How did I, Jack O'Neill, liar, thief, seducer and all round bastard end up here, dying on the floor, sacrificing myself for a woman I barely know? I'm watching her now, scurrying away, bleeding heavily herself, dragging herself to the mirror Tobias swears is the path to other worlds, other realities. She's gone to get help, to try and find someone trustworthy to rescue us. Well, rescue her. I'm beyond help. She'll try, I know, despite all she's discovered in the past few hours. There's a - goodness, for want of a better word - in her that I haven't seen since Daniel died. And for once, in a long time, there's a part of me that hopes I do live, that I do see her again, that I can tell Sam Carter just what she's done to me. I need to tell her, I haven't been myself since I met her.
That was only three weeks ago. Clare Tobias, my second-in-command, had been shot on a mission, fairly badly. Well, that's what you get for trying to steal from the Asgard. I'm fairly surprised we got away. She was going to survive, but she'd be out of action for a while. Janet was insisting she take at least a month off. Tobias tried to argue, as much because she doesn't like Janet as anything else, but the Doc. knows what she's doing, and I ordered her to stay put until Janet released her for duty. Of course, we didn't tell Hammond the truth. I told him it had been a sudden Gou'ald attack. He believed me - or rather, I assumed he did.
I think I underestimated him.
With Tobias out of action for a while, I'd thought I'd take a little downtime. Maybe the two of us could slip away for a dirty weekend. Or, if Janet refused to let her go, I'd impress one of the cute little tech's with my rank and scars, and sweep her away for a few days.
You don't like me much, do you? Don't worry. I'm not all that keen on myself. To tell you the truth, I'm killing time, until it kills me.
Hammond had other ideas for me.
"I've got a replacement for Major Tobias." he told me. "You can start going out again tomorrow."
"But I don't want a replacement, Sir." A new member of the team might not understand out little 'hobby'. Our habit of 'liberating' certain pieces of equipment from our so-called allies. We weren't stealing them for money. We need weapons, defenses against the day the Gou'ald come for us. My job is to make us survive, and I will do that any way I can, and if that means doing a dirty, well it won't be the first time. Ephemeral allies who don't believe in war would be no good when the mother of all spaceships settles down on Cheyenne mountain. So when Maybourne bought up the idea of acquiring some of the technology for ourselves, under the counter, so to speak, I said, Why the hell not? And Tobias agreed eagerly. Ever since we'd got together, both on the job, and in bed, I'd known she'd agreed to anything as long as she got some fun out of it, and no one tried to stop her. And I went along with that. The last thing either of us needed was a good guy getting all moralistic, and screwing things up for us.
"Well, you're getting a replacement." Hammond insisted. "Major Carter, one of the scientists who originally worked on the Stargate."
A scientist? Hell, no. I hate scientists. Always too wrapped up in their own work to notice the world around them. Then again, that might be a good thing. He'd be too absorbed in his own work to notice what we were doing. Maybe he'd even join in, just for a chance to fiddle with alien technologies. Maybe we could bring him round to our way of thinking.
"Where," I asked, "is he transferring from?"
"SHE is transferring from the Pentagon."
The voice came from behind me. I turned to see her, framed in the doorway, smiling slightly. It was as if someone had suddenly switched the lights on.
Of course, we had a little argument about it, and she argued back, and for the first time in ages, I felt a little of the darkness lift from me. After a moment, I said something funny, I don't even remember what, and she looked at me, and smiled at me, and the world stopped.
Only after she left the room, did I think about her. And then I realized she couldn't stay. Because I knew, instinctively, that no way would she ever understand our crimes.
I met up with Maybourne later, to tell him I wouldn't be bringing Area 51 any new toys for a while.
"You're sure this Major Carter can't be persuaded to see our point of view?" he asked me. I stared at him, wondering why I hadn't noticed that he looked like a self-important frog earlier.
"I'm sure." I replied. "There's no way she'd be involved in anything underhand, or deceitful."
"You seem to have go to know her fast."
"That's what you wanted me to do, isn't it?"
He studied me for a moment, while I remained impassive under my dark glasses. It's an act I do well.
"Maybe she won't notice." he continued. "Maybe you can fob her off with something."
"No, that won't work."
And secretly, I felt a little jolt of pleasure that it wouldn't work on her, that those clear blue eyes of hers would see straight through any lie I told.
"She's clever?" he asked.
"Way smarter than we are."
Maybourne mused for a moment, staring out into the passing crowds. We were in a little outdoor cafe in Washington, and the day was warm, the sun setting. It was ..peaceful. I'd forgotten what peace felt like.
"What does she think of you?" Maybourne asked suddenly.
"She thinks I'm a hero." I muttered. The look of respect in her eyes, the sound of awe and respect in her voice when she told me she'd read the mission reports had sent a little worm of guilt squirming in my gut.
"Does she find you attractive?"
I looked up in surprise, resenting the question.
"I don't know. Probably not. I must be ten years older than her. Why?"
"There might be another method of ensuring her silence."
I knew what he meant. It was what I had done to make sure Tobias was loyal. And although I'd had no problem seducing Tobias to buy her silence, the thought of doing the same to Sam felt...wrong. It made my skin crawl.
"No." I said emphatically.
"Why not? She's a good-looking woman, isn't she?"
More than merely good-looking. She took my breath away.
"That's not the point." I insisted. "I'm not doing it."
"Getting a conscience, are you, Colonel?" he asked, mockingly. "Let me make one thing clear. You cannot afford to have a conscience, and I cannot afford to have my supply of ...goods dry up. You make sure you do everything you have to to get Major Carter worshipping the ground you walk on, and thinking everything you do is God's own will. Otherwise, I will make sure that she, and everyone else, knows exactly what a double-dealing, lying, thieving, dirty little bastard you are."
I got up to leave.
"And don't think of going to Hammond." Maybourne told me, hissing out the word like the snake I now knew he was. "If you do, be assured you'll meet with a very nasty accident."
I started to walk away.
"And so will Major Carter!" he called after me, as I left.
I thought about it for a long time. There, in that cafe, Maybourne had been right. I had been prepared to turn myself in, end the whole charade. But the threat against Sam had been real. I had to do what he wanted, at least for now.
Seducing Tobias, and others, Laira, Kynthia, Shyla, to get what I wanted had been nothing. It had just been part of the job. It hadn't touched me in any way.
Truth to tell, nothing had touched me since Daniel died. We'd been in Washington, collecting another medal, all three of us. Tobias and I had only been carrying on the scam for a few weeks now, and Daniel hadn't realized. He'd been completely wrapped up in his work since Sha're died. I'd tried to keep the truth of what I was doing hidden from him. Partly because I'd knew he'd tell, but partly because I knew he'd be crushed by what he would see as my betrayal of everything he stood for. I didn't want him to lose that innocence, his faith in me, our friendship. He'd become my pseudo-son. I'd contemplated giving up the thefts, because of him...the voice of our conscience, I'd once called him. Except Clare and I had no conscience. She had despised him, sneered at his morals, and beliefs, but I'd made it pretty clear to her that she was to leave him alone.
But then, he found out. In Washington, a reporter let slip a few facts to him, and he worked the rest out. The only thing he didn't guess was my involvement. He was going to tell Hammond. I was going to let him. And then the car came out of nowhere, disappeared in the distance, stopping only long enough to kill my friend. He lived only long enough for me to see the doubt in his eyes as he looked at me and whispered,
"It was you!"
And across the road, Clare Tobias watched it all, her eyes cold as steel. I was no longer sure who was using who.
But then Major Sam Carter stood next to me, at the gate, reaching out with all the wonder of a child. The same innocence as Daniel, the same blind faith in me. She saw me watching, frowning, and she misinterpreted my serious expression.
"Don't worry Colonel. You'll learn to like me."
"I adore you already."
She's gone through the gate, and I'm alone. Except for Tobias's body. Her eyes are open, staring at me, accusing me. But she has no right to accuse. I've expiated my crime.
Seducing Sam was difficult. For a start, I wasn't that keen on the job. It wasn't that I didn't want her, I did, so badly it hurt. But not just sex. And definitely not as a way of using her. I didn't want to shatter her when she found out the truth. I didn't want to darken the joy in her eyes.
I'd started to care for her. I'd found something more important then just getting through the day. And that was so dangerous. Because the next time Maybourne saw me, he guessed.
"Remember," he told me. "Accidents happen, and she is in a very dangerous profession."
So the seduction continued. And the more time I spent with her, making her laugh, trying to understand what the hell she was talking about, the more I fell I love. Utterly, completely bound to her. I only came alive when she walked into a room. I only talked when she was there to listen. I only smiled when she smiled at me. On missions, I'd stand back, quietly amazed, as she created solutions to impossible problems. And as time went on, it would have been so easy just to reach out and kiss her, touch her, seduce her. But I didn't. I was afraid of shattering the fragile. unbearably sweet bond between us. It wasn't worth it. She'd be gone soon anyway.
But then Tobias had a relapse. And Hammond told me he was so impressed with Carter's work, he was seriously considering making her a permanent member of the SGC.
I was condemned.
I knew. from that moment on, that it would lead to this, me dying, alone. I'd hoped and dreamed it wouldn't, but rationally, I knew. She's been gone an hour now. If she did find another reality, a safe one, she must be having a hell of a time to convince to come back. If she's coming back.
Five hours ago, I kissed her. SG6 had bought back reports of something they called a 'quantum mirror', with wild stories of other realities. I'd heard a rumour Sam and I were engaged in one. I liked the sound of that. Sam had been trying to describe the whole concept of alternate realities to me. She'd been so excited, her eyes glowing, as she chattered, patiently trying to make me understand, laughing deliciously at my mistakes. She was...irresistible. I reached forward, and placed my hand on her mouth, shushing her. Then gently, I moved my hand round to her hair, tangling my fingers in it. Then I leaned forward, and kissed her, gently. And I swear to you, there was no thought in my head of Maybourne, or threats, or seduction, just...peace. After a few seconds surprise, she responded, eagerly. The we pulled away, and I was staring into her eyes, such an intense shade of blue.
"S...sir?" she stammered.
"Am I interrupting?" someone said, coolly. Clare Tobias stood in the doorway, her hands on her hips, smiling cruelly. Sam stepped out of my arms, reddening and turning away from me.
"What?" I snapped at Clare. She motioned me out of the room. I followed her into the corridor, reluctantly.
"Made another conquest?" she asked, loud enough for Sam to hear.
"What do you want?" I asked, harshly.
"It's not what I want. It's what Maybourne wants. That mirror."
"What's it got to do with you? Just get it, like the good little thief you are."
"I'm not sure I can get it. Not with Carter around."
"Hasn't the pure little virgin given in yet?"
"Be quiet." I snapped.
"What's the matter? Isn't Miss Snow White putting out?"
"I said be quiet." I snapped, turning away from her. But she grabbed me, and turned me around, her eyes fiery with anger
"Or what? Come on tiger, what are you going to do to protect your sweet little friend?"
I smiled slowly.
"Nothing. I don't need to. I've seen her in action. If you lay so much as a finger on her, she'll kick your butt in ten seconds flat. I just hope I'm there to watch it."
And I left her, standing there in the corridor. I'd made my decision. I was going to tell Hammond. I was sure between us, we could protect Sam.
But when I got to the office, she was already there. I was going to leave, but then I heard my name mentioned.
"Sir, I can't believe Colonel O'Neill is involved." she was saying.
"I hope he isn't. Jack was a good man once. But he's either involved, or stupid. And he's not stupid."
I stayed there, listening. It turned out it had been no accident, Sam turning up. Hammond had requested it. He'd suspected something had been going on for some time. He'd asked for Sam to be transferred, as he knew her father, and knew her to be trustworthy. He'd given her three weeks to settle in, and get to know the place, and now he was asking her to investigate the thefts. And I was chief suspect.
She stood up for me, but she couldn't deny the evidence. And it was Hammond's final words that dealt the death blow.
"No-one's ever spoken against him. But I've been watching him. He's manipulated almost every one on the base, including me. And he's made half the women fall in love with him, made them believe he loves them, to get them to help him cover up. I hope he hasn't tried anything on you. I should have warned you."
I could just see her face. And I saw her turn white. I heard her voice shake as she said,
"Don't worry Sir. I am under no illusion that Colonel O'Neill feels anything for me."
Three hours ago, I spoke to Maybourne.
"She's not stupid. She'll work it out. I'll resign, and you'll have to get Tobias reassigned."
"No." he told me. "This operation is too valuable to give up now. You say Hammond only suspects?"
"Yes, but Carter's bound to work it out."
"Then we'll have to deal with her. It shouldn't be a problem. I understood the two of you are already quite ...close."
I felt my anger flare. What the hell had Tobias told him!
"We're not that close." I said harshly.
"Too bad." he said calmly. "Then she'll have to be dealt with a in a different way."
"You won't have to. Tobias has already volunteered."
"When the hell did this happen!" I yelled. "When did we stop drawing the line? How did we stop being defenders of the world, and become murderers!"
"You took the first step."
"No." I said. I could see it clearly now. "You did. Carter was supposed to have joined SG1, but her application was blocked. You did that, didn't you? You knew Tobias would work for you."
"She was already working for me. And it wasn't very hard, turning you. You were already unsure of the way to go. You only needed a push, in one direction or the other."
"And Carter would have pushed me the other way."
"Not any more, she won't." Maybourne told me. "I asked Hammond to send Carter and Tobias through the gate to collect the mirror, before you could get your hands on it, I said. He thinks Tobias is innocent. And while on the other side, I've no doubt Carter will have an accident..."
I didn't wait to hear the rest of the sentence.
Just over an hour ago, I reached the SGC. I managed to get into the control room, where Hammond stood, staring at the gate. He was about to call security.
"Did you send Carter and Tobias alone?" I asked him, desperately.
"Yes, it's only a collection."
"You have to send me through too...."
"Colonel, you are under arrest."
"Please!" I shouted. "Clare was in on this, even before I was. She know's Carter's investigating this. She'll kill Carter!"
"I'll send a team..."
"No! If Clare sees strangers, she'll know something's up! Please Sir, let me go! I'm begging you, on my knees if you want, let me go through."
"Surely even Tobias wouldn't..."
"Yes she will! She knows I love Sam Carter. She's going to kill her. Do anything you like to me after, just please, Sir, for God's sake, let me bring Carter back!"
He nodded. I ran down, and through the gate, a gun in my hand.
An hour ago, I found my way to Sam and Clare. Sam was kneeling on the floor, clutching her stomach. Blood was oozing out of her, but she was alive. Tobias stood a few feet in front of her, gun pointed steadily at Sam's head.
"Jack!" Clare called, when she saw me, although she didn't move her gun away from Sam. "What are you doing here?"
"I've come to finish the job." I told her.
"No need. I can manage." she said, and smiled triumphantly. There's was no time. I grabbed Sam, flinging her out of the way of Clare's bullet. It hit me, instead. Clare walked forward, slowly. I saw her, above me, pointing her gun at me.
"Bye Jack." she whispered. And I heard the gun fire.
But it wasn't her gun. It was mine. My gun that Sam had grabbed from my hand as I fell. And it was Sam that knelt beside me, the gun still smoking in her hand.
"You need help." she said, not even looking at me.
"So do you." I told her. The blood still oozed out of her. "You'll never manage to get to the gate."
"Even if I do, who'll be on the other side?" she asked, her eyes dark with hurt and betrayal.
I didn't say anything. I had nothing left to say.
"I'll try the mirror." she said.
"Sam..." I reached out for her.
"I'll come back." she said, but she didn't take my hand.
"It wasn't a lie. Nothing I said to you was a lie."
She took my hand then.
"I will bring help." she promised. The she left through the mirror, leaving me dying here.
I kind of had a shock when a bleeding, messed up Sam Carter fell onto the ramp in front of me. Especially as Sam was standing right next to me. But of course, Sam guessed it was another alternative her, and within minutes Janet was there, stopping the bleeding. Still, it gave me a shock, for just a second, to see Sam so badly hurt, and I had to turn, and check my Sam was okay.
She kept saying , "I have to go back. I left him there."
"Left who?" Daniel asked gently.
"Another Colonel O'Neill, I should imagine." Janet said.
"We must fetch him. He must be badly hurt." Teal'c said.
"What makes you think that?" I asked.
"WOuld you have left Major Carter alone in such a state, if you were not badly injured?" he replied, leaving me glancing at Sam, who was studiously checking her double's heartbeat.
A few moments later, the five of us, SG1 and Janet, went through the gate, and through the mirror.
And there I was. Lying on the ground. Badly injured. A body I recognized as Clare Tobias lay nearby. Janet rushed to her patient. He opened his eyes, barely, and noticed Daniel, standing worriedly in front of him.
"Daniel?" he murmured.
"Yes." Daniel told him, glancing back and forth between us. "But not from your universe, we're from a different one. Am I in your universe?"
The other Jack smiled bleakly.
"You were. You're dead now."
"Oh." Daniel said, surprised, but oddly, not shaken, and stepped back a little.
"You did this?" I asked, gesturing at Clare Tobias's body.
"She was going to kill Sam." he gasped.
"Ah. I understand." I've have done pretty much the same.
"Where is she?"
"Back at our base." my Sam told him. She knelt down beside him, her eyes concerned and her voice gentle. "She's badly hurt, but she'll survive."
"Good." he said, closing his eyes in pain. "I'm not going to survive though, am I?".
Janet shook her head.
"Did you want to tell her something?" Sam whispered. We stepped back a little, giving them privacy, but I hovered nearby. "I can tell her anything you need to tell her."
Her voice cracked, and I saw she was close to tears. His hand reached for her, and she held it.
"Tell her...tell her, she saved me. Tell her that I hadn't been myself since I met her."
Sam nodded. He reached up, stroked her cheek for a second, wiping away a tear for a second. Then he died.
Sam knelt beside him for a while. Then I pulled her up. She hurriedly wiped her face.
"You ok?" I asked her.
"Fine." she said, as we walked back to the mirror. Teal'c picked up the body of the other Jack without a word. That was my idea. I thought that probably, the only person who'd meant anything to him was back in out infirmary, and she should get a chance to say goodbye.
AS we got through, Daniel said,
"Should we take the mirror back? I know Maybourne's been after one to study for ages."
I glanced at Sam, who shook her head.
"Nah. Screw Maybourne." I said.