blue flamingos

Before Beginning, Prepare Carefully

Fandom: Stargate SG1

Category/Rated: Gen, G

Year/Length: 2010/~2741 words

Pairing: Lam/Vala pre-slash/friendship

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

Summary: Literally, a story about kittens (of both the cat and the rabbit variety).

Author's Notes: This weaves around 5 ways Vala surprised her team-mates; the title is a quote from Marcus Tullius Circero

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

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Eleven months after she arrived at the SGC, Carolyn bought a cat.

Well, bought wasn't quite the word. Acquired, maybe, though she admitted to her mother that she'd been guilt-tripped into it.

"Into a kitten, Carolyn?" her mother asked over the phone, sounding like she was trying not to laugh.

"You try saying no to a marine giving you puppy dog eyes and telling you how much his two children cried over the thought of them being put down," Carolyn said, kicking her feet up on the coffee table and letting the little ginger kitten crawl into her lap, where it turned around twice then curled up and purred.

"Sweetheart," her mom said, definitely laughing now.

"He's cute," Carolyn said, stroking one finger over the kitten's head.

"The kitten or the marine?"

"The kitten, Mom, he's married," Carolyn exclaimed. "The marine is married, not the kitten."

"I assumed," her mom said. "I think it's a good thing."

"That I'm being guilt-tripped by marines?"

"A marine," her mom corrected. "And I meant the kitten. I think it's good that you have something to encourage you to leave work at a decent hour."

"I don't think I need a kitten for that," Carolyn said uncertainly.

"It's ten o'clock in the evening and you just got home," her mom said.

"There was an emergency," Carolyn said, then, "I'm not like Dad."

"I know," her mom said. "I'm just saying, it wouldn't kill you to do something other than go to work and come home and call me."

"I don't think a kitten's going to help with that," Carolyn said.

"It's a start," her mom said.

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Sergeant Dae came by the infirmary a couple of weeks after Carolyn accepted the kitten, out of uniform and grinning. "Hannah wants to know if you've named it yet."

"I was thinking of Beatrice," Carolyn said, looking up from her computer.

"Beatrice," he echoed doubtfully.

"Sure," Carolyn said. Years of keeping a straight face while people told her all manner of embarrassing medical (and non-medical) things continued to prove useful, and Beatrice wasn't that strange a name for a cat. "Or possibly Beatrix."

Dae made am uncomfortable face. "You don't think that sounds a bit like..."

"Like what?" Carolyn asked innocently.

"I wouldn't like to say in front of a lady, ma'am," Dae said.

Carolyn felt her eyebrows rocket up, but he was a marine, she supposed he couldn't help it. "Then I think we can safely say I'm not naming my cat in honor of whatever it is," she said. Then, starting to feel a little guilty, "My next door neighbor suggested Gingernut, and we compromised on Bean."

"Bean," Dae echoed again. Carolyn was starting to get the feeling he was regretting bringing the subject up. "I think Bean's more of a boy's name."

"I think you should be grateful you don't have to tell your daughter that I named her kitten Beatrix, not least because it means you won't accidentally say Dominatrix and have to explain that to her," Carolyn said. "Bean's a perfectly good name for a cat."

"Yes, ma'am," Dae said, going red. "She wanted me to ask if you'd send a picture occasionally."

"I can probably manage that," Carolyn agreed. "Now go on, some of us have three more hours to work yet."

"Yes, ma'am," Dae said again, smiling. "Have a good night."

"You too," Carolyn said, already turning back to her screen, falling back into the latest set of test results she'd gotten for analysis from a planet struck by a Prior plague.

With the infirmary empty, for once, and the evening quiet settling in, she found it easy to lose track of where she was, and so the bright, "Hello," from her doorway made her start, one hand going automatically to her suddenly racing heart.

"Sorry," Vala added, looking honestly contrite. "I thought you'd hear me coming."

So did Carolyn, since Vala was in uniform, which included boots that weren't made for creeping across infirmary floors. "No problem," she said. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," Vala said, sounding vaguely confused. "Oh, no, I don't need a doctor. Thank you."

"You're welcome," Carolyn said, resisting the urge to get Vala on a bed for a quick check-up, since she'd been magically pregnant not all that long ago. "What can I do for you?"

Vala grinned. "Come for dinner with me. Everyone else is off-world, and you're the only other person I know here."

"Nothing like making a girl feel wanted," Carolyn said dryly.

Vala grinned again, unrepentant. "I could have gone for dinner by myself. Like you."

She did have a point, and it wasn't as though Carolyn objected to having dinner with Vala, even if it really wasn't something she'd ever expected to do. Plus, her mom did keep nagging about how Carolyn still didn't have any real friends at work. "Okay. Thank you."

It was kind of weird to sit in the mess with someone who wasn't part of the medical staff, but Vala seemed content to regale Carolyn with tales of SG1's mishaps off-world, most of which Carolyn really hoped were made up, or at least exaggerated.

"Of course," Vala said, wrapping up a story about being thrown in prison with some of SG-10, "It's always nice to get to know our colleagues better."

"Sure," Carolyn agreed. "Though maybe not by getting locked up with them."

"Well, I work with what I have," Vala said airily. "Lieutenant Vargas is very sweet. She was showing me pictures of her kitten."

"That's nice," Carolyn said. "One of Sergeant Dae's?"

Vala nodded. "I'm a little offended that he didn't offer me one. I'm sure I'd be an excellent kitten owner."

"I'm sure," Carolyn agreed. "They're very well-behaved kittens." Vala quirked an eye-brow at her, and Carolyn shrugged. "My mother thinks I need something to keep me from spending all my time at work."

"Do you spend all your time at work?" Vala asked curiously, leaning her head on one hand.

"Not really," Carolyn said. "But it's nice have something to talk to."

"Does he talk back?" Vala asked, smiling gleefully. "Wait, is he a he?"

"He's a she," Carolyn said. "Her name's Bean."

"Like coffee bean?" Vala asked, sounding honestly curious.

"Sort of," Carolyn said, not sure she was up for a re-run of the bizarre conversation she'd had with seven year old Tim who lived next door, winding from gingernut biscuits to tea and biscuits to coffee. Weird enough that she was discussing her pet in a top secret military base run by her father, while having pasta with a woman from another planet. "And no, she doesn't talk back."

"I think I should get a pet," Vala said thoughtfully. "Do you think Sergeant Dae might have more kittens?"

"I think his wife might give away the cat if it has any more kittens," Carolyn said. "There's a pet store near my apartment. You could get a fish."

Vala shivered theatrically. "No fish. Something furry."

"A hamster?" Carolyn suggested. "They're easy to take care of."

"I don't know what one of those is," Vala said. "Are they like cats?"

"Not really," Carolyn said. She made a vague hamster shape with her hands. "They're about this big, they stay up at night. Lots of kids have them."

"Hmm," Vala said. "Maybe I should go see what they have in your pet store."

"Good idea," Carolyn agreed. "I can give you directions if you like."

Vala batted her eye lashes at Carolyn. "I have a terrible sense of direction though. I think I need someone to go with me so I don't get lost."

Carolyn sighed. "My mother will be so thrilled by this," she said.

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Vala in a pet store was a lot more fun than a lot of the things Carolyn could have been doing with her Saturday morning, even if it was a little like being out with a small child, the way she bounced from cage to pen, reading the labels and watching the animals, entranced.

It didn't help that Carolyn was trailing after her with Teal'c, of course, which just made her feel even more like an anxious parent. "You think I should be worried she'll end up with a tarantula or something?" she asked, watching Vala coo over the lizards.

"I do not," Teal'c said easily, adjusting the red knit cap he'd been wearing when Carolyn pulled up outside Vala's building and found him unexpectedly there as well. "Though they are furry."

Carolyn shuddered, couldn't help it. Just the thought of one of them crawling on her like Bean... "Okay, moving on," she said firmly. "Do you ever think about getting your own place?"

"Only when Colonel Mitchell is very persistent," Teal'c said in a tone that strongly implied she should drop it. "But I believe Vala mal'Doran will share her chosen pet with me, if I wish."

"You're always welcome to come by and play with Bean," Carolyn offered. "I think she's lonely."

"I am sure she would enjoy more of your presence," Teal'c said.

"And speaking of people being persistent," Carolyn said, angling towards Vala, who was crouched by the rabbit pens, listening to a young girl explain something very solemnly. "Any decisions yet?" she asked, touching Vala's shoulder to get her attention.

Vala looked up, smiling. She looked happier than Carolyn thought she usually did, bright and cheerful. "Amanda here was telling me about her house rabbit," she said.

"He's called Thumper," the little girl said. "Like in the movie."

"Bambi," Carolyn said, before Vala could ask. "That's a nice name."

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. Amanda looked over at him and blinked, then wandered away, apparently losing interest once she didn't have Vala's full attention. "Are you considering a similar pet, Vala mal'Doran?"

Vala straightened, leaning over the edge of the pen in which a dozen or so rabbits of various colors were going about their business and ignoring them. "They all look so lovely," she said, sounding agonized. "I don't know which one to choose."

"You'll need a hutch," Carolyn pointed out.

Vala turned wide, horrified eyes to her. "I'm supposed to keep it in a cage? They're so small."

"People usually keep small pets in hutches or cages," Carolyn offered. "So they don't get lost or something."

"Does your kitten get lost?" Vala asked.

"No," Carolyn admitted. "Well, except sometimes she loses herself under the bed until I rescue her."

Vala giggled, sweet and happy, and even Teal'c smiled. "I'll put a bell on my rabbit so that doesn't happen," Vala said decisively.

"A very small bell," Teal'c said, making Vala grin at him as well.

"And train it to use a litterbox," Carolyn added.

"Of course," Vala said, leaning on the edge of the pen again. "Which one would you choose?"

Carolyn leaned next to her, Teal'c on Vala's other side, and watched the little animals hopping around. Somehow, it felt far more weird than anything that had happened to her since joining the SGC, even more weird for being sort of normal. "That one," she said, pointing to a small gingery rabbit curled up next to a black one.

"Really?" Vala asked. "I think it would miss its friend though, don't you?"

"I... hadn't thought about it," Carolyn said honestly. "Maybe."

"Perhaps that one instead," Teal'c suggested, pointing to a larger, light gray rabbit hopping between small groups. It nudged the black rabbit in the side as they watched. "He appears friendly."

"He does," Vala agreed. "But I like the gingery one and his friend."

"You can't have male and female rabbits together," Carolyn cautioned. "Not unless you want babies."

"I think baby rabbits would be lovely. I could give them away as birthday gifts."

"You could," Carolyn said doubtfully, even knowing Vala was joking. "But I want it noted that I don't need a rabbit."

"Is your birthday approaching?" Teal'c asked.

"Too quickly for Vala to give me baby rabbits for it," Carolyn said. "It's the Friday after next."

"Are you having a party?" Vala asked, looking away from the rabbits. "I like parties."

"I'm not, but if I was, I'd invite you first," Carolyn promised.

"Just for that, I'm getting your rabbit," Vala said. "And his friend." She looked back to the pen again. "And maybe the gray one as well."

"Good thing you're not going to keep them in a hutch," Carolyn said dryly.

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Carolyn gave up celebrating her birthday a couple years after she finished medical school, when it became obvious that, if her mom didn't still ring first thing in the morning to wish her happy birthday, she probably wouldn't even realize it was happening that day.

Since she'd sort of made it up with her father, there was a bunch of flowers and a card on her desk when she got in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the card said Sorry I couldn't be here to say it in person. I had to go to Washington.

She hated that it still hurt to hear that, even knowing that he couldn't do anything about it. She flipped through her calendar idly, wondering if she could find some time to go out and see her mom.

"Dr Lam to the gate room," the base radio requested. "Dr Lam to the gate room."

"Great," she muttered, shrugging out of her coat and grabbing her stethoscope.

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When she got back to her office – the request, it had turned out, had been for her to advise a team off-world, rather than provide any actual aid – Vala was sitting on her desk, swinging her feet and admiring the photo of Bean that Carolyn kept taped to her monitor.

"Hello," she said cheerfully.

"Hello," Carolyn said, hooking her stethoscope back round her neck. "You need me?"

"Sort of." Vala put down the picture, hopped off Carolyn's desk, and stepped to the side. "Happy birthday."

There was a chocolate cake sitting on Carolyn's desk, with ten unlit, pink candles stuck into it. Carolyn felt herself smiling, helplessly charmed, touched that Vala had remembered, that she'd found out what the Earth tradition was for birthdays, since she knew SG1 hadn't had any birthdays since Vala had come back. "Thank you," she said warmly.

Vala shrugged, smiling, her cheeks faintly flushed with what Carolyn thought was pleasure. It looked good on her. "I know I should have lit the candles, but I wasn't sure when you'd be back."

"That's okay," Carolyn said. "We'd probably set the smoke alarms off anyway, they're pretty sensitive in here."

"I don't think your father would like that," Vala said solemnly.

"No, I don't think so either," Carolyn agreed. "Is it good cake?"

"I haven't tried it," Vala said. She grinned, then scooped up a chunk of icing on her forefinger and neatly licked it clean. "It's very good," she said thickly round the icing.

"Good," Carolyn said, knowing she was going red. Like dinner in the mess and rabbit shopping was enough to develop a crush on someone, especially someone like Vala.

Someone like the woman who'd remembered her birthday and brought her cake, which no-one else had.

"Good," she said again. "I'll find a knife, unless you really want to do candles."

"Not really," Vala said. She followed Carolyn into the tiny kitchen attached to the infirmary, leaning in the doorway while Carolyn looked for a decent knife. "How's Bean?"

"She's fine," Carolyn said. "I'd forgotten how fast cats grow."

"She's so little in the picture," Vala said. "I think the rabbits are bigger than her."

"Probably not any more," Carolyn said. She dug out a knife, finally, hesitating over sliding the door closed. "You could come by tonight, see her in person. I mean, not just that, I could make dinner."

She had to turn around then, couldn't leave Vala staring at her back, especially when she wanted to see Vala's expression. She wasn't looking at Carolyn, but a little to the side of her, frowning slightly, and for a moment, Carolyn thought she'd totally misread the signals, that Vala really was just being friendly, and she was going to look a fool for wondering if their sort of friendship might be something they could take further.

Then Vala blinked, and looked at Carolyn, her eyes bright and pleased, and Carolyn knew what she was going to say before she did:

"Yes. Thank you, I'd like that a lot."


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