Jack knocked quickly on the door of the conference room before opening it. "So, General where's the fire?"
He was vaguely aware of everyone else already being assembled, Teal'c and Carter as well as the general. Plus four other people he didn’t bother looking at straight away, because getting dragged out of bed at five a.m. on a Saturday suggested a crisis and no doubt everything would be explained later.
"No fire, Colonel." Hammond was looking a little anxious about something, all the same. "Is Doctor Jackson with you?"
"Yes, he's just – " Jack put his head outside the door and shouted, "Daniel, will you get a move on!" He pulled his head back in and gave Hammond an apologetic shrug. "He went to get coffee, sir. You know how he is."
"I tried Doctor Jackson's apartment several times but I kept getting his machine."
"He was staying with me, sir. Friday night is hockey night. Daniel comes over and…"
"And you watch the hockey game?"
"No, sir. What happens is Daniel talks all the way through the hockey game about the program on the other side he'd much rather be watching right now, or else he talks about the last mission, or the next mission and all the fascinating artifacts he either did find, didn't find, or is hoping to find. What we absolutely never get to do is watch the hockey game. However, I live in hope. There you are." As Daniel came into the room Jack gave him a look of exasperation.
Daniel held up the chipped mug apologetically. "Sorry, sir, but Jack was out of coffee." There was disbelief as well as accusation in Daniel's tone as he shot Jack a reproachful glance. "I can't believe you ran out of coffee."
"I had beer. On a boy's night in, one traditionally drinks beer."
"You knew I was coming over and you ran out of coffee?"
Jack and Daniel both started guiltily as General Hammond's mild reproach reached them.
"Sorry, sir." Jack sat down in the first chair he came to and found himself with an empty chair between himself and Carter. Teal'c was sitting beyond her.
"Sorry," Daniel murmured and hastily sat down between Jack and Sam. He banged his elbow as he did so and slopped some coffee onto the table. "Sorry. Sorry."
Jack handed him a Kleenex in long-suffering silence then looked up to find he was staring straight at…himself.
"Jack…?" He heard Daniel say his name faintly beside him, so knew they must both be seeing the same thing. He made the huge effort necessary to wrench his gaze away from his own face to look down the far side of the table. Two Teal'cs. Two Carters. Two Daniels. Another Jack O'Neill. Same uniform, same hairstyles, or in his case, same amount of gray in the hair. Mirror images, every one.
Daniel said quietly, "Jack, what the hell was in the beer you gave me last night?"
"You're not hallucinating, people," Hammond said reassuringly. "This is SG-A from an Alternative Universe. And as you have probably already surmised this is Colonel Jack O'Neill, Doctor Daniel Jackson, Major Samantha Carter, and Teal'c."
"I'm on the Stargate program in your dimension?" Daniel brightened visibly. "In both of the last mirror dimensions we visited I wasn't. Actually, I was dead as well, but even when I'd been alive I hadn't been part of SG-1."
"And I'm in the Air Force." Sam was also smiling. "And I have the same rank. Isn't it incredible?"
Daniel peered down the table at the alternative Teal'c. "And you joined us against Apophis in your dimension? In the last two you were still on the other side." He turned to their Teal'c. "Isn't that great?"
Teal'c gave him a look that denoted no particular enthusiasm. "Indeed."
Jack frowned and looked back at his counterpart. "So everything's the same in your dimension? There's no difference between us at all? Wait." He darted a glance at the alternative Carter before looking back at his own counterpart. "So, if the Carter in your dimension is in the Air Force I'm presuming there's none of this silly being engaged/being married nonsense going on between you?"
"Thanks a bunch, sir," said Sam good-humoredly.
"Well, it was…disconcerting, you have to admit."
"Extremely," she admitted.
The alternative Daniel's jaw dropped. "Jack and…Sam? You're kidding me?"
Daniel nodded. "In both the alternative universes we've encountered so far Jack and Sam were..."
"Doin' it," Jack put in expressionlessly.
The alternative Carter pulled a face. "Sorry, sir, no offence but…yeuch!"
The alternative O'Neill grinned. "None taken, Carter, and right back at you."
Jack relaxed. "Well, I'm very glad to hear I'm not sleeping with my teammates in every universe except this one."
"Oh…" The alternative Daniel shot a quick look at his commanding officer before glancing back across at his other self. "I thought…I mean…we assumed…"
Jack looked blank. "What?"
There was a hint of accusation in the alternative O'Neill's voice. "You came in together after all."
Daniel's brow creased in confusion. "Sorry, I'm not following you."
The two Carters were already looking at each other for enlightenment. So, after an initial hesitation, were the two Teal'c's. As realization hit Sam she gasped and looked to her counterpart for confirmation. The other woman gave her an apologetic shrug as she nodded.
"Holy Hannah!" Sam exclaimed.
Teal'c's raised eyebrow asked a question the alternative Teal'c's almost imperceptible nod of the head confirmed.
"What, Sam?" Daniel pleaded. "I don't understand."
General Hammond cleared his throat. "Um, Colonel O'Neill, Doctor Jackson, it appears in the alternative dimension from which these people have come, the two of you are…romantically involved."
Sam wondered if Daniel was ever going to close his mouth again. He looked as though someone had hit him round the head with a baseball bat, then marched him out onto the freeway stuck him in front of a line of oncoming traffic, turned everyone's headlights onto full beam and shone them straight in his face. The Colonel seemed to be coping slightly less well.
The alternative O'Neill appeared perplexed. "Is there a problem?"
Daniel made a huge effort to regain control of his jaw. "Um…no…it's just a bit of a surprise."
Jack nodded gravely. "Yes. Exactly. In the way a pink elephant landing on the bonnet of your car would be a bit of a surprise."
"Oh." The alternative Daniel looked chastened. "But when you said the other me was staying with you…"
"On the couch," Jack assured him. "Can't really stress enough here how Daniel always sleeps on the couch."
Sam looked across at her other self. "You see, our Colonel and Daniel just act like an old married couple."
"I resent that analogy, Major!"
Daniel swallowed. "Well, it's an analogy I can live with. Name me one old married couple you know who are actually having sex, Jack."
"Good point." Jack nodded to Sam. "I withdraw my objection."
The alternative Daniel looked at the alternative O'Neill and the man gave him a good-natured shrug, clearly suggesting he should handle it. The alternative Daniel turned to his counterpart. "Is this…awkward for you?"
"No…" Daniel began automatically.
"Yes!" Jack put in emphatically.
Daniel tried to be tactful. "It's just – you know – Jack and I we don't really see each other…that way."
"Oh." The alternative Daniel frowned. "Why not?"
Jack and Daniel exchanged a glance and then looked away. Daniel shrugged helplessly. "We just…don't. I mean he's just…Jack."
"Yes." The alternative Daniel looked at the alternative O'Neill and his face lit up into a smile none of SG-1 had seen in way too long. He had to drop his gaze quickly, but the smile refused to be suppressed.
The alternative O'Neill grinned at him, mischievously, like he knew damned well why the man was smiling but was going to tease him anyway. "Something wrong, Doctor Jackson?"
"No. Thank you, Colonel O'Neill. Nothing at all." The alternative Daniel made the obviously huge effort to wrench the smile from his face. He cleared his throat and then looked back at Daniel. "That's what I mean. He's just…Jack." His expression clearly stated: How could you not be in love with him? He didn't need to state it aloud.
Jack looked to General Hammond with a flicker of desperation. "Sir? Is there some…strategic purpose to this meeting we could be moving along to right now?"
General Hammond cleared his throat. "I think that would be an excellent idea, Colonel."
Through the whirling of his brain, Jack had been vaguely relieved to discover that there was no crisis as such. SG-A's dimension wasn't under any imminent threat from the Goa'uld, and the alternative universe they'd come from just had a different kind of daylight saving which meant their seven in the morning was the same as three in the morning on this world. General Hammond had sent out for reinforcements because the possibility of two of his men canoodling in front of him had been too hot a potato for him to want to handle by himself. Jack didn't even blame the man for panicking. He'd thought finding out he was married to Carter elsewhere had been as embarrassing as life got until now.
The alternative Daniel automatically sipped the coffee Hammond had sent out for, tongue flickering over his lower lip as he thought.
"So you see, it took us a lot longer to discover the naquada mirror than it obviously did you. And our first thought was that we should use it to try and pool information with our other selves on ways to defeat the Goa'uld. So this is really more of a…" He looked at the alternative O'Neill. "Jack, what are those missions called where you just go somewhere to find out stuff?"
"Reconnaissance? Fact-finding mission?"
Daniel nodded and gave General Hammond a shy smile. "What Jack said."
Sam had to hide a sudden smile of her own. She caught the eye of her alternative counterpart and saw the woman was also biting her lip to stop herself from grinning.
As Sam reached across to hand her other self a pen, she murmured, "They're so sweet together."
The alternative Carter whispered back, "I know."
As Sam sat back down, Daniel said without looking at her, "I heard that."
She winced. "Sorry, Daniel."
She realized she'd missed what the general and Colonel had been saying. The other Colonel was speaking now; he seemed to be suggesting a few informal meetings, and she couldn't help studying him to try and spot the differences between him and the Jack O'Neill she knew. Her first impression had been that they were identical but she could see tiny things now: he was definitely more relaxed, a little more confident, didn't seem to feel the need to take refuge in sarcasm, and, of course, he was wonderfully laid back with the other Daniel, whom, without wearing his heart on his sleeve in anyway, she was beginning to suspect he adored. She couldn't think of any other cause for how happy the other Daniel looked. With the kind of quiet contentment and confidence that came from not just being in love but knowing you were loved, absolutely and without question.
Besides these two, the Colonel and Daniel she knew looked much more stressed, edgy, and tired.
It was the alternative O'Neill's suggestion that he and his counterpart should confer while the two Daniels briefed each other on anything of anthropological significance they might have discovered.
"I mean," he gave the alternative Daniel a rueful look, "it's not like I'd understand anything the other Daniel was trying to tell me anyway."
The other Daniel smiled again. "Well, come to that I think the other Jack filling me in on military thingummies might be a bit of a waste of his time as well."
Jack nudged Daniel and then deliberately dropped his pencil on the floor. He gave Daniel a significant look and they both bent down to pick it up. Out of eye and earshot of the rest of the table, Jack whispered, "Is it me, or are those two so damned cutesy together they make you want to hurl?"
"I know!" Daniel hissed back. "Do they put 'Just Married' on the back of every MALP they send through?"
"Even if you and me were doin' it, I bet we wouldn't be that sappy about it."
They both straightened back up, Jack holding aloft the pencil in explanation. "Got it."
Daniel cleared his throat before saying, "I think that's an excellent idea, Colonel. Why don't…Doctor Jackson and I go and look at some of my mission reports while you and Jack talk about…" He bent his head towards Jack's, murmuring, "What did he want to talk to you about again?"
"The Goa'uld," Jack covered for him quickly. "We'll go talk about the Goa'uld."
Out of the corner of his eye, Daniel was aware of the alternative Carter leaning across to murmur something to Sam. He just caught: "Your two are pretty sweet together as well." By the way Jack was gritting his teeth next to him he figured the older man had heard that one as well. He gave Jack a sideways look and the man gave him a reassuring pat on the arm. "It's okay, they can only stay a few hours."
Sam collected herself and addressed her other self: "Oh, that reminds me, are you aware of the problems of entropic cascade failure?"
The other Carter's eyes widened. "I had theorized it could be a problem but the physics of alternative dimensions is so new that I wasn't really…"
The two Jacks were on their feet in an instant.
"I really think you Carters can talk that one through without the rest of us," the other O'Neill said quickly.
"But, sir, you need to be aware that…"
"You said we could only stay a few hours before we set out, right?"
"Yes, sir, but Major Carter has just confirmed that…"
"And you're still saying we can only stay a few hours, right?"
"Yes, sir, but…"
"So, Colonel O'Neill and I really didn't ought to waste a minute then, did we?" The other O'Neill looked at General Hammond and said politely, "If that's okay with you, sir?"
General Hammond nodded, "Be my guest, Colonels. Doctors Jackson."
The two Jacks were out of the door so fast even the two Daniels were a little taken by surprise. The other Daniel looked at the other Carter and Teal'c. "Are you two going to be okay if I go and talk to…myself for a bit?"
The other Teal'c gravely inclined his head. "My other self and I will compare our knowledge of the Goa'uld in our respective dimensions, Daniel Jackson. It may be that we each have information the other does not."
The other Carter nodded. "They've been studying the physics of this for longer than we have so I'd really like to get a look at their data." She and Sam were already immersed in another discussion on entropic cascade failure before the other Daniel had turned to his SG-1 counterpart. "Shall we?"
Daniel had thought it would be weird talking to himself but it was almost worryingly easy to get used to. He'd thought the effort of not asking the obvious questions: What about Sha're? When had the other Daniel started seeing the other Jack that way and why for crying out loud? would make it difficult for him to concentrate on anything else, but the anthropological and archaeological discoveries each had made were so fascinating they quickly absorbed all of his attention. For the first time he could discuss the Minoan culture preserved in the Land of Light with someone who understood what he was talking about, had been asking the same questions and in some cases who had come up with slightly different answers. It dawned on them both at the same moment: this might be the only chance they ever got to have a conversation with someone who really understood what they were talking about, and both couldn't help a sudden grin of pleased recognition spreading over their features.
Daniel darted a quick look at his watch and said with a sigh, "We aren't going to have enough time for this."
The other Daniel helped himself to coffee. "We need to concentrate on the differences we've discovered. Do you have any cookies?"
Daniel pushed him the jar as he turned the pages in his early journals. "So, okay you went to P34…"