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 have just seen) but its been AU for a while before that. Janet isn't dead for starters. And Sam got the Ancients download.
SERIES: This is the third 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. Despite the title this is not necessarily a death fic!
THANKS: To Liz for the encouragement, the beta read and the hand holding. Any errors inconsistencies or remaining plot holes are entirely my fault.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author
I am the Astrapi, the prodigal returning. I am as they made me, the distilled essence of their hatred, their vengeance, all that was dark and terrible. My brothers the Fenri know me, recognize me. Once we rode together bringing down destruction on our enemies, the enemies of our masters, the creators. Together we wreaked havoc across the known galaxy hunting down and destroying the last of the Titanides and any who harboured or succoured them, all that had been touched by them. I rendered it to dust and then rendered that dust to nothingness, committing it to the void. And then after untold millennia the deed was done. All our enemies were destroyed as if they had never been. And we the bastard children of the Nox were left. The Nox had seen what they had wrought and were horrified. Their moral conscience reasserted itself once their indomitable anger died away. And they were ashamed. And we the Astrapi the Fenri were the source of that shame. The Fenri they altered made creatures of peace, beasts of burden. But I, the Astrapi could not be unmade, could not be altered. And so I was cast aside, buried, forgotten.
But all buried things come into the light of day again sooner or later.
In the void between, beneath. The place where I cast my enemies became my own prison. And there I discovered it, the last of the Titanides, the last gasp of the cosmic consciousness that had been the Titanide race memory. I kept it alive, succoured it, treat it as a pet, a plaything. We discovered commonalities, shared grievances, mutual anger. It endured much at my hands but it endured. Anything, any pain was better than the endless nothing that had been its lot before I found it again. I promised it restitution, retribution. We grew together. We waited.
We were found and lost several times. The lives we touched were too fragile to bear us. We burnt them out. But through their brief lives we tasted death, destruction; we created enough corpse candles to light us through the dark times between.
Colonel Samantha Carter twisted in agony, her body invaded by her enemy, having apparently incubated them inside her. Cat resumed its own form again, but writ large, huge and powerful. It sniffed at her as she hunched over her eviscerated body, eaten from the inside by the Replicators and then pushed her to the ground with one huge paw. Its breath on her skin was acid-hot. Steel claws embedded in her chest, caging her heart.
"You are nothing, Samantha Carter. You let your fears govern you. Your morality guide and temper your actions. You limit yourself, attempt to govern me. You are not fit to be my host." The callous words were doubly chilling coming as they did from the mouth of the child Grace. Her soft hands continued to stroke Sam's face.
"I did not ask for this, did not want this," Sam said through gritted teeth. She could taste blood, wondered why she was not yet dead. The ruin of her abdomen, replicator bugs pushing out between glistening strands of intestine, blood soaking the floor around her in an ever widening pool. She felt her heart flutter as the claw closed around it. The cat's eyes were enigmatic.
"Yet you were quick to claim me,"
"You took me. took advantage. you played on my helplessness, my blindness," Sam groaned. "I was weak. You looked. an innocent." She gritted her teeth, shuddering.
"I know how I look to you, Samantha. Did you think it was an accident that my form was pleasing to you, that if you could have a child with Janet Fraiser, a child that combined the essence of you both she would look as I do. Duplicity, treachery - so was I created. You think yourself so strong, so capable, but you are weak, Samantha Carter, and so easily duped. You will always be weak. You think yourself immune to your emotions but you are prey to their vagaries along with every other of your kind. You were a means to an end, nothing more. We used you. Through you we tasted life again. Through you we gained the knowledge of the Ancients. We tested ourselves against Anubis. And we prevailed. But now, now we have evolved beyond you."
"Then why don't you leave me. get the hell out of me." Sam writhed weakly, biting back a scream as another replicator bug eased its way out of her.
"Soon," Grace smiled. "Soon. Someone is coming who has everything that we need." She gave Sam's cheek one last pat and then stood up. The giant cat withdrew its claws from her chest, licking them clean of her blood for a moment before retracting them into the velvet of its paw. The girl stroked the cats, head, fondling its ears for a moment, the cat purring and gently butting its head against her hand. Then they turned and walked away together, vanishing through the wall.
Sam shuddered, resting her forehead against the cool tiles, her body contorting, drawing into itself around the hot ball of her agony. Her thoughts turned to Janet, hoping that she was okay. She wished very much that she had one last chance to talk to her, to tell her all those things that came to mind at a time like this, things that you could never say at any other time because they sounded so laughably trite. Life and death stuff, love that went beyond the boundaries of space time stuff. "Janet. I'm sorry." she whispered, her eyes closing. "Love. "
And for a moment she felt warm arms around her, a soft kiss on her brow, the intimation of a voice an emotion "Love."
Sam waited to die. As before her blood seemed to be toxic, eating through the replicators tiles. The floor opened up beneath her and she fell into endless darkness.
We have formed an alliance of sorts over the years, the enemy and I. I was designed to be its destruction but then I was abandoned by my makers. I am only a weapon, a tool, I can unmake my makers as well as the enemies of my makers. I was designed for the chase, the kill. Moralizing I leave to others. It is beyond my design.
When we met in the void between I discovered that I was more akin to this creature than to my own makers. Something they had not foreseen.
We thought for a time that in Samantha Carter we had found a host worthy of us. Such anger, such burning idealism, such determination to save her world, her people. But once that was done she also wanted nothing more than to abandon us to be rid of us. Even when we showed her how to defeat more of her world's enemies. Little did we suspect that amongst those enemies we would find that which we had searched for for so long. Ironically made in the image of our current host to fulfil the crude desires of another. Samantha Carter is a pale shadow compared to her. She is considered flawed. We consider her perfection.
I told her I was not for them. I lied. But her. I am for her. And she knows it.
She is coming. She is coming to claim us. And it will be wonderful.
Eighth pulled the metal door of the cabinet off its hinges and ran her hands over the metal surface. It warped beneath her touch, morphing, changing as she imbued its structure with keron particles. She tore off lumps of the metal and moulded them in her hands as if it was plasticine. Replicator tiles began to appear. She laid out the tiles on the floor. As she made more tiles, twenty, thirty, the first tiles began to slowly move closer together as if attracted by some form of magnetic energy. By the time she had finished converting the cabinet door into tiles, two small replicators bugs were exploring the confines of the room. They turned, bristling their wing like structures as Fifth came in.
"Where did they come from?" he asked. "I thought all our brethren had been destroyed."
"They had," Eighth said. "So I made some more. They are like me. The human virus cannot harm them."
"Keep them under control until we reach the Nox world," Fifth said. "Do not let them convert too much of the ship. They cannot swarm here."
"They know," Eighth said. "Once we reach the Nox they will feed and swarm and take all that the Nox had. And we will have a new home. Just the two of us."
Janet had tried to wake herself up, to end the pain, to deny this strange reality but nothing had worked. Not even tapping her heels together three times and chanting `there's no place like home'.
She sobbed, clutched at one of the Sam's who held her tightly. "Hurts, it hurts so much." She risked a glance at the decaying body on the pallet and looked away again, sickened. Replicator bugs crawled all over the collapsed remains. She knew it wasn't Sam but it had looked like her. To see her used in such a way.
"We know," Girly-Sam said. "But it wasn't us. It was just our image. We are here, all around you. We understand that now. We need you, Janet. We need you to be strong, Janet, for all of us. We need you to be strong. We know. We remember. You were always the strong one."
Sam without and within. She could endure anything as long as she had Sam. Another wave of pain hit her and she had the sensation of something tearing inside. If she had really been giving birth right now she would be worried that something was going badly wrong. As it was she had no idea what was happening. She was held securely by Whirlwind Sam more or less sprawled across the tall woman's lap, cradled in her strong yet caring arms, the child-Sam and Girly-Sam at either side of her, the child holding her hand, girly Sam absently stroking her fingers through Janet's hair. Scared-Sam was crouched at her feet, conscious again but very nervous though Janet's continued presence seemed to calm her. And in front of her between her and the boiling mass of replicators bugs were Soldier Sam and Scientist Sam. Scientist Sam was studying their behaviour, an expression of horrified fascination on her face. Soldier Sam had drawn her sidearm and was prepared to blast into oblivion any bug that came near.
Janet hoped that somewhere `out there' Lya or one of the other Nox had noticed that something was wrong.
It seemed strange. Here she was, a handful of Sam's to choose from and all she wanted was her Sam. Pain gripped her again. "Sam?"
"We're here," a voice whispered, "we're all here. We love you, Janet."
Another wave of pain washed over her. As the contraction passed she felt the overwhelming need to push. How could she have a child now, in the middle of all of this? How could she have a child? She fought against it, screaming, refusing to give into her body's demands. The pain redoubled, sharp, swiftly drawing her down into darkness. Her internal muscles pushing something out of her body, something pushing her out of her body. As her awareness collapsed in on itself, she became aware of something else, something she had heard before. The Fenri were singing. And as before they took her with them into the darkness between the worlds.
Commander Thor consulted with Heimdall. "General O'Neill believes that the remainder of the Replicators are heading towards the Nox. Information from long range reconnaissance scanners confirms. They are being drawn there by Colonel Carter, by the device that she melded with. We must give them assistance."
"I have been researching the device. I believe it is Nox in origin. From the time of the ancient alliance."
"I did wonder," Thor said. "Those were uncertain times. Many things were done in haste and out of anger and fear. The Nox will not want to be reminded of what they once were."
Heimdall brought up a schematic. "From the description Dr Fraiser gave and the abilities Colonel Carter manifested I believe it was this, one of the weapons that assured the final destruction of the Titanides. The Nox called it the Astrapi."
Thor sat back. He had not heard that name in a long long time. He remembered.
The Alliance was young, the Ancients had opened up the Gate system to its allies. All the races were expanding into new territory, dividing up the worlds between them sometimes through peaceful alliance sometimes more forcefully. Reports were emerging of a race called the Goa'uld that were beginning to alarm some, a parasitical race, rapacious and cruel. They had dominated two other races so far: the Unas who in their natural state were primitive and the humans, also known as the Tau'ri. It was the latter that brought the Goa'uld to their attention. The humans were a child race, young yet old. The Ancients had brought them to sentience, cared for them in the cradle of their homeworld before apparently abandoning them for reasons best known to themselves, turning their minds to other affairs such as the growing threat of the Wraith and the plague that threatened to end their race. And the Nox were also causing concern, at war with the Titanides, a war that threatened to escalate across all the worlds they held.
The savagery the Nox showed themselves capable of was alarming to a race as phlegmatic as the Asgard. The Nox pursued the remnants of the Titanides across all the known worlds, slaughtering every one that they found, creating ever more insidious weapons to seek out and destroy them. The Astrapi was a child of the last years of that war. It had but one task. The genocide of the Titanides hunting them across all the worlds, all the dimensions, through time itself. The Nox had given it intelligence, a hideous, savage mind that seemed to encompass all the darkness of the Nox race. They purged themselves of all their hatred, all their fear and poured it into their creation. Then they let it go.
Two races died that day, the Titanide and the Nox. With their collective darkness purged the Nox looked on their world with new eyes and realised the full horror of their actions. It was a rebirth, a turning away from the old ways, the old hatred and an embracing of the new. They became as they were now.
The Astrapi had passed into myth. Thor along with the rest of the Asgard had presumed that the Nox had deactivated or destroyed it along with their other weaponry. But thousands of years later here it was again. Alive. Aware. And hungry.
"Inform O'Neill that we are going to the Nox homeworld. We will rendezvous with the Prometheus there. I only hope we are not too late."
At least there was no more pain. As consciousness returned and the darkness that had clouded her mind slowly faded, Sam luxuriated in that for a moment. She still felt slightly strange. not quite connected, not quite. right. Her mouth was dry. She swallowed painfully. That was weird. The contours of her mouth seemed different, the pulse of blood through her body subtly altered. But at least there was no pain this time. That could only be a good thing.
Sam opened her eyes. Lya of the Nox was looking down at her. She smiled.
"Lya? What happened? Where am I?" Her voice was slightly rough with disuse but sounded different to her own ears, familiar but different. Her sense of disquiet grew, magnified even further by Lya's answer.
"You are in my lodge, Janet Fraiser. We brought you and Samantha here to be healed. Do you remember now?"
The first time she had woken up - or thought she had woken up - she had been here, but she had been alone. This time felt different - simultaneously more and less real. She was fairly sure this wasn't another illusion. "I'm afraid you've got us mixed up, Lya. I'm not Janet, I'm."
A wave of dizziness swept over her as she struggled to sit up. Her body seemed differently articulated somehow, strangely familiar yet at the same time profoundly alien to her. She looked down at herself, saw the small compact frame that could only be Janet's. "What! What's happening? Oh god, what the hell did you do to me! To Janet!"
Lya was watching her, an alarmed expression on her usually serene face. "You are Samantha Carter, not Janet Fraiser."
"Yes, what has happened? How." she paused as she saw the silent figure on the other bed - her own body, pale and so still, Antaeus and two Nox she did not immediately recognize standing beside it, their eyes closed, their hands poised over her body. They all looked exhausted. As she spoke they stirred out of their trance, gazing at each other in confusion for a moment before joining Lya. "Am I dead?" she asked softly. She looked so pale and thin, but at least she was whole. The relief she felt when she saw her chest almost imperceptibly move shook her to her core.
"No, but you are on the edge of life," Antaeus said reaching out to touch her face, an expression of wonder in his eyes. "The Astrapi fought hard against us healing you. We had already placed your ka in the vessel that housed that of Janet Fraiser for safety before we began the healing. Janet Fraiser had given her consent to this."
"She would," Sam sighed. "Sometimes she hasn't the sense she was born with. So, if I am in Janet's body, where is she?" And how long can my body survive without `me'? How long before I screw up Janet's body and kill us both?
"We do not know," Lya said unhappily. "We did not know that this could happen. Your race is young, such transference of ka's should be beyond you. We thought we understood. Your consciousness was supposed to remain latent, unaware whilst it was housed in Janet's body. If you could tell us what you experienced before you regained awareness here."
Sam thought about it. Most of it she had no particular desire to recall but if it helped them discover what had happened. "It was as if I was in a series of rooms - something that looked very like this place at first, then my childhood bedroom and then," she was unable to suppress a shudder, `the cell on the Replicator ship where Fifth tortured me. The Astrapi was there - it had taken on the form of a young girl called Grace. We've - well, not exactly met before but it was a form my subconscious was familiar with. And there was another entity. It took the shape of a cat at first and then a replicator bug and then a giant cat. The Astrapi called it a Titanide.
"They... attacked me. I was dying. My blood was still toxic to them though. The tiles I was lying on began to disintegrate and I fell." She looked up at him, her dark eyes troubled. "That's all I remember."
There was a sudden commotion outside. The whole lodge shook as if something had struck the ground hard some distance away. Antaeus closed his eyes for a moment as if communing with someone else.
"One comes," he said, opening his eyes. "Many come." Sam was shocked to see something like fear appear on the Nox's face, an expression mirrored by the others as he shared what he had learnt with them.
Before they could do anything else the lodge door flew open violently enough for it to separate from the doorframe and crash to the floor. Sam found herself looking at another version of herself.
Janet Fraiser seemed to be in limbo. The last thing she remembered was giving birth to her lover Samantha Carter. Yes, she knew it sounded ridiculous and she knew she had not really given birth and most definitely not to Sam but that was how her psyche had chosen to represent the process that she was going through.
She remembered the overwhelming sensation of being surrounded by Sam, of having Sam's essence inside her. She remembered the pain of it being torn from her, of being thrust. away. Lya had warned her that there would be dangers. But nothing like this.
Even now she had the sense that she was not alone. There was music in the air and she felt the gentle caress of alien minds. They liked her, would keep her safe.
The Fenri told her their strange tale. Drifting in nothingness, Janet listened in wonder.
There were no words. It was simply music conveying to her somehow the depths of time and space the strange interdimensional world that they inhabited. The Nox had created them evolving them from another species now long since gone from the world. But the Fenri remained. And they remembered. Everything. They knew the Astrapi, they remembered its creation, they understood its nature, its insidious deadly purpose.
On Gant's recommendation, Ronson included Captain Hailey in the command conference. "We've received from intelligence from the Asgard with regard to what's driving the remaining Replicators and why they may have come to the Nox homeworld. The weapon that Colonel Carter interfaced with was apparently of Nox design - many thousands of years ago. It has AI capabilities and the Replicators want it."
"Why didn't they take it when they first captured Colonel Carter?" Hailey asked.
"We don't know. It seems at least one of the human form Replicators has survived or adapted to the virus and that they have begun the process of creating more Replicators probably also immune to the virus. We need another weapon."
"Major Gant and I have been studying the notes that Colonel Carter left," Hailey said. "She left the designs for an energy weapon. I think it disrupts the keron energy that powers the Replicators. She seemed to think it would work on both the human form and the base form. It's beyond our technology to build it in the time necessary but perhaps the Asgard."
Ronson nodded. "Get onto it. Thor is rendezvousing with us at the Nox homeworld. Communicate the blue print to them, see what they can come up with."
"Perhaps it's just a case of reinfecting this second generation of Replicators," Gant said. "I'll make sure we have enough modified ground weapons and shells. If we can airburst over their position."
Ronson nodded. "Good. We should be at the Nox homeworld in about four hours. I want to meet again in three, set some strategies going. Hopefully either the SGC or the Asgard will have been able to make contact with the Nox by then so we can see what the situation is on the ground.
She had landed the ship away from any population centre though there were scattered settlements nearby. She wondered why such a technologically advanced culture would deliberately seek such primitive conditions. It made no sense to her.
Her children gathered around her. They hungered. Already they had explored beyond the confines of their ship, confirming what she already knew. They had landed very near the place where Samantha Carter resided. Though there was little technology here there was more - a great deal more - a little way off. She set them to burrow, seeking the underground power conduits that threaded deep underground. They would be able to follow them as far as the cities and there they would feast indeed, grow and swarm and remake this place in their image.
The Nox City would be their breeding ground. Eighth gave them their directive and her blessing. Within a few seconds she was alone again.
She was close as well. Her template. Her inferior. There was much to be done.
Fifth was weakening fast. Eighth did not have much time to put her plan into action. Swiftly she completed the repairs to the crude time dilation device, altering it so that the control would be outside rather than inside the bubble. Fifth would be trapped for as long as she deemed it necessary. As long as it would take to complete her revenge and save his life.
He turned as she came into the room and she saw the lesion that was starting to form on his right cheek, his right eye beginning to droop a little. He was moving slower, limping. She had to act now to save him.
She remembered her counterpart asking him to forgive her but until now she had no comprehension of what it had meant.
"Fifth, forgive me," she whispered, reaching to draw him into a kiss. As always his eyes fluttered closed as their lips touched. She knew he was not thinking of her when they kissed. It didn't hurt any more. Soon there would be only one. She stepped back from him and activated the field.
Frozen in an endless now he watched her. The field was slow - time within passed 6000 times slower than without. It would give her time to exact her revenge. It would give her time to save him. The bubble shimmered, steadied. Nothing could hurt him now.
She smiled as she sensed her children's activity, their sense of purpose. Nothing would stop them. Not the Nox. Not the Asgard. Not the humans. Not her.
She turned to look at Fifth one last time. The ship was well hidden. He would be safe here until she had completed her task and found a way to cure him.
He stared out at her. A tear shimmered in his eye. Forever caught on the cusp of being shed.
She knew that she had completely lost the plot, that there were things going on out there somewhere that she should take notice of, do something about. Sorting out what was real and what was not for a start. But for the moment she was just having too much fun.
Janet soared, riding the back of the Fenri in the space between space. It was the most exhilarating thing she had ever experienced. Sam would love this, she thought.
The Fenri responded to her thought before she was even aware she had articulated it.
She saw them, Antaeus, Nefrayu and Lya sprawled unconscious or dead on the ground, herself fighting against. against Sam or at least something that looked like Sam - but then she could also see Sam's body lying on one of the Nox beds. She looked a lot better than when Janet had last seen her, the damage done to her body by the Replicators was healed but she seemed. lifeless. What the hell was going on? And if she was here - who was controlling her body.
She trusted her senses, her bond with her lover. The strongest sense of Sam was coming from her own body. If her consciousness had moved on perhaps Sam's ka had taken over her body in her absence. Lya had been concerned that something like this might happen. Janet had watched Sam fight practice bouts in the gym and recognized her own body making the same fluid moves but they were being counteracted almost before they started by this other Sam. She watched her body pick up a knife and slash it across Sam's face. Sam drew back, the knife just missed her face but slashed across the defensively raised forearm, parting the skin. There was no blood and the flesh seemed to knit seamlessly back together again.
Janet realized that this other Sam must be a humanoid Replicator. Given its appearance and what she knew of his obsession with her lover, one created by Fifth. Which also explained her fighting style. She would know everything that Sam knew up until the point of her creation. The Replicators were still after the Astrapi.
Then the Replicator Sam picked her up and threw her. Janet watched her body hit the supporting beam hard enough to make the timber creak before falling to the floor, limp and unmoving. That was going to hurt.
Ignoring Janet's body, Replicator Sam crossed the room to where Sam's body lay. She plunged one hand deep into Sam's abdomen, the other pressed to Sam's forehead. Her eyes closed, an almost familiar expression of concentration formed on her face, her brow furrowed. Then she stiffened. Sam's body arched, her muscles going into rigor. As Janet watched, lines of silver flowed across Sam's skin and up the Replicator's arm. The Replicator shuddered, whether in pain or an almost sexual pleasure Janet could not tell. The Replicator's eyes fluttered open. They were silver.
Janet watched Antaeus stir and open his eyes. She sensed some of the Fenri leave her and take up position around him as if shielding him as the Nox got to his feet confronting the empowered Replicator.
Replicator Sam removed her hands from Sam's body. Sam's body shuddered once and then was still. She no longer appeared to be breathing. "I could destroy you with a thought," the Replicator said. "Reduce you to ash where you stand."
"That is possible," Antaeus said. "But you cannot destroy us all. We created the Astrapi. And we can uncreate you as well."
"You are soft, weak," Eighth sneered. "Worse even than the humans."
"Soft yes. Weak no," Antaeus smiled. The Fenri shimmered into being around him. "When we made you we purged ourselves of all that made us imperfect. But not everything. The Fenri remember for us. They guard the way. They guard against the return of abominations such as you. Get thee gone or you will be uncreate."
Eighth snarled. "You cannot touch me."
Antaeus smiled. "You are one alone, you cannot stand against the Universe. Your time has passed, your purpose long done."
The Replicant's face took on a slightly haunted look. "No!" As if had been nothing more than gossamer, her link with her children vanished. She felt them simply cease to exist. This was not the virus, this was something new, something else that her enemy, the woman who wore her face had created to destroy her. "No!" She turned, intending to crush whatever life remained in Samantha Carter but the Fenri would not let her pass. Inside her the Astrapi and the Titanide fought for dominance over her, their purpose disunited.
The Fenri spread their wings. The penumbra fell across Eighth's face. She shivered, clenched her fists, an expression of concentration on her face, her eyes intent. As Janet watched, she began to glow. It was obvious that the keron energy that made up her form was sufficient to power the weapon - but was it to a lethal capacity? The penumbra deepened, surrounding Eighth, containing, constraining the light which was growing brighter by the second. Janet heard Eighth scream, whether in pain or frustration she did not know. Then the Fenri and the Replicant vanished, winking out of existence.
And then so did Janet.
The Prometheus took up position beside the Samantha Carter, somewhere above the Nox homeworld. Thor shimmered into view, followed a few seconds later by General O'Neill, linking in from his office at the SGC. "We are tracking a swarm of replicators on the edge of the Nox City. The weapon that Colonel Carter and Lieutenant Hailey designed is ready to be used. We have built several versions." On the table in front of Ronson two objects appeared. "These are for close range use. We have also fitted a version into the Samantha Carter that will enable us to bombard the planet from our current position. We are confident that the Nox will not be harmed. It will only target the Replicators."
"Do it," O'Neill ordered. "Colonel Ronson, I want search teams down there as soon as its safe. Bring our people home."
Hailey stood to attention. "Permission to join the search teams, sir."
O'Neill grinned. He had a soft spot for the young woman. "Granted, Lieutenant. Good work, by the way. You too, Major." He did not miss the look the two women exchanged and wondered if he should expect a request from Hailey for permanent assignment to the Prometheus.
Sam opened her eyes slowly. Everything not so much hurt as felt pretty fuzzy. She wondered briefly whose body she was in this time and then wondered why she had thought such a strange thing. Her memory of recent events seemed a bit. pliable. Someone was stroking her face, a wonderfully familiar touch. Good. It was about time something felt familiar. She blinked, trying to clear her vision. That stirred a not so pleasant memory of being told she was blind. At least everything wasn't silver anymore. She frowned. What the hell had she been doing?
"Sam?" the voice was a surprise. She realised it was one of the sensations she had been experiencing without recognizing what it was for the last well. she wasn't sure how long. Time also seemed to be doing strange things. "Sam?"
Her focus changed, a dark shape resolving slowly, dark hair, dark eyes, pale skin, a relieved smile when she suddenly came sharply into focus. So beautiful.
"Thank you," the voice was amused. A touch of a hand on her cheek again and Sam turned her head into the touch, reveling in the sensation. This was nice.
She shuddered. For a moment she did not know whether she was touching or being touched. Both seemed to be happening at the same time. She had not been in her own body. She had been in Janet's body. Her own body was. Janet was.. Janet.
She realised that she was sitting up, breathing hard. It hurt. Wires trailed from her body, her scalp, monitors beeped their displeasure. Hands held her, tried to make her lie down again. She fought weakly against them.
"I'm here. It's okay. We're both okay. We're on board the Prometheus, heading back to Earth. It's over, Sam. You're going to be okay. But you need to rest. You're still very weak."
"Real?" Sam clutched at the smaller woman. It felt real, but then so had the illusions Fifth had spun her into, the void that the Astrapi had trapped her in.
"Very real," Janet smiled. "With the bruises to prove it." Sam stared at her, remembered fighting someone wearing her face, whilst in Janet's body.
"Gone. Finally destroyed. Between the Fenri, the virus and the weapon the Asgard built from your design they are all gone." Janet hoped Sam would forgive her the lie. There was one Replicator left. Fifth, trapped behind a time dilation field that the Asgard had measured at running ten times slower than the one they had originally built. For every hour that passed inside the bubble almost ten thousand years would pass in the outside world. The Asgard had taken it into their care. She shivered, remembering her brief glimpse of him, the tear that was just beginning to run down his cheek. Some things were worse than death.
"The one that looked like me."
"The Fenri destroyed her and the Astrapi. She took it from you. Nearly killed you again. You're clear of it now," Janet said. What everyone wanted to know was whether Sam still retained her knowledge of the Ancients or whether Eighth had taken that as well. But that was for later. Her own memory of the events after the Replicator attack were pretty fuzzy. The Fenri had preserved her consciousness long enough for Nefrayu and the others to complete their healing of Sam's body sufficiently for her ka to be restored and then Janet was retrieved from where the Fenri had concealed her and placed back into her own body. She remembered everything that happened to her whilst she had been. disembodied. with perfect clarity. She smiled at her lover, remembering again all the facets of Sam's personality that she had met, and that underneath the arrogance, the impetuousness, the anger and the fear they had exhibited, they had all shared a common bond of honour, of gentleness, of decency. Her lover was a remarkable, complex, wonderful woman. Who was still in a serious condition.
"You need to rest," Janet said firmly, helping her to lie down again. "You've been unconscious for nearly three days. But you are going to be fine," she smiled. "We both are."
"It's really over," Sam asked again.
Janet nodded. "All bar the shouting, I guess. I think it's going to be the longest debriefing in history and possibly the strangest. But that's it. It's a whole new world out there, Sam. Anubis is gone, the Replicators are gone. The alliance with the Nox and the Asgard is stronger than ever."
"Someone else can take care of it for a while," Sam yawned, her eyes beginning to close again. Tired did not even begin to cover what she felt at that moment. The soft soothing touch on her cheek began again. She heard Janet start to croon something under her breath, an old song, a sweetly familiar song.
"You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey."
Sam smiled and drifted off into a deep healing sleep.
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