DISCLAIMER: See part one.
Chapter Nine: The Transference
Less than five hours later, they had packed up Sabrina's personal belongings from the Smithsonian and were back at her apartment. Samantha called the moon station and a few minutes later they were standing on another world, on Gaia. They were officially greeted by an honour guard under Master Niva's command and the Consort. Daniel and Sabrina were escorted to the guest palace where Hammond, O'Neill, Teal'c, Davis, and Cassandra were already waiting. Meanwhile Janet whisked her lover away to the infirmary to check on her and treat her ribs. There a fresh set of BDUs was waiting for them after their shower.
Sabrina immediately hit it off with Lieutenant Jessica Morgan who filled her in on what she already had read about the Queen and her Consort. Daniel felt comfortable at leaving her when the men shortly after midday were asked to return the next morning.
Cassandra at first had been clinging to Samantha and Janet more shaken about her ordeal with Nirrti than she was ready to admit. They easily picked up on her uncharacteristic behaviour and wanted her to share their quarters, but the girl didn't take them up on their offer. She obviously sensed that they needed some time alone. Janet still insisted but finally had to relent when Aria offered to let Cassandra bunk with her and the other young Amazons in training. Jennifer Hailey also volunteered to keep an eye on Cassandra.
While Samantha had been in the infirmary and unconscious, Janet had filled the girl in on the changes in their relationship. They had planned to do it together but Cassandra had simply come out and asked her. She then had told her mother that it had been about time, and that this was what she had wanted from the beginning. It had turned out that on Hanka there was a legend very similar to the story of soulmates Gabrielle had told them. They had talked for several hours, about Samantha's and Janet's friendship with the Queen and her Consort, their special training, and finally how Janet was able to sense her lover's emotions.
This way, Janet and Samantha would have two hours of potential rest before meeting with Gabrielle and Xena as requested.
They had yet to get over the traumatic events of the last days: the kidnapping of Cassandra, Samantha's fight with Nirrti, and the thwarted robbery in a back street of Washington. So, they both felt the need to reconnect on a more basic level than the touches and glances they had been able to share until then. Janet especially felt the irrefutable need to intimately inspect the blonde's injuries. The check-up naturally and unsurprisingly turned into something else, exploring one another's body as if it had been for the first time.
Shortly before they were to meet with Xena and Gabrielle, Janet securely cradled in her taller lover's arms, she said. "It definitively is worth the risk."
"As Teal'c would say: I agree, Doctor Fraiser," Samantha whispered in her ear. "But what brought this on?"
"It was one of the questions Sabrina asked me yesterday. She asked me if loving you was worth risking ruining my career and yours. It is worth risking everything, Sammie."
"Do you know how much I love you? I love you more than my next breath. I love you more
"I don't care if I never again can step through the Gate as long as you are by my side, as long as I get the chance to wake up with you in my arms every morning of every day for the rest of my life."
Janet had closed her eyes. The light that in her mind's eye was Samantha's love for her was shining brighter than ever before. She finally opened her dark brown eyes in wonder and they searched for her blue counterparts.
"You really mean it! Oh god, Sam. The Stargate is your child. You made it happen and you would give it up to be with me. I love you so much, Samantha Gabriella Carter."
The brunette began to kiss her way down to Samantha's right nipple and rolled herself on top of her taller lover, careful to keep the weight of her upper body away from her lover's still bandaged rib cage. Though the Amazon bone knitters had done their job, the blonde still was very sore. This time the doctor was going slowly, determined not to make her wince like before when the urgency to reconnect had overwhelmed common sense.
Samantha, however, had other ideas. She tucked the residual pain away in a part of her brain where it didn't interfere anymore, sending a silent thank you to Xena who had taught her how to do it. She turned the tables and started to kiss and suckle her way down Janet's body; lavishing special attention to the subtle curve leading from the waist to the hipbone and gently kissing the butterfly shaped birthmark, an extremely sensitive spot. It didn't take long to reach her real destination but to Janet it seemed like an eternity.
At the beginning of Sam's erotic assault she was close to switching into doctor mode, fearing the blonde would overexert herself. By now, all rational thought had left her. It was as if every square inch of her skin was a raw nerve ending that only could be soothed by her lover's touch.
Her orgasm began to build when Samantha touched the birthmark at her hip with the tip of her tongue, gently and slowly. She shivered when the tongue shortly thereafter entered her folds, eagerly licking up her juices. She undulated her hips to obtain better contact, being instantly rewarded by two lips closing around her unhooded clit. Her blood began to boil and roar in her ears; her back arched, three fingers entered her, her inner muscles clenched.
She pulled the taller woman towards her mouth, suddenly needing more contact. Samantha's hand quickly stroked her to another climax, their lips met and their eyes locked, forgetting everything around them. Two quick showers and a few minutes later and they were only fashionably late for their late lunch date with the Queen and her Consort.
"Come in, take a seat. There's a lot to talk about. But first, how do you feel, Sam?"
"Still a bit sore when I think about it, but nothing I can't manage or a little TLC won't cure, Your Majesty." The blonde answered with a smile.
"That's good to hear, Sam. And how are you coping, Janet?" Xena asked.
"It wasn't I who was injured two days in a row, Xena. I'm fine."
"You're among friends, Janet. There's no need for pretence."
"Really, I'm fine Gabrielle; I'm fine now. It's not the first time the ones I love have been in danger and this time nothing serious happened. Cassandra hasn't been harmed, either physically or, it seems, mentally. She's a bit shaken up, but I know her well enough that I believe she will bounce back quickly with all the distractions and new experiences around here.
"Sam saved our baby and was hurt, but she will be fine soon. I was frightened to the core. I always am, but I'm all right now. Everything worked out besides, what will happen to Nirrti? Will you call the Tok'ra to separate host and symbiote?"
"The Tok'ra know how to do this because we taught them how to do it." Xena and her Queen exchanged a short glance and Gabrielle gave her wife the go-ahead. "Nirrti and Larina are the main reason why we asked to talk to you this soon. I would have preferred to give the two of you more time to regroup, but Egeria has assured us that it has to be done before sunset tomorrow. Please, have a seat."
"I apologise for the frugal meal but it's part of the ritual we will ask you to take part in." On the table in front of the fireplace was a pitcher with water, four cups, and a platter of sliced bread.
"Now, you've gotten me really curious," Samantha muttered while taking her usual place on one of the cushions and pulling Janet towards her.
Gabrielle also took her seat in Xena's arms. "Yesterday, when we were called back to speak with Egeria it was very special. Egeria usually only speaks to Gabrielle. My presence makes her uncomfortable because I'm responsible "
A simple gesture kept the Consort from saying whatever she had been trying to say, and looking in her eyes Samantha was sure that it would have been an admission of guilt. So, Gabrielle took over and began to relate what Egeria had told them. She even quoted her word for word.
"At the beginning of the Tok'ra there were only a few of us, about three dozen. I didn't want to warn our enemies by creating too many dissidents at once. Now, Garshaw and Selmac are the only ones left of this first generation.
"More than a thousand of your years ago, Sokar captured one of my first children. In an attempt to placate the System Lords, he handed her over to them, for questioning and torture. She and her host were strong, very strong.
"They refused to give up any of our operatives or locations, regardless of how many times they tried. Even the sarcophagus didn't work as they predicted. She fought its effect time and time again, making the System Lords so frustrated that they decided to change tactics.
"Instead of trying to extract information, they manipulated the sarcophagus to erase her memories and create an entirely new personality. They made her one of them. The Tok'ra named Tirrin became the Gao'uld Nirrti."
"Nirrti was Tok'ra? That's incredible. Is there any way to reverse the process?" Janet asked.
"According to Egeria there is," Gabrielle continued, "but we will need your help, Janet, yours and Sam's. You and I will only have to lend them support, keep them anchored in the here and now; Xena and Samantha will have to do the hard work. To reverse the change and bring back Tirrin's personality, they both will have to rely on what is left from their previous hosts. That's the only way Tirrin can be brought back."
"What does Larina want? It's her body we're talking about after all." Samantha wanted to know.
"We told her about the possibilities and she also knows about the risks. There's no question that Larina will be separated from the symbiote. The question is how. We can kill the symbiote or run the risk to it getting killed when we try to give it a new personality and let it join as a new member of the Tok'ra. The third option is to try and restore Tirrin's original personality and let her then change hosts. The Tok'ra movement would be given back one of their oldest members, one of their leaders.
"Larina chose the last option. And before you ask; the Tollans gave us the blueprints for the device they used on Ska'ara. The Tok'ra are on stand-by and will take her as soon as it's successfully done. They assured us that they would have a willing host ready and waiting."
"Why the deadline?"
"Egeria said that once Nirrti is captured, some sort of hypnotic conditioning would kick in. If she doesn't manage to set herself free in what roughly amounts to 72 of your hours, the conditioning will take over and she will try to kill the host. And before you ask about the time she spent as Cronos' prisoner. We think that he killed her every two or three days and the time in the sarcophagus sort of reset the time frame. It's also possible that he found another way to circumvent the conditioning, after all he had been the System Lords creating her in the first place.
"You said that Larina knows about the risks. What risks are we talking about." Janet wanted to know.
"I don't want to sugar coat this, it won't be easy, healer. Nirrti will try everything she can to stay in control. She could damage the host's central nervous system; and if push comes to shove Xena and Samantha could be overwhelmed by her darkness. That's where we will come in." Gabrielle answered.
Silence fell over the room. Not the comfortable silence both pairs had learned to cherish during their evenings together but a silence laced with insecurities and questions. Finally, Samantha stood and asked. "May we speak in private, Janet and I?"
"Of course, Sam, why don't you go for a short walk or take some fresh air on the porch." Samantha helped Janet to her feet and they left through the back door.
"Take me in your arms and hold me, Jan. I don't know why but the whole thing scares me."
"You know, I'll be there for you, Sammy, whatever you decide to do. I love you. It's my job to guard your six."
"It's not for me alone to decide, Jan. Gabrielle said that Xena and I would need your help. You will ground me, and I love you too much to give up on this connection."
"You won't have to, baby. I'll be there for you, no matter what. You're the other half of my soul. I too will not give up on our love."
"So, we'll do it?" Samantha asked.
"Yes, my love. We'll do it. They didn't say anything, but I think that they really need your help. Don't ask me how I know but Gabrielle is worried about Xena."
"She can't be more affected by her former symbiote than I am, right?"
"Theoretically not, Sam, but I have a feeling she is. When you were unconscious, after Xena's fight with Nirrti, she immediately treated you with a healing device. She already had started when Gabrielle and I came running. She was looking straight ahead and I could see her eyes.
"Usually they are sky blue, just like yours; then they were dark blue and rapidly changed to black. She stopped and took a few steps back; then she fell on her knees, her eyes still as black as a dark night.
"The other Amazons seemed to give her a wide berth. Gabrielle slowly stepped closer, making sure to stay in her line of sight. Xena's eye colour began to change back to normal but it took as long as I needed to take care of you."
"So, Xena is more susceptible than I am?"
"I don't know, Sam. All I know is that Gabrielle is afraid of something. Her body language speaks volumes."
"We'll find out soon enough. Let's go and tell them."
The preparations would last the rest of the day and the whole night. So, they first found Cassandra and let her know about their plans. They didn't want the teen to feel left out or left alone. Soon after, Xena and Samantha went to a sweat hut only a few minutes walk from the Queen's forest home while Gabrielle and Janet prepared to spend their time at the temple.
The next morning Major Davis, General Hammond, and the rest of SG-1 stepped through the Stargate on Gaia. A delegation of elders escorted them to the edge of the forest where the temple was situated. The main entrance looked upon a plain filled with Amazons in traditional garb but without their masks. A small area had been cordoned off for the elders and their guests, including the research team, Cassandra, and Sabrina.
After only a couple of minutes, Melosa, the head priestess of the Amazon Nation arrived. She stood on the top step and bowed her head a simple gesture but more than enough to bring every single Amazon in attendance on her knees, as well as a considerable number of their visitors. It was a simple sign of respect.
"Members of the Amazon Nation, honoured guests, rise and bear witness."
Larina/Nirrti was led out of a side entrance of the temple. Her feet were hobbled and her hands firmly bound behind her back and attached to a belt around her waist. Her eyes were blazing fire, but a gag kept her from saying anything. In front of the temple was a marble plate, 12 x 12 feet, with different sets of iron rings carefully embedded. Two of the royal guards that escorted her forced her to her knees while the other two fixed her ankle cuffs to two of the rings. A set of chains also fixed her knees to the ground. Another chain went to her collar.
Drums started from seemingly out of nowhere. What at first had sounded rather random; soon became a strange but hypnotising rhythm, even Teal'c had a hard time resisting. The rhythm changed to something more regular and less mind-consuming.
Xena and Samantha approached the prisoner from opposite sides, and O'Neill's eyes almost popped out of their sockets when he saw his XO. Not that anyone could have blamed him; she was a sight to behold. She was wearing a simple dark blue tunic with ample cleavage and ending mid-thigh. Her feet were bare, and she seemed to radiate energy.
The rhythm and the volume of the drums changed again as soon as they reached the prisoner, standing on each side of the bound woman. The Queen and Doctor Fraiser left the temple. They both bowed to the priestess and for a second time this morning O'Neill's breath almost stopped. The small doctor was wearing Amazon leathers that left little to the imagination and perfectly matched the colour of her hair. She stopped two steps behind Samantha, the drums fell silent, and the priestess began to chant.
Daniel cocked his head in an effort to understand. The language sounded vaguely familiar and reminded him of ancient Greek, but at the same time it was totally different, much older, somehow. He cast a questioning glance to Sabrina who began to translate the words as if she had heard it her entire life.
" here to witness the liberation of two souls, one trapped in her own body, the other one enslaved by the forces of evil for more than 10 centuries. Open your hearts for what will come and pave the way for those who will risk their own souls to get them back."
Xena and Samantha fell to their knees, and Janet stepped directly behind her lover and put her hands on the blonde's shoulder. On the other side Gabrielle did the same. Xena entwined the fingers of her right hand with Samantha's left behind Nirrti's back. The Consort's left hand lay on the prisoner's forehead and the blonde's right on her heart. Nirrti tried to skirt away from the touch, but she was too tightly bound. A wave of energy seemed to pulse through her body.
"May Gaia give them strength."
As if in answer the Amazons began to chant. "Gaia protect them! Gaia protect them! Gaia protect them! Gaia protect them!" Again and again. The rhythm and the tone of their voices seemed to energise the whole plain.
O'Neill was vaguely aware of Daniel and Cassandra and a few others joining in and despite his special ops training he had a hard time to resist the pull of the voices.
The sun was still climbing up and there was not a single cloud to be seen, but Jack was convinced that the light somehow focused on the five women in front of him, enveloping them in a bright light he instinctively associated with Asgard teleportation beams.
They stayed perfectly still. Janet's and Gabrielle's eyes were closed, a smile gracing their faces. Samantha's eyes were focused on her right hand, and squinting his own eyes he could see their colour change from the familiar sky blue to pale blue to white and suddenly they were glowing as if she was possessed by a Gao'uld.
All his instincts commanded him to sprint over and somehow shake her out of it but he stayed on his seat, his trust in his second-in-command overruling his misgivings. Xena's eyes also began to glow, as did Nirrti's who pulled on her restraints to no avail.
They stayed like this for a long time, perfectly still but Jack could see the strain it put on the women. Sweat was pouring down Samantha's face and Janet's hand that stayed calm under the most strenuous circumstances slightly began to tremble. The Amazons still repeated their chant and he silently added his own mantra. "Let them succeed; let them be okay!"
Jack lost track of time while he concentrated his attention on the Gao'uld and its host.
Her breathing rhythm seemed to gradually slow down. Her eyes slowly closed, but she still fought her restraints. Xena's and Samantha's eyes now were also closed. After another half eternity, the priestess joined them and began to undo Nirrti's restraints beginning with the gag.
His hand automatically went to his side, but at the request of their hosts they had come unarmed. To Jack's utter surprise she didn't even try to get away or say something; she just held her position. The priestess returned to her spot at the entrance of the temple and the chanting abruptly stopped.
Finally the prisoner's breathing returned to a more normal rate and she opened her eyes, but he was sure that she wasn't really aware of her surroundings. She just stared straight ahead, her arms hanging lifelessly at her sides. The sun seemed to reflect in her eyes and once again they seemed to glow.
She put her left hand on top of Samantha's and her right on top of Xena's. They both opened their eyes and smiled at the other woman. "I am Tirrin, child of Egeria. I am Tok'ra."
Once again the voice of the priestess filled the whole plain and reached to the last row of the waiting women. "Tirrin of the Tok'ra, you are welcome on Gaia. May we speak with your host?"
"Of course," the woman lowered her head and looked up to the priestess. "I am Larina, captain of the Royal Guard of Gabrielle, High Queen of the Amazon Nation. I speak freely and without censure."
At this moment the silently watching Amazons jumped to their feet and began to shout. "Hail Larina! Hail Xena! Hail Samantha!"
Janet and Gabrielle helped their partners to stand and they in turn assisted the former Gao'uld. The priestess silenced the assembly with a small wave of her hand.
"Women of Gaia, visitors from Earth, today you had the honour to witness a moment in the history of the Amazon Nation that shall forever be remembered and revered.
"Today, one of our warriors has been returned to us, and our time of mourning has finally come to an end. Today, a great evil has been destroyed, never to return, thanks to the spiritual powers of two great warriors we are honoured to count among our numbers.
"Today, the child of Egeria has been freed. She who was forced to be Nirrti now once again is Tirrin. She who has been tortured by the evil that is Gao'uld; she who has suffered for more than a thousand years now can once again take her life into her own hands.
"Today, Earth and Gaia for the first time in almost two thousand years have joined forces; what has been severed now can become one again. Keep this day in your hearts and in your minds forever. And now please return to your assigned tasks. The party will begin at sundown."
Melosa joined the Queen and the other women. "I'll send word to the Tok'ra to come two candlemarks before sunset. You all should try and get some sleep."
"Thank you, my friend. We'll hold the party at the guest palace; this way the men will have the opportunity to take part in the festivities. Please entertain General Hammond and his men while we rest. Larina, Tirrin, do you want to rest in your own home or would you prefer to use one of our guest quarters?"
"The guest quarters will be fine, my Queen. I want to be my real self before I return home no offence meant, Tirrin."
The tall woman lowered her head for a moment and the deeper, double-toned voice of the symbiote answered. "None taken, Larina. I understand better than you may think."
Samantha and Janet returned to their room, and as soon as the door closed behind them Janet took the taller woman protectively in her arms. "Are you all right, Sammy-baby?"
"You saw what I saw, Jan. What do you think?" The blonde answered defensively.
"I only saw it, but you also felt it. That's a big difference, my love. I'm always there if you want to talk, and if you don't want to talk I'll simply hold you in my arms for as long as you need me to."
"I want to talk, my love. I need to talk but I don't know where to begin."
"Let's sit down, baby." Janet urged.
"We wouldn't have been able to do it without you and Gabrielle. You were our strength, our light. It would have been so easy to succumb to the darkness emanating from Nirrti. All these atrocities committed in the name of scientific research, and we had to see and feel it all before we reached what was left of Tirrin. She was so paralysed from everything she had to live through.
"We destroyed Nirrti just as sure as if she had been hit over and over again with a staff weapon. It was a team effort. It wasn't just Xena and I. Alone we probably wouldn't have stood a chance, but we were not alone. You were there and Gabrielle and Larina and Jolinar and Artemis. Jolinar wants to talk to you."
Samantha disentangled herself from Janet's embrace and closed her eyes. Her voice seemed slightly deeper than normal.
"Thank you, Janet. Thank you for helping us today. I never met Tirrin. She had been changed before I joined the Tok'ra, but she is a legend among us. Thank you for taking care of Samantha. She needs your love like air to breathe. Your connection is so strong. Thank you for loving her."
When Samantha once again opened her eyes, Janet stared at her open-mouthed. "Janet, are you all right?" No reaction. "Janet, speak to me; look at me, please!"
"What the hell just happened? How did she control you? Xena said she wouldn't be able to do something like this. We have to do something to get her out of you."
The blonde closed her fingers around Janet's smaller hands and drew her closer to her body until she practically cradled her in her lap. "Everything's all right, Jan. Jolinar didn't control me. I allowed her to speak. She's no threat, not now, not ever. I'm still me, and I love you. She was right, you know, I need your love even more than I need air to breathe."
"But how did it work? Why "
"Why did her memories not so long ago cause me pain and confusion, and now it is almost as if she were still within me?" The brunette nodded. "I can't explain it in medical terms but technically speaking, Jolinar is nothing more than an erased memory block on a hard drive. The information it contained is still there, but it can no longer be accessed. After her death I tried to make sure that the memory stayed this way. However, a human mind is no hard drive which simply needs reformatting to once again work properly.
"Bits and pieces of her memories began to pop up every now and then, and I decided to use them. Xena's lessons and your help gave me the courage to run some sort of backup program and salvage the erased memory blocks."
"And now, they are in a special folder, ready for easy access?"
"In a way, yes. There isn't a second voice in my head or something, giving her two-cents to everything, but now I can easily access her memories if I want to. I no longer feel her influence."
Janet still didn't look entirely convinced.
"I'm sorry for not explaining myself better, my love. It's entirely possible that my mind conjured the image of speaking with Jolinar as an unconscious filter to protect me from the darker part of her memories. It's possible that 'letting' her speak is nothing more than my own unconscious making itself known. Is it really important to you to find out? I'll speak with a shrink if you want me to." Samantha said with earnest.
Janet kissed her taller lover, and when she saw the scared expression in her eyes, there no longer was any doubt for her.
"I love you, Sam. And no, it's not important. Jolinar gave her life for you. In a way it's comforting to know that some part of her survived. Let's go and get some sleep, my love. We both need it, and this sure will be one hell of a party."
Samantha started to summon her puppy dog look. "No, Sammie-baby, we can't stay away and hide. All of our friends will be there. But we'll try to make it an early evening, I promise."
They quickly discarded their clothing and slipped under the light summer comforter, the almost sleepless nights and the physical and emotional stress of the last days finally catching up with them.
One hell of a party, indeed! Samantha had fun, though Janet insisted that she kept to juices and water because she still was on light painkillers. Observing how O'Neill wasted his best pick-up lines on clearly disinterested Amazons was almost as hilarious as Daniel trying to learn one of the easier dances. Shortly after midnight, however, she needed a break and left the guest palace to seek a few minutes of peace and quiet. All in all this evening on a scale from one to ten definitively rated an eight in weirdness, at least an eight.
A few minutes before the scheduled arrival of the Tok'ra the lovers had sought out the rest of SG-1, to tell Teal'c and O'Neill about their new relationship.
Janet felt slightly uneasy at the prospect because she knew of Jack's feelings for his second-in-command, but SG-1 was more than a team, in every aspect but blood they were a real family. They had the right to know.
Samantha had mentally practised what she wanted to say but the words simply refused to leave her mouth when she stood in front of her best friends. So, Janet took over and crossed her fingers that Jack's reaction wouldn't hurt her lover too much.
"Well, it was pretty obvious after the show you put on in a certain hotel room in Washington, and I have to say it took the two of you long enough to figure it out. More than three years is a damned long time to finally admit what everyone else could see right from the beginning. And they tell me that you're our resident genius, Carter."
"Indeed, Major Carter." Teal'c said with something as close to a smile as Janet had ever seen him.
The blonde stared at them for a moment and then smiled. "So, who won the pot?"
"No one. We were not patient enough and gave up on you." Daniel chimed in.
"That would be a first. Daniel Jackson, remember I'm the one with the needles. So, who won and how much?"
"No can tell; it was anonymous, but we're talking about almost 700 bucks, the biggest pot ever." O'Neill answered.
Samantha sought Teal'c's eyes, but he only imperceptibly raised his eyebrow.
Then their attention was drawn to the arrival of an alkesh landing on the left side of the guest palace. The Queen and her Consort left the palace in the company of General Hammond. All three of them were wearing ceremonial garb; the General was in dress blues, Gabrielle in leathers and mask, and Xena in her wide leather trousers and dress shirt.
Samantha and Janet looked at each other. In preparation for the party they had donned comfortable jeans. Janet's were light blue combined with a white shirt and a simple, purple cardigan draped over her shoulders. Samantha's jeans were dark grey with a long sleeved sweatshirt in pink and white. The men also wore civvies.
When the Queen and the others were about fifty paces from the ship, the door finally opened and Garshaw/Yussef stepped out, followed by Selmac/Jacob and a young, doe-eyed woman, soon to be Tirrin's new host. The blond soldier instinctively wanted to go and hug her father, but one of Xena's hand signals held her back.
For a couple of minutes they exchanged formalities. To Janet they all looked rather tense. Then Garshaw's host took control and everything changed. She took two steps forward and then lowered herself on her right knee. "My Queen "
"Rise, Yussef, my child. It's good to see you again."
"It's been too long, my second mother." The woman answered while standing up and giving the smaller woman a heartfelt hug that was willingly returned. Then she turned to Xena and was engulfed in the taller woman's arms.
"Will we have time to talk?"
"We have orders to return as soon as possible. The High Council is anxious to meet Tirrin." Yussef answered before Garshaw took over. "I'm sorry, Xena. We have to return as soon as possible. Having Tirrin back will considerably change the balance of power in the High Council. Some of us count on her strategic mind, others on her scientific knowledge, others on her wisdom and compassion.
"May I introduce, Queen Gabrielle, Consort Xena. This is Gabro. She volunteered to blend with Tirrin."
The young woman stepped at Garshaw's side. "I'm honoured to meet those who saved my symbiote-to-be."
"We are honoured to meet someone willing to share her life and her mind." Xena answered. She turned her head towards Samantha and Janet and simply nodded. When they had joined the small group she continued. "May I introduce Samantha Carter and Janet Fraiser. It was their help that made our endeavour successful."
The young woman moved to bow to them, but Samantha stopped her. "No, there's no need. We are humbled that we have been able to help. May I ask a question?" Gabro nodded. "I learned that there are three kinds of humans willing to blend with a Tok'ra. Those mortally ill, as my father was, those acting out of hatred and a need for revenge, and those fighting the Gao'uld because it is the right thing to do. I don't want to offend you in any way, but why do you want to be blended?"
"Sokar killed my family; he destroyed the whole planet, except for a few of us. He left us alive to bear witness of his greatness. He used us as an example when coming to new a planet. Sokar may be dead, but no one should be forced to live through something like this. So, I guess I'm part of the second group, Samantha Carter."
"No, you are not. Garshaw and Selmac wouldn't have chosen you if hatred and revenge were all there is on your mind." Larina said joining the group from the direction of the guest palace with the weapons' master at her side. "My mate Niva requests the honour to guard the transference."
"Of course." Gabro said with a small bow and the three of them walked towards a tent at the edge of the forest.
When the flaps of the tent closed behind them Jacob Carter for the first time made his presence known. He hugged his daughter and then greeted the others, beginning with General Hammond. "The transference will take some time. Why don't you seize the chance to have a chat with Queen Gabrielle, Yussef?"
"Good idea, Jacob. If you are agreeable, my Queen?"
"Let's go for a walk. Xena would you entertain our guests?"
"It will be my pleasure, my Queen." She answered and followed them with her eyes for a long time before turning her attention back to the others. "Doctor Jackson, you look like you have a lot of questions."
"It's noth , I'm confused, your highness. The Tok'ra practically told us to stay away from the Amazons, but what I just witnessed didn't look like there was much tension or mistrust."
"The message to the SGC," Selmac answered for Xena, "was sent without Garshaw's or my consent, with a majority of one vote.
"As you know almost all Tok'ra are the children of Egeria, but of the first generation only two are left, now three, Garshaw, Tirrin, and myself. The others are much younger and they resent the Amazons and their rulers because our mother, our creator chose them over us."
"Some two hundred years ago, a group of renegade Tok'ra tried to abduct her. They wanted her to create another generation to gain strength in numbers." Xena said.
"Renegate Tok'ra? Doesn't that make them Gao'uld?" Jack wondered.
"No," Selmac answered. "They just thought that our long term approach wasn't working and that we lost ourselves in politics instead of preparing for war. Personally, I think that the answer is somewhere in the middle, as does Garshaw and the High Councillor Per'sus. At the moment we are slightly outnumbered. It's as Garshaw said, Tirrin's return will change the balance of power."
Silence fell over the group. "It's not only about Egeria. Some of the Tok'ra resent the Queen and the Consort because they are immortal, and because they cannot be used as hosts." Samantha suddenly said. "Anise is one of them."
"That's why she is not welcome on Gaia. The last time she was here, she sneaked into our bedroom to try and get a sample of Gabrielle's blood."
"I remember," Selmac continued, "she ended up with the needle in her behind and was unceremoniously tossed through the wormhole. This story is the only thing that keeps Jacob from throttling her whenever she comes up with one of her hair-brained plans."
"She wasn't tossed, Selmac. The Queen simply had her escorted to Athena's ring," the Consort corrected him with mock indignation.
"Oh, yes, escorted and made her land face first in the sand."
"Can I help it when she's clumsy and stumbles over my foot when stepping through?" The tall warrior asked innocently.
The wry humour made them change topics to less serious matters and for the next candlemark and a half they talked and bantered after having made themselves comfortable on the sun dried grass and accepting some refreshments. The guest palace was bustling with party preparations, so they unanimously had opted to stay out of the way.
Only a few candledrops after Queen Gabrielle and Garshaw/Yussef had joined them the flaps of the tent opened. Larina and Gabra stepped out. The Amazon immediately took her bondmate in her arms and kissed her soundly. By the time the three of them reached the Queen's party the others were back on their feet.
Larina knelt in front of the Royals. "Request permission to skip the party, your Majesty."
"Permission granted. Go and reconnect with your wife, but don't forget, whenever you need to talk, Xena and I will listen."
"Thank you, my Queen." She rose and they turned towards the village.
"Queen Gabrielle, Consort Xena, Samantha Carter, Janet Fraiser, please accept my heartfelt thanks for making this blending possible." Gabro said in her own voice. "Tirrin and I will always be in your debt. The transference was very taxing for her, and she still is resting, but she hopes to have the opportunity to thank you personally one day soon."
"It will be our pleasure to have you visit whenever it suits you." The Queen answered.
They said their good-byes, but then Jacob Carter turned around. "Samantha, may I have a word?"
"Of course, Selmac." They took a few steps away from the others to have a modicum of privacy. "Is something wrong with my father?"
"No, not really. He's angry right now, very angry but given time, I'll get him to calm down."
Samantha managed to keep her internal reaction from showing on her face. She could have feigned ignorance, but she had to know. "So, he knows about Janet and me?"
"Yes, he knows. He has shown signs of being judgmental in the past, but I never expected such a strong reaction when I told him. He should be glad that his daughter finally has found the other half of her soul." Seeing the blonde's deer-in-the-headlights expression, Selmac quietly chuckled. "Oh, please, don't look at me as if I have suddenly grown two additional heads and don't worry. Not everyone can see your connection, but it's obvious if you know what to look for.
"Your father won't make any problems for you, not on Earth, not elsewhere. I will work on him, and he will come around. He might be stubborn, but I am Tok'ra, I know how to wait things out. One day you will have his blessing."
"Please don't get yourself into trouble with my father. I knew how he would react. When I turned 18 I told him that I was gay, and he didn't speak to me for the next three years. I tried to live up to his expectations and got engaged.
"What I have with Janet is too important for me to back off. I fear he will not either. I can live with his wrath." She answered softly, a mixture of resignation and determination in her voice.
"You won't have to, Samantha; that's a promise. Your father is proud and stubborn, but he also is proud of you, and he loves you with every fibre of his heart. He will come around. I have to go now."
"Thank you for telling me, Selmac. May the stars shine on your success."
"We never shared that specific saying with the Tau'ri." Selmac said with surprise.
"Consort Xena taught me how to better communicate with what is left of Jolinar. I would be grateful if you kept this to yourself. The High Council used my memories of her once. I don't want that to happen again."
"I will honour your request, Samantha."
"Thank you, Selmac."
Janet joined her lover, immediately after Selmac/Jacob had left her. Her lover's body language told her that this was not good news, and she also felt that Samantha was in emotional pain. The blonde visibly relaxed when she felt Janet's hand at the small of her back. "Let's go for a walk, Sammy-baby."
As soon as they were in the forest and out of sight, Janet found a comfortable spot at the base of an old oak tree and took her lover protectively in her arms.
One and a half candlemarks later, with the party already in full swing, Samantha was composed enough to return and participate. The doctor hadn't been able to put all her worries to rest, but she was much calmer now. The knowledge that she loved Janet and was loved by her, unconditionally, was all she really needed.
A voice snapped her back to the here and now. "Samantha Carter, I don't want to disturb you in your contemplation but there's something I have to say."
"You didn't disturb me. Go ahead. What can I do for you?"
The captain of the Royal Guard knelt down in front of her. "Major Carter, I came to apologise for what I did to you while Nirrti was in my body. I hurt you and yet you helped to save Tirrin and me. I wanted you to know that I already notified the Queen and my commanding officer. I want to pay for what I did to you, but they both said that pressing charges would be entirely up to you. So, please, let justice be served." The woman said and then lowered her eyes to the ground.
"Please stand up, Larina. It wasn't you that hurt me. You were not in control. I know how that feels, and I know it won't make you feel less guilty, but it's the truth."
"Nirrti used my fighting skills, and Amazon warriors are trained to withstand mental controlling. I am responsible, and have to pay for what I did to you and what I almost did to the girl." Larina answered stubbornly, never moving a muscle.
"Have a seat next to me, would you? I want to tell you a story." Samantha said while sitting down and leaning back against the wall. Larina reluctantly complied. "A couple of years ago the Gao'uld attacked a peaceful world named Nasyia. They had been left alone for more than three hundred years, and we hadn't been there long enough to attract any attention. Deathgliders were over our heads, trying to kill as many people as possible. I was trying to revive one of the Nasyian men when I suddenly found myself a prisoner in my own body.
"I'm a soldier; I too was trained to fight outside influences, but there was nothing I could do. I lied to my commanding officer, to my friends. I threatened an innocent child, a child I love as if she were my own. I scared her so badly. No, Jolinar scared her but I felt guilty. I tried to reason with what I thought was a Gao'uld, to bargain with it, but she couldn't be swayed.
"I later learned that she simply had been too afraid to tell me the truth from the beginning, and she gave her life to save mine in the end.
"Cassandra, the child I threatened, has forgiven me a long time ago, but even now there are moments when I can't help but feel guilty for what I did to her. No amount of punishment will ever change this, and if I insisted on being punished it would belittle Cassandra's and my friend's forgiveness. Of course they still insist that there's nothing to forgive.
"I think it is all a question of perspectives. Now, it's your turn to decide what point of view you want to take, Larina."
"I know that's what Consort Xena said, but I had to try; and I still think that I somehow should pay for what my body did during all these moons." Larina answered.
"Master Niva will help you to live with your memories. But there's something you could do for me, Captain. I'd consider it an honour if you would consent to become my teacher. Next to Consort Xena and Master Niva, you're the best fighter I have ever seen. I want to avoid something like this happening again."
"I'd be honoured to be counted among your teachers, Samantha Carter. You have given me a lot to think about. If you'll excuse me, there's someone else waiting to speak to you."
Samantha looked towards the light coming out of the doorway, outlining a very familiar figure. She jumped to her feet and stood at attention. "General Hammond, Sir!"
"Relax, Samantha. The general is off-duty."
"Yes, little one. I just wanted you to know that I approve of your choice. Janet Fraiser is all I ever wanted the partner of my goddaughter to be. She's beautiful, smart, caring, cunning, compassionate, strong enough to let you know when you're out of line, understanding enough to forgive you when you still get carried away, wise enough to know when to rely on your strength. From the very beginning her friendship has been good for you, Sam, and your love will make you a better and stronger person. Even blowing up a star can't compare to true love. I'm happy for both of you."
"Thank you, Uncle George, but how did you find out?" The blonde asked visibly stunned.
"Samantha, give me some credit here. I've known you all your life, how could I miss something as important as you falling in love. I knew that you were in love with her before you even suspected, and I spent enough time waiting with her in the control room for you to come back from a mission to know that the feeling was mutual. I knew when you came back to the SGC for the first time.
"It was only a question of time. Doctor Fraiser cares for all her patients. She sits with all her critical patients, but she only sings for you. Last time it took a direct order and Teal'c as an escort to pry her away from your bedside to get some rest herself."
"What about the SGC? What about Air Force regulations?"
"Everyone at the SGC knows that the two of you are close friends, best friends even. As long as you don't get caught making out in one of the storage closets I don't see any problems. The General won't ask and you won't tell."
Samantha blinked in surprise and a heartbeat later one of her rare smiles spread over her face. "So, what do you intend to do with your win, Uncle George?"
"Win? As the commanding officer of the SGC I do not condone betting, young lady." He said with a smile. "Now, go and get back to your love before she decides to dance with someone else. You've done enough sulking in the dark for one night."
All the tall blonde could think of doing was to give the older man a hug and whisper. "Thank you, Uncle George. Your blessing means a lot to me."
"You're welcome, little one." He answered; and then walked towards the path leading to the Stargate where a group of people already were waiting for him, including a pouting Colonel Jack O'Neill who thought that he just was cheated out of the better part of the festivities.
Five out of six, she thought when she started back towards the party, not bad as a track record, but still it had been a weird evening, far exceeding an eight. This bordered on 9.5 at least.
For a few seconds, she thought about topping it with a slow, sensual dance with her lover, but when she found Janet half asleep next to a bonfire they both decided to call it a night. They quickly fell asleep, after making sure that the alarm was set for 08:30 the next morning.
A message from the Queen had asked them to come to breakfast at ten. As after every full scale Amazon celebration there wouldn't be much work done the next day; so Samantha didn't feel guilty about missing her training's session especially since she was convinced that the weapons' master had more important and more pleasurable things to do.
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