Chapter Nineteen Summary: Sam introduces Martouf and Lantash to Malls, Ronald McDonald, Big Macs and Blue Jeans, as well as the concept of living in a house entirely alone, wine, and soft music. They discuss many things, including Soulmates and Heartmates, but the in the end Lantash becomes almost poetic as he proposes, in the manner and customs of the Tau'ri.
Coeurawyn – My Heart Aima Coeurawyn – Blood of My Heart. A term of endearment, also the formal statement of the Soulmate. While the word Coeurawyn can be used separately, only the Soulmate should be called Aima Coeurawyn. Sevesh Lok Twin – Rite of Release "Italics” - Symbiote-Host or Telepathic Communications
“Samantha! Samantha!” Martouf jerked fiercely on Sam’s shirtsleeve. “I understood that the Tau’ri were not aware of the existence of life outside of their own planet.” He whispered urgently.
Sam turned to stare at him. “What is wrong, Martouf? And no, they are not. Why?” She was clearly puzzled by his strange behavior.
“Surely that strange creature over there is not of the Tau’ri?” He asked, seemingly even more confused.
Sam followed his stare. She looked first at Martouf and then at the creature in question. She felt Martouf jerk, as he watched the creature lean towards a beautiful little girl with blonde curls and a wide smile. Sam started to giggle as she pulled Martouf in the opposite direction. “Samantha, I demand an explanation. I see nothing amusing in this.” Sam headed for the outside door. Thank God, they had finished their shopping. By the time they reached her car, she had herself under some control, which was a very good thing, since Martouf was quite markedly upset.
She turned to him and leaned back against the side of the car before quickly telling him, “I am sorry, Martouf, really, I am. It never entered my mind to consider what earth and earth society looked like through alien eyes. What you saw,” she gasped, to choke her laughter back, “was a Ronald McDonald clown.”
“I am not familiar with this species. It looked awkward, and unintelligent, but not dangerous,” he said stiffly.
She could not blame him for being a little snippy with her. It was her fault, after all. Sobering, she said softly, “I am not laughing at you, only at what it must have looked like to you. You have seen so much in your life, Martouf; I tend to forget that your knowledge of earth and our customs is extremely limited. That creature you saw was a human, just like any other Tau’ri, but they were dressed up as a clown. They did it purposely for entertainment. That particular establishment is what we call a fast food eating-place. The name of it is McDonalds and they sort of cater to children. Many of them have play areas for the children. Clowns are supposed to be funny and make people laugh. Most children love them and Ronald McDonald is, I guess you would say, their mascot. Everyone knows who he is and what he looks like.”
Reaching out and taking one of his hands in hers, she told him warmly, “I am truly sorry if I hurt your feelings. I honestly did not mean to.” She was so obviously contrite that Martouf could not hold onto his feelings of outrage.
His ire mollified, he relented enough to ask, “If it is a place to eat, could we not do so? I would enjoy trying something other than the food in your base cafeteria.”
He gazed at her so hopefully that she could not find the words to refuse him, and so found herself agreeing to go back into the mall. “Well, sure, I guess we can, if you really want to,” she said, wondering what he would think of the sauce covered hamburgers and greasy fries—or if his system could even tolerate them. It looked as if they would soon find out. She opened the car and placed the packages they were carrying into it. After relocking it, they turned and started the trek back to the mall and McDonalds.
Martouf had been amazed at the number and variety of stores inside the mall. It reminded him, he said, of some of the larger bazaars he had been to, except that it was much cleaner and smelled better. The stores were quite large comparatively as well. Sam made sure he had everything he needed for an extended stay on Earth. He now owned underwear, which he had looked at oddly, socks, sneakers, shoes, a belt, jeans, casual pants and dress pants, a couple of nice t-shirts and some casual and dress shirts. She had even given in to the urge and bought him a beautiful cable-knit sweater in a soft powder blue. It was too warm to wear right now, but it was a promise to herself that they would still be together come winter, and that he would be spending time here on earth with her.
He was wearing a pair of the jeans now, and wow what a fit. He could park that swing on her porch anytime. Having fallen behind a little to watch and enjoy, she was not paying attention to anything else. Consequently, she bumped into him when he stopped in front of her. He looked at her quizzically, as he asked, “Why are you following me instead of walking beside me, Samantha? I see no others walking in this manner, so I do not believe that it is a tradition or requirement of your people.”
She smiled at him, and answered truthfully, “I was just admiring the view. It is absolutely breathtaking.” He looked at the mountains surrounding them and had to admit to their beauty. Sam smiled and took his arm to urge him forward once more. They needed to eat, so that they could get home. She still needed to stop at the supermarket and pick up a few things for them to have around to snack on.
Not long afterward, she watched, fascinated, as he ate his Big Mac, fries, and coke with seeming relish. “It is an oddly pleasant combination of tastes,” he said, as he swallowed the last bite. He sighed in repletion before inquiring, “What does it contain?”
Sam looked at him blankly for a moment, not having been expecting that particular question. “You mean the meat or the other stuff?” She finally asked him.
He frowned slightly. “All of it, I suppose.”
She nodded, saying, “Well, there is beef, bread, lettuce, sauce, onions, cheese, and pickles.”
“I am unfamiliar with some of these things, although I believe I recognize both the, er, bread and the cheese.”
“There is the possibility that you would recognize some other things if you saw them individually rather than all mixed together, although you probably know them as something other than what we call them. I will show you sometime when we go to the grocery store, but not this trip. I just want to quickly get a few things we might need, okay? I thought I would stop on the way home.”
“Neither Lantash nor I have any objection,” Martouf quickly assured her.
“Good. Now, if you have finished eating, we should probably be on our way. The stop at the grocery store will not take long, but still, it will take some time no matter how quickly I attempt to complete it.” Standing, Sam took the tray and left it on the stack, before heading for the mall doors and her car.
They were in the car heading for the grocery store when Lantash came forward. “Samantha, would it be acceptable to pick up some wine of some type? Do you know of one that you like?”
“Yes, I will pick some up.” She smiled remembering the night she and Daniel drank it and almost become passionate Heartmates.
“This wine brings up memories for you. Your smile tells me this is so,” Lantash said quietly.
She looked at him and replied, just as quietly, “Yes. Yes, it does. Very pleasant memories actually.”
“Then I wish for you to get some, so that we may add our own memories to the ones you already associate with it,” he replied.
She nodded her head, “Okay, no problem. I can do that easily enough.”
She hoped that the memories they added would be pleasant ones, hopefully even wonderful ones. Going into the store, Sam quickly made her choices. She bought munchies, beer, coke, several bottles of wine, some meat, veggies, cheese, and dessert. After checking out and taking her purchases and placing them in her car, they were on their way.
Sam was immediately aware that Martouf was once more in control. He appeared to be slightly more comfortable with her driving, although he still sometimes gripped the seat tightly. She had not driven as fast as she normally would down the mountain; even so, it was obvious that Martouf found the entire trip something of an ordeal to survive…if they were very lucky. As she had come down off the mountain, he had visibly relaxed, only to once again become tense, when he caught sight of all the other cars around them.
Martouf decided almost immediately that he was not fond of this mode of travel. He considered it an unfortunate, though obvious, circumstance that they needed some way to cover the distances they must traverse. He wondered if he would ever acclimate to all of these cars being on the road simultaneously and, after a few soothing comments from Lantash, was sure that they would adjust eventually. He was thankful that he would not need to do so, however.
He watched Sam as she guided the car where she wanted to go. She drove flawlessly, as she did everything, but she had certainly made him extremely nervous at first. He suspected she had done it intentionally. As he sat watching her, he smiled. What a complex, multi-talented woman she was. His desire for her, never far from the surface, roared to life. At least the jeans seemed to hide that a little better than his uniform pants managed to do, he thought. Moreover, Jacob had been correct; now that he was more used to them, he liked them. At first, he thought them stiff and that they would be uncomfortable. It did not take long to find that was not true. They were quite comfortable and not actually stiff at all. In fact, the jeans that Samantha picked out for them were quite soft. It was only the feeling of a heavier, yet still somewhat snug, material that he was not familiar with that had given him that impression.
Sam pulled into her driveway and parked the car. They got out, loaded their arms with their purchases, and made their way to the front door. Setting down the packages, she unlocked the door, picked them up again, and led the way into the house, where she dropped them on the sofa, and turned to go get the groceries. Martouf stood just inside the front door looking almost lost.
“What is wrong, Martouf?” Sam’s concern showed plainly in her face.
“Do you live here alone, Samantha? Is there no one else here with you?” Martouf asked hesitantly.
“Yes, I live here alone. Why?” Sam asked him
“It must be very lonely,” he answered quietly.
Now she understood. There was no sound in her home. No murmur of voices in another room. No bustle of people walking by. Her lover was used to never being alone. Ever. Even if Lantash was not talking to him, he always had his presence and that of the other Tok’Ra.
Walking over to him, she smiled at him before kissing him gently, “I rarely feel lonely here, Martouf. We look on privacy and solitude a little differently than the Tok’Ra do. We grow up with the ability to have time and space to ourselves. We consider time alone a desirable circumstance, something that we cherish and guard jealously. We are used to it. It is a condition we savor and luxuriate in. If you are worrying about me, please do not. Not having privacy is one thing that bothers my father about being Tok’Ra. He hates not having a door on his room. It is difficult when you are used to having private space to suddenly find yourself completely surrounded by others.”
Martouf nodded, as he finally walked further into Samantha’s home. It was so silent and empty of living beings. There was much furniture and many belongings, but no sounds or activity. He frowned as he had a very strange thought. It felt as if the house was awaiting Samantha’s return before becoming, once again, her home. Lantash agreed with his feelings. Both felt that those impressions were very weird. Odd, yet somehow comforting. Continuing to gaze around the room in which they stood, he also realized something else. The many belongings that were scattered throughout the area gave the empty room a warm, welcoming feel. He and Lantash realized at the same moment that it was the warmth of the room, the welcoming feeling of Samantha’s belongings that gave them the impression the house was awaiting their Samantha. It felt that way because that is what was occurring. The house was now a home because Samantha was here. They smiled internally at one another and Martouf smiled at Samantha, saying, “It is a very warm and welcoming home, my love. The sound of the silence blinded us at first, and by doing so, we missed that very salient point.
His mind drifted as he continued to take in the room and the accumulated miscellany of Samantha’s life. He often heard Jacob complain about the lack of privacy, but he only now realized what it was that Jacob meant. Having lived like this all his life, no doubt he was profoundly uncomfortable always having someone around. He realized that even in a family grouping, people could always shut themselves away behind a door to be alone. Martouf could now understand better. He would attempt to help Jacob get some privacy. It was the least he could do.
He also realized how uncomfortable Samantha was going to be in her new home if they chose to remain with the Tok’Ra, a subject that would have to be resolved at some point. Her discomfort was not allowable. Martouf considered the thought of remaining on Earth. Surely he could become accustomed to this, and he had Lantash. This would take some serious thought. He placed the packages he carried on the sofa, and then turned to accompany Sam to retrieve the remainder of their purchases, his mind occupied with imagining what it would be like to live on Earth. Lantash, he realized, was doing the same mental gymnastics that he was. He laughed softly to his mate. Reaching the car, it took little time to move the remainder of their purchases into the house. Nor did it take them long to put everything away. Going into the bedroom, they made room for his new clothing. Sam decided she liked having his clothes in her closet. It felt right.
She suggested a shower and change of clothes before having some wine, cheese, and crackers. Martouf noticed that when Samantha placed the white shirt and the pants that went with it into the clothing space she called a closet; she stroked the pants and admired the shirt. Perhaps Jacob was correct; he would wear them tonight.
It did not take her long to shower and change. Giving him the same privacy he had given her, she was in the kitchen placing snacks on a plate and getting the wine and glasses out when he walked into the kitchen. She looked at him and stopped breathing. Dear God, he was so beautiful and completely unembarrassed to be wearing something that most men would have flatly refused to put on. The fawn-colored suede pants molded to every curve of every muscle in his thighs and the calves of his legs, and clung tightly to his buttocks. What they did for the area where his shaft nestled should have been made illegal.
Breathe, Sam, breathe, she told herself sharply. She let her eyes continue upwards towards his face, but it took her a while to get there. The white poet shirt, or was it a pirate shirt, she thought irrelevantly, was the perfect compliment for the pants. The vee that was so casually open and that plunged over his chest was a thing that fantasies were made of. She brought her hand to her own stomach in an unconscious gesture to still the butterflies fluttering there.
“Samantha, am I dressed inappropriately? Your father suggested these for a quiet evening at home.” He frowned anxiously at her.
“My, ah, my Dad, told you to wear that when we were here?” Sam stared at him with wide eyes and reminded herself to close her mouth, as it had fallen open in shock.
“Yes. Was he wrong?” She realized she was making him nervous about the clothing he had chosen to wear and berated herself for making him feel self-conscious. “Jacob seemed to think that most women would approve of these garments.” He was getting increasingly agitated under her stare.
Shaking herself out of her somewhat stuporous condition, she told him, “I just cannot picture my dad not only knowing that, but actually giving you the encouragement to wear it. Because, he is so right. Wow.” She looked at him and realized he still looked uncomfortable. “Martouf, women dream about men dressing in those kinds of clothes. Trust me on this. There is absolutely nothing wrong; it is very, very right.” She went to him, ran her hands up the vee of his shirt, and said one more time, “Oh, very right,” as she placed a kiss at the lowest point.
She was glad now that she had on a very sexy floor-length nightgown. The black satin robe was very solid and proper looking. The gown, however, was black satin interspersed with vee-shaped lace insets. It plunged to her navel in the front and to her waist in the back and only tiny straps woven back and forth, and which tied on her shoulders, allowed it to stay on her body. She felt certain that when he found it, he would feel much as she was feeling now. She hoped she could control the urge to jump his delicious body until they had talked and had some wine. Something was telling her it was important that they talk as well as love this night.
She stepped back from him before her good intentions were cast to the wind. When he reached out to take her in his arms, she promptly placed the tray of crackers and cheese in his hands and indicated the living room. He smiled wryly at her and bowed his head in acquiescence, yielding to her unspoken instructions and denial. Carrying the wine and glasses, she followed him into the room, once more enjoying the breath-catching view. After setting the glasses, wine, and tray on the coffee table, she put some soft music on the stereo and turned the lights to their lowest setting, before sitting next to Martouf on the sofa.
The wine was good, and she leaned back and relaxed. She remembered the night she and Daniel had been in much the same position. She frowned as she contemplated why she would be thinking of that now. It did not take long to figure out. She was here with her Soulmate, and she wanted him; however, she knew that he would have to know about that night and her relationship with Daniel. What was more, he would have to accept it as part of her and her life. Sam knew she was not willing to give Daniel’s loving friendship up. Her relationship with him was the reason she could understand Lantash’s relationship with Kataya. It had to be talked about. It would be beneficial if she knew where to start.
“What troubles you, my heart?” Martouf asked her softly, as he noticed her consternation.
Sam glanced over at him, silently thanking him for giving her a way to begin the conversation. “I was thinking about the first time I had this wine,” she answered promptly.
“Why does that trouble you? I thought you liked it, and my perception was that there were pleasant memories attached. Earlier, you smiled when considering it,” Martouf spoke softly.
Sam took a breath and plunged in. “This is the wine Daniel and I were drinking the first time we kissed. The night we almost became passionate Heartmates.” She heard the sharp intake of a quickly drawn breath. It was very obvious that he had not been expecting that reply.
“Almost?” He finally asked.
“Yes. Almost. I wanted to know if I would respond to him, and—I asked him to kiss me. We were at his house, went into his bedroom, and we slept together.” She smiled softly at the memory. “Literally.”
“I do not think I understand, Samantha. I thought you said that you and Daniel were not passionate Heartmates,” Martouf’s tone said quite plainly that he found her answer considerably confusing.
“We are not. I meant exactly what I said, Martouf. We really did sleep. Both of us. We had too much to drink and, once we laid down, it did not take us long to fall asleep. All we did was share a few kisses.” Sam shrugged. That night no longer had the intense embarrassment and guilt that she had originally felt, mostly due to both Daniel’s handling of the situation, and the teasing and laughing about it with which Kataya greeted it. Looking at it as both of them did, it was rather amusing. In fact, she realized, slightly surprised, she was smiling now as she thought about it.
Suddenly returning to the present from her brief stroll down memory lane, she began telling Martouf and Lantash more about that night, “The next day we had a briefing, and General Hammond wanted Kataya to tell us about the Furling and what kind of abilities she had. Merdwin was there, and they showed us the Fire Dance. Later, Daniel and I talked. He already knew that Kataya was important to him, but he was still at the stage where he was extremely confused about the entire situation. He thought he might love her. We spent that night together here,” Sam paused, watching them and their reactions.
Clearing her throat, she told them, “We sat here and discussed becoming passionate Heartmates. We actually discussed and considered it very seriously. In the end, we decided that, although we loved one another very much, and we were sure we could have a loving and passionate marriage, we both wanted the ultimate passion of the Fire Dance in our lives. Because of that, we knew we would stay platonic Heartmates,” Sam’s words were stark, but her tone was gentle. She wanted him to understand that her love of Daniel was not going away, but she also wanted him to realize that whereas Daniel was her Heart’s mate, he and Lantash were her Soul’s mates.
Staring into his eyes, her voice shaded with her emotions, she explained, “I love Daniel very much, Martouf. He is much more to me than just a friend. If you and Kataya had not entered our lives, the chances are that eventually, Daniel and I would have married, bonded. We did not, and we will not have that type of relationship now. Can you say the same for yourself and Kataya?” Sam asked the question just as softly and gently as she had spoken to him before, but this time there was also a note of challenge in her voice. He had to come to realize that while she was cognizant of what the situation entailed, and recognized that it could take a while to sort things out, her patience was not infinite.
Martouf did not respond immediately; instead, he broke their locked gazes and stood so that he could pace the room. He stopped in front of a framed photograph of SG-1. Someone took it one Sunday afternoon during a cookout at the Colonel’s house. They had a pleasant afternoon with many of their friends from the SGC. She stood between Daniel and Teal’c with her arms around them both. Teal’c and the Colonel were joking around, but she and Daniel were smiling at each other. Looking at it through Martouf’s eyes, Sam recognized that the love between her and Daniel was quite apparent. She had never realized it before. How had they missed those feelings all this time? Sha’uri’s name floated into her mind, she realized that was why they had buried those feelings…, and then Martouf and Lantash were there. Her internal questions answered to her satisfaction, she sat quietly, waiting to see what they would say or do.
Abruptly, they turned back to her, asking, “What is it like, Samantha?” Sam realized that Lantash had assumed control. This made sense considering the subject matter. She closed her eyes and thought about the question. Opening them, she was surprised to find him standing in front of her. She indicated he should settle onto the sofa with her. When he had done so, she took his hand in hers.
“It is comforting. I know there is someone in the world that I can go to for anything. I can take any problem or feeling to him, and he will be there. He will listen to what I have to say, and he will not judge me, or think badly of me, no matter what I tell him, because he loves me just as I am.” Sam smiled as a picture of Daniel arose in her mind’s eye.
“It is the absolute certainty that there is someone who would do just about anything for me and expect nothing in return. It is being happier just being around him, and it is the joy of seeing him and sharing a joke or a discovery. We share in each other’s amazement and elation at some new technological gizmo of mine, or an archaeological find of the century, of his. It is having a very loving friend.” Pictures of Daniel in all of his many guises ran rampant through her mind causing another smile to light her face. “He is a wonderful person, Lantash. I really believe that once we have made it through the next few months and you learn more about him and become better acquainted with him that you will like him immensely. I think that he and Martouf are a lot alike in many ways, and that you could form a very close and lasting friendship with him,” Sam concluded.
He sat quietly contemplating what she had said. Then, he began to speak. “What you describe sounds very much like what Kataya and I had in the early days of our relationship, before we took it to the next level, which you and Daniel have not done.” Looking at him, she realized he was staring bleakly at the wall, obviously distressed. “I love you so much, Aima Coeurawyn. Yet I am still drawn to Kataya.” Samantha noticed that Lantash was rubbing the side of his chest lightly, as if it ached. She frowned remembering that Kataya said Lantash could be in pain soon. Sam wondered if what she had taken her to mean, which was emotional pain, was actually physical pain in the area of his heart. She would have to remember to ask her tomorrow.
Pushing those thoughts aside for the moment she asked quietly, “Lantash, could it be that you are only feeling that way because you are, I don’t know, tied to Kataya still? As long as she was not near you, it was not a problem, but now that she is, whatever it is that holds you together reanimated or something. What is it that happens in the entwining? What happens, how does it work, how is it done?” Maybe, she thought, the answer lies within the actual rite itself, or rather, what happened during that rite.
Lantash started speaking slowly as he remembered the ceremony that had bound him so tightly to Kataya. “The entwining ceremony that we went through is the tying of the blood as well as the aura. The priest or priestess chants the words of the entwining and, as they are being sung, they slit your throats and your wrists.”
“At first, there is no blood from the wounds, but as the rite continues, the blood begins to flow from each person. As it leaves the body, it becomes mist-like; it then floats across the open space between them, and the mist becomes more solid and forms strands, which begin to entwine and spiral upwards. Then the priestess or priest brings forth each person’s aura. Their auras also begin to move towards one another and then to entwine and spiral.” Lantash was staring at nothing, reliving a rite that was the most profound thing he had ever experienced in all of his long life. A formal bonding with Samantha would be very much like that, only even more deep and binding. He had no doubt about that whatsoever.
Pulling himself from his thoughts, he continued, “I am not sure what makes it happen, but at a certain point, the entwined strands of the auras and the blood begin to encircle the couple drawing them together, until they are standing face to face touching each other. Their wrists are bound together, and they taste the blood on each other’s throats. When the aura and the blood envelop and swathe the couple, they absorb it. The wound on the throat and the one on the wrist heal spontaneously, and the ceremony is complete. Only a priest or priestess of the All can sever the tie. It is for life, and it is extremely strong.”
Samantha nodded her head. “It makes more sense now. You actually reside within each other in a way.” Looking thoughtful, she inquired, “Okay, so what is the difference between an entwining and a joining?”
Lantash replied quietly, “I have only seen one joining. It is much like entwining except that the blood and the aura do not entwine, they actually blend and become one before re- entering the couple. The couple exchanges blood from the wrist and the throat, but there is also an exchange of blood through the hands directly from one heart to the other. Of course, when they taste the blood, assuming they are both Furling, they use their fangs rather than a slit in the throat from the priest or priestess. It is a very ancient and pagan ritual, and the bond usually lasts from one lifetime to the next. The only time one or the other can break that bond is at the beginning of a new life cycle. It must be renounced before being reborn.”
He continued, after he swallowed convulsively, “the bond of either one is very strong, Samantha. Whenever I am near Kataya, the need to be with her is almost irresistible. The need to seek out my mate is like a hunger in my blood. It is as if it is searching for its other half,” Lantash looked embarrassed, as he told her, “I know that does not make any sense, but it is the only way I can explain it. There is a fervency in my blood that I cannot deny. It is a pull that will not release me.” He leaned his head back against the sofa, even as he remained tense and rigid. It was obvious that he was extremely distressed.
“Yes, it would be. You truly reside within one another, Lantash, and therefore it calls to you to unite with her. That is why she wants you to go through the Sevesh Lok Twin, isn’t it? In addition, the longer you wait to perform it, the more arduous and grueling it will be on both of you. She wants to remove this tie so that neither of you will feel this—this pull that is between you. You informed Daniel that you refused to do it, Lantash. Do I have the right to ask you why?” Sam’s gaze did not waver from his face as he turned his head to look at her.
His answer was brief and to the point, “You do. Furthermore, I must answer. You are my Soulmate, Coeurawyn, and we bonded by the words, if not the rite and ritual. In my eyes, you have all the rights of my mate, my-—my wife. What is more, even though we did not participate in the rite and ritual of a formal binding, since we pledged to one another, in the eyes of All, we are now bonded, joined mates. It is a true joining, although it is much easier to remove than one done formally. That is why many either never go through the formal bonding or wait for a very long time to make sure they will remain together. Breaking a formal bond is…difficult.”
“Then I am asking you, Lantash, as your mate, your wife. Why do you refuse to break the tie that binds you to Kataya? Is it simply because your honor demands that you do not break your vows, or is there something more to it?” Sam watched him closely and was not surprised when he did not immediately reply. He had to think these questions through. She knew that he would need to explore every facet of the situation before he could begin to reconcile his instincts, his needs, and his desires. It was not only his emotional responses that were of consequence here. There was also his honor to consider and whether or not he could reconcile breaking his vows.
Once more laying his head against the back of the sofa, he stared at the ceiling. “Yes, I am hesitant about breaking our vows; however, I do not believe that to be an insurmountable problem. I do not really know why I am refusing her, Samantha. It makes no sense. I love you more than life itself, and yet, when I am near her, I cannot bring myself to break that tie.” He sat quietly for a moment, and Sam waited patiently, knowing he was continuing to think through various possibilities, and he still had more to say.
“She almost died for me,” he said suddenly. “I know she wants this, and I owe it to her to give her this thing that she desires.” He frowned as he gave thought to his next words. “Something terrible happened when they rescued me from Bastet’s stronghold.” Suddenly, Sam became tense. He was speaking of Dominic’s death. She forced herself to relax. She could not betray Kataya’s confidence, and he would notice if she became agitated. “I do not remember it, and no one who was there will tell me what happened. I know Dominic died. I know that I was so near death, I could almost have been considered dead myself.”
“I know that they fought their way in to us, and all of their energy levels were depleted. Too low to sustain me for any length of time, and yet, she did. One of the Furlings in the group was a friend, as well as a fellow warrior. He told me that even with them helping to channel energy, she should have died and me with her. He said that it just went to prove that she was very much Artereos of Cadwaellon’s daughter and heir, for only someone of his or Merdwin’s close direct lineage would be able to do as she did for me. Nonetheless, Samantha, from what little he told me, she was very near to death herself when we finally arrived at Avilion, the Sanctuary.” He stopped speaking and shook his head.
Taking a deep breath, he glanced at her before continuing, “I was on the edge of death as well, and they were not convinced that they would be able to save me. I believe that because of my condition, they did not censor their words around me. I suppose they either did not realize I could understand them, or they believed I could not hear them; however, my hearing, even in fluid, is exceptional, and I heard the priests and priestesses discussing it. They were very concerned that she would not survive until Artereos came back from his search for Bastet. There was much relief when he and Merdwin returned. After that, she began to improve rapidly. There is little doubt that he and Merdwin performed a healing on her. They are very powerful and skilled. I also know how much power resides within them on a personal level, as they both did healing on me; after that there was no doubt that I would survive as well.”
“The story they told everyone, including me, was that she was too distraught to channel for herself, and that is why she became so ill. Many believed them; I did not. I still do not believe that is the truth. There is much that I do not know and neither those who accompanied her, nor Kataya herself, will reveal what occurred to cause her to seriously consider death an alternative. Personally, it is my belief that whatever happened in the torture chamber of Bastet’s stronghold was the true reason she became so ill,” Lantash finished speaking, both his face and his voice bleak.
He did not remain brooding; however, instead he turned to Sam, and referred to their original conversation, “None of this answers your question, though, Aima Coeurawyn. I wish I knew the answer, for I would like to know it as well.” He lightly rubbed his chest again. “It is not a pleasant thought that it could be that I wish to have both of you. Yet, I can ascertain no other reason for my actions.” He paused yet again, once more lost in thought. Leaning forward, his forearms braced atop his thighs, hands clasped, he stared at the floor for quite some time. Then shaking his head, he murmured, as if to himself, “Except that explanation does not feel as if it is the answer. It simply does not sit upon my mind or my heart as if it belongs to me. No, I do not believe that is it.” Turning to look at Sam once again, he told her, “My answer is that I do not yet know, Samantha; however, I will do everything I can to reconcile these opposing needs that reside within me, so that I can agree to Kataya’s request. That, I can promise you.”
He continued speaking, obviously still attempting to analyze his position and emotions, “I am not jealous of Daniel, as I would have expected to be. Moreover, as long as I am not in close proximity to Kataya, I do not want her in that way. Sitting here now, I could tell you that I am quite willing to go through the ritual of release, but I fear that as soon as I am near her, I will change my mind. It is very confusing to me. I know you are the mate of my Soul. I feel that to the deepest part of my being. My love for you will not change or falter, I can promise you that as well.”
“I can certainly understand your confusion. It appears to be incomprehensible and bewildering, however, there is an explanation somewhere, and we simply have to find it. Perhaps the answer lies within the tie itself, Lantash. If it is only when you are near her, then it has to be that.”
“Yes, and I have thought of that, but if that was all it was, then I should be able to overcome it. Kataya has been able to do so. Why then, cannot I?”
“I do not know, although, Kataya might have a theory. Why don’t you ask her tomorrow?” Sam suggested matter-of-factly. Then taking a rather deep breath, she changed the subject. “Do you feel guilt that Dominic died and you lived, Lantash?” Sam asked him gently.
“Yes, I do,” he answered her immediately, but his tone was flat, allowing no hint of emotion to show through. That did not stop Sam from reading his face, though, and there she read of an acutely mournful, deeply despairing sorrow.
She asked tenderly, “Why? Do you think that he would have wanted to let you die and he be the one to survive?” Sam felt sure that he had heard this argument many times before; despite that, she felt repeating it could not take place too many times. Eventually, he might even begin to believe it.
“No, he would not,” again his answer was without emotion or inflection.
Sam decided to switch tactics, asking gently, “What was he like? Were you blended for a long time?”
Once more leaning back against the sofa, Lantash frowned in thought and then began to speak. “You had a very bad experience when you blended with Jolinar, Samantha. Most blended beings become good friends through the years, and we care deeply for one another. There is much grief when the host dies.”
“Dominic was from a long-lived people. In the normal course of events, he could have expected to live to be as old as two hundred of your years. Because of the blending, Dominic and I were together for well over four hundred years at the time of his death. We had grown to love each other deeply, Samantha. He was a beautiful person. I do not mean only on the outside, although he was; he was also beautiful on the inside. He and Martouf have much in common. They are both kind, intelligent, giving, and loving. I have been extremely fortunate to have had two such hosts in so short a time.”
“Then perhaps subconsciously the reason you will not let Kataya go is because you can punish her this way for allowing Dominic to die, yet somehow managing to keep you alive.” She poured them both some more wine, and then she sat back to wait for the explosion of denial that she knew would come. She watched as his eyes burst into a prolonged glow, and he clenched his hands where they rested on his thighs.
“That is absurd,” he ground out through teeth that were clenched as tightly as his fists.
“You would know that better than I,” she stated calmly. She had planted the seed, now all she had to do was sit back and see if it found fertile soil on which to grow. She admitted to herself that it was a long shot. She did not really believe it was the reason either, but it might make him dig a little deeper into his feelings, search a little harder into his motivations.
After a short while, Lantash's hands and posture relaxed slightly. He looked over at her, saying softly, "I apologize, Samantha. My reaction and response were beyond what is acceptable. You are only attempting to examine all of the possibilities. I have not blamed Kataya for Dominic's loss for a very long time now, Amat Wyn; While it is true that I felt betrayed by her for many years, I have long since realized that I was wrong to do so. I came to realize that if she saved me instead of Dominic, then it was in all probability because of the two of us, I had the better chance of surviving. I genuinely believe that to be true."
Sam smiled lovingly at him and reaching over she caressed the side of his face. “Lantash, I did not believe it to be the reason either; however, I thought I should ask and get it out in the open, so that it could be examined and either proved to be true or discarded.” She allowed time to pass, as she sat next to him. Their fingers entwined and she gently stroked his arm with her free hand. Soon, she could tell that he was beginning to become more relaxed. Perhaps it was time to change the subject and give him the love they both needed to share. They were not going to resolve these questions tonight, and the problems would still be there tomorrow. For now, they had each other and the night.
“Lantash?” He seemed to be lost in thought, but he turned to her as she spoke to him.
“Yes, my heart?”
“I love you,” Sam said, simply and sincerely. “I will always love you.” She continued, assuring him of her support, “We will work through these problems, I am sure. It just might take a while, that is all.”
Leaning towards her, he captured her lips with his. “I love you also, Samantha, and I, too, will always love you.” As his lips again brushed hers, he was aware of the fire beginning to burn in his blood, but still he refused to rush this time. They had all evening and night, and he wanted to savor every minute of it.
He cleared his throat as he prepared to make his next statement. “Samantha, my heart, your father has told me of a custom of your people, a ritual that takes place between two people who wish to become bonded. He did not tell me how, exactly, to accomplish it, but he told me how much your mother made him go through before accepting his offer.”
“I am not sure what I am supposed to say, much as you were unsure of the words of the bonding when we mated earlier.” He smiled a little, and then struggled on. “Since it contains the giving of a betrothal ring, I am assuming that I must ask you to become my betrothed? Is this correct?”
Sam stared at Lantash with a look of disbelief. “My father told you about proposing to my mother?”
“Is that what it is called? Proposing?” Again, he frowned. “What am I to propose? I should have asked Jacob for more information before attempting to do this. I wanted it to be perfect for you.”
“Lantash, repeat after me. Say, “Samantha.”
“Samantha,” he repeated.
“Will you marry me?”
“Will you marry me?” He obediently repeated.
“Now don’t repeat this part okay?”
“Yes, Lantash, I will marry you. Now that was easy, wasn’t it? You proposed and I accepted.”
Lantash frowned. “That is the ritual? What about the gift of love and the ring? What do I do with them?”
Sam gasped. “Ring?” she whispered, “You—you really did get me a ring? Oh, Lantash, I— I don’t know what to say.”
Although he leaned forward and kissed her softly, he was still frowning. “This does not seem correct, Samantha. There must be more to this ritual. I will ask Jacob, and then we will do it again,” he said decisively.
Sam realized he was very serious. This was important to him, and if it meant that much to him, then she would treat it just as seriously. She touched his cheek and smiled at him.
“Lantash, do you have the ring here?”
“Yes, I do.”
“If I explain the—the ritual and tell you how to perform it, would you,” she looked at him with love in her face, “would you please ask me to marry you again? And offer me the gift and your ring?”
“It is your ring, Samantha. It would make you happy if I tried to perform this ritual again?” Lantash asked her, his brow furrowed in thought or worry, Sam could not decide which for sure.
“Very happy,” she told him with a loving smile.
“Very well. If you will explain it to me, we will try.” He nodded decisively.
“All right,” she agreed. “I will tell you what takes place, and then, we will do it again. You will be asking me to spend the rest of my life as your wife, your mate; however, the first thing you need to know, is that there is no set ritual of words, or gestures, that you have to perform.” She grinned at him impishly, saying, “We are not real attached to rituals here in the New World. Most of them sort of got left behind in the Mother Country.” Seeing his look of confusion, she laughed lightly. “I promise I will explain that to you sometime if you really have a burning need to know what I was referring to. But for now, I am going back to the topic of conversation.”
“As far as I know, the ways to ask a woman to marry you are as diverse as the men who do the asking. In its simplest form, it is exactly what we said earlier; you ask me to marry you, and I say either yes or no.” She shrugged, saying, “You can add all of the words of love and make all of the promises you wish. As long as you say what you feel in your heart that is what truly matters. That is what makes it memorable.”
She frowned slightly as she gave thought to some of the many ways to accomplish the “ritual” of proposing. Finally, she told him, “Some men kneel at the woman’s feet; some ask them while listening or dancing to a certain love song; some ask while taking a romantic moonlight stroll or walking along a beach or a lake shore. Some,” she gestured toward the wine, “use candlelight, wine, and soft music. Truly, Lantash, the methods of asking a woman to become your wife vary so much that I could not begin to list all of them. I imagine that every man chooses a way to achieve his goal in a way that he feels expresses his emotions. Or he chooses to use her likes and dislikes by doing something that he believes she will think is wonderful or romantic to attain his objective. I would guess that many men try to come up with something that both of them will remember all their lives. I guess what I am trying to explain is that; however, you want to express how you feel for me, that is how you should ask me. Tell me what is in your heart; how you feel for me, and then ask me to marry you and offer the ring. When I accept, you place the ring on the ring finger on my left hand.” She held her hand up to show him which finger.
“It had not occurred to me that it might not fit. What do we do then?” He asked her. This was one catastrophe that had not occurred to either of them. He felt Martouf’s immediate apprehension and anxiety.
“We take it to a jeweler and get it sized to fit. That is not a problem,” she answered matter- of-factly and then grinned at them, saying, “Tell Martouf to stop stressing. That is not an insurmountable obstacle.” As Lantash smiled at her ability to know how Martouf was responding, she made a decision and stated firmly, “I will tell you what; I will set the mood. Where did you leave the ring?”
“It is in your bedroom with my uniform.”
“It is our bedroom now, at least for the next several weeks. I have a couple of things I want to do, why don’t you sit for a few minutes on the sofa and consider what you want to say, while I, ah, never mind, I will be right back,” Sam almost stuttered before she turned and fled the room.
Once in the bedroom, she did the usual things. She panicked, used the bathroom, checked her hair, and most of all, she attempted to catch her breath. She looked in the mirror, as she checked her appearance one last time, and almost did not recognize the glowing woman standing there staring back at her. With a smile, she headed back to the living room. She hoped that she had given them both enough time to do some thinking, assuage any agitation they might be suffering, and regain whatever composure they might have lost.
Standing in the door of the living room, she watched him surreptitiously before he realized she was there. He looked pensive and, perhaps, a little troubled. Her heart seized, aching, as she realized how very unnerving it must be for him to participate in a ritual he knew nothing about, but which he wished so earnestly to make special for her. Well, he had already succeeded in that wish simply by being so insistent that it be everything it should be. She could help him make it what he wanted it to be.
She walked to the couch and touched his shoulder. He looked up at her and said, somewhat nervously, “Should I retrieve the ring now?”
She nodded yes, and he left. As soon as he was through the door, Sam went to work. There was a small two-person table in an alcove off the living room. The table sat in front of a bay window, which looked out toward the mountains. From here, you could make out the outline of them and see the stars hanging like diamonds above them. She took some candles and the wine over to it. She lit the candles, which she had not used in ages, and she took off the black satin robe.
When Lantash and Martouf entered the room, they saw Samantha standing by the table with the candle glow throwing mysterious shadows and gleaming off her skin. As he looked at her, he thought he would die from a lack of oxygen. She was so beautiful. The gown she was wearing left just enough to the imagination to be extremely erotic. He walked slowly toward her.
As he reached the table, she handed him his wine and took a sip of her own. She smiled into his eyes, and Lantash smiled back. She set the wine glass on the table, as he did, and went into the arms he held out for her. She did not notice the small piece of velvet cloth he also laid on the table.
He held her carefully, gently, as if she was the most precious thing in the universe, which to him she was. He breathed in her scent and thought that it was more intoxicating than anything to which he had ever been exposed. He also realized he was very nervous. He was not sure why.
Finally, he said, his voice shaking, “Samantha, for some reason, I find myself afraid to say anything. I do not think I have ever been this inept, this incapable of doing or saying what I need and desire to say.”
“Lantash, you do not have to say anything. I would rather you wait until you are absolutely sure that you wish to marry me. I do not want you to feel as if you have to say anything to me. You proposed to me once. You do not have to do it again unless you truly desire too. I understand.”
He kissed her gently. Her words had given him the courage and encouragement he needed. Martouf came forward for a moment. He seemed to be having trouble controlling the tremor and huskiness of his voice, but it was important to them that Samantha realize that Lantash was truly speaking the words for both of them.
“Samantha, while you were in the other room, Lantash and I talked together of our feelings and desires, as we have many times before. I wish you to know that while he is speaking the words, they are coming from our heart, for they are words that both of us feel and mean. Please accept his words as our words, and his actions as our actions, for I swear to you that it is so.”
Sam nodded her agreement, and answered, “I will, Martouf, and thank you for assuring me that you both have the same feelings for me.”
His eyes glowed as Lantash once again assumed control. He took a deep breath to try to steady his voice as he began to speak the words to explain the emotions in their heart.
“You are the blood of my heart, Samantha, and the beloved of my soul. There are more feelings in us than words could ever express. Perhaps that is why I find myself so without them. None can truly express what we feel for you, but I wish to try.” Slowly, he pulled back from her, until their entwined hands were the only thing touching.
“Samantha, my love, you are the blood of my heart.” He brought their entwined hands up and pressed them against his chest over his heart. His voice was husky with emotion as he continued, “In my veins, the blood sings your name and burns with a fire and passion that cannot be quenched. My heart delights in your nearness and weeps when we are apart. Know that with each beat, it calls your name and aches to join with you for all eternity.”
Bringing her hands to his lips, he kissed first one and then the other. “Samantha, my life, you are the beloved of my soul.” As he brought her hands back to his heart, he whispered, “You are as the breath of life to my soul; it whispers of enchantment and rapture to the center of my being. Know that with each breath I take, my soul yearns to experience the fulfillment and joy of becoming as one with you.”
Kissing away the lone tear that had slid to the trembling smile on her lips, he murmured softly, “Samantha, my love, and my life; my heart and my soul, you are the stars that shine in my universe and the suns that light my days. Without you in my soul, no matter the landscape, I would see only desolation. Without you in my heart, no matter the occasion, I would feel only despair.”
He continued in a voice ragged with the intensity of his passions, “Your loveliness entrances and enflames my desires. The brilliance of your mind awes and amazes me. The exquisite beauty of your soul humbles and enthralls me. Without you and your love, I have nothing. With you and your love, I own the universe. The intensity of the emotions I feel for you, overwhelm, yet excite, and entice me.”
“My love, my blood burns in my veins with a fire and passion for you that I cannot deny. My heart and my soul are incomplete without you. You are the woman, the mate. It is my wish that you become mine for eternity. My most ardent desire is for our souls and hearts to entwine and join and for you to become my eternal mate. I have such love for thee, Blood of my Heart. Come to me, join me, and walk with me into eternity.”
Releasing her hands, he opened the small square of velvet to reveal the necklace and ring. Drawing one more deep breath, he turned back to Sam, and with a slightly shaking voice, made huskier by his deep emotions, he said, “We offer this necklace as a token of our love for you. May I put it on you?”
With eyes shining with tears and love, Sam nodded, and then looked down at the gift he held in his hands. She gasped, and then murmured softly, “Lantash, Martouf, how absolutely lovely. I will treasure it always. Thank you.”
He clasped the beautiful pendant around her neck, and then turned back to the square of velvet for the most important part of this Tau’ri ritual. As he held it in his hands, he looked into her eyes, and murmured in a voice still deepened with emotion, “Samantha Carter, the greatest desire of our life is to bond with you as our mate. We offer you this ring as our pledge that our love for you is eternal with no beginning and no end. Samantha, will you honor us by marrying us and becoming our mate, our wife, unto that eternity?”
Sam closed her eyes against the tears that were threatening to overflow. When she opened them, their radiance lent a luminescent quality to her face, and their brilliance rivaled the stars in the heavens. She realized he was barely breathing as he held the ring, waiting for her to answer them. She recognized that she owed this man the type of answer that his declarations so deserved. He had laid bare his heart and soul to her and placed them naked and unprotected in her hands.