I was on the base when the attack started. If I'd have been a normal person then maybe I would have been on a date. But no. Samantha Carter doesn't date, she stays on base and plays with her reactors. There's some pretty sick jokes flying around about what I actually do in my lab.....and I have a good idea about who started them. In the end...well...I guess I was in the right place. I was where I was supposed to be, where I could best defend my country. For all the good that did.
The rest of the base personnel were recalled, but not many of them made it. Although Colorado Springs wasn't hit from orbit, the Goa'uld landed a mothership on the mountain. No one could get through and I doubt many of them tried. There were so few of us defending the base that I was almost pleased to see Jack O'Neill appear. He'd climbed down twenty eight levels to get to us and I guess we should have expected him. If anyone could make their way past the Goa'uld defences it would be that pig-headed SOB. The fact that he's brought his kid too.....
Poor Charlie looks terrified and I don't blame him, I'm shit scared myself. He turned eleven last month,but he's clinging to his father's hand and won't let go. The kid is far too young to be seeing this kind of stuff. I met them on the infirmary level. From O'Neill's face I can tell he'd rather have run into anyone but me. Even after all this time we don't have the easiest of working relationships....who am I kidding? We hate each other's guts, but in this case it's too damn bad.
"Colonel," I greet him by handing him an MP5. "Good to see you."
He doesn't look as if he knows what to do with it. Whatever, Charlie is obviously impressed by the weaponry. He reaches out a childish hand to touch the gun. O'Neill immediately lifts it out of his son's reach.
"Carter, get the kid outta here," he orders.
" Sir, we need ever able bodied soldier right now," I protest. I'm not a baby sitter.
"Well you don't fit into that category, Captain. Get my son through that damn gate! That's an order!"
"Dad?" Charlie sounds confused....and who would blame him. His dad is leaving him with a strange woman. A woman he obviously doesn't trust very much.
O'Neill crouches down to talk to his son.
"Listen, Charlie....it's very dangerous here. Captain Carter's going to take you somewhere safe," he explains.
"I wanna stay with you."
"You can't, OK. I have to be someplace else."
"Then I wanna go with Mom."
"Mom's not here."
"Will you come and get me?"
O'Neill hugs his son. Holding him so tight that I'm scared he's going to hurt the child. When he finally lets go, I reach out and take Charlie's hand.
"If you let my son get hurt, I'm going to feed you to the nearest Goa'uld," O'Neill whispers to me....I have no doubt that he'll make good on his threat.
The next thing I know, he's gone and I'm left with Charlie. I don't really know what to do....how to talk to the boy. The last thing I want to be is a child minder. This isn't what I joined up for.
"C'mon," I tell the boy.
"Where are we going?" he wants to know.
"Somewhere that's alot of fun."
"Will my Dad be there?"
"Sure he will."
So I'm lying, but the chances are we won't even get anywhere near the gate. And the possibility of O'Neill coming back are just as slim. Damn the man. Why the hell did he have to bring his son into this? They would have been better off taking their chances outside.
We make our way down the next couple of levels, but somehow I realise that we're not going to make it to the 'Gate. The Goa'uld have got ahead of us. We're in the conference room, looking down on the Gateroom and it's swarming with Jaffa. Somehow, they've managed to disable the iris mechanism and the 'Gate is active. On his knees in front of the ramp is the distinctive figure of Colonel O'Neill.
"Let me see!" Charlie protests, but I push him away from the window. He can't see his dad like this. It's obvious how much the kid worships the man. Despite the antagonism of our relationship, I can't believe that O'Neill sold us out....but they had to get computer access from somewhere. Damn him.
"Where we going?" Charlie demands.
"Out of here," I say.
"What about Dad?"
There's no answer I can give, so I just drag the boy away. For the first time since this started, I'm clear about what we have to do. We do have a way out of here....I just have to hope that we don't end up somewhere worse.
The mirror is in a storage closet on this level. If it was one floor up, I don't think we would have made it. As it is there's a team of Jaffa hot on our heels. I grab the remote from it's place on the shelving and turn the mirror on. There's no time to find a suitable reality. I just push Charlie against the glass, ignoring the child's cry at my behaviour. With a flash, he's gone. At least I've kept my promise to O'Neill. Maybe he'll think I've done something right for once.
Knowing that I can't let the Goa'uld see where we've gone I pull out a grenade and toss it behind me....into the corridor. Then I put my hand up against the glass and suddenly I'm somewhere else.
I don't think I've slept for two days. God knows what Charlie must think. He hasn't said a word to me since we stepped through the mirror. Within seconds we were surrounded by a team of SF's and dragged away for interrogation. Suddenly appearing in one of the country's most secure facilities isn't really the best way to make a good impression. I didn't make myself any more popular by refusing to be split up from Charlie. If I'd been a guy, they probably would have beat me into submission. As it was we were questioned together....or rather I answered questions and Charlie just sat there. I think the poor kid is in shock. Whatever, I must have said something right, because the next thing I knew we were on our way to Cheyenne Mountain.
We were taken straight to the infirmary, where the CMO has been fussing around us for the past half hour. I wish they'd just leave us alone long enough to get some rest. Charlie is exhausted, but I think he's too scared to sleep. The boy wants his Dad....damn O'Neill for making me do this. He's the one who should be here with his son. I wonder if he's even still alive. Then again.....the last I saw, he seemed pretty chummy with those serpent guards so he's probably just fine.
I turn as I hear the familiar Texas drawl.
"I'm Major General Hammond," he goes on, acknowledging my salute.
"I know," I reply with a wry smile. Some things don't change. It's reassuring to find out that Hammond is in charge here. Makes me wonder if I'm around too.
"And this is Charlie?"
"Captain... with regards to the boy...there's something you should know."
But before he can continue, another familiar voice interrupts.
"What was so important it couldn't wait until.....woah.....how did you get here so fast?"
I turn around to see Colonel O'Neill standing in the doorway. He looks as if he's just been dragged out of bed....literally looking at the state of his hair. I take an involuntary step backwards as he approaches me, giving him full view of the boy who lies in the bed. O'Neill's face goes white...he looks as if he's seen a ghost. I've never seen him look so rattled.
Charlie doesn't wait for his Dad to say anything. He launches himself at the man. I find my eyes misting up as the two of them hold each other. Then I realise that O'Neill is actually crying. There are tears running down his face. A hand touches my sleeve and General Hammond leads me into the corridor.
"Is he OK?" I ask.
"Colonel O'Neill's son was killed in a tragic accident," he explains.
"Oh my God!"
I look back into the infirmary. It doesn't look as if this O'Neill is going to let go of the kid anytime soon. I can't imagine him not having a son. He dotes on the boy. I know he was pretty cut up when he got divorced and his wife got custody. Losing Charlie all together would probably drive him suicidal. I wonder what happened....
"What happened to his wife?" I can help but ask.
"They divorced after Charlie was killed."
So he didn't even get to keep that much. Well, I guess it's the very differences that set our realities apart. Is there anything else I should know? And where do I fit into this world? Some part of this is scaring me. This reality seems so perfect. Maybe I'm a little happier here. Maybe I didn't screw up my career so badly. It's possible. I realise that I have now idea how I'm going to cope with seeing myself. Even without meeting her I'm almost jealous.
As it turns out, I don't have long to wait. Footsteps approach and I turn....to find myself looking in a mirror. She looks as shaken as I do. For all intents and purposes we're the same person. OK, so her hair is a little longer than mine, she's not wearing fatigues....but apart from that....
"Lieutenant Colonel Carter....may I introduce Captain Carter," Hammond says.
Lieutenant Colonel? So this Carter must have her head screwed on straight....or be sleeping with the right people.
"Alternate reality?" Carter questions.
I nod, unable to find my voice.
It's difficult to watch them together. Every look, every touch tells me how much they care. The very sight mocks me....if I hadn't been so damn pigheaded, this could have been mine. I glance at them across the briefing room table. They don't even seem to realise that they're practically sitting on top of each other. The other members of SG1 are here too, but I hardly recognise them. Dr. Jackson...a civilian....I can just imagine how O'Neill reacted to that. And Teal'c.....what can I say about the fact that there's a jaffa on the team! It was all I could do to stay civil.
And it's hard for me to reconcile O'Neill with the one I knew. This man seems softer, somehow. He smiles more frequently, cracks jokes, tries to make me laugh...her laugh....I can't help wondering who or what was responsible for this change. I know the divorce was difficult for my Colonel. He kind of withdrew from everyone when it happened. Rumour said that it was because his wife started to see someone else. I guess that's easy to understand. He was working alot of long hours. Other people said that they had never gotten along that great. Charlie was the only thing that kept them together and in the end it wasn't enough. Whatever happened, I know that when they split, just before we opened the Gate for the first time, O'Neill was never quite the same. The divorce was long and very bitter, their child being the bone of contention between them.
This O'Neill has been just great with Charlie. If the kid knows that this isn't his real dad, he certainly doesn't seem to care. They even went topside to play catch. I would have loved to go to, but that was his Carter's prerogative.
This is so hard. We can't stay here....or I can't to be more specific. If you've never felt yourself being torn apart by the very fabric of the universe, I wouldn't recommend it. The very fact that my double is in such close proximity is only making it worse. They have to send me back. We have a long and complicated discussion, but in the end none of us have a choice. I don't know who these Asgard are, but they could be just the little green men we're looking for.
"Actually, they're grey...Roswell grey," O'Neill interrupts.
His Carter laughs and I have to struggle to keep the grin off my face. But my smile doesn't last for long as I am gripped by another attack. Carter grabs my hand to help me through it and I am painfully aware of the expression of concern on O'Neill's face. It's not something I'm used to. My Colonel is not a man who spares me any compassion....who has much time for anyone apart from his own team and his son.
"So, " I begin, when we're alone.
"So?" Carter repeats.
"Forgive me, I'm just a little curious....about you and Colonel O'Neill."
"I take it you and your Jack aren't close."
We're dismantling the device as we talk. There's one thing about working with yourself, it's easier to hold a conversation.
"We were on the same team for a short while but...."
"I got transferred."
She looks at me as if she doesn't believe me, then she gives a wry smile,
"Jack can be difficult," she admits. "There was a time....let's just say we fought alot."
"I didn't leave him behind."
Is that where it all went wrong for me and my Colonel? I remember leaving him to wake alone in a cold bed. The argument when I told him it was all a terrible mistake......Resentment when he had me transferred off SG1. Everyone knew why he did it, even General Hammond. We should have been court martialled.
"What's he like?" I ask.
"How do you mean....oh?"
She goes red...and I do too. I've never been comfortable with intimate discussion.
"I thought he was going to be one of those guy always on top types...but...."
"He's pretty amazing."
I can't help but silently agree with her, remembering my one night. OK, so we were both drunk, neither of us really knew what we were doing even so.....We awoke in the early hours, made love again and it was wonderful. He was so tender and loving that my body still aches for his caress. Maybe that's why there haven't been any other men since him.
"Wait a second...you slept with him, didn't you?" she starts.
"What makes you say that?" I reply.
"I recognise the expression on your face....he was your commanding officer?"
She sounds shocked.
"That didn't stop you?" I snap back.
"I was never under Jack's command."
"No. I've always headed up SG2."
"I guess that explains why you're a lieutenant colonel and I'm still a captain."
For some reason I feel like I should tell her...if I can't talk to myself who can I talk to?
"We'd had a pretty rough time...SG1 I mean. When Colonel O'Neill divorced from his wife he went to court to try and get custody. It was a mess, went on for eighteen months, but he didn't win. In the end he was restricted to one weekend a month."
"I take it Jack wasn't happy?"
"You can say that again. It really cut him up....so anyway we decided to take him out. It was Kowalski's idea."
"Figures.... you didn't want to?"
"Not really. We'd just got back from P3X-513....."
"Yeah. So anyway, the Colonel spent the night getting drunk and I wasn't much better. Next thing I knew I was waking up in his bed. Then...well...we did it again. We were both perfectly sober the second time, so we didn't really have an excuse. Next morning, I just got out of there as fast as I could. When O'Neill came to talk things out, I just told him it had all been a big mistake. I thought we could still be friends....that he'd let me stay on SG1....but he had me transferred."
"Can you blame him?"
"If you'd have been willing to talk things out maybe....."
"That's easy for you to say. You have everything in this perfect world of yours and I just wish you'd stop flaunting it in front of me. One way or another I'll be out of here soon, so you can go back to playing happy families with your Jack and forget about how you could have screwed up your life!"
"I damn well wouldn't have slept with my CO!"
I stare at her, knowing that she's telling the truth. My mistake was losing control of myself, not only when I slept with O'Neill, but when I refused to listen to him. For what it's worth.....I never let it happen again.
As soon as I saw him, I realised that Jack O'Neill would never have revealed anything to the enemy. He would have died first and I hated myself for ever thinking otherwise. I can't help shrinking away as the Jaffa hits him again. Beside me I feel Teal'c shift and I know he won't let this torture continue. I am so glad we left Charlie in the other reality. He didn't want to stay but Colonel O'Neill talked him round. God knows what he promised but I think my Colonel will have to pay up big time. My Colonel...for some reason I keep calling him that, just to keep this all straight in my head.
The other O'Neill is with Kowalski, trying to set up the Asgard generator. I'm hoping he can do it. Alien technology is usually my field, but he assured me he'd be OK. Apparently he's had experience with this particular equipment. Then he and Carter exchanged one of those deep, intimate looks that seem to be their trademark. In some ways I'm glad to be away from that...it was driving me mad.
Pushing his way through the ranks of jaffa, Apophis comes into my line of vision.
"I will ask you this one more time, human. What is the address of the planet to which your leaders have fled? The place you call beta site?" he questions.
"Go to hell!" O'Neill spits back, and is struck again. He screams in pain....something I thought I'd never hear. I think Teal'c and I got here just in time....There's no way O'Neill can last much longer.
"Where have your leaders gone?"
Before another blow can land, Teal'c pushes me into the room, announcing our presence to Apophis.
"Teal'c who is this?" Apophis asks.
"She was captured attempting to escape, my Lord," Teal'c replies.
"This one will not tell us the glyphs of the planet where they have sent their leaders. Get it out of him....or get it out of her."
"Yes, my lord."
Teal'c bows his head in acceptance and Apophis moves away.
"Attend to our Lord," he then orders. "I will take care of this...Kree Jaffa!"
To his credit, Teal'c is playing the part well. The guards obey him without question and leave us alone with O'Neill.
"You might as well kill me," the Colonel spits.
He glaring at me with undisguised hatred. The fact that I'm obviously uninjured is leading him to the wrong conclusion.
"I would never do such a thing Colonel O'Neill," Teal'c replies.
"It's OK, you're not hallucinating, he's from an alternate reality," I explain as I loosen his bonds.
O'Neill looks confused.
"There's still a chance we can stop them sir. We're going to attempt to contact a race of aliens from their reality. Enemies of the Goa'uld."
"Good....good job Captain."
"Thank you sir."
I help O'Neill to his feet. He's not very steady and he leans against me heavily. To keep him upright, I slip my arm about his waist. We stay that way for a second before he pulls away, muttering something about needing to find some weapons. I feel myself hiding my disappointment as I sit down at a terminal to do load up the dialling program.
It appears that Colonel O'Neill is good enough to get the transformer on line. The lights dim and the 'gate starts spinning.
"You must prepare to go through the 'gate Captain Carter," Teal'c tells me.
For some unknown reason I feel like kissing the man...but I manage to keep control of myself. I turn away and find my Colonel watching me. For a few brief seconds I allow myself to become lost in his eyes. I don't think I ever realised what a beautiful shade of brown they really are. There's something new there, it's almost as if he's looking at me with grudging respect.
I tear myself away and run for the Gateroom. There's a Jaffa guarding the gate and I have to dodge a couple of zat blasts, but Teal'c barks orders and the man hesitates. I sprint up the ramp and manage to dive through into the wormhole.
I've been through the 'gate more times than I can count, but this journey seems like it will never finish. When I get to the other end I feel my knees buckle and it's all I can do to keep from throwing up. It seems the human body wasn't designed to be kept in transit that long. I don't know how much time I spent lying there, because the next thing I know, a small grey hand had places itself in mine and is encouraging me to stand. The Asgard are just as O'Neill had described....the personification of Roswell aliens. I would have been tempted to laugh if there wasn't something so...I don't know...powerful about them. There are a crowd of them surrounding me, all looking with curiosity deep in their liquid eyes.
"Uh...hi," I begin.
They continue to stare at me.
"Um....My name is Samantha Carter. I come from a planet called Earth....and uh....we could really use your help."
The Asgard, to quote Colonel O'Neill you've gotta love those guys. They just swooped into Earth orbit and erased every sign that the Goa'uld had been on the planet. It was amazing to watch as the motherships just vanished. I just stood there open-mouthed, trying to work out how they did it. The one called Thor stood beside me...and I think he was laughing at me. I don't think I can even start to comprehend the difference between our civilisations. I'm certainly glad that they're on our side. They are so far ahead of us it's scary....even when it comes to bringing a man back from the dead. No sarcophagus for these people. Thor brought my Colonel to life with just a wave of his hand.
So the Goa'uld have gone and the Asgard too. Thor and his race are leaving the humans to their own devices. Tomorrow we'll call our leaders back from beta site. They can take control of an Earth that's been battered...but remains unbowed. Until then....
The others have returned to their own reality and Charlie to ours. He and his dad immediately retired from the room to hold their emotional reunion in private. The last view I had of that other world was of Carter greeting her lover. I turned away from that picture, not really wanting to see it. They'll destroy their mirror. There won't be any way to go back to that reality by that route so I guess I'd better make the best of the one I've got.
It's strange, being the only people left on the base. I spend most of the evening wandering through deserted corridors, checking empty rooms. I find bodies, lots of them.....but I there's little I can do. We need to move them somewhere but the task is beyond us right now. I'd really like to get out of here, but we have to stay until the reinforcements arrive from the beta site. Only then will we be allowed to find out what's happened to the people we care about. At least O'Neill knows that his son is safe.
Eventually, I join them in the briefing room. Charlie is asleep in one corner and his father is sitting in one of the chairs staring at the Stargate. There's the remains of a meal littering the table.....I'm starving....they could have called me.
"Carter," he says.
"Want something to eat....we saved you some."
"Oh...thank you, sir."
"Drop the sir, will ya? It isn't like anyone here is going to mind."
There's some bread and stuff, a little chocolate...I'm so hungry I don't really notice what I'm eating.
"Here," Jack says handing me a beer.
"Where did you find this?"
"SG3's team room."
I smile sadly to myself......that figures. Drinking on duty....then again as O'Neill said there's no one left alive to care. There's an almost unnatural feeling of companionship as we sit there in silence, drinking beer.
"Sam..." he begins.
"Looking after Charlie. For what it's worth....you're one of the few people I would trust with his life."
For some reason that makes me angry. How can he say that after everything we've been through? I open my mouth to argue and then realise that there's little point, not anymore. I settle for nodding my head and muttering,
"Why don't you get some sleep?" he suggests.
"Thanks, but I don't think I could right now."
"Those Asgard....pretty cool guys."
"Yeah....so how do you feel?"
"Like I've been given another chance."
His brown eyes are very serious as he looks into mine. Again, I find myself unable to tear myself away.
"For what?" I whisper.
"To regain something I lost. Sam, I transferred you to another team to protect you, because....because I wanted to continue what we started. "
"Yeah. If it had just been a case of a one night stand there wouldn't have been a problem. We could have laughed about it, but I felt more than that and I thought you did too."
"Then why didn't you say anything?"
"You made it pretty clear how you felt."
I never thought for a second that Jack actually wanted some kind of relationship. Why is he telling me this now? We should have had this conversation two years ago....He's right....I never did give him a chance and the next thing I knew the damn transfer had gone through.
"Then I had to transfer you because of the way I felt about you," he finishes.
"So am I. Look, I know you don't care about me in that way, but I think we should at least try to be friends....for Charlie's sake. We could be all he has right now."
As usual Jack doesn't seem to be thinking of anything but his son. Then again...it wouldn't be difficult to be friends with him. And I really like Charlie. I can't help it...he's a great kid.
"Friends," I agree.
"Good....now how about getting some sleep. We're going to have a busy day tomorrow, when the top brass get back."
"Okay....but you should sleep too. We're sealed in here, it's not like anyone can come knocking at the door without us knowing about it."
He smiles at me and nods....for a second looking like that other, happier Jack O'Neill. I take the blankets he offers and lie down on the floor, my back to the wall. Jack eases himself down next to me. Very tentatively we reach out for each other, wanting nothing more than to feel the touch of another human being.
In the wake of the Goa'uld invasion life isn't going to be easy....but I get the feeling it's going to be a whole lot happier.