blue flamingos

Every End Is A New Beginning

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Femslash, NC-17

Year/Length: 2010/~6238 words

Pairing: Cadman/Simpson

Spoilers: set during The Return)

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

Summary: The trick is in figuring out which is which

Series: Dysfunction 'verse.

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

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Laura likes being back on Earth more than she thought she would.

Not that she doesn't miss Atlantis, or want to go back and kick the Ancients' asses for the way they threw the expedition out of the city like they were nothing. Not that it isn't weird to suddenly be surrounded by people she hasn't seen every day for the last two and a half years. Not that she doesn't hate her new posting, not even on a team, with a passion.

She does, and she wants to, and it is, and she hates it more than she ever thought possible.

But Earth means being able to visit her sister in Washington for a couple of days. Earth – once she gets her own place again – means being able to cook what she wants, when she wants it. It means movies and her motorbike, fresh orange juice at breakfast and being able to leave work at the end of the day.

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"Come on," she wheedles, leaning in Lorne's open office door. His office in the mountain is smaller than the one on Atlantis and doesn't have any windows, but the visitor chairs are more comfortable. It'd be a good trade off if the chairs weren't all covered with stacks of paper. "You can't spend all your life at work."

"You sound like my sister with her husband," Lorne tells her, still typing.

Laura shudders. "Thanks for that mental image."

"You're welcome," Lorne says brightly, looking up, finally.

Laura gives him her best pleading face, making her eyes wide and tilting her head so her hair falls over her face. "Please come," she says. "You'll have fun. You remember fun?"

"Vaguely," Lorne says, but the corners of his mouth are twitching, like he's about to smile.

"I'll find you someone nice," Laura adds. "The bartender's cute."

"The one who gave you his phone number last week?" Lorne asks.

Laura glares. "You have a freakishly good memory," she tells him, then drops the act. "Okay, it sucks. We got thrown out of Atlantis, they sent both of our teams away; you don't get to fly cool space ships any longer, I'm stuck behind a desk and everyone thinks I'm going to blow them up if they look at any of us funny. But it's been two weeks now, it's time you got a life."

Lorne blinks at her but doesn't argue. They've been friends for long enough that they can say these things to each other. "I'll make a deal," he offers. "Give me two hours to finish some of this paperwork, and I'm yours for the evening."

"It's not often I get nice young men saying that to me," Laura says, grinning. "I'll come by for you later." She waits for Lorne to turn back to his computer, then adds, "Oh, and Jeanette's coming with us."

She's halfway to the gym when her cell beeps.

Hope Simpson doesn't mind me crashing your date.

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The bar's not as nice as the one she and Lorne used to go to, before they both got sent to Atlantis, but that's on the other side of town from her new apartment. The Hole In The Wall is bigger than its name suggests, a mix of regulars and people dropping by, enough that Laura hasn't slid into the former category yet.

She's happy to keep it that way, especially since she's there with her girlfriend. Some days, it seems like everyone in Colorado Springs is connected to the military somehow, and she knows both she and Lorne give off military-vibes, even out of uniform.

"It's ingrained," Jeanette says, tipping her head back to drain the last of her beer. "Do anything for long enough and it gets into your skin."

Lorne finally takes his shot, and the three of them watch the red ball bounce off the yellow and completely miss the corner pocket he was aiming for.

"Thought you said you were good at this," Jeanette says, shoving away from the wall where she was leaning next to Laura. "It's all lines and angles, you should be good at it."

"Because?" Laura asks.

"Lines and angles," Jeanette repeats. "Flying, pool, they both use it."

Lorne looks dubious. "Flying is like pool?"

"Sure," Jeanette says with a shrug. She waves Laura over – Laura having forbidden her from playing, knowing how good a PhD in physics makes her at the game. "Blue in the center pocket," she says.

Laura obediently lines up the shot. Lorne's green ball is close to the pocket – she'll knock it in instead if she misses even slightly.

"Good," Jeanette says. Laura feels her step up behind. A moment later her hands are on Laura's hips, shifting her weight back slightly, then running down her arms to adjust the angle of the cue a fraction. "Okay, go for it," she says, stepping back out of range.

Laura takes a steadying breath and goes for it. The ball slides neatly into the pocket, not even clipping the green.

"And that's how it's done," she says, holding her left hand out for Jeanette to slap, curling her fingers round Jeanette's when they make contact.

"Laura," Lorne says quietly. When she turns, he nods in the direction of the bar, where three guys she recognizes from the SGC are gathered round the second bartender. They're not paying any attention to Laura and Jeanette, but she drops Jeanette's hand anyway, flashing her an apologetic smile.

Jeanette waves it away. "Get the next one on your own and I'll buy you a drink," she says.

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Laura's pretty much forgotten the whole thing by the time she's having lunch, a few days later, with Sally and Michaela, old friends from her original tenure with the SGC.

"I'm just saying," Sally says over her bowl of ice cream. Another good thing about being back on Earth, as far as Laura's concerned. The freeze-dried stuff they got on the Daedalus just didn't taste right. "Relationships with non-Earth humans usually end in disaster. I mean, look at Colonel Carter. That Ancient she was involved with, he's a little boy in a care home now."

"You're a real ray of sunshine, you know that?" Michaela says. Laura's not surprised that everyone knows about that. Nothing stays secret in the mountain for long, especially if it's about SG1.

"I'm just saying," Sally says again. "You'd be better off doing what Laura did."

"What, hook up with a hot young Air Force major?" Michaela suggests, grinning.

"What can I say?" Laura asks, reminding herself to mention this to Lorne if she sees him later. It's probably not enough to make him blush, but she can try. "They're such gentlemen in the Air Force."

Sally snorts in disgust, though she's smiling. "Please, like she'd ever sleep with him."

"Hang on a minute," Laura says. "You were the one picking out china patterns for the wedding a couple of years ago."

"That was before you embraced your feminine side," Sally says, lowering her voice. Laura can't help leaning in when Michaela does.

"My feminine side," she repeats. "I don't know if you've noticed, but my feminine side is pretty much my only side. What with being female and all."

Sally rolls her eyes. "Not like that," she says, infinitely patient, lowering her voice even further. "You and a certain scientist from Atlantis..."

"Please tell me you don't mean McKay," Laura says, fighting down the flash of paranoia. There's no way Sally can know.

Sally's look is slow and assessing, before she says, "Don't tell me you didn't pick up some pointers while you were in his head."

She sounds teasing, still, but Laura's known her for five years. Long enough to know that this is misdirection and she knows about Jeanette.

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A week after that, Laura goes off-world for the first time since she got back, tagging along with a team who need an explosives expert for the cave they think they might have to blast through. Instead, they find that the planet's people just converted to Origin. Aside from the attempts to convert them, the whole thing is very familiar, from the cells to the rescue by Lorne's team to the run for the gate.

Even her catching her foot in a dip in the ground and going sprawling, twenty feet from the gate, isn't exactly a rare occurrence.

She stumbles through the gate on Lorne's arm to find Carson waiting for them, along with a half dozen other SGC medics, and a couple of gurneys. Only one of these actually gets used, despite Laura's protests that it's just a twisted ankle and she's perfectly capable of walking to the infirmary.

Carson pats her hand and pushes her down onto the gurney. "I'm sure you are, my dear, but we brought these gurneys all this way, it'd be a shame not to use them."

Laura rolls her eyes, and pushes herself up on her elbows for the whole ride to the infirmary. Where Carson x-rays her ankle and tells her that it's a mild sprain. Surprise, surprise.

"Keep off it for a few days," he says, strapping it up. "And you'll be good as new in no time."

"Thanks, Carson," Laura says. His hands are cool but not cold against her foot as he moves it around, still familiar after all this time. It's the first time she's seen him since they came back.

"You're welcome. Wouldn't do to have Atlantis' best lady marine laid up for too long, now would it?"

Laura ignores the ‘lady marine' thing; it was a big part of why they broke up, the way he treated her as though she was something fragile and breakable, unable to take care of herself. She ignores that ‘Atlantis' as well, knowing that the ATA gene carriers are feeling the loss of the city more than the rest of them. She's seen Colonel Sheppard around the place, and he looks like he's lost a piece of himself.

"I didn't know you were staying at the SGC," she says. "I haven't seen you the last couple of weeks."

"No, I was taking a wee bit of a vacation. But General Landry offered me a research lab alongside my hands-on work, and I couldn't really say no."

"You went to your mom's?" Laura asks.

"Aye, and to see an old friend from medical school." His smile softens as he mentions the old friend; an old lover, Laura guesses. "What about you, love, any plans for some time away?"

"Doubt it," Laura says, though it's not like she doesn't have the time in for it.

"All done," Carson says, patting her knee. "I've asked one of the nurses to call down to your Dr Simpson's lab, since you won't be driving yourself home. Certainly not on that death-trap motorbike of yours."

"It's perfectly safe," Laura says automatically, still stuck on ‘your Dr Simpson'. She catches Carson's lab coat sleeve as he starts to move away. "Why did you – why didn't you call Lorne?"

Carson frowns at her in confusion. "I can, if you'd prefer, though I think he's probably with General Landry at the debrief. I thought you'd like to have your young lady take you home."

"I –" Laura starts. This is not a conversation she ever imagined having. "Carson, you can't say things like that round here."

"There's no-one to hear," Carson says. "But I apologize if it makes you uncomfortable. Let's find you some painkillers, shall we?"

"Thanks," Laura says. She wants to ask how he knows, who else knows, but he's her ex-boyfriend. It's just too weird.

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"You think he saw us, in the city?" Jeanette asks when they're safely back in Laura's apartment, picking at last night's Chinese. "We were careful."

"I know." Laura steals the last of the wontons, turning it over until her fingertips are greasy.

"And it's not like Lorne would have said anything, or Katie."

"I know," Laura says again. They didn't even spend much time together in the city, not off duty – no more than they had before they started sleeping together. They have done more since they've been back on Earth, but not so much that people should be picking up on it.

Jeanette leans over and steals the wonton back, dropping it in an empty container. "There's nothing you can do about it," she says. "Here, take your pain killers."

Twenty minutes later, she's crawling into bed with Laura – a proper, double bed, big enough that no-one's going to fall out in the night – wearing one of Laura's USMC t-shirts and blue panties. "Just relax," she says, rolling over Laura and kissing her. "Let me take care of you."

Jeanette kisses her gently at first, hands in her hair, holding her in place. Laura kisses back just as gently, soaking up the warmth and the press of another body against hers. It shouldn't be true, after two years with the Wraith, but the Ori priors scare her. They're relentless and unstoppable, and she doesn't want to think about what would have happened if they hadn't been on a short check-in time.

"I've got you," Jeanette says, and Laura realizes she's shivering. "You're safe now, I've got you."

"I know." Laura pulls up a grin from somewhere, wanting to chase away the lingering fear in Jeanette's eyes. It's a familiar look, from the first time they slept together, after getting captured on what should have been a cake walk mission and nearly ended in everybody dying. She didn't expect it to last past the adrenalin and the relief, but it's been nearly a year.

"So come here," Jeanette says, rolling them onto their sides and kissing her again, harder, sliding her tongue against Laura's.

Laura grins into the kiss, for real this time. She slides her hand up under Jeanette's t-shirt stroking over the slight curve of her stomach, the dip of her waist. Their bare legs are tangled together, and when she closes her eyes, all she can feel is Jeanette, all around her. She feels completely safe, and ridiculously turned on, just from the press of their bodies together.

"Take this off," Jeanette says quietly, pushing up the back of Laura's t-shirt. Laura sits up to remove it, tossing it away into the dark of her bedroom, then leans back over Jeanette, kissing behind her jaw, under her ear, then down her neck. Jeanette sighs, relaxing back into the pillows, one hand stroking down Laura's spine, then over her ass, the touch sending sparks of want through Laura's body, even dulled by the cotton.

"That's nice," Jeanette murmurs.

"Mm," Laura agrees, shifting up to kiss her again, one hand sliding under her t-shirt to cup her breast, stroke her nipple hard.

"That's even nicer," Jeanette mumbles into the kiss. She's got amazingly sensitive nipples, more than anyone Laura's ever met.

"Lift your arms," Laura says, pushing her t-shirt up and off, then bending her head to suck on Jeanette's other nipple, listening to her moan and gasp as Laura twists the other one, just hard enough. One day, she's going to make Jeanette come, just from this, but not today, not when Jeanette's already shifting under her, trying to rub herself against Laura's leg.

"All right, all right," Laura mutters. Jeanette gasps, then again when Laura deliberately blows a stream of air over her erect nipple. "Patience is a virtue."

"I'm only virtuous in the lab," Jeanette says. "Laura, come on."

"No kidding," Laura says, and applies her mouth to Jeanette's, licking and sucking in a random pattern as she slides her fingers inside Jeanette's underwear. She's slick and wet, rocking her hips against Laura's hand to get pressure and friction just where she wants it.

"Yeah," she moans, the word more breath than sound. "Yeah, that's really good. That's really –" Her legs close tight on Laura's hand and she comes with a sharp gasp; her whole body going rigid, then limp. "Yeah," she says again, dragging Laura down into a sloppy, graceless kiss. When they break apart, her eyes are wide open and clear. Jeanette doesn't really do after-glow.

"I thought I was taking care of you," she says accusingly.

"Be my guest," Laura says expansively, and Jeanette's gaze goes almost predatory, hungry.

She's careful, but not gentle, hands and mouth everywhere as she works her way down Laura's body, licking and biting and stroking. By the time she's pushing Laura's underwear down, Laura's breathing hard, uncomfortably turned on.

"Please," she says as Jeanette kisses her way over Laura's hip, then up the inside of her left leg. "Oh, please, please."

She feels Jeanette's smile against her skin. "I like you when you beg," Jeanette says, and then goes down on Laura, scraping her teeth over sensitive skin, flicking her tongue just where Laura likes it, just *how* Laura likes it. She's got her hands on Laura's hips, holding her down, and Laura would swear she can feel the heat of those hands, burning into her as she gasps and catches her breath, her orgasm pooling in the base of her spine, then rushing up her nerves, taking over her whole body in a heady, white rush.

When she comes down from it, Jeanette's kissing her neck, soft, sucking kisses that won't leave marks. She smiles when Laura turns her head to look at her. "Feel better?"

"A bit," Laura says, fighting her own grin. "But I think I need to be taken care of some more."

"I'm sure that can be arranged," Jeanette says solemnly, turning Laura's head so they can kiss again, Laura's own taste on Jeanette's mouth.

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They've been on Earth a little over a month when Jeanette catches Laura's arm in the cafeteria. "I need to talk to you," she says, not meeting Laura's eye. "Can you get away early?"

Laura's got to sit in on a mission debrief for a mission she wasn't even on in the early afternoon, but she should be done wasting her time by four. "Sure. Everything okay?"

"Most things," Jeanette says. "Come by my place?"

"Sure," Laura says again. On the other side of the room, Rikeman is watching her and frowning, and she realizes Jeanette still has her hand on Laura's arm.

Jeanette must notice as well, because she lets go, takes a step back. "Great. Thanks. See you later."

"See you," Laura echoes. She watches Jeanette leave, throws her own glare at Rikeman, and leaves, suddenly not hungry.

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When she finally makes it across town that evening, Jeanette opens the door with a wooden spoon in her hand. "Hey," she says, leaning in to kiss Laura hello once they're inside the apartment. "Traffic?"

"Dr Jackson," Laura corrects, shrugging her jacket off and toeing out of her boots. "It's like debriefing in front of the White House press corps."

Jeanette laughs. "No more West Wing for you, okay? Come in the kitchen, I opened a bottle of wine."

Laura takes the glass and leans against the counter. She likes watching Jeanette like this, domestic and comfortable in jeans and a CalSci t-shirt, stirring pots and checking the garlic bread in the oven. "But CJ's hot," she says.

"You know Allison Janney's been in other things, right?"

"Yes, but I like her in a suit slapping down the press." Laura spreads her hands wide, grinning at Jeanette. "I like my women with some snap."

"And here I thought it was for my body," Jeanette says.

Laura crowds up behind her, kisses her neck. "That too."

Jeanette laughs, batting her away. "Get off me, before I burn this."

"All the romance has gone out of this relationship," Laura says mournfully, going back to her glass of wine. "So, you want to tell me what's happened now or wait until dessert?"

Jeanette goes still for a moment, then turns round, smiling faintly. "I didn't buy dessert, so I guess it'll have to be now." She hesitates, then says, "The SGC offered me a job."

It's not that far from what Laura was sort of expecting, except for one thing. "They do know that you already have a job with them, right?"

"They're still signing my pay checks, so I'm going to say yes," Jeanette says dryly. "A different job, project managing a new lab, developing viable defenses for attacks on Earth from space rather than from through the gate."

"Wow," Laura says. "Congratulations, that's amazing." She pushes away from the counter, but Jeanette puts out a hand to stop her before she can move.

"It's a two year appointment, initially. They'd – I'd have to stay on Earth." She holds Laura's gaze, and Laura nods, pushing down the loss that still lingers when she thinks of Atlantis. A month hasn't been enough time to get used to being gone. "And it's in LA."

Laura's got marine trained reflexes, or maybe she's just good at getting past the moments when she hears something she doesn't want to. "Why is it in LA?"

"There're some people at Cal Sci who they want for the project, but they don't want to leave the college, so." Jeanette shrugs. "And I think they want to keep it away from here, in case anyone starts wondering why those people are at a deep space telemetry station."

"Okay," Laura says. "So, um." She feels suddenly awkward, leans back against the counter and picks up her wine glass. "Are you going to take it?"

"It's an amazing opportunity," Jeanette says. "I'm good at this, I should have been sent to Area 51 with McKay and the rest of the team. I think they kept me here so they could offer me this, and if I don't take it..."

"You won't get offered anything like it again," Laura finishes. She knows this stuff – she had her own team on Atlantis, and now she's one of many all over again, like Sheppard and Lorne, only worse, because she doesn't even get to go through the gate.

"But it's a two and a half hour flight from here," Jeanette says quietly.

"Yeah," Laura says. It makes something in her chest hurt, like leaving the city did, only worse. She dredges up a smile that feels stiff and forced. "There are weekends though, right? And leave, and I guess you'll be back here sometimes."

"Probably not," Jeanette says. "Reporting to Washington." She runs a hand through her hair and sighs. "I don't know what to do."

Laura opens her mouth to answer, then catches the smell of burning bread. "Rescue dinner, unless you're planning to get more charcoal into our diets."

"Oh hell," Jeanette says sharply, grabbing for the towel on the oven door. Smoke billows out when she opens it, and Laura leans on the pedal for the bin so Jeanette can toss the bread straight in there, laughing despite herself. Jeanette glares at her, turning back to her pan of pasta with a groan. "I think it's lost all structural integrity," she says sadly.

Laura laughs, feels it catch in the back of her throat until she swallows. "You were always saying how much you miss Earth pizza," she offers.

They don't talk about Jeanette's job offer, through pizza, and Love Actually on cable, Jeanette tearing up at the airport reunion at the end like she always does.

It's only later, lying in bed in the dark, Laura stroking down Jeanette's bare spine, that Jeanette says, "You know how much you want to be back out there, with your own team? That's how much I want this. I don't want it to be the end for us, but I want it. I know I should say I want you more, I don't want you less, but..."

"It's okay," Laura says, because it is. Jeanette's a lot like her, like the people she serves with, the ones for whom helping other people will always be more important. "It won't be the end for us, I promise."

Jeanette kisses her shoulder. "I love you," she says.

"You too," Laura says, tilting her head to kiss Jeanette's forehead. Weekends and vacations, it could be worse.

"You could come with me," Jeanette says quietly. "Camp Pendleton's near LA."

"Seventy miles," Laura agrees. "I don't know."

"I know," Jeanette says.

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Jeanette spends the next couple of days off-world with SG5 and a couple of other ex-Atlantean scientists, and Laura's still stuck on the base.

She tries not to think too much about this being normal, Jeanette too far away to see, and ends up thinking about Jeanette's offer instead. Because the thing is, she could ask for a transfer and get it, but she's a well-trained explosives specialist, which would mean a training post, most likely.

She knows she'd hate it, even if it meant she could be with Jeanette, and she's been at Pendleton, it's not like the SGC, not the same kind of forgiving and willing to turn a blind eye.

And she can't stop thinking: maybe it would be better than being here, being a glorified clerk when she used to be doing something amazing. Something worthwhile.

"You okay?" Lorne asks over lunch, the second day Jeanette's away.

"Never better," Laura says. He frowns like he knows she's lying, and she adds, "Going stir-crazy here."

"Come out for a drink with Mitchell and Sheppard and me tonight."

"Mm, three Air Force senior officers and me," Laura says, making a face. "Tempting, but I think I'm gonna have to pass."

"I'm hurt," Lorne teases. "I'm just your senior officer?"

"No, but the Air Force thing cancels out the rest." She wants to tell him – not in the middle of the mess, but somewhere – and get his advice, but something stops her, and she doesn't know what. It's annoying. She wishes she could call Katie, but Katie's in the Amazon on a research mission she got a last minute place on, no phones for miles around. "Thanks for the offer," she adds.

Lorne gives her a worried look, but just says, "Sure."

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"They asked me to fly out and take a look at the lab," Jeanette says, over lunch in the mess a couple of days after she gets back. "Stay for a few nights. They're putting me up in a hotel."

"They're courting you," Laura says, grinning. She feels like two separate people right now, the one who's thrilled for Jeanette for getting offered this, and the one who hates having to decide, hates that she's going to lose something, whatever happens.

"I remember courting involving more flowers," Jeanette says, twirling pasta round her fork and looking at Laura from under her eyelashes. Laura feels herself flush, and Jeanette laughs. "I thought it was very courtly," she says, touching the back of Laura's hand.

Laura pulls her hand back, carefully enough that no-one will catch the movement. Jeanette looks down and back up fast, her face not changing. "Sorry," Laura says anyway.

"It's okay," Jeanette says, putting her hand in her lap. "I thought maybe you could come with me."

"Jeanette..." Laura says helplessly. Like it's not bad enough that they're having this conversation, they can't actually have it properly, not here.

"I know," Jeanette says. She pokes at her pasta, her eyes down, then puts her fork down and stands up. "I should go back to work."

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Laura finds Jeanette in her lab late that afternoon, when people are starting to go home and it's less obvious. Jeanette's bent over her laptop, typing fast, her desk covered with files and star maps.

"Hey," Laura says quietly.

"Hey," Jeanette says absently. She keeps typing until Laura closes the door, then looks up and blinks, awareness returning. "Oh. Hey. What's up?"

Laura shrugs, moves to lean on the corner of Jeanette's desk. She feels twitchy, unsettled. "Sorry I can't come with you."

"I..." Jeanette starts, then shakes her head. She touches the back of Laura's hand, then rubs her thumb over her knuckles. "Is this how it'll be now?"

"This is how it's always been," Laura says. "I'm a marine, this is how we have relationships with other women. This is..."

"What?" Jeanette asks quietly.

"What I have to do so I can do something important," Laura says. She misses Atlantis so much suddenly that it hurts, and she doesn't even know if it's because Atlantis is important or because Atlantis made this easy. And now she's a clerk, and hiding, and she's good at what she does, she's an expert, but she doesn't even carry a P-90, never mind blow things up.

"Hey." Jeanette stands up, pulls Laura into a hug. "You don't have to be a marine. That's not everything any more."

Laura closes her eyes and holds on, but the idea won't go quiet.

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She flies into LAX late Friday night, when Jeanette's been there for three days, and when Jeanette hugs her tight and close, kisses her in front of all the disembarking passengers, she starts laughing and can't stop.

"What's funny?" Jeanette asks, grinning back.

Laura kisses her again. "We've never done that before."

Jeanette pulls back slightly, looking round the arrivals hall. "Is it okay?"

"I don't know anyone on the plane," Laura says. She shifts her duffel higher on her shoulder, unwilling to let go of Jeanette but not quite able to reach for her hand. "I don't know anyone here."

"Okay then," Jeanette says, hooking her arm through Laura's. "Want to see my hotel room?"

Laura's supposed to be sleeping on Jeanette's floor – she's a friend, she asked me to go out and see what I thought, you think I can afford to stay at a five star hotel on a marine lieutenant's salary? Lorne said, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" when she told him she was going out for the weekend, halfway through Jeanette's courting trip, frowning and worried. "Not really," she said. "But I don't know what I'm doing here either, so I figure I might as well not know in two places."

"Nice hotel," she says, walking into the bathroom, complete with actual bath tub, then back out to look at the LA sky line. "I think they'd take it pretty hard if you said no."

Jeanette pauses in the middle of unpinning her hair. "I don't think that's going to happen," she says tentatively.

After three days of excited phone calls, this is not exactly a surprise. "I figured," Laura says. Jeanette still looks worried, even when Laura smiles. "It's good," she says. "Really. And one of these days, I'll be able to brag about my genius girlfriend."

"There's always Lorne," Jeanette offers, smiling a little.

"He's only fun when I'm telling him about our amazing sex life," Laura says idly, then, off Jeanette's faintly horrified look, "Don't worry, I make most of it up."

Jeanette opens her mouth, closes it, then laughs. "I honestly don't know if that's reassuring or insulting."

On reflection, Laura can sort of see her point. "I don't make up the amazingness, just the details."

"Right." Jeanette pulls the last hairpin out, her hair coming loose. It's like a switch flipping, and she's all loose limbs as she crosses the room to Laura, pins her against the wall. "How about something you don't have to make up?"

Laura shivers. "I can live with that," she says.

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Saturday night, they go out for dinner at a little Italian restaurant near Jeanette's hotel. It's cliché as hell, red check table cloths and candles in wine bottles, and all the wait staff saying ciao, but Jeanette smiles in the candlelight and reaches across to thumb a smear of chocolate away from Laura's lower lip.

And Laura thinks about having this on weekends, then getting on a plane and going back to pushing papers and her empty apartment, lying to most of her friends, pretending with the rest, and no-one who knows the truth except her and Jeanette and Lorne.

And about having it all the time.

"I called a friend," she says, picking up her wine glass and swirling the inch of red wine in the bottom, watching the color fracture in the candle light. "She said – the LAPD bomb squad would probably snap me up, if I applied."

She shoots a quick look at Jeanette, who's gone still, catches Laura's eye so she can't look away.

"I'd be a reserve officer, I wouldn't be out, so there's no... I might get called back up and it wouldn't be the SGC," Laura says. She doesn't think Jeanette's upset, but she can't read her face, and maybe Jeanette liked the idea of Laura safe at Pendleton more than she likes the idea of her dealing with unexploded bombs every day. "But it would – this would be better," she says, and she means everything, Jeanette and home and doing something important, something that matters, where it matters that she's doing it.

"They offered me an apartment," Jeanette says slowly. "Two bedroom, with a balcony. The rent's insane, but the SGC will pay half, for the first year I'm out here. It's supposed to have a sea view, but I think only if you stand on the roof."

"Are you asking me to move in with you?" Laura asks. She feels like there's a bubble expanding in her chest, light and happy and kind of drunk.

"Did you just offer to leave the marines for me?" Jeanette asks. She's starting to smile, infectious, and Laura feels herself grinning like an idiot, and then they're laughing, both of them, the rest of the diners looking at them, and Laura feels more free than she has in her entire life.

hr

When she walks into the SGC on Monday morning, Lorne's waiting for her.

"How did you even know I was about to walk in?" she asks. She wants to hug him, would if security wasn't watching, her resignation letter tucked in the pocket of her BDUs, ready for General Landry.

"I asked the guy on the gate to call when you came through," Lorne says. He puts a hand on her arm, stops her in the middle of the corridor, just around the corner from security. "The replicators attacked Atlantis on Saturday night. Sheppard, McKay, Beckett and Weir stole the jumper, got Teyla and Ronon, and took the city back. It just came through last night." He's smiling, Laura realizes suddenly, looks happier than he has since they came back. "They're sending the expedition out again."

"Wow," Laura says. The words crowd on the back of her tongue, and she pulls the letter out, holds it up so he can read the address line.

"What is this?" Lorne asks, taking it, but Laura can tell he knows.

"She's been offered a project in LA," Laura says, voice low. "She took it, I don't think she'll go back out... The bomb squad will take me. I'll be doing something – it's important."

"This is important," Lorne argues, stepping a little closer. This is probably the worst place for a conversation that Laura imagined having in her apartment, away from prying ears.

"I'm not," Laura says, the words burning in her throat. "We came back and they stuck me behind a desk."

"No-one got –" Lorne starts.

"I led a gate team," Laura interrupts, talking over him. "Just like you and Colonel Sheppard and Captain Anderson and Lieutenant Fellows and Sergeant Stackhouse. I'm the only one they put behind a desk, who didn't at least get a place on a team here. I'm good at what I do, but that's not what I do."

"It's not because you're a woman," Lorne says, wincing like he can't believe those words are coming out of his mouth. He's not the only one.

"No," Laura agrees. "It's because McKay accused me of planting a bomb in Atlantis, in front of a gate room full of people, and the SGC never met a rumor it couldn't spread. And Landry thought there was something in what McKay said, and now, if we get pulled back again, that's going to be what they think of me."

"He's an asshole," Lorne says, looking down for long enough for Laura to blink back tears and pretend they're not there. "He doesn't know what he's talking about."

"I know that," Laura says. "But you know that doesn't matter."

Lorne sighs, conceding the point. "I can't believe you're just going to abandon me to deal with a complete recall of personnel, and whatever the Ancients and the replicators did to the city, and McKay being insane over ZPMs. Some friend you are."

"I could come for a while," Laura offers hesitantly. Say goodbye properly. Find someone to take over her team. "A few months. Just to make sure you don't sink the city cos you had a bad day."

"I wouldn't sink the city," Lorne says. "Maybe throw a couple of people overboard, but sinking it seems kind of extreme."

"You're just saying that because you've forgotten how much you can't stand McKay," Laura tells him.

hr

Jeanette doesn't come to wave them through the gate, too busy setting up her new lab, sending her and Laura's things to LA. It doesn't matter – Laura knows that, in six months, she'll be walking the other way, right into a new life, and Jeanette will be right there, waiting for her.


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