Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment, not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real person, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

The first part of this chapter was cut somewhat for Rating reasons. This is the the sequel to When Angels Fall and it is one of my stories that has been nominated for a Gate Fic Award. The NC-17 version can be found on my homepage. It is not necessary to have read When Angels Fall to be able to understand Breathing Space as they are very much stand alone stories.

Story Summary: Sam's carrying something very special and the SGC, and SG-1 in particular, are going nuts over her and her oh-so-precious cargo. Soon, it becomes too much, so she leaves. She's safe...but not for long! As the Tok'Ra scramble for their very lives, relationships are tested, threatened, and strengthened. Tensions mount, puzzles appear, and it looks like they may lose their race against time…it is quickly running out! Special Guest Appearance by: Tashmar, the Tok'Ra Komodo-Dragon!

Chapter One Summary: Lantash and Martouf are leaving on an off-world mission and Sam puts some plans she made previously into effect. She hates to do it; Lantash and Martouf will be bereft, but she can't stand the way they, and everyone else is treating her. Lantash and Martouf are devastated when they return from their mission and realize what they have done.

Warning: Sexual Situation, allusions to sexual activities...nothing is graphic, however.

Characters: Sam, Lantash/Martouf, Daniel, Jack, Teal'c, Janet, General Hammond, Malek, Anise/Freya, Jacob/Selmak, Aldwin, Tashmar, the Tok'Ra Komodo Dragon

Pairings: Sam/Martouf/Lantash

Rating: This chapter: NC-17

"Italics" – Symbiote-Host communications

Mer Prinekh - Joined life. It is another more intimate name for Lifemate used by both host and symbiote. Mer Prinekh is often used as a term of endearment and affection.

Breathing Space

Chapter One

The Fear Remains

Martouf watched Samantha as she slept. He never tired of doing so. The last four months here on Earth had been his idea of heaven, if such a thing existed. He reached out and lightly rubbed the swelling of her stomach feeling the fluttering movements and little kicks of the new life that grew there.

"It is an event beyond anything we ever thought possible, is it not, beloved?" Lantash asked him quietly. "To feel our seed move within our mate is something we never thought to know. It is a profound thing," as he spoke to his other mate it was easy to hear the emotion, so near to awe, as it colored the tones and timbres of his voice.

"It is," Martouf, agreed quietly, his own awe plainly apparent. "I do miss her when we go on missions, though, and I believe it is worse because of the coming child. We worry about her more than we might because of it. However, she is doing well according to Janet," Martouf continued, doubt coloring his voice.

"True, and that is something to be thankful for, indeed. We should not worry so; she is well taken care of, and Janet would take immediate action at the first sign of a problem," Lantash agreed, though it was obvious that he, too, was not absolutely convinced.

Martouf sighed, not answering right away. "I know, but still, the fear remains," he eventually confessed, anxiety lacing his words, as he considered their upcoming mission.

"This mission will keep us away from the SGC for several days, Martouf. Bring her into our arms and cradle her against us, Mer Prinekh. I need to feel her warmth closely one more time before we begin our day," Lantash requested swiftly, attempting to divert Martouf's mind from concentrating on their fears, as that was not only unproductive, but also counterproductive. Since they still had not found a foolproof way to calm their apprehension, there was no point in allowing it to overwhelm them by dwelling on it.

After complying with his request and feeling her smile sleepily against his neck, Martouf kissed her forehead and released control to Lantash so that they could both enjoy the embrace fully. It was a routine they never missed when they were on world and sleeping with their mate.

Lantash smiled as Sam slid her arms around him and murmured his name. No matter how they varied it, whether they started out with him and switched to Martouf, or vice versa, she always knew, even half asleep, who was actually holding her. It never ceased to amaze them.

"Is Martouf holding you, too, Lantash?" She asked softly.

Lantash smiled, and then laughed softly, "Yes, of course he is, my love. As he always does; as do I when the situation is reversed, as you so well know."

"I am looking forward to blending. Although, I can see how the genetic memory is a great help in some ways, it is a detriment when it comes to having children."

"I know, but it will not be long now, Samantha. Two and a half more months only," Lantash reminded her that they did not have long until the child arrived.

"If," she reminded him, "We decide we only want one child. I know this one was an accident, but it is a welcome one, and I am very glad it happened. However, since this baby reminds you that I do not have control of my own fertility and, therefore, you must remember to take care of Martouf's, or I need to take precautions myself, if we have more than one, then it must be a conscious decision on our part. I have to admit, I believe if we want two, we should have another one almost immediately. I know it would be difficult, but once I blend, my symbiote would be able to help me get back in shape."

"Do you want two children, Samantha?" Lantash asked. He knew she was considering it and thought of it often; however, they rarely spoke of it. That she brought it up indicated that she might be close to making a decision.

"I do not know. Sometimes I do; then I really think about it, and I realize what a responsibility it will be, just the one. More than that, with our lives so disrupted, I wonder if it is fair to the child. On the other hand, if I only have one, it will be a very lonely child because there are no other children in the tunnels," she sighed softly after she explained what she was considering and weighing in her mind.

"What are you saying, Samantha?" Lantash asked, as he tensed. Was she once again going to request they take the time to go with her to the Tunnels? So far, they managed to refuse her without telling her that he was acceding to Dr. Fraiser's fears about the Chaappa'ai, even though he knew her to be incorrect.

"I have thought and thought about this, and I believe we will have to move to the tunnels, perhaps soon. This baby is going to have all kinds of odd chemicals and DNA. We both know that we cannot allow the information into the general public. The next thing to take into consideration is school, an accident, an illness, anything that occurred away from the base, if we ever leave the base, would be a potential disaster just waiting to happen. We cannot allow any of those situations to happen, not away from the base; you can do a great many things, Lantash, but keeping accidents from happening is not one of them."

"What is more, although we rarely mention it, we both know that we would not be living on base, if kidnapping was not a very real threat to me, and when it is born, to this child. Consequently, whether we are here on Earth, or in the Tunnels, it will not have a normal childhood. I see no recourse, but to move to the Tunnels, Lantash.

"I know you thought I wanted to be here, among my people, and at the time, I thought so, too, but the truth is, that even with Janet, I feel as if I am a scientific oddity to be measured and scrutinized under a microscope. I know that the Tok'Ra healers would look on me somewhat in that light, too, but I doubt if they would be as obsessive over it. Here, someone is constantly running tests and doing blood work and," her voice broke as tears, always close to the surface recently, threatened.

Drawing in a deep, shuddering breath, she was finally capable of saying, "I want to go home to the tunnels, Lantash. Janet is being too overprotective of the baby and me. She does not want me to go through the gate, or go on missions. And it is not just Janet; everyone is being overprotective, even the cafeteria people are driving me crazy!" she exclaimed, obviously not only exasperated, but aggravated, as well. Her voice was holding some other emotion Lantash did not remember hearing in it before, but he was not sure exactly what it was. "I ask for spaghetti, and they give me salad, chicken, and potatoes, because I need to eat a balanced meal. I do not even get to eat the food I want to eat, unless I tell them it is a craving. Then they add it to the other food, as a treat."

"The other day, someone changed the channel I was watching on the TV in the rec room, because I should not be watching anything scary; it might affect the baby." She looked at him, her distress palpable, as she tried yet one more time, to explain her feelings, "The baby was asleep; it was not watching it. I was. Lantash, just the fact that I would make such a ridiculous statement should tell you how badly everyone is getting to me. The baby does not watch TV at all!" She exclaimed believing she was telling him something that was all too apparent.

"All I do is sit in my lab doing almost nothing day after day, and going out of my mind from idleness and boredom. Even there, they are restricting me, saying they don't know what this or that will do to the baby. Since they assigned that new assistant to help me, I rarely get to do anything in my own lab. And Daniel assigned Nyan to help me, too, whenever you are all off world, and all I get to do is sit at a desk and watch the two of them."

"I cannot stand this any longer and besides, I really miss everyone in the Tunnels. Especially Arwanna. Plus Tashmar and his new mate. I have not even seen their new family yet. I think the Tok'Ra healers can handle anything that happens. Please, Lantash, please, take me home," Sam pleaded softly, her voice breaking in her misery.

"Oh, Samantha, why did you not tell me they were bothering you again? I will speak to Janet, I promise," Lantash assured her quickly. "I will see to it that they allow you to do some things in your lab and that Janet does not continue to run tests so often," he concluded by giving her a swift kiss, hoping she would not continue with the subject. They simply could not have her in such a dangerous environment as the Tunnels. Just the thought of it made him shudder in distress…and fear for her.


"No, Samantha, I do not believe you are thinking clearly about this situation. It can be resolved without our removal to the Tunnels. As I promised, I will talk to Janet and tell her to run fewer tests, and I will see if I cannot arrange for your lab assistant to spend less time there. In addition, I will tell Daniel to give Nyan something to keep him busy so that he will be away from you this time while we are gone. We simply thought that, as we know you like him so well, he would be an acceptable replacement for us, while we are gone." He smiled slightly before continuing, gently, "He takes it very seriously, I am afraid, and he is quite proud of being entrusted with your care while we are away. I think it makes him feel special."

He frowned suddenly, as he thought of something else. Then his brow cleared and he nodded as if satisfied with his conclusion, before stating decisively, "Although, perhaps you are correct and one of us should stay behind with you. We did discuss it, and that was when we decided that Nyan would work as well, but one of us could stay behind instead. In addition, if we take the assistant away, then you will have some time alone in your lab"

Sam sighed. She was thinking clearly. This was part of the entire problem. Even Lantash would not believe she knew her own mind. It was as if pregnant, stupid, irrational and unstable were synonyms. They were the ones being irrational, not her. Now, he was telling her they had discussed one of them remaining behind instead of going on missions. Perhaps they would draw straws to see if it would be Teal'c, Daniel, or Lantash that stayed behind. To add to her discomfort, if she refused Nyan, then he would feel as if he had failed. She had known he seemed to take being with her very seriously; she had not realized Daniel's choice of him made him feel special. She sighed to herself. Nyan was too nice a person for her to be comfortable hurting him.

Well, she had tried and again no one would listen. It would change for a day or so, and then it would be back to; "Sam, you have to eat now. Sam, it is time for your nap. Sam, you cannot be staying up all hours, even if Martouf is gone. Here is your milk, Sam. Do not touch that, Sam. We really should check xyz level in your blood just to be sure it is not changing. No, you cannot run those tests; we do not know what those types of EM pulses would do to the baby. No, you absolutely cannot go through the gate; we do not know what affect it could have, and you have already taken chances by going through several times.

Dear God, it was driving her crazy, and it had to stop before she became so angry she said things that would hurt everyone. Of course, they would probably just smile and write it off to her hormones, so maybe it would not matter. Except to her; it would matter very much to her.

She smiled at Lantash, and kissed his chin, apparently giving in to him yet again, before saying, "All right, for now. Do not worry about changing things with Nyan. He is very nice, and we do get along well. What time do you leave on your mission?" She changed the subject and began to caress Lantash hoping it would distract him enough that he would forget about their discussion of a moment ago.

It did. "We leave in five hours and seventeen minutes, which is more than enough time for me to make slow and wonderful love to you, Beloved," Lantash said, as his lips made their way to the sweetness of hers. He would tell everyone to step back, and be more unobtrusive in their surveillance of her and what she was doing. Furthermore, he would be sure to tell the cafeteria to let her eat what she wanted once in a while.

"I would like that very much," Sam said softly. After all, if her plans went off, as they should, it could be a while before they were together again. She had to get away from this smothering they were inflicting on her. She felt as if she was suffocating, as if she could not breathe. When would she lose even their intimacy because they decided she was too far along, and it was no longer safe, even though it still was? It would not be a joint decision, she knew. They would simply decide that they should no longer have sex, and that would be that. The arbitrary decisions they made were beginning to irritate her more and more. She could not live like this any longer; it had to stop. It had to stop one way or the other and before the price became her marriage.

Feeling his mouth on her, she returned to the present with a vengeance, but a pleasant one. As he took her lower lip and nipped it gently, she nipped him back moaning as she did so.

At the same time, she began to stroke Lantash more firmly through Martouf's skin. She loved to feel him quiver under her fingers as she varied the rhythm and pressure she used on him. It still amazed her that he responded in this way, causing Martouf even more pleasure, when she stroked Lantash. They had assured her that Martouf felt it as an extremely enjoyable and stimulating gesture, and the obviousness of his response allowed her to know they were telling the truth. She moaned as Lantash raised the sleep-shirt that she wore over her head to dispense with it entirely.

His lips left trails of fire as he moved to enjoy her throat, and after marking her gently, to travel on to her lips. He feathered kisses across her cheeks, teasing her by kissing the corner of her mouth, and then retreating without tasting of her lips fully.

He would reduce her to a body throbbing with need, her desire raging out of control. He was a skillful lover; of that, there was no doubt. The memories left by Jolinar had not lied, for he was everything she remembered and more, just as Martouf was.

Burying her face in his neck, she nipped him lightly. She did not want to turn the tables yet, but if he continued his erotic torture, she would do so. Over the past months she had learned, and remembered, a few moves of her own that could reduce them to a body without thought, and she would not hesitate to do it to them today. Besides, it was almost time to do so, or she would not be able to.

Lantash had proved to be intensely passionate, physically sensitive, and skilled in the art of love. She knew exactly where to touch him to bring him to the edge and leave him hanging there, panting for release. In return, he knew exactly the right combinations to do the same to her.

Martouf, on the other hand, was sweetly sensitive, intensely passionate, and gentle in his loving. They could switch seamlessly, but their touch was different enough she always knew. Lantash almost inevitably took over when they needed better control, but as she had learned their body, she had also learned the things against which he had no defense. She would love them both very well this morning. They would dream of this and tell her of it later, when they finally forgave her, or perhaps, if they looked for her, and found her. And, if they truly understood, then all three would happen soon. She hoped.

He trailed his fingers up the inside of her thigh and she brought her own hands to the hardness of the sculpted muscles of his chest. She leaned forward and nipped his chest, pleased at the gasp of pleasure it always brought from him. Nipping him this way brought Lantash more quickly to the point of mindless need. It did not work as quickly as some other things, but it was a pleasant place to start him on his journey to their joining place. She loved both of these beings more than anything in the world, and she enjoyed loving them and hearing their need spiral upward for her. She would miss this.

Pushing those thoughts aside, she left the muscles of his chest as she felt Martouf take control. Leaning over, she took his lips in a long, gently teasing kiss before moving down his throat, nipping lightly in all his most sensitive places, then stopping for a moment to spread soft kisses across his chest she moved from there to the hard muscles of his abdomen. Soon she heard him moan deeply, "Samantha, you know I have no defense against this, why do you do this to me? You almost never do it to Lantash," Martouf complained, but it was obvious that he would not stop her even if he could. The sensation was too delicious.

Looking up at him, and for a moment leaving her task, Sam laughed lightly, as she said, "That is true, but then, there are other things that I do to Lantash that I do not often do to you. He can resist this longer than you can, so it is more fun to do it to you. You, on the other hand, can resist longer when I tease and love your throat and shoulders, but he cannot," she explained between kisses. Then she turned back to the job she had started with hands that worked wonders on his body and kisses that drove him near the edge.

He reached down in desperation to remove her before he exploded, but she evaded him. "No more, please. I cannot take anymore, and Lantash is refusing to take over," he gasped. "I need you, my Samantha, I need you very much."

"Not yet, I haven't finished what I was doing," she said, as she proceeded to move slowly up his body, leaving soft kisses and little nips in all the right places to have him moaning in desperate need.

Once he was at this point, Lantash was no doubt moaning to Martouf to stop her, or take her, but either way, to do something to stop this unbearable torment and torture, for he was always sensitive to this, and by now, she would be driving him wild.

"Dear Universe, Samantha, I am almost undone. You must allow me to rest," Martouf complained.

Finally moving away from nipping the hardened muscles of his chest, she moved up to his throat, only to roll him away from her, onto his stomach. "Samantha, no, please do not," he gasped, as he clenched the sheets tightly, right before she began to kiss, and then lave, the back of his neck, nipping lightly, and then sucking, at first gently, and then more firmly as she moved up and down his spine. She could feel Lantash first quiver, and then shiver a little harder. Soon, it turned into almost constant trembling. She could hear Martouf gasping for breath, as the exquisitely intensified sensations sent shocks of almost painful pleasure through them.

She was not, of course, actually touching Lantash, but the arousal of their shared body, had made him very sensitive to any stimulation. As she touched the skin and flesh nearest to him, it sent that stimulation directly into his body, or it felt as if it did. In his highly sensitized state, it felt as if she was touching him directly, and the depth of the physical response surged through them both. Martouf could not control his reaction; he wanted his wife, and he wanted to make love to her!

She was not, of course, actually touching Lantash, but the arousal of their shared body, had made him very sensitive to any stimulation. As she touched the skin and flesh nearest to him, it sent that stimulation directly into his body, or it felt as if it did. In his highly sensitized state, it felt as if she was touching him directly, and the depth of the physical response surged through them both. Martouf could not control his reaction; he wanted his wife, and he wanted to make love to her!

She continued her pleasuring of Lantash with her lips, breath, and tongue, for a while longer, until they were moaning in near desperation. It would not take much more now, and they would become the aggressor and take control.

"Samantha, I can no longer endure this torment," Martouf finally panted, as he reached to pull her down beside him. He could take no more of her erotic torture and had taken control from her. Lying back, she looked up at him through eyes made heavy with passion.

"Then you must take me, Martouf, so that we can both have what we need," She told him softly. "Come to me my loves and make us all whole once more."

She did not need to encourage him twice and soon they both made their leap into the little abyss.

Sliding over to lie beside her, he wrapped her in his arms and smiled as he felt their child move between them. They never tired of feeling that, it was such a miracle for them. Their activity had set the little one to moving around too. He placed his hand over the child and rubbed gently, soothingly. Only two and a half months to go.

Soon they would have to stop having relations, but not quite yet. Janet had assured them that there was no problem as long as Sam's health stayed as excellent as it was. They would miss it, but good health or not, they would not endanger their Samantha by continuing to have relations with her, if it began to cause her discomfort, or if it appeared to disturb the child too much. So far, it only caused it to be a little active and it soon settled. Moreover, one could never be sure that it would cause no problems. He and Lantash had discussed it, and they had decided that in a week or so they should probably refrain. It would be hard, but much as they enjoyed it, the joy would be gone if they caused problems to arise that would not have appeared at all if they had just controlled their physical appetites. He sighed and cuddled them as closely as he could. They would tell Samantha of their decision soon. No doubt, she would protest, but she was not thinking clearly, and it was up to them to make logical, sane decisions.

Sam held them tightly. Damn, she was going to miss them.

"What do you mean Samantha is gone? Gone where?" Lantash demanded furiously. "How could this happen? How could she simply leave without anyone knowing? I find it incomprehensible that she could leave by the Chaappa'ai, and not one person noticed that she was planning to do so. This is unacceptable," he said forcefully.

Janet Fraiser sighed. She had known this interview was going to be bad, but she had not realized how bad. It was not only Lantash and Martouf that were stunned and angry, but Jack O'Neill as well. He, too, did not understand how Sam could just walk out of the SGC with no one knowing she was going. Daniel was stunned, but unlike the other two, he was not angry. Teal'c appeared to be neither stunned nor angry. He simply seemed accepting of Sam's disappearance, as if he was not even surprised. She wondered briefly if he knew she was going and where but quickly discarded that thought. It was highly unlikely, as Sam would not have put him in such an awkward situation with his team and the General.

She sighed to herself once more. At least, Sam had left a letter telling them she was okay. That was not appeasing Lantash though. Janet really thought he could literally bite through a nail right now if given one. She had never seen him in a rage and fervently hoped that Martouf could control him, or one furious dangerous Tok'Ra might single-handedly destroy the entire base. At this moment, she believed he was capable of searching the entire universe for Sam, and heaven help her when he found her. Dear God, he was almost beyond rage. No one in the room was making any movement at all. No one wanted to be the spark that burned that last bit of fuse and allowed the keg of gunpowder to blow.

"Lantash, perhaps Martouf should…" Janet began softly, only to have Lantash interrupt her before she even finished her sentence.

"I rarely destroy things when I am angry, Dr. Fraiser," Lantash said, his voice arctic. "Martouf, on the other hand, tends to break things. Contrary to your assumptions, it is I who am controlling him, not the other way around," he bit out caustically and somewhat bitterly. It was only too obvious to him what they thought of him.

"I'm sorry; I had no right to make that assumption," Janet apologized, as she realized what she, and no doubt the rest of them, had automatically assumed. Because they had never seen Martouf really angry was no reason to assume that he was the calmer of the two of them. Looking at the bleakness in Lantash's eyes, she ached to comfort him. Since she could not do that, she did the only thing she could. "I mean that, Lantash. I had no right to make unwarranted assumptions. You have never given me any reason to assume that you would be violent when you were angry, and, in fact, the opposite is true. I have seen you very disturbed and under stress and, while you were passionate in what you said, you were very much in control of yourself. Again, I apologize," she reiterated softly.

Drawing a breath and obviously controlling himself even more than he had been, he answered her, "I accept your apology, Janet. Moreover, you do not know me, or the Tok'Ra, well, so your assumption was an understandable mistake. No offense is taken."

Turning from her to the General, he said, "I am waiting for an explanation, as well as any other information you have managed to accumulate since she left. I assume," he said, his voice once again frigid, "that there have been inquiries made? You have contacted the Tok'Ra, your other allies, and the Asgard? You are aware that the fact that she is carrying our child makes her a prime target for capture, not only by the System Lords, but also by your own N.I.D? Why else would we be living on this base instead of in Samantha's home? Did not you all point these things out when you convinced us to stay on base and went to the trouble to construct a suitable habitation here for us? Those realities have not changed since we moved in and took up residence here."

Janet paled as those thoughts, while nebulously in the back of her mind, had not been allowed to take root. General Hammond shook his head. "She left letters, Lantash. There was one for me, and one for you. I suggest you read yours as it might hold more information than mine did. I am afraid mine was a request for an extended leave with an enclosed letter of resignation should I refuse the leave. She also explained how she planned her, ah, escape. That is her word, not mine. She did not want the technicians blamed, and, in fact, they could not stop her. She made sure there was only one on duty and sent him to the cafeteria while she watched the control room. Unfortunately, the tech arrived back as the wormhole shut down. She overrode the computer so there is no record of where she went. We were hoping your letter had more information."

"You did not open it to ascertain where she went? Surely if she left information, you looked into it?" Lantash asked, surprised they had not read her letter to him.

"From what she said in my letter, it was obvious that she had planned this for quite some time. Therefore, we knew that no kidnapping had taken place, no abduction, no capture. Under the circumstances, since we had no reason to assume foul play, and your letter was sealed, it was decided that what she wrote to you was of a private nature and not for us to see," General Hammond said quietly.

Lantash sighed. The Tau'ri need for privacy. Furthermore, the General was correct, of course. With every indication that this was Samantha's choice, they had no reason to invade that privacy, and she would have been very upset if anyone had opened a letter meant for their eyes alone.

"How can you say that? They should have begun to search at once and recalled us immediately. By now, the trail is very cold. She has been gone for several days. Lantash, we must do something," Martouf bit out, his anger and his fear warring with one another to be the uppermost emotion. He felt as if he could personally tear the universe apart looking for her. He also felt as if his entire world was crashing around him. He was on the edge of panic, and only Lantash and their need for information was holding him together.

"Please calm down, Martouf. I believe that once we read our letter, we will discover that it is our…my…fault she left so abruptly."

"Samantha loves us. Why would she leave us? That makes no sense," Martouf now sounded bewildered.

"We shall see, but I believe we will find that our…my…refusal to so much as consider her wish to return to the tunnels is the reason she has left. That and our being, perhaps, somewhat overprotective. Therefore, since I was the one to refuse her last request to return to the tunnels so unequivocally, this can be laid directly at my feet," Lantash replied stoically.


"No, Martouf," he said firmly, "We shall read our letter before we speculate further."

Martouf sighed. Lantash was right. Only Samantha knew why she had done this. He watched as the General handed him the letter. Aware of the eyes of everyone in the room on them, he was not surprised when Lantash did not at once open the letter. However, he was surprised when he simply turned and walked out of the room without so much as a word. He headed for their quarters with the letter clutched convulsively in his hand. Upon entering their rooms, the scent that was Samantha surrounded, enveloped, and assaulted them.

"Lantash! Lantash, please, do not grieve so. We will find her. Lantash!" Martouf tried desperately to get his attention. He was immediately distracted from his own anger and fear by Lantash's reaction. Never, in all of their years together, had he known his symbiote to react in such a way to anything or any situation.

Closing the door and locking it, Lantash had turned, leaned his back against it for a moment, and then holding his breath, he had slowly sunk down, until he was almost to the floor. He fell the rest of the way and was on his knees, his pain, fear, and desolation so raw, intense, and wild, that Martouf was frightened for both of them. Never had Lantash released such waves of anguish into their shared consciousness. It was nearly unbearable and, so intensely painful that, for several moments, it actually stole their breath away.

"Please, Lantash, please do not do this to us. We must think; we must read her letter, and we must find her. You cannot let your feelings affect us this way. We need your abilities and your knowledge to help us find her. We need your personal inner strength, that same strength that helped us survive the loss of Rosha and Jolinar. I love you, and I need you. Please, Lantash, please do not grieve so, dear one. We will find her, and she will be well. We must believe that. We will find her, I promise you. Please, come back to me," Martouf spoke softly to Lantash, sending him waves of love and caring, soothing him and comforting him, his own anger now almost completely gone in this need to care for his other mate.

Holding him from within, he continued to soothe and caress him, kissing him softly, and bathing him in comfort and love. He released a feeling of relief, when Lantash drew in a deep shuddering breath, and wiping his face on his sleeve, stood and walked to the bed. His shaking began to abate, and he sat stiffly, forcing himself to become calm once again.

"I am sorry, Martouf. I should not have allowed myself to react in such a way. There is no excuse for frightening you in that manner," Lantash apologized quietly.

"You do not need to apologize, Lantash. You have as much right to react with despair and sorrow, anger and shock, or any other emotion you wish to express, as I do. So long as I can call you back from that edge, I do not mind. After all, you have been swamped by my feelings since we were informed that Samantha has - has, left us," as Martouf said the words the accompanying pain was so great it felt as if his heart was torn in two.

Riding out that pain, he allowed other emotions to come forward and his anger and fear began to build, but this time he forcibly tamped it down. Remembering how the negative emotions that had rampaged through Lantash had frightened him, he realized that he was responsible for helping to control their joined emotions; he could not leave it all to Lantash. If Lantash's emotions had affected him so badly, then no doubt, his emotions were impacting Lantash almost as much. They must both be careful and strong for the other.

"We should read what Samantha had to say, Lantash," he finally urged him gently.

"Yes." Lantash looked at the envelope that had both his and Martouf's names written on the front. Slowly, he opened the sealed envelope and pulled out the letter.