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 12. Interactions

About an hour and a half later, it was time to sit down for the dinner. Sam had talked to several of her former classmates, and found most of them more agreeable than she had back then. The only exceptions had been Wanda, Jackie, and a couple others who had been hanging with them back in High School.

"You really look good Sam," James told her, winking at her. "Very nice dress - I mean, like wow. Didn't think I'd see you in something like that. Care to dance later?"

Sam rolled her eyes at him. "You spiked the welcome drink and then had too much of it yourself. I'm here with Martouf. Go back to your date - I think she misses you."

He shrugged, still smiling. "Okay. You don't know what you're missing, though."

Sam shook her head as the man left. "He hasn't changed. And no, I didn't date him - or anyone else from my class, so you don't need to worry."

"It would be none of my business if you did. We had not even met then. Why would you think it would concern me?" Martouf looked confused. "Would the men of your world blame you for that?"

"Some might. I was engaged to an idiot who would. Anyway, I agree with you."

Martouf nodded. "I am sorry you had an unpleasant experience, and that he did not give you the respect you deserve. I hope he at least brought you satisfaction."

"Satisfaction?" Sam looked at him. "You mean sexually?" She snorted. "I didn't sleep with him. He claimed he wanted to wait until we were married, and at the time I found it romantic. Afterwards I think it was probably because he couldn't get it up. You know, that he couldn't... perform."

"I understand the euphemism. I have learned that your people are somewhat reluctant to talk about anything related to mating."

"More than the Tok'ra, yeah, that's for sure, if I remember correctly from Jolinar." She smiled. "Anyway, his name was Jonas Hanson. The guy I was engaged to, I mean. He's dead. Killed offworld after setting himself up as a god and trying to work the population to death," she explained, keeping her voice down. She grimaced.

"Had he been taken over by a Goa'uld?" Martouf wondered.

Sam shook her head. "No, he was just nuts. Crazy. I mean, he could be charming, but he'd always been a bit... well, I don't know. Too many years of black ops, I guess."

"Black ops?"

"Secret undercover work, covert operations. Sanctioned by the government or military, but if it should be discovered, they would disavow them. Completely deny any involvement. Usually they'd do things that the general population wouldn't approve of, or was even against international agreements. Sometimes things that the people on the mission might not have approved of themselves either."

"I understand. Undercover work can be... stressful, and that is without the added problems of doing it without support. If it was also something you did not completely believe in, then I can well imagine they would go insane, particularly if they tried to rationalize it to themselves."

"You understand better than I'd have thought - though I shouldn't be surprised, I guess." Sam sighed. "Never mind. Let's not talk about this right now. So, did you have anyone back where you came from, I mean, before you became a host?"

Martouf shook his head. "No. I mean, I think I found the neighbors daughter fetching, but she wasn't particularly interested in me. I was young and somewhat awkward. I went to the university to study science, several years early. I would probably have fit into your little group quite well back then."

Sam grinned. "You very well might."

"Of course, my life soon changed. I was, barely 17 of your years when my planet was again subjugated by the Goa'uld. I became a host to Lantash mere days after that."

"I'm sorry about that. That your planet was subjugated, I mean. Not about you becoming host to Lantash."

"That is the only thing about all that which I am happy about. I cannot now fathom how I could ever live without him. He is my best and closest friend." He smiled warmly.

"I know. I must admit I sometimes envy you that relationship." Sam smiled at him, a little sadly, thinking of Jolinar.

Martouf nodded. "I am sorry about the experience you had with Jolinar." After a moment, he asked, "your fiancé was killed while you were working on the Stargate project?"

"Yes, but he wasn't my fiancé then. Hadn't been for several years. I broke it off because he had become too controlling."

"Good. I hope you found someone instead who could appreciate you, and respect you." He hesitated. "Samantha, I have not asked, and I realize I should have... are you currently, ah, involved with someone else?"

"Of course not! If I were I wouldn't have kissed you like that, or, or, you know!" Sam said, harsher than she meant to. "How could you think that?"

"I apologize. I did not think that was so. It is merely that our cultures are quite different, and I know very little about yours. I did not want to presume." He smiled.

Sam took a deep breath. "Right. Sorry for flying off like that. Well, I'm not with anyone, and I haven't been with anyone - except that I was engaged that time."

"You have never had a lover?" Martouf looked surprised.

"No. Laugh all you want, but no. I haven't even had a one night stand. I'm completely inexperienced." She looked unhappy.

"That is considered bad? That you have never mated?"

"Yes. Well, I suppose that depends, but generally it's a bit embarrassing. Not something I'd want my friends to know."

"Why? Why would the number of lovers you have had matter?"

"I guess it doesn't, but people are stupid sometimes."

"The Tok'ra do not care about something like that, and neither did the people of my homeworld. If you wish to take your pleasure with one, or many, or no one - it is your business, and no one elses. If you enjoy mating, it is common among those Tok'ra who do not have a mate, to seek pleasure with each other."

"Very sensible. I wish my people was more like that." She sighed. "So, who do you 'seek pleasure' with?"

Martouf smiled. "I was always mated to Rosha and Jolinar, and afterwards," his smile disappeared. "Afterwards I grieved."

"I'm sorry," Sam said, taking his hand.

"Thank you." He looked at her, with a somber expression. "I will always love Rosha and Jolinar, but I have mourned for them and are now able to remember the good times."

"That's good," Sam said. "That, that you have moved on, I mean."

He nodded. "Samantha, I have grown very fond of you." He pulled her closer. "Very, very fond of you." he kissed her. "More than that, I..."

He was interrupted by a cheerful female voice. "Come on you two lovebirds! You can't stay in a corner and whisper to each other all night. Dinner is served!"

Sam and Martouf turned to see Jill - and then the tables where everyone else was sitting, waiting.

"Oops, sorry!" Sam exclaimed, blushing.

"My apologies," Martouf added.

They hurried to their assigned seats.

"Okay, it looks like we're all here now," Jackie said, sending Sam a reproachful look. "Before the food is served, there are a few of us that have put together a little presentation. Well, it's mostly a slideshow with some of the many funny pictures we've found from back then. We thought that would be funnier than the usual speeches, but if anyone have anything they wanna say afterwards, then they're very welcome, of course."

Someone turned out the light, and activated a projector focused on a screen behind the end of the table, where Jackie had been standing a moment ago.

Sam groaned, and mumbled in a low voice, "Why did they have to do this?"

Martouf looked at her with concern. "Samantha? Is there a problem?"

She sighed and shook her head. "No, just a high risk of pictures of me looking like a dork."

He smiled. "I do not know the word, but from the content I assume it is not a good thing. I cannot believe that would be so. I am certain you would be adorable in any pictures."

Sam scoffed. "Just wait and see."

Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' began to play at the same time as the first picture appeared on the screen. It showed all of Sam's class, seated at their tables on one of the first days. Sam was sitting in one of the front seats, wearing a colourful knitted sweater and reading a book. She had pigtails and looked very young - which she was, given that she had started High School several years before the others.

Sam made another soft groan and resigned herself to an unspecified amount of time being forced to watch pictures of herself and her classmates from a time she did not really want to remember.

"And that was the last picture," Jackie said, motioning at the person running the projector to turn it off.

Sam breathed a deep sigh of relief as the picture of her entire class on the day of their graduation disappeared.

Martouf smiled softly at her, and spoke in a low voice. "I found it a very interesting experience, and I very much enjoyed this lovely look at your past. You were an adorable child, and you have no reason to be ashamed of anything."

She smiled at him, and whispered. "Thank you. I just don't like being reminded of that time of my life, you know?"

"I am aware, but since we are here at the reunion, you cannot well avoid it. Several of your former classmates seems to have been good friends, and genuinely fond of you. Focus on those, and forget about the others."

"It's good advice," Sam agreed, nodding slowly. She sighed, angry at herself for her self-doubt - something she never usually suffered from.

"There were those in my school that I would also prefer never to meet again," Martouf admitted. "Of course, all things considered, that is unlikely to happen," he added sardonically.

The light had come back on and the food was being brought to the table.

"Why is that unlikely to happen?" Jill asked. "Sorry, I heard the very last part of your conversation." She smiled apologetically.

Martouf was sitting between Sam and Jill, and now threw a quick look at Sam, unsure how to answer. "Ah, they're no longer alive. At least as far as I know."

"Why? What happened?" Jill asked, concerned.

Martouf took a deep breath, and listened to Lantash's suggestion that he tell the truth - or rather some variation of it. "When I was about 17 years old, my p... country was attacked by an enemy, who came to retake what they had abandoned many centuries earlier. A great many people were killed, and the city I lived in was heavily bombarded. When I fled I saw very few who were still alive."

"Oh, my god!" Jill exclaimed, a look of shock on her face. "What did you do?"

"I joined a, a resistance movement."

"What about your family? Your parents?" Jill asked.

"My parents were both killed. My sister was captured, and remains in slavery, though as far as I know, she is still alive."

Sam just groaned softly. "Martouf..."

"I apologize." He looked bashful. "I am not allowed to speak of my past."

"But why?" Jill exclaimed.

"His people, well, the resistance movement at least, are allied with us. Secretly."

"Our enemies are their, I mean your, enemies," Martouf said.

"And that's how you guys met." Jill shook her head, incredulous.

"Yes, Samantha and her people met my people when they brought us the information that one of our warriors, my wife, had been killed."

"Your wife was killed too! You poor, poor man!"

Sam made a pained sound, and Martouf quickly added, "I have said too much. Please, let us speak of something else."

Plates with food was placed before them, bringing a much-needed excuse to change the topic.

"Red or white wine?" a server asked Martouf.

Martouf looked at the food on his plate, and considered what would be most suited - and then what the Tau'ri might find most suited.

Lantash suggested that since they had no way of knowing what the local preference might be, they should go with what they thought they would like best themselves. Since they had been told the meat was from some sort of deer, red wine might be best.

"I... I'd like the red wine," Martouf told the server, who immediately poured the wine in his glass, before continuing to the next person.

"You're in the Air Force now, Sam, right?" a woman sitting across from them, asked.

"Yeah, I am," Sam confirmed. "What about you, Katie?"

"I'm the editor of a small journal called 'The Real Truth'."

"Uh, I'm sorry, but I've never heard of it," Sam said, warily.

"You should. Among other things, we're exposing the lies of the Air Force - and various other governmental agencies," Katie said. She turned towards Martouf. "You do know that the Air Force is collaborating with aliens?"

"Aliens?" Martouf asked, confused.

Katie nodded. "You know, extra terrestrials."

"Ah. I..." Martouf hesitated.

"Really, Katie? Conspiracy theories?" Sam asked, before Martouf could say anything further. "You don't mean that."

"You're denying that the Air Force is involved in various covert affairs? Many of which are kept secret for the population?"

"Not at all. That's necessarily the case for all branches of the military, everywhere."

"Don't be obtuse! You know what I mean! You can't be ignorant of the dealings the Air Force has with aliens! They're experimenting with alien technology as well - some of which they have gotten from those aliens!"

"Really? Alien technology! Wow!"

Martouf was studying them, equal amounts of puzzlement and worry on his face. "You have proof of this?" he asked Katie.

"No, she doesn't. It's just stories some people like to spread," Sam said.

Katie looked offended. "I am not the only one who believes."

"Maybe not, but that just goes to prove there's plenty of crazies," Jill told her. "Stop bothering Sam and her fiancé."

"Hmph," Katie said, but picked up her fork and started eating.

Sam let out a breath of relief, and took a long drink from her glass.

Martouf and Lantash were very relieved as well. Focusing his attention back on the food, Martouf cut a piece of the venison and speared it with his fork, popping it into his mouth. "This is very good. The sauce in particular is delicious," he told Sam.

She nodded, happy to get something else to talk about. "The wine is good too." She held up her glass to him, then the others nearby. "Cheers."

They cheered each other and drank, before returning to enjoy their food. The discussions after that remained as small-talk.

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