I looked around me at the familiar faces around me that I thought I would never see again. General Hammond, Janet, Teal'c, Sam... My arms tightened almost unintentionally around her waist, where she sat in my lap. It seemed Sam didn't ever want to let go of me. And I can't say I had a problem with that. I didn't want to let go of her either.
Daniel sat opposite me with his arms around Janet. The look in his eyes was both joyous and possessive. I would bet that he wouldn't be letting go of her anytime soon. Mia was sitting next to Daniel and was looking curiously at Teal'c – but then she hadn't met him before. Teal'c, sitting opposite her on my right, was looking at her just as curiously. Behind me, I could hear Riley snarling and pacing. I smiled softly. Riley had never had much patience. But then, I could blame her. Her husband was out there somewhere – and he was alive.
I shifted my gaze back to General Hammond, who was standing with his back to us, looking out the window at the stargate below. We were all in the debriefing room, but no one had spoken in about five minutes. And I had no idea where to begin. How did you explain where you had been to people who had believed you were dead?
Suddenly, the General let out a deep sigh. "Colonel," he said, as he turned to look at me with haunted eyes. "You were dead. Major Carter, Teal'c and Doctor Fraiser all told me they saw you die." He paused for a moment, his eyes still boring into mine. "So how are you still alive?"
"Well, as you know, I'm no scientist, sir." I said and saw Danny smile out the corner of my eye. "But I'll try and explain this as best as I can."
Hammond nodded at me. "Do you remember the events leading up to our deaths?" I asked everyone. "The Eye of Ra?"
"Indeed, O'Neill." Teal'c replied. "We were trying to retrieve it for the Tok'ra."
"Yeah, well, it went off inside the mothership."
"I remember the flash." Janet said. Then her eyes turned sad. "I don't remember much afterwards, though."
I nodded. She wouldn't have. It was soon after that, that they had died – or to them, when we had died. "That's where everything goes, well, wrong." I said. "Somehow, and I don't know how exactly, the Eye of Ra managed to split our reality."
"Split our reality?" Sam turned in my arms, her eyes wide and almost disbelieving.
"Stranger things have happened." Janet said.
"And how did you find this out?" General Hammond asked quietly, like he couldn't quite believe it all.
So I told them everything. How Sam, Teal'c and Janet had died. How General Hammond had gone missing. The two years afterward filled with pain and black despair. I told them all about what we had become. And then I told them the amazing story of the friends we had made and the hope we had found.
Throughout my story, Sam, Janet and General Hammond had listened with looks of wonderment on their faces. Every now and then, Daniel and Riley had broken in to add things. And I had let them. It was as just as much their story as it was mine.
When I finally finished, everyone sat in silence for a long moment. I was amazed to see tears in Sam's eyes. I reached out a hand to cup her cheek. "I love you, Jack." She whispered softly.
"I love you, too." I whispered back.
"I would have liked to meet these people." Teal'c said.
"You would have like them." Daniel told him.
There was another moment of silence. I don't think anyone knew what to say. It was all quite a shock. The General looked at me and gave me a small smile. "That's one hell of a story, Colonel." He said.
"That it is, sir." I agreed.
I looked around me at those familiar and dear faces, and I couldn't keep the grin off my face. They were all alive! My heart felt so free. I caught Daniel's answering grin, as well as Janet's smile and General Hammond's look of amazement. "Damn, it's good to be back, sir." I said.
"Definitely." Daniel agreed.
Riley cleared her throat from my left, where she had sat down during the story. "I hate to interrupt everyone, but..." she trailed off, anxiety clear in her eyes. "Sir," she began again in a firmer voice. "With your permission, I would like to go and find my husband."
"Of course." The General said, almost distractedly. Then he glanced at her. "Wait a moment."
He leant forward and pressed the intercom. "Sergeant Davis, find Major Riley and tell him I want to see him."
"Yes, sir." Davis' voice replied.
As far as I knew, Riley's husband was an engineer with the army and therefore the usual rules of fraternization hadn't applied. I smiled as I saw her eager face.
"I, too, would like to return home." Mia said.
The General nodded. "I'll make the arrangements." He said.
"Thank you." Mia replied.
A few minutes later there was a respectful knock at the door. "Enter." Hammond called.
"Sir?" asked a male voice. "You wanted to see me?"
A tall, blonde haired man entered the room. He looked more like a drill sergeant than an engineer, with his broad shoulders and rigid posture, but I could see the intelligent gleam in his grey eyes.
"Brian..?" Riley said breathlessly. "Brian!"
The look of absolute shock on his face brought an amused smile to my lips. I watched the joy blossom in his eyes. "Jo?" he whispered, now oblivious to everyone else in the room.
Riley threw herself into his arms, making him stagger back a step or two. "Jo!" he said. "It's really you!"
"Yes, it is." Riley said, kissing him soundly.
When she finally came up for air, she let out what I can only call a carefree laugh. Her eyes sparkled with joy and she almost danced around the room. I felt Sam turn in my arms. She gave me an amused smile. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were enjoying all this romance."
"Who, me?" I asked innocently.
I smiled down at her, watching her beautiful blue eyes sparkle with joy and happiness. Her face glowed with it. "What can I say?" I said. "I'm just a hopeless old romantic."
"But you're my hopeless old romantic." She replied and kissed me softly.
The next few days were rather chaotic, but they passed in a relative haze for me. I was too busy enjoying my newfound happiness. It turned out there were a few more people than we had originally thought, who had woken up in a changed reality – and, as a result, plenty more joyous reunions.
Mia returned to her home planet to find her family and friends alive. But she surprised us by returning to the SGC after a few days and requesting permission to join a team and our fight against the Goa'uld. The General gratefully accepted and told her to spend the next month with her family.
General Hammond gave Riley her own team with Mia as one of her team members. Lieutenant-Colonel Riley was now the leader of SG-2. I thought it was rather appropriate and she seemed rather happy with the whole arrangement.
Danny surprised us all by proposing to Janet in the middle of the mess hall a day after we returned. I think Janet's exact reply was, "Hell, yes!", but I'm not entirely sure. The marines were all yelling loudly at the time.
The SGC soon fell back into a regular pattern as everyone got back to our exploration of the universe, but as always, the peace didn't last that long.
The Tok'ra came to visit us three days later. I seemed, to everyone else, Jacob Carter had died. This, of course, led to a long and tearful reunion with his daughter. He sought me out afterwards, trying to find out what had happened. I told him the whole story.
"I'm happy for you." Jacob said. "You've come back to life."
"Yeah, I have." I agreed.
"Take good care of my daughter, Jack." He said. "I don't want to loose her again."
"Neither do I."
The days flew by, and I treasured each one. It was finally decided that Sam would remain a member of SG-1. It seemed the President was moved by our story and didn't think we should be separated again. I didn't argue. Neither did Sam. Everyone around me seemed to be happy and I revelled in it. Everyone at the SGC deserved a whole lot more happiness in their lives. They'd earned it.
And as for me? I was perfectly content. Daniel was happy, Teal'c was happy, Sam was by my side...everything was as it should be. I gazed up at the stars and let my thoughts drift to Voyager and her crew. I had no doubt they would all get home. They were all determined and brave enough. People like that always won, because they never gave up. Besides, their Captain was a stubborn woman.
"Jack?" Sam's voice called, breaking into my thoughts.
"Up here." I called back.
I heard her scramble up onto the roof to join me. "What are you doing up here?"
"Just looking at the stars." Sam slid into my arms, where she belonged. "And thinking of friends."
"Do you think they'll make it home?" she asked.
"Without a doubt."
"That's good." She snuggled closer. "I'm very grateful to them. They brought you back to me."
"Yeah, they did." I replied. "And I'm not going anywhere."
And I wasn't. I was home, where I belonged. My world, once filled with soul deep grief and dark despair, was now filled with hope and love. I sent a final thank you to the stars and followed Sam back inside.
Author's Note: There, it's finally finished. I tried to tie up all the loose ends. So, what did you think? Reviews most welcome. Cheeky.