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 Fragile Balance of Politics


Chapter 7

Daniel looked up, about to ask Casey if she was ready for a coffee break. Frowned when he realized she wasn't in the room. He heaved a sigh. He had hoped that the fact that she hadn't had the nightmare would ease her unfathomable need to be near the Quantum Mirror. His gut told him that was exactly where she was at. "I'm going to take a break," he said quietly. "You guys do the same. We need to get these translations completed, but we don't need to burn ourselves out doing it."

Cam quirked an eyebrow. Not long ago, Daniel wouldn't have left his office until he'd completed translating every pillar that was photographed. How many times had he tried to make the brilliant archaeologist understand that exhausting himself in the pursuit of translations, of finding the answers to the questions that plagued him, didn't do anything for him, or those around him? Amazing what the love of a good woman could do to...and for...a man. He hid his smile, gave a nod of agreement.

Jonas looked up from where he sat at Casey's desk, nodded his acknowledgement as well.

The redheaded archaeologist stretched. "Daniel," Cam said, "you can tell me to mind my own damned business, but...is everything okay? Casey seems so...distracted...lately, and both of you look like you could use a couple of nights' sleep."

He tossed his pencil onto the desk, leaned back in his chair, took his glasses off with one hand, scrubbed the other hand over his face. "Casey's been dealing with a very...intense...nightmare," Daniel said wearily. "The worst part is, when she's fully awake, she can't remember even the tiniest detail."

That was unusual, Cam thought. His frown matched that of his boss. "Maybe it's just a good old fashioned nightmare, and not a premonition. With all she's been through lately, that would certainly be a normal reaction to the stress."

Feeling vindicated that someone else could see that it was stress bothering his Wife, and not a premonition of impending disaster, Daniel flashed a smile, settled his glasses back on his nose. "That's what I told her. I'm going to try to get a couple of days off. Last night was first she slept without having the nightmare in almost two weeks," he replied.

"Probably a good idea to take time off now. Don't know how much we'll be able to get after we start this 'scavenger hunt'," Cam said.

"My thoughts exactly," Daniel nodded. "Okay. Break. In fact, let's just call it a day. I know, it's not even three yet. But days are going to be long around here. Take the early secure and run."

Cam grinned. "I'm betting you haven't read the memo about the fact that the mountain is basically locked down until the president leaves."

Well, shit! He had forgotten that the politician was wandering the concrete corridors of the SGC. So much for getting Casey out of here early! "I hate dog-and-pony shows," Daniel muttered, not quite under his breath.

"There will be dogs and ponies?" Jonas piped up, his eyes going wide with excitement. He'd seen pictures, of course, but to actually get to see, and maybe even touch real, breathing animals...

Daniel chuckled. "It would probably make the day more bearable. But no. It's just a maxim...an old saying," he added, noting the frown on the Kelownan's face. "It means to put on an elaborate presentation. Usually in an attempt to garner support. Here at the SGC, it's a very carefully arranged tour meant to show visiting dignitaries, mostly politicians, what the Stargate Program is about, to get funding."

"Oh," Jonas said quietly. His disappointment was obvious, to the amusement of his companions.

"Maybe you should plan a trip to the zoo," Cam suggested.

Jonas gave the archaeologist a thoughtful look. "That would be very interesting," he agreed.

Cam and Daniel exchanged grins.

"Casey and I will take you," Daniel offered. Thought about how much fun it would be watching the Kelownan, and his Wife...especially in the petting zoo.

"Really? That would be wonderful!" Jonas exclaimed.

Daniel's grin widened. "I'll talk to her about it. Maybe we can plan it for this coming weekend."

"I'll be ready whenever you say," Jonas promised.

"I'm sure you will be. For now, find something fun to do." Daniel rose from his chair. "I'm going to find Casey, and a cup of coffee."

Cam was gathering his notes. "I think I'm going to sit down and read the new 'Archaeologist's Digest'. Haven't had a chance to even peek at it yet."

"Let me know if there's anything interesting," Daniel said over his shoulder as he walked toward the door.

"I will," Cam replied.




Casey sensed the...presence...of the Being that seemed to be hovering nearby. Whoever...whatever...it was, the Being was more powerful than any she'd encountered before. It continued to linger close by, and then...she felt a touch; it was gentle, almost shy. She hesitated. Given her track record of late, reaching out to this entity might cause more trouble for the friends she was trying to help. Or would try to help, as soon as she was allowed to speak to General Hammond. Curiosity overcame her fears, and she just as shyly reached back. Felt a gentle caress against her mind.

The feeling changed, became...angry. Yep, you screwed up yet again, my girl! Just as quickly as the anger had touched her, it was gone. Okay...that was totally weird. Afraid of angering the entity again with her attempts to touch it, Casey pulled back completely. Now that the klaxons blaring in the corridor outside of the brig had been silenced, she settled back on the bunk. Felt the touch once again. This time it was stronger, and...friendly?

There was something...odd...about the touch. Human...but not human. "Okay, either zap me dead, scramble my brain, or talk to me...just don't keep hovering nearby and scaring the bejeezus out of me!" Frightened or nervous, and the smartass was loose. Frightened? Damned straight. Nervous? Extremely. Full smartass mode engaged.

"Young one, why are you in a forest...universe...not your own?"

The words were soft, gentle; resonated like a caress in her brain. "I have to see Annika. There's something wrong, something horribly wrong," Casey whispered in reply. "I need to warn her...except, I screwed up again. I think I'm too late." The pain that washed over her at the realization that once again her gift had failed her brought tears to her green eyes.

"You know my sapling?"

"Huh? Sapling?...as in...a tree? Oh great! I've lost my friggin' mind! I'm talking to a tree!" Casey shook her head. Sure, why not? I just got here through a freaking mirror. I live in the flippin' Twilight Zone! She huffed a sigh, certain that not only had her gift 'deserted' her, but her mind as well.

"Your mind appears to be sound to me."

For a moment she thought the entity was joking. Realized that whoever she was talking to, 'She' was serious. "Thanks...I think. I just...who are you?" A flood of emotion came through to her...a sense of delight, of confusion, of familiarity; and of all things...a sense of being welcomed.

"I am one of the Protectors of this universe ... just as you are in yours."

Protectors? Something told her that this entity wasn't a Protector in the sense that Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were Daniel's Protector's. No, this felt more like..."The One! You're The One, in this reality that is!"

"I am one of many Protectors."

Well that must come in handy, she thought, with a touch of indignation. Daniel hadn't been offered the chance to have any help...to be 'one of many'. Hadn't really given a chance to accept or reject his position as The One.

She could sense the Being's bafflement. "Are you not one of the Seventh Level beings of your universe?"

This...tree...either had the most twisted sense of humor she'd ever encountered, or was totally mistaken about who...and what...she was. "Uh...no? I mean, I know about that level and all, and I know that Miss Eloise, she's my Spirit Guide, is Ascended, and The Others are on the level above that...but..." her voice faded when she realized that once again she was babbling. "What would make you think I'm a being from the 7th level?"

"You have the...spiritual fortitude...imparted to the Seventh Level, at least in part. You have the guiding light of premonition. And I sense you are immortal." The being spoke slowly, as if she were doing her best to be understood. "I assume you impart that knowledge to The One?"

"I do my best." What the Being had said settled into her brain. 'Spiritual fortitude imparted to the Seventh Level'? What in the hell did that mean...exactly? 'Guiding light of premonition', that part she understood! "I'm a seer, yes. Not a very good one, though," she mumbled the latter to herself, unaware that the being could 'hear' her every thought.

"There is no need to downplay your accomplishments Guide sapling. Your gifts are well cultivated."

"I don't know about 'downplaying' my accomplishments. I just have to face what I can and can't do." If this Being knew the truth, she'd probably render me senseless, Casey thought dejectedly.

"'The One' in your reality is a committee of Protectors?"

"The only committee I know about is the Ascended Committee. Daniel...my Husband, the counterpart to the Daniel Jackson in this reality...he's The One."

"You share the humorous disposition of sapling Jack. 'The One' being just a single entity of the mortal realm."

For a moment, all she could see in her mind's eye was a tree...with Jack's face. Her burst of laughter echoed in the room. "Sorry, cupcake, like it or not," and I don't, she thought peevishly, "Daniel is it. The One." Casey could feel the absolute shock the of the Entity. She assumed it had something to do with her Daniel being The One. The shock turned to anger. Thankfully, that anger wasn't directed at her...something she was able to sense immediately. However, she could also sense that it would be a good thing to keep this...tree...from figuratively blowing Her bark. Needing a distraction, and needing it now, she focused on the only thing she could find that had nothing to do with her gift or Daniel being The One. "What do you mean, 'Guide sapling'?

"I do not mean offense. In terms of your immortality you are but a sapling."

The being seemed so genuinely contrite that Casey was filled with the desire to console 'Her'. "It's okay...I hadn't thought of it that way...wow...you must be really old!" As soon as her voice echoed back to her, she could feel the heat of embarrassment in her cheeks. "I'm sorry, that was so very rude!"

The Being chuckled. "My age is not something that causes shame." There was a slight shift in 'Her' emotions . "My shame is for becoming so complacent in my duties that I and my brethren allowed Ourselves to be deceived."

Casey could feel that shame as it seemed to shudder through the being. It made her ache to put her arms around the...tree...and hug her tightly. "I have a friend who says that nothing is so bad that it can't be fixed. I believe him. Whatever it is, it can be fixed."

She could 'feel' the Being hesitate. Then the tree asked a question that sent her mind reeling. "Guide sapling, are you with child?"




The door to the storage room where the Quantum Mirror was stored was closed. Daniel frowned. Maybe Beth had closed the door, not wanting the President of the United States to see a storeroom that was literally a jumble of crates and artifacts. Until the final paperwork was finished, securing levels thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen as storage for the SGC, there just wasn't room for everything. Actually, he thought, it might spur the president to help General Hammond expedite the process.

His hand was on the doorknob when he heard voices. Male voices. Okay, that was...odd. He peeked into the room, not certain what to expect. The mirror was on...and two armed Marines were standing in the storage room...in the opposite reality.

A small frown on his face, Daniel stepped into the room. "Uh...hello."

Their reaction was one of shock: seeing the man who Ferretti had just carried to the infirmary standing there...staring at them with a slightly confused look on his face...was an oddity they hadn't been prepared for.

When he moved toward the mirror, both men raised their weapons. "Just relax, fellas. I'm one of the good guys," Daniel said.

"Says you," one of the Marines responded.

Casey was obviously not here. He was ready to turn around and leave, telling the men that he'd make certain that they weren't disturbed, a thought that almost made him chuckle out loud, when he caught sight of a boot just in front of the mirror...on the wrong side. The sole was turned toward him. On the heel of that government issued boot was a sharp cut. Made when the team had been crawling over the rocks to examine two other ruins on the planet where they'd located Ba'al's temple, and the bas-relief of him holding what they now knew was a piece of an Ancient weapon. Casey had slid over what was left of a column, onto the sharp edge of what had once been a metal beam of some sort. She hadn't been hurt, but Teal'c had pointed out the cut as they made their way back to the 'gate, her boot print revealing the new imperfection. His eyes scanned the floor...the other boot was lying beneath the work bench. His heart nearly stopped beating as the implications of the arrangement of those boots settled in his mind. He forced himself to remain calm...absently wondering why Casey had taken off her boots in the first place. "I don't suppose you know where the owner of those boots might be?" he asked, pointing to the leather footwear. "Five-seven, blonde hair, big green eyes."

The men exchanged a look. That was what the intruder had looked like, all right. "What about her?"

"She's my Wife. And if she's there, I'm gonna kill her," Daniel replied easily. He shook his head, held up a hand at the horrified expressions on the faces that studied him carefully. "Not literally. But if she's there, she's in the wrong reality. And that doesn't make me a happy man. Scares me to death, to be honest."

This man, who looked and sounded like their Doctor Daniel Jackson, was watching them expectantly. It was obvious that he already knew that the woman was here. He'd seen the boots, and his breath had caught in his throat, his eyes had widened slightly; and for a moment, full blown panic had filled those cerulean blue depths. "She came through not more than fifteen minutes ago. Attacked our Doctor Jackson," the youngest of the two men replied.

"She what? Casey would never do that!" Daniel exploded.

"He was on the floor, out cold, and she was kneeling over him," the other man said firmly.

"Yeah, so that's proof of her guilt, of course," Daniel said dryly. He stepped toward the mirror.

"Our orders are to make certain nobody else comes through that thing," the first Marine said, adjusting his aim slightly.

"So shoot me already. My Wife is there. If you think I'm not going to come over there after her, you're crazy," Daniel replied determinedly.

The two men exchanged a look. Opening fire on Daniel Jackson...any Daniel Jackson...wasn't something they were eager to do. "Let me call my CO," the Marine said. "Just stay there, Doctor Jackson. We really don't want to shoot you. But we will."

He nodded his understanding. Couldn't blame the men, actually. The truth was, things would be the same on this side of the mirror if someone...Annika for example...had come waltzing through and had been found kneeling beside his unconscious body. Which then begged the question, what the hell was going on? Casey would never attack him...attack his counterpart, he corrected himself hastily...and if that Daniel had gone down for whatever reason...He nodded mentally. That's what had happened. His counterpart had gone down...passed out. And she had gone through the mirror to help him. Knowing his Wife, it was the only explanation. The question of why the alarms hadn't been set off never formed in his mind. He was too focused on locating Casey...and bringing her back where she belonged. He glanced at the man talking into the radio clipped to his shoulder harness, a knot of fear in his belly growing with every passing second. Hurry up, damn it! My Wife is there! I have to get to her!




Say what? With child? As in pregnant? The question left her momentarily breathless with a sudden flood of emotions that nearly drowned her. Oh, hell she'd better not be! For one thing, there was the fact that she'd just had her shot. Then there was the fact that she wasn't ready for a baby. And Daniel had told her repeatedly that he wasn't ready for fatherhood just yet either. "Not that I know of," she replied dryly.

"There is a seedling listening," the Being replied absently. "One moment..."

Casey felt a gentle caress that seemed to sweep the entire length of her body.

"...It is not coming from you..."

And that, she thought for a fleeting moment, was disappointing. She firmly pushed the thought aside. The Entity switched its search to the edges of the mental link. Apparently this Being was from the Seventh Level; 'Her' power was incredible. Yet for all Her strength, She seemed gentle...kind.

Gradually Casey became aware of a tiny third presence. The only way that could be possible was if the...tree...had enhanced her ability to feel the 'eavesdropper'. Whoever...or, whatever 'it' was...it was scared, yet curious. Definitely curious.

"Seedling, who are you?"

She could feel the mental 'jerk', as the new presence was startled at being addressed directly. The fear increased, and both Casey and the Seventh Level Being felt the 'seedling' start to draw away. Instinct, deep and resonating within her, told her not to scare off this 'seedling'. She had to find a way to let this little one know that neither she, nor her friend the tree, would harm her. But how? She frowned slightly. Okay, if she could 'talk' to the tree mentally, and it was obvious that the tree was allowing her to sense the child, it seemed only natural that she could 'talk' to this little one just by 'thinking' what she wanted to say, concentrating on the direction of the link. "It's okay...don't be afraid. My name is Casey. My...friend...is, um...er...I don't know your name."

"My Tau'ri saplings call me 'Oakey'." There was the briefest of pauses. "It is an honor to meet you, Guide sapling Casey."

'Her' Tau'ri saplings? 'Guide sapling'? Sure, why not. If I was a tree, I'd think in those terms, too, I suppose. "Um...yeah...pleasure to make your acquaintance," Casey replied almost absently, her focus still on the child. "This is Oakey. What's your name?"

There was a long pause, both woman and tree waiting anxiously for the reply. Finally a small voice, clearly that of a child, whispered back, "Sachee."

Well, how about that...it worked! "And where are you, Sachee?"

"At home."

Casey had squeezed her eyes shut, as if doing so would help her to 'see' the child she was speaking to. As a result, she wasn't aware of the two Marines who had entered the room until one of them called to her.

"Hey, lady!"

She opened her eyes. As much as she wanted out of the cell, as much as she needed to talk to General Hammond, she knew...on some subconscious, psychic level...that this conversation was much more important. "Do you know what you did to make you...um...visit...with us?"

The Marines exchanged glances. "What?" the leader asked, clearly confused.

"No," Sachee's voice trembled. "I was walking with Myst and then she suddenly cried out like something was hurting really bad and then she grabbed her ears...and...and she fell and hit her head and now she won't wake up."

Oh, that poor kid! Definitely a little girl. And she sounded absolutely terrified! This must be how an emergency operator felt, Casey thought briefly. "It's okay, honey. Is Myst breathing?"


One of the Marines took her arm...gently this time, although she was too preoccupied to do more than notice peripherally that she was being led out of the cell and into the corridor. If she wasn't mistaken, and this SGC was laid out the same as her own, they were taking her to the interrogation room. She was marginally aware of Oakey's annoyance at the 'interruption'...and something about 'rainbow-striped bark'. Her full concentration was pulled back to the 'conversation' when the connection with the 'seedling' wavered. The 'movement' that Oakey made...which felt and sounded like the rustling of leaves, another oddity Casey didn't have the time to consider...let her know She had felt it as well.

The feeling that keeping 'in touch' with Sachee was important, not knowing...or caring...why that would be, Casey tried to reach out. "Sachee, please don't go."

"Sorry...I let go for a second."

'Let go'. That would mean that somehow little Sachee had reached out to her...or Oakey...or somebody. Had managed to grab onto them mentally. As young as the child seemed to be, Casey knew that there was a chance she would tire quickly. Better get as much as I can now, she thought. She and the two Marines were nearly at the end of the corridor. The two men continued to look at her as if she'd lost her mind...a fact to which she remained happily oblivious. "Sachee, who is Myst?"

"My friend. She's teaching me how to use my gift."

That explained the emotional connection the little girl seemed to have with this mysterious 'Myst', a connection that Casey could sense. Again, her assumption was that Oakey's strength was allowing her the full spectrum of sense as well. From where the question came, Casey had no clue. She wouldn't worry about that...not right now. This could be too important. "Does she have red hair?"

"Nuh uh, black. But that's not her real color."

Images began to flash, she closed her eyes, allowing the Marine to guide her through the passageway. Annika! The images were of Annika...her face tear-stained, her violet eyes full of such heartache. Was it possible...? Casey wracked her mind for a feature that Annika couldn't disguise, to determine if this 'Myst' was indeed her psychic friend. The images danced in her mind again. Well, duh! "Does she have violet eyes?"

"Yep. They're very pretty."

Oakey had remained silent, but very nearby. "Oakey, can you sense Annika?"

"No. She's being shielded. I do not know how we are even able to sense the seedling."

"Backdoor bypass, I guess." And Casey had absolutely no idea what that meant, as soon as she heard the words echo in her own ears. At least, she thought somewhat amusedly, she'd heard it! There was a shift in the child's emotions.

"You're the tree that made Myst cry," Sachee accused. "Cry a lot."

"I was be-spelled, Little Seedling."

"We'd like to apologize to Myst," Casey interjected. If this little girl was with Annika, they didn't have time to get into a discussion of what had happened, or why. "Can you tell us where your home is?"

"It's 'The Empyrean Loft'. A ship."

"Don't suppose you know the coordinates of where your ship is?" Casey asked hopefully.

"No. But do you know the man with the blue eyes that Myst loves so much?"


"We'll be docking real soon where he saw her save my daddy."

"Thank you, Sachee."

There was another 'vibration'; the seer and the tree felt the connection waver again.

"My daddy's coming..."

"Wait, don't let go!" She was so intent on holding onto the tiny presence that she didn't even hear the elevator doors open. Nor did she see Ferretti step into the corridor.

But the presence of the young psychic disappeared. Casey had stopped walking, and the Marines stood staring at her. She suddenly realized that everything she had said, these men had heard, because she'd been inadvertently speaking out loud as well as 'thinking' her comments to her two unseen companions. They had not, however, been privy to the comments made by the other 'participants' of the conversation. "What, you've never talked to a tree and a little girl in your head before?"

The two men shared yet another look of bewilderment.

Even Ferretti was giving her an odd look, now that she had noticed his arrival. "Change of plan, Pixie Chick. Hammond wants to see you."

Well, it's about damned time, she thought, somewhat petulantly. She'd asked to see the general...and rather nicely, too, given the circumstances at that particular moment...when she'd first arrived in this reality.

Ferretti shoved his hands into his pockets. Obviously a signal to his men, because they immediately dropped their hands, leaving her free to hurry toward the major.

The sooner she could speak with General Hammond, the sooner she could tell him where Annika was...or at least, where she would be. Find out just why the psychic had run in the first place. And possibly, she hoped, find a cure for Mini-Jack's problem. Deciding that it would be the...diplomatic...thing to do, Casey opened her mouth to offer her thanks. Ferretti's question cut off any gratitude she had been about to share.

"So am I hooked up with Doc Fraiser in your world?"

She had no idea how wide her eyes had become. Janet? With Ferretti? Oh, I don't friggin' think so! Not, Casey sighed silently, that Lou Ferretti wasn't a great guy. But as it was, there was just too damned much of that white light around Janet. She'd witnessed it the first time when she'd first seen Janet and her father together. Had assumed that it meant the two would soon be married. Now, however...She shook her head mentally. There had to be a reason that the white was still...there, and why it seemed to encompass Teal'c as well. She'd seen that when Janet and Teal'c had been taking a break in the commissary together. If that white glow around them meant what she thought it did...and there were three of them...oh hell, this was something she did not have time to think about! "Um...no."

"Well, let your Ferretti know that he doesn't know what he's missing."

Oh, sunny beaches! The comment might have been meant 'innocently'. But the questions that had been poking at her concerning her father and two best friends were now screaming to be recognized. She determinedly pushed them away.

Before she could utter a sound, Casey found herself standing in the infirmary...her senses whirling slightly. There were six faces she recognized. One woman who seemed familiar, if only by description. Another who could only be related to that familiar woman. All of them watching her, obviously taken aback at her...sudden...arrival.




Janet frowned at the test results. Negative. Damn it! She wasn't a geneticist. Two of the best were in the nearby hospital, working on what they believed was a mock threat. They'd been told to treat it as if a person's life was literally hanging in the balance, but she had no clue how seriously they were taking that instruction. Still, scientists were notorious for being tenacious when it came to finding answers. She'd given them one hell of a problem to work on!

Hoping that the Tollan or the Tegerian equipment might offer some help to the situation, the petite doctor had been experimenting with every known 'cure' she could bring to mind. If the cells were being attacked, was it like a virus? Or more like a bacteria? Could whatever was attacking the cells be stopped? Or was the degradation of the cells nothing more than a simple case of breakdown...of decay?

She checked her notes. Tried to push away the thought that so far, her results seemed to indicate the latter. And stopping the decay of cells just wasn't something she could do. Would the experts topside be able to find a way to counter the continuing degradation of Jack's cells before it was too late? Before his organs were too damaged to repair? She shook her head mentally. Too many questions...and no answers. And they were quickly running out of time.

Walter stepped into the infirmary. The only reason he visited the room was when it was time for his annual physical, or when there was an inoculation that the CMO determined all SGC personnel needed. He glanced around. Noted that the doctor was sitting beside some device that he'd never seen before. "Doctor Fraiser?"

Jumping slightly, Janet turned around. "Sergeant, what can I do for you?"

"General Hammond is escorting the president-"

"I know, they were here just a bit ago," Janet smiled.

"Yes, ma'am. He wasn't able to ask, but he'd like to know the progress on...um...Colonel O'Neill's...uh...situation," Walter said quietly.

She sighed. "None. I haven't heard from the experts in an hour or so. I could call them, but if they haven't called me, it's because they haven't found anything."

The Technical Sergeant nodded his understanding. "I'll inform the general."

The petite doctor turned back to her work. "Give me a clue," she whispered, closing her eyes briefly. "I have to help him!"




Casey's eyes moved quickly around the room, came to rest on the OIC...the counterpart of her own beloved General Hammond. "Um...sorry, sir." She was still wobbling a bit at the sudden relocation. "But it seems Oakey is..."


"...impatient." She couldn't help but smile when the word echoed around her even as she said it, uttered by the team that looked exactly like her own. And who were, at that moment, sitting up on the infirmary beds, watching her with a modicum of surprise.

"Mrs. Jackson," Hammond said, giving a simple nod of his head, "I apologize for your treatment upon arrival in our reality."

Casey gave a tentative smile. Had barely stopped herself from offering her hand...it seemed that for some reason this particular General Hammond wasn't eager to touch her. "That's alright, sir. That would be pretty much SOP in my world too." Her gaze swept over the members of SG-1. Guessed in that moment that Daniel hadn't been the only one rendered unconscious. The smile she gave Daniel was wider. "It's good to see everyone's okay."

His smile in return was weak at best.

Looking at cerulean blue eyes had her aching for the man she was bound to, heart and soul. The reason she was standing in an alternate reality was reflected in those blue depths. Forcing her thoughts back on track, she realized that these people knew as much about the situation as she did. It seemed that her new friend had made certain that all concerned parties were 'up to date' on what was happening. Echoes of the information Oakey had imparted to her 'saplings' drifted through her mind.




Jack, Teal'c, and Sam made their way down the corridor toward Daniel's office. They were all tense...the past thirty-three hours had been a nightmare for all of them, and the president's visit certainly wasn't doing anything to improve the situation. If anything, it added to the stress, trying to prevent the president from running into a fifteen year old Colonel Jack O'Neill.

Teal'c was the first to hear Daniel's voice coming from the storage room. "I believe Daniel Jackson is working in here." He opened the door, and stepped into the room. Jack was immediately behind him. Both caught a glimpse of the archaeologist's back as he disappeared through the door...of the storage room on the other side of the Quantum mirror. Neither could mask their surprise at seeing the two armed Marines who nervously pointed P90's at them.

Jack tried to see past the half-closed door. Just where in the hell had the Space Monkey been going? What was he doing on the wrong freaking side of that damned mirror? And why was the damned thing on in the first place?

Sam stepped into the storage room behind them. "What's going...whoa!"

"Stay where you are," the Marine guards insisted.

"You have one of my people there," Jack growled, pointing at the door through which Daniel had just vanished.

"Right, kid," the Marine smirked.

"Never seen any crazy stuff there, huh?" Jack challenged. "I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill."

The two guards exchanged looks. Right now, what they were facing was crazy enough. Alarms all over the base going on and off every few minutes, people showing up through this mirror and the Stargate...And they both remembered their own Jack O'Neill going through a similar...experience...not so long ago. They weren't going to question the teenager...nor did they have any desire to insult a superior officer, even if he was in a different reality. "Actually, sir, two of your people are here."


"Slender blonde, big green eyes. Doctor Jackson...uh...your Doctor Jackson...says she's his wife."

"Oy! Okay, Sergeant, tell me what the hell is going on," Jack demanded. Felt his blood pressure rise and his gut twist as he listened to the commentary of events that had taken place. Casey, it seemed, had been arrested...suspected of attacking that reality's Daniel Jackson. She had, apparently, been found kneeling over his unconscious body. So, ergo, she had attacked the archaeologist. Like hell! Never happened. The thought had no more than passed through his mind when the Marine informed him that General Hammond...their General Hammond...had sent for the blonde, after giving permission for Daniel, his Daniel, to pass through the mirror into that reality. His head was starting to spin.

One particular detail caught Sam's attention. Perhaps it was the stress of Jack's condition, and the fact that the president was making his first visit to the SGC, and the added problem of finding what could be a devastating weapon left behind by the Ancients. But it was the only thing that had actually filtered through to her weary, worried mind. "Wait a minute, Ferretti called her what?"

"Uh...'Pixie Chick', ma'am," was the nervous reply.

"Interesting name," Jack said drolly, glancing at the blonde beside him, hiding his own curiosity behind a mask of indifference. "Any clue why?"

One of the guards grinned. "She has on the brightest damned striped socks I've ever seen. They have toes in them."

The three members of SG-1 exchanged grins. Casey had several pairs of colorful 'toe-socks', which she wore whenever the temperatures dropped. In spite of the fact that spring was approaching, Colorado Springs had just been dusted with snow again.

"Okay, go on," Jack ordered.

"That's it, sir."

"So what's going on now?"

"I'm not sure, sir. Hawkins said there's some sort of meeting going on in the infirmary."


"He escorted Doctor Jackson...um...your Doctor Jackson...to the infirmary," the Marine explained.

Jack wiped a hand over his face. "Okay, you let your Hammond know that we're here. Whatever they need."

"Yes, sir." The guard gave a sharp nod and once again grabbed the radio clipped to his shoulder.




It was nearly impossible not to run in front of...or over...his escort. Apparently Casey was being taken to the infirmary. He'd heard that over the radio clipped to the man's shoulder. Hadn't decided whether or not to be offended when the SF had tossed a frown in his direction, and had not-so-subtly turned the radio volume down so that he couldn't overhear any other orders given.

Infirmary...had she been hurt? Was she ill? What had happened? What the hell was going on? Allies or not, he'd raise nine kinds of hell and knock the shit out of anyone who had laid a hand on his Wife. His heart was pounding against his ribs as he and the guard rode the elevator to level twenty-one. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, his mind chanted as he watched the numbers above the door. Again, he had to fight to restrain himself to keep from leaping out of the car and bolting down the corridor.

Stay calm, Danny. Find out what's going on first. Don't make a potentially bad situation worse by jumping off the deep end, he firmly commanded himself. He wanted to find Casey. Demand to know if she was deliberately trying to kill him with a freaking heart attack. If she had thought at all about her actions before traipsing through a freaking Quantum Mirror into another reality, where there was always the potential for becoming trapped...god, he'd never survive that! And doing so without a word to anyone, no less! Knew that to voice any of those thoughts would have her hackles rising, and that independent streak of hers asserting itself. Memories of their confrontation in the men's shower skittered through his mind. He couldn't stop the smile that played at the corners of his mouth. Asserting itself loudly, no doubt.

With her back to the infirmary doors, Casey didn't see them swing open as another person entered the now crowded room.

The archaeologist's face was a mask of concern as he took in at a glance that all of SG-1, not just his counterpart, were obvious patients. The concern deepened at the gauntness of his double's features. Recognized the look of pain in familiar blue eyes....he'd seen it in the mirror too many times for his liking. Something was definitely wrong. And that 'something' was no doubt the reason his Wife was here, and not where she should be. His frown turned to relief to see his wife standing in the middle of the room. Blue eyes widened slightly when he realized that two Nox were also present. "What the-?"

Casey whirled around at the sound of her Husband's voice. She took a deep breath that nearly became a sob of relief, and launched herself into his arms without a word; her arms locking around his neck, pressing her face against his shoulder, taking the comfort his presence offered.

He held her tightly, rested his cheek against her silky hair, sent up a dozen silent prayers of gratitude that she was safe, apparently unharmed, and in his arms. He caught sight of his counterpart, noted the look of longing on the familiar face. Again, the question of what was going on went through his mind. Reluctantly, he loosened his hold on his Wife. When she stepped away from him, she gave him a shy, guilty smile. With a smile of his own, he held the boots he'd picked up in the storage room toward her. "I believe these are yours, Cinderella."

Casey's smile widened. Just those few seconds in his arms had been all she needed to pull herself together, to take control of the fear that had been pulsing through her veins. His presence was all she needed to relax enough to be able to face the situation without blind panic. "I always knew you were my Prince Charming."

He offered the boots to her again.

She flopped onto the only empty bed in the room, held one brightly-socked foot towards him. "Aren't you going to do the Prince Charming thing?"

His smile was playful. "Hadn't planned on it."

She huffed a sigh, started to reach for the boots.

"Didn't say I wouldn't do it," he grinned lazily. He was completely oblivious to their audience as he held the first boot while she pushed her foot into it. He rested the sole against his thigh, began to lace it. "What's going on?" he asked quietly, as he held the other boot for her, began lacing it as well.

"It is an honor to meet thee, Protector Sapling. Apologies for the mental intrusion, but time is fleeting."

The voice in his head startled the crap out of him. Daniel nearly dropped to his knees when images, words, sounds...all filled his mind in a split second. He didn't realize that the SG-1 members, and his Wife, were privy to the rumble of impatience that he had heard. Nor did he have a clue exactly who was speaking. He did feel a bit of amusement...and not a little confusion...at the 'greeting' he had received.

"Daniel?" Casey asked softly, the look of shock that had filled his eyes worrying her. She understood what was happening. What she didn't know was whether or not his brilliant mind was able to cope with the sudden, intense intrusion without leaving him with a headache, or feeling ill...as had happened to her often enough when she'd first started getting information dumped into her head.

"Got it, Angel," he said, tapping his temple with his index finger. "I think I know how you feel when you get one of your downloads."

Casey grinned. Oakey's impatient trait endeared the 'tree' to her even more. It was, she thought, a trait they shared. Someday, I want to meet Oakey, face to face. If it's possible to meet a tree 'face to face'.

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