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Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 09:28 pm
Title: Let It Grow
Fandom: SGA
Pairing: Vega/Keller, Cadman/Brown
Rating: NC-17
Word count: 17,289
Summary: In which Jennifer works through her own sexual identity, Katie and Laura get back together after all, and Alicia and Laura bond over the perils of being queer in the US military, and why exactly both their girlfriends have been interested in Rodney McKay; au for season 5

A/N: Written for [community profile] ladiesbigbang; cheerleaded and beta'd by the awesome [livejournal.com profile] sarvs who, amongst many other things, is responsible for the Vega/Keller sex scene being far better than it was the first time around.

letitgrowbanner
Cover art by: [personal profile] trascendenza



Let It Grow

"So," Alicia said, leaning in Jennifer's open office doorway.

"Hmm?" Jennifer said absently, head down over her computer, hair falling over her face. "Do you –" she started, looking up, and stopped, and blinked.

Alicia ducked her head, just a little. Just enough for Jennifer not to see her smile – apparently, the thirty minutes she'd spent picking out what to wear had been well spent. "Any luck with that extension?"

"Extension?" Jennifer asked. "Oh, on the evaluations. Um, yes, actually – Colonel Carter got called back to Earth for a review, so I've got until she comes back. Whenever that is."

"Great," Alicia said brightly, trying not to think about how that would probably mean another wait before she got assigned anywhere, especially with both Sheppard and Lorne out with pretty serious injuries. She wasn't even sure who was next in line for command – God, what if it was McKay? Surely no-one would inflict that on the city.

Jennifer, she realized, was looking at her, half-patient, half-confused. Seduction first, work-related woes a very distant second. She upped her smile a little. "You promised to let me buy you a drink. *If* you got through surgery without complications and *if* you got an extension on your paperwork. Since you're sitting here doing your paperwork, and Colonel Sheppard is all drugged up next door, I'm guessing the surgery went off without a hitch…"

"Nothing about how I'm such a brilliant doctor that of course there couldn't have been complications?" Jennifer asked. She smiled, shook her head enough to swing her hair back from her face, and Alicia smoothed her own face out of a slightly puzzled frown – was Jennifer flirting? She'd barely seemed to understand that Alicia was making some kind of friendly overture before, and now she was flirting?

Well, at least it was going to be interesting.

"I thought that went without saying," she said.

Jennifer shrugged, looked away, back to shy again. "Thank you," she said, sounding sincere. "Give me a minute to save this – um, unless I should maybe change?" She looked down at her uniform uncertainly, then back to Alicia's dark jeans and black shirt – enough to look good, but not so much that someone might look at her with another woman and think 'date.'

"I don't think you need to," she said. "You make that uniform work."

Jennifer laughed, only sounding a little awkward. "I don't think anyone makes these uniforms work," she said. "They're not really designed to be flattering."

"Hmm," Alicia said, non-committal. Colonel Carter had – even more the leather jacket she'd worn to go rescue Colonel Sheppard and the others – but Alicia tried really hard not to develop crushes on her female COs, and she didn't intend to start breaking that rule for the Colonel.

She waited while Jennifer shut down her computer, waited while she checked on Colonel Sheppard – still out from surgery – Major Lorne – looking like he wished he was as drugged as Sheppard, even if he did manage a nod and smile for Alicia – and Teyla Emmagan – wide awake, and watching her sleeping son with a joy that made her smile look slightly drugged.

"He's cute," Alicia offered, then realized that Emmagan probably didn't have a clue who she was.

Not that not knowing seemed to throw her any. She looked up, turning her smile on Alicia. "Thank you." Her voice was warm, smooth – it reminded Alicia of her Western History tutor, even though Emmagan was nothing like her in any other way.

"Captain Vega," she said, touching a hand to her chest, like Emmagan could possibly not understand what she meant. "Alicia. I was – I came –" Shut up, what are you doing? Stop stuttering.

"John spoke of you," Emmagan said, and Alicia thought John? before she realized Emmagan meant Colonel Sheppard. "You helped to rescue Rodney and Major Lorne."

"She shot down a dart," Jennifer said, suddenly at her shoulder again, sounding weirdly proud.

"I don't think I shot it down," Alicia said, uneasy with the praise in front of Emmagan in a way that she hadn't been on that planet. "Just clipped it."

"Yeah, but you drove it away," Jennifer persisted. "Gave us the chance to get back to the jumper."

"Couldn’t let you get scooped up by the wraith," Alicia said lightly. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yeah," Jennifer said, looking around the infirmary, then, more firmly, "Yes."

"Enjoy your evening," Emmagan said, already looking back at her baby. Alicia was grateful for that, not sure what Emmagan might have seen, or picked up, and she was a friend of Colonel Sheppard's, on his team. A risk, because people spoke highly of Colonel Sheppard, but "so, how closely does he enforce don't ask don't tell?" wasn't exactly something she could drop into casual conversation.

It wasn't until they were a couple of corridors away from the infirmary that Jennifer suddenly looked over and said, "There isn't anywhere on Atlantis to buy beer."

She'd been on Atlantis for well over a year, and it had taken her that long to remember that? Maybe she'd been telling the truth when she'd said all she did was work. Alicia smiled a little, pleased at how easily Jennifer had agreed to come out with her. "You mean, there isn't a bar on Atlantis. Trust me, there's always somewhere to buy beer."

"You have a secret black market source?" Jennifer asked, amused.

"If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret," Alicia pointed out. "But I have my ways." She touched Jennifer's elbow, very lightly, nudging her down a corridor. "This way."

"None of the lounges are down this way," Jennifer said, back to frowning again.

"No," Alicia agreed. "But there's a balcony with a great view. And you're a doctor, you should know that fresh air's good for you."

"You didn't get enough fresh air back at Michael's base?"

"That wasn't fresh air, that was a rescue mission, there's a difference," Alicia said. Jennifer just looked at her, doubt all over her face, and Alicia said, "There is!" a little more petulant than she'd meant to be.

"I'm sure there is," Jennifer said, laughing at her.

"You wouldn't get it," Alicia said loftily, fighting her smile.

"I'm sure you're right," Jennifer said.

"About so many things," Alicia agreed.

Not about her chances of a goodnight kiss, as it turned out, but that was okay – even without the kiss, the evening turned out to be one of her more successful dates of late.

*

Unlike Mr. Woolsey, who got to beam straight into the gate room, Laura had to wait for the Daedalus to land on the south pier, just like everyone else. Standing in the dart bay, her duffel in her hands, she felt, annoyingly, exactly as nervous as she had the first time she'd come to Atlantis. Except that, this time, she didn't have Lorne standing next to her – even after three weeks flying out, most of the other people on the ship were more or less strangers in a way that he hadn't been for years.

"I was promised an amazing view of the city," Sergeant Mehra grumbled, suddenly at Laura's side and grinning. "I think I'm going to make a formal complaint."

"You get right on that," Laura told her, smiling in spite of herself. "Major Lorne's on light duties at the moment, I'm sure he'd love to hear it."

Mehra looked like she was seriously considering it for a moment. "You're mocking me, aren't you, ma'am?"

"Only gently," Laura said. "The view's better from the ground, anyway."

"Right, you’ve been here before," Mehra said.

Laura nodded, hoping Mehra wouldn't ask why she'd left – or why she'd come back. The decision to leave had been easy, between the promotion and training position the SGC had offered, and the need to get away from people's lingering suspicions after the bomb in the city, but the decision to come back had been a lot harder, even before she added in the stuff that she couldn't tell most people.

Fortunately, she was saved from any conversation Mehra might have chosen to make by Caldwell's voice over the shipwide comm., announcing that they'd touched down on Atlantis, and reminding everyone to stand clear of the opening bay doors.

"Please stow your tray tables and make sure you have all of your personal belongings," Mehra muttered as he finished, giving Laura a sly glance that made her grin, and wish again that she was still eligible to lead a team – she'd have snapped Mehra up in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of Atlantis getting more troops was that the level of seniority required to lead a team had gone up with it, rendering Laura ineligible.

She was expecting the standard welcoming committee of Sheppard and McKay, probably Woolsey, and whoever had been tasked from the military and science departments to act as guides for the first couple of days. Instead, she got the usual assorted marines and scientists, Zelenka, and, balanced somewhat precariously on crutches, Lorne.

"Welcome to Atlantis," he said, nodding. "You'll excuse me if I don't salute."

A few people laughed, some more uncertainly than others – not that Laura could blame them, since it hadn't even occurred to her that she really should salute him. Too many months of being just friends, instead of CO and subordinate.

"Colonel Sheppard and Dr McKay apologize that they can't be here to greet you all in person," Lorne went on. "But they're busy settling Mr. Woolsey into the city. We'll have a proper welcome briefing this evening, but for now, you've each been assigned a guide who'll show you to your quarters and answer any immediate questions."

Laura assumed that Lorne would have assigned himself to her, years of friendship having the occasional benefit, but instead he crutched over to where Major Teldy was standing, with only a quick nod to Laura as he passed her. She found herself, instead, face to face with a woman about her own age, who grinned and held out a hand. "Captain Cadman?"

"Yep," Laura agreed, figuring anyone who wanted to shake hands had to be on a level with her.

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Captain Vega." She shook Laura's hand firmly, then turned away from the Daedalus, motioning for Laura to follow her. "I'm guessing from what Major Lorne said that you don't really need a guide."

"I'm pretty sure I can still remember my way around," Laura said, craning her neck to take in the city, feeling more at home than she'd expected.

"You miss it here?" Vega asked.

"Yeah," Laura said. "I've got some good friends here." She waited for Vega to touch the door crystal, letting them back into the city buildings. "When did you come out here?"

"Couple of months ago." Vega shrugged. "Right before Colonel Sheppard got lost in the future."

Laura laughed – Vega seemed like she'd be easy to like, not too thrown by how weird Atlantis could sometimes be. They stepped into a transporter, and Vega touched a residential corridor a couple along from where Laura had lived last time, then moved back to let Laura step out first.

The corridor was mostly empty, other than a blonde woman in the yellow paneled jacket of a doctor, walking next to an Asian woman in a cream t-shirt. They looked pretty involved in their conversation, but Vega took a step towards them anyway, raising her voice to say, "Hi, Jennifer."

Both women stopped and looked up, and the blonde – Jennifer, presumably – smiled uncertainly. "Captain."

Vega smiled back. "I keep telling you to call me Alicia."

"Right." Jennifer's smile stayed uncertain, but, Laura thought, pleased as well. "Alicia." She kept looking at Vega for a moment too long, then looked over at Laura. "Hi. I don't think we've met."

"Not yet," Laura agreed. "Captain Laura Cadman, I just got back here."

"This is Dr Keller," Vega put in. She didn't move, but she was giving off some kind of anxious vibe regardless, like mental twitching. "And Marie Chen, she's one of the nurses here."

"Good to meet you," Laura said. "Hopefully something that won't be happening too often."

"I live in hope," Keller said, laughing a little, still sounding unsure.

"Usually unfounded, unfortunately," Marie put in. "Doctor, we should really go."

"Right," Keller said, looking back to Vega. "Of course. Nice to meet you, Captain."

Laura stepped aside to let them pass, and turned to carry on to her quarters, only to find Vega watching them walk away. Or, no, watching Keller, her whole expression gone soft.

Laura groaned, silently. That really couldn't be good. "Vega?" she prompted quietly.

Vega snapped back to herself sharply, turning smoothly on her heel. "This way," she said, like nothing had happened. "You're a couple of doors down from me."

"Great," Laura said, and tried, without great success, to convince herself that Vega's ability to stay in the closet wasn't something she needed to worry about.

*

"Hi," someone said brightly, and Jennifer started, her elbow slipping from the desk. "Whoa, hey," the same person said. There was a hand on her arm, steadying her, someone standing very close.

"Thanks," she said, catching her breath and turning. She wasn't especially surprised to see Alicia frowning at her in concern – the captain had been a regular visitor ever since they'd shared a drink on the balcony, three weeks ago.

"Were you sleeping at your desk?" Alicia asked, her tone teasing, though her expression still wasn't.

"No," Jennifer said, though she thought that might be a lie. She'd only sat down to – actually, she couldn't remember.

"Very convincing," Alicia said. Her hand was still on Jennifer's arm, and Jennifer felt a little thrill of – of something – run through her with the realization. "I came to see if you wanted to have dinner with me, but I think I should probably be, uh, telling you to go to bed."

Jennifer's brain caught on the verbal stumble for a moment, trying to figure out what had caused it when Alicia was usually so clear when she spoke. "I'm going," she said.

"You're going to fall asleep at your desk, fall off your stool, and break a bone," Alicia corrected.

Jennifer smiled tiredly, not sure what to say to that. It was probably true.

"I didn't think anything much was happening," Alicia said hesitantly. "The Daedalus only got in yesterday."

"I know," Jennifer said. "I guess I've been pulling too many late nights on the retrovirus, for Carson."

Alicia grinned, her whole face lighting up. "I heard you figured it out, that you woke him up earlier." She sounded proud, and it lifted some of Jennifer's tiredness in a way hardly anyone but her dad ever managed. "That's really amazing."

Jennifer shrugged, feeling awkward in the face of her praise. "I just did what I had to."

"Yeah, but…" Alicia looked away, then back, and Jennifer was pretty sure that was her own awkwardness being reflected back to her. "I couldn't do something like that."

"I couldn't shoot down a dart," Jennifer pointed out. "I –" A yawn cut her off, and she felt her face heat. "Sorry. I really should probably get to bed."

Alicia nodded. "I'll walk you."

"Nothing's going to happen between here and my quarters," Jennifer said, sliding off her stool and closing her laptop.

"Well, now you've jinxed it," Alicia said firmly. "Clearly you need a military escort to protect you from whatever fate just heard you say that."

Jennifer laughed. "I really don't think I do," she said. "But I don't mind walking with you."

"Good," Alicia said, falling into step with her and grinning as they stepped out into the usual dinner-time rush. They walked a little way in companionable silence, Jennifer feeling herself start to zone out with exhaustion. "So," Alicia said abruptly, "Since we won't be having dinner together tonight, we should do it tomorrow. Celebrate your medical success."

"Okay," Jennifer said, uncertain all over again, like she got sometimes with Vega, trying to figure out what she really wanted, sure she was misreading the cues, and not sure if she hoped that she was or not.

"I could pick you up from the infirmary," Alicia said. "I bet you'll still be working at seven in the evening."

"Right, because you're never on the shooting range way past office hours," Jennifer teased back.

"That's not work," Alicia said. "It's… All right, maybe it is work. But I promise I'll knock off at seven if you will."

"All right," Jennifer said, still not entirely sure what she was agreeing to.

*

Alicia was halfway through drawing up a really good plan to escape the infirmary room she'd been put into with no explanation other than, "We think you got infected with something in Michael's lab," when someone tapped on the door.

"Finally," she grumbled, shoving herself off the gurney she'd been lying on. "Come in."

The door slid open to reveal Cadman, in uniform and wearing a mask over her face. "Hi," she said. "Want some company?"

Alicia shrugged, shifting so that there was space for Cadman to join her on the bed, since the room didn't come with any chairs. "Be my guest. I'd offer you coffee, but." She gestured vaguely to the empty room.

"Couldn't drink it through the mask anyway," Cadman pointed out. "You doing okay?"

"Other than being stuck in here with no idea why, or if I'm about to start foaming at the mouth? Sure. Shouldn't you be in hazmat like the med staff?"

"I'm not medical staff," Cadman pointed out. "Just visiting a colleague. Anyway, they don't think you're infectious, so I should be fine. The mask's just a precaution."

"Suits you," Alicia said, trying to relax. How bad could it be if they were letting in visitors? Which, not that she didn't appreciate Cadman dropping by, but she'd been kind of hoping for Jennifer. "So what's wrong with me?"

Cadman shifted slightly, looking down at her hands, folded neatly in her lap. "They told you everyone who was in Michael's compound was infected with something?" Alicia nodded. "It looks like it's some kind of wraith thing – something to do with how they grow hive ships."

"They *grow* their ships?" Alicia parroted, not sure if she was curious or disgusted. Maybe both. "Wait a minute, *I'm* going to grow a hive ship out of me?"

Cadman shuddered, only noticeable because they were sitting so close together. "I don't think so. Carson's working on a cure, but he says you don't have any symptoms yet, so he thinks you'll be okay."

"Symptoms of a hive ship being about to grow out of me," Alicia said. She'd expected her life to take a turn for the weird when she took a posting in another galaxy, but there was weird and then there was... this. "Hold on, why isn't Jennifer working on this? Dr Beckett was just in stasis yesterday."

Cadman shifted again, and Alicia got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Jennifer's kind of the reason they figured this out," she said gently. "She's – apparently they take over a host and use the person to grow the ship."

Alicia looked away, felt Cadman watching her and tried to pull it together. "Is she... Is it going to kill her?"

"They're not really sure." Cadman put her hand on Alicia's arm, just resting it there. "Carson thinks that if they can work out the cure, they can use it on Dr Keller. If they can get to her – the ship's growing, and it looks like it has some kind of defensive capabilities."

"This just gets more and more disturbing," Alicia said, trying for dry and not quite making it.

"Carson's a good doctor," Cadman said, soft. "They're doing everything they can to save Jennifer."

Alicia nodded, not ready to say anything else.

"She's going to be okay," Cadman said, and there was something in her voice, something that Alicia knew. She looked over at Cadman, who was watching her with sympathetic eyes above her mask.

"You know Dr Brown?" Cadman asked.

Alicia thought about it, then nodded. "The botanist who was seeing Dr McKay?"

"Some of the time she was seeing him, she was seeing me as well," Cadman said, her voice dropping.

"Oh," Alicia said quietly.

Cadman looked down at her hands and shrugged. "It's complicated," she said, laughing a little, mostly at herself. "Bi marine, when is it ever not, right? But she's.. I don't know. Anyway, I understand."

"We're not together," Alicia said, in the interests of honesty, since Cadman had been honest with her. "I don't even know..."

"If she's interested in women?" Cadman offered.

Alicia shook her head. "I don't think she knows that either. I mean – I don't know if she's interested in me."

Cadman's eyes brightened like she was smiling under the mask. "I don't think she knows about that either."

"Thanks for the encouragement," Alicia teased, amused despite the situation.

Cadman shrugged. "She's pretty nervous with you, from what I saw. So, you know, maybe."

"Yeah, maybe," Alicia echoed. That was the problem – Jennifer never said no when Alicia asked to do something with her, and she had the slight nervousness that Cadman had identified, that Alicia was used to seeing in women who hadn't thought about other women much before. Except that she never asked Alicia in return, like she wasn't even sure they were friends.

"Cheer up," Cadman said, nudging her with her shoulder. "She hasn't turned you down flat yet. You could be worse off."

Alicia nodded. At least the woman she was interested in hadn't ended things to get serious with a man. She wondered if that was why Cadman had left Atlantis the first time – if it was why she'd come back – but despite Cadman confiding in her, she didn't quite feel like she could ask. It felt a lot more personal than allowing that she had kind of a crush on Dr Keller. "Assuming she survives," she said quietly.

Cadman nudged her shoulder again, and stayed leaning there, comforting. "Let's stick to assuming that," she said.

*

When Alicia headed down to medical, after it was all over, she expected to find it pretty much empty. Instead, she found Sheppard in one bed, apparently asleep, and Cadman sitting by Lorne's bed. She looked up when she heard Alicia's footsteps and grinned, waving her over. "You okay?" she asked.

Alicia hesitated, not sure if she was reading more into the question than Cadman meant. Cadman's grin softened into a smile, her eyes sliding across to Lorne, who was looking fairly intently at the closed book in his hands. Alicia raised an eyebrow in question, and Cadman nodded.

Well, okay then. It maybe explained why Cadman and Lorne were reputed to be such good friends – certainly better than the rumors she'd heard that they were sleeping together.

"I'm fine," she said. "Dr Keller owes me dinner."

"You didn't get the hint when she tried to turn into a hive ship to get out of it?" Cadman asked, still smiling.

"Some people can be so extreme," Alicia said, shrugging. "You okay there, sir?"

Lorne looked up, and Alicia was pretty sure he was blushing. "Apparently a broken leg and symptoms of becoming a tentacle monster don't mix," he said dryly. "Just a precaution."

Cadman coughed a mocking laugh, then turned on the innocent expression when Lorne looked at her. "What with Keller and Carson liking their over-precautions so much," she said, deadpan serious.

Alicia shuffled her feet slightly, not totally comfortable watching her sort of friend banter with their boss, and they both looked at her, which was worse. She waved a hand over her shoulder, in the general direction of Jennifer's office. "I'm going to see if Dr Keller's in her office, unless..." She looked at Lorne, who looked back at her blankly for a minute, then waved a dismissive hand.

"Go on. I think we can do without the ceremony when I'm in a hospital bed."

"Yes, sir," Alicia said. She wondered if being Air Force like Sheppard and Lorne made this worse, then remembered that most of the other military were marines, and they had an unhealthy obsession with ceremony and formality, so probably not. "Hope you're feeling better soon."

"Thanks, Captain."

"Meet you for breakfast?" Cadman asked, before Alicia could turn away.

"Um, sure," Alicia said.

"Oh-six-hundred?" Cadman asked. Alicia groaned, which made Lorne laugh, but nodded, crossing the infirmary without looking at Sheppard, who she strongly suspected wasn't as asleep as he looked.

Jennifer was frowning at her laptop, leaning her cheek on one hand, and Alicia hesitated in the doorway, not quite ready to disturb her. She looked good; better than she had for a while – not that Alicia had noticed her looking worse, she thought guiltily – and not at all like she'd been infected with a hive ship.

"Hi," she said quietly.

Jennifer still started, like always, but she smiled easily. "Hi." For a moment, she just smiled at Alicia, then her hand went to her stethoscope, and she said, "Do you need medical care?"

Alicia shook her head. "I'm fine. I'm here to drag you off for dinner. Since you haven't finished on time."

"I wasn't expecting you," Jennifer protested mildly.

"You promised to have dinner with me," Alicia said, giving Jennifer her most charming smile, and foregoing, at the last minute, a joke about the hive ship thing. Jennifer was a civilian, it was probably too early. "Postponed, not canceled."

Jennifer looked back to her screen for a moment, then to Alicia again, her expression gone uncertain in a way that was getting very familiar. "Okay. I guess it is getting kind of late."

Cadman waved brightly as they passed her on their way out, and, to Alicia's surprise, Keller waved cheerfully back. "I didn't think you knew each other," she said, guiding Jennifer into the crowded corridor with a hand on her elbow.

Jennifer shrugged. "We don't really, but we were talking earlier, it turns out we have a couple of mutual acquaintances from the SGC."

Alicia nodded. "How long were you there?"

They talked about the SGC, which Alicia had only passed through in being trained up to come out to Atlantis, all the way to the mess hall, where Jennifer suddenly tensed, trailing off. Alicia shifted them slightly out of the path of the general dinner rush, stepping around in front of her to get a look at her face, which looked almost as relaxed as it had been while she talked about working with Carolyn Lam.

"What's wrong?" Alicia asked.

Jennifer shook her head. "Nothing, I'm fine," she said, but it sounded automatic, not real. Alicia kept looking at her, and she ducked her head, smiling ruefully. "It's – I don't know. Colonel Sheppard's in the infirmary again, because of me."

"He's in the infirmary because you and he went to save Ms Emmagan," Alicia corrected. "It could have been any of us. It could have been me."

"I know," Jennifer said, sounding frustrated with herself. "It's just... Maybe I should skip dinner."

"You need to eat," Alicia said firmly, but she'd already moved ahead – there was no way Jennifer was going to relax enough for them to have any kind of pleasant dinner together, not when she felt like everyone was looking at her and judging. "Why don't I grab dinner for both of us and we can eat in my quarters?"

"You-" Jennifer looked at her, and Alicia was abruptly the one who wanted to look away, suddenly worried what Jennifer might see, or might say in response to that. Then Jennifer smiled, none of her usual uncertainty in it. "Thank you. That would be nice."

It didn't occur to Alicia until they were standing in the entrance to her quarters, trays in hand, that she didn't really have anywhere to sit to eat dinner. "Um," she said, feeling foolish as she looked around for inspiration. "Maybe we could eat on the balcony? You can have the desk chair."

Jennifer shook her head, already heading for the door. "I don't mind sitting on the floor if you don't," she said over her shoulder, and Alicia wasn't going to argue.

Even less so when she sat close enough to Jennifer for their elbows to brush as they ate, and Jennifer didn't move away.

"This was nice," Jennifer said during a lull in the conversation, when they'd finished eating and Alicia was contemplating offering to make coffee, just so Jennifer wouldn't feel like she had to go. She made a small noise of agreement instead, which Jennifer seemed to take as more of a question, since she waved a hand to the central spire and the water, down below. "The view, and the peace and quiet. It's been hectic, with Teyla, and the Daedalus showing up and everything."

"You shouldn't work so hard," Alicia said.

Jennifer nodded, not looking at her. "There's so much to do, though. The SGC won't send another doctor while Carson's still – until they decide if they're going to let him stay here, and I don't even know if he wants to. Maybe he'll decide to stay on Earth. And we have – I know it's dangerous out here, for the people on gate teams, but people are so – I know you're not careless," she said, turning suddenly to face Alicia, her face twisted in anxiety. "But you all have so many injuries, and we're so -"

"Hey," Alicia said, catching Jennifer's arm and holding her, holding her anxious, troubled eyes. "Calm down. You do a great job, all of you do. You don't need to work yourself into exhaustion for it."

"You don't understand," Jennifer said, sounding almost sad. "I have to."

"You don't," Alicia said again. Jennifer was her age, give or take a few months, and head of the medical team – Alicia could understand that kind of anxiety, being driven to work herself that hard to prove herself. She just didn't think that was what this was really about. "You know you can talk to me," she said, softening her voice. "About the hive ship and the infection."

She knew she'd gotten it right – Jennifer's tense arm relaxed under her hand, and her expression followed a moment later, leaving her gazing at Alicia in something like surprise. "It talked to me," she said, frowning. "It was in my head, and – it didn't seem like it was evil, it just... didn't know any better."

"Okay," Alicia said, suppressing a shudder. She leaned back against the wall, pulled Jennifer with her. Jennifer went with it, until she was leaning against Alicia. "Go on."

"They left me there," she said quietly. "Just – turned out all the lights and left me in that room, with that thing growing out of me and they wouldn't say why. I thought they'd just left me there to die." The hysteria was rising back in her voice, and Alicia rubbed her arm, soothed her, trying not to think about it. She'd been lying in a room, staring at the ceiling and bored, while Jennifer was panicked and abandoned.

"I was..." Jennifer trailed off. "I thought that it would just take over my brain and my body and I'd be trapped there, and no-one would be able tor rescue me." She shivered, just once, leaned further into Alicia. "And then I thought – when I woke up and it wasn't in my head, I just thought that there had to be other people, for all those ships. All those poor people who got trapped, and even if we could find them, we've got no way of saving them. And they're probably all mad, now," she added, very quietly, the unspoken I would be hanging in the air.

"I'm sorry," Alicia said, feeling lost and stupid in the conversation. "I think -" she hesitated, not sure if she should speak, except that, even without looking, she knew that Jennifer was watching her, waiting. "People find ways to cope," she said. "They – sometimes people just go somewhere else in their heads – to a better place."

"Do you think that's what the people on those other ships did?" Jennifer asked, the answer she wanted clear in her voice.

"Yes," Alicia said, mostly certain. Maybe they had gone insane, like Jennifer thought, or maybe they'd lost all their awareness of themselves as humans. It wasn't like they'd ever be able to find out. "I think that's what happens to them."

"That's... sort of not so bad," Jennifer said, still uncertain.

"That wouldn't have happened to you," Alicia said firmly. "Even if the injection hadn't worked, we'd have found another way to rescue you."

"That's nice," Jennifer said, sounding sleepy, like the rush of hysteria had drained her.

"Yeah," Alicia agreed, and bent her head to kiss Jennifer's forehead softly, meaning to comfort. Jennifer made a small, satisfied noise, and so Alicia bent to do it again. Only this time, Jennifer lifted her head, tipped it back, and Alicia's mouth brushed hers instead.

They both froze, too close for Alicia to read Jennifer's eyes as anything but a blur of blue. She should pull back – Jennifer had had a bad couple of days, was still vulnerable in the wake of it, probably didn't really know if she wanted Alicia or not... And hadn't made any move to step back, or push Alicia away.

Alicia kissed her again, less chaste than the last kiss had been, but still close mouthed. Felt the tentative press of Jennifer's mouth as she returned it for a moment, before Alicia ended the kiss, moved back, her arm still half around Jennifer's shoulders, keeping her from falling.

Jennifer blinked, looking slightly dazed, then seemed to come back to herself. A flush dusted her fair skin but she didn't move away, so not all bad. "Why did you do that?" Jennifer asked, sounding honestly curious, and Alicia couldn't help her laugh.

"Because I wanted to," she suggested. "I like you."

"Oh," Jennifer said, curiosity morphed into surprise. "I'm... I don't think I'm a lesbian. Or bisexual."

"Okay," Alicia said. "Does that mean you don't want me to do that again?"

Jennifer touched one finger to her mouth, like she could feel Alicia's kiss there, and Alicia wanted to echo the touch, wanted another kiss. "It doesn't mean I don't want you to," Jennifer said hesitantly. "I'm not – I never really thought about..."

"Whether you might be attracted to women?" Alicia finished for her, when it became obvious that Jennifer didn't know how to.

"Something like that," Jennifer said dryly. "Is that a problem?"

"No," Alicia said, grinning a little with relief. "You can take your time, think about. My posting's for two years."

"I probably won't need to think for that long," Jennifer said, smiling.

Alicia still wanted to kiss her again – even more so when she smiled like that – but that wouldn't be fair. "Let me walk you back to your quarters," she said instead. "You can get started on the thinking."

*

Laura, in an attempt to get enough privacy for the conversation, had chosen a table half hidden behind a potted plant when she got to the mess hall, which meant that she didn't notice Vega's arrival until the other woman walked right past her, tray in hands and obviously looking for Laura, then doubled back before Laura could say anything to get her attention.

"Nice hiding place," Vega said as she sat down.

"Marine would have spotted me straight away," Laura said.

Vega raised her eyebrows. "You're seriously going for inter-service rivalry at oh-six-hundred?"

"Suck it up," Laura advised. She let Vega eat a couple of bites of oatmeal, then said, quietly, "How did it go?"

Vega tilted her head from side to side, obviously ambivalent, though her expression leaned more towards happy than not. "She wants time to think."

"About..." Laura prompted, which made Vega roll her eyes.

"Whether she wants me to kiss her again," she said, so quietly that Laura had to lean in to hear her above the buzz of noise around them, between early shift having breakfast and the scientists who worked all night having a final meal before going to bed. Vega shrugged. "Better than outright rejection, right?"

"Yeah," Laura said. She wanted to say something about how young Keller sometimes seemed, almost innocent, like she hadn't been exposed to anyone who made her think about who she was interested in, but it wasn't like Vega didn't probably know that already. Laura doubted she needed advice.

"Yeah," Vega echoed. "Do you – if you want to talk about how things are going with Dr Brown..."

Laura wasn't entirely sure that she wanted to talk about her and Katie's relationship at all, particularly not with someone who didn't know most of their complicated history, but it didn't feel right to turn down Vega's friendly offer. "They're not right now. She's on an extended off-world research project."

"That sucks," Vega said sympathetically. "But she knows you're back, right?"

Laura nodded. "She was going to come back to Earth, after McKay broke it off. Give us another try, but I got offered a posting out here, and we decided I'd come to her instead. She didn't want to leave, not really."

It still gave her a little thrill, remembering Katie's email offering to come back to Earth for Laura – they'd stayed in touch even after they stopped sleeping together, when Katie and McKay got more serious, but she'd never really let herself hope.

Of course, email was a distant second to face-to-face, and waiting for Katie to come back from her trip was making her more nervous than she'd been when she was applying to join the marines.

"Wouldn't it have been easier to stay on Earth?" Vega asked.

Laura shrugged. "We'd either have ended up at the SGC together or she'd have gotten a job somewhere too far away to see each other much."

Vega nodded. "When's she due back?"

"Next week," Laura said.

"That's good," Vega said, then, when Laura didn't say anything, "That is good, right?"

"Yeah. At least then I'll know."

"Know what?" Vega asked, frowning.

Laura shifted, uncomfortable with confessing something she hadn't even told Lorne. "If she just chose me because McKay ended things."

Vega bristled, like she was personally offended, even though Laura was pretty sure she'd never even met Katie. "You said she was willing to come back to Earth for you and maybe not even end up anywhere near you. She wouldn't do that if she just wanted to not be on her own."

Laura smiled, amused despite herself. "You're a good friend," she said, not ready to discuss how much it had hurt when things ended, in public.

Vega looked down, the gesture oddly shy, and said, "Thank you," sounding pleased.

*

The problem with Atlantis, Jennifer had decided in her year and a bit there, was that the moment you really needed some peace and space to think about something – like, say, a female colleague kissing you and whether you might be interested in it, or something more, happening again – was always the exact same moment that something went horribly wrong.

In this case, Ronon being grabbed off-world.

Not that she was really involved in any of it, but he was a friend, and it was hard to focus on anything personal when someone was missing.

Someone who had, once, kissed her.

Alone in her office, the infirmary temporarily empty, she couldn't shake the memory – of how charmed she'd been by his attempts to get them out of the lockdown, of the way it had felt to curl up next to him, protected. Of how certain she'd been that he'd come by, after, and ask her out or at least show that he understood she was asking for a date when she suggested they have dinner together.

She wasn't even sure, now, that he'd ever been interested, that the kiss had been anything other than a friendly gesture, and God knew she'd been in Atlantis too long if she was starting to think of a kiss like that as a friendly gesture.

Not that it mattered: he was a friend, he'd nearly died helping to save her from the hive ship, and now he was missing and there wasn't a thing she could do until they found him.

Other than think about Alicia, about their kiss and how oddly similar it had been to the way she and Ronon had shared their own kiss, and that wasn't something she could spare the mental space to think about. Not until Ronon was back.

*

Not even when he was, as it turned out, when she had a Wraith enzyme detox program to run with no warning, and less than total confidence that she really knew how to do that, or what was for the best. Watching him, restrained on the bed with wide glass windows looking down on him as he thrashed and cursed and begged, she hated that she couldn't do better for him, couldn't make it easier.

She hated the way there was always someone watching, even if they weren't watching her. It wasn't much better to have Colonel Sheppard and his team sitting with Ronon instead, but it seemed to help them, which made it worth it.

Not that it seemed to make any difference to Ronon – if he knew they were there, he didn't show any sign – or to Ronon's other visitors. Or, visitor, really, she thought, when she chanced an occasional glance up to the catwalk. More than once, she saw Lorne sitting there with his back against the glass and Cadman sitting cross-legged opposite him, neither of them looking like they were talking. Jennifer didn't think Cadman was there for Ronon. She didn't want to speculate about Lorne but...

But she thought about being in his place – about wanting to ask for his turn to sit with Ronon, or to be reassured that it was getting better and not being able to, how grateful he looked when she managed to catch him still on the catwalk and tell him anyway. It had to be hard, in ways she'd never really thought much about, and he wouldn't have gotten into whatever he had with Ronon without really wanting it.

And neither would Alicia.

Later, when Ronon was as recovered as Jennifer could make him, medically, Teyla came by the infirmary one evening with Torren in her arms.

"Is he all right?" Jennifer asked, picking her stethoscope up from her desk and going over to them.

Teyla nodded before Jennifer could touch her baby. "He is well. It seems that he sleeps better at night if we spend some time walking the city first."

Jennifer ducked her head to look at Torren's face – his eyelids were drooping and he seemed moments from falling asleep completely. "Seems like it's working," she said. Teyla nodded, but didn't, as Jennifer had half-expected, immediately move on. "Do you want to – I've got some tea in my office, if you want some."

Jennifer wasn't one hundred per cent certain, but she thought she saw surprise flicker across Teyla's face before she said, smoothly, "That would be lovely. Thank you, Jennifer."

"I must thank you," she went on, when they were settled in Jennifer's two visitor chairs, mugs steaming on the edge of her desk and Torren dozing against Teyla, "For what you did for Ronon."

"I don't think I did much," Jennifer said, then stopped herself before she could start rambling on about how much better she should have been able to do – Teyla didn't need to hear that. "He's strong, though. I think that helped."

A shadow flitted across Teyla's face again, one that Jennifer couldn't read. "I am sure that it will, now," she agreed. "And he has many friends who will support him."

Jennifer nodded, not sure if Teyla was including her or not. She hoped Teyla was. "How's Torren?" she asked. "Other than liking to keep you on your feet all the time."

"Kanaan tells me that, as a small child, he would disturb the whole village with his crying unless he was walked at least to the river and back every evening before bed," Teyla said. "So I have chosen to blame him for this part of our son's nature."

"But not to make him do all the walking?" Jennifer asked, amused.

Teyla smiled ruefully. "Kanaan believes that Torren is only restless because he does not see me during the day and that walking with Kanaan would not have the desired effect."

"Ah," Jennifer said, trying not to laugh, even though Teyla seemed to find it more funny than annoying.

"Yes," Teyla said. "I am certain it is unrelated to the amount of attention which Torren is paid on these walks."

"Sure," Jennifer said dryly, letting herself smile and getting an answering smile from Teyla.

They fell easily enough into silence, sipping their tea, until Teyla said, gently, "Is there something troubling you, Dr Keller?"

"You should call me Jennifer," she said, startled.

"Jennifer," Teyla corrected easily. "Is there something troubling you? You seem anxious." She lifted the hand on Torren's back to gesture to Jennifer's hands, which she realized were wrung together, her mug balanced precariously on her knee.

Jennifer laughed, then wished she hadn't when it came out nervous and strained. "Not really. I'm just – I've kind of got something big on my mind."

"Would it help to talk to someone?" Teyla asked.

Jennifer shook her head, picking up her mug just to give her hands something to do. Teyla seemed to realize that she didn't entirely mean the gesture as a negative and sat quietly, though Jennifer could feel Teyla watching her.

"There's someone," she started, then immediately stopped and said, "You have to promise to keep this secret. Even from Colonel Sheppard and your team."

"Of course, unless someone is at risk of harm," Teyla said.

Jennifer shook her head again, more emphatically. "They're not, but if someone found out, she could be."

"Then I will keep your counsel private," Teyla promised.

Jennifer wondered for a minute if this whole thing would be easier if she hadn't gone to medical school so early – if she'd spent college having these kinds of conversations. Probably not – Atlantis was a pretty special circumstance. "She kissed me," she said. Teyla didn't say anything. "I don't..."

"You have not previously been attracted to women," Teyla offered.

"Yeah," Jennifer said, uncertainly. "Or, I mean, I never really thought about it before. I kind of didn't date much in college."

"I see," Teyla said, though Jennifer wasn't totally sure that she did. "And now?"

"I don't know," Jennifer said. "She's – I'd like her, if she was a guy? She's nice, she's smart, she -" She stopped before she could say something about Alicia shooting down the dart, since they'd told Teyla about that already.

"She sounds like a very worthy partner," Teyla said. When Jennifer looked up, she was smiling, the sort of patient and amused smile she gave to Torren sometimes. "You said that she kissed you?"

Jennifer bit her bottom lip, remembering. Alicia's kiss had been nice.

"And you would like to do so again?" Teyla asked, the smile evident in her voice.

Jennifer laughed a little, feeling herself flush. "Maybe. But I don't...it's not fair to let her think I'm... I don't think I'm a lesbian."

"Is that important?" Teyla asked, serious again.

"I don't know," Jennifer said, honestly. "I think... it wouldn't be fair to lead her on."

"But you are attracted to her?" Teyla asked. Jennifer nodded, pretty sure it was true between the way she kept thinking about the kiss and the way she felt so nervous around Alicia, butterflies in her stomach. "If you feel an attraction, then perhaps the word you use for it is less important."

"I don't think it's that simple," Jennifer said doubtfully.

Teyla smiled again, warm and reassuring. "Sometimes it is," she said.

*

Laura had planned to be in the gate-room when Katie's team came back, had planned to be in her own quarters, had planned to casually run into Katie in a corridor, Katie's lab, the mess, had planned to knock on Katie's door, had planned to wait for Katie to come to her.

And then had stopped planning, because Lorne had said, "I've got three storage closets to reorganize, if you're having this much trouble sitting still," and Alicia had started giving her sympathetic looks, and there was 'open secret' and then there was 'which gets you fired' and she really didn't want to hit the second one.

All of which meant that, when she stepped out of the gym and pretty much walked straight into Katie, she didn't have anything witty, or even coherent, planned out to say and said, "You're back," instead, like an idiot.

Katie laughed. "I was going to say the same thing to you." She looked both ways along the busy corridor, then met Laura's eyes with a rueful smile. "It's good to see you again."

"You too." And it was – though they'd emailed regularly since Laura went back to Earth, even spoken on the phone during the six weeks that the expedition had been recalled, she hadn't seen Katie in person since leaving. Katie had hardly changed at all – her hair was a little longer, she was wearing a new uniform, but that was it. Same old Katie, except that now she came without McKay hovering in the background.

"I like your haircut." Katie half-raised one hand, like she meant to touch Laura's chin length hair, then remembered they were in public. "When did you cut it?"

"Year ago?" Laura guessed, trying to remember. It had been after the mission with the purple slime that had clumped in everyone's hair and refused to wash out, but she couldn't remember if she'd told Katie about that or not. "It's more convenient."

"No more finding hair ties all over my room, then?" Katie asked, smiling sweet and teasing.

"I'll bring a couple by, just for you," Laura promised, returning the smile, feeling some of her anxiety lift.

"Tonight?" Katie asked, dropping the teasing tone. "After dinner, maybe? We could catch up."

Laura had made vague plans to do something with Alicia, but she figured Alicia would probably understand if she explained why she had to cancel. "Sure," she said. "That sounds good."

"Good." Katie smiled, then checked the corridor again. "Can I hug you hello, or does that violate your tough marine persona?"

Laura tipped her head to one side, pretending to think about it. "I can probably risk it," she said finally. "Since we haven't seen each other in years."

"If you're sure," Katie said. Laura nodded, and Katie stepped in closer, her arms going around Laura's shoulders, not too close for it too look like anything other than friends, just close enough for Laura to feel her warmth. "I haven't changed my mind," Katie said quietly in her ear, then pulled away and took a step back, tucking her hair behind her ears in a familiar nervous gesture.

"Okay," Laura said, fighting the urge to duck her head, sure she was blushing. "That's – me either."

Katie's face broke into a smile, warm and happy, and for a moment, they just grinned at each other like idiots. Then reality broke back in again and Laura looked away, checking to see if anyone was looking at them. No-one was, or if they were, they were being too subtle for her to spot. "I'll see you later," she said, half-raising her hand in a wave.

Katie returned the gesture, still smiling, and turned away.

*

Alicia had intended, after Laura canceled on her, to try to catch Dusty Mehra in the mess, since it seemed fairly likely that they were going to end up on a team together. Mehra, though, turned out to have eaten and run, perhaps literally, and so when Alicia spotted Jennifer at a table on her own, she decided it was a sign, though of what, she wasn't completely sure. They hadn't seen each other to do more than nod across a room since Alicia had kissed her and Jennifer had asked for time to think. Alicia didn't want to push, but… But that wasn't really true. She at least wanted to know if she had to start moving on or not, if she was going to keep Jennifer as a friend out of it.

She cleared her throat as she got close so as not to startle Jennifer, then hovered on the other side of the table until Jennifer looked up. "Would you mind if I joined you?"

"Um." Jennifer looked around the room with a slightly trapped air that made Alicia's heart sink, then moved her coffee cup closer. "No. Of course not."

"You sure?" Alicia pushed, balancing her tray on the back of the chair. "I don't want to – I won't be offended if you tell me you're not ready to see me yet."

"No," Jennifer said immediately. "No, it's fine, it's –" She stopped, took a deep breath, and looked up at Alicia again, smiling and calmer. "I wouldn't mind at all if you joined me. I was – hoping to run into you."

That sounded more positive. Alicia took the spare seat and started on her pasta. "How're things in the infirmary? All quiet?"

Jennifer shrugged, dragging her spoon through what was left of her ice cream. "Mostly. I kind of feel like I'm waiting for the next disaster to strike though."

Alicia paused with a fork of pasta halfway to her mouth. "That's kind of a glass half-empty way of looking at it."

"I know. I used to be able to appreciate the quiet, before I came out here." She made a weird, twisty face. "I guess Atlantis changes people."

It was a perfect opening, except for how there were six marines sitting at the table next to theirs. Alicia couldn't think of anything else to say, just looked at Jennifer, who laughed a little, shaking her head, then leaned in slightly. "Can we – I need to talk to you," she said.

"Not here?" Alicia asked.

Jennifer shook her head. "Maybe we could – after you finish your dinner, we could go for a walk? On the south-west pier?"

The south-west pier had taken a direct hit when the city had gone into space a little over a year ago, the main building out there half-gone, which made it the least popular of all the piers, and perfect for the kind of conversation they needed to have. "That sounds nice," Alicia said. "Do you want to…?" She gestured with her fork to the door, but Jennifer shook her head.

"Finish your dinner first."

Alicia poked at her pasta, but her stomach was twisting nervously, and the thought of eating more made her feel slightly sick. "I'll grab a snack later," she said. "Unless you want to eat that ice cream, instead of just making patterns in it?"

Jennifer looked down, surprise on her face. "No. I think I'm done."

Like Alicia had expected, the south-west pier was deserted, though she kept a carefully 'friends only' distance from Jennifer as they walked, just in case someone was looking out of a window in the main part of the city and happened to see them.

"I talked to Teyla," Jennifer said, abruptly. "I didn't tell her it was you, I just –"

"Needed someone to talk to?" Alicia asked. Jennifer nodded, but she was still radiating uncertainty. "First time I realized I was interested in a girl, I told my Western History professor," Alicia added. "I was supposed to be talking about a paper and I just sort of blurted it out. I don't think she really knew what to say."

It made Jennifer smile. "Teyla's very… she says it doesn't matter what label I use if I'm attracted to you."

"I guess that's one way of looking at it," Alicia said, cautious.

"You don't –" Jennifer started, then frowned, started again. "Are you…"

"I'm a lesbian," Alicia said, dropping her voice without conscious thought. "I've never had sex with a guy and I don't want to."

"Oh," Jennifer said, her voice gone small. Alicia looked over at her, but she had her head down, her hair hiding her face. Alicia wanted to brush it back, and not just so that she could read Jennifer's expression. "Is that – I don't know, would it matter that I have?"

"I sort of assumed that," Alicia said honestly. "And no, it doesn't matter to me if the woman I'm with is a lesbian or bi."

"I don't know if I'm – I don't know what I am," Jennifer said, looking up. Her face was drawn and worried. "I mean, I think, you know, I had – I think there were girls I probably had a crush on but I didn't think about it that way. You're the first woman…"

"Who ever kissed you?" Alicia asked, not sure if she was getting the brush-off or not. Having to keep her sexuality mostly secret since she'd joined the Air Force hadn't given her much access to women who didn't already know what they wanted, and she was out of practice at interpreting it.

"Who I ever wanted to kiss," Jennifer corrected quietly, then rushed on: "I don't – I don't know if this is what I want, if we could – I don't want to sound like I'm sure, and then maybe disappoint you, or…"

"You know you don't have to jump into anything you're not ready for, right?" Alicia asked. "This isn't some kind of time-limited offer or anything."

"I know that," Jennifer said, and to her credit, she did sound sure. "I know I want to – to be more than just friends, but I don't know how far I'll be comfortable taking it. I don't know what it means."

Alicia was her experiment, she meant, the kind that people had in college, if they didn't go to college too young to be able to do that. She wasn't sure how she felt about that. She already suspected that it would hurt if Jennifer said that, actually, she didn't think she was interested in women that way after all. On the other hand, so would Jennifer turning around and saying that she wanted to end things for some other reason. She wasn't sure she had anything much to lose. It wasn't like no woman ever experimented and decided she liked it.

"Maybe I could take you on a date," she said. "It's movie night in a couple of days, right? We could go together."

"That sounds nice," Jennifer said. She frowned suddenly. "I guess there's no holding hands and making out on the back row, though."

Alicia laughed, startled into it. "Not unless you want to explain to my CO that we were the victims of alien sex pollen and I'm really very, very straight."

Jennifer shrugged. "I'm a doctor, I could probably be convincing."

"Let's not try it," Alicia said. She hesitated, not wanting to break the mood, then figured she kind of had to. "You understand that – I mean, if we do get involved, no-one can know. We won't be able to hold hands or kiss in public or anything like that. I have to be careful and you'll have to be as well."

"I understand," Jennifer said solemnly. "I'm good at keeping things secret, trust me."

Alicia did, mostly. She was a doctor, after all, probably knew all sorts of secrets about the expedition members that she never even hinted at. "Thank you," she said.

"Thank you for the invitation to movie night," Jennifer said, slightly too formal.

Alicia slung an arm around her shoulders for a quick, friendly hug. "Just don't start expecting a corsage or anything."

"Now she tells me," Jennifer said dryly, but she was smiling, still leaning into Alicia a bit, and Alicia just grinned back.

*

“Here,” Laura said when Katie opened the door to her quarters to find her standing on the other side, holding up a blue hair tie. It was a perfect match to the one Katie had tucked in the back of her dresser drawer, but she suspected Laura didn't know that, and wasn't inclined to tell her.

“Now I feel at home,” she said instead, standing back so that Laura could step inside. Like Katie, Laura had changed out of her uniform, into dark jeans and a green vest top, slightly too pretty to match the combat boots she was still wearing. “You look nice.”

Laura tugged at the hem of her shirt and smiled wryly. “I didn't exactly bring any date appropriate clothes.”

“Hey,” Katie touched her arm until she looked up. “I'm not being sarcastic. You do look nice.” Her shorter hair and bare shoulders drew attention to the line of her neck, made Katie want to trail her fingers over the exposed skin.

Laura watched her for a long moment, then shrugged. “Thank you. You too.”

Katie could practically feel them about to slide down into awkward silence, and moved back into her room purposefully. “I hope you still like red,” she said over her shoulder, pleased to see Laura following her into the tiny excuse for a kitchen.

She seemed to relax a bit when they were sitting shoulder to shoulder on Katie's bed, glasses of red wine in hand. “So, tell me about your mission.”

Katie forcibly curbed her natural urge to describe the whole thing in enthusiastic detail – not because Laura would mind, but because that could easily take the whole evening, which she had not set aside for that purpose – and said, “Good. We found a new succulent, it's a really deep red. Really pretty.”

“Plus it cures cancer?” Laura guessed, laughing at her a little.

Katie made a face instead of sticking her tongue out like she wanted to. “Actually, initial tests show it's more likely to kill you than cure you.”

“Note to self,” Laura said, “Don't eat any dark red succulents off-world.”

“Not unless you've got a botanist with you to advise,” Katie agreed.

“That won't be a problem,” Laura assured her. “Lorne's asked me to join his team.”

“That's great,” Katie said, loving how happiness made Laura's eyes light up. “To replace Captain Black?”

Laura nodded. “I think Sheppard talked him into it,” she said. “Someone has to keep him out of trouble.”

“Right, because it's Major Lorne who keeps getting into trouble off-world,” Katie agreed sarcastically.

“Last time he went off-world, a building fell on him,” Laura pointed out, mock-offended. “And then he nearly got turned into a hive ship without even leaving the city. Clearly he's not safe to be let out alone.”

“The first time you went off-world, you ended up in Rodney's head,” Katie pointed out, and watched some of the amusement drop off Laura's face.

“Yeah, but then I got to kiss you,” she said quietly.

“I''m not going to apologize for getting involved with Rodney,” Katie said firmly. Though it might have helped if she hadn't been looking at Laura's shoulder as she said it. “Or for...”

“Choosing him instead of me?” Laura asked, sounding honestly curious.

“Yes,” Katie said. Her stomach felt tight with tension, but she'd been dreading this conversation for a long time; they needed to have it. “I'm sorry that it hurt you.”

Laura shook her head, looking down into her wine glass. “It's not like I thought we'd just go on like that forever. You didn't even tell Rodney about us.”

“He would have ended it,” Katie said. Which, in retrospect, should have been a sign that something wasn't right somewhere. She'd just thought, at the time, that ending things with Laura would fix it. “I liked him, I wasn't ready for that.”

“More than me,” Laura said, soft.

“Different than you,” Katie corrected. She wanted to touch, offer comfort for an old hurt that she hadn't been able to comfort at the time, but Laura didn't look like she wanted anyone to touch her right now. “I thought he and I had more of a future together.”

“And now?”

“You really think I'd get back into this if I wasn't intending for it to be serious this time?” Katie asked. That got Laura looking at her, eyes wide and hopeful. “You know what I thought when I knew he was going to ask me to marry him? That I couldn't imagine committing to an entire life where I couldn't ever be with you again. I wanted you more than I wanted him, even when I was with him. I still do.”

Laura reached out very carefully, took Katie's wine glass and set them both on the floor. Then she sat back up, shifted her weight slightly – and pounced, tumbling Katie back onto the bed, Katie's head thumping down into the pillows barely an inch from the wall, draped herself over Katie and held her there to kiss her. Katie wrapped her arms around Laura's back, keeping her close, and returned the kiss, feeling Laura's smile against hers.

“I'm really glad you didn't marry him,” Laura said, leaning back just enough to catch Katie's eye.

Stretched out under Laura, happily anticipating what was coming next, Katie said, “Me, too.”

Laura's smile turned into a gleeful grin and she sat back on her heels to pull her vest over her head. “Now take your clothes off.”

“This is what I like about being with a woman,” Katie said dryly, pushing herself up on her elbows until she could struggle out of her t-shirt. “The guaranteed romance.”

“I brought you a hair tie, and I'm wearing my best bra,” Laura said. “What more do you want?”

It was a very pretty bra, Katie had to admit, patterned with tiny red flowers. “That only counts if you're wearing matching panties.”

Laura circled one finger around the button of her jeans. “I'll leave that one for you to find out,” she said.

Katie rested both hands on Laura's thighs. “You seriously expect me to believe you can get your jeans off sitting like that?”

“Watch me,” Laura said.

As it turned out, she could. And she was wearing matching panties.

*

When the door to Katie's lab slid open at a little past eleven the next morning, she was expecting it to be Jennifer, come to meet her for their ad-hoc weekly coffee and gossip, or maybe Laura come to grin triumphantly over the night before, like she had done on and off for the last couple of weeks, since they started sleeping together again.

She would have infinitely preferred either of them, or even Colonel Sheppard, who made her extremely nervous, over the person who actually walked in.

“Oh,” Rodney said, coming to an abrupt halt right inside the door and looking about twice as surprised to see her as she was to see him, since she hadn't in weeks, other than on the other side of the cafeteria, or passing by in the halls.

“Hello, Rodney,” she said, when he didn't seem inclined to say anything further. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“Yes,” he said firmly, his gaze flickering around the lab before landing back on her. “Yes, I was looking for... I'm sorry, what are you doing here?”

“This is my lab?” Katie said cautiously. She reached up, checked that her radio was in place under the guise of brushing her hair back. He didn't seem particularly under the influence of anything, but this was Atlantis, you could never be sure.

“I thought...” Rodney trailed off again, frowning. “Didn't you go back to Earth?”

“Clearly not,” Katie said, matching his frown. She'd made the initial request months ago, it didn't seem possible that he hadn't noticed she was still there in all that time.

Actually, this was Rodney. It was totally possible, now that she wasn't on his radar any more.

“I changed my mind,” she said, in case that wasn't obvious.

“Oh,” Rodney said again. “Do you – can I ask why?”

“Personal reasons, “ Katie said, trying not to sound too incredulous that he actually thought she might answer, after all this time.

“That's not very specific,” Rodney said, smiling a little.

“No, it's not,” Katie agreed. “Is there something I can actually help you with, or..?”

Rodney frowned again. “You don't think that's going to be awkward? Living in the same city, when we were... Now that we've broken up.”

“We seem to have managed fine so far,” Katie said. “Unless you intend to start making it awkward, of course.”

“No,” Rodney said, the smile back again. “No, no, of course not. No.”

“Okay,” Katie said, trying out her own smile, and hoping it didn't look as uncertain and nervous as she felt. “Then, *can* I help you with anything?”

“No, thank you, I'm fine,” Rodney said, already turning away. Katie let her frown show – even without the impromptu discussion of her personal life, that had been weird. “Your hair looks nice when you wear it loose,” Rodney said suddenly, turning back, giving her the kind of charming smile he had when they'd first started dating. “Much prettier than when you tie it back.”

“Thank you,” Katie said, not sure what else to say. Surely he couldn't have decided – he couldn't be trying to get back together.

“You're welcome,” Rodney said brightly, and the door slid closed behind him.

Katie gave it a few seconds, in case he came back for whatever he'd come for in the first place, then raised one hand to push her hair back again. That was when she noticed the blue hair tie she'd been slipping over her wrist every morning since Laura had left it in her room.

Thank God for Rodney's lack of observation skills when it came to people. The last thing she needed was for him to put the hair tie and Laura together and come up with the truth. Especially since she had no intention of stopping wearing it.

*

The evening Alicia answered her door chime at nearly eleven to find Jennifer on the other side, something that had never happened in the three weeks they'd been dating, the buzz she got from it was kind of diminished by the way Jennifer didn't even manage a smile, just looked down at Alicia's bare feet and said, “Can I come in?” her voice small and tired.

“Of course,” Alicia said, stepping back and guiding her over to the bed, keeping one hand on her arm, even when they were sat down. “Did something happen?”

Jennifer kept her head down, looking at her hands, twisted in her lap while Alicia tried to remember if she'd heard any medical emergencies on the radio. “Did I wake you up?” Jennifer asked suddenly, looking up. Her face was tired and tense, the same way it had been since McKay had gotten sick.

“No,” Alicia said, waving a hand vaguely to her jeans. “I was still up.” She ducked her head a little, made sure she'd caught Jennifer's eye. “You're always welcome, even if I am asleep.”

Normally, that was where Jennifer would have made a joke about Alicia wanting to get her into bed, flushing slightly in a way that made Alicia want to reassure her that it wasn't a problem that they hadn't slept together yet. This time, she just said, “Thank you,” and went back to staring at her hands.

Alicia watched her for a moment, then said, “I'm going to make tea. Hang out here a sec, okay?”

When she got back, mugs steaming in one hand and a plate with three chocolate brownies in the other, Jennifer hadn't moved. “Here,” Alicia said quietly, crawling onto the bed and handing a mug over to Jennifer, who took it in both hands. “You should eat something as well.”

Jennifer looked at the brownies like she wasn't quite sure what they were, then shook her head.

“Maybe later,” Alicia said, settling back against her. She wanted to put her arm around Jennifer, but found herself hesitating, not really sure why she was.

“I just finished doing Rodney's recording,” Jennifer said suddenly, too loud in the quiet. “He couldn't remember the Pegasus Galaxy,” she added, softer. “I mean, he couldn't remember what it was called. Just for a second, he remembered but...”

“He's getting worse,” Alicia filled in, pressing her arm more closely to Jennifer's, disappointed when Jennifer didn't return it. “I'm sorry.”

“I'll fix it,” Jennifer said, same way she had done for the last six days, still confident. “There are still things we can try, this isn't – it's not... He said he loved me.”

“What?” Alicia asked. “Like a friend?”

Jennifer shook her head slowly. “He said for a while. For some time now.” She was staring intently at her tea. “When he first got back from the mission, when he was starting to get sick, he said – he asked me for dinner. He offered me his fruit cup, he wanted to know if me accepting it was the same as me accepting an invitation to dinner.”

“What did you say?” Alicia asked, trying to keep her voice even, not sure what Jennifer was trying to tell her. She knew they were friendly, knew they'd had a drink together a while back, after Rodney ended things with Dr Brown, before Alicia arrived in the city.

“I didn't say anything,” Jennifer said. She looked up, quick flick of her gaze to Alicia's, then away again. “It was – we'd just started dating, I didn't know what to say.”

“You could have said no,” Alicia pointed out.

“I didn't want to hurt his feelings,” Jennifer said. She sounded anxious, and her arm was tense where Alicia was still pressed against her. “He was being so nice to me – so charming. I didn't want – and I thought he might ask why not, and I wouldn't know what to say.”

Alicia wanted to point out that she could have told the truth, that she was dating someone else, but she could already see where that would go in Jennifer's head, the risk that she might out Alicia, or that McKay might figure it out. “Do you want to have dinner with him?” she asked instead.

“I don't know,” Jennifer said, her voice small. “I asked him for a drink, that one time. I guess then I... But he didn't seem like he was interested after that. I kind of – I lost interest too.”

“And now?” Alicia asked. She felt cold, her stomach heavy, and told herself she had no-one to blame but herself. This was what happened when you got involved with girls who hadn't figured out what they wanted yet.

“And now I have you,” Jennifer said. “I don't want to lose you.”

Alicia thought about Laura, how anxious she'd been over Dr Brown after the way their relationship had ended. “I won't date you while you're dating someone else,” she said. “It's too much of a risk, and I don't like sharing.” She took a sip of too-hot tea, before she could apologize for it.

Jennifer was already shaking her head. “I wouldn't ask that,” she said firmly. She looked over at Alicia again, through the curtain of her hair. “I just... I don't know. I think I need some time to think.”

Alicia tried to remind herself that the last time Jennifer had said that, they'd ended up dating. It didn't have to be a bad thing, and anyway, it wasn't like she could stop Jennifer, or would want to if she could. “Okay,” she said. “Maybe it'll be clearer when McKay's better.”

Jennifer nodded. “I'm sure it will,” she said, but she said it with the same kind of confidence that she kept assuring people she could cure McKay, like she thought that wishing it so could make it so.

*

Running with Laura had gotten to be habit over the last month or so, to the point that Alicia almost didn't mind doing it at 0600, a time of day she'd hoped not to see when she started training with the SGC, where duty shifts didn't start until eight-thirty. They'd even managed to find a route that took them out of the general Atlantis traffic, giving them the space for the kinds of conversations that started, “So, last night when my girlfriend was over...”

Except that this time it started with, “So, I think Jennifer's going to break up with me.”

Laura, who'd been jogging a little bit ahead of Alicia, slowed immediately, falling back into step with her. “What? Why? You didn't suggest some kinky Air Force sexual practice, did you?”

“No,” Alicia said, distracted for a moment. “Anyway, it's the Marines who have kinky sexual practices, not the Air Force.”

“True,” Laura said sagely. “Air Force officers are too dull to be kinky.”

“Like you can talk,” Alicia said, offended on behalf of her Air Force brethren, and a little bit for herself. “I bet you and Dr Brown don't even leave the lights on when you have sex.”

“Actually...” Laura trailed off, grinning gleefully, and Alicia decided she didn't want to know. Or at least didn't want to know when they had another 2 klicks to run yet. “And when I call her “doctor” in bed...”

“Okay!” Alicia said firmly. Make that definitely didn't want to know.

Laura nudged her shoulder. “Why do you think she's going to break up with you? I thought things were going well.”

“Rodney McKay's in love with her,” Alicia said, feeling all her levity evaporate away. “She wants time to think.”

“Oh, baby,” Laura said, pulling her close for a quick, one-armed hug. Alicia tilted her head against Laura's shoulder, soaked in the moment of comfort. “That doesn't have to mean anything though. She'd be crazy to choose him over you.”

“Thanks,” Alicia said morosely, wishing she was sure Jennifer would see it that way. “I don't get it,” she added.

“What?” Laura asked.

“Your girlfriend, and now mine. It's not like we're, you know, trolls or something. How come they both wanted to run off with Dr McKay? It's not like he's Ronon or someone.”

“Thank God,” Laura said. When Alicia looked over at her, she shrugged. “Lorne gets jealous. And I don't think I could handle the awkwardness of my girlfriend lusting after my best friend's boyfriend.”

Alicia filled in all the appropriate names for the epithets, then said, “Huh.” Though it did explain a few things. “Wait, did you tell him about me as well?”

“Of course not,” Laura said, like Alicia was stupid. “I'd have asked you first.”

“You asked Major Lorne if you could tell one of his subordinates that he's dating another man?”

“Okay, put like that it sounds ridiculous,” Laura said dryly. “But yes, I had the crazy notion that you might feel better if you knew for sure, and so I asked him if I could. I didn't even use a code or anything.”

Alicia imagined the two of them disguising the code in cyphered notes and couldn't help laughing.

“See?” Laura said brightly, starting to jog backwards away from her. “Told you it would make you feel better.”

*

For two weeks, Alicia had the most professional relationship she'd had with Jennifer since meeting her: they didn't have dinner together, didn't go to movie night together, didn't go exploring the city together. Alicia didn't take Jennifer coffee in the infirmary, Jennifer didn't join the spectators at hand to hand practice. They didn't quite revert back to calling each other Dr Keller and Captain Vega, but it was a close run thing. Alicia suspected the only reason they didn't was that, as time went on and McKay didn't get better, she didn't see Jennifer enough to actually call her anything.

She tried to tell herself that it was just that Jennifer was busy trying to cure McKay, that she was just using the space she'd asked for, but it didn't help. She still felt like it was over, like she was just waiting for the final word.

The day she went looking for Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne told her that he'd gone off-world with his team, McKay's sister, and Jennifer, some sort of last goodbye before McKay died, she figured that was it. Team was family, even more so with McKay's sister in the mix, and you didn't take your doctor on a family goodbye.

“Told you so,” she told herself quietly, walking away. Unsurprisingly, it didn't help.

*

Pretty much the last person Alicia was expecting to find on the other side of her door the same evening that McKay came back miraculously cured was Jennifer. Even less so, Jennifer grinning at her, practically bouncing, out of uniform, her hair falling across her shoulders and a bottle of what could only be off-world alcohol, judging by the color and shape of the bottle, in her hand.

"Are we celebrating something?" Alicia asked cautiously, wishing she wasn't in her pajamas.

"If the project ever gets declassified, I'll be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only doctor to ever successfully perform brain surgery with a power drill," Jennifer said cheerfully.

"That's… nice," Alicia said uncertainly. "Do I want to know why the jumpers have power drills as standard equipment?"

"Probably not." Jennifer held up the bottle of wine. "Can I come in?"

Whatever the conversation was going to be, Alicia was fairly sure she didn't want to have it in the corridor. "Sure."

Jennifer stopped in the middle of the room, watching Alicia close the door. She looked less sure of herself, and some of it showed in her voice when she said, "I was going to give you this. I thought – maybe this might be easier if you'd had something to drink."

"So I can have a hangover to go with the official dumping?" Alicia asked, wishing less of her bitterness had shown in her own voice.

Jennifer flinched. "No," she said quickly. "No, I -. I didn't come here to dump you, I swear. I came to ask if you still wanted me. If we could still…"

"What about Rodney?" Alicia asked, not quite ready to let Jennifer just throw herself back into Alicia's arms.

"I couldn't make a decision until he was better," Jennifer said, frowning earnestly. "I couldn't – I had to know what I wanted when he was back to normal. Does that make sense?"

"Not really," Alicia said honestly. "It sounds like, if he was different, you'd still want him."

"I didn't mean it like that." Jennifer walked over to the desk, set the bottle of wine down and leaned one hand on the back of Alicia's desk chair. "It's more like, I couldn't separate being worried about him because he was my friend and my patient and I thought he was going to die, and being worried about him because I wanted to be able to take him up on that dinner invitation." She straightened the bottle carefully, then looked up at Alicia. "And I missed you," she said, her voice small but strong. "Way more than I thought I would. And I'm sorry."

Alicia wondered if she'd hate herself, later, for what she was going to say. It didn't matter. "Okay," she said, watching Jennifer's shoulders slump in relief, feeling the smile steal over her own face, reflection of her own relief.

Jennifer smiled back, fiddling with the wine bottle again. "I'm still giving you this," she said. "Ronon gave it to me, to say thanks for saving Rodney. Did I tell you he shot the parasite?"

"Rodney did?" Alicia asked.

"No, Ronon. Rodney was unconscious."

That made more sense, but still didn't make it something Alicia wanted to talk about. She stepped up close to Jennifer, stilled her hand on the neck of the bottle and waited for Jennifer to look at her. "I missed you too," she said. Jennifer opened her mouth, like she was going to say something, and Alicia touched one finger to her bottom lip. "I missed this," she said quietly, and leaned in to kiss her.

They hadn't kissed that much before, but it had been enough for Alicia to know the way Jennifer kissed well enough to miss it. Well enough to like having it again, Jennifer's mouth soft and open against hers.

Jennifer's hand sliding under her cotton t-shirt made her pull back, startled. "What are doing?"

Jennifer blushed a completely adorable pink. "I thought you were the one who'd know." She didn't take her hand back.

"You don’t have to," Alicia said, holding very still so as not to lean into it. "If you're doing it to say sorry or something."

"How about if I want to?" Jennifer asked. She rubbed her thumb in a small circle and Alicia couldn't stop herself from shivering. "Can I then?"

"I –" Alicia started, but Jennifer must have heard agreement even in that one word, because she tilted her head a little, kissed Alicia again. Alicia went with it, resting her hands on Jennifer's waist where she wouldn't feel pressured.

Or not, since Jennifer leaned back a little and said, "Will you take your shirt off?"

She was still blushing, and it was still the cutest thing Alicia had seen in weeks. And, oddly, kind of hot. "Do you want to lie down?" she asked. "I don't think making out against my desk will be all that comfortable."

"I guess not," Jennifer said, and let Alicia lead her by the hand over to the bed, settling against her when Alicia lay down, then sitting bolt upright again.

"What?" Alicia said, startled, already checking for her radio.

"Nothing," Jennifer said. "Um. I should take my shoes off. First."

"And your radio," Alicia agreed, then negated that by reaching out and removing it herself, tucking Jennifer's hair back behind her ear. Jennifer was staring at her, blank-faced. "What?"

Jennifer shook herself, and said, "Shoes," sounding a little dazed.

"Shoes," Alicia agreed softly. She hesitated, then pushed herself upright, pulled of her t-shirt, and lay back down again.

A moment later, Jennifer turned back, halfway to lying down again, and stopped, like she'd hit a wall. "Oh," she said.

"Too much?" Alicia asked. She reached out a hand, stroked Jennifer's knee in what she hoped was a reassuring way, or at least mostly reassuring.

"No," Jennifer said, her voice dry. "No, perfect."

Alicia grinned, couldn't help it. "Now that's what a girl likes to hear in bed."

"Yeah?" Jennifer looked up, her face uncertain before it slid into determined and she pulled her own shirt off, then reached behind herself to unfasten her bra, dropping both over the side of the bed. She kept the determined expression as she met Alicia's eyes again.

"Perfect," Alicia echoed softly, unsurprised when Jennifer flushed again. She held out a hand, pleased when Jennifer took it. "Come here."

Jennifer lay down, shifting until she was mostly on her side, not quite touching Alicia, her head tipped down so Alicia couldn't read her face. "We don't have to do anything you don't want to," Alicia said. "We don't even have to do this. We can get dressed again and have a drink instead."

"I want to," Jennifer said, and she certainly sounded sure. "I'm just... nervous, I guess."

Alicia cupped Jennifer's chin with one hand, tilting it up until she could read Jennifer's expression, as sure as her voice. "Nothing's going to happen that you don't want to," she said.

"I know," Jennifer said firmly. "Can I kiss you?"

"Of course," Alicia said. She tried to use the hand on Jennifer's chin to draw her closer, but Jennifer pushed her onto her back before she could, and leaned in. She kissed Alicia with a lot less caution, a lot more ease than she ever had before, sucking on Alicia's lower lip and taking the lead.

When she finally pulled away, Alicia realized she'd closed her eyes, and couldn't quite make herself bother to open them again.

Even less so when Jennifer trailed one finger lightly over the curve of her breast. "Can I touch you here?" she asked.

"Yeah," Alicia said. She expected another almost tentative stroke. Instead, Jennifer cupped her breast in her palm, stroked her thumb over the nipple. Alicia gasped in surprise and Jennifer laughed, high and sweet.

"You like that?" she asked, doing it again.

"Yeah," Alicia said, like it wasn't obvious. It felt really good – last time she'd had sex, her partner hadn't even gotten Alicia's shirt open, never mind touched her.

Jennifer circled over her nipple, then repeated it when Alicia's nipple hardened under her thumb.

"You can – I like having them sucked," she said, and Jennifer's hand went still.

Alicia opened her eyes, saw uncertainty splashed over Jennifer's face. "I -" she started.

Alicia reached up to touch her cheek, and smiled, as reassuring as she could make it. "It's fine," she said. "It was just a suggestion. This is good."

"Yeah?" Jennifer asked, still sounding uncertain.

"Yeah," Alicia echoed firmly. She hesitated, then figured it couldn't hurt to ask – clearly the difference between asking and demanding was something they were going to have to work on a bit. "Is it okay if I touch the other one?"

Jennifer flushed, all the way down her throat, and nodded.

Alicia mimicked Jennifer's hand on her right breast, cupping and stroking, watching Jennifer's hand – watching, when she glanced up, Jennifer's face as she watched Alicia touch herself, and that, more than anything, was turning Alicia on, making her want to spread her legs in invitation.

She wasn't sure if Jennifer picked it up or not, but she started sliding her hand lower.

"Can I do this?" she asked.

"Yeah," Alicia said, cursing internally. Can I wasn't exactly a common phrase on Atlantis, but it was common enough that she really didn't need to be getting turned on every time she heard it.

Jennifer's fingers skated over her stomach, over her waist where she tried – and failed – not to giggle, along the waistband of Alicia's pajamas. Alicia squirmed, wanting to nudge Jennifer's hand lower and not able to, not when she wanted to go at Jennifer's pace, not when she wasn't even sure Jennifer wanted to go that far.

"Will you take your pants off?" Jennifer asked softly.

"Yeah," Alicia said. She lifted her hips, and Jennifer did it for her, which was surely smoother than she could have managed to be. "Can I turn the lights down?"

Jennifer frowned immediately. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Alicia said firmly. "It's just very bright."

"I like being able to see you," Jennifer said, looking surprised at herself.

"Down," Alicia repeated. "Not off. I want to see you too."

She felt better with the lights dimmed, less like she was laid out as a specimen, and then Jennifer stroked a finger up her inner thigh and said, "Can I touch you here?"

"Anywhere," Alicia said, shivering. She'd always been sensitive there, and Jennifer just made it more so, how tentative she was, how she never let her fingers brush any higher, even by accident. Alicia figured she was psyching herself up for the last step, but didn't dare say anything, worried that Jennifer might take it as pressure.

She switched her hand to her left breast, circling roughly over her nipple, letting her eyes slide closed, her cunt aching.

She was waiting for Jennifer to say, "Can I," again, and so the tentative stroke of Jennifer's finger between her legs made her groan.

"Can you tell me how to do this for you?" Jennifer asked, low voiced. "I mean, for you, the way you like it, I know how – I've done it to myself before."

Alicia laughed, couldn't help it, and had to open her eyes so she could pull Jennifer down and kiss her, hands in her hair, feeling Jennifer smile. "Do what you like," she said.

Jennifer, it turned out, liked to rub two fingers over Alicia's cunt, not to fuck her with them, and Alicia, who would have said before that the penetration was the best part of this particular sex act, decided, moaning and writhing under her, that she maybe liked it as well. Maybe more than liked it.

Maybe kind of loved it, especially when Jennifer leaned down, her hair brushing Alicia's bare shoulder, and said, right in her ear, "Can you come for me now?"

Alicia, it turned out, totally could.

When she was done blinking and catching her breath, she turned her head, found Jennifer lying on her back next to Alicia, watching her. She was still wearing her pants, but her nipples were hard and her skin was flushed. When she saw Alicia watching her, she grinned. "Was that okay?"

"Yeah," Alicia said, returning the grin. "Yeah, definitely."

Jennifer ducked her head a little, flushing, and didn't say anything.

Alicia pushed herself up onto her elbow, leaving her right hand free. "Jennifer?" she said. Jennifer looked back, caught her eye. "Can I touch you here?" she asked, running one finger along Jennifer's collar bone.

"Yes," Jennifer said, low and aroused. "Yes, please. Touch me anywhere."

So Alicia did.


*

Jennifer waited until she'd stopped seeing Rodney for follow-up appointments, then waited a couple more days, so it wouldn't seem entirely like the two were connected. And maybe a little because she thought if she gave it long enough, she might not feel like she was tingling all over from nights spent with Alicia; that one was probably more of a pipe dream, though. Then she waited until the end of the day, when she had a better chance of catching him alone, and went down to his lab.

She hesitated outside, then zipped her jacket all the way up, just to be sure he wouldn't get the wrong idea about what she was doing there.

She'd been right to wait, because he was sitting alone at his laptop, one hand on his coffee mug, the other busily typing. He looked fine; clearly impromptu brain surgery hadn't done any lasting damage. No more putting it off, even if it was going to be awkward.

She cleared her throat, quietly, in the hopes of not startling him into spilling his coffee. It worked; he startled, but his hand slid away from the mug instead of knocking it, and he looked up, irritation then surprise chasing across his face before it settled into a welcoming smile. "Jennifer," he said warmly. "Come to check up on me?"

"No," she said, then, before he could get the wrong idea. "I need to talk to you."

"That sounds serious," he said, amusement coloring his voice, still smiling. He reached out, pulled a stool close. "Why don’t you sit down?"

"I'm fine standing, thank you," she said, but went over to lean against the neighboring bench anyway. "About what you said on the recording. About me, and how you felt about me."

"Oh," Rodney said, his smile fading. "Well, that doesn't sound good."

"Probably not," Jennifer said bluntly, then wished she'd sugar-coated it a little, even if this was Rodney, who wouldn't know tact if it hit him in the face. "I'm flattered," she said, since it was mostly true. Having someone interested in her was still novel enough that it was flattering, and she did like him. Just not with the kind of bright, warm, fizzy liking that she had for Alicia. "But I can't – I'm seeing someone else."

"I see," Rodney said, stilted, and looked down. "I suppose that's better than 'it's not me, it's you'."

"It's not a line," Jennifer protested. "I'm not – I wouldn’t lie. If I wasn't interested, I'd say so."

"So you are interested?" Rodney asked, perking up again.

"No, I'm not," Jennifer said, less sorry for being blunt this time. "I really am seeing someone else. I think it might get serious. I'm not interested in being involved with another person as well, or instead." She forced herself to stop, before she said 'of her.' Not that she thought Rodney was likely to figure it out, but she was starting to learn that there was no such thing as too careful when it came to keeping this kind of secret.

"I didn't know that," Rodney said, then, "Wait a minute. Is it Ronon?" Which just proved Jennifer's point, if Rodney didn't know about Ronon and Major Lorne.

"No, it's not. And I'm not going to tell you who it is, either, so don't bother guessing." She risked a small smile, and got one back, only a little bittersweet. "I hope this doesn't mean we can't be friends," she added.

Rodney just looked at her for a moment, then sighed. "I suppose you did save my life, so, no, this doesn't mean we can't still be friends. Don't expect me to give you my fruit cup any more though."

Jennifer smiled wider, relieved, both that it had been so easy and that it had ended positively. "Save it for someone you're sure wants it," she suggested.

*

"Are you sure this is okay?" Jennifer asked, adjusting the collar of her shirt and looking nervously up and down the empty corridor leading down to Laura's quarters.

"The shirt or the situation?" Alicia asked, doing her best to keep the smile off her face. She was pretty sure Jennifer wouldn't take it as a compliment if Alicia said that she found Jennifer's nerves cute.

"What's wrong with my shirt?" Jennifer asked immediately.

"Nothing." Even with no-one in the corridor, Alicia couldn't kiss her like she wanted. She settled for rubbing her arm a couple of times instead. "Your shirt looks good. You look good." She waited for Jennifer to smile at the compliment, then added, "And this is fine."

"You don't feel weird?" Jennifer asked.

"You do?"

Jennifer twisted the hem of her shirt around her finger. "I've never been on a double-date before."

"I think they're past the dating stage," Alicia said. Jennifer looked over, her face scrunched in a "sorry" frown that Alicia shrugged away. It wasn't like there was anyone around to hear. "We're just going to watch a movie together. Post-mission wind-down."

Jennifer shivered slightly, moving close enough to press her hand against Alicia's for a moment. "I'm glad Laura was there."

"Me, too," Alicia agreed. She hadn't told Jennifer any of the details – the fog, the thing that had grabbed her before she'd even had time to draw breath, how fast Laura had grabbed her and pulled her away, how she'd really thought it wasn't going to be enough, that the mist creature was gong to kill her, and then probably the rest of the team as well, not to mention Sheppard and Beckett – just that Laura had saved her life, but it wasn’t like Jennifer couldn't have gotten most of the story about the mission from anyone else. God knew Dusty would tell mission stories to anyone who'd listen.

"Poor Major Lorne though," Jennifer added. "I heard one of my nurses saying he thinks Lorne's cursed, for how much time he's spending in the infirmary."

"I don't think food poisoning really counts as cursed," Alicia pointed out. "Especially since six other people got it."

"He probably doesn't mind too much, since it meant Laura got to go with you," Jennifer said, then, apparently realizing that didn't make much sense, "And so he didn't lose anyone."

"I might not ask him," Alicia said, and Jennifer laughed, most of her earlier tension gone. "Okay if I knock now, before Laura has us arrested for loitering?"

Some of Jennifer's smile faded, but she nodded.

One of the many things Alicia liked about Laura was how she pulled people in with her bounciness and brightness, and Jennifer was no exception. It took less time than it took Alicia to greet Katie for Laura to settle Jennifer in the nest of pillows on the floor, wine glass in hand, leaning back against the bed, looking relaxed.

"Here," Laura said, handing over a second glass to Alicia. "Sit down. How's your shoulder?"

Alicia rubbed it automatically, even though it didn't really hurt any more. "Better, thanks."

"The perks of dating a doctor," Katie said, looking up. "Right?" she added, looking at Laura.

Laura shrugged. "Mine wasn't as pretty."

It made Jennifer flush, and Alicia dropped down next to her, leaned in to kiss her cheek. Because she could. Because she was *safe* in this room, with these people, safe to kiss her girlfriend, hold her hand and say that Jennifer was her girlfriend, and she'd had that, before, in the Air Force, but she'd never expected to find it again in another galaxy.

"Start the movie," Laura said, settling in next to Katie, who obligingly leaned forwards and pressed play on the laptop. "Before they start making out or something."

"Isn't that what people do at the movies?" Jennifer asked, faux-innocent.

Laura groaned. "You're a bad influence, Vega. She wouldn't have said things like that before you came along."

Alicia suspected this was probably true. She slid a little further down the pillows until she could rest her head on Jennifer's shoulder, watching the previews that no-one could be bothered to scroll past. Jennifer lifted one hand, started petting her hair. "Then my work here is done," she said.

Laura started to say something, but Katie shushed her. "They're sweet, leave them alone."

"Everyone's against me," Laura said mournfully.

"Don't worry, I'll be on your side," Jennifer said.

"See, I knew Alicia had to like you for a reason," Laura said cheerfully.

"Pretty sure that's not the reason," Alicia said, but before she could say anything else, Jennifer said, "Shush, it's starting," and really, that wasn't an offer she wanted to refuse.


I already wrote the pwp sequel: Summer Days
Friday, September 17th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
eeeeeee, this is wonderful! I enjoyed this immensely and want to curl up in this universe for a spell. :D
Friday, September 17th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
This is so awesome--thank you! I love the characterization, all the women, all strong and funny. And I love the balance you found, where Alicia and Laura are perplexed and frustrated by Jennifer and Katie's attraction to Rodney, without demonizing him. You know? Awesome.
Friday, September 17th, 2010 07:11 pm (UTC)
Linked here by [personal profile] such_heights. I thought this was really great.
Saturday, September 18th, 2010 01:56 am (UTC)
Oh, this was really wonderful! I appreciated that you spent as much time developing Alicia and Laura's friendship as you did on the romantic relationships—so nice to see female friendships given such screen time!
Sunday, September 19th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
This was really great!
Monday, September 20th, 2010 02:16 am (UTC)
Thank you, thank you for writing this! I love all of these characters and I love this fic. There is such a dearth of femslash in this fandom, let alone good femslash, that I cherish every bit of it when it comes along. I especially liked the attention you paid to good characterization and relationship building. And like someone said above, I also like that no one was demonized. Not Katie, not Jennifer, not Rodney.

I also wonder who much John knows about everyone and who they are dating (or not dating), lol
Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 12:48 am (UTC)
This story is fab -- I especially love your Alicia, something about her just feels so true to what I imagine her character to be like, and I adored the banter between her and Laura. I also loved all the little nods to canon; it really helped me feel the passing of time and how they're all just going about their daily lives while trying to sort out all this complicated love 'n romance stuff. *g*

Also, this: Maybe kind of loved it, especially when Jennifer leaned down, her hair brushing Alicia's bare shoulder, and said, right in her ear, "Can you come for me now?" Holy shit, girl, I nearly fell out my chair when I read that. So very Jennifer and perfect and nnnngh.
Sunday, October 24th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC)
Right so this is how the story went. There I was 11 o'clock at night brushing up on my stargate trivia when I read the entry on Katie Brown. For some reason when i read it this time I was deeply annoyed with Rodney on Katie's behalf! So I thought to myself "I must read awesome lady centric stargate fic! Where can I find it? Oh hey bluflamingo!" So don't be surprised if you find several more comments on your stories after this. I have a need to read the ladies and you're so very good at it. This was awesome! And makes me very sad for canon Vega. I wonder how hard it would be to find pictures of her for an icon....
Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
Well you know I bet Michael's cloning tech is still around somewhere. Let's clone her! And while I'm thinking about it, who's to say Michael never cloned himself? Curse you people who canceled Stargate Atlantis! So many plot lines that I could have followed! So many chances to break up McKay and Keller I'll miss! Moving right along. She could be a plant! Vega I mean. Maybe she has a secret love of botany and some alien plant makes a duplicate of her?

I'm actually more disappointed by them killing her than I thought I would be. I mean they introduce this bad ass all girl AR team and kill off one of the people all in the same episode? I hadn't watched the final season of Atlantis because a) I was upset they were canceling my show! and b) I really didn't like how they had been handling their characters. I'm all for the drama and intrigue but that was getting ridiculous. I'm working my way through it now.

Did we really get to keep Carson? What with him just disappearing like every other day? Also why did he fly Atlantis anyway? He's not very good at it.
Thursday, October 28th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
I do so enjoy inspiring you with story ideas! I have a notebook filled with story ideas I scribbled down hoping to either one day actually do them or get somebody else to take a crack at it. Also I am very serious about Plant Vega! I can see it in my head and everything! Not to mention what few plant fics I've ever read have been terrible amusing.

I liked Carson actually. I think his accent was awesome and distracting, but like most things they started doing with the characters I didn't really care for Clone!Carson. I mean he's cool in all, but what kind of expedition are they leading that they let one of their members just kind of run off to go wander the galaxy? I mean what if he gets kidnapped by another wraith?

Have you ever seen the community women of star trek? Is there anything like that for the ladies of stargate? I'm sure there is but I'm having problems finding it apparently. Actually that reminds me of an episode of the Legend of the Seeker. I don't know if you've ever seen the show but there's one episode where one of theirs gets kidnapped and when it comes time for the actual rescuing the men are upstairs getting their butts kicked by evil nuns and the ladies are downstairs rescuing themselves. I'd love to see that in Stargate! And now I'm imagining the LOTS characters as an SG team. Man they would be awesome at it. Back to my thoughts! You never see the ladies save themselves anymore. I feel like I'm back in the pre-buffy and xena days of tv!
Friday, November 5th, 2010 09:00 pm (UTC)
This was lovely! The development of the relationship between Keller & Vega was really nicely done. All the friendship bits were great too -- loved Cadman & Vega, and the hints of an existing friendship between Katie & Jennifer, and that scene where Jennifer confides in Teyla. Yay for the ladies! (Plus Cadman + Lorne BFF!) And I am always a big fan of how you write Laura.

Oh and that sex scene, with Jennifer starting out so tentative then getting more and more confident, was seriously hot!
Thursday, March 31st, 2011 03:46 am (UTC)
Fantastic! I love anything involving Cadman and this was no exception. And I loved your Keller voice here, as well as the way you developed Vega and Katie. Keller's hesistation was perfect, the friendships felt very real, and I really liked the idea of Ronon/Lorne.
Sunday, April 24th, 2011 09:55 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed reading this :-)