Part 10

Her body thoroughly satiated and pleasantly sore, Terreis opened her eyes slow, a smile touching her lips as she thought of the woman she'd spent so many hours making love to. Warm and willing -- at least after those first few minutes -- Janet had amazed her at every level. There were matters to be seen to -- Maya's future needed to be secured in such a way that it was apparent to her that it was irretrievably over, Janet's slave papers needed to be filed, and Terreis' will updated to make certain there was no question that she was to be cared for if anything were to happen. The lazy, sensual smile still curving her lips, she reached for the woman who should have been lying close in bed as she did a slow roll ... only to come up short.

It took a moment for her to realize what had stopped her.

A beautifully etched, gold manacle....

Latched around her left wrist.

Shock and confusion vying for control, she stared at it for a long moment as though not quite believing the proof offered by her eyes, then reached for it, fully expecting it to spill open. Locked and locked tight. She yanked helplessly at the mechanism, but it didn't budge.

Rolling to her knees, she shoved the bed-curtains aside, and then the truth struck her.

She was alone. She didn't have to call out or see into the other attached rooms to be certain of it.

Her eyes fell to the bright, golden handcuff. Janet had used their lovemaking to take her opportunity and run, leaving her neatly bound with her own manacles. Even as fury at the betrayal bubbled up, it was accompanied by a sick wave of terror. If she ran into Valchon's guards, they'd carve her to pieces before she had a chance to draw breath. "GUARDS!!" her voice was an enraged, frightened bellow as she began hammering on the headboard, desperately trying to shatter the wood pillar the chain was latched to. "GUARDS!!!!" Slamming into the heavy wood with her shoulder and forearm with desperate strength, she kept screaming as she battered helplessly at her imprisonment. "RUBIO!!!! ELYANA!!!!!"

She had to get free as quickly as possible. Janet couldn't have much of a lead on her. If she could just get loose in time, hopefully she could catch her little prisoner before she got herself into trouble. Terreis bashed at the wood headboard that much harder, panicked to think she might not find the other woman in time. There were a thousand different dangers that could hurt her, from the raiders to battle weary soldiers under Valchon�s command.

Terreis cursed her own stupidity for trusting Janet enough to release the chains even as she swore to find her again no matter what it took. And when she did -- she growled a furious curse between enraged howls -- when she did, Janet Fraiser was going to find herself locked up tight, chained to the bed day and night and kept so exhausted from their lovemaking she couldn�t move a step. Janet was hers, body and soul, and Terreis had every intention of making absolutely certain she was never again allowed to forget that fact.

Terreis� head swung around at the sound of the door opening, briefly hoping that Janet had recognized the error of her ways and return on her own. She exhaled a frustrated sigh when she saw Rubio and Elyana standing in the doorway instead, their eyes wide and frightened. Rubio, she noted had his sword out and was hunting the confines of her apartments for an enemy.

"My Queen---" the young man began, but she cut him off.

"The Lady Fraiser escaped," Terreis bit out and slammed her hand into the headboard again, rattling the chains that kept her locked there. "And left me like this." She looked around herself. "She stole the necklace that carries my key--"

"I have the spare," Elyana reminded her as she hurried forward, while Rubio hung back, looking anywhere but at the sight of his queen, nude among the sheets.

Holding out her hands for the young woman to free her bonds, Terreis focused on Rubio. "I need you to find a few men -- only ones you trust -- to help search for her. She can�t have gotten far, but if Valchon�s men find her..." she trailed off, the terror ripping at her. If Valchon�s men found Janet, they�d kill her. Elyana finished releasing her wrist and she rubbed the joint absently, then slid into the robe the young woman handed her as she scrambled off the bed. "She�s had a couple of hours at most, and she�s on foot, so she�s probably still inside the city." She fought to calm her fears. "She panicked." There was no sign that she�d had any specific goal in mind. "Probably bolted without a plan...may not even know what direction to go to return to her people."

"Not necessarily," Elyana said hesitantly.

Her stomach clenching with increasing fear, Terreis focused on the girl. "What do you mean?"

"She knows where the stables are. She�s seen them from the window, and I�ve seen her studying the roads...and she recognized the Vurals."

Pale eyes slid closed for a brief moment as Terreis gathered herself together. "Get those men," she ordered Rubio, "then check the stables -- find out if there are any animals missing. If she�s stolen a dargash, she�ll be making for the Vurals." She looked up to stare out the window at the broad mountain range that separated this valley from the next, and which separated Janet Fraiser from her people. Instinctively, she suddenly knew that was where Janet was headed and the thought made her pulse accelerate with every passing second. "We�ll need to ride hard to catch her."

A dark frown touched Rubio�s brow as he noted the way she�d phrased her words. "My Queen, I know several guards who are trustworthy, but you should stay--"

"I�m coming with you," Terreis cut him off in a tone that brooked no argument.

"It could be dangerous," the guard reminded her.

Terreis nodded in understanding, but didn�t back down. "I�m aware," she allowed, "but I�m still going." Janet Fraiser was her responsibility, and she had no intention of leaving this matter to anyone else. "Now move. I want to be on the road within the hour."

Rubio looked like he wanted to argue, but he finally nodded. "As you wish, Your Highness." He bowed and hurried out, leaving his wife to see to his queen.

Stepping into the huge closet, Terreis began rifling through things in search of what she needed.

"I�ll arrange for food and water to be prepared," Elyana said quickly.

Terreis nodded, dismissing the girl as she pulled out a pair of leather riding breaches, a loose blouse that would shield her skin from the sun but not be too hot, and a heavy cloak that would shield rain or cold winds. High riding boots completed her needs. Stepping out, she began quickly began dressing, her mind with the escaped woman, rage and fear making it hard to think clearly. The only thing she knew for certain was that she would find Janet and drag her back, and make damn sure she never left again.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The dargash had a surprisingly easy stride and seemed to be completely tireless, barely noticing Janet�s weight or the miles it covered. It wasn�t until the road began to climb into the jagged stretch of mountains that the animal finally began to show some measure of fatigue, forcing the doctor to allow it to slow its pace to a plodding walk. Nervous, she glanced over her shoulder, staring back at the rolling hills behind her. After riding past rather dilapidated, but clearly productive farms for quite some time, she hadn�t seen anyone or any sign of movement in the landscape for hours, and as the road climbed into the mountains, the vegetation quickly thinned to the point that it left little but rocky landscape.

The doctor squinted, trying to decide if she was actually seeing a hint of dust in the air, like something that might be kicked up by a fast riding pursuit party, or if she was just imagining things. What were the chances she could actually see far enough to catch any clues about pursuit. And maybe Sam would be angry enough that she wouldn�t even bother.

Even as that thought crossed her mind, she knew it was wrong. Sam would follow, and she wouldn�t stop until she had Janet back under her control if it was humanly possible. Which meant Janet had to make damn certain it wasn�t humanly possible.

Because she was terrified that if she went back, neither one of them would ever go home. Sam had too much power, and the bond between them was too damned seductive, making it far too tempting to simply surrender, especially now that they�d made love. That just complicated everything, making it hard for her to remember who she was and what she needed to do. She�d been in love with Sam so long that there was a certain very dark temptation to just give in and become what Sam wanted her to be. Their bodies meshed perfectly, their emotions were entwined, and instinct told her that if she just surrendered she would have Sam�s total trust and a return to the strange synergistic sharing of the mind they�d long enjoyed. It wouldn�t take much.

Which was why she had to get away, she reminded herself brutally.

 

 

 

 

 

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Plot: Very general, and extremely subject to change, since to some extent I'm working out the logic in my head, but this should give an idea of the overall themes and such. The earlier sections are much firmer in my head, later sections more general and more subject to change. There's also a certain amount of prose stirred through, obviously very rough draft form with a lot of details wrong, since it was written in advance (and may well not appear in the final product ... sometimes things like that are just ideas).

Beginning with Part 10

Sam goes after Janet with Rubio and several other troops he trusts. As they ride after Janet, Rubio just keeps talking to Sam, calming her down, pointing out the evils of slavery, and she comes to believe that Janet bolted because of being made a slave. She's angry, but not murderously so, and he makes enough good points that she starts feeling some guilt. During the journey, runs across a watchtower in the pass and finds it unmanned ... and clearly long abandoned and is furious that the pass into the valley where the royal city stands is unguarded. Also finds evidence that Janet has been there.

Janet runs across a local who gives her some help/information and gives her some hope that the SGC might still be looking for them.

The rest of the night, and a full day passes. As they ride into the valley where the gate stands, they see some of the same mess SG-1 did, but Sam assumes any damage they see to have been done by the outlanders. None of the soldiers with her have ever been in this valley before and don't know. At some point she realizes that some of the fields they pass have been fallow a long time (the earth is hard and cracked). Rubio comments on the drought, and she's confused, doesn't even know about it. The discussion is cut off when they run across the same peasant Janet saw. Question him, and he's clearly terrified. Sam is calm, thinking the outlander attacks just have him so scared, offers him a reward and explains that the woman could be in danger. He finally tells them where she was headed.

A storm is brewing, thunder and lightning rumbling and moving closer as Janet reaches the building she was using as a clinic before they find her, and finds a radio left behind in a hiding place. Takes a couple of tries, but finally gets a response. She's very emotional, exhausted. It's O'Neill and Teal'c. They're nearby and have been coming and going,. Ask if Carter's alive, she answers yes, starts to explain, but hears something outside. Tells O'Neill she may have to move. He assures her they're on the way as she shuts the radio off, afraid of being heard. Outside, at first, she thinks everything's okay, then Sam tackles her, pins her after a brief wrestling match. She's angry, but not out of control. As much as anything, seems to angry because Janet could have been hurt or killed. Rubio wants to hurry and get headed back, afraid the storm might give them a problem ... and worried about outlanders, since they're so near the gate. Sam is more involved in trying to figure out if the building is simply old or one that was destroyed. Does not find the radio, since it was lost when she tackled Janet. Rubio says it's probably abandoned, since this plain has dried out so thoroughly during the drought. Janet explains that it was the one she used as a clinic, but Sam rejects the explanation, having decided that her world wasn't where Janet was taken. She has not locked Janet back into the cuffs at this point, but is keeping a hard hold on her, though there's no way she's going to escape with that many men around. A thin rain begins, the lightning still flashing as they finally ready to leave. Then a lightning flash silhouettes two figures on a nearby rise. One of Sam's men panics and fires, while Janet screams in warning as she realizes it's O'Neill and Teal'c. A brief firefight follows, while Sam and Janet struggle. It's obvious that Janet is trying to get back to the two men, and shouts out,"She's here!" meaning Sam and trying to get the men to retrieve her. Teal'c fires his staff weapon at some point, but not directly at them, afraid of hitting the doctor. Sam finally gags Janet and uses the manacles. Because Janet called out to the men and her man lies and insists they didn't fire first, she believes it was an attempt on her life and Janet was in on it. They escape O'Neill and Teal'c as the heavens open up. Somewhere in all of it, the radio makes a reappearance, and Sam realizes janet was in contact with the men.

Hours later, the small group rests their mounts. Sam accuses Janet of whoring herself to escape, and of attempting to kill her. Janet denies the charge, winds up gagged once again.

Upon returning to the castle, Valchon is waiting for them, having found out that they went after Janet. The soldier that fired on O'Neill and Teal'c, feeling defensive, and afraid of getting in trouble for his mistake, blurts out that there was an attempt on their queen's life in front of everyone, giving Valchon an opening to pressure Sam to turn Janet over to the interrogators ... which she finally does under his pressing, logical argument ... and because she's so furious.

Janet is dragged into a lower level dungeon straight out of a horror flick, and handed over to an interrogator, who clearly intends to torture her, and is enjoying the idea. There are other prisoners, clearly brutalized. Chained to a post, Janet manages to work her way free while he begins preparing his "tools" and winds up beating him senseless.

She moves to free the men who are prisoners there, but can�t find the right key on the ring. Hearing someone coming, she hands the keys over. "Keep them hidden until you can make your escape."

Valchon appears at the top of the stairs and they fight, he grabs her around the throat, and throws her in an instant. Even he seems surprised by how far she flies. Badly dazed, Janet isn't much able to fight, and doesn't see the way his eyes glow faintly for a moment. She's dragged back and chained once again, and the interrogator is quite furious as he begins once again, complaining that she's slowed things down. Valchon taunts her, then leaves.

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Sam, meanwhile is in her own quarters, well on her way to getting drunk, very possibly suicidal ... and very probably throwing off the programming, though it's clear it won't be fast enough. Lemier arrives, knows what's happened to Janet, and is afraid that if she isn't saved, Sam will revert to herself and/or commit suicide if Janet is killed because of her orders, but he doesn't have the power to take on an interrogator and/or Valchon. Finally talks her into rescuing Janet by reminding her that she won't survive the interrogators, and the original reasons for not handing her over still stand ... though it's not really that hard. Sam basically just wants an excuse.

Janet is struggling, fighting to get free once again as the interrogator advances with a red hot poker from behind. Sam arrives and stops him just in time. Livid, she orders him to get out, and he thinks she just means so that she can work the prisoner over before he starts, at which point she responds to the effect of,

"I don't think you understand. Get out of this room ... out of this palace ... out of my lands ... in fact, why don't you get off the entire planet. If I see you again, your life is forfeit."

He finally flees. She frees Janet, who's bitterly angry, but smart enough to shut up. Sam locks the gold manacles on both of her prisoner's wrists. Notices the other prisoners, and demands to know their crimes ... it's an appallingly non-criminal litany ... basically just the various ministers taking out petty bits of revenge and punishment. Clearly in charge is a general who doesn�t trust her, and is worried about Janet. Sam offers him a deal if he�ll serve her personally when she finds out his crime was to refuse to orger his men to rape a girl who refused a minister. She orders Lemier to have them released into the custody of her personal guard, to be fed, their injuries treated, etc. Then drags Janet out.

Alone in her apartments, the anger is swelling, and she's barely in control, still believes Janet was part of a "murder attempt" but at the same time, she wants her, can't allow her to be killed, and feels guilty over what nearly happened. When Janet resists, they struggle and Janet winds up with the handcuff chain thrown over a wall sconce, arms forced over her head, Sam against her back. Sam's furious. "Why did you have to ruin everything?" She tears Janet's blouse and it's a near thing ... but finally can't go forward, and winds up clinging to the wall sconce, her hands on top of Janet's, face buried in her hair, sobbing desperately. Finally pulls back and frees one of Janet's wrists in order to lock her to the servant's pallet, won't let her look back though ... and Sam finally leaves.

Ordering Melanthus and Elyana to look after Janet, Sam drags Rubio off, demanding if he knows how to use the sword he carries, and when he says he does, she makes him give her a lesson (he is resistant). It's just a brutal, battering for both of them. And for most of it, there's little talk, but toward the end as they're both just exhausted, there is some chatter ... Rubio asking Sam what she intends, and she admits she doesn't know. She's worked off some of the rage, but she's still not very much in control ... back to talking about the brutality of the outlanders, and now that she knows Janet's a part of it, doesn't know what to do. At some point, he basically says that if she's just going to torture her, it would be kinder to simply kill her. Sam just freezes. She can't even argue. Finally, she just pushes to her feet and leaves.

Barely coherent, Sam stumbles into the gardens, confused, lost, distraught over what she saw in the dungeons, torn over what she very nearly did, just emotionally shredded. It's all crashing in on her, and she just stands there as the heavens open up. Sinks to her knees, sobbing. When a hand lands on her shoulder, for a moment, she thinks it's Janet, but it's Maya, and even knowing better, Sam sinks into her arms, just needing to be close to someone. For once, Maya gets it, and just holds her, offering nothing but comfort. Afraid of moving Janet out of her quarters, and afraid of her own behavior, Sam moves Maya back into her apartments, essentially using her as a chaperon, and puts Elyana back in charge of her, though Melanthus is now the military guard, while Rubio is assigned to head up a new division of the guard made up of hand picked guards. She also offers the men rescued from the dungeons an opportunity to join the guard and be trained, and also arranges for Rubio to give her more training with weapons, while hunting down any books she can find on military history and tactics. She also begins dressing more practically, eschewing the gowns much of the time in favor of more military-esque garb.

Janet meanwhile keeps expecting Valchon to show up and kill her, but nothing happens. She subtly asking questions, and keeps getting different stories on the history. At some point, begins to realize that the people just parrot whatever the ministers tell them is the truth because doing anything else means punishment. She also begins to put together the history of the planet, and begins to suspect the Goa'uld were involved somewhere in the past ... that maybe what's been done to Sam has to do with their technology. Janet also gives Elyana a rough physical, wishes she had access to the vaccine and equipment in her bag so she could do a better job and make sure Elyana and the baby are protected ... though she concludes the pox isn't on this side of the mountains ... which the ministers have used as a natural break ... pretty much just writing those people off and cannibalizing their equipment.

Sam is angry at Janet but also tempted to take Janet to her bed and fighting it, and both of them are intensely aware of one another. Sam tries desperately to pretend that Janet means nothing to her, but it�s obviously an act. The first several nights, Sam just sleeps next to Maya without touching her, though Maya makes some overtures.

At some point, Lemier meets with Sam under the pretense of reporting on something, subtly tries to talk her into accepting that she's in love with Janet and seducing her into her bed. Points out that she does have decency and caring ... that they don't really know what she was doing when she called out, that Valchon had his own reasons for wanting her turned over to the interrogators, etc. "You could teach her that there's a better way than what she saw among her own people." Sam is unbelievably tempted, but has several excuses for not doing anything. After he leaves she's thinking about it though.

Several nights later, Sam walks in, spies on Janet in the bath ... leaves to keep from going to her. Comes back later after Janet should be asleep and gets her own bath. Sees Janet watching her and purposely takes her time, listening to the sounds of Janet's breathing, hearing it grow heavier, smelling her arousal, and feeling it wash over her. At some point, she looks up, their eyes meet, and she's one step from going to her, except she sees fear in Janet's eyes, sees her pull back. She climbs out, goes to bed, and this time, she's already so worked up that when Maya starts to make love to her, she gives way.

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But the realization that she no longer had even the faintest hint of desire for her lover. Beautiful as she was, there was nothing there. She didn't even know why. Once her blood had burned for Maya. She remembered it well enough; they'd made love by the hour, so absorbed in one another, the entire world had ceased to exist. Now, after simply going through the motions, she felt in dire need of a bath.

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Sam speaks to Lemier who once again encourages her to pursue Janet. When she reminds him that she tried that once, and Janet ran and nearly wound up dead as a result, he points out that it�s because she didn�t hold onto Janet, that she�s safest in Sam�s possession. Sam is frustrated and angry, but also mulling over what he�s said, and she wants Janet desperately.

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Careful not to disturb the woman sprawled asleep in her bed, Terreis slid out from under the covers and shrugged into a robe, startled by the hollow feeling in her chest as she thought of their earlier lovemaking, though there had been nothing of love to it, just a habitual sort of release. Whatever she had once felt for Maya, it seemed it was long dead.

She paused, peering at her lover and trying to find something of the emotion she should feel. Except she felt nothing but an empty sort of regret where the other woman was concerned, the recent ugliness that had passed between them leaving an nasty taste in her mouth that she couldn't push down. Real or not, the hours spent in the outlander's arms had spoiled anything else for her.

Finally, wanting to leave it all behind, she stepped onto the balcony, the chill air an oddly calming balm to jangled nerves. The outlander had been in quarters just over a week and yet, somehow, everything had changed. Silent, kept out of the way, her care handled by the servants, her presence should have been barely noticeable, but she permeated every fibre of the place and thoughts of her permeated every aspect of the queen's day. She moved to peer through the double doors onto the balcony, a frown touching her brow as she noted the faint gleam of moonlight on the gold chain that locked her to the staple in the wall above the narrow pallet. Without planning, she stepped back inside, her eyes going not to her own bed, but the narrow servant's pallet and the woman sleeping there. She tensed when a slender shadow slipped in through the doors, followed by a taller, broader figure. Elyana and Rubio.

Elyana's head remained down, her tone low and uncertain. "You were busy earlier ... and she hasn't eaten since lunch."

Terreis stepped forward, raising a hand so the two servants pulled up short. "I'll see to her," she said softly. She saw their surprise, Rubio's particularly, since he was well aware of how difficult things had gotten, and had it in her to wonder at the impulsive decision. "Get some rest. You've both been working murderous hours." She nodded to Rubio. "Take the rest of the night off." She smiled at the young guard's wife. "Spend some time together."

"Are you sure?" he questioned, his voice almost inaudible.

She nodded, offering a hint of a smile. "You've earned it. Take a little time for yourselves."

The girl�s eyes went to Janet. "But she hasn�t eaten, My Queen."

"Don�t worry," Terreis assured her servant. "I�ll see to it that she�s fed." She took the food tray from Elyana, staying where she was until they'd gone, then turning back to the prisoner's pallet. Janet still slept deeply, and didn't stir as Terreis drew close and set the tray on the small table placed there for that purpose. Settling on the edge of the narrow pallet, she rested her hand lightly on a narrow hip. The outlander had tugged the thin pillow up over her head and Terreis carefully tugged it aside, leaning close to urge, "Wake up." The prisoner stirred sleepily and brushed sleep mussed hair from her eyes. "You need to eat," the queen said softly, eyes sliding over what she could see of the other woman's frame, assessing her condition. She was definitely regaining the weight she'd lost and looking far more healthy. She was nearly back to normal, due in almost total part to the efforts of the two servants.

Janet pushed upright, frowning as she realized who sat there. The edgy look that entered dark brown eyes did nothing to soothe the queen's torn emotions.

"I told Elyana and Rubio to take the rest of the night off," Terreis informed the prisoner, her voice as businesslike as she could make it, babbling to keep from saying other, far more dangerous things. They�d barely spoken since that awful scene after she�d rescued Janet from the interrogator. "They've been putting in such long days, they deserve a little rest." She was mildly surprised when Janet simply accepted the food offered. Unable to take her eyes from soft lips, the memory of their taste burning in her head, Terreis plucked another piece of fruit from the tray, offering it up with just a hint of an inviting smile. "If you haven't tried these, you should. They're sweet ... wet," she said without any planning, then swallowed hard as the double meaning struck her and sent hard bolt of arousal throbbing through her veins.

The outlander froze, her fingers just barely touching the fruit, eyes suddenly wide. Frowning, she yanked her hand back, and seemed about to say something when Terreis held the sweet pulp up to those pink, silky lips that held her attention so thoroughly.

Logically, pursuing the outlander was a foolish move at best, and yet she couldn�t seem to stop herself from continuing to press the sweet fruit on her prisoner. "Taste it," she commanded, her voice low and intense, her tone making it obvious she wouldn't accept a refusal. She waited until Janet took a bite, then her gaze flicked down, focusing on the slender curve of her prisoner's hip where her hand had settled so comfortably. The blanket had slid low and it took only the tiniest movement of her thumb to ease it aside and settle her palm on a pale thigh. Taut muscles jumped under her loose hold and the outlander gasped.

"Don't," Janet hissed as Terreis just barely stroked velvety skin with the pad of her thumb.

The queen looked up in response to the angry command, her voice low and serious when she finally spoke. "You must know by now, that you don't give the orders here." Using her other hand, she poured a measure of fruit juice into a glass as she continued the subtle caresses on her prisoner's thigh. She held the glass up to full lips, her voice little more than a tight rasp. "Drink." With little choice in the matter, Janet's lips parted to accept the sweet liquid, though she tensed as Terreis eased her hand farther under the blanket, fingers fitting themselves to curve of her hip. Resistant tension rippled through her, but didn't deter the queen as she found herself once again lost in the same arousal that had haunted her since discovering the woman in the dungeons.

"What are you doing?" Janet whispered, though she knew full well.

The queen set the glass aside, then lifted her hand to stroke a velvety cheek and slide her fingers into silky hair. She leaned closer, breathing in soft scent of clean hair and skin, her breath playing over the curve of her prisoner's jaw. "I saw you watching me," she whispered.

Janet stiffened, the fear returning in full measure. "I wasn't--" she denied instantly.

"Don't lie," Terreis cut her off as she studied soft features, assessing the anger and resentment, fingers moving lightly over a smooth thigh even as she registered the tension that rippled through firm muscle. "I don't think you can stop thinking about that night either," she groaned, the words equal part admission and accusation. "About what happened between us--"

"Don't," Janet pleaded.

A soft, growling curse escaped the queen's lips, Janet�s resistance an additional frustration to already charged hormones. She tightened her fingers fractionally; just enough to serve as a reminder of who was in charge. "You could have become my consort ... I would have seen a child sired on you ... your blood on my throne one day." Her eyes blazed. Furious over the thwarted fantasy, she reached out, flicking the chain with a fingernail. "Instead, this will be your fate." Sometimes she almost hated Janet for pushing things to this point. If she had just stayed put, this wouldn't be necessary.

A tiny, hurt whimper bubbled up from Janet's throat, the sound sending an echo of much-resented guilt through her captor.

Despite everything, Terreis hated the damn chains and the need for them, hated the way they made her feel and the pain they put into dark eyes. She wanted nothing more than an excuse to be rid of them. "Offer yourself to me in trade for some modicum of freedom," she whispered after a beat. It would give both of them something they wanted and perhaps alleviate some of that unwanted sense of culpability, though she was uncertain of her crime.

Eyes sparking with anger, Janet shook her head. "Never," she hissed, her voice trailing into a startled gasp as Terreis leaned even closer, drawn by the scent of soft skin, and the promise of sweet flesh, barely able to resist the pressing need to take things to the next level.

"That's a very long time," the queen drawled, somehow disappointed by and at the same proud of the defiance, amazed to realize some part of her would have been saddened had Janet surrendered to the blackmail so easily, or traded something so precious. Her eyes fell to touch on the underside of her prisoner's jaw, noting the rapid flutter of her pulse where it throbbed just under the line of bone. "But you really should reconsider." Her gaze rose again as she felt tension slip through already taut muscle. "I have the power to control your fate." She swallowed hard, her own pulse suddenly hammering in her chest. "Why not bargain for yourself with such valuable coin...."

Janet just barely moved her head back and forth, her eyes locked on a point somewhere on the opposite side of the room. "I won't," she insisted raggedly.

Terreis was silent for a moment, torn between being let down and relieved by the answer. "When I was younger, I once tamed a wild dargash to my hand." She firmed her grip on Janet's thigh when she would have pulled away. "It fought me ... would have killed me if it could have. It didn't understand that being mine was the best fate possible." Her lips just barely brushed that delicate pulse point, tasting the fluttery beat before she continued. "But it soon learned that I brought food and the curry comb ... that I would care for it ... protect it." She trailed her free hand down the outer line of Janet's upper arm, the delicate caress making muscles jump and play. "It tamed to my hand ... and mine alone ... learned to love me ... and allowed no other rider." She tasted the subtle pulse point again, tasting the leap in her prisoner's heartrate and teasing it with the tip of her tongue. "I rode it by the hour," she whispered, her heated breath playing over incredibly smooth skin, "just as I'll ride you." Her prisoner's free hand came up, arcing toward a slap, but she caught the slender wrist before she could gain any force and pressed it back into the mattress.

"And what about my supposed attempt to kill you?" Janet challenged her angrily.

"The dargash tried to kill me and it still learned to seek my hand ... just as you will." Terreis had tried to resist the temptation, tried to walk away. She finally accepted she couldn't. It didn't matter what Janet had done, nor what she was, nor that she was totally inappropriate as a consort to a queen. She was what Terreis needed like she needed air to breathe.

Janet turned her head until they were almost nose to nose, her eyes blazing. "While her sweat is still drying on your skin?" she demanded, her tone accusing.

Flinching as though struck, Terreis reared back an inch or two, then she leaned back into Janet's space, crowding her, her voice a low rasp. "Say the word," she husked, fingers tightening on the warm thigh in her grasp, "and it will be yours." She pressed Janet's wrist more firmly into the thin mattress to quell the rising tide of resistance. "Your sweat on my skin, your taste in my mouth, the weight of your breasts in my hands." Her teeth found the vulnerable arch of her prisoner's throat, closing lightly on her throbbing carotid artery this time, capturing and holding her heartbeat in the most visceral way possible. She felt the hard beat accelerate and the tiny whimper that vibrated Janet's larynx. Releasing soft flesh, she claimed her prisoner's mouth in a plundering kiss, demanding her complete surrender. This was exactly where they both belonged, bound together at every level. She jerked her head back a brief moment later, her eyes blazing, blood dripping from her lower lip. "Your answer, I presume?" she ground out, every movement slow and stiff as she reached up and wiped the blood away with the back of her hand.

Janet didn't answer, just glared up at her, small tremors wracking her slender frame.

"Very well," Terreis growled and released the prisoner to push to her feet. She stood perfectly still for a long moment, silently willing the other woman to give ground where she as queen, could not. When the only answer was a deep, echoing silence, her teeth gritted, frustration burning like a fire in her gut. She almost stepped forward and simply took what they both needed. Janet had surrendered before and she knew in her heart she would again.

Almost.

A long moment passed, and then she shook her head, backing up a step. Not this time. Not when she was already angry and tasting blood, but had no idea what the next step after the sex should be.

With nothing else she could do, the queen pivoted and stalked away. And when she slid into bed and woke Maya with rough kisses, it was done to punish, the harsh caresses her lover had come to crave used to draw ragged cries she knew would twist the knife.

No question in her mind how much it would hurt the outlander. She didn't even begin to understand her certainty, but despite her denials, Janet was as bound up in her as she was in Janet. Something tied them together, and though neither of them knew how to deal with it, nothing changed that link.

"More," Maya gasped, and Terreis obliged her, releasing her anger in hard thrusts, while her handmaid begged for everything she could deliver and then some. She screamed when she came, while Terreis found herself far less aroused than she had been when she'd started. She waited until the other woman had rolled over and slid off into heavy sleep, then slipped from bed, her eyes sliding toward the servant's pallet. Janet had pulled the blankets and pillow over herself and was either asleep or determinedly ignoring the scene on the other side of the room.

Either way, the whole thing left Terreis feeling curiously hollow. She'd set out to punish the outlander. What she couldn't have known -- or perhaps she could have if she'd been paying attention -- was that by the time her lover slept, she would be the one who hurt so much. And when she slid into the sunken bath, scrubbing her skin as though she could make her own actions go away that easily, it finally sank in that the one she'd really punished was herself.

When she finally climbed out of the water, she pulled on a robe and stepped onto the balcony, nauseous and a little dizzy under the impact of it all. Gripping the railing tightly, she leaned heavily on her hands and tipped her head back, staring skyward with longing eyes. The bright points of starlight were a much needed comfort, their beauty soothing a part of her soul that had been churning with confusion for some time now ... maybe her entire life. If she could just lose herself in those distant lights, maybe she could escape it all for a little while and figure out what to do.

She was still standing there like that some time later when soft footfalls alerted her she wasn't alone. Half expecting to find Maya, she almost didn't look, but then she turned, her expression softening as she recognized Elyana's slender frame.

"My Queen," the young woman said with a small, respectful curtsy, "I thought I should check on the prisoner ... just in case ... and I noticed you were out here." She shifted nervously from foot to foot as if wondering whether she'd made such a wise decision in coming out. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Despite the momentary temptation to unburden herself to the young woman, Terreis shook her head. "No ... but thank you." She nodded toward the door. "You should be with your husband." They'd had little enough time to themselves, and they deserved it.

A soft smile curved the young woman's lips, making it obvious how they'd spent their off time. "He sleeps," she murmured. "He always does ... where my mind tends to run in circles." She shrugged, her expression closing down and giving little away. "I couldn't sleep, so I thought I should check on things."

"Thank you," the queen said softly, a wry smile curving her lips at the surprised look that touched the young servant's soft features. "You've done very well in your assigned duties."

"Thank you, My Queen. We've both been honored to serve you." Elyana's expression was properly respectful, but some of the trust was gone now, and had been since the night Terreis had taken the outlander to her bed.

"You've done very well," Terreis said again and turned to stare out at the city again. "May I ask you something?" she said before the other woman could turn and leave.

"Of course, Highness," Elyana said instantly. "Anything."

"The outlander ... do you think she tried to kill me?" She had come to trust the young servant's view of things. The need to survive had taught her to read people very well.

Elyana was silent for a long moment. "No," she said at last. "I don't think she could if she wanted to." A small, dark laugh escaped the younger woman's lips, a grim reminder that she wasn't quite the innocent she often appeared. "She's foolish enough to love you, I think."

Tension rippled through Terreis, and her hands tightened on the railing, knuckles whitening with the strain. "You don't know what you're talking about," she insisted even as she remembered her certainty that the way to hurt Janet was to make love to Maya. "I'm her enemy ... very possibly her target."

"Then why didn't she kill you when you were locked to the headboard and sleeping peacefully?"

Terreis had no ready response. It was the one question she hadn't thought of andno one else had asked.

"It would have been easy enough," Elyana continued, her voice colder than the queen had ever heard it. "She could have cracked your skull with any number of heavy objects in the room. If that didn't kill you, it would have weakened you enough to allow her to finish the job any number of ways." Her eyes glittered in a way that made the queen suspect she'd plotted more than one murder in her life -- or perhaps one murder many times. "Instead, she simply ran ... and even now, her eyes go first to you when she enters a room you're in ... and when you enter, no matter what she's doing, she looks to you and cannot look away." The maid shook her head, sad, or perhaps disgusted. "And when you aren't aware she's watching you, her expression softens with," she paused as she hunted for the right word, the wait stretching Terreis' patience thin before she finally answered, "longing," she decided at last. "She longs for you."

The queen almost cried out, her body reacting with incredible intensity to the softly uttered words. A murder plot might have explained the watchfulness, but if Elyana was right, not the rest of it. They were things she was so desperate to hear she almost thought she'd imagined them. "I'm her captor," she whispered very softly, her voice tinged with deep sadness. "She's already run from me once. What she feels for me is anything but longing." No matter how much she might wish it were otherwise.

"You're wrong," Elyana disagreed. She waited a beat, then questioned, "But if she's simply a prisoner, why do you care?"

"She's my enemy." A small, grim laugh escaped the queen's lips. "And yet...." She shook her head as if to resettle the confusing jumble of thoughts swirling in her brain. It didn't help. "She's mine," she exhaled almost inaudibly, finally admitting to herself that, despite everything, that simple fact hadn't changed. "And nothing either of us has done changes that. There�s a bond that can�t be escaped."

Elyana released a small sigh, the emotions behind it unreadable. It occurred to the queen that she was very good at shielding her emotions, and very probably at projecting ones she didn't feel at all. "Then that answers your question, I suppose, My Queen."

Terreis snorted softly. Answered it perhaps ... and generated a hundred new questions in its place. "What of Maya?" She suddenly accepted that any love was long since gone, but she still owed the woman her respect and protection. To simply throw her aside in favor of an enemy prisoner would be a humiliating insult. No matter the recent battles between them, she didn't deserve to be treated that way.

Elyana's answering laugh was soft and subtly sarcastic. "I assure you, My Liege, she'll live."

Terreis looked over her shoulder at the servant, picking up on the deeper meaning of the comment. "Meaning?" she said sharply.

Elyana paled, looking uneasy with the conversation for the first time. "It's not really my place to say," she whispered after an uncomfortable moment of silence.

"Tell me," Terreis commanded brusquely. She didn't know what was bothering the young woman, but it seemed obvious it affected her.

"It's just that..." Elyana shook her head, fear glittering in her eyes. Being the messenger of bad tidings was seldom a pleasant experience for a servant in Arrathonea. "...she cuckolds you, My Queen ... with one of your own ministers." She looked nervous, as though afraid her words had been overheard.

For a moment, Terreis thought she must have misheard, then what Elyana said slowly sank in. She wanted to doubt the girl, but couldn't. She had no reason to lie. "Who?" she demanded, her voice a harsh rasp.

Elyana was silent for a long moment. "If he finds out I told you..." she whispered. "He's a powerful man."

The queen's gaze hardened. "I'm more powerful, believe me. But you needn't worry, I won't tell anyone it came from you."

"It's just that--"

"You have my protection. Now tell me," Terreis snapped impatiently.

"Minister Valchon," Elyana whispered at last, and Terreis couldn't contain a soft gasp of surprise. "It is Senior Minister Valchon."

"Are you sure?" the queen demanded, shock giving way to something else; not anger precisely, but a soul deep resentment coupled with an odd kind of relief. Maya had no claim on her emotions if she was already feathering her nest with Valchon's wares, nor could the minister claim a tax on her sympathies if he was cuckolding her with her own mistress.

"The gossip has been thick in the kitchens since Rubio and I arrived nearly a month ago ... but I also saw them myself ... she entered his rooms ... and there were ... sounds."

Terreis nodded, absorbing the news. It all made sense; explained how the minister had been able to track her so closely. Her hands tightened on the railing, her mind already on the best response for dealing with the situation. "Thank you for telling me," she said at last, then looked back, seeing the young servant's fear and remembering her husband's quietly spoken warnings about the minister's power. "You needn't worry. No one will know you've told me this."

Elyana nodded. "Thank you, My Queen."

"No ... thank you." She had some idea of the courage it must have taken to pass along that news, knowing the minister would make a deadly enemy if he ever found out. "Now, go. I need to think."

The young maid ducked her head and started to leave only to change her mind and turn back. "The outlander, My Queen," she murmured. "You asked if I think she tried to kill you ... so I ask you, could you do what you fear she did?" Terreis frowned, not understanding at all. "She's like you," Elyana explained. "She sees things differently ... cares in ways most people don't ... and thinks in ways most people can't." She looked up, seeing the same stars Terreis saw, but incapable of seeing them in the same way. "She understands you in ways the rest of us cannot." She looked down again, offering another quick curtsy, then slipped out, leaving the queen behind her, her thoughts a chaotic turmoil.

Terreis stayed where she was for a long time, going over it all, the only certain thing in her head, that the situation could not continue as it was. Finally, she straightened and slipped back inside, moving to stand beside the servant's pallet. She reached down, pulling the pillow aside, then straightened, not fooled by her prisoner's unconvincing attempt to feign sleep. "No more," she said just loudly enough to be certain the other woman heard her. "This ends tomorrow. You will be tamed to my hand ... mine and no other. Accept it, because I won't play these games any longer." Turning away, she paused just long enough to pull on a gown before hurrying out.

* * * * * * *****************

Janet was wakened from a fitful sleep by a blood-curdling shriek.

"You what?!"

Blinking sleepily, she pushed up on one elbow, brows rising as she spotted Sam. There were dark circles under the blonde's eyes -- just as Janet was certain there were under her own as many hours as she'd lain awake in her bed before finally passing out -- and she stood braced as though she was facing an incoming tornado. Considering the enraged woman pacing the floor in front of her, the tornado might have been preferable.

"The arrangements have been made--" Sam began, her tone somewhere between commanding and placating, but Maya cut her off before she could get any farther

"Am I to understand that I'm being thrown aside for that?" she demanded, hurling a furious glare at Janet.

Sam ignored the implied insult, instead continuing in a remarkably calm voice. "Lord Favril is a respected member of the lower council, and his son will one day inherit his position. You'll have money, respect, a title, and be--"

"Stuck in the farthest corner of the kingdom where they barely even have running water," Maya exploded furiously.

"Nonetheless," Sam broke in before her servant could get another word out. Her voice hardened, eyes suddenly flinty. "I've lived up to our bargain and arranged a quality marriage. If Lord Favril's son is not to your liking, there are other candidates ... but you will not be staying in my apartments or this palace."

"You dare--" the handmaid began, but Sam cut her off again.

"Just like you dare to sneak into dark corners with my senior minister." A dark blonde brow rose and soft lips pursed into an expression that bordered on hatred. "My ancestors would have had you flogged and thrown to the garrison for their night's entertainment for such betrayal," she said sharply enough to slice through bone.

Janet was amazed by the sudden change that came over Maya. She went white, her hands trembling violently. "Y-you can't ... can't know--" she sputtered and reached for Sam.

The blonde knocked reaching hands away, her lips pulling back from clenched teeth in an instinctive, feral snarl as she reared back to avoid any contact. "I know," she disagreed harshly. "You should have remembered that servants talk."

Maya paled another notch, her eyes full of sheer terror, far more than she should have been feeling considering that Sam had already promised to marry her off to some junior lord, it seemed to Janet's eyes. "But after last night--" the handmaid whispered, trying to use that sexual tie once again.

"Last night was nothing," the blonde bit out. She glanced back at Janet, raw emotion in her gaze as their eyes met. "I didn't want you," she told Maya as her head came back around. "I only wanted to hurt her for refusing me." Her temper calmed as she admitted the truth. "I haven't really wanted you in a long time...."

Maya rocked on her heels as though struck with that pronouncement. "You wanted me last night--" she insisted desperately, but Sam cut her down with brutal efficiency.

"What happened between us made me physically ill." The blonde straightened, her posture stiff and unrelenting. "Now take your things ... and go." She nodded toward the door. "I've arranged for you to have an apartment tonight ... and for an escort to guide you to Lord Favril's estates tomorrow."

Maya drew breath to argue only to realize it was pointless before the words left her mouth. She straightened her shoulders, somehow regaining a small measure of dignity. "Have my things sent to me." She looked up at Sam, her expression taking on a wry cast. "I wanted out of this deal," she murmured without explaining further, then shook her head. "I wonder if I'll learn to regret my wish." Without waiting for any kind of answer, she turned on her heel and left.

After she had gone, Janet suddenly realized that Rubio and Elyana were in the room, crowded into one corner, doing their best impression of wallpaper.

Sam suddenly seemed to remember them as well, because she looked over, her gaze sharp. "No word of this ... to anyone," she said softly, then nodded her head ever so slightly. "I know Maya. She'll turn this to her triumph for anyone who cares to listen ... and the outlander will say nothing, so I'll know if I hear word of it. Understood?"

"Of course, My Queen," Rubio said quickly, the knowledge of the power he faced living in his eyes.

"We will tell no one," Elyana added, her tone more one of sincerity than fear.

Sam's expression softened as her eyes fell on the young woman and she offered a small nod. "I'm sure you won't," she murmured, the accusatory tone disappearing altogether. She nodded to indicate the door. "Now, go." Her gaze swung back around, coming to a halt as it settled on Janet. "The Lady Fraiser and I have things to discuss ... privately."

"Of course, Highness," Rubio said quickly, ducking his head in automatic acknowledgment. He curved a hand to his wife's shoulder. "We'll be in our quarters if you need either of us for any reason."

Sam nodded in dismissal, no longer paying attention to him, her entire focus on the woman sitting up in bed.

Janet waited until the door had closed behind Rubio and Elyana, then looked up at Sam, the expression in her eyes a clear window to her fears. "Now what?" she asked with the mien of someone facing the gallows.

Sam folded her hands together behind her and made no move to advance. "Now we discuss that very topic."

"I thought you were going to tame me," Janet spat bitterly, glaring at her tightly clenched hands where they sat in her lap, her helplessness to stop any of this tearing at her, almost as scared of the emotional consequences as the physical ones. She wasn't sure she could survive if she wound up hating Sam. She looked up, startled, when a gentle hand stroked her hair and she realized Sam had stepped up to the bed. Faintly callused fingers dropped to her wrist, tugging gently, urging her to her feet.

"I am," Sam whispered, her voice meltingly soft, reminding Janet more of the woman she knew than she would have liked. She lifted her hand to brush auburn hair back from Janet's brow, stroking lightly. "But not with a brutal hand." Slipping a hand around Janet's waist, she tugged her close.

"Don�t," the smaller woman hissed and tried to push the blonde away, but Sam was having none of it.

"I�ll do all this," battle hardened muscles flexed, pulling Janet even closer as Sam leaned down into her space, lips almost but not quite brushing her temple, "and more," she whispered, her hold tightening fractionally when Janet would have pulled back, but without any of the violence or sense of threat that had marred too much of their interaction. "Accept it. It will happen." She looked down as she tucked a finger under Janet's chin and drew her head up until their eyes met. "But not right now." She stroked a softly rounded cheek. "Right now you're in a sore need of a moment's peace." Leaning forward, she pressed the softest of kisses to Janet's forehead, her lips lingering against soft skin as she held her tenderly. "We both are."

Janet closed her eyes tightly, fighting the temptation to give in to this soft voiced woman who reminded her of her friend. When she was like this, the anger nowhere in evidence, it was so much harder to fight the bond between them. "Don't," she breathed almost inaudibly, the other woman's kindness threatening to shatter her self-control in ways the anger hadn't.

"Shhh," Sam soothed as she petted silky hair. "Just relax. For now, this is all that�s going to happen." She pressed another kiss to Janet's temple, holding her until Janet couldn't hold back the stress and fear any longer.

Trembling violently, the doctor broke down, fingers digging into Sam's back as she clung tightly to the taller woman and harsh sobs rattled her from head to toe.

"It's all right," the taller woman whispered over and over, simply holding Janet until the emotion storm blew itself out.

Janet sagged against Sam, so exhausted she was weak in the knees. "Why?" she whispered, looking up into Sam's eyes. She was lost in an instant, that intelligent, incredibly deep gaze holding her prisoner far more effectively than the chains around her wrist ever would, and reminding her that Sam was still in there.

Sam sighed very softly and smoothed Janet's bangs back from her face. "I tamed the dargash with a firm hand, but also kindness ... and a light touch." She sighed again, the small sound heavy with guilt. "I've handled you badly ... allowed my emotions to rule and made you fear me." She trailed off momentarily, the silence stretching between them as emotions traced across her face in an unreadable melange, too numerous and complex to be easily read. "I'm angry about what you did," she admitted, then took a deep breath and let it out heavily, forcing down that anger, "but some of the fault is my own. I trusted too quickly and forgot what you've learned from your own people. I won't make that mistake again, but neither do I intend to let my anger control my actions." She continued the gentle stroking. "It may be that I'm fooling myself even now, but I can�t see you harmed and I can�t give you up ... so I have to hope that I truly can tame you."

"Damn you," Janet hissed, furious over the implications of the softly spoken words, and well aware that the offer of comfort was close to seducing her. Despite her best intentions, she turned her cheek into Sam's palm as sensitive fingers stroked her temple. It was just that she was so tired of feeling alone, and in such desperate need of comfort.

Sam continued the tender caresses, her voice soft and soothing despite the inherently threatening quality of her words. "You'll learn to appreciate me as your mistress ... to know that you�ll always be safe and protected in my possession...and that I can be kind ... even gentle ... and that you�ll be rewarded when you please me," Sam whispered as the soft caresses continued. She stroked the line of Janet's jaw, then down her throat. "And you'll come to trust me." She pressed a soft kiss to Janet's forehead. "And to understand your own heart." She curved a hand to the back of Janet's head, working her fingers into silky hair. "The manacles stay from now on, but if you behave yourself, I'll see more links inserted as time goes by--"

"Lengthening my leash--" the doctor growled, the idea helping her to summon a fresh wave of anger.

"If you earn it," Sam confirmed, her tone quietly practical. "That's how you gain privileges from now on ... earn them through good behavior."

Teeth tightly gritted to keep from muttering every obscenity she could think of, Janet turned her head away, reminding herself that losing her temper at this point wouldn't do her any good.

"I know you're angry," Sam told her, using the hold on Janet's hair to draw her head back up, "but this is for the best." She ducked her head, brushing her lips over Janet's, the caress soft and quick, but possessive, an expression of ownership. "This way, we'll both learn to trust ... but things will be controlled."

"I'll be controlled," Janet bit out, hurt that Sam didn't instinctively know she'd never harm her, would in fact, do everything in her power to protect the other woman.

A muscle flexed along the line of Sam jaw, and for a moment, Janet could almost believe the look in her eyes was a sign of the woman she knew resurfacing. "Yes," she said at last. "With time, we'll come to understand each other." She sifted her fingers through auburn hair. "But from now on, you're no longer my enemy. Outside of these rooms, you must and will show me the proper deference as queen, but within them, while your actions will be tightly constrained, you may say anything you wish and fear no reprisals."

Janet frowned, the offer catching her by surprise. "Do you really mean that?" she questioned suspiciously. Sam was trying to bring her to heel in so many ways that she was automatically suspicious of any new rights.

Sam nodded seriously. "On my honor. Part of trust is understanding, and that can't exist without communication."

"Why this kindness now?" Janet asked, hesitant to trust after everything she'd been through.

"Anything else would destroy us both." Janet was surprised when Sam ducked her head, the kiss that followed soft and coaxing. She demanded nothing, and Janet couldn't resist the tender entreaty of the caress. She whimpered low in her throat and would have pulled back, but Sam tightened her hold just enough to keep her close. Those soft lips seduced and tutored, quickly leaving them both breathless and trembling. When Sam finally broke the kiss and leaned back ever so slightly, she was flushed and panting. "That's enough for now," she gasped as if to remind herself to take things slowly. Swallowing hard, she carefully set Janet back from herself and straightened her shoulders. "I have urgent matters to see to ... otherwise I'd stay ... and finish what we�ve started." She reached out, unable to control the desire to touch. "But I�ll return soon." She let her hand drop to her side, then stepped back a pace, seeming to gather herself together, her expression becoming the bland mask she needed to show the outside world. "In the meantime, I'll send Elyana and Rubio to tend to your needs...and prepare you for tonight."

Tension rippled through Janet as she realized what Sam was saying. "I thought I was allowed my freedom in these chambers."

A hint of a smile touched Sam�s lips, though it was a poignantly sad expression. "Freedom to say what you wish...but not to do what you wish." She ducked her head, stealing a quick kiss. "Say whatever you want, but you will be mine tonight." She was on her feet and out the doors before Janet could regain her breath to respond.

********

Terreis found her guard and his wife waiting in the anteroom to her chambers, both looking uneasy. Clearly aware of the scene with Maya and of her own desire for the outlander, it seemed obvious they were worried about the outcome. The queen wondered if she should be worrying about whether their greater loyalty lay with her or her prisoner.

"My Queen," Rubio said quickly as he took a half step forward.

"I�ve matters to attend to," she said softly, her tone serious enough to impress the two young people. "And I want you look after the prisoner while I�m gone."

"Of course, My Queen," both servants answered at once, but Terreis held up a hand, silencing them.

"As you�re no doubt aware, Maya has been banished from my chambers," she informed them, barely waiting for their nods of understanding before continuing, "The outlander will be taking her place in my bed." She saw Elyana stiffen, her wide eyes glittering with disapproval, and even Rubio looked uncomfortable with the news.

"My Queen--" the young woman began, but Terreis cut her off, refusing to accept any guilt for the situation.

"While I�m gone I wish you to prepare her as you would any slave for their master�s or mistress� attention."

Elyana paled and shook her head ever so slightly.

"And if you feel you can�t," Terreis allowed, well aware of Elyana�s feelings on the matter, "I�ll assign other servants with no such reservations." It wasn�t her preference since Janet seemed to derive considerable comfort from the two servants, and Terreis was in no hurry to take that from her, but at the same time, she couldn�t afford to have any resistance to what she intended. For just a moment she thought Elyana might just leave, then Rubio stepped forward, speaking quickly, his tone low and placating.

"Of course, it will be done as you wish, Your Highness." He glanced at his wife, whose expression went from hurt to eerily blank in a matter of moments. "You merely caught us by surprise."

"You said you wouldn�t use force," Elyana rasped.

A hint of shame showed in the queen�s eyes and she was the first one to look away. She didn�t like it any better than Elyana, but she saw no other way. "Things can�t go on as they are," she told the girl, wishing she could live up to whatever ideal Elyana wanted. "She needs to understand and accept that she belongs to me now...in every way. I�ll be as gentle as I can, and I promise you she will know pleasure and not pain, but she will serve my body."

"So you�ll break her," Elyana accused, glaring at her queen and ignoring her husband�s subtle attempts to silence her.

"As I would break a wild dargash to the saddle, knowing that it would be safer in my stables than in the wild," Terreis bit out, resenting the guilt the young woman�s reminders forced onto her shoulders. She looked up, some of her frustration showing even as she tried to explain. "She�ll be well cared for and safer once she accepts that my hand controls her life from now on," the queen hardened her voice, "and that my bed is where she belongs." She would not allow Janet another opportunity to escape. Could not allow it for either of their sakes.

Elyana drew breath to respond, but Rubio stepped between the two women and cut her off with a glare. He shook his head, silently reminding her of the reality of their situation. They owed their queen everything. Now was not the time to anger her, and while she had been more loyal and decent than most royals, even she should not be trusted or pushed too far. When he looked at Terreis again, his expression was bland. "Of course we�ll see to your wishes, Highness." He looked at his wife again, willing her to do as told despite her personal revulsion.

"The Lady Fraiser will be prepared for your use as you�ve instructed," Elyana confirmed, her tone going starkly bland, her expression a cold mask that gave nothing away.

Terreis barely covered her wince at the word "use," but ignored her emotional response with a brutal reminder that it was Janet�s rightful place and it was time the outlander understood and accepted that reality. "Good," she said more grimly than she intended. "She�s to be mine again tonight ... no more delays."

Rubio nodded, his expression as flat as he could make it. "Of course, My Liege." He looked to his wife again. "Elyana knows what preparations are necessary, don�t you, my wife."

The girl stood stiffly for a beat, her gaze unfocused. Finally she nodded, her gaze swinging up to clash with Terreis�. "I know," she whispered flatly, "and I�ll see it�s done properly ... so you may take your pleasure with her body tonight."

The words were carefully chosen to make the queen flush with shame, which she did right on cue, but she wasn�t going to be dissuaded. "I know you�re angry ... and you think I�m doing the wrong thing," she said very softly, the admission coming with some difficulty, but Rubio and Elyana had earned her respect and deserved the truth. "I tried to do this every other way, but it wasn�t working. She keeps fighting...and I fear that unless I do this, she�ll push until I have no choice but to destroy her to protect myself and my people...and I will not allow that to happen." She needed them to understand it wasn�t a lightly made decision. "I�ll be as kind as I can be ... but it�s past time she accept that she�s mine." She fixed a hard gaze on Elyana. "And past time that you accept it as well. No more encouraging her to defy me in any way." She couldn�t blame the girl for her actions. Considering her past, she was adapting amazingly well. But that didn�t mean she could be allowed to foment trouble between them. "She�s be kept in the handcuffs at all times ... and I want her ready and locked to the headboard when I return."

Elyana paled, but nodded. "As you wish, My Queen," she ground out.

"I wish," Terreis sighed and turned to leave only to turn back before she�d gone more than a step. "I wish things were easier ... that there was another way ... but I don�t see one."

Blah, blah...Sam exits...

 

 

* * * * * * ****************

Sam leaves, sees to several things then meets with Valchon, among other things, informs him that she's replaced her personal guards and won't have a spy in her bed. It's a very subtle fight for power ... which Sam wins. Valchon has moved troops loyal to him to the valley the gate is in, preparing for conquest ... which has left the palace virtually unguarded. Sam is in the process of resetting the guards, but now they're loyal to her, and it finally begins to occur to Valchon he may have made a mistake since even several of the ministers (those from poorer districts) who know that she's not really the queen are switching their loyalties, since she's actually doing something to improve things in ways that might affect their own lands.

*********************************

Sam returns to find Janet nude, chained to the headboard, blankets held to hide herself. She starts to ask what�s going on , but Sam silences her, peels the blankets back, studies, then touches. When Janet resists, she drags her out until her arms are stretched above her head, then makes love to her...it�s rough and demanding, but she can�t resist.

 

 

"You�ve done well," Terreis told Rubio and Elyana though she barely even glanced at them, her attention reserved for the woman kneeling on the bed. Etched gold glittered on her wrists, the chain easily spotted where it looped through the carved pattern of the headboard, the shortness of the chain putting her very near the head of the bed and denying her most of the length of the bedding, though she�d managed to grab an available edge of a snowy sheet to hide her obvious nudity as well as possible. Her efforts made a scant dent. Stretched taut, the thing fabric barely reached the top of her breasts, leaving pale shoulders and a creamy hip to gleam in the firelight.

The urge to conquer burning in her blood, Terreis experienced a primitive burst of pure possessiveness. This woman was hers in every way and she had every intention of laying her claim. No more doubts or questions. From here forward it would be real. "You�re dismissed," she informed her servants without looking at them. She was distantly aware that they exited, but they were unimportant, the only thing about them that mattered, the fact that they were no longer there to serve as an impediment to her desires.

Dark eyes tracked her every move and Janet�s head tipped back on her shoulders as she drew close to the bed.

Terreis� gaze fell to touch on the bright gold bands encircling narrow wrists. Primitive as the drive was, she could never have imagined just how erotic it was to see such tangible evidence of her rights of possession, and she couldn�t resist the urge to reach out and stroke the velvety skin above and below warm metal.

Janet tensed, a soft gasp punctuating the tremor that rippled through her.

Drawn by the rapid rise and fall of Janet�s chest, Terreis� gaze shifted touching on the expanse of creamy flesh the sheet couldn�t hide. So perfect it was almost hard to look at her. "Remember what it was like that night," she said very softly and curled long fingers into the thin sheeting, "how right and good it felt." Whatever their problems, physical incompatibility wasn�t among them. "We can make it feel that right again tonight."

"Don�t do this," Janet pleaded, her voice low and tremulous. "It�s wrong. You know that."

"You�re wrong," Terreis disagreed, her tone mild. Despite any temptation to give way to the other woman�s fears, she had no intention of backing down this time, not after the last week of sheer torture. "What would be wrong is wanting you the way I do and doing nothing about it," she whispered, taking control of the sheet in spite of Janet�s efforts and pulling it free of her lover�s tight grip. "What would be wrong is pretending you don�t belong naked in my bed." Perfect breasts greeted her hungry gaze as she peeled the cloth back from Janet�s chest. A few more inches revealed the faint striation of ribs and taut abdominals. She saw a slender hand start to reach to retrieve the sheet, intent on a tug of war, and shook her head. "No."

Janet froze.

"Good girl," Terreis praised and pulled the fabric all the way free to reveal the rest of her little slave�s body. Smoothly curved hips, cleanly muscled thighs, and the faint indentation of her pelvic girdle. She�d been a fool to wait so long, she thought she began freeing the laces on the bodice of her gown, impatiently tugging them loose with one hand as she reached out with the other to stroke a smooth thigh.

Shaking with effort, Janet resisted the beginnings of pressure as a strong thumb pressed against her inner thigh.

"Let me see," Terreis commanded, increasing the pressure.

Dark eyes slid closed. "I don�t want this."

"That�s why you�re trembling so hard, and your breath is coming fast..." Terreis called Janet on her obvious lie while she teased a swollen nipple, satisfied that she was doing the right thing by the way it stiffened under her fingers, "...your breasts ready for my touch..." She dropped her voice low. "Show me how wet you are," she commanded, refusing to give ground, "how wet I�ve made you."

"You haven�t--" Janet started to deny the charge and Terreis cut her off, grinning ever so slightly.

"Then prove it to me." Her gaze sharpened as she challenged her slave, "Show me and prove me wrong."

Janet shook her head, refusing to be baited.

A hint of a smile touched the queen�s lips. "You know I�m going to find out one way or another," she reminded Janet. She put still more pressure on Janet�s inner thigh. "Now let me see." A beat while she petted a velvety thigh, her touch gentling. "Just let me have a look," she coaxed.

It was the gentleness that seemed to undo Janet as, muscles quivering, she slowly did as ordered, revealing another secret to eagerly watching eyes.

Terreis� pulse leapt as she stared at the dusting of closely trimmed auburn hair that barely hid pink and swollen folds of flesh. Like full breasts, this too was hers, and she ached to lay claim. "Beautiful," she whispered as she yanked the laces on her bodice free, then found the waist ties on her gown. "Tender and succulent as the sweetest dewberries...and just as ready for the plucking."

Despite the deep flush suffusing her cheeks and the way her breath caught in response to Terreis� suggestive remarks, Janet shook her head. "No," she rasped, the single word tight and barely audible.

"Are you telling me you aren�t aching?" Terreis whispered, stroking auburn hair with a gentle hand. "That the thought of what we�re going to do tonight doesn�t have your heart pounding and your body throbbing for my touch.

"No," Janet said again in an effort to deny the obvious. She reached for the sheet, clearly intending to cover herself again, but Terreis grabbed the top edge and flung it to the foot of the bed, well out of her prisoner�s reach. There were limits to her patience.

Dark eyes slid closed and the kneeling woman braced herself as if expecting a blow.

Instead, Terreis simply sat on the edge of the bed. "It would be easier if you would cooperate," she said conversationally, oddly proud of her little slave for not breaking easily, but also aware that she couldn�t afford to tolerate the defiance. It was past time for Janet to understand that the only rights she possessed were those Terreis chose to give her.

Her eyes snapping open again, Janet shook her head. "I won�t."

A soft sigh escaped the queen�s lips and she reached out, caressing a smooth flank with slow strokes. Janet tried to push her hand away, but she simply shifted her angle of attack, teasing the flat plain of her prisoner�s stomach. "That won�t stop me," Terreis told her, still using that same conversational tone. Her prisoner didn�t reply this time, but taut muscle quivered and jumped under the queen�s hand as she pointedly trailed it over soft skin until it rested on the opposite curve of Janet�s hip. Leaning close enough to nuzzle the curve of her jaw, she whispered, "Now lie down...and let me bury myself in you ... like I did that first night."

Stiffening, Janet jerked back fractionally. "No," she said a third time, refusing to be cowed.

Terreis couldn�t help but admire the woman�s courage, however, she needed to learn that her recalcitrance would no longer be tolerated. "You know I�m going to have what I want--"

"You�ll have to use force," Janet hissed.

A slow nod as the queen continued stroking that smooth hip. "Maybe at first," she admitted. Janet could be stubborn as hell, but she had her weaknesses. Initially lost in her own anger and sense of betrayal, Terreis had questioned the sincerity of their first night together, but looking back, she no longer doubted that the other woman had been just as lost as she had been. And would be again. The queen offered a wickedly knowing smile. "But I know your body." Her eyes touched on full breasts and then her free hand was touching as well, fingers trailing along the smooth slope, then circling the coral tip, noting the physical response the other woman couldn�t hide. "And it knows me," she pointed out with a degree of triumph as she watched flesh tighten and pucker. "It remembers my touch." Her fingers danced along the curve of Janet�s ribcage, a smile touching her lips as she saw the goosebumps that raised in their wake. "My kisses." Neatly trimmed curls brushed her palm as she continued her slow, exploring journey. "The feel of my body pressed close." Her voice dropped low as she cupped silky flesh, unable to resist the temptation to ease a finger past swollen folds. Her smile broadened and a tiny exhalation of laughter escaped her lips as she found the way was made easy by thick moisture. "The feel of my tongue." She stroked, finding and circling the shape of a slick, swollen bud.

A whimpery moan escaped Janet�s lips and her hands tightened into fists as she pulled uselessly at the chains binding her to the headboard. "Don�t," she hissed.

Another circling stroke brought a tiny buck from slender hips. "Your body says otherwise," Terreis pointed out. Another stroke brought on another tiny thrust. "It knows its master ... and pleads to be taken again."

Teeth gritted, Janet just shook her head.

"Your defiance does you proud," Terreis admitted, nuzzling her prisoner�s neck and shoulder as she delved deeper into silky folds of flesh to capture the taut bundles of nerves between her thumb and forefinger. "But you should know it only makes you more appealing ... and me more determined to have you." A slow, firm squeeze brought a low gasping whimper that made Terreis chuckle triumphantly. "Though you will have to be punished for resisting your mistress."

Dazed and confused, Janet could only stare.

"Don�t worry," Terreis soothed, and squeezed again, very lightly, just enough to draw another moan. "It won�t involve pain ... just surrender." She nipped Janet�s shoulder softly, then dropped her voice low as she promised, "You�ll beg before I�m through with you." And then suddenly she was moving, the hand on Janet�s hip sliding around and under, the one buried in her sex moving to her opposite hip. What came next happened in one smooth move that came too quickly to allow Janet a chance to resist. Muscles flexing, Terreis lifted and pulled, dragging Janet�s lower body toward the foot of the bed, forcing her cuffed hands up over her head and elongating the graceful arch of her body. She pushed slender thighs apart when they moved to close her out and slid into place between them, denying her slave any chance to block her from what she desired.

The outlander instinctively tried to kick and twist free, but her efforts were neatly blocked as Terreis knelt between writhing legs, hands hooked under slender thighs.

Redoubling her grip, Terreis leaned forward, brushing her lips over the heaving plane of her slave�s chest, riding out her struggles. The flavor of sweat and female flesh filled her senses, making her body throb and ache. "Stop fighting me," she ordered, punctuating the command with a tiny nip delivered to a puckered nipple.

A soft, needy cry sparked the air as Janet�s body arched to meet Terreis� mouth.

"Unless you don�t want me to stop," the queen mused aloud as she continued to range kisses and tiny nibbling bites over the smaller woman�s chest. "Maybe you like fighting me ... and being conquered..." She knew there were more than a few women who enjoyed such fantasies. Perhaps the outlander was among them. The thought made her pulse race and started a sympathetic throb deep down inside. Maybe her ancestors had had the right idea after all. Perhaps there was a time to simply lay claim to a desired mate.

"No," Janet gasped, but her body writhed as though she was a marionette and Terreis the puppetmaster controlling the strings. "Th-that�s not what I want," she stammered even as sweat prickled on her skin and her hips rolled in a sensual rhythm.

"I think you�re lying," Terreis murmured as she worked her way lower on Janet�s body, her lips dusting anywhere and everywhere she cared to go. Sliding her hands around to cup to the underside of Janet�s hips, she held on tightly enough to indent soft flesh ever so slightly, lifting and pulling. "I think it excites you to know I�m going to take you--"

"That�s not true," Janet croaked again, but Terreis continued implacably, her breath playing over Janet�s abdomen as she made her way lower, the teasing caress of hot air making her stomach muscles ripple and quiver.

"--and I think it excites you to be like this--"

"No," the denial was a weak whimper this time, as though Janet barely had enough air in lungs to even make that much sound.

"Liar," Terreis exhaled, her breath fluttering over silky curls. "I felt your arousal and I can smell it ... and in another moment I�ll taste it."

"No," Janet insisted a final time, but the word trailed off into a soft cry as Terreis buried her mouth in silky flesh, lips moving, tongue flicking rapidly as it slid over such an intimate landscape. The outlander�s entire body spasmed, and she wrapped her hands in the chains binding them over her head, clinging tightly, her back twisted into a sharp arch. She pressed her heels flat to the mattress, instinctively pushing her body to meet Terreis� mouth.

Blue eyes tipped up, taking in the sight of the writhing, moaning woman, drinking in the sweet triumph. Maybe in the light of day, she�d feel a measure of disdain for what she was doing --certainly she�d long disapproved of those ancestors who�d done much the same -- but in the dark of night with the taste of heated flesh filling her senses and the promise of twined bodies filling her thoughts, it was the most decadent form of pure pleasure. "You�re mine," she breathed. "Accept it."

Her movements jerky, Janet shook her head, refusing to give way.

Terreis was almost glad because it meant she could stretch the sweet torture even longer. "I have to admit I was hoping we could play all night." Her smile was absolutely wicked. "If you�re up to it." She bit Janet�s inner thigh softly, laying claim. "Because until you beg, there won�t be any release." And then she was surrounded by the feel and scent of sex again as she buried her mouth in silky flesh, tongue flicking quickly, toying with the center of Janet�s pleasure, while her fingers were surrounded by slick heat as she pressed two deep into her prisoner�s body to have them clutched and held by rippling muscle.

A hard tremor shook the outlander and her heels dug into the mattress as she arched into the quicksilver strokes and thrust her hips to meet the slow-moving penetration.

Soft, then hard, slow, then fast, Terreis kept things completely unpredictable, driving Janet�s passion until her breathing was ragged, her skin gleaming with sweat, every muscle standing out in sharp relief, her soft, incoherent cries a symphony of background music for their lovemaking. And then every time the hard throb under her tongue or the rhythmic clench of interior muscles indicated Janet was too close to climaxing, she pulled back or slowed down, not quite letting her lover and slave have what her body craved so desperately. The pause was invariably coupled with an offer of relief if Janet just surrendered, and followed by an ever more strangled refusal to give way.

Pushed too far arousal can border on pain, and as Terreis lost herself in the power battle between them, her body slid from pleasantly aroused to achingly so to a level of need that bordered on agonizing. She could only guess what it was like for Janet as she looked up, unable to tear her eyes from the sight of her slave, her muscles in sharp relief, skin glossy with sweat and glowing gold in the firelight, her hair turned to damp ringlets of fire, her eyes glazed and lost. Unable to resist the urge to taste and explore, Terreis slid back up the length of her lover�s body, tasting the salty tang of sweat where it lay on fine skin and feeling the way flesh and muscle trembled under her lips. "Why do you fight me so?" she whispered when they were finally eye to eye, bodies dovetailed intimately together.

Blinking as if she was fighting to regain some measure of consciousness, Janet refocused on Terreis with obvious effort, but offered no further struggles. "Because if I don�t," she panted, every breath a ragged rasp, "I�m afraid there won�t be anything left of me."

Stroking a softly rounded cheek with her thumb, Terreis couldn�t look away from the confused, lost expression in brown eyes. "You make it sound like I�m trying to destroy you," she whispered, shaking her head. That wasn�t her intention at all. She just needed Janet to understand and accept her new life and position.

Her comment earned a soft snort. "Aren�t you?" Janet accused quietly.

"No," Terreis denied the charge instantly, her stomach churning at the mere idea. Another soft stroke of her prisoner�s cheek reminded her just how soft the other woman�s skin was, and just how much pleasure the interrogator would have taken in shredding such beauty. That was destruction. What she wanted was nothing like that sort of cruelty, but if she couldn�t conquer Janet she might have no choice but to destroy her rather than allow her to destroy others. "You may not understand," she glanced away, faintly ashamed of herself in spite of her justifications, "but destroying you is the last thing I want." The kiss that followed was soft, even tender. "But I must rule you to save you ... and I cannot allow you to rule me." There lay the heart of the matter, Terreis realized with some trepidation. If she allowed it, she feared she could lose her soul to this woman and betray her people in the doing. Better to conquer Janet Fraiser than risk having to choose between the two things she cared for most.

That thought sent such a tremor through the queen that she barely heard Janet start to speak.

A frown creasing her brow, Janet shook her head. "I�m not trying to---"

Fearing she�d revealed too much of her fears, Terreis kissed the other woman more firmly, not giving her a chance to think even as her hands slid lower, stroking with authority. She trapped a slender thigh between her own, gasping as it rode against damp, swollen flesh.

No more games, she realized in an instant. She�d already stretched things out longer than she should have in the quest for some measure of surrender. "Shhh," Terreis breathed as Janet whimpered, and squirmed beneath her. "It�ll be all right." The next kisses were more soothing than passionate, the caresses she laid on silky flesh meant to deliver much-needed relief.

Whimpering softly, Janet turned her face into Terreis� shoulder, her entire body surging in time with her lover�s strokes, grinding into and moving with perfectly matched curves. Even without the words Terreis would have preferred, her total submission -- at least in that moment -- was inescapable. The struggle between them was by no means over, and they�d both earned points in the first round, but the queen was the clear winner at the end of the match.

Curling a hand to the back of Janet�s head, fingers threaded into coppery hair, Terreis drew her lover�s head back and found her lips, toying with them even as she took command. With her other hand she circled, then squeezed very gently, drinking in the answering gasp and absorbing the sharp lurch with her body. Another dose of soft, rolling pressure brought Janet�s hips up off the mattress as a rough groan escaped her lips and a fresh flood of thick moisture eased the way for exploring fingers.

Pushing deep, Terreis felt the slick, heated grip of inner muscles that flexed and rippled around her fingers. Pulling almost free, she pressed again, deeper this time and with a third finger to join the first two, drinking in the low moan brought by the deep thrust.

Hers. Janet was hers, and nothing would change that now.

She pulled back and thrust again, fingers buried in her lover�s body, palm cupping the sensual heart of her, intensely aware of the sheer intimacy of the act and the sense of possession that slid through her.

Unwanted, Maya�s whispered suggestions began beating a throbbing drumbeat in her head. To be all the way inside of Janet, lay claim in the most visceral of ways while slick flesh wrapped around her hand. Such things were possible. Maya had suggested it to cause pain, but gently done it could spark pleasure as well.

And Terreis wanted it. She wanted to be as far inside her slave as was possible, farther than anyone before her, their bodies bound so tightly together it could never be completely undone.

She wanted to lay claim not just with locks and chains, but with flesh and bone.

And with Janet stretched out and bound, helpless to resist, her body already soft and slick and welcoming, it was temptation beyond belief. She could do it. Push and curl, then push deeper still. It wouldn�t be difficult. She worked her fingers inside her lover�s body, massaging and stretching, spreading the cushioning pad of moisture, instinctively preparing the other woman for what suddenly seemed like the next logical step.

Janet moaned, her mouth open under Terreis�, her body rising to meet the invader�s touch as if inviting Terreis to do the very thing she fantasized about.

As if she wanted that final conquering that would mark her as Terreis� property at the most visceral level.

The next thrust was harder with some muscle behind it, eagerness making the queen rougher than she realized until she felt a sharp wince. Dark eyes snapped wide and Terreis tasted a startled gasp.

Pain or surprise, it was impossible to tell, but either way it wasn�t positive.

No.

Instantly, the queen backed off, her touch gentling, fingers retreating, then stroking soothingly as she fluttered the softest of kisses around the cupid�s bow of Janet�s lips. "It�s all right," she breathed between butterfly soft caresses. "I�ll take care of you."

Their gazes locked and held. "I know," Janet exhaled, the statement seeming to catch both of them by surprise.

For a long moment all thoughts of conquering and taking and owning were forgotten and they were just lovers lost in each other. Terreis tenderly smoothed coppery hair back from Janet�s brow, throat bobbing as she swallowed hard, nearly overwhelmed by a thousand emotions she barely understood. Whatever the price, this was where they both belonged.

And then the sweet ache coursing through their bodies demanded attention, refusing to be denied any longer. Terreis� fingers danced a teasing waltz with the softest and sleekest of flesh while Janet�s knee rose, pressing, grinding, and moving in a wanton counterpoint to Terreis�s thrusts.

Electricity arced over every nerve ending, the pleasure overwhelming in its intensity. Terreis cried out into the mouth bound to her own.

In the end, both lovers managed equal measures of victory and defeat. Janet gave no surrender, denying Terreis that measure of total ownership, but her body heaved and trembled under the queen�s touch as though commanded by god to obey its new mistress. Though physically lost, she won her own kind of battle by bringing her mistress with her as she climaxed. Bodies bucked, coming together, hard tremors shaking them both, pleasure sparking and running along overworked nerve endings.

And in the final moment, Terreis pushed up on one elbow, watching the myriad of expressions that made their way across Janet�s face, fascinated by the complex play of emotion. Then as the peak slid on by, dark eyes slid open, staring up at her with an achingly soft look that made her want to hold and cherish the woman sharing her bed, threatening to undo the reserves of distrust Janet�s attempted escape had engendered. The queen stroked honey colored hair, her heart literally melting as Janet instinctively turned her cheek into the tender caress.

It would be so easy to simply let go and fall in love with her, so easy to become the slave while the slave became the master.

Blue eyes slid closed and she ground her molars until her jaw hurt.

And that was a risk Terreis could not take. The woman�s body was hers, but the queen could not risk her heart. Janet had already tricked her once, and possibly come close to killing her. For the sake of Arrathonea, Terreis couldn�t let herself fall into the trap of those eyes, no matter how tempting the idea might be.

Janet was her slave and likely her enemy. She couldn�t risk letting her think she might be more than that. She�d already proven what would happen the moment Terreis showed her any trust.

When she opened her eyes again, there was a chilly cast to the blue, her expression showing satisfied lust, but none of the affection she was feeling. Much as she wanted to cuddle and enjoy the warm afterglow of their joining, it suddenly didn�t feel safe. She couldn�t quite forget the way Janet had called out to the outlanders, nor could she allow herself to forget it. Tension rippled through her muscles when all she wanted to do was relax into a satiated puddle of pure pleasure. She suddenly realized brown eyes were watching her closely and she offered a wry smile. "Very well done, little outlander." The queen cringed inside, but didn�t let it show as she saw hurt reflected in dark eyes. Cruel as it was, she drove the point home, stroking silky lips with the pad of her thumb, her smile knowing and sensual. "I knew you could do it."

A hard hiss was driven through tightly clenched teeth as Janet abruptly tensed, muscles rippling with effort as she tried to use the chains binding her to the headboard to lever herself up on the bed and away from Terreis.

The queen instantly tightened her hold on the other woman, refusing to release her, and there was a brief tug of war before Janet accepted she wasn�t going to win and stopped fighting. She didn�t relax, but lay there, teeth gritted, staring up at Terreis with an expression that held equal measures of hurt and anger.

"Don�t bother trying to pull away from me." Stroking the curve of Janet�s waist, Terreis shook her head. "I�ll never let you go," she promised seriously.

Janet�s throat bobbed as she swallowed hard. Her mouth worked and she seemed about to say something, but the words didn�t come, and finally she turned her head away, eyes tightly closed. As Terreis watched, a single tear escaped the corner of one eye and trailed back into the silky hair at her temple.

In spite of her resolve to remain distant, the queen�s heart softened. Gentling her touch, she ducked her head to dust butterfly kisses over Janet�s cheeks and closed eyelids, tasting the salt of her tears. "T

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night scares Sam that she gave way to Janet, and makes her more determined not to become emotionally involved/dependant.

From there, the relationship is largely about sex with Sam fending off any attempts to deepen things or increase the trust between them. She�s gentle with Janet, but careful not to trust, and afraid of losing herself again, she�s careful to keep a wall between them. The sex is ever more intense, and it�s inferred more than a little kinky at times.

 

********************************

Sam was never cruel, never caused pain, but often she walked right up to that line, pushing Janet until sweat slid over her skin and her muscles trembled from the strain, utterly relentless until she attained the surrender she needed. And though Janet needed to believe that Sam would stop if she truly cried out in pain or fear, she�d come to understand that simple refusals would be ignored in favor of the need to draw pleading whimpers and helpless thrusts.

And Janet had to admit that she always succumbed. No matter how firm her resolve that �this time� would be different, it never was. It might start with a measure of force, her struggles carefully contained by Sam�s superior strength and weight, but then Sam�s voice would slide over her skin while her hands explored and probed, making way for her mouth.

Her mouth.

On the rare occasion that nothing else could bring Janet to heel, that was guaranteed to shatter any resolve to resist the potent chemistry between them. Even when she managed to refuse to say the words, her body made it obvious what it craved, namely the unpredictable sandpaper and silk caresses that took her to heaven in a thousand different ways; rough then tender, fast then slow, taking command of her body with every stroke, then exploring and staking a claim to every inch of her flesh with a stubborn refusal to be denied.

Sam went about it all with her usual determination, seeming to glory in finding all new erogenous zones that way, using her lips and tongue to explore soft curves with the attention to detail of a master cartographer laying out the ultimate map of the world. And when she was satisfied that she�d taken control of her lover�s needs---sometimes within only moments, other times after hours of torturous pleasure---she�d slide into the most sensitive erogenous zone of all.

If possession was nine-tenths of the law, then Janet couldn�t help but wonder if she still belonged to herself or if she�d truly become Sam�s property because when lips, teeth, and tongue found the heart of her desire, she could never hold back. She might fight the need, but ultimately, she always cried out and arched into the sweet torment.

Sometimes what followed was sweet, sometimes it was wicked, and often it was a strange melding of the two that left them both satiated in the moment, but hungry for more. When it came to the physical, there were limits, but they were few and far between, certainly fewer and farther than Janet could ever have predicted.

Strange that something so limitlessly variable when it came to one aspect of their relationship could be so utterly and completely closed off when it came to another.

They never really talked, never opened their hearts and minds in the hours before, during, or after.

Standing on the balcony and staring out at the world, Janet resisted the urge to cry as she thought about the times she�d tried to reach Sam only to have soft lips kiss away her efforts to talk, and talented fingers toy with her body until speech was beyond her abilities. In gaining the commanding lover, she�d lost the loyal friend, and she missed that woman more than she knew how to express. When the world had crashed around her in the past, Sam had always been there to pick up the pieces, and the loss of that support system at a time when she needed it desperately left Janet Fraiser feeling adrift and painfully alone. She had needs that sex, no matter how intense, simply did not assuage. She didn�t want Terreis. She wanted Sam; wanted to just curl up in the safety of the other woman�s arms and cry her heart out, knowing that she would be protected and cared for. She wanted her friend and some sympathy and to just enjoy the hours of talking about anything and everything that had always been such a cornerstone of their relationship. Something had to give or she wasn�t entirely certain how much longer she could hang on to herself and her feelings for the other woman. She had long loved and desired Sam, but was becoming afraid that as much as her body craved "Terreis" she might well wind up hating the other woman for demanding such total surrender and giving so little emotional succor in return.

She was still standing like that, hunting for some path that might bring a measure of peace when she heard the sound of the doors to Sam�s chambers followed by the muffled timbre of voices.

Her highness was home for the day.

Janet�s teeth ground and her eyes flashed with defiance.

Which meant it was time for another round of the darkly erotic game being played between them because Janet had no doubt exactly where they would wind up before the night was through. In spite of her simmering resentment and quiet rage over the situation, much of it at their captors, but all too much directed at Sam herself, she felt her body respond to the knowledge that hands and lips would soon be sliding over and inside. Some days it all seemed like something out of a bad sex fantasy, but like it or not, she couldn�t seem to hold back. She�d wanted Sam too much for too long, and god help her, there did seem to be something in her that responded to the edgy, dangerous sensuality of their lovemaking. God, had all of this been hidden inside Sam for all these years? Or was it just a product of their situation?

Neither answer seemed to wholly explain the strange, yet potent chemistry between them, leaving her to think maybe it was a matter of both; too many years of denial coupled with too much temptation and too much power.

It was, she supposed, the sort of thing likely to make anyone a little crazy.

Herself included, because she wasn�t sure she was any saner than Sam and she didn�t even have the excuse of being brainwashed.

She was still musing on the irony of it all when she heard the sound of the doors onto the balcony opening, then closing again, and then the soft pad of footsteps. The hands that curved to her shoulders from behind were no surprise, nor were the soft lips that toyed with soft flesh where her neck flowed into the curve of her shoulder. Janet didn�t jump, but she remained tense, unwilling to relax her self control so quickly.

"So proud and stubborn," Sam whispered, her breath playing over smooth flesh, her tone affectionate. She smoothed her hands up and down Janet�s arms, rubbing lightly.

Janet twitched free of the loose hold, which earned an annoyed snort. She knew exactly what would happen next. Sam would reach for her again, then free her chains from where they were latched to the balcony railing, and then hours of raw, soul searing sex. She caught sight of her lover�s movement out of the corner of one eye and her hand came up in a halting motion before she could think better of it. She heard Sam�s soft growl of displeasure and spun, peering up at the other woman. She didn�t have any plans, just an irresistible sense that something had to change.

Sam took another half step forward, tension running through her muscles as she ran into the faint barrier of Janet�s still raised hand.

"Wait," Janet whispered, racing to be ahead of the hands she knew would soon reach for her.

A hint of a frown creasing her brow, Sam froze, though the beginnings of impatience glittered in her eyes. Clearly she was expecting another effort to delay the inevitable.

"I need..." Janet paused, hunting for a way to express herself, but couldn�t find the right words, "something," she muttered at last, well aware she wasn�t making much sense, but unable to phrase it any better.

The impatience fading from her expression, Sam�s frown deepened. "What? If you have need of something, you only need to tell me."

Janet�s hand was braced on Sam�s chest and she purposely relaxed her fingers, shaping them to the gentle curves and smoothing the pad of her thumb lightly against the velvety fabric. She let her gaze fall, watching her own hand for a long moment. She�d touched Sam that way more than once at the SGC, allowing herself that little bit of contact during the times when she�d wanted the other woman so fiercely she�d barely known what to do, all the while knowing she couldn�t afford to ever let it show. It had been a safe bit of comfort at times when she�d needed something and couldn�t risk asking for more. Only she needed more now.

And not the more that was the blending of naked flesh.

She needed the gentleness and comfort, the spark of ideas, and the confidence of a supportive friend. Before she�d needed what she had now and now she needed what she�d had then.

"Janet?" Sam prompted when she still hadn�t spoken a long moment later.

She looked up, focusing on Sam, taking in the worried cast to her expression. That look felt right and familiar, making her long for her friend all the more. God, she missed Samantha Carter. "I was just wondering if we could talk," she whispered at last.

Her expression suddenly shuttered, Sam reached up to toy with the hair at Janet�s temple, twirling the silky strands around her fingertips. "About what?" she asked so carefully it was impossible to miss the suspicion in her tone.

Her gaze flicking back down to her hand where it rested on Sam�s chest, Janet felt the pressure of the other woman�s distrust threatening to make her stammer nervously. "Anything," she whispered, looking up quickly when she felt the other woman tense. "I just mean that I miss talking about things...ideas...having someone to share things with..."

Sam clearly doubted her honesty. "A slave�s purpose isn�t discussion...and ideas aren�t what you�re in my service to share," she pointed out dryly.

Reminded of both her status and

 

 

 

Sam offers to talk if Janet will give herself completely to Sam...Janet counters that she acn�t do that. Sam offers to take Janet on a trip she�s planning, just until then...and they�ll talk on the trip. Janet makes rule no sex, just talking. Sam takes it.

 

 

 

 

 

"It�s your body I�m hungry for,"Sam growled

 

 

At first Sam is suspicious, but as they talk, recognizes the wisdom of what Janet is saying, and continues the discussion long into the night. Janet grows more stressed, and visibly expects to be dragged to Sam's bed when it's time to turn in, but Sam sends her to own bed with no more than a seductive kiss. The next several nights follow the same pattern, long talks, followed by a kiss and perhaps a caress or two, but no lovemaking. It's straining both of them ....and keeping hormones jangled, but Sam is determined to wait this time.

Finally, during one discussion, Janet expresses her doubts that there are any attackers, and that Valchon had any sons to die in combat. She'd seen the condition of water, power, the farms and it was execrable. No one needed to attack to stop them from functioning, and she thinks Valchon lied to manipulate the situation and avoid punishment for ignoring her commands. The accusation angers Sam, and she's determined to prove Janet wrong.

Sam takes Janet to a water plant that was supposedly recently attacked (Janet notes they exit the city through a different route than she took, one that's been upgraded and repaired ... a sort of Potemkin street). An assassin tries to kill Sam and Janet steps into the way of the arrow, which pierces her shoulder. Sam is scratched by the arrow, but Janet is badly injured, and realizes that the arrow was poisoned as the toxic reaction sets in almost instantly. Sam holds Janet as she's passing out. Convinced she's dying, Janet manages to tell Sam who she is ... Samantha Carter, the woman who was with her, that she's been brainwashed into believing she's the queen but it's not true, and Janet will always love her. When the assassin is caught, Sam demands to know what the poison was, accuses him of trying to murder their enemy, but he snarls that it was the useless royals he was trying to kill. Rants about how they stood by and watched while people died. Their turn to die. Sam nearly loses it demanding to know what the poison is.

Back at the palace, the would-be assassin is brought before Valchon, and it comes out, he got the courage to try from seeing how strong the outlanders were ... and that they weren't afraid of the royals. He's mouthing off foolishly. Valchon shoves him out a window and insists he was in the pay of the outlanders, and committed suicide rather than admit where they could be found when Sam wants to question him.

Janet is completely out of it from the wound and the poison, and Sam's not in very good shape. Lemier says he can do nothing. They're both dying, even if Sam is doing so somewhat more slowly. Doesn't know what the poison is, nor how to combat it. Elyana, however, does. It's a peasant poison used to kill crueler lords. There is an antidote that can be made, but it's far from certain it will work ... especially on Janet, who got so much larger a dose and is already somewhat weakened. There may be some bargaining on Elyana's part at this point. [Undecided.] She does make antidote.

Later, Sam holding Janet, who's out of it, feverish and babbling. Janet wakes and thinks the whole thing was a nightmare, that she's back on earth, which Sam agrees to. Sam tricks Janet into believing they�ve become lovers, thinking that she�s lying to the other woman about her identity while pressing for more details, getting the story out of her ... their friendship, love, then what Janet believed about Terreis and Samantha as well as her dream. "You hated me." "I could never hate you."

Sam nurses Janet very tenderly, meeting with the ministers in her anteroom, and barely leaving Janet's side.

Sam discusses what Janet believes with Lemier. He comes up with an all new lie ... that he believes she was brainwashed by the outlanders ... and truly believes that she was trying to save "Terreis" when she called out to her people. Believes it's how they make people into such brutal killers by tricking them and making believe things that aren't true. For instance, they probably believe that Arrathonea attacked them first. Sam is more sympathetic to Janet ... and even more furious at their "attackers" talks herself into believing that Janet restructured her programming because she's not a killer and couldn't do what they wanted.

Rubio hears rumors about men being paid to join an army gathering in the hills, and being promised that they'll be lords one day soon. Sam begins investigating, finds out about diverted arms shipments, while Valchon is pressuring her for even more weapons designs. She begins fighting dirty and diverting arms to newer brigades ... charming the division heads into reporting equipment problems and lower yields to keep the arms from going to the troops in the Vurals, instead moving them to troops she starts quietly assembling under the guise of building a larger palace guard. Meanwhile, begins investigating the situation, suspecting something is very wrong, and begins restructuring the palace guard ... which she has direct control over ... into a true military entity with Rubio as her right hand man.

After Janet is healthier, she accuses Sam of using her illness against her. Sam more or less admits it. Says she'd do anything to understand Janet better. Explains her theory of what happened to Janet, and when Janet tries to argue, points out that everyone knows who she is. For Janet to be right, it would have to be a huge con job. Janet insists that she's not nuts, but Sam demolishes her arguments, and calmly points out that one of them is deluded, and since everyone knows who she is, the obvious choice is Janet. Besides, her culture isn't technologically advanced enough to brainwash someone that way, while Janet's is more advanced and probably could do something like that. There's really not much Janet can do to argue the point, and she's doubting her own memories at this point ... starting to wonder a little.

Meanwhile, the evenings are spent talking quietly, sharing ideas, and such. "Terreis" moves past the initial lust, and learns to appreciate Janet's knowledge, grateful to have someone to bounce ideas off of. At some point, Janet asks if any equipment was with her when she was taken, and Sam believes her enough to promise to check into it. She believes that Janet probably is really a doctor, though she also believes she's been brainwashed.

Some time later, after checking Janet's wound -- more or less healed now -- Sam makes love to her. It's more seduction than force, and when Janet asks for her freedom, she unlocks the chain from the wall, and locks it to her own wrist, chaining them together. It's the start of a pattern she'll follow from there on out at night, and at times during the day, as she begins bringing Janet with her, and using her knowledge and judgment of people.

Sam does check into Janet's medical supplies. Finds out that anything taken would have been delivered to Lemier for study, though he never told her that much. She enters his lab while he's out, finds dozens of devices that don't look familiar ... some notes on some of them. Descriptions make it obvious they're Goa'uld, though Sam doesn't know that ... though a couple do make her edgy as though she can't quite remember something she should know. When Lemier arrives, she demands to know what the devices are. He's edgy, trying to get rid of her, but she won't be distracted, keeps pushing until he finally admits they are alien devices taken at various times and places. She wants to know everything about them ... any information he's gathered, putting him in a very difficult position because he doesn't want her to know that there is more than one alien culture represented her. He finally turns over the doctor's bag, and she demands a report on the rest of the devices. Janet later does a more thorough examination of Elyana ... but Sam won't allow her to use the vaccine, considering it too risky, since she doesn't trust Janet's memories.

Valchon finally realizes that Sam has outmaneuvered him by expanding her guard into a real army ... and a better trained one than his own. She's also out of the gowns and dressing more practically, elevated Rubio to her right hand man, and bringing in some older military officers ... also reaching out to a peasant resistance that has arisen ... arming and training them if they'll be loyal directly to her, and not to any minister.

Not sure exactly where in all of this (will figure out as it goes along), but at some point, Valchon will order an attack on the armory when he realizes Sam is stockpiling weapons for the army she's building. The attacks fails and one of his men is identified and sells him out. Valchon flees the kingdom while soldiers are sent to arrest him. Ezri turns out to have been a supporter of Valchon's and resists only to be killed. The soldiers can't seem to kill him and he's phenomenally strong until he's finally decapitated. From the description, Janet realizes he must have been a Goa'uld, and suddenly wonders if Valchon is as well, but that doesn't make any sense, because the Goa'uld are so much higher tech than this society ... leaving her completely confused.

Janet spends considerable time talking to Elyana, who begins putting it all together, and wended through all of this realizes that Janet is who she says she is ... as is Sam (picks up on the thing with the servants, things she's overheard, etc), but says nothing to anyone ... even Rubio, because she realizes that Sam is the only chance her world has. She only tells Rubio that the queen must never be allowed near the outlanders ... no matter what.

After learning of Valchon's betrayal and coming to realize that things really have been awful in the outlying lands, Sam confronts Lemier, and gets at least the partial truth out of him ... that the outlanders were trying to help the peasants near the gate, that the ministers have been stealing the people blind and letting them starve, there was a plague, and Valchon was lying about the attacks to get "Terreis" to build more weapons and give him the means to attack the outlanders and try and take over their world. Admits they were the ones who brainwashed the outlander in an effort to use her as a spy (the conditioning was to make her loyal to Terreis, so she would do their bidding according to his version) and learn more about the outlander weapons and security, and about the scientific devices they'd already stolen ... hoping she'd spill everything because she "loved" Terreis, but it didn't work right, and she twisted their attempt at programming to remain loyal to her people, and still allow for that love ... created an illusion in which Terreis was the one brainwashed. That's why they had her locked away, were intending to try again. Admits they purposely let her get in such awful condition in hopes of lowering her resistance to the programming. Sam is furious. Feels responsible since this was done to Janet in her name, but at the same time, she can't let her go. He admits the outlanders were there to help people. She's close to killing him, but orders him arrested and has all of the scientific devices and Lemier's notes delivered to her quarters. Reads a report on the plague, then speaks to Janet, wanting to know if her vaccine will really help prevent it. Janet assures her it will. Not entirely trusting it, she orders Janet to test it on Sam ... then, when nothing bad happens, has her use it on Elyana, and any children or pregnant women in the castle first, then work down from there if there's still enough left over.

With Valchon gone, things kind of normalize. His army strikes a couple of other properties, stealing food and weapons, and trying to terrorize the other ministers. Sam strong arms the ministers, and the army is loyal to her ... as are the common people. She's instinctively using her military experience to consolidate things and take over. Also depending on Janet increasingly ... and making love to her constantly. Things more or less settle in ... and Janet has pretty well given up on going home. Figures it's been too long, no one looking for them, and she has no chance to escape, plus she's begun to doubt her version of things and is afraid there�s really no one behind for her to return to, and that "Terreis" really is who she says she is. The only reason she really has any hopes of going back is Cassie.

In reading through Lemier's notes, Sam finds notes that what was believed to be a device for sending the return code through the gatewas found on a prisoner (assumes it was Janet's), but can't find the device itself (Valchon stole it when he ran). She has him brought in and questions him, but he says the device was destroyed and she's almost relieved, though she's ashamed of herself. If she found the device she'd be faced with the decision to either let Janet go or lie to her. He sees how nervous she is about Janet's loyalty and afraid of losing her. Holds out the temptation that there is a device that could give them a child that would be a part of both of them and would permanently bind them together. It's similar to a Goa'uld ribbon device, and he tells her how to use it. When she asks why he would care, he explains that he wants to make up for his mistakes ... that he realizes Terreis loves the woman, and Janet has helped her be a better queen ... that she's done so much good for their people, and he only wants to see that continue. She rejects the device, but agrees to allow him some degree of freedom ... closely watched. Unfortunately, she needs his skills because there are so few people with any scientific knowledge. She, however, has him instructing others on how the machinery and such works, though he's resistant. Sam decides not to release Janet ... ever. No matter what the reason.

--- The following is very rough ... just ideas because I haven't decided on the exact timing of some things. ---

Valchon is amassing troops to try and attack Earth and Sam finds out they're almost ready to make their move. Moves her own army into place to stop Valchon's army. O'Neill and troops come through the gate when Valchon to use Sam's return device to signal and sends troops through (they're quickly defeated, but the combat team goes through to stop any further attacks and also because there's still some hope that they might find out something about Carter and Fraiser.

Rubio is in charge of the army and O'Neill realizes he's fighting their attackers. Afterward, Rubio approaches him, explaining what happened and that his queen had no idea that Valchon was preparing an attack.

"Two of our people are missing," O'Neill said quickly. "They had a signaling device from one of them. Do you have any idea where they are?"

Rubio quickly denies any knowledge, but says that once they have contained the situation, his queen wishes only peace with his people, that the attacks were done without her knowledge, and their military will station troops on the gate to prevent any further attacks. O'Neill agrees, tries to arrange a meeting with their leaders, but Rubio refuses, says that's how things will be. After Rubio is gone, he speaks to Teal'c. They agree Rubio was hiding something.

Later, they sneak into the city and spot Carter and Fraiser on a balcony. Can see Fraiser is cuffed and they're making love. "What the hell?" They're caught by the guards and brought into the main meeting room. Sam arrives with Janet in tow, not knowing what the emergency is, then jealousy kicks in when Janet sees the men and is clearly happy to see them, while O'Neill is furious and demanding to know what's going on and why the hell Carter is awol and pretending to be some kind of queen. Rubio intercedes and explains that O'Neill was the outlander commander who agreed to peace and was looking for two of their people who'd been lost.

Terreis loses her temper when O'Neill tries to get to Fraiser, thinking they're lovers, and proclaims Janet "hers," now. She wants peace with his people, but Janet is hers now, and that is not negotiable.

O'Neill is horrified. "I don't know what the hell your problem is, Carter, but how can you treat her like a piece of property ... humiliate her this way?"

Suddenly ashamed, Terreis backs down, goes to Janet, apologizes, then proclaims her, her consort. "From now onward, any insult or harm to her is as if done to me." Then to O'Neill. "You have your peace. If you don't attack us, we'll never attack, but she'll never be yours again."

She turns away to leave, but O'Neill demands, "What about her kid? What about Cass?" When Sam is confused, he keeps pushing it and using Cass's name. She doesn't answer, and finally simply orders the men temporarily be treated as "guests" albeit tightly restrained ones.

"You have your offer." She moves to lead Janet out. She resists, and the men are ready to fight, but Sam restrains her. "Don't. If they fight, they'll lose." She's deadly serious about the threat and ready to lock both men away, perhaps even kill them to keep Janet.

O'Neill is ready to fight, but she shakes her head. "Doc?"

"Just go."

Sam leads Janet out, and to her apts. Edgy and angry, she demands, "Was he your lover?"

"The general? No."

"He seemed very worried about you."

Janet shook her head, unable to explain that it was Sam that Jack had long had feelings for, not her. Any indications of her past life tended to push her temper and neither one of them was up for that confrontation. "He's a superior officer ... and a friend. He was doing his job, that's all."

Sam begins removing Janet's clothes, gentle, but aggressive and angry. "Why didn't you tell me about the child?"

Janet doesn't answer, tries to resist Sam's lovemaking, but finds herself overwhelmed.

"Were you afraid I'd hurt her? Because I'd die before I'd harm your child."

"I couldn't ... couldn't talk about her. Not with you."

"You miss her."

"Of course I miss her."

"Bring her here then," Terreis offered, well aware of her lover's shock as she continued. "I'll make her my heir."

Janet shook her head, forcing words past the tightness in her throat. "Bring Cass into this nest of vipers? God no."

Terreis reared back, her expression darkening. "I'd never allow anything to happen to your child," she insisted, wanting the other woman to understand. Their coming together hadn't been ideal. She knew that, but the emotions were real, and she would protect this woman and everything she cared for in any way she knew. Even not knowing any more than her child's name -- Cass, she turned it over in her mind -- she cared for her ... wanted to know her, and even loved her in a way. She was a part of Janet, and that made her something to be cherished and protected in Terreis' eyes.

"I know," Janet sighed, suddenly exhausted beyond measure. Gentle hands stroked the soft skin at the flare of her hip.

"Is she that man's child?" Terreis demanded, unable to banish the image that burned in her mind of their bodies tangled in the sheets.

"No," Janet whispered. "Cass is adopted." She looked up at the woman she'd known so long, who'd become so much a part of her life, silently willing her to remember the child they were both parents to. "You brought her back from a mission. Her entire world was lost and she was the only survivor. We've raised her together."

Blue eyes flashed angry fires, and the sharp cut of Sam's jaw pulled taut as though she'd been accused of murder. "Only in your memories," she rasped, suddenly understanding what Lemier must have done when he'd reconfigured her memories. He'd simply replaced the general with herself ... or perhaps Janet had done that herself to fill in the blanks. Either way, she was certain he was the one. "But it doesn't matter." She stroked the line of her lover's throat, then down to cup the full weight of her breast, caressing in the ways she'd learned to heat Janet's blood, "you're mine now, and there will be new memories to replace the old."

Jealous, her lovemaking is rough and demanding. Repeats the opening scene. Later, when Janet is asleep, she leaves (locking the handcuff to the headboard and doubling the guard).

Sam meets with O'Neill where they're being held. He's completely confused by the fact that she doesn't seem to recognize him or know her name. Wants to know about Fraiser, but Sam tells him that's no longer his concern. Janet is her consort now, and she will never surrender her. She purposely mentions Janet's child though, all but begs him to tell her that Janet loves and misses her child, wants Cass to know that she's sorry, but this is the way things must be. Suggests she be brought here to be with her mother, but Jack says hell no. They'd never risk her safety that way. It's obvious how much he cares for Cass, which only cements her belief that the child ties them together. She tells him they're at peace now, but not to come back, then orders the guards to escort them back to the gate and make certain they go through, then guard the gate with the full army. No one is to be allowed through without her permission.

When Sam returns to Janet, she makes love to her very tenderly ... using the Goa'uld device to create a child.

Sam sets her people to constructing a barrier over the gate, so they can control who comes and goes.

Several days later, the SGC tries to send a team back through to negotiate, but they are met with armed resistance, and it's obvious it's going to be a fight. And they're forced to return rather than start a bloodbath that they can't win. O'Neill realizes they won't be able to safely use the gate in very short order. Realizing he's being watched, he leaves a package with a signaling device for the gate, a code that can be used, and a letter from Cass to Janet.

Terreis is there as the team disappears through the gate and the barrier is sealed behind them. Later she tells Janet, who reads the letter from Cass and breaks down. She doesn't tell her about the signaling device. "This is your home now." She holds her until she sleeps.

Roughly a month passes, while Sam does away with the last of Valchon's power base and installs new leaders, getting rid of nearly every minister and installing new laws. Valchon, however, is still out there, and harassing people, though his army is considerably smaller now.

Janet is no longer chained to the bed, but to Sam at night, though she's trusted alone at times since there's now no way for her to escape. It's wearing on her that Sam won't believe the truth, and gets angry at any suggestion that she is anyone but Terreis. After making love one night, she gets Sam to free her wrist and gets up to go to the bathroom. Sam starts to follow, but she asks her not to. Just wants a moment alone, and we realize this is a nightly thing and Sam allows, but at the same time, it makes her edgy. Janet's queasy, tired. Sam frees her and allows it. In the bathroom, Janet washes her face and is turning to go back when she's grabbed from behind, a hand over her mouth. It's Teal'c. They've been watching for several days, and he's noted the pattern and snuck in through a window. He an O'Neill have arrived in a craft borrowed from the Tok'ra ... which is why it's taken so long to get there. They had to talk the Asgard into transporting them and the small ship close enough to get to this world. She just wants to know what the truth is, and he shows her a picture of all of them, Sam included, with Cass at Cassie's high school graduation. He wants to take her away then and there, but instead, she tells him to leave a syringe and a way to contact them. She can't leave Sam behind and there's no safe way to take her that night.

"Are you all right?" the Jaffa asked seriously.

"I will be now." She hurries him on his way, afraid he'll be discovered, and he just barely gets out before Sam knocks and enters. Janet makes like she was washing her face and feeling rather ill. Sam holds her gently, thinking it's nausea from her pregnancy, kisses her slowly, asks if she's feeling better now. Wanting to get Sam out of the bathroom in case Teal'c makes some noise while climbing down, Janet insists she's fine, and leans into Sam's arms, drawing her head down and kissing her slowly, knowing they have very little time left.

The next night, Janet finds the drugs and a small radio hidden out of sight. Sam is keyed up and feeling guilty for using the device as she realizes that Janet undoubtedly really is pregnant. The responsibility for their child sitting heavily on her shoulders, she decides to legally make Janet not just her consort, but a full citizen and her equal, and release her from the chains, since she doesn't want their child to think her mother is nothing but a slave. She starts to explain to Janet, but Janet becomes very aggressive. Knowing it's their last night to make love, she's almost desperate, drawing Sam to the brink, then backing off over and over until their both drenched in sweat and orgasm together. Afterward, Sam just holds her, tells her she loves her, apologizes because things have been so difficult. "But I do love you more than my life." She unfastens Janet's chains, drawing her hand down and kissing her knuckles. "You'll always be mine. We both know that. These are unnecessary." They make love again, very slow and tender this time. Sam the aggressor, but incredibly gentle and wanting to please Janet. afterward, they just hold each other and kiss for a long time, then Sam slides off to sleep. Janet strokes her hair tenderly and kisses her forehead, then gets up and gets the syringe, checks it. Sam wakes up while getting the shot. Starts to fight and tries to lock the manacles around Janet's wrist again, but stumbles and falls to the floor. Tries to call out to the guard, but Janet covers her mouth with her hand and they struggle as Sam weakens. Winds up with Janet holding Sam, Sam looking hurt, growing weaker. "Why?"

"Because I love you ... and this has to stop." she kisses Sam just before she passes out, then calls the colonel and gets dressed. O'Neill and Teal'c arrive from the balcony and carry Sam. Alarms go up when as they're climbing the outer walls, but they escape without incident and return to the Asgard ship.

************************************

Sam wakes up in fatigues in a cell on the Asgard ship. She's furious and demands her release. Refuses to consider any evidence O'Neill might offer, and swears this will mean war between their people. O'Neill just rags her for giving way to an alien fantasy and hurting people who care for her. She demands to see Janet, but he refuses permission, says Fraiser's gonna be okay now, and she has friends to look after her.

The Asgard assess Sam's condition, then explain to O'Neill that they cannot undo the programming. Basically, it's up to Sam at this point. This sort of device sets the scenario, but the subject must want to keep it in place for it to work. That's why Janet is such an important part of the equation. Only as Terreis can she be honest about who she is and still have the woman she loves. We learn at this point that O'Neill has assumed that the two were lovers all this time. and he still can't quite believe they weren't. Janet is just a basket case at this point, feeling guilty for betraying Sam, wondering if perhaps she should have simply stayed, uncertain she did the right thing, etc.

When O'Neill goes to talk to Janet, she admits to her torn feelings, that she's in love with Sam and has been for a long time. She's surprised when he admits that's he's aware of it. He winds up simply listening, and when she wants to see Sam, recommends against it. They both need a little time. He's hoping that perhaps Sam will let go of the obsession if they're kept apart.

O'Neill confronts Sam, but she's not hearing him. Asks him why he thinks she would want to be such a foolish human being as Samantha Carter, someone who was apparently willing to give up love in the name of her career, then demands he bring Janet to her and return them to Arrathonea. O'Neill is brutally honest in pointing out that she needs to understand she's not in command any more, and it's time she grow up and quit playing dress up. Sam demands to see Janet again, and O'Neill refuses. "You're the last person she needs to see right now."

Janet wants to see Sam, see if she can talk her down, but he refuses, insists that Sam needs to think about things, and want to be Carter again. Janet just confuses her emotions. He keeps them apart during the week it takes to return. Both he and Teal'c try to talk to Sam, but she's not listening and just demands to see Janet.

When they arrive on Earth, Sam is cuffed and restrained in order to move her to the base. She sees Janet from a distance, calls to her, but the doctor is quickly hustled away by the men she's with. Sam struggles against the restraints and the soldiers handling her and winds up being tackled to the floor and hauled out.

In the SGC, there are assorted meetings as they try to talk Sam back into being herself, but she manages to maintain the fantasy. Turns out everyone has just assumed they were having an affair for years and politely looked the other way. In a meeting with Hammond and Fraiser, he doesn't quite believe her when she claims they weren't.

*****************

Sam reached through the bars, curling a hand to the back of Janet's head, her touch incredibly gentle, her tone more than a little desperate when she spoke. "Perhaps Samantha Carter can't stand the idea of lying, or that she's supposed to be ashamed of loving you," she whispered, not seeming to notice that she'd referred to herself in the present tense at least. "Perhaps she's afraid of dying inside at the idea of keeping her love hidden ... an ugly secret." She stroked silky hair lightly, searching Janet's face with raw hunger. "Come back with me ... we can be together...."

Janet didn't even try to resist the kiss that followed, her mouth burning under the sweet tenderness, tears filling her eyes as she was flooded with temptation to simply surrender herself to be with this woman. Her hands trembling, she gripped the cell bars tightly and pushed herself back, breaking the soft caress even as it broke her heart to do so. "I can't. You know that."

Blue eyes flashed and Sam's teeth gritted with frustration. "If you love me as you say I do, you'll come with me," she swore, the arrogance returning in force, making the words an angry command.

Janet shook her head, her own temper flaring. She stepped back another pace and held up her left wrist so Sam had to look at the strip of skin where the manacle had been. The flesh was pale white from lack of sun, making the faint scarring from the original, rough-edged manacles stand out more than it would have otherwise. "And if you love me the way you say you do, you wouldn't want this." Carter flinched, her eyes falling away, but Janet wasn't letting her off that easily. "Look at it, Sam, because that's what going back means for me--"

"If you agree to stay, there won't be any need--"

"It's not about the scars!" Janet roared, stepping forward again, hands braced on the bars of the cage as she leaned forward. "It's about who you're becoming ... and who I'd have to become to be with you." She shook her head, tears welling up in her eyes. "I won't surrender myself to love you." She held her wrist up again, forcing Sam to look at it. "This doesn't mark me as your lover, it marks me as your property! And if I become that, I'll wind up hating you."

Carter jerked back a step, eyes going wide and a tiny sound escaping her lips. She looked as though the words had acted like a literal, physical blow. She folded her arms across her chest, but didn't answer.

Janet's shoulders deflated, some of the anger draining out of her as she stood staring at the other woman. "Don't you understand," she pleaded desperately, "I'd rather lose you than have that happen."

********************************

"You're an idiot, Carter," Jack O'Neill pronounced as he entered the brig.

Blue eyes rose, glaring at him with searing intensity.

The colonel appeared not to notice. "Here you've got this gorgeous woman you love, who is -- helpfully enough -- also in love with you. Everybody who cares to notice politely looks the other way, figuring you've got more than two brain cells in that brilliant head of yours and are doing what every normal person would do and having a discreet affair. But do you do that? No. You fool yourself into thinking you're someone else, just so you can do what everybody else already figured you were doing anyway." He shook his head. "And people think I'm a little slow," he growled disgustedly.

"You don't understand," Carter muttered, her tone defensive.

"I understand that you're acting like a dope," O'Neill countered. "What the hell did you expect her to do, Carter, be blown away when you bat your baby-blues and proclaim herself a slave of love? You, of all people, oughta know the lady better than that. She's nobody's fool, and nobody's property."

"She was mine," Sam hissed as she spun away, wrapping her arms tightly around her midsection, her voice raw with unshed tears.

"And you were killing her a piece at a time," he said sadly. "Is that really what you want?" He shook his head, unable to believe what he was hearing and seeing. "To hurt her that way?"

She didn't respond, but he could see her shoulders trembling gently under the force of her emotions.

"Look, Carter, you don't have to do this to yourself. Nobody gives a damn. We just want you back ... and she needs you ... here ... as Sam Carter."

**** Everything from here forward is very general, even where specific, not necessarily in order, and highly subject to change ******

At some point, Janet argues that if they can't get her back, perhaps they should send her back to Arrathonea. Perhaps it's better than locking her away for the rest of her life. She can't stomach that idea.

Janet discovers she's pregnant and freaks, because she has no idea who the father could be and the only explanation she can think of is that something happened during one of the torture sessions. Cassie comforts her, then confronts Sam, furiously angry at Sam for what she's done, for not protecting Janet from whoever raped her, and for not remembering Cassie and their life together ... as though it means nothing. Sam tries to comfort her. Doesn't believe what she's saying, but at the same cares for her and feels for her pain, insists she did protect Janet. O'Neill and Teal'c arrive as Sam claims the child is hers.

"I know you're taking this whole queen thing really seriously, Carter, but there are some things even you can't do."

She explains about the device ... says he should know about it since it was stolen from them. He denies any knowledge and she describes it, then demands that Janet and she be returned to Arrathonea, that both mother and the child she's carrying are hers and the Tau'ri have no right to do what they're doing. Teal'c recognizes the description. Says it's a Goa'uld device. Cassie and O'Neill are both freaked. Want to know if that would affect the child somehow.

Sam begins to get scared, wants to know what they're talking about ... if there's a danger to their child. O'Neill doesn't know ... leaves.

*****************

They do a full battery of tests on Janet. The Tok'ra are contacted and Jacob arrives, using a Tok'ra device to confirm that the child is Sam's and be certain that it's healthy and normal (it is ... a healthy baby girl).

Afterward, Janet confronts Sam. She's angry, hurt, totally rakes Sam over the coals. "You've been trying to convince me you weren't really Samantha Carter ... congratulations. You made it. Sam could never do this to me." She leaves before Sam can say anything.

Janet takes time off. Needs to get the hell away from it all. Cassie is no longer speaking to Sam. Janet can't sleep, jumpy and doesn't feel safe. After several days, Cassie's so worried about her condition that she calls O'Neill and he and Teal'c come over. Teal'c stays when O'Neill has to return

Ironically, Janet's anger is what begins Sam on the road back to herself ... forcing her to accept the things she's done. Jacob arrives. Where everyone else has been confrontational and angry, he's just very gentle (maybe for the first time in her life), realizes she was always afraid of disappointing him, and that she couldn't. But right now, she has a responsibility to face ... and to do that she has to let go of the fantasy of being someone else. Terreis can't help Janet or their child. Samantha Carter can. Over several conversations, he just keeps talking until she finally reaches out to him and begs for his help.

In between Jacob's talks, O'Neill plays bad cop. At one point, when she's trying to trick them into releasing her ... just basically parroting whatever they say, agreeing to everything with the plan of getting free, grabbing Janet and getting back to Arranthonea (she vacillates back and forth between positions), he taunts Sam with the information that he thinks Teal'c has had a crush on Fraiser for years. Never made a move because he thought Sam and Janet were a couple, now he knows they aren't, and Fraiser needs support. He's stepped in, likes kids, would be happy to play father to Sam and Janet's child. She loses her temper, threatens Teal'c if he even touches Janet, and claims Janet as her own.

Later Jacob and Jack talk. Both admit to being a part of the problem. Sam was afraid of being caught, disappointing her father, afraid Jack would go after Janet's career because she knew he was in love with her, etc. They're taking a total guilt trip.

Takes time (probably several months) to bring Sam back out, and even then she has two disparate sets of memories, and sometimes has a hard time distinguishing things. As Sam comes to accept what she's done, she is guilt ridden beyond belief and avoiding Janet because she doesn't want to cause her more pain. At the same time, she is jealous as hell that Teal'c really has stepped in and is all but living at Janet's and helping out. It is just emotionally shredding her ... and pushing her deep into depression.

O'Neill basically drags her out of it by saying they need to find out what was happened on Arrathonea after she left (really want to use the following line: "Well, Carter, you can help do something, or you can sit around feeling like the piece of shit around which the entire universe revolves."). He figures she's not gonna be certain about her mental state until she goes back and figures things out for herself. She's scared to death of the idea, and still occasionally doubtful about reality. She finally agrees, they dig in, building a simple battering ram that will break through the barricade she had built without risking any of the guards that might be near the gate. While the device is being built, she goes to visit Janet.

Sam hasn't seen Janet in since the scene after Janet found out how she got pregnant. She's scared to death, doesn't know what will happen on Arrathonea, and doesn't know how Janet will receive her. Teal'c answers the door, leaves her there until Janet approves letting her in. Sam finds Janet, and Teal'c leaves them alone together. Sam apologizes over and over, says she won't come again, just wanted to say some things, make it clear that she knows what she's done, knows she has no right to anything, especially forgiveness or to any access to the child. She asks that her father and brother be allowed to see the baby though ... that they haven't done anything wrong. Janet agrees. Sam is fighting not to break down ... says she'll always love Cassie, Janet, and the child she's carrying. She won't bother them, but if any of them ever need her for anything, she would do anything for them ... and that she's arranged for part of her paycheck to be deposited into an account for Janet and the child ... that she can use any way she sees fit. Has also left everything to them in her will. Janet is comparatively silent through it all, and Sam finally finishes and leaves. She speaks momentarily to Cass, who's just coming in, and says much the same, though Cass isn't very receptive. Sam breaks down in her car.

Janet meanwhile watches Sam through the window. Teal'c calls her a fool when he enters.

Janet swore under her breath. "You don't understand," she whispered, then turned a bruised look Teal'c's direction. "You don't know what it made us both do." She shook her head slowly. "We nearly destroyed each other."

Teal'c shook his head. "You believe it is the love which caused the problems ... when, in reality, it is the denial of love that did so."

Though she was cold to Sam, Cassie is torn. She loves both of them, but she's furious with Sam for what she did. Janet tells her she doesn't have to cut Sam out of her life to be loyal, but right now, Cass isn't up to dealing with Sam.

* * * * * * * *

A UAV is sent through the gate to Arrathonea to ascertain that it's safe before sending a team through. See troops, and O'Neill wants to hold off, but Sam steps through in full battle gear. The troops are readying for a fight when she peels her helmet off, and they immediately fall into line as Melanthus recognizes her. He's now in charge a sizable troop, while Rubio is commanding the entire army. Valchon and several ministers have split off and are attacking various places and points, stealing and murdering at will. O'Neill and more troops follow Sam through the gate, and he's pretty worried about her mental state, especially when she wants to go to the royal city, and appears to be commanding her army once again. She assures him that she knows who she is, but she's the one who changed things and left the job unfinished. She owes it to these people to help if she can. She tells O'Neill it's not his problem though ... that the SGC doesn't need to get involved if he feels it's for the best to stay out of it. He agrees they need to help and so takes a small troop and goes with Sam.

Valchon's troops hit the soldiers on the gate hard, making getting back through dangerous at best.

Sam retakes command of the army she built from Rubio, who's been trying to do his best in her absence, but is still learning, but tells Rubio that once Valchon is defeated, she's out of there ... explains that she was never Terreis ... that she was brainwashed. They're in her apartments, and Elyana is there as well. Rubio is somewhat surprised, but she's not at all. Sam is angry when she realizes that Elyana had figured it out. She admits it and adds that she saw Sam changing things, making them better, and she saw her as the best chance for her child. Sam's angry, feeling betrayed, but at the same time, she can't blame Elyana when it occurs to her that she might do the same thing to protect Janet and their child if things were as bad as she's seen. Mostly her anger is on Janet's behalf ... over the fact that no one tried to stop her from hurting Janet ... in fact encouraged her. Elyana is defensive, but at the same time guilt-ridden. She tried to shield Janet where she could once she realized, but also encouraged Sam because she felt that bond would keep her there. Rubio is angry at Elyana when he realizes what she did, but still loves her desperately, and understands why she did what she did. Tries to explain it away when he and Sam talk later.

Sam interrogates Lemier, learns the truth ... that he is the rightful king, and turned the tables on the Goa'uld, etc. He apparently intends to return to power now that she knows who she is, and she rejects that idea. That's pretty much the last thing she intends to allow to happen. Instead, she works with the locals, putting together local governments that are actually in control. It's time for Lemier to serve his people. He insists he was trying, and she pretty much rakes him over the coals, points out the SGC would have helped ... were trying to help. That in reality, all Lemier was trying to do was save himself.

SG combat Teams come and go, while Sam remains for several months straightening things out. Getting the technology working, water pumping, etc again as well as hunting down Valchon and the other ministers striking civilian outposts. One night, O'Neill accuses her of hiding, and she pretty much admits it. Says she's not sure she can handle the idea of being on Earth, but staying away from Janet and not seeing her child. It just hurts too much. He tries to talk her into seeing Janet ... that she may have softened her position, but Sam refuses. Admits that Janet didn't ask her to stay away, that she didn't give her a chance to. She's certain Janet hates her ... and couldn't face hearing that. O'Neill tries to make her see sense, reminds her of what was done to her, Fraiser knows that, and she's a forgiving person, that they have a long standing friendship, but Sam is hearing none of it. She's too scared of being rejected ... and also too scared of herself. There's a part of her that is still Terreis, still feels like Janet is hers, and she's not sure she can keep from touching Janet if she sees her. It's safer to just stay away. She hurt her before and is afraid of doing so again. O'Neill demands to know if she's planning on staying on Arrathonea forever, and she admits she doesn't know. She thinks that Teal'c and Janet are probably lovers now ... and that he's probably better for her anyway.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (sorry couldn't resist ... this section is very general, since I won't have a good idea of some things until much closer to the action), Teal'c is working on Janet, pointing out that Sam wasn't in her right mind ... that she genuinely regrets what happened. He feels she's being foolish in denying Sam her child ... even if she can't love her any more. Janet denies doing that. And she's angry that Sam just left. Teal'c asks what choice she had and Janet doesn't really have an answer. Jacob visits several times and they talk in some depth. He blames himself for the emotional mess Sam has gotten herself into, especially when Janet more or less admits that she would have gone ahead and had an affair, but knew that Sam would never be comfortable and it would drive a wedge into their relationship ... and she wasn't willing to risk their friendship. Jacob is mostly there to offer Janet support though since he's worried about her. She's near term when they have a long conversation and she admits that she still loves Sam despite everything. She's not sure she can trust her again, but she'll always love her. Teal'c overhears. After Janet goes to bed, speaks to Jacob, asking him to stay. He agrees and Teal'c returns to base, goes through the gate after Sam.

There is a final confrontation between Sam's troops and Valchon's. Valchon is captured here or later. Teal'c catches up with Sam, tells her to go back, that he child is most likely making her way into the world as they speak. She refuses, and he tells her he and Janet aren't lovers ... that Janet still loves and needs her, and she's a fool for staying away. Sam can barely allow herself to hope. Teal'c finally just tells her to go.

Sam reaches the SGC infirmary, pulls on scrubs and a mask and is there in the background when their child is born. There's a momentary panic at some point, much hustling about and Sam winds up next to Janet's bed, holding her hand, scared to death. Janet doesn't realize it's her at first. She's panicking, terrified the problem is serious, Sam assures her it'll be all right, and Janet finally realizes that the nurse holding her hand is Sam. Everything's okay and Sam slips out ... flees really. Later, when Janet is asleep, Sam slips into her room ... the baby is in a bassinet next to her bed. Sam dangles a hand and the baby grabs her finger and she's just completely lost. Janet wakes at some point, and Sam is about to flee, but there's a confrontation of sorts where Sam learns that Janet doesn't want her to give up her child, and feels enormously guilty for what happened, since she was the one who knew who she was. She feels like she should have done more to reach Sam and bring her back to herself. Sam insists she couldn't ... that she would have been in danger if she'd tried. It never occurred to her that Janet felt guilty about what happened.

***************

Valchon is captured, and because he's a Goa'uld removed to the SGC for study, and because there's no way anyone on Arrathonea can contain him. Though he's been told what he is, he doesn't believe it, and is sickened by the notion .... the mere idea enraging him. He bears a violent grudge against Carter.

The latest NID hack gets involved in interrogating Valchon ... gets conned, Valchon convinces him he'll surrender Goa'uld secrets though he doesn't have any. Then uses that as a means of escape. Purposely kidnaps Janet and the baby, who are there for a physical to force them back. The gate crew goes along because anything else is going to get them both killed. Valchon uses them to chase Rubio and his troops back by pointing out she's the royal consort and she's carrying the royal heir. Returns to his own troops.

Sam goes after and there's a final battle. He taunts her with what he's turned her into ... made her like him. in which she kills Valchon personally ... by decapitating him, since it's the only reliable way to kill a Goa'uld.

 

***********************

Janet stared up at Sam, clinging tightly to the child in her arms as a tremor ran through her. Her eyes slid past the taller woman to the army lined up behind her. Experience had made them into a formidable force. Under Sam's command, they could control the gate, and very probably repulse any invading army the SGC could send or at least make the price so high the general didn�t dare expend that many lives simply to retrieve two people. Her gaze swept back to clash with blue eyes that were still overbright from the flush of combat, and though she didn't look down, she was painfully aware of the iron tinged stench of blood in the air, and the crimson streamers that ran freely down the sword blade clutched tightly in Sam's hand.

Carter suddenly seemed to realize how she must look because she straightened herself, sheathing the heavy blade as if to hide it away. "It was the only way," she said softly, her tone sliding over into defensive, "because of the Goa'uld ... guns weren't slowing him down." She'd decapitated Valchon in one blow, carving the creature controlling him in half at the same time she'd killed the host. Considering what she knew of the man who'd sold his soul to the Goa'uld, then been caught in his own trap, she couldn't work up even a flicker of guilt.

Janet nodded, uncertain what else to do. Her eyes swung back to the assembled military, suddenly very aware of just how alone she was. A hand brushed her cheek, bringing her head back around. Sam had wiped the blood off on the front of her tunic before making contact, she noted.

"Are you all right?" the other woman whispered, searching Janet's face as if she could find the answer that way.

Her hand fell to brush the baby's blanket aside even as Janet answered stiffly, "I'm fine ... we're fine," she added as she watched the emotions that made their way over Sam's face as she studied their daughter. Her mouth opened momentarily as if to say something, but no words came, then the taller woman dashed away the hint of tears glossing her eyes with her other hand.

Sam looked up, staring at Janet, seeing her beauty and strength, the intelligence that had drawn her from the first, the solid core of courage and ethics that she respected beyond belief. Still staring deeply into dark brown eyes, she brushed her thumb along their child's cheek, physically aware of the softness and warmth of the infant's skin, and emotionally shaken beyond belief. This tiny creature was a part of both of them, and she'd lost her heart to her at every level. She felt a tiny hand grasp at her finger as if the child wanted that bond as much as she did. It would be so easy. With the army at her back, she could keep both of them. With Valchon dead, she could build a world to be proud of and protect them both. It would take time, but eventually Janet would--

She cut that thought off right there, but not before Janet realized the direction of her thoughts. She saw the wary suspicion that colored the other woman's expression and the spring steel tension that entered her body. Looking down, curled her finger ever so slightly, drawing the tiny hand up ever so slightly to stroke delicate knuckles with the pad of her thumb. Hazel eyes peered up at her, their expression perfectly serious. Nothing in her life had prepared her for the absolute and total commitment she had to this child. She'd do anything for her. It was that simple and that complex. "What now?" she whispered very softly at last.

A long, tense moment passed, then Janet spoke, her voice low and stressed with emotion. There was fear there, but it wasn't alone. Hurt, compassion, hope, relief, even a measure of love all vied for expression in her soft tones. "I'd like to go home."

Sam looked up, the temptation visible in her eyes. It would be so easy, and at the same time utterly impossible. The tighter she tried to hold on, the less she'd have to hold on to. "Of course," she exhaled after a long beat, the pain in her chest nearly enough to send her crashing to her knees.

Dark eyes slid closed as slender shoulders sagged with relief.

"Make way," Sam called out, curving one hand to Janet's shoulder as she waved her men aside and urged Janet toward the gate.

"My Queen," Rubio said as he stepped forward, blocking their way, his expression confused and a little hurt as he realized Sam meant to send Janet back through the gate. This wasn't what he expected at all. He knew how she felt about the outlander, how she loved their child. If they left.... "Your heir--"

"Step aside," Sam said firmly, her hold tightening on Janet's shoulder when she felt a tiny shudder slide through the other woman. When he didn't move, she reached out with her free hand, pointedly pushing him out of the way, then urged Janet forward.

They reached the dais where the gate stood, and she quickly entered the coordinates into the DHD, something inside of her close to breaking as the event horizon exploded outward from the gate before settling into a watery glassy surface. Only moments left, moments to go before she lost the only person she'd ever truly loved, and the child they'd made together against all the odds. "Go on," she said very softly, pushing aside the temptation to do anything else, refusing to become what Valchon would have seen her turn into. She wasn't a goddamned Goa'uld and she wouldn't become like them. She suddenly realized Janet was watching her closely.

"Sam?" Janet breathed, hope overcoming the other emotions in her voice for the first time in a long time.

Sam reached out, stroking the line of Janet's brow very lightly, just barely touching as she smoothed away a faint frown line. "Cass needs you ... and ... and I need you to be free...." She blinked away the tears threatening to fill her eyes, fighting to keep her knees from knocking together, and her hands from shaking.

Relief and gratitude filled chocolate eyes, the emotions deep in longing regret that Sam couldn't allow herself to see. If she thought there was a chance for them, she wasn't sure she could let go. "Thank you." Janet whispered, well aware of what it cost the other woman.

Sam dropped to hand back to their daughter's cheek, imprinting the memory of sensation and emotion on her mind. "Go on," she said after a long beat, afraid that if they didn't go, she wouldn't be able to allow it.

Her heart nearly as shattered as Sam's, Janet mounted the steps up the dais, grateful for her freedom, but also hurting for the agony she'd seen in Sam's eyes, and uncertain how to reach out to the other woman.

"Janet."

The doctor spun in response to Sam's soft call, half afraid the other woman had changed her mind about letting them go until she saw the expression on her face.

Swallowing hard in an effort to fight the sudden influx of paralyzing emotions, Sam just stared up at Janet for a long moment, her throat so tight, it felt as though she was being strangled. "I don't suppose," she croaked at last, "there's any chance..." she couldn't finish and had to take a second to regain control, "...any chance I could come with you?" she finally managed.

Brown eyes slid closed, momentarily blocking Sam and leaving her braced as if for an incoming storm, but instead of anger or fear she saw relief when they opened again. Janet didn't speak -- couldn't speak -- and simply shifted the child in her arms enough to allow her to reach out with one hand.

Their hands met, fingers twining, and Sam was surprised by the strength in Janet's hand as she tugged her forward.

"My Queen," Rubio said, his voice sliding over into desperation as he stepped forward, "you can't leave. You can rule ... with your child as your heir."

She looked back, her expression sad. "I told you when I returned that this wasn't permanent," she reminded him gently. Surprised by how natural it felt, she slid an arm across Janet's shoulders, pulling her close, the weight of their child between them. "We'll keep helping you ... but I'm not your queen." She felt the shudder that rippled through Janet and looked down at her, hoping to make her see that she meant the softly spoken words.

"But you're the only one who knows how to rebuild--"

Sam looked back at him, her voice and expression hard this time. "Then you're going to have to learn." She glanced out at the surrounding hillside. "You have the tools ... and you'll have help ... but I can't do this for you." She looked at Janet again, silently pleading for a chance. "I have my own life." She looked back at the young man, silently rejecting his pleas. "And I need to get back to it while I still have some chance of retrieving it before I lose everything."

It was obvious how badly he wanted to find some way to stop her, but there was nothing he could do.

"You'll be all right," Sam assured him, oddly certain they'd make it through. She looked at Janet again. There were still so many things to work through, none of them minor, but for the first time in a long time, she actually, believed they had a chance. "Let's go home," she whispered and headed for the gate.

*************

EPILOGUE

Six Months Later

Sam Carter peered at her reflection in the mirror over her sink, silently searching familiar features in an effort to see what someone else might see in them. Reaching up, she ran her fingers through her hair, watching the way the sunbleached strands resettled into place, bangs falling across her eyes. She needed a haircut, she noted as she continued to study herself with a critical eye. She was still reconnecting with Samantha Carter, and sometimes it helped to just consider the details.

"You look fine," Cass inserted, her tone dry.

Sam sighed. Or maybe she was just nervous as hell. She glanced back at Cass, noting the way her foster daughter leaned against the doorjamb, arms folded across her chest, her gaze sharply assessing. They were also still reconnecting. There was tension sometimes, and she was far from certain the girl -- no, she corrected herself as she noted the Cass was far from a child -- the young woman -- would ever forgive her completely. Not surprising, she supposed. She wasn't sure she'd ever completely forgive herself. How could she expect more of Cass? She smoothed her blouse self consciously as she straightened and turned around. "I just ... uh ... was just...." She verbally wandered to a halt as she saw the knowing look in the blue eyes watching her closely. Cass was smart enough to have a pretty good idea what was up. Janet was the one who'd gently suggested she spend the night at Sam's so she could use her computer, and not to wait up. She was smart enough to put two and two together and come up with four.

"Yeah, I know," Cass allowed, her tone hard to read.

At least the blatant hostility was gone now, Sam thought with some irony. Small steps, she reminded herself when a part of her wanted to demand more from Cassie. Just take it one, small step at a time. She'd gotten this far playing it carefully and slowly. She nervously ruffled her hair again, the gesture drawing a wry look from her foster daughter. Cass straightened, reaching out to brush Sam's disarrayed bangs into some semblance of their proper place, the gesture almost parental.

"She loves you, you know," the younger woman murmured, her voice purposely conversational as she dropped her hands to straighten Sam's collar where it had flipped up ungracefully.

Sam swallowed hard, not arguing, but not quite certain she could allow herself to believe it. She'd been as careful and as cautious as she knew how to be for months, relearning how to be Sam Carter while doing everything to show Janet she could be trusted again. Which was how she'd slowly wound up dating the mother of her child. Now there was a phrase she'd never expected to apply to herself -- at so many levels. It had started slowly, the two of them, the guys, a pizza and a football game, or maybe a fast food dinner and some action flick Jack wanted to see. Later, Cassie had joined them when she'd found it in her to start speaking with Sam again. That had lasted until one night Janet had had enough of Jack's movie choices at the multiplex, and opted for something a little more civilized. After making a point of not wanting to see the latest Van Damme action thriller, Sam had followed her, barely aware of the goings on onscreen as she sat next to Janet, her heart thumping painfully hard in her chest, as close to being alone as she'd been with the other woman in a long time. That pattern had last only a week or two, then they'd simply left the guys behind. They'd stuck to meeting in public, both driving themselves, and politely saying goodbye after the evening's entertainment until fate took a hand. When Janet's car decided it didn't feel like running, Sam had driven her home, then lingered on her front porch, and they'd stuck to safe topics like politics and religion -- well, safe for them anyway. By silent agreement, they'd traded off driving duties after that. An unexpected thunderstorm had led to the first night in, and after that dinner more often meant something quiet in Sam's or Janet's kitchen, sometimes a movie later, but with growing frequency, just an evening of quiet discussion.

Far too afraid of screwing something up to even consider making the first move, Sam had hung back, forcing herself to wait and praying that Janet felt even half the desire for more that she did.

The first hesitant, uncertain kiss had come, not during the lingering moments when they were both thinking about it but too scared to act, but rather one night when Sam had sat holding their daughter, her attention totally absorbed by the sleeping child. She hadn't realized Janet had entered until a fine-boned hand crept into view to stroke the infant's cheek. Janet had leaned down, the first innocent kiss brushing Sam's forehead. She'd pulled back ever so slightly, gazes meeting for a brief moment, then leaned even farther, fingers stroking their daughter's hair as their lips met for the first time in more than a year. Slow, tentative, careful, they'd both been taken the time to relearn the taste and texture of each other, re-experiencing the native rhythm.

Then Janet had pulled back, her expression unreadable enough to leave Sam afraid she'd blown it until Janet kissed her softly as she was leaving. After that, soft farewell kisses had become the norm, running a little deeper and longer each time, then progressing to tentative caresses that steadily became more confident until....

"Slow and easy," Sam reminded herself as she felt her pulse jump, then realized she'd spoken out loud as Cassie raised an eyebrow.

"That's right," the younger woman confirmed seriously.

Sam reached for the jacket slung over the back of a nearby chair and pulled it on. "Are you okay with this?" she asked quietly.

The silence stretched between them, each tick of the clock making Sam's stomach knot a little tighter. "I think so," the younger woman said at last. "I have my doubts," she admitted when Sam didn't say anything, "but it's not my call."

Sam's frown deepened at the slightly sad note echoing in the younger woman's voice. "But you're a part of it ... and whatever happens, neither of us wants you hurt." She wanted Cass to understand that she'd do anything in her power to make things right if she just knew what that was. She needed her to be a part of things if possible.

"I know," Cass murmured, offering a watery smile as she reached up automatically to smooth the shoulders of Sam's jacket. She'd spent months in hell, terrified for the two most important people in her life, certain they were dead, only to learn that Sam was the one responsible. No matter the reasons for what she'd done, forgiveness was slow in coming, and trust even slower. She was trying, but it was going to take time. "But you two need each other ... and I understand ... and accept that."

It wasn't exactly the rousing endorsement Sam might have hoped for, but neither was it absolute rejection of the idea. Her gaze dropping to the carpet, Sam accepted the soft words without argument. Hopefully, one day Cass would forgive her more completely. Until then, she just to accept whatever limits the girl needed to put on things. Slow and easy. Just take it slow and easy.

A hand landed lightly on her forearm, the contact drawing her attention back up until her gaze met her foster daughter's. "It's not about me," Cass said, her tone practical, rather proud of herself for being so mature about everything. "What matters is the two of you ... and how you feel." She stepped back a pace, studying Sam carefully. "I do still love you," she said at last. "I don't want you to think I don't ... it's just..." unable to define her feelings, the fell silent, uncertain what else to say.

"It's okay," Sam assured her. Cassandra had been through as much emotional turmoil as any of them. She needed as much -- and maybe more -- healing time. She was just grateful to hear there was still love there, no matter how tentative. "Whatever you feel ... and however much time you need ... it's all okay."

Cass nodded, too choked to speak for a long moment. Finally, she swallowed hard and offered an uncertain smile. "You should be going if you don't want to be late."

"Okay," Sam said softly. Even though she would have liked to reach out and offer some physical comfort, she didn't touch Cass as she stepped past her. "You ... uh ... you know where everything is, right?"

Cass nodded. "I know where everything is in your place."

"And if you need anything--"

"I know all the phone numbers, Sam," she assured her.

It was Sam's turn to nod, then what seemed like no more than a second later, she was in her car and driving the well known route to Janet's house. She blinked and she was on Janet's front porch, shifting uncertainly from foot to foot. In such a daze she barely knew where she was, time seemed to coalesce and warp, motion slowing until her awareness became a matter of flashing tableaus reminiscent of the frozen instant of time burned on the human retina when lighting illuminates the sky. She barely tasted dinner, somehow making her way through a conversation about matters on base -- and how well Arrathonea was apparently dealing with its newfound democracy under the tutelage of SG-12 -- even though she only really heard one word in ten.

The time warping sensation didn't stop until after dinner. She found herself holding her daughter, soothing her back to sleep after a brief crying binge and suddenly time slowed and normalized, seconds ticking once again ticking by at their normal rate without the sense of watching a film with too many frames removed. Minutes passed and she felt a hand flutter over her hair. She looked up.

"It's okay," Janet soothed as if reading her mind.

Sam truly saw Janet for the first time since arriving. Maroon silk flaked in occasional flecks of blue draped gracefully from her shoulders, the deep vee allowing a tantalizing glimpse of the soft inner curve of breasts that were fuller than they had been. The dress cinched in tight at the waist, then fell in soft folds, the light fabric swirling around her legs and emphasizing the elegant curve of her hips. Sam couldn't breathe for a moment, couldn't think, couldn't move. It was entirely possible her heart didn't even beat. Janet was the single most beautiful thing she'd ever seen in her life. Her eyes dropped to the infant snuggled safely in her arms, then rose again, a blush sliding over her cheeks as her gaze touched on full breasts before rising to meet dark brown eyes. "She ... uh ... does to she need to ... uh...." She couldn't finish the suggestion and spluttered to a halt. Janet's hand stilled in her hair for the briefest second, then shifted to brush her bangs back from her eyes.

A delicate blush tinted rounded cheeks. "I fed her earlier." Janet crouched down in front of Sam, curving on hand to the arm of the chair and resting the other very light on their daughter's forehead, thumb brushing fluttery soft hair. "She just needs to be put to bed whenever she's ready."

The nervousness returning in full force, Sam dropped her chin to stare at the hand on the baby's forehead, her heart suddenly pounding in her chest as she remembered the feel of those fingers on her skin. A moment passed while she struggled to make her brain fire on all thrusters, then Janet's hand dropped to her thigh, the light contact sending runners of awareness up and down her body, and coherent thought became a thing of the past.

"There's no hurry," Janet murmured, sensing Sam's turmoil and not pushing it.

Blue eyes rose cautiously until they met Janet's chocolate brown gaze. She was suddenly scared to death, the baby in her arms a much needed security blanket. As long as she was holding their child, she couldn't screw anything up. She stayed like for a long time; might well have remained right where she was the entire night and the next day too if Janet hadn't finally lifted the sleeping child into her arms and risen gracefully. Frozen in place, Sam could only watch as the other woman settled the baby into her bassinet, then did a slow turn to search her face for a long moment.

Finally, Janet looked down at her hands where they were twined together in front of her. When she looked up again, she straightened away from the bassinet, stepping forward and reaching out to Sam. The blonde couldn't resist the silent entreaty, and reached back, shivers running down her spine as their fingers touched. She wasn't sure what she expected when Janet tugged her to her feet and was mildly surprised when the other woman simply led her back into the livingroom. Once there, she turned away, releasing Sam's hand to crouch down and light the logs already laid in the fireplace.

Ignoring the ache to touch and keep touching, Sam stepped back, putting herself out of range of temptation, her hands locked together at the small of her back. She wasn't aroused, she was scared; deathly, achingly, horrifyingly scared. She'd faced world-destroying threats considerably more bravely than she faced the notion that Janet would finish what she was doing at any moment, straighten, turn and expect something of her.

And Sam had no idea what she was going to do. In some ways, the best scenario she could come up with involved massive panic, hyperventilation, and a quick bout of fainting. Unconsciousness sounded much better than the possibility of failure at that point. Then there was the tiny voice whispering in her head, insisting that Janet was hers and all she had to do was--

No! Janet belonged only to herself, Sam reminded herself firmly.

And then there was another part -- the part that felt strangely inexperienced where the other woman was concerned. As many times as they'd made love, sometimes Sam felt like she'd never touched Janet at all. And in a way, she hadn't. It was Terreis who had made love to the other woman; confident, certain of her actions, righteous in her possession, practiced when it came to touching a woman's body. In short, everything Sam wasn't. Great, she could be the mauler or the virgin. With no halfway point of normalcy somewhere in between, and her competition and predecessor was none other than herself.

"Sam?" the gentle timbre of Janet's voice washed over her, and blue eyes refocused, noting with some degree of panic that the other woman had risen to her feet and turned to face her.

"I'm scared," she blurted without thinking, then suddenly wished she could call the words back, or, barring that option, sink into a convenient hole somewhere.

"Of me?" Janet whispered, hurt threaded through in her voice.

"God no," Sam said instantly before continuing haltingly, "of failing ... of myself ... of her...." The last words came out harsh and ashamed, driving her to look away for fear of seeing fear and pain in the other woman's eyes.

Janet's soft sigh seemed to hang in the air for long moments, followed by a long, echoey silence. "We haven't really talked ... about things ... since...." Both afraid of making a mistake, they'd avoided the subject with a passion, and tried to pretend they were starting from scratch. "I didn't hate her, Sam ... I didn't hate you," she clarified carefully. "I was...." Another moment passed while she struggled to find the words to define something that she didn't completely understand herself. "What are you afraid of?" she asked at last.

"I'm afraid of her coming back..." Sam admitted, choking off for a long moment before she added, "and I'm afraid ... as Sam Carter ... that I-I won't measure up." She looked away, blinking rapidly in an effort to banish the tears threatening to make the world run like paint on an artist's canvas.

"Sam?" Janet questioned.

Carter shook her head without looking at the other woman. "I don't know what I'm doing," she admitted. "And sometimes ... it's like she's there in my head--"

"She was you, Sam ... just under different circumstances."

Sam responded with a quick headshake, dismissing the idea. "It doesn't feel that way." She closed her eyes, blocking out the woman watching her worriedly. "It feels like she's still in there ... and she still wants you so much ... and I'm afraid of losing control and hurting you ... and I can't live with that." Eyes tightly shut, she shook her head back and forth slowly. "I love you so much ... and all I want is to protect you ... and take care of you ... hold you and our child ... but all I can think is what if...." Her throat agonizingly tight, she fell silent and stood helplessly, eyes closed, shoulders trembling under the force of emotion. "I don't ever want to hurt you again." She flinched like a wild thing as gentle fingers stroked her cheek, eyes snapping open as she realized Janet had drawn within reach.

"Shhh," the smaller woman soothed, the look in her eyes reassuring. She reached again, and this time Sam didn't pull back -- or at least didn't pull back as much -- and there was only the tiniest wince as Janet's fingers made contact, stroking lightly. "If this goes forward, Sam, what you want ... it's not possible."

Dark blonde brows drew together in a confused frown, and Sam's breath caught. "Are you afraid that I'd...." She couldn't summon the will to finish, afraid that Janet was saying she feared her and knew she'd turn into a monster again.

"No," Janet said sharply, then continued more gently, "I'm saying that it's not possible to have a relationship where nobody ever hurts anybody. It can't happen." She brushed blonde hair back from Janet's brow. "There are going to be clashes ... and living in fear of them, convinced that the slightest harsh word means you're turning into a Goa'uld construct, or I'm going to head for the hills, won't work."

Wanting to say something but totally uncertain what, Sam's mouth worked momentarily, but no words came out

"I love you," Janet said very softly.

Sam's eyes slid closed again, tiny tremors rattling through her from head to toe. "How can you...." She didn't finish, and stood helplessly before the woman she loved. "Why are willing to try again?"

A long moment of silence followed, then Janet spoke quietly. "Because on Arrathonea ... in that moment when you could have forced me to stay, you didn't. You were willing to let go of your child and give me my freedom." She stared up at Sam seriously. "It was Samantha Carter that did that ... and I've loved Sam Carter for a long time."

"Why?" Sam questioned, struggling with how the other woman could still have feelings for her after everything that had happened.

"I don't know," Janet admitted, her tone warm enough to soothe some of Sam's fears. "I could give you a list of reasons ... how brilliant and beautiful you are ...the things we've shared ... the times you've been my touchstone in life, but they're not why I love you. I just do." Graceful fingers slid down from Sam's brow, tracing her hairline, dusting along the undercurve of her cheekbone, following the line of her jaw, then brushing down the centerline of her throat, while dark eyes watched the delicate, resistant tremors that rattled through the other woman. "We don't have to do anything we don't want to."

Blue eyes slid closed, a deep flush coloring pale skin. "You think I don't want to?" Sam groaned low in her throat.

"I don't know," Janet admitted, her own lack of confidence coming to the fore. They'd both been through a lot. Maybe Sam's emotions had changed somewhere along the way.

Sam swallowed hard, the sheer intensity of emotion making it hard to speak. "I want ... I want more than I know how to express ... but I'm not sure ... what to ... do...." She shook her head helplessly. "I don't know how to please you ... as myself."

A tiny whoof of air escaped Sam's lips as exploring fingers reached the base of her throat and flicked the top button on her blouse open, then brushed the taut cords on either side of the faint hollow. "It's not a test," Janet said softly, "or a performance." Sam started to lift a hand to touch, but Janet caught her wrist, pressing it back down to her side. "Let me," she breathed, challenging the other woman to release some measure of control.

A moment passed, then Sam nodded stiffly, concentrating on relaxing as the fingers at the base of her throat slid lower, floating into the open vee of her blouse to pop another button free. Janet brushed Sam's collar aside, then leaned forward. Sam couldn't contain a gasp as velvety lips found the curve of her throat, then a damp, sandpapery tongue brushed along a sensitive cord, sending tiny shudders through the taller woman. Another button slipped free under agile fingers that went on to caress the inner curve of Sam's breasts until they were blocked by the lace edge of her bra.

Sam stood perfectly still except for the tremors rattling her lean frame, far too terrified to do anything else, her breath coming in tight, rasping gasps, heat radiating from every millimeter of flesh Janet even considered touching. A hand moved to rest lightly on her upper chest while another slid up and curved to the back of her neck

"It's okay," Janet soothed, her voice warm and soft. A gentle tug on the back of Sam's neck guided her to tip her head down, then those velvety lips were tasting her mouth, moving slowly, turning the kiss into a learning experience, the arousal it produced searing in its intensity and resulting in....

Absolute and total utter panic.

Sam pulled her head back, breaking the sweet meshing of flesh, wide eyes reflecting fear. "I ... uh ... you ... uh ... did you put the chain on?" she groaned, hunting desperately for some way to explain her actions that wouldn't make her look like a total idiot. "If Cass came back...." That sounded logical enough. The last thing either of them wanted was to have Cass walk in on them in the livingroom.

A gentle smile curved full lips, knowledge lighting dark brown eyes. "The chain's on," Janet assured Sam, "but I think Cass knows better than to drop by without calling tonight."

Sam flinched, swallowing hard at the reminder that this wasn't exactly an accident. It hadn't been planned or agreed up on precisely, but they'd both known what was going to happen. It was no accident that Cassie had been banished for the night. "Right," she exhaled. She took a deep breath and let it out in hopes of releasing a little tension. It didn't work worth a damn. Then Janet stroked her cheek and she was drawn to look into fathoms deep eyes. For a moment, the tension let go as she was swallowed up by that tender gaze.

"I repeat," Janet said, her voice low but firm, "it's okay."

The words actually got through this time and Sam's shoulders sagged ever so slightly. "I'm being an idiot, aren't I?"

Smiling affectionately, Janet shook her head. "No ... actually it's kind of sweet."

"I'm afraid I'll make a mistake," Sam admitted, "and lose everything."

Janet didn't respond for a long moment. It wasn't an entirely irrational fear. After everything that had happened, there were limits, places Sam could go that would destroy the trust they'd rebuilt. God knew, the doctor had dealt with plenty of her own fears on that front, grateful that Sam had held back and let her set the pace. It suddenly struck her that, while she'd learned to trust Sam again, Sam hadn't yet learned to trust herself. It wasn't the time to lie, she realized and began carefully. "I'm not going to say that's impossible." Blue eyes snapped shut and the taller woman flinched as though struck. "But it's not probable," Janet added honestly. "You've regained yourself, Sam ... and I'm not afraid of you. I wouldn't be here if I was."

The softly spoken words shattered something inside the taller woman. Suddenly fighting tears, she turned her head away, fighting them desperately. She hated crying in front of other people. Always had and always would. Some women somehow got prettier when they cried. She wasn't one of them. Her eyes and nose turned red and her sinuses swelled shut until she couldn't breathe, leaving her to gasp and wheeze and breathe through her mouth. Even worse, she hated the utter vulnerability of the sensation; hated feeling like her every emotion was on display while she was helpless to stop it. Which was why she tried to resist the hand that tenderly but firmly brought her head back around, forcing her to face the woman in front of her. Tried and failed. She couldn't deny Janet anything, not even her own breakdown. And she did break down, the world turning dim and watery as tears clouded her vision, her nose running as her sinuses clamped down right on schedule, cheeks hot and eyes stinging and bloodshot. Some seduction this was. The hand at the back of her neck tugged gently and Sam didn't have it in her to resist the support of Janet's shoulder or pull away from the arms that wrapped around her.

"It's all right," Janet breathed, simply holding Sam as she shuddered under the force of harsh sobs.

"I'm sorry," she groaned. "I just ... I can't...."

"I know," Janet soothed over and over."It's okay."

Sam kept trying to regain control, but the emotion storm and the need to let go of it were too overwhelming to allow for that option and suddenly she found herself talking, her voice barely understandable at times, spilling the months of fear of misstepping bounds she wasn't always sure of and sometimes resented, and months before that of being locked out and alone. The guilt and shame over what she'd done, the years of denial that came before. And then more words came, expressions of love and tenderness, and the unwanted admission that there was a part of her that wasn't sorry for what had happened.

Suddenly realizing what she'd said, Sam jerked back, pulling away from the warmth and protection of Janet's arms, every last trace of color draining from her face. "Oh God," she groaned, waiting to be told to get the hell out, half expecting a flash of pain as Janet slapped her. She deserved it. "I'm sorry ... I don't mean ... not the way things happened ... I just--"

"It's okay," Janet said firmly. She was pale and looked a little shaken, but there was no hate in her eyes, and she wasn't drawing a breath to scream or reaching for the phone to call 911. She held up a hand in a calming motion when Sam seemed ready to jump out of her skin. "It's okay." Her hand still out in a halting pose, she allowed herself a moment to take a deep breath and resettle her nerves, then did a slow turn away, momentarily drawing into herself. They'd avoided this conversation for so long, but it had loomed over both of them; the thousand pound elephant in the room nobody was willing to look at. Time to look it in the eye and deal with it. "I was angry ... still am sometimes," she explained in measured tones, "but, for all of the ... problems ... you did a lot of good--"

"Not for you or Cass," Sam croaked, her voice cracking mid-sentence. That was the worst part of it for her; the knowledge that she'd hurt the people who meant most to her in the world. She arched back, breaking the tentative contact when Janet turned back and her hand rose as if to stroke her brow. "And I don't know how to ... or what I...." She fell silent, helplessly shaking her head until she finally whispered, "How can feel anything but horror for what I did ... and yet...." She couldn't finish and stood waiting for the flood of anger and hatred she felt she fully deserved. When it didn't immediately come, she found herself babbling, trying to take the uncomfortable confession back. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"

"Sam--" Janet started to interject, but Carter interrupted her.

"No," she bit out and stumbled back a step. She caught herself, consciously softening her voice, terrified that Janet might think she was on the verge of losing control and becoming ... her. "I shouldn't be here. I shouldn't--"

"No!" It was Janet's turn to snap. She curved her fingers to the sharp cut of Sam's jaw, drawing her head back when she would have turned away. "Denial helped get us into this mess ... it won't help get us out."

Sam froze, pinned in place by the look in the other woman's eyes.

"It would be easier if everything was black and white, but it's not." Janet ran a hand through her hair, ruffling her bangs as she brushed them back from her face. "There are too many complex emotions between us ... too much want and need ... too many bonds ... to allow it to be that simple." Janet was silent for a long moment. "There's a child asleep in there that neither of us would surrender for anything," she said at last, "and there were good times ... and...." She trailed to a halt, struggling to find the strength to admit things that weren't easy to face at all. She took a moment to calm herself and organize her thoughts before continuing, her voice strained and rough. "And you need to know ... that there were times when I was so close to just surrendering ... that there was a part of me that wanted to just accept the situation because it meant I could be with you." She paused for a moment, the words hard to say. "It's not easy to admit, but sometimes I was fighting myself more than I was fighting you." She looked away, took another deep breath and let it out, while Sam stood on pins and needles. None of this was easy. "During the last several months, there were times I thought we could never possibly put things back together ... and other times when I almost forgot they'd ever been apart." She paused again. "The fact of the matter is that after everything that's happened, there are going to be times when I'm angry, or you're scared ... or we're both confused ... or whatever. But, Sam, newsflash ... some of that would have been true anyhow. Real people fight, they get angry, they get scared, they get confused--"

"This is a little different," Sam reminded Janet sadly.

"Yeah," the doctor allowed, "things have changed ... in some bad ways ... and some good ways...."

Sam shook her head, struggling with it all. "Is there really any good in all of this?"

"Go look in on the child asleep in the back bedroom and ask me that again."

Blue eyes slid closed. A shudder slid through her as a hand caught hers, fingers twining together.

"She's a part of both of us ... and I can't regret that."

"God no," Sam breathed. Whatever else, that much was certain. Some days, when the world had been closing in and she'd barely known who she was, their child was the only thing that had kept her from blowing her brains out because there'd been a part of her that had been convinced Janet might just be better off that way. Sometimes that little voice was still there too. "But--" Fingers landed lightly on her lips, silencing her.

"And if it weren't for everything that's happened, you and I would still be dancing around each other and trying to pretend we don't feel the way we do." She laid it out with brutal honesty, no longer willing to pretend that things had started on Arrathonea. "Still pretending we don't want what we both want ... the one good thing for all of us is that it's stripped that mask away ... because, frankly, I'm tired of pretending we're just friends."

Sam closed her eyes tightly, free hand fisting at her side as she fought the desire to touch and lose herself in soft flesh. Slow and easy, she reminded herself. No rushing, no matter how much she might want to. Janet tugged lightly on the hand still bound to her own, then Sam almost melted as she lifted it and pressed soft kisses across the back of her knuckles. "I love you more than my life," she whispered very softly, willing to surrender every part of herself for this woman. "Even enough to go away if that's what you want."

Janet shook her head. "I never wanted that, Sam ... not really--"

"You left before," Sam whispered, her voice coming out very small and accusing.

Janet winced. "I needed some time ... to heal ... to deal with you and not ... not destroy things." It wasn't the most logical or coherent discussion either of them had ever had, but then logic hadn't been much in evidence for some time. "but, Sam, as difficult as things have been ... and as fucked up as it all feels sometimes ... it's better with you than without you."

Not exactly a rousing endorsement, but better than 'Go pound sand.' Sam sighed very softly, too tired to be quite so terrified now. Janet brushed another soft kiss over her knuckles.

"It's going to take time, and if you're not ready for this ... we can wait." Their hormones were more than ready, but after everything they'd just said, she was far from certain their minds were anywhere near where they needed to be.

Sam stared at Janet, feeling like she wasn't quite processing things properly. The idea that Janet was the one offering to wait somehow just didn't want to make its way through her brain. A watery smile touched her lips as it occurred to her what she'd nearly lost. And still feared losing. She reached up to stroke fluttery bangs back from the smaller woman's temple, a smile touching her lips as she watched the way firelight gilded the coppery strands. She considered the question for a long time, then slowly shook her head. "I'm not ready," she admitted at last. "I don't trust myself ... not yet." The admission was an incredible weight off her shoulders and she sagged as the tension let go.

An understanding smile curved soft lips. "Then we'll wait ... no pressure ... whatever happens, happens."

Sam tugged Janet into a hard hug, relaxing as she just held the other woman. "We'll just take it slow and easy," she whispered very softly.

*********************

Two Months Later

"Oh no, you don't, you speed demon," Sam muttered as she scooped up a small, crawling demon. Intelligent eyes that were a mirror of her own except shaded in brown rather than blue peered up at her. "I'm gonna have to bar the top of your crib, aren't I?" she asked her daughter conversationally, and got a happy giggle in return.

"Don't bother," a dry voice murmured, and she glanced back to find Janet standing in the doorway, her uniform faintly mussed after a day of sitting in meetings. "She'd just build a stargate and beam herself outa there."

Sam peered at the child assessingly. "Would you do that?" she asked, and got a suspiciously well-timed grin and giggle in return.

"I think that was a yes," Janet said through a smile as she smothered a giggle that was noticeably similar to the infant's and tucked her briefcase and jacket into the foyer closet..

Sam made a face. "Ever since she figured out how to drop the gate latch on the crib, she's up and moving every chance she gets. Nothing keeps her in." She glanced over at the other woman. "I think she gets her stubbornness from your side of the family."

Which drew a laugh. "I'd argue that, but I know she gets her adventurous side from yours, so at best it's still even."

Cocking her head to one side, Sam considered the other woman for a long moment. "My adventuring days are over," she said quietly, her tone a poignant mix of both relief and sadness. Though still attached to the SGC, she had limited herself to scientific pursuits and was seriously considering retiring altogether. "In fact, with General Hammond retiring and General O'Neill taking command of the base, I've been thinking of making it official. He says they could put me on as civilian consultant ... in fact it would pay about half again what I'm making now." She missed going through the gate sometimes, but she just wasn't sure she could do it anymore.

Stepping over to peer up at Sam, Janet reached out to play fingertag with their daughter as she studied the other woman carefully. "That's not a decision you have to make right now." She was far from certain Sam would be happy if she grounded herself that unalterably.

Sam shrugged, booped her daughter on the nose, drawing another happy giggle, then leaned down to share a kiss with Janet. It was easy, comfortable, the high-tension fear that had been with her for so long finally drained away. She wasn't sure exactly when it had happened, only that one day recently, she'd realized it wasn't there anymore. Or at least it was so faded that most of the time it was like an old scar that didn't hurt anymore, even if it was still a faint reminder. Which was probably why the kisses had been growing steadily longer of late, and the resulting arousal steadily more intense and pleasurable. The guilt, like the fear, was fading, allowing them both to enjoy what they were building and rebuilding.

Her breathing deepened, an entirely different kind of tension coiling tight in the pit of her stomach as soft lips opened against her own and a hand slipped into her hair, tugging her closer. She shifted the weight in her arms, freeing one hand to slide it around Janet's waist, groaning low in her throat as the smaller woman leaned into her.

Her fingers still entertaining enough to keep their daughter busy, Janet slid her fingers deeper into thick, blonde hair, losing herself in the feel of being so close to Sam. At some point, she pulled her hand away from clutching fingers to rest it on Sam's upper chest, agile fingers toying with the top button on her shirt. The kiss deepened, fingers clinging more tightly, breathing growing rough as they leaned more firmly into each other.

The sudden squall snapped them apart more quickly than a bucket of ice water as their daughter made it thoroughly known that she didn't like being ignored even a little bit.

 

Gazes locked and holding, Janet dropped her hand, not looking as chubby fingers played tag with her own. Lost in the emotions she saw rolling in Sam's eyes, she couldn't think to speak for a long moment. Her brain just seized up and hormones took over. It had happened more than once since they'd decided to wait, but this time was more intense than all of the others added together.

Sam's response was much the same, her whole body clenching tightly with the kind of fierce arousal that could melt a body on the spot. "Did you ... uh ... have a good day at work?" she asked unsteadily.

Janet nodded too quickly. "Good ... it was good." The baby cried again, vociferously reminding both of her parents that she ... did ... not ... like ... being ... ignored.

"I think she wants mama," Sam said quickly as she returned her attention to their child. A blush stained her cheeks. "Probably hungry." Her hormones vibrating at near supersonic rates, she let go as Janet accepted the squirming bundle into her arms, all the while trying desperately not to think about what that entailed. That thought only jangled her hormones more. Not wanting to intrude, she'd avoided watching, determined to give Janet her privacy, but the thought had haunted her at every level; mental, emotional, physical.

Janet was still staring at her, handling the baby with automatic care, but clearly distracted. "Could we ... uh ... talk...." She glanced down at the tiny figure in her arms, the tenderness in her expression enough to wrench the coldest heart -- and Sam was far from that. She looked up again and this time that loving gentleness was directed Sam's way. "Afterward ... I mean...."

Sam nodded unsteadily, staying close as Janet moved toward the back bedroom.

Apparently aware of what was coming, the baby had gone from grabbing for Janet's fingers to pawing at the buttons on her blouse. "She'll probably fall asleep then ... for most of the night."

Sam's chin dipped in another jerky nod, but she hung back as they reached the door to the baby's bedroom.

"Sam," Janet's voice came out a rugged croak, and she reached out with her free hand, fingers tangling loosely with Sam's, "you can stay if you want," she invited, her voice hesitant and slightly quavery with nervous tension.

For a moment, Sam couldn't think of a thing to say, her heart in her throat, pulse slamming painfully hard. Finally, she just nodded, staying where she was, shoulder nudged up against the doorframe for several minutes before edging a little closer. The innocent sensuality of mother and child together in such an intimate way drawing her, she couldn't stay back. By the time their daughter had finished and slid into a deep sleep, she was kneeling at Janet's feet, one hand petting the infant's hair tenderly, the other resting on Janet's knee. They remained like that for a long time, silently enjoying the closeness, then finally dark eyes rose to meet Sam's gaze, the expression in them enough to make her heart skip a beat ... or four.

"Why don't you put her down to sleep," Janet suggested, her own pulse throbbing, suddenly intensely aware of the intimacy they'd shared.

Sam nodded silently and carefully scooped up the sleeping child, her touch gentle as she settled the limp body into the crib and tucked her in. "I never thought I could be part of something so perfect," she breathed and reached down to stroke silky hair.

Still straightening her blouse one-handed, Janet reached out to rest a hand lightly on Sam's shoulder. "Sam?" she whispered almost inaudibly, a thousand questions threading through the single syllable.

The taller woman's head swung to the side as she peered back over her shoulder. "Yes," Sam whispered, somehow answering all of them at once. She turned, one hand slipping around Janet's waist, ducking her head to find soft lips even as a hand slid up around the back of her neck to draw her closer. It started sweet and innocent, a way to share the sense of closeness, love, and caring. But the banked fire was there, and it didn't take much to stoke it back to life, especially after months of temptation and denial. Sam's hand fluttered near the edge of Janet's half open blouse, close but not quite touching until the other woman caught her wrist, drawing her to touch. She stretched her fingers, brushing soft fabric aside, then brushed a caress just above the edge of her bra, tasting the low groan as Janet gasped into the shared kiss. More kisses followed, growing progressively hotter, while clothing was pulled aside and loosened until both blouses hung loose and Sam's jeans were more than a little rumpled.

Finally, her breath coming in ragged gasps, Janet pulled back, purposely breaking the sweet bonding with a low groan.

"Janet?" Sam groaned dazedly, her eyes wide with disappointment, her tone asking the same questions Janet had.

"Yes," Fraiser exhaled heavily, then leaned her forehead against Sam's shoulder, clinging tightly to her shirt front as she moaned, "God yes." She nuzzled in, pushing soft-worn cotton aside to press delicate kisses along the line of Sam's shoulderblade. "But I've been in semi dress all day ... I need a shower...."

"A shower?" Sam groaned blankly, staring at Janet as though she'd been using a foreign language. She shook her head. It really wasn't necessary for her sake.

"A shower," Janet confirmed. Then seeing the look on Sam's face, she added, "I was wearing hose ... all day," she reiterated pointedly.

Sam winced. "A shower," she confirmed, practical matters overcoming the romantic for the moment, disappointed by the delay, more than a little afraid it would give them both a chance to chicken out and run away again. They'd both done that so many times already, but it finally felt right and she was afraid of losing that energy.

Seeing Sam's worries, Janet reached up tucking a finger under chin, a slow, sensual smile curving her lips. "You could join me," she invited.

Sam swallowed hard, brows shooting toward her hairline, her mouth hanging open. "Join you?" she croaked, not quite believing she'd heard right.

Her smile turning downright wicked, Janet nodded. "My long handled loofah broke ... and I can't reach my back."

"I can do that," Sam quickly assured her.

"I thought maybe you could...."

Twenty minutes later, two satiny-wet bodies tumbled onto Janet's bed in a twined, ungainly sprawl, mouths still bonded, hands sliding easily over water slicked curves.

Breaking the kiss with a low moan, Sam trailed silky kisses down the arch of Janet's throat, then floated over her upper chest. Heat blazing everywhere Sam's lips touched, Janet massaged flexing back muscles, then trailed along the line of a square shoulder before moving on to stroke a firm breast. Hooking a calf around a lean thigh, she scooped a hand under Sam's arm, tugging her up until lips met and meshed, then tumbled the taller woman onto her back. Stretching out above Sam, she pushed up on one hand, eyes sliding over curves she'd seen so many times before -- touched so many times before.

Her body throbbing as though Janet's gaze was an actual caress, Sam reached up, fingers curving to a soft cheek and just barely edging into wet hair. It was nothing like the other times they'd made love; no anger or jealousy, just arousal ... love ... gratitude for being allowed back in. The soft caress drew Janet's attention upward until their eyes met. Sam searched her lover's expression desperately, hunting for any sign of fear or hesitance. No matter how much she wanted to make love to the other woman, she didn't want to risk making the same mistakes.

Easily reading Sam's worries in her expression, Janet offered a tender smile, and turned her face into Sam's hand to press a soft kiss onto the center of her palm. "It's okay," she soothed. "I want to be here ... god, how I want to be here," she groaned and let her head fall forward, burying her face in curve of Sam's throat and trailing silky kisses along the line of her collarbone. She tasted the low, aroused vibration that rumbled through her lover and dipped her tongue into the hollow of her throat, licking up a tiny pool of water caught there.

Nearly mindless with the intensity of sensation and emotion, Sam spread one hand over Janet's narrow back, clinging desperately as she trailed the other over curves that seemed to have been designed to fit her touch. "It's like the first time," she whispered, her voice thick with love and need. "Like we've never touched before."

Janet pushed up on one hand, brushing a kiss onto faintly parted lips. "In a way, we haven't," she breathed, then fluttered soft kisses over her cheek and along her brow. A moment passed, then she pushed up again, her gaze meeting Sam, her eyes an open window to her soul. "Not as ourselves ... two people who've loved each other for so long."

Her vision suddenly filmy with tears, Sam reached up to stroke Janet's cheek lightly, then trailed her thumb along a curvaceous lower lip. "I do love you," she whispered, her voice threatening to fade away at any moment, then shook her head. "I don't know why you've let me back in, but I'm so grateful. I don't ever want you to regret that decision."

Janet tasted Sam's mouth again, then offered a sincere smile. "I love you." That was all she needed to say, really.

And then there was no time for words beyond a few whispered endearments as flesh met and melded. Eager to touch and explore, they relearned one another, making love as though they'd never been together.

Yadda yadda yadda ... lovemaking scene ... possibly one more scene a year later showing them comfortably together, but admitting things still get a little dark or tense sometimes. Not a happily ever after, but more realistic.

**************

 

 

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