Disclaimer: Not mine. Rating: R. violence, sex. Set: Post season Eight, but only contains spoilers up to Affinity Pairing: Sam/Jack, some mention of Sam/Pete.
Warning: this fic may contain any or all (or none) of the following: Action. Adventure. Sex. Porn. Gratuitous nipples. People making stupid jokes. Someone getting injured. Someone dying. Slash. Het. Both. None. Orgies. Violence that would make Freddy Krueger pale. Pop culture references that will confuse you. Please read at your own risk.
Archive: SJFic yes, please. Anyone else, feel free.
Notes: This has been sitting around waiting to get finished for a long time. A very long time. I'd like to thank Ryuu for putting up with my incessant whining and frequent "they won't play!" whimpering. A.j., for comforting Davis after a certain scene. Jara, for also putting up with me whining and moaning.
Hrm. Think that's it. Oh! Several chapter titles are song lyrics. 'waking with the roaches' is The Cardigans. And 'Forever Autumn' is Justin Heywood of the Moody Blues.

Forever Autumn

by ALC Punk!

Chapter One: Persistence of Memory

She only thinks of him on the bad days. The days when everything she does is so utterly fruitless that things are set back by days. Or weeks. Months. The days when one step forward is accompanied by twenty steps back. The days when she wants to sit in a corner and cry miserable tears of frustration and self-pity.

Then he's there in her thoughts, like a security blanket, like an icon she can cling to. He is something she can focus on outside of herself. And so she does.

She remembers his smiles and his smirks and the sarcasm that made her laugh inside when she was supposed to be staying oh so very dignified. His way of looking at the world and the decisions he had to make. Sometimes she remembers she didn't always agree with him.

On the days when it's really bad, when she forgets to eat lunch--and Janet's not around anymore, and that adds to it, because she can't ever talk to Janet again--and stayed up too late the night before and it's now half-past midnight... She thinks of different things. Of what it would have been like to have his fingers tangled in her hair, his lips sliding across her skin, his tongue--she always believed his tongue would be talented.

There are, sometimes, moments when she almost forgets him. Doesn't recall the way he'd saunter in, hands in pockets and fiddling with various objects on her desk. Doesn't miss the accidental swiping of half a dozen pens or the way he broke her laptop with Daniel's 'rock'--not that he hadn't apologized.

Half a dozen times she even realizes that she can't quite remember what he looks like.

Were his eyes dark brown or light brown? Were they really wrinkles or laugh lines.... Although she remembers he went silvery grey early on. She likes to blame that on Daniel.

The few times she's forgotten herself enough to mention him she gets sent to the psychs. And they tell her over and over that this fantasy man she keeps building has never existed. She knows they are lying. But there is no proof, no way of accessing the records she knows have to be out there.

And so she can never wave anything in their faces.

For in this reality, the one that she can't quite believe is real, Colonel Jack O'Neill has never existed.

There are no other changes. Dr. Daniel Jackson is here, he broke the last translation to start up the stargate. Teal'c is here, the ex-first prime of Apophis. Sometimes, she is almost certain they are lying when they smile at her.

General Hammond, Dr. Janet Fraiser... Well, not Dr. Fraiser of course.

But she had been here.

Careful questioning has turned up that a Colonel Johnathan O'Neil led the first Abydos mission. He was killed there and Dr. Daniel Jackson stayed. The rest, as they liked to say, was history.

She has a hard time accepting that the man she knew for nearly seven years has never existed.

But even now-Colonel Louis Feretti has no recollection of the man who saved the planet with his sometimes stupid plans half a dozen times. Or more. And none of them want to remember.

It scares her, at night. On those nights when it's been a bad day and she lets herself think about him.

They never seem to realize that she is not who they think she is. Not their Sam Carter, and she hopes their Sam Carter is all right, but she's more concerned about herself. Because if they haven't realized then she can't explain. And if she can't explain (they'd send her to the psychs again. Parallel dimensions don't exist, after all) then she can't go home.

And so she quietly works on quantum mirror theory when she's supposed to be taking downtime. Or sleeping. There are nights when she doesn't see the dawn because she's asleep on her laptop.

Pete isn't here.

It's weird, because with the way her life works, she would expect him to be. If Jack is not, then Pete.

I think therefore I have sex?

The irony would make her cry. She can't have one, and the other didn't want her.

Daniel says he broke up with her months before. When pressed, he looks annoyed and says that Pete hated her work hours. As if saving the world should only be a part-time job.

She wonders if she said something like that to him.

It's almost good to not have him, though. No worrying that he'll figure her out, that he'll know she's not who she claims to be. It's bad, too. There is no one to hold her on the cold nights when she huddles under way too many blankets and shivers.

A little human contact would be nice to alleviate the loneliness.

She doesn't sleep on those nights.

The psychs tried to tell her she was suffering from PTSD. No shit. She'd laughed in the last one's face and told him the moon was made of green cheese. That had sent him off (finally!) and General Hammond had agreed she didn't need to see them anymore.

Luckily, she was spared being subjected to MacKenzie. Although, with the way the universe seemed to be mocking her, he would be the one person who would have believed her.

She's not going to dwell on that.

Just like she's not going to dwell on the painful details of her nightmares.

She tries not to dream often, working herself into stupors of exhaustion that leave her feeling drugged when she awakes.

She can remember this, when he was trapped on Edora.

Nightmares that tormented and pulled at her. Blame and guilt and death. Paths not taken, words not spoken, actions...

Most nights, she doesn't have nightmares.

They're simply memories that aren't real anymore.

And then it happens.

Five months and three weeks after losing her mind (or her world, although the psychs are convinced it's her mind -- but she's too important for them to ground), she makes the break-through that she needs to.

It's not big. In fact, it's tiny and pathetic and she wants to bang her head on the desk. If Jack--if HE had been there, he would have pointed it out months ago. Her own hubris has always been to think of things in too complicated a manner.

But she's always been too complicated. That's always been her problem.

It really is quite simple.

She can't believe it took her this long. Really.

There is a quantum mirror in every reality. Just because this one hasn't discovered it doesn't mean it's not there. She knows where it is.

Now she just has to convince them to let her go there.

--

Two. Fucking. Months. And it was Daniel's saying the MALP data looked interesting that finally tipped the balance in her favor.

Of course, part of that time was merely spent making certain the planet was even there, then working out a way to get it through the dialing program so it was one of the next randomly picked sites. After all, none of them had believed her about the quantum mirror in the first place, it wasn't like they would this time. So she couldn't just say, "I could get home from there."

So here she was, having convinced Daniel that he and Makepeace and Teal'c might need her on this mission.

Daniel had been the easiest to manipulate. It scared her, though. Because her own Daniel was so similar. And yet not. She could have been content here, she knows. Except that none of them felt right. They weren't hers.

And of course, he wasn't there.

The planet looked nearly the same. Layers of dust, a disturbing symbol. Teal'c informed them what it was and they continued on, searching.

She could remember the entire complex layout from the last time. They'd spent two days looking for Daniel, and it was eerie. She kept expecting to see the shadows change and mold and become something else. What, she didn't know.

The large room containing the artefacts was finally located.

Daniel immediately began looking here and there, soft exclamations of surprise echoing off the ceiling. The hair on the back of her neck slowly twitched as she walked by the benches.

Naquadah powered at least two of the doohickeys.

Then she saw it.

She should have known, she reflects as a leaden numbness fills her. She should have known it could never be this easy.

Back in her own universe, there had been a lot of discussion about destroying the quantum mirror. McKay had even weighed in, agreeing with her. They hadn't destroyed it, fearful that it could cause a massive disruption. Like blowing up a stargate or opening a wormhole to a black hole.

Choking back her horror, she stopped in front of it, almost unable to comprehend what her eyes were telling her.

The quantum mirror had been shattered. Large shards of it were scattered on the floor. What must have been a staff blast had burned a misshapen chunk out of the left side.

It had been on when it splintered, she realized.

A hundred different worlds stared up at her from the shards.

She is absurdly grateful that this Daniel knows her so little. Her own would be poking and prodding at her even now, knowing from the way she was staring at the destruction of her hopes that there was something inherently wrong.

Makepeace calls her name, then.

"Sir?"

"Anything you see here you wanna take back with us, Major?"

The other reason she really wants to go back, she thinks as she looks down at the fractures of life at her feet. She misses being a Lieutenant Colonel already. It must be vanity.

"Well, this looks somewhat interesting. And there are probably other things." She looks over at him. "We should ask General Hammond to send a full science team back."

In this reality, she's discovered, Makepeace flushed out the NID's operation. Thor likes him.

Which is really kind of disturbing.

Harry Maybourne, she thinks as she looks back down at the shards, would find it utterly ironic that it was he who helped Makepeace take them down.

Or maybe he wouldn't.

"Fine. We'll give him that recommendation. For now, Major, take a few samples and we're done here." He shifts.

"Nervous, Makepeace?" Damn. She really had been hanging around Jack O'Neill too long. "Sir." She added belatedly.

He's eyeing her oddly, "No, Major, I'm simply stating a fact. We will not be hanging around here for long. There are better things for us to be doing."

"Right, sir." Sir. Sir. Sir. Shit. She needs to remember to call him that. It's not like with the other Colonel, when it was automatic, because she couldn't NOT call him that. Besides, she thinks rebelliously as she carefully nudges three of the shards into a collection bag, she out-ranks a traitor.

"Uh-huh." He nods once, then turns to Daniel. "Dr. Jackson?"

"I can't say, Colonel. Probably at least an hour."

"You have 15 minutes."

"But, Colonel, I--"

"15 minutes, Doctor." The tone he is using brooked no argument.

For a moment, she wonders if this scene would have played out on her side of the universe like this. And guesses it probably would have except that Daniel would have pouted and Jack would have been sarcastic. And Teal'c would have raised an eyebrow in amusement.

This Teal'c merely watches them all, as if he's recording everything for posterity.

But she distracts herself with moving to the benches and trying to decide what to take. There are two hand devices, and a healing device. They fit neatly in her pack. There's a Tollan emotion recording device and she's picked it up before she can stop herself. Emotion washes over her. Pain and terror and nothing like the calm serenity and adoration from Narim's device so long ago.

"Sam?"

Daniel's voice calls her back, and she looks over at him. The concern in his eyes might almost not be fake, she thinks. "I'm just trying to decide what else to take. It's all so... shiny."

Shiny. Jack would have mocked her for that. Daniel doesn't, he simply half-smiles, shrugs, and goes back to translating various artefacts for value.

Value.

It occurs to her that she needs the control for the mirror if she's going to do anything with it.

Finally, she spots the control device some distance from the mirror. Their time is nearly up so she moves quickly and picks it up. There's still room in the pack.

"Time to go."

Makepeace's voice grates on her, and she briefly considers simply letting them go back without her and jamming something in the gate so they can't come back through. But she'll need the instruments in her lab to figure out if the mirror works.

The whole world they're gating back to disconcerts her.

--