blue flamingos

Learning to Smile

Fandom: Stargate SG1

Category/Rated: Gen

Year/Length: 2007/ ~1000 words

Pairing: None

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

Summary: "Children learn to smile from their parents" ~ Shinichi Suzuki

Author's Notes: For [info]ordinarymoments for the prompt Landry, hospital, shotgun - two out of three, cos I couldn't manage the shotgun.

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

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Carolyn's running late when she makes it to the hospital cafeteria, her hair loose, her hands dry from pulling gloves on and off all morning, and her mind still half on her last patient. She made the mistake of telling Jen that she had plans for lunch and Jen insisted she didn't rush back, which means she's got no excuse.

She pays for her salad and moves out of the way of the line, looking for the familiar leather jacket. The cafeteria's not crowded, the lunch-time rush already over, but it takes her a few minutes to spot him. He's sitting with his back against the wall, a cup of coffee and a file in front of him and he looks exactly like he did the last time she saw him, sitting in another hospital cafeteria, the last time she gave in and agreed to see him.

She takes a deep breath, and makes her way through the tables.

He looks up when she's almost there, smiling, and she knows he knew she was coming: sensed her, or maybe just looked up at the right moment. She remembers saying, in a burst of honesty at her high school graduation, that she hated everyone watching her walking up to the stage, the way he laughed and promised not to look until she got there. She has no idea if he kept his promise or not.

"Carolyn." He half-stands as she puts her tray down, not to hug her, because they haven't done that in a long time, but because it's what a gentleman – an officer – would do for a lady. She's refused a second date before because the man she was with didn't do that. Because some things are ingrained and not all of them are easy to lose.

"Hello." He sits down again, but the movement isn't enough to hide the twitch in his face. Carolyn opens her bottled water to avoid looking at him, pushing down the urge to apologise. Just because he has, doesn't mean she has to forgive him.

"So, how've you been?" He's got a plate of pasta that she didn't notice from the other side of the room, and starts eating it as she stabs at her salad. "How are your room-mates?"

"They're fine. Hannah moved out." The problem with this is, she wants to be angry – is angry – for how he wasn't there, for all the things he missed when she was growing up, and knowing why it had to be that way doesn't make it any less painful. He was still *missing*, his job was still more important than she was. But she can't quite bring herself to cut him off completely, even now her mom's divorced him, and she's changed her own name back to her mom's maiden name.

He's still her father, and so sometimes she can't stop herself agreeing when he asks if he can come and take her to lunch, doesn't make herself find an excuse when he phones. It's incredibly awkward, and she always regrets it, but she keeps doing it.

"Why was that?" he asks.

It was four months ago, and she'd only been in the house three. "I think she got a new job. Or a new boyfriend. Anyway, we've got someone new now."

"That's good." He smiles at her and she doesn't smile back, not even when his smile gets forced. "And how's your job here?"

"It's good. They're nice people."

"I'm glad. It's nice to have you a bit nearer."

Carolyn laughs, a little. "Nearer's" relative when it means half an hour less to fly to his house. Not that she has. She doesn't even remember the address, though he sends her postcards every couple of weeks. They never mention them. "Actually, I've been thinking of applying to the CDC."

"Oh, yes?" He leans back a little, sipping at his coffee, something twitching across his face that she can't identify. "What made you decide that?"

She shrugs. "I'm not sure this is what I really want. The work sounds interesting, and they're always looking for doctors. I think I'm ready for a new challenge."

"I'm sure. They'd be lucky to have you."

He says things like that sometimes, things that fathers are supposed to say, and Carolyn can't ever tell if he means it or just thinks he should say it. It always annoys her more than is really rational. "You don't think having moved around so often reflects badly on me as a doctor?" she asks, just to see what he'll say.

"'There is nothing wrong with change, as long as it's in the right direction.' Winston Churchill." He gives her his command smile, meaningless and blank. Carolyn clenches her left hand in her lap and fills her mouth with salad so she won't say anything she'll feel proud of then regret. The silence stretches for a moment. "If you think it's the right move for you, you should apply," he says, leaning forward to catch her eye. "There's no point staying somewhere that you aren't satisfied."

There's so much more in the words than advice about her own career, Carolyn knows she'll end up thinking about them later, wondering if they mean his career or his family, whether he's talking about being a father to her when she was a child or trying to be one now that she's made it clear she doesn't want him to be.

"Well, I haven't made a decision yet. And I don't know if they'll accept me anyway."

"They'd be crazy to turn you down." He smiles as he says it, warm and natural, and Carolyn can't help the good feeling it gives her, or ignore how his eyes crinkle when she smiles back, for a second.

When they're standing at the hospital doors, saying goodbye, he asks if she'll drop in next time she's in town, and she hesitates a long time before saying, like always, "maybe."


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