DISCLAIMER: I only borrowed them for a while. MGM and whoever can have them back whenever they want. No copyright infringement intended.
SPOILERS: up to Season 8 premiere (which I haven't seen) and AU after that.
SERIES: This is the first story in the Dayspell series, a sequel to Darkspell (Sunshine, Shadow, Shimmer) and Dawnspell (Past, Present, Future) You really need to read those first.
WARNING: Violence and description of gruesome injury / mental torture.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author

By Celievamp


Janet had released herself from the Infirmary overriding Dr Warner's suggestion that she stay and rest for at least another twenty four hours and was working in her office when the call came for her to report to the Briefing Room.

She walked in to find General O'Neill and two Nox already there, one of whom she immediately recognized as Lya. "Lya! It is good to see you," she smiled.

"It is good to see you, also, Janet," Lya said taking hold of her hand. "This is my son, Nefrayu."

"They have news of Sam," O'Neill said.

Janet turned to Lya eagerly. "Is she safe?"

"She is a prisoner of the one called Fifth. She is alive but in great danger," Nefrayu said. "Fifth is torturing her, placing her mind in illusion after illusion, weakening her hold on her self, her reality. She cannot be allowed to fall. That which she carries cannot be discovered by the Replicators. It is not for them."

Janet nodded. Her heart was beating so fast she thought it might just jump out of her chest, though no one looking at her would have noticed. Somehow she managed to maintain a façade of calm. She noted that Nefrayu had not answered her question. "She dreamt what might happen, I think," she said softly. "In the days before she went on the mission. Such terrible dreams." Her eyes lost focus for a moment as she remembered trying to wake Sam from her night terrors. She blinked, looked at Nefrayu. "Can you help us to retrieve her?"

"It is you who can help us, Janet," Nefrayu said. Janet was struck suddenly just how much he looked like Sam. She remembered Sam telling her about the little alien boy who had looked at her with such adoring eyes. "You must come with us, now. Time is short."

"You will take me to Sam?" Janet asked.

Lya nodded. "She needs your strength, Janet, your bond with her. She still fights but she grows weaker. Fifth is torturing her, placing her mind in illusion after illusion, weakening her hold on her self, her reality."

Their bond. But that appeared to be broken. At least the part that gave her a sense of Sam. But her feelings hadn't changed. If there was even a slight chance that she could save Sam… "General?"

"The latest situation report from Ronson on the Prometheus is that the nanovirus is having an effect. The Replicators bugs are disintegrating, showing signs of disorganized behaviour. At least one of their ships is out of action, another is behaving erratically. The Replicators are pulling back. Carter took adapted ordnance with her. So it's likely her bugs are virused as well." He made his decision. "Dr Fraiser, your orders are to work with the Nox to retrieve Colonel Carter. She will likely need immediate medical attention which is why I'm authorizing your presence. Due to the covert nature of this operation and the support provided by our allies the Nox you will be going in on your own." He laid a supportive hand on her shoulder. "Lya says this has to be the way this goes down. And I am trusting her judgment on this and her assurances that you and Sam will be safe." He glanced at the small woman who bowed her head serenely. "I'm instructing the Prometheus to liaise with your position as soon as they can. Go bring her home, Doc." She smiled at his use of the familiar nickname.

"I understand, sir. Thank you," Janet said.

Janet had not been through the Gate enough times to lose the wonder of it yet. Travelling with Lya and Nefrayu was different again, the ride somehow smoother. She stepped out onto the Nox homeworld. Janet had heard about it from Sam but had not traveled there herself before. She looked around in astonishment at the ancient forests felt herself imperceptibly relax at the inherent peacefulness of the scene. She frowned, listening. She could almost but not quite hear music, just at the edge of her hearing.

"What is that?"

"It is the mind-song of the Fenri," Antaeus said, coming forward to greet the visitor. "Not many from Outside can hear it. Most are too young." He gazed into her eyes and smiled, nodding in what appeared to be satisfaction. "You are welcome among the Nox, Janet Fraiser."

He led her down the wellworn path between the trees to their lodge. Several more Nox greeted her almost shyly and Janet realized that she was of a height with most of these people. Like her, the Nox were deceptively fragile in appearance, but Janet knew from her own observations and SG1's reports just how advanced their technology and their mental skills were. They had their ways. A tiny girl stepped forward and handed her what appeared to be a daisy chain before hiding her face in Lya's skirts.

"My daughter, Ary," Lya said, smiling fondly down on the child. "You are the first from Outside that she has ever seen. She had not yet returned to the world when SG1 were here. The flowers are liosa, and are meant to bring good fortune."

"Thank you, Ary," Janet said solemnly. She lifted the daisy chain over her head so that it rested around her neck over her dogtags. The pale yellow flowers had a sweet smell. "They are very pretty, just like you."

Ary gifted her a brilliant smile before remembering that she was shy and running off into the lodge.

"Tell me about Samantha," Lya asked, leading her to a seat by the fire. "Nefrayu could tell from the aether that she was in danger and that the Astrapi has awakened within her, but I want to hear it from you. What happened to her?"

"We were on a mission with SG1 and SG3. I was along as a technical expert. Tokra intelligence had indicated that a minor Goa'uld called Nef had developed some technology including weapons and a variation on the sarcophagus that healed without the psychological side effects. Something like that could be very useful to us, make us less reliant on using Sam's ability to use Goa'uld healing technology, for example," Janet swallowed remembering. Her chest ached slightly in memory of the burn, the staff blast that had nearly ended her life on P3R-666. Sam had nearly killed herself trying to bring her back.

"What we didn't know was that Nef was already dead. He'd been the loser in a battle with Bastet. The intelligence had been planted precisely in order to draw us out. Bastet was still on the planet and in league with Anubis. He had suggested that she use Nef's technology as a honey trap to get SG1 there and at her mercy. Once she had captured us she intended to turn us over to Anubis and be richly rewarded."

"Anyway, Bastet sprung the trap. Sam and I were separated from the others. Sam ordered them to leave us, to get back to the Stargate and bring reinforcements later. We were both beaten up and brought before Bastet. Then she started to torture Sam. At first for information and then later… later because I think she liked it." Janet was aware of moisture on her cheeks and realized that she was crying. Before she could do anything about it, Lya reached across and touched her cheeks.

"Do not feel ashamed by these," she said. "They are what mark you as a soulled creature as opposed to the Goa'uld who own no souls and find pleasure only in oppressing those who do."

"After four days I knew that Sam was dying. I had no medical equipment with me, not even any water to wash her injuries. There was nothing I could do but hold her. She was very badly hurt, her eyesight was gone and she was starting with pneumonia. I knew she would not last another session. Then we were rescued by Master Brata'c and the Tokra Kalec." Swiftly she moved on to the finding of the healing device, the days of waiting in the secret room before they decided to move out on their own.

"We found skeletons in the cave, one at least had been a Goa'uld. I'm still not sure whether Sam found the device or it found her. I managed to get her to show me it. It looked like a ring of metal with what appeared to be a finger bone embedded in it. The two had fused together. Sam did not tell me anything about it for several days but I knew something had changed with her. She was certainly being… influenced by it, directed if not wholly controlled."

"Had you called on us we would have come," Nefrayu said. "We sensed the change beginning then but it was not our place to interfere without invitation."

"That's good to know," Janet said bitingly, her fear, anger and frustration getting the better of her. "As it was Sam nearly killed herself trying to get us to the Gate. It would have been nice to know we could have called on you, but…" she paused, looked down at her hands which were clenched so tightly into fists that her knuckles were white. Slowly and deliberately she unclenched her hands, relaxing her fingers. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "You didn't deserve that, you…"

"You have nothing to be sorry for, Janet Fraiser. The error was ours. The one you love was hurting. What happened to you when you got to the Gate?" Lya prompted.

Janet took a deep breath. "We were recaptured by Bastet's Jaffa and some of Anubis's Kull warriors. They were waiting for us. Sam used a Goa'uld hand device we had found in the Tokra caves as as a power source to activate the weapon. It had begun to `talk' to her by then. The Jaffa and the Kull Warriors were killed – they looked as if they had been cooked alive yet somehow I was unharmed and Sam was left catatonic and in a severely weakened state. As well as the hand device using the weapon had all but drained her dry."

"I am amazed it did not kill her outright. It was not designed for your race to use," Lya said.

Janet stared at her. "You know what it is, don't you? And what you said a few moments ago… the error was ours? What did you mean?"

"The Astrapi is a long lost thing that should never have been found. It is our shame. Once the Nox were not as we are now. We were warlike, aggressive. We fought a long war with a race called the Titanides. We won the war, slaughtering many of their number including their leaders and drove the remnants from this galaxy casting them into the Void. We showed no mercy. We won the war but discovered that because of our actions we were in danger of losing our souls. That was when we vowed to become as we are now. What Samantha found was one of the abominations spawned during that war. Something we thought destroyed long ago. It is a thing of great power and implacable intelligence. It may appear an ally but only if the cause is war and strife – that which feeds its purpose."

"She calls it the Weapon. It has merged with her, down to the cellular level as far as I can tell. It helped her to assimilate the download from the Ancients and to destroy Anubis and his fleet, but if what you're saying is true, possibly for its own agenda. Was it making her a better host?" The implications of that were terrifying. "Can it be removed from her without…?" She could not say the words.

"We will try. But I warn you, Janet, that it might not be possible." Lya took her hand. "In becoming what we are now, knowledge was discarded. Our ways are very different to when the Astrapi was created. It may not be within our power to unmake it."

Fifth's fingers gripped her shoulders tightly, squeezing her flesh painfully. Sam glared at him, furious and defiant.

"Did you really think you could convince me that this illusion was my life?" she spat at him. "That I would just accept it?"

"If it was something you wanted badly enough in your mind. Love, security, safety. I know you Samantha. From the first moment we met, when you let me inside your mind I saw you like no one else ever could." Abruptly he pushed her away from him, sending her sprawling across the floor.

"If you know me as well as you say I do then you know I could never be happy with you," Sam stared at him, seeing the anger, the discontent in his expressive eyes. Perhaps it was time to try a different tack. "Fifth, human emotions can be very overwhelming. The fact that you feel anything at all is a miracle." The kitchen faded away around them and they were in the room where Sam lay in the cocoon. Sam saw how perilously ill she looked, the grayish pallor of her skin, the all too obvious signs of serious infection in her injured arm, the flesh swollen and blackened. She realized that she was dying. Replicator bugs moved lethargically around her body, many showing signs of the virus. The ceiling of the room was beginning to sag, the walls wet with moisture. As Fifth reached out to touch her again she saw the brown, wet stain on the back of his hand and realized that he was also infected.

"You can't just keep me here forever."

"Yes I can."

"You're dying."

"So are you, Samantha."

"It doesn't matter if I die. I have done what I came here to do," she smiled, proud and defiant to the last. "Why don't you just kill me? Take that final step. You know I would rather be dead than be trapped like this forever. No matter what you feel for me, I will never love you back. Kill me if you want, but if you have even one shred of humanity in you, if you really truly love me, you'll let me go."

"What would be crueler – to keep you here for the last moments of your life or to return your consciousness to the stinking hulk of your body?" Fifth dragged her to her feet. Her smile unnerved him, the serene expression in her eyes. She seemed entirely at peace with herself, her situation. He realized that he would never persuade her. She was prepared to die. She would never be his. Fine. But Eighth would awaken soon. He could begin again with her. And there was still a chance that they might escape this.

But if he could not have Samantha, then no one should have her. Not O'Neill, not Janet Fraiser.

His decision made, without warning he pushed Sam hard against the wall. Her scream of alarm was abruptly shut off as the wall swallowed her up.

Sam found herself lying in a loose foetal position on the floor of a large empty room. She was wearing her dark green BDUs which were whole, clean and looked freshly pressed. She stared at her left hand for a long moment, flexing her long fingers. It looked fine. It felt fine. That meant this had to be another illusion. But whose – a product of her own imagination or of Fifth's malice? She sat up and looked around. If this was her own imagination then frankly she was disappointed. The walls were white, lit from within and sometimes seemed close enough to touch though she did not try to do so and sometimes far away making her feel small and very alone. She swallowed back nausea and looked instead at her booted feet until the vertigo passed.

Time passed, or at least she supposed it did. The light hurt her eyes. She drew her legs up, resting her forehead on her knees and tried to remember the last time her life had passed for normal. It was surprisingly difficult. Then she sensed movement: the presence of another. Looking up she saw that a large ginger cat was watching her from a few feet away. It looked rather like her tom cat Schrödinger whom she had given to Narim years ago. It sat on its hind legs, its long tail folded neatly across its front paws.

"Hallo Samantha."

The voice was in her head. The cat regarded her steadily with lime green eyes.

Feeling rather foolish and not a little confused, Sam stared at the cat. "Erm… hallo." The situation needed explication. "You're not another being like Xe'ls are you? Or are you Furling?" She thought she had met the Furlings once. In a different hallucination. Actually, meeting Sabelle, illusory or not, was one of her nicer memories. All Furlings were cats but not all cats were Furling. That much she knew for certain.

"I am neither one of the Salish Guardian Spirits nor am I Furling, Samantha though given your previous experience it would be logical for you to assume that I was one or the other. I am older than both. I am here as a guide though. So I suppose it would be fair to say I perform the same function for you as Xe'ls did for Tonane's people. You could not pronounce my true name so you may continue to call me Schroedinger. Or Cat. Whatever suits."

Sam thought about this for a moment. She had a question. "Okay… Cat. Could you clarify something for me, please? Am I dead or not?"

The Cat smirked at her before raising a dainty paw to be washed. "You have to open the box and find out."

Sam closed her eyes again and sighed. What was it about illusions and gnomic statements that meant everything and nothing. When she looked up again, Grace was sitting cross legged on the floor stroking the cat who showed every evidence of enjoying the attention.

"Great, now I'm being tag-teamed," Sam grumbled. "Could one of you please tell me where I am and why I am here? If it's not too much trouble of course."

Fifth smiled as Eighth opened her eyes. "Welcome sister," he said. "Don't be alarmed. I know the first moment of consciousness can be disconcerting. I am Fifth. You are Eighth. I will show you everything, share with you all I know. You have no idea how happy I am that you are here. You are ready to take up your duties?"

The blonde haired female took hold of his proffered hand and stepped out of the coccoon. She brought her hands up to her face, feeling the smooth skin, the well defined bone structure beneath her fingertips, her hands traveling down over her shoulders, her strong arms, her full breasts, the flat plane of her stomach, her slim muscled thighs. All was in working order. She raised bright blue eyes to his. "I am ready."

Fifth stared into her eyes and knew a moment's sadness. He felt nothing from her. He had failed. Eighth was perfect. The flaw that made him human had not been reproduced. This was Samantha Carter in appearance and in knowledge but not in spirit. He would have to try again when the opportunity presented itself.

She touched the spreading stain on the back of his hand. "You are damaged."

"It is nothing. We must leave now to begin the search for a new home for our brethren to propagate. Put into practice what we have learnt. And then the universe will know. Together, we cannot be stopped."

Janet lay on the surprisingly comfortable pallet and tried to get some sleep. All of the Nox had disappeared, off to pull together what had to be some pretty serious mojo to get the three of them on board the Replicator ship and then back again, hopefully with Sam. Every Nox on the planet was involved, primarily because they felt it was their fault that this had happened. An act of collective guilt -

they should have disposed of their weapons of mass destruction more carefully.

Although all the Nox were involved, only Lya and Nefrayu would be accompanying her. They would go in, get Sam and get out. The coanduate minds of the Nox would bring them back to their home world and hopefully separate Sam from the weapon and heal any injury she might have suffered.

It sounded fantastic. Janet reflected that at some time during the last few years the fantastic had become an everyday occurrence. It was also the only plan they had. What the Nox would do if the Replicators tried to stop them, Janet wasn't privy to. She had a feeling that their pacifist nature was about to be severely tested.

She wasn't aware that she had slept, but she opened her eyes to see Lya smile down on her. "You are rested, Janet Fraiser, that is good. You must come with me now. We have far to go."

Janet quickly gathered her things together and followed the Nox woman out of the lodge. Lya's family were gathered outside, waiting to say goodbye to her. Nefrayu was standing ready and beside him were two of the most fantastic creatures that Janet had ever seen. They appeared to be a strange amalgam of humming birds and dragonflies – if such a creature could be six feet long with a wingspan of twenty feet or more. She heard the faint song in her mind again and realised that these must be the Fenri.

"They are ready to bear us where we must go," Nefrayu said. "Their way pierces the space between much in the same way that the Gate does. They are ready to bear us where we need to be."

"We're going to ride them?" Janet asked a little fearfully.

"They have permitted this," Lya said. "It is a great honour they do you. No Outsider has ever ridden a Fenri. Few Nox have ever done so."

Janet stared up into huge multifaceted eyes. "Thank you," she whispered. Sam was going to be so jealous that she'd missed this. Her adrenalin junky girlfriend would have adored riding these wonderful creatures.

Nefrayu showed her where to step up onto the saddle that had been strapped to the creature's back. Lya stepped up behind her, anchoring herself in the downy feathers. Nefrayu nimbly mounted his own Fenri.

"What should I do?" Janet asked warily as the creatures began to move, their wings vibrating slightly.

"Think of Sam. Hold her presence in your thoughts," Lya said softly. "The Fenri know where they have to be. In a moment it will be done. And now…" The Fenri gathered themselves, leapt into the air and… were elsewhere.

"This is limbo, the Void between the worlds," Cat said. Sam had resolved that thinking of him as Schroedinger was just too weird. "It is both a prison and a sanctuary."

"How did I get here?" Sam asked.

"I brought you here," Grace said. "I can access this place. This is where I sent the enemies of my Makers. This is where I sent your enemy."

"Anubis is here?" Sam asked. She shivered, remembering how his voice had tainted her dreams, his desire for her as a mate sickening her.

"He is in the Void, yes," Cat confirmed. "But he is alone as you are alone. All are alone here."

"So we're each in our own little personal hell," Sam said. "Sweet." She pondered this for a moment. In the face of Fifth's attack on her, the Weapon had transferred her consciousness into this dimension. Sundering her from her body. "How long do I have to stay here? Is my body… okay?"

"My makers attend," Grace said. "And your beloved is near. Restitution is possible."

Cat put a paw on her knee, rising up on its back legs to look deep into her eyes. "Your chances of surviving this are very good, take comfort from that. The universe is not finished with you yet, Samantha Carter."

The Fenri gently deposited their passengers back in the real world. Lya, Nefrayu and Janet materialized in the room where Sam was being held. Still slightly dazed from her journey through unreality, Janet was unable to restrain a cry of sheer distress when she saw her lover's condition. The table seemed to have partially melted around her body, her left arm disappeared into its surface past the elbow, her buttocks, shoulders and the back of her skull were also below the level of the table, surrounded by the scummy viscous brown fluid that the Replicator blocks seemed to be degenerating into. Signs of the infection were everywhere. The replicator blocks around her seemed to be decaying as well, sheets of brown and grey glycoproteins dripping from the ceiling. Veins of replicator tiles patterned Sam's skin over her left hip, across her chest, up her throat and the side of her head. She was very pale, her skin an unhealthy grey/blue, her eyes hollowed and dark circled, her chest barely lifting with each respiration.

"We may be too late," Lya said. "The replicators are trying to merge with her, to adapt and take control."

"There must be something you can do!" Janet cried.

Nefrayu approached the still figure, held out one hand over her body and closed his eyes. "We are in time. Her ka is deeply troubled, but intact. She is deep within, protected by the Astrapi and… something else. The one called Fifth is no longer linked with her."

"Then we may be able to do something but her body will require many hours of healing," She glanced across at her son and Janet could sense the silent interplay of thoughts. She laid her fingers against Sam's unblemished cheek feeling the heat of Sam's skin. Even deeply unconscious her expression was strained, less than restful. A Replicator bug stumbled towards her and she kicked it away, sending it skittering across the floor.

"Janet Fraiser, there may be a way to help Samantha but it will take all your courage and love to accomplish."

"I'll do whatever I have to to help Sam," Janet vowed.

"Her body is fatally weakened, but her ka is intact. It will need a new vessel whilst we heal the body. Would you be that vessel, Janet Fraiser? It may be disturbing even dangerous for you. Samantha has undergone much pain and torture. And the Astrapi will also be present, clouding her thoughts, her judgements. She may not recognize you. She may fight against you or reject you. Her sense of dislocation will be intense."

"But she loves you deeply and you love her with equal intensity," Lya said, reaching out to take Janet's hand. "And the touch of your spirit may give her the healing she needs. We will guard you both, I give you my word."

"What must I do?" There was no way that Janet was not going to do this.

"I will put you into a healing sleep, a trance state. Then we will transfer the ka into your body. Your spirits will mingle. Once we have completed the task I will remove Samantha's ka and we will separate her from the Astrapi and allow it to merge with her repaired body. When she wakes, she will be as she was. That is our dearest hope."

"And we're going to do this here?" Janet asked. The place was falling down around them. This was a space ship. If they started to lose integrity, to lose atmosphere, they could be in big trouble very quickly.

"The transfer of the ka, yes," Nefrayu said. "And then we will transfer to our world. There Samantha will be healed. It will take many Nox to accomplish but we are ready to do this."

"What if you can't repair Sam's body?" Janet asked. "What if her body dies?"

"Then her ka will either remain mingled with yours or we will release her to the hereafter," Lya said. "It will be for Samantha and yourself to decide. If her ka remains within you – your own health and sanity may be affected. Two ka's are not meant to inhabit the same body no matter how close they might be though it can be done safely for a short time."

There were huge risks but she had the chance to save her lover and maybe share with her more deeply than she ever had before. "I'm ready," she said. "What must I do?"

The Prometheus scanned the Replicator ship, which was clearly on the point of breaking up. Scans showed four distinct lifesigns on board, two human, two not. Ronson tried to communicate, using SGC frequencies.

"This is the Prometheus. This is the Prometheus calling Dr Fraiser and Colonel Carter. Come in please."

There was a crackle and then a woman's voice. "Prometheus. This is Dr Fraiser. I'm here with Lya and Nefrayu. We have located Colonel Carter. I repeat. We have located Colonel Carter."

"That's good to hear, Doc," Ronson said, glancing across at Daniel Jackson, who was grinning broadly. Teal'c looked pleased, his lips curving upwards. "We will rendezvous with your position in…" he glanced at his II1C.

"Fifty minutes," Gant said.

"Fifty minutes, doctor. But I should advise you that the craft you are on appears to be on the point of breaking up. You should evacuate as soon as you can."

"The Nox have that covered, Colonel," Janet said. "They're going to transport us out of here and back to the Nox homeworld shortly, as soon as we have secured Colonel Carter. She is in serious condition and needs immediate critical medical care which the Nox have agreed to provide." She decided to leave out her own part in the proceedings.

"We are ready, Janet," Lya said.

"Colonel. We're ready to begin here. Be advised that there are still active Replicators including examples of the humanoid type in the vicinity."

"Okay, good luck to both of you, doctor. As soon as we're sure you're clear we'll destroy the vessel, hopefully take the remaining Replicators with it."

"Good luck to you all," Janet said.

She turned to Lya who was sitting on the floor. "What must I do?" she asked.

"Come, sit in front of me," Lya said. Janet complied. "Lean back against me. Do not worry, I will bear your weight easily," the Nox smiled. "Though you are more of our size than the humans we have seen." Janet leant back against Lya, felt the small woman's hands on her body. "Now relax your body, let your spirit quieten. Think not of where we are of what we do. Remember a time when you were with Samantha, when you were happy."

"Go to your happy place, Sam."

"Don't you know, Janet. Wherever you are, that is my happy place…"

Lya's fingers were stroking her temple, running through her hair. It was relaxing, hypnotic. As she had heard the song of the Fenri now she felt the mind-touch of Lya and a sense of the thousand or more other Nox minds joined with them, and the millions of minds joined with them. All that power focused on her. And she was not afraid.

Nefrayu passed his hand over Sam's body, his eyes closed in concentration. Janet watched him, conscious of Lya's hands stroking her face, her soft voice whispering in her ear. It did not alarm her when Nefrayu's hands appeared to pass into Sam's chest before withdrawing again a moment or two later. A ball of light began to glow in Nefrayu's hands, gold, shot with silver and black.

"I have her," Nefrayu said, his voice hoarse with strain. "But she is fighting, so fearful. Lya, her essence is so strong! I fear for Dr Fraiser."

"There is nothing else we can do," Lya said. "It must be now. Do it, Nefrayu."

The young Nox knelt before Janet, the ball of light in his hands, lighting up her face. His ageless eyes watched her carefully as he eased the ball of light towards her until it touched her skin. Then with the smallest impelling it merged with her. Janet's body jerked and she collapsed bonelessly into Lya's arms.

Nefrayu slid his arms into the gunk surrounding Sam's body. Despite his fragile stature he showed no sign of strain as he lifted her clear, her body frighteningly limp in his arms. The replicator scales covering areas of her body seemed to pulse then fall away, her flesh raw and bleeding beneath. He carried her over to where his mother crouched protectively over Janet Fraiser, laying Sam next to her mate. They extended their awareness, made contact with the coanduate minds of their fellow Nox and the waiting Fenri. Moments later they were gone.

"Lifesigns no longer present on Replicator vessel," Hailey reported.

"Okay, that means the Nox did their job," Ronson said. "Gant, inform the SGC of our contact with Dr Fraiser and that we are going in to finish off the Replicator ship."

"Tracking vessel leaving Replicator ship – it's the escape pod that Colonel Carter used," Hailey said, her fingers flying over her keyboard interface as she tried to scan the fast moving object. "It's propulsion system has been altered. There are no humanoid lifesigns on board."

"Could be the humanoid Replicants Dr Fraiser mentioned," Daniel Jackson said.

"Object will be outside targeting range in 40 second," Hailey reported.

"Target and fire on object," Ronson ordered. They watched as the Asgard missiles tracked the pod and made contact. The object was obliterated. Apparently. Hailey had kept her scanning equipment on it the whole time. She could have sworn that the pod blinked out of existence just before the missile made contact.

Sam shuddered. The strange box in which she was trapped seemed to spasm. Then she was gone. The Cat and Grace looked at each other.

"Well, that was disconcerting," said the Cat.

Janet opened her eyes. She was lying on a pallet in Lya's lodge on the Nox home world. Facing her, Sam was still sleeping. Janet raised herself up on one elbow and leant over Sam, reaching out to feather her fingers through Sam's hair. Her skin was cool, clean. Her body seemed whole, her terrible injuries healed. But touching her, Janet felt nothing.

"She's not really there," said a voice from the shadows to her left. Janet looked over. Sam was sitting in the corner, hugging her arms around her knees. She was dressed in white scrubs, her hair was stringy and unkempt, hanging over her pale face. "Not real. Not really there." She rocked gently, crooning to herself.

Janet sat up properly, feeling more than a little imbalanced. As she looked down on herself she realized one of the reasons why. She appeared to be heavily pregnant. The globe of her belly shivered as the child she was carrying kicked. Janet doubled over, gasping. Her hand rested on her belly and she felt it. She felt the life inside her, the link she had missed with her Sam. It was here.

"It won't work, you know." Another Sam came towards her, invading her space. She was dressed in BDUs, her ALICE vest bristling with grenades, cartridges. She carried a pistol in her hand. Her custom designed `Carter Special' was clipped to her side, a zat in a holster at her hip. "I know who you are."

Before Janet could do or say anything, Sam's fingers were wound in her hair, pulling her head backwards. The muzzle of the pistol was pressed painfully into the soft flesh under her jaw. "I will kill you for this, for tricking me. For taking on her form. But you're not as good as you think you are, Fifth. You got her wrong. No way is Janet pregnant." The hand in her hair tightened painfully, the gun muzzle moving from her jaw to rest on her mound, just above her navel.

Continued in Marriage

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