<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>
The door flew open. And two teams, both known as SG-1, came face to face.
It was difficult to see...them...standing there. The five of them together. Weapons ready. Jackson's eyes went immediately to the slender blonde. His heart lurched in his chest. He stared at her, unable to pull his gaze away. She was as beautiful as he remembered. He could smell that sweet, intoxicating scent that was just her...spring flowers and vanilla. For one brief moment, he could almost believe she was really alive. Then his eyes lit on the diamond that sparkled on her finger. So different from the princess cut diamond, with emeralds on either side, that his Wife had worn.
O'Neill took stock of the fact that his counterpart had his team arranged exactly as he would have done...if the situation had been reversed.
"Hi, Harry!" Carter said brightly, seeing Harry before she even realized there were others in the room. Sapphire eyes went wide when she saw familiar faces, then her expression went blank. It was obvious that she understood the five people were strangers. She instinctively stepped behind O'Neill.
SG-1 stared at the three people...counterparts in this messed up reality. O'Neill and Jackson were both in need of a shave and a haircut. Carter's blonde hair had grown out as well, the uneven ends brushing her shoulders. It was the expressions in their eyes that was the most difficult to look at. The pain. The anger. The despair.
"Colonel," Jack said. Took note of the scars. Those he could see, and those he could only sense.
"Colonel," O'Neill replied. He tried to give the signal. To cut down this team. But his fingers refused to move.
Jackson glanced sideways at his best friend. Knew exactly how conflicted the man was feeling. He was experiencing the same thing. His eyes moved back to the blonde. And then to the man who stood just in front of her...not enough to block her line of fire. But enough to protect her. The way he'd always stood...always trying to protect his Wife.
Sam felt tears in her eyes as she looked from one scarred face to the other. Pointedly ignored the tall blonde who watched silently. So much pain...it was there in their eyes for the world to see. No, she corrected herself, it was only visible to those who knew them well. Obvious only to...themselves.
Casey felt her breath catch in her throat as she studied the face she'd seen in her nightmare. Watched his eyes as they traveled over her, from the top of her head, to her boots. It was a natural response to the tension in the room to shift just enough to feel the warmth of Daniel's body, standing as close as he was to her, and slightly in front of her.
Teal'c observed his teammates silently. It was not easy to face one's self. He had done so through the Quantum Mirror before, when tasked to help Dr. Samantha Carter-O'Neill, as well as O'Neill and Daniel Jackson, when they battled against Apophis' attack on the alternate SGC. To see what he might have been, had not a group of Tau'ri dared to arrive on Chulak. When the three he now called teammates had been captured, he hadn't immediately recognized the significance of their presence. That hadn't happened until later that very same day...Then his life had changed forever. His attention turned to O'Neill and Jackson. No one seemed to realize that the two could become cold-blooded killers in a single beat of their hearts, when faced with Goa'uld. Or an enemy that threatened all that they believed in, those ideals that they held dear. If protection of those they loved required such action, they could kill without blinking an eye. Their hearts would certainly suffer, but they would do what they believed to be necessary. It would seem that these men of this reality had been left with nothing but that raging anger, when all had been lost to them. Somewhere, inside, however, the men that they had always been...the good men...were still there. He knew that for a fact. Had he not been in a similar situation, before the O'Neill of his reality had offered escape from the false god Apophis?
Daniel couldn't help but empathize with the man who shared his face...his name...his DNA. If Casey had been taken from him, if she'd died...whether murdered by Ba'al, or driven to take her own life...he would look like that, he thought. Angry. Bitter. So damned alone.
"Well-" Harry started, rubbing his hands together.
"Shut up, Harry," O'Neill snapped. "Okay. I hate to do this. But it's our asses or yours."
"Actually, that's not true," Jack replied. "We can get you out of here."
O'Neill and Jackson exchanged a glance. "How?'
"Harry says that West has the Quantum Mirror in his office. We grab it, take it with us and sneak into the SGC," Jack replied.
O'Neill snickered. "Been thinking about that long? Won't work. They have the mountain sealed up. And guarded."
"But it's possible," Harry said.
O'Neill's eyes whipped toward the former NID agent. "I ask again...how?"
"I have friends, Jack. The movement is gaining momentum. Especially among the military. There are people who've...seen...things that they shouldn't have. Things that have made them question West, and those brainless wonders who follow him so faithfully."
"Security camera tapes." Tapes that he'd made certain fell into the right hands. Or the wrong hands, depending on how one wanted to look at the situation.
O'Neill jerked visibly. "They know?"
"A few of them do. And they're joining up."
"What difference does it make?" Jackson demanded. His gaze remained focused on her. The beautiful counterpart to his Wife. His dead Wife. He collected those, he thought bitterly. Dead wives. Sha're. Casey.
"You can go somewhere safe. Where you can heal," Casey said softly.
Christ, her voice was exactly the same, too. He responded on multiple levels. Most noticeably his body responded. It had been awhile since he'd had an erection. Usually happened at night, when his late Wife invaded his dreams...his nightmares. He'd become an expert at remaining in the dream just enough to fool himself into believing the hand wrapped around his aching flesh wasn't his own, but her soft fingers, giving him what she always gave so willingly...so gladly. But it had been so long since he'd even dreamed about her...
"Casey!" Carter had finally realized that the slender blonde was standing with the people that she recognized, but didn't know.
"Hello, Sam," Casey smiled.
"Where have you been? Daniel is really pissed at you!"
Jackson winced visibly as the words hung heavy in the air. That Sam, in her condition, had been able to discern his anger bespoke of how strong it was.
"I'm sure he is," Casey replied, her voice going ever softer.
"We can do this. You know we can," Jack said. "We're running out of time."
"Yeah, that cascading tropical thing," O'Neill replied uncaringly.
"From what I've seen and heard, you're out of time. They see you, they'll shoot first and ask questions later," Jack pressed.
"Been that way for awhile now."
"Radar is right. You can find somewhere peaceful. Get the time you need to...heal."
"Don't know that that's possible."
"Anything is possible. You know that, too."
O'Neill looked over at Carter. If they were away from here, away from Earth, and everything that was a constant reminder of all that had been lost, would she heal? Would she come back to him? His attention swung to the man beside him. His best friend. Wasn't certain that his wounds would ever heal. But...if they weren't here...would it help him to at least accept what had happened...to mourn for Casey the way he never had...the way he'd never allowed himself to do? Suddenly exhausted, O'Neill lowered his weapon.
That Jackson seemed almost eager to follow suit wasn't missed by one pair of emerald green eyes. He was still there...somewhere, Casey thought. The Daniel she knew and loved...rather...the Daniel her counterpart had known and loved.
Jack nodded. "Okay, let's figure out what we need to do."
"Can we talk while we eat?" Casey asked. "I'm starving."
Her comment turned all attention toward her. His especially. Torn between anger and pain, fighting the love and attraction that dared to rise up from the ashes of his grief, Jackson crossed the room. There was so much to say. Things he wanted to ask, even though the back of his mind continued to point out that this woman was not his Casey. His Casey was dead. By her own hand, if what he had learned was true.
Trembling fingers reached out to touch her cheek. When she backed up slightly, those beautiful green eyes wide with surprise...no, that was fear he was seeing reflected there...he dropped his hand. Didn't miss the fact that she put herself more firmly behind the man who shared his face...his memories. The man who was the archaeologist he had been. Should have been. Sometimes yearned to be once again.
Daniel watched this alternate version of himself. Maybourne had clued them in to the reason that the Tribunal had believed Teal'c and Casey were imposters. If Casey had killed herself, it was a result, no doubt, of being raped by the Goa'uld. And he knew that his counterpart was as aware of that fact as he was. He watched the emotions that flickered in eyes identical to his own. Felt her fingers wrap around his arm when she stepped behind his shoulder.
"She's dead," Jackson said finally. His voice was nearly devoid of emotion. "My Wife...my Casey is dead."
"I'm sorry," Daniel offered.
The scarred face turned slightly, focusing on his double. "So am I. Stupid bitch killed herself."
Casey flinched at the unbridled anger in his voice. "You don't mean that," she said softly.
"What, that she killed herself? That she couldn't hang on for just a bit longer?" The words were bitter. Hateful. Riddled with guilt.
"You don't believe that I'm...she...that she was, or is, a stupid bitch."
The pain that flashed through cerulean blue eyes was unmistakable. Without another word he turned and strode back across the room, slammed the door behind him as he left the small farmhouse, rattling the plywood that covered the windows from the force. Those left behind exchanged uneasy glances.
Casey took a deep breath, then started towards the door, her intention of going after the man obvious. Daniel grabbed her arm. "Don't," he warned softly. He knew the blackness that lurked in his own soul...anger and hatred so deep that no one could ever comprehend the depths. Suspected that without the love of his Wife, her gentle guidance, his counterpart had been lost...and had succumbed to that anger, had given in to that hatred.
"She deserves to have someone defend her," Casey said of her missing counterpart.
Her green eyes were filled with determination, and knowing his Wife as well as he did, Daniel knew there would be nothing he could say that would stop her. With a sigh of resignation, he dropped his hand. Nodded slowly. Began to pray that what she was about to see wouldn't color her perceptions of him. He and his counterpart were the same, after all. Just a few memories, a few experience differences, that was all that separated them.
She followed the scarred man who looked like her Husband. The man who was the counterpart of the man she adored. He walked into the shed that seemed to be in danger of collapse. She slipped through the door, watched him pacing the dirt floor. "She loved you, I know she did."
Jackson whirled to face him. "Then why did she leave me?"
"Was she...scarred? Her heart, I mean. Did she have a really...rough childhood, abused by her adoptive mother?"
The man nodded slowly.
"I don't know about her, but I fight what those scars have done to me every day. I'd be willing to bet she fights...fought...the same insecurities, the fears, that I do. You don't have someone tell you, scream at you, day after day after day, that you're a slut, and a whore, without beginning to believe it. Even if you don't know what the words mean, they hurt, and you just...accept...that you must be what those terrible names are," Casey said softly. "If...when...Ba'al raped her, in her mind, she was being unfaithful to you. She was being exactly what those horrible names meant. And no man as wonderful as you could love a slut, or a whore. Especially after a Goa'uld had touched her."
A sound of pain escaped from his throat. "I loved her so much! I would have helped her! We would have worked it out! She just wouldn't...she didn't give me that chance! We were going to get away, she knew that!"
Casey shook her head. "She knew that SG-1 had been abandoned. There wasn't going to be any rescue. And...no doubt she wasn't thinking clearly. The more Ba'al...took...from her, the less she had to hang onto. He chipped away at her soul every time he forced himself on her. Knowing Ba'al, he probably told her that you were dead. If she believed you were dead, for her there was no reason to live. I know. Daniel was declared dead, and if it hadn't been for Sam and Jack and Teal'c, and my Dad and Janet, I'd have checked out, too."
Tears filled blue eyes. "Ba'al told me every time he fucked her. In detail."
Casey winced. She understood what that had done to him. Not only had Ba'al taken what belonged to him, he had been tortured with the knowledge of what was being done to her. This Daniel had been left feeling guilty for being unable to protect his wife, something that she knew her own Husband battled, for each time she'd been captured, and tortured. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.
Before either of them were aware that he had moved, he was standing in front of her, his hands cupping her cheeks. "I've missed you so much," he murmured.
She tried to back away. "I'm not her...I'm not your wife."
His eyes hardened. He grabbed a fist full of blonde hair at the back of her head. The other hand went to the collar of her tee-shirt. "No. You're not. But you can give me what I want. What I need."
"Please, don't do this," she begged, trying to move away from him. Gasped when he yanked her head backwards, his lips crashing down on hers. Her hands moved to his chest, began to push against him; she tried to twist her body so that his insistent fingers couldn't get purchase to rip the cloth, as he obviously intended to do.
"Bitch!" he growled, pulling his mouth away from hers. "You never loved me."
"Yes, she did!" Casey insisted. "With all her heart...with everything she was, she loved you!"
"I hate you! I hate you for leaving me!"
"I was ruined!" Casey retorted, her own mind bringing forth the feelings of despair that she'd felt when Ba'al had held her prisoner, terrified every moment that the Goa'uld would take from her what belonged to Daniel alone; the agony she had endured when she'd thought Daniel dead in an explosion. Didn't recognize at first the tickle of her counterpart's presence. "He told me he had killed you! I was already dead! Don't you understand that? He took what belonged to you, and I knew you could never touch me, never love me again, and then-" her voice broke as her own emotions broke free. "I thought you were dead!"
"You should have found out for yourself! All you had to do was come to the detention level," he snapped.
"He wouldn't let me!"
"That never stopped you before!"
Casey hesitated. "I couldn't bear to see what he had done to your body. He...he told me..." she shook her head. Tried to rein in her emotions, the feelings of absolute terror and anguish that were rushing through her, feelings that weren't her own. "You were dead. I couldn't live without you."
He roughly shoved her away. "You don't know how much I treasured those stolen moments. When you'd sneak through the shafts, to come see me."
"I treasured them, too," she whispered.
"Then why did you stop coming? He started fucking you, and-"
The tickle became persistent. She wasn't certain where the words came from. But she gave them voice. "And he never let me out of his sight! I couldn't go to the bathroom to pee without a freaking guard!" she retorted. "He kept me on a chain in his quarters. Or by his throne! I wore a collar, and was chained, like a fucking dog! I was chained to the damned sarcophagus when he was in it!"
Jackson backed up a step as the words seemed to visibly impact on him. "Oh, God," he groaned.
"I can't live without you," she whispered again. Once again she felt that odd tickle. Images and emotions began to whirl in her mind, some she recognized as her own memories, her own feelings of despair. Others were strange to her, as if they belonged to someone else...as if her counterpart had found a way to show her what had transpired in Ba'al's ha'tak. She gave in to the feelings, the desire to make this man understand her...the dead Casey's...pain and anguish. "He ruined me...he made certain you'd never want me again. And when he was tired of me, he'd have made me a whore for his Jaffa, or he would have put a snake in my head. I couldn't...I couldn't..."
Shaking his head slowly from side to side, Jackson stepped closer once again. "You're not her."
"No. I'm a seer. She was a seer. Don't you think she could let me know what she felt? Don't you think I'd be willing to let her tell you what she'd been through...how much she loved you?"
He reached out and grabbed her hair again. His other hand closed around her throat. "It's been a long time since I've been between the legs of a seer."
She shivered. His eyes were hard, cruel. As if there wasn't anything decent or warm or caring left inside him. As if every positive emotion had been sucked completely out of his being. "Please, don't-"
His hand left her throat, his palm impacting on her cheek. His voice was as cold as his eyes. "Don't tell me what to do."
"I'll kill you where you stand if you don't let go of my Wife," a familiar voice growled.
Casey jerked away from Jackson, raced to her Husband's side.
"Are you all right?" Daniel asked gently, wrapping his hands around her arms, his eyes moving over her face, seeking any sign of bruising caused by his counterpart.
She nodded. "So much pain," she whispered.
He pushed her to stand behind him. Turned to face his counterpart. It wasn't easy to see what he could become. For he had no doubt that if he suffered what this man had, if Casey died...whether from her own hand, or murdered by a Goa'uld or some other enemy, he too would become angry. Would shut off his emotions, in order to survive from one day to the next. Would be filled with such bitterness that it would eat at his very soul. Another thought pushed forward in his mind...one that he examined carefully. "I wonder what your Casey thinks about what you've become," he mused, his voice low.
Jackson's eyes widened. "What?"
"You know about the other levels of existence. I'm betting that she was offered Ascension, given what she was going through," Daniel continued. "It has to hurt her to see how badly you've been hurt. That you weren't able to work through that pain...deal with the grief. That her loss was more than you could bear."
The alternate glanced around. "I...I never..." he shook his head. Coming face to face with himself...the man he had been...the man he could have been...should have been. The man who was still inside him...somewhere...he could feel himself losing his grip on the icy reserve he clung to. Never should have gone inside. Should have just opened the door, and opened fire. Been done with it. He didn't want to think about this...about Casey seeing...watching...what he had become. The brutal, horrible things he'd done. She'd be so disappointed in him...
"I can only imagine what you've been through. I've faced losing Casey. I know that pain."
"But you were never abandoned by your own people. Never left out there to die," Jackson spat.
"No, I haven't been."
"The only thing that kept me going, kept me alive, was the thought of getting to her. Saving her. We were going to escape. And we were going to find a nice, quiet place to live."
"Why didn't you? Why come back here? Why did you...why did you...to Kinsey..." Daniel moved his hand in a circle.
"Teal'c died because of Kinsey. Casey died because of Kinsey. That damned Goa'uld broke Sam. That happened because of Kinsey."
"Did killing him change any of those things?" Daniel asked softly.
Jackson looked away. Shook his head sadly. "No. Although it seemed to help Jack a bit."
"She loves you, so very much," Casey said softly. "And it's breaking her heart to think that her death has changed you so completely. She feels so guilty for giving up...for believing Ba'al when he told her that you were dead. For-" She gasped, nearly dropped to her knees as images flooded her mind; Daniel's hands kept her on her feet. Tears filled her eyes. "Oh, god! That bastard! He...he...he showed her a body...a brutally beaten body. He...she believed it was you!"
Two pairs of cerulean blue eyes glistened with unshed tears. "Oh, God," Jackson whispered. Understanding began to filter into his mind. Past the pain. Past the anger.
Daniel pulled his Wife into his arms. Felt the sobs that shook her. "Shh...it's okay, Angel."
Jackson watched helplessly. His beautiful Wife...God, what she had suffered! Defeated. Raped. Tortured just as surely as he had been. There might not have been marks on her body, but her heart, her mind, her very soul - already so scarred from a cold, bitter childhood - had been ripped to shreds by the Goa'uld who had held them for just over three months.
Casey's tear-filled eyes focused on her Husband's counterpart. "She thought she was alone...she'd been witness to Teal'c's execution, forced to watch by Ba'al. She believed him when he told her that Sam and Jack were dead as well, after...after..."
"After he showed her that body?" Daniel asked gently.
She nodded. "She felt so alone...so helpless. No hope. She just wanted to be with you, with her teammates."
"So she killed herself, thinking she'd...join...us," the alternate murmured. "Oh, my poor Angel."
Daniel gave a small smile. Apparently the pet name was another common denominator between him and his counterparts in other realities.
"She never left me," Jackson continued. "She...oh, God!" He crumpled to his knees.
Both Daniel and Casey hurried to the man's side. "She never left you," Casey confirmed softly. "If she'd been able to escape from Ba'al long enough to discern the truth, she never would have given up."
Jackson nodded. The anger, the bitterness that had filled him, consumed him, seemed to drop away in the wake of this revelation, leaving grief, and guilt, in its wake. Like Daniel, he had secretly feared that his beautiful Wife would someday leave him. When he had located Ba'al's lo'taur, hidden in the Goa'uld's chambers, learned the bitter truth...that Casey had killed herself, and that Ba'al was furious about that fact...he'd been devastated. His mind had insisted that she'd left him, just as he'd always dreaded, had believed that she would. That anger, coupled with his grief, had taken over his mind...his heart...his soul. Wouldn't allow him to think that Casey's actions had been spurred by anything other than selfishness. Now...Oh, God, Casey! he screamed silently. I'm so sorry, Angel, I'm so sorry!
When the three returned to the house, it was to find the others eating. Harry was giving Jack an idea of the strength of the guards who surrounded the SGC. All looked up when the door opened.
O'Neill could tell in an instant that something had happened. The rage that had been the only thing visible in his friend's eyes was gone. Replaced by pain so deep it was tangible. But it was a good sign.
Sam gave the three a tentative smile, passed MREs and bottled water to them. Which were accepted with the same wavering smiles. Whatever had happened, whatever had been said, the alternate version of her teammate had lost the look of fury that had been etched on his face. In its place was grief...simple, agonizing grief.
Jack watched his counterpart for a second. Had a brief flash of memory...of recently being told nearly the same thing he was about to say by a counterpart from yet another reality. "You should let go, too."
The alternate colonel jerked. "What?"
"Nothing you could've done would've made a difference. You need to let go...move on. Grieve with him. With her. And move on."
His eyes went to Carter, and then back to Jackson. "Tell me you wouldn't be sitting here, thinking the same thing. That you wouldn't have done the same things I have."
"I wouldn't have," Jack declared firmly. "I guess I've been through more."
"Bullshit. Ever been Ba'al's 'guest'?" O'Neill demanded angrily.
"A couple of times. Never actually saw much of him, though."
"Let me tell you about meeting that snake 'face to face'!"
The room was bare, except for a throne, and a table on which there were various implements; strange looking devices undoubtedly used for torture, an array of knives and several small bottles. Near the far wall was a metal web...similar to a spider's web. He was tossed roughly against the metal poles, his hands and feet shackled, holding him into place. That he was naked and spread-eagled only added to his discomfort.
Even though he'd been beaten, was barely conscious at the moment, he was aware enough to know that there was something...weird...about the web that held him. He just couldn't think clearly enough to figure out what it was.
He had no idea how long he'd hung there before Ba'al walked into the room. The Goa'uld had studied him for a moment. "Who are you?"
"You go first. Who are you?" O'Neill replied. Realizing that without intending to, he'd given away the fact that he understood Goa'uld. He tried to blame his slip the fact that he was hurting like a son-of-a-bitch, certainly had a broken rib or two, and that he was thirsty as hell. It didn't take long before he realized it really didn't matter.
The Goa'uld picked up a large knife. Made a show of examining the blade. Settled himself on the throne. "You do not know me?"
"Well, take no offense here, Skippy, I'm sure you're a real hot, important Goa'uld. I've just always been kind of out of the loop with the snake thing."
"I am Ba'al."
"That's it? Just Ball? As in Bocce?" Not a bad comeback, he thought proudly, considering he was hurting like hell, and his head was pounding.
"Do you not know the pain you will suffer for this impudence?"
What was it about snakes, that made them believe that they were the first, and the only, to ever hold SG-1? To ever torture them. Didn't they ever talk to one another...compare notes on prisoners? And didn't the snake realize that in spite of what he'd already been through, threatening him wasn't going to make a difference?
Ba'al rose, and walked to stand in front of the web. He held the knife up. A faint hum filled the air, and the blade rose, becoming horizontal.
Shit...magnets! This damned thing was like a super freaking magnet! If he'd had the strength, he probably would have struggled. "Don't know the meaning of the word. Seriously. Impudence. What does that mean?"
Ba'al released the knife. It lodged itself in his shoulder. The snake gave a smug smile as he grunted with pain. "I shall begin again. Who are you?"
"Colonel Jack O'Neill, U.S. Air Force. Two L's in that."
"That may be who you once were. Now, however, you are nothing. You are a slave, unworthy of a name. Before I begin your...training...I will know all that you know."
"I think I know less than you...think I know."
The Goa'uld raised another knife. Watched as the blade rose to a horizontal position. "Why have you come to this planet?"
"Now see, that's a perfect example right there. I haven't a clue." Another fleeting moment of perverse pride...the old sense of humor was still working, in spite of the goddamned never-ending pain.
Ba'al let go of the knife. Watched with smug satisfaction as it lodged into the prisoner's other shoulder.
O'Neill shivered, then glanced around. "He had a shitload of knives."
Casey shuddered. "And he enjoyed using them," she said softly.
Three of the men in the room jerked at the implication. "You...you were..." Jackson started.
"Captured by Ba'al. When we were looking for Tem's fleet. It was the first time we'd ever run into him," Casey confirmed. She shivered again. "That damned web..."
"It's history, Radar," Jack assured her. He'd never forget what that damned thing had looked like. Evil. Plain and simple.
"In our reality," Daniel added. His own memory was supplying images and feelings connected with the 'spider's web' that he'd been manacled to, that he'd hung from as he'd been beaten by Ba'al, and his First Prime. Shivered imperceptibly.
"He'd kill me, then put me into a sarcophagus to revive me," O'Neill said quietly. His voice was devoid of emotion. The only way he could look at the memories of his torture was to completely separate himself from it. Something he'd done before. For the same reason.
"He was using ker'nish'ta on me. Trying to wipe out my memory. Training me to be his personal slave," Casey countered. Reached unconsciously for Daniel's hand. Took comfort from the warmth of his skin, the strength that she felt as he closed his fingers around hers.
"We'd been beaten before our...interrogations...began," O'Neill said. "The standard, what's your name, where did you come from, yada yada yada. Punched every time we gave a 'wrong' answer. But then...then it just got worse. He kept us in separate cells, on separate levels. Didn't want to give us a chance to work together, I suppose."
"What about...what about her?" Sam asked, nodding toward Carter. Who was happily eating a container of chocolate pudding.
"As soon as we were captured, we were tossed into holding cells. It was several hours later, when we were all taken to the pel'tak. Jaffa took Casey one way, took the rest of us back to the cell. Then they came for Teal'c." O'Neill closed his eyes, shuddered slightly. "The next time the Jaffa came for us, they took us to a cargo bay. All of the slaves he had, and damned near every Jaffa was there. We all witnessed Teal'c being executed."
"The bastard had him beheaded," Jackson added, his eyes betraying his feelings about the matter.
"Then the beatings started. Casey would slip down to the detention level, through the ventilation shafts," O'Neill continued. "She came to see me once, just to let me know she was trying to find an escape."
Jackson closed his eyes.
"Oh, goddess, what has he done to you?"
"Looks worse than it is, I promise."
"I love you...and I'm trying to find a way to get us out of here."
"I love you too, Case. We'll make it out. We always do."
"I'll be back, I promise. I don't dare let him find out I've figured out how to sneak around."
"I'll be here."
She had reached through the vent, straining to touch him. He'd struggled to his feet, trying to keep her from realizing how badly he'd been hurt this time. Wrapped his fingers around hers for just a brief moment...
"We'd been there a week or so, I guess, when I got a glimpse of Sam. They'd taken her right after they killed Teal'c. She'd been beaten...her uniform, what was left of it-" O'Neill broke off, lowered his eyes, then took a deep breath. "Didn't see her again until we found her in the harem, when we were making our escape."
Jack looked over at Carter, then at the woman who was sitting beside him. "Casey?"
Jackson ducked his head. "We went to Ba'al's quarters, looking for Casey. His lo'taur was hiding...she told us that Ba'al was furious...that the 'new' bruises on Sam were in retaliation because Casey...because she'd-" His voice broke. Tears filled his eyes.
"She'd killed herself. Picked up the snake's knife, and slit her own throat," O'Neill said quietly.
"Because that bastard had convinced her that all of you were dead. She'd been forced to watch Teal'c executed. He showed her a badly beaten body, and was able to convince her that it was Daniel. And then, when he told her that you and Sam were dead as well, she believed him," Casey said softly. She cocked her head sideways. "Oh, goddess!"
Daniel reached for her, pulled her close. "Case?"
"It was him...you!" she cried out, turning toward Jackson. "He had killed you! He must have put you in a sarcophagus, like he did with Jack!"
Jackson shuddered again. He had no recollection of waking up inside of one of the damned Goa'uld coffins. He'd had enough experience that he would have known...unless...He frowned slightly. That would certainly explain why he hadn't felt as much pain as he should have after that beating!
"They didn't wait for it to completely heal you, just to revive you," Casey said, staring over Harry's shoulder at the wall behind him.
"How did you make it out?" Jack asked, wanting to move past the horrific details of their imprisonment. Knowing that as much as he might deny it, as much as he might hate to admit it to himself, had he suffered the same thing he'd be sitting where O'Neill was. There but by the grace of God...and the Tooth Fairy.
"I managed to convince the Jaffa guarding me that I was in worse shape than I was," O'Neill replied. "Got them into the cell, killed them, then went for Daniel. He figured that Sam would be..." He paused. "That she'd be in the harem. She was. But...she..."
Jackson sighed. "She didn't recognize us...not at first. We were able to get away...we hid among the slaves being taken to the lower level. Found the cargo bay, and made it out through one of the open doors. We were still on the planet. It took us three days to get to the Stargate. And four hours to kill the Jaffa guarding it...one at a time. Making them think that there was some sort of vicious animal loose."
"We headed for the Alpha site. It was closed down. We managed to get a few addresses from the computer. Clean clothes. Food. When the detachment assigned there left, they didn't take anything with them," Jack said.
"They were hoping you'd make it there," Casey said, certain of what she was seeing.
O'Neill studied the young seer. He'd never had a reason to doubt his Casey. Didn't figure there was one to doubt this seer. All she was doing was confirming the suspicions he'd had, that he'd ignored, because he just didn't have the strength to deal with that burden. "We did a little hopping around, planet to planet. Had no clue where the Tok'ra were, no way to get in touch with them. Found an al'kesh, and we were able to get it running."
"How? I mean, Sam is our gizmo expert, she knows about Goa'uld technology," Daniel inquired.
"Sam was able to answer simple, direct questions. Took us a couple of months," Jackson explained.
"And then you came back here," Jack finished quietly.
"We figured we were owed a bit of payment," O'Neill replied.
"I suppose you were."
"Things had gone to hell. We've spent our time here on the run."
"Then I'd say it's past time to leave," Jack said.
"So, you have to have the mirror," O'Neill said, leaning back in his chair.
"If we want to stay alive, and get home, yes."
"Do you know how to do that? You can find your reality?"
"We'll need the device that came with it," Daniel said.
"With luck, it's still in the mountain," Jackson muttered.
"I'll find out about it," Harry said. "I have to get into town. Keep up my routine. If I leave you all alone out here, I won't come back to a room full of bodies, will I?"
Jack grinned. "I think we can be trusted with ourselves."
O'Neill chuckled. "Couldn't have said it better myself."
Casey smiled. The healing had already begun. Even if the two men weren't fully aware of it. She suspected that a part of them...the part that they had buried in order to survive their imprisonment...in order to deal with their guilt and anguish...was already moving back into their conscious minds. And if she knew them at all, they were eager to once again be who they really were...not the bitter, angry men they had become.
A A A A A A
Jackson leaned back against the van, his arms wrapped around his chest; staring into the distance, not seeing the mountain vista that was spread before him. He'd needed a bit of time...a bit solitude, to deal with the grief that was boiling inside. Grief he'd so carefully avoided...ignored...shut off. He'd given in to the anger and the hatred, had held them up as a shield against the agony of losing Casey.
His thoughts had moved in odd directions, and for once he'd not quickly clamped down on them, he'd given in, just followed the flow of memories. Simple things...grocery shopping. Folding laundry. Watching her fix dinner. Things he'd not allowed himself to think about in so very long.
As odd as it seemed, his attention had become focused on one of the most baffling facts about SG-1's capture. For not the first time he wondered just why Ba'al had never left the planet the ha'tak had been sitting on. There had to have been a reason. If the ship had been in space, there wouldn't have been an escape. Chances were, he and Jack would be dead now. He didn't move when he heard the footsteps. Nor was he surprised when his counterpart sat down beside him. Offered a cup of coffee. He accepted gratefully.
"I almost lost her. Damned near fell apart when it happened," Daniel said softly.
"I did lose her. God, she must have felt so alone," Jackson whispered.
"Look, I can't tell you that it's going to be easy. But I can tell you this...you'll get past it."
"Two wives. Both killed by the Goa'uld," Jackson said, his voice low. Their deaths had been precipitated by the Goa'uld, if the snakes hadn't in fact actually killed them. Sha're had been killed by Teal'c when Amaunet, the snake that infested her, tried to kill him. Casey had killed herself when Ba'al had taken away her reason for living, for struggling against him. No matter how he looked at it, the Goa'uld were responsible. His hatred for the parasitic creatures deepened, grew darker and colder.
"You're a survivor."
"I'll be living with half my heart...half of my soul."
Daniel grimaced. He understood exactly what his counterpart was saying. Casey completed him. Without her...he shook his head. There wouldn't be 'life' without her. Just existence. "Your Jack needs you. Your Sam needs you. The three ofyou have a lot to work through."
"They'll help you."
"Makes you wonder just why Ba'al was sitting there. I mean, his ship was on that planet for what, three months?" Daniel said, turning the conversation in a less painful direction.
"Just over," Jackson confirmed. "I've been wondering the same thing."
"If he was hiding, he'd have done so in space...where he could make a quick escape," Daniel mused, frowning slightly.
"It had to be something with the ship itself," Jackson said, his frown a perfect match of the man beside him.
"The naquadah!" Daniel exclaimed. "Want to bet he was mining it?"
"Probably not enough to set up a permanent mining camp," Jackson mused. "But enough to strip as much as he could take."
"But why his mothership? He could have sent one of the others."
"Maybe it was damaged?"
"Does it really matter?" A soft voice asked.
Daniel looked up and smiled. "Hey, gorgeous."
"Hey, handsome." She looked at Jackson. "I can leave if you'd rather."
Jackson forced a weak smile. "No need."
He suspected that just being near her, even if she wasn't his Casey, was something that his counterpart was hoping for. Daniel slid his arm around his Wife's shoulders. An unconscious movement, a primal display of ownership. "It could make a difference here, Case. It might mean Ba'al is up to something big."
"I could take a look."
Jackson shook his head. "Whatever it is, we can't do anything about it. Not now. It's someone else's problem." He caught the expression on his counterpart's face. "Even if we wanted to do something, we...SG-1...is in no shape to do anything. There's no back up."
Daniel nodded. "True. Jack's right, if we can just get you guys somewhere safe, then someday you can pick up the banner again."
"Who knows...maybe Harry's friends will succeed in turning the world right side up again," Jackson said. "If that happens, maybe the SGC will be reopened."
"Right now, we need to think about getting our asses back to where we belong," Casey said dryly.
"Let's go find out how many stupid ideas your Jack and my Jack have come up with," Jackson said, rising to his feet. He watched, pain like a knife in his heart, as Daniel and Casey walked back toward the house, their fingers entwining automatically.
When the three walked into the farmhouse, it was to find the two Jack's standing toe to toe, just seconds from fisticuffs.
"What in the hell?" Daniel asked. Jackson went to stand beside his Jack.
"I am not a coward!" O'Neill hissed.
"Sure you are! You took the easy way out! You've become everything you've ever stood against!" Jack insisted.
"That is not true! We came back here to find out what the hell was going on!"
"You came back to find out who was 'responsible', in your eyes, for what you'd gone through! You had one thought on your mind...revenge!"
"You'd have done the same thing!"
"I would not!
"Yes, you would have! You'd be just as pissed off as I am!"
"Of course I'd be pissed off! But killing innocent people isn't going to change what you went through!"
"We never killed anyone! Other than Kinsey, and that bastard deserved it! We might have knocked a few people out...might have scared them, but we never hurt anyone! Not intentionally! We had no money, no way to get food...couldn't go anywhere for fear of being arrested...we did what we had to do in order to survive!" O'Neill insisted.
Casey stepped between the two men. "This isn't going to help any of us. Jack, we don't have time for this. We need that mirror, and we need their help to get it." She turned to face O'Neill. "You have got to get off this planet before it kills you...both of you. If that happens, who'll take care of Sam?"
All eyes swung to where Carter was sitting. Coloring in a book that had been a gift from Harry.
O'Neill ran his hand over his face. "Right," he muttered.
Jack nodded slowly. "What do you know about the layout of NORAD? Harry said the mirror is in West's office, and that his office is there."
"I know the basic layout. If we can get that far, maybe we can get all the way," O'Neill allowed. Given that NORAD sat on top of, literally, the missile silo that had become the SGC, it was possible to get to the elevators and down into the maze of corridors and rooms that had been Stargate Command for eight years...IF they could get inside the observation station.
"Especially if we can get help from Harry and his friends," Daniel said.
"When we leave, you should take the mirror with you," Casey said softly.
"Why?" O'Neill asked immediately.
"So we can check in on you from time to time...or if you need help, you can ask," the young seer replied.
"But-" Jackson started to object.
"There's a device that came with the mirror and the controller," Daniel explained, knowing what his counterpart was going to say. "It makes finding a particular reality a bit easier. Or it did for us...well, for Casey."
"Yeah. We learned that from a little visit we had from another reality," Casey said.
"Too damned confusing," O'Neill muttered.
"Tell me about it," Jack said, grinning weakly.
Dropping onto a chair beside the table, O'Neill reached for a crayon. "Can I borrow this, Sam?"
Carter looked up. Took the red crayon from his hand, replaced it with the black. "That one."
He gave her a smile. "Thanks." He glanced around for something to write on. Heaved a sigh, and began to draw on the tabletop. "Okay. This is the layout."
Jack looked over his shoulder. "Looks the same so far."
"West is as paranoid as Kinsey was, and as all of the assholes in control seem to be," O'Neill continued. "I guess they know it's only a matter of time before the citizens take a collective breath, and stand up against them. So they're going to protect themselves as much as possible. Which means West would have chosen to put his office here, here or here." He pointed to three rooms which were literally in the very center of the NORAD section of Cheyenne Mountain, and the most easily defended.
"Not far from the first elevator down," Jack mused, his finger tracing the corridor from where West's office should be, and the intersecting corridor that led to the rough hewn area that in turn led to the elevator that operated between ground level and level eleven.
"All we need is enough time to get to the elevator, and down to the control room. We can seal everything off from down there, and they'll never be able to get through."
"Well, technically they can," Sam pointed out. "But we can make it difficult, and buy ourselves the time we need to get out.
"I agree," O'Neill nodded. Strains of Tina Turner's 'The Bitch Is Back' began to play from his pocket. He gave a cheeky grin, grabbed the cell phone. "What?"
Everyone watched as his eyes narrowed. Wondered who was on the other end of the call, and what was going on. "You're sure?...Fine. Daniel and I are on our way." He flipped the phone closed. Dropped it onto the floor, then smashed it beneath his boot. "Harry will give us a new one," he said, in response to the question in five pairs of eyes.
"Right," Jack mumbled.
"Um..." O'Neill's eyes went to Sam. Taking her now would be a risk...one that none of them had time for.
"She'll be fine here. We'll make certain she's okay," Jack said gently.
He gave a sharp nod. "Should be back in an hour or so. Might want to keep it quiet, just in case."
Jack gave his own nod of understanding.
"Be careful," Casey admonished, as O'Neill and Jackson hurried toward the door.
Jackson gave her a sad smile. "Thanks. We will be."
A A A A A A
Jack looked around the room. Daniel and Casey were dozing, sitting on the floor beneath a boarded window, leaning against one another. Teal'c was taking a little walk around the outside of the house, to determine whether or not there might be those lurking about who could, and probably would, alert the authorities to their presence. Those finely honed Jaffa senses would pick up more, and sooner, than he or Daniel would.
Sam watched her counterpart. The blonde readily obeyed any order that Jack...or rather Colonel O'Neill, gave her. If Daniel...it was hard to associate the cold, hard man with the scarred face with the Daniel she knew and loved...instructed her to do something, she did exactly what he told her. The woman she observed had been broken. Defeated. Her mind left in tatters, she could see that in the eyes that were exactly like her own sapphire orbs. Given the circumstances...and, knowing herself, and what she knew of Ba'al...she thought she had a pretty good idea of what had happened. No doubt the...violence...that had been a part of Carter's life since their return to Earth was another reason her counterpart had chosen to remain...hidden. She offered an encouraging smile when the woman who shared her face glanced over at her.
She smiled. "Hello."
"But you're not..." The blonde frowned, dropped her eyes. When she looked back up, for a moment Sam thought she saw a flicker of familiar stubbornness in the dark blue depths. "He hurt me."
Sam cringed. "I know. I'm so sorry."
"The colonel says I'll be okay someday."
"I think you will be, too."
"I'm still here."
Sam frowned. The odd comment almost sounded like...like a plea for help. "I know things have been...bad...for you. And coming back here, to Earth, to get your revenge, that's not what you wanted."
The blonde major shook her head. "It's wrong."
"I know that, too. But I think we both understand why they...why the colonel and Daniel...are so angry."
"Casey died. Teal'c died. Daniel and I were tortured. The colonel thinks it's his fault. Daniel misses Casey, even though he says he doesn't. I've heard him whisper her name when he's asleep. So he misses her. I miss her, too."
"Sam, I know that you're...there. Maybe if you...came back...you could help the colonel and Daniel."
"It's not safe."
Sam glanced at Jack, who had been listening to the conversation. He nodded subtly. "What if we can get you, the three of you, somewhere safe? Would you come back to help us do that?"
The blonde seemed to contemplate the question. "You can do that?"
"We're SG-1," Sam smiled. "We do the impossible on a daily basis."
"We used to be SG-1. Now we're just criminals."
"No, that's not true," Sam said gently. "You're still SG-1. You've just lost your way, that's all."
Sapphire eyes flickered with the intelligence that hid in her mind. "If you can get us to the 'gate, we can get through to another planet. Somewhere peaceful. We'd need to make certain that the 'gate here is destroyed."
"Is the nuclear device still hidden in the safe room in the SGC?"
The alternate Major Carter frowned. "I think so. Kinsey only shut the door, he didn't want anything changed, not until he was in complete control. That's what Harry told the colonel."
Jack ducked his head. It sounded to him that Sam's counterpart was no longer hiding. With both Carter's working on the problem, both teams had a hell of a better chance of making it out of this situation alive.
"You know we can't stay here, entropic cascade failure will kill us," Sam said softly. "We're down to-" she checked her watch, then looked back at her counterpart. "We have less than eight hours before it starts."
O'Neill chose that moment to walk into the room, Jackson on his heels. He was still stunned at what had happened...the promises of help that had been made. The assurances that the truth would come out. The...meeting...hadn't lasted more than fifteen minutes. But it had been long enough to convince him that for the first time in a very long time, things were going to go well for SG-1 once again.
Teal'c came in as well, letting in a blast of cold, night air.
"Colonel, we have to get to the SGC," Carter said, standing straight, facing her commanding officer.
There was no mistaking the surprise in the O'Neill's brown eyes. Nor the relief. "Carter?"
"Sir, we have to get away from here. They," she pointed to Sam, Jack and Teal'c, "will die in a matter of hours if they don't get back to their own reality. We...I...don't want to be responsible for any more deaths."
His face paled slightly. His brown eyes focused on Sam. "What happened?"
"She's always been there," Sam said quietly. "There was too much to deal with...she just chose to hide...long enough to come to grips with all that's happened."
O'Neill flinched visibly. "I never intended to hurt anyone. Well, Kinsey deserved what he got. He's as responsible for Casey's and Teal'c's death as Ba'al is."
"We understand that," Jack said quietly. "What's done is done. Let's just figure a way to get us all the hell out of here."
<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>