Sam woke slowly for a change, knowing that there wasn’t anything pressing to do. They both had the day off and weren’t even expecting any company. Not to say people wouldn’t show up all on their own, that did usually happen when the team had the weekend off. Stretching luxuriously, she rolled over and snuggled close to the other naked body in bed with her, nuzzling at the familiar, warm shoulder and then kissing her way over the chest, across the collarbone and up the throat.

Mmm...sex...”

Laughing at her husband’s Homer Simpson impression, she slapped Jack’s chest and scolded, “Way to ruin the mood, Colonel.”

Dark brown eyes opened and he grinned at her, shifting until he lay on top of her, though he kept most of his weight off by leaning on knees and forearms. They kissed, long and slow, both having been through too much over the years to take each other for granted. Ever. Or to take the heat and passion between them for granted, for that matter. They’d been married for three years now and Daniel complained that they were like honeymooners whenever there was a get together outside of work.

When Jack pulled back, he smiled softly at her and asked, “Are we expecting company?”

Sam lightly raked her nails up his back, smirking as she hooked a leg over his hip. “Not that I know of.”

“Good! We’ve got at least ten minutes then, let’s take advantage of it!” Jack exclaimed.

Laughing again, Sam flipped him onto his back and straddled him, pinning his arms above his head. “If you think I’m going to settle for a lousy ten minutes...”

“Hey! That’s three minutes above my personal best, what are you complaining about?”

The mock protest started her laughing again and she went easily when he rolled them a few times, almost landing them on the floor. Smiling up at him, Sam sighed in deep happiness and murmured, “I love you, Jack.”

The darkness that she sometimes held no sway against lightened a bit and he kissed her tenderly before murmuring against her lips, “Love you, Sam.”

Wrapping her arms around him, she welcomed him into her body as she always had her heart; eagerly and with passion.

*  *  *  *

Daniel moaned as the hard thrusts shook his entire body, hands twisting in the sheets, back arched. His breath came in short gasps, sweat sliding down everywhere, into every cranny not already filled. Teal’c surrounded him completely, strong arms around waist and chest, cock owning Daniel’s ass, thighs pressed up tight to the back of his own, mouth sucking on juncture of throat and shoulder, leaving a mark that would be highly visible to anyone. To everyone.

Shuddering as orgasm hit him completely unexpectedly, Daniel’s head snapped back, colliding with Teal’c’s cheek, eliciting a grunt of pain from the Jaffa. A split second later, though, Daniel felt the wet heat and the chest-deep groan of release as Teal’c came deep inside him. Shaking with aftershocks, something he had almost never dealt with, with other lovers, Daniel hung limp in his lover’s arms.

Teal’c carefully lowered them to their sides, kissing and nuzzling at Daniel’s ear and throat. “They will think you do beat me, DanielJackson.”

Daniel chuckled breathlessly, his hands running up and down Teal’c’s strong forearm as he replied, “I doubt it. Sorry about that, though. Told you, I’m not real good at this.”

“You are better than the most highly trained pleasure slave that has ever serviced me,” Teal’c assured him.

And while most people wouldn’t find that much of a compliment, Daniel did. He sighed deeply, content to know the sentiment behind the words, and brought up one of the big, dark hands to kiss the palm. “I love you, Teal’c, so much.”

“As I do you, DanielJackson,” Teal’c rumbled. “Are you, as O’Neill likes to say, up for another round?”

Daniel laughed and craned his neck to see the smile in the normally taciturn eyes. The last half-year or so had seen a lightening of spirit in his lover, though Daniel himself couldn’t claim responsibility for it. They’d only been together for a month, though one could say the courtship itself had taken years.  He’d thought that things between himself and Jack were going to come to this very plateau, but it had never happened. Something had triggered Jack and Sam to become a couple and while it had hurt at the time, Daniel had accepted it.

And though he hadn’t realized it at the time, Teal’c had been keeping a very close eye on him all these years. He’d thought, at the time, that Teal’c was just being a friend, but it had been so much more than that, and developed into a bond that felt completely unbreakable. He trusted Teal’c in a way that he was pretty sure that he never could Jack. There was too much violence and darkness in Jack and Daniel knew that he wasn’t the one to combat that, Sam was. Teal’c was a soldier and warrior, but he abhorred violence in his heart and used it only to get the job done.

Daniel wasn’t sure that he could say the same for Jack, and that still scared him sometimes.

Wiggling back on his lover’s still mostly-hard cock, and he had Junior to thank for at least half of Teal’c’s resilience, Daniel took the soft lips in a possessive kiss and murmured, “Definitely.”

Teal’c smiled against his lips and gently started thrusting within him.

Daniel whimpered in pleasure and surrendered to his lover’s care.

*  *  *  *

Looking up at Sam’s barefoot approach, Jack grinned at her confused expression and flipped another hamburger on the grill.

“I thought we weren’t expecting anyone?” she questioned, arms sliding around his waist as her chin rested on his shoulder.

“Danny called while you were in the shower,” he explained. “They should be here in about ten.”

Shaking her head, Sam kissed his bare shoulder and observed, “You’re going to burn again if you stay out here without sunblock.”

“Yes, mother.”

She slapped his butt as she moved away, “Do not start, mister.”

He grinned and returned to the burgers.

*  *  *  *

Teal’c cocked an eyebrow at DanielJackson and informed him, “We do not have to tell them, if you are going to hyperventilate.”

DanielJackson turned wounded eyes to him and Teal’c repressed a sigh. Having such a younger lover sometimes required...finesse...as O’Neill would call it. And that was one quality that he didn’t, generally, employ.

“I am not hyperventilating,” DanielJackson exclaimed, hands gesturing wildly. “I can breathe perfectly fine, thanks very much for nothing!”

Capturing both hands in his, only slightly fearing another injury to himself, Teal’c held them firmly and stated, “O’Neill will accept us or not, DanielJackson. If he does not, we shall return to Dakara and I shall take my place on the new council full time, instead of dividing it, as I do now.”

Still not reassured, DanielJackson’s eyes lowered and he muttered, “Jack’s my best friend, Teal’c, I don’t want to lose him.”

And that hurt so much more than he’d thought anything could, that Teal’c released DanielJackson’s hands. Stiff, he replied, “I believe that you underestimate O’Neill, but if you wish that no one to know of us, I respect your wishes, DanielJackson.”

There was a minor sigh from his lover and DanielJackson climbs over the emergency brake to precariously balance over Teal’c, facing him. His face is contrite and gentle, filled with love as he says softly, “I don’t want to lose Jack, but it would kill me to lose you, Teal’c. I’m sorry. I didn’t know this was so important to you. Of course we’ll tell him.”

DanielJackson’s kiss was long and slow, doing much to repair the hurt that he’d unknowingly caused. Teal’c’s hands gripped his ass, pulling him close and the kiss turned hungry without warning.

“Hey guys! We’ve got neighbors you know. Get your butts in here before the burgers get cold and you get arrested for indecent exposure or something!”

DanielJackson froze in place, then started laughing, sitting back on Teal’c’s thighs to lean against the steering wheel. It was good to see the relief and happiness on his lover’s face and Teal’c caressed him once more before opening the car door and helping DanielJackson exit the vehicle without hurting himself.

As they walked up the path to where O’Neill waited in the front door, DanielJackson asked, “Think you can start calling me just Daniel now?”

“Of course, Just Daniel Now,” Teal’c replied agreeably, hiding a smile.

Daniel stopped short and shot him a fast, horrified look, then rolled his eyes, apparently catching sight of the grin Teal’c was trying not to show. “Very funny.”

Teal’c smiled and slid his arm around Daniel’s waist as they entered the house.

*  *  *  *

Amazing what could change in the span of a single day.

Jack’s finger remained steady on the P90, taking out Jaffa after Jaffa, but still not making any real headway in the forces that had finally breached the SGC three hours ago. Daniel was crouched beside him, Sam across the hall with Teal’c shooting above her head. Each team member was racking up quite a body count, but it was useless. Most of SGC had already fallen and they were cut off from the others now anyhow. They were already dead and they all knew it. Didn’t stop them from fighting, but it was just a matter of time.

Until Daniel shouted over the noise, “The quantum mirror!”

The distraction was enough to get Sam shot in the shoulder and she fell back with a cry of pain. Teal’c instantly grabbed her vest and hauled her behind shelter.

“Damn it Daniel! What!?” Jack snarled, taking out another Jaffa.

“The Quantum Mirror!” Daniel repeated, shooting a Jaffa in the kneecaps. “We can use it to escape to another earth!”

“Only for forty-eight hours,” Sam called.

Jack’s jaw tightened at the pain in her voice and snapped, “It’s better than here! We can figure out what to do when we get there. Move it!”

They fell back, Teal’c holding up Sam, Daniel next, and Jack bringing up the rear, alternating cover fire with Daniel. It was a nightmare of firefight after firefight the entire way. Finally making it to the storage room and fusing the door shut behind them, Jack rounded on Daniel with, “Make it work, Daniel!”

Daniel was already striding over to a seldom-used corner of the storage room, dragging aside box after box. Seeing that Teal’c was taking care of Sam’s wound, Jack went over to help Daniel. They found it on the floor, covered only with a curtain. Meeting Daniel’s dry gaze, Jack observed, “Nice security. Didn’t they learn after last time?”

“Guess not,” Daniel replied, snorting.

He pulled the large mirror onto one of the boxes and started messing with the controller. Jack turned to go back to Teal’c and Sam when the door exploded. Horror and pain, physical and emotional, ripped through Jack as he saw both wife and his other best friend skewered with shards of metal from the blast door. Some of it cut into himself and Daniel, even ten feet away, and he heard the howl of anguish from his best friend’s throat as Daniel saw Teal’c fall dead to the floor.

Jack’s throat was locked tight against the agony in his own soul at seeing Sam’s lifeless blue eyes stare at nothing.

There was no more time. He spun, grabbing Daniel around the waist and hauling him bodily towards the mirror as the other man tried to get to his lover, screaming Teal’c’s name the entire time. Daniel still held the control in his hand so it only took one slap of Jack’s palm before hell on earth was replaced by blessed silence as he collapsed to the floor with his still-struggling burden.

Well, silence except for the heart-rending sobs from the man in his arms.

*  *  *  *

Whistling as he strode down the hall, Jack mentally went through the lists of lists that his assistant needed to go through and what, most likely, would need his signature for the next hour. A hell of a lot of crap came with being head of the SGC and he was still tempted to re-write that damn resignation letter every day at least twice a day.

Just to prove to Daniel that he could so do what he wanted, damn it.

He’d just reached his office when the phone rang and he picked it up with, “Y’ello?”

People knew who he was, after all, they didn’t call him by mistake.

“Ah, General O’Neill, there’s a bit of trouble at Area 51.”

Jack groaned to himself at Major Paul Davis Weenie’s voice and settled into his chair. He knew this peace thing was too good to last. “What is it this time?”

“Ah, you and Dr. Jackson, Sir,” Davis reported. “Ones that used the Quantum Mirror to access our world.”

So much for a nice, quiet day. “All right. Send ‘em on over. I’ll get Carter and Daniel ready.”

“Already taken care of, Sir. They should be reaching Chayenne Mountain in about an hour.”

That was Major Weenie. So efficient Jack wanted to puke. He resolutely pushed aside the jealousy that man provoked with so little effort and replied thinly, “Thanks, Major.”

“Any time, Sir.”

Hanging up, Jack dialed Daniel’s extension and waited a full ten rings before hanging up with an aggravated groan and muttered, “Must still be inventorying Catherine’s junk.”

Jack stood and headed for Daniel’s office.

*  *  *  *

“Daniel!”

The level of irritation in Jack’s voice finally cut through the haze of his academic ecstasy and Daniel’s head jerked up to find his lover glaring at him less than a foot away. His own irritation at being interrupted surfaced and he snapped, “What, Jack? I’m in the middle of something here!”

“Yeah. An old, smelly, something-or-other, I can see how that could affect national security,” Jack retorted. “There’s a situation at Area 51.”

“And you need me, why?” Daniel demanded, still miffed. He pushed up his glasses to the bridge of his nose and scratched it while he was there. The dust was getting a little much, maybe he should take an antihistamine?

Eyes rolling, Jack explained, “Because you and I are already there. Looks like we used the mirror thing to come through.”

Daniel blinked at him in surprise, then commented, “General Hammond ordered that destroyed.”

Reaching over to grab hold of Daniel’s arm, Jack hauled him away from the large leather book with, “Oh yeah, and we know how well the NID obeys orders.”

“But, Jack, no, wait! I need that!” Daniel protested to no avail. He finally turned to walk properly and found himself being ‘escorted’ to Sam’s lab. “Thanks a lot Jack.”

Jack’s stride hitched a little and he questioned mildly, “What did I do this time?”

“You came and got me first!” Daniel snapped.

Shaking his head, Jack muttered something under his breath, then said, louder, “That’s usually a compliment, Daniel. Means you’re more important.”

“Oh no you don’t. I know you came to get me first because you figured it would take longer to pry me from my office, than Sam from her lab!”

“Daniel, so help me, if you make this into a PMS contest, I’ll…do something really unpleasant to you! I can, you know, I’m a General now.”

Daniel subsided with a glower. They reached the lab without further argument, but only because Daniel kept his mouth shut. Sam looked up almost right away after they entered.

Jack wagged a finger at him when Daniel’s mouth opened on an ‘I told you so,’ and he ordered, “Not one word, Daniel. Carter. Other us’s have shown up in Area 51. You want to come with?”

Bemused, probably both from Jack’s words to Daniel and the situation, Sam nodded after a second’s consideration. “Actually, this will give me the chance to test out a modulator that I’ve been working on since the last incident. If it works, they can stay indefinitely in our universe without adversely affecting themselves.”

“Now why, if the damn thing was supposed to be destroyed, would you be working on something like that?” Jack demanded.

She shrugged. “Because it’s fun?”

“Carter, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You need a life.”

“Sir.”

“No, I mean it. When Teal’c gets back, the two of you are on leave. Make sure that he, you know, does something to relax you.”

Sam flushed and exclaimed, “Sir!”

At about the same time that Daniel exclaimed, “Jack!”

Jack grinned. “Got both of your attention, though, didn’t it? Go get your too-expensive toy ready, Carter, they’ll be here in about a half-hour. Less, since it took so long to get Daniel.”

“Hey!”

*  *  *  *

Jack recognized the look on his other self’s face all too well. He’d seen that empty, emotionless expression for a long time after Charlie had died and it didn’t speak well of the other man’s mental state. The other Daniel looked about as shell-shocked as Jack had ever seen and it instantly made him want to pull him close and comfort him, even knowing it wasn’t his Daniel. A quick glance at his lover showed a similar inclination to how he was reacting to the alternate Jack.

“Have a seat,” Jack offered quietly, motioning towards the conference table. “You need anything to eat or drink? Are you hurt?”

The other Jack shook his head. “They took care of us at Area 51. We’re fine.”

Yeah. Right.

Everyone took a seat at the table, though the other Daniel had to be prodded into one, and Jack asked simply, “What do you need?”

There was a long silence before the other Jack replied, “Nothing. There’s nothing you can do for us. Our world is…gone. There was an attack by a Goa’uld we’d never heard of before, Anubis, and we were wiped out before we even knew there was a threat.”

Fuck.

Jack sighed, leaning back in his chair to look at Daniel, who shrugged helplessly. “What about Sam and Teal’c?”

A whimper of pain escaped the other Daniel at that and the alternate Jack gripped his shoulder hard enough for his knuckles to stand out as he answered, “They’re dead. We almost all made it, but…didn’t.”

Double fuck.

“You know that you’ve got less than forty-eight hours to find a way back to your earth, or another earth where neither of you exists,” Jack said, more than asked.

The other Jack took it as a question anyhow and answered, “We know.”

And don’t care, was the unspoken end to that statement. Jack felt in his bones how suicidal that other him was, but also instinctively knew that the other Daniel was just too numb with pain to be making rational decisions. The alternate Jack might not care about living or dying, but Jack knew damn well the other Daniel did.

Jack leaned forward and caught the cold blue gaze with his own. “You need to be thinking about Daniel now, not your own worthless piece of shit hide, you got me?”

The other Jack’s eyes narrowed and he hissed, “What the fuck do you know about it?”

“I know plenty, buck-o, believe me,” Jack snapped. “Stop feeling so God damned sorry for yourself and make the right decision for once in your useless life. Daniel needs you now.”

If someone had said those words to him after Charlie’s death, maybe he and his wife would still be married. Which did, and didn’t, really bear thinking about, since that would have kept Daniel from him, if not SG1 altogether.

“Jack,” Daniel murmured, rubbing between his shoulder blades. “Take it easy. They’re in shock is all. Give it some time.”

“They don’t have time, Daniel,” Jack replied sharply.

Daniel’s hand fell away and he gave Jack a wounded look that made him cringe on the inside. Boy was he racking up couch-time at a fast clip. Shaking it off, Jack looked at his other self and continued, “Carter’s bringing up something that can stop the entropic cascade failure. Well, she thinks it will at least. I didn’t get the details, but the gist is that you’ll be okay to stay here if it works.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

Jack met the cold look with one of his own. “Then you find another world or die. It’s that simple.”

The twisted smile that surfaced on the other Jack’s face sent a chill of remembrance through Jack. As did the casual, “Let’s see if this thing fails, then.”

*  *  *  *

It was always a shock to see more than one of the same person when you knew they weren’t a twin and Sam couldn’t help but shake her head at the double Jack. Maybe she shouldn’t bother with an explanation, even though she knew he was going to ask. Getting that Look from two General O’Neill’s would be more than her ego could currently take.

No, wait. He’s still a Colonel. Interesting, Sam thought, setting the two bulky ‘necklaces’ on the conference room table. They were more like flat metal collars than necklaces, thanks to the intricate wiring and computer chips inside them, but Sam didn’t want to think of them like that. Out loud, she said, “By putting these around you and adjusting the module until it resonates with your own universe, I’m extremely hopeful that it will act as a kind of shield and prevent the cascade failure altogether.”

“Just hopeful?” the Colonel questioned, dry as tinder.

Sam flinched a little. She hadn’t heard that particular tone since her first day on the team. Flushing, she replied, “Ah, yes, Sir. You see, I haven’t been able to truly test it, since no one has come through from another earth. I’m confident, however, that the both of you will be safe once the devices are activated.”

“You should be confident. It’s not you who’ll be ripped apart if it fails.”

“Knock it off. Carter doesn’t fail.”

The growl from her own CO went a long way towards soothing the sudden doubts. Clearing her throat, Sam picked them up and walked over to the other Jack, stopping when he jumped from his chair and took a step away, holding a hand up.

“I need to put this on you,” she said.

“Just, put them on the table. I’ll put it on me and Daniel.”

Frowning at the odd response, Sam did as ordered and backed off. There was something very strange going on, but she wasn’t going to question it. Not right away, anyhow. He picked up one and carefully fastened it around his throat, then did the same to the other Daniel. Sam hesitated, then said, “I ah, I need to make adjustments.”

“You can’t do it remotely?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

Jaw impossibly tight, the Colonel nodded and gave in, sitting back down. Keeping her touch as light as possible, Sam turned his on first, knowing that the man would want himself used as a guinea pig before Daniel. She went between the necklace and their original control device, using a small, metal pin to adjust the necklace. There was a soft pitch that instantly grated on her teeth, but seemed to relax the other Jack just a hair. Checking the controller again, Sam saw that they were matched and said, “All set. Now we do Daniel and keep an eye on you.”

“In the meantime,” Jack said as Sam started adjusting Daniel’s necklace. “we’ll start looking for a place for the two of you to land if this doesn’t work out. Sam, do you have some likely possibilities in mind yet?”

Nodding, Sam confirmed, “Yes, Sir.”

“Good. I’ll leave you to it, then. O’Neill, Jackson, you’re essentially under house arrest until we know if this thing’s going to work. Wouldn’t want you falling down a missile silo by accident if you get hit by one of those cascade things. But you can move around freely so long as you don’t try and lose your escort. Carter, keep me posted. Daniel, can I see you in my office?”

“Uh, sure Jack.”

Sam didn’t see them go, engrossed in fine-tuning the other Daniel’s necklace as she was, but she had the distinct feeling that the General was going to apologize to Daniel for whatever he’d done to tick his lover off earlier. The mental image of Jack groveling for forgiveness always brought a smile to her face, but Sam kept it hidden this time. She was well aware that the two men she was still with, had just suffered devastating losses.

*  *  *  *

One of the seriously good bonuses of being in charge was having access of all the really good, even illegally good, technology. Jack might not know how they work like Carter would, but he knew they did and that was good enough for him. Once he and Daniel were in his office, Jack held up a finger to keep him silent and strode over to his desk. Reaching into the top drawer, he flipped on the scrambler that would knock out video and audio surveillance in the room and for fifty feet out.

Walter bitched in his unique way every time Jack used it, which was why he tried not to. The man was the master of passive-aggressive, even better at it than Daniel, which boggled the mind.

Once it was on, Jack commanded, “Close the blinds.”

Daniel blinked at him in surprise, but obeyed. By the time Jack reached him, Daniel was just turning back around to face him. Jack caught him in his arms and held him tight. Pressing his face to Daniel’s throat, his fingers dug into his lover’s back and hip in his need to have Daniel as close as he possibly could. Daniel sighed into his arms, relaxing and leaning completely on him as he returned the hug, forehead to Jack’s shoulder.

For several minutes they stood just like that, neither moving or saying a word. Knowing that they couldn’t keep the jammer going much longer, Jack finally pulled back only far enough to claim Daniel’s mouth in a long, deep kiss. Moaning softly, Daniel returned the kiss just as passionately  and made a pleased noise when Jack pressed him up against the nearest wall.

Gentling the kiss, Jack eventually broke it off altogether and smiled at the dazed expression on his lover’s face. Steeling one last kiss, Jack stood back and tweaked his nose. “Wake up, Danny-boy. Time to get back to work.”

Daniel sighed in regret, then said earnestly, “I love you, Jack. Seeing them, like that, it reminds me why I put up with all your shit.”

A laugh burst from Jack and he grinned fondly at his lover, caressing his cheek before agreeing, “Same here, Danny, same here. And tonight, I’ll show you just how much I love you.”

An anticipatory look entered Daniel’s blue eyes and he asked, “Will I be able to walk tomorrow?”

Jack made a show of thinking about it before answering, “Don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Daniel smirked. “I’m not the impatient one, remember?”

And when Daniel practically sauntered out of his office, hips deliberately swaying, Jack swallowed against a suddenly dry throat. He groaned out loud as he walked back to the jammer and thought, Damn it! He’s the one who’s supposed to have a hard-on all day, not me!

Still. It was a good problem to have and Jack wouldn’t have traded it, or Daniel, for anything in this or any other world. That thought in mind, Jack turned off the device and picked up the phone to call the President. Time to get some work done. And there was no surer way of getting rid of a boner, than talking to your Commander-in-Chief.

*  *  *  *

“You okay?”

Daniel looked up at Jack’s question and shook his head mutely. Nothing was going to be okay ever again. Even if they did manage to get back to their Earth, or one without their doubles on it, what could they possibly do with the rest of their lives?

“So the me here is a real asshole. Wonder where he gets it from?”

The joke fell flat. Daniel wanted to give the other man a smile, but couldn’t even summon the will. He’d been on auto-pilot since Teal’c’s death, doing what he was told and not even bothering to look around at his surroundings. Why bother? He knew what the SGC looked like. He knew what Earth was like. It wasn’t even his Earth, anyhow.

And without Teal’c in it…

“Hey, easy now Danny,” Jack murmured, suddenly just there beside him, arms wrapped around Daniel’s shoulders as he hauled him close.

Daniel couldn’t deal with the pain that was eating him up from the inside out. Couldn’t see anything except the metal slicing across Teal’c’s throat. The way his lover fell to the floor, lifeless. That body, which had given him so much protection and love and comfort for years, lifeless. It wasn’t possible.

“Danny? You’re scaring me here, come on, talk to me buddy!”

Shaking his head, Daniel struggled to get away from Jack, away from the reminder of what he’d lost. He had to get back to their world so he could at least die with Teal’c. If he died here, was there even any hope that they would be reunited in whatever the afterlife might be? He had to get back home, back to Teal’c.

“Damn it, Daniel, calm down! Knock it, sonova! I need some help in here! I need a medic!”

Then there were other arms holding him down and Daniel had a real reason to fight and scream and lash out. He fought with all his strength, which was considerable given that he’d been training with Teal’c and Jack for over seven years. Something sharp stabbed into his ass and he screamed betrayal at Jack, calling him every filthy name he could think of in every language he could use.

Darkness wasn’t swift, but it was, finally, complete.

*  *  *  *

Panting and shaken from the sudden whirlwind of violence that had been his best friend, Jack just sat on the floor, holding Daniel in his arms. He waved away the others and snarled, “I’ve got him now! Get out!”

“Sir, he’s only going to be out for a short time. I didn’t have time to grab the right sedative for this kind of breakdown. We should get him to the infirmary,” a female doctor he didn’t know urged.

Jack held on tighter to Daniel. “He stays with me and where the fuck is Frasier? I want her here, not you!”

The woman flinched and informed him, “Dr. Frasier died in the line of duty last year, Sir, you’ll have to make do with me.”

Will the nightmare never end?

“You should let her bring him to the infirmary.”

Jumping a little at Daniel’s voice, the other Daniel, Jack glared at him and demanded, “What do you know about it?”

“I know that when I lost Shau’ri, I went a little crazy inside,” Daniel answered softly. “I know that if he’s going through what I did, but literally has no hope of making things right again, as I did, then he needs to be restrained.”

And who better to know something like that, than Daniel himself? Even if it wasn’t his Daniel.

Jesus, it’s enough to make my head hurt even worse, he thought tiredly. But he knew that this Daniel was right, as much as he might hate to admit it.

“You can stay with him there, if you want.”

Looking down at the slack face of his best friend, Jack carefully brushed the floppy bangs aside. He’d asked Daniel about the quasi-return to his geeky original hair-style and the other man had blushed, muttering that Teal’c liked it. He sighed and deliberately held his hands up, ordering, “Take him.”

The guards were supervised by the doctor, whose name he still didn’t know, and Daniel was lifted from his lap onto a stretcher. Jack winced as he stood, feeling the bruises that his Daniel had dealt in several places.

“We should get some ice on that before it swells shut.”

Surprised by the concern, Jack gingerly touched his suddenly throbbing right eye and, sure enough, it was sore to the touch. “Yeah, okay.”

They fell into step behind the stretcher and soldiers, not talking, which was just as well. Jack had no idea what to say to this man. He watched as the doctor and her nurses fussed over Daniel just as they had back home. He smiled fondly and thought, Must be a Daniel thing. No nurse or doctor is immune to his charms while unconscious and/or beaten up. Or any other time, really.

Unlike Jack, whom they couldn’t wait to get rid of.

“You want to get something to eat?” Daniel asked. He smiled faintly and added, “They’ve got your favorite today.”

Jack’s lips twisted. “Blue jell-o, huh?”

“Yes, well, I don’t personally recommend it as a substitution for real food, but then, there isn’t much in the way of real food on base anyhow.”

The gentle humor was just so Daniel that Jack had to forcibly remind himself that it was a different man. Glancing back at his best friend, who was still out of it and now strapped into a hospital bed, Jack sighed. “Yeah, okay. I guess he’s going to be here for a while.”

Daniel nodded and walked towards the exit.

After a moment, Jack followed.

*  *  *  *

“So where’s your Colonel?” Jack asked when he and Daniel were sitting at a table in the mess. “Briefing Hammond?”

Daniel shook his head and answered, “No. General Hammond is on another assignment. And my General is probably briefing the President and the Cabinet.”

Jack blinked a few times, taking in the information. “So, wait. Here, I’m in charge of the SGC?”

“Yes.”

“There wasn’t anyone else they could get?”

Daniel grinned and answered, “Well there was, for a short period, but that was mostly because you were frozen in Antarctica and she’s in another galaxy at the moment.”

“Okay. You’re gonna have to back up there, Danny-boy,” Jack ordered, using the nick-name without thinking.

“Hey! Only I get to call him that!” came the miffed exclamation from behind.

Jack twisted in his seat to see his other self finish walking over and then plant himself beside Daniel with an unmistakably proprietary air. Well, unmistakable to him, though to anyone else it wouldn’t seem like anything for two close friends to sit together. It took about three seconds for him to realize they were more than just best friends and he thought, Ewww. Daniel and me? Never happen.

And yet here, it clearly had. Way to find out you could be more open-minded than you’d ever thought; especially considering the POW years and what had happened there. Shaking his head and pushing aside the thoughts for later, a long, long, long time later, Jack said, “Whatever. So you’re the head honcho around here, huh?”

“That’s me,” the other Jack confirmed, smirking.

“Must’ve been desperate.”

Blue eyes narrowed at him, but Daniel jumped in, “So as I was saying, General Hammond’s on assignment as Captain of the X-302. Teal’c is off-world at a Council meeting but should be back any time now, and you know about, about Janet.”

Reminded of the fiery doctor’s death, Jack asked, “How’d it happen?”

The other Jack answered, “She was saving the life of a wounded soldier.”

Jack nodded, accepting that without too much difficulty. Janet had been a soldier as well as a doctor and certainly more than brave enough to be on the front lines, though she generally wasn’t…hadn’t been.

“So, you don’t have the X-302?” Daniel questioned.

Jack shook his head.

“So Hammond’s still, was still, running the SGC?”

“Yeah. We were still doing the meet-n-greet thing with other worlds.”

“Did I ever Ascend?”

Jack frowned at him. “To what?”

Daniel and the other Jack exchanged a significant look before the younger man asked, “Did you ever visit a world called Kelowna, where I got radiation poisoning from a bomb that almost went off?”

“Smarmy little bastards,” Jack answered. “We weren’t there for more than an hour before we were booted for being too nosy. Daniel was really ticked, because they were messing with…hey wait…did you say radiation poisoning?”

Nodding, Daniel explained, “I died from it, but one of the Ancients, Oma Desala helped me Ascend to a higher plane of existance.”

“He was gone for almost a year. Didn’t call. Didn’t write. Did save mine and Teal’c’s lives, even though he was all ghosty at the time,” the other Jack teased fondly.

Curious, Jack asked, “So, how’d you not be dead any more?”

“Ah, essentially I broke some rules fighting Anubis and they demoted me back to human status.”

“Don’t forget the second ascension.”

“Oh, right. I was killed a second time by replicators and Oma intervened again. I assume. I don’t really remember much. But she stopped Anubis somehow, because when I got back, he was gone,” Daniel finished.

Jack sighed. “So you not ascending was probably where we split off. You didn’t ascend, didn’t fight this Anubis asshole and Oma didn’t do whatever it was that she did here, leaving him free to wipe us out.”

“Could be, but it’s probably a lot more complicated than that,” Daniel tempered. “A hundred or even a thousand things could, and probably did, contribute to the split. We’ll never know.”

“How’re you feeling, anyhow?”

Surprised by the other Jack’s question, Jack thought about it and answered, “Fine.”

The other Jack gave a slow nod and stood. His hand briefly squeezed Daniel’s shoulder and he said, “I’ll see you later, Daniel.”

Daniel nodded, his eyes following the other man out of the room. He flushed when he realized that Jack saw the gaze and masked it with, “He had this injury, ah, I’m just, you know, making sure he doesn’t overdo.”

Jack smirked a little and agreed. “Bad knees.”

“Yes, exactly,” Daniel exclaimed, practically leaping on the explanation. “So. Anything else I can tell you?”

And because he honestly didn’t get it, Jack leaned forward on the table and asked quietly, “How did you two get together? It just doesn’t mesh, for me.”

Daniel paled, then took a steadying breath and answered, “Just before I ascended the first time, three years now.”

Startled by the coincidence, Jack said, “That’s when Sam and I got married.”

Daniel’s eyes widened. “You and Sam got married?”

“Hey, that’s a lot more normal than you and him, you know,” Jack replied, a little defensive. “Especially with all the shit I, we, he went through as a POW. He was one, right?”

Subdued now, looking more than a little shocky, Daniel just sank back in his chair and whispered, “I didn’t know. He, he never said, but of course, so much of how he acted, it makes sense now. God damn it! Why didn’t he tell me!?”

Before Jack could say anything, Daniel was out of his chair and running from the mess. Sighing, aggravated with himself for apparently opening a hornet’s nest, Jack poked at his jell-o, appetite gone.

*  *  *  *

Jack jumped in surprise when his door slammed open and Daniel literally burst into his office. The furious look on the other man’s face said that some jig was seriously up, though he couldn’t for the life of him think what it might be. Fortunately, he was on the phone with the Secretary of Defense, which gave him some breathing room and Danny time to calm down a little.

Hopefully.

“Get off the God damned phone now Jack.”

Or not.

Daniel was rarely pissed enough to use that particular tone of voice, but when he did, Jack knew better than to ignore him. “Ah, Sir, if it’s all right there’s a minor emergency I need to…no, not against national security…yes, of course, Sir. I’ll call you back just as soon as it’s taken care of. Thank you, Sir. Good bye.”

As soon as he hung up, Daniel demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me that you were a POW?”

Jack froze, shocked that this was coming up now, of all times. Hardening his voice, Jack replied, “This isn’t the time or place to talk about that, Daniel.”

“This is the only time.”

Stiffening at the ultimatum, Jack forced himself to take a deep breath. He knew that Daniel was just coming from a place of worry, maybe even feeling betrayed that he’d been out of the loop on something that big. That didn’t mean he had the right to tear Jack’s head off about it, but Jack understood it. Meeting Daniel’s gaze as calmly as he could, Jack said, “I’m going to pretend that I didn’t just hear you threaten me, Dr. Jackson, especially not about something that personal.”

Daniel drew back at the accusation, then slumped in on himself. Taking off his glasses, he pinched the bridge of his nose and apologized, “I’m sorry, Jack, I wasn’t thinking.”

“I could tell,” Jack answered, dry. “You want to start from the beginning?”

Without his glasses, Daniel looked so vulnerable, so defenseless, that Jack just wanted to hold him again. Big blue eyes gazed at him, a little unfocused, adding to the instinct.

Daniel sighed and put his glasses back on. “No, I think not. I think, you’re right Jack. We should talk about this another time. If, if you want to, of course.”

Thinking back to that dark period in his life, Jack answered, “I’ll never want to, Danny, but I will. And I’m sorry. I should have told you, but…how do you bring something like that up in conversation? Oh, by the way, I spent almost two years in a POW camp being tortured?”

He winced at Daniel’s flinch. When the hell would he learn not to think before speaking?

“Okay, well, I’ll just go now and, do something,” Daniel muttered, retreating almost as fast as he’d appeared.

Groaning, Jack banged his head on his desk a few times.

“Sorry about that.”

Jack glared at the other him and snapped, “Should’ve known you had a hand in that.”

“Look, I said I was sorry, and I am. I just didn’t get how you could…”

“Ah, ah, ah!” Jack interrupted loudly, giving the other a pointed look. “The walls have ears.”

The other Jack looked a little embarrassed for not thinking about that and sighed. “Anyhow. Just wanted to say sorry.”

“Yeah okay. Whatever. Sit. We need to chat.” When it looked like he was going to argue, Jack pointed to his rank and repeated, “Sit!”

Eyes rolling, the alternate Jack sat and asked, “About what?”

“About why you’re suddenly looking almost normal and Danny’s sedated in the infirmary. What happened?”

There was a minor shrug as the other Jack replied, “Nothing. You’re right, is all. I can’t think about myself. I have to look out for Daniel. He’s the only member left of my team and he’s my responsibility. Once I get him settled somewhere, well, then we’ll see.”

And Jack knew exactly what he meant by that, but there was nothing he could do about it. Hopefully the other Daniel would be able to work the same magic that he’d worked on him before and pull him back from the edge. Once the other Daniel was sane again, Jack would have a little talk with him. It would do him good to have a project the scope of Jack O’Neill. Saving him might even be more difficult than trying to recover a lost Goa’uld wife.

Shaking off the distracting thoughts, Jack asked, “Still feeling okay? No cascades yet?”

“Not yet, but we’ve got another twenty-four to go before that’s a problem.”

“True. All right. Why don’t you try and get some sleep? I’m sure the nurses’ll put you up without too much of a fuss as long as you don’t try to order them around.”

“Would I do that?”

Jack snorted at the innocent tone. “Yeah right.”

*  *  *  *

Walking down the ramp in the Gateroom, Teal’c was not surprised to find no one awaiting him. DanielJackson was most likely still immersed with inventorying the relics from Catherine, O’Neill was continuously inundated with daily matters of the SGC, and Samantha was most likely working on refining the latest version of her naquadah generator.

He went searching for Samantha in her lab first, wishing to reacquaint himself with her in a more…intimate fashion…that a public venue would allow. He passed several airmen on the way and reflected how much better their honest smiles for him were than the subservient obedience of his former troops. He was their equal and their comrade, something that he hadn’t known to miss all during his long service to Apophis.

Entering the lab, he found Samantha slumped over her desk, sleeping, and smiled at the vision. It was a familiar sight, for she lost track of time in the same manner as did DanielJackson, if not as frequently. It was not unusual for O’Neill and himself to bring their respective mates home while still half-asleep in the small hours of the morning.

Teal’c walked up to her and gently rubbed her back, bending down to kiss the back of her neck. She sighed deeply in her sleep and shifted to better accommodate him, even while dreaming. It widened his smile a fraction and he murmured in her ear, “Time to wake, my love.”

Sam jerked upright unexpectedly, the back of her head connecting with his cheek to send a flash of pain through him. Grunting in pained surprise, Teal’c held his face and backed away, amused by the look of horror on Samantha’s face as she looked at the damage she’d inflicted.

“Oh my God, Teal’c! I am so sorry, honey! I didn’t mean to, oh jeeze, let me get some ice, hang on,” she exclaimed, jumping to her feet.

He easily captured her with a hand around her waist, hauling her in close as he said, “It is a small hurt, Samantha, and one easily ignored in favor of more…pressing matters.”

Samantha rolled her eyes as his hands slid down her ass to pull her firmly against his half-hard shaft. “More pressing, huh? Teal’c, I thought Jaffa had more than one thing on their mind, unlike Tauri men.”

“We are still men, Samantha,” Teal’c pointed out.

Chuckling, blue eyes sparkling at him, Samantha confirmed, “You are, at that. So, good trip?”

Teal’c took her mouth in a long, deep kiss, possessing her gently, but firmly. The Council meeting was the last thing on his mind right then. He lifted her onto a nearby counter and her legs wrapped around his waist as the kiss grew in urgency. It had been almost two weeks, after all, since he had traveled to Dakara.

“Whoa! Hey! Is that any way for a Colonel to act, Carter?”

Teal’c just about growled in frustration when Samantha instantly pulled free and pushed him back to jump off the counter and straighten her clothes. Glaring at O’Neill, he asked, “Do you have a death wish, O’Neill?”

O’Neill grinned, not in the least intimidated, and answered, “Nope! Just my voyeuristic streak coming out is all.”

Samantha cleared her throat. “Ah, is there something I can help you with, Sir?”

“Well, I was actually coming down here to wake you up. We’ve hit the threshold,” O’Neill said with meaning.

Confused by the unknown, yet significant look they exchanged, Teal’c demanded, “Of which threshold do you speak, O’Neill?”

“Sorry, T. We have an extra O’Neill and Jackson on base and Carter created some doohickey to stop the waterfall thing,” O’Neill explained.

Translated from O’Neill-speak, that meant… “Someone accessed the Quantum Mirror and SamanthaCarter has a device to stop the entropic cascade failure?”

Ya see? He understands me!” O’Neill exclaimed to Samantha with a gesture at Teal’c. “Missed you, buddy.”

Samantha snorted, but it changed into a cough before becoming outright insubordination. O’Neill’s amused look showed he knew that she was laughing at him and didn’t care. All that was required to make the team interaction complete was a comment from DanielJackson.

“Where is DanielJackson?”

O’Neill glanced at his watch before answering, “He’d better be sleeping, or I’m gonna lace his next cup of coffee with a sedative.”

“I’m going to head down to the infirmary to check on them,” Samantha said hastily.

“I will accompany you.”

Both Samantha and O’Neill shook their heads as O’Neill informed him, “Bad idea. The other Daniel and you were an item, and he’d probably go into shock, ah, again, if he caught sight of you so soon after seeing you die.”

Teal’c raised an eyebrow at him.

“C’mon, T, I’ll fill you in. Carter, keep me updated with any changes.”

Since they both knew an order when they heard one, each fell into step with O’Neill’s directions. His sense of humor and familiarity with them didn’t undermine his authority one bit. Something that Teal’c was finally, after eight years, beginning to realize.

*  *  *  *

The world was fuzzy and unreal, but Daniel knew that he was at the SGC. He was intimately acquainted with the infirmary and even knew from the mattress that he was on, that he occupied the third bed from the east wall.

A sad statement of fact, that.

Daniel blinked and tried to focus, turning his head to see who might be taking care of him this time. He didn’t hear Janet’s voice anywhere, so it was probably very late and she’d gone home. Though that did tell him that he wasn’t terribly injured, because if he was, she wouldn’t have left at all. Reaching up to rub his eyes, Daniel found that he couldn’t. Surprised, and a little scared, he glanced down to see himself in restraints and pulled against them.

“Danny? Easy there, buddy.”

Daniel’s head snapped over towards Jack just as the other man rolled off the neighboring bed. “Jack? What’s going on? Why am I restrained? And, I’m drugged, too, aren’t I? That’s why you’re kind of, well, wavering on me.”

Jack’s softened image nodded as the other man drew closer and rested a hand on Daniel’s shoulder as he explained, “They had to sedate you, Daniel, you’d lost it. Are you okay now?”

“Lost it? Jack, I don’t understand. What’s going on,” Daniel questioned. Why would he have ‘lost it?’

“Ah crap,” Jack muttered, pressing his palm hard against an eye. “Danny, don’t you remember Anubis? He wiped out earth and we used the Mirror to escape. It’s just you and me now.”

Daniel heard the words, but couldn’t process them at first. The memory of Teal’c and Sam’s death hit him, though, in Technicolor glory and his stomach turned. The other half of his heart and soul, dead.

“Are you going to go nuts again? Should I get the nurse?”

Jack’s completely serious question broke through the miasma of pain, but mostly because it reminded him that his best friend was still alive and suffering through a torment equal to his own. Forcing himself to keep the sight of Teal’c dead on the floor in mind, gouging it down deep in his soul, Daniel took several deep breaths, ignoring the tears that leaked from his eyes, and shook his head.

“Good, but, couldja maybe say something?”

Meeting Jack’s gaze, Daniel asked, “How long until the cascade failure hits?”

“We passed the threshold while you were out of it, a couple of hours ago,” Jack informed him, looking relieved at his coherent question. “Looks like the Carter here came through after all.”

Of course she would, Daniel thought with a bittersweet smile. Out loud he observed, “So we have to live with these things around our necks for the rest of our lives.”

“Well, unless we find another universe where we don’t exist,” Jack countered.

But there was something about being in a world where he knew that Sam and Teal’c lived that was a comfort to him. Whether or not that would hold up when he came face to face with this world’s Teal’c, well, Daniel didn’t know for sure. But Jack had lived through meeting Sam, so he figured that he’d do the same when he ran into Teal’c.

“How are you feeling, Dr. Jackson?”

Daniel looked over at an unfamiliar doctor and answered, “Fine. Well, better. Thank you.”

He wanted to ask where Janet was but one look at Jack’s face told him that he didn’t want to know right then. “So what’s the plan?”

“For now, just to hang out and wait while the O’Neill here figures out what to do with us,” Jack answered with a shrug. “I’m gonna get some more shuteye.”

Daniel leaned into the caress of Jack’s rough hand on his cheek, grateful for the brief contact, and then watched the other man climb back into the bed. Looking past Jack to the wall, Daniel counted the beds and half-smiled as the doctor unrestrained him and then continued her examination.

Third bed from the east wall.

Some things remained constant in every universe.

*  *  *  *

Jack smiled as he looked down at his sleeping lover, Daniel’s glasses still in place and a book on his chest. It looked like he’d tried, and failed, to wait up for Jack. Daniel could go for days without sleep when he was in the middle of a translation or dig, but when he was just waiting for Jack, nine times out of ten, he’d be sound asleep by the time Jack got home.

Well, and not that they were home, but it was the quarters reserved for them on base, which was about the same thing. In the six months since Jack had retired and officially listed Daniel as his domestic partner, he’d expected a hell of a lot more resistance than they’d gotten. It probably helped that nothing about their relationship had publicly changed once Daniel had quietly changed his address to Jack’s house, and they’d signed lawyerly papers to cover every possible situation so they’d have control over each other, if the worst happened.

No, the SGC could care less that they’d been fucking each other for the last three years because SG1 had never once been compromised, and neither had the SGC, once Jack had had the running of it on Hammond’s recommendation. Jack was still a bastard to deal with and Daniel had never lost that ‘academic fog’ that followed him around; neither man changed. If anyone had a problem with them being together, it was outside the SGC, down in Washington, but Jack could care less about that. He was retired now, a civilian consultant brought in to run the SGC mostly because Thor didn’t like dealing with anyone else.

Talk about job security, Jack thought wryly.

Shaking out of the introspective moment, blaming it on their new guests, Jack yanked off his shirt and tossed it on the floor. Pants, socks, and shoes were next, and then Jack slid into the bed beside Daniel. He carefully pushed his arm under the pillow on which Daniel rested to sidle up next to his lover, curling up around him. The glasses were removed and the book tossed aside as he got comfortable around his lover. Daniel was like a furnace, which was great for his old bones to soak up the heat from . Sighing deeply, Jack pressed his face against the long column of Daniel’s throat and wondered briefly why Daniel had ever agreed to this.

Despite all the explanations that Daniel had given him over the years, and Jack demanded them often, the only one that really bore any weight to convincing Jack he wasn’t screwing up Daniel’s life, was the simple, “I love you,” that Daniel maintained.

“Everyone ‘kay?” Daniel mumbled.

“Everyone’s fine, Danny, go back to sleep,” Jack promised. “Long day tomorrow.”

But Daniel yawned and rolled onto his side with a plaintive, “Haven’t seen you all day.”

The sleepy blue eyes made Jack smile again and he kissed Daniel as sweetly as he knew how. Not that it stayed sweet, because Daniel sighed into it and that little thing was enough to spark off Jack’s hunger. He groaned, even as he expanded the kiss, delving deep into Daniel’s mouth and twining his tongue around its mate.

Crawling on top of him, Jack planted himself between Daniel’s legs and rocked strong against the semi-hard cock under Daniel’s boxers. Daniel’s concession to base living. At home, he slept nude. Daniel gasped into his mouth and his nails raked up Jack’s back, urging him to go harder. They couldn’t really let loose on base, unfortunately, because they never knew what might interrupt them, or when.

Jack’s fingers pinched and twisted Daniel’s nipples viciously, earning him a pleasured moan and a hip-jerk. Rising up on his hands, Jack ground down on his lover, fucking him as best he could under the circumstances. Daniel’s  legs locked around Jack’s waist, holding him tight, and Jack humped into him. Pale eyes rolled back and Daniel’s mouth opened in a silent cry of release. Jack felt the wet heat soak into Daniel’s boxers and his own and let himself follow, coming a few thrusts later.

Panting, Jack slowly fell onto Daniel’s chest, relishing the strong arms that wound about him and the gentle fingers that combed through his short hair. He’d never been one for cuddling before Daniel, but it was something vital to the other man’s emotional well-being. Daniel was very tactile with him, as he’d always been with Daniel, and it more than carried over into their bedroom behaviors.

“God, Jack.” Daniel sighed, nuzzling at his throat. “I can’t wait until we can go home and you fuck me unconscious.”

Jack gasped as his cock twitched painfully with anticipation of just that and exclaimed, “Are you trying to kill me, Daniel? Because seriously.”

A warm, low, and way-too-incredibly sexy chuckle vibrated through Daniel’s chest before he answered, “I’ve heard it’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for.”

Pushing up onto his elbows, Jack kissed him, short and sweet, and confirmed, “That’s for damned sure.”

Daniel chuckled again as Jack slid off him and took a few minutes to trade the dirty boxers for a washcloth and clean ones. Once resettled in bed, Daniel’s head resting comfortably on his chest, Jack asked, “So. You want to tell me about your little temper tantrum earlier?”

A soft sigh brushed across his throat and, after a long moment, Daniel said, “I hate that you still keep things like that from me. Important things, Jack.”

“I know, Danny, I know it’s a big thing, but really. When should I have brought it up?” Jack pointed out.

“Jack...” Daniel pulled free and sat up, pinching the bridge of his nose.

In the dim light, Jack could see how hurt Daniel was that this had been kept from him and sighed. “It wasn’t like I meant to keep it from you.”

“I know that, I do.” Daniel reached for his glasses and pulled them on before meeting Jack’s eyes and saying, “When you cut me out like that, all my insecurities come flooding back. It’s like so many times before when you would shut me down and dismiss me. Like I’m nothing but a talking head who’s only hanging around while everyone else gets a say in your life. I mean, I know I’m low man on the totem pole, but I’d like to at least pretend I know you, that I know the big things, like being a POW.”

Stunned, Jack exclaimed, “Low man on the totem pole?”

“Well yeah. Duty comes first, and I understand that. Took me a long time to come to terms with it, but...”

Jack clamped a hand over Daniel’s mouth to shut him up, unable to believe what he’d just heard. It took a few minutes to get his thoughts together in order to demand earnestly, “What part of ‘I love you’ don’t you understand, Daniel? I would give all this up for you in a heartbeat! My country has had my entire life. I’ve been ruled by duty since I was a boy. That’s it. I’m done, Daniel. You’re my duty now. You have my life. From the first moment I saw you, I knew that you would change my life and I was right. You turned me on my God damned ear, Daniel, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I. Love. You. Are we clear?”

Daniel’s eyes were wide as he nodded.

Jack took his hand away and said, “Good. And I promise, as soon as this crisis is over, we’ll talk. Really talk about, well, whatever you want to know. Okay?”

After taking off his glasses and setting them carefully aside, Daniel pushed Jack down and curled up around him. Hitching a leg over Jack’s and hugging him tight with one arm, Daniel whispered, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Danny,” Jack whispered back, kissing his temple. Sighing explosively, feeling like he’d somehow just averted a major, major disaster, Jack asked, “So what do you think I should do with our newest additions?”

Fingers playing with Jack’s chest hair, Daniel replied, “There’s always the expedition to the Pegasus Galaxy. You could put Jack in charge of the military end of things.”

“I already got someone lined up for that.”

Daniel arched an eyebrow up at him and questioned, “Do you really want to argue with yourself all the time? Because you know that he’ll somehow finagle a way to get himself assigned to the SGC and you’ll spend every day being questioned, just because he can, not because he’ll necessarily disagree with you. He’s not going to just retire. You never do.”

“Hey! I am so retired!” Jack protested, then paused. “Well. Sort of.”

Daniel snorted. “Like I said.”

Shaking his head, Jack didn’t answer. His fingers combed through Daniel’s hair, which he’d grown out a little in deference to the no-longer-military aspect of his life. Daniel was full-time in charge of the archeological and cultural divisions within the SGC now. He only ever went to planets that were allies, and so didn’t really need to keep his appearance strictly military any longer.

Of course, Jack still liked him to wear his dog tags, because it was so hot when it was the only thing he wore. A little thing on which Daniel indulged him.

“Well?”

Startled out of his thoughts of Daniel in just his dog tags, Jack dragged his mind back to the matter at hand and sighed. “Yeah, I guess. Not like I, he, the other me wouldn’t be a good choice to lead the team. Weir’s going to throw a hissy, though. She really likes Sumner. A last minute change like this is really going to throw her off her stride.”

“I think you’re underestimating Elizabeth,” Daniel countered with a shrug. “She’s a lot more flexible than you’re giving her credit for.”

“Flexible enough to want me there, in charge of the military stuff and you there as cultural back-up whatever? Well, the other us-es.”

Daniel paused. “Okay, it might throw her off a little. You should probably call her once you’ve talked all this over with them.”

“God, I can’t wait until they’re gone,” Jack sighed, shaking his head. “This double stuff is for the birds.”

Chuckling, Daniel spread his fingers over Jack’s chest and said, “They might not want to go, you know. Maybe Jack will retire to your fish-less pond and Daniel will go to keep him out of trouble.”

Jack snorted and pointed out, “Daniel’s the one who’d need keeping out of trouble, Space-monkey.”

“Speaking of Daniel.” Daniel’s hand rubbed over Jack’s chest and continued, “What if he can’t go anywhere? He’s not up for much right now and the expedition to Pegasus is next week.”

“Danny, if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s how to motivate you. No matter which you I’m trying to motivate,” Jack answered dryly.

Daniel frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean.”

“Remember how I was after Charlie? When we first met?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that’s where this Jack is, all over again, only now, he doesn’t even have his own world. How long do you think he’s planning to stick around for?”

Daniel’s eyes widened and he exclaimed, “He’s going to kill himself!?”

“Soon as he figures the other Daniel’s mentally stable, so far as I can tell,” Jack confirmed. “And I’m going to tell that to Daniel, too, make him understand exactly what the SOB’s up to.”

Falling silent, Daniel’s fingers played with Jack’s nipple without any real intent. It was just a point of contact, which Jack knew.

Squeezing his arm around Daniel’s shoulder, Jack kissed his temple and murmured, “Can’t say I blame him. If I ever lost you for real, I doubt that I would stick around, either.”

“What about…this last time?” Daniel questioned, hesitant. “Sam mentioned that you were kind of…insistent…that I wasn’t dead.”

“Well you weren’t.”

“Of course not, but, she said that you were in some pretty serious denial about even the possibility.”

Jack snorted. “I was. And I always will be, if there’s no body when it comes to you. You’ve come back from the dead so many times, Daniel, that I can’t trust anything I don’t see with my own eyes. And even then…Daniel, you have to understand that you’re my magnetic north, the point that guides me home every time. There’s no way that I can live a life that makes any sense without you. So even if everyone around me says your dead, I won’t believe them. Not until I see the body and touch it with my own hands, for several days in a row by the way. I hope you aren’t waiting on a traditional burial.”

“Cremation, actually,” Daniel informed him.

“Ah. Okay. Me? I have a plot next to Charlie. Nice place with a lot of trees,” Jack replied, smiling. “You don’t mind?”

Daniel returned the smile and kissed his lips. “Of course not. You don’t mind about me being cremated?”

Jack tweaked his nose and answered, “Nah. We’re going to hook up again once we no longer need these bodies anyhow, right?”

“Right,” Daniel agreed.

He stared into Jack’s eyes with such conviction that something deep inside Jack eased. Maybe Daniel didn’t even know what he knew, maybe it was part of the memories and knowledge hidden from him by the Ascendants, but Daniel knew that they would be together after death and that was damn sure good enough for Jack.

*  *  *  *

Jack was gone when Daniel woke the next morning, but that was no surprise. The other man hated the infirmary with a passion, and the doctors and nurses equally hated him in it; that seemed to extend to any world.

“How are you feeling this morning, Dr. Jackson?” a nurse asked, smiling.

Considering my lover and my entire world are dead? Out loud, he answered, “Better, thank you. Is Colonel O’Neill coming back soon?”

She nodded, though the smile faded a bit. “Yes, Sir. I believe he and General O’Neill had a conference this morning, but that was a couple of hours ago. I expect that he’ll be back shortly. Would you like something to eat?”

To Daniel’s surprise, he discovered that he was hungry and nodded with, “Yes, thank you.”

There was a bright smile and, “I’ll be right back,” before she disappeared in a whirl of perfume.

Shaking his head in dark amusement, Daniel stared up at the ceiling and wondered what was going on with the two Jacks.

“Daniel?”

Daniel jerked in surprise at hearing Sam’s voice and looked over to find her standing hesitantly a few feet away. For a moment, he wasn’t sure that he could bear the sight of her and his eyes closed against the pain, the image of her death superimposed over the clean, alive woman standing in the room. Daniel breathed deep and finally opened his eyes to meet hers, asking, “Can I help you with something?”

She gave a relieved smile and walked over to him. Leaning against his bed, she apologized, “I’m sorry to bother you, I know how painful it must be, seeing me so soon, but I needed to talk to you about Jack. Your Jack.”

Daniel frowned. “What about him?”

“I’m afraid I overheard a private conversation between, ah, them, both Jacks, and I got the distinct impression...” her words trailed off for a long moment before she took a breath and continued resolutely, “He said that he’s only going to stick around until you’re okay.”

His frown increased as Daniel asked, “Stick around here? Where would he go and why would he go without me?”

Sam shook her head and explained soberly, “No, Daniel, he meant that he was going to kill himself once he knew you were all right to be on your own.”

Stunned, Daniel didn’t know what to say at first. He at last stammered, “No, you’re wrong. Jack would never…suicide isn’t something…”

But he had to stop talking because Daniel remembered a different Jack from almost nine years ago. One that had lost his son and his will to live. One that was governed solely by duty and had planned to kill himself. In a heroic fashion, but it had still been a planned suicide. It was definitely something Jack was capable of, given their current circumstance, and it would be just like Jack to wait until he thought Daniel was better before killing himself.

Furious, Daniel sat up straight and yanked the tubes from his arm with a gasp of pain.

“Daniel! Wait, you can’t do that!” Sam exclaimed.

He pinned her with a glare and stated, “If you don’t find me some clothes, I’m going to go up to General O’Neill’s office just like this.”

Nonplussed, Sam waved a nurse over to help.

*  *  *  *

Both Jack O’Neill’s jumped with the office door slammed open, as did Elizabeth, who was still reeling from the double image of the Colonel and General O’Neill in front of her. Her head whipped over to find Daniel, Colonel Carter trailing close behind, storming inside.

“What the hell are you thinking, Jack!?” he exclaimed, hands jabbing the air. “Huh? What!? What could you possibly think would make your suicide all right?”

“Oh, thank God. It’s your Daniel,” General O’Neill muttered, sighing in relief.

It would have been almost funny, the relief on the normally taciturn officer’s face, but for the word ‘suicide’ hanging in the air.

Colonel O’Neill, her new military advisor to the Pegasus Galaxy, stood hastily, hands upright in a placating gesture and soothed, “Daniel, it’s not like that.”

“Don’t you Daniel me! You’re going to leave me alone in this place!” Daniel hissed.

Feeling a lot like they were intruding, Elizabeth stood and suggested to the General, “Why don’t we give them privacy to work this out?”

“It’s my office!” he protested.

“Sir,” Colonel Carter chimed in softly.

He heaved a sigh, giving in, and stood. “All right, already, Carter. Dial it down, will ya?”

Elizabeth preceded him out of the office and turned back once the door was closed to find the General shamelessly eavesdropping. Surprised by the behavior, she scolded, “General O’Neill! That’s a private conversation.”

“Yeah, but I’m the one who instigated it,” he answered, smug.

“General.”

There was another sigh, but he turned and faced her and Colonel Carter. “I hate it when women gang up on me. All right. Let’s finish up details in the conference room. Chances are they’re going to be in there a while. Carter? You coming?”

“No, Sir. I’m going to stick around and make sure Colonel O’Neill survives Daniel,” Colonel Carter replied, flashing him a grin.

“Great. So you get to eavesdrop and I don’t. Just make sure and fill me in later.”

“Yes, Sir!”

Not at all comfortable with that, Elizabeth opened her mouth to protest, but General O’Neill’s hand wound up at the small of her back, guiding her gently but firmly down the hall, towards a conference room. “General O’Neill, really, Colonel Carter shouldn’t intrude on such a private matter!”

He gave one of those annoyingly charming grins and answered, “It’s a military thing, never leave a man behind. Daniel can be a tough character when he gets his dander up, trust me. She’ll just step in if things start breaking.”

And this was the man who was going to lead her military team? Well, not this man, but, the other… Elizabeth shook her head with a mental groan. It wasn’t a difficult concept, really, but actually having it materialize was a little difficult to handle. As were two Jack O’Neill’s. She sat in one of the chairs at the table, saying, “I would feel more comfortable with Colonel Sumner in charge.”

“Yeah well, I’m more comfortable knowing there’s only one me in this galaxy,” the General replied, dryly. “Dr. Weir, it’ll be fine. Colonel O’Neill has more than enough experience to handle this kind of assignment, trust me.”

“I will be,” Elizabeth countered, equally as dry.

He grinned. “True. And look on the bright side. With Daniel there, you’ll have back-up for first contact situations. Not only that, he’s personally worked with McKay, who is a royal pain in the ass, and a number of the other scientists. What the Russian one’s name again?”

Zelenka, and he’s Czech.

“Right, him. The two of them get on like a house afire! It’ll be great, you’ll see.”

“What about his suicidal tendencies?”

General O’Neill winced a little at her acidic question, but answered, “Once Daniel gets through with him, I doubt it’ll even cross his mind. And hey, ah, you won’t care if they develop into something more than friends, right? On the QT, of course, since O’Neill’s still on duty.”

Of all the things to bring up? Elizabeth snorted. “General O’Neill, who anyone on my team sleeps with is their own business, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the running of the project.”

“Great!” O’Neill exclaimed. “Look, I’ve got some things to take care of, so why don’t you hang out here until the other us-es are done fighting? Shouldn’t be more than another ten minutes or so. I could never listen to Daniel rant at me longer than that before completely caving. Well, unless he was being an idiot, which in this case, he isn’t. Oh, and don’t tell my Daniel I told you that, okay? I’ll never win another argument again.”

Elizabeth watched him leave with a sigh and thought, I really wish Colonel Sumner was going, instead.

*  *  *  *

Glaring at Jack, who had stood and was now glaring right back, Daniel continued, once the door was closed, “I can’t believe that you would do something like that to me! How could you even think about it!?”

“How do you think?” Jack snarled back. “I’ve lost everything, Daniel, not once, but twice! I can’t live through this again. I can’t take this another time!”

Daniel softened a little and said simply, “So have I, Jack. I may not have lost a child the first time, but I’ve had my heart torn to shreds twice now. The other half of me just ripped away. I know it’s apples and oranges, but don’t you think that I want to die, too?”

“So why don’t we?” Jack suggested.

Blinking in surprise, Daniel repeated, “Why don’t we?”

“Yeah. I can get hold of a gun easy enough. Two bullets in two brains. Put us both out of our misery.”

And looking at Jack, Daniel honestly couldn’t tell if he was being serious or not. It was that darkness, that penchant for violence that he’d never been comfortable with rising to the surface again. He was completely unreadable. Daniel thought over the suggestion seriously; he thought about just letting himself go this time. About leaving all the pain and tears behind for something else, whether it was better, or worse. A few seconds later, he agreed, “All right.”

Jack paused, then echoed slowly, “All right?”

“Yes. But I’ve got a favor to ask.”

Wary, Jack questioned, “What?”

“I need you to kill me,” Daniel replied with certainty. “I want it all to end, but I know I can’t pull the trigger.”

“Daniel, if you can’t…”

“You know me, Jack. You know I can’t kill anyone, not even myself. Not even when I want it,” Daniel interrupted, stepping close to grab his arm.

Jack stared into his eyes for a long moment, then slowly nodded. “Okay, Danny, if that’s what you want.”

“It is.”

“Okay,” Jack repeated, more to himself than to Daniel. He broke away from Daniel and walked over to the desk, picking up the phone and pulling off a small key that had been taped underneath. He flashed Daniel a wry grin and said, “Same place in every office I’ve ever occupied. You just never know when your office is going to be taken over by hostiles.”

Frowning curiously, Daniel watched as Jack walked to the closet and stepped inside, coming out a few seconds later with a pistol. “Isn’t that taking paranoia a little too far, Jack?”

“Comes in handy though, doesn’t it?” Jack pointed out.

Daniel had to nod agreement to that.

Priming the weapon, Jack checked the sleeve and slid it back inside with a decisive click, then looked at Daniel. “You sure about this?”

“Yeah,” Daniel confirmed, licking at too-dry lips as he stared back into dark, unreadable eyes. “Do it, Jack.”

*  *  *  *

The gun was smooth and cool and solid in his grip, the same model that he used back on their earth. Hell, it was probably even the exact same gun he’d bought and smuggled onto base to lock in his office where no one but him would know. It had always been a back-up plan. Comforting. Reassuring. That extra little bit of control to placate the paranoia that dogged him. Not just paranoia, but a justifiable caution, given how many intruders wound up at SGC.

Jack flipped off the safety and shifted automatically into a firing stance as he raised the weapon. Daniel stared back at him, so trusting, as the gun hovered in the air less than three inches from his forehead. The glasses magnified his already big blue eyes and Jack saw nothing there but calm acceptance. It was that same look that Jack had seen on Abydos, that first time Daniel had been killed. The same look on Apophis’ ship above earth six years ago and he’d had to leave Daniel behind because he was too badly injured.

The same look that Daniel got whenever he was doing something to protect Jack.

A trickle of sweat itched its way down his neck from behind his ear as he continued to aim the gun at Daniel. Sam was gone. Teal’c was gone. His entire world was gone. There was nothing left for him anywhere, no matter what the Jack of this earth might think. He couldn’t start over again somewhere new. He couldn’t build those relationships again that would break his heart when someone died on him. There was nothing left…except Daniel.

Daniel, who had been there for him when he’d gone a little too crazy the first time, after Charlie’s death. So filled with passion and self-righteousness that Jack had automatically hated him on sight. But he hadn’t been able to keep it up, no one could with Daniel unless they were a System Lord. He was so filled with life and love and a gentleness that to hate him, or think about hurting him, was an anathema to all who really knew him.

And Jack more than knew him. He’d held Daniel through withdrawal not once, but twice. He’d held Daniel after Shau’ri’s death when the tears wouldn’t stop. He’d watched Daniel solve ancient mysteries of the mind, over and over, memorizing the way his face just lit up with knowledge.

Jack’s hand started to shake.

Uncertainty and doubt rose up like storm clouds, despite Daniel’s acceptance of what Jack was about to do; maybe because of it. He knew that Daniel wasn’t in his right mind because of his grief over Teal’c. He knew that now was not the time for Daniel to be making life-changing, or life-taking, decisions. By extension, that meant it wasn’t the time for him to be doing either, but he couldn’t face the black well of pain labeled ‘Samantha Carter’ in his heart and soul. He couldn’t handle that kind of devastation again.

Jack had to blink away tears, then wiped his eyes on his shoulder and whispered, “I’m sorry, Danny, I can’t do it. I can’t kill us.”

Reaching out for him, Daniel carefully took the gun from him and then tugged Jack into his arms and whispered back, “It’s okay, Jack, I know. Let it out. Just let it all go. I’ve had my nervous breakdown, it’s time for yours.”

A short, utterly hopeless laugh escaped Jack and his arms wrapped around Daniel, holding on for all he was worth as the sobs started. Eventually, his legs gave out, but Daniel supported him, lowering them both carefully to the floor where he rocked them back and forth.

Jack held on to the one constant in his life and cried like he hadn’t since he’d lost his father as a young boy.

*  *  *  *

Sam got nervous when the shouting stopped abruptly to be replaced by quiet voices that she couldn’t understand. Then there was complete silence for a long time and she got a little scared. Silence with either Daniel or the General was a bad circumstance when emotions ran high; it meant something bad was about to happen.

Usually something fatal.

Shifting uneasily, Sam stepped forward and reached for the doorknob when she heard muffled sobs coming from inside. She yanked her hand back, heart beating fast with guilt as she listened to an outcome she’d never expected. Sam turned and hurriedly walked away, then stopped, thinking that maybe she should guard the hall leading up to the office so they weren’t disturbed. Far enough away so that the Colonel wouldn’t think she’d heard him crying.

She met up with Dr. Weir, who was just leaving the conference room, and stopped in surprise. “Dr. Weir? Did you need something?”

Hazel eyes looked past her to the office and Dr. Weir asked mildly, “I thought you were keeping an ear on things.”

Flushing with embarrassment, Sam replied, “It’s, ah, it’s a private conversation, like you said.”

Weir’s knowing gaze was more than enough admonishment.

“So did you need something?” Sam continued hastily, wishing her face would cool down.

A smile played over Weir’s lips as she answered, “I was going to find General O’Neill to tell him I have too much to do to simply wait. Once Colonel O’Neill and the other Dr. Jackson have made their decision, they can contact me.”

Sam nodded. “Of course, ma’am. I’ll give him the message.”

Weir started walking away, then paused to look back at Sam as she said, “I find that listening at doors is generally a bad idea, Colonel. Usually for the ones who do the listening.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sam agreed, flushing a-new.

Next time, she was just going to keep her nose out of it.

*  *  *  *

Daniel looked up at the light knock on his office door. Jack lounged against the doorframe, just looking at him. Surprised, he frowned and asked, “How long have you been standing there?”

“A while,” Jack answered, lips almost twisting into a smile.

He stepped inside and closed the door before walking over to Daniel, a serious look on his face when he stopped just a few inches away. Daniel could tell his lover was in front of him, not his boss, and waited patiently for Jack to say something, to let him know what was going on.

The smile finally graced Jack’s lips as he pushed Daniel’s glasses up the bridge of his nose and he said, “I love you, Danny-boy.”

Daniel waited for something more, but nothing was forthcoming, so he finally replied, “I love you too, Jack. What’s going on?”

“Just thought I didn’t say that enough to you is all,” Jack answered, tweaking his nose while his hand was there, then dropping it.

Smiling with pleasure, Daniel asked, “So how did the meeting with Colonel O’Neill and Weir go?”

Jack groaned. “Remind me not to argue with myself in the future, because I’ll never win. And I sure as hell don’t look smart doing it, either.”

Daniel bit back an automatic response, hiding his grin behind his hand as he faked a cough.

“Yeah, yeah.” Jack snorted, making a face. “Thanks. Anyhow, I left the not-so-good Colonel and his Daniel chatting over the suicidal tendencies and left Weir in a conference room. I figure I’ll give them another ten minutes or so and see what’s left of O’Neill.”

Shaking his head, Daniel observed, “You just can’t help yourself, can you?”

Jack gave him an innocent look and replied, “Don’t know what you’re talking about, Daniel. So what’re you working on?”

Daniel swiftly slapped Jack’s hand away from the text that he was translating through protective layers of plastic and with latex gloves. “Don’t touch that! It’s a priceless text that you could destroy with a single finger!”

“Well, my work here is done,” Jack stated, grinning and backing away. “I’ll go see if I can disturb Teal’c for a while.”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” Daniel commented, trying not to grin back at him.

Jack wriggled his eyebrows before leaving the office.

Feeling completely distracted himself from Jack’s visit, Daniel could only sympathize with Teal’c ahead of time. He hesitated only a moment longer before reaching for the phone. A forewarned Jaffa was a prepared Jaffa, especially where Jack was concerned, and a prepared Jaffa was a happy Jaffa.

*  *  *  *

Teal’c maintained his form as O’Neill entered the gym and watched him for a few minutes. After eight years on the same team, he knew all of his friends by scent alone. It wasn’t as easy without his symbiote, but his senses were still sharper than that of the average Tauri. And while O’Neill was more than simply an average Tauri, he was no Jaffa.

He was not surprised when O’Neill joined him on the exercise matt and began running through the forms with him. O’Neill’s ‘style’ was informal enough to allow him the more casual Tauri uniform when no officials were expected. All he had to do was take off his jacket and shoes and he would be prepared for any sort of exercise, should he so desire. They hadn’t done this for a number of weeks, what with their scheduling conflicts, but within moments were moving as if they practiced daily.

O’Neill stayed with him for almost a full thirty minutes before stopping with a final bow to him and, “Thanks, Teal’c, I needed that.”

“Indeed, O’Neill,” Teal’c agreed. “It is good that DanielJackson informed me of your arrival. I was able to switch to a more relaxing form.”

With a grimace, O’Neill wagged a finger at him and said, “You’re all conspiring against me. Don’t think I don’t see it. All of you.”

Teal’c arched an eyebrow at him and his lip quirked as he replied, “If we were, you would already be deposed, O’Neill. Your security is negligent.”

O’Neill snorted and, as he backed away towards jacket and shoes, observed, “You’re getting awfully smug, Teal’c. One of these days, you’re going to crack a real smile. Both lips, same time. Seriously. Has Carter been making you practice? Because I can order her to stop.”

“She has not, O’Neill,” Teal’c assured him, quelling the impulse to do just as O’Neill had described and smile fully as the Tauri were so wont to do.

That was reserved for Samantha alone.

“Thanks again, T,” O’Neill called as he headed out of the gym.

Teal’c’s head inclined a long moment before he returned to the discipline he’d been working through before DanielJackson’s call, but his concentration was shot. He was far too relaxed now that he and O’Neill had gone through the other. Shrugging off the inattentiveness, Teal’c walked over to the showers to clean up before resuming his duties. He had a meeting with Braytac in two hours and the other warrior would not tolerate his laxity as the Tauri did.

*  *  *  *

“I feel like an idiot.”

Daniel smiled at Jack’s mutter and held out the tissues he’d just picked up off General O’Neill’s desk. Knowing that Jack wouldn’t want him to make anything of the crying jag, Daniel replied, “You’re pretty ugly right now, too.”

Jack blew his nose and grabbed another tissue from the box to wipe off his face. “Thanks, Danny. Remind me to not recommend you for work with the mentally unstable.”

Gripping Jack’s shoulder, Daniel asked seriously, “Are you all right?”

With a sigh, Jack answered, “I don’t know. I guess so.”

“Not the most convincing answer,” Daniel observed. “Especially considering you were almost ready to kill us. I need to know, Jack. I need to know that I can count on you. That you’re not going to leave me one day out of the blue.”

Jack’s hand covered Daniel’s on his shoulder and he slowly said, “I can’t talk about the future, Danny. All I can say is that...I think I’m dealing with it now. I wasn’t before. I guess that makes it twice you’ve saved my soul.”

“Only twice?” Daniel countered, sardonic.

Jack snorted and observed, “From self-inflicted torture anyhow.”

“Only twice?”

Slapping at Daniel’s hand, Jack laughed. “Very funny, everyone’s a comedian.”

Daniel moved his hand to grip the back of Jack’s neck as he whispered, “Don’t ever leave me, Jack, please. I couldn’t take it.”

“I won’t,” Jack whispered back, staring at him.

They just sat and stared at each other for a long time. Daniel felt like his hand was somehow becoming fused to Jack’s neck, that they were connected in a way they hadn’t been in a very, very long time. The pain in Jack’s dark eyes had opened a crack in that armor, the one that had developed shortly before he and Sam had gotten together.

A knock at the door caused them both to jump and Daniel snatched his hand back as if burnt. Suddenly awkward, he climbed to his feet and said, “You should probably clean up. I’ll stall them.”

Nodding, Jack stood as well, walking over to the bathroom with fast strides. He paused at the threshold to wink at Daniel and say, “Perks of the rank. Sweet.”

Somewhat reassured, both by Jack’s catharsis and the comeback comment, Daniel smiled and turned towards the door. As expected, General O’Neill and Dr. Jackson were on the other side, as was Sam. He smiled and stood back with, “Sorry to occupy your office for so long, General.”

“No problem,” O’Neill answered, smiling briefly. “Everything okay, or do I have a body to bury?”

“Not mine anyhow,” Jack said, coming out of the bathroom.

Daniel looked him over and wondered how it was possible this was the same man he’d held in his arms just ten minutes ago. Jack was completely put together, without any sign that he’d been in serious emotional trauma. His eyes were a little red, but there was nothing else to indicate he’d had any trouble whatsoever.

“O’Neill. Braytac has canceled our meeting, so I am now available to you, should you need me.”

Feeling punched in the gut at Teal’c’s voice, Daniel froze in place. Jack was at his side in an instant, his arm around Daniel’s waist to support him.

Teal’c, now’s not a good time,” O’Neill said hastily.

But Daniel waved a hand at him and drew in a shuddering breath. If Jack could face Sam when they’d been married three years before his loss of her, Daniel could face Teal’c, his lover only officially for a month at his death.

“You don’t have to, Danny,” Jack murmured.

Hand to his stomach, Daniel forced himself to turn and see the other version of his lover. The big difference was the hair, of course; his Teal’c was still bald. There were other ones too, though, a lot more subtle. The tattoo was just a hair different as well, more geometrically correct than his Teal’c’s had been. And the laugh lines around the dark eyes and full mouth were deeper, as if this Teal’c found it easier to smile and laugh than his Teal’c had.

Teal’c was not smiling now, however, as he looked back at Daniel. Inclining his head, the Jaffa apologized, “I am sorry, DanielJackson, for causing you distress. I shall withdraw.”

“No!” Daniel exclaimed, forcing himself not to throw his arms around the other man. Jack’s hand tightened on his hip, maybe reminding him that this Teal’c wasn’t his lover here. Something he was all too aware of, unfortunately. “Don’t go on my account. General O’Neill, Teal’c, it’s okay. I can handle this. Really.”

The General didn’t look all too convinced, but nodded anyhow and motioned Teal’c in further. “Okay kids, here’s the situation. O’Neill, Jackson, you’ve both been invited to lead various divisions on the team that’s going to the Pegasus B galaxy in the hopes of finding better technology, allies, yadda yadda yadda.”

“Invited?” Jack snorted. “Weir didn’t look too happy to have us along.”

O’Neill squinted at him, clearly biting back a smart remark, then focused on Daniel with, “We’re assuming all kinds of first contact situations to come with this expedition. Lots of new languages and civilizations to detect. Just your thing.”

He then turned back to Jack and continued, “Lots of first contact situations. Guns. Fighting. Just you’re thing. The two of you in another galaxy, just my thing. No offense or anything, but having you around is going to be a royal pain in the butt.”

“Two Daniels. Twice the trouble,” Jack commented.

O’Neill gestured at him with both hands and exclaimed, “Exactly! So anyhow. The bus leaves next week and I personally want you two on it, but it’s your choice.”

Jack questioned, “Is it?”

“Yes,” O’Neill confirmed.

The other Daniel said, “In Jack’s defense, we’re pretty sure that having you that far away is to your own benefit. I wouldn’t recommend taking off the, ah, devices that Sam gave you, but the distance can only help with the cascade failure, right Sam?”

Sam nodded and agreed, “Right. Or, well, I think so. I’m pretty sure there’s a relatively limited circumference where a set of doubles would have trouble with being in the same universe.”

“How limited?” Jack questioned pointedly.

Shrugging, Sam replied, “A dozen galaxies over should cover it.”

Daniel looked over at Jack, who shrugged, leaving it up to him. Daniel knew that Jack wouldn’t really be happy fishing in a fish-less pond for the rest of his life, but neither would he be able to take a back-seat to the O’Neill who was, rightfully, already entrenched here at the SGC. A new galaxy to explore, new civilizations to discover, being somewhere completely new, they were all good reasons to go.

“Couple of downsides,” O’Neill informed them. “Once you go, you’re all on your own. The ZPM only has enough juice for a one-way trip. That’s not to say you won’t find something there on the other side to get you back, but you go with the expectation of that’s where you’re going to retire. Not to mention, Weir is in charge of the mission itself, O’Neill, you’d be in charge of security and, you know, the weapons. And lastly, McKay’s part of the team.”

Daniel hid a grin at Jack’s grimace, even though he wasn’t all that fond of Rodney McKay himself. It was always fun to watch the two men go after each other. Figuratively, of course, since Rodney would never ‘stoop’ to anything physical.

“You’re not helping the cause any, O’Neill,” Jack pointed out.

O’Neill shrugged. “Just want you to have all the facts. We’re going up north to check out the Antarctic installation in a few days. You guys can come with and meet the rest of the team before deciding, if you want.”

Looking over at Jack, Daniel saw everything he needed to know right in the other man’s eyes. He shook his head and replied, “That won’t be necessary, General O’Neill. We accept the offer.”

“You ah, you don’t want to think it over?” Sam questioned.

Jack waved negligently. “Nah. We’re good, Carter. I think the sooner we’re gone, the easier everyone will breathe. Just, make up a couple of extras of these things, in case something happens, and give Daniel the blueprints to make more.”

“Of course, Sir.”

There was a brief silence before O’Neill ordered, “Everyone out, then, shoo! I have things to do. Important things like making sure the blue jell-o is ordered this month.”

“Ooh. Exciting,” Jack muttered.

O’Neill flashed him a look. “Never said I had the better deal, O’Neill.”

Daniel could saw that the words startled his Jack and stepped forward to diffuse the attention. It garnered all eyes, so he stammered, “I guess someone needs to fill me in on details and introduce me to this Dr. Weir?”

Sam immediately stepped forward, as he’d known she would, and led him from the office. He glanced back to find the two Jack’s giving one another measuring looks before his Jack followed Teal’c into the hall.

He wondered just how happy the Jack from this earth was in his new position.

*  *  *  *

The Gateroom was a disaster and the power in the SGC was off; even the emergency lighting flickered unsteadily. Shaking his head, Jack asked, “How long do you think, Siler? Tomorrow? Day after?”

Siler gave him a mild look that told him to make sure he didn’t have any problems with his computer system for a good, long while. “No, Sir. It’ll probably be a few days before we recover from this.”

“Great! Leave for everyone until Siler fixes the mountain!” Jack exclaimed. At the startled looks from the airmen in the room, he continued, “Just kidding. Blame Siler for being so slow.”

Siler just sighed.

“Sir? The President in on the phone for you, requesting an update,” Walter informed him.

Nodding, Jack said, “I’ll take it in my office, Walter, thanks.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Jack hid a grin when Siler shook his head as he walked by; it was just too easy to rile the engineer. He was surprised when Daniel followed him from the Gateroom to his office. Usually the other man avoided the politicians like they had the plague...all of the really nasty ones. He shot Daniel a curious look, but got only a faint shrug in response.

Sitting behind his desk, Jack picked up the phone and greeted, “Afternoon, Mr. President, everything went off without a hitch...well no...yes, I suppose being without power and defenses is a relatively big hitch, but my head engineer has promised we’ll be up and running in no time.”

Daniel made a rude noise at that and Jack stabbed a finger at him.

“No, Sir, that was the air filtrations system,” Jack covered, glaring at his lover. “As far as we know, they all made it fine. Colonel Carter informed me that the transfer was complete before we cut contact...Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir, we look forward to it.”

As soon as the phone was hung up, Daniel demanded, “What did you rope me into this time?”

“Your fault for distracting me like that,” Jack retorted.

Eyes rolling, Daniel asked, “So now that the other us are in another galaxy and the Atlantis expedition is gone, do you think we can get things back to normal around here?”

Jack grinned, eyebrows lifting.

“Well, you know. As normal as they ever get,” Daniel amended.

Standing, Jack said, “I think that I’m going to leave my second-in-command in charge for the night.”

“She is more qualified to help Siler,” Daniel pointed out with a smirk. “She understands more than one word in ten.”

Jack made a face and replied, “I was talking about Teal’c, since he’s on base for the foreseeable future with nowhere to go.”

“He does have a home off-base.”

“Yeah, but if Carter’s not there, neither is he.”

“True.”

“Okay then. I’ll just tell Carter...”

Hand on the door, Daniel interrupted, “Jack?”

Jack paused with the phone halfway to his ear. “What is it?”

“Do you really think the other Jack has the better deal?” Daniel questioned softly.

Knowing that he’d lost his edge and admitting it were two very different things, even to Daniel. Jack knew that he could still keep up when necessary, but he also knew that he preferred not to. He’d rather be at home with Daniel for a lazy Saturday morning fuck, or eating a late-night pint of ice cream while watching Daniel sleep, than chasing or being chased over some backwater planet across the galaxy. He was tired of fighting and killing, tired of the violence it took to keep his people, his family, safe off-planet.

Maybe he was finally growing up.

Offering a faint smile, Jack finally said, “Nah. I wouldn’t trade you for anything, Danny-boy.”

The brilliant smile that spread slowly across Daniel’s face told him just how right his answer had been. As did the heated look and the reminder, “There’s a mattress waiting to be decimated, Jack, don’t be long.”

Jack swallowed against a suddenly dry throat as he watched Daniel leave.

He definitely had the better deal.