Puzzling out the problems of the multiverse was bound to give anyone a pounding headache Sam thought to herself as she headed for the infirmary, even if you had a baker's dozen of alternate yous working on the problem. At the latest count there were sixteen alternate SG-1's that had come through the gate, and most of their Samantha Carter's were occupying the science lab two levels down. Upon entering the infirmary she asked a passing nurse if they had any ibuprofen for her headache. The nurse wandered off to go retrieve some tablets and Sam let herself rest for a moment on an unoccupied bed.
"You always did push yourself too hard, Sam," a familiar voice admonished her. "I bet you haven't eaten all day either."
Sam turned her head to see Daniel, or at least one of the Daniels currently on base, standing behind her. His right arm was wrapped up in a sling, the white obvious against the dark blue of his BDU's. An Airman stood a few feet behind him, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible without actually loosing sight of his charge. He was looking at her with a mixture of bemusement and affectionate indulgence.
"I guess that's a constant in any universe," she shrugged, not sure how to interpret his look. "What happened to your arm?"
"We came under fire as we were headed back to the Gate. Seems that Anubis had some automated systems left in place at the lab. Dr. Lam says it'll be fine." He glanced at the bed Sam was sitting on, "I guess your Daniel doesn't have a reserved bed in the infirmary. That one is usually mine."
A nurse walked over and handed Sam some tablets. She slid off the bed onto the floor.
"No, our Daniel's is over there, right next to Siler's" she pointed across the room to a far wall. "He's less distracting to the nursing staff over there."
"Oh?" he asked in surprise.
"They flirt horribly." Daniel looked mildly embarrassed. "Doesn't that happen in your reality?"
"Uh, no actually," Daniel held up his left hand to show her a plain gold band. It was mellowed with age and marked with a number of dings and scratches. Obviously not a recent addition to his wardrobe.
"Oh, I see," she said, not really seeing at all. "You're married." Stating the obvious. Good conversation starter, Sam.
"Widowed actually," a dark sadness flashed across his features. Daniel's deep blue eyes studied her for a long moment as if memorizing every feature.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. Daniel half laughed, half grimaced. Sam frowned at his response.
"Sorry. It just sounds odd coming from you."
"Why's that?" Sam asked in confusion.
Daniel just smiled a sad smile, "You were a brilliant scientist, Sam, but you always had a hard time listening to what your heart told you." He turned to go. "Good-bye, Sam," he touched her shoulder as he walked past her. Sam stood there for a moment and watched him go. She had encountered any number of alternate SG-1 members at this point, but a depressed Daniel was something out of the ordinary. The way he looked at her with such sadness and spoke about her in the past tense. Then realization hit her. She quickly swallowed the pills the nurse had handed her and took off down the corridor.
"Daniel!" she shouted. Fortunately he was the only Daniel in the corridor. He stopped but didn't turn around. Sam rushed up and stopped in front of him.
"In your reality we were married." she stated.
He nodded his head once. "Eight years," he said with a sigh.
"Eight years? But Sha're. . ." He picked his head up at the sound of her name.
"Sha're? She was killed in the crossfire on Abydos when Apophis came." Daniel paused, "I'm guessing things happened a little differently in this reality."
"Sha're was taken host to Amonet."
"I guess we never adopted Cassie then."
"We adopted Cassie?"
"That's why I married you the first time."
"The first time?"
"You wanted to adopt Cassie, but they were reluctant because you were a single parent that had a high risk profession. At the time I was a consultant on base. The first time I married you out of friendship."
"Our first marriage was on paper, to appease the powers that be so we could adopt Cassie. After a year it was obvious that we wanted more than formalities. So I asked you to marry me, again." "But we were already married."
Daniel smiled, "That's exactly what my Sam said. I had been married twice, but neither time had I been properly married. I just wanted to do things right."
"Let me guess, I carried Gerber Daisies and wore my mother's wedding dress."
Daniel looked at her with a far a way look in his eye, a soft smile spreading across his face as he reminisced. "You were beautiful. Jack thought I was going to faint when I saw you." Sam shifted uncomfortably at the intensity of his gaze upon her.
"Daniel," a distinctly British inflected voice called uncertainly, "You alright?" Sam glanced beyond Daniel to see a familiar curly haired blond behind him.
"Yeah, I'm fine, Sarah," Daniel said snapping out of his reverie. "Just saying my farewells, so to speak." Sara Gardiner looked at Daniel with concern. She glanced uncertainly at Sam, surprise evident on her face.
"It's good to see you again, Sam," she said slowly before turning back to Daniel. "You left this in the infirmity. Dr. Lam thought that you would want it." Sara slipped him a small piece of paper, glancing back and forth between the two. "I'll go find our Mitchell," she announced as she went to continue down the hallway. She touched Sam's shoulder briefly, "Take care of yourself."
Daniel glanced down at the piece of paper in his hand and smiled fondly. Curiosity getting the best of her she finally asked, "What is it?" Daniel said nothing, and just handed the piece of the paper face down to her.
"Good bye, Sam," he said finally and bent over to kiss her on the cheek. Then he was gone. For a long moment she stared after him. For his part he never once looked back. She turned her steps towards the elevator to head back down to her lab. Once in the elevator she turned the paper over so that she could see the front.
It was a photo. A family picture to be exact taken in Disney Land in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Herself, or her alternate self, was standing in the center a pair of mouse ears perched on her head. Next to her was Cassie, her long red-blond hair tied up in a ponytail. She was proudly wearing her own set of mouse ears and a UCLA t-shirt. She was holding the hand of a little boy who looked to be about six years old. He had shaggy blond hair and Sam's smile. Daniel was on her other side, holding a little girl who appeared to be no more than three. Her bright blue eyes were unmistakably Daniel's. It was easy to loose yourself in worlds of what ifs and might have beens. First there was Martouf and Janet, and now. . .
"Colonel Carter!" She jumped a bit.
"Yes, Dr. Lee," she shoved the picture hurriedly into a pocket and she headed back into the lab.
"We think we might be on to something."
Several days later they had sent the last of the alternate SG-1 teams through the gate, hopefully to return to their own realities. It had taken her several hours to write her report on this one. Alternate realities were confusing at the best of times. Taking the papers off of her printer she headed out the door to deliver the report to the General before heading home for the night. Daniel was already in the elevator when she caught it.
"Oh, hey, Sam," Daniel said absently as he flipped through the pages of his own report.
"Heading to Landry's office?" Sam asked as she stepped inside.
"Yeah, then I was going to go get something to eat. Care to join me?"
"Sure. I haven't had a decent meal in days."
"You always push yourself too hard, Sam." Daniel said, looking up from his file smiling fondly at her. Sam glanced at him in surprise. The alternate Daniel in the infirmary had said much the same thing.
"Daniel, do you ever think about all the what ifs."
"How can we live through what happened and not?" Daniel closed the folder. "Something specific on your mind?"
"How about we get take out instead and we can discuss it at my place." She glanced sideways at him. What she had to talk about wasn't best discussed in public.
"Deal. I'll pick up something on my way over. Anything specific you want?"
"Bring a bottle of wine." Sam responded, a playful smile flitting across her lips. Daniel raised an eyebrow in the slightest show of surprise. "There's something I want to show you."