Jack was surreptitiously looking around the chamber, his eyes lingering on the prisoner in stasis more than once all the while pretending to be listening to what the Tok'ra were talking about. Fortunately for him Reynolds seemed to actually be listening so all he had to do was make some appropriate noises every now and then when looks, questions or remarks were thrown his way. God, he was already bored and from experience he knew there would be at least an hour or two of chanting once the Goa'uld was brought out of stasis and prior to his extraction.
Ba'al – or his clone, whatever – probably also had some infamous last words they would be forced to listen to as well. As if he hadn't heard enough of the Goa'uld's yammering when transporting the guy together with SG-3 a few days ago. Jack would have preferred forgoing the whole extraction ceremony but the President had insisted a high-ranking individual from their government should be present because this was the last clone and Per'sus and Garshaw had insisted all of SG-1 – former and current – be present anyway, so he was forced to go. If it were up to him he'd just as gladly have shot the Goa'uld since they couldn't expect the host to bounce back after being overtaken by a Goa'uld for over two thousand years; hell, death would probably be a welcome relief to the host after all this time.
His ears pricked up when he thought he heard the gate outside activate and after casting a glance at his watch he figured it had to be Sam, Teal'c and SG-1, right on schedule. Oh God, he couldn't wait to see his wife. It had been months since they'd last been in the same room, touching and kissing, or even breathing the same air and instead had only seen each other on video conferences in a professional setting. If that wasn't reason enough there was the fact she would have been relieved of command some time these past few days. Jack was pretty sure that had been another – if not the main – reason the President had insisted he'd escort Ba'al to the new Tok'ra homeworld, especially days in advance of the actual extraction; this way he wouldn't be able to interfere in the IOA's decisions regarding Atlantis, no matter how much he wanted to. Unfortunately it also meant he couldn't be there to support his wife when she was told she would be reassigned. Hopefully the extraction would be over soon so he could take her home, but with his luck that was unlikely.
Jack threw another glance at his watch, wondering what was keeping SG-1. Perhaps it would have been better to keep SG-3 guarding the gate but the Tok'ra had been insistent on using their own people and system, which was understandable since he would have said the same thing if the roles were reversed. He could just imagine letting the Tok'ra guard the gate room and operating the control room at the SGC, ha! Over his dead body. Besides, this way he and SG-3 could keep a close eye on Ba'al; it didn't matter the guy was in stasis, you could never be too careful with the snakehead.
Suddenly he heard something like a commotion outside and after nudging Reynolds the two exchanged glances, coming to an understanding. "Excuse us for a moment," Jack interrupted whatever Pussy was talking about. "We'll just check in with SG-1, see if we have to check in with the SGC or something."
"Of course, General O'Neill," Garshaw said with a regal bow.
Seeing the silent question in Reynolds' eyes Jack nodded. "Get your men, just in case," he ordered, before making his way toward the exit. The voices of SG-1 and Teal'c's baritone were getting clearer as he got outside and he got this gut feeling something was off. Taking longer strides it only took him a minute to reach them. It seemed like something was going on, with Teal'c, Vala and Mitchell standing to one side and Daniel and Sam on the other. He could only see a glimpse of blond behind his favorite archeologist, but he knew it was his wife. He frowned when Daniel's khaki pants and black shirt registered with him. Why wasn't he in BDUs? Where was his weapon and why in the heck was he leaning on a cane?
"Well hello kids, how nice of you to finally join us here in Tok'ra land," he greeted, taking another step closer. His eyes narrowed when he noticed Mitchell's gun slightly raised at Sam and Daniel. "What's going on? What did I miss?"
"Jack!" Daniel flashed him a grin as he leaned heavily on his cane.
Had the man gone back to his clumsy ways and injured his leg or foot? Well, at least he wasn't dead or ascended again, Jack thought. "Daniel," he replied.
As soon as the archeologist stepped aside he caught a glimpse of Sam and then she cried his name and ran up to him. "Jack!"
"Car-umph!" Suddenly he had his arms full of Carter, her own wrapped tightly around his neck as she pressed herself against him. Before he could even think of something to say her lips were on his and she took advantage of his surprise by delving her tongue into his mouth. Jack couldn't help but return the kiss as best he could, enjoying the sweet taste of her after all these months of separation. When she finally pulled back he had to force himself to take on the role of superior officer, one he hated when it came to her. "Carter, what the hell?"
Her eyes grew wide as saucers and her still swollen lower lip trembled. "Jack?" Her voice sounded so small and confused that his heart went out to her.
Jack grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her to the side with him. He would have preferred some place a little more private for this but the Tok'ra sure loved those damn sandy planets with their tiny dunes, which offered no cover at all. But at least this way their friends and her former teammates wouldn't overhear. It was only then that he realized she wasn't wearing BDUs either. "Sam, what's going on?" He frowned at her sneakers, jeans and red shirt and her untied hair. God, could she have taken the news of Woolsey taking over command this badly? It just wasn't like her to be anything but professional and what the hell had Hank been thinking letting her and Daniel go off-world in their civvies, with no weapons?
Sam took a step back, gnawing her lip nervously and he could feel a faint tremor in her arm. An arm that was more toned than he could recall from their last meeting and he briefly wondered if she'd been training her upper body more vigorously after breaking her leg in those Genii mines a little over a month ago.
"Sam?" He repeated when she didn't say a word, just looked at him like he was going to rip her a new one. "Hey," he tried in a softer tone, brushing the long lock that had been her bangs when he last saw her out of her face. "What's going on Sam? I thought we had agreed to keep things professional when on duty. I know this isn't a real mission but-"
"Oh, thank God!" She uttered, throwing herself at him again.
Jack cautiously wrapped his arms around her again, starting to get really concerned about her. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, absolutely nothing," she said as she snuggled closer. "For a minute I just thought… but, thank god… Oh, I missed you so much, Jack."
He nuzzled her hair while she tucked her head under his chin and rubbed a soothing hand over her back. He couldn't help but notice how long her hair had gotten now that it was untied instead of in her usual braid and nearly reached her waist. There had to be something in the air on Atlantis, he mused. "Are you okay?"
"Never been better," came her quick response.
Jack reluctantly pulled back and looked her in the eye. "What's going on? I knew you were going to be upset, hell I was pissed, but I didn't think you'd be this emotional over losing command of Atlantis," he gently tried.
"I don't know what Woolsey told you but HWS, the JCS and the President all agreed you've done a damn fine job at command, but unfortunately the IOA is pulling the strings when it comes to Atlantis."
The confusion left her face and Sam suddenly started laughing mirthlessly, a rather unpleasant sound to him. "No, it's not Atlantis… I have something to tell you-"
"Please don't tell me you resigned over the situation with Woolsey because that was just politically motivated and-"
"No, this has nothing to do with him; it's about Ba'al," Sam said cautiously.
Jack's face hardened, his mind flashing back unbidden to the torture he underwent at the Goa'uld's hands a few years ago. "What about him?"
"What, on Earth?"
"No, just let me finish, Jack," she admonished him, heedless of their difference in rank apparently. "Come, the others need to know as well and I'll need Daniel's support for you to believe me."
His eyebrows shot up as she pulled him with her towards the others. "You know I'd believe you, Carter," he replied when they got into earshot of the others. Hopefully she and apparently Daniel too could clear this up and the rest of them could just pretend this little slip in protocol had never occurred if they behaved professionally from now on. One of the things he'd vowed to himself when they got together was that Sam's career wouldn't be blemished by their relationship and something like kissing your superior officer while on duty… well, let's just say it could be cause for a black mark at the least.
"General O'Neill, Sir, I feel I should inform you that," Mitchell said, pointing at Carter with his P90, "is not the same Sam that left the SGC with us."
"Indeed, nor is this Daniel Jackson the same person who entered the wormhole," Teal'c chimed in.
"What?" Jack looked between his two friends in confusion, but neither Sam nor Daniel looked like they were confused… they both just wore a bit of an embarrassed or maybe sheepish look. "Feel free to start that explanation any time now, Carter. Daniel, I've heard you're more than welcome to jump in."
Daniel shot him an irritated look. "Gee thanks, Jack."
"Guys," Sam said in a low tone. "Please, just hear me, us, out," she gestured between her and Daniel. When everyone nodded wearily she flashed them a quick smile and took a deep breath. "Okay, so we've been here before. All of us. Something happened when the extraction was about to start; people just vanished into thin air and Ba'al had just told us that the original him was still out there and had a recently completed failsafe device in place in case anything happened to him. Amidst the confusion of the vanishing people Ba'al got loose somehow and attacked, Cam shot and killed him and you," she looked at Jack, "ordered us to the gate."
"Teal'c and Vala had already vanished," Daniel added. "So the three of us ran to the gate, dialed and after sending the IDC we went through but we ended up in a ship, instead of the SGC."
Sam held up her hand when it became clear they were all confused. "It turned out we were on Achilles, the ship that brought the Stargate to the United States. The one your grandfather had worked on, Cam."
"We were stuck on the Arctic Ice and were eventually saved by a special forces training group lead by… you," Daniel said, looking at him.
"Me?" Jack questioned, puzzled at their little story.
"Sam was able to deduce Ba'al had used his failsafe device to travel back in time and prevent the Stargate from ever reaching the United States in 1939."
She nodded and explained. "See, when Ba'al did so history as we know it unfolded differently and an alternate timeline was created. Somehow the three of us," she gestured at herself, Daniel and Mitchell, "had been accidentally preserved from the changes, probably because we were in transit at the time. Anyway, it meant that this had never happened and the Stargate Program had never been created."
"The government was understandably unwilling to let us "fix" the timeline," Daniel said, adding air quotes, "so Sam came up with a plan of her own. To make a long story short, we went back into time, prevented Ba'al from messing everything up and got back here in the jumper found on Maybourne's planet."
Jack watched as Sam got a handheld device out of her pocket and pushed a button, revealing the jumper next to the gate. "I don't believe it! That bastard went back in time just so he could stop us from executing him?"
"Well, when you put it like that it actually sounds pretty smart, General," Vala chimed in, smirking.
"Oh for crying out loud," he muttered, scowling. "But wouldn't taking that baby for a spin have altered the timeline in itself?"
Sam seemed stunned for a moment by his remark, almost as if she hadn't expected him to pay attention or to understand it. Surely she should know better by now? "Eh, yes Sir. Normally it would, but using the temporal device in the back creates a sort of energy field that encompasses the entire ship, allowing the traveler to literally fly through time. So this ship is preserved from the alternate timeline, meaning the "original" one should still be in our possession in Area 51."
"So there's two of them?" Mitchell questioned.
"Wait, does that mean there are two of you two too?" Jack asked, suddenly alarmed. Not that it would necessarily be a bad thing to have two versions of two of the smartest people he knew walking around, but it seemed dangerous… like Hammond once said; some lines aren't meant to be crossed.
"No, I theorized that by giving the jumper's temporal device specific instructions when traveling back to the present the timeline itself would recognize there are two versions of the same people since Daniel and I were both protected in the ship instead of one and would correct the "mistake" by removing the youngest version and allowing the older molecular form to remain," Sam was quick to explain.
Mitchell started nodding slowly, looking between her and Daniel, the gate and the jumper. "That's why Daniel and Sam just vanished into thin air and the two of you were standing there!"
Daniel awkwardly leaned down and pulled a laptop out of the bag at his feet. "After eliminating Ba'al Sam managed to retrieve the coordinates of the planet Ba'al had come from. The Jaffa had this small portable DHD, sort of like what the jumper uses to dial Stargates only a handheld version, I guess and the address was preprogrammed into it."
"I also matched it up to the address of the last incoming wormhole from the gate," Sam confirmed, before turning to Mitchell. "You should take SG-1 to this address immediately and destroy the failsafe device, just in case there is another clone or someone else who knows about its purpose out there."
"But… the extraction ceremony," Mitchell spluttered, looking torn. "It's my first, Sam!"
"Oh for crying out loud, those things are boring as hell. Be glad you can get out of attending it."
Sam nodded and shared a smile with Daniel. "Yeah, trust me you were not impressed with those three hours of chanting."
"Three, really? Oy!" Jack exclaimed. That would be the longest they'd been to thus far. But wait! "Carter is right. This is extremely important. Teal'c, can you get Bra'tac to take you guys there in one of those ha'taks in orbit? I'll escort Carter and Daniel back to the SGC for a further debriefing and a medical exam, while Reynolds," he waved over his shoulder to the waiting SG-3 team commander, "can attend the ceremony in our stead."
Level 27, Stargate Command
Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs
"… and we emerged from the gate at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean, went to the surface and then Sam activated the temporal device and we went back to 1939," Daniel explained excitedly. "We waited for Ba'al to arrive and when the Stargate activated from inside the ship and the kawoosh blew through the hole we went in, eliminated him and his Jaffa and Sam checked out their dialing device and the Stargate."
"We had found a few of the Goa'uld stun grenades in Osiris' ship that we'd taken along with us, which now came in handy," she added with a small smile.
Jack watched as Hank tried to absorb all the new information. To his credit his friend seemed to take it well. At least he himself had gotten a little synopsis on the Tok'ra homeworld already. Poor Hank had been blindsided. "From there on out you went to the Tok'ra homeworld?"
Daniel shook his head and pulled off his glasses to rub his eyes. "Ah, no, actually. We weren't sure if the Tok'ra planet had a planet seventy years ago so I suggested we go back to Maybourne's planet and go back to the present. We checked the ruins and everything seemed to be in order. Colonel O'Neill wasn't where we'd left him the first time either so those were all good signs."
Jack wondered why Sam had grimaced at that but he figured it would have been awkward at the very least to have to work with his counterpart and then just dump him on a planet. "And then you went to the Tok'ra homeworld?"
"Yes Sir," she replied respectfully. "Where we informed you and SG-1."
"So Hank," he turned to his friend. "See why I just had to leave SG-3 there and escort Carter and Daniel back to the SGC?"
Hank Landry chuckled, his previous frown quickly disappearing as he grinned widely. "Oh yes, Jack, I just hope the President feels the same way. After all, disobeying an order from the commander-in-chief isn't your smartest move."
"Who knows, maybe he'll finally make me retire," he joked. Although the idea wasn't entirely unappealing now that Sam was back from Atlantis and would be stationed elsewhere. He had suggested giving her command of one of the new battle cruisers, he thought Phoenix would be a good fit even though it still felt like a demotion to him; going from commanding an entire alien city in another galaxy to a mere battle cruiser. Still, she would be the first female commander and once they would really let him retire Hank would hopefully take over HWS and Sam would have enough experience to take over the SGC. But there were still talks about maybe letting her work on the development of the moonbase and giving her that command, or another off-world base. Even then retiring to be with her sounded great to him. Maybe have a little Carter or two if they were lucky enough…
"I wouldn't count on it," Hank replied, before turning to Sam and Daniel. "Colonel Carter, Doctor Jackson, I'm sure you understand the necessity of undergoing a medical exam, just to see if you are who you say you are and if everything else is in order as well."
"Of course, Sir."
"Um, yes General," Daniel nodded slowly.
After exchanging glances with Hank, they got up simultaneously and wordlessly dismissed the two. "I'll go with you to the infirmary," Jack suggested. "It's not like I have anything better to do!" He grimaced when he noticed Daniel's limp, his heart going out to his friend for losing his leg like that and yet the archeologist had still insisted on joining Sam, knowing he would have gotten his leg 'back' if he had just stayed behind.
The two scientists were eerily quiet as they went down the corridor and entered the elevator. They exchanged glances but both seemed almost too preoccupied with something or another to actually say or do anything but stare silently. It was unnerving to Jack so he twined his fingers with Sam for the short ride up and squeezed her hand before releasing it. It earned him a small smile from his wife but that was okay for now; she had gone through a lot after all. The time he and Teal'c had been stuck in a timeloop had been tiring but at least they'd had their fun too, but Sam and Daniel had been forced to live another life for a hundred days after already being kept captive for over five weeks! And still his favorite two geeks had managed to fix the timeline and get back home!
Level 21, Stargate Command
Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs
Sam waited until Doctor Lam and one of her nurses had left her alone in her private room to get up and exchange the lovely hospital gown for her jeans and shirt again. She was just putting her shirt back on when Jack entered the room and locked it behind him. The security cameras in here weren't on since she wasn't in critical care or anything and had only gotten this room for a modicum of privacy.
"Hey you," Jack greeted, a gentle smile on his face.
She didn't bother with the shirt and just opened her arms for him, to which he gladly wrapped his own around her for a hug. "I really missed you," she murmured, repressing the memories and guilt of her affair with Colonel O'Neill and leaving him behind on the planet. It had been one of the hardest things she had ever done but she knew there was no way of taking him with them because it would mean he'd be the one in this room with her instead of her husband. And even if it had somehow been possible to merge the two Jack O'Neills then she probably still wouldn't have done it; not only because of the slightly contrasting personalities but also because she couldn't burden either of them with the memories of Charlie or Tyler.
"Me too, Sam," he whispered in her hair. "God, you have no idea how long I've been waiting to hold you again."
After a few minutes she finally pulled back and donned her shirt, feeling his eyes roaming her skin from her taut abdomen to her bra-clad breasts and then her back when she turned around. Were there any marks on her from her latest encounter with O'Neill? She didn't think so but she couldn't be sure so she pulled down her shirt to cover herself.
"You've been working out," Jack stated when she faced him again. His hand briefly brushing her stomach before sliding up her arm.
"I had a lot of pent up frustration," she replied, with a self-conscious smile. Up until now she hadn't really been aware of the extra muscle definition but now she understood his slow perusal.
"I'll bet." Then his hand slid up her neck and pulled her in for another kiss. This one was long and slow, full of promise for when they'd get home. "So," he murmured after breaking it off, "what did you keep out of your official report? Oh come on, Sam, we both know a hell of a lot more happened than you told me. I saw the glances between you and Daniel and from what I understand it sounded like my counterpart was keeping a pretty close eye on you…"
Sam took a deep breath, steeling herself and sat back on the infirmary bed. "You might want to sit down for this," she said wryly, patting on the empty spot next to her before launching into her explanation about the other O'Neill. She watched his face as she told him about her first encounter with his alter ego and slid her hand into his before telling him about Tyler. He squeezed it hard even though the boy clearly hadn't been his Charlie and she felt herself well up as she continued her story.
She was shaking by the time she confessed kissing his counterpart and she knew Jack could tell. By the time she admitted to sleeping with O'Neill he had tensed up but at least he hadn't pulled away just yet. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" Jack questioned in a huff, before scrubbing his free hand over his face. Shaking his head he pinned her with his dark eyes. "Sorry for what exactly, Sam? You had clearly planned bedding the guy so it's not like it was a mistake you should apologize for." He was quiet for a while and, to her fear, unreadable too. "If you hadn't done what you did," he said slowly, "then you probably wouldn't have been able to carry out your plan, right?"
"I-I, eh," she floundered, unsure of what to say. She wanted to say yes but was that really the truth? Perhaps she could have come up with another way to lull O'Neill and his superiors in a false sense of security and thereby keeping them distracted as to her real intentions. "I honestly don't know…"
He looked at her strangely but then he quirked a quick smile. "At least you're being honest," he explained. "And truth be told, Sam, I don't know what I would have done in your situation. If the roles were reversed, I mean. Hell, I probably would have still been in that other timeline waiting for Ba'al to make his appearance and enslave Earth. I cannot and will not condemn you for doing what you thought was necessary to get back home," Jack finally concluded, although she could tell it took him a bit of effort. "I mean, for all intents and purposes the guy is me, right?"
"Theoretically speaking yes," Sam nodded, squeezing his hand again. "Realistically? No, he's not and I can't tell you how glad I am to be back."
"C'mere," Jack murmured, pulling an arm around her shoulders.
She snuggled up to him, breathing in his familiar scent and drawing strength from his presence. "Jack? There is something else…"
He tensed up in her arms and she instinctively knew he didn't want to know any more details. It must have cost him more than he let on to accept her affair and she knew it was probably down to his insecurities about his age and her past attempt to move on from whatever it was they had at the time with Pete. She had hurt him, she knew, even though he would never tell her. "What is it, Sam?"
"There's a small, small chance I'm… pregnant."
"What?" He pulled back to look at her, a light shining in his eyes briefly before they turned dark and inscrutable again as they darted down to her flat abdomen. She could almost see him do the math 'just in case' only to realize there was no way it could be from the last time they'd been together. "You're pregnant with his child?"
Sam gripped his hand as he tried to pull away from her. "Jack, please, let me explain. Someone, and from his recent teamwork with Maybourne I'd guess it was him, told him the NID had switched out my birth control pills with fakes in the hopes me getting pregnant would deter me from restoring the timeline."
"Bastards," he muttered, running a hand through his hair. "How long were you sleeping with him?"
"About a month… but the long term effect from using my previous birth control on Atlantis should still be in effect for another month or so," she tried to reassure him. "And we don't even know if I can still conceive with my age, the trauma my body has gone through and the after effects from Jolinar or if a fetus could even survive being introduced into a new timeline."
Jack was silent for a few minutes, his jaw clenched as he was clearly processing all the information she'd just dumped on him. "If you and Daniel were protected by the temporal device then why wouldn't the same go for an unborn baby? I guess it would explain your ability to use Ancient technology…"
"But I've also received the gene therapy, remember."
"Oh right, almost forgot about that," he mumbled, not really seeming relieved by that.
Sam frowned, puzzled by his behavior. In a way she'd expected him to be shouting, yelling and maybe pacing around instead of just sitting there next to her. "I asked Doctor Lam to run some tests and hopefully she'll have the results of the therapy as well as any possible conception in a few days."
He looked up at that, his face still blank. "They can check for pregnancy already?"
"A blood test is more reliable in this case and should give me a definitive result."
"Okay," Jack said slowly before jumping off the bed. Standing in front of her he tipped her chin up with his finger. "The timeline was reset, right? Meaning the other me and… well, me are basically the same person just with different life experiences?" When she nodded he continued with a small smile. "Then I guess it doesn't really matter one way or another. You know I love kids and genetically speaking this would still be my baby, but even if it wasn't it's still yours. I guess I should be glad it was me they sent after you and you know, we do always seem to end up together in every alternate reality we've come across."
"Yeah, we do," Sam replied cautiously, not sure if she was only hearing what she wanted or if he was really saying this.
Leaning forward Jack gave her a quick kiss and let his forehead rest against hers. "I love you, Samantha Carter and you know I'd love to have a family with you if it's possible. I'm not going to lie and say I'm thrilled about what you did but if you hadn't done it then you wouldn't be here. None of us would."
She smiled shyly, surprised he was so generous about something she would always hold against herself and something she would probably never be able forget. With his known grudges it took her aback to see the love and trust Jack still felt for her and it was humbling in a whole new way now. "I love you too, Jack O'Neill."
A/N: That's a wrap! I hope you all enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would love to hear your opinion about the story!