Nephalim's Gate
By Elizabeth Carter

Chapter Twenty-Four

Expect the Unexpected

Meredith Rodney MacKay squeaked when he saw the angelic face of Samantha Carter hovering over him. The last thing he remembered was being picked up by the throat by a very pissed off angel and hurtled through the safety-glass of the observation tower overlooking the Gateroom.

He looked past her shoulder trying to see if any more of her crazy henchmen were lurking around.

"I ordered them to wait outside the infirmary." Sam said gently as if reading his thoughts.

"I died."


"That's it! Just yes!" MacKay whinged. "Your psychotic pals murdered me and all you can say is 'yes'?"

"Rodney," The warning tone was coming unmistakably from Elizabeth Weir. "Doctor Fraiser was able to restore you to heath. Quite remarkable since Carson couldn't have done it."

"Aye, the wee doctor resurrected you Rodney just like an Ancient would."

It occurred to MacKay that he wasn't alone in his bay with Carter. Elizabeth, Carson and even Sheppard were there as was Teyla.

"Yeah MacKay you were hamburger, all minced up into a blood pulp. Guess that should teach you to keep your trap shut," John Sheppard said not unkindly.

Mackay looked back to the eloquent blonde and recalled the words he had spouted. Inwardly he wanted to deny he hadn't done anything wrong, he was bantering with her like he always had. She had the same teeth-gritting expression on her face, the same repulsion she always had, but he had assumed it was all a part of the game. Apparently her disdain for him was genuine.

"You really do hate me that much."

Sam looked away for a moment then turned back to the man sitting in the bed. "I have no fondness for you MacKay," She admitted. "My Wing… felt my emotions and carried out a whim of a notion to put you through a wall. I'm sorry you were harmed like that."

MacKay opened his mouth to tell her just how unforgiving he was going to be, then snapped his mouth shut. It was his words that had him killed in the first place. He had riled Carter up so much that it had indeed cost him his life. "This is why you sent me off-world isn't it, Elizabeth?"

Weir nodded, "I was warned by General O'Neill it would be in your best interest. He knew as I did how you tend to agitate Nephalim Carter to the lengths of her patience. He told me the Malakim were not as forgiving as she was and tended to act impulsively where she is concerned. Bearing that in mind, Rodney I think its best that you remain secluded from our guests until they depart."

Sullenly Mackay nodded his voice penitent. "Yeah. I think you're right," He swallowed hard. Never before had he felt such anger, more than anger loathing. It had penetrated his skull and seeped into his soul. He would know the hate of the angelics for all his remaining days. And it terrified him. The angels loved Samantha Carter and hated him.

Swallowing again, MacKay turned from those he considered friends, those who had tried to save his life by sending him on a fool's errand. Friends who had cautioned him to back-off from taunting and harassing Carter. Not listening to them, holding onto his condescending arrogant self had cost him his life.

"Um… tell Doctor Fraiser thank you," he said softly. "And Carter… I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."

In all the years Weir and Sheppard had known Rodney MacKay this was the truest most sincere apology they had ever heard from him. He had been humbled in the most extensive way possible.

Carter found she could only nod in acceptance. She didn't feel the need to apologize in return for what had happened. A part of her to be truthful wasn't truly sorry that he had died. The man got under her skin in a way no goa'uld symbiote could save for maybe Ba'al. Who she had satisfactorily smashed the man's nose for his arrogance at her for being not only a human, but a female. MacKay wasn't malevolent just a sexist arrogant jackass that had the talent to piss Carter off to the nth degree.

Weir placed a gentle hand on the man's shoulder and squeezed. She knew it took an extreme effort for the man to even fathom the idea that he should apologize let alone give it. Her dark eyes turned their attention to Sheppard. "John, will you escort Rodney to the mainland, the Athosians will be waiting for them?"

"No problem," his brown eyes grave, the smile forced. Rodney was always a person that got on the colonel's last nerve and pissed him off to no end and there was a part of him that had danced when he found out MacKay was killed and that same small part snorted that Mackay had to be brought back to life. It was the same part of him that kept a lemon on his person at all times when he had to deal with the pig-headed arrogant scientist. And there was another part of Sheppard was glad the pain in his ass was alive.

"Actually, Elizabeth the Malakim asked if they could visit the mainland and the Athosian settlement," Teyla informed the CO of Atlantis expedition. The elfin eyed woman's expression was of pure apologetic regret she couldn't offer Rodney a place of sanctuary.

Weir looked torn, it would have been so much easier if Rodney had stayed put for the three days the Malakim Wing were visiting. This wasn't the first time the incorrigible scientist had disrupted proceedings and negotiations and made Weir's life frankly hell some times.

"I'll… um… just go to one of the satellite districts of the city, or beam aboard the Daedalus," Mackay said in astounding self-sacrifice. Apparently everyone in the room was astounded by the gesture. MacKay looked from Weir to Carter back to Sheppard and Teyla. "What? I can do the unselfish thing… from time to time."

In her ever present diplomatic demeanor Weir smiled warmly and nodded. "Thank you Rodney, I think it is best you're not on the same planet as Nephalim Carter just to make things easier for all considered. Daedalus will stand by to receive you and you are not to leave until the Malakim delegation does."

MacKay looked once more to Samantha Carter and flashed to the moment when he was hoisted easily in the air by her winged body guard. He had never seen such pure-raw emotion in his life. Never so much rage not even from the Wraith. It was not wise to piss off a guardian angel. In one of his very rare moments of selfless epiphany he knew his 'death' would bring a layer of guilt to Carter she would carry with her for some time. He had first seen it when they first worked together or rather were forced to work together when that big guy Teal'c was trapped in the matrix of the Stargate and he had told Colonel Simmons the Jaffa only had twenty-four hours before he became nothing more than an atomized smear. When he looked into her Malakim like eyes he saw only resolve there was no guilt he had been brutally killed, but simple acknowledgment a wrong had been done and she was regretful of.

He had seen her rage then as well. He couldn't help it she intimidated him, women generally intimidated Mackay, the smarter they were the worse his fear of them grew and Samantha Carter was downright terrifying. He also had to admit bitterly that he felt emasculated by the intelligent woman because his intelligence was all he had. He would never been a 'looker…a hottie' like Sheppard or someone to snuggle up to like baby-faced Carson. He was a male disdained by the women he encountered for everything but his intelligence and then he came in second every time when compared to Samantha Carter. She was the artist, her ideas off-the-wall or so outside the box they almost always succeeded.

Now she was the leader of an Empire. An Empire! She was lionized by highly advanced angelic beings that placed Carter well and above their own queen and did her will even if she didn't order it. Definitely not a good idea to piss her off or there might be no coming back as there had this time round.

Even as the others convened in the infirmary, Cassandra, Boudicca and

Turelim had gone with Ronan to the gym and training center of the city. The large Satadaian had been amazed at the speed and ferocity of the warriors and felt the urge to test his own skills against theirs in a 'friendly' competition of skill and prowess.

He had first challenged Turelim the Blue Wing's first officer to the competition meaning no disrespect to the Malakim matriarchal ranking. There were only two other males and one had been sent back to their ship it was the smaller boned Turelim who took the challenge despite Ronon had wanted to test his mettle against the larger Blue Wing pilot.

Still Turelim was a full foot taller than the Satadaian and the wings did make for an impressive display even if they were gossamer blue-green.

"Elizabeth won't let me practice with real blades since there was an incident the last time, but the wooden ones are a good facsimile and are balanced like a true Satadaian dagger," Ronon's baritone voice informed his sparring partner. Then with a smirk he leaned in close to the taller male, "but that doesn't mean we have to fully pull our punches."

"I do not wish to bring harm to you Warrior Ronon," Turelim said calmly without any posturing. "The Nephalim would not be pleased."

"Don't worry about it. I was a Wraith-Runner I can take anything you dish out Feathers."

Turelim gave the thickly muscled warrior a skeptical look. "We know of the Wraith-Runners. They choose only the fittest, the most cunning and aggressive specimens to train their troops. I will take care in not underestimating you because you are small and wingless."

Ronon good-naturedly hit the other male in the chest and laughed, "I'm not typically marked for being small."

"Perhaps not but have you fought an opponent with wings? I warn you know they are not flimsy constructs but able to incapacitate an enemy with a well placed strike."

"I'm not afraid. Bring it on."

"I am of the Kyriotate, Ronon Dex," This comment alone would have sufficed in Malakim Empire as a warning. The Kyriotate Choir was empathically endowed and their warriors were trained to exploit this as a weapon. Turelim so well trained as a Wing Warrior would automatically use his enemy's rage against him he could no more turn off this ability than a martial artist could resist their reflexes. Thus Kyriotate warriors created blind spots in his opponent they might not have otherwise made.

Boudicca and Cassie who was leaning on the massive Kha'antar watched with mild amusement and interest.

"Ronon is at a very clear disadvantage," Boudicca whispered so the males would not hear her.

The pumaica's ears twitched at the sound of the Captain's voice but he gave little other reaction to her or the older cub of his pride when she answered. "I think that's the point. Guys love a challenge the bigger the better, it's all that chest beating thing."

"Malakim males preen their feathers, aye I understand," Her silver eyes studied the young human, "You know he preens greater when in your company Cassandra. Now he shows for you."

Cassandra looked at the males circling each other and didn't say anything more. Her own dark brown eyes watching the commander with great interest she didn't want to admit that she felt very flattered by this dance of his.

Turelim held his wooden dagger in the proper position ready to strike or parry at a moments notice. He was unfamiliar with the smaller bladed weapons, as a member of a Wing his weapon of choice was the sun sword.

To the outsiders the combatants made an odd pairing. Turelim was lithe, young for a Malakim, a warrior with a smile filled with white teeth, his wings gleaming in the dim light of the gymnasium. Ronon was thickly muscled; his teeth stained yellow from coffee and former years of ill-care, his dreadlock mane made him look more like a bear than a man.

Turelim lunged, and Ronon easily dodged. Ronon did likewise and Turelim blocked the thrust. The smaller male deflected a dagger thrust of Turelim's but the commander took advantage of Ronon's lowered arm to deliver a hard backhand with his left hand to the male's jaw. Ronon went spiraling backwards then climbed to his feet - had the blow not been pulled he would have been spitting out blood and one of his yellowed teeth.

Fueled by anger and pain, Ronon went for a tackle maneuver that would have made a rugby player proud. But Turelim deflected the charge using the bulk of the Satadaian male against him, he went into a crouch and rose, lifting Ronon up and over his shoulder and wings to smash onto the padded floor of the gym. Ronon landed hard, the breath in his lungs woofed out of him.

Once more Ronon was down, he rose once again swung his own training knife to his right. Turelim evaded easily, but Ronon gained a moment to get to his feet. It was apparent to everyone that the male was winded. It had only been a few minutes, but Ronon was slowing down yet Turelim was showing no signs of fatigue.

Turelim slashed Ronon's cheek, and blood started to run down over the bruise that had already started to form where Turelim had struck him. Ronon heard the cheers of the Malakim crewmembers and his anger grew. He lunged clumsily, and Turelim batted him away with a forceful blow of his left wing, Ronon flew up and back in a summersault landing on the upper deck of the gym.

"I think its time to call it," Boudicca said moving from her position near Cassie and stepped in the ring. Turelim's instant reaction to the superior warrior was to fold his wings against his body, but not tightly.

Ronon took the steps down to the main floor as swiftly as his bruised body could handle. He was sure he had sprained his wrist in the landing and pulled at least four tendons in his foot. But still he felt invigorated and primed for a fight.

"Hey I haven't beaten him!" the Satadaian bemoaned. "I aint ready to call it."

"You will both yield to keener judgment," Boudicca said in the voice of command.

"I hear and heed," Turelim flipped the wooden dagger over so the hilt was presented to Ronon. "Thank you for the exercise," He tilted his head slightly as his wings unfolded from his body and hung in a relaxed state. He turned and left the immediate area for Cassie.

"I was just warming up," Ronon said. His hand rubbed the back of his neck causing him to hiss in sudden pain as he felt a welt growing. He was defiantly going to feel it tomorrow. The bruise and gash on his cheek still burned as a clear reminder he had been outmatched.

"You did well, Ronon do not be ashamed, your opponent had wings you are unaccustomed facing such and he is Kyriotate," Boudicca said as if her words explained everything.

Rolling his shoulders Ronon felt the pain there too after having landed on his back more than a few times. Truth-be-told he felt like the Athosian kids who tried to tackle him during one of Sheppard's American style football games. In fact it took eleven of the youngsters to bring Ronon down and pin him long enough for the team to dog-pile him.

"What does that mean he's Cryostat-ate?"

"Kyriotate," Boudicca corrected. "It is his Choir. They are the muses. It is their resonance to ignite a collection of primal urges, flash emotion, chaos and inspiration. They are very spontaneous and find improvisational methods of doing things. They are rarely practical." The last was said with a heavy long time patented sigh of frustration and tolerance. "Malakites such as myself find they are tricksters and have no grasp of duty. They also exploit or use emotions in others, in your case as with all other adversaries anger and thoughtlessness are stoked in the fires. You were inspired to make rash moves that you would not have made with another opponent, yes?"

Ronon frowned, "You're telling me he played with my head?" Now he was pissed. He didn't care so much to the losing the match as much as he did having his mind toyed with.

"No not deliberately. This is why he warned you. He is young, Ronon Dex and the young and impetuous do not try to stop the exploitation of emotional reactions. It is merely the way of the Kyriotate warrior."

"What choir are you; you don't seem like his kind," Ronon jutted his bearded chin out towards the Malakim male now talking with the small human on the winged lion's back.

"I am not. As I said I am Malakite, we are known as the Virtues, we have a very strict adherence to a code of honor. We are dedicated to fighting evil wherever it dwells, no one is above the law. We are honor first, then warriors. There was never an oath taken by a Malakite that wasn't honored. A Malakite derelict of duty is a dead Malakite"

Ronon started to soak it all in different choirs were almost like different nationalities and regions all rolled up in one. "What of the guy who killed MacKay. A Cryostat-ate? From what you tell me he didn't seem very Malakite-ish."

"He is Mercurian. Their resonance is with the patterns of politics in the world. Their perceptions are so acute they can walk into a room full of people and immediately grasp the relationships at work - who has the control, who is submissive," Boudicca looked once to Cassandra and judged whether or not to speak as she had been. But she wagered Cassie already knew of her mother's loathing for the sexist and insulting male. "He felt the despite in the Nephalim's heart for the mortal and acted upon it. Mercurians are by most part pacifists with silver tongues: negotiators and manipulators in the most altruistic sense. But he has strayed slightly in his devotion to the Nephalim – it has had a blinding effect on his rationality. He had become impetuous," She did not highlight the archeologist's willingness to amputate his own wings just so he could join with Samantha on her home world and in hopes to blend in with the mortal populace.

"However he was only the first to reach the mortal male, the rest of us would have done the same. We all felt the urge to destroy the form the Nephalim despises so."

"Yeah, he pisses me off too," Ronon said. "But I would never have gotten away with doing what the other Guardian had done. Too bad he was brought back, too bad we need him. His smarts are the only thing of worth of the little flea."

Boudicca wouldn't smile but she did feel a bit of relief that the Atlantian warrior did not have the need to avenge his team-mate but that didn't mean the rest of them prescribed to the same thought. To the honor bound Malakite the idea of hiding behind diplomatic immunity was cowardly but if pressed she knew the Malakim contingent would use such if only to keep the peace between the two governments until more rational heads prevailed.

"So how about you and me have a go?" Ronon said feeling a little recovered from his earlier sparring match.

"When you have healed sufficiently Ronon-Dex, I will be happy to oblige."

Ronon flexed his sprained wrist and immediately regretted the action as a stupid move on his part. He looked back to the taller warrior with a cocky grin. "You're on."

Jacob Carter had for the past seventy-two hours fallen into a kind of dumb stupor. Coming face to face with a creature with the face of his daughter and the body of a Malakim had been too much to take. This was the abomination Anise had created. Oh he had seen the cast off, the ruined remains of the unsuccessful creations. And that had been devastating enough for an eternity. His daughter's face mutated and mangled on the bodies of monsters. Now his little girl's face was on yet another monster.

She, this new creation, this chimera had departed after she learned that she was like Sam. In her haste where this chimera had gone he could not say but he could and had speculated. The creature had gone off seeking Samantha.

The only way the former general could think of to waylay the creature from a potentially deadly confrontation with his little girl was to tell his captors. After all the Malakim warriors were keenly devoted to his Sam. The Malakim might be of the mind that the Tok'ra were enemies but they would lay down their lives to save Sam, his granddaughters and daughter-in-law. Despite the fact this very ship was headed for Sam a heads-up about this new enemy would give an advantage to the angels.

Jacob cut a glance to Arian. She had such a young face she looked almost vulnerable in the light of the prison cell the old man became drawn to her. Of course in truth she was quite a bit older than Jacob he would be but a boy to her senior years. He came not to give succor to his mate but take information from her.

"Arian, tell me of the Nephalim," He said by way of greeting.

Silver eyes looked up startled not by Jacob's presence but by the question. His bearing demanded attention. "You know her better than I, my mate for she is your get."

Jacob shook his head. "No not Sam, but of the Nephalim in your religion. What is said of her? Is there an anti-Nephalim?"

"An anti-Nephalim?" Arian frowned. "No. Nothing like that. Why?"

"A false Nephalim then?" Jacob ignored the inquiry. "Say one who claims to be the Nephalim or perhaps is merely mistaken to be one and she believes herself to be so until the true Nephalim shows herself?"

"Jacob, will you please explain yourself and this line of questioning?"

"I will after you tell me. I have to know."

Arian gave out a long suffering sigh reserved for petulant kits unwilling to listen to their elders. "As you wish. The Nephalim is mortal born with all the powers of Malakim. At her voice all the Songs of the World Symphony and she will bring balance to the Great Song. She is herald, the Scion of Balance. The Nephalim is a song of infinite light.

"I'll skip most of the stanzas of the Wars of Heavens to spare you your ill-patience. This is the more relevant part of the epic poem. 'Hear the howls in the night and the souls of mortals cast themselves into the Dragon's coils. Then Falls the Second War of the Firmaments, The War of the Nephalim, it is the Queen that shall know the pain of the shattering of life.

"The Nephalim who would fell Usiel First Fallen, and Achelous the Unmaker. The Nephalim who though mortal born yet has all the power of the Malakim.  The Nephalim Archangel of the Grigori the Eighth Choir. The Nephalim: the Scion of Balance summons the Harrowing, the echo of the Sundering of worlds. And in this greatest of all Songs is that which can still the Harrowing comes the Archangel of Healing. She is the brightest of all lights, of all songs yet remains in the shadow of the Nephalim. Consort of the Nephalim softest of Songs bears the greatest of Powers is coveted for her power. She could still the hurricane's gale and quiet the celestial cacophony that brings the Sundering of worlds but for her presence before the Nephalim and her children the Grigori."

For the moment the figure of Jacob-Selmac remained silent, contemplative thoughts turned like a great mill wheel. When at last he spoke it was the voice of Selmac not the general that brought a dim and somber awareness of what was now Samantha Carter's life. "Samantha felled Usiel and was instrumental in the defeat of Achelous. And She leads those that call themselves the Grigori. She's now the Prime Minister of the Malakim Empire and …"

"She listens and heeds the will of her wife now called the Scion of Healing, some have even called her Nephalim of the Ancients for the gestalt that changed Samantha awoke in Janet the Songs the Ancients held such the Song of Healing."

Jacob's head bobbed as he nodded. 'Yes, Sam does listen to her wife. Bends to her will. But it's more than that. They share a connection I didn't even share with my own beloved Rebecca.'

"Is there nothing else?" Jacob pressed his earlier query.

"Well…Yes I suppose as I said Janet Fraiser is considered a Nephalim. A Nephalim born mortal with all the powers of the angelic. Mortal born with Ancient Song. The Scion of Healing can as I said call upon the powers the Ancients wield."

Jacob nodded. "I grew up Roman Catholic, tried to raise my kids the same despite my wife was more into the Zen aspects of religion. In my former faith, there was what was called the antichrist, the devil who came and pretended to be the Christ and… well… brought about Armageddon. I was wondering if the Malakim had the same sort of thing."

Arian gave a helpless shrug. "None can say what doom comes with the War of the Nephalim. This aspect of an anti-Nephalim could be possible. Now are you going to tell me what you're on about?"

"I think I just met the anti-Nephalim." A grave expression fell on Jacob's face, an expression that was mirrored in the eyes of his mate.

Seventy-three hours later

Razeal sat upon his bunk holding the vial of powder given to him by the winged Nephalim. He desired to do her will. He longed to be in her favor once more: to see those shining blue eyes gaze upon him fondly rather than with a glare of vexation. But his heart was troubled over the particular orders he had been given.

Why was he to blow this strange powder into her face? How could it change her into the form he saw from the form she was now? Razeal tried time and again to fathom the reason behind the request. The Nephalim winged by artificial means? That wasn't in accordance to what he knew to be true. It wasn't what the age old tales spoke of. Indeed she was supposed to be Mortal born with all the Songs of the Malakim.

Razeal was an acclaimed anthropologist and archeologist of the Malakim Empire. He knew the stories, he had studied the ballads of the Nephalim at length and no where in the ancient scripts, paintings stories and scrolls told of the Nephalim rising out of the mists with wings.

And yet…

Razeal drew in a deep breath of the recycled air aboard the Samantha Carter – A he could not deny the touch upon his flesh was the Nephalim's. The sweet voice was hers, the eyes were hers, the radiance belonged to his beloved Nephalim, to the revered Samantha Carter. Her song….

Razeal cocked his head in mild curiosity the Nephalim's song was not her own. It was as if he had been forced out of the act of benevolent indulgence to listen to his juvenile nephew's orchestra butcher a well known symphony. The notes were well known but played badly despite the full effort and glee of the toddling younglings; it was enough to make one's ears itch. And this same 'sound' centered upon the image of the winged Nephalim. Something was off in the Great Song.

Needing wisdom greater than his own, Razeal decided to turn this issue over to one who might be able to offer aid. At first he thought to ask the Nephalim herself, then cast that idea aside as very much unwise concerning the current mood she held for him. What of The Scion of Healing; the proclaimed Nephalim of the Ancient's? Again he cast the idea aside Janet Fraiser would not be composed over the idea of a future Nephalim visiting him. She was very touchy when it came to anything concerning Samantha Carter.

No the logical choice was the Wing Commander, Boudicca. She was Malakite after all and could not be tempted by discordant sounds. Razeal looked as if he had been turned to stone. White marble to be precise as it dawned upon him; he was filled with the notes of discord. It rippled though his resonance unsettling his Song. Facing Boudicca now was less than appealing but what else was there to do?

Sam grunted with a mild sting of lower abdominal pain. ~Grace my sweetness be still. Let Mama rest,~ she spoke in perfectly accented Malakim.

The astrophysicist had learned early on in her pregnancy that her unborn daughter listened to the notes of the Malakim language and heeded her mother's desires. It was clear the unborn girl preferred the more lyrical tongue. For that matter Rebecca too obeyed quicker to her mothers when they spoke to her in the angelic language.

The pain stilled a little and the kicking within her womb ceased leaving Sam to give out deep sigh of relief. ~I know you're growing impatient Sweetie, I know it's getting tight in there but please wait until we get home before you come out. Please baby, for Mama.~

~Mama?~ the tiny high pitched voice of her daughter shocked Sam for a moment as her imagination had made the little voice to be that of Grace and not Rebecca.

Sam flashed a large welcoming smile to her little girl and patted the cushion next to her on the settee.

~Becca. Come here and give your old Mama a kiss.~

Rebecca ran and readied herself to pounce on the couch but paused in an comical ungainly halt as she recalled just how fragile her Mama was at the moment. The action caused Sam to chuckle deeply and open her arms wide eager to hold her first born daughter.

Rebecca planted a ready kiss on her mother's lips and snuggled in the very full lap. ~You talking to Grace? She wants to come out huh?~ She leaned down and pressed her ear to her mother's swollen belly as if she might hear her little sister.

"Yes she wants to come out and meet her big sister." Sam reverted to English. Her face was contorted in a little grimace not of pain but of worry. She wanted her child born at home on Grigori not off world even if it was Atlantis. The blonde chuckled again as she thought that Grigori not Earth was home.

Rebecca had before felt her mothers' unrest and now things were slowly becoming better. She knew Mommy had sent Mama back to their quarters on the ship to rest and she was glade of it. Mama was so busy now-a-days that the small empathic child was growing lonesome for her taller mother. Even her mommy was busy always s fixing people and now more so than before. There were times like this however the tiny child adored and savored covetously.

"Mama, can I go planet-side or do I have to stay here?"

Sam regarded her child, there was no reason for Rebecca to be banned from experiencing Atlantis in fact it might be good for her to see other cultures and other worlds. "Of course you can come planet-side. In fact when we visit the Athosian village I want you to come you can ride Kha'antar with me."

"Goodie!" the tot clapped her hands. "Do they have kids there?"

"Some at the Athosian colony but not on Atlantis base no."

"It's like the SGC huh? A dangerous work place even if it's filled with kick-butt cool stuff."

Sam smiled at the oh-so-influenced Jack O'Neill lingo in her little girl's colloquialism. "Indeed," She borrowed the familiar Teal'c expression. Her face drew in a line of regret as she missed her old team mates, men who were closer to her than her own brother. Men she loved dearly for they were indeed family. She wanted Grace to know them as uncles: Jack, Teal'c Mitchell and yes even Daniel despite the fact the Malakim despised him.

Despise. The very word conjured up the face of Meredith Rodney MacKay. While the Malakim despised Daniel with a vengeance the only reason the man lived was because Sam allowed it. The only reason MacKay had been so brutally killed was because Sam had wished it. Yes she had come to terms and even accepted the guilt and the responsibility surrounding that particular fiasco there was one still suffering needlessly for it.

Sam knew she had to make amends with Razeal. She had to put right what was her wrong. The Malakim warrior had only acted on her fantasy, her whim, her impulse to see MacKay smash into a wall and be dead. Razeal was never to blame for what he had deemed carrying out a direct order and adhered to under the influence of the Song of Presence. There was discord now brewing between Nephalim and warrior. As a long standing military person Sam knew such things could seriously disrupt the functionality of a team. And that sort of compromise was something no team could ill afford.

Sam knew that making amends lay upon her shoulders. The physical weight on her shoulder brought the forever young woman back to the present. Her daughter's downy auburn crown was nestled under her chin as the body was reposed in perfect complacency.

"Mama, read to me," The child demanded. "Just a little while before you have to go back to work."

Sam nodded indulging her little girl's whim with a gladdened heart. Carter cherished each moment she had with her littlest daughter. As former commander of SG1 and now the Nephalim and Prime Minister of an Empire danger dogged her heels and those little moments with her daughter could be very well be her last.

Rebecca clambered off her mother's lap and dashed into her ensuite bedroom and returned seconds later holding a well worn book. She climbed back onto the couch and into her mother's warm arms. "'A Hat Full of Sky'. You really like the Tiffany Aching stories don't you?"

"She's clever and smart Mama, kinda like me. She sees things and stuff as they truly are and thinks about them from a different point of view almost like she sees them from all angles."

Sam kissed her child's brow. "That is true she does. Tiffany Aching like you is an explorer of life. Most people sleepwalk through most of their lives, their minds deliberately closed to the millions opportunities open to them barely aware of events outside the limits of their own heads. I think you have the ability to see life beyond what your head tells you it is," Sam kissed her girl once more on her forehead before opening the book. Its hardcover creaked a little as the astrophysicist tried to find the page last read. "So where did you and Mommy leave off?"

"Tiffany was going to meet up with the other young witches."

Sam found the passage in question, cleared her throat and began to read. 'Tiffany walked through the woods while Petulia flew unsteadily alongside in a series of straight lines. Tiffany learned that Petulia was nice, and had three brothers, wanted to be a midwife for humans as well as pigs when she grew up, and was afraid of pins. She also learned that Petulia hated to disagree about anything.'

Two chapters and a half later Sam closed the book and set it aside. "Baby, Mama has to go back to work for a little while there are a few things to take care of."

The child nodded understandingly. She was used to this. "Will you be back in time to tuck me in bed?"

"Yes," Sam vowed. "I will be. Probably before then because we'll be going to the village soon," She places another kiss on the girl's brow loving the sweet baby scent wafting off her locks. "Be good to Jailil."

The soft smile on Rebecca's face beamed brightly, Jailil one of two of her best friends despite the fact he was her nanny. "Don't worry, I won't cause a fuss." She knew if she caused too much mischief she would be banned from going on the field trip and this was something she was deeply looking forward too.

Sam laughed brightly and ruffled her child's hair. "No more than you normally do at any rate, hum?" Using the arm of the settee Sam pushed her swollen form up with some effort. She couldn't wait until she gave birth and return to some sort of normalcy. "I'll be back later sweetheart," Another soft kiss on her child's brow Sam called out to the golden haired nanny.

"Jailil, I'm leaving now."

Golden wings peaked out from the den before the owner of the gilded appendages appeared. Jailil, the young male nanny quickly took his position near the tot. "I'll see to her needs Nephalim, no fears."

"I never do when you guard her Jailil," She put a hand on his shoulder and gave it a slight squeeze. A final kiss to her little girl, Sam left her quarters heading for another deck that was home to the Blue Wing Quarters.

It wasn't a hard position for Sam to admit she was wrong when she was and apologize. That was a male Carter trait. Sam took after her mother in many regards and one such trait was the ability to recognize self-wrong doing and making amends for such actions.

A grim mood had gripped the Blue wing and held it there. Fearing a second stretched out torrent like that which had taken the Empire almost a year a go Sam was quick to act to cease the discord now rippling in her Wing.

Razeal had closeted himself away in his quarters just as he had been ordered until he 'got his act together'. In truth it was Sam who had to wait to get her act together. She reached up for the panel on the side of the door that would chime her presence she waited with a slight wretched expression on her face. It hadn't quite faded when Razeal answered the door.

Razeal fixed the Nephalim with a startled expression before he came to himself. His glossy blue wings pulled tight against his body on their own regard. The iris of his blue eyes darted back and forth nervously as he stared and remembered that the revered woman was still standing in the hall.

"Please come in, Nephalim."

"Thank you," Sam stepped into the warmed quarters and inadvertently started to fan herself with her hand in a vain attempt to cool her body down. The hot flashes occasionally playing tricks on her body was enough to irritate Sam on its own and erode away at her patience.

Razeal was quick to notice the uncomfortable state his beloved Nephalim was in and ordered the computer to lower the quarters' ambient temperature.

"Oh thank you," Sam uttered gratefully and waddled to one of the overstuffed chairs in the main room and promptly sat down.

Normally she wouldn't have taken such liberties but her body ached, and her lower back was killing her and she felt as her belly was snagged in tight cramps. For once she was grateful that each member of the Blue Wing had a special chair in their quarters reserved for the smaller wingless body of the Nephalim.

Again Razeal was quick to notice the deep unrest in hanging about the Nephalim. It was enough to eclipse his wonder at her presence in his quarters. "Nephalim…"

"Razeal, I'm going to be painfully blunt here."

He swallowed hard. 'Here it comes; she will now dismiss me from my post. She will exile me from the Blue Wing, send me back to Hy-Basil dejected and honorless.'

"I apologize," Her words shattered his drifting dreaded thoughts of his impeding doom. "Razeal I have done you a terrible injustice."


"Razeal, I was wrong. I was wrong to send you here, to ask you to help Janet heal that little slug and to take out my frustrations out on you."

Razeal now stared in wonder. The Nephalim was apologizing to him?

This was unheard of.

But then so was the request to blow some unknown powder by a future Nephalim onto the very pregnant Nephalim today.

"I…I…don't understand," Razeal said lamely wincing at how inept he felt at his words.

"Razeal, it is one thing to have a fantasy, an impulsive thought and quite another to act on them. While was I content to fantasize about shoving Mackay into a wall and rendering his body into a bloody pulp it I didn't actually want it to happen."

Razeal nodded now understanding his Nephalim. "When it did happen you were appalled," He lowered his body into a kneeling penitence before her. His head not quite bowed but held in reverence even still.

A blonde head bobbed. "Yes. I punished you and I shouldn't have, not like I did. You were only following perceived orders. Boudicca had said so the moment they were carried out but I did not listen to what it was she was saying until I had a moment to reflect upon it," She drew in a breath and shifted not for the uncomfortable subject at hand but the pain in her belly had intensified. "Razeal, I rescind the punishments," She smiled slowly. "But you have to remember there is a difference between having an impulse and acting upon it. Especially when you think the action is what I want."

Razeal nodded astonished at the pardon so easily given. His eyes wide he greedily and willingly accepted the Nephalim's reprieve. "I vow it Nephalim," He swallowed hard. "Thank you."

Sam smiled warmly, her smile filling her face so brightly Razeal felt his knees buckle. Imperiously Sam rose from her chair aided by her officer as soon as she did she staggered falling into Razeal's bulk.


His glimmering blue wings cupped around Nephalim's full body securing her safely.

"Oh gods!" she gasped holding her swollen abdomen. Her hand clutched Razeal's painfully. "I think its time."

Alarm slammed into Razeal's heart, he felt as if he had received an electric shock. "Nephalim?"

"Sickbay, Razeal." Sam gasped her face contorted in crippling pain. "Oh baby… why couldn't you have waited?"

Razeal scooped up his beloved Nephalim into his arms as if he was carrying a mere toy, dashed out of his quarters and surged with all speed down the corridors heading for the aforementioned sickbay.

Dr. Janet Frasier's head had been pressed against the forehead rest of a stereomicroscope a moment before she snapped up so sharply Carson Becket was positive she must have done her spine an injury. Her eyes wide in shock quickly contorted into astonishing pain.

"Janet?" Carson moved around the lab table only in time to catch the woman from crashing into the table.

"Janet?" her name was echoed by Elizabeth hurriedly coming to tiny woman's side who was gripping her stomach in what could only be in crippling cramps.

"Sam…." Janet said the name as if it explained her sudden bout of gripping pain.

Both the Atlantians exchanged a look of stymied blankness for a moment before Elizabeth recalled that Janet and Sam shared an empathic bond given to them by a young Nox lad named Nefreyu. "Sam is in danger?"

Janet frantically shook her head. "No. Labor."

"Oh Sweet Mother," Carson exclaimed. "I'll go with ye to your ship…."

Janet didn't disagree but she wasn't going to wait around for Carson to get his gear together, not when her wife was in labor. Finding she could now stand the tiny woman dashed from the infirmary down the corridor calling out for Cassie.

When her daughter didn't make a quick enough appearance, Janet slammed her hand down on the wrist-com, "Cassandra Frasier!" she snapped in what could only be a mother's voice.

That got a response if not an exasperated one. "What!?"

"Your Mama is in labor - where the hell are you?"

"No shit?"

"Cassandra!" Janet's patience was growing thin. She took so little notice of Carson and Elizabeth's appearance at her side both of them with deeply concerned looks in their faces that she gave a huge gasp when she finally realized someone was beside her.

A whooshing vibrated the air could only mean one thing. A Malakim in flight.

Janet spotted the swift winged Zaire, "With your leave Scion?"

Janet nodded knowing what the unasked question would be.

The Ofanim messenger gathered Janet into her capable arms and flew for the corridors that led to one of the vast balconies outside.

Elizabeth and Carson gave a glance to one another before they followed on foot. But they managed only to reach the south balcony in time to see the red-orange streak take to the air heading directly for the Malakim ship hovering above the city.

Behind the two humans thundering staccato beats of footfalls echoed loudly off the tiled floor of the Atlantis base. Cassandra Frasier, Ronon Dax, Boudicca and Turelim soon reached the platform.

"Mom take off?" Cassie asked the two already staring up at the sky. By now the crimson speck had vanished into the manta-ray shaped Malakim ship.

"She flew off with the wee angel. Aye," Carson answered.

"Zephon," Boudicca's lyrical voice translated. "If any could get the Liege Healer there swiftly it would be her. Her wings have speed beyond any other's ability to fly," There was a tone of pride in the Wing Commander's voice

"Well since both my mothers' cats are off hunting, I need a lift," Cassandra looked up at her potential suitor, "Care to give a girl a hand?"

Boudicca smiled and tipped her purple crowned head, "I would be honored," She gathered Cassandra into her arms and cradled her not as a babe but as a lover. The next instant she spread her massive white wings, took two steps and plunged off the balcony only to soar up into the sky heading for the Samantha Carter-A.

Ronon gave a very knowing and sympathetic look to the large disgruntled male next to him. 'Tough luck pal. Looks like that little girl chose her mate.'

Turelim shifted his broad green-blue wings, his blue eyes glimmering in recrimination for his fallen status as a suitor for the young mortal. He grunted softly before stepping up to Elizabeth Weir, a tip of the plaited blue mane gave him a salutation. "Ma'am, I will take my leave. My place is at my Nephalim's side."

Elizabeth shuddered slightly bringing herself into the here and now. "Oh!" she coughed, her dark eyes darting back and forth for a moment trying to understand what it was this angel wanted. "Oh, of course," She seemed to hesitate as she watched the warrior step forward to the ledge of the balcony before she found she had sense enough to formulate complete sentences. "Can I trouble you to take me… no…Carson you should go. Dr. Fraiser might need your support."

Turelim gave a calculating look to the male doctor. If the Scion of Healing had confirmed this male mortal's qualifications who was he to argue? "Very well. If the Liege Healer desires it you may attend. I warn you there are explicitly strict protocols involving any birth. And this isn't any birth. This is the child of the Nephalim."

"I understand," Carson dismissed the near prejudice in the angel's words. "But while we're quibbling over protocol your Liege Healer might want an extra pair o' hands ta aid in the wee one's delivery."

Turelim still annoyed that Cassandra had chosen Boudicca over him said nothing more but snatched up Beckett and with a leap took to the air in one great bound. Elizabeth and Ronon were left in their wake.

Zephon had slipped into the Penumbra as soon she had enough lift so she might take her passenger directly into the starship's sickbay. The angelic had barely touched down before Janet launched herself from the Ofanim's arms and sprinted the few meters to Sam who was now propped up on the exam-bed with an expression of discomforting pain.

Sam's eyes reflected her panic juxtaposed with complete relief as she saw her wife. Twinges of pain took her at moments but they were long between. She had dire cramping and felt as if she had gained several pounds in water and those were the lesser of her suffrages.

"Status," Janet ordered her head Nurse Allysa Rush.

"She's stable, blood pressure one-thirty over sixty a little on the high side but given the nature of the pregnancy and the current situation that is to be expected. Pain in the lower abdominal region."

"She's right here," Sam snarled feeling left out.

Janet said nothing but picked up her wife's hand not to hold it necessarily so much as to take her pulse. "How far apart are the contractions?"

"Minutes," Sam snapped as a twinge in her gut hit her particularly hard. Within her Grace was moving about as if trying to beat the womb into a more comfortable state.

Rush smiled softly but shook her head, "Very irregular."

"Braxton-Hicks," Janet diagnosed, her nurse seemed to agree with the assessment.

"HEY!" Sam yelled growing more and more aggravated that she was ignored.

This gave a start to Carson and Cassandra who had entered seconds before their winged escorts.

Turelim and Boudicca looked to Razeal and Zephon who bore expressions of helplessness as they were uncertain what they should do. Reluctant to leave their Nephalim's side and equally eager to be readying the birthing chamber aboard the ship they stood by anxiously waiting the prognosis of the liege healer.

"Mama?" Cassie was first to move of the new comers. She had been there to help with Rebecca's birth now she would be here to help with Grace's. She felt a bit of pride and honor she was so privileged.

"I'm okay sweetie," Sam reassured her eldest child however poorly. Her shout had not served to convince the young woman all was well.

"Healer what is Braxton-Hicks?" Turelim asked Carson, having sharp ears even in the corridor outside the infirmary he had heard the term.

"False labor pains. The baby moves a wee bit more than usual and the mother experiences cramping similar to a contraction. But the cervix will only be dilated a centimeter and she will not her break her waters. The 'contractions' are not at regular intervals."

"Sam," Janet said in a voice that cooled even Jack O'Neill into place: a voice not of a mother but of the Chief Medical Officer that would hear no arguments. "You're going through false labor. Remember with Rebecca I had the same."

Sam folded her arms over her now very ample chest brooding and feeling very chastised. "Yes," It was small little girl's voice. She was cross with herself for hearing the petulance in her voice.

"Good. Now you know the remedy that will help take the pressure off your spine and relieve the cramping. I want you to walk around a little but before that…" Janet looked at the worried expression on Razeal's face and smirked. "You might not be Teal'c but you'll be perfect. Razeal, I need your help with the Nephalim."

"Of course Liege Healer," he tipped his head. He was eager to be placed back into his beloved Nephalim's good graces. He knew to trust the resonance he felt with the Nephalim to be a true sound. She had forgiven him the death of the despised mortal male. What he didn't trust were the words of the Winged Nephalim. The powder was still in the inner pocket of his tabard. He had now a chance to blow this alien powder into her face and - and then what?

No. Now was not the time to risk the life of the babe within his Nephalim's womb. Even if it meant to vex the future form of the Winged-Nephalim. But she had not set a time line for the powder to be used and so Razeal reasoned to himself he had time.

"What must I do?"

"Bend down a little so Sam can wrap her arms around your neck, then I want you to stand up very very slowly until she feels the pressure release."

Razeal felt almost panic stricken to be so very close to his beloved Nephalim, earlier she had exiled him to the ship until he got his 'act together' then she had come to him in her winged-guise and then again as he knew her. She had forgiven him his trespass, and he could feel no discord in her now. No, he was the one with discord - out of tune with his resonance. The request of his aid now seemed almost ludicrous.

"As you order, Liege healer."

Sam had no compunction to question her wife, after all Teal'c had served a similar purpose with Janet six no seven years ago. She wrapped her arms around the neck of Razeal, resting her locked elbows on his shoulders between the wingblades.

"Okay rise."

Razeal did so at a snail's pace until he heard a moan utter from Sam so deep he blushed and prayed she not notice an instant reaction his groin had to the sound of pleasure.

"Good let her down," Janet said her hand on the small of her wife's back to steady her ungainly form once she was back down to earth. She caught in her peripheral vision a swift wing movement from Razeal so that the tips of his flight feather covered his front. Privately she snickered knowing Teal'c had had the same response. It had shown in the black mans' face as he was appalled to find a bit of arousal not only from the close contact, warm breath of relieved exhale but the moan of pleasure.

Sam had said nothing then, had not teased the poor embarrassed Jaffa and Janet wasn't about to tease the angelic man for a similar reaction, especially when it caused him so much distress.

"A natural reaction," Janet said linking eyes first with Razeal but said it to her beloved, "to the circumstances at hand," She kissed Sam's cheek. "You are going to walk this off and then bed rest."

"I am supposed to go to the Athosian village this evening."

"It will have to wait. I'll inform Elizabeth and Teyla. Razeal make sure for her own good and that of our unborn daughter NO DETOURS. A walk to our quarters and then into bed."

"I heed and obey," Razeal placed his hand over his heart and bowed.

"With you Mama, I can always expect the unexpected," Cassie kissed her mother's pouting brow.

Part 25

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