blue flamingos

First Sight, Second Sight

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Gen, PG-13

Year/Length: 2008/ ~1722 words

Pairing: Katie Brown (past Katie/Rodney)

Spoilers: major spoilers for Quarantine

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

Summary: Just because something's over, doesn't mean it's finished.

Author's Notes: For [info]14valentines Day 5: Sexuality

Beta: by [info]domtheknight

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

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Katie would have married Rodney, she's pretty sure, if... If not for the quarantine lock-down. If he'd actually gotten around to asking her before it happened. If he'd actually asked her when she found the ring, or when they finally got out of the lab. Even if he'd asked later that day, when he came to take back the proposal he hadn't made.

She might have agreed, in the end, that not getting married was the best idea, that they probably couldn't make a marriage work, but she still would have married him, if he'd offered.

She's not sure why Laura expresses so much surprise at this, when Katie explains it in one of her emails. She and Rodney were together for nearly two years – well, a little less, since it took him another six months after their first date to ask her out again. She still owes Teyla for her help with that; Rodney never seemed like the kind of man who'd take well to being asked out by a woman.

But you weren't in love with him, Laura writes back. Unless you've been lying to me all along.

Laura, actually, is the one person Katie never lies to. There's something about being kissed by a woman through the body of your sort-of boyfriend that inspires truth and honesty, and Laura's good at keeping secrets.

Laura's right: she wasn't, isn't, in love with Rodney, though she imagines she would have learned to love him, given time. It's not like, whatever he said, she's unaware of his faults, his tendency to see the worst in every situation, his hypochondria, and how frequently he gets absorbed in his work and forgets everything else. They dated for eighteen months, and she's really not as naïve and innocent as everyone thinks she is. Just because she wasn't the best at dealing with him when he was like that – well, not everyone has to be pushing for miraculous life-saving results that very second, and, yes, Colonel Sheppard, that does mean you.

If she were Rodney, she'd appreciate having someone tell her that things would be okay, to just relax and stop worrying about things she couldn't control.

Apparently, she was wrong; she can't help thinking that being unable to make him feel better when they were trapped is punishment enough. Ending the longest relationship she's had since college as well seems like overkill.

Jennifer does her best to be supportive, since Katie's actual closest friend is several thousand light-years away, retraining to join the bomb disposal squad because she's been with Dr Simpson since her and Carson broke up, and neither of them loves Atlantis enough to keep hiding it or wait for Don't Ask Don't Tell to be revoked. Jennifer's best is pretty good, usually, when she's not freaking out about not being good enough for her job, but she's bubbling with happiness over things with Ronon, and Katie just can't bring her down.

"I'm fine," she says when Jennifer asks. "I'm sure this is best."

Some of the time, she even believes it.

Like when she remembers how long it took for Rodney to give up a little bit of control in bed, or how she always had to wait for him to ask her out. Rodney, she frequently thinks, has oddly traditionalist ideas about how his girlfriend should be, which is strange, considering he isn't the least bit like that with the rest of the women on Atlantis.

Or maybe it's just her. She's well aware that people spend five minutes with her and decide she's a nice, slightly naïve young woman, that she probably went into botany because she thought the flowers were pretty, and that she needs someone to take care of her.

Actually, she did karate for ten years before coming to Atlantis, and knows how to use it to put down an attacker (in real life as well – she's done it twice); she prefers cacti and succulents and ferns to pretty flowers, and, even if she was when she got here, she's been in Atlantis for over two years, she can't afford to be naïve any more.

Unfortunately, she really is nice, and she hasn't figured out yet how to make people see that nice is one part of her, that it doesn't automatically mean all the other stuff is true as well.

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Everyone knows she and Rodney have broken up, of course – nothing stays secret for long in the city, so she's just grateful no-one seems to have heard about the proposal.

Well, almost no-one: she catches Colonel Sheppard giving her more than one speculative look, and she can't help the way she drops her eyes. She's well aware that it makes her look like she's guilty of something, but she's always found the colonel a little intimidating, and, well, she's not so interested in his opinion of her that she'll risk hurting Rodney by telling the colonel that it wasn't her decision to end things. If Rodney wants to tell Colonel Sheppard that she turned him down, or broke off their relationship, that's his business, and even if he's told Sheppard the truth, she's still not going to interfere.

Some days, she wishes the rest of the population of Atlantis would take that same attitude towards her.

It's not so bad when it's Miko touching her hand lightly and saying, "I was sorry when I heard of the end of your relationship with Dr McKay," her eyes wide and sympathetic behind her glasses; or when David gives her a clumsy hug and says, "He doesn't deserve you," like every good friend has to after a break-up. At least he does a pretty good job of looking like he means it – maybe he actually does mean it. She doesn't even mind, too much, when Radek, whom she really doesn't know all that well, turns to her in the line for breakfast one morning and says, "Rodney is often an idiot with other people," which leaves her blinking and wondering if 'thank you', which is all she can think to say, is really the right response.

It's everyone else who bothers her, the sympathetic looks she gets in the corridors and the mess, from the marines who sometimes come into her lab and look at her like she's their maiden aunt or helpless older sister, and the doctors when she has to go to the infirmary with a rash on her hands from an off-world plant sample which turns out to eat through latex gloves. She starts being really grateful for people like Teyla, who sits with her at lunch a couple of times and asks her questions about bringing up children on Earth, without once acting like she even knew that Katie and Rodney were dating, never mind that they've split up. She even finds herself thinking guiltily that she's glad for Colonel Carter's presence, because Dr Weir would have been sympathetic and gentle, but Colonel Carter gets on with the mission briefing for one of her infrequent trips off-world and doesn't look at Katie any more than she does at anyone else.

Why can't they all just mind their own business? she writes to Laura. This can't possibly be the most interesting thing happening in the whole city.

Three hundred mostly single adults in one place with no TV, Laura writes back. They've got nothing to do but gossip. You're only bothered because it's about you. Find yourself a hot new guy, give them something else to talk about. There's a picture of a little face winking at her, then, Or a girl. Even better.

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Katie finds a new succulent instead, since she's had limited luck with cacti, and she's got enough possibly-leukemia-curing ferns to keep her going for the next couple of years at least. The succulent is spread like a carpet over much of P7X 912, small, cylindrical leaves growing in spiral patterns, out and out, all of them varied shades of yellow and orange. It looks, when they step through the gate, like a field of frozen flames, and Katie can hardly bring herself to step on it in her sturdy boots, to risk destroying any of it.

"Wow," Sergeant Johnson says behind her. "Pretty."

Katie nods, trying to snap herself out of whatever trance she's falling into. It's not like she hasn't seen more amazing things in Pegasus, but she can't take her eyes off this, perfect and beautiful and unlikely. Maybe she just needed something to remind her that Pegasus isn't all broken proposals and gossipy colleagues; that, stunning as Atlantis is, there's more to the galaxy than just the city, world after world of wonderful things that only a handful of other people from Earth will ever even know about, let alone see.

"You want to take some pictures?" Johnson asks. "Get some samples and we can head out?"

"Yes," Katie says. "Of course."

She takes far more photos than she'll need, or could possibly use, but Johnson doesn't hurry her along. She has no idea where Lieutenant Morris and Dr Freeman, their zoologist, are, but Johnson's keeping guard, and she can hear their voices in her earpiece.

The succulent, when she kneels down to take her samples, feels more like a firm sponge than the usual slight rubbery texture of succulents on Earth. It breaks apart easily, sealing the cut ends with a pale yellow sap that smells faintly familiar, but unidentifiable.

Later, watching Freeman as he scales a tree to photograph the nests of a group of squirrel like animals with tails twice the length of their bodies, Johnson asks, "You thought about what you're going to call that?"

Katie lifts the sample bag from her pocket, looking at the leaves again. They haven't lost any of their vivid color, the way she thought they might after being cut. "We won't be able to give it an official name until we've figured out what species it belongs to," she explains.

"But?" Johnson asks.

"Phoenix fire," Katie says quietly, and it's maybe a little trite, and not entirely accurate, but the one thing Pegasus has shown her, over and over, is that something living will always survive the ashes, and it's long past time they did something to commemorate that.

"I like it," Johnson says, nodding, and that's when Freeman falls out of the tree.


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