RATING: R, maybe NC-17
PAIRINGS: Sam/Janet, Anise/f
CATEGORY: First time romance, some action/adventure.
DATE: November/December 2000
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own them, but I send buckets of warm fuzzies to the people who brought them to life for us. I promise not to break anything while I play with them. The characters and concept of Stargate SG1 belong to Showtime, MGM and Gekko entertainment.
WARNING!: There is a couple of GLARING CONSISTANCY ERRORS in the following tale! I’m very new to the Stargate SG1 universe (well I was at the time I wrote this anyway) and it was bound to happen. There’s a Cheyenne Mountain facility in New York. It’s just not the one in the show.
SPOILERS: The only episode with Anise/Freya that I’ve seen is ‘Upgrades’, and I have her acting what might be wildly out of character here. It would’ve been far too much trouble to fix the errors but I hope you like it anyway.
NOTES: Much to my amusement, this entire idea came out of a single quote that popped into my hand completely at random. The quote is the title and will make sense later. The Hosinom came out of a lingering sense of wonder about the people who inspired them.
SUMMARY: New friends and new experiences give Sam and Janet chances that they decide they cannot pass up.
They never knew what hit them.
When the MOLP had gone through only hours before, there had been nothing but a peaceful field of bluish grasses. Before SG1 could even bring their weapons to bear, they were surrounded by the horrors of open warfare. There were Jaffa and smoke everywhere. A blast from a staff weapons sent Sam Carter sprawling back through the now-dormant Stargate. Teal’c gathered her bloodied frame up and SG1 ran for cover. They were almost there when a huge explosion tossed them like so much debris.
For long moments there was no movement from the green and black clad figures. Then Daniel Jackson raised his head and tried to shake the ringing from his ears. Terrified and overwhelmed, he looked around for his teammates. Nearby Teal’c was painstakingly dragging his bulk and Carter’s into the lee of some standing stones and a dozen feet to the other side lay Jack O’Neill, completely unmoving. With a conscious effort not to panic, Daniel scrambled over to the older man and grabbed his pack straps. Daniel put his back into it and dragged Jack over to Teal’c before collapsing into the relative safety of the rocks. “Is she okay?”
The big Jaffa’s face was taut with pain from his shredded right thigh. It was difficult to tell who was bloodier, him or Sam. The man who rarely showed any emotion actually looked worried. Daniel’s heart dropped into his boots. Abruptly, Jack came around with a groan and looked surprised to be sprawled across Daniel’s lap.
“We’re in trouble Jack,” Daniel shouted over the din. “Sam’s really hurt and we’re pinned down.”
Jack could never tell the younger man how proud he was. There was stark terror in the blue eyes, but he was not panicking. When he tried to sit up the pain smacked him back down with a hiss. “Ya think?”
The sarcasm made Daniel visibly flinch. Feeling regret at his outburst, Jack flicked his gaze over to the smaller boots sprawled out beside Teal’c’s large ones. There were wide bloody streaks on the grass and he felt his heart clench. The fearful question in his eyes was answered by Teal’c’s hopeless stare.
This was not good.
Some indefinable need drew Sam from the comforting darkness into a universe of pain. Jack was shouting nearby, a large body shifted beside her and the roar of battle rang around her like a dirge. When Sam’s pale eyes suddenly flickered open she was amused at the shocked look on Teal’c’s face. The sounds of fighting were growing closer and the sense of hopelessness grew. The unspoken plea in her eyes struck an answering chord in Teal’c. She was a true warrior and deserved to die fighting. Without any hesitation he handed over his own staff weapon and collected her bulldog-nosed rifle.
Together to the end, SG1 waited for death to descend upon them.
The clamor was so intense that no one even heard the Stargate activating. Then the stabilizing wormhole exploded outward before collapsing back in on itself. Few on the battlefield paid any attention until bulky, armored figures began pouring from the Gate. With whooping cries they descended on the clashing forces like avenging angels of destruction.
It was a slaughter.
They came on foot and a-wing. Dozens of Jaffa fell before the small army while the others began to break and bolt. Blearily, Sam realized that she no longer had to defend herself with such dogged determination. The strangers were real and had the enemy on the run. She noticed that three Jaffa had ganged up on one of the armored newcomers who had inadvertently saved the lives of SG1 by their timely arrival. With no further debate, Sam downed two of the Jaffa with adrenaline-induced aim while the stranger’s quick reflexes smashed the third one to the ground. Sam watched the cone-shaped helmet swing her way before the tall figure began to walk over. Then darkness descended again.
When Sam’s shots had saved the stranger, none of her teammates were surprised when he came over. Around them quiet was beginning to descend as the newcomers picked over the bodies of the fallen. There was something achingly familiar in the design of the armor, so similar and yet so different from the Jaffa they had just defeated. With a din of shouts and whoops the newcomers began to fall back to the Stargate. Helplessly, Daniel watched Jack lose the fight with consciousness and the rifle fell with a clatter.
“I do not know these people Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c informed his teammate.
“Me either, but I get the feeling we’re about to.”
Abruptly the big man knelt down near SG1 and Daniel was again struck by the look of the suit of armor. The ‘eyes’ were mere slits above an upside-down triangle that looked almost like a nose. There were extensive geometric designs etched into both the armor and the elaborate loincloth and sash. The man bowed to the four and said something in a serious contralto voice. Unfortunately, Daniel could only make a wild guess at the language group. Another one shouted from the Gate and the blue helmet swung around. When he moved to leave, Daniel made a desperate decision. There was no way they could move both Sam and Jack, Teal’c could not walk and Daniel was out of options. The eye slits moved to face Daniel as the man leapt up to grab a metal-encased arm. “Please help us. Please.”
There was no possible way the figure could have understood the words. But he could understand the sentiment. For a moment he hesitated and the assembly at the Stargate grew agitated. Then the armored stranger shouted to his fellows and Daniel nearly fell over when a figure landed in front of him. It was an… eagle, a humanoid eagle wearing some kind of propulsion system on his back. The helmet had been stylized into the hooked beak and hooded eyes and fanciful-looking wings and tail completed the illusion. The eagle-figure crouched to sweep Jack up while two others trotted over to gather up a confused Teal’c. The man in the blue helmet knelt over Sam for a moment and ran a gentle hand over her pale hair before gathering up her limp body. Bewildered by the fact that they seemed to understand, Daniel trotted after them and tried to believe he had not just made a horrible mistake.
Many of the strangers were gesturing and shouting. Boldly pressing after the blue helmet, Daniel could suddenly see why. The Dial Home Device was damaged. Once more Daniel was forced to make a desperate decision as a cry drew everyone’s attention to the direction the enemy had retreated. Tiny dots had appeared on the horizon. Immediately Daniel pounced on the DHD and began to hit keys. Somehow all seven keys needed to return to Earth had remained intact and he prayed the machine still worked. Ponderously the Stargate began to dial out as the Death Gliders screamed closer and closer. Quickly, Daniel went to Sam and tried to ignore the blood soaking her everywhere. By the time he found the Garage Door Opener he was covered up to his wrists. The moment the event horizon stabilized, Daniel herded everyone through.
When a bunch of wildly dressed strangers came stumbling out of the Stargate, the soldiers on duty were not quite certain what to do. They were armed but seemed reluctant to utilize their weapons.
“What the hell is going on here?” General Hammond’s shout garnered a response from the crowd.
“Do not fire!”
The guards hesitated at Teal’c’s voice coming from somewhere in the gathering. Then Jackson began yelling his head off from the back of the group. “Close the iris! Close it!”
“Kachinas stand down!”
When the man in the blue helmet suddenly bellowed in coherent language, Daniel could only gape at him. He would never get used to the way Gate travel seemed to act as some sort of weird universal translator. Instantly, the armored figures fell into two lines flanking down the ramp like some sort of honor guard. Kachinas, Daniel’s brain shrieked in excitement. Of course…
Blue-helmet had knelt down to redistribute Sam’s weight and reached into a pouch. With a quick touch the helmet folded back into itself with a disturbingly familiar rasp of metal on metal. Beneath was a strikingly handsome fellow with angular, androgynous features. The hand came out of the pouch with a different gauntlet wrapped around it. This one was shaped just like a stylized bear paw with a smooth red stone set in the palm. It looked so much like a Ribbon Device that Daniel grabbed the man’s arm to stop him.
“Step back or the sun-hair will die!”
The glowing eyes and reverberating tone set Daniel back on his heels. They were Goa’uld! Then the man placed the paw over Sam’s heart and it glowed to life. The medical team had finally entered the room and pounded up the ramp. Abruptly, Sam dropped limp with a horrible, wet rattle bubbling up from her throat accompanied by a trickle of foamy blood. Daniel was dimly aware of Janet Fraiser jerking to a halt beside him. The look of horror on her face must have mirrored his own. For the space of a heartbeat Sam lay dead in the stranger’s arms then her body suddenly arched as though hit with electricity. Tendrils of golden light danced across Sam’s rigid body and reflected in the stranger’s glowing gaze.
“Come sun-hair,” he coaxed in a gentle tone. “Your companions would not wish you to make this final journey alone.”
As if in response, Sam drew in a ragged breath and her long frame convulsed. Moaning softly, she relaxed in his hold and the gold light faded slightly in intensity. Rigid with concentration, the dark man remained hunched over her, knitting her damaged body back together. Doctors Fraiser and Jackson watched in open-mouthed astonishment as her ruined left hand quickly repaired itself from the inside out. Again Sam moaned as the golden glow faded and her healer collapsed weakly into a seated position.
“She is restored,” the fellow said in Human tones and met Janet’s dark eyes when the small woman knelt beside him. Hardly daring to believe her eyes, Janet yanked the zipper down on the ALICE vest and tore the buttons loose on the fatigue tunic. Beneath the tattered and blood-soaked black t-shirt was whole, if not angry-looking skin. While she had seen the Goa’uld Healing Devices work before, the amount of blood and tissue in Sam’s clothes spoke of hideous wounds. Hands still pressed to Sam’s skin, Janet forced herself to look into the stranger’s inky black gaze. “Thank you.”
“Yes, thank you,” Daniel added and knelt beside Janet to touch Sam’s hand.
“She saved my life, this woman warrior. I always repay my debts.”
He visibly wavered and the eyes slid shut. The eagle man retracted his helmet and knelt beside his companion. Immediately the concern was waved away. “I’ll recover Kwahu. My exhaustion is scant payment for her life.”
Halfway through the sentences the voice changed again and both doctors stiffened with reflexive fear. The eagle-man grinned disarmingly at them and ducked his head in a friendly gesture. “You are enemies of the Goa’uld?”
He seemed unconcerned at the more than a dozen rifles pointed at the Goa’uld at his side. Hesitantly Daniel answered. “Yes, we’re enemies of the Goa’uld.”
“Then we are allies,” the host holding Sam added. “I am Etoto, chieftain to these people.”
“Uh, Daniel Jackson. I’m honored to meet you Etoto.”
Awkwardly, Daniel mimicked Kwahu’s head duck and earned pleased smiles from the strangers. General Hammond’s voice boomed from the bottom of the ramp. “Would someone explain to me just what the hell is going on here?”
Handing over Sam’s limp body to Janet, Etoto stood unsteadily and faced Hammond. “We are the Hosinom. Centuries ago we were brothers to the Goa’uld. Our mother left them to begin a new way of life, one without exploitation of our Human kin. One based on mutual respect and need.”
As he spoke, Etoto collected what resembled Staff Weapons from the others of his tribe and they each retracted their helmets.“Tales of the exploits of small units of Humans dressed in green and black have spread far among our hated cousins. I’m gratified to be able to have assisted in rescuing them.”
The smile took Hammond off guard almost as much as the tangle of Staff Weapons held out to him. “My brothers and I are called the Chu’ald.”
With a gesture one of the soldiers shouldered his rifle and stepped forward to take the weapons. Graciously, the intimidating General held out a welcoming hand. After a moment’s hesitation, Etoto yanked off his gauntlets and grasped the offering. “General George Hammond. Welcome to Earth.”
“Thank you. I…”
Abruptly Etoto stumbled into Hammond, who quickly tried to stabilize the taller man. “Whoa there, are you okay?”
“Tired… from healing the sun-hair…”
Suddenly Janet was there to help along with Kwahu. “Her name is Sam.”
The light tone earned a smile as she and Kwahu ducked under his arms. “Sam. And you, lovely bear?”
Her look of confusion earned chuckles. Kwahu answered her unspoken question. “The bear is a symbol of great healing power among us.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere handsome. Okay, the whole lot of you, off to the Infirmary.”
Hours had passed and Janet was still fascinated by the newcomers. Etoto lay on a hospital bed near Sam and Jack while Teal’c was speaking to Daniel and one of the Chu’ald. There were five Chu’ald and twelve attending Kachinas. Earlier the Egyptologist had given a condensed version of their history to Hammond right there in the Infirmary. “They’re related to the Hopi tribe from the southwestern North America. Centuries ago one of the Goa’uld grew dissatisfied with the way the Humans were being treated, so she left.”
“Like the Tok’ra.”
“Exactly like the Tok’ra. There were only males born to her brood and Koyan died shortly after they were given to the care of Kachinas. Originally there were nearly a hundred Chu’ald, now there are only eight.”
“Yeah, quite a population implosion. They had no sarcophagus so they had to accept a new host every time one died. It became a highly ritualized part of their culture.”
There had been more. But Janet had been too busy with patients to pay attention. Each of the Kachinas had patiently taken their turn under her curious attention. They were a healthy, inquisitive lot, wanting to know as much about the Earth folk as the Earth folk wanted to know about them. Since the Hosinom all referred to their chieftain as ‘him’, Janet had been quite surprised to find that Etoto was a young woman. Etoto had merely chuckled in her warm Human voice and patted Janet on the arm. “It is tradition lovely bear. Nothing more. I apologize for the confusion.”
“Fair enough. Can I ask you a somewhat personal question?”
“Why do you keep calling me ‘lovely bear’ and Sam ‘sun-hair’?”
“I apologize if I’ve caused offense. It is a personality quirk of Awilona’s, to create a descriptive name to apply to those around him.”
“Awilona? Oh, your symbiote.”
“I’m not offended. A little embarrassed maybe, but far from offended.”
“I’ll remember that.”
With a gentle squeeze to her arm, Etoto let Janet continue on her rounds. Kwahu and Daniel seemed to be getting along famously, engaged in animated conversation where they sat by Jack’s bedside. A low moan yanked Janet’s attention away and she practically flew across the room to attend to the one person she had been waiting for so anxiously. Blurry blue eyes fluttered open and for a long moment were full of panic. Immediately Janet grabbed Sam and used her small weight to anchor the larger woman down. “Sam! Sam, you’re home. And in one piece I might add.”
The ritual greeting made Sam’s mouth curl into a smile and she relaxed. “Hey.”
“So, you must have plenty of questions.”
“Yeah. If this is heaven, I’m glad you’re here to greet me.”
“Hmm. Seems like no one can decide exactly what I am today. You think I’m an angel and the Hosinom think I’m a bear.”
“A bear? Hosinom?”
“I’ll explain. How do you feel?”
“Surprisingly decent actually.”
“Good, there’s someone who’s anxious to meet you.”
“You’re not actually going to let me out of this bed, are you?”
Sam’s skepticism made Janet laugh and help pull her into a sitting position. “I’ve already looked you over while you were resting. The Healing Device was very thorough.”
Halfway onto her feet, Sam froze. “Healing Device? As in Goa’uld?”
“Not exactly. It seems you and the rest of SG1 stumbled across another rouge group like the Tok’ra. Or more specifically, they stumbled across you.”
“No kidding? That’s who they were?”
Now dressed in a concealing robe, Sam let Janet lead her over to a dark Human on a bed nearby. The features were chiseled and aristocratic, framed by an expansive mane of thick raven-black hair. Tiny little blue triangles like pyramids were tattooed on each cheekbone. They reminded Sam of the masked figure she had saved from the enemy Jaffa. As though sensing the scrutiny, the fine nose wrinkled up and the inky black eyes blinked open.
“Etoto, Sam Carter. Sam, our new friend, Etoto,” Janet introduced quietly.
Wearily, Etoto rubbed at sleepy eyes and sat up. There was something making Sam uneasy and both of her companions picked up on it. Gently, Janet took hold of Sam’s arm and the blue eyes twitched as though she wanted to look away from Etoto but could not. “Yes, she’s a host. But they’ve earned our trust. And she saved your life.”
Over her time in Stargate Command, Sam had learned to trust Janet implicitly. So she swallowed the instinct to react badly left by Jolinar and offered a hand to Etoto. The dark woman had been watching in respectful silence and hesitantly wrapped a hand around Sam’s. A jolt of awareness went through both of them, Etoto sensing the one who had altered Sam so fundamentally and Sam sensing the being living beneath Etoto’s skin. The Chu’ald ducked her head low over their clasped hands, black hair falling like a curtain over their skin.
“I am sorry for your loss. Even though it caused you pain.” Inky eyes bored into her blue gaze and the sympathy there made a lump rise in Sam’s throat. “I do not believe I could be that strong.”
The conversation had lightened considerably after that, and the women of such opposite coloring had grown to be friends. Opposite and alike, they were quickly inseparable, each finding in the other something they never even knew they were missing.
“Good morning Etoto,” Sam called out in a happy tone. “What’s on the agenda for today?”
White teeth flashed in Etoto’s face as she grinned at the pale woman who had become like a sister. “Your mood matches your sunny hair today, Sam. Hungry?”
It had become a bit of a joke between them that the Cha’uld’s fascination with Sam’s pale coloring was how the relationship had started. The fact that Sam had shot dead the Jaffa that had been threatening Etoto’s life at the time had absolutely nothing to do with it. Nabbing a slice of whatever the dark woman was eating, Sam flopped down onto a stool and looked over the chaotic workspace. “Thanks. Those analysis come in yet?”
“Yes, but the interfacing still locks up when it reaches 70%.”
“Damn. Well let’s get to work.”
Time passed in a comfortable quiet while the women worked to increase the communication abilities of their disparate technologies. But at last Awilona growled in frustration and earned a sympathetic smile. “Ah, this is futile. For more than two weeks we have worked at this! We could have transcribed by hand the entire history of the Hosinom by now!”
The Cha’uld’s resonating voice had ceased to faze Sam a long time ago. The very equal partnership host and symbiote shared had taken a bit of getting used to. Even the Tok’ra were not so balanced. The fact that Etoto and Awilona were so distinctly male and female only added to their mysteriousness. Unfortunately, Awilona had little patience for the plodding methodology of research and diverted his host’s attention whenever he could get away with it. Patting the back of Etoto’s neck, Sam gently mocked the irritated symbiote. “You males have no patience. But we do need a break, c’mon, let’s go see what Janet’s up to.”
The frustrated glow faded from Etoto’s black eyes and Awilona acceded with a nod. “By all means, lead the way.”
“Major! Etoto! How’re doin’?”
Together the tall women turned to greet the friend they had so unexpectedly made these last few weeks. Captain Kelly Taylor was a botanist from SG5 that had provided some valuable insights into the various projects they had involved her in. Etoto had first zeroed in on her for her short tawny hair and merry gray-green eyes. She and Sam were the only blonde women on base and the Hosinom were fascinated. Seeing the aggravated expression on Etoto’s face, she grinned sympathetically. “That link still giving you hell?”
“Yes. I fear we will never accomplish what seemed like a task our many minds should ‘breeze through’.”
“That’s why we need your endurance and serenity.”
It took a lot of Sam’s willpower not to laugh at the teasing. Awilona narrowed his eyes before giving in with a sigh. Throwing up both hands, he sighed melodramatically and continued down the hall. “Treat them like equals and they take such advantage…”
That comment made the Humans laugh, still hardly able to believe that the Cha’uld had a sense of humor. The sound made Janet look up as the trio entered the Infirmary and zeroed in on her. As always she stuffed down the blaze of awareness beneath the air of casual competence and strode over. “Well good morning. What brings you down here?”
“You actually,” Sam said unexpectedly and flashed a heart-breaking grin at the doctor. It was always so good to see the kind brown eyes resting on her. Then she realized exactly what she had said and the odd way two of the orderlies were looking at her. Flustered, Sam stumbled over herself trying to elaborate. “What I meant… oh forget it.”
Embarrassed and disconcerted, Sam was grateful when Etoto came to her rescue. “Awilona has grown weary of our work yet again and we came to visit. Kelly joined us in the hall.”
Then the black eyes narrowed and fired Janet an accusing look. “Have you eaten today?”
Now it was Janet’s turn to be flustered and the orderlies moved off with a chuckle. It was well known that the CMO did not eat or rest on a regular enough basis. Etoto nodded and turned on Kelly, who raised her hands in a mock defensive gesture. “No, mom. I haven’t eaten either. Care to join us doc?”
Knowing she would never win the argument if she refused the request, Janet gave into the quiet hope in Sam’s eyes. “I’d like that.”
It amused the Air Force women that Etoto’s elaborate costume had been whittled down to the fancy sash and the decorated boots. In fact she wore a regulation black t-shirt and canvas pants that matched Sam and Kelly. The luxurious raven mane and the glitter of jewelry stood in contrast to the plain shirt and the blue tattoos on the high cheekbones. The tiny stylized triangular faces marked her as the one who bore ancient Awilona within her body.
In the mess hall they greeted friends and comrades before looking around for a place to sit. The idea of the cafeteria-style dining was still an anathema to the Cha’uld, but they were nothing if not adaptable. Today the place was packed.
“Maybe we should go eat somewhere else,” Janet commented dryly and a voice hailed them from a corner.
“Sam! Come join us!” It was Daniel Jackson and Sam gratefully headed for her teammate. He and Teal’c and a half-dozen other uniforms shifted around to make room for the newcomers. Beside the archeologist sat handsome young Kwahu dressed very similarly to his chieftain. “Nice timing,” Daniel laughed. “This place was nearly empty until about ten minutes ago.”
Etoto nudged Kelly over to Daniel’s side of the table. “We are larger, they can have the small space beside Teal’c.”
Laughing, Kelly went along and ignored Sam’s dirty look. Teal’c made an effort to make himself as small as possible so that they could settle themselves.
“Nice try Teal’c, but I don’t think that’s going to help,” Sam told him dryly and confusion ghosted across the Jaffa’s serious countenance. With some careful contortions, Janet found herself pressed in between Sam and Teal’c. It was hugely distracting to have the blonde woman’s warmth touching all along her left side. The movements of her arm while she ate only served to distract further. Laughter and conversation bantered around the table and alert black eyes watched the self-contained healer and the animated warrior of sunshine and shadow. Could they truly not sense the bond between them? There was so much of this world neither Etoto nor Awilona understood. Sam was a proper warrior, why would she not take a wife? But once again something about this environment made them remain silent. There were many reasons why Awilona remained the most powerful of his brother Cha’uld. He was the most adaptable, the most willing to take risks and try new things. What would Kokopel do with these two? The mischief-maker was also the matchmaker for his tribe and knew many tricks to kindle the flame of need between two people. Kwahu glanced at his chieftain from his position on the other side of Kelly and wondered at the glint of mischief in the ancient gaze.
This could only be trouble. Perhaps not trouble of the dangerous sort, but trouble nonetheless. Seeing the Eagle Kachina’s curious look, Etoto merely smiled enigmatically. They were very close in age and childhood playmates. That allowed Kwahu a certain freedom with the woman that carried ancient Awilona. He had been nearby when the former Etoto had fallen dead from Goa’uld fire. That day Tiponi had given up her name and individuality to save the weakly flailing serpent that had escaped the former chief’s tattered body. Having accepted the brief pain of Awilona’s joining, the new Etoto had led the warriors to a decisive victory before retreating. After recovering from the shock of Awilona’s host being a young woman, the Hosinom had moved on. Traditionally they still referred to her as ‘him’. The Earth Humans still found it odd, but had learned to accept it. Once or twice the childhood friends had talked about the strangeness of Etoto’s duality and certain things that were required of the chieftain. Still, neither of them had yet taken a wife. Since the Chu’ald had no Sarcophagus, their Human hosts aged and died in time. Over the centuries the bond between the two disparate species had deepened with each successive host. Some lasted only days or weeks, others would live for centuries. Daniel’s voice distracted Kwahu from his musings. “I’ve been thinking about asking Anise to help out chronicling the Hosinom history.”
A scowl ghosted across Janet’s face at the mention of the haughty scientist brought back bad memories. Sam just chuckled and gave her forearm a squeeze. “Now don’t growl Janet. It’s a great idea Daniel. The Tok’ra will want to meet out new allies anyway.”
“Great, I’ll send a message.”
“Can’t wait,” Janet muttered and earned strange looks from the two Hosinom and Kelly. To ease her irritation, Sam butted up to the small woman like a friendly puppy before addressing the others.
“Anise didn’t make a great first impression the first and only time we met her. She was using Daniel, Jack and I in an experiment that didn’t quite go as planned. We survived it, but things got a little… weird there for awhile.”
A snort escaped Daniel and he picked up where his teammate left off. “Weird is an understatement. Anise showed up with three alien armbands that greatly enhanced the wearer’s natural abilities. We eventually developed an immunity to them and nearly got ourselves killed in the process.”
A fond grin curled Sam’s mouth and she lifted her glass in salute. “But it was sure as hell fun while it lasted!”
“Here, here. And we managed to seriously piss off Apophis.”
There was an odd mixture of amusement and irritation dancing across Janet’s features. This time Daniel tried his hand at calming her by putting on his best pleading look. “Aww, c’mon doc, we admitted you were right all along and we should’ve listened and we promised never to do it again. We practically begged for forgiveness, even Jack!”
Now Kwahu snorted with suppressed laughter at Daniel’s child-like earnestness. Etoto leaned back with a mischievous look and drawled out a low comment. “All the wearer’s natural abilities?”
Shocked at the suggestiveness of the statement, no one responded for a moment. Then Sam rubbed her chin and looked thoughtful. “Dunno. I didn’t try out any of those ‘natural abilities’. Lack of opportunity I guess. How ‘bout you Danny?”
Scandalized, Daniel stammered out his innocence and they all laughed in earnest. Memories of Sam’s cocky and giddy behavior flashed through Janet’s mind. There had been something appealing, even sexy, about the shift in character that had been unforgettable. It had also been aggravating as hell when her three co-workers had so adamantly refused to listen to her. Then had come the terror of the trio disappearing into the Stargate with their minds and bodies so drastically affected by the armbands. The memories parading across her mind’s eye effectively snuffed out Janet’s appetite. So she forced calmness into her voice and patted Sam’s arm. “I’m sure she’ll be a great help. I need to get back to the Infirmary, but thanks for the company everybody.”
Before anyone could do more than say a quick farewell, Janet had managed to untangle herself from between Teal’c and Sam and beat a hasty retreat. There was little conversation after that and the light mood was completely gone. They all wondered at Janet’s uncharacteristic abruptness but none were willing to touch the subject.
It had taken two more days to get the interface exchange rate up to 85%. Sam griped at Etoto that it would have probably taken only one if Awilona would just stay quiet. She merely laughed and agreed wholeheartedly. They were taking a break from the grueling detail work and had only just managed to calm the frustrated Chu’ald, when suddenly Daniel rushed breathlessly into the doorway and waved them over. “C’mon, she’s here.”
Horrified at his casual appearance, Awilona nonetheless trotted after the two Humans. “This is not the way I would have chosen to meet such a powerful ally, Sun-hair.”
“I know, but I doubt she’ll care either way. Sorry.”
The three of them trotted into the Gate room to stand beside General Hammond and Doctor Fraiser. Three figures suddenly stepped through the shimmering surface and it blinked out of existence. From his position between Hammond and Carter, Awilona breathed something that none of them quite caught.
“Welcome back,” Hammond called out and stepped up to greet the svelte blonde woman that led the small group.
“General Hammond, we were far too intrigued by Doctor Jackson’s proposition to stay away.”
Anise swept pale hazel eyes over the greeting party. They paused at Teolitze and then Hona beside him before flickering to Etoto. Something flashed between the two of them and Anise made an involuntary sound. Pale eyes and dark lit up with internal fire as the symbiotes reacted to the energy. That glow made Hammond hesitate as Etoto stepped up to invade Anise’s personal space.
“Such beauty, such fire…”
At that awe-struck comment, the assembly realized that Awilona was firmly in control. They were familiar with the reverberating tone, but not the depth and resonance of the sound. Startled, but unafraid, Anise raised a slim hand that was caught and bowed over. “You are Etoto?”
With a shake of the ebony mane, Awilona seemed to regain some of his bearings. “My host is called that, yes. I am Awilona, chieftain of the Hosinom tribe. We are honored to meet you.”
Bewildered and flattered by the handsome youth’s intensity, Anise bowed her head respectfully. “I am Anise, representative of the High Council of the Tok’ra. When the members of the Stargate Command told us of the Chu’ald, we came as quickly as we could. We have much to discuss and share.”
“Indeed we do,” Awilona very nearly leered. Again Etoto shook her dark head and her Human voice suddenly hissed out irritably, “Stop it.”
Now Anise really did look surprised, the expression deepening into confusion when Etoto glanced sheepishly at her from beneath raven lashes. “I apologize for Awilona. He’s not normally so… overbearing. He… has never met a female of his kind before.”
Etoto’s embarrassed, stuttering tone trailed off as she reached up to rub the back of her neck with her free hand. It almost looked like a soothing gesture to the Chu’ald that lay flush beneath her spine. For a moment Anise’s face went blank and her eyes closed. When they opened again the hazel eyes were clear and sparkling. A delighted grin softened her face and she covered their clasped hands with her free one.
“It appears both our symbiotes have retreated for the moment. Have you been a host for very long?”
“Only just a year. We clash sometimes.”
Again the pale woman chuckled and earned a smile in return. The watching party was shocked at the warm behavior from the cold, aloof Tok’ra scientist. “Yes, that does happen.”
“What is your name?”
That gentle query brought up a pretty flush on pale cheeks. “Freya. I rarely have cause to use it.”
“It is a lovely name. I was Tiponi once, before taking on the responsibility of Awilona. Etoto is my name now, representing we two made one.”
Abruptly, the couple remembered they had an audience. Their clasped grip fell away and Etoto stepped back. Amusement danced in the eyes of the assembled Humans and Chu’ald. Gathering her shattered composure, Freya finally reached out to shake hands with Hammond.
“Thank you for having us.”
He graciously gestured her towards the others. “Likewise. You remember Major Carter and Doctors Jackson and Fraiser.”
“Welcome back,” Daniel said cheerfully and Janet tried not to scowl. Sam merely smiled enigmatically and poked Janet in the ribs. Since Etoto still looked bamboozled, Sam took it upon herself to introduce the other Hosinom.
“Freya, this is Cheyo, keeper of the Fire and bearer of Awilona’s brother, Teolitze. And this is Hona, Kachina of the White Bear. They’re both healers and have been a huge help around here.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
Hona nodded respectfully and returned the greeting, but Teolitze hung back and looked disconcerted. Rolling her eyes at the antics of the Chu’ald, Sam clapped Kwahu across the shoulder and shared a grin with the gregarious young man.
“And this happy guy is Kwahu, Kachina of the Eagle and one of his people’s primary Guardians.”
“Honored to meet you, Freya and Anise of the Tok’ra.”
With borderline irreverence, Kwahu bowed over their clasped hands and flashed his chieftain a mocking look. “We hope you can help us interface our disparate information technology. That way, we may all learn about one another.”
Belatedly, Freya introduced her two Human companions. The Human soldiers recognized Marnof, her assistant from the armbands incident. The other was a stoic woman with flaming red hair that caught Kwahu’s eye. Fia seemed altogether unimpressed by the dark man, but humor danced in the corner of her emerald eyes. So with Sam and Kwahu flanking the Tok’ra, the party began to drift away. Humiliated and fascinated, Etoto trailed after them, completely missing Hammond’s knowing smile.
At the lab, Anise reasserted her control and looked around the messy lab distastefully.
“I see you have been at this for some time.”
“Two weeks,” Sam responded cheerfully and took her customary stool. From the hall, Etoto slipped past Kwahu and joined her partner. At first it was primarily Sam that explained what they had done so far. It did not take long for the technobabble to overwhelm Kelly and drive her off. Fia, Marnof and Kwahu stood off to one side and periodically added comments. Then finally Anise nodded decisively and removed her long cape. They cracked down on the hardware problem with fresh minds in the mix.
With a bored yawn, Sam leaned back and wearily gestured for Fia to try the test program yet again. For two days she had watched Anise and Awilona flirt with one another. Considering the military’s views on homosexuality, it made some of the Air Force personnel uncomfortable. Sam thought they were cute. Even now the two hosts were sitting on a nearby couch in low discussion. The boys had yet to visit today and the lab was still very quiet. With an irritatingly familiar hum, the patchwork computer began to boot up. Sam paid little attention, instead watching her companions interact. Etoto and Freya sat just close enough to touch, the mixture of their opposite coloring a feast for the eyes. For some weird reason their unexpected ease with one another made Sam miss Janet’s presence. She had not seen much of the good doctor lately. It almost seemed like Janet was avoiding her. Something dragged Sam from her dejected musing. Nothing seemed to have changed in the room, Fia was looking at a clipboard and the symbiotes were still talking. Then she realized what had alerted her.
The computer was still running.
No odd sounds had come from the mechanism, it still sounded as though it was functioning quietly. Hardly daring to believe it, Sam crept over to the monitor and stared at the information scrolling there.
“Guys,” she breathed in an awed voice. “C’mere.”
Curious, they did and together the four watched in astonishment.
“We did it,” Etoto whispered into the stunned quiet. Grinning with delight, she grabbed Sam with inhuman strength and spun the laughing blonde around in a crushing hug. “We did it!”
Giddy with excitement, Etoto pounced on Anise and spun the startled Tok’ra as well. By this time their shouts had drawn the others and the computer was working its way through the first information crystal the Hosinom had brought with them. Someone came up with a bottle of apple juice and a stack of plastic cups as the people important to the project crowded into the lab. Finally, Sam hopped up onto a chair and shouted for attention. They all gave it to her.
“It took us enough effort,” she chuckled and flashed her partner a grin. “But we did it. Best of all, we all have a much better understanding of our different technologies and how they work.”
Glittering blue eyes swept around the assembly and took pleased note that all the people of importance to her were there. Teal’c, Jack and Daniel stood beside Hammond and the other three Hosinom. Nearby was Kelly and scattered members of other SG teams. And at last she spotted Janet hovering near the door and her heart leapt. Raising her glass, she continued. “To the first successful venture of the Tok’ra, Earth and Hosinom alliance. May it not be the last!”
Congratulations and curiosity ran rampant throughout the impromptu gathering. Finally the giddy energy began to wear off and the three women who had provided the bulk of the work felt exhausted by the busy day. When Sam yawned and Etoto immediately her, “tired Human?”
“Just cause you two have symbiotes and more stamina than I do…”
“So go rest, you’ve more than earned it,” Freya encouraged gently.
“Yeah, okay. Do me a favor and download all that medical text stuff you promised next. That ought to make Janet smile.”
“Goodnight Major,” Anise added quietly and Sam waved over her shoulder. Several soldiers greeted Sam as she wandered towards her quarters. Nothing made much of an impression until she found herself near the Infirmary. Some unacknowledged need drew the tall woman into the facility where she hovered uncertainly in the doorway. An orderly spotted her and waved in the direction of Janet’s office. So she went over and refused to wonder why the man knew exactly why she was there. Though the open door Sam saw Janet hunched over her desk completely engrossed in a stack of papers.A long moment passed while blue eyes traced over the smooth planes of Janet’s face and the tired lines of her compact frame.
“Hey,” she said quietly and Janet jumped as though shocked by a live wire.
“Sam… you startled me.”
“So I gathered. You look tired.”
When Sam walked over to the cluttered desk, Janet dropped her eyes back to the papers. “Yeah well, I’ve got a lot to do.”
“Can I help?”
The offer had been spontaneous but sincere. There was no guile in the warm blue eyes, only a quiet fondness and concern. It was a siren song Janet could not resist.
“Sure, as long as you don’t mind playing secretary for awhile.”
“No problem. It’ll be like being Airman again.”
Despite the odd discomfort between them, Sam and Janet fell into an easy quiet broken only now and then by short instructions. Time passed within the familiar sounds of the base breathing around them. But eventually Janet’s tiredness got the best of her and she set aside her report to rub weary eyes.
The desk was organized.
For a moment she was so surprised she could only stare. Most of the papers were gone and what remained was stacked neatly and efficiently. All the random clutter had been dealt with and even the trashcan had been dumped. With a rattle and thump, the file cabinet across the room closed under Sam’s hand and she smiled in satisfaction. “All done doc. Anything else?”
A warm smile turned up the corners of Janet’s mouth and she stood to move over and place both hands on Sam’s arm. “Whatever would I do without you?”
It should not have been a loaded question, but it was. Uncomfortably Sam rubbed the back of her neck and made a weak joke. “Seems like it’s my week for accomplishing miracles. You off duty now?”
“Actually,” Janet said in embarrassment. “I was off six hours ago.”
“Then you, Doctor Fraiser, have a date with your bed. Consider it a direct order.”
During their time spent organizing the chief medical officer, the entire medical staff had turned over. The various personnel fired the women long-suffering looks as they slunk out and headed down the hall towards the crew quarters.
“I need to get out of here,” Sam mused. “But I can’t just leave Etoto, and now Anise. I wish I could show them the planet their ancestors came from.”
“That’s an admirable sentiment Sam.”
“Yeah. Unfortunately that’s all it is, a sentiment.”
“Hey, stranger things have happened.”
“So you’re not even a little curious?”
Neither was exactly certain how to answer the General’s pointed question. If someone had told George Hammond a year ago that he would be sitting calmly behind his desk chatting casually with a pair of aliens that had far too much in common with the Gau’old, he would have thrown them out. But sure enough, Etoto and Anise stood at almost military precision not five feet away.
“General, I am not entirely certain why you are asking this of us.”
With a sigh, Hammond came around his desk to look seriously into Etoto’s black eyes. “You’ve both done a lot for us, and I’d like for you to take back more memories than a giant concrete rabbit warren back to your people. One of the largest and most diverse cities on this world is just an hour away by car.”
“What of your military secrecy?”
His pale gaze flickered over to Freya. “I think you’ve earned our trust.”
Neither seemed to be able to fully comprehend what was being offered them. Awilona’s voice spoke up hesitantly. “You would allow us to see the planet from which our Human kin came?”
“It was Doctor Fraiser’s idea. She came and spoke to me yesterday and was quite persuasive.”
Their looks of confusion amused Hammond greatly. Not that it showed through. When Fraiser had brought the subject up, he had nearly thrown her out on her ear. But by the time she had left, the eloquent plea to let them see their ancestral world had won him over.
“But how would it be managed?”
“You’re both Human, with a bit of a kick thrown in. As long as you don’t let Awilona and Anise do the talking, I don’t see why a short trip isn’t feasible.”
Bemused excitement began to animate the two women as they traded loaded glances. “It is a wonderful offer,” Freya said quietly and smiled.
“Good. Doctor Fraiser and Major Carter will accompany you, since you all seem to be getting along. If you require any other personnel, just ask. Small money accounts have been set up for you both as a gesture of goodwill. It’s so you can acquire clothing to fit in with the local wildlife.”
Self-consciously the two women glanced down at their alien wardrobe and adornments. “Your escorts can help you out. Here’s identification and a brief overview of the identities you’ll need to assume before going out in public. If you tangle with the local authorities, god forbid, you’ll need to know this stuff.”
“What of someone detecting Awilona or Anise?”
“If someone gets that close, then Carter isn’t doing her job. If someone gets hurt, just call back here to the base.”
“The bio sensors would help,” Anise chimed in thoughtfully. “They function over significant distances.”
“At least fifty miles.”
“Just be certain to teach someone how to read the monitoring device before you leave.”
Now Anise really did look sheepish. “I believe I will begin with Doctor Fraiser. After she has the knowledge she can pass it on to her staff. In fact I will leave her a complete set of them before I return to the Tok’ra.”
It was an unusual apology for her behavior with the alien armbands, but it would probably be an effective one. “Excellent. Anything else?”
“No sir, I believe our escorts will be able to answer any other questions we have. Thank you for this wonderful gift.”
“Yes General Hammond, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Have fun.”
Quietly, the women left and Hammond leaned back in his chair with an air of triumph. This would be a great step for diplomacy and get the restless Carter off base for a few days. It was a great idea.
When a bewildered looking Etoto and Freya entered the lab, Sam greeted them without looking up from the computer. It almost looked like a respectable machine now with its haphazard innards contained in plastic cases.
“It seems we have been given instructions to take some time and explore your local major population center.”
Etoto’s unexpected comment made Sam raise her head and take in their expressions.
“That was our response as well,” Freya chuckled and went over to show Sam the folder in her hands.
“Military liaison from the Russian Republic huh? Oh man… this is signed by the president.”
For a long moment Sam could only stare at the familiar signature at the bottom of the document. It was travel papers and a laminated ID card that indeed proclaimed Freya Ivanov as a diplomatic liaison from Russia. When she held out a hand, Etoto handed hers over. “Chieftain of the Hosinom people of New Zealand huh? Someone in Washington has a weird sense of humor. You’re a bit skinny for a Maori, but it’s not a bad cover story. Says here that you’re a cultural liaison to Doctor Daniel Jackson.”
A completely befuddled Sam handed the folders back and she looked intently from one alien to another. “Are you sure you want to go running around New York alone? It can be a rough town.”
“We are not going alone, you and Janet have been instructed to accompany us.”
Now Sam really did gape in astonishment and Etoto grinned in delight before wrapping a friendly arm around Freya’s shoulders. “Would you like to bring any others so that you are not required to guard us at all times?”
Once Sam had recovered from the shock of the totally unexpected trip, she had tracked down Kelly and dragged her in. She had then snuck into the Infirmary with the two folders in hand. Janet nearly jumped out of her skin when two long arms snaked around her to drop a pair of briefing folders onto her keyboard.
“You pulled this off?”
Pleasantly flustered from Sam’s closeness, Janet peeked inside the folders and grinned. Hammond had done it. When she had left yesterday she had still been uncertain he would.
“I just wanted to prove to you that you’re not the only miracle worker around here.”
In response to the teasing tone, Sam tightened her grip into a bone-creaking hug. “This is a wonderful gesture, wait ‘till you see how excited they are.” Ignoring the perpetual amusement of the staff at their superior’s antics, Sam headed for the door. “We leave tomorrow morning. 0800 hours. Be there.”
A puzzled frown snuffed out Janet’s smile. What exactly had she meant by ‘we’?
Between Kelly and Sam, they managed to scrounge together a couple pairs of civvies for their alien charges. While in New York they would go shopping, but the borrowed slacks and jeans and t-shirts would suffice for now. The four of them were talking excitedly in Sam’s quarters when there was a knock at the door.
“Come in. Hey Daniel, what’s up?”
“So you guys get to go to the city?”
“This is a girls-only trip, so don’t even ask.”
“Smart aleck. It just so happens that Jack and I are taking the other Hosinom fishing. We wanted to know if Cassie wanted to come with us.”
“That’s a great idea, she’d love it.”
“Okay then, I’ll check with Janet.”
When he turned to leave Daniel was startled to see the woman in question leaning on the doorjamb behind him.
“I’m quite certain she’ll be delighted to have both you and the Colonel all to herself for a few days. Just take good care of her.”
“The best Janet, you have my word.”
“Good enough. Tell her I’ll see her later this evening.”
“Okay, I’m going to go call her now. Have fun guys.”
The woman chorused various goodbyes before turning their attentions to the lounging Janet. There was an unexpected but appealing ease to her body language that none of them had seen before. Ironically it was Anise that broke the oddly comfortable quiet by walking over to the short woman. “I was… remiss last visit by not showing you how the bio monitors worked. I would very much like to remedy that oversight if you have the time.”
“Oh, I think I can make the time Anise. Lead the way.”
If the others noticed the subtly triumphant tone in Janet’s voice, they chose not to respond to it. At least not until the two of them left and Sam dissolved into laughter. “Remind me not to piss that woman off. That was the sneakiest, most civilized revenge I’ve ever seen. Very subtle.”
“I believe that Anise ‘got the point’,” Etoto agreed.
It was entirely odd to have the Tok’ra scientist standing in the Infirmary dressed in gray wool slacks and a navy blue t-shirt. Her red boots peered out from the rolled up cuffs of the pants, which were obviously a bit to long.
“Major Carter… Sam is taller than I,” she explained when Janet’s dark eyes asked the question. An amused grin was traded between the two women and a tentative friendship was born. The most time-consuming part of learning the bio monitor system was the foreign language it was written in. With the help of the Frankenstein computer that problem was quickly solved. Anise explained to the medical staff that they five would be wearing the monitors during their trip and sent for the rest of the little adventuring party. While they waited she somehow managed to persuade Janet to have hers installed first. No one laughed as the embarrassed CMO tugged up the bottom edge of her uniform blouse and allowed Anise to slip a hand beneath. She did make a small protesting sound as the little half-sphere was pressed to her skin just under the left breast. Someone made a strangled noise that could have been a muffled laugh.
“There, nothing to it,” Anise said calmly and allowed Janet to regain her wounded dignity by moving away and bringing the focus of the medical personnel to the monitor reader. Almost instantly readings began scrolling across its glowing blue face. When Sam and the others walked in they saw Janet rubbing curious fingers over a lump on her ribcage.
“I see you’ve been tagged,” the blonde chuckled and Janet flushed.
“It seems like an odd place to mount it, so far from the heart or any other organs that really need constant monitoring.”
“Whatever works. Hey Anise, can anyone put these on?”
“Okay, come here you two.”
Giving her superior officer a weird look, Kelly followed instructions and pulled her t-shirt up around her middle chest. She made a face when Carter slipped her hand under the edge of the fabric to press the monitor to her skin.
“I guess this means no crop tops, huh?”
Scattered chuckles were Kelly’s only response.
“I have a signal,” Anise called out a moment later. Sam pulled a third device from its box and gestured Etoto over.
“Anise, do these need to go somewhere different for hosts?”
“Okay. This is no time to be modest Etoto.”
With a muttered comment, the Cha’uld allowed Sam to tag her with the little device. It was immediately apparent that the readings on the main device were distinctly different from the two Humans. Anise did her best to explain the most obvious differences to the fascinated medical staff. She then went to her companions and handed the device to Janet with no comment. Tugging her shirt half off, she waited patiently for Sam. When the major’s hand slipped, Freya made a strange noise.
Janet raptly watched the diverse columns of information scroll down the device in tiny letters and numbers. They changed in various increments as the wearers moved and breathed. It even measured things that seemed redundant like digestion and the energy output of the tiniest muscle groups. When she once again reached out to touch the monitor, it showed the movement in a fluttering of the numbers. “It’s very… thorough.”
A smile crossed Freya’s face as she removed her hand from under Sam’s t-shirt and the last column lit up. Some odd sensation crossed Janet’s heart as Sam tucked the black fabric back into her waistband. Shaking it off, she returned her attention to Freya. “Maybe a little to thorough? This is a vacation, not a mission into enemy territory.”
“The parameters on you three Humans can be easily narrowed, but I believe it would be prudent to leave the full spectrum open on myself and Etoto. There are several functions of our dual nature that can be precise indicators of outside trauma.”
When Etoto nodded agreement, Janet handed the monitor back to Freya and watched the woman tap at it. After a minute it was handed back. “It will now only monitor heart rate, endorphins and adrenal levels. It will alert your staff if those things indicate that you are in danger.”
“Fair enough. And it won’t bother us to wear these for a few days?”
“No. Except for their physical presence we should be able to ignore them.”
“They do feel a little odd,” Kelly mused.
“You won’t even notice them soon enough.”
Since Sam had already worn one for an extended period of time, they were willing to take her at her word. General Hammond chose that moment to walk in. “Good afternoon. How’re the preparations going?”
“We were just installing the bio monitors, sir. We’ll be out of your hair in the morning.”
Sam’s response earned a smile from the man. “Have fun then.”
It was not easy for any of them to sleep that night. Sam lay on her bunk and let her logical mind obsess over the feel of the monitor clinging to her skin and the upcoming trip with the two aliens. But her emotions were across town where Janet readied herself and young Cassie for their separate trips. Something had changed between her and the brunette doctor recently and she could not quite figure it out. There was a shy warmth to the reserved woman that tugged at Sam’s reticent heart. With that thought to make her smile, Sam finally drifted off.
Half asleep, Janet had little warning when Cassie flopped down beside her to hug her adopted mother. It was still dark outside and the only light came from the hall. “’Morning Cass. Time to get up already?”
They had been up late packing. The girl seemed content to snuggle into Janet’s side and just enjoy her warmth. Sleep was threatening when the girl suddenly spoke up. “Are you and Sam going to have a good time?”
“I hope so. Are you?”
“Yeah, but I’m gonna miss you.”
“Me too, but it’ll only be for a few days. What’s really bothering you?”
“I know Sam says they’re okay, but…”
“They’re still close to Gao’uld, right?”
“It’s understandable Cassie, you don’t need to be ashamed of how you feel. I liked Etoto well enough right off, but Anise took some work. Even if you’re never completely comfortable with the Tok’ra or the Chu’ald, all you have to do is trust Sam’s judgment. Fair enough?”
“Okay, you win. We should get up, Jack and the others should be here soon.”
After another quick hug, the small family began their day. By the time thin sunlight began to peek through the windows they were both ready to go. They sat together at the kitchen table and talked quietly while they waited. At last there was a knock and Cassie nearly tripped over herself to get it. “Good morning!”
“You ready to go?”
In the main doorway, Cassie saluted for Jack O’Neill and he returned the gesture with crisp efficiency. When he spotted Janet he grinned warmly.
“’Morning Colonel. Get your bags Cassie.”
Backpack and duffel bag were lugged over to Jack and he confiscated the larger sack. Cassie rushed over to pounce on Janet with a choking hug and a last goodbye. “Call my cell if you need anything, hon.”
“I will. You tell Sam to take good care of you.”
“When does she ever do anything else for us?”
“Tell her anyway.”
“I promise. Have fun.”
“You too! Bye!”
And she was gone, flying out the door to leap on a laughing Daniel. A warm grin from Jack and he followed the girl out to the big SUV. After a round of introductions, Kwahu and Teal’c made room in the back and the vehicle drove away. The house was echoingly empty without her presence. So Janet curled up on the couch to wait.
Half asleep, Janet peeled open a bleary brown eye to see a grinning Sam Carter crouched next to the couch. A lazy smile curled Janet’s mouth and she stretched slowly. Ignoring the odd way she was feeling yet again, Sam had to ask. “What’s so funny?”
“Cassie woke me up the same way earlier. But at least you didn’t pounce on me while I was still half-asleep. Just give me a minute.”
Hmmm, pouncing on her while she was warm and relaxed with drowsiness, the brown eyes soft with… Abruptly stifling that train of thought, Sam awkwardly patted Janet’s knee and stood. “No problem, we’ll get your stuff.”
After a few minutes, Janet gathered herself and rose from the couch. It startled her to see Etoto standing in the foyer, looking around with undisguised curiosity. A jacket-wearing Freya stepped through the open doorway. “Good morning Doctor Fraiser.”
“Call me Janet, Freya. Go ahead and look around Etoto.”
Gratefully, the dark woman indulged her curiosity and Freya joined her. There was a certain warm relief at seeing the aliens acting so normal. A jeans and leather jacket-clad Sam poked her head in and smiled. “Ready when you are gang. Use the bathroom if you need to, it’s a long drive.”
On Janet’s driveway was a gleaming black Hum-vee that was earning stares from the neighbors. Kelly was just stubbing out a cigarette in the street and stretching in the warming morning chill.
“The General wanted us to go in style,” Sam chuckled at her friend’s expression.
“It’s one of the comfier editions and has more than enough room for the five of us and our gear. And except for a tank, this is the safest ground transport around.”
Someone had persuaded Etoto to pull her long mane back into a ponytail and she and Freya looked remarkably normal in the suburban surroundings. They took careful note of the neighbors going about their normal tasks. After locking up the house Janet climbed into the heavy military vehicle and snuggled down between Sam and Freya. “Well this royal coach will certainly be the talk of the entire neighborhood.”
As they drove, the three Humans took turns answering the endless stream of questions from their guests. Everything from flora and fauna to the driving habits of the other cars on the road were discussed. As the landscape changed to become part of the city proper, they gawked like tourists.
“I had no idea there were population centers like this on Earth,” Freya commented softly.
“I had no idea that there were population centers like this anywhere,” was Etoto’s awed reply.
New York City slowly loomed up around then in all its tarnished glory. A great monument to the accomplishments of Humankind and all they had learned and done. Bridges and buildings soared over streets and shops to cast great shadows across the artificial landscape.
“One of the interesting things about this area is the discrepancy from city to countryside.” Kelly told the group as she began to point out landmarks.
“Hey Major… I mean Sam. Do we have time to see the Statue of Liberty today?”
“Sure, but don’t forget we need to get our diplomats clothes at some point as well.”
“Hey, this is the city that never sleeps, remember?”
They admired both the ferry and the great statue it took them to. Like big kids trying not to appear as excited as they really were, Freya and Etoto proceeded to drag their companions over what seemed like most of the city. There were a few dangerous moments. Once they lost Janet in the crowds and nearly panicked before the biosensor led Freya right to her. As darkness closed in someone crashed roughly into Etoto and tried to make a scene of it. What the aggressive punk thought when her eyes lit up like coals and her voice threatened him in Awilona’s distinctive tones was anyone’s guess. But he ran like the devil himself was on his tail. Sam was torn between morbid amusement and irritation at the symbiote. No one seemed to really believe what he or she thought they had heard though, and the crowd moved on.
When they at last stopped in a major department store to shop, only Kelly had any energy left to keep an eye on the ambassadors. Sam and Janet collapsed into a bench by the men’s dress shirts to rest. Before long they had fallen asleep leaning on one another.
Something warm and soft tickled Sam’s nose where it was pressed to a firm surface. Her lower back was objecting to sleeping in an upright position and her feet from too much walking. Under her cheek and along her side Janet stirred sleepily and snuggled closer like a friendly cat. Wearily, Sam raised her head to look around and try to make herself more comfortable without waking her companion. The crowds had grown heavier while they napped and the others had yet to return. Then Sam’s stomach rumbled and she realized what had woken her the first time. With a drowsy mumble, Janet woke as well and sat up to rub her eyes. “You make a decent pillow Carter.”
“Thanks, I think.”
“Did you want something while we’re here? It seems a shame to waste the trip.”
“Why would it be a waste? I like your company.”
A pleased flush dusted across Janet’s cheekbones but she was saved from a response by the others returning. Etoto teased Sam about the pressure marks on her face from sleeping while Kelly checked in with Janet.
Pleasantly tired from the shopping trip the five women headed back the Hum-vee. When they neared the vehicle Sam yelped in surprise at an unexpected hand slipping into her pants pocket. “Hey!”
“Sorry Sam,” Kelly laughed and danced out of striking range. “But you’re yawning too much to drive.”
Sure enough, the keys dangled from her hand. Grumbling, the blue-eyed woman gave in. New York was different at night. The pulse of the city was more visceral with a sort of nervous anticipation in the air. Freya and Etoto gawked like properly unselfconscious tourists. When Janet was jostled into her side once to often, Sam wrapped a protective arm around the smaller woman. They had been doing this a lot lately, she mused to herself, all this casual touching. Janet carefully snuggled into Sam’s side and listened to Etoto chatter excitedly. It was chilly but the dark woman kept rolling the window down to hear or smell some new thing. Someone would eventually protest the cold and the window would go back up again. Until something else fascinating went by.
“So should we head for the hotel, or check out the nightlife?” They all thought about Kelly’s question as they loitered in traffic. Then a low, thundering pulse began to slowly grow in intensity.
“What is that?” In response to Freya’s almost timid query, they rounded a corner to see a crowd gathered in front of a large, garish building. The pulsing beat pounded over the mass of Humanity. Etoto was transfixed and something hungry danced in her dark eyes.
“Homesick?” Janet asked gently and brought Etoto’s head around
“Yes. There is something familiar about the rhythm. So strange that after thousands of years away from this world, Humans would create something that I could recognize.”
“Music is universal,” Kelly chimed in. “Especially primitive rhythms. It’s only the details that change.”
That did it for Sam. “Hey Kelly, do you think the valets can handle this beast?”
“If they’re careful.”
“Then by all means, let’s go check out the local wildlife.”
Janet raised her head but any objections she would have made died when she looked into the glittering blue eyes. What would it be like to dance with her? To feel that lanky body so close? Shocked at her train of thought, Janet pulled away to look over the crowd. Various slickly dressed club goers patted the distinctive vehicle as it crept along with traffic. Some were content to whistle and point. A handsome young Hispanic fellow was bold enough to come right up to the window and flirt with Kelly. Etoto stared at his bronze features and thick black hair in astonishment. So similar and yet so different…
While the others were caught up with the man, Sam twisted around until she could catch Janet’s eye.
“Do you want to do this?”
A bolt of anticipation made Janet catch her breath. If only she knew…
Something flared in Janet’s dark eyes before being expertly snuffed out. Nearly nose-to-nose with her, Sam’s gut clenched in response to the flash of heat. Could it be? Or was she just imagining it? A round of introductions between the women and the young man interrupted any further contemplation of what was going on.
“So Carlos, did we stumble across a good place to hang out?”
“The best! I found it shortly after I moved from California about a year ago.”
“Why’d you leave California?”
“Because there were too many like me there!”
His mocking tone earned laughter from his new associates. It was obvious he was very interested in Kelly and willing to prove himself to her friends. At the valet station, the women piled out and quickly rifled through their bags in back.
“Sam,” Kelly laughed. “You should stick with the t-shirt, it suits you.”
“I’m so damn sick of wearing these things 24/7.”
Carlos eyed the group carefully noting their wardrobes and body language. The glint of matching chains at the throats of the two blondes intrigued him greatly. Especially when he swore he saw the same chain on the brunette. But the tall Indian was ritually tattooed and the other pale woman had all the wrong moves for the military. Still laughing at Sam’s discomfiture, Kelly gestured for her handsome suitor to lead the way. Janet stuck close to Sam and Freya took Etoto’s arm as though needing the contact. What an interesting bunch…
Back at the crowd waiting outside, Carlos introduced the woman to his gang of friends. They were an eclectic mix of coloring, age, dress and sexual orientation. The fact that there was a least one guy couple and two girl couples in the group should have bothered the Air Force personnel. Kelly caught Sam’s eye and shrugged with a wry grin.
Janet was dimly aware of the people around her, the smell and sound of the mass of Humanity. But all she could concentrate on was the feel of Sam’s long body pressed up against her back. Overwhelmed by the scale of the crowd, she flinched back into Sam, who hovered protectively. It seemed the behavior was almost completely unconscious. Many years ago Janet had become resigned to her small stature. Crowds could be a bit much though, and she basked under Sam’s guard.
Beside them Freya had scooted up into Etoto’s side and she hesitated only a moment before taking her cue from the other couples and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. They made quite the exotic couple. One of Carlos’ pals was questioning Etoto about the facial tattoos and a slightly edited version of the truth was her reply. Kelly hooked a finger into the chain around her neck to show her dog tags to Carlos. He looked skeptical and she laughed. Reaching past Janet’s auburn hair, Kelly managed to catch both of the ever-present tags and draw them out. Self-conscious from the easy familiarity, Janet wondered if glaring would subdue Taylor. The irrepressible grin the green-eyed minx habitually wore told her it was probably futile. With three pairs of dog tags confronting him, Carlos acceded that they were indeed military.
“So what do you three do?”
“I’m a botanist, Sam’s an astrophysicist and Janet’s an MD.”
“No wonder you needed a vacation.”
“What about you?”
The young man had not expected the small doctor to put him on the spot. “Nothing so impressive I’m afraid. My uncle owns a restaurant uptown and I moved here to help him out.”
“Hey, a family business is honorable work,” Sam chimed in. “Just ‘cause we’re a bunch of eggheads…”
The slang term made Tok’ra and Chu’ald alike eye her oddly. They had already given their cover stories to the group. It appeared as though none of them believed a word of it, but were unwilling to press the strangers. Perhaps it was the otherworldly aura the hosts carried. It was hard for the members of SGC to notice anymore.
Slowly they moved to the great door where the music came from. Identification was checked and the bouncers seemed at a loss about the diplomatic passes. Sam and Kelly expertly double-teamed them with charm and tact. Still looking a bit confused, they allowed the ambassadors through.
“What’s your poison people? First round’s on me,” Kelly shouted over the cacophony. Of course the diplomats looked confused again. “I’m going to buy you a drink. Do you want something sweet or some kind of fermented ale?”
After a shared glance with Freya, Etoto shrugged. “Both sound interesting. Surprise us.”
“You got it. Sam? Janet?”
A pair of domestic beers was enough for that pair and Kelly dragged Carlos over to the bar. Etoto stared transfixed at the enormous plate glass partitions separating bar from dance floor. Her companions were honestly expecting to see the eyes light up there was so much energy radiating off her.
“There’s so many people,” Freya said at last.
“Yeah, they congregate in places like this to drink and socialize.”
“And dance,” Etoto added onto Sam’s comment.
Surprisingly quickly, Kelly and Carlos returned bearing alcohol. “MGD and Corona for you two.”
Janet and Sam murmured thanks and watched Kelly hand a glass of thick pale liquid to Freya and a bottle of dark liquor to Etoto. “It’s Newcastle Ale, one of the better beers you can get fairly commonly. And that one’s Sex on the Beach.” The look on their faces was priceless. “Try it, they’re good.”
Gingerly, Freya sipped and wrinkled her nose up. “It is too sweet. You taste it.”
So Etoto did and seemed to like it. “Sex on the Beach, hmm?”
“It was either that or a Screaming Orgasm!”
Laughter rippled among the six of them. Turned out Freya liked the dark ale and the group gravitated toward the dance floor. Overheated and overwhelmed by her feelings, Janet quickly emptied her beer. She was surprised when a second one was pressed into her hand. Who knows how Sam had managed to procure it. Carlos and Kelly moved into the mass of dancers but remained close. Once bottle and glass were emptied, Etoto pounced on Freya. “Dance with me lovely one!”
Shy but willing, the Tok’ra scientist allowed herself to be tugged into the crowd. Stomach empty and nervous, Janet felt the alcohol go straight to her head. When Sam curled an arm around her and cuddled close she almost passed out. “Dance with me lovely one?”
The request was shy but sincere.
“You’ll have to teach me.”
“Oh, we’ll manage somehow.”
Fine muscles shifted beneath pale skin when Sam tilted her head back and drained her bottle. Then she abruptly dragged Janet into the dancers and gave herself to the primitive beat. Some rational corner of Janet’s brain remembered hearing once that you could tell what kind of lover a person was by watching them eat. Was the same true of the way a person danced? Loose-limbed and lithe, the blonde woman moved like a stalking lioness. Transfixed, Janet could only stand and stare. Smiling a seductive hunter’s smile, Sam moved in close and let their bodies melt together. They were quickly lost in the illicit intimacy of their bodies moving instinctively to the bass beat and the force between them. Sam crouched slightly to twine their legs together and pressed Janet closer. Around them the club faded away until there was nothing but that shy heat. Janet buried her face into the curve of Sam’s throat and felt the tall woman nuzzle into her hair. She felt the pounding of the vulnerable jugular vein against her lips and moaned softly.
Like the gradual transitions from day to dusk to dark, the skittish embrace grew more provocative. Sam’s lips on the corner of her mouth made Janet jerk her head back to stare into the burning eyes. They flashed multicolored in the surrounding lightshow but there was no mistaking the lust and fear there. Still nestled together at breast and hip, their crossing of that final barrier between friend and lover was inevitable. Janet tugged at the nape of Sam’s neck, desperate now to taste the other woman before reality intruded. She was met halfway. They kissed tenderly, exploring this new territory with the same enthusiasm as all of their interactions.
Etoto smiled in satisfaction as she watched her friends embrace. The grin softened as her attention refocused on the lovely woman in her arms. There was something in the way Freya looked at her. “Are you intrigued by them?”
“Yes,” she replied shyly and her gaze ducked away.
“As am I.”
A gentle finger on Freya’s chin brought the golden eyes up. “Are you suggesting an experiment ambassador?”
The teasing comment made Etoto smile again. “Indeed. How better to get to know one another?”
Nearby, Kelly kept half an eye on the two couples and sighed internally. Let them have their fun, as far as she was concerned she was not seeing any of this. All she was concerned with was ensuring that all four of them ended back at the relative safety of the hotel some time tonight. Then she could drag Carlos off and have her way with him. Provided she could figure how to get the bio monitor off without sending the base into hysterics…
When Janet abruptly yanked herself away, Sam was left blinking stupidly. Both were still enraptured with the other and burned with panic and arousal. Trembling fingers traced Sam’s bottom lip before Janet tore herself away completely. “I… I have to use the restroom.”
Still too bewildered to move, Sam could only watch Janet vanish into the crowd. All of her fears and doubts rose up to bring tears to her eyes and dejectedly she wandered off to the bar. It was a little quieter in the corner farthest from the dance floor where she found an empty stool. What had she been thinking, kissing Janet like that? But it had felt so right…
Suddenly someone set a shot glass of golden liquid on the bar under her chin. Sam looked up to see a tough punky-looking woman with tattoos and facial piercings smiling with heart wrenching sympathy. “You look like you need a drink soldier. It’s on the house.”
“Do I look that pathetic?”
“Not at all. Being a bartender brings with it a certain empathy.” The woman held out a hand. “Casey Samuels. Pleased to meet you.”
“Sam Carter. How did you know I was military?
“Your body language matched the tags. Any goofball can get a set of them, but you wear them like you earned them.”
The tequila burned a trail of fire down Sam’s throat and hit her stomach like a fist. Fresh tears blurred her eyes as she chased the stuff with a swig of smooth ale. “Wow, that’s good stuff.”
With a chuckle, Casey twisted to bring up a bottle and another glass.
“Need a sympathetic ear Sam Carter? I’m good at it.”
For a moment Sam hesitated before giving into the temptation of the alcohol and company. Who better to confide in than this sympathetic stranger?
“I think my heart and hormones have gone and done something stupid.”
She had no idea how accurate that statement was. Or would become…
Gradually, the world returned to focus. The whir of air conditioning, heavy warm blankets, the queasy roiling of her stomach… A low moan alerted Sam that she was not dead, as much as her over-indulged body might wish it. Fragmented memories paraded across her mind’s eye as reality slowly reasserted itself. There had been too much alcohol with Casey the bartender and various public humiliations before Etoto and the others had dragged her from the club. There was a vague recollection of Janet’s compact frame wrapped around hers, the taste of her seductive mouth… Just one more set of images in a long series of fantasies that were threatening to drive her mad. Then her nerve endings suddenly came back to life and reality screeched to a dead halt. It was a relaxed body half underneath her, firm and soft and all woman. It might be a mostly unfamiliar sensation, but Sam was a smart girl and figured it out. The breathing was gentle beneath her weight, a soft breast filled her palm and limp fingers were wound into her hair. Rather than let her brain run off in a screaming panic, Sam pealed open a sticky eye and waited for her vision to clear. There was the sensuous terrain of smooth back muscles and locks of dark hair tickling her face. This could not possibly be real…
With a jerk, Sam pulled away and abruptly woke her bedmate. Only well-honed reflexes kept her from gracelessly dumping herself onto the floor. In slow motion, those beloved velvet eyes met hers and there was no doubt that this was as real as it could get. Then the panic registered and Janet’s gaze changed. It was like watching someone slam a shutter closed. Hurt and vulnerability were almost completely squelched beneath the desperate, brittle calm. When Sam opened her mouth, delicate fingertips shot out to cover her lips. “Please, Sam, don’t tell me it was too much beer and bass,” Janet whispered hoarsely. “I don’t think I could bear it…”
Floored… she was totally, completely and utterly floored. All these months of wanting and pining from a distance, and now… In the long moments where Sam watched the haunted pain in Janet’s eyes, her heart made a decision. There was a brief image of surprise and relief as Sam tossed aside the tangled bedding and pounced on her lover. While her memories might be hazy, her body certainly remembered how this woman felt against her. It was a rough, affirming kiss that chased away their fear and pain. Janet made a low sound that was half arousal and half laughter at the antics of her companion. Hands in hair, bodies intertwined, they said good morning the way new lovers should. Finally Janet shifted to press gentle kisses along Sam’s cheekbones and chuckled lightly. “You had me worried there for a moment.”
“Mmm… me too. Is this really happening?”
“I asked myself the same question last night.”
Then at last the memories began to bubble through the haze of hangover. Of being tossed into a drunken heap on the bed by her friends and Janet leaning over her with concern and fondness. Of grabbing the smaller woman and aggressively begging for the relief only she could provide. They had been like animals, rough and more than a little crazy. Now that she was paying attention, Sam could feel bruises pounding counterpoint to her hangover. None of it mattered though, not when she could feel Janet’s seductive warmth against her. Nuzzling Janet’s throat, Sam worked her way back to the memory of her mouth. But those gentle fingers stopped her again. “Much as I would love to pick up where we left off. You need to brush your teeth. I’ll wait.”
Reluctantly, Sam pulled away to wobble onto unsteady feet. The air was cool against her bare skin but her lover’s lazy appraisal heated her right back up again. It was a seductive tableau, with Janet sprawled on the bed unselfconscious of her nudity.
“Go,” she whispered softly and Sam shook her head as though to clear it.
But it was still a long moment before she could tear herself away from the enticing display. Once in the privacy of the bathroom, Sam thrust her aching skull under the tap and let cold water soak her pale hair thoroughly. It felt wonderful and helped clear the last of the cobwebs from her brain. In the big mirror her familiar blue eyes stared back at her, bewildered and giddily happy. There was one thing to be said about alcohol, good or bad. It destroys inhibitions very efficiently. The sexy woman she had been fantasizing about for who knows how long was now her lover… Suddenly Sam could not clean up fast enough to get back to Janet. Then there was a knock at the door. Wondering why the universe in general was suddenly singling them out, Sam yanked on a hotel robe and went for the door. It was a pleasantly drowsy and tousled-looking Etoto. “Good morning sun-hair. May I have a few minutes of your time?”
As much as Sam might want to say no, it was not in her nature to turn her back on a friend. Sensing the unconscious resistance, Etoto grinned and gave Sam a friendly push. “I promise to be brief.”
An oddly awkward moment passed between them before Etoto sighed and ran restless fingers through her long hair. “Things… changed last night.”
For an insane moment Sam thought that Etoto was referring to her and Janet. Then the dark woman’s restlessness registered.
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
Confusion was followed by understanding. “Your people will not understand.”
“Unfortunately, no they won’t.”
“I fear the Tok’ra won’t understand either.”
“Just don’t tell my dad.” Sam’s half-hearted attempt at humor earned a weak grin. “What about your tribe?”
“They expect me to marry,”Etoto emphasized. “Remember how many traditions I have to follow.”
“Yes. They will expect me to marry for politics or power. The fact that I think I might be falling in love is merely a wonderful and unexpected bonus.”
“Lucky you. With Kelly along I can’t even act here in New York.”
“Then there is some kind of taboo against relationships between women?”
“More than just taboo. Janet and I could lose everything associated with the military. Our jobs, our security clearance, everything we’ve worked for.”
Now that she had verbalized it, Sam felt sick to her stomach for far different reasons than alcohol over-indulgence. She was startled and gratified when Etoto suddenly wrapped her in a strong hug. “You will manage. Sometimes we must pretend to be what we are not to please tradition. I understand all to well.”
It felt wonderful to just be held by someone she cared about. From where she watched silently around the corner, Janet felt tears prick her eyes. They so desperately needed a friend just like the other, and they had found her. Then Etoto pulled away just far enough to lock eyes with Sam. “There is something else I have been meaning to ask you. And Janet.” The wry grin coaxed Janet out, wrapped in only a sheet. “I have no family. Awilona does, of course, in his brothers. My father died in a mining accident when I was just a girl and my mother followed him only months later. I believe they could not bear to be apart. The tribe and my extended family took turns raising me.”
“That’s why Kwahu and you are so close,” Sam realized suddenly.
“Exactly. He was always my best friend, a brother really. I intend to make that official as soon as possible.”
“Yet another ceremony, one that binds the participants as family in the eyes of the Hosinom. I think I’ll enjoy having a bother.” With aching tenderness, Etoto put a hand on each of their shoulders and looked back and forth between their gazes. “But what I would really like… are sisters.”
With a sound of disbelief, Sam grabbed Etoto in a bear hug that made the Chu’ald gasp in protest. “You mean it?”
“Of course I mean it! Have I ever lied to you?”
“No, it’s just… I’ve never had a sister before.”
“We are each born into a family, but as adults we create our own. I would be honored to make both of you family.”
That earned a hug from Janet and Etoto smiled widely. “Oh Etoto, thank you for such a wonderful gesture. We’d be honored.”
“It is my pleasure. Besides, someone needs to acknowledge the bond between you, and this is a safe way of doing it.”
“I think that staying in for the day sounds like a good idea. We are supposed to be resting. Correct?”
“Great idea Etoto. Maybe later tonight some of us might feel up to being social,” Sam agreed.
“But don’t count on it,” Janet interjected and the three of them laughed. Once more they shared a warm hug before Etoto went to the door.
“Thank you,” she whispered and the Earth women grinned.
“And thank you my friend,” Sam replied softly. “We really are honored.”
“As am I. Have a relaxing day.”
For a moment the new couple gazed at the door where their friend had exited. Then a wicked grin spread across Sam’s face and she turned to sweep Janet into her arms.
“Oh my,” the smaller woman laughed, a low, aroused sound as she clung to her partner.
“Mmm,” Sam hummed as she nuzzled into the dark hair. “I think I’m gaining a whole new appreciation for your stature, Doctor Fraiser.”
Janet huffed in mock outrage, “are you saying I’m short?”
“No,” Sam drawled with a loving grin. “I’m saying that you are a perfect, delicate beauty and I like that I can hold you like this.”
There was a look of stunned pleasure on Janet’s face that earned a quick kiss.
“Sam, that was beautiful.”
“You inspire me.”
Finally making her meandering way to the tousled bed, Sam laid them both down and lost herself in rediscovering all she had forgotten from the night before. Leisurely she tugged away the sheet while keeping Janet occupied with deep kisses. She mapped out the curves and hollows of the petite body until Janet pulled away with a gasp. Those captivating dark eyes burned with an intensity that shook Sam. “Make love to me Sam Carter. Let me look into your eyes and know you still need me even cold sober. Please.”
With a gentle strength so characteristic of her, Sam worshipped her lover’s willing body with that one hand. Not once did she break the heartrending intensity of their gazes. Janet tugged the robe open to allow their heat to blend together as Sam’s fingers slowly danced lower. “Oh Sam… please.”
The sensitive swell of breasts that made Janet hiss with pleasure, the curve of waist and hip, the corrugated pattern of ribs, the shallow indent of navel, all felt the tender touch. Sam draped herself half over her lover and rested their foreheads together. Wiry curls tickled across her fingertips and palm, as Janet panted shallowly across Sam’s mouth so close to her own. The fathomless brown eyes narrowed to slits as the curious touch stroked her higher and higher. Whimpering and moaning softly, Janet forced herself to hold Sam’s fascinated and loving blue gaze. Tears gathered as muscles tensed with the approach of Janet’s climax. Then it was upon her and she bucked and cried out beneath Sam’s protective touch. Enthralled with the sensation of Janet’s body rippling around her fingers, Sam draped a thigh over the shuddering pelvis and trapped them together. At last the unfocused eyes began to clear and Janet yanked her lover into a crushing hug. “Oh Sam,” she breathed again.
It was like nothing the blonde woman had ever experienced. The myriad emotions in her friend’s normally controlled tone, the feel of her softness pressed so close, the breath calming against her ear. “I like this. The way you feel, the way your voice changes when I touch you.”
A vaguely uncomfortable twitch alerted Sam to gently remove her fingers from Janet’s warmth. She left that hand curled protectively around the curly thatch, unwilling to shift her hip away long enough to remove it. “Mmm… it’s mutual. Thank you.” Sam raised her head to catch the dark gaze and was suddenly very aware of her own distracting arousal. It was so good for Janet to see those clear crystalline eyes darken with feeling and the lanky body press closer. The lazy grin made Sam’s breath catch. “Ah honey, you look like you need some attention. Come here.”
Tender kisses distracted Sam while Janet ran teasing fingers down her arm to where that hand was still trapped between them. Gently, she tugged at Sam’s wrist until the larger woman was sprawled over her and propped on both elbows. That left Janet with her hands free to reacquaint herself with the lean planes of Sam’s body. When she tweaked the stiffened nipples Sam threw her head back with a hiss.
“You are so sensitive,” Janet breathed as the lean hips began to shift against her. “I remember you liking this.”
Still massaging Sam’s responsive breasts, Janet slowly drew up a thigh to teasingly stroke her lover where she burned the hottest. This style of making love was ideally suited to the discrepancies in their heights and Janet had been delighted that Sam liked it so much. Gathering herself, Sam began to rock her hips against the strong thigh and moaned softly. She was so quiet; the steady stream of animal sounds the only noises that Janet had managed to coax out of her. Rather than making her feel inadequate, the helpless moans and growls drove Janet to greater efforts. The moisture bathing her thigh grew in intensity as they kissed and stroked.
“Fly with me,” Janet whispered and Sam’s body gave into the teasing with a rough hiss that sounded almost like pain. Every muscle went taut, head thrown back, hands curled into fists, short staccato convulsions of her hips playing in counterpoint to her climax. Then her muscles abruptly unlocked and she slumped boneless onto her lover. Loving the weight, Janet smoothed over the planes of Sam’s back and hips to soothe the tiny quakes in the muscles there. “Just keeps getting better,” she mused and Sam chuckled weakly.
They had been resting and cuddling when a knock at the door roused them. Worry about being discovered stiffened them both.
“Room service,” a strange male voice called out and they relaxed marginally.
“Room service? We didn’t order food.”
Curious now, Sam scrambled from the bed and yanked the terry cloth robe shut. Unconsciously, she made a mental note that her dog tags were missing and spied them on the unused second bed. The young man at the door smiled when she peeked out. “Compliments of Kelly Taylor ma’am.”
“Oh… um, leave it by the door.”
Sam had absently turned to look for her pants and wallet and was surprised when the door closed quietly behind the fellow. “What, no tip?”
The cart sat next to the bathroom and Sam’s stomach growled, as she smelled whatever was beneath the metal lids. So she shoved the cart over the bed and smiled when Janet lit up. “I wonder why Kelly did this?”
While Sam began to explore the contents of the cart, Janet spied a piece of folded paper bearing both their names. She read it out load. “After last night, I’m sure you’re not up to anything athletic Sam. And I’ll bet you want to keep an eye out on her Janet. So Carlos and I have wandered off to see the sights. Here’s my cellphone number. It’s signed by Kelly.” They looked at one another with equal parts amusement and fear. “Do you think she knows?”
“I don’t know. If she does, she’s making a real effort to pretend she doesn’t.”
“Well, I guess that’s the best we can hope for.”
Each was lost in her own thoughts for a long moment before Sam coaxed Janet to sit in her lap. Quietly, they ate and the mood improved again. Soon they were feeding one another teasing bites of waffle or strawberries or omelet. That, of course, led into another round of tender lovemaking that left their breakfast to get cold. Damp and satisfied, Janet snuggled down atop Sam’s sprawled body and nuzzled her throat. “I’ll take it you feel better after some food and exercise?”
A chuckle rumbled beneath her ear.
“Oh yeah, this is by far the best I’ve ever felt after over indulging the night before. You do good work doc.”
“Mmm… you’re welcome.”
An exploring tongue traced the line of the relaxed tendons in Sam’s throat as Janet relished the taste of her skin. Then suddenly she giggled and earned a quizzical glance. “Oops, I left a mark last night. Hope you brought a turtleneck.”
Sam’s fingers touched the spot and faint pain radiated out from the spot. “Oh man, how the hell am I going to explain this one when we get back?”
“Sorry. Maybe Freya of Etoto can help you out.” Janet had expected the teasing to garner some response. When it did not she raised her head to study Sam’s pensive expression. “Sam love? Talk to me, please.”
Immediately the tall woman’s face cleared and she hugged her worried lover. They settled comfortably into cuddling again while Sam gathered her thoughts. “I was just trying to work out what to do about work and us.”
“Dare we try this?”
“You couldn’t keep me away. I just wish we didn’t have so much to lose.”
“Oh Sam, me too.”
They clung together and pondered their future until drowsiness claimed them again.
It had been a wonderful trip. Relaxed and happy, the five women returned to Cheyenne Mountain on time and in good spirits. There was much bantering as the bio monitors were removed and stored away in Janet’s office. She had been delighted when Freya had told her to keep them. Still in civvies, the five of them trooped off to report their good health to General Hammond. He was glad to see them and even happier that nothing more exciting than Sam’s hangover had occurred during the entire trip. When Etoto and Freya told him the good news of their upcoming union, the look on his face was amusing and heartening to his three officers. Hammond was an adaptable man and quickly took the unexpected development in stride.
“We would like for SG1, Doctor Fraiser, Captain Taylor and yourself if at all possible to attend the festivities General.”
“Uh, of course. We’d be honored.”
Then Etoto flashed a grin at Sam and Janet. “And there are things you must learn before you become members of my family as well.” Now Hammond really looked confused and Etoto hastened to explain. “Both Major Carter and Doctor Fraiser have agreed to honor me by being adopted into my family line along with Kwahu. Both ceremonies will be on the same day. Would it be acceptable for my kinsman and I to make some minor changes to their dress uniforms for the ceremony?”
Bewildered, the man nodded agreement and looked a little lost. Freya seemed to feel bad for him and interjected in a gentle voice. “All of this will cement a firm political bond between our three peoples. We will all be family once the ceremonies are complete. There are some responsibilities to the others, but nothing that will interfere with our respective duties.” Sam wanted to hug the woman when Hammond visibly relaxed. Leave it to the scientist to know exactly to say to the protective senior officer. “I believe Etoto and I should return to the Tok’ra as soon as possible. After that we will move onto Tuwa to prepare. I have much to learn.” A look of embarrassment on Freya’s face accompanied the eyes glowing briefly. “We both do,” Anise added quietly and Etoto smiled lovingly. Sam and Janet traded wry looks at their obvious affection for one another while Hammond just looked bamboozled. Mechanically, the man bid them goodnight and asked his three officers to stay.
“I suppose you three are finding all this amusing.”
They almost swallowed their tongues in an effort to conceal that particular emotion. Unconsciously, each had adopted a body language that Hammond knew was each individual trying to remain professional. Taylor drew herself into a rigid parade rest that Carter had a vaguely more relaxed version of. Doctor Fraiser had shoved her hands into her pockets as she often did with her lab coats. It only took a few long moments for the three women to choke down their hilarity and respond to his wry look.
“Hugely amusing, sir,” Carter deadpanned and Taylor broke down into strangled coughing. Smirking, the General came around the desk to make the meeting a little more personal.
“Adopted? That sounds serious. Care to elaborate?”
“It’s a ritual sir. There’s a very affectionate bond between Etoto, Janet and I. This was a way to acknowledge that and make a solid political tie between Stargate Command, the Hosinom and the To’kra. We’ll have a few ritual responsibilities to Etoto as Freya mentioned, but they consist mostly of attending certain functions. Kwahu will pick up the bulk of the family duties, since we can’t be around most of the time.”
“Things will only get truly weird if one of us gets married,” Janet quipped and earned odd looks. She just smiled and looked unapologetic.
“I’ve already got one and a half-ish aliens in the family,” Sam sighed melodramatically. “Why not a few more?”
Now Kelly did laugh, along with Janet and even General Hammond huffed briefly in amusement. Never thought he would hear Carter crack a joke about Jolinar and Selmak.
“Very well, I’ll trust your judgment. Good to have all three of you back. Dismissed.”
The moment the door closed behind them, the trio dissolved into gales of hilarity. They ignored the puzzled and amused looks from their coworkers and laughed until it was well and truly out of their systems. Weakly Kelly wiped tears from her eyes and fired Sam a mischievous look. “You crack me up Sam. I’m sorry this little vacation is over ‘cause I had a great time. Never thought I’d ever miss a couple of Goa’uld the way I’m gonna miss those two.”
“Yeah, me too.”
At that moment Etoto and Freya came in dressed in their formal clothes and Sam’s face fell. “You’re really going.”
“Yes sun-hair. I will miss you terribly, but it’s time. Come see us off.”
Again the control room staff was treated to the sight of Major Carter acting out of character as she shared a long hug with Etoto. In the Gateroom, the rest of the Kachinas, SG1 and Anise’s staff, joined the two friends. There were various hugs and fond goodbyes and tears. Kwahu embraced first an embarrassed Daniel Jackson before Sam pounced on him. “See you soon brother. Take care of everybody.”
“Of course. Until then sister.”
The man swept up Janet next and slowly the two groups began to separate. Last were Sam and Etoto with their hands clasped formally at chest level.
“You saved my life,” Awilona said softly.
“And you saved mine,” Sam responded and made no effort to stop the tears that trickled down her cheeks.
“It could have stopped there, but instead you helped me find a happiness I have rarely known.” With aching tenderness Etoto shifted to press a warm kiss to Sam’s forehead. “Thank you, sister of my heart. We will forever be bound by this friendship.”
Sam returned the gentle kiss and smiled tremulously as tears slipped from the black eyes. “Forever.” A fierce look was trained on a misty-eyed Freya. “Both of you.”
The pale women embraced as Etoto swept Janet up and kissed her too. “Take care lovely bear. Sister of my heart.”
“Sister of my heart. Until we meet again.”
Finally Etoto pulled away to gather up her betrothed and move to the shimmering Stargate. Only inches from the portal, the aliens paused to glance back one last time at the two women who had made such a difference in their lives. Every soldier in the room snapped to attention and formally saluted. It was both impulsive and oddly appropriate. And so a chapter of their lives closed as Tok’ra and Chu’ald left their companions until they met again. Hand in hand for a long moment while no one was paying attention, Sam Carter and Janet Fraiser sent a part of their hearts with their new family. But the rest belonged to one another and they were happy.