Title: The Road Best Taken
Author: HailDorothy
Genre: Romance/Angst
Pairing S/J Sam/McKay
Rating: K
Season: 10
Spoiler: The Road Not Taken, 1013
Summary: Episode Tag: Sam has a gut ache over her alternate self and McKay's marriage. And where in this world is Jack?

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without author's consent. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2007.

Feedback: Feed me, Seymour—please?

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Alternate Earth, McKay's Place:

"Which people?" Rodney's words reverberated in her aching head.

So they'd not aired her tirade—which meant no live news. Holy Hannah, democracy had been superseded by a dictatorship—Landry's!

Angry and unnerved, Sam pushed away from McKay's desk and stood up. She glanced Rodney's way and noted his pale countenance, no doubt, still in shock over his Samantha's death. She could tell by his body language and tone that he'd truly loved her—the other Sam.

Sam couldn't help the knife twisting sensation inside her stomach. It'd been nonstop since she got here. Now she understood Jack's frequent stress gut aches. They hurt like Ne'tu. Man, she wanted an antacid. Sour juices spawned by raw emotion. Such as regret that her alternate self had died and—the difficulty to swallow that she and McKay had been married, let alone in love. In her universe their attraction had never gotten beyond Rodney's overt flirtations. And were she honest, even if Jack were out of the picture, the idea of her with Rodney was a-never-going-to-happen issue. Sam remained un-charmed his cocky attitude and overt self-esteem.

Right now, she ventured into frightening territory. She'd been hesitant to inquire at the SGC, but the ongoing lack of reference to Jack disturbed her more then expected. She'd begun to suspect he hadn't existed in this universe. Current evidence said otherwise. Slipping her hand into her pocket she removed one of several photos she'd found in the other Sam's office.

"Um, Rodney, I'm wondering if you can explain this to me." She handed over the picture of Samantha in a wedding gown. The man embracing her was Colonel Jack O'Neill and he didn't look at the bride like a coworker and friend. Sam knew that deep dimpled smirk all too personally and the ecstatic expression, she-her alternate wore matched Sam's emotions on her wedding day. Da ja vu.

Rodney accepted the snapshot, glanced at it and snorted. "Sam, in our world we've got a saying that a picture's worth a thousand words."

"So do we." She felt confused. "Was this taken at our wedding?" She gestured between them.

"Heck, no!" He scowled. "We eloped to Vegas."

"Okay, help me out here. We—were married for. .?" She whirled her hands at him.

"Hmmm. Three months, one day and twenty-one hours, if you include that we didn't share the same bed after the uneventful honeymoon."

"Oh," she flinched. "I'm sorry—I think."

"Yeah, that's what I got for marrying you . . . her on the rebound."

"You were on the rebound?" She gawked.

"Huh?" his eyes rounded. "No, you were."

"Why?"

"Hmmm. They didn't tell you, huh?"

"Do'h. Tell me what?"

"That you and Colonel O'Neill were married," he tapped a finger against the picture. "Over four years until . . ." He handed back the photo and avoided her gaze.

"What?" She had to know.

"He died after Antarctica."

"How?" she clutched the picture.

"After The Asgard beamed up O'Neill to revive him, a Replicator invasion destroyed Thor's fleet. Thor, Jack and all his Ancient knowledge died with him."

"Oh, man!" Sam dropped into a chair as her heart doubled its beat.

"Hmmm yeah, it pretty much sucked. You—I mean my Sam had been pregnant and the shock of losing Jack caused her to miscarriage."

Sam inhaled sharply.

"She almost left the SGC, but I talked her out of it. See, I loved her for years and supposed I took advantage of the situation." He winced and looked at his shoes.

"Supposed?" Sam would have to be a basket case to submit to McKay's advances—ever.

"Actually, I'd like to think I came to her rescue as it were."

Dumfounded, she continued to ogle. Was her mouth ajar?

"Hey, I've got my moments." He defended. "So we got married. But I couldn't compete with a ghost, especially the great and mighty Oz of SG-1 and hero of the galaxy, Jack O'Neill."

"I'm sorry, Rodney." She truly was.

"Hmmm." He smiled. "Really?" His jaw slackened.

"Yes." She clasped his right hand, squeezed then let go. "Really."

He expelled a breath, shut his eyes and opened them. "You and this Sam were a lot a like." He smiled reflectively.

"Oh." She worried how he meant that.

"Yeah, she felt sorry to, told everyone I left her for irreconcilable differences. Actually, we got an annulment—heck, she begged off the day after the wedding, maybe because she'd been drunk when we—"

"Drunk?" Heat warmed Sam's cheeks and she shot to her feet.

"Hmmm. You had to be there." He held up both hands. "And don't!" He stepped back.

"What?"

"Hit me." He acted cowardly.

"Hey, I'm still dealing with the whole 'us' thing. Sounds like she was a head case."

"Yeah, well," he cleared his throat. "Amazingly, the hangover cleared her head. And that's why I put on this arrogant, cynical air of the scorned ex. Gotta keep up appearances ya know."

"Oh, it's not natural?" her lips twitched, "your arrogance?"

Rodney guffawed. "And you're funny like her." He waggled a finger then sulked. "It's a shame, because we honestly did get along—sorta. I mean, two world renowned geniuses . . . Although, I was and still am smarter."

Sam rolled her eyes and bit her tongue—literally.

"I can't help think if I'd given her more time to mourn O'Neill. And now, she'll never know that I loved her enough to let her go."

Sam thought about how Jack had once done the same for her. "You and my Jack are more alike than you know."

"Oh, I don't think so . . ." The light bulb flickered in his eyes. Rodney snapped his fingers. "He's alive in your world!"

"Yes. Very." She blushed.

"Then you two are hmmm, hitched?"

"Yes." She nodded. "I miss him, Rodney." She felt tears burn the edge of her eyes and held them back.

"I should have known. You're happy like she was when he was here among the living."

"All things considered," Sam glanced around their surroundings. "I'm extremely happy." Her heart ached as she wondered how Jack was dealing with her missing in action--again. Her fear of never returning to him scared the crap out of her.

"Yeah, my Samantha was once that giddy."

"I don't understand, Rodney." Sam chewed her lower lip.

"The giddy part?"

"No, that you told me. I'm not sure the Rodney I know would have spilled his guts this way."

"Oh, then I'm not a chump?" He wagged his brows.

"Well," she wavered with a smile.

"That's why I did it, that thousand watt smile of yours." He pointed at her. "Besides, I knew if you and Sam were anything alike the very thought of us being together would drive you nuts."

"Yeah, I was getting there. So thanks for putting my mind at rest."

"You're welcome, Sam. But ya gotta promise to tell no one. Not even Colonel O'Neill."

"I promise. But my Jack O'Neill is a two star General and the head of Home World Security."

"You're kidding, right!"

"Nope."

"I suppose that's where our luck went wrong. Maybe if he'd lived . . ." he trailed off and turned reflective. "As much as I miss Sam, I'm glad for her now." He sniffed a nose full.

"Excuse me?"

"Hey, she'd not been the same since he died. Manic-depressed comes to mind. She'd always been a workaholic, but the past two years she buried herself in her work and rarely left the base."

"Oh." Sadly, Sam could see herself doing that.

"But they're together now—that's if, you believe in that spiritual mumbo-jumbo." He brushed a tear and turned away. McKay crying, now that was a first.

"Ah." Sam sought to make him smile. "Even though I'm married, my Rodney still flirts with me."

"He does?" McKay turned back, a smile illuminating his drawn features.

"Yes. Sometimes I want to smack him. Other times I'm flattered."

"Oh no, you don't," he accused. "You're making that up again, aren't ya?"

"Not this time." She smiled with sincerity.

His mouth lifted and he took a step toward her. "So if you weren't with O'Neill, I'd have a chance?"

"That'd be a cold day in hell." She scoffed.

"Yeah, now that's the Sam Carter I knew." He winked and they shared a moment. "Did I mention I like the hair?" he gestured at her longer style.

"Yes, several times."

"Hmmm."

"Rodney?" she held his red-eyed gaze. "I want to go home not just to help my world, but to be with my husband."

"Yeah, Sam, I know." He grimaced. "And I'm working on the solution, I promise."

"Thanks." She kissed his cheek, pulled back and smiled.

"Hmmm." He fingered the spot she'd kissed and sighed, "I hope he realizes what a lucky S.O.B. he is."

More confident than ever, Sam sauntered off and tossed over shoulder. "Oh, he does." She took out the photo that matched the one in her office and experienced an epiphany. No matter what universes they existed in or detours their alternate selves took, she and Jack always chose to be together. "By the way, Rodney." She halted and looked back.

"What?"

"To quote the former Colonel Jack O'Neill, it's got nothing to do with luck, Carter, and everything to do with the road best taken, together."

Rodney held her determined stare and nodded. He understood. She turned, opened the door and stepped outside into a world that wasn't her own. Here, there was no winding yellow brick road to follow home. To find the best road required making sacrifices and unselfish choices—choices that she and Jack knew all about. Smiling, Sam set her right foot in front of the left and never looked back.

Her stomach ache vanished.

Sweet!