SUMMARY: As Daniel stood, arms crossed, watching the final preparations, he wondered what exactly he would take away from this situation. Tag for S9's Ripple Effect.
SEASON/SPOILERS: Major ones for Season 9's Ripple Effect, as well as mentions of events that occurred in earlier seasons.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is another old story of mine from 2006 that was originally published in the zine Ancient's Gate X: Remember When. I am trying to streamline all my Gen fic in one place and ff dot net seems a good place for now :).
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Stargate: SG-1 or anything associated with it. I'm simply borrowing, but I promise to return all in one piece. Eventually.
It would definitely take a bit of time to get every single SG-1 team back to the universe where they belonged. As Daniel stood, arms crossed, watching the final preparations, he wondered what exactly he would take away from this situation.
Sure, he'd experienced alternate realities before, interacted with alternate Sams, Jacks, even another Teal'c, but he'd never come face to face with himself. He'd always been missing, not needed in the big picture that was the Stargate program. Sure, each universe without him was in major trouble, but they still hadn't required his expertise to open the gate in the first place.
So, despite the unnerving feeling of talking to…well, himself several times over, Daniel took pride in the fact that he both existed and made a difference to the Stargate program in many different universes.
Though, apparently, his achievements varied. A lot.
Running into Janet had hurt and finding out that she and he had been on the same planet, in the same spot where he'd watched her die, only deepened the wound. What if he'd done things differently? Could that reality be theirs if he had?
"You did everything you could."
The voice startled him, for it was so familiar that for a split second Daniel wondered if he'd actually tried to reassure himself out loud. But he knew better and turned, finding himself face to face with the Camo-dressed Daniel from Janet's team.
He met his own eyes. "How do you know that?" he asked.
Camo-Daniel gave him a small smile. "Because I'm you."
Of course, Daniel thought. The very same logic that had worked only hours before on the Prometheus because despite any and all differences, each Sam, each Mitchell, each Teal'c, each Daniel, had the same thought processes and very similar passions.
Daniel shifted his gaze, unable to meet Camo-Daniel's eyes any longer. "Then you know guilt doesn't just evaporate?"
"Yes," Camo Daniel answered. "I'm sorry about your Janet."
"Thanks." Daniel didn't want to dwell on the subject, not with this Daniel, not with anyone really. Though two years had passed, he knew he had never truly moved on and discussing it would only further prove that point. Janet had been a good friend and seeing her again, here, in the corridors of the SGC made him miss her more than ever.
"So, I hear Jack is still in charge of the SGC in your universe," he continued, switching gears.
Camo-Daniel smiled. "Oh yeah. Jack keeps saying he'll retire, but I'm not sure he's really to completely let go. Though, for you, he's obviously moved on since someone else leads SG-1 and Laundry's in charge."
"Jack went to Washington. Took over General Hammond's post when he retired to spend time with his granddaughters."
"Family's important," Camo-Daniel agreed. "I can understand how the Stargate can interfere. Sometimes, Sha're and I—"
"Sha're?" Daniel interrupted.
Camo-Daniel gave him an old look. "My wife. You didn't go to Abydos?"
"We did." Daniel swallowed the awkward lump in his throat. He didn't think he was going to like where this conversation was about to go. "She's alive?"
Camo-Daniel nodded. "We've just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary." He paused.
"She isn't alive here, is she?"
"No." His voice was soft and he did everything to keep even the smallest amount of emotion from creeping into his voice. The world was a cruel place, he decided. Here was another version of him that had everything he wanted. He was jealous. For a second wild jealously blocked all coherent thought processes. Camo-Daniel's world was currently under a plague created by the Ori, but they would be sending him back home with the cure and all would be well. He'd go back to Sha're, say hi to a Jack that hadn't decided Washington was the place to go, and serve on a team with Janet. Daniel forced himself to focus. Bring his mind and his heart back to his reality.
What had this Daniel done differently? Why had he gotten all the lucky breaks? Abydos probably even still existed in his world, and maybe he'd never met the likes of Anubis and never had to make a choice between trying to live and ascending. Did he and Sha're have children? A house?
Daniel wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer to any of those questions.
"I'm sorry," Camo-Daniel said quietly. "Um, ah, if you don't mind me asking—"
"She was taken host by a Gou'ald," Daniel answered, interrupting before Camo-Daniel could even finish asking. He knew the question would come and he silently cursed his own curiosity. "And, ah, she was killed a few years later by a friend to save my life."
Camo-Daniel didn't say anything, just giving Daniel a short nod. An awkward silence passed between the two of them. Daniel shifted his weight, not knowing how to continue this exchange or if he even wanted to continue it at all.
Thankfully, it was Camo-Daniel who pushed forward. "Do you have allergies, too?"
Daniel almost laughed at the transition. "Oh yeah," he answered. "But thanks to," he stumbled a moment, almost saying Janet, but not ready to head back into that territory, avoided her name, "some good medication, they really aren't much of a problem anymore."
"Really?" Camo-Daniel sounded surprised. "I've tried everything and then some. They're better, but far from gone. I guess you got over the asthma, then, too?"
Asthma? Geez, he hadn't had an asthma attack since he was fifteen. It would appear this Daniel might not have everything after all. "Yes, I guess I did."
"Wow. You're certainly lucky then. It's under control, but the first time I had an attack in front of Sha're, I thought she'd—" He stopped short, embarrassed.
"It's okay," he reassured. "She's your wife. I…I would talk about her, too." He hadn't wanted to know, but suddenly the need to know was overwhelming. "What happened on Abydos? Back in the beginning, I mean."
Why did he set himself up for more pain?
"We defeated Ra," Camo-Daniel told him. "I assume you did the same? And stayed behind afterwards." Daniel nodded and he continued. "Right. When Jack came back a year later, it was Sha're, really, that convinced me to go. After her brother was taken by the Gou'ald she was insistent on it. I agreed, but only if she came with me."
That was another thing that remained the same, though it wasn't something Daniel could take comfort in. "Skaara was taken?"
Camo-Daniel eyes clouded and Daniel knew his answer before it was even uttered. "I was off with Jack, his team, and Sha're and he…"
There. There was the difference, Daniel knew, and it was so painfully simple that he immediately hated it. Sha're hadn't stayed behind like he'd told her too – she'd followed him and avoided the attack by Apothis.
The one thing he'd always wished he'd done differently.
The other Daniel had finished speaking and his eyes were now glued to the floor.
"I guess you didn't free him then, huh?" Daniel asked.
Camo-Daniel shook his head. "He and Klorel – the Goa'uld – were critically injured in an accident with their ship. The Tollan found him and notified us but we were too late." He sighed. "I take it that your Skaara survived?"
"For a bit," Daniel admitted. "Long enough to get Klorel removed."
"Did he go back to Abydos?"
"Eventually." Daniel didn't want to bring up the fact that Abydos, and therefore Skaara, no longer existed. At least, they didn't on this plain of existence. However, Oma and accession were two topics he hoped to avoid talking about all together.
He needed to end this conversation. Comparing and contrasting was not helping either one of them and he knew that tonight sleep would be hard to come by.
Maybe he'd call Jack and fill him in, chat for a while.
Daniel was extremely grateful when Sam choose that moment to duck her head in and inform him that everything was set and they were preparing to send the troublemaking SG-1 through the gate. The rest of the teams would follow.
Daniel couldn't wait.
They were the last team to go through and once again, Daniel found himself a few feet from both his counterpart and the alternate Janet Fraiser. He hoped because they were leaving it would be easier, but it wasn't. It wouldn't erase the fact there was a world where mistakes had never been made and life existed the way he always hoped it would be.
"Just out of curiosity…where did I go?" Sam asked Janet, after exchanging an embrace with Martuf. Daniel had a feeling that when this was finally over, Sam just might the person who would understand.
Janet exchanged a glance with Camo-Daniel. "Maternity leave," she answered, giving Sam a grin and a hug.
Maternity leave? Now, that one Daniel didn't see coming. As much as Sha're's death was his biggest heartache, he knew Sam had always second guessed herself regarding motherhood. Chocolate was in her future.
Landry stepped forward and Daniel reached for the case that held just what this SG-1 needed to save the world. Handing it off, he told one last look at this Janet and worked hard to keep the emotion hidden, but he couldn't stop himself from hugging her tightly.
"It was good to see you again," he muttered.
"You, too," she responded.
The hug ended, and Teal'c gave Janet another tight embrace. A couple of minutes later they were gone.
The other Janet. The other Martuf. The other Mitchell.
The other Daniel.
Daniel didn't realize he was lingering until he felt a hand on his back. He turned and found Sam right next to him.
"You think that could have been us?" she asked softly.
"I don't know," he responded. "Did you ever…?"
"No," she said. "But some things, I think, in the end we're better off not knowing."
Daniel took another glance at the gate. "Definitely," he agreed. "So…"
"So," Sam repeated. "I have to wrap things up here, and I'm sure there will be a briefing, but I think I could go for ice cream tonight. You up for it?"
"I don't have cable, you know."
"I know," Sam answered. "Which is why we're going to my place. I think Cassie hid a couple of pints of Ben and Jerry's Half Baked in my freezer."
Daniel raised an eyebrow. "*Cassie* did?"
Sam grinned. "Of course she did." She paused a moment. "You talked to the other Daniel, didn't you?"
"Other Daniel?" he asked, innocently. There were so many Daniel and he'd actually had a few broken conversations here and there. "Which one?"
"Janet and Martouf's Daniel," she clarified. "I, uh, had a brief moment with him myself. I take it your conversation didn't go well?"
Her tone was sincere, but he didn't really want the pity that lurked just beneath it. He needed the understanding, not the sadness. He gave her a tight smile and a slight shake of his head. "How about your discussion with Martouf? Was it any better?"
Sam shook her head. "Overall, no. Just left me with a million what-ifs."
"You think you're with Jack there?" Daniel wasn't sure why that came out of his mouth. Maybe it was the fact that in every alternate world he'd personally encountered, Sam and Jack were together.
Sam laughed. "I sure as hell hope not. We wouldn't last a week, and certainly not long enough to have children. No, I think…" She trailed off and grew silent.
This time, it was Daniel that offered her a friendly pat on the back. "It's never too late."
"Yes, it is." She straightened herself and gave Daniel a weak grin. "But that's why there's ice cream, right?"
Daniel thought of his own what-ifs, his own regrets. Of a Sha're, alive and well, making him happy in a different world. "Right."
He couldn't live in a different world.
Yet, that still didn't make him wish that maybe, just maybe, for a little while he could.
Two hours later he was sprawled across Sam's couch, a near-empty pint of Ben and Jerry's sitting on the coffee table.
"You didn't finish," Sam protested, pointing at him with her spoon before depositing it inside her own empty pint.
"And I'm surprised *you* did."
Sam sighed. "I needed it and ice cream seems to make everything better. Or less harsh, at least."
"As long as it's chocolate," he agreed.
Sam laughed. "Definitely."
He leaned forward and picked up his unfinished ice cream. "You're welcome to the rest of mine."
She shook her head. "I'll pass. I think I've had enough calories tonight." She studied her pint for a moment. "Do you think they really have it all?"
He didn't answer right away because honestly, it was a question he'd been battling with himself since Camo-Daniel disappeared through the gate. "I'm not sure. But I'll admit, it sure seems that way."
"There has to be a catch," Sam protested.
He put his now melting ice cream back down on the coffee table. "If life were fair, there would be. But life's—"
"Anything but fair," Sam finished. "I just can't help thinking…"
"Like I said before, Sam, it's never too late. You could still find someone, have children."
Again, she shook her head, slower this time. "Forty has come and gone, Daniel, and the closest I've gotten to motherhood is taking Cassie in after Janet…anyway, my chance came and went." She gave him a small smile. "I thought I was okay with it. But I guess I'm not."
"I'm sorry," he muttered, but the word seemed inadequate. He understood, more than ever, and his heart ached for Sha're and what they might have been able to experience together.
"I know. Daniel," she paused a moment, unsure, before continuing. "I have to ask. Why didn't you and Sha're have any kids? You were there for a year."
He didn't mind the question, especially since it came from Sam, but it still unearthed something he'd buried years previous. "We…" He felt a sense of déjà vu as yet another lump formed in his throat. "Um, she…had been. Once."
He worried he'd have to elaborate, but understanding immediately crossed Sam's face. "Oh. Daniel, I'm so sorry for asking."
"Don't apologize." He swallowed, trying to shove his feelings aside and find his voice again. "But the time we thought about trying again, well…"
Sam gave him a sympathetic look. "Another what if then, right?"
"One of a million."
"Yeah," Sam echoed. "Good thing we still have each other."
"And ice cream."
She grinned. "And ice cream."
It was then he realized. He might not have Sha're, but he had friends. And that undeniably counted for something.
And, at least for the time being, the uncomfortable lump in his throat faded away.