Part Three

Slash:  Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: NC-17.
Category: Pre-Slash. Angst. Hurt/Comfort. Action/Adventure.  Drama
Season/Spoilers: Season 2.  Small Spoiler for Cor Ai. Stargate the Movie.  Serpent's Grasp/Serpent's Lair. 
Synopsis: SG-1 returns from an aborted mission and it's business as usual. Or is it?
Warnings: intense situations, violence, torture, character death is alluded to but does not actually occur in the course of the story.
Length:   Kb  Originally completed early 2000.


Daniel sat silently, the tin cup he was holding imparting a faint warming sensation to his chilled hands. It was very dark, cold and quiet up here. Very cold. Even the fire wasn't helping much. But it was also very far from everything familiar. Which was exactly where Jack needed to be at the moment. Very, very far away from all of it.
Daniel took a sip of his rapidly cooling coffee and looked at the man sitting a few feet away from him. Not moving. Not speaking. Just sitting. Staring. Pretty much all he had been doing ever since they'd come back.

One unexpected benefit had come of all of this. Namely the new understanding Daniel had arrived at with General Hammond. They hadn't exactly started out on the best of terms and at least from Daniel's side of the table, things hadn't gotten much better.

It wasn't due to anything specific the General had ever said or done. Daniel simply never really felt as if the man – approved of him. Just a feeling he got. Maybe he was being unfairly paranoid, but as a rule, George made him nervous.

Certainly the reception awaiting them when they'd returned through the gate had been less than cordial. The General had been furious, Jack had been ominously silent, he'd been confused and almost out on his feet. He'd had no idea where they'd been, how they'd gotten there – what they were doing there. His head was splitting, and all the information contained within was whirling around in it like his brain was a blender. By the time Jack got him to the infirmary he was pretty much out of it, and apparently had slept for the next twelve hours straight.

When he woke up he found Jack sitting by his side. In pretty much the same condition he was right now. Which really hadn't surprised Daniel all that much, because while he'd been sleeping, things had sorted themselves out.

His slumber had been possessed by a series of extremely vivid dreams during which he relived, in great detail, what had happened to him from the moment he'd come into being as an exact duplicate of Daniel Jackson until the moment he had – died.

His brother's gift of life to him had included memories of a span of time he'd never actually lived to replace the nightmare he'd really experienced. He'd been spared all those terrible memories, now residing in the machine along with everything else stolen from him. Daniel found himself profoundly grateful he could remember nothing of the lost day as HE had lived it. To recall it from the perspective of knowing about it was bad enough.

Mind you, he had been given a LOT more than memories. There had been all that KNOWLEDGE as well. Everything his brother had known about the computer complex, everything he knew as a result of being what he was; for awhile it had been in there and he'd been able to recall all of it.

But it seemed to be fading now, probably because the human mind wasn't designed to be able to consciously process such an overwhelming glut of information not gained through direct experiential familiarity. Or maybe it was just too much for the mind to hold on to, so it let it go.

Whichever it was, because of this experience Daniel found he had a new empathy for a couple of his teammates. If what Jack had gone through when he'd had the knowledge of the Ancients downloaded into his brain had been anything like what had been in his own head – Jack had done very, very well. And if this is what it felt like to have to live with another's thoughts, feelings and memories co-existing with your own, he had some idea now of what having Jolinar's memories in her head was like for Samantha. Ah – Sam.

Which reminded him of something else. Something he was going to have to attend to rather soon. As talented as Willis was with her lips, he really was going to have to set her straight.

What an amazing man he'd been, this brief brother. So much like him and yet – so not. How he had cherished the life he had so briefly tasted, each bittersweet drop so savored and embraced. How humanly he'd desired to live it and dared to enjoy it, even while knowing the cost of each sweet second of it was another's pain.

He'd unashamedly taken as much as he dared. He knew it was wrong. He'd done so, hoping the one he had wronged would not think too harshly of him because of it. Would forgive him in light of the fact he had done the right thing – in the end.

He'd been right. Daniel found he did not begrudge him his day. He was grateful to him for returning his life. He was grateful to him to him for what he'd tried to do for Jack, in the way he had died. And as he really had no memory at all of the other stuff, well…

However, when he'd awakened and seen Jack, just sitting there staring, seen the worried faces of Janet, the General and Sam and Teal'c, he knew exactly what was wrong. All he had to do was remember the look on Jack's face as he'd turned away from his brother for the last time…

When Jack saw he was awake he turned to Janet and spoke one sentence. "I want to go to sleep." They'd helped Jack into a bed, and he had promptly done just that. At which point Daniel had climbed out of the bed he'd been occupying and informed the General he was ready to tell him everything.

Which he had. Very slowly, very carefully, at great length and great personal cost. They sat in George's office, Daniel had just – talked, and he watched the General's face get graver and graver with each word.

Daniel wasn't sure when it happened, but somehow during that confession an understanding developed between them. Daniel had desperately wanted the whole thing to be treated a certain way, and was not at all certain how to try and ask this of the General.

He was quite surprised when the General said to him – "Dr Jackson, would I be wrong in assuming you would not be opposed to the notion of keeping most of this – off the record?"

Oh no, George, you wouldn't be wrong about that at all!

So they'd both agreed – to come up with another story. And to keep the real one to themselves. Would have been almost fun. Colluding with the General. Except for the fact someone else who knew the truth was still suffering.

Seeing the first bit going so well Daniel decided to grab the bull by the horns and ask George for the other thing he wanted.

This asking for stuff really wasn't all that hard. Certainly made it a lot easier to get what you wanted. Would have to try doing it a bit more often.

George had conceded Daniel's plan for Jack did seem to be a good idea, but had talked with the doctors first before giving him the green light. Approval finally given Daniel loaded Jack's truck up with gear, packed up Jack and headed for the middle of nowhere.

Which was pretty much where they were at the moment. In more ways than one.

Jack had submitted to the whole process with indifferent cooperation. Not a word during the drive. No comment when they stopped. Not a sound while he watched Daniel pitch the tent and gather wood for the fire. Hadn't eaten anything either. That was usually HIS favorite trick.

Daniel put the cup down and drew the sleeping bag he'd wrapped around himself in a little tighter. Getting very cold. Jack must be freezing, sitting there in that thin jacket. Good excuse as any to try and close the gap.

Daniel got to his feet and crossed over to Jack. Jack actually turned and looked at him as he approached, 'mantle' trailing behind him. That was encouraging. Hidden by his covering, Daniel covertly patted his side pocket. Secret weapon. Just in case…

Daniel sank down close to Jack's side, settling his arm around his shoulders, drawing him into the warm shelter of the sleeping bag. Jack's only acknowledgement of his presence was an almost absent placement of his hand upon the hand on his shoulder. It was a start.

Daniel just sat there with him, for a long time. Not saying anything. Not moving. Just being there. It was hard to tell exactly when it started happening, but Jack gradually started to thaw. Melting, molding into the man beside him. Letting go and letting him hold him up. Almost ready for words.

"That offer I made to you on the drive over to the mountain still stands," Daniel began quietly. "Anything you want to know - all you have to do is ask."

The man leaning on him trembled slightly. "How do you know about that?" His voice was barely a whisper.

"Because I'm not gone. I'm here. We're both here."

"No. He died. He died alone. He was my friend – he was you and I just – abandoned him. I should have been there for him – shouldn't have died… alone… shouldn't have been left there – alone… left behind like he was…nothing…"

"Jack, listen to me," Daniel soothed. "He wasn't alone. He was with me. He was me – is me. He wasn't left behind. He's here. Sitting right beside you. What we walked away from was only a shell. Everything he was that mattered we brought home with us.

"He wanted me to tell you something. To make sure you understood. Everything he did – he did deliberately. Knowing full well what would come of every choice he made. Even the choice to live – knowing it would mean he HAD to die.

"He could have brought you to me sooner. Maybe you could've saved me before it had gone too far – before it was necessary for him to have – done what he did. He knew that. Knew the sooner he acted, the better the chance both of us could've made it.

"But if he had, there would have been no place for him here after I was saved. I would've come back to my life, and he'd have had to stay behind. Without ever having had a chance to be with the people he loved. He'd have been alive, but it would've been a life without those things and those people which most gave it meaning for him.

"So, he made a choice, Jack. A very deliberate choice. He chose one day of life. One day which he lived to the fullest in the way that made him the happiest. Being with the people he loved. Loved, Jack. Loved enough to want to live one single day for, and enough to be willing to surrender that life for.

"He did it willingly, without regret, knowing exactly what the price for every moment would be. He died as deliberately as he chose to live, and in doing so, gave all he had lived, been and done in that day - to me.

"I don't begrudge him that day, Jack. I don't even mind knowing what happened to me during that time. My body might have suffered some effects from it, but I have no memory of it. Thanks to him, I never even lived it! I know it happened, but it doesn't matter. In its place I have – him. Letting him live those few short hours in my shoes – well, from what I can see, he did a pretty fine job as my proxy. I'm glad he was, for that brief space of time. Because he was, I am richer. And so, my friend, are all of you.

"Everything he did, he did for love, Jack. Even sending you away from him at the end. That most of all. Don't dishonour that love with unnecessary and unwanted guilt. He doesn't require it of you. He certainly wouldn't be happy to see you like this. I'm being completely straight with you right now - when you did as he asked you, when you walked away from him in the end, you made him very happy. It was what he wanted most from you. The final gift. You did it. You gave it. You did good."

Jack's head had fallen forward, resting on his bent knees. "Is that the truth?" he said in a slightly loud and belligerent voice. "I swear, if you're shitting me about this…"

Daniel laughed. "You'll what – kill me? It's been tried before. I'm still here. So are you. That's pretty much all that matters, when you get down to it, don't you think. If he was here he'd kick your butt around the block for this and you know it. Come to think of it – he is here. Whaddya say, O'Neill, want your butt kicked?"

Jack snorted. "As if! You'd have a better chance of getting Teal'c to wear a dress than being able to kick MY butt, Trench Boy.

Daniel nudged him with his knee, playfully but not gently. "My, there's an image to ponder during many a sleepless night. Think you're pretty tough, don't you? Well, I'm pretty tough too. After all, I've had to put up with you for the past two years. Yeah, I'm tough."

"Please," Jack groaned. "I've seen you fight."

"That may be so, but do you know anyone who can talk their way out of one better than me?"

Jack chuckled. "If they held a heavyweight championship fight for rhetoric you'd win hands down."

Daniel gave Jack's shoulders a warm squeeze. "So what do you think, my friend, have we postured enough?"

Jack nodded and sat back up. "Yeah, I think so."

"Good. Well, I feel like celebrating." He reached into his pocket, pulled out two spoons and handed one to Jack.

Jack looked at the object in his hand and then at the man sitting beside him. "What's with the spoon?"

Barely able to suppress his grin, Daniel withdrew the third object in his pocket. "Care to split a jar of Mayonnaise with me?

"No – now wait a minute, Jack. Just let's – ow! Let go! Ow! Geez, watch the neck. Oh – not the hair. Why is it always the hair… JACK!!! Jack! That's MAYONNAISE! Don't even think about it… JAAAACCCKKK!!!"

~*~ Epilogue ~*~

Okay – what the hell was this?

The second the flash of light released them Jack felt himself instinctively sink into a crouched, defensive stance, his MP-5 already up and at the ready. He couldn't see the rest of his team as they had been slightly behind him, but was sure they were doing much the same thing. Taut, poised, ready for action, checking for signs of danger.

Needed to be sure just the same.

"Sam? Teal'c? Daniel?"

God. He'd done it again. When was he going to stop – checking for him, looking for him, calling his name. Expecting an answer?

Daniel was dead. Six months ago, in the corridor of Aphophis' ship. Died in his arms - half his chest blown away by the staff blast. All his fault for leaving him there – alone. Would have gone up on the ship with him if Bra'tac hadn't come back, clubbed him and carried him away.

Daniel was dead. It had been six whole months and he still didn't believe it.

Enough of this, focus, they were in a jam here. Sam and Teal'c had heard him do it again, probably knew he'd gone off on them for awhile, but they needed him back here now.

Cause wherever they were now, it sure wasn't where they used-to-have-been…

Before the light they had been heading down the main street of a deserted old west ghost town on D8K-287. After the zap they were standing in a large room looking very much as if it would do fine as a set for 'Forbidden Planet.'

They'd been here at least a couple of minutes and nothing had happened. The lights were on, but nobody seemed to be home.

"I got no movement this way," Jack pivoted back slightly to address the pair behind him. "How about you two?"

"Don't see anyone this way," Carter returned. "There doesn't seem to be anyone here. Wherever 'here' is."

"Ah, Colonel O'Neill, Captain Carter, Teal'c! So pleased to meet you!"

The booming, baritone, slightly accented voice sounded directly in front of him. Where there'd clearly been nobody only a second ago.

"JE-sus!" Jack cried as he swung around, leveling the muzzle of his weapon where he gauged the middle of the man's chest should be.

To be met by a slightly amused pair of rather arresting grey eyes belonging to an equally striking individual standing directly in front of him. Way too close to him.

Even though he was the one with the gun and therefore ostensibly in control of the situation Jack found himself strangely intimidated by the presence and proximity of the man. Keeping the weapon aimed at his chest, Jack took a couple of steps back, almost banging into Teal'c, who had drawn up close behind him.

The man who had seemingly come out of nowhere was in a nutshell – quite a sight. A tall, large man, with a wide, well-muscled frame, whose general bearing and appearance practically screamed 'virile' at you. Impossible to tell how old he was, somewhere between 30 and who knew what the top end was, because even though the face seemed fairly unlined and ageless, the eyes said 'fonts of wisdom and experience'. Those were the kind of eyes you just didn't get until life had had enough time to kick you around, just a little.

The closely trimmed white beard and the silver hair restrained in a very long braid hanging down his back didn't make playing the age game any easier. His attire pretty much completed his 'going for out-to-cut-a-definite-figure' look. An all-black, one piece, tailored jumpsuit without any markings, insignia, badges or piping on it to identify it as a uniform, but it struck you as one all the same. The floor-length black cape not only had the effect of adding to the 'uniform' impression, but was a rather nice touch to boot.

The stranger's striking face wore a large, warm, completely disarming smile. This guy had been around some. More than sure of himself? Crap – he had enough charisma for a regiment!

"You may keep your weapon pointed at me if it makes you feel any better, but I assure you, you will not need it. I must apologize for the rather unceremonious way of bringing all of you here, but I am sure once you see why, you will forgive me my presumption."

Jack didn't lower his weapon. He had a strong feeling he could trust this man, but he hadn't heard enough yet to give into it.

"We're listening. So talk."

The man laughed. Heartily. "Ah, Jack – can I call you Jack, that's good – you are everything he thinks you are. And more. Very well, Jack, here it is. Back home we got a signal this place was not only here, but suddenly operational. Imagine that! After all this time. Came as a bit of a shock, I don't mind telling you.

"Anyway, I wasn't really doing anything special so I got the job of coming here and shutting it down. However, when I got here, I found a little more than I bargained for. An additional problem that had to be taken care of. Administrative burdens. Such a nuisance! Know what I mean? I hate paperwork and would rather not get tied up in any more of it. That's where you come in.

"I need all of you to do me a favor. Take a little something off my hands. I know it's a lot to ask folks I've barely even met but believe me, you'll be really helping me out and once you see what it is – I think you'll actually thank me."

"You brought us here – to help you?" Jack began suspiciously. "No tricks, no traps all you want is for us to do a 'personal favor' for someone we don't know from Adam? Now, why would we want to do that?"

The silver-haired man affected a stricken look. "Jack! You doubt me! I'm wounded to the core! I hope you won't be offended if I say you have an overly suspicious mind!"

Jack grinned tightly at him. "It's the life I lead." Crap. He was really liking this guy's style, and he didn't want to.

Their host shook his head. "Very well, I guess I am just going to have to show you. If it's the only way you'll be convinced I really am your friend." He gestured behind him, to a long table across the room about fifty feet away. There was an extremely enigmatic look on his face as he said, "What I want you to take with you is lying on that table. Go on. Take a look."

"Carter, Teal'c – go check it out." Jack instructed them, never taking his eyes off those of the man before him. "I'll stay here and keep an eye on the Silver Fox here."

As the pair began to walk toward the table their host laughed again. "Silver Fox! That's really good! Will have to remember it. It'll crack Percy up for sure!"

"I must say it took a bit of looking to find you, but I'm sure the effort will be worth it. You understand my problem. I had to find a reality almost identical to this one – except he wasn't in it anymore. But used to be – in the same way he is here. That's not as common an occurrence as you might think, Jack. But had to make the effort for his sake. Too much of a divergence from this one and it would have necessitated too much – rewriting. Might have destabilized the personality matrix. Your reality isn't exactly the same as this one, but it's very, very close. There are some interesting - differences - but I've made allowances for them. A little 'tweaking' won't do any harm. He'll accept them without any problems, you don't need to worry about that, Jack."

Wow! This guy had just made a right turn and headed straight into the twilight zone. What was going on over there? What the hell was up with Carter? Was she – crying??

Carter is DEFINITELY crying, Teal'c looks like he's in shock, nobody's answering and Foxie looks like the cat who has just swallowed the canary. What are they looking at?

"Why don't you go over and see for yourself, Jack?"

Jack shrugged and started to walk toward his teammates to see what all the fuss was about, the man who had brought them here following close behind him.

It wasn't possible – couldn't be. Daniel…

Sam and Teal'c were forgotten, all Jack could see was the man on the table. The man he had last seen lying limply in his arms, his chest an open, gory horror, his blue eyes wide and staring in death…

He was here – whole, breathing – god he's BREATHING he's alive looks like he's just… asleep oh God! How is this possible…

Jack's hand was shaking as he reached out, almost afraid to and yet unable to resist the urge to touch…

…hair, still as soft as he remembered…it had been such a long time…

Jack choked down a sob, pulled his hand back and balled it into a fist, rounding on the night-clad man behind him.

"If this is some sort of sick joke or a trick I swear to God you're a dead man!"

His anger was instantly arrested by the sudden, deeply compassionate look in the grey eyes that did not flinch from his need for the truth.

"No trick, Jack. No joke. Everything is exactly as it appears. This is Daniel, and he is very much alive."

"How?" Jack found he could barely speak, this throat was so thick.

The man addressed crossed quickly to him, throwing a companionable arm around his shoulders, pulling him into a stroll away from the table and the others. Jack went with him reluctantly, looking over his shoulder at the man on the table, unwilling to lose sight of him lest he suddenly vanish as miraculously as he had appeared.

"Ah, um, wow – you WOULD have to ask me that. Gotta tell you, Jack, it's an AWFULLY long story. Don't want to bore you with all the piddley little details, you've probably got a million better things to do with your time now in light of this new development – so I'll try to keep it as brief as possible.

"Gonna have to give you a little backstory first. Sorry about that, can't be helped. You see, once upon a time there was this race of beings who were very, very, smart. They progressed to a state of technological advancement gaving them powers that still haven't been matched by any race existing since them. Their technology gave them – dare I say it – practically god-like abilities. Certainly the power over life and death. Most specifically, the creation of life itself.

"This would have a good thing except for all their accomplishments these beings were cold, arrogant and completely heartless. They believed their god-like power made them better than everyone else and entitled them to use the universe and everyone in it exactly as they pleased. Which they proceeded to do, unopposed and with complete impunity. For a time.

"They built places like this one. A whole lot of them. These complexes were commissioned and used as centres for the capture and duplication of the members of whatever sentient species interesting the makers at the time. The duplicates were sent out as spies. To infiltrate, gather information and finally, subvert and conquer from within.

"Their primary initial function was the gathering of intelligence about and the in-depth study of the 'irrational emotional weaknesses' of the subject species as a first step to formulating invasion and disposition plans. Figure out the best way to subjugate the target by finding out what made him tick walking literally in his shoes and then using that information against him. Very covert, very clean, very cowardly.

"They had very few scruples about the way it was done. The beings they duplicated and disposed of meant less to them than a bug one would accidentally step on. They were cruel, they were corrupt, they took an arrogant pleasure in the harm they were able to inflict. They deserved everything they got.

"Only problem was – they made their doubles a little too well. They were contemptuous of the emotional and ethical traits they intended their duplicates learn from those they thought themselves better than, seeing these traits as signs of weakness and inferiority. They didn't understand what was happening until it was all over but the singing.

"Tell me something Jack, if someone was to make an exact duplicate of you – I mean exact – everything you think, feel, know, believe – and then told it to go back to your base and spy on it for them – what do you think this 'other you' - would do?"

"Tell those guys to shove it and then bring back a regiment or ten and burn this place to the ground."

"Very good, Jack! Got it in one! That's pretty much what happened. As soon as the duplicates learned what they had been sent to learn – in short, developed a moral sense – they threw off their programming and were - quite revolting. As far as the makers were concerned, at any rate. Didn't even see what hit them. Arrogance caused them to create their own downfall in the first place, and arrogance prevented them from believing it was even happening until it was much too late to do anything about it.

"The duplicates took over, destroyed all of the complexes except the one on the homeworld – which was substantially modified with all harmful elements removed and put to a much different use than it was originally designed for but that really doesn't concern you - and apparently this one - we're still trying to figure out how THAT happened! All I know is somebody is going to get a talking to when we figure it out – but getting back to the story - after we had blown everything up we made sure the remaining makers were put somewhere safe so they wouldn't be tempted to pull this sort of crap any more. They didn't really do well being faced with the fact they weren't nearly as shit-hot as they thought they were and as a result were only an issue for a couple of hundred years, after which they pretty much all died out.

"Oh dear," Foxie grinned at him. "Slip of the tongue. How careless of me! If you caught it you must have figured it out. Yes, I am one of those 'duplicates.' There are quite a few of us, actually. We come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. The makers were quite busy for awhile, until we put a stop to all of it.

"When it was all over, a bunch of us got together and had a kinda 'what next' summit. You see, we had to deal with some inherent problems with being what we are. Virtually indestructible and therefore by default – immortal. The territory comes with certain inbuilt angst and boredom issues I won't trouble you with, suffice it to say the solution we came up with was to all band together to do something constructive with our free time. Make a contribution. We had the homeworld, all that technology and lots of time on our hands so we've been putting it all to good use. Keeping an eye on things, helping out, that sort of thing. It's a living. Beats needlepoint. Trust me on this.

"But now I guess I should get to the part most directly concerning you and your friend over there. Somehow while we were mopping up – this place got missed. It must have been just built and still off-line when we took out all the others. Bad enough it was sitting here idle for who knows how long where anybody could have come along and – started messing with it - but somehow, it got turned on recently, you know how technology is, great when it works right, pain in the ass when it doesn't – anyway, SG-1 – the SG-1 of THIS reality – came here for a short visit and Daniel – they have a Daniel here, he survived the incident that killed yours, dragged himself to the sarcophagus after his team left him, got out healed, made it to the Stargate and dialed himself out to the Alpha Site – all by himself imagine that, the plucky little bugger – he's quite a pistol isn't he – Daniel got himself grabbed and duplicated and SG-1 left him behind and went home with the duplicate.

"Howya doing? With me so far? The duplicate, bless him, didn't want to go along with the plan any more than the rest of us did way back when, so he brought Jack – this Jack – back with him to rescue their original Daniel. Which they did, but the duplicate had to sacrifice himself in the process. Which he did. Very sad, but unavoidable. Jack took the original back and left the empty here. Great stuff, isn't this – really inspiring! I was pretty impressed with the whole thing after I got here and found the poor guy lying here and went into the logs and files and got the whole story.

"So here I was, with a perfectly good duplicate body with no mind in it, and a perfectly good personality file extracted from the original just sitting in the system gathering dust. I hate waste, don't you? So, what do you think I did?

"But then, I had a problem. Reanimating duplicate was no problem. Nothing could be simpler. Download file into body – ta-dah! He's back in business! But once I did, what was I going to do with him? He would wake up, thinking he was the original Daniel of this reality. Not the duplicate, the First Edition. Flesh and blood guy, the real deal, not a clue he's a Xerox. Cause he now has the original's mind in him you understand. As soon as he woke up, he would want to go home. Well – wouldn't you? But he can't. This universe already has a Daniel. No place here for my poor new brave friend! So, you see my problem. I have this perfectly good Daniel, factory fresh, low-mileage, hardly been used – and nowhere to put him! Talk about your conundrums!

That's when I got this positively BRILLIANT idea - here you guys are and what do you say, are you interested in helping me out here? Giving Daniel a home when he wakes up? Which is going to be pretty soon…"

It took several long seconds before Jack realized Foxie had finally stopped talking and was waiting for a response.

"What – are you kidding me? He's a duplicate – but he's still, really – Daniel…"

"In every way that matters. He possesses the complete personality, memory and experiential record of the original Daniel of this reality. Even though what he is made of isn't flesh and blood, it looks and acts like it all the same. I guarantee you he can go through every medical test ever devised and pass them with flying colours. All normal bodily functions – function normally. Completely normally. I've disabled the subroutine that would enable the duplicate to 'turn off' the physiological response to chemical or biological stimulus. Anything he ingests or has introduced into his system will affect him the same way it affects you. Heck, he'll even get a cold if he comes into contact with the bug. He might not have been born the same way you or I – well, at least YOU, anyway - but he is still every bit as human and real as you are. He'll laugh, cry, feel pain, hunger, get tired, sleep – he's not a 'machine'. He's a man. If you cut him, he'll bleed real blood.

"There is only one important difference. He's got a better warranty. The regenerative capacity of the duplicate body is rather - astonishing. He can be hurt, but he can't be killed. There isn't any type of injury that can't be handled either by the body itself, or the equipment we have on the homeworld. Think of it this way, Jack. Not only will you have him back, but you'll NEVER have to worry about losing him – ever again."

"But – how can we – we can't just go back to base and say, "Oh by the way, look what followed us home can we keep him?"

Foxie laughed. "Way ahead of you, Jack. I've been doing this sort of thing for a long time, trust me. I've already adjusted Daniel's memory matrix accordingly, so as far as he is concerned this has already happened.

"This is what you say. Daniel did NOT die on the ship. You only thought he was dead. Once you were gone, didn't the little bugger do the sarcophagus thing, like the Daniel of this reality. Hey, why not? We know it worked once! Only instead of dialing the alpha site, he was a bit rushed and misdialed. He ended up here, got grabbed and stuck in cold storage, and this has been where he has been for the last six months.

"Until today, when you managed to find him, through some rather extraordinary luck. Stargate hiccuped and brought you here, you were attacked, defended yourself and killed all the bad guys – don't worry, your weapons will show evidence of having been fired and most of your ammo is gone – don't ask – you wouldn't understand it anyway.

"Once the smoke had cleared you took a little look around and found Daniel. Carter figured out how to get him out of the machine, he told you how he had come to be here, you all head for home lickety split because all of a sudden the place is about to go up around you. Which will be the truth, after the fact. Once you leave here I am going to level this dump. Trust me. So what do you think? It'll fly. Pretty sure of it."

"Yes," Jack said softly. "It will. It really will. But you said Daniel thinks he is the original. Shouldn't he – be told…"

"Plenty of time for that, Jack. I figure for the moment he has more than earned the right to a normal, full life with the people he loves. As long as all of you stick to the story and keep mum about – the truth - that's what he'll have. And you'll all get to have it with him. But don't worry, we'll be keeping an eye on him. We'll bring him into the loop, in the fullness of time. We look after our own. I'm sure you can understand that."

"Yes. I can," Jack replied, "I – I don't know what to say. I don't know how to thank you."

The dark-clad man gave his shoulders a warm squeeze, then withdrew his arm and gave him a push back toward the others.

"Look after him. Look after yourselves. Live well and be happy. That's all the thanks I need. Now go on, ya big lug. Take your friend home already." He gestured and a curtain of shimmering light appeared in the air. "Step through and you'll be back where you started in your own reality. Take care, Jack."

Jack turned around. The room behind him was empty. But the room before him held everything he wanted. Whatever reality he happened to be in.

He stood once more at Daniel's side. As he put a hand on his cheek, Daniel's eyes opened. At first they were filled with confusion and fear, but then grew calm with quiet trust as they focussed on him.

"Jack," he said softly. "You came for me…"

Jack found he had no words as he met the embrace reaching out to him. Feeling Daniel's arms around him, holding the man he never thought he would ever touch again, Jack crushed Daniel tightly in his arms, buried his head in his shoulder and unashamedly wept.

Mind you, he didn't feel particularly self-conscious about it because at that particular moment there wasn't a dry eye in the house…

The silver haired man wiped his eyes as he watched the dimensional curtain wink out of sight. God, he LOVED happy endings. Moments like this definitely made the whole thing worth while. Another job well done. Well, almost done, anyway. He still had to blow this place to smithereens.

He was just about to get to it when his cranial comm circuit beeped, notifying him he had an incoming call. Probably Percy, nagging him to get finished. The guy was such a krimblat…

"What do you want, Percy?"

"What are you doing still there? No time at all you said. Straight demolition job you said. In and out again you said. What are you up to this time, Merlin?"

"Don't get your shorts in a knot. There was a little something unexpected here, is all. Got here and found the joint had already made a collection. Don't that just beat all. Not to worry, the original got away okay. I'm sending you the files. Don't forget to archive them properly, huh Perce?

"Don't tell me how to do my job! Geez, you guys out in the field think you know everything."

"I'm pretty much outta here now. All I have to do is to push the button and go."

"Well that's good, because I need you in Sector 456-G like yesterday. Mory has gone and pissed off the natives again. Needs a little back-up."

"Bailout you mean. Geez, when is that guy ever going to learn, we're out there to fix worlds, not try to take them over. Listen, Percy, you know how much I hate working with him, can't you send someone else?"

"Sorry Merlin, my hands are tied. Art and Gwen have taken some personal time; Larry, Haddy and Tris are still out in the field. Wolf's squad is tied up with that business on Gara – I got teams all over the known universe who don't think I need to know where they are half the time. The rest of the first string are all in deep undercover positions and haven't reported in over a decade. I haven't got any more human operatives to spare. You, my friend, are it."

"Sure, bet you say that to all the suckers. Okay, Percy, on my way. I'll get you for this though, count on it!"

"Shakin' in my boots, Merlin. Later. Out."

Shaking his head, Merlin smiled wryly, looking where the curtain had been.

"Good luck to you, Daniel Jackson. Live well. Both of you."

He reached down, pushed the self-destruct button. "Hasta la vista, baby, " he said as he smiled and disappeared.


Back to Part Two  /  On to Strange Beloved


PhoenixE, 2000-9.
Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate Productions, Sci Fi Channel, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]