ChiralityAuthor's Note: This takes place in one of the canon AUs. Right after Moebius, in Ancient Egypt.
He can't leave them.
They don't speak the language, they don't know the history; they don't know their place. They wouldn't last a week. This he knows, because they're a far cry from his friends, and if they hadn't lasted without him, these people didn't stand a chance. He had left them for only three days, to try and recruit another village to their rebellion, and came back to find them dead.
It's not his fault, he likes to tell himself. There's nothing he could have done to save them. If he'd been there, he would have died with them, and what would that achieve?
Only, things like that are easy to tell oneself, and hard to truly believe.
"Can you tell me about the other me?" the other Sam asks, smiling widely and bouncing on the heels of her feet. She's stuck in ancient Egypt, but apparently it's better than a desk. "Do I have a boyfriend?"
"You did," he says, distantly. "You dumped him."
He says it coldly, but this other Sam is so fascinated by the fact that somewhere, in the future, she's going to reject someone instead of being rejected herself, she hardly notices.
"Why can't we take that ship and go home again?" the other Jack asks impatiently, tapping his foot, lifting small clouds of sand.
The other Sam is annoyed. The honeymoon was over. "We're there already," she says.
"We're not," the other Jack snaps back. "I think I'd know if I were there and not here."
"You know what I mean," she says, rolling her eyes. She's gaining confidence, and without the military bred into her, he's noticed that she's not afraid to come out and say exactly what's on her mind.
"It is no longer our world, O'Neill," the other Teal'c says calmly. "We have changed it, and it now belongs to them."
The other Jack shakes his head, before looking over at him. "What about you?" he asks. "You've been here five years already, don't you want to go home?"
He stares at him, not really seeing him, and frowns. My friends are dead because of me, he thinks. He says, "What do I care where I am?"
It was his idea. It's not that it didn't work, his plans usually work, and this one worked perfectly, just not the way he'd planned. He's always had a bad habit of never thinking things through.
Somewhere, there's a Daniel just like him, with a Jack and a Sam and a Teal'c just like the ones he knew, and they have a ZPM, because they sacrificed themselves for them.
He wishes, most of the time, that he had died with his friends; but he knows that if he had, it would all have been for nothing. It was his video tape, his plan, that kept the rebellion on track and got the ZPM in the hands of the SGC. If they had all died, the timeline would have stayed in its altered state.
"You're not like the other Daniel at all," the other Sam tells him. "He couldn't stop talking, and you don't seem to start."
He sighs, placing a hand to his head. "Look," he says, "don't take this the wrong way or anything, but I don't even think I like you."
She looks at him, hurt, and with Sam's eyes. He gets to his feet and walks away. He'll apologize later, maybe.
Or maybe not.
Part of him hates the alternate Jack. It would be so easy to let himself fall prey to the appearance of them, to believe they're the same people, to think he hasn't lost anything at all; but they don't know him, and he knows them less.
This Jack is hard, unfeeling, reminiscent of the man he'd met nine years earlier. Only unlike his Jack, this one wasn't really changing. This Jack and Sam had a falling out after the first few weeks, but choices were slim, and their status flickered from on to off with startling regularity.
It was bizarre, at first, watching them make out like it was love at first sight. Teal'c was simply a blast from the past. He kept seeing Sha'uri every time he glanced in his direction, with glowing eyes and a ribbon device.
He shed the armor, at least.
All of them are misfits. The other Jack befriends a few of the children, tells them about how in some places there's more water than sand. Sam takes apart the staff weapons one by one, to the constant annoyance of Teal'c, as she tries to figure out what's inside and why it works.
Egypt isn't so unlike Abydos, aside from the company. He thinks he sees Shau'ri sometimes, in certain faces, hiding behind dark brown eyes; but she hasn't been born yet. She hasn't been married yet, a mother yet, dead. They were an abnormality, living only to satisfy the passing of time.
The sun bothers Sam and Jack, but nothing touches Teal'c, and it's the one solace that he has in any of this. He has to remind himself sometimes that he's on Earth, living an archeologist's dream; living his own dream.
"We're havin' a party," the other Jack tells him, smiling widely. "Comin'?"
He only tries because he senses there was something there before, with the real Jack, back in a different time and he thinks he can fill the space. "I'll be there in a minute," he says, but they both know he won't.
He falls to sit on the sand after he's gone, and looks at the horizon. He wants nothing more than to walk out into the desert until he disappears, but he stays anyway, unmoving, at the edge of the tent. He made them, in a way, and he's tied here.
They're his punishment, he supposes. And his penance.