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John didn’t mind that they’d put him and his team in one of the isolation rooms at the SGC. It was what he’d have done if alternate-reality versions of other AR-1 teams had come spilling out of the stargate. Judging by some of the chatter he’d heard from commanding officers (it was comforting to see that Mitchell was in charge now, disconcerting to see Lorne as his 2IC when Lorne had been killed by a psychotic Runner shortly after arriving in the Pegasus Galaxy in John’s reality), this had happened at the SGC before. Apparently last time the SGC had been flooded with alternate versions of SG-1, and the reality convergence had been deliberate, so the SGC was wary for ulterior motives.

John could understand that, so he, Teyla, McKay, and Ford sat in their little isolation room and watched other AR teams get marched by. Most of them seemed to be similar to his team, same line-up, small changes: Zelenka instead of McKay, some massive guy with dreadlocks instead of Ford (a Pegasus native, maybe? Their own Teal’c?), John with various patches on his uniform that suggested he was Army or Navy or one time even a marine, John as a scientist with another Lorne leading the team. One of the teams that startled the hell out of him was made up with Teldy, Teyla, Mehra, and Porter as the scientist.

The SGC had them all interrogated by some specialist, a young, pretty, dark-haired woman who looked non-threatening and had been pleasant to talk to. Her own John Sheppard stood beside her, arms crossed over his chest, watching warily, and he looked like one of the closest iterations to John himself - same insolent hair, same posture, same Air Force patches.

After the interview of John’s team, which had mostly been a pleasant chat about what things were like in his Atlantis, the woman smiled at her John Sheppard and said, “This team is clear, too. What now?”

“Now I guess we herd all the Rodneys into the lab and hope they can solve this problem,” John Sheppard said.

“I’m pretty sure one Rodney is sufficient,” the woman said, standing up and stretching. She was dressed like a civilian. “With a bunch of Rodneys on it, they should have it sorted out in no time.”

John’s Rodney preened.

“You going to join in?” her John asked.

“Only if they ask. Between all those Rodneys and that one John who’s a straight mathematician, they have more than sufficient brainpower to handle things.” The woman smiled at John. “It was really good to meet you.”

“And you,” John said, smiling back at her.

Rodney muttered, “Kirk.” But when a dazed-looking airman came to summon him to the lab, he went along eagerly.

Teyla was interested in meeting other versions of herself, as was Aiden. Teyla headed for the sparring gym where some of the other Teylas had gone, and Aiden went with her. None of them would get too far, and they’d established a code word between the four of them so they could identify each other, so John wasn’t worried they’d get into any trouble.

He headed for the mess hall, wondering if they had any better food here than at the SGC back home. He nodded at some of the alternate versions of himself and grabbed a tray and surveyed the food choices. Good pasta - white sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, grilled chicken. Blue jello, which he’d missed for some reason (he’d never been much fond of it before). He grabbed a brownie for Rodney, because in about an hour Rodney would be going hypoglycemic and get cranky. Then he scanned the tables. He didn’t want to sit alone. Who did he want to sit with? So many choices. Was it narcissistic to want to get to know another version of himself? This was a rare opportunity. He’d seen alternate versions of himself dead, talked to a fighter pilot version of himself when the Daedalus had gone reality-hopping that one time. But all of those encounters had been frustratingly brief.

He scanned the tables and then he spotted one version of himself he’d never seen before. The guy wore his hair Nineties-long, the way John had in undergrad before he’d joined up, and he was wearing an anime t-shirt and jeans and a pair of Converse sneakers, and was sitting cross-legged in one of the chairs, picking at food and looking small, nervous, his shoulders practically up around his ears. He didn’t look like either a soldier or a scientist.

John went to say hello. “Mind if I sit here?”

“Not at all.”

“Hi, John. I’m John, by the way.”

“Actually, uh, I’m Joe.” He offered a hand, though, and his handshake wasn’t bad.

“Is that short for John?” None of the alternates John had met had had different names.

“For Joseph,” he said. “John is my brother. Sort of.”

John felt his eyebrows go up. “Come again? Dave isn’t your brother?”

“No, Dave is his brother. It’s - complicated.” Joe ducked his head. “I - I’m not part of the SGC. I mean, I am now, but I was just visiting Atlantis, and on our way home through the gate, this happened.”

“Where’s your John?” John asked, and that was so strange to say.

“Probably in the lab with Rodney and the other McKays,” Joe said. “He’s part physicist, so…”

“He studied physics in college instead of math?”

“No, we studied math,” Joe said. “But…” He ducked his chin. “It’s really, really complicated. Um, how much did you pay attention to your father’s business dealings?”

“As little as possible. Why?”

“Did he ever talk about working with the Rossum Corporation?”

“I’ve heard of them, but I don’t know anything about them.” John shrugged.

Something in Joe’s gaze went dark. “Stay away from them,” he said quietly.

“I’ve never met any version of myself that wasn’,” John said.

“It’s a strange universe in the end, isn’t it?” Joe lifted one shoulder in a shrug.

“I’m sure Rodney could tell me all about the probabilities of versions of not-me being out there.” John smiled gently. “So, you and John are twins then?”

“Something like that.”

“You look exactly like me.”

“It’s really complicated. But for all intents and purposes, I guess we are twins now. Although his birthday is a couple of weeks before mine.”

That made no sense, but John suspected the explanation would give him a headache. “What do you do for the SGC?”

“I’m one of their mathematicians,” Joe said, and he lit up a little bit. “We’ve been working on integrating Ori and Ancient tech. They were about on par, and if we could combine some of the Ori energy storage tech, we’re thinking maybe we could recharge a ZPM. Also, we’re working on a cure for the Wraith.”

“Cure?” John asked.

Joe nodded. “So they can eat human food and stop eating other humans. Have you tried it?”

John wouldn’t have dreamed of it. “Not yet.” He’d ask Beckett if it was possible, though. “So, your John. Is he a soldier?”

“Yes. Air Force officer, just like you. Chopper pilot, mostly, but he can fly anything he gets his hands on.” Joe looked proud.

John had thought it was disconcerting, running into other versions of himself, seeing them have the same mannerisms and expressions. Running into this version of himself, who was shy and reserved and almost timid and utterly a civilian, not even gate-trained like some of the scientist Johns, was just uncanny. “That’s cool. He, uh, he seeing anyone?” For all that Rodney made jokes about John being a Kirk, being the military commander of Atlantis wasn’t something to take lightly, and John didn’t have the time to pursue a romantic relationship.

Joe lowered his gaze. “Yeah.”

“Who?” Was it Teyla? John had suspected more than one of his alternates was dating their own Teyla, which he’d once considered in passing. He was pretty sure he’d heard one mention he was married to an Elizabeth, which he’d considered more than once but never acted on, because that was irresponsible. One was still married to Nancy, which was just wrong.


John choked on his drink.

Joe said quickly, “Don’t freak out. None of us have mentioned it. We don’t know if DADT has been repealed in every universe. Statistically, there’s a good chance other Johns and Rodneys are interested in each other, if not dating, but we don’t want to get anyone in trouble.”

John leaned in and hissed, “Rodney?”

Joe’s eyes flashed. “Of course Rodney! He and John have sacrificed themselves to save each other on multiple occasions. When Rodney’s brain was infected by that parasite and he was losing his memory, the one person he could even remember as a source of comfort was John. All those women who got their grubby paws on him like Chaya and Teer and Mara and Larrin, they couldn’t accept what he was, but Rodney could, and -”

John raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Whoa! Sorry! I just...Rodney.” He’d never looked at his teammate like that, not once. Yes, they had a strong bond. A lot of people misread the bond between comrades-in-arms, because it was by necessity a deep and fervent bond, to be willing to die for each other. But soldiers who didn’t much like each other could be willing to die for each other.

The fire in Joe vanished as soon as it had arisen, and John had to reassess how timid the man was. “It’s just - John struggled with his relationship with Rodney for a long time. It’s kind of a sore spot, still.”

“I can see that. So, are you gate-rated? On a gate team?”

“I’m not on a team, but Evan made sure I was gate-rated.”


Joe nodded, and his expression turned into a goofy smile, and John realized that Joe and his Lorne must have been involved, too. John couldn’t imagine ever having dated another man, let alone a man like Lorne, who’d been painfully exacting in military protocol, so efficient the marines had taken bets he was a robot, and had died far too soon. But Joe, John was fast realizing, wasn’t anything like him at all. He couldn’t comprehend having grown up with a twin.

“If you’re not a soldier and not on a gate team, how did you join the SGC?” John asked.

Joe’s smile took on a wry note. “John and I are a package deal. Where he went, I went. Simple as that.”

“Because you both have the super-gene.”

“Something like that.”

John finished his food and pushed his tray aside. “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home?”

“Take a shower.”

“Me too.”

“And probably call my mom, because chances are she’s freaking out. She knows the mountain goes into lockdown sometimes, but I usually at least email her from lockdown.”

John’s heart stopped. “Your mom?”

Joe nodded.

Of all the differences John had considered with each of his alternates, that wasn’t something he’d thought to ask about.

“Well,” John said, “it was very enlightening to meet you, Joe. Good luck getting home.”

“Nice to meet you too, John. I’m sure we’ll get home.” Joe smiled at him and then went back to picking at his food. John turned his tray in to the dishwashers, and then he paused in the doorway, looked at all of the other Johns. Dare he ask, find out what his mother was like in other universes? If she’d lived?

No. He’d better take the brownie to Rodney instead. He was probably bordering on very cranky levels. When he got to the lab, he heard one Rodney shout,

“Are you deaf? Get out of the way!”

And another Rodney snapped, “Actually, yes, he is deaf.”

“Oh, I - I didn’t realize.”

“Obviously, moron.”

When John appeared in the doorway with the brownie, all of the Rodneys turned to look at him. Several of them already had brownies, including the Rodney who was standing beside a civilian John and signing one-handed, but many of them didn’t, and they looked hopeful.

“Password,” John said.

Three of them had the right answer.

John sighed.