."

"What do you mean?" Elise asked, coming around the table, closer to the two men.

Daniel turned to face her. "John told me yesterday that... that Aldwin, the fourth on your team, died. From the way he talked about it, and from... what I've heard around the base, I'm assuming that... his death was one of the things leaked to the press ahead of the SGA's control or involvement in the process. The news item from this morning, about me rather than Colonel Jackson leading the negotiations with the System Lords."

"No, seriously," Elise reiterated. "What do you mean?"

Daniel could only look at her, and in those few moments he found himself wondering again about this reality. And he found himself wondering whether or not is was fair to make a link between supposedly having the information of an entire galaxy at your fingertips - through a public Stargate program answerable in part to a civilian run council - and not being able to make mental links between what were obvious clues to a very solvable mystery - the identity of the person or persons leaking information out of the Stargate Alliance. That when you thought you had all the answers to any questions, you didn't need to think about there being anything beneath the surface. Daniel then found he couldn't help but wonder if this was the one true downside of a public Stargate program.

He guessed he could only wonder.

"The... this person - whoever it is leaking information," Daniel said, speaking quietly and facing both John and Elise head on, at the same time trying to ignore the major's microscope on the table behind them, which had just started beeping softly. "I think they're connected to SG-1 somehow."

"That's just not possible," Elise replied, shaking her head. "The only person I tell anything about things related to my work is my *husband*. And he's joint CMO here. Jon's got too much to lose by doing something like what you're saying."

"Daniel..." John began - obviously referring to Colonel Jackson rather than the archaeologist Daniel standing right in front of him. "Daniel... and a couple of my old research assistants from Chicago and Egypt I've got working consultancy here." He frowned, visibly deep in thought. "Like Elise said, there's too much to lose for either Steve or Yusuf to talk."

"John?" Elise gently prodded, and Daniel could only agree with what she was doing. Even he could tell there was something else going on here besides the - seemingly - straightforward answer.

"It's nobody I know," John said suddenly, sounding very insistent indeed. He also sounded tired, something that was compounded by his next words. "It's been a long day already," he said absently, looking around the lab. "I think I want out. Daniel?"

"Uh, yeah?"

John motioned towards the door. "Come on. As my counterpart would undoubtedly say, I wanna blow this Popsicle stand."

"Well... what about the, um, the Goa'uld lessons?" Daniel asked him. He didn't know whether to attempt a smile or not at the attempted joke there.

John raised an eyebrow. "And who said that had to happen here?" he asked. "I, uh, I've got stuff going on at home at the moment as it is, it won't do any damage if I start multitasking!"

Daniel started to nod, but there was still... "What stuff?" he couldn't stop himself from asking.

"Nah." John was shaking his head. "Not here. Come on, Doctor Jackson," he repeated, motioning towards the door. "You, me, language lessons - let's leave the scientist to do her thing. I just want to get out of here, Daniel, okay?" he asked, staring intently at the younger man. "Please."


"General Hammond has Daniel's IDs," Elise reminded John as he left the lab. The archaeologist threw back a muffled thanks. It took Daniel a couple of seconds to mobilise himself into slipping out of the laboratory as well, easily catching up with John in the open corridor. Much like the day before, when John had first walked with him through the SGA, the walk was quick, efficient and mostly quiet, neither man saying anything until they got up to the main control room. John left Daniel there while he went up the stairs to Hammond's office. SG-2 were nowhere in sight, which probably meant they really had obeyed what the general had said, and gone home; somehow Daniel doubted that Elise would be leaving the mountain unless she was coerced out by Jonathan once his duties in the medical wing had been completed for the day.

A technician Daniel didn't recognise was manning the computer systems, obviously having taken over from Siler in the time since Jack had showed up on this side of the Quantum Mirror, and he didn't seem bothered by Daniel standing near the back and watching him and the not a lot of everything else going on as well. Less than a minute later John reappeared, and again with neither of them saying a word, both he and Daniel left the mountain, Doctor O'Neill getting them through the checkpoints with relative ease - and the right identification.

When they got to John's car in the parking lot, John stopped with his hand on the driver's door, but didn't get in. On the passenger side, Daniel watched him, unsure of what to do next.

"I'm sorry," John said.

Somewhat surprised by the statement, Daniel frowned. "I... what do you mean?"

"Messin' you around," John replied. He sighed. "it's just that we've got our own problems here - like I told you this morning, we're kinda messed up, so..."

"Is that 'we' in the SGA, or 'we'...?" Daniel outlined a sphere in the air with his hands; it was meant to indicate the world as a whole, he just wasn't sure if John got that meaning or not.

"Yeah," John nodded, now looking slightly awkward; he didn't elaborate on which part of Daniel's question he was agreeing with, although he did start fiddling with the car door, opening it a second later and sliding in. Figuring his own door was now unlocked as well, Daniel opened it and got in also.

He didn't say anything as John started up the ignition and drove out of the car park, and he pretty much remained quiet during the drive into the Springs proper.

After maybe ten or fifteen minutes, John pulled up outside a row of small suburban houses a couple of miles away from Daniel's own apartment - at least, the apartment he lived in in his own reality - it was still a little disorienting like that.

Daniel stared out of the window, up at the house they'd stopped outside. It looked normal enough. Two floors, red tile roof, empty driveway, curtains at the windows and some pinkish red flowers growing on a creeper plant over the top of the ground floor windows and the front door.

He looked over at John. "Is this where you live?" he asked, feeling slightly foolish at the same time.

John shook his head. "No," he said shortly. He started to get out of the car. "Come on."

Wondering what was going on, Daniel stepped out of the car as well, pushing the door shut behind him. He stared up at the house again, arms folded across his chest, and watched John stroll up the short driveway, and fish around in his pocket once he reached the front step. A second later he pulled out a key, and unlocked the front door. "Come on, Daniel," he threw back over his shoulder, opening the door and stepping inside.

A slight hesitation on his part, but Daniel quickly followed him, all the while wondering just what was going on here - or more specifically, just who lived here, if it wasn't John.

The answer still eluded him as he walked inside the house. The front door opened into a small hallway with stairs directly in front of him, and the living room through a set of double doors to the right. Daniel closed the door behind him. And it was then he realised John was already at the top of the stairs. "Amuse yourself for five minutes, I'll be right back down," John called back down, disappearing around a corner and well and truly out of sight.

Carefully, Daniel opened the double doors and went into the living room. He was still trying to figure out who the place belonged to, but it wasn't proving to be an easy task. The whole place looked sparsely furnished, so unlike Daniel's own cluttered apartment, and even Jack's place looked, well, homier than this. A large stone fireplace that could have been real or fake dominated the living room. There were several photo frames and other items scattered across the stone mantelpiece; idly wondering if "amusing himself" included minor counts of snooping, Daniel crossed the living room to get a better look at the photographs.

He picked the first frame up, instantly getting his answer about who lived here.

The photograph showed a younger looking version of himself - or rather, his alternate reality counterpart - at what looked like his graduation from the Air Force Academy. He was standing beside another then-soon-to-be Air Force officer, a woman with dark brown hair and eyes, and a jokey expression on her face, a direct contrast to the man beside her. Daniel turned the frame over. It was one of those frames that the photo was clipped into, holding it in place, and the back of the photo was visible. Something was written in the middle of the back of the picture, and Daniel had to squint to read it.

Captain Hannah Morano - died in Iraq, '91.

Suddenly feeling uneasy, Daniel put the photo back exactly the way he'd found it, and stared down along the line of other faces. He picked one up at random, ignoring the faces on the front, and turned it over again. Lieutenant Raymond Scott - died in Iraq, '91. Captain Ian McArdle - died in Iraq, '91. Sergeant Peter Quinn - MIA in Iraq, '91.

Daniel set the frame down, again taking care to replace it as he'd found it, and stepped back from the fireplace. He brought a hand up to his face, and resisted the juvenile urge to bite his fingernails. Not counting the alternate version of himself, he'd counted nine men and women in the five photographs out on display.

With a chilling sense of certainty, Daniel knew they were all either deceased or missing in action - and all of them the same time and place in history.

"Scares you, doesn't it?" a voice came from behind Daniel, making him jump. He turned around. It was John, and he had a holdall in his hand, which he let drop to the floor; he came to stand next to Daniel.

"I... I just..." Daniel felt compelled to look back to the photographs again. "They're all... dead, aren't they?"

"Yeah," John answered. "They're all ghosts, they're Daniel's ghosts."

Daniel knew that it was the last question in the world that he should be thinking about, let alone be thinking about asking, but still he couldn't help himself. "What happened?"

"Major Daniel Jackson led a team to do clean up in a small town in Iraq, not too far from Basra," John said. "Bright young thing, just got the promotion from Captain on the back of something else he'd been doing - he never told me what. We were there solely as a peacekeeping effort in conjunction with the US Army - and this particular town could only be reached by air before the mess on the roads was cleared up, which was why an Air Force team was sent in." He paused for a moment. "All I know is, something happened with the survivors in the town, maybe they'd been hiding some of the local militia, or something else altogether - but I do know that Daniel and Peter Quinn were the only two to make it out of there alive. They were both injured, Quinn very badly so, and Daniel got him through the blown up streets and leftover minefields to the US Army compound. Quinn got something resembling hospital treatment, but vanished in the middle of the night."

"He... he what?" Daniel asked.

"Vanished," John repeated. "Disappeared completely, along with what was left of his stuff. They never found him. It later emerged the other eight members of Daniel's team were all dead, still in the town, and that he and Quinn and all the others had taken the shots to keep what was left of the local population alive. All they could do for Daniel was bump him up yet again, this time to Lieutenant Colonel, and send a posthumous medal to the families of the other nine people."

Inside, Daniel was reeling from the imagery of what John had told him, all too easily able to conjure up pictures of what his counterpart had been through. "What... what do they think happened to Quinn?" he asked.

"An open verdict of post traumatic suicide was recorded by a coroner of the Air Force," John said quietly, "but no body was ever found to confirm the verdict."

Daniel stared at the line of photographs again, this time taking the time to look at each and every face. "Oh God..."

"Yeah," John said again. A few minutes later he broke the silence - and the spell that had fallen on the two of them. "Daniel told me once he never likes spending time here alone if he can help it. 'Too many ghosts' was how he described it to me."

"I can imagine..." Daniel murmured.

"It's his coping mechanism," John continued - and Daniel realised then it was more to keep some kind of dialogue going and prevent the almost melancholic silence from settling in again. "He keeps reminders of everyone who died on his watch. Including Teal'c."

Daniel whirled around on the spot. "Teal'c?" he repeated.

"I didn't tell you about him, really, did I?" John asked.

"No," Daniel replied after a second's thought, shaking his head. "I don't think you did."

"He didn't make it back to the Stargate with us," John told him. "On Chulak, I mean. He and Daniel did the whole military male bonding thing in the space of about ten seconds, right before Teal'c turned on the other Jaffa and started shooting them. We got the other prisoners running for the Stargate and SG-2, Teal'c hung back in case anyone else came looking for us. They did, and he fought them off, got shot in the process. Daniel was with him when he died."

"Woa," Daniel muttered. He could definitely feel the shivers running down his spine this time.

"Teal'c gave Daniel his staff weapon," John continued, "to show the other leader of the Jaffa resistance on Chulak should he ever make it back there and find this leader. It's, uh..." He pointed to the wall opposite to the mantelpiece.

It was the one wall Daniel hadn't seen as he'd come from the tiny hallway into the living room; hanging on it, held in place by some kind of diagonally arranged hook and rack system, was a Goa'uld staff weapon, the front end of it pointing upwards and to the right.

"We have no idea where to begin looking," John said, sounding much, much more sombre now, "and we wouldn't make it ten metres on Chulak without being fired on now that Apophis is dead as well as his former First Prime."

Daniel closed his eyes briefly. "Maybe - maybe we should get out of here," he said quietly.

"Yeah." John picked up the holdall again. "We probably should."

He tossed Daniel the bag to carry, and motioned for him to walk ahead. John shut and locked the front door behind them, and the two of them walked in silence back down the driveway to the car. Daniel opened the back door and threw the bag onto the back seat before getting in the passenger side at the front again.

When John came to a stop at a set of traffic lights, Daniel asked, "What's in the bag?"

John grunted, watching the truck in front of him. "Change of clothes for you," he replied. "Shirts, trousers, clean underwear, that kind of thing. Enough to last you another week."

Despite all that had just happened at Colonel Jackson's house, Daniel still found that he was touched by the gesture. "Thanks," he said.

"Don't mention it," John huffed back, swinging into action and putting his foot down as the truck in front of him started to move again. It was another ten or so minutes until they pulled up outside another house - presumably this time John's.

And it was. "I'd give ya the grand tour," John announced, leading Daniel through to the living room, "but it's really not as complicated as all that. Living room's here, kitchen and dining room further along. Upstairs, bathroom and bedrooms."

Daniel smiled slightly, dropping the holdall next to the sofa. "Nice and simple, right?" he asked.


"So..." Daniel looked around him, taking in the latest set of unfamiliar surroundings. "Do you think we should get started on the Goa'uld lessons now, or...?"

"Well, like General Hammond said, we've got another eight days," John began, looking around him also. "Then again, the sooner we get started, the more I can practice and make sure I'm up to speed before that deadline is up, so... I'll show you where you can dump the bag for the weekend, and we could get started after that if it's alright with you."

"Yeah... sure," Daniel replied, picking the holdall up again, and following John out of the living room and up the stairs. There were four doors off the small landing, and it was the second one from the right that John opened to reveal a small guest room with a smallish bed in one corner and a large chest of drawers against the wall nearest the door.

"It's nice," Daniel said sincerely, leaving the holdall on the end of the bed.

"Come on," John said again, leading him out of the bedroom. They stopped on the landing. "That's the bathroom," John told Daniel, pointing at the door closest to the top of the stairs. "Bathroom, my room, your room, and the door behind you's Charlie's bedroom - when he's here."

"Right," Daniel nodded, pretty sure he'd be able to remember that information - and although the mention of Charlie again threw him a little, this time he managed to keep a rein on his outward reactions. Which, given the circumstances right here and now, was better... a lot better than reacting.

And Daniel couldn't help but wonder if Charlie would be making an appearance at his dad's house over the next week to eight days. Given the fact that his dad was effectively off duty for that whole period of time, Daniel realised that it wasn't an impossibility, and he still didn't know what was going to happen if he did meet an alternate version of his best friend's dead son.

And sometimes, it just didn't bear thinking about.

Daniel followed John back downstairs and, once he was armed with a few pads of paper and a pen for making notes and references, he started taking Doctor O'Neill through the basics of the Goa'uld verb structures and tense formations for the next seven hours until, by mutual consent and the fact that John was progressing extremely well, they decided to call it a night.

That was the Friday.

Saturday morning, Daniel wandered downstairs in a borrowed shirt and pair of boxer shorts to find John in the kitchen, coffee pot in front of him and a phone wedged in between his neck and ear. He glanced up as Daniel ambled through the living room, and slid a mug of steaming coffee along the work surface in his direction.

Not wanting to intrude on the apparently one-sided conversation - well, whoever John was talking to seemed to be doing most of the talking - Daniel picked the mug up and carried straight on through the dining room to where it opened right out onto the back garden. It wasn't too large, but it was neatly kept, and there was a wooden table with mismatching chairs in one corner; it was there Daniel found himself sitting for the next few minutes, maybe longer. He wasn't exactly keeping time, and it was too calm and nice a morning to worry about any of that, either.

He started drinking the coffee, alternating between staring down into the depths of the mug and pondering the meaning of life, and staring around the garden and pondering the meaning of lawnmowers. It was true that this wasn't the same house Jack owned, but the similarities between the two properties were still startling - though maybe not so if you thought about the fact that both John and Jack O'Neill were the same person, just with different careers. And before Daniel's under caffeinated brain went into complete meltdown, Daniel abandoned that particular line of thought and went back to the thought about the other similarities between Colonel O'Neill and his archaeologist counterpart.

The carpets in both their living rooms were exactly the same, right down to pattern and texture. Same tiling and wallpaper in the bathroom, identical lampshade next to the coffee table.

Strange, the things the mind noticed when deprived of any other sense of familiarity.

Eventually John came out into the garden as well, looking around for a second before spotting Daniel sitting at the table, and ambled over to join him. He had his own mug of what was probably coffee, and set it on the table next to Daniel before sitting down.

"That was Sara," John said bluntly. He didn't look at Daniel as he snagged his mug and took a huge gulp from it.

Daniel was mystified. "Um... okay..."

"For someone who professes to have fallen out of love with me a long time ago, she has an astounding propensity to phone me whenever she can," John continued, his tone flat and emotionally devoid. He still didn't meet Daniel's eyes, choosing instead to keep staring down into his mug. "It's all Charlie this, and Charlie that, and for God's sake, Jonathan, do your duty as his father and... well, you get the idea."

Daniel guessed he kind of did. "Anything you want to... talk about?" he asked, sensing once again that there was something going on underneath the surface.

"Not right now," John replied, "but she's dropping Charlie off in about half an hour, he'll be staying here 'til he goes to school on Monday morning."

"Half an hour?" Daniel repeated. There was something swirling around in his stomach that he really didn't want to think too much about. "Th... that's short notice."

"That's Sara," John said into his mug, a note of finality in his voice. Then, "It won't bother you if he's here, will it?"

"What?" Daniel looked up, startled. "I..."

John eyed him "Daniel?" he asked.

"Bother me?" Daniel repeated. "No, I... Charlie being here won't... it won't bother me..."

"Daniel," John repeated. He set his mug down, and turned in his seat to stare at him. "Anything you want to talk about?" he asked, using the same words Daniel had just a few seconds before.

Daniel took a couple of long seconds to take some deep breaths. "Not right now," he replied, throwing John's own words back at him. John frowned at the statement, then blinked and nodded, seeming to let the issue go, for the moment at least.

"You know," Daniel said, after a few minutes' contemplative silence, "at the rate you're progressing with the spoken Goa'uld language, it will probably be okay if we leave it for a couple days, just while, um, while Charlie's here."

John sent him a sidelong look. "Public program, Daniel," he replied, "Charlie knows what I do for a living - what I'm supposed to do, anyway," he added as dry afterthought.

"Well, yes, I know that," Daniel answered. "But still, it won't be much of a weekend for him if his dad's holed up in a corner of the house learning an alien language."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right," John replied, although this time there was the faintest hint of a smile playing out across his lips. "It's been a while since he's been here longer than an evening, and Thursday was an emergency, so..."

"The cell call in the mountain?" Daniel asked. When John nodded, he continued, "Yeah, just how can you do that anyway? I mean, there's no reception that far beneath the surface."

At that, John visibly brightened. "Ah!" He reached into a pocket, pulled his cell phone out and pushed it along the garden table to Daniel. "Inside casing's lined with an infinitesimal amount of naquada - less than a thousandth of a gram," he explained, "just enough to negate the effects of the Stargate and connected computer systems. It's very cool," he added.

"I'll say," Daniel murmured, turning the cell over in his hands. "Who came up with it?"

"Sam and a couple other of the scientists," John replied, replacing the phone in his pocket when Daniel handed it back to him. "I guess it's one of the tangible benefits of people on the outside knowing what goes on in Cheyenne - the whole world and his pet monkey can get a hold of any of the SGA personnel as long as they're within five levels either above or below the Stargate."

Daniel chuckled for a moment before settling back in his chair again. He picked up his mug and drained the last of his coffee. Then something else occurred to him. "What time is it?"

John blinked. "Eight forty-something," he replied.

"Right then." Daniel got up from the table. "Maybe we should clear up the papers and stuff from last night before Charlie gets here because I don't think we have all that long left until he arrives, and then you can think of something for us to do for the rest of the day."

"Us?" John repeated, getting up from the table.

A sudden wave of awkwardness washed over Daniel. "Well, you said the clothes and stuff in the holdall from Colonel Jackson's house were to last me for a week, plus SG-1's stood down until we switch back, and I thought that, well, I'd..."

"Daniel," John grinned. "Just relax; you're more than welcome to be here. I just didn't think you'd want to stick around while Charlie was here, that's all. You are not worming your way out of teaching me Goa'uld that easily!" Still grinning, he snagged his own mug off the table and threw it to Daniel. He caught it - barely - then followed John inside the house.

The tidy up was quick and efficient - not difficult, considering the only signs that anybody had been using the living room the night before were some sheets of paper scattered on the floor next to the coffee table. John scooped them up, having reached them first, and passed them back to Daniel after sorting through them and frowning, apparently not making much sense of what Daniel had scribbled down as the evening had progressed.

Five minutes later John flopped down on the sofa; Daniel followed suit, though his own movement was a lot more cautious when it came to the actual sitting. Daniel looked over at John, now staring up at the ceiling. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure, but I won't promise I'll give you an answer," John replied dryly. "Just kidding," he added a second later, catching the expression on Daniel's face. "Go ahead - ask away."

"Why didn't you want me to talk to Paul after the debriefing yesterday?" Daniel asked. "The real reason," he added with a pointed look.

John pulled a face, then looked away from the ceiling and at the wall opposite them. A few seconds later he broke off staring at that and slowly looked in Daniel's direction, though not meeting his eyes. "I don't know that there was any one reason for doing that," he admitted, speaking softly.

"Well - what... reasons... were there?" Daniel asked him, shifting around on the sofa so that he was now facing the other archaeologist.

"A big one is the one we told you yesterday," John replied, mimicking Daniel's actions and turning himself around on the sofa as well, "namely that unspoken consensus is that Paul's the leak - and if he's not, he knows who it is. I mean, up until a few days ago, nobody was willing to admit there even *was* a leak in the SGA. The other big reason is... well, it's kind of to do with you."

"Me?" Daniel repeated. He frowned. "What are... what do you mean?"

"You're a scientist, Daniel, just like I am," John told him earnestly, indicating first Daniel, then himself with a hand. "More than that, our whole lives are based around the ideology of sharing information and knowledge of ancient civilisations so that we can learn from them and adjust our own perspectives accordingly."

"But... what does that have to do with someone or some people leaking information out of the SGA?" Daniel asked, frowning again - but then it hit him. John's reasoning was that the leak was a bastardised version of his own job as an expert in the fields of academia and archaeology. Passing information on. Passing the truth on...

"Yeah," John nodded. He'd been watching Daniel intently. "You see what I mean."

Daniel still couldn't help himself, though. "Do you have any idea how dangerous that might ultimately prove in the long term?"

John stared at him. "Do you have any idea of how frustrating it is living with the illusion of free knowledge?" he asked, getting more forceful with each syllable. "I told you the day before yesterday I've been in an alternate reality. In that place, the Stargate Association -" he almost mocked that last word, "was a top secret organisation that nobody outside the President and Joint Chiefs knew about. Much like your Stargate Command - at least in the very beginning, I guess. Anyway, the people there - when they weren't trying to forcibly perform surgery on me to look for any evidence of a Goa'uld in my head - they were happier with their state of affairs than people around here seem to be with ours. It's because there was no deception in that reality, at least not in the sense you or I would perceive the concept."

"Things were exactly how they seemed to be on the surface," Daniel murmured, and John nodded with satisfaction.

"Exactly! Our President can claim in no uncertain terms that everybody on this planet knows what the Stargate is capable of, but on no account can he claim that they know what's out there! There are so many measures General Hammond is not allowed to take because of potential domestic repercussions, so many ethical shades of grey that the SGA Council refuse to even consider, despite the fact we are fighting a war* out there! I mean, for cryin' out loud - they even held referenda halfway around the world on whether we should have allied with the Tok'ra or not!"

"John," Daniel said suddenly, "I want to ask you another question, but I don't want to offend you..." He waited for John to eyeball him for a second before slowly nodding, just the once. "Are you responsible for leaking the information out of the SGA?"

To his utter, utter surprise, John actually laughed. When he'd sobered up again - admittedly, not very long at all - he said, "No, but sometimes I almost wish it was me doing it. I was telling you the truth, Daniel, I have no idea who's doing it."

"But you don't want to stop them...?"

John shook his head emphatically. "Not in the slightest."

"And... Elise agrees with you?" Daniel asked.

"Scientist," John said, as if that explained it all.

It almost did.

Daniel nodded. "Well, what about Colonel Jackson, when he gets back - what does he have to say about all of this?"

"He comes from the same stock you do," John told him. "Archaeologist parents and grandparents, etcetera and so forth. I have the feeling he'd at least appreciate my viewpoint, despite the fact he's military. Harmen, on the other hand, well..."

"Harmen Aldwin?" Daniel guessed, again recognising the name of the SG-3 team commander in his own reality.

Yep," John replied. "He was one of the best guys they could have put on our team, but he was also of a certain kind of mindset. Daniel said jump, Harmen said how high, then barked sir." He shook his head. "Typical, typical military! And I still don't know when they're going to decide on a replacement for him."

"Probably once Colonel Jackson's back again," Daniel suggested, and John nodded in agreement. Before he could say anything else, the front door bell rang, half scaring Daniel out of his skin - and John didn't look much better. He got up from the sofa and ambled through the rest of the ground floor of the house in the direction of the front door.

From his vantage point - Some might say hiding place... - on the sofa, Daniel could hear a muffled, "Dad!" followed by John saying something inaudible, then a woman's voice, as quiet as John's had just been. A few seconds later John reappeared in the living room... along with someone else.

Charlie O'Neill was around fourteen years old, and was almost as tall as his dad's shoulder. He stared at Daniel silently.

"Um... hi," Daniel said, reaching out and offering his hand to Charlie, feeling more than just a little foolish. "I'm Daniel."

Charlie shook the hand, starting to grin. "You're the different Daniel, aren't you?"

Daniel smiled back. "And just how did you guess that?" he asked.

"Because Colonel Daniel knows me," Charlie replied, clearly getting more confident with the newcomer as he was going. "This is weird. So, uh, you're an archaeologist, like Dad?"

"Yeah, I am," Daniel nodded. He looked up at John. "I feel like I'm six years old again," he told him, speaking in Egyptian, and John laughed out loud, while Charlie simply frowned, looking between his dad and Daniel a few times. Seeing the confusion on the boy's face only made John's grin wider.

"Dad! I told you, you only speak English!" Charlie insisted, looking up at John, then back at Daniel. John's only retaliation was to ruffle Charlie's hair, making him duck down around his dad's back.

And watching them, it was all too easy for Daniel to see John O'Neill the family man - and it didn't take an idiot to see where John ended and Jack began. Damn, but Daniel had thought it would be more difficult, meeting Charlie for the first time in any reality. But wouldn't that be taking the easy - and childish - route away from the heart of the matter? This Charlie O'Neill was not the same Charlie O'Neill whom Jack had lost, and despite Daniel's own dry-humoured - and very much private - inclinations to the contrary, John and Jack O'Neill were not the same person.

The Charlie standing in front of Daniel right here and now could have been any kid of the same name and general appearance. Nature and nurture, and all that other psychological stuff they kept coming out with in papers and things. And although he knew this should have been harder for him to deal with, Daniel also was aware at some weirdly vague level deep down inside, that Charlie was trying to make this easier for him as well. A compromise at the very best, then, but it was something Daniel was willing to grasp with both hands if necessary.

"So," he said brightly, "what exactly are we doing today?"

Charlie brightened up at that, while John just grinned. And from somewhere inside him, Daniel found the energy to smile back.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Chapter Eleven

It took less than two days for Jack to realise the potential for stir-craziness in the mountain. In the thirty-six hours that had passed since the joint mission to P7J-783 to rescue Colonel Jackson, SG-8 had returned from an off-world mission with a mild strain of influenza not seen on Earth since the European Middle Ages. Modern vaccinations and the medical routines of the SGC meant that very few people in the mountain got any more than a runny nose and blocked sinuses, but General Hammond had ordered Cheyenne quarantines until the strain was gone again, to protect the civilians on the outside.

Unfortunately - for him, at least - Jack was one of these few people who weren't completely immune to the flu strain. Janet had issued him with all the "pertinent" medical treatment, which consisted of a box of tissues, and a packet of pills should the migraines get any worse.

But he'd gotten off lightly, really. All the injured members of the SG teams who had accompanied Jack, Carter and Teal'c to retrieve Daniel from P7J were up, about and generally not too worse for wear by Saturday afternoon. Even Liley from SG-14 and one of the Marines, who between them had sustained the worst injuries, were hobbling around with arms in slings and visible bandages here and there, but they were going to live.

As would Rothman, obviously. It turned out he'd taken the blow to the head - the one that had caused the cuts in the first place - harder than the doctors had previously thought, and was still in the infirmary while the latent swelling went back down again.

Colonel Jackson, on the other hand, was an entirely different barrel of military monkeys. After the mutual revelations about Heru'ur, Jack had felt awkward whenever he'd gone to the medical wing to check up on the different patients. He'd made himself sit there, though, on the chair by Daniel's bed, keeping an eye on him and occasionally begging extra tissues off passing nurses.

All the SGC staff had bunked down in the mountain over Friday night, some in the communal sleeping areas that came with any kind of military installation, with the lucky, privileged - and ill - few in relative isolation in the relative luxury of the VIP rooms. Jack had been given one of these, though he was prevented from having it to himself when a sniffling Major Aldwin was brought in around 2300 with a foldout bed and pillow.

By 1100 on the Sunday, Jack's airways were back to their unclogged, nice and healthy selves, and he was in his office, wondering whether it would be a good idea to get on with the accumulating pile of paperwork, or simply delegate it again. The latter was sorely tempting, but since Cheyenne would be quarantined until 0900 on Monday, as per Hammond's orders, and no 'gate travel for any personnel, there wasn't really anything else to do.

By 1500, Jack had gotten bored with rereading Carter's version of the mission to P7J-783, had made enough paper planes out of the first draft of Teal'c's report to start up his own origami Air Force, and his yo-yo was broken; one half of it was at the bottom of the far wall of the office, the other half had vanished altogether.

At around 1600 Colonel Daniel Jackson was released from the infirmary. Jack knew this much because at 1605, the phone in his office rang, and Janet informed him in as few words as possible that Daniel was out of her immediate care, and before making for the exit, had stopped for long enough to ask for directions to Jack's office. "It's just so you know what's happening," Janet had informed Jack, and when he replaced the phone on the receiver, he was still trying to figure out if the advance warning was a blessing or a curse.

Either way, it didn't really matter; five minutes after the call from Fraiser, there was a knock on Jack's door. Jack barely had time to look up from the paper replica of the SR-71 Blackbird when the door swung open, and Daniel poked his head around. "Hey, Jack," he said. He sounded carefully neutral - and not the drug induced kind, either. "Mind if I come in?"

Jack grunted and flipped his hand towards the other chair in the small office. Daniel nodded, came in the office proper, and shut the door behind him. He fetched the chair from the far end of the room and brought it up to the desk and straddled it, facing about fifty degrees to Jack's left.

"...I heard Doc Fraiser let you out with a good report," Jack said after a while, suddenly finding it difficult to say anything that wasn't entirely inappropriate.

"Yeah," Daniel nodded, glancing briefly at Jack as he spoke. He then resumed his stare at the wall.

Jack forced himself to pay attention to the origami SR-71 again, but gave up after a few seconds, nearly ripping off one of the engine fins. When he looked over at Daniel again, the younger colonel's head was resting on folded arms on top of the back of the chair, eyes closed. With his expression so obviously unguarded, Daniel looked... vulnerable. It wasn't a look Jack had come to associate with him over the last three days; at the same time it was a look Jack blamed himself for putting there. However indirectly, it was his doing that had led to Daniel accompanying SG-1 to P7J-whatever, and the... incident with Heru'ur was now firmly on his conscience, and nowhere else.

"When's the quarantine being lifted?" Daniel asked suddenly.

Blinking a couple of times, it took Jack a few seconds to process the question. "Tomorrow morning," he replied, staring down at the Blackbird still. "Why d'you ask?"

"Oh, no reason."

And silence again. This time, however, Jack could just tell there was something else going on here besides the moody colonel act. "Daniel?"

It was Daniel's turn to look up and blink. "Jack?"

He was good, there was no doubt about it. Jack raised an eyebrow. "Anything you wanna talk about?"

Daniel's split second of hesitation before shaking his head was more than enough for Jack; he straightened up in his chair and shoved the paper planes to one side. Some of them fell off the edge of the desk, but they were ignored. "Daniel?" Jack repeated.

Daniel rested his head on his arms again; it was obvious, even to Jack, that the colonel was taking his time with answering the unspoken questions. Not too long, though. "It's been a crappy few days, okay, Jack? Not because of you - no, no. Just..."

"Not quite what you were expecting when you came through the Mirror?" Jack prompted, well aware he was now treading on very thin ice indeed.

Laughing, the sound entirely hollow and humourless, Daniel's only response was, "Not by a long way. And you know something?"

Jack frowned. "Depends. What're you thinking of?"

Daniel raised en eyebrow, and there was a hint of a smirk now. "This whole post traumatic bonding thing. It's not going to work with just us two. I need John, and you need Doctor Jackson." When Jack stared at him, Daniel sighed, and elaborated. "Look, being stuck in the infirmary with a half dozen sniffling Marines does weird things to the mind, and I've had a lot of time to think about this. Forty-eight hours, give or take. We're too alike, you and I."

"I know," Jack muttered, and it was now Daniel's turn to stare at him, and Jack's to explain himself. "Same as you, too much time to think about it, I guess. Waiting for the go to return to P7J and find you. Briefing room with Carter, Teal'c and the general. The last couple days while I've been doing anything but paperwork."

"I never did get to apologise for that," Daniel said quietly. "The rescue mission, I mean."

Jack blinked. "What are you talking about."

"Jack, your teams are in a mess because of me," Daniel told him bluntly.

"Daniel," Jack interrupted, "I don't leave anyone behind!"

There was a pause, and Daniel stared at him for a moment. "No..." he replied softly, back to staring at the wall again in an instant, "and neither do I."

Jack considered the statement for a second. "Anything you wanna talk about?" he asked equally quietly, using the same words as just a few minutes before - Daniel just looked at him, eyes blank, expression similarly so. "S'it to do with you getting the promotion so young?" Jack pressed, keeping his voice quiet and calm and as gentle as possible.

He just had time to wonder when he'd decided to ignore the line between tact and full-on interrogation when Daniel nodded slightly, saying nothing. Getting the unspoken message - Back off... - in waves, Jack decided to let it go.

He wasn't done just yet, though. "Well, since Doctors Jackson and O'Neill aren't here, we'll have to make do with each other," Jack announced brightly. "And you have a choice, Colonel Jackson. We can either stay here and mope over mission reports, or I can give you a proper tour of the base. Nothing too strenuous for ya, though."

"Janet'd kill you if I collapsed," Daniel murmured, smiling slightly and brightening up a little.

"Exactly," Jack replied. "C'mon," he added, getting up off the chair and making his way to the door of the office, "this is a great way to waste the day."

He held the door open for Daniel to leave first, and as he shut it behind the two of them, Jack wondered just whether or not Colonel Daniel Jackson enjoyed fishing - or anything to try and get him out of the base for any reasonable length of time.

As it soon transpired, however, Colonel Daniel Jackson - much like his archaeologist counterpart from this reality - had no interest whatsoever in the art of fishing. But it also turned out he had no real objections to spending a couple days at Jack's cabin in Minnesota, providing the two colonels at least pretended they were discussing work at some point along the line as well. It was something Jack had no objections to - well, not really.

He didn't really know what the right thing was, just what he was supposed to do here until the switchback in five days' time. All the really important goings on were happening on the other side of the Quantum Mirror, with the negotiations now completed, and the language lessons that were about to begin when Jack had last seen his friend. There was no doubt in Jack's mind that Doctor Daniel was having any problems in teaching John O'Neill to talk to the snakes. Just like there was also no doubt in his mind that though he was nowhere near being an archaeologist himself, he was still more than capable of being a friend if any Daniel Jackson required that of him. It had become clear to Jack - almost painfully so, on at least two or three occasions - that Colonel Jackson had demons in his past much the same as Jack in his own years gone by. It was what made them human, and also what gave them the ability to do what they did now; taking command of their respective SG-1 teams out in the field, and making all the difficult decisions that nobody should ever have to make, but just occasionally had to be made.

And Jack also knew that if he was going to keep up with the whole cross-dimensional-meaning-of-life thing, then his head was probably going to implode on itself. If Daniel wasn't going to talk, then Jack wasn't going to push any of the issues and maybe - just maybe - at least one of the two colonels would find some kind of peace sitting at the edge of the small Minnesotan lake with a fishing rod, some bait and a pair of sunglasses.

Thursday morning brought a nice, bright sunrise with a few clouds in the sky, and the slightest breeze, just enough to make the heat bearable. Jack wandered through the cabin, not surprised to hear nothing but silence, with the odd bird racket here and there. He was surprised, however, when he found Daniel out on the tiny pier, fishing rod already in hand, leaning back in the deck chair and staring out across the water.

Not wanting to disturb the younger colonel's moment of calm, Jack kicked off his sandals and sat down as quietly as he could in his own chair. But it seemed that Daniel was very much aware of his arrival.

"You know, I kept making out that seeing Teal'c was the weirdest thing about being in this reality," he announced suddenly, still looking out at the lake. "Just for the record, it isn't."

"Why d'you say that?" Jack asked.

"Well," Daniel began, "he was alive in the reality John ended up in, but still First Prime of Apophis. The reality they had contact with, same scenario. No." He smiled slightly. "Feretti's the weirdest thing, though I should probably be used to it by now."

Jack frowned at that one, but this time kept quiet. And indeed, in a few seconds, Daniel continued. "Louis Feretti, forever reincarnated in alternate realities, time travel and mind-screw situations. The guy's like a yo-yo, for crying out loud!"

Jack's visible start at that last part obviously caught Daniel's attention, because the younger colonel simply chuckled, rubbed the back of his neck and said, "Sorry. I think John's rubbing off on me..."

Grunting, Jack shrugged and flipped his hand at Daniel. He wasn't fussed, just surprised, and it was still far too early in the morning - 0600, to be precise - to be worrying about anything like that.

"I do have one question for you, though, Jack," Daniel said suddenly, much more sombre now.

"Yeah?" Jack blinked, waving away a mosquito with one hand and shielding his eyes from the sun with the other.

Daniel looked over at him, squinting in the early morning sunlight. "What do you think people around here would make of the Stargate, what it can do?"

"I don't think they're ready for it, or for what's out there," Jack replied after less than a second of thinking about it.

"Yeah," Daniel mused. He looked back out at the lake. "Sometimes I think the same thing... That still never makes up for the deception, though, does it?"

Jack frowned, and was about to say something in return to that. Before he could, a whole swarm of flies came rushing at his head; by the time he'd swatted them all away, he'd forgotten what he was going to say, and the moment was gone.

The next day, there was a real little crowd of people in the laboratory where the Quantum Mirror was. Carter had the control in her had, and had been mm-ing and ahhing for the previous fifteen minutes as to whether she should activate the Mirror herself or wait for the SGA to do so from their side. Teal'c and General Hammond were standing off in one corner, slightly defunct parts of the puzzle until either Doctor Jackson came back through the Mirror or anything at all started happening. Colonels O'Neill and Jackson - the latter back in the dress blues he'd worn the week before - were the last two to arrive, the early morning flight from Minnesota to Colorado having been delayed by a half hour due to... something or other.

Finally, Carter held the Mirror control out in front of her like she was actually about to do something with it, but just as she was about to do that something, the Mirror flickered into life.

The scene on the other side showed a laboratory nearly identical to the one SG-1, Daniel and Hammond were in, with just the one difference, and Daniel visibly brightened up when he saw her.

Carter frowned, and Jack stepped closer to her. "Daniel's second-in-command," he explained quietly. "Major Meyers."

Something had obviously happened between Colonel Jackson and his 2IC during those few seconds, though, because the next thing Jack knew, Daniel was looking at him intently; Jack pulled a face, and Daniel grinned slightly. "She wants us to go through the Mirror," he explained. "Well, myself and SG-1."

Jack looked over at Hammond; he nodded. "By all means, Colonels," he said.

Jack took this to mean the "all systems go" that it so obviously was, and motioned Daniel towards the Mirror. Teal'c stepped in closer as well, and with him and Carter right behind them, Daniel grabbed Jack's arm quickly. "One last thing," he said quickly.

And up went the eyebrows. "Oh?"

Daniel pulled a face. "In the medical wing last week - I'm sorry I called you John," he muttered, smiling a little sheepishly.

"Ah, don't mention it," Jack replied brightly. "Really - don't," he added, catching the look on the younger colonel's face. Daniel paused for a moment before finally smiling properly, then the two colonels reached out to touch the surface of the Mirror; one blindingly white flash of light later, and they were on the other side. A couple of seconds later they were joined by Carter and Teal'c.

Jack took a moment to take stock of his surroundings. Standing in the SGA's laboratory were John, Meyers - and Daniel, whose face pretty much lit up when he saw his teammates, and he quickly crossed the room to join them. Likewise, Colonel Jackson was swift to go over and stand next to his SG-1 team.

For a moment, it was easily the weirdest kind of standoff Jack had ever been present to see.

Meyers was the first to speak. "Good to see you again, Colonel," she said, looking directly at Jack, who tipped his head in response. "I hope everything went well at Stargate Command."

Ever the diplomat, apparently. Jack caught Colonel Jackson's eye; the two of them held each other's gaze for a moment before one of them blinked and broke the stare off.

"Well," Jack said to nobody in particular. "This is fun."

Carter and Meyers both smiled in response to that, while both Daniels frowned at him.

"I, uh,... it was good working with you, Doctor Jackson," John said suddenly, stepping away from the little group to shake Daniel's hand.

"Yeah, same with you," Daniel replied, smiling.

Jack looked at them. "You know, I hate to break up the party..." he began, then stopped himself. "Doctor, uh, Doctor O'Neill, everything on your end, you know...?"

"If you mean, did your Daniel do a good job teaching me the Goa'uld language, Jack," John replied amiably enough, "then yes, I think I'm as good as I'm going to get with it all, thank you."

"Oh, you're very welcome," Jack replied absent-mindedly, pointedly ignoring the reactions of everyone else around him.

"Well..." It was Meyers again. "It was definitely good meeting the rest of Daniel's team, and on behalf of General Hammond, thanks once again for helping us."

"You're welcome, Elise, very welcome indeed," Daniel replied, getting in there before Jack even had a chance to think about what he was going to say. "And I hope everything goes well for you in the future."

Both John and Meyers nodded in response to that, while Daniel's counterpart caught Jack's eye, and shrugged slightly in his direction; Jack fully echoed the sentiment, whatever it may have been, exactly.

"We should... I'm guessing we should probably get, um, get going now," Daniel began, looking first to Jack, then Carter for confirmation; he nodded. "You, um, you go on ahead, Jack, there's one last thing I have to do."


"I'm being serious, Jack," Daniel replied, though there was a slight smile playing out on his face. "Go on, I'll be right behind you."

"Fine..." Jack snapped a half salute at the colonel and major on the other side of the room, then turned to Carter. "Shall we?"

She nodded, and they both reached for the mirror. The last thing Jack heard before zapping back through to his own reality was Teal'c. "Colonel Jackson, Doctor O'Neill, I wish you rel tora kee in your -"

And they were through. The instant he "landed" on the other side, Jack turned back around to face the Quantum Mirror. He was just in time to see Daniel - his Daniel, their Daniel, Doctor Daniel Jackson - say something to the other SG-1, or rather to John O'Neill specifically. Then he and Teal'c came back to the Mirror.

Jack pulled Carter just far enough away from the Mirror to allow Daniel and Teal'c to come back through without interdimensional incident. He then nodded to the major, and let her shut down the Mirror from their side, allowing both teams once last chance to acknowledge each other before going their separate ways - in their separate realities.

Carter replaced the control on the shelf behind the Mirror. "It's good to have you back, Daniel," she smiled, turning back around.

"Thanks, Sam," Daniel replied quietly. "I think it's good to be back, as well. General," he added, nodding at the senior officer.

"Doctor Jackson," Hammond smiled, nodding back. He motioned for Carter and Teal'c to follow him out of the laboratory, leaving just Jack and Daniel behind, with the deactivated Mirror.

"So..." Jack began, trailing off almost immediately. "How did it go over there?"

"It was... it was definitely an experience," Daniel said carefully. "What about here?"

"An experience," Jack replied equally carefully, nodding. He and Daniel then left the lab, making to catch up with the general and the other members of SG-1.

Jack was no idiot. He knew there was something Daniel wasn't telling him - hell, there was a fair amount Jack was keeping close to his chest as well. And the more he tried not to think about it, the more Jack realised that maybe the small deceptions on both sides would ultimately prove better in the long run.

Besides, maybe now with his archaeologist back on team, things would run a little smoother.

Jack mentally snorted.

Maybe not.

But his team was a lot better for it.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o


"It's now been two weeks since the Stargate Alliance successfully used an interdimensional portal to invite Doctor Daniel Jackson to lead negotiations in an attempt to form a treaty with a cross-section of the Goa'uld System Lords. In the wake of these talks, an SGA spokesperson has announced that Colonel Jackson, along with the Alliance's flagship SG-1 team, intends to step up the search for more possible allies against the Goa'uld..."

"Chevron seven - locked!"

In the control room overlooking the Stargate, Daniel was in the perfect position to see the final chevron lock into place, and the backwash erupt out of the ring before establishing the wormhole. All around him there SGA personnel and SF's swinging into action, projecting an atmosphere of perfectly controlled chaos.

Down below him, the MALP started moving slowly up the 'gate ramp. A few seconds later it vanished through the wormhole, and a few seconds after that the transmission equipment in the control room began to crackle into life.

"General, the MALP reports no unusual activity on the other side of the wormhole," Sergeant Davis reported.

"Looks like Carter and Griff's teams are doing their jobs, sir," Daniel added, and beside him, Hammond nodded, looking up at the monitors above the blast window.

It looked like a nice, sunny day on Chulak, and not a Jaffa warrior in sight, although there were more than likely to be some left near Amaunet's palace. The System Lord herself was currently engaged in an ongoing altercation with a force comprising of SG teams 3 through 12, and a more covert Tok'ra taskforce under the joint command of Majors Carter and Griff. Following her promotion three days after Daniel had returned from the SGC's reality, Carter had been given her own command, taking on SG-4 while Kawalsky remained on SG-2, taking on Bowen as his second in command. The joint effort between SGA and Tok'ra had been designed to cause maximum chaos and distraction on one of Amaunet's planetary strongholds as far away from Chulak as the Tok'ra dared to take it; every four hours the SGA received a transmission from the Tok'ra, giving them regular updates on the combat situation.

"Well, Colonel," Hammond began, breaking Daniel's chain of thought there. "You have a go."

Daniel nodded his acknowledgement before slipping to the back of the control room and picking up the package he'd brought with him this morning, his P-90 already slung over his shoulder at the ready.

Down in the embarkation room, John and Meyers were waiting for him, as were Kawalsky and his team. Coming to a stop at the bottom of the ramp, Daniel waited for Hammond's nod from up behind the row of computers before looking around at the SGA personnel in front of him. Bureaucracy meant that there was still no replacement for the deceased Captain Aldwin on SG-1, although the spare place on Kawalsky's team had already been filled by one of the Marines in need of off-world experience. Daniel hadn't caught his name yet, had no real reason to learn it just yet. He'd get there soon enough.

"Major," he said, addressing the SG-2 commander. "Let's go."

Kawalsky grinned and nodded, and the two men led their teams up the 'gate ramp and through the Stargate. The clearing surrounding the 'gate was indeed deserted, although while Lieutenant Barker and the newbie set about disengaging some of the MALP's more intrusive systems Daniel, Kawalsky and Bowen started scoping out the perimeter.

Within seconds of the wormhole disappearing, two Jaffa appeared over the top of the hill that was the beginning of the path to Amaunet's palace. They quickened their pace at the sight of the SGA teams, but the humans were quicker off the mark. Both Kawalsky and Bowen had their guns out and between them had fired off several rounds at the two aliens before they'd made it half way down the hill, and both bodies rolled to the bottom.

"Charming," Kawalsky muttered, smirking.

Daniel barely spared him a glance. "Major, you and your team guard the Stargate," he ordered. Then, in a slightly louder voice, "John, Meyers, you're with me. Let's go."

The package he was carrying was slightly awkward to hold, and Daniel had to struggle to keep it from swaying from side to side and hitting into either one of his team members as they walked past the two dead Jaffa and made their way up the hill. At the top they were greeted with the sight of what looked to be one of the Chulakian priests coming their way, his bowed head and face covered by a long white hood.

Instantly Meyers' P-90 was at the ready, and even John had his hand on his sidearm as a precaution. The priest didn't look like he was armed, but that still meant nothing. He got closer, and SG-1 waited with bated breath.

The figure came to a stop three metres in front of Meyers, and pulled back his hood, revealing an old man with a gold forehead tattoo - the symbol of Amaunet. He smiled as he took in the sight before him, and said something. He spoke so quickly Daniel couldn't even make out distinctions between words, let alone what the man was actually saying, and he looked to John for clarification - hopefully those lessons from the "other" Daniel Jackson hadn't gone to waste, after all.

And yes, John was nodding. "He says that if he were still in active service of the ruler of this world, then we would all be dead right now," he told Daniel and Meyers. He then turned back to the old man. "Tal'mac John O'Neill - Colonel Jackson, Major Meyers," he said, speaking slower than the man had done, and indicating the colonel and major as he - well, he was introducing them, for sure. "Ba'ja kakma'te."

"There is not a warrior among us who does not know of SG-1," the man replied, speaking accented English, and smiling at Daniel, revealing missing and chipped teeth. "I am Bra'tac, former First Prime to the false god, Apophis."

"False god..." Daniel repeated under his breath. He stared at Bra'tac for a second before continuing, at normal volume: "Do you know of a resistance within the ranks of the Jaffa warriors of this world?"

Bra'tac grinned again, revealing more missing teeth. "My boy, I am the leader of the resistance here on Chulak, though we are small in number and can do little. What business do you have coming here when Amaunet is battling your people on another world?"

Daniel swallowed; all of a sudden his throat had gone dry, and he was finding it more difficult to breathe. He took the package he had been carrying into both his hands, and took off the protective covering. He held the staff weapon up for Bra'tac to see. "We were sent here by the owner of this weapon," he said quietly, staring directly at the old warrior.

Bra'tac's eyes widened at the sight of the weapon. "So you are friends of the one they call shol'va, Teal'c," he replied just as quietly, looking back up at Daniel. "Come," he continued. "There will be more of the palace guard arriving down this path in a short time, and we must not be seen here when that happens."

Daniel nodded. "Major, radio SG-2 and tell them to return home," he said, not looking at her. He heard a quiet, "Yessir," as Meyers stepped back into the bushes to call Kawalsky, and sensed rather than saw John come up to stand beside him. A few seconds later Meyers rejoined them as well.

"Come with me," Bra'tac repeated, staring at each member of SG-1 in turn. "There is much we have to discuss, and perhaps those who fight against the false gods will yet prevail."

Now there was a sentiment worth echoing, but even as he followed Bra'tac back along the stone road, John and Meyers one step behind him, Daniel still couldn't help but wonder if his world was ready or not to know the real truth about the shades of grey that existed beyond Earth's solar system.

He hoped so.

He really hoped so.

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