"Jack, they're getting closer."
Daniel glanced up from the display monitor back to the Tel'tak's view port, half expecting to see one of the approaching blips appear outside the ship as the death gliders they really were.
Jack was sitting to his right, in the pilot's seat while Daniel held on for dear life in the co-pilot's. The ship vibrated beneath him as one of the death gliders struck a hit. He expected sparks to erupt from the consoles like they did on the SciFi television shows, but thankfully either the hit was a glancing one or it struck a non-vital area of the ship.
Jack took a hand off the steering... ball... and keyed the comm system. "Carter, how's it coming?"
"Just a few more minutes."
"We don't have a few more minutes. Those four death gliders are right on our tail. We need shields now."
Jack let go of the internal comm and executed a maneuver that would have plastered Daniel against the ceiling before dropping him to the ground like a sack of potatoes had it not been for the gravity dampeners. As it was, the planet on the view port that had been on Daniel's right was now on his left and the continents appeared at a different angle.
He quickly looked at his display screen. "The Mothership hasn't launched any more death gliders. They probably know we don't have shields."
"Next time remind me to take the damn thing for a test run before we actually steal one of these. No shields. No stealth technology. No cloak. Leave it to me to pick a lemon."
"It's not like we had much of a choice." And they hadn't. They'd had the bad luck of 'gating to a planet that just happened to have a Mothership in orbit around it. And if that wasn't bad enough, they'd walked right into a Jaffa patrol and had gotten captured. Both parties had been surprised; unfortunately for SG-1, they'd been heavily outnumbered. It was a miracle that none of them had been injured in the capture. It had taken them several hours before the opportunity for a chance to escape had arisen. So here they were � escaping.
"On your right." One of the four blips had put on a burst of speed and was rushing their flank. This time the ship shuddered violently and there was a definite change in the thrum of the engines before they regained their distinctive hum again.
"I can't believe we have no freakin' shields." Again the planet shifted wildly as Jack maneuvered out of the glider's path.
"Is there any way we can slow them down? Guns?" Daniel turned around in his seat and viewed the overly-filled ship. This was a cargo ship but it had been full to overflowing. The controls they were using to fly the ship weren't standard issue � it looked like the ship had been taken apart and put back together at the behest of someone who definitely wasn't your typical Goa'uld. Or Jaffa. Half the cargo's contents had been spilled out of their storage compartments, leading Daniel to believe that maybe the ship hadn't been carrying Goa'uld supplies but rather had been hi-jacked.
"You heard Teal'c, Tel'taks don't have weapons. Not unless you want to start throwing some of that junk back there at them."
Jack turned to give Daniel a look that if the situation hadn't been so dire, would have been funny. It was ironic how the both of them could have such different values but be on the same wavelength at times.
"Use the rings," Jack said while Daniel made a circling motion with his index finger.
"Right." He was out of his chair before he knew it and running to the back of the ship. As he passed the doorway to the engine room, he could hear Sam and Teal'c inside talking as they attempted to bring the shields online.
Thankfully there already was a large piece of alien machinery smack dab in the center of the transport rings so Daniel wouldn't have to try and move anything onto it by himself. He ran to the controls and radio'd Jack that he was ready.
"Okay, send it out two meters to starboard."
"That's to the right, right?" Daniel said into the comm as he studied the control pad, taking a moment to convert the Goa'uld script in his head and calculating the approximate distance before punching in the coordinates. He paused, fingers hovering over the activation button.
"Left. Send it left."
"Isn't starboard right?" Daniel wanted to swear; now was not the time to start getting the two directions confused. He cleared his entry and began resetting the controls.
"The damn glider's moved. Wait, go right."
"Jack!" Daniel yelled in frustration into the ship's bowels.
The ship lurched beneath them. This time sparks did erupt from the ceiling, showering the back of the room. Again the engine sounds changed and the ship began vibrating strongly under his feet as he struggled to enter the correct information.
"Right, Daniel! Damnit, just punch it."
Daniel hit the button and the rings activated. They'd only have the one chance because at this speed, the rings would lose their cohesiveness and would move off into space, hopefully becoming another ad hoc missile against their enemies.
Daniel was running out of the cargo hold even before the rings disappeared. He slid into his seat just in time to see two of the blips vanish on the Tel'tak's monitors.
"Good job." Jack was focused on the planet outside and Daniel noted they had gotten pretty close to the it.
"Damage?" It was more than obvious they had suffered some, the engines were definitely making an odd, high-pitched whine and the ship was still vibrating strongly.
"Engines. Although we still have auxiliary power. I'm heading for land while I can still put her down."
Daniel looked over the controls before him and programmed the computer to scan the planet. The readout surprised him. "Jack, there's a Stargate on the planet."
Daniel gave him the coordinates and he prayed they could get close enough to land before they were shot out of the sky.
Clouds enveloped them and then they were flying through the planet's atmosphere, closely followed by the remaining two death gliders. The ship lurched again and an alarm began to sound.
"Carter! Teal'c!" This time Jack yelled out loud instead of using the comm. system. According to the readouts, the damage had been in the engine room.
"Sam, Teal'c." Daniel's hand was shaking as he keyed the buttons on his console. "Are you guys all right?"
He and Jack shared a worried look in the long seconds before Teal'c's voice came through. "We are uninjured but I regret to inform you that the damage is too great to be repaired."
"Tell them to hang on. We're going in fast."
The ship shuddered as yet another volley struck them. Daniel glanced at the panel before him and something caught his eye as he followed Jack's instructions. "Teal'c, you and Sam grab onto something. Jack's gonna try and land the ship." Daniel leaned forward to read the writing that had been taped to the panel. "I thought you said these ships don't have guns."
Daniel pressed one of the buttons and another display popped up. "This one does."
He fiddled with the buttons and the readout informed him he had a weapon's lock. "I've got a lock."
Daniel obeyed without hesitation just as Jack veered the ship away from the fast approaching land. There was an explosion on their right and one of the death gliders careened out of control. He got a glimpse of a village below as the ship crashing into a building, and then they were moving away, heading towards a mountainous area.
"Can you get the other one?"
"What's going on?" Sam made her way behind his chair as Teal'c moved to stand behind Jack's.
"Danny's found a few modifications on the ship."
And at that moment Daniel realized how much of a fluke it had been to have gotten a lock on the previous glider. Try as he might, the last of the ships evaded his sights. Jack flew in a circle, heading away from the mountains and back towards the Stargate.
"Want me to try?"
He didn't bother looking over his shoulder at Sam; instead he continued fiddling with the controls as Jack attempted to keep the glider from getting a lock on them.
"Got him," Daniel cried out just as the Tel'tak rocked sideways.
"We're going down," Jack yelled in warning. Daniel got a glimpse of trees through the view port and suddenly he was flying through the air.
- - - - - -
The groaning was painful to listen to, pulling him from the depth of darkness. For a moment he thought he was the one making all that noise; in effect, from the pounding in his head and the burning in his thigh, he was hard pressed not to make any sound. As his head became clearer, he realized it was Sam.
That in itself was enough to rouse him. He tried to sit up and gasped as the pain in his head got worse. A lancing stab cut through his thigh and he sank back onto the ground. Everything around him was fuzzy and green and now there were dark spots dancing around his already blurry vision. A blob appeared before him and it took him a moment to make out Jack's face.
"Take it easy."
"Sam," Daniel managed to gasp as acid burned into his throat.
"She's okay. Dislocated her shoulder but Teal'c just�" Jack winced and looked past Daniel's left a moment before bringing his gaze back to him. "She'll be fine."
The groaning stopped, replaced by deep, shaky breaths. Slowly his vision cleared and he saw they were on the side of a small hill just on the edge of a forest. Jack was sitting beside him, a cut on his temple dripping blood down his face and staining his collar. Daniel turned his head to the left and spotted Sam, who was sitting up, leaning weakly against a tree as Teal'c placed her arm into a sling. The last thing he remembered was... the crash.
"Sam, you okay?"
"I'll live." She gave him a shaky smile, then winced as Teal'c did something to her arm.
Daniel realized he smelled smoke. He turned his head until he saw a thick column rising from what had been their ride. Somehow his team had dragged him out of the ship before it had exploded. He didn't remember anything after the crash. "There was a village. We flew over a village, didn't we? Did we crash close to it?"
"Indeed. Not only are we only several kilometers from the village, there is also a Stargate nearby."
"The scans said there was a Stargate on the planet. How'd you know that we're close to it?"
"I perceived a glimpse of it before O'Neill lost control of the Tel'tak."
"Hey, not my fault here. We were flying without shields. Be happy I got us down in one piece." Jack glanced over at Daniel's leg and winced. "Mostly."
Daniel craned his head and saw a pressure bandage on his thigh. Blood was already seeping through the white. "Are Sam and I the only ones who got hurt?"
"The way you went flying, you're lucky you didn't break anything. You cut your leg on the machinery and hit your head when you landed. We can compare our bruises when we get back home."
The sound of approaching engines had everyone reaching for guns they no longer had and ducking below the height of bushes, hiding from view. Daniel pushed himself onto his side, groaning softly as the movement caused his headache to flare. He looked up but the sky was barely visible through the leaves. Two death gliders flew overhead, heading towards the still burning wreck. They were sitting ducks here in the woods and if they were spotted...
"They will assume we perished in the crash." The two ships circled the wreckage twice, then took off, flying towards space.
Daniel suddenly felt shaky and tired. He let his head drop onto the ground and closed his eyes. The pain in his head wasn't getting better, nor was his leg. Jack took that moment to slap another bandage over the blood-soaked one and Daniel jumped, both from the pain and the fact he hadn't been expecting it.
"Sorry. The bleeding's not stopping."
"Shouldn't we start heading for the Stargate?"
"I think you and Carter better stay put. I'll go to the 'gate and get some help to get you two home."
"I can walk, Jack. I�"
"Sir, I'm fine. It's just my arm that�"
"Daniel, you were unconscious for a good twenty minutes. I'm sure you don't want to put up with the humiliation of being carried again on Teal'c's back. And Carter, no offense, but you were almost out on your feet."
"And going back on a stretcher is better... how?"
"You don't know if the people in the village are friendly, Colonel. They'll have seen and heard the ships and might be spooked. It's safer if we stay together."
"Just give us a couple of minutes and we'll be good to go." Daniel cleared his throat then picked at the edge of the bloody bandage. "Do you happen to have any painkillers handy?"
"I had some in my vest. Sorry." Of course, their utility vests had been taken from them when they'd been captured, along with their weapons. "Got some water, though, if you want."
Daniel shook his head. At the moment, he didn't think his stomach could tolerate much of anything.
- - - - - -
Their going was slow and painful, even for Jack. With every lumbering step Daniel took, his weight bore down and strained Jack's already bruised side. His head was aching but at least the bleeding to his scalp had stopped. Carter was able to move without help, having gotten her second wind once Teal'c had put her shoulder back in place. Daniel was the worst off with the gash in his leg.
Although Teal'c had assured him that the snake who'd captured them thought they'd burned along with the Tel'tac, Jack couldn't help being on edge as they made their way towards the Stargate. Their earlier foray onto an unexplored planet had led them into this situation in the first place and who knew if that Mothership was still up in space, orbiting the planet.
He just hoped the Goa'uld never got their hands on Star Trek episodes; all they'd need was the idea to invent or steal scanners which could locate them down on a planet with a push of a button.
Daniel stumbled and nearly went down, and Jack grimaced as he struggled to hold Daniel's weight until he got his feet under him again. Daniel was beginning to falter despite his earlier assurances that he could make it to the 'gate. They'd made good time except for when they'd had to stop while Daniel tossed his cookies. Which wasn't surprising; he probably had a concussion. Jack began looking for a place to settle down for a few minutes and when he spotted the downed tree, he moved towards it.
"Okay, let's take fifteen." He helped Daniel sit, then eyed Carter carefully until she made herself comfortable, leaning her back against a tree trunk. Now that he didn't have Daniel's weight to heft, the burning in his side eased slightly.
He hated to admit weakness but as he slid his butt onto the edge of the fallen trunk, he couldn't keep back a sigh of relief. Teal'c remained standing and vigilant, the only one of them who appeared to be in fighting form.
Jack took the opportunity to change the bloody bandages on Daniel's leg. The wound wasn't life threatening and he knew the bleeding would have stopped by now if they hadn't been on the move. But they were close to the Stargate and with a bit of luck they'd be holed up in the infirmary within the hour.
Jack finished changing the bandage and then with a stick, dug a hole in the soil to bury the soiled ones. Daniel groaned softly and coughed. For a moment, Jack thought Daniel was going to puke again, but he swallowed and settled down.
Despite the comfortably cool weather, Daniel was sweating. Jack wiped his bloody and dirt-stained fingers on the grass, then took hold of Daniel's wrist to check his pulse.
Daniel's heart was beating a mile a minute and his breathing was fast and shallow.
"Still feeling sick to your stomach?"
Daniel darted a glance at Jack without moving his head, looking younger and more vulnerable than usual without his glasses.
"Hang in there. We're nearly at the 'gate." Jack stood with a grunt then moved over to Carter. "You need anything?"
"A hot bath would be nice, sir."
"Sorry, I'm fresh out of those. However I do�"
The manner in which Teal'c called his name had Jack reaching for his gun while scanning the trees around them. He swore when his hand hit his empty holster. Teal'c's attention was focused to their right. Carter got to her feet while Daniel struggled to stand.
They came out of nowhere. Twenty of them at least, armed with what looked like outdated pistols, shotguns and crossbows. Jack knew they had no chance so he raised his hands. The rest of his team followed, Teal'c holding off for several seconds longer before acquiescing.
One man stepped forward, eyeing them carefully. He said something and several of the men came and surrounded them, weapons still aimed at them.
"Huh?" Daniel turned his attention from their captors to look at Jack quizzically. "Oh, sorry. I'm not sure. I think it was a derivative of Portuguese. I'll need to hear some more to be�"
"Cala-te, pora," the man barked.
Daniel made a slight face. "Definitely Portuguese."
"Can you talk to him?"
"Um, I can try but I don't think they'll�"
The leader backhanded Daniel violently. The blow threw him off balance and he staggered, trying to stay upright. All three of them took a step forward to help Daniel as he slid to his knees, only to stop when all the weapons were aimed at him. Daniel turned to glare at the man, who said something else and then motioned for him to get up.
Before Jack could move forward to help Daniel up, Teal'c was there.
The leader motioned for them to start walking. Daniel had Teal'c to help him so Jack stayed close to Carter. They were forced to go in the same direction they'd been heading, although two men stayed behind and went back the way SG-1 had come. Probably to check out the crash site, Jack supposed. If they had crashed this close to the village, they couldn't miss the smoke that was still billowing from the burning ship.
There was no fun antagonizing people who couldn't understand him. If these had been Jaffa, Jack might have made an effort to make them angry, try to see if they'd make a mistake and allow the team to make a break for it. But these men were already angry, and even if their weapons were more primitive than what he was used to having pointed at him, Jack could see that they were well used and cared for. He had no doubts they knew how to use them.
And in any case, they were outnumbered more than four to one. SG-1 was good, but not that good.
They moved at a fast clip and the toll was telling on both Daniel and Carter. Jack could hear Daniel's labored breathing and Carter's face was pinched and pale. He wondered how much farther they had to go when they finally broke out of the woods. They slowed a moment while the leader gave orders to one of the men.
In the valley below them was a picturesque village, neatly spread out alongside a river which ran the length of the valley. The Stargate stood at one end and it appeared that the trail they were following would pass close to it.
The charming scene was marred by the burned out husks of two houses, from which trickles of white smoke still rose into the sky. Evident amongst the ruins of the houses and the surrounding area were the remains of the death glider that Daniel had shot out of the sky.
"Oh God." Daniel's voice was strained. He turned to look at Jack, eyes haunted with the pain of what he realized he was responsible for.
Jack met Daniel's gaze but kept quiet. There was nothing he could say that would ease his friend's anguish. It was dumb luck that out of all the land around them, the death glider had to have crashed in the middle of the village.
One man broke free of the group and began jogging down the trail, heading for the village. Someone pushed Jack, jostling him forward. Anger was evident on all the men's faces. Jack was careful to keep his face neutral; their captors could just as quickly become a lynch mob if they were goaded into it.
Apparently the village had been warned of their approach; men, women and children, most of them with clothes and faces streaked with soot, lined the main road as SG-1 was shepherded past the Stargate and into the main square. They were led into a small enclosure which from the smell of it, was used to corral horses. Rope had been brought and SG-1 was forced to sit on the ground while their hands were bound, with a lead of rope tied to tall metal rods which had been pounded into the earth at regular intervals inside the corral.
The leader stood before them while they were being tied up. He spoke quietly, his rage held in check, his body thrumming with tension. Jack kept glancing at Daniel, who had his head lowered the whole time.
The man kept looking at all four of them while he spoke, probably trying to garner some kind of reaction. Jack kept waiting for Daniel to speak to him but when the man finished his spiel, he turned on his heels and walked away.
Without a word, all the villagers followed except for two guards. Many of the townsfolk stayed close enough that Jack could see looks of anger mixed with curiosity. He wrapped his fingers around one of the rods and tugged. They were set in the ground pretty good and if these were used to tie up the horses he could still smell, they wouldn't have much luck in pulling them out in order to try and escape.
He turned to his team, noting that Teal'c was also trying to work a rod free. Carter looked uncomfortable, but at least their captors had left her injured arm in her sling. Daniel had slid onto his side and was lying there, shivering.
"So," Jack said softly to Daniel, "did you manage to catch any of what's been said?"
Daniel was quiet for a long moment. When he spoke, he looked straight ahead. "Two children and their mother died in the fires."
"Daniel�" Jack started, then softened his tone. "It wasn't your fault."
"I'm the one who shot the glider. If I�"
"And I'm the one who led him here by flying over the village. If you want to lay blame, blame me."
"Daniel, if you hadn't found the weapons' console on the ship, we'd probably all be dead by now." Carter's voice was just as soft.
One of the guards yelled out at Teal'c and waved his gun menacingly. Teal'c let go of the rod and turned to face his team. "We may yet all die if the people of this village believe we are responsible. They appear to be upset."
"When they find our trail leading to the Tel'tac... What'd'ya think, T, the snakes caught up with a smuggler, maybe?"
"The Tel'tak had undergone major modifications. I believe you may be correct."
There didn't seem much more they could do except wait. Jack silently bemoaned the loss of the ship. It could have contributed towards providing protection for Earth, or giving the SGC more freedom without having to constantly rely on the Asgard or Tok'ra for lifts everywhere around the galaxy when the 'gates weren't available.
This was the hardest part. Waiting. He ignored the stares and curses of the villagers, keeping an eye out for the returning men. He was stiffening up, moving was becoming more uncomfortable and sitting here without any back support except a long, metal rod sticking out of the ground to lean against wasn't doing much to add to his comfort. The rope anchoring them to the metal rods was long enough to give him enough leeway, so he slowly eased himself down onto his back, careful of his ribs.
- - - - - -
It was getting chilly. Not that it was a cold day but a breeze had sprung up in the past thirty minutes and the sun had moved on, leaving them in the shade.
Jack could see the top of the Stargate if he turned his head just so, visible between the roofs of two houses. He tried playing various scenarios in his mind to pass the time, envisaging differing ways to escape. None of his ideas would work, though, especially hampered as they were with their injuries.
Jack raised his head to see the two men who'd left the group more than an hour earlier walk over to the leader and begin reporting in. He sat up, as did Carter. Only Daniel remained on the ground, oblivious to what was going on.
He stretched a leg and nudged Daniel's foot. When Daniel turned to look blearily at Jack, he simply pointed in their direction with his chin.
Daniel sat up with difficulty. His movements were hampered by his injured leg and bound hands. The ground where he'd lain was saturated with blood. Jack looked at Daniel's leg; the bandage beneath the torn pants was crimson but he couldn't tell whether or not the bleeding had stopped yet.
Jack bit back a grunt of pain when the leader called his men in and he was jerked roughly to his feet. He felt like an old man, bent over in pain as strained and bruised muscles seized in protest. While their bonds were released from the rods, Jack attempted to straighten up, only to curve forward again when the pain was too much to bear.
Daniel was trying to balance on one leg, holding onto Teal'c's forearms while trying to talk to whoever would listen. He got in a few sentences before the threat of another blow silenced him. Daniel glanced over apologetically at him, and Jack nodded his understanding.
When Daniel's gait was too slow for their captor's liking, the leader finally relented and cut the ropes holding Daniel's hands together, allowing him to wrap one arm around Teal'c's shoulder for support.
They began walking out of the village, towards the Stargate. For a moment Jack's hopes rose as Daniel turned to the leader and asked him something. The man spat back an answer and before Jack could ask Daniel, they were moving past the 'gate.
They stopped in a field where a circular pattern had been laid out with coloured gravel. They were pushed into the circle and Jack realized what the pattern meant just before the rings descended over them.
- - - - - -
The artificial lighting of the room they materialized in was harder on Daniel's eyes than the late afternoon sunlight had been. He squinted, momentarily blinded by both the glare and the increased headache. He half hopped, half toed off to keep his balance, tightening his hold on Teal'c in order to stay upright.
They were moving far sooner than Daniel was ready and had to trust Teal'c to keep him standing for a few seconds until the red haze drifted from his sight. His injured leg was throbbing and he was having difficulty putting his weight on it, and his other leg was now threatening to buckle beneath him. His muscles were shaking in the effort of staying upright and he knew it was partly due to blood loss, the effects of the concussion he was sure he had and possibly the fact that he might be going into shock. The weakness was familiar, having experienced it more times than he'd like.
They left the main room and entered another. This one was enormous and dimly lit in comparison to the previous one. As they passed through it, Daniel caught glimpses of Goa'uld technology lying abandoned in dusty corners. He looked around without interest, his urge to lie down and rest overcoming his curiosity over what treasures there might be in the room.
"Think there's a Goa'uld on the planet?"
Jack's voiced echoed strangely and Daniel wondered if it was the room itself or his ears that weren't working properly.
"This stuff looks like it's been abandoned for ages." Sam's voice echoed just as oddly.
"It is indeed the lab of a Goa'uld but I am unable to identify which one."
For a moment Daniel thought Jack was upset because Teal'c couldn't figure out who was in charge here. Then he looked up and saw it. "Damn."
The quantum mirror, unlike everything else here in the lab, was shiny. Well cared for. The area around it was free of debris and dust. The mirror itself reflected darkness; whatever alternate reality was on the other side, the twin room was unoccupied.
From a niche in the wall, the leader took the mirror's remote control. He clicked a button on it and the mirror activated. The man approached and knelt before the mirror, fiddling with the device's controls. The reflection remained dark and the man played with it until he came to one reality that showed a room lit by torches. To Daniel's surprise, the leader put the controller down and began reciting some sort of prayer. The man's voice rose and fell in an odd cadence. As Daniel tried to focus on translating the words, he realized it wasn't the man's speech that was fading in and out, it was him.
By the time the leader stood and gave the order, the room was fading to dark. Daniel felt himself thrown forward. Thankfully he was unconscious by the time he hit the ground.
- - - - - -
Jack braced himself as he was propelled towards the mirror. Instead of hitting heavily against it, he felt a mild electrical charge and then it took all of his concentration to stay on his feet when Daniel collapsed in front of him.
He twisted painfully as he hopped over Daniel's legs, then knelt beside his friend, looking up quickly to gaze back through the mirror. He saw his captors staring at them through the shiny reflection, and then the machine winked off.
He turned his attention to Daniel. He was lying on his side, unconscious, and his skin, when Jack reached out with his bound hands to feel the pulse on his neck, was cool and clammy with sweat.
"Carter, Teal'c, try to see if you can find that control gizmo anywhere. We need to get Daniel back to the SGC ASAP."
But before they could begin prowling around, someone entered the room. The same man who had so callously ordered them through the mirror stood standing in the doorway, a look of surprise on his face.
The man turned and yelled something, and the sound of footsteps echoed in the opposite direction as someone ran to do his bidding. The man entered cautiously, his movements slow as he came closer. Jack stared hard at the man, wondering why he was chancing walking into a room full of enemies. Even though his hands were tied, Teal'c would have no problem subduing him before his guards arrived.
But what happened next surprised Jack. The man softly spoke a few words, then pointed to his chest.
He nodded, repeated his name, and then eased a small knife from a sheath hanging from his belt. He made a sawing movement then indicated Jack's hands, motioning them closer so he could cut the ropes. Leaning carefully over Daniel's still form, Jack raised his hands and the man freed him. He offered Jack the knife, but Jack shook his head and simply pointed to Teal'c. The man nodded and hurriedly freed the rest of Jack's team.
Apparently, Osorio wasn't quite the bastard as was his counterpart. Then again, maybe he didn't hold a grudge against SG-1 since they hadn't crashed a death glider into this alternate village.
"We have to go back there." Jack kept a hand on Daniel's shoulder and pointed towards the mirror with his other hand. "Do you have the remote?" Jack mimed picking something up and pointing it towards the mirror.
"No, we do not have control for the espelho," Osorio said in heavily accented English. "But we help you. We welcome you to Endil."
"No offense, but I don't think there's much you can do for us if you can't get us back through that mirror." Jack looked to Teal'c and Carter, who had by now made the rounds of the room. Carter shook her head when she saw him gazing questioningly at her.
The sound of off-tune humming broke the awkward silence. The last person Jack expected to see limped into the small room. His attention was focused on a pad of paper held in his hand. He stopped inside the room and looked up.
Jack didn't know who was more shocked, himself, or Daniel.
"Oh meu Deus." This world's Daniel stood there, the pad of paper dropped, forgotten at his feet. His mouth gaped open, his eyes darted from Jack to Sam, to Jack again, to Teal'c, then down to Daniel, who decided at that moment to come to.
"My God!" The alternate Daniel began to laugh. He leaned against the stone wall and put his head back, and roared. He was wearing what the locals in both universes had worn; loose soft cotton pants and a long shirt. His hair was long, reaching halfway down his shoulders. It had been bleached blond by the sun and was held back by one of the bandanas Daniel loved to wear to keep the sweat out of his eyes. But the bandana had fallen askew and strands of limp, oily hair had escaped. He had a three day old beard and his eyes were glassy. If Jack were to guess, he'd say Daniel was on a bender.
Teal'c gave the laughing Daniel a glaring look as he moved to kneel beside Jack. He took over as their Daniel tried to roll over while Jack kept his eyes on the near-hysterical man.
He glanced down at Daniel who was looking around blearily. "Quantum mirror," Jack said in explanation.
"Damn, I thought that was a dream." Daniel looked at his counterpart, who was still laughing, then back at Jack, his eyebrows arching high in confusion.
Jack shrugged. "You okay?"
Teal'c eased Daniel into a seated position, bracing him as he knelt next to him.
"Not really. I think I'm hallucinating now. That kinda looks like me."
"I hate to tell you, but it is you." Jack straightened slowly, keeping his arm tight against his ribs in an effort not to show he was injured. "Daniel," Jack snapped at the man as worry over his team put him on edge. Daniel's twin finally got his mirth under control, wiped the tears from his face with the back of his hand and pushed off the wall. He chortled a few times as he took a limping step closer to them.
"Oh, this is incredible. Of all the people to get exiled, you guys were the last I ever thought I'd see come through the mirror."
"You know what the mirror is?" Carter asked as he approached her. She was supporting her injured arm with the undamaged one and Jack wanted to yell at her to not get too close to Daniel with her being disadvantaged with her injury.
"Oh yeah. I had the pleasure of crossing over into an alternate reality a couple of years ago. Wasn't that enjoyable a trip, if I might add. Came back with a souvenir I'd rather have done without." Daniel continued walking around them, as if he were examining a newly discovered artifact. Jack could smell the sweat coming off of him. Up close, his clothes were smeared with grime and dirt.
"What happened to him?" Daniel raised a hand to scratch at his cheek as he looked down at his injured counterpart. He continued to pace around them, his limping gate scuffing the rocky ground.
"He's lost a lot of blood and I think he's going into shock. Look, can you get us back into our own universe?"
"Um, no. Sorry. No can do." Daniel grinned at them as if Jack had just asked if there were pork chops on the menu tonight. Then Daniel made a small skip and a hop, his grin growing even wider. "Damn, it's good to see you guys." He walked away in small, quick steps, his movements barely hampered by his limp. He turned suddenly, still grinning. "Osorio, we need to give them the�"
"I will do immediate."
Osorio hurried out of the room, then returned a moment later with another man. The second man had something enveloped in a cloth. He unwrapped it, offering the contents to Daniel.
"There's a lab of some kind inside this mountain." Daniel motioned behind him with his head. "The Goa'uld Edjo studied the quantum mirror here." Daniel picked up a syringe and a bottle, and to Jack's dismay, plunged the syringe into the bottle and began measuring out a dose. "...And what she discovered I'm not even close to understanding. Sam will probably make more sense of it than me. I just hope you get the chance to..." Daniel pulled the needle out of the bottle and handed it to Osorio, who took it and moved to kneel beside their Daniel.
"I don't think so," Jack said at the same time as Teal'c grabbed the Osorio's hand before he could bring the syringe close to Daniel's arm.
"Oh wait, I didn't get a chance to explain. You see, Jack," the counterpart Daniel said, his voice picking up speed as he began nervously pacing again around them, "there's this awful side effect that occurs when two identical individuals occupy the same reality."
"Entropic cascade failure," Carter said, exchanging a worried look with her teammates.
Daniel stopped pacing, shook a finger at Carter, and smiled. "Yeah, that sounds a whole lot better than the woogie woogies." He started pacing once again, the motion beginning to make Jack dizzy and putting him on more on edge. "We've found that a lot of the people who've come through the mirror end up dying a horrible and painful death within three or four days if their counterparts here, in this world, are still alive. That is, until I found the vials of this stuff.
"It was sheer luck, Jack. This drug will delay the woogie woogies for a couple more days. And death, when it comes, is easier and nearly painless."
He motioned at Osorio to give Daniel the injection, but Teal'c continued to restrain him.
"C'mon, Jack, don't make this harder on yourselves. He's gonna die, and there'll be nothing you can do to help him. At least make this easier for him. Let him die with some kind of dignity. I'd certainly prefer going that way instead..." Daniel stopped pacing as his voice faded. For a moment he appeared to sway and he put a hand out on the wall to hold himself steady. He stood there, head down, breathing heavily.
"Daniel?" Osorio asked, worry in his voice. "Please," he said to Teal'c, staring at his hand. When Teal'c let go of him, Osorio scampered up onto his feet and hurried to Daniel.
"I'm okay," Daniel said after a moment. He seemed to shake off whatever had affected him and raised his head. "Jack, let us give you the injections." He squinted over at them. The earlier energy seemed to have dissipated and Daniel now appeared exhausted.
Daniel's face hardened, all expression fading from it. It was the look Daniel usually reserved for the Goa'uld. Or the politicians.
"Great. Thanks. After all that... you're no better than he was." He said something to Osorio in Portuguese and stormed out of the room, his limp seeming more pronounced than before. Osorio stood there, the syringe still held in his hand.
A moment later Daniel returned with several more men, and a zat in his hand.
"Daniel, no!" Before anyone could rush him, Daniel shot them with the weapon.
- - - - - -
"Let me go." Daniel struggled helplessly as three of Osorio's men held him down. He glared at his counterpart as the man limped over to Osorio, took the syringe from him and plunged it into his arm. The liquid went in burning, hurting a lot more than the needle itself. His double pulled the needle out and knelt there staring at Daniel a moment. His face seemed to change, from anger to what Daniel took as pity. He wondered for a moment if his own face was so expressive. Then his counterpart's face went hard again. He waved to the men who were holding Daniel down and they let him go and moved away.
"Do the others." With a grunt, Daniel stood and limped out of the room. Osorio took another needle, measured out the drug and hurried over to Sam. As he injected the syringe's contents into her, the burning in Daniel's arm began to spread through his body. Osorio measured some more and moved to Jack.
Daniel jumped at his counterpart's voice. He hadn't heard him come back.
"Voc� � certo, Daniel?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Have you done all three?" He rubbed at his forehead as Osorio waved the syringe towards Teal'c. He nodded and Osorio left Jack and went to Teal'c. In the meantime, his counterpart turned to watch Daniel. "I sent someone to bring a stretcher." He looked around the room, seeming embarrassed. "The burning will stop in a minute." Daniel thought he was going to say something more. Instead he turned and left.
Daniel was right. The burning seemed to peak and then it eased off just as quickly as it had come. Osorio had just pulled the needle from Teal'c's arm when his friend sat up in a fast, smooth motion. Osorio jumped back in surprise, dropping the syringe. He picked it up and quickly scrambled out of Teal'c's reach.
Teal'c stared at the spot on his arm where Osorio had just jabbed him with the needle, then looked around the room. His gaze met Daniel's after a moment. "Are you well?"
Daniel nodded. "As well as can be, considering." He raised himself onto his arms, wondering if he could sit up.
Osorio was packing up the used syringes in a separate cloth. The guards were just standing around. The heat of the drug was gone and he was beginning to feel cold again. Then Teal'c was there, helping him sit just as Jack raised his foot and slammed it down hard onto the ground.
"Jack, you okay?"
"No." Jack pulled his forearm over his eyes. "I can't believe you just zatted us."
"It wasn't Daniel, sir. I mean, not our Daniel."
"It's Daniel whichever universe you look at it. I can't believe you zatted us."
Ignoring Jack, Daniel turned to Sam. "You all right?"
"I feel a little weird."
"The burning will go away in a minute. Just breathe through it."
Daniel watched his friends anxiously as they fought off the effects of the zat and the drug. Sam was the first to sit up, moving awkwardly as she tried not to jar her shoulder. Jack remained lying there, one leg bent, an arm over his eyes. Daniel bit his lip, still watching Jack. He hadn't said anything about having been injured in the crash but Daniel realized he'd missed certain signs � the tightness around Jack's eyes, the clenching of his jaw. He wondered how he hadn't noticed, then realized they'd been a little busy at the time.
Jack finally stirred when two men entered the room, carrying a stretcher. Daniel suffered the embarrassment of having to shift sideways onto the stretcher when they placed it next to him. And the blanket they covered him with was more than welcome. Then again, he supposed this was better than when the other Osorio's men had marched them all to the mirror. They hadn't known their fate then, at least here, this Daniel appeared to want to help them and the people were friendly.
He hoped. And he hoped that he wasn't usually as flaky as his counterpart appeared to be.
As he was carried out of the room, Daniel had to close his eyes against the dizzying motion. His teammates didn't appear to be prisoners; they were allowed to accompany him. Then again, where would they go? He opened his eyes and cleared his throat.
The man, who'd been walking before him, turned to look questioningly at Daniel.
"Is there a control for the mirror?"
"No. All the people who come into nosso universo cannot return. Perhaps the control will be found soon."
"Yes. There appear to have been some sort of... how you say... I sorry, Daniel say the word and I never remember. Seesmich?"
"Seismic?" Sam offered. "It looks like this place was hit by a pretty strong earthquake."
"Sim, yes. Obrigado. Daniel believes an earthquake buried caverns. He takes muito time digging, but the work is very, very slow. And his injury frequentemente forces him to leave his work, which makes him very upset."
Daniel craned his head, suddenly taking interest as he spotted signs of archaeological excavations. Then they were out of the corridors and heading for the rings and he could have yelled in frustration. Instead he forced his hands into fists, trying to force back the shivers that had been haunting him nearly from the moment he'd woken up in this universe.
"He thinks the controller may be buried there?" They were maneuvered into the rings but still Daniel tried to crane his head to see more. The other universe hadn't had this kind of damage; here a corridor had been dug through the debris to the mirror but the majority of the side rooms were filled with rubble.
"Sim. Until now, we have found nada. We are with the mercy of anyone who come to nosso universo. Our home."
"You could destroy that mirror." Jack's voice was cold.
"Daniel has considered that. But if we destroy, then the gente sent through the mirror would possivelmente be sent to a diferente mundo, and those there may not have someone who cares for their welfare."
Jack laughed. "You mean to tell me Daniel jabbed us with that needle because he cared?"
"Sim." Osorio motioned for someone to activate the rings. "You not see the horrible deaths those without medicamento... Please, do not be furioso with Daniel. He is not himself. He only takes the breka when he no longer tolerar the hurt."
"He takes what?"
The rings rained down from the ceiling, enveloping them in light and making conversation impossible for several seconds. Then they were outside, the sinking sun dazzling brightly into their eyes. Daniel had to turn his head away from the glare. His headache and nausea went up another notch.
"Breka. It is a medicina, to ease the hurt in his leg." He patted his hip to show the injury. "It does not heal and Daniel works so muito - very hard. I believe..." Osorio lowered his voice and Daniel could barely make out the words. "I believe he... procura... the hurt. He... catigar... perdoe-me, I do not know the word."
"Punish," Daniel said.
"Sim. Obrigado, Daniel. He punish himself. As if the diabo is after him."
"How much time has elapsed since DanielJackson has come to this planet?"
"It is dois - two years."
"And how did DanielJackson injure his leg."
"Perdoe-me. He never say. He was injured when he come."
"Were others with him?" Sam asked.
"N�o. He was solit�rio."
"Two years ago? What could have happened two years ago to separate him from his team? Colonel, we need to talk to Daniel. I was thinking... he said he went through a quantum mirror. It must have been the same time Daniel went through the mirror on P3R 233 three years ago. So the timeline in this universe must be fairly similar to ours. And if that's the case, this SGC may still have the remote from that mirror."
"Yeah, but if they followed the same protocol as us, they'd have destroyed the mirror."
"But maybe not the remote. There's a chance, and I admit it's a very slight one, but at this point it's the only thing I can think of."
"P3X-775," Daniel said tiredly, thinking how this universe's Daniel had to have coped without his team. The thought scared and depressed him.
Daniel swallowed hard. "The prison planet, Jack," he said as the motion of the stretcher made his nausea worse. "That was two years ago. Maybe that's when Daniel hurt his leg."
"A lot of stuff happened two years ago. There was the Gamekeeper, the Tok'ra, Ma'chello, the Salish, Shyla, the Asgard, and that's only if they followed the same timeline as we did."
They moved out of the sun and into a building. Daniel opened his eyes and the large, dimly lit room eased some of his discomfort. He was placed in a corner and transferred onto a low pallet. The men who had carried him here left, leaving SG-1 alone with Osorio and a short, mustached man who immediately began cutting the bandage around his leg. Oh joy, the local doctor.
- - - - - -
"Where's Daniel?" Jack snorted in exasperation when Osorio glanced over at the corner where the doctor was working on Daniel's leg. "Your Daniel."
Osorio looked out the window and stared down the street. "He is... eu espero, resting."
"Look, it's not that I don't appreciate the help�" Jack made a shrugging motion, "�that injection you gave us notwithstanding, but it's really important we find out what happened here so that we can try and find a way to get back home."
"There is no way. Eu sou pesaroso � I sorry. Daniel says a porta de estrela will not work. Something is missing." He waved to the other three beds in the room "Sit. Sleep. There is fresh water. I have food sent here. The doutor will help. I tell Daniel you wish to speak. Sim?"
"Yeah. Okay. You do that. Tell Daniel we need to speak to him ASAP. Pronto. Rapido."
"Sim. Eu compreendo." Osorio gave Jack a quick nod and hurried out of the house. Jack watched as the man hurried down the street and after knocking on a door, entered one of the houses.
Sighing, Jack turned to his team. Other than a half-healed scrape along his cheek, Teal'c looked none the worse after their ordeal. Carter looked exhausted, almost drooping as she leaned against a corner table.
"Carter, why don't you take one of those beds and put your feet up."
"It doesn't look like we're going anywhere fast and since the other Doctor Jackson is resting, it doesn't look like we'll be getting answers until he decides he wants to talk to us."
He tried not to watch as Carter eased down onto the mattress and leaned against the wall. Envious of her relieved sigh, he glanced over at Daniel, whose wound was being sewn up by the doctor. Jack winced, this time trying to ignore the pained gasps and turned to look out the window instead.
"Osorio implied DanielJackson was in a great deal of pain." Teal'c moved to stand next to Jack, his voice surprisingly soft and low. "This reality's DanielJackson's actions and words were unsettling. They reminded me of a time that was extremely difficult on our DanielJackson."
"You're talking sarcophagus addiction." Jack also kept his voice low.
"I know, I caught that myself. He did seem a tiny bit out of control. I know our showing up here might have been a bit of a shock to him but zatting and jabbing us against our wills, that's not our Daniel."
"We have very little knowledge of the events which occurred in this reality. It is possible the timeline has strayed farther from ours than we believe."
"True. Remind me when Osorio comes back to see if there's a sarc anywhere in the area." He glanced back at Daniel. "Lord knows he could use a couple'a minutes inside one."
"I do not believe there to be a working sarcophagus. Otherwise it would have healed DanielJackson's injuries."
"Then why's he acting so... nutzo?"
"Perhaps it is due to the drug he mentioned."
"Yeah, maybe." Sarc addiction, drug addiction... had Daniel moved from one to the other?
Teal'c left him and Jack heard a soughing sound as he sat on a mat. Jack waited until Daniel's breathing had eased before turning around. The doctor was finishing bandaging Daniel's leg. Jack waited until he stood up and went to a basin to wash his hands.
When the doctor turned around, Jack moved forward. "How is he?"
"Perdue muito sangue."
"Yeah, I got that. He lost a lot of blood. He gonna be okay?"
The doctor shrugged, and Jack swore. Another thing to ask Osorio when he came back. When the doctor headed for Carter, Jack moved to squat beside Daniel.
His friend's legs were resting on a second mattress, which had been folded a few times and succeeded in elevating his legs. Daniel's face was streaked with sweat and he shivered underneath the blankets.
"How you holding up?"
Daniel simply gave Jack a scathing look. "Next time we go through the 'gate, remind me to fill my pockets as well as my backpack with painkillers, willya?"
"Oh c'mon. You survive a Tel'tak crash and you complain about a couple'a stitches?"
"Fine. Next time you've got a nice, deep cut somewhere on your body, I'll jab your skin with a needle and tug the edges together with a nice, thick piece of catgut."
"Actually, been there, done that, the tee-shirt's all bloody." He quirked a cheek upwards in an attempt at a smile. "Need anything?"
"You got it." Jack straightened slowly, feeling the pull of bruised muscles all the way down into his hip and thigh. He walked to the pitcher of water near the door and poured some into a glass. He met Carter's gaze as the doctor examined her shoulder, and nodded. The doc here seemed to have some idea of what he was doing, what with the basic treatment for shock. Jack hated to think what was going to happen when Daniel's leg got infected. And there was no doubt it would happen, what with their being held captive in a corral, for crying out loud. He had a feeling that antibiotics weren't exactly a big seller on this planet.
Then again, why worry overmuch. They were gonna die in a week's time. Maybe all he'd have to worry about was make sure Daniel was comfortable before the end and�
Jack moved quickly, trying to run from those morbid thoughts and ended up spilling some of the water on his hand. He squatted again then eased one knee onto the mattress and held the glass out. Daniel snaked a hand that shook so badly there was no way he'd be able to hold onto it without spilling most of the water, so Jack instead brought the glass to his lips and slid his other hand beneath his head. Daniel took several long slurps before nodding his thanks.
He met Daniel's gaze, then Daniel's eyes slid to the side as he looked behind Jack. He straightened and sensed the doctor behind him. He was waved to the last free pallet and after placing the glass of water next to Daniel, Jack simply swung his butt backwards to land on the mattress. That was a mistake and Jack's side complained fiercely, reminding him that it had been abused and didn't take lightly to being used.
He took his shirt off and submitted to the doctor's prodding and poking. No particular spots felt more sensitive than another and Jack was pretty sure he hadn't cracked any ribs. The doctor cleaned the gash on his head and washed his hands once more.
He thought the doc would just go and leave them, but instead he began measuring some leaves into a teapot. He stuck his head out the door and called out to someone, and a moment later three men walked into the house, each carrying a large kettle full of steaming water. The doctor scooped some hot water from one of the kettles and poured it into the teapot before half the water was emptied into two large basins on a table in the far corner of the room. A fourth man followed, carrying two buckets of water, which he placed beside the basins. One of the men came back in with an armful of material which he placed near the door before hurrying back out.
"Lavagem voc� mesmo." The doctor held up what looked like a bar of soap and made a rubbing motion with it on his arm.
"Ah. Wash water. Okay, gotcha."
The doctor put the soap down on the table and showed Jack the material. "Roupa." He opened the top piece and Jack realized it was a pair of pants.
"Thanks." He stood slowly, then motioned for Carter to get up. "I think they're trying to tell us that we stink."
As he moved to one of the basins, the doctor took some water from the bucket and poured it into the steaming water. He tested each basin before stepping aside. Jack handed one of two bars of soap to Carter before dipping it into the water. It was warm, not too hot, and he began washing. The doctor moved to help Carter, whose actions were impeded with her injured arm.
By the time he finished washing up and changing clothes, Teal'c had thrown out Carter's bathwater and had begun stripping. The doctor prepared more water and brought the basin to Daniel's bed.
The doctor then poured some of the tea he'd steeped earlier into tiny cups. He handed one each to Jack, Teal'c and Carter, and motioned for them to drink. Jack took a tentative sip. As far as teas went, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. The doctor went back for a fourth cup and brought it over to Daniel.
In slow, deliberate movements, the doctor took out a vial from a pocket and with a tiny spoon, measured out some white powder and added it into the cup. He stirred it carefully, then dipped a finger into the mix and tasted it. Then he looked at Jack, and pointed to Daniel's leg with the cup.
"Sono." The doctor closed his eyes and slowly let his head droop to the side. He raised the cup again and repeated the word.
"I think he's saying that stuff will knock Daniel out, sir."
"Yeah, I think I got that part." Jack looked at Daniel, who despite lying there quietly, couldn't fool Jack that he wasn't hurting. He nodded at the doctor. "Give it to him."
"Jack, I don't need anything�"
"Fifteen minutes ago you were complaining about the lack of painkillers. Take it, Daniel. You need the rest."
"We don't know where�"
"Daniel," Jack said in a soft voice. "Drink the tea."
As the doctor helped Daniel, Jack moved down to Daniel's feet and took the knife the doctor had used to cut off Daniel's pant leg. Daniel's leg was smeared with dried blood. The doctor had cleaned the area around the wound but hadn't had the chance to do much more of anything else. Jack quickly slit the seam up Daniel's hip and reached for the washcloth.
- - - - - -
Jack lay back in a mild daze, fairly alert but also slightly buzzed. Whatever those tea leaves were, they'd had some sort of analgesic effect since his side had stopped throbbing and only gave him occasional twinges when he moved too fast. Carter was talking softly with Teal'c while Daniel was snoring, deeply asleep.
He lay back on his pallet and stared out the window, watching the sky slowly turn a deep crimson as the sun sank low in the sky. He wasn't exactly sleepy, although if he closed his eyes, he probably could sleep. Stomach full, clean and comfortable, there wasn't much more that he could ask for, except for a way home. Then a shadow passed before the window and before Jack could react, the door opened and Daniel came in.
A freshly washed Daniel, judging by the half-dried strands of hair that were tied in a loose ponytail at the back of his neck. He'd shaved, put on clean clothes and looked a hell of a lot better than he had earlier. Daniel stopped in the doorway, looking around at them. He smiled shyly and Jack realized at that moment, if it wasn't for the length of his hair and the glasses he was wearing, this could be his Daniel.
Then Daniel stepped inside with a heavy limp and all resemblances faded. He moved awkwardly, using a cane to support himself. He walked over to Daniel, watched him sleep for a few seconds, then turned to the rest of SG-1.
"I guess I should start by apologizing," Daniel said. He pulled out a chair and sat heavily on it. "The breka makes me a little hyper when I take it." Jack was about to wisecrack, but bit it back when Daniel turned to face him. His eyes were red rimmed, small lines crinkling at the corners of his eyelids that hinted at the strain he'd been under. Jack looked at him more carefully, and realized he was much slimmer than his Daniel. His friend had bulked up considerably since the first time they'd gone through the Stargate and was probably in the best shape of his life right now. Well okay, maybe not at the moment, but there was no doubt that the moment his Daniel was back up on his feet, he'd be able to put this one to shame.
"Osorio said you'd been injured?" Carter swallowed a yawn as she levered her feet under her legs in a cross-legged position.
"Yeah. Normally I can get around without too much of a problem but then I forget myself and overdo it, and I need the painkilling effects of the breka plant in order to go on."
"That what the doc gave Daniel?"
Daniel smiled. "No. The painkiller Daniel was given � wow, it feels so strange to be talking about myself like this � what he was given is a simple drug that makes the patient sleep. The breka doesn't make one sleepy and its effects are kind of like, um, amphetemines. One dose dulls the pain enough that I can keep going for a few days, but when it wears off, I crash."
"And you're telling us this because you're coming off the high that that plant gave you."
"Not a high, Jack. Honest. It's a medicinal herb and is guarded almost fanatically by the healers here. They only give it to me when nothing else works."
"But you're telling us this because..."
"I'll probably sleep for twenty-four hours. I'm really sorry. I know, it's lousy timing." Daniel tried to smile, but instead his cheek jerked. He rubbed at his face and looked down at his feet a moment.
"Fine. Let's do this now. Do you have a controller for the mirror?"
Head still down, Daniel shook his head.
"What about the SGC? Have they destroyed their quantum mirror?"
Daniel raised his head, his face full of sadness. "I don't know. I haven't been there in a while."
"Osorio has informed us you have been on this planet for two years."
"Yeah, Teal'c. That's about right."
"You haven't tried to go back to the SGC?"
Emotions flitted across Daniel's face. Emotions that Jack knew well. There was anguish and pain before he managed to hide it by jutting his chin out. "I can't. There's no DHD."
"What about alternate power sources? There must be something in this village that we can hook up to the Stargate?"
"Sam, I... I don't think going back to the SGC is a good idea."
"Why not? Daniel�" Carter's voice rose slightly "It hasn't been destroyed, has it?"
"No, it's not that. It's just... it's not a good idea."
"You mean it's not a good idea for you to go back."
As expected, Daniel glared at Jack for that comment.
"Look, you said we were all going to die in the next several days. You really don't expect us to sit back and wait for it to happen, do you? Not when there's a chance we can go back to our own reality."
"I... I'm not sure what sort of reception you might get."
"I'll deal with it."
"You might want to keep him out of sight," Daniel said softly, looking over at his sleeping counterpart. "They might think he's me."
"What happened to you, Daniel?"
Instead of answering, Daniel stood, using the cane for leverage. He took a stumbling step and had to catch himself on the table in order to stay upright. Whatever the breka was, it was apparently wearing off, and quickly. But when Daniel turned back to look at them, Jack realized it wasn't just the pain in his hip that was affecting him, but extreme fatigue that was causing him to stumble.
"I found some artifacts which I think are batteries, Sam. I haven't taken the time to examine them but I think it's what the Goa'uld might have used to power up the Stargate. I'll tell Osorio to show you in the morning, if you're up to it."
Daniel walked slowly to the door and stepped through. He stopped and turned to look back at them. "I'm sorry you got caught up in this. I'll do what I can to help you." He turned back and continued out.
There was the soft sounds of voices and Osorio came in bearing oil lamps. Jack hadn't realized how dark it had gotten until the lit lamps had been placed around the room.
"In morning I take you back to the lab?"
"Yeah, fine." Jack glanced out the window, looking at the deep blue of the sky, still slightly tinged with red. "He gonna be all right?"
Osorio stared at Jack with a puzzled look.
"Yes. Yes, Daniel sleep. Be all right when he wake."
"Okay. Thanks." Jack slid back down onto the mattress, worrying that Carter wouldn't be able to come up with a solution in powering up the 'gate come morning.
- - - - - -
It shouldn't have felt so cold in the room. The bit of sunshine Daniel could see peeking through the closed curtains indicated it should have felt warmer. His head ached, his leg throbbed, and despite curling up into a ball with the blankets pulled up to his chin, he couldn't stop shivering.
Someone had come in a while ago with food and drink. He had no idea what time it was. He'd drifted in and out of a feverish sleep for what felt like forever. The sun had been up when he'd woken up, alone, and the sun was still shining now. But he'd had no appetite. His joints hurt and his stomach felt queasy.
He'd recently been brought another dose of medicinal herbs. They weren't doing much to help his stomach or to ease the shivering. All it did was make him dizzy and sleepy, so he'd put the cup down beside the mattress, untasted.
Jack and Teal'c had dropped in a few times. He'd been dopey from the herbs each time, barely remembering what they'd talked about. At this point he'd rather bear with the pain in his leg than go through the rest of the day in a half-daze. If he'd been able to actually sleep, it might be another matter but this constant feverish twilight was frustrating as hell.
Osorio had stopped by at some time to tell him that his team had gone to the excavated lab to look at something. Daniel had spotted them all earlier by the Stargate when he'd had to ask someone, with a lot of embarrassment, to help him to the outhouse in the back yard. It had been explained they were trying to make the Stargate work. He figured there must be something wrong with the DHD.
So when the door opened, he half expected one or more of his teammates to walk through. Instead it was his counterpart.
He watched as Daniel came through the door and stop. After a moment he realized that Daniel was trying to see if he was sleeping and in the dimly lit room, it might be hard to tell.
"Hello," he said, moving around a little to show he was awake.
"I hope I didn't wake you."
He was surprised to see Daniel limping heavily, using a cane for support. "No. I wasn't sleeping."
Daniel took hold of a chair and dragged it close to his bed. It felt odd looking up into his own face. He examined Daniel a moment, noting that the hair, although much longer than his own, was mussed, as if Daniel had just gotten out of bed. His clothes looked rumpled, as if he'd slept in them. He no longer looked scruffy, though. He'd shaven although he had a bit of five o'clock shadow showing. Daniel rubbed at his eyes, and yawned.
"Sorry, I just got up. I should go see if the others have found anything but I thought I'd stop in first and see how you were doing."
"Not going anywhere."
"Osorio tells me you have a fever."
"That'd be why I'm feeling so awful. Nasty thing, those fevers."
"We don't have antibiotics. The best we can do is to give you herbs to ease the pain, help you sleep."
"Doesn't matter. I'll be dead in less than a week."
Daniel's gaze suddenly flitted nervously around the room. "That's why Jack's trying to get the Stargate to work."
"What's wrong with the DHD?"
"Ahhh." He shifted, trying to ease the ache in his lower back, then winced when the movement caused the cut in his thigh to flare. "Why does Jack want to go through the Stargate? It's not going to make any difference where we go. We can't both co-exist in this reality."
"He wants to try and find out if the SGC has a remote control for the mirror."
He nodded his understanding, and then decided to broach the question that had been bugging him since he'd overheard Daniel instruct Osorio about the injections yesterday.
"Your Jack is dead, isn't he?"
Daniel went very still and his fingers began to fiddle with the head of the cane.
"Tell me what happened."
Daniel cleared his throat. When he spoke, his voice came out a little higher than normal. "Oh, it was the typical Jackson luck."
"The Jackson luck hasn't always been bad. I mean, there have been some good things to balance out the bad."
"Yeah, well, maybe in your reality. But I lost my wife to the Goa'uld, lost the home I made for myself on Abydos, and lost my best friend, along with my job. I guess you can say I'm still waiting for the good things you just mentioned."
"Daniel... I lost Shau'ri also. We... freed her from the Goa'uld."
He wiped at the sweat on his face and had to clear his throat as it tightened up with the strain of his memories. "Um, yeah, technically speaking..."
"You mean she's dead." Daniel's voice was flat.
"Yes. But she's free from the horrors Amaunet put her through. And we did free Skarra. He's back on Abydos, breaking a lot of hearts. And Shau'ri had a child."
Daniel's eyes widened in surprise. "Apophis and she..."
He nodded and hurriedly tried to get through this part. "He's safe. Shau'ri... I mean, Amaunet hid him from his father and some powerful allies are taking care of him."
"It doesn't sound like it's been a fun ride."
"It's had its ups and downs. But we've made progress. Learned so much. Gained so much. Kicked some Goa'uld ass."
Daniel smiled at that.
"So... what happened to your Jack?"
"I killed him."
For a moment he didn't know what to say. Then he said the only logical thing he could think of. "How?"
"I shot him. I wasn't exactly myself. I'd gotten, um... addicted, to a�"
"I was a little confused."
"I tried to escape."
"Didn't quite work."
"Jack came after me."
"What can I say, the man can be kinda stubborn."
"I fired the gun."
"Hit the light bulb instead." When there were no more words forthcoming, he realized that Daniel hadn't hit the light. "You missed the bulb?"
"I was shooting just to warn him off. I never aimed the gun deliberately at him. I never meant to hit him."
"I know." He licked his lips. His mouth was dry and this wasn't the moment to ask for water.
"I panicked. Jack was dead, and all I knew at that moment was that I killed him and that I needed more time in the sarcophagus. I broke into the armory, stole a zat, managed to get to the Control Room, went back to 636 and..."
"Shyla took you in?"
Daniel laughed harshly. "Oh, she was quite the player. I got back semi-hysterical, trying to convince her to bury the Stargate before anyone could follow me through. I was yelling that my friends had been trying to kill me and you know what she did? She introduced me to her fianc�."
"That two-timing little� she was seeing someone else?"
"She had a string of lovers, apparently. Anyways, she never expected me to come back and this new guy wasn't pleased about my showing up. We fought and..." Daniel rubbed at his forehead with the back of one hand. "I wasn't quite at my best. We struggled. I fell, felt something tear in my hip. I managed to get away, dialed the Stargate, 'gated to a planet designation that I knew was safe and uninhabited and tried to figure out what to do. I did try to go back to 636 the next day but I guess I'd spooked Shyla about burying the Stargate because it never connected."
"So you ended up here?"
Daniel nodded. "I was afraid to go to any place the SGC had already gone to. I knew I shouldn't have run after I shot Jack but I wasn't thinking straight. I had no food, the planet I'd chosen was cycling in early spring so there was nothing for me to eat, so I stupidly tried one of the 'gate addresses from the cartouche I'd found on Abydos that we hadn't explored yet, thinking I could go and think things through before going back to the SGC. So I went to..."
"This place?" he asked, sorrow filling him at the way this alternate version of himself had ended up. He hated these treks through the mirror � they were always filled with so much pain and sorrow.
"You never tried to rig the Stargate to another power source?"
"Why would I? It's been so long, everyone thinks I'm guilty of murder. I ran, Daniel. I ran, and I didn't go back to atone for my crime."
"Why do I get the feeling you aren't going to go back to the SGC if Sam manages to make it work?"
"You're right. I'm not. I found a place here; I can help those people who come through."
"How often do they?"
"Every couple of months. I think they're at war and they send the prisoners through. Some come in with horrible injuries; most of them die from the woo�entropic cascade failure, but a few whose counterparts here had already died have managed to make a life for themselves."
"We didn't see any signs of war but to be honest we didn't really have a chance to explore before we came crashing in."
"I'd like you to talk to Jack... and the others. Convince them not to mention me when they contact the SGC. I'd... as much as I believe in the justice system, I think at this moment I'd rather spend my days here than rot in a jail cell."
"There were extenuating circumstances. Maybe we can talk to General Hammond. I can talk to him. I know what you were going through�"
"They won't listen to you. There won't be enough time."
"We'll make the time."
"They'll think you're me at first. You'll waste time explaining and�"
"They could probably fix your hip, or at least make the pain more bearable."
Daniel laughed, but the sound sounded strained. He stood, using both the cane and the table for support. "Why would I do that? The pain reminds me each and every day of what I did." He took a few limping steps towards the door.
Placing a hand on the jamb, Daniel turned to look at him.
"When Jack tells the SGC why we haven't experienced entropic cascade failure, they'll be all over this place in a second. Your secret will be out. They'll be no place to hide."
"This place doesn't have any military value to them. Why would they come here?"
"If your reality has made even half the advances ours has, believe me, they'll be interested."
Daniel dropped his head, his chin nearly hitting his chest. After a moment he looked at him. "I guess it's a good thing I'm not claustrophobic."
"Look, it may not be that bad."
"You mean jail cells aren't tiny?"
"Daniel... they... forgave me for�"
"No, there's a difference. You didn't kill your best friend." He walked out of the room, leaving Daniel alone, feeling his pain.
- - - - - -
The day had been full of frustrations and hope. Jack trudged along the cobbled street while Carter babbled on beside him about the discoveries she'd made in Daniel's lab. He let her words float through him, around him and he looked around, wondering if the other Daniel had woken up yet. Teal'c walked silently behind them.
Their Daniel was sleeping, he soon discovered when he stuck his head inside the door to their quarters. Someone had lit a lamp, giving the room a cozy feel. "Let's just check on him and we'll go see if the other Daniel's ready to talk some more."
Daniel was lying on his back, his head turned away from him. Jack placed a hand on his neck and felt the dry, hot skin beneath his fingers. If anything, Daniel's fever was higher than when he'd checked on him after lunch. He stirred at Jack's touch, smacking his lips as he opened his eyes.
"Want something to drink?"
There was a pitcher of juice on the table and Carter poured Daniel a glassful. She brought it over to him and handed it Jack. He helped Daniel sit up and held him steady as he drank the juice down.
"Thanks," Daniel said, dropping back onto the bed.
"How's the leg?"
Daniel raised his head, looked at his thigh, then dropped his head. "Still there."
"With any luck, by this time tomorrow you'll be lying in a bed at the SGC."
"You found an alternate power source?" Daniel squinted up at him.
"Apparently Daniel excavated some batteries and Carter thinks they might have enough juice in them to power the 'gate."
"After all these years?"
"Yes," Carter replied, excitement making her words run together. "The technology is incredible and I would love to break open one of these in my lab and get a look inside."
"As I informed O'Neill, I believe the Goa'uld in residence here used the batteries as a power source for the Stargate."
"So Sam, you'll be able to generate enough power to open a wormhole?"
"Well, there's a tiny problem. One of the four batteries is pretty much drained. I've MacGyvered a hookup at the mill to see if I can use hydroelectric power to charge it."
"Is it working?"
"We won't know until morning. It'll take several hours before we can tell whether we're getting a charge or not."
"So, we're off to get a bite to eat... you need anything?"
"Tylenol and a good book?"
Jack snapped his fingers. "Damn, left those in my other pockets."
Daniel closed his eyes wearily. "I spoke with Daniel earlier."
"He's going to be in trouble if his people find him."
"Is he on the run? I wasn't sure, but I got the feeling he might have gotten separated from his team or�"
"Yes, and no. Look, it's pretty bad. I..."
Jack eased from his squatting position and slid his butt onto the mattress. From the grief evident on Daniel's face, he figured the news wouldn't be good.
- - - - - -
If anything, Jack felt worse this morning. His side has stiffened up so much overnight he could barely move his right arm. And he'd slept fitfully, as had the rest of the team. One or the other would get up and check on Daniel every hour. His fever hadn't abated and had risen during the night. At least the doc had given Daniel some more of that powder, which had knocked him out for the night. But whatever else the doctor was plying him with, it was doing nothing for the infection in his leg or the resulting fever.
The walk to the water-operated mill seemed to take forever in the dew-filled morning. Jack admitted to himself it was a pretty decent place for Daniel to have made a life for himself. Despite the fact that every few months some exiled sap from an alternate universe came here to die, it was quiet and peaceful. Except the poor guy was probably so haunted by what had happened two years ago, he'd never truly be able to find peace within himself. It was funny, how similar all their lives had been and yet, how much worlds apart they now were.
But despite his injury, this world's Daniel had spent the last few hours of daylight yesterday inspecting what Jack's team had accomplished in building from cannibalizing equipment unearthed from the Goa'uld's lab, then had scrambled up and down the excavated areas in the lab to point out things to them. Despite the obvious discomfort his hip was giving him, Daniel had been in Energizer Bunny mode, as similar as his own Daniel whenever he found something that fascinated him. Although, Jack could clearly see how Daniel's injury could cause him so much unending pain by the way he negotiated the furrows and pits he'd excavated. Jack himself had had a hard enough time as it was, the man could barely walk, he shouldn't have been clambering in and out of the pits.
Carter had been enthralled by some of the technology Daniel had unburied and Jack had left the two of them talking while he and Teal'c had returned to their Daniel. She'd returned several hours later, full of ideas and convinced that this SGC, if they followed the same protocols as their own, would definitely put this site on a priority basis.
This morning, though, Daniel looked like he'd gone through the wringer. Gone was last night's energy. They'd slowed their pace so he could keep up, his limp even more pronounced, his face pale and pinched with pain. If Jack were to guess, he'd say Daniel hadn't gotten much sleep either. But there was something else, something about Daniel's manner as he walked that set off a warning bell in Jack's mind. He wasn't certain yet, but he thought he'd seen the same thing in his own Daniel approximately four months ago.
Teal'c opened the door to the mill and Carter entered, going straight for her thingamajig that had taken half a day to build. She'd hooked it up to some homemade turbine attached to the mill's water paddle. She fiddled with the battery, her movements hampered by the sling.
Jack went to the crudely cut window and idly watched the water flow along the river and wondered if there were any fish. If none of this worked, he'd be stuck here for the rest of his days, alone. Right there, to his right, was a submerged log in the water, and he bet there could be a couple of championship-sized trout just waiting for his bait. If Daniel weren't so sick, Jack could have coaxed him to join him on the riverbank. Fishing wouldn't entail anything strenuous on their parts. They'd sit there and wait, and drift and...
Carter shifted, her feet scuffing on the wooden floor.
"Well?" He sighed softly; so much for the fishing.
Carter was looking at him, her face set.
"It's charging, sir, but nearly not fast enough. At this rate it'll take at least three days before there's enough energy to be useful."
"I don't think we have that much time to spare."
"I know, sir." She straightened and ran a hand through her hair. "I just don't know what else to do. If we had something we could use to drain the power from, like Teal'c's staff weapon..." She lowered her hand and sighed heavily.
"So... suggestions?" Jack tried to ignore his growling stomach which had been reminding him since they'd set off for the mill that it hadn't seen food since the previous night. He glanced at Daniel, who was leaning against a wall, slightly hunched forward, lost in thought.
"We have no choice, Colonel, except to sit and wait." She sighed heavily and sat on the floor in front of the turbine contraption. "Maybe I can try and figure out a way to increase the output."
"How long do you think it'll take?"
"I have no idea, sir. The technology's alien. I've managed to jury-rig it to work the way I needed it to. I'll need to study it a little more and hope I can improve on it some more."
"Can we do anything to help?"
"Not at this point, sir. Thank you, sir." Carter's attention was already on the contraption as she reached for a tool, her response automatic and partly distracted.
"You need any of us to..."
When Jack paused, she looked up.
"...You know." He looked pointedly at her injured shoulder. "You gonna need any help?"
"Not here, but maybe you or Teal'c could go see the smith and oversee the clamps we'll need to connect the batteries to the Stargate."
"I will attend to this matter, O'Neill."
"Great. I'll go back and check on Daniel. If you need me for anything..."
Carter had already started taking the casing off the alien device she'd built, but she called to him just as he stepped out the door.
"If you wouldn't mind, could you maybe someone send me something to eat? My stomach's been growling since we got here."
Jack's stomach growled at the mention of food. "Yeah, we'll do that."
Daniel was lagging even more as they walked back to town. Although he was leaning heavily on his cane, it was the hand that he held pressed against his abdomen that was worrying Jack.
"Leg bothering you?" Jack asked after they'd walked a fair distance in silence.
"What?" Daniel looked up, a befuddled expression on his face, as if he'd been deep in thought. "Oh, no, no more than usual." He lowered his hand and picked up the pace slightly, only to slow down after a dozen steps.
"I know what Carter could use to charge the battery." Jack turned to Daniel, whose face had suddenly gone unreadable. Jack wondered if Daniel had deliberately withheld the information from them. "Daniel?"
"What? I'm sorry, I'm not quite following." Daniel looked quickly at Jack, his expression changing to confusion. Jack began to think Daniel hadn't been listening to their conversation in the mill.
"That zat you took from the SGC. You still got it?"
"Yeah..." Then understanding lit his face. "You think Sam can use it to power up the battery?"
"A staff weapon would deliver more power but a Zat'nik'tel will further augment the rate of energy transfer than the primitive methods we have been forced to employ, if its power supply is not exhausted."
"I think it's still got a pretty good charge. I'll go and get it."
"Teal'c can go, if you'd rather just rest a bit."
Daniel pressed his lips together in irritation. "You don't have to coddle me, Jack. I'll go get the zat myself since I had to hide it to make sure nobody accidentally found it and hurt themselves. But maybe Teal'c can bring it back to Sam for me?" He laughed self-consciously. "I hate to have to admit it but the walk to the mill seems to have taken a toll on me. I guess I'm developing a tolerance for breka."
Teal'c did that head bow thing as Daniel stopped walking.
"It won't take me long, how about I meet you at�"
"How about the inn? I want to check on Daniel and Teal'c can bring Carter something to eat before he heads for the smith."
"Sure. Fine. I'll meet you there." Daniel set off down one of the streets and Jack and Teal'c stood there watching him.
"It is a pity the conditions are not ripe for a lightning storm. It would be much easier to attempt to activate the Stargate with a lightning strike. This method takes too much time."
"It's got to work, Teal'c," Jack said, keeping his eyes on Daniel. After a moment, Daniel raised his hand and pressed it against his abdomen once more.
"Because he's got less time left than any of us."
- - - - - -
"You sure you don't want any?" Jack, a plate full of food in one hand and hot tea in the other, sat down opposite Daniel at a table in the inn's small dining area. Daniel, whose hands were wrapped around a mug of tea, paled at the sight of the food.
"Thanks. I ate already."
The lie was obvious, but Jack ignored it for the time being. He kept an eye on Daniel's reaction as he reached for a piece of liberally buttered toast. He held it out to Daniel, warm butter dripping down his fingers. "You sure you're still not hungry? I got plenty."
Daniel pushed his chair back and averted his head, swallowing thickly. Jack took a bite of the toast, his appetite waning in the misery Daniel was apparently suffering.
"Jack, I was thinking. I've got three choices here if Sam manages to open a wormhole. One, I go back with you to the SG and go to jail for Jack's murder."
"It was an accident." Jack shoveled a large forkful of scrambled eggs into his mouth, chewing quickly.
"They can't prove that it wasn't. Anyways, it's really not something I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life doing."
Jack speared a sausage and stopped, examined it, then offered it out to Daniel. The man closed his eyes, tiny beads of sweat appearing over his upper lip.
"You okay? You look a little green around the edges."
"I..." Daniel coughed, then winced. He placed a hand against his belly and stared into his tea. "I think I picked up a virus or something. Anyways, as I was saying. The second option could be that I stay out of sight of any SGC personnel and wait for a chance to go through the wormhole. I'm thinking that won't be easy to do, considering they'll be controlling the power supply."
"Virus? Nothing contagious, I hope. Cramps? Nausea?"
"I probably ate something that didn't agree with me. The option that I think would work best for me is to leave as soon as possible for one of the villages downriver. There's nothing of import down there, nothing that might attract anyone from the SGC. Make a life for myself, find a wife, settle down�"
"I can't see you just up and leaving this place and running from your friends. It's just not you. Fever?" Jack reached out a placed a hand against Daniel's neck, noting the heated skin before Daniel pulled back in irritation.
"Jack, I caught some kind of intestinal flu. I'll be fine."
"Tenderness on the right side of the abdomen?"
"What are you now, a doctor?" Daniel's voice rose as he stared at Jack in irritation.
"No. But tell me one thing? Is that healer of yours a surgeon?"
"No, he's not. The people here rely on herbs to cure their ailments and a lot of good people have died because the herbs they need are rare. That's why your Daniel is lying in that room with an infected leg � because the plants that would help cure him all died in an early frost this spring. The villagers could use the SGC's help and I don't want to sacrifice any chance they might not get it if they think they helped hide me from them."
"There's no Stargate. How could they have helped you?"
"I don't know. Maybe guilty by association?"
"You know we don't work that way."
"I can't take that chance."
"And you can't run away. You run, you die."
"What? You're going to shoot me if�"
"You have appendicitis. Four months ago, Daniel went through the exact same symptoms as you're experiencing right now. He waved it off as a virus and because of that we nearly didn't get him back to Earth in time."
"It's not appendicitis."
"Daniel. Trust me on this. It's appendicitis."
"You're just trying to trick me into going back." He pushed his chair back and went to stand, but lost his balance and ended up having to catch himself on the edge of the table.
Jack put his fork down and grabbed Daniel's wrist. "It's no trick. You need surgery and if we can't get that wormhole open, you're going to die just as surely as Daniel is. Come with me back to Daniel. I'll have him show us his scar."
Daniel raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, fine. He'll show it to you, I'm sure."
"Have you ever had this kind of pain with a stomach flu before? C'mon, the odds are there. Daniel had it four months ago. Even if the timelines aren't perfectly the same anymore, chances are you'd be catching it around the same time. It makes sense."
Daniel shivered suddenly, then nodded. He reached for his cane. "I want to talk to Daniel before I make a decision."
Jack swallowed several large gulps of the tepid tea and pushed his chair back. "C'mon."
- - - - - -
The sound of running footsteps heralded Carter's entry into the room. "Sir, I came as soon as Teal'c told me." She looked at the two men curled up on the two pallets as she moved to stand beside Jack. "I don't believe it. You're sure he's got appendicitis?"
"Just look at him, Carter. He's go the same symptoms as Daniel had on 834."
She knelt beside Daniel and pushed a long strand of sweat-soaked hair from his forehead. He opened his eyes and looked at her.
"Hey. She smiled at him then glanced over at their Daniel, who was watching them with a glassy stare. "You two never seem to do things in a small way, huh? Colonel, has his doctor taken a look at him?"
"Yeah, but they don't specialize in surgery around here. He gave him something for the pain, though, but it doesn't seem to have kicked in yet." Once more Jack rued the fact that they'd lost all their equipment no thanks to the snake who'd captured them. A shot of morphine right about now would at least take the edge off the pain, not to mention the antibiotics they could have given their Daniel. Until they managed to get him back to the SGC, there really wasn't anything they could do except make him, or rather - both Daniels, comfortable.
"The herbs take about a half hour before they start working." Daniel gave Carter a small smile. "One good thing is that the pain in my belly has made me forget about the pain in my hip." He chuckled, then stifled a groan.
"Carter, how long before we can dial out?"
"I was hoping to let the battery charge at least until tomorrow morning, to be sure we got enough...." She glanced up at Jack, and they both realized that there was no way they could wait that long. "Another twelve hours, at least, sir."
"You two gonna be able to hang on that long?"
"Not goin' anywhere," came the answer in stereo.
If the situation hadn't been so dire, Jack would have found them cute. As it was, if they weren't able to get medical help, this Daniel would die, for certain, instead of Jack's Daniel. If he did die, then his Daniel would live if he survived the infection. Carter and Teal'c's situations were uncertain, not knowing what had happened to their counterparts in the past two years. Jack was certain to live, but at the moment he was afraid he'd be the only survivor if things didn't go the way they hoped. It was all so confusing and he was getting a headache worrying over it.
When Carter left to return to the mill, Jack sat down and pulled the sheet of paper he'd asked for Osorio earlier onto his lap. It was course and thick, but it would be good enough for him to write down a request for help. He began outlining what had happened to them, and what they needed. He realized the only good thing that had happened was that Carter still had her GDO strapped to her wrist inside her sling, the way she preferred carrying it. Everyone else's had been taken with their utility vests and packs.
The next twelve hours were hell. Both Daniels drifted in and out of a drugged, feverish sleep. Both had temperatures that the doctor couldn't bring down, no matter the amount of herbs he plied them with or the sponge baths they all took turns helping with. Both were in considerable pain, which the drugs barely eased. Jack, Carter and Teal'c spent the majority of the time sitting with them, watching helplessly and waiting as the sun slowly traversed the sky.
The twelve hours finally came as the sun was beginning to set. The two stretchers Jack had asked for were propped against the door, Daniel's cane resting beside them. The note Jack had written was on the table, neatly folded in half with General Hammond's name written on both sides. People waited nervously outside, milling around, not knowing exactly what was happening despite the number of times Osorio attempted to explain it to them.
He stood in the door, watching and waiting and glancing down the street for Carter and Teal'c to return with the last battery while keeping an eye out on the ailing men inside. Finally he spotted them, Teal'c's tall form looming over most of the villagers as his teammates strode towards him, the battery tucked underneath one arm, heading for the Stargate.
"It'll take about five minutes to set up," Carter said as she detoured to him. Jack nodded and when she turned back to join Teal'c, he went inside to inform the waiting men that they'd be attempting to open the Stargate in a moment, and to be ready to come with the two ailing men. He picked up the note for Hammond and placed it in a pocket.
By the time Jack reached the 'gate, things were ready to go. He gave the order, then stood aside and watched as Teal'c and a few of the stronger villagers began to manually turn the Stargate. Carter was crouched beside the stack of batteries and she nodded to him. The chevrons slowly locked and lit up one by one. When they reached the last symbol, he placed his hands inside his pockets and crossed his fingers. Teal'c cautioned the men to stand away from the 'gate and to Jack's relief, a wormhole gusted forth in all its glory.
Carter handed Jack the GDO and ignoring the awed exclamations from the villagers, he punched in SG-1's current identification code, then continued with his personal code, each of those of his team and then as many of the ones they'd had over the years that he could remember. He prayed at least one or more rang a bell at the SGC. He repeated his own personal codes again, then with a silent prayer, removed the folded paper from a pocket and tossed it into the vortex. If whoever was in charge at the other end hadn't opened the iris, then this was all for naught.
Without the electronic signal of the GDO to keep the 'gate open, it winked out. The area suddenly felt dark and gloomy and he'd been so intent on watching Teal'c dial the 'gate, he hadn't realized that the sun had set.
Osorio seemed to be on the same wavelength as Jack as he ordered men to light torches in the area surrounding the 'gate. Jack estimated that if Hammond felt secure that the message was genuine, it would take at least fifteen minutes to ready a MALP and send it through, as per SOP, to this planet's designations, which he'd included in his note. Just enough time to go back to the inn and let the Daniels know that up till now, their mission had been successful.
He walked into the room and hearing voices inside, paused just inside the doorway.
"... Be worth it if your team can get back through the mirror."
"Don't be ridiculous. We'll talk to Hammond. I'll explain what happened, what you were going through, what I went through."
Jack hated the weakened, gasping voices that seemed to come from the same man. He stepped into the room, talking quickly before either Daniel could speak up again. "Daniel's right, we can talk to Hammond and there's a good chance he'll listen. And by a good chance, I mean we just opened the wormhole. Now we wait and see if the message got through and the SGC reacts."
"Thank you, Jack, but it won't matter in the end." Daniel turned restless on the bed, and Jack could see his fists tightly grasping the edge of the mattress. "Even if I were exonerated of any and all charges, which would be a miracle in itself, I couldn't make a life back there, where everywhere I'd turn, I'd be reminded of my failure and of..."
"You wouldn't have to leave the SGC; maybe there are planets where you could help with digs." His Daniel's voice was weak and low but the strength of his need to help his counterpart was evident in the way he turned to face him. "That's one thing I regret all the time. We make so many incredible finds and someone else has to take over their survey."
"Daniel." Jack's voice was soft as he took a couple of steps closer, but Daniel glanced at Jack and nodded.
"I love what I do. It's what I choose to do. But if this was taken away from me, I think I'd be happy being assigned on one of the digs."
Jack hated the whole situation and hated more that he needed to leave. "Listen guys, whatever happens, we'll deal. Osorio's waiting to send word; if everything works out, we'll have you two brought to the Stargate."
Jack stopped, half turned to leave. At the look on Daniel's face, he hurried over to the pallet and kneeled beside him. Daniel was curled up nearly in a fetal position. He let go of his death hold on the mattress and grabbed Jack's wrist. He could feel the hand shaking as Daniel gripped him.
"If they won't let me back... at least try and find out if Sam and Teal'c are all right?"
Jack reached for Daniel's hand, wincing as the motion pulled at his injured side. "I will." He patted it and Daniel let go. Jack eased his hand down onto the mattress, where Daniel clutched at it convulsively.
Without a word, Jack hurried out of the inn and trotted back as much as his injuries would allow him to. He arrived just as the Stargate began to engage.
As expected, a MALP emerged from the wormhole. Jack moved slowly into its range and the camera, which had been panning the area, stopped and focused on him. Carter and Teal'c approached and flanked him.
Jack hadn't realized how tense he'd been until he heard Hammond's voice.
"General Hammond." He grinned. "It's sure good to hear your voice."
"I have to admit, Colonel, it's a bit of a shock hearing yours."
"I bet it is, sir."
"I understand you require our help."
"Yes, General. As I mentioned in my note, we were hoping you might still have the quantum mirror's remote control."
"Yes, I understand and although the mirror itself was destroyed, I seem to remember a memo stating that the remote would remain intact to see if it could one day help understand the mirror's technology. I have people looking into Area 51's archives. It may take a while."
"I understand. I appreciate the effort, sir. And you understand that one of my team is injured?"
"I do. You have permission to come through the Stargate and seek medical attention for all of your team. We'll be sending through a naquadah-powered reactor along with an SG team to explore these ruins you mentioned."
"Thank you. General, I have another favour to ask you."
"What is it, Colonel?"
"One of the villagers has gotten appendicitis and since the doctor here is far from being a surgeon, request permission to bring him along with SG-1 for medical attention."
"Colonel, this is highly irregular. I'm afraid I have to decline."
"General." Carter took a step forward, her hand supporting her elbow still enveloped in the sling. "He'll die without surgery. Sir, he helped us out a lot and it's simply not fair to give help to Daniel and not to him."
"General Hammond." Teal'c didn't move but pitched his voice so that it would carry loud and clear. "The man may have saved our lives. He provided a drug that will delay the onset of entropic cascade failure and ensure that those who do experience it, will not die a painful death. He has helped many other villagers who were forced through the mirror to die with dignity. The least that we may do for him is request that you help him and allow him to return to this planet when he has been healed."
Jack wanted to hug Teal'c for at least trying to get Hammond to agree to let Daniel go. But he knew it wasn't so simple. By now Teal'c was also very familiar with the workings of the military milieu; but hopefully when Hammond realized who Daniel was, he'd remember this conversation and hopefully their concern would sway him over to Daniel's side.
"Very well. We'll provide medical assistance. I'm sending SG-2 through right now, along with a technician to help you power up the Stargate."
"Thank you, sir."
Teal'c bowed his head while Carter echoed Jack's words. A moment later the puddle rippled and Ferretti popped out, followed by three armed marines that Jack didn't recognize. He grinned at Ferretti. "Nice to see you, Lou."
"Gotta admit, it's weird," Ferretti replied. He didn't seem quite sure whether to smile or frown. He clicked his radio. "Stargate Command, we're good to go."
Several seconds later, Siler came through, carrying the reactor. The wormhole winked out behind him.
- - - - - -
The pain was awful. They had picked him up and moved him onto a stretcher and he had nearly screamed with the agony. His hip was flaring from the fact that he'd lain in the same position for hours, but lying any other way just hurt his stomach too much.
Now they were carrying him through the village and all he could think of was that he should feel like a prisoner walking the green mile. But instead, all he wanted at this point was someone to stop the hurt.
"Doctor Jackson? Oh my God, Jack. Where the hell did you find him?"
The voice was familiar. Daniel opened his eyes, scanning the area before him as he was carried past several people dressed in fatigues. He saw Lou and Siler plus a few more faces he couldn't quite place a name to. They were all staring at him as if they'd seen a ghost. Or maybe it was him, maybe he was seeing his life flash before his eyes.
He closed his eyes again, then opened them briefly when he heard Jack's voice next to him. "Siler, you want to take his feet?"
Siler and Jack both took the places of the villagers who'd been gripping the stretcher. He caught a glimpse of another stretcher in front of him, being carried by Sam and Teal'c. Then the shimmering blue of the wormhole's puddle was in front of him, a wonder he thought he'd never see again in his lifetime.
"Hold on," Jack warned just as Siler disappeared through the puddle. He had a brief thought that maybe for a second or two he'd be free of the pain as his body was scrambled, but the voyage seemed instantaneous to him and they rematerialized to the sound of boots clunking on metal and the thrum of ventilation and machinery.
The angle was awkward and he felt as if he was going to slide off the stretcher. He made a grab for the edge of the rough wood, feeling splinters dig into his palm. Then he was flat once again and he heard a voice he'd always associated with both wellbeing and pain.
"He has a high fever and his leg is definitely infected. Take him to the infirmary stat."
He was raised onto a gurney; he could feel the somewhat softer material of the cushion on his hip as it took his weight. Jack placed a hand on his shoulder. Daniel guessed he was trying to comfort him, but he was gazing past him. At his Daniel, he guessed.
"Okay, Colonel." He heard Janet's voice once again, this time closer. "What makes you so sure he has append� Oh my God!"
"Yeah. Surprise, surprise," Jack said in an oddly choked voice behind him. Which was odd, considering he could see Jack standing beside him.
"General Hammond, it's Daniel. I mean, another Daniel Jackson." Then more softly, "Our Daniel?"
"Hi, Janet," he said between clenched teeth as she leaned close to him. It was an almost bittersweet moment, seeing her familiar face while remembering that he'd hurt her physically the last time he'd seen her during his wild attempt to escape.
"What in tarnations?" Daniel was aware of the general's bulk as he moved around the gurney. He was beyond feeling embarrassment at this point but still, he kept his eyes on Janet's face as he was almost afraid to look at the general.
"Colonel? Why didn't you tell me that you'd found Doctor Jackson?"
"Daniel? Janet, is it really him?"
That was Sam. His Sam. For two years he wondered how she and Teal'c had fared - if he died now within the next few hours, at least he knew she was okay, and that small burden could be lifted from his heart.
"He may not be our DanielJackson. If there is a quantum mirror on the planet, it could be very possible that a duplicate has traversed into our universe and has taken his place."
And Teal'c. Despite his pain and weakness, he raised his head, trying to catch a glimpse of his old teammates. But Jack and an SF were in the way and only their voices came through to him.
"That would be true only if our Daniel were dead, Teal'c. Otherwise he'd have experienced �"
"I'm sorry, Sam, now is not the time. General, I have two injured men on my hands. We'll discuss his identity when we have concrete evidence. For now, please, give me some room."
Proving his identity would lead him to a jail sentence. He wondered if maybe dying would have been the better choice.
Janet must have sensed something of his apprehension as she took a moment to squeeze his shoulder before moving her hands down to his belly.
"Would it have made any difference? Would you have prevented him from coming back if I had told you we'd found him?" Jack seemed to be moving around, this time his voice came from right beside his head, and now, from his feet. "Doc, he's hurting pretty bad."
"No, of course I wouldn't. I�"
Daniel tried to twist away from Janet's hands as she probed his abdomen. She grabbed hold of his hand which he held protectively around the pained area. "Let me see," she said softly. He allowed her to move his hand away and he tensed. He figured it was going to hurt, but when she pressed down, the pain was so bad that he screamed.
Then they were moving and he viewed the Gateroom through an odd, almost black and white vision, the room's dreary cement enforcing the greying out of his vision. Jack was talking to him, moving along with the gurney but just as they turned into the hallway, Daniel decided he was beginning to hallucinate because Jack was also standing near the ramp, staring at him with an odd expression on his face.
- - - - - -
The moment they entered the infirmary, Daniel was whisked away from him. Jack stopped, unsure of where to go until he spotted Teal'c and Carter sitting on beds, being looked over by nurses. As he made his way to them, he was very much aware of the SFs following at a discreet distance. He glanced through a crack in the privacy curtains which had been pulled around a bed and saw two nurses in the process of cutting Daniel's clothes off his body, the bandage around his leg a smear of white and red. Then he was past the bed and waiting his turn to be poked and prodded.
The examination itself didn't take long. Doctor Warner gave him something to ease his stiffness, prescribed food and sleep, and sent him off to shower. The time spent in the shower was worth every second. When he emerged, clad in clean clothes and able to move more easily, he felt much more hopeful.
Jack nodded at this world's version of Carter and Teal'c. They had been talking with their counterparts and Jack couldn't help but compare them to one another. His Carter's hair was slightly longer, whereas this world's Teal'c had a slight fuzz of black hair. He found it odd to be looking at a Teal'c with hair and couldn't seem to take his eyes off of it.
"General Hammond has scheduled a debriefing in an hour. If you'd like, we have a room where food is being brought up..."
"Yeah, thanks. I'm starving. Just give me a sec first."
He went to see Daniel, who appeared to be sleeping. His face wasn't quite as pale which Jack figured was due to the nearly empty bag of blood hanging by the bed. Carter and Teal'c joined him; their counterparts remained where they were, giving them a few moments of privacy.
"He should be fine." The nurse had approached when they'd gathered around the bed. "The antibiotics should take care of the infection. Doctor Warner's given him something for the pain, that's why he's sleeping."
"We're heading out to talk to General Hammond. If he wakes up, could you tell him...?"
"Of course, sir."
"What about the other Daniel?"
The other woman blinked rapidly as her face underwent a gamut of emotions. "He's still in surgery," she finally said.
Ten minutes later he and his team were sitting in a VIP room, eating a late supper. Jack thought it funny the way the two Teal'c's were either performing staring contests with one another or studiously avoiding looking at one another. The women, on the other hand, had been chatting from the moment they'd left the infirmary, both of them slightly less uncomfortable with the idea of doubles probably as they'd already both experienced meeting themselves.
"Any news on the mirror's remote?" Jack asked the other Carter during a lull in their conversations.
"Area 51 is still searching. We believe it wasn't inventoried properly. I have people at this end going through the lists, hoping they'll come up with a visual identification."
"We're all toast if they can't find that remote."
"Sir, how long have you been in this universe? The entropic cas�"
"Yeah, I know. It's been nearly two days." He nodded at his Carter. "You tell her about the stuff their Daniel jabbed into us?"
"Not yet, sir." She turned to her double. "According to Daniel, the Goa'uld who'd set up the lab on the planet was experimenting with the quantum mirror. There's a drug that supposedly minimizes the convulsions and although it won't prevent us from dying, it will let us live a few days longer in relative comfort."
"So none of you yet know whether this drug is truly effective."
"No, T, but I'm betting we'll be finding out in a couple of hours."
"So there's more of this drug on the planet?"
"Yes, Major. I'm sure your people will find it soon enough and bring some back to study."
"It's Captain, Colonel."
"Captain," Jack acknowledged, trading a look with his own major.
"Obviously our timelines have run simultaneously to one another up to a certain point..." Major Carter began, only to be interrupted by the telephone. Captain Carter got up to answer, listened for a moment, then turned to Jack, trying to fight a smile.
"Daniel's out of surgery. Janet says he's going to be okay."
"One down, one to go," Jack mumbled as he toyed with his mashed potatoes.
- - - - - -
It nearly appeared that Jack and his team were facing off this world's SG-1 at the briefing table. They all sat silently, each across the table from their doppelganger, waiting for General Hammond. All except the two Jaffa rose as Hammond entered the room, followed closely by Fraiser.
"Doctor?" Hammond said, even before Fraiser threaded her way behind the chairs to sit at the opposite end of the table.
"Doctor Jackson is still in recovery, and should make a complete recovery from the appendectomy. As per information provided by the mirror version of SG-1, after the surgery, I took the liberty of running tests on his right hip. He has a torn iliofemoral ligament which I believe I should be able to repair with surgery. He will require extensive PT.
"The other Daniel Jackson, the one who came through the mirror..." She took a moment to nod at Jack and his team. "...is responding well to antibiotics. He had suffered some blood loss and was dehydrated. His fever is now down two degrees. He should also be up and about in a few days."
"Teal'c, you had some misgivings as to the authenticity of the Daniel Jackson who claims to be ours?" Hammond turned to the Jaffa sitting opposite Jack's.
"If I may, sir." Fraiser spoke up before any of Jack's team could protest. "Our tests have revealed an unknown substance in the blood of our visitors, including their Daniel. There wasn't any in the one I treated for appendicitis."
"Sam... I mean Captain Carter," the Carter sitting opposite Jack's Carter said, "informed us that Daniel had found some drug created by a Goa'uld that can ease the symptoms of the entropic cascade failure and extend the amount of time in a mirror universe."
"Um, sorry, it's Major," Carter corrected with an embarrassed smile.
Captain Carter's eyes widened slightly.
"So," Jack's doppelganger finally spoke up. "The Daniel you just operated really is ours."
"I think so, sir, the odds are too great for yet another Daniel to have come through the mirror," Captain Carter said.
"Doesn't anyone else think it's also a bit of a coincidence that Daniel ended up on a planet that didn't have a DHD?"
Jack raised a finger, gave an apologetic wince to his double who'd just spoken, and said, "Your Daniel told my Daniel he used one of the yet unexplored 'gate addresses from the Abydos Cartouche. He probably figured he had a bit of time to decide what to do. I don't think he planned on going to a planet that was missing a DHD."
"In all likelihood, DanielJackson would have eventually been found. We have been systematically exploring the Stargate addresses from the Abydos cartouche."
"He'd have been dead by the time you found him." Jack felt anger at the lack of emotion here in the room regarding Daniel's return. He lowered both hands onto his palms, his fingers tightening into fists.
"Gentlemen." Hammond's voice was sharp.
Jack lowered his head a moment, trying to get his anger under control.
"I received word just before I came to this briefing that the remote control device has been located. It's being placed on a flight out from Nellis as we speak."
"Thank you, sir," Jack said with feeling.
"As soon as Doctor Jackson is able to be moved, I'll have SG-1 accompany you to the quantum mirror."
"General, I would prefer Doctor Jackson not be moved for another day or two if possible. If the drugs work the way these people say they will, we'll have a few days' leeway."
"Very well, Doctor. Although be prepared to have him moved if we need to."
Jack nodded his understanding, then leaned forward, moving his hands onto the table and placing them flat on the table top. "Sir, there is one teensy tiny favour I'd like to ask of you." He raised a hand, bringing his thumb and index finger close together.
He glanced at Hammond, then looked back down at his hands and continued speaking when the man didn't interrupt. "The villagers on the other side of the mirror have this army. A couple of marines for backup wouldn't hurt. Just to buy us time to get across the village to the Stargate."
"You want our people to go through the mirror to your universe?"
"It'd just take a few minutes. A couple of SG teams to ensure we get to the Stargate and have the time to dial out would make things a little easier."
"You want us to wage war on people we've never met?"
"They wouldn't have to shoot anyone. They have really primitive weapons. Flintlocks. Bows and arrows. Maybe just fire a couple of shots in the air, you know, as a warning?"
"Crossbows," Carter added.
"And if you could see to loan us a couple of zats or P-90's... it'd be very much appreciated."
Hammond sat there staring expressionlessly at him. He glanced over at Jack's counterpart, a little nervous, thinking he might have overstepped his bounds. The other Jack was staring at the table, a smile on his face.
"Is there anything else, Colonel?"
"Um, no, I think that about covers it," Jack said, trying to sound meek but knowing he'd failed.
"I'll take your request into consideration. Doctor Fraiser, you'll keep me advised on the conditions of the two... Doctor Jacksons."
They all rose again as Hammond stood. As the other SG-1 team began leaving the room, Jack motioned his counterpart to stay behind. The other Jack paused then stepped back, allowing his team to pass. Jack waited also as the SFs accompanied Carter and Teal'c back to the VIP room assigned to them. The one assigned to Jack stepped back, giving him privacy.
"He thought he killed you," Jack finally said after a moment of staring his mirror image down.
The other him remained quiet for a long moment. "He did kill me. I died. I'm told it's a miracle they resuscitated me. As it was, it took months of physical therapy to get me back on my feet and back on active duty."
"It's been tearing him apart. He's been... he thinks you're dead."
When he didn't reply, Jack said, "He's been stuck on that planet since a day or two after you were shot. I know Daniel. You know Daniel. He'd have come back if he could. He wasn't thinking straight. He was still in the throes of the sarc addiction."
"No, you're wrong. I thought I knew him." The other Jack turned and began walking away.
"He didn't mean to shoot you!" Jack yelled at his back.
"But he did!" Jack yelled as he turned around. "No matter how confused you claim he could have been, he aimed to kill and�"
"No, he didn't. I know. He shot at me. He hit the light bulb. He wanted to scare me off, try and get some perspective as to what was happening to him. He was confused and�" Suddenly Jack had a thought.
"How much of that day do you remember?"
"Enough," Jack snarled back. "I don't care."
"How much. Do you remember seeing the monitor and realized he was gone?"
Jack didn't answer.
"Do you remember running into his cell and seeing Fraiser who was just getting onto her feet as you ran in?"
"Do you remember seeing the SF Daniel caught by surprise and beat up? Do you remember running catching up to Daniel and going into the storeroom after him?"
The other Jack stood tensely, his body nearly vibrating with his anger.
"I remember. I know what happened. Don't tell me you don't care, you went after him when you saw he was missing. You would have done exactly the same thing I did, talked him through it all if you hadn't zigged when you should have zagged. We both knew what Daniel was going through; we would have both been there for him."
The other Jack swallowed hard and looked away.
"That's not what's bugging you, is it?" He wasn't surprised when Jack wouldn't meet his eyes. He thought quickly, trying to match his own emotions to what he must be feeling. "You're upset because he never came back."
"Yeah, well, we know now why he didn't," Jack replied thickly.
"He thinks he killed you," Jack repeated, speaking gently. "Go easy on him."
The man turned away and began walking towards the staircase. Jack allowed him to get a head start, sure he'd see him again soon when he next visited his Daniel in the infirmary.
- - - - - -
There wasn't any pain. The breka gave relief, but it was never this good. He cleared his throat, sleepy and comfortable for the first time since he could remember.
Slowly the scents and sounds began to filter into his subconscious. They were familiar, and yet not. Like a dream, something he thought he'd never experience again. He opened strangely heavy eyelids and looked around at the cement-drab walls which the state of the art medical equipment couldn't disguise as being bowels-deep underground.
He was back at the SGC.
The feeling of wellbeing left him, leaving him with dread and a burning in his stomach. Then he heard a sound to his left. Slowly he moved his head to look. To his surprise, Jack was sitting beside him.
He wondered where Jack's Daniel was. He forced his fuzzy sight to focus beyond Jack, saw Daniel just a couple beds down from him. And that was when things started to go weird, because Jack was sitting beside that Daniel also.
"I'm dreaming," Daniel stated to no one in particular. Jack had often visited him in breka-induced dreams.
"If you are, then you're sleepwalking," the Jack beside his bed answered.
"I'm not walking, I'm lying in bed, talking." His mouth didn't seem to work properly. Like his eyes, it was slow in reacting.
"Is he gonna be all right?"
He closed his eyes and nodded.
"Yeah. Fraiser says the antibiotics are working and that he should be good to go in a couple days."
"Go...?" He squinted up at the dream Jack. Opening his eyes again had been difficult.
"We got the remote. Hammond's gonna send them back in style with an escort of two SG teams plus a battalion of marines."
"That's great." It was getting harder and harder to keep his eyes open and he let them drift shut.
"Go to sleep. I'll be here when you wake up."
" 'S nice," he muttered, allowing whatever was in his system to drag him back to the depths of oblivion. It hadn't been lost on him that none of his old team had been to see him. Then he felt the heat of warm skin on his arm. His eyes flew open. Jack's hand was lightly resting on his forearm. He could feel the rasp of his callused fingertips, the heat of his fingers. This wasn't a dream, this was real. Jack was sitting next to him.
And if Jack was here, then who was with Daniel? Totally confused, his gaze flew past the now solid dream-Jack to the other one sitting with the other Daniel.
"Are you real?"
The lassitude of beckoning sleep disappeared as his heart beat fast and hard in his chest. His breathing speeded up as he tried to force his drug-scattered thoughts to make sense of what was before him.
"Are you?" Jack replied with a shrug.
"At this point I'm not sure." He reached out with his other hand and placed it on top of Jack's. It felt as solid as his arm the hand was resting on.
"I didn't die."
Daniel stared up at him, seeing Jack's mouth move and hearing the words come out of them. But somehow he couldn't seem to make sense of them.
"When you shot me. Two years ago. Danny, you didn't... I'm fine."
Daniel opened his mouth but he didn't know what to say. This couldn't be true. He'd been right the first time. He was dreaming.
"You're not dreaming," Jack said with a lopsided grin.
"You're alive?" His throat was suddenly tight and his vision blurred. Something wet and warm tickled its way down his cheek and he let go of Jack to bat the offending wetness away.
"We had no idea where you'd gone. We tried to find you. The 'gate to P3R 636 was down. We tried our allies. We tried other planets we thought you might have taken refuge in. Even today, all SG teams are told to be on the lookout in case they find you."
"To bring me back and throw me in jail."
Jack paused. "To find out what happened to you and why you... you're not going to jail, Daniel. It was an accident."
He shook his head and the hand tightened around his forearm. "I understand you weren't yourself. I know you didn't mean to shoot me. Look, this isn't the time for this. You're safe here, Daniel. You try and relax, get some rest. I'll be here. Carter and Teal'c have gone to Peterson to pick up the remote. They'll probably be back by the time you wake up again."
He'd never be able to go to sleep. So he simply lay there and stared at Jack, feeling the tears continue to slowly trickle down his face. He'd been ecstatic two days ago when he'd seen the AU Jack come through the mirror. But now, to know his Jack was alive, was almost too hard to believe.
The memories he'd tried to bury during the years he'd been stuck on the planet had been painfully brought back after seeing his team, even if they hadn't been his team. They'd brought home how much he missed them. But this was his Jack. His team leader. His friend. And Jack was alive. Even if he went to jail, now, he could live with himself.
He hadn't killed his best friend after all.
Sleep came suddenly. One moment he was memorizing all the lines and crags in Jack's face, the next, his eyes shut involuntarily and he was out.
- - - - - -
Daniel knew hospitals weren't always the quietest of places but screams and shouts definitely didn't belong there. Especially when they were happening right next to his bed.
He woke up fast. There were nurses, doctors, standing around his bed, but it was Jack who was in trouble. He was convulsing, his body distorting like something out of a cheap SciFi show. Daniel stared at Jack in confusion; they'd been given the drugs. This shouldn't be happening. He wanted to reach out to Jack but somehow he was afraid to touch him.
The convulsive entropic cascade failure only lasted a short while but it seemed have been forever. Jack leaned over, chest on his knees, breathing heavily.
"Colonel, are you all right?" Janet asked at the same time as Daniel breathlessly called Jack's name.
"Yeah, 'm fine. Gimme a minute."
There was still yelling going on and Daniel looked past Jack's bent head. Daniel, his counterpart, was trying to sit up and was being restrained by a nurse and his teammates.
The other Sam left the group and hurried over. "Daniel says the Colonel never got the drug. He was so sure that he'd killed him, he gave it to everyone except him."
Daniel was about to comment when he was suddenly filled with heat. It was almost as if his blood was heating up inside of him. His heart hammered hard and fast for several beats, then eased off. He felt himself break out in sweat.
Janet must have noticed because she had left Jack and was leaning over him.
"I feel weird. Hot." He swiped the back of his hand over his upper lip as Janet began listening to his heart. There was a slight buzzing sound in his ears, and over that he could hear Daniel yelling, asking what was happening.
"Is he feeling hot? Like he's burning up inside?"
Daniel nodded. The odd feeling was starting to fade and his body was damp with sweat.
"It's the drug. Daniel's also having a seizure but the drug is keeping the symptoms under control," the other Daniel said loudly.
"I'm okay, Janet." Other than feeling uncomfortably sweaty, he felt no worse than when he'd woken up. And Jack seemed to have recovered as he was sitting up and watching him with concern.
Sam and Teal'c strode into the infirmary and for a moment Daniel was confused as to whether they were his teammates, or the ones from this universe. Then he spotted Teal'c's shaved head and the SFs following behind.
"Janet. Something weird just happened to me and I�Daniel, are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Did you feel weird? All hot like your blood was boiling?"
"Colonel O'Neill has just experienced temporal cascade failure. It looks like both you and Daniel have also experienced one with the benefit of the drug that Daniel� Damn, this is confusing." Janet wiped a stray hair away from her face. "Your Colonel O'Neill doesn't have the drug to ease the symptoms. And it's only going to get worse fast as time goes on."
"He doesn't? But I thought�"
"Daniel thought his Jack was dead. He didn't give him the drug. We're going to have to go back as soon as possible before they get too bad."
The other Sam nodded at Daniel. "I'll go speak to General Hammond. Janet, can Daniel be moved?"
"I wouldn't recommend it but I don't think we have a choice."
"Colonel, what about you? Do you feel okay to go?"
Jack seemed to have recovered. He nodded at Janet. "Let's do this."
Things moved fast after that, to the point that the infirmary emptied out within minutes. The only person left was his counterpart, lying in a bed a short distance away, and his Jack. Daniel flexed his leg and didn't think he'd be able to support much weight on it. There was no way he was going to put being carried back home. He made a mental note of talking to Janet about crutches the next time he saw her.
"You doing okay?"
Startled, Daniel looked up Jack. After a moment he realized he didn't have a bandage on his temple, it was the other Jack, the one who belonged to his universe. "Yeah, thanks to him." He glanced quickly at his double, who seemed to have fallen asleep.
"Look, I can't thank you enough for bringing him back. We thought... well, we didn't know what to think when we weren't able to find him."
"He'd have come back to face his... crimes, if he could have. I know I would have. I... that was a very difficult time, the... accident... I can't imagine what he's gone through."
"I know. And I assure you, there won't be any charges laid. If he wants to, he'll have his old job back."
"What about his hip...?"
"Fraiser says she thinks with surgery and therapy, he'll be okay. Even if he never fully recovers and he can't go offworld, there's more than plenty for him to do here."
Daniel smiled at Jack, the weight of the worry he'd had for Daniel suddenly lifting. "He'll be glad for that." He remembered his conversation with his counterpart back on the planet. "So tell me, has his wife been found yet?"
"We've come across Amaunet a few times but we haven't been able to... neutralize her."
"Have you heard of a planet called Cimmeria?"
- - - - - -
After all the excitement, it was another five hours before Hammond allowed them to go through the Stargate. One thing had led to another and before long, they were scrambling to exchange as much information about allies and planets within a short time limit. They'd all experienced at least one more cascade episode, Teal'c included, although none were nowhere as debilitating and as painful as Jack's.
Exhausted after having been either awake all this time and seated at the briefing room for the past two hours, Daniel wanted nothing but to lie down and get some sleep. But they were finally going through now and Daniel maneuvered through the hallway awkwardly with the crutches.
More than a dozen armed men waited by the ramp. The Stargate was already rotating as the two SG-1 teams strode in, with Teal'c and Sam flanking Daniel's awkward, three-legged gait. His armpits and chest already burned with the effort of supporting his weight on his arms, his fingers felt they'd been rubbed raw from gripping the metal handles. Still, he plowed on and settled next to Jack, unsure for a which one he was until he spied the bandage.
Sam was easy to tell, her hair was a little longer, not to mention the sling she was wearing, and Teal'c had none, but both Jacks looked identical. Up until a few hours ago, the other Jack had looked haunted. Now he looked like his Jack.
The Stargate engaged, and Hammond's voice came over the loudspeakers. "SG-1, it's been a pleasure. We thank you for the return of Doctor Jackson. May you have a safe journey home."
The Jack standing beside him turned and waved jauntily at Hammond, and Daniel turned to grin up at the observation window. Then as the marines began tramping up the ramp, Daniel took his place. SG-2 went through but both SG-1 teams waited patiently as he began his careful way up the metallic ramp, the rubber-tips of his crutches threatening to slide. Then both Teal'cs moved on either side of him, gripped his arm and helped support him the rest of the way. Then they were through the 'gate.
The Stargate's activity had alerted the villagers and many had come running, Osorio among them. The fact that there were three pairs of identical people didn't seem to phase anyone. Osorio immediately asked after Daniel.
"He's fine. He's healing well. I'm sure he'll visit as soon as he can," Daniel said with a smile, trying to navigate the cobbled street and cursing his uncoordinated steps.
By the time he reached the ruins, he was dripping with sweat and his good leg was burning with fatigue. Everyone except his own team was already there, crowded inside. Daniel was led into the mirror room, where Sam was using the remote on the already activated mirror, which showed nothing but a black screen.
Someone pulled a crate close to the mirror so Daniel could sit and he did so with a loud grunt.
"I'm not getting anything except dark images," Sam said. She was right. The image in the mirror was an unchanging black.
"There were a couple of images like that when the other Osorio used the remote." Daniel shifted, trying to stretch his leg and ease tight muscles. "I think they all show this place as either unoccupied or maybe there's been a cave in with all of them."
"Hold on a sec." One Jack stepped forward and tossed a small rock into the mirror. It pinged and bounced back into the room. "I'd go for the cave in scenario."
"So we keep looking until we find�" Sam stopped. There, in the mirror, was a scene similar to theirs. Torches showed a room that had been partly cleared of debris. "Here."
"No, there hadn't been a cave in. I distinctly remember the place being undamaged."
"I concur." Teal'c moved from behind Daniel and moved closer to Sam, examining the remote. "How many realities will this reach?"
"There's no way of knowing. There's an infinite number, and even if we find one similar, we can't be sure it's yours." She touched the remote and the scene went dark again. "I'm moving it in tiny increments. For all I know, I'm only touching on a small percentage of them."
Daniel shivered, feeling cold all of a sudden. Then the odd sensation of his body burning up hit him. He trembled, his exhausted body fighting for rest. Then the burning dissipated, leaving him spent, and chilled.
"Ah, shit." Jack suddenly began convulsing, falling to one knee, his arm wrapped around his stomach as his body morphed continuously for several seconds. It stopped and he fell forward onto his hands, breathing heavily.
He raised a hand and waved everyone back. Jack's double, however, moved forward and put a hand on Jack's shoulder, keeping it there until Jack was able to sit back and straighten.
"I've got it." The scene in front of Sam was what Daniel had remembered. There were no fallen rocks, no debris, and no people evident.
"Okay, let's go."
"O'Neill, wait. I do not believe this is our reality."
The other Jack turned to look at Teal'c unbelievingly. "What makes you say that?" Daniel could see how hard Jack was trying to keep his frustration from his voice, and failing.
"Here." Teal'c pointed to a small niche in the wall on the left. It was empty. "This holds the remote device. It is missing."
"That could be just a fluke."
"How about we keep on checking, just in case? We know there's at least one reality that could be ours." Jack had managed to stand, but it was obvious that he was tired. He had one hand wrapped around his side, as if it pained him.
The screen went blank again as Sam continued to search. His Sam moved around the group until she was standing next to him. She placed a hand on his shoulder and he appreciated her support.
"How about here?"
This time there was a remote in the niche but somehow everyone appeared a little apprehensive about deciding to go through.
"I can keep looking. We can come back to this one."
The next few minutes came up with blank images. When the next torch-lit scene appeared, Teal'c moved forward, intent on something.
"This is the one."
"And what's so different between this one and the other version we just saw?" There was sarcasm in the other Jack's tone.
"There is dried blood on the ground. DanielJackson's blood."
Jack quieted and moved closer to the mirror. He turned and stared at his counterpart. Daniel's Jack nodded.
"Okay, we're moving out." He glanced at Daniel, who nodded. Holding back a wince, he stood with Teal'c's help.
They went through the mirror quickly, and when Daniel looked back, he saw that someone had tacked a piece of paper with the word "THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD STARTS HERE" on it. He smiled at that.
As he hobbled towards the exit, he stopped near the niche and picked up the remote. He hefted it a moment, then handed it to the alternate Teal'c. "Take it with you. It'll prevent anyone from trying to come through the mirror behind you for retaliation."
Teal'c accepted the remote with a small bow of his head.
Getting to the Stargate was anti-climatic. The people of the village had immediately stopped their attack when they were given an example of the SGC's superior firepower. Sam stepped up to the DHD, which apparently wasn't missing on this planet, and began dialing Earth. She sent through their code, and a moment later were given the all clear.
As Daniel and his team approached the wormhole, the other SG-1 moved forward. They looked at one another awkwardly and Daniel realized that this time, they were leaving another alternate reality with hope.
"Thank you," the alternate Jack said simply. His eyes searched out all four of them, then lingered on Daniel. "He'll be fine. I promise you that."
"I know," Daniel answered. "And thank you for all you've done for us." He felt a shiver run up his spine, and although he tried to hold it back, it must have shown.
"You better get going. Your Fraiser's probably sharpening up her needles as we speak."
"Oh great. A welcome home gift. Just what I've always wanted. A pincushion butt." He nodded at Sam and Teal'c, then turned to lead the way through the Stargate.
On the other side, he stopped at the top of the ramp. Guns were raised and aimed their way. It wasn't the first time Daniel had come home to this but it always unnerved him. Jack stepped down the ramp, arms out to the side. General Hammond was waiting for them at the bottom. Jack allowed himself to be disarmed. Sam followed, and then turned to look up at Daniel and Teal'c, who hadn't moved yet.
"DanielJackson requires assistance," Teal'c announced, then took one of the crutches from him and pulled his arm over his shoulder. This made going down the ramp much easier. As he neared the bottom, Jack moved to grab Daniel's other arm and he made it down the last two steps.
As he settled the crutches back under his armpits, he felt the now familiar sensation of the drug burning through him. Then it hit him. They were home, weren't they? Why would he�
The sensation increased, becoming almost intolerable. He stumbled, tried to catch his equilibrium and overbalanced, falling to his knees. The feeling of heat continued, burning into his head until it was almost unbearable.
"Daniel, what's going on?"
Jack was squatting front of him, hands on both of his biceps, holding him up. Behind Jack, Daniel saw Sam go down on her knees, her good hand going to her temples. Teal'c staggered beside him, falling against the metallic ramp.
"General, we need some help over here."
Then the pain washed through his head and Daniel felt himself falling, a red haze dimming his sight, quickly replaced by black.
- - - - - -
Jack couldn't believe how fast the focus on everything had changed. It seemed one moment he had been the one in danger of dying a very painful death, and now his team was lying here in the infirmary, unconscious, suffering from some sort of shock.
All of them looked awful, Teal'c worse than the others: grey-pallor, face shiny with sweat, shallow breathing. There were probes and wires attached to their bodies, with some even disappearing inside of Teal'c's pouch. Jack couldn't get close to any of the beds due to the constant activity around them so he watched from the sidelines, on a free bed where he'd sat and waited for the past three hours.
"Yeah?" He tore his gaze from his friends to look at Fraiser, who was going through some info on a clipboard.
"Your tests have come back. You're free to go, although I'd recommend staying on base for at least twenty-four hours to make sure there aren't any hidden side effects from the entropic cascade failure you experienced."
"Yeah, okay." Which was fine, 'cause he'd had no plans on going home tonight in any case. Hammond had already left for the day after he'd stopped by and gotten the Cliff Notes version of their mission.
"They're stable," she said as she lowered the clipboard and hugged it to her chest. "Teal'c's got me a little worried; his symbiote is also affected so he's not bouncing back as fast as I'd have liked. But Sam's doing good, and Daniel... well, we're treating his infection and fever, but he's also beginning to show signs of improvement."
"So it's the drug doing all of this?"
"I think so. It's been designed to work at the cellular level, to stop cells from destabilizing. But once you all returned to your own realities, their bodies went into shock because they weren't experiencing cellular disintegration on a temporal level any longer."
Jack made a face and Fraiser laughed softly. "The drug worked fine over there, but it gave them a severe allergic attack over here."
"Have you eaten yet, Colonel?"
Jack shook his head. "How about you go take a shower, get something to eat, and come back in about ninety minutes. I'm pretty optimistic you'll see a change in them by then."
- - - - - -
Fraiser had been right. He felt better when he got back, and his teammates had improved. He was surprised to see that Carter was actually awake, and that there was only one nurse hovering around this section of the infirmary.
"How're ya feeling?" he asked her when she tracked him with a squinting gaze as he took a seat between her and Teal'c.
"Headache." She promptly shut her eyes, and Jack patted her hand a few times in sympathy. Then sat quietly, allowing her to rest. She seemed to drift back into sleep, her breathing deep and rhythmic as opposed to what it had been a short while ago.
He turned from her and saw Teal'c was awake as well.
"Hey, big guy."
"Got a headache also?"
"I do not."
Teal'c sat up and then seemed to realize there were wires everywhere. He looked down at himself with confusion.
"What has occurred?" he asked as a nurse came and began checking him out. Jack explained what Fraiser had told him while he and Junior were being freed of the medical paraphernalia.
"Then we did indeed choose the correct reality to return to."
Jack stopped to think a minute. He detested these situations; the more he contemplated them, the scarier they got. "Yeah, I guess we did. Unless� hypothetically speaking here � say when we went through the mirror, we really didn't end up in our own reality but one very similar to ours. One where the SG team, the one who really belongs here and commanded by the dashing, brave colonel, stepped through the quantum mirror a couple of days ago, just like we did, and any second now, they'll be coming back home through the Stargate. I wonder what'll happen � will we be the ones undergoing the woogie woogies because it's their reality in the first place, or will they because we got here while they were gone?"
Teal'c simply raised an eyebrow, his mouth twitching slightly at one corner.
- - - - - -
"I think you hang out with me too much," Daniel said, eyes closed, trying for a sarcastic tone but failing as the words came out in a croak. His head was pounding in a counter-rhythm to the ache in his thigh.
"Hey, about time you joined the living."
There was a scuffling sound and he cracked open one eye to see Jack smiling down at him. There was something distinctly wrong with someone grinning when he felt as awful as he did.
The woogie woogies, Jack?"
"If it's good enough for you, it's good enough for me."
"I didn't come up with that term. The other me did."
"Yeah, well, if it's good enough for your other you..."
"I hope you were just playing "what if" and don't have any reason to think we're really not home, Jack." He cleared his throat and a nurse handed him a glass of water. He smiled at her gratefully before he took a sip.
"I am confident we are in our proper reality, O'Neill."
"It' a pretty interesting concept, though, sir."
"Ah, sleeping beauty arises."
"Kinda hard to sleep when you're discussing such deep theories."
Jack frowned at Sam, and Daniel tried to hide his smile.
"And� what does the theoretical physicist say to that scenario?"
"I'll tell you what the archaeologist says," Daniel interrupted. His headache was starting to abate now that he was more awake, and the water had eased his dry throat. "Had the dashing, brave, hotshot colonel not crashed his stolen HotRod Lincoln, this whole conversation wouldn't be happening."
Jack put on an injured look. "It wasn't not my fault." He looked around at the others, looking for affirmation. His put upon look increased when Sam and Teal'c didn't answer and wouldn't meet his gaze.
Daniel put the now-empty glass onto the table next to the bed, grinning.
- - - - - -
"Penny for 'em."
"Huh?" Daniel looked away from the patio window where he'd been gazing out at the mist-shrouded afternoon. He adjusted his weight on his crutches and turned to look at Jack, who was holding two mugs in his hands. Carter and Teal'c were sitting on the couch, watching them.
"You were pretty deep in thought."
"Oh." He hobbled towards an empty chair, trying to put as much weight on his healing leg as it would permit him to. "I was just� you know, thinking of the other� us." He sat down, then balanced the crutches against the wall nearby.
"I'm sure they're fine. I'm sure he's fine. I bet my guy's already gotten Thor wrapped around his finger, Teal'c's found a way to free the Jaffa over there, Carter's got all the doohickeys in that lab patented, and I betcha yours has got his lady back."
"Do you really think they might be able to free Shau'ri?" He picked up his mug of coffee without looking at any of his friends.
"I'm sure they'll try." Sam reached over and touched his knee. "They have one advantage we don't � they're going in with knowledge we didn't have."
"Yeah." He held the mug close to his face, breathing in the fragrant steam before taking a sip.
"Daniel� I'm sorry."
He swallowed, then turned to face Jack. "Don't be. I sure wouldn't have wanted to have spent the last two years the way he did. He deserves to be happy."
"So do you," Jack said, his voice very soft.
Daniel took a deep breath. "You know what? I am." He lowered his mug and looked at each of his friends. "I wouldn't give this, and you guys up, for the world."
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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.