Two Roads Diverged Meet Once Again

Spoilers: "Entity" in Season 4 and "Fragile Balance" in Season 7

Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate or any of its characters. I also cannot take credit for the famous lines penned by Robert Frost from his poem "The Road Not Taken"

It had been all over the news, and he had still managed to maintain his ignorance. Who cared if an international hero and pioneer had just died? Of natural causes of all things. Who cared about "the glory days" when he fought the Goa'uld, made time-treasured alliances with the Asgard, Tok'ra and countless other human-populated planets around the universe?

He once had. In fact, he had once been the person that the rest of the world was mourning.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth."

Dr. Jonathan O'Neill had at one time been the same man who had recently passed away, but because of what he had dubbed "the miracle," he had had an opportunity to relive his life. Now, as a Professor of English Literature at Harvard, his life was full of the excitement that the world of literary criticism had opened to him. No longer the uneducated, simple, uncultured military man, he was a man of many talents, respected by many for his criticisms and praised for his own collection of "scribbles."

As a writer, he considered himself an avid observer of the human condition. Having been in the military had taught him that there were elements of humanity common to every people, land and planet. It had become his life's work to study people from all walks of life- fictional, historical, and contemporary. His interest in this aspect of anthropology forced him to travel to all areas of the world, studying and observing the common threads between each culture. So far, he had been to Egypt, Australia, Canada, India, and a number of other exotic and far away places. But for the next month, he was returning to the place where the two roads of his life had diverged in the forests of Northern Colorado.

He still hadn't had the courage to go to Minnesota or Chicago. He and the original Jack O'Neill had agreed to distance themselves, realizing that to correspond at all with one another would be a disconcerting phenomenon. But as a result, he had been cut off from family and friends. Ultimately, it had been easier than trying to explain the incident, but it had made for a pretty lonely life.

He walked through the shopping mall, absently touching and picking up random objects. He carried a small dictaphone, picking up parts of various conversations around him. Often, these trivial conversations stimulated his psyche, giving him a realistic conversation that could take him out of a perplexing case of writer's block.

Suddenly, a conversation between a woman, easily in her late twenties with blond hair and blue eyes, and her mother caught his ear. "Mom! This is Sears! Not the Replicator ship."

He wandered over to find an optimal place to watch them. Obviously the old woman was senile. Good. He had wanted to find a person who was good and senile, and this silver-haired woman was a prime candidate. She firmly clasped her hands together in her lap, sitting perfectly still in her manual wheelchair. "I will NEVER tell you anything, Fifth. I don't care how realistic you think you're making this experience."

Fifth? He thought. Replicators? It had been a good thirty-five years since he had lived that life. Then, he chuckled. He was looking great for eighty-two, next month. Almost like a regular fifty-year-old. Except that he was on the younger side of that figure: forty-seven to be precise.

The woman clapped her hands in front of her face, taking a deep breath as she did so. She looked remarkably like Samantha Carter. But that was impossible.

"Mom! Thor, Daniel, Teal'c, and Daddy saved you from Fifth thirty years ago. It's me: Grace."

Grace. The name hit him like a ton of bricks. It was his…no, it was Jack's mother's name. Daniel. Teal'c. Thor. Was it possible that this was…Carter?

"How dare you!" The old woman hissed, setting her hands on the armrests of her wheelchair.

She couldn't have been more than seventy years old, but…Carter was senile? The thought both saddened and disturbed him greatly.

"What?" Grace asked, nearly at the end of her patience. "How dare I what?"

"There's no need to take that tone with me, young lady." She said, regaining perfect lucidity. She placed her elbows on the armrests of the chair, clasping her hands together. Yep, it was Carter. She looked like she was sitting in a briefing.

Grace took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Mom. I just…I'm thinking about getting some new plates. Wanna help me choose a pattern?"

"Whatever." She said, very 'Jack-like.'

She began studying her surroundings, much like he was doing. She watched all of the passers-by with a pleasant look in her eye. Suddenly, they were staring at one another, and Sam's eyes widened. "Holy Hannah!" She whispered.

Grace whirled around. "What?"

She just blinked, watching him. Grace's eyes followed her mother's line of sight and the dish she had been handling fell and broke when her eyes viewed him.

"Jack."

Grace was now busy with a sales associate, trying to explain the broken plate, flustered herself with the thoughts of her dead father lurking in the backgrounds of the store.

"Hello." He said, stepping further out of the shadows.

She looked him up and down. "You know, I almost didn't recognize you. It's…" She swallowed. "It's been a long time."

"Really?"

Her brow wrinkled as she studied him. "Jack, it's me. Sam."

Grace looked up from her argument with the associate. "I'll pay for the damn plate, okay?" She hissed standing up and watching the exchange.

"Ma'am, I'll need…"

"In a minute!" She snapped.

"I know." He said, taking another step toward her.

She smiled and reached for his hand, holding it against her cheek as tears fell from her watery eyes. "I knew you'd never leave me behind. They tried to tell me you died in your sleep." She gave a contemptuous laugh. "Not the Jack O'Neill I know and love."

His heart fluttered. This was the reason he had never remarried. He still loved Carter too much. And obviously, she and Jack had gotten the happily ever after that they had deserved.

She looked up at him, tears notwithstanding. "I've missed you."

"Backatcha." He said, a sad smile on his face.

It was then that he realized that the old Jack O'Neill had never really left him- just grown. In a new place. At another age. In another area.

She finally released his hand as her eyes drooped in sleep. He bent down and tenderly kissed her forehead. He could do it now. He wasn't in the Air Force. "G'bye Carter."

Grace, still understandably intrigued by the stranger, hurried up to him as he walked away. "Excuse me! Sir!"

He turned and looked up, trying to hide his own tears. "Mother" from all those years ago had been too perceptive of the human race. Men were not allowed to cry. "Yes?"

She studied him for a few moments. "I could've sworn you were him."

"Who?" He asked, eyebrows shooting up, inquisitively.

"You look like him. You act like him. You even talk like him." She marveled.

"Who?" He asked again, trying to play dumb.

"My dad. Lt. General Jack O'Neill."

Lt. General? Wow. Impressive. "Yeah…that hero guy."

She nodded, somberly. "He, uh, died recently."

"Your mom?" He asked, sympathetically.

"Doesn't have much time left. I'm just trying to get her out of the nursing home for a few hours a week."

"Nursing home?" He asked.

"Yeah. She, uh, relives the old days rather frequently. I thought today was going to be a good day, but…I guess flashbacks happen whether you're ready for them or not."

He nodded. There had been times that he had been standing in the front of a lecture hall filled with a hundred students, and some word or comment would trigger a flashback. Suddenly, the sea of faces would fade into a nightmare.

As he contemplated this, he looked into Grace's face. She looked so much like her mother. Before he realized it, the appliances lining the shelves of the department store became a corridor in the SGC. She stood before him, arms outstretched. The zatnik'tel in his hands begged to be shot. This was an alien entity. Cut and dry. It was going to destroy the Earth. But on the other hand, it was Carter.

"Carter!" He yelled.

"Sir?" Grace asked, innocently.

He shot the zat once, and she stopped, glaring at him as she set her arms against her sides. With a steely determination, she raised her arms again. The electricity engulfed her in a yellow fire. He aimed the zat at her again. It was just a matter of time before he was forced to do something he didn't want to do. He would rather have died than be forced to shoot her again, but he did shoot her, and she fell to the ground, dead.

"Carter." He whispered, hoarsely.

Grace just stared at him. "Who are you?"

He looked at her, blankly for a few moments before Sam reawoke and wheeled herself over. "Jack, it's okay. I'm here."

"But…"

"You did the right thing."

"But you…and I…Carter, I killed you."

"Carter?" Grace asked, surprised.

"No. You killed the entity. You saved my life."

Tears threatened to spill as he turned to the one woman he would love for the rest of his life. "I'm glad you were happy with him."

She looked genuinely startled. "You're not him?"

He shook his head. "No. I'm a little…young. Don't you think?"

Her eyes widened with realization. "Oh my gosh. You're…"

He nodded. "Yeah."

Tears stung her cheeks. "He led a full life."

"I know. Lt. General. Not bad."

She nodded. "I miss him so much."

Jonathan nodded. "We may not be close anymore, but…I can guarantee you that he's waiting for you. Wherever he is now."

"Thanks."

"No problem."

As he turned to leave, he looked back at Grace. "Take care of her. Okay? She's one special woman."

Grace nodded, watching him leave as her mother gave a contented sigh and breathed her last breath.

--

It was all over the news the next day, but this time, he couldn't manage to hide in his blissful state of ignorance. Who cared if an international hero and pioneer had just died? In her sleep? Who cared about "the glory days" when she fought the Goa'uld, made time-treasured alliances with the Asgard, Tok'ra and countless other human-populated planets around the universe?

He did. Because he had been there. He had seen her shine.

"Major General Samantha Carter, the last surviving member of the legendary SG-1 passed away yesterday afternoon."

A sad smile crept onto his face. Yes, all of the original members of SG-1 had passed away. But, no one knew about the fifth member- the duplicate who had been the experiment, the one who should have never have been created, the one who had been forced to take the road less traveled by.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." He quoted softly.

It had become his anthem, his theme song, his tragedy.