When Worlds Collide
by Linda Crist
The story was not written for profit and no copyright infringement is intended toward Chris Carter, Damian Kindler, Amanda Tapping, Brad Wright, Jonathan Glassner, David Weber, Rob Tapert, Ronald Moore, David Eick, J.K. Rowling, Richard O’Brien, Bob Clark, Jean Shepherd, William Shakespeare, and any others who may have an ownership interest in the characters portrayed or mentioned herein.
Novella. Rated NC17. There is a plot.
This story is a lark, written in the spirit of Halloween and happy endings for all. I don’t think you need to be familiar with all the various sci-fi worlds represented to enjoy it. For those die-hard sci-fi fan girls and boys who have known and loved all or most of these worlds and the lovely ladies who inhabit them, I dedicate this story to you.
IMPORTANT: This is a Stargate SG-1/X-Files/Sanctuary/Honor Harrington mash-up. I know there are some much-loved pairings out there. To avoid spoilers, at the end of this story I’ve placed details on which characters I’ve shipped herein. If you are so invested in a specific pairing within any of these four fandoms, that it upsets you greatly to see those characters with other people, please feel free to skip to the end first for that information. Otherwise, read at your own risk and hopefully your own enjoyment.
The X-Files: Fourth season (1997), when Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder were still pretending to date other people (Mulder does not appear in this story other than by reference).
Sanctuary: Fourth season, but back in time to 1997, after Dr. Helen Magnus has gone through the time machine to stop Adam Worth from destroying the future, and is waiting for 2011 to arrive so she can step back into her world.
Stargate SG-1: First season (1997), after Dr. Janet Fraiser has adopted Cassandra, the child the SG-1 team rescued from the planet Hanka in the episode “Singularity.”
Honorverse: Sometime during the 5th and 6th novels, Flag in Exile, and Honor Among Enemies, when Honor Harrington is Admiral of the Grayson Navy, and between her relationship with Paul Tankersley and her marriages to Hamish Alexander and Emily Alexander.
If you’d like to read more about the main characters in this story, I’ve placed links to information on them at the end.
“This is D’Anna Biers with a breaking news bulletin. The mysterious forest cat strikes again, this time at the Natural Market on Manitou Avenue. Here with me now is the market’s owner, Mr. Salmoneus, to tell us more about it.”
A hyperactive man, dressed like a typical Manitou Springs aging hippie, appeared on screen next to her, waving his arms frantically as he spoke. “It was crazy! The cat entered my store and ran toward the produce section. I started to chase after it but it grabbed a bottle of seltzer water, shook it up, and sprayed it in my face! Then it threw tomatoes at me and escaped with two bunches of celery before I could catch it.”
“Thank you, Mr. Salmoneus.” The camera zoomed in on the reporter. “Eyewitnesses claim that after it left the store, the cat ran in the direction of Ruxton Avenue. Residents of Manitou Springs and the greater Colorado Springs area are urged to keep a sharp lookout, and confine small pets and children indoors. If you spot the cat, please immediately call the El Paso County Sheriff. Do not, repeat, do not attempt to capture it or make contact with it yourself.”
The reporter looked directly into the camera, her blue eyes shining with glee at the unusual excitement. “Here is the only known photograph we have of the animal, taken yesterday by Colorado College freshman, Sunny Day.”
A blurry photograph of a catlike creature with a gray and cream coat flashed onto the screen. Its features were fuzzy and Dr. Helen Magnus squinted at it, then poured steaming hot water into her teacup and dunked in a fresh bag of Earl Grey. The coffee shop’s television wasn’t very large, and even seated in the booth closest to it, she could barely make out what little detail the photo provided.
“And now a word with Sunny, from an interview taped earlier this morning,” the news reporter continued.
A young woman wearing a ball cap, camp shirt, and kakis appeared on screen. “Yeah, like I was sitting under a tree on campus minding my own business, just trying to study during my lunch break, you know? So out of nowhere this bizarre cat comes out of the tree, lands on my shoulder, and steals all my celery sticks!” Sunny flipped a long blonde ponytail over her shoulder and continued, “I’m a journalism major and luckily I had my camera with me, so I snapped off the one picture before it disappeared into the park. I hope they catch it soon. That thing could be dangerous!”
“Thank you, Sunny.” A fake smile was plastered across the reporter’s face. “Once again, do not try to capture this cat yourself. After a short break, we’ll be back with an update on that cold front arriving tonight. I’m D’Anna Biers, reporting to you live from the Natural Market on Manitou Avenue.”
“Yes, thank you, Sunny,” Magnus muttered. She glanced at a newspaper article that featured a black and white copy of the same photograph. “You should probably eliminate a concentration in photojournalism from your chosen career path.” She stirred her tea and took a sip, then opened a manila file folder and began perusing other news clippings on this new abnormal creature. “How many more years until I reunite with my team? Only fourteen? Dear God, Will, Henry, Kate. I do miss all of you, terribly.”
“Excuse me.” A petite red-haired woman tapped Magnus on the shoulder. “I couldn’t help but notice the articles you’re reading. I hope you aren’t thinking of capturing that cat.”
“I don’t capture helpless beings, I rescue them,” Magnus responded, her ire piqued at the intrusion. She shoved the articles back into the folder and placed a report typed on FBI letterhead on top.
“Hey, that’s my partner’s report!” The red-haired woman’s voice rose indignantly. “How did you get that? It’s classified.”
“So you’re with the FBI?” Magnus asked drolly.
The woman sighed. “I walked right into that, didn’t I? Special Agent Dana Scully.” Scully flashed her badge. “May I sit down?”
“Suit yourself.” Magnus indicated the seat across the table from her.
“Who are you and how did you get that document?” Scully demanded.
“I’m Dr. Helen Magnus, and I have my sources.” Magnus smiled. “Tea?” She pushed the teapot toward Scully.
“Yes, thank you. It’s what I came in here for. Long night.” Scully selected a tea bag from a container and poured water into an unused cup. “I took the red eye from DC last night, connected in Denver, and here I am. My partner bailed on me at the last minute. Food poisoning. He’s convinced this creature is a freak of nature, but outside the realm of our usual cases, so he told me I could handle it.”
“What interest does the FBI have in abnormal creatures?” Magnus sat back and cradled her teacup in both hands. She peered studiously over its rim, taking in Scully’s brown and green plaid blazer and dark green sweater. Her eyes were an enigma – green next to the sweater, but as she tilted her head to sip her tea and her face caught sunlight from the window, they appeared blue.
“You still haven’t told me how you obtained that report or why you’re interested in this cat. You rescue animals? Are you with PETA?” Scully also sat back, waging a war of eye contact.
“I don’t consider this creature to be an animal, at least not until I have a chance to learn more about it. They say it has the hands of a primate. And no, I’m not with PETA. I’m interested in helping it find shelter or whatever else it may need.” Magnus adjusted the collar of her burgundy turtleneck sweater and crossed her denim-clad legs. “My interest is in the welfare of abnormal beings, especially those who may be abhorred or abused if they remain in mainstream society.”
“And the report?” Scully persisted.
“As I said, I’m well-connected. I didn’t hack into your database or steal your files. I have a contact within your agency that I call upon from time to time if I need his assistance. I’m not going to divulge his identity to you, so let’s just leave it at that.” Magnus smiled pleasantly.
“Fine, for now,” Scully conceded. “I’m not sure why this case is classified, other than it involves a mammal with six legs instead of the usual four, but Mulder – that’s my partner – insisted we keep it under wraps until we determine for sure that it’s not within our domain.”
“And your domain would be?” Magnus pushed the file across the table. “I’ll share if you will.”
Scully considered the offer for a long moment and eyed the file. “I’m a medical doctor by education. A scientist.”
“So am I,” Magnus replied. “But that still doesn’t tell me why the FBI is after this creature. Has it committed some crime more serious than the petty theft of vegetables?”
“No, not that I’m aware of. My partner and I are part of a special unit that studies unexplained phenomenon.” Scully opened the folder and perused its contents. “Wait a minute. There’s nothing in here but Mulder’s report and a half dozen public domain newspaper articles. You tricked me!”
“You didn’t ask what I was willing to share before you shared.” Magnus raised one dark eyebrow in challenge.
“Touché.” Scully tilted her cup at Magnus. “I think I’ve already shared more than I should. My line of work, it’s complicated. If I did explain you’d only think I’m crazy.”
“Try me.” Magnus flashed a knowing grin.
An unpleasant odor reached Scully’s nostrils and she lifted the photocopy of Mulder’s report and sniffed it. It reeked of cigarette smoke. Her eyes narrowed. “Do you smoke, Dr. Magnus?”
“No.” Magnus’ eyes also narrowed. “Nasty habit.” Her FBI contact was a chain smoker, and observing Scully’s actions, she feared that Scully might know him and compromise his identity. She assumed her best innocent expression and chose not to comment further. “You know, Agent Scully—”
“Just Scully is fine.” Scully slowly placed the report back in the folder and made a mental note to have their file cabinet locks changed when she returned to D.C.
“Scully,” Magnus corrected herself. “We both want to find this cat and it appears we’re both working alone. Unless you have plans to shoot it once we find it, why don’t we work together? Two heads are usually better than one.”
“If I shoot that cat my partner will shoot me. You and he appear to have a lot in common.” Scully smiled, still unsure of what to think of the good doctor. “Well, Dr. Magnus – ”
“Most people just call me Magnus. Or Helen.”
“Magnus.” Scully extended her hand to seal their temporary partnership. “Shall we head over to Natural Market?”
“Excellent idea.” Magnus shook her hand and stood. “Scully.”
“A flash news bulletin. Another sighting of the forest cat has been reported in the vicinity of the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway base. We also have reports that many food stores are running low on celery, and authorities fear citizens who are unequipped to deal with the danger this cat may represent are buying celery in an attempt to trap it. Once again, we urge residents, do not attempt to capture this creature. The Sheriff’s department has officers on standby, ready to respond to calls of any sightings. Stay tuned for further developments. This is Radio Manitou reporting live from the Cog Railway station.”
“More celery,” Magnus commented from the passenger seat of Scully’s rental car.
“Maybe we should buy some to use for bait,” Scully replied. “Though most cats are carnivores.”
“A vegetarian cat would be unusual, but this is no ordinary cat, if it’s a cat at all.” Helen scanned another news article. “Six legs or maybe a combination of legs and arms, prehensile tail, and what appears to be opposable thumbs.”
“And intelligent enough to not just run, but also effectively evade authorities who are after it,” Scully added.
“Thank you for driving, by the way.” Magnus looked up to take in the small, quaint town of Manitou Springs. “I have to constantly remind myself to drive on the opposite side of the road from back home.”
“British?” Scully asked. “The accent is a dead giveaway.”
“Old City, near London,” Magnus supplied. “For many years.”
“Don’t tell me you came all the way to Colorado just for this cat.”
“No, I was already in the States on other business and began hearing stories about the cat a few days ago.” Magnus leaned over and re-tied a loose lace on her hiking boot. “It sounded like one of the abnormals my team and I routinely rescue, so I thought I’d check it out.”
“Your team?” Scully turned into the Natural Market parking lot.
“Yes, back in Old City. I haven’t seen them for a very long time, though.” Helen unfastened her seatbelt as the car rolled to a stop. “Shall we go in? I assume Pike’s Peak is our next stop after this?”
“Of course. After you.” Scully got out of the car and they went inside.
“Janet, look!” Cassandra jumped out of the cog train car and ran toward the overlook railing.
“Cassie, wait! We need to zip up your jacket.” Dr. Janet Fraiser ran after her adopted daughter. “Be careful!” She bent over to catch her breath, the air at the summit of Pike’s Peak much thinner and cooler than that at the base. “Kids,” she huffed, but as she stood up she was smiling. Adopting Cassandra had been the most natural decision in the world, and she didn’t regret a moment of the short time they’d shared so far.
“It’s so beautiful!” Cassandra shouted in delight. “You can see a very long way.”
“Yes, for miles and miles.” Janet joined her and zipped Cassandra’s jacket up. “Where are your earmuffs?”
“In my backpack.” Cassandra fidgeted, trying to look in all directions at once, as Janet located her earmuffs and secured them over her ears to protect them from the frigid temperature at the top of the mountain.
“Snow!” Cassandra turned and followed some other children to a large pile of snow to the side of the visitor’s center. “Can I play in it, please?”
Janet walked over to check it out, and after assessing that it was safe, nodded her approval. “Okay, for a little while. Just don’t wander away and whatever you do, don’t go beyond the railing, promise me?”
“I promise.” Cassandra gave her a hug. “Thank you, Janet!”
“I’m going to go inside for a few minutes to get warm, and order us some hot cocoa. When I come back outside and call for you, I need you to come in, okay?” Janet gave a tug to Cassandra’s coat sleeve. “I don’t want you getting frost bite. Besides, we need to make sure we get home early enough to get ready for trick or treating.”
“Okay, can I please go play now?” Cassandra looked longingly at a snowball fight in progress.
“Go on.” Janet let go of her and watched for a moment, as Cassandra joined in the battle, laughing and ducking, and getting in a few accurate shots of her own. It was good to see her making friends and playing like a normal child.
The past few months had been hard on Cassandra, dealing with losing her parents, her people, and her home on the planet Hanka. There was no doubt that the Hanka people were part of the human race, but Cassandra was a gifted child, and they’d come to discover she was somewhat of an empath, with the ability to sense certain things about people and understand them on a deeper level than Earthly humans typically could.
Satisfied that Cassandra was having fun and staying near the snow as promised, Janet entered the visitor’s center, grateful for it’s warmth. After the long, slow ride up the mountain to its 14,114-foot summit, and the associated exposure to increasingly cold temperatures the higher they had climbed, it was nice to escape from the elements for a few minutes.
She took advantage of the facilities and then looked around, gathering brochures for future, longer field trips. This visit had been a last-minute whim. Cassandra had looked out the window while eating breakfast and commented she’d like to go to the top of Pike’s Peak, which they could see from their house. Since Janet had the day off, she’d quickly decided to grant Cassandra’s wish. Considering everything the child had been through, it seemed like such a small thing to do to make her happy. She didn’t usually ask for much.
Outside, Cassandra ducked a snowball and just as quickly fired one back at her opponent, a blonde-haired boy about her age and roughly her size. Her aim was true and it smashed into his glasses, and a woman came running over to check him out. “Ralphie, don’t you break another pair of glasses, you hear me?”
“Yes, Mom.” Ralphie suffered her attentions as she wiped the snow from his face. “Mom!” She ignored his protests until she was finished, and he watched her walk away to join another, younger boy. She was quickly preoccupied dealing with him.
Ralphie grinned with glee and lobbed a large, icy ball at Cassandra. She laughed, taking several steps backward to avoid being hit. She found herself backed against the overview railing, and as she stooped down to gather more snow, a wet, cold snowball pelted her in the back of her head. It had come not from the children near the snow pile, but from across the railing.
“Hey, who’s over there?” She gazed around, inspecting a nearby patch of boulders, but there was no one in sight. The summit and visitor’s center were above the timberline at the high elevation, and so there were no trees to hide behind, only yards and yards of large rocks. “Come on out. Whoever you are, you shouldn’t be outside the railing. Janet says it’s dangerous.”
She heard a few hesitant bleeping, chirping noises, and realized they were coming from behind a large boulder just on the other side of the railing. It was on a relatively flat stretch of ground, beyond which was the beginning of the steep decline down the mountainside. Cassandra looked around to see if anyone was watching her, and then ducked under the railing, careful not to get her backpack snagged on anything.
Cautiously, she stepped around the boulder. “Who are you? Oh.” She came face to face with a small animal, which appeared to be a cross between a cat and a monkey. “What – who are you?” She knelt down and the creature stood up on its back legs. Erect, it was about two feet tall. It was covered in gray and cream fur, and had very bright, green eyes and a long, ringed tail. “You’re pretty.” Cassandra smiled.
“Breep?” The creature moved closer on its two back legs and held out its remaining four arms. In two fists it held celery stalks. With a gleeful crunch, it quickly finished off one stalk and reached out to touch her with its now empty hand. At this touch, Cassandra felt something, a connection with the creature and its emotions that brought tears to her eyes.
“You’re very lost, aren’t you?” She stroked the creature’s thick fur and it purred in response. “I know what it’s like to lose the people you love,” she commiserated. “I’m sorry. I should have said you’re handsome rather than pretty. I thought you were a girl at first, your fur is so beautiful.”
At this compliment, the creature seemed almost to smile at her, as it curiously explored her face with light touches of its hands. It then crawled into her lap and curled up against her, looking up at her with large, pleading eyes.
“You want to go home?” Cassandra spoke low, so as not to draw the attention of the other children, who were still shouting over the snowball fight. “I wanted to go home for a long time, too, but there’s no one left for me there. Earth is my home now.”
“Your people are still there, where you came from, aren’t they? You have someone waiting for you back home.” At this comment, the creature gave her an enthusiastic pat to the arm. “Okay, I think I know someone who can help you, but Janet, my new Mom, I’m not sure she’d be so keen on you. Will you fit in my backpack?”
She lifted the creature from her lap and shrugged out of her backpack harness, then opened it up. It was near empty, as she was now wearing the coat, earmuffs, and gloves that she hadn’t needed at the base of the mountain. “Okay, if you’ll just – what’s your name, anyway?” Cassandra paused and regarded the creature. It reached out and touched her again, and she felt something and closed her eyes. “Nimitz?”
Nimitz jumped up and down at the sound of his name.
“Guess I got that right. Nimitz, can you get in here?” She indicated the open pack.
Nimitz walked over and looked hesitantly into the pack, then climbed inside and turned around a few times until just his head was poking out above the opening. He reached out, indicating he wanted Cassandra to hand him the bunch of celery he’d left on the ground near the boulder.
“I don’t know, it’s already a tight fit in there.” Cassandra considered the pack. “How about if I tie it off on the outside, see?” She secured the bundle with two Velcro loops. “Will that do?”
Nimitz reached out with an open hand and touched the celery.
“You want one piece? Oh, alright.” Cassandra laughed and ripped one celery stalk from the bunch and gave it to him. He took a bite, munching with loud satisfaction. “Listen. Once I zip this closed and Janet comes looking for me, you’re going to have to be quiet, okay?”
Nimitz nodded and held up one hand to make the ‘okay’ symbol with his thumb and index finger.
“Wow, you’re pretty smart.” Cassandra began zipping the pack closed. “Now remember.” She peered down at Nimitz, whose green eyes glowed up at her from the dark interior. “Absolute quiet. No making any noise, not even to chew. Here we go.” She zipped the pack the rest of the way closed and saw the material moving around. “You need to be still, too.” The movement ceased, and she hefted the pack back onto her shoulders.
“Cassie!” Janet’s voice called out to her from the visitor’s center.
“Oh, great. I hope she doesn’t catch me on this side of the rail.” Cassandra quickly shimmied back under the bars and dashed for the visitor’s center, just as Janet came around the corner. “Here I am!”
“I’ve got us some hot cocoa,” Janet held out two cups. “Do you want to go inside and drink it, maybe warm up a bit?”
“I – um.” The backpack was considerably heavier than anticipated. “I’m a little tired, Janet, and it’s hard to breathe up here. Can we take the cocoa with us and ride back down on the train?”
“Okay.” Janet appeared surprised. “I thought you might want to play some more after we sit for a little while. Are you sure?”
“Yes. Thank you.” Cassandra accepted her cup of hot chocolate. “Can I call Sam when we get home and see if she’d like to go trick or treating with us? Please?” Janet had explained the Earth holiday of Halloween to her, including the prospect of an entire bag of candy to eat.
“Sure. I bet we can talk her into it.” Janet smiled and held out her hand, and Cassandra took it. Soon they were on their way back down the mountain with Nimitz securely hidden in the backpack.
Magnus and Scully found a parking space near the base of the cog railway and began walking toward the ticket booth, keeping an eye out for the forest cat. While Magnus bought tickets, Scully kept her back to the booth, observing passers-by. The train arrived on its return trip from the summit, and she watched as the riders de-boarded.
“Hey, Magnus.” Scully smacked Magnus on the arm.
“Ouch.” Magnus rubbed her arm. “What was that for?”
“Forget the tickets. Look at that kid’s backpack.” Scully pointed toward a little girl, who was skipping along next to a woman, presumably her mother.
“Celery!” Magnus started running after them. “Ma’am, could I speak with you for a moment?”
“Hey, wait for me!” Scully trotted behind her on her much shorter legs. At that moment, a small hand poked out of the backpack and tossed a handful of celery leaves to the ground. “Did you see that?”
“Yes, run faster.” Magnus caught up to Janet and Cassandra, and tapped Janet on the shoulder. “Ma’am, pardon me, but could I speak with you for a moment? It’s a bit important.”
Janet turned and her eyes flew open wide. “Sam? What did you do to your hair? And why are you speaking with a British accent? Is this your Halloween costume?”
“That’s not Sam.” Cassandra drew closer to Janet, hugging her side. “She just looks like Sam.”
“No, of course not. My apologies.” Janet shook her head and smiled. “You look exactly like my best friend, except she has short blonde hair.” Janet leaned closer, looking into Magnus’ blue eyes. “I mean, you really are almost identical to her, to an unnerving degree.”
“I’ve been told I have a doppelganger before.” Magnus smiled and held out her hand. “I’m Dr. Helen Magnus, and this is Special Agent Dana Scully.”
“Hello.” Scully shook Janet’s hand in turn.
“Dr. Janet Fraiser,” Janet hesitantly replied. “Special Agent? As in –?”
“FBI.” Scully dutifully held up her badge.
Janet scrutinized the credentials. “Can I help you all with something?” She eyed Magnus, resisting the urge to pull her hair just to reassure herself Magnus wasn’t really Sam wearing a wig. “British tourist?”
“In a manner of speaking.” Magnus knelt down to Cassandra’s level. “And who are you?”
“Cassandra.” Cassandra hugged Janet more tightly. “Can we go home now?”
“Cassie, that’s rude.” Janet stroked her daughter’s hair. “My apologies. We’re tired after the summit, and we still have trick or treating this evening.”
“Ah, yes, Halloween. What’s your costume, Cassandra?” Magnus glanced up at Scully and jerked her head slightly toward Janet.
“May I ask you a couple of questions?” Scully took the cue and smoothly drew Janet a few yards away, where they began to converse in low, urgent tones.
Magnus watched them, as she continued to talk with Cassandra. “So, Cassandra, your costume?”
“I’m going to be Hermione from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s my favorite book. My friend Sam got it for me when she went to visit London to speak about her work as an astronaut.” Cassandra took a step back from Magnus, who was reaching for her backpack.
“I’ve heard of that book.” Magnus smiled. “I’ve met J.K. Rowling, the author. I live near London.”
“Wow!” Cassandra’s face lit up. “She must be the second coolest person on Earth. Sam is the coolest.”
“Is this the same Sam your mother said I resemble?” Magnus gradually eased her hand closer and clutched a backpack strap. “You must really like celery,” she commented.
Cassandra jerked away from Magnus. “Yes, that’s the same Sam.” Her eyes narrowed. “Janet says I shouldn’t let strangers touch me.”
“I apologize, Cassandra, I thought we were becoming friends. I’m afraid I need to ask—” Magnus let go of the pack and held up both hands to indicate she meant no harm. “What do you have in—”
“Cassie!” Janet came running over, with Scully on her heels. “I need to see your backpack, please.”
“No!” Cassie took several steps back.
“Cassie, Agent Scully says there may be something dangerous in there. I need to see it.” Janet closed the distance and grasped the pack’s shoulder straps.
“No, Janet, please!” Cassandra pleaded. “It’s safe, I promise.”
“Cassie.” Janet noticed the celery for the first time and removed it from the Velcro. “Where did you get this?”
“I found it on the mountain. You say not to waste food.” Cassandra crossed her arms over her chest. “I thought maybe we could find some animals or something to feed it to.”
Janet put on her patient face, ignoring the obvious lie for the time being. “I still need to see your pack.”
Cassandra’s eyes filled with tears. “You always say to respect people’s privacy,” she argued.
“I know.” Janet smiled at the clever ruse. “But in this case, your safety trumps your privacy. Just let me see it for a moment, and then if it’s safe, I’ll give it back.”
“No!” Cassandra tried to run, but Janet grabbed hold of her jacket.
“Cassie, enough.” Janet removed the backpack from her struggling daughter and handed it to Scully.
“No, wait!” Cassandra quit fighting her mother. “He’s afraid and he doesn’t know you. Please. Let me open it.”
“He?” Janet stooped down until she was at eye level with Cassandra. “Cassie, what’s in there?”
“His name is Nimitz.” Cassandra reached out for her pack. “I found him on the mountain. He won’t hurt anyone. He’s alone and afraid, and he just wants to go home. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything. I was going to after we call Sam. Sam can help him, I know she can.”
“Sam? How can Sam help him?” Janet looked from Cassandra to the pack and back. “Unless.” She sighed. “He’s not from here, is he?”
“No,” Cassandra answered tearfully. “He’s just like me, except his family is still alive.”
Janet leaned closer and whispered in Cassandra’s ear. “Remember, you’re from Toronto, not Hanka.” Cassandra nodded and Janet stood back up. “Agent Scully, I need you to give the pack back to me.”
“With all due respect, ma’am, this is an FBI matter and you don’t have security clearance.” Scully kept a firm hold on the pack, which had started to move as Nimitz struggled inside to free himself.
“I beg to differ.” Janet reached into her pocket, retrieved her own credentials, and held them out.
Scully stepped closer to read, “Captain Janet Fraiser, Chief Medical Officer, United States Air Force, Cheyenne Mountain Complex.” She stood back up, her expression exasperated. “You didn’t tell us—”
“You didn’t ask,” Janet interrupted. “If what you said is in this pack is true, this creature poses a national health risk. I’m taking possession of it so I can take it back to my lab to run diagnostics. After that, our base commander will decide what to do next. If you want to involve your superiors at the FBI, you’ll have to speak with him.”
“Don’t hurt Nimitz!” Cassandra wailed.
“Honey, I won’t.” Janet draped an arm around Cassandra’s shoulders. “But I do need to give him a checkup before we ask Sam to help him, okay?”
“Can I be with you while you do it?”
“How about if I let you watch through the window in the observation room? Sweetie, we don’t know what diseases he might be carrying. I’m going to need to examine you, too, since you made contact with him. And both of you as well.” She peered sternly at Scully and Magnus.
“But we didn’t—” Magnus began to protest.
“You both touched that backpack, so yes, I do. You can come with me, or we can do this the hard way and I can call the MP’s and my friend Sam’s commanding officer. He’s away at his cabin, fishing. Trust me, I don’t think he’ll be happy to have to come back to the Springs just to settle an argument.”
“We might as well go with her,” Scully pointed out. “It’s the only way we’re going to keep contact with – what’s his name? Nimitz?”
From within the confines of the backpack, Nimitz produced a hopeful chirp.
“Bloody hell,” Magnus replied with resignation. “Very well, let’s get going, shall we?”
Janet peered through the microscope at her fourth blood sample of the afternoon. After running extensive diagnostic panels on Nimitz, Cassandra, and Scully, Magnus’ blood work was all that remained. “Jesus, they even have the same blood type and almost identical DNA. They must be related.” She made a few notes on Magnus’ chart. “Amazing. I can’t wait for Sam to meet her.”
Satisfied her examinations were complete, she stored the charts in a file cabinet and locked it. Nimitz and Cassandra were tucked away in Cassandra’s old room where she’d stayed those first few weeks after they brought her to the base from Hanka, while Magnus and Scully were waiting in the conference room. Janet decided to check on Cassandra and Nimitz before joining the other doctors.
“Cassie,” she called to her daughter and nodded at a guard stationed outside the door, then knocked before entering the room. “Good news, Nimitz is healthy and so are you and the others. I need to go meet with Magnus and Scully, and Sam is on her way. Will you be okay in here a while longer?”
“We’re fine.” Cassandra looked up from a table where she was painting with watercolors. At her side, Nimitz was also busy working on his own masterpiece.
“What have you got here?” Janet looked over her daughter’s shoulder and then across the table at Nimitz’s drawing. To her shock, she recognized a picture of the Stargate, sitting on an elevated base in the middle of a grassy meadow. “Honey, how does he know about the gate? Can he talk?”
“No.” Cassandra paused and scrutinized her new friend’s painting with a matter-of-fact eye. “Well, he doesn’t speak out loud, but he talks to me inside my head.”
“How?” Janet was intrigued. “Can he tell you where he’s from and how he got here?”
“Not exactly.” Cassandra tilted her head to the side and rolled her eyes toward the ceiling in thought. “It’s more that I can feel what he feels. He knows about the gate because he came through it.”
“I don’t see how we would have missed him.” Janet frowned. “Was he hiding?”
“I don’t know, but that’s how he got here.” Cassandra shrugged. “I think he’s trying to show us where he came from, so we can help him get home.”
“Too bad he can’t give us a gate address,” Janet remarked quietly. “Alright. I’m going to go talk with Magnus and Scully. When Sam gets here, I’ll send her in to visit you as soon as we’re finished talking.”
“Great!” Cassandra’s eyes lit up. “She’ll help Nimitz get home.”
“I hope so, sweetie.” Janet kissed Cassandra on the cheek and left the room, but not before one backward glance. Nimitz and Cassandra were head to head, as Nimitz showed Cassandra his painting. As she watched, Cassandra hugged Nimitz to her side, and he wrapped his two front arms around her neck and closed his eyes in contentment. “I hope I can pry them apart if we are able to send him home.”
She closed the door and traversed the corridors to the conference room. “Ladies, I have good news. Everyone is medically cleared, including Nimitz.”
Magnus stood. “What happens next? You mentioned sending Nimitz home. I don’t know where that might be, or how you can find out, since he can’t talk, but I can provide him a safe place to live for as long as he needs it. He’s too intelligent to send to a zoo. Surely you agree with me.”
“The FBI is going to want my report on this.” Scully also stood. “Do we have any idea where he came from?”
“That’s complicated.” Janet motioned for both of them to sit down. “And he’s developed a very strong bond with my daughter.”
“She’s an empath, isn’t she?” Scully asked softly.
“So is Nimitz,” Magnus added. “They’re communicating with each other, aren’t they? That’s how Cassandra knew his name.”
“I –” Janet stopped herself. “I shouldn’t say anything more until Captain Carter arrives.”
“Captain Carter?” Scully asked.
“Captain Samantha Carter,” Sam replied as she entered the room. “So, what do we have?”
“Ah, this must be the infamous Sam.” Magnus stood, but as Sam rounded the table and they came face to face, both women stopped and stared at each other in mutual shock.
“Sam.” Janet smiled at their identical surprised expressions. “I forgot to mention. Meet your British twin, Dr. Helen Magnus, and this is Special Agent Dana Scully.”
“I – pleased to meet you.” Sam held out her hand and Magnus slowly shook it, followed by Scully.
“Amazing,” Magnus commented. “You said we looked alike, but this is simply astonishing.”
“Now you know why I mistook you for Sam when we met.” Janet laughed lightly.
“Except for the hair.” Sam shook her head in wonder. “Don’t take this the wrong way, because it looks great on you, but Janet, can you imagine me with that hair?”
“Before today, no, but I’m sure if you ever decide you want a change, we’ll all get used to it,” Janet answered. “Sam, before we speak with Dr. Magnus and Agent Scully, I think you and I should confer in General Hammond’s office.”
“Alright.” Sam motioned toward a side door. “If you ladies will take a seat at the table, we’ll join you shortly. Janet.” She opened the door and they entered the office. Sam closed the door and leaned against it. “I read your initial report before I drove over. You’re certain he’s from off world?”
“I’m not certain, but Cassie is completely convinced that he somehow snuck past us and came through the gate from another planet.” Janet sat on the edge of Hammond’s desk and crossed her arms.
“Any idea which planet?” Sam also crossed her arms.
“No, although there’s something else that I didn’t put in my report, at least not yet. Cassie and Nimitz are in telepathic communication, or more accurately, empathetic communication. Cassie claims she can feel his emotions, but there’s more to it than that. Sam, she learned his name and says he has a family waiting for him where he came from. That’s more than emotion, that’s coherent thought. In a very short time, my daughter has formed a strong bond with this cat, or whatever he is.”
“What is he, exactly?” Sam had seen the fuzzy photograph of the creature on the news.
“Physiologically, he isn’t exactly like any animal on Earth. He has characteristics that are both feline and primate. If he is from Earth, the scientific community will be jumping on him as some sort of evolutionary missing link. He would be experimented on for years, but it would be cruel. He’s sentient and seems to be quite intelligent. He has a large brain for his size, and functioning thumbs. He painted a picture of the gate.”
“He did what?” Sam’s eyebrows disappeared under her bangs.
“I know. He hasn’t seen the one here, but it looked to me like a gate, only it was set in a meadow of some sort. I’m guessing it may be the gate he came through to get here.” Janet pressed her lips together. “I’m not willing to let the FBI get their hands on him, and until we learn more about this Dr. Magnus, I’m not sure whatever sanctuary she keeps promising would be a good choice, either. That’s assuming we aren’t able to learn where he comes from and return him there.”
“Well, no worries on the FBI. They’re not touching him. Although I did some checking up on both of them before I came in to introduce myself. If Agent Scully’s security clearance were any higher, she’d have to be military or secret service. Whatever she’s doing in Washington, it’s top secret work. And Dr. Magnus, though a bit of a puzzle, has some ties to high places within British intelligence. While I’m not cleared to discuss the Stargate program with them, I think I can talk around the situation reasonably enough, if you’re willing to follow my lead.”
“Lead on, Macduff.”
“Lay on,” Sam corrected her.
“I know, but ‘lead on’ makes more sense. After you.” Janet held the office door open. “Where is Hammond, by the way? Are Colonel O’Neill and the rest of SG-1 going to join us?”
“When I called General Hammond, he was getting ready to leave a Halloween party at his grandkids’ school. He’ll be here soon. Ja—the Colonel didn’t answer the phone at the cabin, but that’s to be expected since he’s probably outside. Teal’c is off world visiting friends, and Daniel is in Mesa Verde for the weekend working on an archeological dig.”
“Bad timing for everyone to be off base, but with Halloween falling on Friday, I suppose it is what it is.” Janet followed Sam back into the conference room.
“Ladies.” Sam took a seat at the head of the table. “The creature now known as Nimitz will be taken into military custody.”
“But –” Scully stood up and placed both hands on the table, prepared to argue.
“Agent Scully, Dr. Fraiser’s preliminary work indicates Nimitz is some unique primate or feline species. We don’t know where he came from, and while he doesn’t appear to pose any immediate health threat, until we learn more about him he’s not leaving this base.”
“And when you are ready to release him, then what?” Magnus asked angrily. “What are you going to do? Cut him open, study him, and then if he survives it, place him in the National Zoo? He’s an extremely intelligent creature. Surely you can see how inhumane that would be.”
“Dr. Magnus.” Sam looked directly at Magnus and blinked a few times. “Sorry. Is looking at me as strange for you as looking at you is for me?”
“Yes, actually.” Magnus’ features softened and her tone grew calm. “So, what are your plans for Nimitz?”
“For now, we’re just going to hold him here for his own safety. We’ll do some research and see if we can determine where he came from.” Sam smiled reassuringly. “I promise, no one is going to cut him open or send him off to perform in the circus. I agree with Dr. Fraiser’s reports. He’s very intelligent and he will be treated as the self-aware being he appears to be.”
“I have resources,” Scully offered. “My partner and I may be able to help in researching his origins.”
“Agent Scully, I appreciate the offer, but I believe in Nimitz’s case, the FBI probably isn’t going to have better resources than we do here at Cheyenne Mountain,” Sam replied. “If we do need your assistance, we’ll reach out.”
Scully drew in a deep breath, then moved away from the table and began to pace back and forth. “I wasn’t going to say anything, but I think everyone here has clearance enough to hear me out. Well, maybe not you, Magnus, but for some unfathomable reason, I trust you. My partner, Mulder and I, we work in a special division of the FBI known as the X-Files. We study paranormal activity.”
“X?” Sam frowned for a moment. “Ah. Extraterrestrial?”
“Actually, the X was coincidentally sequential by assignment, but –” Scully hesitated. “Look, I know it will probably sound crazy to you all, but yes. I’ve seen some pretty unbelievable things. I came onto the project as a skeptic, but I’ve seen enough now, that – Never mind. I’ve probably said too much.”
Sam and Janet exchanged a glance and then immediately looked away from each other.
Sam cleared her throat. “Agent Scully –”
“Just Scully is fine. Oh, hell, you might as well call me Dana at this point. You know way more than I ever intended for you to.”
“Dana – Scully – we’re sitting in a highly secure military compound several stories underground in the middle of an otherwise deserted mountain ridge. There’s very little that surprises me anymore when it comes to government research.” Sam smiled. “I assure you, no one here thinks you’re crazy, or at least neither Janet nor I do.”
“Neither do I,” Magnus interjected. I may not be with any of your government agencies, but I believe I could share stories equal to any madness the three of you have encountered.”
“Alright, then.” Janet shuffled some papers in her report folder. “As long as we’re sharing, let’s talk realistically about what to do next. Scully, you need information for your report. I can provide you with some medical data, though any information we release to you will have to be cleared through General Hammond first.”
“Yes, and we’ll need to discuss what both of you are and are not allowed to share beyond this base. General Hammond may want to meet with your director, Scully,” Sam added. “As for you, Magnus, if we don’t find out where Nimitz is from, Janet or I may want to visit the facility you are offering and see if it would be a good place for him to live.”
“That may be a bit complicated, but I think it can be arranged.” Magnus grew quiet. Her other self, the Helen Magnus who hadn’t traveled back in time, was currently living at the Sanctuary in Old City, quite unaware than in fourteen years she was going to step through a time machine and go back 113 years, where she would have to patiently wait for 2011 to roll back around again. That Helen had never met Scully, Sam, or Janet. “The devil is in the detail,” she muttered so quietly that no one else heard her.
“Hello, ladies, I’m General George Hammond.” Hammond entered the room, and Sam and Janet both stood at attention. “At ease, Captains.”
Suddenly, an alarm sounded and the voice of Sergeant Walter Harriman, the gate command room supervisor, came over the intercom, “Unscheduled off world activation!”
“Excuse me, ladies, but duty calls.” With a shake of his head, Hammond turned on his heels and left the room.
“What’s going on?” Magnus rose to her feet.
Sam sighed. “Well, for one thing, you’re both going to have to fill out a whole lot of paperwork before you leave here. Excuse me. I’ll be back shortly.” Sam followed Hammond. “I hope.”
“What was that announcement?” Scully moved to the large, shielded window at the end of the room. “Off world activation? What does that mean?”
“I don’t have clearance to explain that to you,” Janet replied. “I’m sorry. If you’ll just sit tight for a while, I’m sure General Hammond will return and tell you what he can.”
Scully sat down next to her. “I’ve spent the last three years following my partner around to more places than I care to count, chasing one clue after another, unusual event upon unusual event. Dr. Fraiser, I’m not stupid. I heard the term ‘off world’. I don’t know if you can understand this, but if it means what I think it does, I owe my driven, maddening, single-minded partner one huge apology. I’ve doubted him for so long.”
“I know what you heard,” Janet patiently answered her. “But I’m sorry, I’m not at liberty to explain it to you.”
“I don’t know anything about off world, but if you decide to discuss the underworld, let me know.” Magnus joined them at the window. “Is it possible that we will be allowed to see what’s behind here?”
“Around here, anything is possible.” Janet smiled.
Sam rushed into the gate command room. “What do we have, Walter?”
“Unscheduled off world activation, Captain,” the Sergeant replied.
“Do we know who it is?” Hammond looked over Walter’s shoulder at the gate command console.
“No, sir. I can’t get an ID signature and no teams are scheduled to return at this time.”
“Well, close the iris,” Hammond commanded.
“Yes, sir.” Walter pressed a button and the gate’s large iris closed over the open wormhole.
Just after the iris closed, a fairy-like woman appeared, stepping through the solid metal barrier as if it were air.
“Lya.” Sam smiled in relief. “Sir, it’s Lya from the Nox, remember?”
“I remember,” Hammond replied. “Stand down, gentlemen.” At his command, four armed soldiers lowered automatic rifles aimed at the Stargate, and formed up at the side walls of the gate room.
“Lya, welcome, what brings you here?” Hammond spoke through the intercom microphone, so that Lya could hear him in the gate room.
“General Hammond, Captain Carter.” Lya nodded graciously toward the command room window up above. “I’ve brought someone with me who seeks your assistance. If you will open the iris, I will vouch for her trustworthiness.”
“Very well.” Hammond nodded. “Sergeant, open the iris.”
“Yes sir.” Walter pressed a few buttons and the iris swirled open, revealing the shimmering wormhole. A very tall woman with dark hair, and wearing an unfamiliar pristine military uniform, stepped through the wormhole onto the Stargate ramp.
“Greetings, I’m the Stargate Commander, General Hammond, and this is Captain Samantha Carter. Welcome to Earth. How may we help you?”
“General, Captain.” The woman saluted. “I’m Admiral Honor Harrington of the Grayson Naval Command. Grayson, my planet, is in alliance with the Star Kingdom of Manticore, many light years from your galaxy. I’ve come to you in hope that you can help me find my missing treecat.”
Sam and Hammond looked at each other.
“Open the conference room window, Sergeant.” Hammond turned back to Admiral Harrington, as Walter carried out the command. “Admiral, I have some very good news for you, if you’d care to join us in our conference room. Lya, you’re welcome to join us as well.”
Sam grimaced, picturing the pile of paperwork Scully and Magnus would be required to fill out suddenly doubling in size. “Sir, do you think that’s a good –”
“I know, Captain.” Hammond held up a hand to forestall her. “But they already heard the alarm sound and the off world activation announcement, which has landed them up to their armpits in additional security checks and sworn affidavits before we can let them go. They might as well learn the whole story.”
“Yes, sir.” Sam followed him into the hallway, where they greeted Honor and Lya, and made their way back upstairs to the conference room.
“What on Earth is that?” Scully stared through the conference room window overlooking the now visible Stargate and the well-guarded gate room.
“That, ladies, is the Stargate,” General Hammond replied as he entered the room, followed by Sam, Honor, and Lya. “This is Lya of the Nox, and Admiral Harrington of – where did you say you’re from?”
“Grayson, sir,” Honor replied.
“Yes, the planet Grayson, and it would appear this cat y’all found belongs to her.” Hammond moved to the head of the table. “Why don’t you all take a seat? Except for you, Admiral. Dr. Fraiser, why don’t you and Captain Carter escort Admiral Harrington to Nimitz’s holding room, while I explain the Stargate program to these two ladies?”
“Yes, sir,” Sam and Janet answered.
“Planet Grayson?” Scully asked in shock.
“He did say that, yes,” Magnus answered in a surprisingly calm tone.
“You have Nimitz?” Honor’s stoic expression gave way to a brilliant, relieved smile.
“I believe we do,” Hammond replied.
“Oh, thank goodness!”
“Admiral, if you’ll follow me.” Janet led Honor and Sam out of the room.
“Agent Scully, Dr. Magnus, Lya” Hammond addressed his three remaining guests. “Lya, welcome back. As for you other two ladies, welcome to Stargate Command, the United States Government’s most top secret military research facility. You are about to learn some amazing things, none of which you are to share with anyone once you leave this facility. We will be procuring your sworn testimony to that end before you will be allowed to leave today. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir,” Scully and Magnus responded in unison.
Before the guard opened the door, Honor peered through the window. At the sight of Nimitz, an incredulous smile graced her features. “Who is that girl he’s with?”
“My daughter, Cassandra,” Janet answered. “She found him this morning when we took a trip to the top of our tallest local mountain, Pike’s Peak.”
Honor laughed. “I grew up in the mountainous region of the planet Sphinx. Nimitz has been my constant companion since I was eleven Earth years old. He takes naturally to high places.”
“Earth years?” Sam asked in surprise. “You knew of Earth before meeting Lya?”
“Oh, yes,” Honor replied. “My people originated from Earth. Let me collect Nimitz, and I’ll share with you what I’m able to. We have much to learn from one another.”
The guard opened the door.
“Nimitz?” Honor stepped into the room. At the sound of her voice, Nimitz began chirping in delight and ran toward, her, jumping into her arms and hugging her with all four front arms. “You naughty boy. Do you have any idea what I’ve been through to find you?”
Nimitz purred and peered up at her apologetically, stroking her hair and her face in relieved contentment. Slowly, Cassandra got up from the table and walked over to Honor. “He’s been very scared and lonely without you.”
“Until he met you,” Honor corrected her with a smile.
“But you’re his family.” Cassandra reached up and touched Nimitz’s arm.
“That’s true. When a treecat bonds with a human, it’s a lifelong relationship.” Honor knelt down to Cassandra’s level. “But Nimitz has bonded with you in my absence. I can feel it. It’s very rare for a treecat to bond with more than one person. That makes you a part of his family now, and mine as well.”
“So you and I are like sisters?” Cassandra smiled in delight.
“Yes, exactly like sisters.” Honor placed a hand on top of Cassandra’s head.
“Cool!” Cassandra’s smile grew bigger. “Does this mean I can visit you and Nimitz sometimes?”
Honor’s expression became sober. “I’m afraid that may be complicated. There are some things I need to share with your mother and Captain Carter. Should we return to the conference room? I assume your General Hammond is going to want to hear what I have to say.”
“Can I come, too?” Cassandra begged. “Please?”
Honor looked to Janet in question.
“Yes.” She took Cassandra’s hand as she spoke to Honor. “She’s not from Earth, either. Unless we delve into anything frightening it will be okay for her to hear your story.” She leaned closer to Honor. “It may make it easier for her to say goodbye to Nimitz, if she understands where he’s going.”
“Very well.” Honor hoisted Nimitz onto her shoulder. “Lead on, Macduff.”
Sam and Janet looked at each other, and just kept walking.
“Wait, so you’re telling me we have the means to travel not just to other planets, but other galaxies? Without spaceships? And that many different alien races exist?” Scully glanced at Lya. “No offense intended.”
“None taken,” Lya replied patiently. The humans of Earth were such excitable people.
“And I can’t tell anyone about this, not even my partner, Mulder, who has spent most of his life in pursuit of proof of alien life forms.” Scully paced back and forth in a tizzy.
“That is exactly what I’m telling you, Agent Scully. Not a word of what I’ve shared with you today is to be shared with anyone outside this facility.” Hammond glared at her. “You will swear to it, sign your name on the dotted line, and if we ever hear wind of Stargate gossip around Quantico, I’ll be personally knocking on your door, and don’t think I won’t find you.”
“Poor Mulder.” Scully sat down, her voice very sad.
“Dr. Magnus, you haven’t had much to say.” Hammond motioned for her to join them at the table.
“Nothing you’ve said today is surprising to me,” Magnus responded. Her eyes swept the gate room below, before she moved back to the table.
“You’re from the future,” Lya interjected.
“So am I.” Honor informed them, as she entered the room with Nimitz still sitting on her shoulder.
“How did you know that?” Magnus turned to Lya.
“I can sense it,” Lya replied. “It’s difficult to explain.”
“But time travel isn’t possible.” Scully looked from Magnus to Lya and back.
“Actually, it is,” Sam and Magnus answered at the same time.
Janet looked at Sam and then Magnus. “Are you sure you two aren’t twins separated at birth?”
“You aren’t related?” Honor asked them incredulously.
“No,” Sam and Magnus firmly replied, then looked at each other.
“I need a drink,” they both said.
“Stop it,” they both answered in frustration.
“Oh, bloody hell.” Magnus sat down.
“You can say that again.” Sam took the seat across the table from her and they stared at one another in uneasy silence.
Scully sat back in her chair with a very faraway look in her eyes. Finally, she turned to General Hammond. “You don’t have to worry about me sharing any of this with my partner. If I did, he’d probably kill himself for having missed all of it.”
“Sam.” Cassandra crawled into Sam’s lap, and Honor sat down next to them. “Where is Nimitz going? Will I ever get to see him again?”
Honor nudged Nimitz, who climbed into Cassandra’s lap.
“Oof.” Sam drew in a sharp breath. “Chair’s getting a little crowded.” She smiled at Cassandra. “But it’s okay. Just be careful with those claws, buddy,” she cautioned Nimitz.
Nimitz looked at her and rolled his eyes before releasing an indignant chirp.
Honor laughed, then quickly grew serious. “General, I spoke at length with Lya before she brought me here, enough to know that you’re aware of the advanced powers the Nox possess.”
Hammond nodded, and she continued. “I come to you from two thousand Earth years in the future.”
“Two –” Hammond coughed. “Did you say two THOUSAND years?”
“Yes.” Honor waited for him to compose himself.
“Our ways must seem primitive to you,” Hammond finally commented.
“Yes, and no.” Honor got up and walked over to the window. “We don’t have anything like this on my planet. I wasn’t even aware these gates existed until I was asked to investigate a piracy ring in the nearby Silesian Confederacy. We discovered a tiny planet on the outskirts of their territory. At first we thought it to be uninhabited, but once we began exploring, we discovered an abandoned outpost and a gate like this one. One of the scientists on our exploration team had heard of these gates, and knew how they work, so we decided to hide and wait to see if the pirates were using the gate for transport. We soon learned they were.”
“So Nimitz was captured by pirates?” Sam asked.
“I don’t think so,” Honor replied. “But I do think he caught a ride with them. A pirate ship landed on the planet and they unloaded their cargo. We know some of the crates were food, because we saw open boxes of fruit. I’m guessing there was celery involved.” She tweaked Nimitz’s tail, and he looked at her with an abashed expression. “Uh-huh, busted.”
“But how did he get to Earth through our gate?” Sam asked. “As you can see, this place is heavily guarded. If any pirates had tried to come though our gate, we would know about it. Not to mention the time difference.”
“We don’t think it was a direct transfer,” Lya jumped in. “Once Honor realized Nimitz was missing, her scientist friend deduced it was possible he had gone through the gate. He contacted some of my people in their time, and after some analysis, they were able to trace a succession of dialed gates that finally led to Earth in this time.”
“But how did Nimitz get to 1997? Or Honor, for that matter?” Sam pressed her.
“Nimitz traveled from the Silesian Confederacy to a nearby galaxy.” Lya answered. “We think he must have been playing in one of the crates when the pirates transferred it through the gate. From there, and from what we were able to trace, he was sent through another gate, possibly with cargo and we think maybe with some of the pirates as well, but a nearby star flared and intersected with the wormhole, and it bent the space/time continuum. It sent them back to this time, but to another planet. It appears from there he may have hidden among some relics brought back here by one of your teams.”
“And from there he found his way off base,” Sam finished for her. “Unbelievable. Maybe we should get Nimitz his own SG uniform.”
“Breep?” Nimitz looked up at her and reached out for her dog tags.
“We can get you some of those, too, but you can’t have mine.” Sam gently pried his fingers from the tags.
“Captain, we need to find a way to start scanning for hidden life forms when the teams return to Earth.” Hammond declared.
“Yes, sir,” Sam replied. “I’ll get on that.” She turned to Honor. “But how were you able to travel to exactly this place and time?”
“My people possess knowledge that allows them to travel through time.” Lya held up a hand. “And before you ask, no, we won’t share. Not with you, and not even with Honor’s people. Not until the Tau’ri can be trusted with this knowledge, and we are assured you will not use it for violent means. Two thousand years later, and your people are still trying to blow one another from the skies.” She admonished both Hammond and Honor.
“We helped Honor because our people in her time told us of this bond some humans share with treecats, and we realized it would be unbearable for her and Nimitz to be separated forever. This type of bond is unknown to us, and is something we would like to study. Honor has agreed to allow it in exchange for our help in finding Nimitz.”
“So I’ll never see Nimitz again, will I?” Cassandra burrowed her face into Sam’s shoulder, and Nimitz stroked her hair in comfort.
“Probably not, sweetie.” Janet got up and moved to the chair on the other side of Sam from Honor. “I’m sorry. I know it hurts, but I thought you would want to know all about Nimitz and where he comes from, before he has to leave.”
“Which won’t be until tomorrow evening,” Lya informed them. “Unless Dr. Magnus has an alternate method of time travel that can be employed any time at will.”
“Sadly, my method is no longer available to me,” Magnus answered. “I had to travel back one hundred thirteen years to prevent a great catastrophe, and I’ve been waiting ever since to get back to 2011, the year I traveled from. I can’t risk running into myself before then, so I’ve been staying on this side of the planet. When we reach the day I went back in time, I’ll be able to return to Old City and take up where I left off.”
“Wait. That would make you over a hundred years old.” Scully stared at her in disbelief.
“Currently two hundred sixty years old, to be exact.” Magnus looked down for a moment and then back up. “Please don’t ask. I am human. It’s complicated, and a very long story best saved for another day.”
“Very well then,” Lya replied, unfazed at Magnus’ age or her story. “Tomorrow it is, for Honor and Nimitz. Our technology is dependent upon certain energy patterns from nearby stars. Your sun is the nearest star. We’ve calculated that there will be optimum energy to return Honor and Nimitz to their planet and time approximately twenty-four hours from now.”
“Can Honor and Nimitz go trick or treating with us? And Sam, too? Please?” Cassandra turned to Janet with irresistible, imploring eyes.
“I don’t know what that is, but I’d be happy to allow Nimitz and Cassandra as much time together as possible, before we must go.” Honor lifted the cat from Cassandra’s lap, and returned him to her shoulder.
“It’s part of our Halloween holiday, which is today. The children in our neighborhood all dress in costumes and go from door to door collecting candy and other treats. If you’d like to go, we’d be happy to have you join us.” Janet took Cassandra from Sam, and transferred her to her own lap. “You too, Sam.”
Magnus leaned over and nudged Scully. “When do you go back to Washington?”
“I haven’t booked a flight yet, but not tonight. I need to write my preliminary report and then clear it with General Hammond tomorrow, right General?”
“Yes.” Hammond stood. “Ladies, I have some grandchildren to take trick or treating. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have someone come and walk you two through your paperwork, and get your sworn statements. I’ll have someone contact you, Scully, to setup a meeting time with me tomorrow.”
“General, I’m going to return to my people for tonight.” Lya got up to follow him. “My son is anxious to celebrate the annual harvest festival this evening on our planet. I’ll return tomorrow in time to assist Admiral Harrington and Nimitz with their journey home.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Scully replied. “So, Magnus, if I promise not to bug you about your age, and we survive paperwork hell, would you care to join me for a drink afterward?”
“Only if we go to dinner after that.” Magnus jotted down her local phone number on a card, really missing her 2011 smart phone. “I’m at the Broadmoor Hotel, and they have some excellent restaurants on property. What do you say, drinks first at the piano bar and then dinner somewhere with a fireplace?”
“Count on it.” Scully took the card from her and tucked it into her blazer’s pocket.
“Well.” Janet stood. “We’ll leave you two to your paperwork, and meet back here tomorrow to see Honor and Nimitz off. Until tomorrow, Doctor.” She nodded at Magnus and then at Scully. “And Doctor.”
“Doctor,” Magnus and Scully replied.
Sam rolled her eyes, and then blushed, as she made eye contact with Honor, who chuckled, having caught her in the act. Janet, Sam, Honor, Nimitz, and Cassandra left the room shortly after Lya and General Hammond.
In the hallway, Janet bumped hips with Sam. “I still can’t get over how much you and Magnus resemble each other. Now that we know how old she is, are you certain some relative of yours didn’t have a fling with –”
“I’d rather not discuss it, it’s disturbing.” Sam cut her off and glared at her.
“Okay, but even your DNA is nearly identical, I’m just saying.”
“Let’s do the time warp again,” Janet quipped.
“I’m going to have to hurt you,” Sam growled.
“Humans in 1997 are very strange,” Honor whispered to Nimitz.
Cassandra giggled and took Honor’s hand, as they entered the elevator for the long ride to the surface.
“How’s your wine?” Magnus swirled her own glass and inhaled its bouquet, then took a sip. “Ah, I may be British, but I do love your California wines.”
“Nice choice,” Scully complimented her, after taking a sip of the Laguna Ranch Chardonnay Magnus had selected from the Broadmoor Hotel’s Penrose Room menu. “It went well with the swordfish. Although after three glasses plus the Pimms Cup at the Golden Bee earlier, I’m not sure I can still feel my tongue.”
Magnus’ eyes narrowed in pleasant thought, her very blue irises reflecting the glow from the nearby fireplace. With a coy smile, she raised her glass and tilted it toward Scully. “To aliens, time travel, and surprisingly pleasant partnerships. And to never having to fill out that much paperwork again.”
“Hear, hear.” Scully clinked her glass against Magnus’. “It’s going to be so hard to keep this secret from Mulder.”
“You seem quite fond of him,” Magnus commented. “Is there more to it than the professional relationship?”
“No. Yes.” Scully released a frustrated breath. “I don’t know. I mean, we’ve never—” She trailed off, assuming Magnus could fill in the blank. “At first I couldn’t stand him. Then he grew on me. Now I alternate between feeling protective of him, and wanting to kill him. What does that make him, my brother?” She laughed. “I supposed there could be something more there someday, but for now, no. Our lives and work are much too complicated as it is.”
“I can certainly understand that.” Magnus finished her wine and lifted the bottle from the ice bucket. It was their second bottle, and it was nearly empty. “More?” She offered to replenish Scully’s glass. “There’s only a little left.”
“Oh, why not.” Scully held out her glass and watched as the pale liquid splashed against the fine crystal.
“So are you seeing anyone else?” Magnus casually asked, as she placed the now-empty bottle aside.
“No.” Scully held her wine glass near her own nose, her eyes nearly crossing as she gazed into its depths. “My dates usually end up running away because they can’t handle the secrecy of my work. That’s if they’re lucky. A few have ended up dead.”
“I can relate to that as well,” Magnus commiserated. “Men, or women?” She watched Scully carefully to gage her reaction to the question.
Scully looked up in surprised, sudden, clarity.
“Or both?” Magnus smiled.
“I – um –” Scully laughed nervously. “It’s been since medical school, but you could say I’ve played on both sides of the net.”
“Volley, or baseline?” Magnus picked up on the metaphor.
“Hmmmm.” Scully tilted her head and gazed directly into Magnus’ eyes. “That depends on my partner’s playing style, but I can hold my own on both ends of the court. How about you?”
“Dana, I’m two hundred sixty years old.” Magnus flashed a cheeky grin. “I’ve played on many courts. You know.” She leaned closer. “I have a very nice suite in this hotel, and it’s cold outside. Why don’t you stay with me tonight?”
“I have a room across town,” Scully replied.
“I’m sorry, from the conversation I thought you – I apologize if I presumed –”
“Let me finish.” Scully reached over and lightly touched Magnus’ hand. “I have a room across town, but I don’t believe the view there is nearly as beautiful as the view here. Are you challenging me to a game, Helen?”
Magnus leaned across the table and kissed her gently on the lips, deepening the contact briefly before she pulled away. “I’d love to play with you, but it wouldn’t be a game.”
“Mmm.” Scully poked just the tip of her tongue out and ran it across her own upper lip. “I’m starting to feel my tongue again, among other things.”
“It felt pretty good to me.” Magnus winked at her. “Let’s go upstairs and order room service for dessert.”
“Helen.” Scully reached over and brushed her thumb against Helen’s lower lip. “You are dessert. I’ll provide the room service.”
“A double volley,” Magnus teased. “Let’s go play.”
Sam exited the kitchen carrying a tray that held three frosted mugs of beer. “Honor, do they have alcoholic beverages two thousand years from now?”
“Oh, yes.” Honor accepted the mug that Sam offered her. “There’s a very nice brewery, the Tillman Brewery, on my home planet of Sphinx.”
“I thought you said you were from Grayson.” Janet took a sip from her own mug.
“I live on Grayson now, but I was born and raised on Sphinx.” Honor waxed solemn. “I’ve not been on Grayson very long. It was a rough few years before that, and it’s been a bit lonely since the move. Nimitz went a long way in helping me maintain my sanity. I’m so glad you found him.”
“New post assignment?” Sam asked. “If your military is anything like ours, you can see a dozen homes in as many years.”
“Something like that.” Honor tasted the beer. “That’s very good, thank you.”
“Glad you like it.” Sam sat down on a chair across from the couch Honor and Janet shared. “I wish we had more time with you. I’d love to hear more about your world, but it sounds like Lya’s time travel system won’t allow for it.”
“Well.” Honor sat back and draped an arm across the top of the couch. “It’s unfortunate, but I need to get home. We’re taking some hard hits from those pirates I mentioned, and the entire galaxy where I live is nearly always on the brink of war. Peacetime is fragile, when we’re lucky enough to get it.”
“It sounds like Lya was right. I’m sad to hear that two thousand years from now we’ll still be flying around in war ships.” Janet leaned back and realized she felt Honor’s arm against her shoulders. A glance to the side revealed no discomfort on Honor’s part, so Janet relaxed and settled further back into the comfortable cushion. “Wow.” She rubbed her own neck. “I didn’t realize how tired I was until I sat down.”
“Long day?” Honor asked.
“Yes. Between Pike’s Peak, all the medical examinations this afternoon, and Halloween, I’m exhausted. But it was worth it. Cassie was so excited to go trick or treating in that Hermione costume we put together.” Janet felt strong fingers begin to knead her shoulder muscles. “God, that feels good.” She allowed her head to drop forward, enjoying the impromptu massage. “Too bad you live so far away, I could get used to this after chasing my daughter around all day.”
“She and Nimitz sure did have a good time tonight, and she was very cute in her costume. I may have to implement this ancient trick or treating tradition on Grayson when I return.” Honor laughed. “Although as you well know by now, Nimitz prefers celery to sugar.”
“I wish Cassie did.” Janet lifted her head and looked toward the hallway that led to Sam’s bedroom, where Cassie had dumped her entire bag of candy out across the comforter so she and Nimitz could go through it. “Are they still sorting candy in there? They’re awfully quiet.”
“I’ll go check on them.” Sam excused herself, leaving Honor and Janet alone.
“Thank you for offering your guest room to me tonight.” Honor finished the brief shoulder massage and patted Janet’s back. “I hadn’t thought much past finding Nimitz, and never expected to find him so quickly. I hope you aren’t going to too much trouble for me.”
“It’s no trouble at all.” Janet waved her hand in dismissal. “Besides, I doubt you have credit cards or U.S. currency with you. Hotels frown on non-paying guests.”
“Ah, that would be correct.” Honor laughed lightly. “I wish there were some way I could compensate you for your hospitality.”
“That shoulder massage was payment enough.” Janet laughed. “That felt wonderful.”
“You liked that?” Honor reached up and began kneading Janet’s neck muscles. “How about that?”
“Wow, you’re strong.” Janet closed her eyes and surrendered to the healing touch. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a good massage.”
“You mean you don’t have men beating your door down, ready to fulfill your every desire?” Honor teased. “Pretty as you are, I find that difficult to believe.”
“Thank you, that’s sweet. No. I’m divorced.” Janet pushed her hair aside to give Honor better access. “It’s been a while. My husband wasn’t keen on my joining the Air Force, but it was the best way for me to pay off my student loans and begin my medical career. But it was more than that. I was raised with this sense of duty to country. It’s something I assumed I’d do after I finished medical school, even if I do eventually go into private practice.”
“So you divorced because he didn’t want you to join the military?” Honor shifted so she could use both hands. “Here.” She curled her hand around Janet’s hip, giving her a little nudge. “Turn your back to me so I can get in between your shoulder blades.”
Janet complied and closed her eyes, as her stomach fluttered. Honor’s touch was stirring feelings beyond relaxed muscles. “Not exactly. While the military did cause some tension between us, the main reason we divorced is because I realized I was attracted to women rather than men. Crazy, huh? I joined the military because I wanted to serve my country, but the military would give me a dishonorable discharge if they knew about my sexual orientation.”
“I don’t understand.” Honor paused. “Can’t you marry whomever you want? In my time, we marry men, women, or both.”
“Not in 1997,” Janet replied. “In 1997, I could lose my job if I were to get into a relationship with another woman.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Honor commented. “You’re a beautiful, intelligent woman, Janet, and it’s obvious you give a lot of yourself to the people you care about, and to your career. You should be allowed to love whomever you choose. Earlier today, when I saw the way you were bantering with Sam, I thought maybe the two of you were involved.”
Janet laughed. “Really?” She thought about that. “It’s true, Sam is very attractive, and one of the most kind-hearted people I know. Anyone would be lucky to be with her. Of course I’ve thought about it. She’s been like a second mother to Cassie. I think, maybe if we were both civilians, I might see her differently. I do love her, but it’s more like a sister. Besides, she has feelings for Colonel O’Neill. She’s never said as much, but you’d have to be blind to not notice the chemistry between them. Not that they can do anything about it.”
“Why?” Honor’s hands drifted to Janet’s lower back. “More of your military’s insane rules?”
“Yes.” Janet leaned forward, bracing her forearms on her thighs and trembling inside, hoping it wasn’t visible. As Honor worked on the muscles around her lumbar spine, occasionally her hands brushed against Janet’s butt cheeks. “He’s her commanding officer. If they were to act on whatever attraction they have to one another, they would be in almost as much trouble as I would if I were to become involved with a woman.”
“I think I’m glad I live in my time,” Honor replied. “No offense intended.”
“None taken.” Janet released a long, silently shaky breath. “How about you? Are you involved with anyone?”
“No.” Honor dug into the muscles on each side of Janet’s spine with her thumbs and began working her way back up. “My lover was killed a while back. I mourned him for a long time. I still mourn, if I’m honest with myself. I’m just now starting to feel normal again, whatever normal is.”
“I’m sorry,” Janet looked over her shoulder at Honor, her heart full of sympathy. “No wonder you draw such comfort from Nimitz.”
“Nimitz has been my rock.” Honor finished the deep tissue work and began lightly stroking her neck and shoulders with her fingertips. Janet knew there was no hiding the resulting goose bumps. Honor leaned closer as she talked, and Janet could feel her warm breath caressing her skin.
“My life is very complex right now,” Honor continued. “There’s not much time or energy left at the end of the day for me to give to anyone else, even if I were involved with someone. I miss it though, especially at night when I’m alone and finally have time to think. It’s nice to hold someone, to share yourself with them, you know? But I’ve never been one to have brief affairs. Never even thought about having one. Until –” Honor sighed heavily and rested her hands on Janet’s shoulders.
“Until?” Janet looked over her shoulder again.
“Never mind.” Honor looked down, brushing a thumb against the soft skin at the base of Janet’s neck.
Janet reached up and took both of Honor’s arms, and pulled them around herself. She leaned back against the warm body behind her and tilted her head up, getting lost in Honor’s beautiful brown eyes. “Until now?”
“Yes.” Honor nodded, her eyes wistful. “Until now.” She ducked her head and they shared a tentative kiss. She smiled against Janet’s lips as they separated. “That was nice.”
“It was.” Janet mirrored her smile and quickly pecked her lips again. “But I hear Sam coming back.” She eased away from Honor and they scooted a few inches apart, just as Sam rounded the corner.
“Sorry I took so long,” Sam apologized.
“No worries,” Janet hastily assured her.
“Right, we were fine.” Honor nodded her head in vigorous agreement.
Sam frowned and looked from Janet to Honor and back again. Then a little knowing grin tugged at her lips. “Cassie had to show me all her candy, and then she asked me to tell her a story. By the time I finished, she and Nimitz were curled up asleep.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I should probably get her up and go home. It’s getting late.” Janet started to stand up.
“It’s okay.” Sam reached out and touched her leg, stopping her. “I don’t mind babysitting if you want to leave her here tonight. She’s sleeping so soundly, I kind of hate for you to wake her up.”
“But she’s taken over your bed,” Janet protested.
“I’ll sleep in the guest bedroom across the hall. I can leave both doors open and turn on the night light in the hallway in case she wakes up. She’s stayed over before. We’ll be fine.”
“Do you mind if Nimitz stays, too?” Honor asked. “I promised Cassandra she could spend as much time with him as she wants to before we leave. I know he is enjoying her company as well. Although he’s older than me, there is much of a playful child in Nimitz. She’s been good for him. If she lived in my galaxy, she would probably be adopted by a treecat of her own.”
“No, of course not. Nimitz can stay. You two go on. I imagine you’re tired after all the travel today, and I know Janet and Cassie had a full day as well.” Sam stood. “In fact, call me in the morning when you’re up, and I’ll bring them over. That way you don’t have to come back over here before you go to Cheyenne Mountain.”
“If you’re sure.” Janet stood and Honor followed her lead.
“I’m sure.” Sam made a shooing motion. “Go. I know you love Cassie, but enjoy some adult time away from your daughter.”
“Alright.” Janet eyed Sam curiously as Honor made her way to the front door.
Sam pulled on Janet’s sleeve to stop her, and whispered in her ear. “Before you turn in, you may want to put Honor’s blouse in the washer to soak.”
“Why?” Janet frowned.
“To get your makeup off her collar.” Sam grinned.
Janet blushed, and glanced toward the door. Honor was already outside, standing at the edge of the porch. “Right, thanks.”
“Janet, it’s alright. You deserve some happiness, and you know I’d never say anything to anyone. Go on and don’t worry. Call me when you’re ready for me to come over in the morning.” She leaned in closer. “Just don’t call too early. Sleep in while you have the opportunity.”
“Sam!” Janet’s voice was flustered, but she smiled warmly and touched Sam’s arm. “Thanks. I owe you.”
“Yes, you do,” Sam teased, as she gave Janet a little push out the door and closed it behind them.
No sooner had she collected the beer mugs and rinsed them in the sink, when she heard a knock at the door. “Oh, good grief, Janet –” she flung the door open in exasperation. “I said, go on home. We’ll be fine. Oh –” Her caller’s true identity registered. “Colonel?”
“Trick or treat?” Jack O’Neill held up a six-pack of beer and a pizza box.
“Sir, what are you doing here?” Sam placed her hands on her hips.
“Well,” he drawled. “The fish weren’t biting, and it looked like it might snow, and I didn’t want to get stuck at the cabin, so, I thought maybe we could, you know, hang out.” He peered past her hopefully. “Can I come in?”
“Oh, sure.” Sam stepped aside and gestured toward the living room. “Come on in, have a seat.”
“Are you alone?” Jack looked around. “I thought I saw a car leaving as I drove up.”
“Not entirely. Cassie’s asleep in my bedroom with Nimitz. She and Janet and I, and Honor, a woman you’ll probably meet tomorrow, went trick or treating earlier this evening. Cassie fell asleep after we came back here, so I told Janet I’d keep her tonight.”
“Oh,” Jack responded in a bewildered tone, as he sat down on the couch. “Who’s Nimitz? Is that what she named that dog I gave her?”
“No, sir.” Sam joined him and lifted a slice of pepperoni pizza from the box after he opened it. “Nimitz is a treecat who arrived here through the gate from a galaxy several light years away.” She paused to take a bite, chew, and swallow. “And about two thousand years in the future. Honor is his person. She’s also from two thousand years in the future.”
“Oh. Is that all?” Jack popped the tops off two beer bottles, then handed one to Sam. “Typical day at the office, Carter?”
“You could say that, sir.” Sam took a sip of her beer.
“Well,” Jack sat back and stretched an arm across the top of the couch, then gave the cushion a firm pat. “Why don’t you come over here and tell me all about it.”
“Sir?” Sam nearly choked on a bite of pizza.
“Relax, Carter.” Jack patted her on the back and smiled, his eyes twinkling. “We have pizza and beer. We’re hanging out. That’s what normal people do on Friday night, right?”
“Right.” Sam shook her head in consternation and slowly leaned back. After a few quiet minutes in which they ate their pizza and drank their beer, Sam began to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Jack asked, but she only laughed harder. “Come on, Carter, what?” He bumped his leg against hers. “Do I have pizza sauce on my chin or something?” He wiped his hand across his face.
“No. Sorry, sir.” Sam took a deep breath and felt the giggles subside. “I was just wondering if you like shoulder massages.”
Jack tilted his head completely to the side, and simply stared at her in confused silence. Finally, he picked up his beer. “You know.” He waved his other hand in a dismissive gesture. “We can talk about treecats and people from the future some other time. They say it’s not healthy to take work home with you.” He drained the bottle and placed it on the coffee table. “To answer your question, Carter, it’s been so long since I’ve had one, I honestly don’t remember.” He grinned and eased closer to her. “But I’d sure like to be reminded sometime.”
Sam smiled and gulped, then chugged her own beer. Finally, she allowed herself to relax, and snuggled up against him. After all, there was a ten-year-old chaperone and a telepathic cat just down the hallway. No matter what unspoken feelings lay between them, neither of them would ever do anything they wouldn’t want Cassie to see. Not to mention those pesky Air Force regulations.
“There, see. Just hanging out.” Jack’s arm came to rest casually around her shoulders, and he rubbed her arm reassuringly.
“This is nice.” Sam closed her eyes in contentment and laid her head on his shoulder. She felt a kiss to her forehead.
Jack rested his cheek against the top of her head and listened for a long time, until he heard her breathing slow, and he knew she was asleep. He kissed her forehead again and closed his own eyes. “Yeah, it really is,” he whispered.
The candles scattered around the bedroom were burned nearly down, their remaining flames casting flickering shadows across two entwined forms. The room was warm from their body heat, the scent of their passion surrounding them, mingling with the honeysuckle aroma of the candles. They were mostly exposed to the air, with only a light sheet draped across their tangled legs.
They lay on their sides, and Janet pressed her naked body tightly against the bare skin of Honor’s back. She kissed a broad shoulder and wrapped her arm around Honor’s waist, cupping a firm breast in her hand. Honor lifted her hand and kissed the inside of her palm, then placed it back against herself, covering Janet’s hand with her own.
Janet had no inclination to roll over and check the clock on the night stand behind her, and had no idea what time it was, only that they had made love for what seemed hours. She was tired, in a good way, and completely sated, and she knew she was going to be sore all over come the morning. It was so worth it.
She’d been thoroughly loved, up, down, and sideways, and had returned the favor several times over. Honor had been a surprisingly tender, soulful lover, sharing not only her body, but also her emotions with Janet, her dark, passionate eyes gazing into Janet’s as her desire rose and peaked. She’d been equally present and attentive on the giving end, whispering comforting endearments and encouragement, in her ardent quest to drive Janet’s own desire to dizzying, satisfying heights.
Janet kissed Honor’s shoulder again and felt Honor release a long, slow breath. Then she heard a sniffle. “Are you alright?”
“Yes.” Honor closed her hand around Janet’s until it was in a fist, and pressed it between her own breasts. “Just processing things I haven’t felt in a while.”
“Are you thinking about him?” Janet asked gently. “It’s alright if you are. I won’t be offended.”
“I did a little, at first,” Honor admitted. “This was the first time, since –”
“I thought it might be.” Janet rubbed her cheek against Honor’s smooth back.
“No, it’s not so much him.” Honor rolled onto her back and circled Janet with one arm, pulling her close against her side. She kissed the top of Janet’s head and lightly brushed the backs of her knuckles against the side of an exposed breast. “I was just thinking how much I’ve missed feeling this closeness. It was nice.”
“It was.” Janet smiled, then tilted her head up and they shared an undemanding, sweet kiss.
“It wasn’t just the physical comfort of – the sex.” Honor frowned and took a deep breath, then slowly released it. “It was being with you. Nice being with you, Janet. I wish –” She shook her head.
“I do, too,” Janet knew what they were both thinking. “Damn the two thousand years.”
“And the two thousand pages of your military’s rules?” Honor’s tone lightened.
Janet laughed. “Yes, damn those, too.” She rose up and braced her weight on her forearm, so she could look into Honor’s eyes. “I knew when we started flirting with each other what this would be if we acted on it. One night.”
“One incredible night,” Honor echoed. “I expected it to be fun, and warm. What I didn’t expect was to feel the things I’m feeling.”
“Don’t.” Janet leaned down and kissed her to silence her. “It’s too hard. In the worlds we live in, sometimes one night can be a lifetime. I think – we just have to treasure what we had – what we have until morning. After that, we hold onto the memories.” She lay back down, resting her head on Honor’s chest.
“Wise words from a wise and amazing woman.” Honor smiled and then suddenly hefted herself up, until she was hovering above Janet. She stroked Janet’s face and then her hair, and then kissed her with utter gentleness. “I think I’d like to make a few more memories with you before sunrise.”
Janet laughed and pulled Honor to her, as their passion rose again, their souls merging as they filled one another to the brim with memories of comfort and love.
Helen tended the fire in the fireplace, then joined Dana on the hotel suite terrace. “Would you like some more wine? Or maybe cognac?”
“Cognac would be nice.” Dana turned and smiled.
“Two cognacs, coming up.” Helen went back inside and returned shortly with two snifters of dark amber liquid.
“Thank you.” Dana accepted her drink and took a sip. She looked up at the twinkling stars overhead, and the moonlight reflecting off the snowcapped mountains in the distance. Off to the north, clouds were building up with promise of snow. “This is a gorgeous hotel. The view is astounding.”
“I do like my creature comforts,” Helen readily admitted. “My life doesn’t always afford this kind of luxury, so I try to take advantage of it when I have the opportunity.”
Dana laughed. “It makes me want to go back to the private sector. The FBI’s idea of ideal accommodations often involves a stakeout at a Motel 6.” She took another sip. “That’s smooth. Nice warm-up. I can feel that cold front blowing in already. I think it’s dropped ten degrees in the past hour.”
Helen placed her near-empty goblet on a table and moved closer, then wrapped her arms around Dana’s waist from behind. She felt a tremor run through the slight frame. “Cold?” She hugged her more tightly.
“No.” Dana shook her head a little and gulped down the rest of her drink.
“Nervous?” Helen lifted the hair from Dana’s neck and kissed her exposed skin once, then again.
“A little,” Dana confessed, and closed her eyes as another pleasant shiver ran through her body. “That feels good.” She felt the snifter removed from her hand and the brief loss of the warm contact as Helen set it aside. Then another trail of kisses behind her ear, and a tug as Helen pulled her sweater’s neck opening aside to sample her shoulder.
“You still want to play?” Helen nipped a tiny fold of skin between her teeth and released it. “The suite has two bedrooms if you’ve changed your mind.”
In answer, Dana took Helen’s hands and guided them under the bottom edge of her sweater, then gave them a little push upward. Helen’s palms glided up her stomach and cupped her breasts over her bra. “I do.” Dana tilted her head over her shoulder and they shared a long, promising kiss. “Still want to play. Very much.”
“I think –” Helen worked the front clasp of the bra open and brushed her fingertips lightly over the soft curves beneath it. She felt the sharp intake of breath as Dana’s hands flew up, encouraging her. “We should take this inside to that big poster bed across from the fireplace.”
They moved in a slow, circling dance, from the terrace, across the bedroom floor, to the bed, trading kisses and touches, and removing clothing as they went along, until the only article that remained was Dana’s panties. “Black lace. Lovely.” Helen backed Dana against a bedpost and trailed her fingers down her sides as she leaned in to sample her lips. “Mmmm.” She kissed her more deeply, tasting the spicy, woodsy sting of cognac on Dana’s tongue and the sweetness of Dana herself.
As they continued to kiss, Helen hooked her thumbs in the waistline of Dana’s panties, and dropped down to her knees to slide them off. As Dana stepped out of them, Helen slowly ran her hands up a pair of elegant legs, then placed a kiss to her stomach, just below her navel. With a longing sigh, she kissed the top of each thigh, before she nuzzled soft red curls and nudged Dana’s legs apart for a more intimate kiss.
“Oh, God.” Dana felt her legs melting at the feather-light touch, and her knees grew weak. Then the room tilted and Helen was lowering her slowly down onto the bed.
“I do like my luxuries,” Helen murmured against her lips. “And you’re one of the finest things I’ve ever sampled.” With a ravenous kiss, she began to explore Dana’s body, her hands infinitely gentle at first, as she memorized all the planes and curves of the flawless skin beneath her fingertips.
“You’re killing me.” Dana laughed lightly, as Helen took an impossibly slow time, her tongue flicking in butterfly kisses around first one pert nipple and then the other.
“And you’re stunning.” Helen finally took an aching nipple into her mouth, and Dana’s body arched up from the mattress at the welcome contact.
“Ahhhh.” It felt like turning inside out. Her skin was on fire, every pulse point throbbing with an aching desire that threatened to be unquenchable. “Helen –” She gasped. “I need—”
“What do you need, Dana?” Helen’s touch slowed, gliding sensually over Dana’s breasts and then down her stomach. “Whatever it is, I’ll give it to you.”
“Everywhere.” Dana gasped again. “I need to feel you everywhere.”
“Everywhere?” Helen tilted her head and looked into Dana’s passion-filled eyes. She laughed, then slid purposefully downward, kissing every inch of skin along the way. She settled between two trembling legs and eased herself into place, until her shoulders were pressed against the backs of Dana’s thighs. “Everywhere?” She repeated herself, and kissed each inner thigh. “Or just –” She inhaled deeply of Dana’s intoxicating scent. “Here.”
Dana felt the most intimate kiss of all, and her stomach muscles clenched and rolled. “Oh, God.” Helen had one hand splayed against her belly, and Dana reached down to twine their fingers, squeezing Helen’s hand as her desire spiraled out of control. “There,” she breathed. “I need you right there.”
Helen laughed against her, a humming sensation, as she tasted and teased, Dana’s sighs and whimpers like music to her ears. Then another long gasp and Dana grew completely still, before her body convulsed over and over again, and she gathered a fistful of the soft cotton sheets they lay upon.
“So lovely.” Helen gave her one final, most intimate kiss, then brushed her body upward against Dana’s heated skin, on her way to her lips. “So very lovely.” She hovered over her, then ducked her head and kissed her slowly, as she pressed one knee between Dana’s legs and brought her up one more time.
At last, she broke off and pulled back, her face inches from Dana’s. Helen stroked Dana’s hair, and then cupped a flushed cheek. “Are you alright?” She kissed her forehead.
Dana closed her eyes for a moment and her breath hitched, as one last tremor worked its way through her. As she opened her eyes, she smiled and drew Helen to her, kissing her intently, followed by a few light pecks. She pushed Helen’s long dark hair back behind her ear and just looked at her, drinking her in. “You’re amazing,” she finally said.
“Thank you.” Helen smiled. “Likewise.” She twirled a lock of red hair around her finger and then touched Dana’s lips, tracing them with her thumb as Dana kissed it. “Are you tired? It’s been a very long day, but with a very nice ending. Maybe we should get some sleep.”
“Oh, no.” Dana slipped from beneath Helen’s long body and rolled to her side. “I promised you some room service, and I intend to deliver.” With a surprisingly forceful shove, she pushed Helen onto her back and straddled her. “That was not the end of this day. We’re just getting started.”
Helen laughed and trailed eager hands up Dana’s tempting, bare body.
“I don’t think so.” Dana grasped one wandering hand and pulled it back and up over Helen’s head, stretching her arm out. “Now, I wonder what these are here for?” She grabbed hold of a silk scarf that was draped across the headboard, and secured Helen’s wrist to the nearest bedpost. “Oh, look, another one.” A second scarf fluttered through the air and the other wrist was quickly bound as well.
“Two hundred sixty years, and I think I’ve finally met my match.” Helen peered up, her blue eyes dancing merrily in the low firelight. “Very well. I’m at your mercy. Do whatever you feel you must.” She tossed her head to one side in playful, dramatic fashion.
“I intend to.” Dana braced her weight on her knees and still straddling her, undulated her body, performing a slow sensual dance for Helen’s viewing pleasure.
Helen was quickly reminded that her own lust was still unsatisfied, and her need grew exponentially, as Dana brushed against Helen’s stomach, coating it in a sweet wetness. She raised her knees and squeezed her legs against Dana’s hips in encouragement, and Dana stopped.
“Eh, eh, eh. Behave.” Dana shook an admonishing finger and grasped two curvaceous calves, then eased Helen’s long legs back down to the sheets. “This is my dance, and if you don’t play nicely, I’ll use the remaining scarves on your ankles.” She then bent over until she was nose to nose with Helen, their warm breath mingling tantalizingly in the scant space between them. “Or maybe you’d like that?”
“Shut up and kiss me.” Helen lifted her head from the pillow and Dana complied, devouring Helen’s mouth as if she were indeed the last plate of dessert on Earth, and ending with a smacking sound as she bit her lower lip and then slowly released it. “Wow.” Helen licked her now bruised lip. “Forget Nimitz. The real wildcat is in my bed.”
“For that, I think I will tie your ankles,” Dana teased.
“Tie me up. Spank me. Ride me like a race horse,” Helen teased back. “Have me any way you wish.”
“Surrender, Dorothy!” Dana cried gleefully, then quickly shimmied down Helen’s body and dove between her legs.
Helen laughed, long and heartily, then gasped as Dana did, as promised, have her way. With a broad smile on her face, Helen’s head slammed back against the pillow and she moaned in utter pleasure. It was going to be a very interesting, very satisfying, and much too short night.
“Gate room’s getting crowded, Colonel.” Hammond and Jack stood behind Walter at the gate console, waiting for the throng in the gate room below to say their goodbyes to Lya, Honor, and Nimitz.
“Well, sir, from what I gather, it’s been an interesting twenty-four hours for almost everyone involved.” Jack glanced down at Sam, who looked up at just that moment, and their eyes met. A tiny smile graced her lips before she quickly looked away. They’d woken up near dawn, to discover they were still on the couch not only snuggling, but also spooning, with Jack’s back against the sofa and Sam pressed comfortably into the curve of his body. Before he had a chance to sneak away, Cassandra and Nimitz had wandered into the living room, rendering his escape pointless.
Down in the gate room, everyone was gathered around Honor, who had Nimitz perched on her shoulder. Cassandra clung to the sleeve of her uniform coat, which covered her freshly laundered dress shirt, all traces of her tryst with Janet removed from its collar.
“I wish I could visit sometimes.” Cassandra’s voice was very sad, and Nimitz chirped in sympathy, then reached out and stroked her head.
“Actually, I was going to ask if it would be alright for Nimitz to visit Earth from time to time,” Lya replied. “If we’re going to study the bond between treecats and humans, our research would not be complete if we didn’t include study of this apparently unique situation in which Nimitz formed a bond with Cassandra during his separation from Honor. With your permission, of course.” She looked at Janet.
“Oh, Janet, please?” Cassandra’s face lit up, and she bounced up and down.
“Well, sure, that would be fine.” Janet peered up at Honor. “Would he be traveling here alone, or would he have an escort?”
“I think an escort can be arranged.” Honor gave her a ghost of a wink. The realization that this wasn’t their final goodbye caused joy to well up so strongly inside, it was all Honor could do to not lift Janet off her feet and spin her around in happiness.
“Oh, yea!” Cassandra hugged Janet and then Honor, and in her excitement, also hugged Lya for good measure.
“Dr. Magnus, are you certain you don’t want us to help you return to 2011 now instead of waiting fourteen more years?” Lya turned to Magnus.
“Tempting as that sounds, I’m in the middle of making some arrangements for resources I’m going to need when 2011 finally arrives. If I disappear now, my plans won’t come together the way they need to.” Magnus placed a discreet hand at the small of Scully’s back. “Besides, reliving 1997 is proving to be much more interesting than I could ever have imagined. I think I may want to stay around for a while.”
Scully looked down, as a peachy blush dusted her porcelain skin. She casually reached behind herself and twined her fingers with Magnus’, pressing their joined fists against her lower back. “I believe you have some resources in Washington you want to contact soon, don’t you?”
“Why yes, yes I do.” Magnus grinned.
“Very well.” Lya nodded in understanding. “The sun’s energy is optimal for travel today. We track these things for other stars near gates. Should you ever change your mind, Dr. Magnus, contact Captain Carter and she can put you in touch with us. There will be many other opportunities to assist you with travel, should you need it.”
“I appreciate your generosity.” Magnus briefly bowed her head toward Lya, honoring her.
“Cassie, it’s time to say goodbye to Nimitz.” Janet stooped down and touched her daughter’s face.
“Here.” Honor lifted Nimitz from her shoulder and placed him in Cassandra’s arms. “Why don’t you spend a few minutes with him, Cassie? I want to speak with your mother before we leave.”
Cassandra smiled up at Honor gratefully, her eyes shining as she bravely fought back tears. “Okay,” she choked out.
Janet stood up and Honor drew her over to the side, speaking low as she resisted the urge to touch her as they talked. “I’m going to miss you, Janet, very much.”
“I –” Janet faltered, her throat tight with emotion. “I’ll miss, you, too. At least it sounds like we may get to see each other again.”
“Yes, that was a most unexpected gift.” Honor glanced over at Lya, who smiled and gave her a little nod. “I think she knows.”
“I think she may have arranged that for us, rather than for their research,” Janet agreed.
“I want to show you something.” Honor reached up and unpinned a medal from her uniform. Once it was removed, she carefully closed its metal clasp and held it cradled in her palm, gazing into Janet’s eyes as she spoke. “This is the Manticore Cross. It’s the highest decoration of the Royal Manticore Navy, and is awarded to Naval officers for gallantry in combat. I was going to give it to you to remember me by, but now I want to give it to you as a promise that one day I’ll return to see you.”
“Oh.” Janet looked down at the gold cross and the winged lion in its center. A red grosgrain ribbon secured it to its clasp. “It’s beautiful, but I can’t take this from you.”
“Please.” Honor pressed it into Janet’s hand and closed both of her own hands around Janet’s fist. “I want you to have it. You gave so much to me last night, and I’ll remember it forever. I carry you here, Janet.” Honor lifted one hand and made a fist against her own heart. “And I’ll carry you with me when I fly, even into battle.”
“I don’t know what to say.” Janet drew in a deep breath. “Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with me. It was the best night of my life.”
“I want to kiss you goodbye so badly,” Honor confessed with a light laugh, her voice low.
“Me, too.” Janet smiled. “We can’t risk it, but I think I can risk this. It’s more of a European tradition, but if anyone asks, I can tell them in your world it’s also a tradition.” She stood up on her toes and grasped Honor’s shoulders, then kissed first one cheek and then the other. “Goodbye. I’ll miss you so much,” she whispered into Honor’s ear.
“Until we meet again, my love,” Honor replied, so quietly that even Janet barely heard her.
Janet gasped softly at the endearment, and quickly took a step back, feeling the sting of tears in her eyes.
“Well.” Honor turned away lest their emotions get the better of them. “I think we should be going. We must first travel to Lya’s world before I return to mine, and there will be more goodbyes to say on her home planet.”
She made her way over to the base of the gate ramp, and shook hands with Magnus and Scully, and finally Sam. “Captain Carter, all my best to you.”
“And mine to you,” Sam clasped Honor’s forearm and gave it a squeeze. “Maybe the next time you visit, we can spend some time discussing our work. I’d love to learn more about your technology.”
“I’d like that, very much.” Honor leaned closer and ducked her head so that only Sam could hear her. “Until then, take care of my friend and her daughter.”
“I will.” Sam smiled warmly. “They’re family to me.”
“Cassie.” Honor knelt down and gave a playful tug to a lock of Cassandra’s hair. “Thank you for taking Nimitz and me trick or treating. It was great fun.”
“I don’t want you to go.” Cassandra hugged her neck, squeezing Nimitz between them. He bleeped in protest.
“I know, but I have people I’m responsible for back home, and they really need me.” Honor stroked Cassandra’s head.
“We need you, too,” Cassandra protested. She hugged Honor more tightly and whispered, “Janet needs you. You know she does.”
Honor drew back in surprise. “I forget you’re an empath.” She smiled and gently kissed Cassandra’s cheek. “I know, and we’ll be back to visit as soon as we can.”
“Promise?” Cassandra wrapped both arms around Nimitz and buried her face into his fur. Nimitz rubbed his face against her arm in an attempt to comfort her.
“Promise.” Honor carefully pried Nimitz away from her. “Be brave, and be good for your mother, okay?”
Janet reached her daughter’s side, and Cassandra latched onto her.
“Ready?” Lya came over and tucked her hand into the crook of Honor’s elbow.
“As I’ll ever be.” She looked up at the gate control room. “Thank you, General Hammond, for everything.”
“You’re most welcome,” Hammond replied. “You’re welcome back here anytime. Safe travels.”
“Thank you, sir.” She looked to Lya. “Shall we?”
Walter dialed the gate and the wormhole burst outward. After it settled, they walked up the ramp and reached the far end. Just short of entering the gate, Honor turned and placed two fingers against her lips, then fluttered her hand toward Janet. In response, Janet pressed Honor’s medal against her own lips and waved.
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that,” Hammond muttered to Jack. “And neither of you saw it, either.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack and Walter replied in unison.
“Honor!” Cassandra shouted. “Next time you come to see us, we can all go visit Sam, and Jack can make us pumpkin pancakes like he did this morning! They were the best pancakes, ever!”
“I look forward to it. Until then.” Honor waved at everyone and then she and Lya turned toward the gate, and along with Nimitz, they stepped through it.
“Pumpkin pancakes?” Janet looked at Sam, who was blushing furiously and had suddenly found the gate room floor to be the most interesting thing in the world. “This morning?”
Up in the gate room, Jack placed his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “I, um, went over to Carter’s, sir, to um – and then there was that treecat and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t dangerous so I – and since I missed trick or treat with Cassie, the pancakes seemed like a good way to –” He trailed off and scrunched up his face, as he rubbed the side of his neck. “It was just hanging out,” he muttered feebly.
“I’m sure it was,” Hammond replied. “Sergeant, turn off the intercom. I don’t need to hear anything else from that room this afternoon.”
“Yes, sir.” Walter grinned as he complied.
“Did everyone in this room do the horizontal tango last night?” Magnus chuckled.
“No,” Sam replied firmly. “No tango. There was no tango.”
“Uh-huh.” Janet nudged her.
“I know where you live,” Sam growled.
“And apparently Colonel O’Neill knows where you live.” Janet stepped out of her reach, just as Sam attempted to backhand her in the stomach.
“I need to escort Dr. Magnus and Agent Scully back to the surface.” Sam composed herself and felt the heat recede from her cheeks. “You and I will talk later.” Sam stared pointedly at Janet.
“Dinner, six-thirty tonight, my place?” Janet held out an olive branch.
“That works.” Sam accepted.
“Shall I have a bottle of wine chilled by the time you arrive?”
“God, yes,” Sam groaned. “Make it two bottles. Ladies?” Sam gestured toward the door.
Magnus and Scully said quick goodbyes to Janet and Cassandra, and then followed Sam into the hallway.
“Halloween is my new favorite Earth holiday!” Cassandra declared, and took Janet’s hand.
“Mine, too,” Janet whole-heartedly agreed with her. “Come on, munchkin. I need to run by the lab for a few minutes, and then let’s go home and finish sorting all that candy.”
“Okay!” Cassandra skipped along and then stopped after they entered the hallway. “Janet, what’s the horizontal tango?”
As they waited nearby for the elevator to the surface to arrive, Sam coughed and Scully covered her mouth as she shook in silent laughter. Magnus didn’t bother with pretense, and simply burst out laughing.
“That,” Janet tweaked Cassandra’s nose. “Is something I’ll explain to you after we get home.”
At that moment, the elevator arrived, and Sam and the others entered it. As she turned and pressed the button for the surface, Sam yelled out, “Trick or treat, Janet!” She smiled smugly and fluttered her fingers. Then the doors closed.
Janet laughed and then looked down at the medal she still held in her hand. She brushed her thumb across its shiny gold surface, and then kissed it. “Yes, trick or treat. A most delicious and unexpected treat.”
Mail me maybe?
Ships in this story: Helen Magnus/Dana Scully, Janet Fraiser/Honor Harrington, and Samantha Carter/Jack O’Neill. However, for those who don’t like to read het sex scenes, never fear, Sam and Jack do not do the horizontal tango in this story.
Links for more information on the main characters:
Special Agent Dana Scully
Dr. Helen Magnus
Captain Samantha Carter
Dr. Janet Fraiser
Admiral Honor Harrington
Photos of all characters can be found on my Facebook page in an album titled “When Worlds Collide – Characters”
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