DISCLAIMER: All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
A/N #1-This story and its sequel (The Other Side of Reality) are complete and will be updated hopefully daily. There are 31 chapters plus an epilogue.
A/N #2-This story takes place sometime during season 7, 2004.
A/N #3-Special thanks to Linda B. for her observations and suggestions.
Second Reality To The Right
Jack O'Neill stood in the cereal aisle, reaching up for a larger-sized box of Lucky Charms when he heard someone, a woman, calling his name.
"Colonel? Colonel O'Neill?" He reacted to his last name, not the military rank.
"Oh, my God! It really is you, sir!" The woman surged forward, embracing him as if he were some long-lost love, then backed off, suddenly self-conscious at her familiarity.
"Sorry, sir, it's just after all this time. . . . I mean, I didn't think you were alive here. All my searches came up blank, and I thought I'd tried everything. . . . I can't tell you how happy I am to see you!" She looked as if she were about to embrace him again, and Jack took a step back, still staring at the woman who babbled effusively at him.
She was tall, slim, with short-cropped blonde hair and the biggest blue eyes he could remember seeing. His first impression of her was she was stunning. His second impression was she'd mistaken him for someone else.
"I guess I should have tried searching outside of Colorado Springs, but you seemed so rooted there and usually have such an aversion to Denver that I never thought. . ."
"Wait a second!" Jack said, waving his hands at her, trying to stop the onslaught of words. "Look, Lady, I'm not sure who you think I am, but I don't know you. I'm not in the military. The closest thing I've ever gotten to a uniform was Scout Master of my son's troop. So, if you'll excuse me. . . ." He reached up again, grabbed the box of cereal, and tossed it in his cart, intent on getting away from this nut case.
"Jack, wait!" That got his attention. How the hell did she know his name? He stopped dead and slowly turned back to face her.
"Who are you? How do you know my name?" She glanced around, appearing to be afraid she'd be over-heard. Classic symptoms of paranoia, he thought to himself.
"My name is Samantha Carter," she said in a low voice, digging in her purse until she found a scrap of paper and a pen. She scribbled the name and a number on it, pressing it into his hand. "I work with you where I come from. We need to talk. Call me." With that she walked away, leaving Jack utterly speechless.
The interior of the bar was dark, especially after the glaring afternoon sun. It didn't take long for Jack to pick out Kawalsky's form in the gloom, especially when the man was waving at him.
"Hey! Jack! I'm glad you could join me! It isn't often you can break away from being Mr. Mom," he teased.
Jack returned his grin, signaling the bartender by pointing at the draft taps. "Charlie's at baseball practice. I figured the old man could sneak off for a little while, besides, it isn't often you're in my neck of the woods."
"Well I'm glad to see you taking some time for yourself. You're much too driven."
Jack accepted his beer and took a sip. "You should talk. You can't seem to pull yourself away from. . .what did you say it was? Deep space radar telemetry?"
Charlie chuckled. "Some pretty fascinating stuff. But you should know."
"My interest in astronomy is just a hobby. You know that. Gives me a break from keeping the kids blowing up the chemistry lab."
"Golf is a hobby. You have more than a passing interest in the stars. I'm surprised you didn't become an astronomer."
"And I'm surprised you did." They sat for a moment, savoring their drinks when Charlie asked conversationally,
"So, what have you been up to?"
"This and that. They've asked me to coach the baseball team, but I don't want to do that to Charlie. It was bad enough when I was his scout leader. I'll maybe think about it after he graduates."
"What grade is he now?"
"He'll be a junior this fall."
Kawalsky leaned against the bar, shaking his head. "There's no way. I swear to God that kid was just born."
"It does seem like yesterday," Jack agreed. "And a lifetime since Sara, well, since the accident."
"Jack, you can't keep blaming yourself for that. She chose to move your gun. You weren't even home."
"No, but I know how she hated them. Especially with Charlie in the house. It's just after the break-in, I thought we needed some protection. I always made sure it was locked up, but for some reason Sara was cleaning out the drawer that day. Charlie must have come across the gun. That's the only thing I can figure out, since he doesn't remember what happened. All the doctors said it was a blessing he suppressed it, but it also means I'll never know how she ended up shot.
"It was an accident, Jack. How many times did the cops have to tell you that?"
Jack looked down. "Yeah, that Shanahan guy went out of his way to reassure me the odds were astronomical." Jack fiddled with his drink coaster, then shifted his gaze to Kawalsky. "She still ended up dead, though."
Conversation stalled as neither man seemed to know what to say. After finishing off his beer and requesting another, Jack turned to his friend.
"I had something weird happen to me today."
"I was in the grocery store and this bombshell blonde walks up like she knows me, but is calling me Colonel O'Neill."
Kawalsky just raised his eyebrows, inviting him to continue. "And then she calls me 'Jack.' How weird is that? I suppose it wouldn't be that hard to find out my name, but why would she? And act like she knows me?"
Charlie opened his mouth to speak, but Jack cut him off. "Then she tells me her name is Samantha Carter and goes all cloak and dagger on me, looking around like she's being watched. She wrote down her number on a piece of paper, shoved it in my hand, and told me to call her."
"And then what?"
"And then nothing. She walks off and I'm left standing amongst the Froot Loops with my mouth hanging open."
Charlie took a drink from his beer. "So you're going to call her, right?"
Jack looked at him, incredulous. "What? No! She's three fries short of a Happy Meal! Why would I call her?"
"Because you said she's a knockout and you haven't been out with a woman in any capacity since your wife died."
"I didn't say she was a 'knockout.'"
"Not in so many words, but I know you, Jack. The fact you referred to her as a 'bombshell' means you noticed her as a woman, and you liked what you saw. Don't bother trying to lie to me."
Jack didn't know how to answer him. Okay, if he was honest with himself, then yeah, he did find her attractive, but just because she was pretty didn't mean she was normal.
"So you're telling me I should call her?"
"I'm telling you that you should hang on to that number. If some hot chick was inviting me to call her, you can bet I'd follow up on it."
Jack chuckled. "Yeah, over Marie's dead body."
"Okay, so you make a point," Kawalsky smiled in return. "All I'm saying is don't be too hasty.I gotta use the john. You got time for another?"
"Yeah, but I'm driving so I'm switching to soda."
Kawalsky laid a ten on the bar. "Get us another. And I want my change."
Jack watched his friend cross the bar. It was starting to fill up with happy hour customers, and he thought he'd better make the soda a quick one. He liked to be home before Charlie, even though his son was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. At seventeen, Charlie O'Neill exhibited the usual desire for independence, and Jack tried to give him his space. Still, when he was wound up after practice, Jack knew he liked to have someone to talk to about it, and he liked to be available for him. It wouldn't be much longer before Charlie was off to college and wouldn't need him as much for a sounding board. Jack intended to be there while he could.
Kawalsky retook his seat. "Why so pensive, Jack?"
"Just thinking," he replied, the oft-told joke making both men grin.
"About your Mystery Woman?"
"So what would be so bad about calling her? Worst thing that could happen is you'd have a good time."
"Or I lend credence to a psycho."
"Look, if she was a psycho she would have held you at knife point for your box of cereal."
"I think she's delusional, not a cereal killer," Jack said dryly.
"Oooo, that was bad, O'Neill." Kawalsky said, shaking his head in dismay.
"Sorry, but you left me no option."
Charlie drank nearly half his beer in one gulp, still looking at Jack in disbelief. "You know, you haven't changed since we were kids. And I don't mean that as a compliment."
"How old were we, anyway?"
Kawalsky's eyes glazed over for a moment as he tried to recall the years. "I think we were about Charlie's age.
Middle of high school as I recall. I kicked your ass in baseball."
"Yeah, but it was your ass that got bruised when it came to hockey."
"True enough. So. Seriously, Jack. You should call her. I don't see her kicking your ass, so what's the problem?"
Jack concentrated on folding and unfolding the napkin that had replaced his coaster. "It's just. . . What would I say to her? It's been so long, I don't know that I know how to talk to a woman that isn't a colleague."
"Well, she's the one that seems to want to talk to you. You could let her do talking to start with. Anything after that should come pretty naturally."
Kawalsky's advice seemed sound enough, but Jack was still nervous. The last time he was on a date was close to twenty years ago. So this wasn't a date. He wasn't even sure it was a phone call, but it had been years since he'd responded to a woman on a personal level. Ever since his wife died.
He knew women considered him attractive-he'd been the recipient of quite a few invitations-but he'd never felt comfortable accepting them. So how come the enigmatic blonde intrigued him so? What was it about her that kept him from tossing her number in the first trash bin he found?
Jack swallowed the last of his soda. "I gotta go. Good luck with your research."
Kawalsky fumbled for a second, and then seemed to recall what he was supposed to be doing for a living. "Right. Good luck with that blonde!" he called as Jack walked away.