blue flamingos

Hail Mary

Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, PG-13

Year/Length: 2009/~5840 words

Pairing: Elizabeth Weir/Laura Cadman

Spoilers: goes AU after Ghost in the Machine

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Summary: She's back, but everything's changed

Author's Notes:

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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She knew, of course, that the Daedalus was due, and that it was bringing new staff for Atlantis – even in her current low level position she knew that. She'd expected a little less that any of them might choose to join her, since she knew from past experience that people trying to fit in didn't usually sit with someone who obviously didn't. Even knowing that, it wouldn't have been that much of a surprise if someone had; a lot of the people who came to Atlantis were kind.

The surprise was in looking up from her soup to see who was holding out a chair and asking to join her, and finding herself looking at Lieutenant Cadman's face.

Laura's smile dimmed a little. "Or not, if you'd rather be alone," she said. "I won't be offended if you tell me to get lost."

She smiled, or thought she did. She knew her smiles looked odd now, more serene than she wanted them to be. "Of course not. You're welcome to join me."

"Great," Laura said brightly, dropping her tray onto the table and herself into a chair. "I don't think we've met," she added, offering her hand. "Laura Cadman. Marine captain," and there was no mistaking the element of pride in her voice.

She wanted to say congratulations, but it would be too strange. "Anne Collins," she said, shaking Laura's hand. It's nice to meet you, was on the back of her tongue, habit, but though it would be polite, it wouldn't be true. "Did you arrive on the Daedalus?"

Laura dug into her bowl of pasta as she drank the last of her cooling soup. "Yeah. But I get to skip induction, I've been here before."

She knew she ought to ask when, and why Laura had left, but she already knew: the suspicion that had fallen on her after she was accused of planting the bomb, how she'd stuck it out for the rest of the year and been so relieved to leave. "Did you miss it?" she asked instead.

Laura looked up, her expression somewhere between contemplative and surprised. "Yeah. More than I thought I would, actually." Laura smiled a little, and she smiled back. "You've been here a while?"

"On and off," she said.

Laura accepted it easily enough; it hadn't been uncommon, after the first year, for people, especially scientists, to drop in and out of the city. "Well, I hope you stick around this time. You can fill me in on what I've missed." She grinned again. "Hey, it's Friday, right? Do we still have movie night?"

'We' as though it was so easy to fall back into being part of Atlantis. She'd been there for a month, and she still woke up expecting to be sent away again. Expecting it to all be a dream. "Yes. I haven't been, though."

"Great. We can go together." Laura's smiled dimmed a little again, uncertainty creeping around the edges. She could only remember seeing that on Laura's face a couple of times, usually when her team or Major Lorne were in trouble. "If you want to, I mean."

She usually spent the evenings in her room, or in her office, where it was less obvious that no-one really talked to her, or rather that they did, but only if they had to, because she didn't know how to talk back to them. "I'd like that," she said, wondering if she meant it or not.

"Great," Laura said. "It's a date."

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Teyla was the most difficult, though she knew it shouldn't be the case, when Teyla was trying so hard. It wasn't uncommon for Teyla to ask her to join John's team if she came into the mess while they were eating, nor for Teyla to stop by her office and try to pretend that nothing had changed, discussing daily minutiae over tea, the only difference being the gray wall behind Teyla where before there had been a glass window and the stargate.

They were both diplomats in their hearts, though neither of them did much diplomacy any more – Teyla was as versed as she was in the art of making small talk until it almost seemed like friendship. That they both knew it, though they didn't say it, almost made up for how forced it felt.

Maybe that would have been enough, if not for Torren. She knew that Teyla often walked him around the city, when he was unsettled or refused to sleep, and that Teyla had no trouble taking him into offices, the infirmary, even onto the firing range to visit with the marines.

Teyla never brought him to her office.

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When they walked into the common room together, Laura was halfway through a complicated story about SG1, turtles, a rabbit, and an accidentally green gate room, so that she didn't have reason to look away and see if anyone looked their way. The babble of pre-movie chatter didn't fade.

"And of course, Landry – oh hey, there's Katie. You mind if we sit with her?"

She blinked at the abrupt switch in topic, and looked over to where Katie Brown was, indeed, sitting at one end of a couch, talking to Dr Parrish, perched on the arm like a very tall, thin bird about to flit away.

She hesitated; Katie Brown, she was fairly certain, didn't know who she was. Her relationship with Rodney was long over, and the number of people who knew was small. She wasn't naïve enough to believe rumors didn't spread in the city though. "I don't mind," she said, watching Parrish pat Katie's shoulder and head off.

Laura threw herself onto the couch, reaching up to pull her down when she didn't sit fast enough, and nudged Katie in the side. "My first night back, you weren't even going to invite me to movie night? I'm hurt."

Katie rolled her eyes and gave Laura a one-armed hug. "You're the one who made plans with someone else." She leaned around Laura and smiled. "Hi. I don't think we've met."

"Katie Brown, Anne Collins. Katie's in botany, Anne's..."

"I'm working on translating the Ancient database," she supplied when Laura trailed off.

"Wow. Bet that's... Interesting?" Laura said.

"It has its moments," she agreed. The more she worked on it, the more she wondered about the Ancients. On the other hand, they were the reason she wasn't a consciousness in a computer.

"I'm sure it beats being lead security officer for the beta site," Laura said, making a face. "They told me it wasn't possible to die of boredom, but I swear, I nearly became a test case."

"Poor thing," Katie said heartlessly. "Be glad you're back, it's non-stop excitement here. Did Sheppard say if you're getting your team back?"

Laura threw a glare in the general direction of where John was sitting with Ronon, both of them looking a little lost without the rest of their team. "No. Now they've got more senior officers, captains only get their own team after a year of experience in Pegasus."

"But you were here for over a year."

"Apparently, the galaxy's changed enough while I was gone that it doesn't count. Like we never had replicators in the Milky Way or something."

"I thought we'd discussed the ethics of bad-mouthing your CO in public," a male voice said from behind them.

"He knows I do it with nothing but the greatest respect," Laura said, twisting round to look at Lorne, her knee brushing her thigh. She shivered at the unexpected contact, glad for the change of subject. "Want to sit with us? We can squeeze you in."

Lorne raised his eyebrows. "Speaking of unprofessional," he said dryly. "I just stopped by to say hello. Dr Brown. Dr Collins." She felt his eyes linger on her, even after she ducked her head, not wanting to meet them. She knew she wouldn't see anything there but respect. She never did, and she couldn't tell if it was because that was what Lorne felt or because he was better at hiding it from not being so close to her.

"Later," Laura said, reaching behind herself to pat his wrist.

"It's things like that that make people think you're sleeping together," Katie said quietly.

"Carson was more than enough," Laura said cryptically, then, "Hey, movie's starting."

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John was the easiest to avoid, which she wasn't ashamed to admit was what she was doing. He made it easier, by avoiding her as well, and she tried not to let it hurt too much, reading between the lines of reports she probably shouldn't have had access to, how he'd been the one to push for rescuing her. Not that she'd needed the reports to tell her. Who else but John Sheppard would understand so well what it meant to sacrifice yourself for your people, or how it felt to survive when you shouldn't?

It wasn't a surprise that he didn't come to her, with all that, and she found she couldn't imagine what the conversation would be like if he did. At least he met her eyes if they passed in the corridors, said hello, like she was exactly what she presented herself as: a low level soft scientist with whom he had no reason to have anything but minimal contact.

She tried not to think about the first year, how she'd felt like it was the two of them against the galaxy, even when she wanted to ground him like a naughty school boy.

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Two weeks after arriving back in Atlantis, Laura came by her office in the early evening, obviously just back from going off-world.

"I think Major Teldy hates me," she said cheerfully, leaning in her open doorway, tac vest open, P-90 hanging from her left hand. Her hair was coming loose from its bun, and her face was streaked with dirt. She'd obviously come there before anywhere else. It was a nice thought, warm. She'd never have had this with Laura, before. With anyone on Atlantis, really.

"I'm sure she doesn't."

"I kind of hope she does, because otherwise she made me scramble down a rocky cliff for a flower out of pure sadism, and that's more than I needed to know about a superior officer." Laura's face made her laugh, and Laura grinned back. "But I don't think she's going to pick me for her team."

"That's probably for the best if she hates you," she pointed out.

"True," Laura said. She didn't seem particularly bothered about it. "I still think Lorne should take me. It can't be a good thing, having an all-male team. What if he runs into a planet that will only negotiate with a woman?"

"It hasn't happened yet."

Laura blinked. "I'm a little scared that you can say that with such confidence. You need to get out more." She waved it away before she could say anything in response. "Whatever. That just means we're due, and I don't want Lorne's team to be taken captive because I'm not there."

Laura was clearly mostly joking, but just as clearly genuinely worried under it all. It was something she'd missed, being away from Atlantis; she'd never thought she particularly enjoyed the protective instincts of the military members of the expedition, but in retrospect, it had been nice. Though Laura's was obviously a little more; everyone knew she and Major Lorne were good friends.

"I'm sure you can persuade him," she said.

Laura hesitated, then smiled, almost tentatively. "Sorry. You just... reminded me of someone I used to know."

"Oh?" she said, fighting to keep her voice calm when her hands were suddenly sweaty.

"Yeah," Laura said, her face sad. She wondered if Laura was really thinking of who it seemed like she was. "Sorry. I'm just being... " She shook her head and smiled, though her eyes were still sad. "I actually came by to say, when I've taken a shower, do you want to have dinner with me?"

"I'd like that," she said. It was still awkward to walk into a public setting, feeling like everyone was looking at her even when she knew realistically that they weren't, but it had gotten easier, a little, having someone with her.

"Good," Laura said. "You can't spend all your time in the office, you know."

"I'm trying to finish this entry," she said. It had seemed useful when she'd started, then less so as she'd gone on, but it was full of words that she couldn't easily find the meaning of, and she wanted to understand it, just in case.

"So you've got a half hour," Laura said. "Then I'm dragging you out of here."

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Rodney was... Rodney. By turns awkward and almost endearing, in ways that he hadn't been with her since they first worked together down in Antarctica. He was also the best at remembering to treat her as who she was presenting herself to be, though she thought that was probably more because he tended to skim over the physical details of who was actually there when he started into an anti-soft sciences rant. Not that that made it any less strange to have him yelling for her as though she was one of his subordinates, when before he'd been mostly respectful.

She missed being able to ask him to explain things to her though. Or rather, she missed being able to order him to do so, and have him do it with minimal eye rolling and implying that she was stupid.

And she missed not having to see the stricken look on his face when he remembered and stumbled to a halt. Maybe more than she missed everything else about him.

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"You never talk about what you're working on," Laura said, walking slowly back to the residential quarter after dinner.

"You probably wouldn't be interested," she said, which was a lie on a number of levels. Laura, she knew, had done her masters as a part-time student while she was back with the SGC, and looked seriously into doing her PhD.

"I've got hidden depths," Laura said, mock-offended, from her smile. "I'm interested in all manner of things. Especially if they blow up."

"Sadly, this doesn't," she said, smiling a little. "Well, unless my translation's horribly wrong."

"I'm sure it's not," Laura said, coming to a stop. "This is me. Want to come in for a coffee? I think I've still got some real chocolate as well."

She hesitated, certain for one moment that Laura was offering something other than coffee and chocolate, even though she was a marine, even though she'd dated Carson. She knew she should say no, just in case, but she was enjoying Laura's easy friendship, didn't want to go back to her bare room and be alone. "How can I say no to chocolate?"

Laura's smile was bright enough that she knew she was reading the situation correctly. "No sane person would." She touched the door crystal and waved her in ahead. "Home sweet home."

Although Laura had only been back on Atlantis a couple of weeks, her quarters were neat and personalized, with family photographs and small mementos. She supposed it came with being in the military, the ability to set up home quickly wherever you wound up.

"Have a seat," Laura said, indicating the bed. "Sorry, I don't have any other furniture yet. Apparently it's rationed." She rolled her eyes and turned on the coffee maker on the corner of her desk. "Because in an entire city, we can't find enough furniture for a couple of hundred people."

"I suppose defeating the Wraith is probably more of a priority," she said dryly.

"Poor excuse," Laura said firmly, coming to sit next to her. She didn't notice Laura reaching for the light control, but she must have, because the lights dimmed a little, and Laura didn't have the gene to do it on her own. When she lifted her head, Laura was looking straight at her, features softened by the light, smiling slightly. "I don't want to be too forward," Laura said, voice low. "But would you mind terribly if I said I didn't exactly ask you in for coffee?"

She should put a stop to it, she knew. It wasn't appropriate, not when she was keeping such a huge secret, not when she hadn't kissed another woman since Judy Santos broke her heart in college. Except that she wasn't the woman whose heart Judy Santos had broken any more, and maybe she did kiss women. Maybe she kissed Laura Cadman, and liked it.

"No, I wouldn't mind," she said.

"Good," Laura said softly, and leaned in to kiss her, mouth soft against hers. It felt nice; Laura's mouth tasted of the strawberry ice cream she'd eaten at dinner, and her hand stroked slowly up to rest against her neck, under her hair. "Mm," Laura said, leaning away a little. "I've wanted to do that for ages."

"I'm glad you did," she said.

Laura kissed her again, more deeply and for a long time, so that when Laura leaned away, she found herself on her back on Laura's bed, Laura over her. She felt flushed, wanted to pull Laura close again. "Very glad," Laura said, then swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up. "Chocolate," she said. "I don't want you telling people I'm a cheap date."

"I won't," she promised, touching a finger to her lip, feeling the phantom press of Laura's mouth to hers. She could still taste the strawberry ice cream, and wondered what chocolate and coffee would taste like in Laura's mouth.

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Ronon was without doubt the easiest, because he treated her exactly as he had before, with a faint sense of suspicion, as though he was mostly waiting for her to do something disrespectful or dangerous. He neither avoided her like John nor sought her out like Teyla. He didn't treat her as though she was just one of the Atlantis scientists, like Rodney.

He treated her like she was no-one, one more person who he was concerned with as part of Atlantis but not as a person, not unless he had to be for some reason. They didn't do much more than nod in passing, but that was Ronon, he didn't do much more than that for anyone.

If she sometimes couldn't avoid Teyla in the mess and went to speak to her with the rest of the team, Ronon looked down at his food and not at her, and she had no idea why he only did that with the team.

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She'd slept with Laura three times when she saw the photograph, tucked away on the corner of the window sill, nearly hidden by the curtains. She only found it because she went over to close the window so that she and Laura, who was in the bathroom, could go to dinner together, but when Laura came into the room, she was still standing there, holding it by the very corner of the frame.

"What are you looking at?" Laura asked, sliding an arm round her waist and kissing her neck. It made her shiver, always did. She thought it might be because Laura was the only person who ever touched her, other than the infirmary staff. Laura looked at the picture, laughed a little. "My old team," she said. "Cooper, Li, and that's Dr Metcalfe. She's living with the Athosians now."

She looked at the familiar faces, Cooper and Li – the other two marines on the team – holding their P-90s aimed to the floor and looking long suffering, Laura grinning brightly, Helena Metcalfe smiling politely, a datapad in her hand. They were obviously on their way to a mission, too neat to be coming back.

Laura touched the other face in the photograph. "And that's Dr Weir," she said, her voice gone soft. "Did you meet her? She was the first civilian leader of the expedition."

She shook her head, not knowing what to say, and Laura pulled her closer, pressed her face to her hair and sighed. It was a sad sigh, more than just grief, maybe longing. She blinked, willing her tears not to fall. They'd only raise more questions.

Laura laughed a little, shaky. "I had such a crush on her," she said. "First couple of weeks I was here, I wanted to blush every time she looked at me."

She wrapped a hand around Laura's wrist and squeezed.

"Not that she'd have ever given me a second look," Laura said, a little wistfully. "She was really strict about not mixing work and her personal life. Not like me."

"I'm sorry," she said quietly.

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Jennifer Keller was the worst when it came to slipping up and using the wrong name, though she always caught herself the moment she said it and corrected, looking awkward and carefully using the right name instead. It was oddly nice, like looking at the Dr Keller she'd just started to get to know, when she took over from Carson. Dr Keller, she thought, had changed more in the last year and a half than anyone else who knew who she truly was. Dr Keller's new found confidence warmed her, almost as much as if she'd been there to watch it develop; it made her wonder how much Colonel Carter had had to do with it, or whether it had simply developed as Dr Keller felt more comfortable in her new role.

She wondered if, in the end, Dr Keller, who knew her least of all of them, might be the one who remembered who she was the best of all of them, even better than she did.

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They never went to her room, though she couldn't exactly put her finger on why not, so it was a surprise to open her door at the chime and find Laura standing there, in jeans and a purple sweatshirt, her hair loose about her shoulders.

"Hello," she said warmly. "Do you want to come in?"

Laura offered up a weak smile. "Yeah. Thanks." She waited for the door to close, then added, "Sorry, I didn't want to interrupt you."

"You're not," she assured her. "I was working on a translation. Is everything all right?"

Laura looked around, then sat on the one comfortable chair in the room, so unlike her old quarters with all their space. Richard Woolsey had them now. "I got an email from my folks in the databurst," she said.

"Bad news?" she asked.

Laura nodded. "My sister was in a car accident a couple of days ago. It's not really serious, but she's got a broken leg, and they kept her in hospital overnight." She sighed. "I didn't bring any get well soon cards."

"You brought cards?" she asked, surprised, instead of saying something sympathetic about Laura's sister.

"Of course," Laura said, looking confused. "Nowhere to buy them in Atlantis, and my family gets pissed off if I miss someone's birthday. I mean, they're usually horribly late anyway, since they can't go in the databurst, but it's the thought that counts, right?"

"That's nice of you," she said. "I'm sorry about your sister."

"Thanks. It's – they said it's not serious, and they understand that I can't drop everything and go back... I mean, I couldn't when I was working at the SGC either, but if I was on Earth I could fly over for the weekend. Make sure she's really okay."

"That sounds difficult," she said. She hadn't thought about Simon at all when she was in Atlantis that first year, hadn't worried about what might be happening to him.

Laura shrugged. "Welcome to life in the marines," she said. "Mandy'll understand."

"You're lucky to have such an understanding sister," she said.

"Very," Laura agreed. She moved to sit next to her on the bed, and leaned against her arm. "What about you, do you have sisters? Or brothers?"

She shook her head.

"Mother? Father? Goldfish?" Laura asked, teasing.

She shook her head again. Her mother thought she was dead. Everyone did.

"You never talk about your family," Laura said softly. "You never talk about yourself at all. We've been together nearly a month and the most personal thing I know about you is that you like romantic comedies."

She couldn't tell if it was a comment or a criticism. "There's nothing to say," she said instead. There were things she could say, of course, a whole fictional history courtesy of the SGC. She even had fake degree certificates in the bottom drawer of her desk, but she knew how easy it was to slip up on a detail and give everything away. If she was ever going to tell Laura her secret, she didn't want it to be like that.

Laura was quiet for a long time, then pulled herself up and gave her a hug. "Okay," she said. "I won't ask, if you don't want to talk about it."

"Thank you," she said, letting Laura's warmth surround her.

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Woolsey never spoke to her, barely even looked at her, if they somehow managed to pass each other in the corridors, though that happened very rarely. She was certain he and John had argued over whether to allow her back into the city or not, even after she'd proved herself, tricking the others. She wanted to say that she didn't understand how they'd persuaded him, when he'd always been so invested in the rules, the proper procedures, but that wasn't really true. He seemed to fit in his position in Atlantis better than she would have expected, even having an oddly friendly rapport with John, the occasional times she'd seen them together. Maybe Atlantis did strange things to people.

She told herself that she didn't envy him his job, alliance building with the Wraith as they were, and didn't allow herself to question what decisions she would make, in his place.

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Her first instinct when she finished translating the entry, was sure she was as correct as she could get, was to send it someone else to check. There were several people in Atlantis as fluent in Ancient as she was, who'd even looked over a translation or two for her since she started work, but she couldn't ask them. It was too risky; they might guess why she'd chosen that entry to work on.

Although they'd all know, if her translation was right. If it worked.

She thought about Dr Jackson back at the SGC. He would know, of course, but he wouldn't say anything. He might even take her side.

In the end, she took it to Laura, one evening when they'd planned to watch V for Vendetta in Laura's quarters, as Laura was horrified that she'd never seen it.

"What is it?" Laura asked, curling one leg under her and turning the page the right way up. She hadn't brought the original Ancient, knowing that Laura's Ancient was limited.

"The translation I've been working on," she said, nervous. She noticed her hands were clenched in her lap and unclenched them. It was a tell, something she'd trained herself out of when she started working in international relations. This body wasn't as well trained.

"Cloning technology?" Laura asked, still skimming. She wondered if Laura was thinking of Carson, back on Earth again. "Well, at least it'd shut McKay up next time he starts on about how he can't be in two places at once. Though, God, as if one of him isn't bad enough."

"Actually, I wanted to use it," she said.

"On what?" Laura asked. She looked up. "On you? Not that my mind isn't going to some incredibly inappropriately hot places right now, but I kind of think having two of you would be a bit confusing."

"It wouldn't work on me," she said, looking down. Her hands were clenched again.

"Why not?" Laura asked.

She took a breath that shook. "It only works on human DNA."

She risked a glance over, and Laura was smiling, waiting for the punch line to the joke. "And you're, what, a Wraith in disguise?"

"I'm a replicator," she said, the words tasting harsh and metallic in her mouth, the way she thought of the nanites being, like the piles of metallic dust that anti-replicator weapons left behind.

"I don't understand," Laura said quietly.

"It's complicated," she said. "I used to be someone else."

"Who?" Laura asked, but there was a horrible note of knowing in her voice, and she remembered Laura's face, the time Laura had stood in her office and said she reminded Laura of someone she used to know.

She stood up, went over to the window and picked up the picture of Laura and her old team. She tried to hand it to Laura, who shook her head, leaned away. "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked, still quiet.

"I couldn't," she said. "It's supposed to be a secret – people would be frightened if they knew. The replicators were the enemy, someone might decide I was as well."

"You thought I would?" Laura asked. She looked away. "I trusted you not to out me to anyone – I'd be dishonorably discharged if someone found out about us, Sheppard and Lorne wouldn't have a choice. I thought you..." She looked back for a second, her eyes wide and hurt. "Cared about me," she said, and it obviously wasn't what she wanted to say. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't want you to know," she said. "I didn't want anyone to know."

"Lorne knows, doesn't he?" Laura said. "That's why – God, I can't believe... If you hadn't found this, would you have ever told me?"

"No," she said truthfully. "You knew me, you were involved with me. What good would it have done for you to know I used to be different?"

Laura sprang to her feet, paced the handful of steps to the wall and back. "Different is 'I had a bad haircut in the 80s' not 'I'm actually Elizabeth Weir, not Anne Collins.' I mean – you are her, right? Her consciousness in this body?"

"Yes," she said. The word burned on her tongue, a truth she hadn't spoken since she'd been a voice in Atlantis' computer system, not even when she'd woken up after walking through the stargate to her death and listened to John and Woolsey tell her the conditions of her being allowed to live. "I'm sorry," she said.

Laura shook her head. "I need to... Can you give me some space?" she asked.

"I understand," she said, and the worst part of it was, she did.

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Those first few days, she'd found herself reaching out for the others, even knowing they were floating in space, as good as dead. Being unable to feel them had been far stranger than she'd thought it would be, when she'd spent years alone in her head. She'd wondered if it was something to do with the nanites that made up her body, if they were built for that.

She'd forgotten, sometimes, when all she could see of herself in the expedition uniform looked so much like it always had, and reached up to brush her hair back, only to find it longer than it should have been. She'd hung a towel over the mirror in her quarters, made sure to close the curtains at night, not wanting to see this new face that wasn't hers.

In the dark, she'd catalogued her new body with her hands, the softer curves of it, how everything was slightly shorter than it should have been, and she'd tried not to think about how, now, she looked younger.

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She was thinking about going to bed, even though she was sure she wouldn't sleep, when her door chime sounded. Apart from the one time Laura had, no-one came to her quarters, and so she opened the door with something close to curiosity, trying not to let herself hope.

She wasn't sure how successful she'd been, when the sight of Laura in the corridor made her feel shaky with relief.

"Can I come in?" Laura asked.

"Of course," she said, stepping back.

Laura smiled weakly. Her hair was tangled, the skin around her eyes raw. At least she was smiling. At least she'd come back.

"So, I guess I over-reacted a bit," Laura said, sitting down on the desk chair. "It's a pretty big secret to tell someone who used to work for you."

She shuddered. "I'm not your old boss."

Laura looked up with a disbelieving expression. "Yes you are. You just don't look like her."

"I'm not her any more," she said, wishing she knew better how to explain it. "She's dead."

"But you want to be," Laura said. "That's why you did all that work on the cloning thing. Because you want to go back to being Dr Weir again."

"I don't know," she said, honestly. "I don't know if I could. I don't know if I feel like Dr Weir any more." She reached out for Laura's hand. "She wouldn't have done this."

Laura turned her hand and brought their fingers together. "Do you feel like Anne?"

"I don't know," she said again. No matter what, there were some things that would never go back: she'd never be able to be the head of Atlantis again, never be able to go back to her family. She didn't even know if they'd let her stay on Atlantis if she went through with it. "But this body doesn't feel like me. I can't even get a papercut."

"That actually sounds kind of convenient," Laura said, smiling a little. They were still holding hands, and she wondered suddenly if Laura had talked to Major Lorne about this. She'd known the two of them for a year; she thought probably Laura had, or to Katie Brown. It was strange to think of someone else on Atlantis knowing about her romantic life, when she'd never told anyone about Simon. "I don't know what to say," Laura said.

"The database talks about using the DNA of two people to grow a clone – well, not exactly a clone, then – and transferring a consciousness into that body," she said.

"You want to use someone else's, as well as yours – hers?"

She nodded. She wasn't ready to say yet whose, though she thought she'd already decided. Carson and the SGC kept samples from everyone who'd ever come to Atlantis, even after they died. Even when they died in their sleep – in their dreams. She wanted to give a second chance to someone else as well, even though the other person would be just cells, not a consciousness like her.

"Would you change your name again?" Laura asked. "I mean, people are going to wonder why you look different."

"People get used to all sorts of strange things on Atlantis," she pointed out. "I'm not sure."

Laura squeezed her hand, hard. "I like Anne," she said.


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