In the Company of Men by tejas
[Reviews - 6] Printer Chapter or Story
Category: Jack/Daniel, Daniel/Other Male
Genres: Alternate Universe, Angst, Drama, Established Relationship, First Time, Hurt/Comfort
Rated: Adult
Warnings: Adult Themes, Non-Consensual Sex Acts
Series: None
Summary: The NID "failed" to destroy the quantum mirror. SG1 do a little research with it and learn what might have happened had Nirrti come in ships before the SGC got off the ground. Nominated for the 2006 Stargate Fan Awards.

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Story Notes:
First time for our Jack and Daniel. Established relationship on the other side of the mirror.
Author's Chapter Notes:
First of all the non-con is only sorta non-con. Can't really say more than that without spoiling. If you'd like more details before you start the story, feel free to email me and I'll tell you about that aspect of it.

I have a bad habit of saying "Oh, geez, I'd never write about *that*" only to end up thinking, "but if I was going to..." and then diving in. I know a lot of people run like the wind from mpreg. I *hope* I've dealt with the subject well and avoided some of the usual pitfalls. It was at least my intention to give it a good go and approach it from an 'ok, if this *were* to happen, what would it take to make men consider it' and so on direction. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Daniel leaned back in his chair, rubbed his eyes and tried to will away his headache. The bright morning sun streaming through the wide windows stabbed into his head like hot knives. The shadow cast by the stone ring standing in his garden wasn't enough to ease the brilliance.

He tossed his glasses onto the cluttered desk. They teetered for a moment on the edge of a stack of yellowed computer printouts before sliding slowly down between the stack and a copy of Elston's Book of the Dead. He wasn't using that for his research, but more for the pleasure of having an old friend always in sight. A comfort in a world with fewer comforts than he'd expected. His glasses didn't seem to help much these days anyway, but the odds of being able to get a stronger pair weren't looking good. The glassmakers hadn't been able to work them into their schedule the last time he'd asked and he doubted their production line was in any better shape now. Still, he'd ask again. He was close to finding out what they needed, what he needed, to know, but he needed to be able to work for longer stretches and that was getting to be impossible. Other... duties aside, the almost constant eye strain coupled with the resulting headaches kept his research confined to only a few hours a day. He couldn't even take a painkiller since it interacted poorly with what he'd already had to take this morning.

Duty. Daniel grimaced at the thought of his afternoon's 'schedule'. He had three 'appointments' scheduled and would most likely be unfit for anything else afterward. He never had been before and there was no reason to think today would be any different. It didn't matter that it was killing him by inches. He had his duty. Duty to his family. Duty to his House. Duty to his world. He didn't have the luxury of having any duty to himself. Daniel flung himself out of his chair and angrily paced his office, letting the rage always simmering deep inside surface. He had to burn some of it off before the afternoon. It wasn't their fault and he'd be damned before he'd approach them with less than tenderness. They deserved it. None of them had asked for this... this abomination that had been forced on them.

"Niriti!" Daniel growled the name of the source of his rage as he picked up the small statue of her that sat on his desk. He hefted it wishing for the thousandth time it was the neck of his long-dead antagonist so he could crush it himself.

"Go ahead. Throw it. Might make you feel better." Daniel whirled in place to see his First Consort leaning carefully on the now open door of his office. "I never have understood why you keep it. It just keeps pissing you off."

Daniel closed his eyes, swallowed then took a deep breath and then another in an almost successful attempt to calm himself. "It helps keep me focused. I want to make sure I know exactly where my anger should be directed." With studied calm, Daniel walked to his desk and carefully set the statue back in its place.

His Consort nodded. This was an old conversation. "You don't want any of this to spill over onto those youngsters this afternoon."

Daniel turned his back on the doorway and leaned heavily over his desk listening to the slow footsteps approaching. "I can't do this any more, love. It's killing me. God! You must hate me. How can you bear to be in the same room with me?"

With an ill-concealed grunt, his Consort sat heavily on the edge of the desk next to where Daniel stood. "As to how I can bear to be in the same room with you, and that's a lousy pun, by the way, it's easy. I love you. Which also deals with the next part. Since I love you, it's obvious I don't hate you. What's more, I don't think I ever could hate you." Daniel started to speak, but a raised finger stopped him. "Let me finish, love." The finger lowered and a strong hand rested gently on Daniel's curved back before beginning a soothing massage. "Yes, I know what this is doing to you. I see it every damned time and it kills a little bit of me, too, since I can't do anything to protect you from it."

Daniel let the soft words wash over him and felt the rage loosen its grip just a little. Just like always. Someone forgave him his crimes, though no one but him seemed to see them as such. He could see them as nothing else.

"And, finally," the soft voice continued, "Yes, you can do it. Just like I do what I have to. What we all have to. This isn't the world we wanted, but it's the one we've got." Daniel finally looked up and met the warm brown eyes looking at him with such tenderness. The same tenderness he needed to find in himself and use on others.

"I don't deserve you, you know." A small smile threatened to emerge and he tried to let it. Maybe it would stifle the tears he felt building. The medicine always put him on an emotional rollercoaster for the first few hours. It would settle by the time he needed it to.

"Actually, I think you do deserve me." Warm arms pulled Daniel into a much-needed embrace. "After all, you're the heir to the House of Jackson, one of the few fertile men in this district..."

"A stallion." Daniel spat the hated epithet out.

"Well, if you mean hung like a horse, you'll get no argument from me, but as I was saying. You're all mine." Daniel pulled his love as close as he could and ran his free hand over the swollen belly keeping them from the kind of embrace he wanted.

"Not all yours, love. In a few hours I have to go..." Daniel couldn't get the rest of the sentence past the lump in his throat.

"You have to go and do your part to try and keep our species from dying out. Just as I do my part." Daniel tensed and then cursed himself silently for it. "I know, love, I know I've only had to do it six times and then only with the man I love." Daniel smiled at the declaration and softly kissed the beloved face before him. "You've had to be with more partners than you can probably remember and you always think I'm going to hate you for it."

Daniel hid his face against the shoulder nearest him and nodded in response.

"What you don't seem to ever remember is that the parts of you that matter most to me are all mine." Gentle fingers at his chin raised Daniel's head so he was looking once more into those beloved brown eyes. A nod of the head indicated the statue of Niriti. "Your body now belongs to humanity, but you only truly share your heart and soul with me."

Daniel felt the last of his earlier rage recede as a calm began to descend on his heart and mind. He knew it was in part due to the progress of the drug that would allow him to 'perform' properly in a few hours, but mostly it was due to the one in his arms right now. Daniel felt a chuckle bubble up from somewhere, "Humanity? That's a little..." his head shook slightly from side to side as he searched for the right word.


"I was thinking more along the lines of pompous."

"Hey, I'm pregnant. The baby ate my brain."

Daniel smiled as he kissed his love. "Ah, my mistake. I can see how that could be a problem."

"Oh, you have no idea. At least in a few weeks you get to hold him."

"I can't wait. Who knows, maybe this time..." Daniel let the sentence trail off. Neither wanted to voice the hope of every couple since the world they'd known ended. We really are a superstitious race, Daniel thought to himself. No one would wish for a girl out loud as if it would curse them. They'd been luckier than most, if it could be called luck to have two daughters born alive only to die within days. Their sons, their beautiful sons, survived, but there were only a handful of girl children in the world. None of them theirs.

Daniel held his love as close as he could and tried to pour all his love into their kiss. He tucked his love's head onto his shoulder and rubbed the tense back as if apologizing for what he'd almost said. "I love you, Jonathan. Never forget that I love you." The old conversation ended as it always did and Daniel knew he would do his duty as he always has. His eyes roamed his office barely seeing the clutter of artifacts and books, everything he could get of what had been found after Niriti died and her army left, until he got to the shrouded item in the corner. Yes, he would do his duty, no matter the cost.

He used to keep it uncovered, fascinated by the image of this same office it reflected, no, he corrected himself, projected. Until the day he looked more closely and realized that one of the windows in what he now knew was another room entirely was broken and there were leaves gathering on the floor. He'd never yet seen any people in it, which was eerie enough when he was standing in front of it, and thought it just an odd mirror. He'd ordered storm shutters installed on all the windows in the house that day. He'd tried to get someone to come look at the mirror like artifact, but with only half the population left alive everyone with any scientific bent was dedicated solely to solving the problem of simply surviving. He and a handful of others were the only ones trying to delve into the whys and wherefores of what had happened. Somehow he knew the room he saw was somewhere else and it belonged to another Daniel Jackson. A Daniel who made, or had made for him, different choices, choices that left his home empty and possibly his entire world. Perhaps he would remove the dark cloth covering the mirror one day and see what time had brought to that other place. But not today. For now, he couldn't bear the thought of a world without his love, his sons, himself.

Daniel pulled away just enough to kiss his Consort, no, his husband. The others were Consorts, men he'd married and given sons according to the new laws. He felt affection for them, but not love, not the love he felt for the man in his arms. As hard as it was to bring other men into his household it was easier than the parade of strangers brought to him to... service.

"Time to go?" Jonathan's hand cradled his face and Daniel nuzzled into it, grateful for the comfort offered.

"Yes, the first one... Jeffery, will be here in a bit. I need to get ready."

"Take off. I'll have dinner brought to our room when you're done."

Daniel gave him a quick smile, a last hug and then strode off to do his duty with the haunting image of leaves blowing across his office floor still in his mind.

Jonathan awoke with a start. It was late. The bedroom was draped in late afternoon shadows. The fire was low, but the evening chill hadn't settled in yet. The barest hint of a spicy scent lingered in the air. He smiled when he realized someone must have come in while he slept and lit a bit of the incense he loved. Jonathan had been very tired when he laid down for his nap, but he didn't think that had been there then. Bet it was Ian, he thought to himself then sighed and stretched a bit. Since the miscarriage, Ian had taken it upon himself to baby Jonathan, at least when Daniel wasn't. It was Ian's way of coping, certainly better than Jonathan's coping mechanism. Putting his fist through walls wasn't particularly useful even if it was momentarily satisfying. He shut down that train of thought with practiced ease and stretched, thinking instead how nice it would be to lie there in the soft bed and drift back to sleep, but it was getting late. He just hoped he didn't look as exhausted as he felt.

Jonathan listened to the steady tick-tock from the antique timepiece on the mantel. Too dark to see the face of his grandmother's clock he wished it would chime so he wouldn't have to move to see the time. The clock was one of a few treasured items left from his family. He grinned as a forgotten memory rose to the surface. He'd been so embarrassed to take his new lover home with him that first time. He'd never had problems introducing lovers to his family before, but he'd never been with someone so far out of his league. It had taken a while for it to sink in that Daniel wasn't just slumming or that he'd picked Jonathan specifically to annoy the elder Jackson. Daniel had noticed the clock almost immediately and his sincere appreciation of the beautiful piece had broken the ice. Bit by bit, Jonathan's family had finally accepted him as one of their own. When his mother died, he found that the clock had been left to them. He felt his eyes tear up a bit and silently cursed the hormones of late pregnancy. He was glad she'd died before the plague, but he still missed her. From time to time he wondered what she'd think of all this. Her son, her grandchildren. She'd always wanted grandchildren. He ran his hands over his belly and wondered what their boys were up to with their grandfather Jackson. He hoped the old man was making time for them.

The quiet clink of silver on porcelain from the sitting room made the clock redundant. It was very late. Beecham was setting their table for the quiet dinner he'd ordered for Daniel and himself. He took what passed for a deep breath these days, and began the laborious process of getting out of bed. Horizontal was what he wanted, but vertical was what he needed. It was just so damned hard these days. But he wanted to be up and about before Daniel got back.

Beecham greeted him in his quiet, formal way when Jonathan finally emerged from the bedroom, "Good evening, sir. May I get you something or call one of the other Gentlemen?"

Poor Beecham. He was of the old school and while he adapted to anything thrown at him, his training had never prepared him for serving in a home where the Lord of the Manor had three Consorts and all of them male. Having apparently picked up on Daniel's distaste for the word, Beecham always referred to his Lordship's Consorts as "the Gentlemen", at least among the household. Jonathan used to have to fight back a laugh every time he heard it but over the years he'd gotten used to it. It was a very small strangeness in an incredibly strange world.

"No, thank you, Beecham, I'm fine." Jonathan wandered to one of the floor to ceiling windows and twitched back the dark heavy drapes enough to stare into the gathering darkness.

"Very good, sir. If there's nothing else, I'll return with dinner when his Lordship's guest departs." Jonathan allowed a quirk of his lips at the almost imperceptible pause before the word "guest". Good ol' Beecham, this is almost as hard for you, in its own way, as it is for him... for us.

He let the drapes fall and turned back to the servant. He didn't think he'd ever get the hang of giving orders without looking at the person involved. "That will be fine, Beecham. Thank you." Jonathan watched the older man leave and then found himself alone with his thoughts again. He fussed with the place settings and wished, for the thousandth time since he'd gotten pregnant, for just one beer. He found himself moving things, making noise just to break the silence. Their suite was isolated from the rest of the household and it was easy to imagine there was no one else around. There was just the creak of an old house settling, the clock, the small sounds of the curtains in the breeze, the occasional birdsong. It was their refuge. Daniel's refuge. Even their sons' rooms were on the other end of the long hallway. Once the baby came, the silence would be a distant memory for a while. Jonathan could do with something, anything to break it at the moment. He was usually atypically calm during pregnancy, but not today. He'd seen something earlier, something he should report to Daniel. Something he couldn't, in good conscience, lay in his lap today. Jonathan knew he'd eventually tell him all about it, but not for a bit. He didn't want to think about it at all and toyed with the idea of just forgetting it. Chalk it up to a pregnant man's fantasies and ignore it. He wouldn't, but it was a nice thought for the moment.

Daniel was due back so he busied himself with trivialities in a vain attempt to stop worrying about what the night would bring. Daniel was strong, but days like today left him depressed and emotionally brittle. Once he came down off the fertility drug, he'd need contact. During the process, it was like walking through a minefield. Jonathan gasped and stiffened as the baby turned head butting his lungs in the process.

"Kinda restless today, huh, kiddo? Me, too." He continued to rub his swollen abdomen and relaxed as the baby inside turned again to follow the movement. That was probably the coolest thing about being pregnant. Something he'd never expected. Not that he'd ever, in his wildest dreams expected to be pregnant. What man had? When he'd first been selected as a likely candidate for the procedure, Jonathan had been horrified. Paternal gestation they called it. He'd already been reeling with the discovery that he was one of the hundreds of millions of men left sterile by Compton's virus. His problems didn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. Women, regardless of age, had had it even worse. Janis Compton's discovery of the nature of the virus had been her last discovery before succumbing like every other human female on the planet. What a horrible thing to be famous for. His selection seemed like the final in a long series of insults. That someone had engineered a plague to kill the human race in such a vicious fashion seemed impossible, but there it was. And, so, here he was. At the beginning, after he'd finally agreed to go through with it, Daniel had teased him about being the mother of his race. Jonathan smiled at the memory. Daniel had been so young then. In darker moments, Jonathan privately decided that Daniel was aging in dog years. A quick smile flickered across his face. It didn't reach his eyes. Not a thought he'd ever share with his husband.

Husband. That's another impossibility he'd had to get used to. Being attracted to men wasn't new, but it's amazing how a plague followed by an alien invasion, however brief, can change what people consider important enough to worry about. And here I'd thought I'd never be a father. Jonathan chuckled at the irony and the baby kicked in response.

"Sorry 'bout that, kiddo. Can't wait for you to meet your Dad, though, you're getting heavy." The doctor would be by in the morning to check his progress and look in on Ian. He figured he had another few weeks yet, though according to Jose's baby pool most of the household thought it would be sooner. His... he never was quite sure what to call Jose and Ian. Nicholas and Patrick called them uncle and their sons called him the same. Officially, they were Daniel's Consorts, sort of co-husbands, though that term was frowned on in Daniel's class. Privately, they thought of themselves as brothers-in-law. It was more familiar, more comfortable. Though Jose and Ian were closer than any brothers-in-law Jonathan had ever known. He smiled. He and Daniel had skirted the edge of polite society before things went to hell, why should now be any different. Daniel didn't mind and subtly encouraged their private arrangements. He'd never said, but Jonathan figured it explained why he'd been so steadfast in his refusal to take on any more Consorts. There were rumors about how other heads of household dealt with their Consorts, especially those who used the fertility drugs full time. It was hard to tell how much was rumor and how much was fact, but if Daniel thought seven sons between them in six years were plenty, none of his "Gentlemen" would argue the point. The four of them had worked things out in what might otherwise be an intolerable situation. Daniel, hell, none of them, wanted to rock the boat. But the fallout, coupled with Daniel's innate sense of fairness, was more days like today than most men in Daniel's position had to put up with. Jonathan sighed and started to rearrange the sideboard to avoid the inevitable guilt that thought brought. The additional thought of Beecham exuding polite disapproval when he returned brought his hands back to his sides. Instead he settled heavily in an armchair with his feet up, wishing, again, for a beer.

A short while later, the clock chimed the half-hour and started Jonathan out of the light doze he'd achieved. Dozing beat worrying about the night to come and the conversation he needed to initiate eventually. At least the exhaustion was proving stronger than the tension. Almost immediately came Beecham's soft, distinctive knock on the door. The mouth-watering aroma of roast chicken preceded both cart and man and set Jonathan's stomach rumbling. Make that exhaustion with a side order of hunger over tension.

"His Lordship will join you momentarily, sir."

"Thank you, Beecham." Jonathan watched the man set out covered dishes on the sideboard and couldn't help but hope Daniel showed up before dinner got cold. Beecham finished his task and set the cart out of the way as usual.

"Does sir require anything else?" Before Jonathan could answer, the door flew open and Daniel breezed into the room, heading straight for Jonathan.

"That will be all, Beecham." Daniel's voice was steady and controlled, "You can clear away in the morning." A soft seductive smile on his face, he knelt next to Jonathan's chair, taking one of his husband's hands in his own, the other caressed Jonathan's distended belly through his loose shirt. Daniel's excited, overly bright eyes never left Jonathan's as he continued, "Please inform Ian and Jose that we will not be joining them for breakfast." Jonathan lifted his eyebrows in a silent question. They always had breakfast together as a family, even the children. Given their various duties to the household and the town, it was the only meal of the day when everyone who was in town was guaranteed to be home.

"Very good, your Lordship. If there's nothing else, I'll wish you both good evening."

"Thank you, Beecham." Jonathan spoke only to the older man's back as he closed the door.

Daniel gave up Jonathan's hand in favor of running his hand through his love's hair then pulling him in for a deep, passionate kiss. Jonathan's arms automatically embraced the other man. The position made it somewhat awkward, but not awkward enough to miss the shivers running through his husband. Daniel didn't seem to notice as he all but devoured the man now in his arms.

"God, love, I missed you today." Jonathan nuzzled the other man's neck and felt a moment's hope that maybe this evening wouldn't be so bad. It seemed the drugs had already started to wear off. "You would have been so proud of me, today."

"I'm always proud of you, Daniel. You're incredible." Hope died quickly.

"I need you, babe. I need you so bad." Daniel stood gracefully then helped Jonathan out of his chair and more securely into his arms. "Want to touch you." Daniel's hands slipped under the loose shirt to roam harshly over Jonathan's upper body, kissing and nibbling a little too roughly along his face and neck and moaning deep in his throat. "Need to taste you. Need to feel you under me, around me. Need to bury myself in your sweet body." Daniel's voice rumbled in his chest and despite the rougher than usual treatment, Jonathan couldn't have stopped his body from responding even if he'd wanted to. They enjoyed roughhousing on occasion, but this wasn't the time. Not with the baby so near his time.

Jonathan ran a hand through Daniel's silky hair and nuzzled his cheek, "Soon love, soon."

"Tonight, baby. Gonna make love to you all night long." Daniel's hand slid down inside the loose pants over Jonathan's belly until he touched the hard cock underneath. He licked Jonathan's ear as he pulled on his cock whispering. "Gonna make you come so hard, so good, then gonna bury myself balls deep and never come out." Jonathan swallowed hard and started to push away from the too rough hands on him.

"Daniel, wait. We can't. You know..."

Daniel's impatient growl interrupted him as he pulled him closer, "Yes! You're mine and I'll have you when and how I want!" He latched onto Jonathan's neck, biting him painfully, apparently marking his territory.

"Stop!" Grasping hands released him and Jonathan staggered back a step, nearly stumbling over the chair he'd been sitting in. He put his hand to his neck and then saw Daniel's face. All traces of arousal gone, Daniel was panting and sweating. His eyes were wide with fear and there was a smear of blood on his lips. Jonathan looked at his hand and swore. He dabbed the spot again, fortunately it didn't seem to be bleeding too badly. Damn, how much had the man taken today.

"Oh, god. Oh, god. I hurt you. Oh, god, love, I hurt you." Daniel backed away scrubbing at his mouth and babbling. "I'm sorry, so sorry. I hurt you. I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

"Daniel, love, it's okay. See, it's stopped." Jonathan approached him slowly and reached out to hold him. "It was an accident. It's okay, love."

"No, no, no." Jonathan stopped and watched Daniel back away from him, shaking his head and trembling. "It's not okay. I hurt you, that's never okay!" Daniel shouted. He'd stopped backing up and Jonathan could see the rage building. "Get away from me! You know better than to come near me! How stupid are you? Why are you even here!" Daniel all but ran to the door and threw it open, gesturing angrily and shouting. "Get out! Get the hell out of here! I don't want you here!"

Jonathan stood his ground. This was worse than usual, but they'd been doing this dance far too long for him not to know all the steps. He just had to be sure to be out of reach during the rages. Ordinarily, he could handle anything the other man threw at him, but he wasn't quite at his best at the moment. He didn't really think Daniel would hurt him or the baby, but other man was clearly not himself and it wouldn't hurt to be cautious. He took a deep breath and spoke, keeping his voice calm and even. "Why don't you close the door and join me for dinner, love?" He stepped over to the sideboard as he spoke and calmly started taking covers off the dishes.

"Fuck you! Oh, wait. I can't, can I!" Daniel slammed the door and Jonathan relaxed a little. First hurdle over. He proceeded to ignore the angry muttering behind him, just making sure he was aware of the other man's location. Daniel often ordered him out of the room when he was like this, but Jonathan prided himself on never leaving. The counselors had taken them through this and as out of control as Daniel seemed right now, he'd always said he knew Jonathan would never go. It would be dangerous for him to be alone through this. If Jack had to be away on Council business, Ian or Jose, or both of them, could step in, but neither Daniel nor Jonathan wanted that. The other two men didn't have the same history with Daniel and Jonathan knew he feared screwing up his relationship with them if they had to bear the brunt of his "chemically induced psychosis" as he called it. This was why some men stayed on the drugs constantly. Smaller doses, over time achieved the same results, but Daniel hated the thought of being dependent on them. He also had a great deal more control that other men. For some, it meant preventing a murder.

Jonathan filled plates for the two of them, certain that Daniel hadn't eaten this afternoon. He probably wouldn't be able to finish everything on his own plate, but damn, not even the gut wrenching tension of the evening could compete with late pregnancy hunger. He hoped he could get through the night without monster heartburn. A chair scraped loudly over the polished wood floor behind him and he turned as Daniel dropped heavily into it. He sat sprawled by the table drumming his fingers impatiently. Jonathan ignored the glower and continued muttering and placed the plate on the table in front of the man who apparently considered himself Lord and Master. Lord he could accept as an accident of birth, but Master was another matter. Taking his own seat, he started to eat and waited for the next move in their dance. He already knew it would end in their bed with Daniel sobbing in his arms and pleading for forgiveness. Jonathan always told him there was nothing to forgive. This was a temporary aberration. It would pass. He only wished Daniel could bring himself to believe that.

After a long morning doing battle with his inbox, Jack O'Neill was a man with a mission. He strode down the corridors of the SGC with personnel scattering before him. He had one thought on his mind. Lunch. He was, ordinarily, a brave man, but the thought of facing that particular ordeal on his own was enough to make him toy with the idea of diving right into the Quarterly Projected Resource Allocations for Research and Development. All three volumes of it. On second thought, he'd decided he'd go into this battle as he had many others, with his team at his back. Jack doubted even Teal'c could save him from the special of the day, but, hey, misery loves company.

"Hey, kids!" Jack whipped into Carter's lab to find Daniel and Teal'c facing away from the door and standing on either side of Carter, looking over her shoulder at something.

"Oh, hey, Jack." Daniel turned nervously around to face Jack while the other two offered their own greetings without turning around, which was fine with Jack. If Carter was in the middle of something that might go boom, he didn't want to know. Daniel walked closer to Jack and started to lean against the worktable, then changed his mind and shoved his hands in his pockets. "How's things?" Jack noted the nervous body language, the too innocent expression and after applying his many years of reading people and those spent reading Daniel in particular he came to the inescapable conclusion that he was hiding something.

"Daniel?" He was sure the sound he heard wasn't Carter stifling a giggle. Majors don't giggle.

"Jack?" Ah, and there were the blinking eyes and the forced innocent expression. It was a good thing Daniel could take more punishment than half the Marines on base because he was lousy at unplanned subterfuge. It was a forgone conclusion that any System Lord worth his salt would always know right off the bat that Daniel was lying about something and whip out the ribbon device. Or maybe he just knew the man well enough to tell. No matter what, this was too much thinking after his morning with the threat of the commissary still looming before him. Talk about torture.

"Whatcha doin'?"

"Oh, y'know, nothing much." Daniel kept his eyes on Jack, trying to keep Jack's eyes on him. The trick probably worked great on terrified undergrads, but no so much on Air Force Colonels. "Sam had this, uh, this thing, she wanted us to look at..." Daniel waved a hand and looked distinctly uncomfortable.

"Thing? She has a thing?"

"I believe Daniel Jackson refers to the device brought back by SG11 from P4X-735. Major Carter requested our assistance in deciphering some of the markings found on the casing." Teal'c joined Daniel, completely blocking Carter from view. Pre-ascension Daniel hadn't taken up nearly that much room. The two of them formed a nice solid wall. A wall that exuded false innocence, Daniel, and placid affability, Teal'c.

"Exactly. Thank you, Teal'c." Daniel all but beamed in relief.

"Ah. Markings." Jack rocked back and forth on his heels, hands in his pockets. He figured they knew he was toying with them. That probably accounted for at least some of Daniel's nervousness. The flipside of his knowing his team so well was that they knew him just as well. Keep messing with their heads or cut to the chase. Delay the inevitable heartburn or stop his stomach from trying to digest itself. Decisions, decisions. A lifetime in the Air Force had taught him how to make decisions and threat assess. At the moment, digesting his own internal organs was a real possibility. The heartburn was at least potentially theoretical. Decision time.

"Oh, Carter." Jack smiled happily at the reaction. Daniel hung his head in defeat and Teal'c looked, well, less placid. "Whatcha got?" Daniel and Teal'c might be able to give him the run around, but rank doth have its privileges.

"Sir, it's a device SG11 found on," Carter appeared next to Teal'c empty handed when Jack cut her off.

"PX-yadda. Yeah, I know. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum said that already." Daniel groaned and Jack decided to cut him a little slack. "Teal'c there's no way in hell I'm going to try and explain Lewis Carroll to a jaffa on an empty stomach."

"Indeed, O'Neill. I look forward to your explanation after you have eaten." Teal'c nodded in a way that told Jack toying with his team might not end up being as much fun as it seemed at the time. They each had their own ways of extracting revenge. Some of which included PowerPoint. What was he thinking? Of course it was fun, but the best things came a price.

"Lunch! Jack, that's a great idea!" Daniel looked like he'd just won the lottery or found the only existent copy of some book nobody ever heard of. Probably the book. "I'm hungry. Teal'c, Sam? You hungry? Why don't we..." Jack grabbed Daniel's arm as he started to pass him on his way out the door and dragged him to his side.

"So, Carter, care to show me your undoubtedly fascinating device? You know how much I just love alien tech." Fun was fun, but this was getting ridiculous. What could they possibly have that they don't want him to see?

"Of course, sir." Carter disappeared behind Teal'c then reappeared with something oddly familiar in her hands.

"Carter? Is that what I think it is?" The device looked curiously like the mirror controller, but not quite exactly. The one they used to have before it was destroyed at Area 51.

"If you think it looks like the mirror controller, we agree." Jack's teammates kept glancing guiltily at each other and then looking away. Apparently the doorframe fascinated Teal'c while Daniel seemed to be divining the secrets of the universe from the concrete floor, arms wrapped around his midsection. Carter had plastered her 'nothing-to-see- here' smile on her face and kept looking back and forth between her partners in crime and the device in her hands.

"Tell me they didn't bring a mirror back, too!" Damn! As if a 'gate open to one hostile universe wasn't enough, that damn mirror opened the door to an infinite number of hostile universes. He knew how he'd use it, if he were a megalomaniacal snake. Or a Destroyer of Worlds. Or any of the other power-mad aliens they'd run into over the years.

"Oh, no, sir. They didn't find a mirror, just the controller, which, if you'll notice is a little different than the one we had. If you look at this section here..." Amazing how fast Carter's mood improved when given the opportunity to confuse him. She was as bad as Daniel. He expected Teal'c to confuse him, what with being an alien and all.

"Aht! I don't want to know. As long as there's no mirror within five hundred light years of it and Earth, I'm a happy man." Jack checked the faces of his team. He didn't like what he saw. Something bigger than a new and improved controller was up. "Not a happy man?"

Carter glanced at the Tweedles and received a nod from Teal'c and a resigned shrug from Daniel. "No, sir. Not a happy man." She turned and led him to the back of her lab. There, on the floor was an open crate lying flat with something he'd never wanted to see again in it.

"That's..." Jack couldn't say it. How many times was this kind of crap going to come back to bite them in the butt?

"Yes, sir, that's the mirror we recovered from P3R-233."

"Are you nuts?" He couldn't believe it. "It was supposed to be destroyed. Know anything about that, Carter?" She looked like a kicked puppy. He knew she wasn't involved, but damnit, she was a Major in the Air Force, his subordinate. She shouldn't be leaving him in the dark on this kind of stuff. It would do her good to sweat a bit.

"Jack! How can you think Sam would be involved in something like that?" Daniel's nervousness was gone, his protective streak rose with a vengeance in its place. Jack let his choice of words slide. They knew each other far too well.

"Daniel! It's in her lab. It's here without my knowledge. What am I supposed to think!" Before Daniel could take up the challenge, Jack continued. "And don't think I've forgotten about you two." He jabbed a finger at Daniel. "You know better than anyone how dangerous this thing is," then jabbed at Teal'c, "and Teal'c knows better than to leave me in the dark on matters that could compromise the security of the whole damn planet!"

"Jack!" Daniel had apparently taken up the gauntlet after all. "It's done! It's here and this is important."

"It's always important, Daniel! Why am I the only one freaked about this?"

"Jack, we were freaked, too." Jack recognized Daniel in the 'lets be friends and not kill each other mode' he used off world. Didn't always work there, either. "But we've had a few days to get used to the idea. Besides..." Jack cut him off.

"A few days? Just when were you planning on telling me about this? When some snake even worse than the ones we know and love decided on a little trans-dimensional conquest?" Jack knew he was beginning to rant, but the whole alternate universe thing freaked him out big time. It was too big and too uncontrollable.

"Besides," Daniel apparently decided to ignore his rant and finish what he'd tried to say earlier. "According to what Sam found out from Area 52, there's a very simple way of keeping anyone from coming through." Daniel's hopeful expression lured him in. Jack sighed. He was toast.

"Enlighten me." Carter's turn at the plate.

"Well, sir, it seems that when the NID neglected to destroy the mirror," Even Teal'c raised an eyebrow at Daniel's muttered "like that's a surprise". Carter glanced at him and then continued, "They started studying it with an eye toward finding some way to secure it."

"An iris." Jack had to admit that he'd thought of that five, or was it six, years ago. Time flies.

"Right. But the material of the mirror, plus the inability to transmit through it like we can through an iris secured wormhole made that impractical if exploration teams were to be sent through." Whoa.

"The NID wanted to explore alternate universes?" Everyone else looked as uncomfortable at that thought as he did.

"Yes, sir. At least according to Agent Barrett."

"Ah, yes, Agent Barrett. Handy fellow to have around." Ok, teasing was better. The NID agent's interest in his 2IC had provided endless fodder for teasing over the improved relations between the SGC and the, seemingly rehabilitated NID. The warning glint in Daniel's eye urged him to stay on topic. "So, rogue trans-dimensional NID cells aside, what's this simple method of mirror protection Daniel mentioned."

"You're looking at it, sir." Carter seemed to be fighting back a smile. Daniel didn't even try to hide his grin. Even Teal'c looked less stoic than usual.

"Okay." Jack looked at the mirror. It was still in the shipping crate with the side covering the surface of the mirror removed. "I'm not seein' it, kids."

"Jack, look at it!" Excited Daniel was back. "Remember when you went through it?" Jack tried very hard to forget it, thank you very much. "If you touch it on either side, you travel into the selected universe."

Jack nodded and gave Daniel a 'get on with it' gesture. "And, so, therefore?"

"Jack! Look at it!" This was starting to drive him crazy. He knew Daniel and Carter were way smarter than he was, and Teal'c was no slouch in that department, but he was starting to feel like the one kid in the class who couldn't find the pony in the tree.

"I am looking at it! It's just lying on the floor of Carter's..." Oh. Oh! The others apparently understood he'd gotten it since they all relaxed and started to look somewhat smug. "So, someone tries to come through and what, they just fall back into their own universe?"

"Exactly!" Daniel has sworn he doesn't jump up and down when he's excited, but there it was again. Jack made a note to get a copy of the security footage. He was compiling a tape for future use. One day it would be very useful.

"What if they throw something at the mirror?" Gotcha. The Tweedles and Alice weren't sure about that one. "Y'know, the right angle would put it out of range of the mirror before it fell."

"O'Neill, one would merely have to keep the mirror covered or in a dark room to give a potential enemy no reason to feel the need to attack." Smug was back. There's nothing worse than a smug jaffa. Especially not one Jack couldn't, in good conscience, shoot.

"Right!" Daniel's turn. "When you're dialing the controller, there are so many options, who's going to bother with something that looks like it's at the bottom of a well?"

"Okay." Jack's admission was grudging, but he couldn't fault the logic. "It's better than nothing, but I still don't see why we should bother in the first place." Jack kicked the crate, "That thing is nothing but trouble and I can't really see Hammond authorizing us using it."

"Actually, sir, he probably wouldn't have until SG11 found this and the NID informed us of the error involving the mirror." She held up the new controller. "This controller seems to be a more advanced version than the one we had."

"PIP? Last channel viewed? Parental controls?" Jack mouthed 'sorry' and shrugged at Daniel after Daniel glared at him and whacked him on the arm with the back of his hand. Sometimes things just had to be said.

"Actually, you're not far off." Carter looked like her African violet just offered to virus check her computer. "We think this has a setting that remembers the last universe visited, it also seems to access a wider range of universes than the other model."

"More channels, huh? And that gets us, what?" Jack looked expectantly at his team. The battle was well and truly lost; all that was left was damage control.

"Think about it, Jack!" Carter and Daniel were like stereo speakers with Teal'c chiming in with the bass. And he was still hungry. "The little bit of research we did only showed universes fairly similar to ours."

"Except for the whole post-apocalyptic thing they had going with the snakes." Jack hated to kill anyone's enthusiasm, but reality checks were important.

"Well, yeah, that, but," Remarkably undeterred by reality, as usual, Daniel went on. "The farther we get from our universe the less likely we are to find the same conditions that brought the Goa'uld to power in the first place. It's an opportunity to visit worlds where humans were never enslaved at all. Maybe worlds where the plague never decimated the Ancients driving them to ascend. Maybe even universes where humans never evolved, which means there's potential for permanent research settlements with no danger of cascade tremors. Think of what we could learn!"

Okay, he had to admit, there was some good stuff there. He glanced at Teal'c and got the same look in response. Daniel and Carter were ga-ga over learning crap, as usual. Teal'c had the same concerns he did. He'd have to talk it over with Hammond. After he talked it over with Teal'c.

"I'm hungry. Let's go eat." Ah, that pulled the rug out from under them. A man can only deal with so much weirdness on an empty stomach. You'd think they'd be happy he believed them about the security thing. "C'mon." He gestured for Teal'c to precede him through the door and grabbed Daniel's arm before turning to Carter who was already in the corridor. "Carter!"


Jack pointed back to her lab. "SFs. Just in case."

She didn't quite roll her eyes, but seemed to recognize the value of the idea. Or just recognized the chain of command. She turned around, smiled the same smile she used when Jacob treated her like a five-year-old and headed back to phone for a security detail. "Save me a seat!"

Daniel stopped and tried to follow Carter. Since Jack still had a handful of his shirt, that was difficult. "I'll just go wait with Sam."

"No, Daniel, you will come with us. If you go back in there with Carter, neither one of you will emerge for hours and even you need to eat once a week or so." Jack kept tugging Daniel along the corridor to the elevator.

"Jack, I don't need you to..."

"Yes, you obviously do. Now stop whining and think of the gourmet delights that await you in the commissary." Jack called the elevator and waited, still retaining control of his captive. Teal'c, once again demonstrated his vast wisdom by staying out of the conflict.

"Gourmet? How about revolting." Daniel freed his arm with a jerk as he walked into the elevator. "And I don't whine!"

"Yadda, Daniel." Jack pressed the button and reflected that even going to lunch with his team was turning out to be as hazardous as going off world. He wondered if he could finagle two weeks' leave before diving into the Quarterly Projected Resource Allocations for Yadda report. Umm... maybe the mirror thing wouldn't be so bad after all. With any luck, there'd be an alien incursion and someone would torch his inbox. With that happy thought, he led his two teammates off the elevator and out to do battle with whatever was masquerading as meatloaf today.
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