Archiving: Always welcome; just let me know you have done so.
Thanks to: Betas extraordinaire, fenriss and my darling spouse. All improvements are theirs; all errors are mine.
Notes: Written for Inyron for the Jack/Daniel ficathon. Cover by the wonderful Salieri.
The Jacks eyed each other up and down. When they spoke, it was in unison. "Well, this is…"
"… weird," the Daniels chimed in.
General Jack O'Neill looked around. Yep, it was the gate room, looking exactly like his gate room, with all the gate room amenities, like a steel ramp and a big window into the control room, and, through the window, a General Hammond was staring at them, agape. Equally agape were the scruffy-haired Jack O'Neill, un-bespectacled Daniel Jackson, and SGC-uniformed Bra'tac who were staring at him, three amenities his gate room definitely lacked.
Dammit, they were scheduled for three days of downtime when they got back. Tonight was dinner with the team, and tomorrow he and Daniel were off to an undisclosed island, where he would pretend to fish and Daniel would complain about beach erosion and the eradication of local culture. There would be drinks with umbrellas in them, cheap souvenirs, and they would very likely do things that would make Sam blush.
You plan one idyllic weekend in advance, and look what happens, he thought.
He tossed a thumb over his shoulder. "We did just come through the gate, right?" he said to his Daniel. "I mean, this isn't some holographic time-travel mindmeld Gatekeeper thing?"
"No, I don't think so," Daniel said, his lips slightly pursed, eyebrows drawn together like caterpillars beginning a mating dance.
The other Daniel Jackson turned to Bra'tac, who had his staff weapon trained on the two newcomers. "Stand down, Bra'tac," he said, waving one hand, sounding a little bemused.
Jack took a hard look at the other Daniel then – his erect stance, his lack of glasses, the way his hair was just a little shorter on the sides than his Daniel's. An idea began to dawn, but he shoved it aside, in the same dusty corner where he put other impossible ideas, like the one he'd had about his Daniel and the robot Daniel. No freaking way, he thought to himself.
The speakers came on in the gate room, and General George Hammond's voice boomed through. "Colonel, what the hell is going on, here?"
Out of years of habit, Jack looked up at Hammond and said "Sir –" just as the other Daniel, the one without the glasses, did the same thing. Jack looked at the other Daniel's collar, and realized there was a bird at each corner. "Colonel Jackson?" he said in disbelief, his suspicion confirmed.
Colonel Jackson looked at Jack, looked at his collar, then did a double-take. "General O'Neill," he said incredulously.
"Yeah, but whenever Hammond gets that tone in his voice, I feel just like a colonel again," Jack said.
"You're saying you can't remember anything unusual from when you came through the gate?" Dr. O'Neill barked at his counterpart, seething with annoyance.
"No, I can't!" Jack said. "It was about as normal as you can get. Big field, lots of pine trees in the distance, and SG-13 was all set up to check out the solar thingy."
"Thingy," Dr. O'Neill repeated, with a sarcastic edge to his voice. "Could you be any less specific?"
Colonel and Doctor Jackson exchanged a long-suffering look.
Jack crossed his arms, rocking back on his heels. "All I'm saying is that we should wait for Carter to get back. She's the scientist."
"Oh, here we go," Colonel Jackson said in a low voice, raising his eyebrows in a way that let Daniel know he'd seen it all before, but wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing it again. Do I do that? he thought to himself. No wonder Jack always knew what he was thinking – his eyebrows were better than American Sign Language.
"Colonel Carter is a theoretical physicist. I'm the engineer. She's the one who comes up with the unworkable theories, and I'm the one who makes them work," Dr. O'Neill sniped, wheeling his chair back.
"Sorry if I trust Carter a little more than you, but I remember our sixth-grade chemistry class," Jack shot back.
Dr. O'Neill spread his hands out before him. "One little explosion!"
Daniel sighed, turning to his counterpart. "One universe isn't big enough for the two of them."
"Two universes are barely big enough for one of them," Colonel Jackson said, shaking his head in agreement. He looked at the two Jacks, still locked in heated argument. When his eyes returned to Daniel's, his eyebrows were perched in a way that said, We're gonna be here a while.
There's no way my eyebrows do that, Daniel thought.
"You want some coffee?" Colonel Jackson said.
Colonel Jackson's office was in the same spot as Daniel's. It had a few less alien artifacts, but more medals on the wall. Colonel Jackson walked over to his bookcase.
"Wait," Daniel said, and walked closer to his books, letting his fingers slide along the spine. Malozzi's Latin for Beginners, Jan Assmann's The Mind of Egypt. He moved a photo out of the way, and there it was, a first edition of Budge's By Nile and Tigris, in all its hardbound, overblown glory. Daniel tugged Volume 1 off the shelf and flipped it open to reveal a half-empty bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans, nestled in the hollowed-out book. "Sam tries to steal your coffee, too?" he said.
"Always," Colonel Jackson nodded, shaking some beans into the side of the familiar-looking, high-tech, decidedly non-regulation coffee pot. The grinder purred as he returned the bag of coffee to its hiding place, then gave the click click click sound that Daniel recognized as the sign that the brew was on its way, post-haste. The Colonel put the framed photograph neatly in front of the book, and Daniel glanced at it, then looked a little harder. It was a candid snapshot of Colonel Jackson and Dr. O'Neill in civilian clothing. Colonel Jackson's head was against Dr. O'Neill's shoulder, and they were laughing as if someone had caught them in the middle of some private joke.
Huh, he thought to himself. He almost said something, then thought better of it; they were, after all, in the center of don't-ask-don't-tell. "So," Daniel said, waving his hand around the room. "Are you a soldier-archaeologist?"
"No," Colonel Jackson said, smiling a little at Daniel as he got two coffee cups off the shelf. "Sometimes we get sent to supervise the archaeological teams. I like to keep my hand in." Some miracles of high-tech were the same across the dimensions, apparently; the coffee pot was already filling. "Black?" Colonel Jackson asked.
"Always," Daniel replied.
Colonel Jackson nodded. "Mostly I'm a linguist," he said, staring at the coffee pot for a moment. "Even before I got to college, I already spoke five languages. You, too, I suppose," he said to Daniel. The trickle of coffee stopped; Colonel Jackson pulled it out of the machine and began pouring. "I learned a few more at Yale, and then when I graduated they sent me straight to the language school at Monterey to learn Russian."
Daniel gratefully took the full coffee cup out of Colonel Jackson's hands. Caffeine would help him process everything that was going on. "That makes sense," he said, nodding. "It's probably what I'd do if I was military." He took a sip of coffee; it didn't clarify his thoughts at all. "But – I can't imagine the set of circumstances that would lead me to join the military in the first place."
"ROTC," Colonel Jackson said.
Daniel raised his eyebrows, and saw the other Daniel's eyebrows crinkle in a do I do that? sort of expression.
"Let me guess," Colonel Jackson said. "You're from one of the universes where Mrs. Kaplan drove by when you got the flat tire on your bike, so you got your financial aid application in on time?"
"One of the universes?" Daniel asked in surprise.
Colonel Jackson smiled. "There's a lot more of you than there are of me. You're not the first civilian Daniel Jackson I've met…" His voice drifted off, his mouth suddenly going slack, his eyes staring at nothing.
I definitely never get that look on my face, Daniel thought.
"I'm an idiot," Colonel Jackson said flatly, and walked out into the hall. Daniel followed him. "Jack!" Colonel Jackson yelled.
"Shut up, Daniel, I'm busy," Doctor O'Neill called from his office.
"Jack," the Colonel said, walking into his office.
Dr. O'Neill looked up at him, shaking his scruffy white hair out of his eyes. "I forgot. We're on duty. Shut up, sir, I'm busy."
"Jack!" the Colonel said, exasperated, gesturing emphatically with his coffee cup, yet somehow managing not to lose a drop. "What's the one alien piece of technology we use every day – so often, we've practically forgotten it's alien technology?"
Dr. O'Neill thought for a moment. "Those little naquadah-powered lights you got for your library on the Ikea planet?"
Daniel choked on his coffee. Obviously, their dimensions had a few missions in common, as well.
"No!" Colonel Jackson said, making a sweeping motion with his coffee-cup hand. "Well, yes, but – we're going about this all wrong. The problem we need to solve isn't how to get the gate to transfer them to their own dimension. We just need to get them back home."
Daniel wanted to slap himself in the forehead; he wondered why he, with all of his dimension-hopping experience, hadn't thought of this solution right away. Realization dawned on Dr. O'Neill's face. "The quantum mirror," Dr. O'Neill and Daniel said in unison.
"The quantum mirror," Colonel Jackson nodded.
Jack looked at the other three men. "You've gotta be kidding me."
It wasn't anything much, just the way that Colonel Jackson's hand – the one without the coffee cup – brushed against the small of Dr. O'Neill's back as the four of them left the elevator on Level 22. It was a casual touch, exactly the kind of casual touch Daniel had never let himself get in the habit of, for fear the NID or the CIA and some other even more secret, more unpleasant organization would find out. As the two Jacks moved in front of them, still sniping at each other, Daniel spoke in a low voice to his counterpart. "Aren't you worried?"
Colonel Jackson looked at him in confusion, and Daniel looked at him, then at Dr. O'Neill, then back. Apparently the eyebrow semaphore worked, because Colonel Jackson said, "Oh, we don't have to worry about that." As Daniel took a sip of his coffee, the Colonel continued, "Ever since General Schwarzkopf got outed during Desert Storm…"
For the second time in fifteen minutes, Daniel spluttered coffee. My sinuses are going to be very clear when I get home, he thought to himself, sniffling at the burning sensation of piping-hot Ethiopian Yirgacheffe in his nasal passages.
"Well, here it is," Dr. O'Neill said, waving at a familiar shape hanging on the wall. Through the quantum mirror, Daniel could see a room just like the one they were standing in, only this one was occupied by Sergeant Siler.
Siler walked through the mirror like it was the most normal thing in the world, like walking through the Stargate. "Sirs," he said, nodding at the matched pairs of Jacks and Daniels.
"Siler," they all said in response as he continued into the hall.
Daniel and Jack looked at each other. "Did he…?" Jack asked, pointing at the now-dark mirror.
"Oh, yeah," Doctor O'Neill said. "That."
"That?" Jack said incredulously.
"Well," Daniel said, blinking. "They did say it was a piece of alien technology they used every day. Now we know why. Sort of."
"Apophis attacked us a few years ago," Colonel Jackson said, hands moving descriptively. "When he did, we lost half the SGC."
Dr. O'Neill looked at Colonel Jackson, his face still and blank. Daniel had seen that look on his Jack's face once before, when, in an attempt to fill in his memory gaps, he'd asked Jack to tell him about that first trip to Kelowna. "Yeah, only which half we lost depends on which side of the mirror you were standing on."
Colonel Jackson looked down at the floor for a second, his eyes unspeakably sad. "Anyway," he shrugged, his eyes meeting Daniel's, "I wound up finding another SGC, who had…"
"Daniel, cut to the chase," Dr. O'Neill said. " Since Apophis had blown up half the planet, the kind of experts we needed weren't exactly thick on the ground."
Colonel Jackson interrupted. "So, with some help from elsewhere," he said, raising his eyebrows at Dr. O'Neill, "we managed to find a complimentary SGC. Colonel Carter says a new universe is created whenever someone makes a decision with multiple possible outcomes." His eyes met Dr. O'Neill's, and he paused for a moment. "Our SGC and that one diverged at that decision point. And now we work together."
Daniel looked at Dr. O'Neill and Colonel Jackson, a little slack-jawed. "But – but – that's incredible!" He turned to Jack. "We should stay here for a while longer. Just – the sociodynamics of it – and then – well, if Sam's random dialing program is really random, they must have investigated some different planets, right?"
"It's entirely random. Every universe visits a different set of planets. Some are the same, but a lot aren't," Colonel Jackson said, feeding off Daniel's excitement, eyes sparkling. "You wouldn't believe how many different ones there are out there. There are possibilities you wouldn't even think of."
This time, it was the two O'Neills that exchanged commiserating looks. "Daniel," Jack said warningly. "On the other side of that mirror is a beach with my name on it. Every minute we spend here is one minute less we have to get to the airport."
"But, Jack," Daniel protested. "Once we're gone, we can't ever get back here. We don't have the remote."
Dr. O'Neill looked at Colonel Jackson, who shrugged. "Here," he said, pulling one off the shelf and placing it in Daniel's hand. "We have three. Long story."
"Thanks," Daniel said, touching the remote in his hand. It worked just like he remembered. When it came on, it showed the room Siler had been standing in. As he ran his finger along the dial, the view changed to Sam's lab. Sam was standing, looking at the mirror, Teal'c standing behind her, arms folded. She waved frantically.
"One of those universes," Dr. O'Neill said, looking at Teal'c. Then he looked at Sam. "What happened to her hair?"
Daniel checked her insignia. Colonel, it said, and her lab looked exactly the same as when he'd left her in it that morning.
"This looks like our stop," said Jack. "Come on, Daniel. The fish won't catch themselves."
"And how will your presence change that?" Daniel asked.
Colonel Jackson snorted. "It's nice to know some things are the same in every universe. He patted Daniel's shoulder. "Come back and visit," he said.
They stepped through the mirror.
"General!" Carter said as they came through on the other side. "I was hoping you'd find a mirror you could come through. We had a couple of visitors who just left. You wouldn't believe what happened a few hours ago with the Gate. "
"Oh, trust me," Jack said. "I think I would. There's no place like home, Carter." Except that beach, he thought. "You ready for dinner tonight?"
"We're looking forward to it," she said as they walked out of the room, Daniel still sipping the coffee he picked up in the last universe. "We even made cake."
"T!" Jack said, slapping the big man on the shoulder. "You're taking up cooking?"
Teal'c raised one eyebrow at him. "It is not I who assisted, General O'Neill," he said.
"Okay, then, who'd you invite?" Jack asked.
Carter turned her head toward Jack and smiled. Her eyes were glowing. "It is just the five of us," she said in an eerie vibrato.
"Whoa!" Jack exclaimed, slamming his back against the wall and bringing his gun to bear on the Goa'uld walking around in Carter's body. Teal'c immediately stepped between them, pushing the muzzle of Jack's gun toward the ceiling.
The snake crossed her arms, looking for all the world like a schoolmarm. "General, I thought we got over all this anti-Tok'ra prejudice years ago," she said.
"Anti…what?" Jack sputtered.
"Sir, it's just Jolinar!" Carter said, hands up in a warding-off stance, voice normal.
"What?" Daniel and Jack said in unison.
She shut her eyes and sighed. When she opened them again, her face looked different, somehow more serene even with the worried frown. "Apparently, the two of you are not the General O'Neill and Daniel Jackson of my universe, either," she said, her voice vibrating once again.
"Ya think?" Jack snapped back. At Teal'c's raised eyebrow, he shrugged, and put his gun back in its holster.
She raised an eyebrow. "Trust me, the mistake is easy to make at first glance."
"Well, if we're here, then your Jack and Daniel are probably trying to get home right now," Daniel said.
"And if at first you don't succeed…" Jack said, turning on his heel and heading back to Carter's lab.
"Carter!" Jack said warmly as they stepped through the mirror.
She smiled. "Glad to have you back, sir. President Maybourne's been asking where you are."
"Whoa!" Jack said, putting his hand up. "Sorry, wrong universe. Daniel?"
"On it," Daniel said.
Daniel and Jack stepped through the mirror into the storeroom. "Ah. Home sweet home," Jack said, looking pleased.
Daniel's nose twitched.
"What?" Jack said,
"Doesn't it smell…strange to you?" Daniel asked.
Jack inhaled. "It smells like a storage room, Daniel," he said, exasperated.
The door opened, and Sam stepped through, smiling. "General. Daniel. It's good to have you back," she said.
"It's good to be back, Carter," Jack said, eyeing her. Something about her looked a little different. "Assuming we are…back."
Sam nodded. "We've seen a few other yous come through here, sir. Dr. Brightman came up with a test to tell if you're our General O'Neill and Dr. Jackson." She looked at Daniel then; there was a hungry look in her eyes that made Daniel uncomfortable. "She's in the infirmary."
Jack waved one hand at her. "Lead on," he said. He let his other hand rest on the P-90 strapped to his chest.
As they walked down the hallway, Daniel heard a low ticking noise, and turned his head just in time to see a little metal spider go around the corner into the next corridor. It climbed up Siler's leg. Siler didn't seem to mind at all. Daniel elbowed Jack.
"What?" Jack said, rubbing his side.
Daniel raised his eyebrows significantly, then moved one tented hand in a spidery fashion over the top of his coffee cup. Rep-li-ca-tors, he mouthed.
Jack pointed at Sam. Her? he mouthed.
Daniel looked around, trying to make sure no one was watching, and made a little circling motion with his raised index finger, like he was describing a merry-go-round. Everything, he mouthed back, not making a sound.
"You know what?" Jack said aloud, slapping Sam on the shoulder. "We, uh, left some stuff back in the storage room. We're just gonna grab it, and we'll be right along to the infirmary."
Sam turned. "Siler will get them, sir."
"We can handle it," Daniel shrugged, taking a few steps back.
"I really prefer to carry my own bags," Jack said, following Daniel's lead.
"You never know what the SFs are going to –"
"- find," Jack filled in.
"Break," Daniel said over Jack, looking a little nervous.
A quiet tik tik tik echoed down the corridor from behind Carter. Jack grabbed his gun and aimed it at her. Beside him, Daniel had his sidearm out, sweeping the area.
"Look, we don't want to make this into a big fight," Jack said, continuing to step backwards. Everything seemed silent, except for the skittering whine coming from around the corner. Three steps back to the storage room, Jack thought, taking another step, Daniel right in time with him. Two.
Siler came from the side corridor to stand behind Carter. "We don't either," she said, smiling in a way that made Jack feel distinctly uncomfortable. Oh, yeah, there was something whacked with her voice – it was high-pitched and every word sounded clipped."We need to ask Dr. Jackson a few questions, and then we'll let you go."
"Sam, I'm never going to tell you where I hide my coffee," Daniel said.
Carter looked momentarily confused; the moment of hesitation was all Jack needed to open the storage room door. Daniel and Jack ran in and they slammed it shut.
"Dial it up!" Jack said, leaning against the door with all his weight.
Daniel pressed his back to the door to help Jack as he holstered his sidearm and grabbed the mirror's remote control out of his pocket. He saw an ocean, the alien lab where they'd originally found the quantum mirror, a Jaffa in the SGC. "Where do we go?" Daniel asked, panicky.
Little metal legs were sliding under the door. Jack fired at them, sending metal hexagons scattering everywhere. "Someplace without Replicators, the Goa'uld, or any explosions!" he snarled.
A white room with stained-glass windows came into view. "Jack," he said.
Jack looked over his shoulder at the mirror. "Back through the looking glass, Alice!" he said.
The two of them ran full-tilt toward the mirror as the door exploded behind them, replicators bursting into the room.
Daniel was looking around them, eyes and mouth wide, taking in the stained-glass windows, the white walls with wood trim.
"Daniel!" Jack said impatiently. "Not our universe. We're in an alien lab."
"Or maybe the SGC was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright," Daniel said distractedly. Jack stared at him, hard. Daniel pointed at the laptops on the table in the middle of the room. "They have Dells."
Daniel sighed. "Fine."
He dialed through two rooms that looked just like the one they were in, then found a dimly lit storeroom that looked gray, drab, and decidedly military.
"That works," he said, as Daniel drank from his coffee cup. He put one hand between Daniel's shoulder blades to steer him forward. "Let's go."
As they stepped toward the mirror, Dr. Rodney McKay and a long-haired Daniel Jackson came through the sliding wood-and-stained-glass door. "Hey!" McKay said. The other Daniel wore the beached-trout look that all Daniels seemed to get when they were surprised.
"Sorry," Jack said. "Wrong universe." They stepped through the mirror, leaving behind two shocked Ph.Ds and the smell of coffee.
Motion-sensitive lights came on as soon as they came through the mirror, revealing another storeroom, full of all the things a storeroom is normally full of. "Looks like home," Jack said, then inhaled. "Smells like home. Let's see if there's an island vacation waiting for us."
As they began walking out, Daniel grabbed a blank notebook off the shelf. Might as well save myself a trip, he thought. It felt a little odd in his hand. He looked down at the cover as they walked out of the room, and tried to figure out when the SGC started stocking 150-sheet A4 notebooks.
Then he tried to figure out when they'd started stocking notebooks with all of the cover information written in Cyrillic.
"Uh, Jack?" Daniel said.
Jack stood in the corridor, staring up at the speaker in the ceiling. "What the hell is that?" he said, head cocked.
"Dvenadtsat," the pleasant female voice over the speaker said. "Odinnadtsat."
Daniel began translating the Russian numbers. "Eleven," he said. "Ten. Nine."
They looked at each other, horrified realization dawning on their faces, and bolted back to the mirror. Daniel snatched a couple more A4 notebooks off the shelf as they ran by, then looked around, mouth open, trying to figure out what other artifacts he could carry so all trace of this SGC wouldn't be lost.
"Sem. Shest. Pyat," the voice said.
"Daniel!" Jack said. He grabbed the archaeologist by a fistful of shirt, dragging him along.
They tumbled through the mirror.
"Am I, by any chance, hallucinating?"
There was a slight pause, and a sucking, slimy sound as Daniel moved. "I don't think so, Jack."
"So we're knee deep in shrimp?"
"Looks that way."
Jack looked over their surroundings. "Well, that's…boring."
Daniel blinked at him. "You said vacationing by the water was romantic."
"By the water, Daniel. We're in the water, and I have shrimp trying to crawl up my pants."
"You have to wonder what sort of evolutionary route the Earth would have to take to leave us with a world made entirely of shrimp," Daniel said, musing. He turned to look out at the gentle waves of shrimp spreading all the way to the horizon, as far as the eye could see. "Was there some sort of environmental cataclysm? What kind of ecosystem do they have? They have to –"
"Daniel?" Jack said, trying to ignore the sensation of thousands of tiny shrimp bodies moving against his legs.
Jack pointed his thumb at the mirror. "Dial us home."
Jack and Daniel stepped through the quantum mirror, a stream of shrimp sliding through with them and covering the floor of Sam's lab, coming to a stop at Teal'c and Sam's boots.
"General O'Neill," Teal'c said, one eyebrow raised.
"Teal'c!" Jack said warmly. "How's the apartment?"
Teal'c tilted his head, eyebrow still hovering in midair. "I was forced to give it up when my neighbor murdered her former boyfriend."
Jack beamed. "Glad to hear it."
Daniel, one hand holding the quantum mirror remote, the other still clutching the cup of coffee the other Daniel had given him, looked at Sam, a smile quirking the corners of his mouth. "So, have you paid that speeding ticket you got when we were driving back from Colson Industries?"
"Daniel!" Sam exclaimed, horrified, looking out of the corner of her eye at Jack.
"Speeding ticket?" Jack asked ominously.
Sam blushed slightly. "I was going to tell you, sir."
"Oh, were you?" Jack said. "And what other laws have you broken lately while on the SGC's payroll?"
"Colonel Carter discovered where Dr. Jackson hides his coffee," Teal'c said.
Daniel's mouth opened a little, a horrified look crossing his face. "Not the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe!" he said.
Sam smiled cruelly. "In the hollowed-out copy of Budge's By Nile and Tigris," she said.
Daniel's eyes went wide, and suddenly he looked angry and cold. "Oops," Sam said, turning and making a strategic retreat, the smile on her face not even drooping. Daniel, notebooks still tucked under one arm, followed at her heels, looking thunderous.
The smile on Teal'c's face was one he only wore when they were watching the most heated Jello wrestling matches. He nodded at Jack, and turned on his heel to follow them out of the room.
"Hey, where are you going?" Jack exclaimed, gesturing at the shrimp around his feet. "I brought dinner!"
We live for feedback.