A New Understanding
Colonel Jack O'Neill flinched at the image of his double looking back at him through the MALP transmission.
“I'll never get used to that,” he winced.
He listened reluctantly to 'himself' explain the situation on P3X 729, but when the young Juna, Darian, entered the picture, his interest went up a notch. The kid definitely looks spooked.
“I'm sorry about the one called Daniel,” the young man said solemnly to Jack's 'other'.
What the hell does that mean? Jack thought, his eyebrow arching.
His robot double soon answered that question.
“Our Daniel is dead,” he said, his features drawn and his voice subdued.
The anguished gasp from Harlan sent shivers down Jack's spine. Thank God, mine's safe, he selfishly thought. Another thought nagged persistently. Is he? You don't know how the hell he is. You let him go off with SG-15...again. How many times has he been on other teams? Crap. It's as if SG-1 has become a threesome, for crying out loud.
Jack shook his head and focused on the screen. His double explained, in an annoying and arrogant fashion, the dire situation his team and Darian's people were in, no thanks to the real SG-1.
Crap, am I that obnoxious?
Although Jack didn't want to have anything to do with Harlan and his robots, he knew they had no choice but to gate to the planet. He himself had assured Darian that they would be safe from the Goa'uld after the 'servants of Heru'ur were ousted. Who would have known Chronos would show up? Out with one snakehead and in with another.
SG-1 emerged from the event horizon onto P3X 729 and within seconds, Jack found himself in the bizarre and humiliating situation of arguing with himself over who was better. Before he knew it, he was actually grappling with his double.
“Sirs. As much as I'd like to see how this plays out,” Major Samantha Carter inquired, simultaneously amused and disgusted by the macho display, “don't we have something more important to do?” Like a couple of peacocks.
There was no time for male bravado. SG-1 had to work fast while Chronos was still reeling from the shock of the discovery of the SG-1 robots, and the Juna were questioning the truth of Chronos's claim to be a god. Chagrined, the Jacks released their respective headlocks and glared at each other, the words 'later' etched in their eyes.
Jack watched his double in action and begrudgingly admitted that he was pretty damn good. But then he's me. Sort of.
During a brief respite, Jack resumed his observations of 'himself'.
The other Jack did not take kindly to the scrutiny.
"What are you looking at?" he sneered.
"Lose the attitude, pal," Jack warned.
"Or what? I'm stronger, remember?"
"Yeah, right. And faster and bet-ter," Jack mocked, throwing the robot's words back in his face. "And while we're at it," Jack said, glaring, "what the hell happened to Daniel?"
Jack couldn't miss the flinch from his double as his words hit home.
"I couldn't save him. He-he wouldn't let me," he said, looking away.
"Wouldn't let you?" Jack said, puzzled. "You mean you were there? You watched it happen?" he accused.
"Yes! We were all there."
"How could you just let it happen?" Jack roared.
"I don't know! You tell me!" his double spat. "It was Daniel, for crying out loud. Too many lives would've been lost. He...he wouldn't let me," he repeated helplessly, waving Jack off.
Jack stared, the words sinking into his heart and his gut. Just like Daniel. Crap, this is too weird.
Jack looked guiltily at the hunched shoulders and said, "I'm sorry."
"What, for being an ass?"
"Look, I'm trying to apologize," Jack explained. "I know how I'd feel if Daniel...if my Daniel...didn't make it. But then you already know that," he said softly, sitting down wearily.
His double turned to Jack. His face softened, and he said quietly, "Nem."
"Well, it doesn't get any easier," he sighed, sitting down also.
"No, it sure as hell doesn't," Jack agreed.
His double raised his eyebrows, an unspoken question in his eyes.
"He's come close way too many times," Jack said.
"He's a handful," the robot said sadly.
"Tell me about it," Jack said ruefully. "There was this one time where I left him behind," he said hesitantly, surprised at his own admission.
The look of compassion and understanding in the other's eyes spurred
Jack's confession. "He was hit by a staff blast watching our backs. His chest…his chest was all…" Jack waved his hand futilely, the nightmarish memory haunting him still.
"He made you leave him."
"Yeah," Jack whispered, his features clouded. "We were all supposed to die. We got out. We…I left him behind….to die alone."
"But he didn't die. What happened?"
"Damn kid dragged himself to a sarcophagus," Jack smiled fondly.
"Daniel's always been very resourceful," his double said wistfully. "I wish your Daniel was here."
"So do I." That's it, Daniel. The other teams can get their own damn genius.
"Why do you let him go with other teams?"
"His, uh, knowledge is rare. Everyone wants him," Jack said awkwardly.
"I can't imagine letting my Daniel go off like that. He can be frustrating as hell sometimes with all that 'meaning of life' stuff, but I sure as hell wanted him at my side."
"Yeah," Jack said softly, wondering what kind of a relationship had developed between their doubles.
"Did he find Sha're?"
"Yes, but he couldn't save her," Jack said grimly. "Ammonet tried to kill him with the ribbon device. Teal'c had to kill her or Daniel would've been dead."
A dark shadow passed over the robot's features. "At least mine didn't have to suffer that," he murmured.
"Yeah. Oh, hey, Skaara's free," Jack said, hoping to brighten his double's mood a little.
"Yeah," Jack smiled at the other man's look.
"Daniel did some fast talking with the Tollan and Klorel was removed."
"The Tollan helped you?"
"Well, they did owe us. Still stingy with sharing but they came through, thanks to Daniel."
"Skaara's really free of that damn snake?" his double asked hopefully.
"Yep, and as cocky as ever," Jack grinned.
"That's great news. Thanks for telling me."
Jack shrugged. "You deserve to know."
A strange smile appeared on the other's face.
"What?" Jack asked.
"I was just remembering something Daniel told me. Something that your Daniel had told him."
"Do I want to hear this?" Jack asked warily.
"Knowing you as I do, no."
"But," Jack prompted.
"But I think it may help, and I owe both Daniels a great deal."
Jack blew out his cheeks. "Okay, shoot."
"He said that you were a proud man; a man of action. He said we were both warriors and that being confined on Harlan's world was going to drive me nuts. He was afraid that I'd withdraw and shut myself off from my friends."
Jack shifted restlessly on his feet. He had tried to imagine himself in his double's place years ago and the picture wasn't pretty.
"He told my Daniel to be patient," he said softly, "and that no matter how bitter or how hateful I might become, he would never find a truer friend than Jack O'Neill."
God, Danny. You got that all backwards.
"He said, 'Help him. Watch his back. He won't like it and he may fight you every step of the way, but it'll be worth it in the end.'"
Jack swallowed hard and looked away. Jesus, Daniel. He looked back at his double and tried to ignore the pain in the alien brown eyes.
"When did he tell you this?"
The other smiled. "What you really want to know is what state did I get myself into that would cause Daniel to reveal something so personal?"
"No," Jack protested quickly. "I just—" Jack shut his mouth. He knew there was no point in lying to this Jack because as much as the idea irked him, this Jack knew him inside out.
"I was going to kill myself," he said quietly. "Gate to another planet and never come back."
"He went after you," Jack said.
"Yep. Found me and wouldn't leave. Said, 'We go home together or we die here together. It's your choice'."
Jack smiled. "He would have done it, too."
"Why do you think I came back? He could be a real pain in the ass, but Daniel Jackson was the truest friend I ever had. Watching him die was … well, let's just say that the best part of me died along with him."
Jack's heart ached in sympathy for his double's sorrow. He thought of his own life without Daniel, and he couldn't imagine it. He wouldn't imagine it.
"Anyhow, after Carter developed these power packs," he said, smacking his midriff, "we decided, as a team, to explore other worlds. Danny taught me and Carter how to speak and read Goa'uld and we—"
"Wait a minute," Jack interrupted. "You speak Goa'uld?"
"Don't you?" his other asked, surprised.
"Daniel didn't teach you?"
"No. Well, um, he tried but, you know," Jack explained weakly.
"Interesting," his double murmured.
Crap. The fake ones got along better than we do.
"Chinese checkers," the other Jack said, a twinkle in his eyes.
"Chinese checkers. Daniel loves it. Loved it," he said, the twinkle gone.
"I-I didn't know that."
Jack stared at the floor, finding it increasingly difficult to look at his robot self.
"Do you love him?"
Jack's head whipped up. "What the hell kind of question is that?" he snapped.
"I knew you'd say that," his double smirked.
Before Jack could respond, they were interrupted.
"Colonel, uh, Colonels," Sam amended, entering the room. "We're ready to move out."
"Thanks, Carter. We'll be right there," Jack said distractedly.
"Yes, sir," she replied and left the two colonels, a puzzled look on her face.
"Get him back, Colonel," his double said simply. "You belong together."
Jack watched himself leave and then rubbed his face wearily. "Crap, now I've got two Daniel Jacksons driving me nuts."
A subdued Jack, Teal'c and Carter came through the wormhole, each accompanied by a dead weight slung over their shoulders; their robot double.
Harlan, horrified at the sight of the bodies, quickly moved from one body to another vainly looking for signs of life.
"Colonel?" General Hammond inquired, hiding the alarm in his voice.
"Teal'c needs medical attention, sir," Jack said, quickly kneeling at the Jaffa's side and easing the burden off the injured man's shoulders.
"I'm on it," Dr. Janet Fraiser said briskly.
Jack stood and faced Hammond. "Chronos is dead, sir, and we have a mothership."
Jack turned to face the raw grief in Harlan's eyes. "I'm sorry. We couldn't bring Daniel's body back. They … they died bravely." He looked back at Hammond who was still trying to wrap his mind around the news that they had a mothership in their possession.
"When's Daniel due back, sir?"
"In three days, Colonel."
Jack nodded and watched Fraiser and her team leave with Teal'c. He looked back at the dead SG-1, his double's last words weighing heavily on his soul: 'Are we still so far from real to you?'
Not by a long shot, my friend.
Jack shivered and Hammond said quickly, "Colonel, you and your team report to the infirmary. I'll take care of things here. We'll debrief at 1100 hours."
"Yes, sir," Jack said. He looked at Harlan hovering amongst the bodies, clucking and whimpering. "I'm sorry," he repeated then hurried from the gateroom.
Jack paced nervously, breathing down Sgt. Davis's neck every few minutes, an act he had been performing for the last hour.
"No, sir. Not since you last asked me three minutes ago … sir," Davis said, wincing at his words and hoping his tone was at least respectful.
"Colonel, they're only overdue by ten minutes," Hammond explained calmly, rescuing the sergeant from Jack's icy glare.
"So far," Jack muttered, going back to his pacing. Daniel, so help me, if you've gotten yourself hurt or killed, I'm going to beat the living crap out of you.
Ten minutes later, an eternity to Jack and Sgt. Davis, the 'gate sprang to life.
"Off-world activation," Davis announced.
Jack stood, rooted to the spot. 'Do you love him?' Damn right I do. He's my best friend.
"Incoming traveller." Please, Dr. Jackson, let it be you.
"Come on, come on," Jack muttered under his breath.
"It's SG-15, sir," Davis reported jubilantly.
"Yes! Piece of cake, Sergeant," Jack said clapping him on the shoulder.
"Told you there was nothing to worry about."
"Open the iris, son," Hammond ordered, smiling.
Jack hurried into the gateroom and waited anxiously behind the armed guards.
Finally, the members of SG-15, plus Daniel, emerged through the event horizon. Everyone looked healthy and intact.
"Jack?" Daniel said in surprise as he came down the ramp. "Is something up?"
"No," Jack said, taking Daniel's gear from him. "I just missed you," he said quietly so only Daniel could hear.
"Oh, come on, is it that big of a shock?"
"No, well, um, yes," Daniel said hesitantly.
"Look," Jack said flustered, "let's get something to eat after Fraiser checks you out, okay? You can tell me what you've been up to."
"Um.sure. Jack, did something happen while I was gone?" Daniel asked worriedly.
"Yeah, but everything's okay now, even Harlan."
"Harlan?" Daniel said, furrowing his brow. "You mean Harlan, as in?" and Daniel contorted his fingers into the robot's quirky salute.
"The one and only."
"Later, Danny. Let's get you checked out," Jack said, laying a hand on the younger man's shoulders and urging him towards the door.
Daniel allowed himself to be led out. Danny? Hell, Jack, I can't remember the last time you called me that.
Jack and Daniel carried their respective trays to a quiet corner of the commissary. As they ate, Daniel recounted his time with SG-15. Jack listened with an attentiveness that unnerved the archaeologist.
"Jack, what the hell happened while I was away? Why was Harlan here?" he demanded.
Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath and Daniel was dismayed to detect a shudder run through the older man.
"Jack?" Daniel said, leaning forward towards his friend, concern in his eyes.
"It's just.not easy to talk about," Jack admitted, looking down at his hands.
"Is it … is it something to do with our doubles?" Daniel asked.
Jack raised his eyes and a shadow of pain darkened his face.
"They're dead," Daniel whispered.
"Yes," Jack confirmed, thankful for his young friend's intuitiveness.
"Oh, God. Poor Harlan," Daniel murmured. "What happened?"
Daniel listened in awe and horror as Jack explained recent events. It was obvious that Jack was still visibly upset and would be for some time.
"You-you watched yourself die?"
Jack smiled grimly. "Yeah. The power pack was drained, but it was like he just … let go." His team was dead. Why the hell would he want to go on?
"But surely Harlan can-"
"Daniel, there can't be two SG-1's gating to planets."
"I know, but—"
"Danny," Jack said, shaking his head.
"Alright," he conceded, "but what about Harlan? What's he going to do? They were his family, for God's sake. He must be heartbroken."
"He was," Jack replied, a sad smile on his face.
"Carter helped him reprogram himself. The last four years never happened."
Daniel's eyes widened. "He agreed?"
"It was his idea, Daniel. He said he couldn't go on without them."
Daniel sighed and reached for his coffee. He stared into the inky depths and said softly, "I know how he felt. You do too," he added, looking up at Jack.
Jack nodded as his own memories of losing family and friends assailed his mind.
"You, me, Carter and Teal'c; we're family. We have each other. Harlan didn't have any one to help him with his loss. It was the kindest thing to do."
"They deserve to be remembered," Daniel said solemnly.
"They will, Danny," Jack said earnestly. "We'll remember. The Juna will remember."
"I like Harlan," Daniel said simply. "Maybe we could check in on him sometime?"
"Sure. I don't think General Hammond would have a problem with that."
"How are Sam and Teal'c dealing with this? With their deaths."
"They're okay," Jack said. "Teal'c's killed Chronos, who was doing his damndest to kill Junior and Teal'c."
"Teal'c's injured? You didn't tell me that."
"He's fine. So's Junior. Carter was a little shaken, but she's okay too."
Right, she's a soldier. She doesn't have a choice. "And you?"
A flicker of pain flashed in the dark, brown eyes. "I learned that they were no different from us," Jack said simply. "They died doing what they believed in."
Daniel studied Jack's face carefully. Whatever had happened had clearly changed his friend's mind over the existence of their doubles. Selfishly, he thanked the gods for not making him a witness to his own execution. Regretfully, he wished he could have talked to his double. Caught up on 'old times' so to speak.
"I wonder what other planets they visited," Daniel mused, changing the mood. "Are we going to return to a planet we've never been to?"
"You tell us," Jack said.
"Daniel," Jack smiled patiently. "What do you do?"
The young archaeologist looked more confused than ever.
"I mean, what's your job? What do you do when we visit tombs and things?" Jack clarified.
Daniel looked strangely at Jack and then opened his eyes wide.
"Journals! I-he kept journals," he exclaimed.
"Lots and lots of journals," Jack amended. "We feel, and Hammond agrees, that you should be the one to look at them."
Daniel's exuberance faded to doubt and an uncomfortable feeling of voyeurism.
"Jack, he had a whole different life these last four years. His memories and experiences, they-re-they're his, not mine."
"Daniel, I really don't think he'd mind. Would you mind if your positions were reversed?"
"Well, no, but…" Daniel frowned, unsure of his feelings.
Jack stood up and asked, "More coffee?"
"Um, yes, please."
Jack went to refill their mugs while Daniel's conscience tried to come to grips with what Jack was proposing. The idea was unsettling but enormously intriguing.
What did they see? How did they function as a team? They spent 24 hours a day with each other for four years. My God, how did Jack and I get along?
Tell you what," Jack said, sitting down with the coffees. "Why don't you come over to my place tonight for some real food and we'll talk about it? See if we can put your mind at ease."
Daniel's face brightened at the prospect. "I'd like that, Jack. Thank you," he said, his tone betraying his surprise.
"Maybe we'll even have time for a few games."
"Jack, one chess game can take us hours, days, hell, even months," Daniel reminded him.
"Who said anything about chess? I'm talking about Chinese checkers."
"You do know how to play it, don't you?"
"Well, yes but—"
"Good, cause I don't have a clue," Jack grinned.
"God, I haven't played that in years," Daniel murmured. He looked suspiciously at Jack and asked, "How come we've never played before?"
"I never had it before."
"Why do you have it now?"
"I heard you liked it," Jack shrugged.
"Who told you? I've never told anyone," Daniel said, totally perplexed.
"A friend," Jack said enigmatically.
Daniel stared at his friend, sensed something private and promptly dropped his line of questioning.
"You'll love it, Jack. You might even win a game," he said cheekily.
"You're gonna eat those words, Jackson," Jack grinned. "Oh, and speaking of words," he said hesitantly, "maybe you could teach me some Goa'uld?"
"What?" Daniel exclaimed, almost spilling his coffee.
"Just a few words," he added hastily. "You know, every few days? Could come in handy."
"Are you feeling okay, Jack?"
"Daniel," Jack said, mock hurt in his voice.
"I mean, you are Jack, um. my Jack, right?"
"Yes, I'm your Jack and you're my Daniel," he said softly. Crap, does that sound sappy or what?
Daniel cocked his head as an overwhelming sense of goodwill enveloped him like a heavy, comforting blanket.
Smiling shyly, he raised his mug. "I'll drink to that."
Jack smiled and raised his own mug. "To all the Jack and Daniels in this world and every other reality."
Daniel took a sip then made a noise that sounded like a cross between a sneeze and a cough.
"Are you okay?" Jack asked worriedly, standing up, arms ready to administer the Heimlich manoeuvre.
"Jack, that was a Goa'uld toast," Daniel laughed.
"That was a language," Jack said incredulously, sitting down. "What the hell did it mean?"
"Well, the closest literal translation would be 'up your snorkel'."
Jack narrowed his eyes. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Damn right. You did say you wanted to learn Goa'uld?"
"Yeah, but today? We have to start today?"
A faint look of hurt resignation clouded Daniel's beaming features and Jack's heart clenched. Crap, you're doing it already. Pushing him away.
"Okay, but can we start with single words first?" Jack asked, desperate to get things back on track.
The look vanished from Daniel's face and his eyes brightened.
"Okay, the first word of the day is 'kree'."
"I know that one," Jack said eagerly. "Here, write it out for me," he said, pushing a napkin towards Daniel.
"You want to learn to speak, read, and write Goa'uld?"
"The whole nine yards. Think you can handle it?" Jack challenged.
"Well, my hair will probably be greyer than yours," he smiled, "but, yeah, I think I can handle it, and I know you can."
Jack smiled, shamefully pleased with Daniel's faith. "Thank you."
"It won't be easy," Jack warned.
"You never are," Daniel agreed.
"But it'll be worth it, right?" Jack asked worriedly.
Daniel thought of all the hours they'd have to spend together and smiled.
"Every penny," he said.
"Penny? You mean I have to pay for this? I thought you were my friend?"
"I am your friend, Jack," Daniel said patiently. "And because I'm your friend, I know you. So, for every week that you don't learn something new, you have to put five dollars in the kitty."
"Kitty? What kitty?"
"The kitty that's going to pay for our exorbitant, celebratory dinner when you're sufficiently fluent in Goa'uld to tell a system lord to 'shove it where the sun don't shine'."
Jack smiled at the thought and then shook his head. "Five bucks won't buy much of a dinner."
Daniel released a long insufferable sigh and raised his pen.
"Ready, fly-boy?" he challenged, his pen poised over the napkin.
"Bring it on, Professor."
|Genres:||Angst, Friendship, Missing Scene/Episode-Related, Smarm|
|Summary:||Jack's encounter with his robot double as him assessing his friendship with Daniel|
Author's Chapter Notes:
This follows A New Start. Contains spoilers from Double Jeopardy.