"Wait...what?" Vala said. "You went for a swim in the lake, found a symbiote, and decided to become a host? Isn't that a bit, uh, sudden?"
"Yeah, Sam, are you sure you've thought it through?" Daniel added. "It's not something that's easy to change if you regret it."
"I won't regret it. I've thought about it, and I'm sure. Very sure."
"It's your choice, Sam. I don't have a problem with it. I mean - one alien more or less on my team won't make much of difference. We Tau'ri are already a minority on SG-1!" Mitchell grinned.
"I will support you, if anyone at Stargate Command is unable to understand," Teal'c said.
"Yeah, of course we will," Daniel added, and Vala and Mitchell nodded.
"Thanks, guys." Sam looked relieved.
A couple of hours later, Sam and Martouf/Lantash were back at the shore of the underground lake. Merit must have been waiting close by, because Martouf had barely put down the thin mattress he had brought, before the symbiote stuck her head out of the water and made an excited welcome-squeal.
"Hi, Merit." Sam smiled a little nervously at the symbiote, before sitting down on the mattress. "Martouf, Lantash - please sit with me for a moment?" She patted the mattress beside her. "And give me a kiss?"
"I would be happy to, Samantha," Martouf said, sitting down.
He put an arm around her, pulling her closer as she leaned against him. She turned her face towards him and they kissed for several moments, before Lantash took over, kissing her again.
"Thanks." She smiled, looking happier.
"Relax, Samantha," Lantash said. "While Merit has never had a host before, she is healthy and strong, as are you. There is nothing to worry about - all will go well."
"You'll stay here with me?"
He nodded. "Of course. Since there is no danger here right now, she will complete the blending before you wake up. I will be here."
"Okay, thanks." Sam took a deep breath. "I think I'm ready now."
"You are sure?"
Sam nodded. "Yes, I'm sure."
"Lie down, then. I will bring Merit." Lantash kissed her, then got up as Sam lay back on the mattress.
He picked up Merit, who wrapped herself around his arm. She fluttered excitedly with her fins as he carried her the short distance to Sam.
"Hello, Merit," Sam said. "I volunteer to become your host." She opened her mouth and the symbiote quickly slid off Lantash's arm and jumped into her. '
Sam woke slowly. At first, she was a little unsure where she was and what had happened, but then she felt a presence in her head, and she remembered immediately.
*Yes - and you do not need to speak out loud, Samantha.* Merit 'hugged' her happily. *Thank you so much for becoming my host!*
*It is strange to be a host again, but nice - and very different...because I'm not fighting you, like I did Jolinar.* Sam felt ashamed.
*The situation was different and most unfortunate. You are not to blame.* Merit sighed. *Nevertheless, I do regret not meeting Jolinar. She was Egeria's first ally and closest friend. You have all her memories, though, and it is some consolation to see those. To know that her knowledge is not lost.*
*You have gone through it?*
*Not all of it yet, but I have looked at some, yes. Does that concern you?*
*No, it's just that I've not been having much luck remembering more than fragments.*
*It is for the best, or you would have been changed very much, given how many memories she has compared to you.*
*Or you...you've not had a host before, and was only just mature when you were placed in the stasis jar, isn't that right?*
*Yes, Egeria needed to save me, like she had my two sisters. The Goa'uld would have killed us or tried to turn us to their cause, had they known. Queens are quite rare.*
*There are three Tok'ra queens? Yes...now you mention it, Jolinar knew that, she just didn't know where.*
*Nor do I know where the others are, it would have been too dangerous.*
Sam nodded. *I can understand. Merit, it must have been lonely here for those three years - in the lake.*
*It was. I was very happy when I discovered you, so happy that I was not really careful enough. It was fortunate you were not enemies.*
*Yes...it's true that this place was well hidden, and not very many come here, but there is a new enemy. Much worse than the Goa'uld.*
*From what I have seen from your memories, they are a formidable enemy indeed, but we must not despair. We will succeed!*
*I very much want to believe that. In any case, finding you is cause for hope. The Tok'ra have become very few. With a queen, they have a future.*
*Yes, I see from your mind that far too many have been killed. We must start spawning larvae soon. It is good we already have mates - intelligent, handsome, adorable mates. From what I see from your memories, I very much look forward to mating with them.*
Sam blushed. *Ah, those mates are sitting here waiting for us to wake up. Perhaps we should talk to them, so they don't get worried.*
*We should, you and I have much more to talk about, but for now we should alleviate any fear Martouf and Lantash may have about our welfare.*
Merit looked at her fingers as she moved them, one at a time, then lifted her hand. Sam giggled, enjoying her symbiote's joy and surprise at experiencing a human body and the world through it for the first time. Yes, she had genetic memory telling her how it felt, and how to control everything, but it was quite a different thing to actually be experiencing it on her own.
"Samantha - and Merit. We have prepared food. Would you like to join us?" Martouf asked, smiling at Merit's happy expression.
"Yes, thank you, Martouf," Merit said, smiling at him - and blatantly ogling him.
*Merit!* Sam chastised.
*What? He is my mate, it is my right! I so look forward to experiencing that part of life! Besides, I am a queen - I am supposed to be even more, ah, libidinous than ordinary symbiotes.*
Sam mentally rolled her eyes. *Never mind, let's go see if they have something good to eat.*
"So many choices!" Merit said happily.
"Uh, yes, I suppose..." Daniel frowned at the table, which did not contain more than a few dishes, and only as many as that because of Merit. It was not easy getting hold of many different kinds of food when you only had what had been stored in stasis for a thousand years or more, or what could be caught or foraged without the Ori soldiers discovering you. "What do you like?"
"I do not know. I know some things Egeria liked, but I may not share her preferences and I think none of those dishes are present."
"Okay...chicken? Fish?" Daniel asked.
"Fish!" Merit scoffed. "What do you think I have eaten every day for three years, and most days for twelve years before that? No, I will not have fish for a very long time!"
"Chicken, then...and some bread and fruit," Martouf said quickly.
They ate mostly in silence. Teal'c never spoke during meals, and Martouf and Lantash said little right now. They smiled at Sam and Merit now and then, but seemed to be discussing something with each other. Mitchell, Daniel, and Vala kept throwing her uncomfortable glances. It would very clearly take some time for them to get used to this new symbiote in their friend.
"So, ah, I suppose you will want to get started immediately on, ah, making sure the Tok'ra are no longer at risk of becoming extinct," Mitchell said. "Will you be joining the Tok'ra? I assume you're not staying on SG-1, or what?"
"Samantha and I have not made a final decision on where we will stay. We also need to talk to our mates. However, regardless of our decision, we will be leaving SG-1 for at least the foreseeable future. With the Tok'ra numbers as low as they are, it would be too high a risk for me to go on potentially dangerous missions, until I have spawned many batches of symbiotes, and among those at least one queen." Merit explained.
"That sounds sensible," Mitchell agreed.
Merit gave control to Sam, and she smiled at her friends, then reached out and took Martouf's hand, squeezing it.
"I agree with what Merit said, but I must admit I will miss you guys. I've only just rejoined the team, and now I'm leaving it again."
"We'll come visit, regardless of where you stay," Vala assured her. The others chimed in with similar reassurances.
*So, where do we put these larvae? Do you want them to grow up in lakes, like most of the Tok'ra have?* Sam asked Merit.
*Perhaps later, when the Galaxy is safer again, but for now I suspect it will have to be in underground pools - in Tok'ra tunnels. Someone needs to stay with the young and take care of them, anyway.*
*Okay, and we will move around between a number of locations? Together with Martouf and Lantash, of course.*
*Yes, exactly. Well, we have some time before we need to figure out how it is safest for the larvae to grow up, so it is not something we need to determine right now. The Tok'ra Council will also want to give their opinion, do you not think so?*
*Oh, yeah, they'll probably spend months reaching a decision...but they probably do want more people quickly, and I thought you would want to start spawning as soon as possible. So, what do you mean, we have some time before we need to make a decision?*
*When a queen is in a host, she needs to use the host's womb for the larvae. They will then be born the same way human children are. Since you are with child, I cannot currently use your reproductive organs,* Merit explained.
*I know...wait! With child? I am not pregnant!*
*Do you not know? Of course, humans do not know this so early. I apologize, I forgot you are not able to detect it until further into the pregnancy - implantation has only just taken place.*
*I can't be pregnant! I'm taking pills for that!*
*Tau'ri medication is obviously primitive!* Merit scoffed. "Do you even have space flight. yet? Ah, yes, I see...you have only made it to your own moon - and you have not managed to repeat that 'feat' for years...*
*Merit!* Sam warned.
*Well, your biochemistry was extensively changed by Jolinar. Did they take that into account, when they made these 'pills'? You also have naquadah in your blood, which greatly diminishes the effect and reliability of any medicine you take...am I to take this to mean you do not want the children? I can take care of that for you immediately, if you want me to.*
*No - wait! I mean, I'm not sure. I need to think - and talk to Martouf and Lantash...god! What will they say? I'm pretty sure they don't want to be burdened with a human child.*
*Children - you are expecting twins. Perhaps you should talk to our mates, then. Of course, if you want my opinion, then I say we keep them. I would love to raise human children also. It would be quite educational for me, even if the children will not be fully human, and will of course have Lantash's genetic memory.*
*Genetic memory!* Sam groaned. *I forgot about that - the Council will never allow that. The kid...wait kids...* She sighed. *Twins, even...anyway, the Council will be afraid the Goa'uld will hunt a human child with genetic memory and use the knowledge against them.*
*If I understood it correctly, there are few Goa'uld left, and the Ori could not care less if someone is Jaffa, Goa'uld, Tok'ra, Tau'ri - or whatever...as long as they all worship them, is that not correct?*
*True.* Sam sighed again. *I must admit I would very much like to have children with Martouf and Lantash. I will talk to them, and see what they say.*
It turned out Martouf and Lantash were both delighted to hear about the children - and relatively unconcerned by what the Council might say. According to them, they would accept it eventually. Besides, all of the Tok'ra would be too overjoyed to have a queen to complain about anything - especially if it was something which might make the new queen unhappy.
Sam hugged him happily. "I had very much feared you'd react differently, but I'm so happy you want this...and I can see what you mean about the Council. They might actually react like that."
"Of course we want children with you, Samantha. We wanted that before also, but now when there are very few Goa'uld left, there is no longer a reason not to have any. The children should not be in more danger than anyone else in this Galaxy." Martouf smiled at her.
"I love you so much!" Sam kissed him. "Oh, by the way, Merit would like to talk to you, and spend some time getting to know you."
"We would like to talk to her. We do not know her very well yet, but we do really like what we have seen so far. Both Lantash and I believe we will be very happy to have her as our mate, as well."
"I'm happy to hear that." Sam smiled, then bowed her head, giving Merit control.
"Martouf." Merit looked at him, suddenly feeling a little shy. It meant much to her what her future mates felt about her. "I am very grateful that Lantash and you feel that way about me. I realize it is Samantha you love, but I hope you will also one day come to feel for me. I already share Samantha's feelings for the two of you, of course...I already love you." She caressed his cheek.
He took her hand, and kissed it, then entwined his fingers with hers. "Come, walk with me, and let us talk and learn of each other."