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Little White Lies
By The Datajunkie


Major Samantha Carter found herself being escorted through set after set of ornate doorways, each more elaborate than the last. Posted at each were two armed guards, their faces solemn with the awareness of their duty. Sam eyed the sleek staff weapons that they held and wondered what was being guarded so carefully. Her booted feet echoed through the cavernous hallway adding to the tension she had felt ever since she had been separated from the rest of SG1. The team had not even left sight of the gate before a group of female warriors had surrounded them. They had seemed entirely too interested in the male members of the team and their leader had ordered that Sam be taken to the queen while the men were to placed under guard. Sam hadn't had any luck getting information from her escort in the journey from the gate to the palace she was now being led through and she wondered grimly what was going on. Finally they reached the last doors, intricately carved and appearing to be layered in gold. She drew a deep breath as they swung open and revealed the room beyond.

The chamber was vast, with arching ceilings that spiraled upwards to a huge dome of glass and metal. Brilliant jewel colors wove a story in light and her guards brought her to a halt in the middle of kaleidoscope of color that cascaded around her. It wasn't until the figure seated on the thrown moved, that she realized that they were there.

The woman stood and moved down the dais, her eyes locking with Sam's and holding her gaze as she approached. Black hair spilled down her back, flowing over the long crimson cape that reached the floor. It billowed around her as she moved and made the simple tunic and breeches she wore underneath seem elegant. She stepped into the circle of light with Sam and smiled. "I am Sutoren of the house of Chais. In the name of the Imazai, I greet you. From what house do you hail?"

Not sure what she was asking, Sam ventured a reply. "I'm Major Samantha Carter, United States Air Force. I'm from the planet Earth."

Sutoren's smile widened. "You have passed through the Veil?"

"The Veil? If you mean the stone ring, then yes, I have. We call it a Stargate."

There was a burst of muttering from around them and Carter realized that the hall was filled with people in the shadows. A look from Sutoren silenced them and she walked slowly around Carter. "You brought males with you. Are they yours?"

Her instincts screamed at her and Sam carefully replied, "Um they're with me, yes."

"I see. Why have you come here? Do you seek to conquer us?"

Carter's denial was vehement. "No! We're explorers. We come only to learn."

"Yet you bring weapons."

She met Sutoren's eyes again. "Only to protect ourselves." Her implication that she might need such protection here was clear. "My people have used the stargate to explore many worlds. Not all of the races we come across are pleased to see us."

Sutoren nodded slightly. "So what do you hope to learn from us?"

It was Sam's turn to smile. "What do you have to teach us?"

Delighted laughter spilled from the Queen and Carter blinked as strong hands clasped her shoulders. "Have no fear, Major Samantha Carter, I'm sure we can find something to show you."

The unexpected spark in her eyes made Carter blush. Uh oh.

"You find much favor with us. We are pleased that you have journeyed to our world."

"That's, uh, great."

Sutoren waved a hand and the guards returned. "Escort Major Samantha Carter to a room and let her prepare for the evening meal." She reached out and cupped Sam's cheek, making her stiffen. "You will be our guest tonight. Until then." She slowly removed her hand, tracing over the flesh of Sam's lips and then turned away.

Carter watched her walk away, very much afraid that she had somehow just ended up on the menu.

The banquet hall was full and Sam could almost hear the long tables groan under the weight of the food they bore. She stood stiffly at attention, trying to ignore the clothes she had been provided with. The black pants and deep green top covered her completely but they also had to be the most flattering things she had ever worn. Soft skinned boots of black completed the outfit and she wondered again what was motivating the queen. Sam had been shown to a room that was something out of an exotic fantasy. The colors and textures were pleasing to both the hand and the eye. She had stood staring at the huge sunken tub for quite sometime until the handmaids had arrived.

Sam could feel her eye begin to twitch at the memory. They had been very nice and very insistent. Sam had been bathed, perfumed and dressed in an incredibly short time and now here she stood: feeling very much like a lamb about to be lead to slaughter.

Sutoren saw her enter and rose, bringing conversation to an abrupt halt. She nodded slightly and Sam was ushered to the raised platform and as per the careful instructions she had received from the handmaids, she bowed her head before the queen and waited for her to speak. Sutoren reached out and caught Sam's chin, raising her face to hers. If possible the room grew even quieter. When she took her hand and lead Sam to the seat beside hers, Sam knew that she had not confused the signals she had been receiving from the queen.

As the queen took her seat the noise slowly resumed and Sam found herself face to face with the most powerful woman on this planet. She looked around nervously, not seeing the other members of the team. Actually now that she looked, she realized that there were no men in the room at all. Sam turned back to the queen in time to accept the crystal goblet that she was giving her. Sutoren raised her own glass into the air and instantly the room fell silent again. "To new friends from across the stars." Everyone dutifully drank and conversation resumed once more.

Sam held the sweet wine on her tongue a moment, enjoying the unexpected flavor. Sutoren saw expression and nodded. "I'm glad you enjoy the wine. Our wine makers are very proud of it."

"They should be. It's excellent." Sam cleared her throat. "Can you tell me where the rest of my team is?"

"Your team? Oh! The males. They are well. For their protection we have placed them under guard."

"I don't understand. Protection from what?"

Sutoren shrugged. "From the rest of my people. I'm afraid that males are a rarity here."

Sam glanced at the group of women below them and ventured, "I had noticed a decided lack of a male presence. May I ask why that is?"

Sutoren laughed huskily and leaned closer, placing her hand on Carter's thigh. "You may ask anything. I am yours to command."

Feeling hunted, Sam sipped from her glass again before speaking. "Then why are there no men here? Are they somewhere else?"

"There are no men on our world. Many centuries ago the leeches came and took what males of our race that remained. We believe that it was an attempt on their part to cause our race to die out, but they failed."

Sam had stiffened at the word 'leeches'. "You mean the Gao'uld? That's where you got the design for the staff weapons. They have come to your world in the past."

Sutoren shrugged and plucked a small grape-like fruit from a bowl and pressed it to Sam's lips. "The leeches could not use our bodies as they wished and decided that we should all be killed. When they could not do this, they took the males and left us to die. We buried the Veil and survived."

Sam chewed the sweet fruit and tried very hard not to think about the fact that she was being fed with the very obvious intent being seduction. "But how have your people managed to survive, to bear children without males?"

"We had already discovered ways to reproduce without the males but only females can be born of this union. The passage of time has allowed us to refine the technique but it has cost us." The queen's voice was resigned, but she continued with more enthusiasm. "But perhaps that will change now. I have a request to make of you Major Samantha Carter."

"Just Samantha or Sam is fine. What request?"

Sutoren inclined her head towards the women in the hall. "Many of my subjects have approached me in the last few hours wanting to now if they could purchase one or more of your males."

Sam coughed violently as the wine went down the wrong way and Sutoren placed a hand on her shoulder in concern. "Are you all right?"

Nodding quickly, Sam cleared her throat and wiped her mouth with a cloth. "Yes…(cough) I'm fine. (cough)….You just surprised me. Why would they want to… buy them?"

Sutoren looked at her in genuine amazement. "You do not know the value of your own property?"

"They're not my property. They're my teammates. We don't own people on my world."

A strange gleam appeared in Sutoren's eyes. "Then you don't claim them and they may be used by others?"

Sam was getting irritated now. "No they can't be used by others! If claiming them means keeping them safe, then yes, I claim them."

The laughter in her eyes was suddenly apparent and Sam realized that the queen had been teasing her. "I'm sorry Samantha. I could not resist teasing you just a little."

Carefully unclenching her fingers from around her glass, Sam eyed the queen. "So you were kidding about the buying thing?"

"Oh no, offers have indeed been made. But I understand you do not want to part with them. Maybe we could work out a short loan?"

"A loan? Wait a minute. What do your people want them for?"

Sutoren chuckled faintly. "I'm sorry. I should have explained. My people would like to use the males for breeding purposes."

Sam set her wine down. "Breeding?"

Nodding Sutoren explained. "Our scientists have found that our genetic structure will begin to deteriorate within the next generation. We decided to open the Veil and gather what we need from beyond. That was several cycles ago. The Veil had not been uncovered long when the guards reported a strange metal machine emerging from it and I ordered a watch placed on the area. Then you arrived and brought with you exactly what we needed."

"I don't think the men will be willing to help you with your problem directly, your highness. However there may be another way. On my planet we have also made a study of artificial procreation but we are nowhere near as advanced as you seem to be. One of the results of our research though was the development of something called sperm banks. Cryogenically frozen sperm from a limitless variety of males. I'm sure my government would be willing to help you."

Sutoren laughed again. "That would be perfect Samantha. Let us discuss the terms of this help."

Jack watched the women lead Daniel back in and scowled as he took in his friends pale face. Daniel stumbled to the bed and collapsed on it in exhaustion. Jack yelled after the retreating guards. "Hey! What did you do to him? Where's Teal'c?" The doors closed and he heard the locks engage. "Damn."

Daniel spoke, but it was muffled as his face was buried in a pillow. "mmhpph"

"What? Daniel? Are you okay?" Jack gripped his arm and flipped him over.

Daniel groaned and opened one eye to glare at Jack. "Please don't do that."

"What happened? What did they do to you?"

Tired and in a state not unlike shock, Daniel rambled out a reply. "I couldn't have guessed….I tried to stop them… there were just too many of them….." He faded out on a snore and Jack patted his shoulder.

"Just take it easy." He whirled as the doors opened again and Teal'c was dragged in. Jack cursed and made a move towards the guards but the weapons leveled in his direction made him rethink his action. He helped Teal'c to the other bed and eased him down. The Jaffa was staring ahead, a look on his face that Jack had never seen before. The little half smile was unnerving as hell and Jack snapped his fingers in front of Teal'c's face, trying to bring him out of it. "Teal'c! Come on buddy, snap out of it! What did they do to you?"

"Why don't we show you?"

Jack saw the guards waiting expectantly and knew that it was his turn to undergo whatever torture that had been inflicted on his teammates.

Sam stretched out before opening her eyes, enjoying the feel of the silky sheets around her. The smell of food reached her and her stomach growled eagerly.

"I take it that means you're hungry?"

Sam bolted upright and found herself entirely too close to Sutoren who was sitting on the bed beside her. The queen leaned forward and brushed a light kiss across her lips, making Sam's heart race wildly. She pulled away and tried to marshal a glare. "You always invade your guest's privacy like this?"

"No. You're the first. The morning meal is ready if you'd care to join me?" Sutoren admonished herself mentally. I really shouldn't tease her like this, but that blush is adorable.

Sam threw the covers back and slid out of the bed. She had gathered her uniform and had started for the bathroom when Sutoren spoke again. "Please don't get dressed on my account. Especially when what you're wearing is so appealing."

The door closed behind Sam and she looked at herself in the mirror. The regulation undershirt and boxer shorts were a far cry from the seductive garment she had found lain out for her last night, but they had seemed a great deal safer. Obviously there wasn't anything safe where Sutoren was concerned.

Sutoren shrugged philosophically when Sam returned fully clothed and waved her into the chair across from her. "Let us eat. Things have happened during the night and I am afraid you will not be pleased."

Sam took the seat and stared at her hostess with suspicion. "What things?"

Sutoren sighed. "I'm afraid that your males have been… molested."

Jack staggered into the room and fell onto the bed in much the same manner that Daniel had. He heard Teal'c's dry comment behind him. "It appears that Colonel O'Neill has survived as well."

Daniel limped his way across the room shook Jack's leg. "You okay?"

Jack rolled over with effort and stared at Daniel. "Am I okay? I've just been ravished by a roomful of women, Daniel." He smiled a little. "I'm great." So saying he closed his eyes and promptly went to sleep.

Sam was sure she had misheard. "Excuse me?"

Sutoren shook her head and elaborated. "The men were supposed to be escorted to the guest wing of the palace. Somewhere along the way they disappeared. We found them this morning in a distant part of the building. From what they said they had been… assaulted."

She went on to explain that they had been used to the point of exhaustion before the guards had found them. "The matter is being looked into and the guilty parties will be punished. However I am afraid that this will jeopardize any chance of our two peoples working together."

Sam had talked to several of the scientists last night and knew just how desperate the situation was becoming on Imazai. "Are the men all right?"

Sutoren shrugged. "I am unsure. That was the first time I had ever spoken to a male and they are very different from women."

"I don't want this to cause problems either your highness. Let me talk to them and see how bad this is."

The queen's relief was evident and she caught Sam's hand in hers. "Thank you. And please, call me Sutoren."

She leaned closer and lightly kissed Sam, catching the major off guard. She pulled away and stammered out, "I-I'm flattered by your interest your highness, but the truth is," Sam drew a deep breath and lied for all she was worth. "I'm involved with somebody else."

Sutoren grimaced. "Ah, that is a problem. Your mate does not travel with you?"


Sutoren shook her head ruefully. "And that tells me a great deal." She stood up and moved across the room to stand by a window. Something in Samantha's words was off, Sutoren could almost taste the deceit and she found herself growing angry.

"It does?" Not sure that was a good thing, Sam got to her feet and followed.

"Of course. I know that if I were mated to one such as yourself then I would want to keep you near me always. You and your mate are not happy." She studied the major's face, knowing that she was being lied to, but not completely. How strange, the truth, but not the truth.

"That's not true. We're very happy. Our culture doesn't require that mates be practically joined at the hip at all times. We both have careers and mine can be very dangerous."

Sutoren seemed to consider this before she spoke again. "So what does she do that keeps her from your side?"

She? Sam swallowed hard. Of course. They probably don't even recognize opposite sex unions here. She cleared her throat. "She's a doctor." At Sutoren's confused look, Sam elaborated. "A healer. She works at the place where our stargate is." Oooh, Janet's going to kill me. She refused to look too closely at her choice of a fictional mate. She should have just said that the Colonel was her mate…

"It is a noble calling." The queen suddenly sounded defeated and Sam gave a mental sigh of relief. It was short lived. "You will bring her here. I would like to meet the woman who was able to capture your heart."

Oh hell. Brilliant Sam! Now what? "Um, it's not that easy. I answer to higher ranking officers than myself and they won't be willing to send anyone else here until they're sure it's safe."

Sutoren's eyebrows rose. "Have you been harmed?"

"No, of course not. I was referring to the men."

Sutoren waved a negligent hand. "They have not been harmed either."

"I can't agree with that."

The queen was growing impatient. The sense of deception was growing stronger and if there was one thing Sutoren would not stand for then it was being lied to. "You have one cycle to return with your woman. If you do not then the males will remain here and the Veil will buried."

Sam scowled furiously. "You can't just-"

"One cycle Samantha."

Sutoren swept from the room and Sam waited until he door closed behind her before she rubbed her face wearily. "I hope Janet has a sense of humor."

Hammond watched Major Carter walk down the ramp and went out to meet her. "Major. Where's the rest of your team?"

"Well sir, it seems that we have a slight cultural misunderstanding."

Janet felt her eyes widen as Sam explained what had happened on the planet and what the queen was demanding. She carefully avoided looking at the general and focused instead on the light flush that was now highlighting Major Carter's cheeks.

The general was not happy. "What's your opinion Major? Would a rescue team be effective?"

Sam considered that for a moment before shaking her head. "No sir, I don't think so. They seem as well armed as the Gao'uld sir, and the palace is like a fortress. We could try but there would be casualties."

Janet spoke up. "It doesn't seem like the queen wishes us any harm. Perhaps we should just play along and see if we can get the men out without bloodshed."

Sam's blush increased. "Sir, I think that she just wants proof that I wasn't lying to her about my… mate."

General Hammond glanced at the clock on the wall and tapped his fingers against the desk. "I don't like this Major. It could turn bad very quickly and you would have no back up. I'd like to send a support team back with you."

Sam shook her head. "With respect sir, unless they're all female then they would be in the same position as the rest of SG1. We would be handing them more hostages." And possible breeding stock.

Janet resisted the urge to straighten her fatigues and glanced at Sam out of the corner of her eye. They had been meet by the Queen's aide at the stargate, a woman named Jubrei. She had taken one look at Janet and smiled devilishly. "The queen will not be pleased Major Samantha Carter." Not bothering to explain herself, she had struck out for the palace, leaving the confused women to follow.

Now they stood in the royal chamber, waiting for Sutoren, Queen of Imazai to arrive. The doors swung open and a tall woman strode into the room, her dark hair flowing behind her. She saw Samantha and smiled in pleasure. "Samantha! You have returned to us!" Sutoren ignored the smaller figure beside the major and instead reached out to drop a light kiss on Sam's cheek.

Janet found herself frowning at the familiar gesture and wondered why. Sam pulled back and reached out to take Janet's hand. "May I present my mate, Dr. Janet Frazier."

Sutoren laughed and studied her opponent. "You do not bear the Major's family name?"

What her tone implied, Janet wasn't sure but she felt herself stiffening in response. "I'm sure our customs are a great deal different than yours."

The queen shrugged indifferently. "Perhaps. So how long have you and the major been lovers?"

Grateful that she and Sam had worked out the story ahead of time, Janet replied calmly. "An indelicate question but I'll answer if it will get our people back. We have been lovers for a little over two years."

Sutoren's scowl was almost enough to make Janet take a step back but she gripped Sam's hand and held her ground. "You are not the Major's mate." But there is that strange hint of truth. Curious.

Janet felt her temper spike and she was unaware that she planted a fist on her hip as she stared the queen down. "Are you accusing me of lying? And Sam? How dare you?"

Sam found herself gripping the smaller woman's shoulders to keep her from moving closer to the queen. She bent close to the redhead's ear and spoke softly. "Easy Janet. Don't lose your temper." She looked at Sutoren and shook her head. "I brought her here as you asked your Highness. You said nothing about interrogating her. I've kept my part of the promise and I would ask you to honor yours."

Sutoren retreated to the throne and sat down heavily. "I already have. The men were sent back as soon as you arrived at the palace."

Samantha nodded in relief and took Janet's hand again. "Then with your permission we'll be on our way home."

"I do not think so."

"Now wait just a minute." Janet's furious retort was cut off as Sam squeezed her hand in warning.

Sam met Sutoren's aloof gaze, trying to gage the ruler's mood. "I don't understand."

"I know. You see there is something about this that rings false and I will know what that is before you are allowed to leave. Guards. Take them to the guests quarters and let them prepare for the banquet tonight."

Sam was angry and she did nothing to hide this fact as she glowered at the queen. "You can't keep us here! We fulfilled our part of the deal, now let us go!"

Sutoren glanced at Janet. "I dislike being lied to." She pointed at Janet. "You will remain here."

The guards dragged a protesting Carter away, leaving Janet alone with the queen. She stepped down from the throne and moved to stand in front of the doctor. "You have much passion buried beneath that calm surface."

Janet said nothing to this, waiting for her to get to the point.

A speculative look entered Sutoren's eyes and she asked, "On which thigh does the major carry the battle scar shaped like a crescent moon?"

Janet's brow raised and she smirked. "Neither. She has a T-shaped scar on her right thigh." She had stitched the wound herself. Janet wondered how the queen had known that Sam had any kind of scar on her thigh and was surprised find that she was a little jealous. Whoa! Let's not get carried away in the role!

Sutoren nodded. "This of course is not really proof. You could have discussed such intimate details before coming here."

"I don't understand why you're doing this. Sam isn't interested in you. Can't you respect that?"

"I am the queen." This was said, not with arrogance, but more with a strong sense of resignation. "I can do nothing to change that, but I can lighten my burden by sharing it."

Janet blinked as she realized what she was saying. "You want Samantha to be your mate."

Sutoren shook her head. "No. I want her to be my wife. My queen. My partner."

The wistful tone almost made Janet soften but she reminded herself why she was there. "But she's my wife. Are you planning to take her from me?"

Sutoren looked at her compact frame speculatively before shaking her head. "A battle between us would not be fair."

Scowling at the implication, Janet found herself glaring hotly at the taller woman. "I won't just let you take her."

Sutoren laughed suddenly. "Perhaps we can find something to even the scales. Guards. Escort the doctor to her room." She turned away and found Jubrei waiting patiently by the throne. "Let me guess: more documents that require my signature?"

Jubrei shook her head slowly. "No my Queen."

"Then what is it?"

"Forgive me your majesty, but why are you… pursuing this stranger so fiercely?"

Sutoren wasn't sure herself. "Perhaps I am tired of this solitary throne."

Jubrei stared at the floor, wishing that she had the courage to speak the words that were so desperately trying to be free. You don't have to be alone. I love you! "She is mated."

"No. They are attracted to each other but they are not lovers."

Wincing, Jubrei nodded. "And the deception angers you."

"You know me too well, Jubrei."

"But what will you do now? You cannot fight the doctor."

Sutoren shrugged. "I might call for a champion."

Once a champion was named, then they received all rights and honors of royalty. And maybe then I can tell her, not as a subject, but as a peer. Jubrei immediately dropped to her knees in front of the queen. "Your Majesty, please allow me to champion you."

Sutoren saw the earnest desire in her aide's face and rested her hand on top of the smaller woman's head and spoke softly. "Rise Jubrei, Champion of Sutoren and the Imazai."

"So how did she know about the scar on your thigh?"

Sam blushed and looked away. "She, uh, was in my room when I woke up. She must have seen it then."

Janet nodded and studied their surroundings. "I don't suppose we could just escape and slip back to the gate?"

"You saw the guards between here and the gate."

"Yes. Well I have no intensions of fighting that woman."

"Fighting? What are you talking about?"

Janet's smile was wry. "The queen wants you as her wife. She's suggested that a challenge might settle the dispute, but believes that she has an unfair advantage over me."

Greatly disturbed by the thought, Sam reached out and caught Janet's shoulders. "That's out of the question." She exhaled sharply and spun away staring at the opulent surroundings without really seeing them. "I should never have gotten you involved in this, Doctor. I'm sorry."

"I volunteered, Major. The lives of Colonel O'Neill, Daniel and Teal'c were on the line. You have nothing to apologize for." Janet could see the tension thrumming through Sam's form and she moved closer without thinking.

Sam felt the soft hands rest on her shoulders and sighed as they began to rub the knotted muscles there. "I won't let her challenge you Janet."

Janet worked slowly, feeling the muscles beginning to relax under her skilled touch. "I know. If its any consolation, Sutoren didn't seem to thrilled with the thought of a challenge herself."

The doors to the bedroom swung open and Jubrei paused as she took in the intimate scene. "Excuse me. The queen sends her formal notice of challenge and has requested that Doctor Frazier choose the weapon."

Sam scowled furiously at the aide. "Janet is not going to fight anybody! Tell her highness that if she wants to fight she can fight me!"

Jubrei's eyes widened. "You misunderstand. The queen will not be fighting the Doctor. I have been appointed as the Queen's champion." Her pride in this was evident.

Janet sized her would-be opponent up. The other woman was of a similar build and height as Janet, but she had the easy grace that comes with being in top physical form. "Tell the queen that I accept the challenge but I would like to see the weapons that are available to choose from."

"No! Damn it Janet! I won't let you do this." Sam glared at Jubrei. "I'll fight you."

Jubrei shook her head and motioned to someone outside. Three guards entered with a selection of weapons and laid them out on the low table near the window. "That is not possible as you are the subject of the challenge. The battle will commence tomorrow at high sun. Anything that you require will be provided Doctor. Good evening."

The door closed behind her and Sam realized that she was clenching her fists. She turned to find Janet testing the point on a long spear. "You can't do this."

Janet replaced the weapon and nodded. "I know. I hate spears." She picked up a short sword and swung it in a short arc. The weight seemed right, but the handle was too thick for her hands. She set it to the side, wondering if it could be altered.

Sam wasn't amused. She gripped Janet's shoulders and pulled her close as she glared into her blue eyes. "You aren't doing this!"

Janet held her temper in check and spoke calmly. "I don't see where we have a choice, Sam."

Samantha Carter took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She couldn't let Janet be harmed because of her. "I can send you back through the gate and remain here."

Eyes flashing, Janet's reply was fierce. "Out of the question!"

But Sam had made up her mind. She released Janet and turned away. "I'll send word to Queen Sutoren and arrange to have you escorted back to the stargate."

"Like Hell!" Janet grabbed her arm and spun Sam around to face her. "Now you listen to me Major Carter. When SG-1 goes through that gate, no one questions whether or not you can do your job. No one doubts your abilities. You are a member of the United States Air Force and are therefore considered to be a trained warrior." Janet paused and her voice dropped slightly. "But what everyone seems to forget is that so am I."

She touched the insignia on her collar. "I went through the same training as you did Sam. I may not have fought in a war like you did but I've been sent into more hot spots than you'd imagine. The Air Force wouldn't send people into those places unless they knew they could handle themselves."

Janet laid her hand along Sam's cheek and smiled. "Trust me Samantha. Believe in me."

Sam swallowed the mass of emotions that had balled in her throat and nodded slowly. "Alright." She impulsively drew the smaller woman into her arms and held her tightly. "But I'm warning you Janet," Sam moved so that she could see the doctor's eyes. "Don't you dare make me a widow."

Janet stepped out of the bath and let Sam wrap her in a huge towel. While her attention was primarily focused on the upcoming duel, she was still very aware of the current situation. Sam was being very attentive and Janet couldn't help but reflect that she would really enjoy this under different circumstances. They had spent the night in each other's arms, utterly chaste and Janet sincerely hoped that she would have the chance to repeat that experience…a little less virtuously next time.

She dried off and tossed the towel aside as she sat down at the elaborate dressing table. Janet reached for a brush only to find Sam's hand there first and their eyes met in the mirror. Janet let Sam take the brush and stifled a quite moan of pleasure as the major brushed her hair. They said nothing, both too wrapped up in their own thoughts about what was coming. Sam almost dropped the brush when she saw the look of utter bliss on Janet's face. She tightened her grip and resumed the task. Her mind was in turmoil, the emotions she was feeling battling relentlessly with her intellect. Sam knew that a relationship with Janet was impossible, but her heart wasn't listening.

There was a knock at the door and Sam went to answer it while Janet slipped into a thin robe. She entered the outer room to find Sam accepting a sheathed sword and a bundle of cloth from a guard. The woman left and Sam glanced at Janet as she laid the sword and clothes on the bed. "They were able to change the grip on the sword. The blacksmith sent word to make sure that it was to your liking. If not she would adjust it again."

Janet picked up the sword and drew it from its leather scabbard. She cut the air with it several times before nodded briskly. "Its fine." Sam watched her untie the robe and let it drop. Janet dressed in silence and Sam retreated across the room to try and get her emotions under control

Janet pulled the laces on the leather gauntlets tight. "Can you tie this for me?"

Sam quickly tied the guard in place and looked at Janet. The soft black tunic was loose, allowing free range of motion, as were the matching pants. Janet had not specified a color and Sam found the shade ominous. "I won't ask you again not to do this Janet, but I wish there was some other way."

Janet grinned and fastened the sheath across her chest so that she could draw the sword over her shoulder. "I know. I do too." She grew serious. "I'm going into this with every intension of coming out alive, but… if I don't… Will you take care of Cassie?"

Anxiety swept over Sam and she swayed slightly. "Of course. But that won't be necessary because you're going to kick her ass."

The sound of low gong reached them and the doors swung open. It was time.

The procession moved through gardens and to the entrance of a hedge maze. The guards escorted them through the twists and turns until they reached the center and the large area there.

A small stone temple sat off to one side and Sam could see Sutoren sitting on a throne out of the sun. She seemed tense and Sam was glad. She should be. Because if anything happens to Janet then I'm coming after her. Sam wasn't sure when the idea had formed but it was one she had eagerly accepted.

Jubrei waited across a circle of white that had been painted onto the grass. The large circumference was obviously intended to be the battlefield and Janet nodded to her opponent before disregarding her and beginning her preparations.

Janet stood straight, her weight centered in her legs, feet shoulder's width apart. She drew a deep cleansing breath and let it and all of her doubts out in a slow exhale. She felt her mind clearing and raised her hands slowly until they were at shoulder height. With another cleansing breath she pushed down and let her knees flex into a slight bend as her hands came into position. Her right hand turned in as she raised it to eye level and her left hand finished out the brush knee form.

Sam watched the graceful movements of the ancient art and realized that Janet had been right. Everyone had underestimated her. She looked at the sword that was strapped across the doctor's back and realized that it was close in size and appearance to a tai chi saber.

Janet finished her warm up and moved faced the queen. "Whenever you're ready."

The queen nodded and the combatants stepped into the ring. The battle was not to the death but the possibility was always there. Jubrei drew her sword and waited for Janet to do the same. The short sword slid easily from its case and Janet turned it until it was behind her arm, the point visible above her shoulder. Her right hand rose and assumed sword finger position, her index and middle fingers straight and vertical while her thumb and other fingers formed a circle. A gong was sounded and Jubrei moved into a defensive crouch. Janet watched her careful approach and waited for her to make the first move.

When the thrust of Jubrei's sword altered in mid strike and reversed, Janet merely twisted away, letting her sword absorb the blow as she moved into position and brought her weapon up in a cross cut that caught Jubrei by surprise. Janet didn't give her time to recover. This wasn't a friendly match. This was real and she reminded herself of that even as she hacked downwards with her blade and drew blood.

Sutoren stiffened at the injury, her heart pounding suddenly as she watched the stain spreading across the white fabric of Jubrei's shirt. I never should have let it go this far. What if she's killed?

Jubrei ignored the flare of pain in her shoulder, but resolved not to underestimate her opponent again. She advanced with a flurry of blows that forced Janet back into a defensive retreat.

Sam took a half step forward as one of the thrusts connected and she saw blood begin to flow freely down Janet's arm. The guards on either side of her stepped closer and Sam cursed silently.

Janet stopped so suddenly that Jubrei faltered and her slash swept past the doctor's form. Janet's face did not betray the triumph she felt and she caught the edge of Jubrei's sword hand in a quick thrust that sent the weapon flying and left Jubrei staring at her in amazement. Janet returned her weapon to its sheath and stepped forward to take the other woman's arm. "Let me see." She waved the palace physician over and they wrapped her opponent's wounds before Janet would let them see to hers.

Sam had to smile at the befuddled expression on the face of the queen's champion. She waited until the healer had bound Janet's arm before taking the redhead into her arms and kissing her soundly.

Sutoren sighed and stepped down from the throne. Jubrei bowed and then dropped to her knees. "I am sorry your highness. I failed you."

"No. I failed you Jubrei." She pulled the young woman to her feet and touched the bandage on her shoulder. "I failed you when I let my own petty wants get in the way of my peoples needs." Sutoren smiled at the young woman and saw an answering blush fill her cheeks. She leaned closer, whispering, "I failed you when I remained blind to what was right beside me all the time." Sutoren straightened and her voice returned to a normal pitch. "You fought very well against a style you had never seen before. I am pleased that you accepted the role of my champion."

Jubrei was still speechless as Sutoren glanced at Sam and Janet. "And I owe you both an apology as well. I could sense that you were not lovers, but now I see that you are in love. I am sorry that I reacted as I did. My only defense is that I truly hate deception of any kind and knowing that you were hiding something angered me."

She turned to Janet and bowed deeply. "You are an impressive swordswoman, Janet Frazier. I will not be so quick to dismiss anyone in the future on the basis of their size. I think you would have given even me a difficult battle."

Sam kept one arm wrapped around Janet's shoulders. "So we're free to go?"

Sutoren nodded. "Yes, but I will invite you to stay with us a day longer and join in tonight's celebration of the moon's zeniths."

Sam hesitated and Sutoren smiled. "I understand. In your place I would not trust me either."

Janet spoke for the first time. "I think we could mange to stay one more day."

The room moved in harmony to the chorus of singers chanting rhythmically in the corner. The music was unlike anything that Janet had heard before and she felt her heart begin to pound as the music reached something deep within her. Samantha took her hand and led her in to the rows of dancers that had formed. They moved slowly at first, following the movements of the other women but soon they had the feel of the intricate steps down. Janet stepped close to Sam and their hands met in a teasing stroke before they parted and turned to circle each other in a close area. Sam reached out and caught Janet's hand as the tempo increased and pulled her against her lithe frame. Janet could smell the clean scent of Samantha and she felt a strange sense of excitement steal over her. Sam's hand slid down to encircle Janet's waist and they stepped forward, side by side, surrounded by the music and engrossed with each other.

The song faded as it ended, but was replaced immediately by another and Sam took the opportunity to guide Janet out of the ballroom and into the gardens outside. The music floated out over the grounds and Sam found herself reluctant to release her grip on Janet's hand. "You caught on quick in there."

The twin moons cast a silvery blue light onto them and as the pair moved further into the garden the lights from the party disappeared. Janet laughed slightly and tucked a strand of hair that had escaped her buns behind her ear.

Her mind still filled with the music, Sam reached out and plunged her hands into the fiery mane, loosening the pins and sending it tumbling around Janet's face. Her breath caught and Sam gently grasped Janet's head and pulled her closer.

Blood roared through Janet's ears and she could hear nothing over the pounding of heart save for the faintest whisper of music. When the first touch of Sam's lips met hers she stopped breathing and as the kiss deepened, Janet was unaware of the whimper that escaped her.

The sound encouraged Samantha and she dropped one hand to grip Janet's waist and pull her tighter against her. The taste of her made Sam's head swim and she felt giddy as one of the doctor's hands cupped her breast, the other sliding up to grasp her neck. Thus held, Janet began a slow, thorough exploration of Sam's mouth, making the major shudder in response. Sam broke the kiss reluctantly to take several gulps of air into her lungs before coming back to return the favor.

Janet's hand slipped under Sam's shirt and received a low moan in reward. She ran her thumb over the rigid nipple and Sam gasped in pleasure. "Janet!" Sam glanced around quickly and spotted the entrance to the maze. "Come on." She pulled the doctor into the high-walled maze and made for the center with unerring accuracy. The path opened into the center and Sam moved quickly up the steps of the stone temple, Janet right behind her.

Janet had a brief glimpse of the stone columns and padded benches before Sam picked her up and laid her down. Her eyes slid closed as Sam's lips trailed down her neck and across the deep cut of her gown. The rich material was pushed aside and Janet's delighted cry filled the garden as Sam took a nipple into her mouth and began to worship it with teeth and tongue.

Time stopped as the music played on and the lovers explored each other eagerly. Clothes were pulled and pushed aside so that the flesh underneath could be tasted and touched. Janet bit back a scream when Sam's head dropped between her legs and she felt the aggressive thrust of a tongue against her core. "Samantha! Oh God!" Sam pushed Janet's legs further apart and held her still as she pleasured her. The night air swelled with music of a different kind and a lone figure stood outside of the maze and watched the moons chase each other across the sky.

Sutoren smiled ruefully as the unmistakable sounds of passion reached her. Perhaps there was something they could learn here after all. She wandered back to the dance and left the new lovers undisturbed. I wonder were Jubrei is?

The End

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