blue flamingos

Start From Now

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2008/ ~2211 words

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

Summary: Jennifer nearly turned down the Atlantis expedition when she got offered it.

Author's Notes: For [info]14valentines Day 1: Body Image

Beta: by [info]domtheknight

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

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Jennifer – always and very firmly Jennifer, because she is good enough that she can be doing the job she's doing at the age she is, but that doesn't mean she doesn't need every scrap of respect she can get, and one of the scraps comes from not letting a single soul call her Jenny, or Jen – nearly turned down the Atlantis expedition when she got offered it.

It wasn't that she didn't understand what was being offered to her, despite what Andrea, one of the many anthropologists who would have cheerfully killed someone (bad guy or not) to be allowed to go, said. She understood all about the chance to help people in the most immediate way possible, the chance to work with some of the leaders in genetic research (which wasn't as much of an attraction as people seemed to think – apparently the distinction between emergency doctor and geneticist was lost on a lot of people), even the chance to live and work in an Ancient city in another galaxy.

Actually, that was probably the main thing that was putting her off.

"But it's Atlantis," Andrea said, many times, like if she just repeated it often enough, Jennifer would leap up and change her mind. "Home of the *Ancients*. There could be anything there, amazing things. You could discover a cure for cancer."

Which would admittedly be pretty cool, except that (a) the botanists in Atlantis were already working on it (medical at the SGC got all sorts of reports, and she made sure to read all of them – no-one could look down on you when you knew everything that was going on in your department) and (b) still an emergency doctor and not a researcher.

"I just want to help people," she said, almost as often as Andrea wailed about the opportunities in Atlantis (sometimes she just drank her wine and let Andrea go on). "I can do that at the Mountain. I *am* doing that at the Mountain, and there's no threat of being eaten by life-sucking space vampires."

Well, not much of a threat, anyway, particularly compared to the threat of being killed in some other unpleasant way; she'd joined the SGC right before the Prior plague.

It wasn't even a lie. She loved her job at the SGC, had loved it ever since Dr Andrews, who always did the medical recruitment visits, had turned up at her office with an airman in dress blues, talking about a research paper she'd just published and asking her to sign a non-disclosure agreement. It was exciting, and different, and she didn't get guns waved in her face nearly as often as she had working in the ER (and the people who did usually came by to apologize, often with gifts, once they'd recovered from whatever alien thing had made them do it in the first place). Plus, she'd gotten to know the gate teams, and the security staff, and made friends among the scientists working on the base and –

And the thought of stepping through the gate, which she'd only seen active twice, into another galaxy, kind of made her stomach churn, a little bit, even if plenty of people said it was perfectly safe. She was the doctor responsible for handing out the little first trip packs that had been put together in the early years of the SGC, to deal with the most common problems that people sometimes suffered with; she knew that gate travel, for all that it got easier with time, wasn't always as easy as everyone said it was to begin with.

None of which explained why she said yes in the end.

Mainly because *she* still didn't really know why she said yes in the end.

Maybe because everyone said she ought to go, that it would benefit her and her career. Maybe because her dad always said she should take the opportunities she was given. Maybe because a part of her was flattered that they wanted her.

Maybe because she was afraid that turning it down would mean the possibility of people looking at her and thinking, 'she's only here because she couldn't hack it there.'

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She expected Atlantis to be more or less like the SGC – more windows, fewer people, no going back to her apartment for wine and chocolate cake and trashy romantic comedies with Andrea – but basically much the same.

Boy, was she ever wrong.

She didn't have the gene, so she didn't go through the three days of acclimatizing to technology in her head (thank God – just the thought of it made her uncomfortable). Instead, she got an afternoon of being shown equipment that could do things that shouldn't even be medically possible, twenty minutes on the various drugs they'd synthesized for an array of unpleasant sounding Pegasus-specific illnesses, allergies and assorted unpleasantnesses. That was supposed to be her first day, along with time to find her room and unpack.

Instead, it was the day that an exploration team was in the wrong place when an out-lying tower finally decided it wasn't interested in resisting gravity any longer; twelve hours later, stumbling back to her room down corridors that all looked the same, she couldn't even remember what coming through the gate had felt like.

Atlantis was actually not that different in a lot of ways, not least of which was the way that every shift was either gruesomely boring, or conducted in chaos under the eyes of her patient's team.

Especially when the patient was Colonel Sheppard.

Still, though, the expedition members were mostly decent people, and it didn't take them more than a few seconds to accept that she was the head of emergency medicine in the city, even if most of them still went to Carson as the CMO.

She understood why – a lot of them had been part of the expedition since the beginning, and were used to him from the days when they didn't *have* emergency specialists – but sometimes she just wanted to stamp her foot and point out that, hey, she'd been to medical school as well, she actually knew what she was doing, in more than one area, even (which was turning out to be pretty useful, and she was glad she'd brought some of her books with her, to remind herself of what she'd been starting to forget).

She didn't, though. Whatever she might gain from people acknowledging what she could do wouldn't come close to canceling out the negative effects of that kind of childishness.

Sometimes she indulged it in her quarters though, stomping in circles, and cursing scientists who thought they knew best (there were reasons she liked the Marines best, not all of which had to do with how pretty they looked when they were mildly injured and sitting around her infirmary shirtless).

The rest of the time, she got on with her job, made sure she was friendly but never too friendly, and got better at things she'd never expected to really need again (as well as very good at dealing with people wanting contraceptives and/or morning after pills. Apparently, she was, for reasons that weren't entirely clear to her, the preferred choice for those kinds of conversations. Possibly it had something to do with the way Carson turned red and started stuttering. The first year, she couldn't help thinking, must have been awkward on a number of levels).

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She met Dr Brown on her third day in the city, when all of Botany were brought into the infirmary with rashes creeping up their arms in reaction to a plant that Major Lorne's team had brought back with them. In all the chaos, Jennifer forgot about Dr Brown completely until she turned round in the mess a couple of weeks later and bumped the person standing behind her. The other woman squeaked, and jumped back, and sent the contents of her mug sloshing over her hand and her sleeve.

"I'm so sorry," Jennifer said, reaching for a handful of napkins to wipe her hand.

"It was my fault," the other woman said, holding still so Jennifer could check her skin for damage. "I shouldn't have stood so close behind you. I just wanted to say hello, and thank you for treating us so quickly."

Dr Brown, Jennifer remembered. She was usually good with names, but the doctor's first name completely escaped her for a moment. "No problem, Doctor," she said.

Dr Brown smiled. "Please," she said. "Call me Katie."

"Jennifer," she offered, smiling back. "Do you want to have lunch with me?"

"I'd love to," Katie said.

She wasn't like Andrea, exactly – more shy, less likely to say inappropriate things to Marines while giving them an innocent smile – but she started coming by Jennifer's quarters late at night, just to say hi, until one day she was talking about McKay and said, "and he looks like a fish when he comes," before slapping her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide with horror.

Jennifer couldn't help the giggle that escaped, even though that was way more than she ever wanted to know about Dr McKay. Katie held her eye for a moment, then cracked and started giggling as well. "I can't believe I told you that," she said. "That's so embarrassing!"

Jennifer thought about it for a second, but, really, there wasn't much of a decision. Katie was her friend, at this point, and she missed having someone to share with. She leaned closer. "I walked in on Ronon getting the bandage on his thigh changed on purpose, because I knew he wouldn't be wearing pants," she said, her voice low.

It felt really good when Katie laughed.

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Dr Weir came by her office two days after Carson died; Sheppard, McKay and Maggie Cole were still on Earth for the funeral, and it was impossible for things to feel normal with them gone, even though the corridor where the explosion had happened had already been rebuilt.

"You've been with us for six months now," Dr Weir said, sitting by Jennifer's desk, her hands folded neatly in her lap. She was wearing more make-up than usual, Jennifer noticed, but the circles under her eyes were still clear. Sheppard ought to be here, in Jennifer's opinion, helping Dr Weir hold up the facade of normality that the city needed.

"Yes, ma'am," Jennifer agreed. Dr Weir made her a little nervous – actually, a lot nervous. She was always so well put together, never a hair out of place, and everyone looked up to her naturally, the way they never would to Jennifer. The worst part was that Jennifer did as well, the way she never really had with her previous bosses.

"Your performance reviews have been consistently excellent," Dr Weir added. She dropped her eyes for a moment, looking at her hands, and Jennifer was grateful for the chance to take her own deep breath. Carson had done her six month review less than a week ago. "And everyone agrees that you're a good doctor."

"Thank you," Jennifer said, trying to keep the uncertainty out of her voice. There was no reason to think that Dr Weir was intending to send her back to Earth. None.

Dr Weir met her eyes firmly. "I know you're probably not expecting this, given the short time you've been with us, but I'd like to offer you the Chief Medical Officer position."

"I –" Jennifer said dumbly. None of the infirmary staff had mentioned the question of who would take over the post; she hadn't even thought about it, still trying to get her head around the fact that the post needed to be taken over. "What about Dr Biro? She's been here since the beginning."

"Dr Biro came on this expedition primarily as a researcher," Dr Weir said. "I can't discuss why we chose not to offer it to her, or to any of the other medical staff individually. Colonel Sheppard and I agree that you're the best choice for the job." She looked at Jennifer for a moment, then stood up. "I'll let you think about it. Perhaps you could let me know by the end of today."

"Of course," Jennifer said automatically, then, "Yes. I'll do it."

"I'm very pleased to hear that," Dr Weir said, and gave her a warm smile that absolutely didn't make her feel better than the offer of the job had.

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She couldn't get drunk, not when she had to be in the infirmary in eight hours, but she and Katie toasted her promotion with one glass of wine each, and she really hadn't slept much in the last few days.

It was the only explanation she could find for her mouth to be saying, "What if I'm not good enough?"

Katie sat up from where she was slumped against Jennifer's thigh. "Not good enough at what?"

"At Carson's job," Jennifer said. She realized her fingers were twisted together, and untangled them. "What if I make a mistake?"

"Jenny," Katie said softly. "You're a wonderful doctor. Everyone here knows that. Dr Weir wouldn't have offered you the position otherwise."

And that made her feel even better than Dr Weir's warm smile had. So much better that she didn't bother telling Katie not to call her Jenny.


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