"So then, I said it."
This is why Jack and I don't really have these in-depth, soul-baring conversations very often - because most of what he says makes no sense. I mean, I know he accuses me and Sam of being incomprehensible, but at least other scientists understand us. He's just totally unable to articulate any thoughts that don't have anything to do with blowing things up, the Tok'ra, fishing or the Simpsons.
"You're going to have give me more." I prompted. He groaned, as if I was physically ripping the words out of him (and if he didn't tell me soon, I just might.)
"I said that I cared a lot more about her than I'm supposed to."
"Oh." I said. That little syllable is so useful. It says so much without me actually having to SAY anything.
"Yeah. Oh." he said, looking oddly like a little boy lost as he fiddled with his yo-yo (I'm going to have to have a word with Teal'c about giving Jack toys.) After about five minutes of silence, I finally snapped and said,
"What did she say?"
"Nothing. She just demanded Anise retest her."
"And what did she say during the retest?"
"Just that she realized how much I cared, and she was upset I was going to ....you know....die for her." He seemed slightly embarrassed to say that last bit. I suppose it is a big thing for Mr. Stone-face to admit.
"That's it." he said miserably. "She also said that it didn't have to go beyond that room, and I asked if we were okay with that, and she said yeah."
"So everything's back to the way it was before?"
"No. She knows that I... you know..."
"Love her." I supplied. He blushed, just a little, which was an odd sight to see.
"Yeah, that, but I still don't really know how she feels, and even if she did suddenly become deaf and blind and very stupid, and ....you know..."
"There's still our rank, and our careers ... well, her career,"
"mine's practically over, and you saw the way she was over Martouf"
"dying, she really cared for him..and.."
"JACK!" I finally shouted, in between his ravings. "In every Alternative Universe we've been to, you and she have been together. Doesn't that prove you two are destined to end up together?"
"I guess." he said reluctantly, but his eyes lightened up a bit. There was a knock on the door, and he turned to it hopefully. It turned out to be Teal'c.
"General Hammond wishes to see us."
In the briefing room we found General Hammond, Sam, and what looked like the quantum mirror.
"Isn't that the...?" I asked. Hammond nodded. He didn't seem too happy to see it again. "But I thought you ordered it..."
"I did." he said. "Apparently Maybourne ignored my order."
"What's it doing here?" Jack asked. As always, he'd moved to stand next to Sam, without actually looking like he'd done it deliberately. Sam seemed her usual self, but there was the slightest suspicion of tension in her stance, when he moved a little closer to her. Then again, perhaps I was imagining it, knowing what I knew.
"What do you think, Dr. Jackson?" Hammond was asking me. I dragged myself away from Jack and Sam, and back to reality.
"What?" I asked, falling back on my absent-minded scientist act.
"General Hammond was asking what would be the best way to destroy the mirror." Teal'c told me.
"Well.." I said slowly, "I'm not so sure that we should."
General Hammond didn't like that.
"Dr. Jackson, do you remember the trouble that's come through that thing?"
"Well, to be fair, Sir." Sam said, "It was because of this that Daniel found out about Apophis's attack on Earth."
"Amongst other things." Jack murmured.
"And meeting the other Samantha Carter also turned out to be ...productive." Teal'c added. Jack and Sam turned to look at him. "Did you not exchange much scientific data and experiments with her?" he asked Sam, innocently. (Although I swear he wasn't as innocent as he was pretending to be.)
"Yes, well." Sam said. She's tended to be a bit defensive whenever HER name pops up.
"I'm not saying we go through it." I explained. "Just observe the different universes. I've got the control, I can switch it off if there's any danger. It would be an invaluable opportunity to see what different paths other people in other universes have taken, what's changed, what's stayed the same."
Jack must have remembered what I'd said earlier, because he suddenly piped up with,
"Daniel's right, Sir."
Hammond looked a touch surprised at Jack's support, but given that, and my reassurance that nothing could come through, he agreed.
To tell the truth, it wasn't that interesting. In most universes, it seemed to be kept in some sort of storeroom, so all I saw were some dusty old relics. Once or twice I saw AU versions of us, but Hammond had strictly forbade interaction with other worlds, so I couldn't do much even then. After a couple of hours, Jack came to join me. I think he was hoping I'd come across on of those alternative universes they have in Star Trek, where everyone is evil and very sexy, and wear very few clothes (I wonder if we got the AU version of Anise?).
So, there we were, discussing whether we preferred Janeway's hair short or long, and exactly when she and Chakotay would get hot and dirty (as Jack tenderly put it), when I heard a siren coming from the mirror. We looked round.
In that universe we could see, the mirror seemed to be in the gateroom, angled up so we could see the control room. It looked as if it had been found, and dumped in the gateroom until someone could move it. Right now though, we could Sam running desperately through the gateroom, and charge into the control room. Hammond's body was slumped over a panel. She pulled his body off, and typed rapidly into the keyboard. We heard the iris slam shut, and then the self-destruct start to count down.
Then we saw him. A Jaffa in the control room, behind Sam. He pulled her away from the keyboard, as the iris collapsed and a familiar figure stepped onto the ramp.
Nayonac, otherwise known as Apophis.
"You're too late!" Sam shouted. "The self-destruct is on, and I've locked you out of the computer system. You can't dial out. You're going to die."
"So are you." said Apophis, still wearing his Nayonac mask.
Jack and I stared at each other for a second. Then I said,
"I'll get Sam and Teal'c. You clear it with Hammond."
Ten minutes later, the four of us stood in front of the mirror, preparing to go through.
"We know that's Carter's alive." Jack told us. "Our old friend Apophis is in the gateroom. Teal'c and I will take him. Carter and Daniel, get up the control room, take out the Jaffa there. Clear? Good, lets go."
We were in the other gateroom in seconds. I ran past Jack, who was taking great pleasure in shooting Apophis, up to the control room, behind Sam. There were only a couple alive in there, it looked like Sam 2 had been doing a pretty good job of wiping them out herself. We killed the two that were left, leaving Sam 1 and 2 facing each other.
Jack came running up.
"Killed Apophis!" he called. "And damn, but that felt good."
"Colonel?" Sam 2 asked.
"Ummm, no. Do you mind switching the self-destruct off?"
"I need another officer." she explained.
"I'll do it." he told her, and his codes must have matched, because the sirens stopped. Sam 2 stared at him.
"Who....?" she started to ask.
"Carter?" he said. "Wanna explain this to ...yourself?" he asked.
We watched as Sam gave a totally incomprehensible explanation to Sam 2, who seemed to understand. Unlike other Sam's, this one had short hair, shorter than ours (who'd been wearing it rather long and wavy lately). But both were in uniform, and both were Major's. As Sam 2 started to ask something about quantum strings, the gate started to spin up.
"Carter, Teal'c, check that out." Jack ordered, and they left.
"That should be the Colonel and Daniel." Sam 2 said. "They left to find the Tok'ra after Teal'c died. We thought we could handle anything Sokar had to throw at us, but we wrong."
"Yeah, he kind of has a trick of destroying the iris." Jack said. Sam nodded.
"He got his troops, led by Nayonac, in here first to weaken us, and now he has ships on the way. We killed most of the Jaffa, and managed to evacuate a lot of people, but we lost a lot of people doing it. I don't know how we're going to deal with his ships."
Down in the gateroom, I could see Sam and Teal'c take up positions in hiding, either side of the gate. The gate whooshed open, and out stepped me, and an older looking Jack, and...
"Martouf." Jack whispered.
Sam stepped out of hiding as soon as she saw who it was, and Martouf, seeing her, whispered her name, ran forward, and kissed her, hard and tight.
Sam didn't pull away.
I looked back and forth, from my Jack to Jack 2, and I saw the simultaneous look of heartbreak, hastily concealed on each face, I knew something else was the same here.
Whoever Sam loved, Jack loved her in both realities.
"Hey!" Sam 2 called through the glass, and the moment was broken - thank God. To see your best friend in pain is bad enough, to see it doubled is too much. Sam pulled away, surprised, and shocked.
"I'm...I'm sorry." I heard her say. "I thought for a minute you were my Martouf."
"YOUR Martouf?" he asked.
Then of course came the exclamations, and explanations, and comparisons, but I noticed that Sam kept away from Jack, especially when Martouf went over and kissed his Sam, and whispered something to her, and Jack kept darkly silent.
Finally, Martouf said to Sam,
"And we are close in your world?"
"Not that close." Sam said. "We were friends, but you..."
"Died." Jack told him.
"You died well." I said hurriedly, trying to relieve the tension building in the room. "It was in a good cause."
"Was I by your side?" he asked Sam.
"You died in my arms." Sam said hoarsely.
"Then it was indeed a good death." Martouf said, pulling his Sam closer to him. I heard Jack, by my side, draw in his breath sharply, and glance down.
"So, " I said, "can the Tok'ra help?"
"No." Martouf said.
"Surprise." both Jack's muttered simultaneously.
"It's not that we will not help." Martouf explained. "It is that we cannot. All our resources are currently devoted to fighting Amounet's attack on the Asgard home world."
I winced at the mention of her name,and behind me, I heard my double do the same. He'd been quiet ever since we had met, and now I knew why. He would still be thinking of Amounet as Sha're, and yet, she was his enemy, and he and his friends would be trying to kill her. At least all that was over for me.
"Then it's down to us." Jack said.
"We've got two Carter's." Jack 2 said. "My guess is the combined I.Q. of Earth just went up a few points. We shouldn't have a problem trying to figure out a way to destroy Sokar's ship."
"Alright." Jack said. "Let's get this base checked, through and through. I don't want to suddenly find there's an army of Jaffa eating their way through the pecan pie. Carters .. find a way to save the Earth."
We split up. Teal'c went with Martouf, (safer, considering both Jacks seemed to want to wipe him off the face of the earth at the moment.), Jack with Daniel 2, and me with Jack 2. It didn't take him long to ask,
"So, Martouf's dead in your world?"
"Yeah." I said. "He died just a few days ago, in fact."
"In Carter's arms." he said, blankly.
"Yeah, about that...." I said, not quite sure I should tell him, but feeling I should, anyway. "Things were different between them, in my reality."
"Didn't look different."
"HE kissed her. She was probably too surprised to stop it. The point is, she didn't care ... well she cared for Martouf, but she didn't CARE, if you see what I mean. And in other realities, she's not even with him. In fact, she's with you."
He didn't react, just carried on walking down the corridor, checking every doorway.
"So." he said, eventually.
"So, I thought you might like to know that."
Oh, for crying out loud, the man was even more closed off than my Jack.
"Because I thought, perhaps, you might care for Sam."
"What gives you that idea?"
"Because my Jack does." I said. "And last week, he told her."
That stopped him.
"What did she say?" he asked.
"Well, nothing much really, but she and Jack, there's always been this...well, they've always been close, I mean....but of course, they can't do anything because they're both in the military, but...". My stammering ground to a halt beneath Jack's withering glare.
We kept silent from then on.
The two Sams had a long talk though. Janet told me all about it. Of course they figured out a way to defeat Sokar. Between the two of them they'd rigged up a powerful naquada bomb that could destroy not just Sokar's ship, but the rest of the fleet too. The only problem was it would have to be hand-delivered to Sokar's ship, but they'd cross that bridge when they came to it. Given the circumstances, it wasn't long before the conversation turned to Martouf.
"It started about two years ago." Sam 2 told Sam. "We had such a strong connection."
"But it didn't it occur to you that that was Jolinar?"
"At first. But as we grew closer, it just felt so right. And after Jonas, his calmness was just ... relaxing. And it felt nice, after so long, to be loved."
"Yes, but didn't you get that from...?"
"No-one, nobody." Sam kept quiet. If Sam 2 didn't know how the Colonel felt, it would probably be best if she didn't tell her. It had stirred up so many conflicting and confusing feelings in Sam herself, she had no intention of inflicting that on someone else.
"So you and Martouf never..." Sam 2 asked.
"But you kissed him."
"Well, he kissed me. And for a moment I thought he was my Martouf, and I felt so guilty about his death, that I just responded, I was so glad to see him alive."
"So you did care for him."
"Yes." Sam said sadly. "I didn't realize how much until he died."
"Well, Anise... by the way, is there an Anise here?"
"There was. The Colonel killed her. Long story. Why?"
"Good. Anyway, she discovered a way of testing for Zatars, people who were under Gou'ald mind control. The problem was, she never tested Martouf, and he became a Gou'ald assassin. In the end I...I had to kill him." she said, half angry at Anise, half guilt-ridden at what she'd had to do.
"The thing is, if Anise hadn't been so obsessed with testing and re-testing the Colonel and I, she might have thought of testing Martouf, and we could have saved him."
Sam explained about the testing process, and how it worked, and that it had showed that she and Jack were Zatar's.
"Only we weren't. We just weren't telling something."
Sam seemed reluctant to tell, but Sam 2 persuaded her.
"Okay, well it showed that in a moment of danger, the Colonel wouldn't leave me to die."
"Well, my Colonel's the same. He wouldn't leave anyone to die."
"No, I mean, he has ... feelings ... for me." Sam admitted.
"Feelings .... you know. He really CARES for me."
Apparently, this really shocked Sam 2, because when we came in at that exact moment, she was staring at Sam, stammering, "W...what?"
She'd recovered by the time all the Jacks were there, although she kept glancing at Jack 2 with a puzzled expression. He was avoiding her gaze though, and Martouf still had his arm round her.
"So, what you Carters got?" Jack 2 asked.
"Well, " Sam said, "we've got a pretty powerful bomb, that should destroy the whole fleet. The only problem is, it has to be primed and planted by hand."
"I suppose if I ask why, you'll give me a headache?" Jack said. Sam smiled, and continued,
"Someone will have to get on board Sokar's ship, set the bomb, and get out again."
"Been there, done that." Jack said. "Not a problem."
"For us." Jack 2 said. "It's our world, I'll save it if you don't mind."
"And I'll come with you." Sam 2 said.
"Carter..." Jack 2 started to say, but she interrupted him.
"I'm the only one who can prime the bomb."
"It's too dangerous." Jack 2 and Martouf said at the same time.
"Everything we do is dangerous." she told Martouf, then turned back to Jack 2. "Is there any reason I shouldn't risk my life as much as you, Sir?" she asked calmly. He stared at her for a second, then shook his head, reluctantly.
"Take my Daniel and Teal'c with you." Jack said. "They've done this sort of thing before."
"So, Carter, looks like we'll be holding the fort, just you and me."
"And Martouf and Daniel 2, Sir." she said innocently. They glanced at each, and smiled a little, and shared one of those moments of perfect understanding they have occasionally, where their eyes say more than words ever could.
Then I turned to Jack and Sam 2. Jack had looked at his double, sharing ...something.. with his Sam, then looked away. Sam 2 looked at them, than back to her Jack. He looked up, to meet her questioning gaze, the answer clear in his face, and they had their own moment of understanding.
We left moments later, Sam telling us if we were gone more than an hour, she and the Colonel would be coming to get us. Just before we went through the gate (using co-ordinates Teal'c had died getting), Jack called out,
"Hey, Space monkey! Try not to die this time, will ya?"
Which was Jack's way of saying, look after yourself.
Sokar's ship looked pretty much the same as Apophis's ship, so Teal'c and I had no problem finding our way around. Sam 2 wanted the bomb placed as close to the main power source as possible, so Teal'c took her down there. Jack 2 and I kept watch in the gateroom.
"They've been gone 15 minutes." he said finally.
"Well, this isn't easy. There's probably a lot of Jaffa about, and it's a big ship, maybe they got lost."
"Maybe they got caught."
Just like my Jack, always finding the worst possible explanation.
"No, I don't think so." I said, trying to calm him down. "I don't hear any sirens, and the force walls haven't gone up yet."
"Look, " he said, standing up, "I'm going to look for them. Are you coming, or not?"
I came. It was oddly quiet in the ship. I suppose everyone was too busy preparing for the invasion of Earth to bother patrolling the corridors, especially as Nayonac/Apophis was supposed to have taken care of the SGC. We'd only got a few yards from the gateroom when we saw Teal'c and Sam running towards us, Teal'c slightly ahead of Sam.
"It's set to blow in two minutes!" she yelled. "Start running!".
We did. Then the sirens sounded, and the force walls shot up.
Sam slammed straight into one, and fell back, winded, leaving Jack, Teal'c and I alone on the side nearest the gate room.
"Carter?" Jack called.
"I will dial Earth." Teal'c said, dashing into the gate room. Jack ran down to Sam. I checked my watch.
"1 minute 56 until the bomb blows!" I called out. He reached the wall, and banged on it, sending delicate spider's webs of blue darting between him and Sam. The effect would have been oddly lovely, if Sam hadn't been trapped behind it.
Sam must have heard me calling the time, because she told Jack,
"Sir, you have to get out of here."
"So do you." he replied calmly. He found a weapons locker on the wall, with a staff weapon inside. He used it to bang against a panel on the wall, then ripped it off with his bare hands. I counted down the seconds silently on my watch.
"Sir...sir, there's no time!" Sam called frantically, watching Jack's futile attempts to destroy the force wall. Then we heard Jaffa, far away, but marching inexorably towards us.
"1.45." I said quietly. Jack picked up the staff weapon and began to beat frenetically on the shield with it, his panic rising with every useless blow. Sam looked at him, her eyes begging him to leave.
"Sir..." she insisted.
"I know, I know!" he yelled, as the Jaffa got closer. He turned back to the panel, and rammed the staff in there, destroying the circuitry. It made no difference.
"Sir, just go!" she insisted, again.
"No!" he shouted, his voice full of desperation. Time was ticking away, and the Jaffa were getting closer, and there was no way to get her out. I knew what I was watching. My Sam and Jack had gone through exactly the same thing, but they'd survived, in my reality.
"Jack, there's only one minute left!" I called, silently begging him to find a way, get her out of here, tell her the truth, please God, let this be the same as it was in my universe. I don't think Jack heard me call the time. He saw only her, he heard only the echoing footsteps of the approaching Jaffa. Everything he'd ever felt for her, every hidden feeling, ruthlessly repressed emotion, everything he knew, or had just discovered was there, in his face. And she knew. She looked at him, and the tears came to her eyes, and she finally knew everything.
"Sir, " she whispered, "you have to go. If you don't, you'll die."
"I'm not leaving." he told her.
"Please." she begged. The Jaffa were so close now.
"No. I would rather die myself, than lose you."
She looked at him, and she knew. Even if he left, he'd die. I couldn't watch, but I couldn't leave them. Teal'c ran up to me.
"I have opened the wormhole. We must leave now, Daniel Jackson." I didn't say anything. I could barely move. I just stood there, as Sam and Jack raised their hands and almost touched, on either side of the millimeter thick wall that kept them lifetimes apart.
"It's not going to be the same." I whispered. "They're going down a different fork in the road."
"Daniel." Teal'c said forcefully. "They are not our friends. Our friends wait for us, on Earth."
"They could be them." I whispered. Then the Jaffa came round the corner. She must have heard them, but she never looked away from him. The shots slammed into her back, and she slid down the wall, her blood spreading across it, changing the blue to red, her eyes open, still staring into his. He didn't call her name. He didn't cry. He only knelt down, as close to her as he could get.
"We must leave now!" Teal'c yelled, and physically dragged me away. As he threw me into the wormhole, I heard the first explosion down in the bowel of the ship, and knew that Jack would be dead soon too.
As we came out the other end, Martouf came running to meet us. He looked behind us, hopefully.
"I'm sorry." I told him, choking on my words.
"Samantha Carter did not survive." Teal'c told him. He didn't say a thing. He just turned, and left. Teal'c guided me down the ramp. I felt stunned, and shaken, a feeling that only dissipated when my Sam and Jack came rushing in to meet us.
"What happened?" Jack asked.
"The bomb was successful. Sokar's ship was destroyed." Teal'c told them, as I sat down on the step.
"What happened to them?" Sam asked.
"They died." I told them.
"How?" my voice asked. I looked up to see Daniel 2, looking pale, and very young.
"Sam was trapped. The Jaffa killed her." I said. Jack moved a step closer to Sam.
"And Jack?" Daniel 2 asked, his voice shaking only a little.
"She tried to make him leave....." my voice trailed off. Beside me, I heard Sam gasp, a small, shocked sound of recognition.
"Colonel O'Neill died with Major Carter, rather than lose her." Teal'c told them.
We left an hour later. Martouf came to say goodbye. Jack shook his hand, gently, perhaps recognizing in the man the devastation he would have felt had his Sam died. Sam spontaneously threw her arms round him.
"I'm sorry." she whispered.
"Thank you." he told her. "I do have some comfort, knowing she died with someone who loved her."
Sam and Jack were very quiet when we got back. So was I. I knew Jack and Sam would die for each other, in theory. To see it happen, in reality, to see people I loved die like that, was horrible. And I'll never get that out of my mind, the sight of Sam dying, and Jack holding on to her till his own end. I knew what it meant now, this feeling that the two of them have for each other. It doesn't mean happy ever after, or champagne and kisses, or even good, old-fashioned sex. It means never leaving the other alone and in pain, letting them find happiness elsewhere if necessary, but knowing everytime one reaches out, the other is there, and knowing, every day, every second, that one could die, and the other will die by their side, because in the end, after everything, that is the only place they want to be - and they know it. They never have to tell each other any of this, because they already know it.