blue flamingos

College Experience

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Gen, R

Year/Length: 2008/ ~3936 words

Pairing: Elizabeth Weir

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

Summary: College is all about new things: new ideas, new sexual partners, new chances to be bailed out of jail...

Author's Notes: For [info]14valentines Day 9: Politics

Beta: by [info]domtheknight

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


Elizabeth's very first memory is of playing at a coloring table when she was four, and saying to one of the other kids, "Here, you can have my red crayon until Alison's done with the other one."

She needed the red crayon, because the roof of her house had to be red, but Jake was getting upset and Alison was getting angry, and Elizabeth thought they'd both stop if Jake just had a red crayon and stopped trying to take Alison's.

Even when she was four, she just wanted everyone to get along.

By the time she was sixteen, she'd joined the debate club, because college admissions' counsellors liked that sort of thing, and she was going to get into a good international relations program and join the UN. Well, maybe the UN. Maybe she'd become a diplomat instead. She wasn't really sure then.

Five months into her freshman year, coming out of one of the music practice rooms with her flute, she bumped into Judy Santos. Not that she knew who Judy was then, but the girl, dressed in ripped jeans and a multi-colored shirt, carrying a purple backpack with a dozen different patches and badges, said, "Oh, hey, sorry. I didn't see you," and Elizabeth said, "No, it's my fault," a little intimidated by a girl who dressed like that, and the girl said, "Both of us then. Here, have a flyer."

Which was how Elizabeth came to be sitting at the back of the students' union that evening, listening to a girl who dressed a bit like Judy talk about banning the military from recruiting on campus. She wasn't like any speaker Elizabeth had ever heard before – in debate, everyone was polite and calm, but this girl bounced across the tiny stage, threw her hands about, yelled and got angry, and then handed over the floor to a boy who did the same, then another boy, then two girls who bounced their arguments off each other, then the girl who'd given Elizabeth the flyer, then another boy, then the first girl again, until Elizabeth's head was spinning with things she'd never really thought about before. Of course, she'd always said that war wasn't the best way of solving conflicts, that peaceful resolution was always better, but she'd always still thought of war as the inevitable conclusion of negotiations that didn't go well.

The people on the stage didn't agree with her.

Lots of people stuck around to talk in little groups after, and Elizabeth wanted to go up to one of them and join in the conversation, to see if there were other people like her, feeling like they'd just had their minds turned inside out and all their thoughts shaken into new shapes. They were so different from her though, their clothes, and the ways they talked, and she felt stuffy and boring in her jeans and boots and black sweater.

A couple of people were starting to stack the chairs at the sides of the room, so Elizabeth took her own chair and the two next to it and added them to the stack. "Thanks," one of the boys said. "You don't need to do that."

"I don't mind," Elizabeth said, smiling at him and hoping she didn't look as young and shy as she suddenly felt. She thought he must be a grad student, at least, because he seemed far older than her.

The two of them went down another row of chairs. "I don't remember seeing you here before," he said when she added her pile to his.

She shook her head. "I haven't been before. Someone gave me a flyer."

"Well, it's great to have new faces," he said, then held out his hand. "Tom."

"Elizabeth," she said, shaking it. "Do you have these things a lot?"

"Meetings like this?" Tom asked. "Not that often, it's hard to get permission from the university to hold them, even in the union. But we do other stuff, we've got something coming up, I'm sure, if you wanted to come along. Hold on." He looked around, then waved. "Hey, Judy, come here a second."

"What's up?" a girl asked from behind Elizabeth, and Elizabeth turned to find the girl from the practice rooms right there. "Oh, hey. Again. You came, cool."

"You two know each other?" Tom asked. "You should have said."

"I don't think nearly knocking her flying really counts as knowing her," the girl said with a grin. "Hey, I'm Judy."

"Elizabeth." She bit down on the urge to say something stupid like it's nice to meet you, because they seemed a bit like the kind of people who'd laugh at that. "Thank you for the flyer, it was really interesting."

"Glad you think so," Judy said, still smiling. She'd tell Elizabeth, a couple of months later, that she'd only given her the flyer because she was desperate to get more people along. She'd taken one look at Elizabeth's clothes and thought she'd never come. "Why did you?" she'll ask, and Elizabeth will shrug, not wanting to say that she had nothing better to do with her evening. "What do you need, Tom?"

"Elizabeth wanted to know what else we had coming up, and I thought if anyone would know, it'd be you."

"Absolutely. Come on, Liz, let me find my diary."

Elizabeth, by then, had been correcting people who called her Liz, or Lizzie, for fifteen years, since she was old enough to do it, but she couldn't tell Judy that. It turned out to be surprisingly easy to get used to, so much so that, after a while, Elizabeth started sounding really strange, like it didn't refer to her any longer.

Judy and Tom weren't part of any organized group, and the people they hung out with – the people Liz hung out with – weren't just concerned with the military; they had opinions about everything, from the environment to civil rights to education policy to poverty in Africa, and they could all talk about it at length. Liz, who read two newspapers every morning, and watched the TV news in the evening, when she could get at the remote control in her dorm lounge, started taking notes while she did it, so she had things to say. After a while, her notes were less about what she was reading, and more her own thoughts on it. The rush she got when Judy told someone to shut up and listen to what Liz was saying was better than anything she'd ever felt before.

Judy was in the last year of a degree in Communications, and had already been accepted to carry on and do her MA. "Actually, they wanted to reject me," she told Liz one evening, the two of them sharing a huge slice of cheesecake in the students' union cafeteria, instead of going to the library. "But Professor Eckles stood up for me, said that having an opinion was a good thing, and that they need more people who stand up for what they believe in."

"How do you know?" Liz asked, thinking that she'd love to have a professor who'd stake his reputation on her. That must be one of the best things about being in power, being able to help someone you thought had merit.

Judy shrugged, licking between the tines of her fork. "Tom used to live with the administrator who was in the meeting. She told him and he told me."

Judy thought that the most important thing was to know the best way of telling people what you wanted them to know; that the government and big business already knew that, and that the population of America would change their minds about a lot of things if they just knew what was really happening. She considered everyone she ever met a potential contact for later life, and her address book was full of names and phone numbers that she called regularly, just to say hi.

At first, Liz had been a bit jealous of all these other people, wondering if maybe Judy just thought of her as another potential contact, since Liz was still thinking about applying to the diplomatic service when she finished her PhD in a few years. She'd realized after a while though, that although Judy talked to dozens of people on the phone, and had loads of friends amongst the rest of their group, there weren't many people that she met for coffee, or cheesecake, or a drink, and that made Liz special. It was a pretty cool feeling.

Liz ended up staying at school for summer vacation, working for minimum wage in the admissions' office, stuffing envelopes and answering the phone. It was boring, but it meant she had her weekends free to spend with Judy and her friends, planning ways to draw in the new students when they turned up, and making placards for a protest in New York.

She begged her parents for the money for a bus ticket so she could go with the others, carefully not saying why she wanted to – it wasn't that she thought they'd disapprove, exactly, or not of the cause. She was more worried that they'd object to her protesting the way she wanted to, and so she ended up making it sound more like a couple of days' break having fun in the city, and, predictably, they said no. "You have a job, Elizabeth," her dad said. "If you want to go on a holiday, you need to save the money, like the rest of us."

"Could you lend me the money?" Liz asked Judy. "I'll pay you back."

"With what?" Judy asked reasonably. "You're always telling me how broke you are."

"I really want to go," Liz said, throwing herself down on Judy's couch with a sigh. "You're all going to be there and I'll be stuck here by myself. I've never even seen a protest, this is my first chance to go."

Judy sat next to her, put her arm round Liz. "It sucks, I'm sorry. I'd lend you the money if I could, but I'm as broke as you are."

"It's not fair," Liz said again, and closed her eyes against Judy's shoulder.

She promised to go see them off, but when she woke up in the morning, she thought about four days on campus by herself and was horribly afraid that she'd embarrass herself by bursting into tears and clinging to Judy, begging to be allowed to join them. It seemed safer to stay in bed, though she felt really guilty that night when Judy called from New York to find out why she hadn't been there, and made up a lie about not feeling well.

The four days sucked as much as she'd been expecting, made worse by having to do over-time for three of them. Judy rang on the fourth morning to say she was getting a ride back with a friend and didn't know when she'd be home, so Liz got the surprise of her life when she stepped out of the administration building to find Judy lounging on the bottom step, duffel bag at her feet, face tilted back to catch the sun, the straps of her vest top pushed down her arms so she'd get an even tan.

"Miss me?" Judy asked, squinting up at her and grinning.

Liz smiled her coolest smile back, and raised a single eyebrow, trying not to let out the delighted scream of yes, yes that was building inside her. "A little bit," she said casually, and hugged Judy back, breathing in the summer scent of her skin, and the lingering traces of exhaust from the drive.

The rest of the summer was better – there wasn't anything else planned till fall, so Judy had a lot more time to spend with Liz, lounging on the grass between buildings, getting tanned and gossiping about their friends, until, suddenly, campus started filling up again with students, and professors who'd taken sabbaticals, and Liz was scraping together every penny she could find and begging her parents for help buying books.

She picked up a media studies class, despite her tutor suggesting that maybe, with her language courses as well, it wasn't the best idea in the world. "I'll be fine," she promised earnestly. "I'm good at time management."

He frowned at her, but signed the form in the end. "Remember, you can always come and talk to me if you're having problems juggling all of that," he said, and Liz promised that she absolutely would.

It gave her a good excuse to spend more time at Judy's house, leafing through her text books and picking her brain, or, more often, curling up on the couch to watch the old Gene Kelly films Judy loved, sharing a bottle of cheap red wine and talking about what they'd do when they left school, all the things they'd do to change the world.

Liz wasn't sure how they went from arguing over who got the last strawberry créme to sprawled on the couch, Judy's t-shirt missing and Liz's shirt open, kissing with their hands in each other's hair. It was just one of those things that happened when she was around Judy.

They didn't have sex that night, mainly because Judy, when Liz started trying to get her belt open, gasped and sat up, still straddling Liz's hips, and said, "Have you ever done this before?"

"Had sex?" Liz asked. "Of course." She'd dated Darren all through her last three years of high school, and they'd had sex for the first time two days before senior prom, because Liz had said she didn't want her first time to happen in the backseat of his dad's car at the end of the evening. It hadn't been great, but they'd had the whole summer to practice, and it had gotten a lot better by the time they agreed there was no point trying to have a relationship from on different coasts.

"With a woman," Judy clarified, looking like she knew the answer.

"No," Liz said, reaching for her again. "But I want to with you."

Judy leaned down and kissed her, tongue sliding over Liz's, her hands curling back into Liz's hair where it tangled against her bare shoulders. "I want to with you too. But maybe we should go on a date first or something."

They went to an anti-war debate at the union instead.

"I don't think Max was right," Liz said, walking back to Judy's house at the end of the evening. They were holding hands, which felt very daring – much more so than holding hands with Darren ever had – even though it was too late for most people to still be about.

"No?" Judy asked.

"No," Liz said. "I mean, he's right about needing more people to realize what things are really like –" She squeezed Judy's hand a little as she said it, getting a smile in return. "But I don't think it's true that nothing will ever change unless people focus on getting rid of the government structure we already have."

"No?" Judy said again. "Here, this way." She tugged Liz's hand, pulling her off the main path and into the shadows between two buildings.

"I think if the right people were in power, things would change," Liz said.

"I'm sure you're right," Judy said smoothly, and pushed her up against the wall to kiss her.

Liz thought, after, that she wouldn't have minded having sex before the date, rather than after, because at least then her first time with a girl wouldn't be associated forever with a scraped elbow from the brickwork, or walking past her French tutor later and only realizing after they'd chatted for ten minutes that she'd refastened her shirt wrong, and been giving him an eyeful of her bra.

The second time they slept together was in Judy's bed, and much better. Liz decided she'd just pretend that had been their first time.

It didn't take her long to realize that, while sex with Darren had seemed fine, good even, it actually hadn't been all that great. Not unless Judy was exceptionally good, which Liz thought might be possible. She actually made Liz come once just with her mouth on Liz's breasts; Liz was fairly sure most people couldn't do that to her.

"Am I your girlfriend?" she asked one Sunday morning, recovering from lazy morning sex with her head on Judy's shoulder, about three months after they started sleeping together.

"I don't believe in concepts like girlfriend and boyfriend," Judy said, stroking her hair. "We're friends who have fun together. That's enough, right?"

"Of course," Liz said, trailing her fingers lightly over Judy's stomach to make her shiver, but she thought Judy might be – not lying, but not exactly telling her the truth. She was pretty sure Judy wasn't seeing anyone else, and neither was she; they spend more evenings together than apart, and went to things together. She was fairly sure that meant they were girlfriends, even if Judy didn't want to say. Even if Liz wasn't sure she was actually a lesbian – she liked Judy, a lot, and sex with her was pretty amazing, but she still thought she wanted to get married and have kids one day. She couldn't do that with a girl, not even Judy.

Not that she had a lot of time to think about it – they were planning another anti-war protest, this one on campus, and she was spending almost every free minute making placards, or handing out flyers, or going round the dorms, trying to talk people into coming along.

"We won't get into trouble, will we?" she asked Tom one night, the two of them hunkered down in his tiny kitchen, cutting up flyers. "With the school?"

"Probably not," Tom said easily. "I mean, they haven't exactly given permission, but they're usually okay once we're all there, they just complain after."

"Great," Liz said, not feeling all that reassured.

Rightly, as it turned out two weeks later, sitting in a cell at the police station, waiting for her parents to pick up the message she'd left them and arrange to post bail. "I can't believe I got arrested," she moaned to Becky. "I want to join the diplomatic service."

"I doubt we'll be charged," Becky said, patting her shoulder. Becky was finishing her PhD, which made her old enough to know about these things. "The Dean will probably talk the police into dropping the charges."

"It was the school who called them in the first place," Liz said.

"Yeah, but just so they could say they were doing something. Don't sweat it, we'll be fine."

"It'll still be on my record," Liz said. "They do background checks."

"You'll be fine," Becky said again.

Liz's parents disagreed – her dad came up a week after the protest to tell her just how stupid she'd been. "What about your career, Elizabeth?" he demanded. "How do you think this is going to look when you're trying to find a job? Things like this don't disappear just because you weren't charged."

Liz already knew that. She kept her eyes on the carpet.

"I don't understand you," her dad said, sighing. "When did you meet these people, anyway? You've never mentioned them."

"Sorry," Liz murmured. It wasn't even a lie – she was sorry he'd felt he had to come down to school because of this, even if she wasn't sorry for what she'd done to get arrested in the first place."

"All right. We won't say anything more about it." Her dad reached for his jacket, lying next to Liz on her bed. "I'll buy you dinner somewhere nice and you can tell me about your classes."

He hugged her before he got in the cab to go back to the airport. "I wish you'd told us you were doing these things," he said into her hair. "It was quite a shock to hear about it for the first time when you're on our answering machine saying you've been arrested."

"I'll try," Liz promised.

She probably would have done as well – it didn't really seem like her parents were angry at her for joining in the protest, or for what she'd been protesting – but two weeks after that, she walked into the students' union coffee shop and saw Judy, right under the big poster of Che Guevara, kissing another girl.

She looked up when Liz got closer and grinned. "Hey you. I thought we weren't getting together till later."

"I wasn't looking for you," Liz said, wincing when she heard how defensive she sounded. It was true – she had a paper due in a couple of days and was spending all day in the library working on it. "I just came in for some tea."

"Oh," Judy said. "Well, come join us."

"I can't," Liz said. "I have to go back."

Judy frowned. "I thought you came to get some tea. Or were you leaving?"

"No. I changed my –" Liz had to stop and swallow against the sudden lump in her throat. "I changed my mind."

"Liz?" Judy reached for her and Liz took a quick shuffle step out of range. "What's wrong?"

The girl looked at Liz and made an odd face, like she'd just realized something she wasn't sure she wanted to know. "Actually, I have to go anyway," she said. She was a pretty good liar – Liz was fairly sure she'd have believed her in a different situation. "I'll see you."

She stood up and disappeared, Judy's wave ignored.

"I should go too," Liz said.

"No. Tell me what's wrong first."

"I thought," Liz said, swallowing again. "I thought – you and me, and... that you didn't..."

"Oh," Judy said, comprehension dawning over her face. "Oh, Liz, sweetie, no." She paused, and Liz thought maybe she was going to say, 'It wasn't what it looked like,' then she went on, "I told you, I don't believe in all that. She's like you, she's a friend I have fun with."

"Right," Liz said stiffly. "My mistake. I'll see you around."

Oddly, walking out, she didn't feel so much like crying any more.

She was meant to go to Tom's house with Judy and some of the others the next day, but she stayed home instead, working on her paper and resolutely not thinking about it, or wondering if Judy was there with the girl from the coffee shop.

She missed the next planning session as well, and the debate in the union. After a week, she was very good at spotting one of Judy's friends and ducking out of the way before they saw her. After a month, she didn't even need to bother any more.

Filling out her application for graduate study a couple of years later, to her parents' approval and her tutor's enthusiasm, Elizabeth wrote, I believe that change can best be affected from inside the institution in question. Ad hoc protest, while valuable as a consciousness raising exercise, is rarely effective in the long-term.


Nearly twenty years later, sitting in the infirmary with Teyla after the Genii's attempt to take Atlantis, she asked, "Were you and Sora good friends?"

Teyla sighed. "I had thought so," she said, and Elizabeth thought, for the first time since she'd bumped into Judy Santos in the music rooms, I know you. You're like me.

When she remembered not to dwell on the way she'd left her whole life behind, and come to another galaxy, it was a comforting realization to have.

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