G A I A
Disclaimer: The characters of the shows “Stargate SG-1” and “Xena: Warrior Princess” don’t belong to me but the lucky guys at MGM, Showtime Productions, Gekko et al., respectively MCA Universal Studios, and Renaissance Pictures. I just borrow them for a while. No copyright infringement is intended; no profit will be made. The story, however, is mine. Please, don’t archive without asking first.
Additional disclaimer: This is an alternative story, dealing with a sexual relationship between consenting adult women. If you are too young to read stuff like this, please go away. If it’s illegal where you live; get the hell out of there. It also contains scenes of physical punishment of consenting adults – yes, I know it may sound incongruous but by reading the story you will understand.
Pairing: Xena / Gabrielle: established relationship; and Sam / Janet: sort of a first time story and more.
Timeline: Follows X:WP up until the end of season four; everything else afterwards was just a preparation to the show’s finale that in my world simply can not happen. The timeline for SGC is more difficult to assess but it’s definitively shortly before Season 5’s episode: ‘The Rite Of Passage’ – however, I simply couldn’t let the dramaturgical advances of the Anubis’ threat and his super soldiers slip away, so, just imagine them possible before season 7.
Language disclaimer: English isn’t my first language, so please be lenient. Special thanks go to Pam and Mary, my valiant beta readers who made this whole story a lot better. You rock, gals!
Prologue: Gate Room
Colonel Jack O’Neill was standing in the Gate Room, bitching about the routine jump he and SG-1 were scheduled for. And for at least the third time this day, not counting the briefing, his second in command calmly explained why it was important, carefully keeping her annoyance with her commanding officer out of her voice and eyes.
“Preliminary tests on the samples of plant life the MALP II collected show that they have a great potential to be used as antibiotics, sir; the geological data hints at considerable reserves of naqada and the video material has the historians excited about finding a village straight out of ancient Greece, sir.”
“Yadda, yadda, yadda… but why do ‘we’ have to do this, that’s what I’d like to know, Carter? It sounds boring as hell. There are other teams better qualified. Hammond could just have sent one of the geek squads.”
Major Carter’s face reflected nothing but bland obedience.
“No, don’t say it. I know: Because after our last run-in with the Gao’uld the doc and the General want us to take it easy for a while. And an order is an order. I don’t have to like it, right?”
At this moment the baritone of General George Hammond came through the speaker system.
“Permission to pass through the gate, Colonel. Report back with your preliminary security report as soon as possible, and don’t forget, it’s a diplomatic mission.”
The Colonel rolled his eyes but nodded towards the control centre and walked up the ramp, closely followed by Teal’c, Daniel Jackson and Major Carter trailing behind.
Chapter One: The First Contact
Sam thought she felt some sort of resistance stepping through the event horizon but didn’t have time to dwell on the feeling, instead following O’Neill’s order to check the immediate vicinity of the gate.
Before they were more than twenty paces away, a group of a dozen women armed with bows and swords appeared as if out of nowhere. Teal’c readied his zat, O’Neill had his AK-90 aimed, Carter her ‘Carter special’; and Daniel was his usual trusting self, stepping forward to introduce himself and his companions.
A young woman with light brown hair and a face full of freckles joined him and bowed to the newcomers. “Welcome to Gaia, humans from earth. We have been expecting your visit for a few days now and are deeply honoured being able to greet SG-1 as the first representatives of Earth on the Amazon homeworld. You are our reveered guests. We have order to show you around and give you the opportunity to see that your research team will be perfectly safe with us.”
She’d already half turned around to lead them out of the clearing the Stargate was situated in when Jack said, “If honoured guests are met by an ‘escort’ armed to the teeth, I don’t want to know what kind of welcome you reserve for your enemies. But lead on, I can’t wait to speak to the guy in charge.”
She whirled around, stepping in his face in the blink of an eye, snarling. “Better keep your tongue in check, male, else you might lose it.”
Daniel tried to get between them, as always the diplomat and talker but to no avail. Jack simply side stepped him and answered with a snarl of his own. “I’m a man – and of the mind to teach you a lesson in manners, little girl.”
His eyes were glaring with an aggressiveness that rivalled any Gao’uld System Lord. His right hand fell on the slender woman’s arm and before he knew how he was sprawled on the ground at least five feet away. The Jaffa warrior reacted on instinct; trying to eliminate the threat to his best friend but also found himself on the ground, face first, next to the Colonel.
Now, Daniel instinctively drew his sidearm, levelling the barrel of his gun at their young escort. The other women surrounding them already had their weapons at the ready, when a low female voice demanded. “Stand down.”
The women immediately lowered their weapons and took two steps back. A tall woman stepped passed Carter, clad in a strange set of leathers and armour, long black hair with red highlights flowing freely down her back.
The young woman lowered herself on her right knee, her right fist went straight to her heart, and her eyes found the ground. “Aria, what did I tell you about the proper conduct towards our guests?”
“I’m sorry, your highness.”
“Do I have to repeat my question?”
“No, your highness. You told me to be courteous and not to react on the men’s aggressiveness, mistress. I’m sorry; my instincts got the better of me. It won’t happen again.”
“Never make promises you can’t keep, Aria. Now, how many times did I tell you not to follow your instincts alone?”
“At least one time too many, your highness. Please have me punished for disobedience and stupidity.”
The last word brought a smile to the taller woman’s face.
“Report to me after sundown. It will be marked in your record but there’s no need for a public punishment. I congratulate you on the moves you used; they were fast and efficient without exerting yourself. Report to the guest palace and then go to the weapons’ mistress. Tell her that your training is to be advanced another level. I’ll take over.”
The young woman was on her feet faster than lightning. “Wait, young one. Didn’t you forget something?”
“Yes, your highness, I’m sor… I know; don’t be sorry, try to improve.” Aria turned to Jack and Teal’c who now were back on their feet. “Colonel O’Neill, Master Teal’c, I apologise for my lack of discipline. I should not have taken your innocent remark as an insult. I’m sorry that I attacked you.”
Jack was only glowering at her but the Jaffa raised an eyebrow and said. “Apology accepted, young warrior.”
Now the raven-haired women turned towards the rest of the newcomers. “Welcome to Gaia. I apologise for the incident. For the young and wounded sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the obvious. I hope it won’t hamper our future relations.
“I know you must have a lot of questions. We pose no threat to you. Give us the benefit of the doubt and soon you will have your answers.”
Meanwhile Daniel had his composure back and his revolver put away in its holster. “Your majesty, I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding, that will be easy for us to put behind us.”
“That’s good to hear, Doctor Jackson, but I’m not the Queen, I’m merely her Consort.”
There were a few whispered remarks among the escort and some very unwarriorlike giggles the imposing woman silenced with a simple look.
Samantha Carter found herself strangely drawn towards her and instead of staying back as she usually did in situations like this, waiting for a technical problem to present itself, she now stepped forward and asked.
“How did you know in advance that Colonel O’Neill would act more aggressively than normal?”
“Yeah, how did you know? Or do you think all men are nothing but aggressive?” Jack piped in.
The tall woman gave him a genuine smile that eased his tension. “No, Colonel. Aggressiveness is not genuinely connected to a person’s sex. However, one of the side effects of the energy shield protecting Ath… the Stargate is to increase the testosterone level in humanoids considerably. It’s only temporary but nevertheless not to be disregarded.”
“So, the resistance I felt when leaving the wormhole was some sort of iris?” Sam asked, already intrigued by the possible mechanics of something like this.
“It serves the same purpose, yes, Samantha Carter. There soon will be time for you to consult with our scientists. Please forgive my impoliteness; my name is Xena. I’m the Consort to the High Queen of Amazonia. I’ll escort you to the guest palace where the Queen is waiting to discuss the terms of your stay on our planet.
“We’ll go the long way round to give you a view of our village from above though I suppose you already know what to expect. – Tarah, you and your unit can return to the training grounds. Your help no longer is needed; get some sword drills in.”
The young blonde to whom she had spoken opened her mouth to say something in protest but then thought better of it, saluted by bringing her right fist to her heart and then answered. “Yes, your highness.”
“You speak of scientists and energy shields but our preliminary reports didn’t show any kind of advanced technology.” Daniel finally said.
“Dealing with the Nox, you should have learned that looks sometimes can be deceiving, Doctor.” She answered with a smile, leading them along a broad path through the forest. “The fact that we don’t openly display our technology and that most of us prefer to handle our daily life without using it, doesn’t mean that we don’t have it or that we wouldn’t agree to share some of it. I know you have a lot of questions but I’m a warrior not a storyteller. My Queen soon will answer your questions, even the ones you don’t know you have. Be patient.”
“Are you really an Amazon? I thought they were a myth.” Carter said, not ready to miss out on their guide’s alluring voice just yet.
“Yes, I am but not by birth as most of us are. I was adopted into the tribe a long time ago, Samantha Carter. There’s something I’d like to show you. Are you afraid of heights, Samantha Carter?” The young blond just shook her head. “If you gentlemen would please continue along the path, we’ll be back in a few candledrops.”
Before O’Neill could call her back, Carter and the strange woman had disappeared. The men stopped dead in their tracks. “Daniel, I want some answers, now! What are these women?” He asked while they did as told.
“Amazons?” Daniel answered and shrugged his shoulder.
“There’s a legend among the Jaffa that a nation of women warriors have defied the System Lords for more than two thousand years now. It is said that not even the most skilled among the Jaffa stood a chance against their skills in hand-to-hand combat or with every weapon imaginable. It’s said that they are protected by one of the oldest Gao’uld, one whose name is never spoken of, one who is regarded as a traitor. It is also said that the Gao’uld Lord Bastet once trained an army of female Jaffa to finally best these women but that none of them ever returned.”
“In Ancient Greece,” Daniel continued the lecture, “Amazons were a tribe of fierce woman warriors. It was said that they only interacted with men to kill them or to procreate. They killed the boys and only raised the girls – just like in some parts of China and Africa the girls are killed and only the boys are given a chance to grow up.” Daniel saw Jack’s frown and quickly returned back to his subject. “They supposedly amputated one of their breasts to make it easier to handle the bow; they lived in the forest or on the plains of Russia and Turkey. Legend has it that Hercules and Perseus both defeated them in big battles. There is also a story about Bellerophon, a half-god born to Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt and protector of the Amazons, killing the rest of them. He wanted revenge for his mother not raising him but giving him away.”
“All right, already. Are they a threat?”
“I don’t think so, Jack. They could have killed us a dozen times over by now. No, I think they genuinely are interested in establishing a relationship with us.”
“I agree with Daniel Jackson, O’Neill.”
O’Neill’s face suddenly became pensive, then he said. “Wait… you don’t suppose that’s why they want us, do you? I mean, you know, the three of us?”
Daniel looked at his friend and suddenly blushed and stammered. “You… to mate with? No, no… I don’t think so.”
The Colonel’s speculations were no surprise to everyone who knew him more than a couple of candlemarks. “Well, because you know me… I’m all for helping people.”
Daniel’s blush deepened and to save the situation Teal’c asked. “How long is a candledrop supposed to be?”
“It’s the equivalent of one minute, Master Teal’c, as a candlemark is the same as an hour. The only difference to your time is that our days have 26 candlemarks. The low voice of their guide answered, standing behind them with a grinning Carter at her side.
“Where the hell have you been, Carter? I didn’t authorise any escapades.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Xena just took me to the treetops and showed me how to move there. It’s much faster than on the ground. It was great, sir.” Recognising his facial expression as disapproval, she sighed. “I’m sorry, Colonel O’Neill. It won’t happen again.”
“Please, also accept my apologies, Colonel. I should have known better and respected the chain of command. Next time, I will ask for your permission first. I’ll see to it that I’ll be adequately punished for my oversight.”
Mollified and slightly puzzled by her words, O’Neill answered. “There’s no need to go to such extreme measures, Xena. Apology accepted. – So, did you have fun, Carter?”
“Oh, yes, sir. It was like flying. I felt… I felt alive, at home, somehow.”
Before Carter could drive herself crazy by dwelling on her unfamiliar feelings, they reached the edge of the forest and looked down on a long sloped plain with a small village bustling below. There were about fifty to seventy huts, built of wood and a few bigger one’s made of stone. It was a scene out of a high budget Hollywood movie and everyone expected to see an army of villains ride in and destroy the peaceful atmosphere – but nothing happened.
“The big building to the right is the communal dining hall and the one on the other side are the council chambers. The third stone building holds a part of our library and the fourth belongs to our healers. The training grounds for the warriors are further down the valley. The same goes for the laboratories and power plants.” Xena explained. “We’ll follow the path to the right around the village and reach the guest palace in about fifteen to twenty … minutes.”
For a couple of minutes they walked along in silence. Suddenly O’Neill asked. “Why did you send the escort away? Aren’t you afraid that we could take advantage of you?”
She laughed – the carefree laugh of a mother whose child just had said something incredibly funny and even more stupid. Carter surprised herself to find it extremely attractive. O’Neill, however, didn’t react this favourably to it.
“Perhaps I should show you. Some people only learn by experience.”
That only got him another heartfelt laugh. Then she answered. “Colonel, no offence meant, but one of our apprentices threw you with a simple move. Don’t you think that the one teaching them should be even better able to handle anything you and your team mates have to offer?”
He took a fighting stance and growled between clenched teeth. “She took me by surprise, the young pup. That’s an advantage you will not have.”
“I didn’t say this to mock you or hurt your pride, Colonel. I know you’re a very good fighter and an even better soldier and commander, one leading with his head as well as with his heart. Use your head now; I don’t want to fight you.”
O’Neill didn’t answer at first but then took a calming breath and said. “I apologise, Xena. Must be this hormonal thing you mentioned. Usually my temper is not this volatile.”
“There’s no need to apologise, Colonel. My words were much too provocative. It is I that once again has to apologise.” She said with a bow of her head.
“We spend entirely too much time doing this. Let’s get going, time’s a-wasting; we’re not getting any younger, daylight’s burning.”
When they rounded the next bend they came in view of a one story stone building. Large blocks had been neatly aligned, a row of marble columns in front, delicately carved. There were no doors at the big entrance to the ceiling-less patio that was dominated by a gnarled, old olive tree with two small, wooden statues in front of it. Five girls came from the side, each of them carrying a brass bowl with steaming water and a towel. “Please wash your hands. The Queen is expecting us.”
Xena bowed deep when they passed the olive tree. Carter and Daniel followed suite, even Teal’c slightly moved his head; only O’Neill frowned and had to remind himself that he just wasn’t at his best at the moment. They came through a reception hall with an unoccupied throne standing on a dais and then to a much smaller but very cosy room with innumerable cushions scattered on the marble floor.
A woman with golden hair was sitting at a low table, her head resting on one hand and murmuring while rapidly writing. They waited at the door to be acknowledged. O’Neill was getting impatient when finally her eyes left the parchment she had been writing on and green eyes captured Major Carter and the rest of SG-1.
The tall woman entered and bowed deeper than in front of the statues at the tree. Then she lowered herself to her right knee, laid her fist on her heart and said, her eyes half closed.
“My Queen, please, punish me for disrespecting and provoking our guests. I disrespected the chain of command by taking Samantha Carter for a walk through the treetops without asking the permission of her commanding officer and I provoked Colonel Jack O’Neill when he insinuated I would never stand a chance against his fighting skills.”
“I suppose you already apologised to the Colonel?”
“Yes, your majesty. I propose an exemplary punishment in front of the whole Nation, my Queen.”
“There’s no need for a punishment,” Carter found herself saying, “Colonel O’Neill accepted the apology. This doesn’t have to go any further.”
Xena turned her head towards the tall blond already three paces closer to the table. “Thank you for your words, Samantha Carter, but I broke the law and no one stands above the law, no apprentice, no guest and certainly not the Queen’s Consort.”
“Not even the Queen herself stands above the law, Samantha Carter. This is what makes a society strong and stable. I don’t have a choice. – Xena, report to me after the evening meal. There will be no public punishment and no mention of it in the records; sometimes you’re taking this humble bit really too far. And now back to business.
“Welcome to Gaia, members of SG-1, I am Gabrielle, High Queen of Amazonia. Please have a seat. Would you care for some refreshments?”
At a sign from her Queen the tall warrior quietly left the room and returned shortly after with two girls in tow, carrying heavy platters with fresh fruit and drinks. She then sat down to the right of the blond woman and slightly behind her.
In the debriefing with General Hammond Daniel remarked that compared to other first contact situation the ceremonialism displayed on Gaia had been a puzzling change. It was always as if it came natural to every participant, as natural as walking and eating. Before he began to speculate on the reasons, however, a still slightly edgy Jack brought him back on track.
“I know you all have a lot of questions. I apologise for the side effect our energy field has on most men. It will wear off within the next hour, at the latest. Among other functions, it was designed to identify men and send them back from where they came. We modified it to let you through. General Hammond certainly would have been worried if you all would have gone through the wormhole, only to reappear shortly after but without Samantha Carter. It certainly wouldn’t have helped with your trust in us. I hope it wasn’t damaged by the irresponsible behaviour of one of my warriors and my Consort.”
Though her words obviously had been meant for O’Neill, Doctor Jackson answered. “Rest assured, Queen Gabrielle, that no harm was done. We are all looking forward to get to know you and your people better.”
Gabrielle nodded and then turned her attention once again towards O’Neill. “Colonel?”
The Colonel looked into her deep green eyes and finally said. “As he said, Queen Gabrielle. No harm was done, and though it didn’t look like it then, it was nothing more than a bit of banter among soldiers.” He was slightly surprised by his words and his thoughts.
Though he really had meant what he said a small, the still very aggressive part of his mind relished the thought that the imposing warrior so thoroughly deferred to the visibly smaller and younger woman. Before his mind could come up with all sorts of incongruous images, he changed topic.
“You know a lot about us. How?”
“We keep an eye on your world ever since the Europeans began to unearth Egyptian History about two centuries ago. Even before we regularly checked on the old earth, our former home. When Professor Langford found the Stargate in 1927, we established a continuous surveillance of Earth’s activities. Let me tell you a story to make you understand. – I will not start with the beginning because it would take far too long and isn’t intended for the ears of strangers. No offence meant.”
“And none taken.” Carter heard herself answer.
Gabrielle smiled at the blonde who looked slightly embarrassed by her words.
“The Amazon Nation once had been proud and strong, numbering in the thousands but when the Roman Empire was at the peak of its glory and its expansion, all that was left were about a dozen villages scattered all over what now is know as Greece, Turkey, and Persia. After the death of Gaius Julius Caesar, a new Queen convinced the different villages and tribes to join forces and leave this world dominated by men who were afraid of strong, independent women.
“The Queen and her Consort knew about the secret of the stone ring Queen Cleopatra had successfully hidden from Roman greed. Thanks to the Goddesses Artemis and Athena they also knew where to go. That’s how the last survivors of the Amazon Nation left the old Earth to find a new home on this planet, on Gaia.
“When they stepped through Athena’s Ring, the Stargate, they were greeted by a Nation of woman warriors already living there, some of them for more than 70 generations. They already had reached a technical level very similar to the one you have now; so the newcomers had a lot to learn and some of them even fell prey to the new ease of life.
“On Gaia they then had the same problems you have now: different tribes or countries fighting each other, either openly or from behind; their environment polluted to the point that some of them had begun to search for a new planet to live; attacks from the Gao’uld… Though at the beginning the newcomers didn’t have the knowledge their sisters had, they had sharp minds and were quick learners.
“And they had something the others had lost: a sense of community, of belonging together. They had traditions to rely on the others long since had forgotten and they had the security of knowing that their goddesses never would enslave or forsake them. They had been the missing link, and together, newcomers and natives, changed the fate of this world.
“The System Lords tried to defeat them but their Jaffa were sent back through the gate without ever setting foot on Gaia. They sent ships but their weapons couldn’t breach the shield protecting our atmosphere. One day, more than thousand years ago, Bastet and Toth sent an army of female Jaffa. As they had hoped they were not rejected by the energy shield but their weapons had been disabled and all of them finally decided to stay and start a new life free from slavery.”
Teal’c and Carter looked at each other and slightly shook their heads. A gesture not unnoticed by the Queen. “There aren’t any Gao’uld larvae on this planet, Samantha Carter, except for the one Teal’c carries.
“With the help of Artemis and Athena they were able to create an antitoxin and undo the genetic changes the Gao’uld made. It took about two years for the body to adjust to the changes but not one of our former enemies died during the transformation. Meanwhile we improved the process, just like we also always improve and update our defensive systems. Now, it only takes half a year. We’re willing to give it to you if you want it, Teal’c, but you have to know that you will lose some of your strength. Though you still would be stronger than the strongest human, it would from now on be much more difficult for your body to heal.”
“Thank you, Queen Gabrielle, I will think about it.”
“Why are you doing this?” O’Neill finally asked. “You obviously are technically a lot more advanced than we are. You don’t need us. Why do you freely offer what everyone else is denying?”
“I know it’s hard to believe, Colonel, but we are neither the Tolans nor the Nox. You are right, in terms of technical knowledge we don’t need you but Earth once was our home, we never forgot about it and we tried to help whenever we had a chance without your rulers ever being the wiser.
“When it became too dangerous to use Athena’s gate in Egypt we built another one under the surface of the moon, from there we use some transport device to reach Earth. It’s also used to monitor your development. – And no, we won’t teach you how to do it. When Athena died about three hundred years ago we promised her that we always would keep the secrets of her people.”
“So Athena wasn’t Gao’uld, she was an Ancient.” Carter stated flatly.
“Yes, Samantha Carter. She was an Ancient, one of the few that chose not to rise to a new plane of existence, and she was the host of Artemis. They were a lot like the Gao’uld who call themselves Tok’ra but that’s all I’m allowed to say in this context.”
“She had eyes as green as yours, Queen Gabrielle, and with her long black hair and high cheekbones she looked a lot like you do, Xena.” Carter said, her eyes pleading with Xena and her voice barely above a whisper.
“Yes, she did, Samantha Carter. Please be patient, now is not the time nor the place. There are some questions we can answer and some questions we will not. I know patience isn’t one of your skills; I don’t have much of it either. But don’t forget, even the Queen doesn’t stand above the laws.” Xena smiled at her and got a smile back.
“There must be something you want from us.” O’Neill insisted, “And you know far too much about us. How? Spying on us from the moon just doesn’t do it. We’re supposed to be a top secret facility, fer crying out loud.”
“Top secret is a relative term, Colonel. We have our ways, and as soon as we get to know each other better, we will tell you. But you’re right. We want something.” Gabrielle answered. “As I said, Earth once was our home; our roots are there and always will be. We don’t want to see it destroyed by the Gao’uld and we want to give our young warriors the chance to get a feeling for the home of their ancestors. We always found a way to live among you but with the help of the SGC it would be much easier.”
“That’s all?” Jackson asked incredulously.
“Our young ones can be a handful. It’s not that easy to keep them in line, especially when they want to explore. We want them to learn more about Earth and in return we offer you the chance to learn more about us, about our life, our history, our healing, and some of our technology, the part we can freely give without breaking any promises.”
“Why didn’t you make contact earlier?”
“We had to wait until you were ready to learn, Colonel. Fifty or even twenty years ago your leaders never would have accepted help offered by a Nation of strong women. Even now a few of the council members think that it’s too early, that we never should have allowed this contact but we think that they are wrong and that soon you will need all the help you can get.” Gabrielle said gently.
“Where’s the catch?” The colonel insisted.
“As I said we are a Nation of women. Not all of them were born here, some of them we brought back from visits to other planets.
“Aria, the leader of your escort came from a culture very similar to the Chavadai before Samantha Carter changed their ways, only much worse. All her life men abused her in every way imaginable and she is just now beginning to go on with her life. And she is far from being the only one. For us to teach you, you will have to live with us, share our lives.”
“You want a team consisting of women only? That should not be a problem,” Carter answered, “once we convince General Hammond.”
“Would we be allowed to visit, to check up on the team?”
“Of course, Colonel. We only ask you to return to your own world in the evening.”
“Then it’s settled. I don’t see any problems getting the General’s approval. We will have a team for you by tomorrow morning. I’ll go back to the Stargate and tell him. Perhaps one of these days I can tempt you to a friendly sparring match, Xena?”
“It would be my honour, Colonel. There’s one more thing.” Xena saw his shoulders tensing, but this was important. “There probably will be more than one group coming subsequently to our world. We’d like to have Major Samantha Carter and Major Janet Fraiser on the first team.”
“Why?” Daniel asked, his curiosity reflected by Teal’c raising his left eyebrow slightly.
“They are friends and still make a good team. That’s a rare feat. We know of their brilliance and their inherent goodness. They could be good role models for their colleagues and our young warriors. Besides, I think your second in command can’t wait to once again go tree climbing with my Consort.” She answered with a wink that made Carter blush slightly.
Chapter Two: Getting Started
“Colonel, are you sure their offer is genuine?”
“Yes, sir. I’m looking forward to meeting them again.” The colonel answered. “I think their sense of honour and discipline is by far greater than ours. The team will be safe there but I still like to send a few soldiers. I’m sure they can learn a great deal from these women, especially considering hand-to-hand combat.”
“This still sounds too good to be true.” General Hammond objected. “Major Carter mentioned some sort of hormonal imbalance. Doctor Fraiser?”
“Teal’c showed…” Noticing her commanding officer’s lack of patience she shortened her answer. “Whatever the energy shield did, has long worn off. I found no indication of anything unusual in their bloodstream and the Queen supplied us with the specifics of an antidote to be administered before the jump.”
“All right, Major Carter, you’ll be in command. We’ll try this for a period of two weeks, to see if it works out. I have your personnel request here. Doctor Fraiser? No, this isn’t a good idea. She’s needed here.”
“Sir, they specifically asked for Dr. Fraiser. They obviously know that we are friends and good at working together. I already spoke to her. She sees no problem in the infirmary, and Cassandra just left this morning for three weeks of summer camp. She’s looking forward to the trip.”
Hammond still wasn’t convinced.
“Sir, should there be a problem that requires her special touch we can get her back within the hour. We have permission to return to visit whenever we want. I really see no problems, expect for the question of how to replace Carter while she is on Gaia.”
“There will be no replacement for Major Carter, Colonel. SG-1 will be reduced to a three member-team for now. All right, you all have your orders and a lot to do until tomorrow. I’ll see you in the Gate room at 0800. Dismissed.”
“Xena, are you finished with your diary?”
“Almost, my love. What is it?”
“Aria is here for her punishment.”
“Oh damn, I almost forgot. Could you tell her to wait for a few candledrops. I’m almost done.”
“We’ll make some small talk. Take your time.” Gabrielle turned away from the door to face the young woman waiting skittishly at the entrance. “Come on in, Aria. Xena’s still busy. Sit down and tell me, why did you lose your temper.”
“I already apologised to the Consort, the Colonel, and the Jaffa, my Queen.” She answered defensively.
“I know, little one.”
Coming from a woman a few inches shorter than most of her subjects, the term of endearment might have seemed somehow ironic but everyone knew that it came from genuine affection, and even the oldest of the elders were honoured being referred to as such.
“Xena told me what happened. Now, I want you to understand it. Tell me, why did you lose your temper?”
The young woman closed her eyes, recalling the scene step by step, as the High Priestess of the Amazons had taught her. “He was mocking us, by commenting on the escort being armed ‘to the teeth’. I knew he didn’t know any better. But then he insinuated that we were taking them to a man in charge, ‘the guy in charge’, that’s when I lost it. I shouldn’t have but some… No, there’s no excuse to my actions.” Aria fell silent.
“You soon will be forgiven, Aria. Don’t think about it as an excuse but as an explanation.”
“Sometimes my past comes back to haunt me, your majesty, and I feel helplessness and anger and hate and the need to hurt someone, anyone. This was one of these moments and Colonel O’Neill putting his hand on my arm was just a convenient excuse.” She hung her head.
Half a heartbeat later, she felt a strong hand at her chin and looked into the Queen’s green eyes.
“Some lessons are harder to learn than others, Aria; and some lessons have to be repeated every now and then to stay valid. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Xena said you did well, and she’s not easy to please.”
“Yes, you did well, Aria. Do you need some more time, your majesty, or can we begin?”
“Begin. Everything that needed to be said has been said. Aria, do you want me to leave?”
“No, my Queen. I would be honoured if you’d consent to be my witness.”
“It will be my honour, little one.”
Xena walked to a small closet and took a strap from one of the numerous nails inside. “Aria, child of Artemis, you now will be punished for disobedience. Your punishment is 12 strokes with the strap. Do you accept this punishment?”
“Yes, your highness, before this witness I accept the punishment with gratitude.” She gave the traditional answer with a slight tremble in her voice.
“Take off your skirt and your breeches and bent over the desk, please. I will count the strokes; you just concentrate on staying still.”
When the first stroke found the tender skin of her backside, she flinched. The Consort didn’t pull her strokes but she also didn’t use the leather strap to its fullest. There would be some welts for a couple of days but it could have been much worse. After the last stroke she just stayed in position to take a deep breath and relax her tense muscles, not really aware that her whole body had been as tight as a bowstring during the last blows. She finally gathered her strength, stood, and then came down on her right knee.
“Thank you, your highness.”
“You did well, Aria. As a punishment for losing your temper you will go to the temple and meditate until midnight. Then you’ll receive the kiss of forgiveness.”
“Heading out already, Sam? I thought you would be there working on something singularly complex up ‘til the last minute.”
“Hey, Janet. There’s nothing pending on my work list. The light duty you ordered after the last incident did wonders for my out box. I have to get to the dry cleaners before they close to get my dress uniform. General Hammond insists on making this as official as possible. At first he had been very sceptical but Colonel O’Neill’s report, surprisingly, was full of glowing praise.”
“Why don’t we talk about it over a drink? I’ll pay if you can get my uniform too. Let’s meet at Murphy’s, say in about two hours? That should give me enough time to finish up my instructions for Warner, pack my things, and call Cassandra. Is it really true that all we’ll need are some clothes?”
“Yes, that’s what Xe… the Queen’s Consort said. I’ll bring your uniform but let’s meet at O’Malley’s. I’m not in the mood to deal with a bunch of overzealous Airmen or Marines.”
“I’m game, see you later. At least at O’Malley’s we’ll also get something to eat – something not swimming in grease.”
“Aria, I want you to wait outside for a few candledrops. Xena will go with you; she also is in need of contemplation.” Xena stepped closer to her Royal wife and whispered in her ear. Gabrielle continued, “Aria, Xena asks you to be the witness of her unofficial punishment.”
The young woman was so stunned; she merely nodded.
“Xena of Amphipolis, Chosen of Athena, you now will be punished for disrespect, provocation and losing your temper. You’ll spend the whole night at the temple to contemplate your actions, and now you will receive 12 strokes with the cane and 24 with the strap on your bare behind. Do you accept this punishment?”
“Yes, your majesty, before this witness I accept the punishment with humility and gratitude.”
“Then take your position, and Xena, don’t block the pain, feel it.”
“Yes, my love.” The tall woman opened the belt holding her soft shift and slipped it over her head, revealing her naked body. She bent at the waist holding onto her ankles.
Gabrielle’s hand gently patted Xena’s ass before taking aim and hitting her hard on the upper thigh. She gasped and uttered between clenched teeth. “One, thank you, mistress.”
“Only every third stroke, Xena.”
When the ‘a’ left Gabrielle’s mouth the cane hit the most fleshy part of her buttocks. “Two.”
“Six. Thank you, mistress.”
“Nine, thank you, mistress.” There now was a definite strain to Xena’s voice, evidently fighting for composure.
One of the most persistent rumours about the High Queen was that she was well versed in the art of discipline, and now Aria was getting a taste of how good she really was. There now were eleven welts colouring Xena’s skin, evenly spaced, evenly coloured.
“Twelve. Thank you, mistress.” The penitent took a steadying breath. “May I now have the next part of my punishment, mistress?”
“Yes, my love.” There was tenderness in Gabrielle’s voice and a hint of sadness. She then whispered. “Don’t forget: your pain is your gift to me.” It was too low for Aria to understand but more than loud enough for Xena’s exceptionable hearing.
And then it began again. By the time the tall warrior once again said, “Twelve. Thank you, mistress,” both women were openly crying: One shedding silent tears as she always had; the other sniffling in the sleeve of her oversized shirt.
The day before, Aria never would have thought possible what she now was witnessing. This woman was not the imposing Commander of the Amazon Army, not the passionate, patient, but demanding teacher, not the confident ready to listen to the turmoils of her students’ hearts. Suddenly she was more human than she’d ever seen her, not invincible, not indestructible, not infallible.
One would have expected that the young woman’s respect for her commanding officer would be diminished but instead Aria felt it growing with every stroke Xena took. Suddenly, for the first time, one of her favourite sayings began to make sense: ‘Not even the Queen is standing above the law’ and she translated it in her mind to: ‘Even the Queen and her Consort are human.’ It was a revelation, one she would have to think about for a long time.
“Twenty-three. – Twenty-four. Thank you, mistress.” Xena slowly stretched her thigh muscles and while still turning around sank on both knees. She kissed Gabrielle’s hands and Aria suddenly had the impression of intruding on a very intimate moment. “Thank you, Gabrielle, my Queen.”
The small blonde took another step towards her wife and kissed her on top of her head. “I love you, Xena. You will be forgiven after two days of probation.”
“No, don’t forget it was an unofficial punishment. I want you to care for our guests. Leave the temple at dawn. I’ll need help with these damned beads and feathers and you’ll also need a few candledrops to slip into your uniform.”
“Yes, my love. I’ll be with you, shortly after dawn.” An instant later she was back on her feet and belted her tunic. “Come, Aria, there’s a temple waiting for us.”
“Janet, over here. Glad you made it on time.”
“Oh good, you already ordered, and exactly what the doctor subscribed.” She took a healthy sip of her Chardonnay. “Sam, tell me once again why I let you talk me into adopting a child in the first place.”
“Well,” Samantha answered with her best imitation of a Texan cowboy, “there’s the undeniable fact of her irresistible charm, and then there’s your good heart that never would have allowed a child to become the victim of NID bureaucracy. And you’re a really good mum.”
“According to Cassie, I’m, and I quote, a selfish brat, traipsing through the galaxy on vacation, leaving her dying in a Gao’uld invented summer camp. End quote.” She took another swallow of her wine.
“She has her cell with her?”
“Yes, of course but don’t. Please don’t call to read her the riot act. She’s just a kid and the first day at summer camp always is somewhat of an ordeal.”
“Told you, you’re a good mum. When you call her tomorrow evening, everything will be back to normal.”
“Sam, we’ll be at the edge of nowhere tomorrow.”
“Xe… the Royal Consort told me that the Stargate would be opened every evening to allow the transfer of data and private communication. There’s a slight time difference but it won’t be a problem. They don’t want us to feel left alone or isolated while being on their planet.”
“Whow!; gives the word ‘long distance call’ an entirely new meaning. – But what’s up with you? That’s the second time you slipped when speaking about the Queen’s consort. Do you have a crush or something?”
“A crush…? She’s a woman, Janet. It’s against the regulations. And besides, she’s head over heels in love with the Queen.”
In Janet’s head still rung the word ‘regulations’ but she had the presence of mind to insist. “So, what is it then?” Internally she was chiding herself that Freud had been right after all and women tended to masochism.
“Something… I don’t know, Janet. I don’t understand it myself. There was something in her eyes, in her voice, calling to me. When I first looked into her bright blue eyes, it was as if I had known her all my life. And since she left us at the gate, I can’t stop thinking about her. I just don’t know, Janet.” Samantha answered dejectedly.
“All right, don’t get your leathers in a wad. We’ll get this sorted out. Describe her, every detail you remember.”
Samantha knew it probably wasn’t the brightest thing to do but she couldn’t resist the temptation – and perhaps her best friend’s medical experience would shed some light on her weird obsession with this woman. She didn’t even notice Janet’s strange choice of words.
So, Samantha Carter began to recall the day’s events with a sense for detail and atmosphere sadly lacking in her report for General Hammond, not that he usually required such thoroughness.
“Daniel was standing with his weapon aiming at the girl, the Amazons were closing in on us; suddenly a low melodious voice ordered us all to stand down. When I heard this voice I knew that everything would be all right and that I was safe. Someone passed me by, someone almost as tall as Teal’c, with raven black hair and a narrow waist. She reprimanded the girl but I don’t remember what exactly was said. I only knew that I wanted her to keep on talking. Jack acted like a son of a biscuit, being even more obnoxious than he usually is. By the way…”
“Oh no, Sam, no change of subject. The injections for the men to counteract the testosterone rush already are prepared. Tomorrow nothing will go wrong. What happened when you were on your own with her?”
“She took me tree walking.”
“Tree walking? You mean tree climbing, don’t you? Why would she do something like this?”
“I don’t know why but it was great, and yes, I’m talking about tree walking. Well, you have to get up there first but she had some sort of springy rope that really made it easy. She taught me what to do and we were jumping from branch to branch, using the rebound to get further and further ahead of the men. It was like flying. It was like walking on air. I felt free. I felt at home. It felt like something I had done a hundred, a thousand times before. The thought to be able to have a another go at this alone makes me want to shout for joy.”
For a long time, Janet watched her friend. The joy of her experience still radiating from her, though personally, the thought of having to climb anything higher than a foot-stool made her queasy. She hated to burst Sam’s bubble but the question had to be asked. “Do you think it was another of Jolinar’s memories?”
“Yes and no.” The answer came alarmingly fast. “Yes, I’m sure it was a memory of sorts. No, I don’t think that Jolinar has much to do with it. Jolinar’s memories are different. On the one hand they are more intense, on the other hand most of the time they feel like I’m prying into the dreams of someone else. Whenever I think of Xena, it’s like something that’s really a part of me and at the same time it’s just out of my reach.” Samantha cast an apologetic glance towards her friend. “I’m sorry, that I don’t make any sense. I’m spoiling your evening.”
Samantha’s left hand was kneading the napkin the waiter had brought, her eyes fixed on her fingers. Suddenly a small firm hand stilled her movements. She heard a soft voice, a voice that more than once had freed her of a dark dream -- and this time she allowed herself to believe.
“Sam, whatever happens, where ever we’ll end up, I’ll never regret the time we spent together. You are more than a friend and a second mother to my daughter; you are even more than my best friend. You can always rely on me. I’ll be there for you. You are…” Janet fell silent, knowing herself well enough to be sure that even one measly, single word more would change their relationship forever – and this was something she never would risk.
Blue eyes, pale in the dim light of the bar, found her brown orbs. She didn’t answer, at least not with words – but Janet instinctively knew that she would have done anything to see that expression one more time. She desperately wanted to say something but when she finally had the courage the waiter delivered their pastas and the enchantment was broken.
They spent the rest of the night talking about the newest gossip, discussing medicinal plants and Asgard technology – an evening like many others before. The waiters just had called for the last round to be served when they called a cab to spend the rest of the night at Janet’s. Samantha crashed in the guest room and Janet fell face first and still clothed on her king-size bed in the master bedroom.
The next morning the alarm went off at 0530, blaring rock music in Janet’s ears instead of her customary classic station, courtesy to a very sneaky teen currently at summer camp. Thanks to the noise disturbing their dreams both of them arrived just in time at Stargate Command, after getting both of their cars from O’Malley’s.
It was midnight and time for her to leave the temple and get some sleep. She just had received the kiss of forgiveness; there was no reason for her to stay.
“Go and get some sleep, young Aria. You will be my assistant in dealing with our guests.”
“May I ask a question, your highness?” Xena nodded. “Why? Why did you want me as a witness to your punishment? Why did you allow me to see you hurt and vulnerable?”
“You will find out, when the time is right, little one. For the moment, don’t think about it, the answer will come when you are ready to hear it. Now, go to bed.”