scherryzade: (newcomers)
[personal profile] scherryzade
Title: Newcomers: Captaincy
Rating: PG-13, shading to R, language only, because even girl Marines swear...
Characters: Cadman, OC
Disclaimer: Not mine (except the mistakes, and the newcomers themselves), no harm meant.
Summary: Anna-Maria has been holding herself up by a thread since Ushant and Ordan - and the person who's there to see her fall is not a friend.
A/N: Follows on from the 'Five Callings' sequence. I, ah, may have wound Anna-M a little too tight...
A/N2: For reasons too obscure to go into here, I have Cadman as co-leader of a gate team that's transferred back to Atlantis after several years at Cheyenne Mountain. (Just think of it as - Landry wanted all the people who like blowing shit up that much to be on one team, to save on C-4)

Captaincy

Anna doesn't falter, all that week when the Major battles an infection. She's there to make sure David is okay. She's there to listen to Tom stumble his way through telling that he knows about David and the Major, and isn't going to say anything, wouldn't ever. She's there to tell Mark he's not to blame for the medicat running to Ordan, that it's all on her, her orders.

Anna doesn't falter, not even when she apologises to Ettesdotter. Not when she visits Lorne in the infirmary and the nurses give her the evil eye. Not when Teyla gives her the 'respecting our allies' talk.

Anna doesn't falter, and she meets Sheppard's eye when he dresses her down for her actions in Atlantis and on Ushant, and Ordan.

But one look at Evan awake, David sitting nonchalantly beside his bed, long fingers outlining some piece of botanical gossip, and Anna feels the ground lurch beneath her.

Atlantis is full of unused rooms and corners around corners. She doesn't have far to go before she can slide to the ground and just -

"Captain?"

Of course. It couldn't be Nate who found her, to offer awkward, sincere comfort. Or Teldy, who'd hand her a tissue and wait, and not say:

"Well, that clears one thing up. I was beginning to wonder if you were human."

Normally, Anna'd have half-a-dozen smart things to snap back, but not today, not now. She settles for "Fuck off, Cadman."

~

Honestly, Laura doesn't know what she ever did to piss off Rodriguez.

Coming back to Atlantis hasn't been what she expected. Rosie's taken it in her stride, and neither the doc nor West have been in the city before, but Laura can't help but feel all the differences.

Partly it's coming back as part of a team - her team, even it it's equally Rosie's - having worked for so long at the mountain together. Sheppard even let them keep their team designation, even if it's 'AR' in place of 'SG'. She knows they've kept their nickname, too.

And at first, Atlantis doesn't feel that different. Sure, she can feel the difference loosing Weir has made, but Woolsey's not quite the stuffed shirt that folks at the Mountain assume he is. Sheppard hasn't changed, even if there's a little grey at his temples that lends him a deceptively patrician air. McKay has rather less hair at the temples, but he still goes an amusing shade of pink when she tells him to call her 'Captain'.

The changes are mostly small, or the kind of changes you expect. Teyla is still Teyla, but she's bloomed in motherhood, and the whole city is in thrawl to little TJ. Dex seems to have mellowed, but he still kicks Marine asses on a regular basis. The black market has boomed, but it's still Dr Z you go to for moonshine, still Chuck who runs the book.

But there are twice as many people in Atlantis, and more than thirty gate teams.

Teldy's fine - Laura knows her from the Mountain, respects her. Hughes is a jerk, but he's a decent enough soldier, so long as Sheppard remembers to point him in the right direction. Lorne is still Lorne, but she doesn't regret not joining his team, not when she's got Rosie and West and the Doc.

Some of the military she knows from Colorado, or from when she was first in Atlantis - Stacks is still here, and Johnson, and maybe a dozen other NCOs she remembers. She mostly doesn't know the international military, but there's less animosity there than she expected.

So there really isn't any reason to think there's a problem, except that a month after arriving back in Atlantis, she still feels like she doesn't belong there. And every time she thinks maybe she's settling back into the routines of the city, she feels the cold gaze of Captain Rodriguez on the back of her neck.

Rodriguez hasn't been in Atlantis long enough to be a veteran, but she's been there longer than Laura was, before. And she's Air Force, so she doesn't fit in with the Marines. Instead, she's de facto third most senior AF officer, in a line that runs from Sheppard, to Lorne, to Rodriguez. Nobody acknowledges it, and Rodriguez doesn't take advantage of it - if anything, it works against her, because her's is one of Sheppard's go-to teams, like Lorne's, for all the shitty, seat-of-the-pants missions. But Sheppard calls her 'Radio', like it's a shared secret, and she shares a table with Lorne any time she's not sitting with her team, and the Marines all stand a little bit more to attention when she passes than they do for any of the Marine captains. And it grates on Laura, just a little, that Rodriguez has it made in Atlantis, but she still takes the time to pour unspoken scorn on Laura and AR-34, even when Teldy has them all playing nice at her weekly women officers' round table.

So when she finally sees evidence that Rodriguez isn't just some custom-built AF robot - and frankly, she wouldn't put that past Carter, let alone McKay, if the right CO had asked for it - Laura figures she's owed an explanation.

~

Anna doesn't trust herself to look Cadman in the eye, let alone stand long enough to get away from her. When Cadman slides down the wall beside her, she freezes.

"You -" Whatever she was going to spit at Cadman dies in her throat, choking her, and she concentrates on evening out her breathing.

Cadman settles on her heels, and snaps her gum. Anna ignores her. It's a skill she's been honing since Cadman bounced back into the city with her Mountain gate team, all Semper Fi pep and nostalgia for the good old days of the second wave.

"Anybody normal would have run away screaming days ago. I'm impressed. Or, I would be, if you weren't obviously crazy."

No-one could accuse Cadman of not speaking her mind. Anna keeps on ignoring her, but her anger starts to overtake the panic in her throat.

"You want to talk about it?"

Anna looks at Cadman at that, too taken aback to even reply. "What?" she manages, and Cadman grins at her.

"You know, talk. With words. Teldy's not the only one who can listen, y'know."

Still staring at Cadman, Anna says, "Words - cannot express how little I want to talk to you right now."

Cadman smirks, and doesn't take the hint, doesn't leave. "I don't get you, 'Riguez. It's like you go out of your way to make life difficult for yourself."

"Oh, forgive me for taking my job seriously. Or do you really believe everything can be solved with a bar of C4 and a stick of gum?"

"Harsh, 'Riguez. Harsh. I mean like, you always volunteer for shit like Ushant. Or like, every other woman who leads a team has another woman on -" Oh, now we get to it, thinks Anna, and says:

"Don't talk about my team."

~

"Hey, whoa, I get it, they're your boys. I'm not saying anything." Laura takes a breath. "I'm just saying -"

"I'm sorry, do we mess with the demographics?" Rodriguez has a fine line in sarcasm, but Laura doesn't let it put her off. She's been letting Rodriguez' sarcasm push her into the cold ever since she got back to Atlantis.

"I'm just saying, it can't be easy -"

"You really, really want to shut up now -" The sarcasm's gone, replaced with anger, which isn't what Laura was aiming for, but she'll take it.

"- with that -"

"You don't know shit about my team, Cadman," says Rodriguez.

Something clicks, and Laura decides she's had enough of Rodriguez' self-righteous bullshit. "What did he tell you about me?"

"Who?" Like she doesn't know.

"Collins." Who she'd crossed paths with more than once back in the Milky Way, and always seemed to turn up, like the proverbial bad penny, whenever her team's missions went south. "What did he say about me that's gotten you so down on me?"

That gets Rodriguez. She bolts to her feet, and Laura has to scramble up after her. She's almost certain Rodriguez is going to walk away, but instead she turns on Laura, putting her extra inches to good use. "He didn't say a damn thing, Cadman. He didn't have to. Neither did you - I saw it in your face the minute you saw him in the gate room. I've seen it in the way he goes real quiet in the mess every time you and the rest of 3-4 - C-4 -" Rodriguez spits out the nickname. "- every time you walk past. You don't think I know what you all thought of him back at the Mountain? You think I don't know what the Marines here still think of him, however often he proves himself? You don't think he knows?"

Rodriguez is coiled, ready to strike, and Laura flinches when she lashes out, even though Rodriguez telegraphs the punch, and it's aimed at the wall, anyway. "Fuck. He thinks the same thing himself. You know how long it's taken me to get him even close to believing he should be here? And then you come in, fresh from the Mountain, and everybody knows what good stories you tell -"

"I never said -" She'd bitten her tongue more than once about Collins, because everybody knows Atlantis is second - third - chance city. But Rodriguez isn't listening now.

"And the hell of it is, now, after Ushant, and Ordan? If there's any fallout - and fuck, is there ever going to be fallout - they're going to put that on Mark, too, even though it has nothing to do with him. That was all me, every single stupid mistake." Laura realises with a start that Rodriguez is crying. "I screwed up." This isn't just a bad day at the end of a shitty week for Rodriguez, that Laura could distract her from by trying to clear the air between them. "It's all my fault." Laura thought she could use that petty squabble to distract from the clusterfuck of Ushant and Ordan, and instead, Rodriguez is falling apart because Laura pushed something she didn't even know was there.

"I was just so fucking scared -" Rodriguez' voice twists on the last word, and she crumples against the wall, sliding to the floor. Her mind racing, Laura crouches beside her, laying a tentative hand on Rodriguez' back. The only thing she can think of to say is some bullshit about how it's going to be okay, and this is Pegasus - the odds of anything being okay are slim. And Ushant and Ordan - that may be over, but, yeah, the fallout, the fact that their allies have turned against them, that what happened in the Milky Way with the Lucian Alliance looks to be happening here with the Coalition and the mercenary conducat, all that points to their lives getting harder, their work getting more dangerous.

So she doesn't say anything, just keeps her hand steady on Rodriguez' unsteady back, waits as her breath evens out.

"Fuck," whispers Rodriguez on an exhale.

"Yeah," says Laura. "I know."

"I - I wouldn't give it up for the world, but - I'm a pilot. Flying 302s makes sense. Flying the jumpers makes sense, but this - I don't know what I'm doing. I - shit." Rodriguez breaks off, angrily scrubbing away tears with the ball of her thumb.

"'Riguez -"

"And what the fuck is this 'Riguez' bullshit?"

"Uh." Laura's never really thought about, just picked it up from the other Marines. Somehow she'd forgotten that they never call her that to her face. "I, uh. Well, if you start to say 'Rod', everyone thinks you're about to talk about McKay, and they -"

"Run away screaming?" Rodriguez' voice is still ragged, but there's laughter there.

"Right. Besides, 'Rodriguez' is just so long, and it's not like we can call you 'Radio' -" Laura breaks off when Rodriguez flinches. "Hey. What's the story with that, anyway?" asks Laura, softer, not sure if she'll get an answer.

"I'm a pilot," says Rodriguez, simply. "That was my callsign."

That much, Laura knew. "So, what, you were posted with Sheppard back in -" She can't remember if it was Afghanistan or Iraq. Second chances, she thinks.

"Our paths crossed. He was just a chopper pilot, but we were both doing the same - classified shit."

"You flew fighters? I didn't think we had any women in combat over - Afghanistan?"

Rodriguez laughs. "Yeah, well, we don't have a secret space program either, do we? Besides, it mostly wasn't over Afghanistan." Then she says, "I didn't last long, anyway. They sent me home first excuse they could find." Her voice is bitter. "Sheppard got a black mark, but they didn't stop him flying. I got a commendation and a desk job."

Second chances. And Sheppard - "Oh," says Laura, realisation dawning. Because Rodriguez is Air Force, but she's not Carter, who's a scientist first, officer second. And she isn't one of the female officers who followed Carter into the SGC, either scientists in uniform or, like Laura herself, happily splitting the difference. Of the small USAF contingent on Atlantis, the only other women are a couple of LTs that haven't been out in the field, and certainly never fired a weapon in anger. The rest, well, Laura's a Marine, and they may be better than the zoomies, but they're also different.

Laura had always assumed that Rodriguez was Air Force the way Lorne is Air Force, all quiet sarcasm and ice cool under pressure, but really, the only thing she knows they have in common is Dr Parrish. The person Rodriguez has most in common with is -

"Oh my God, you're Sheppard," says Laura before she can stop herself. Rodriguez gives her a look, then pointedly looks down at herself. "No, I mean -" Laura stops, holding up her hands placatingly. Now she's thought of it, it's obvious, really, that Rodriguez, a pilot, tall, dark, and by reputation scary focussed in combat, should model herself on their CO. That she doesn't have Sheppard's deceptively laid back charm is just evidence that trying to be Sheppard is a fundamentally bad idea, because - "You can't do this by yourself," she says, hands still up defensively. But Rodriguez just goes carefully blank-faced, and Laura hurriedly changes tack.

"You know I still have nightmares were I'm stuck inside Rodney's head?"

"My sympathies," says Rodriguez, only a little sarcastic.

"It's not being stuck in his brain that makes it a nightmare. I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't ever want to go back there, but I can't say it isn't interesting. The problem is, in the dream, nobody can hear me - not even McKay. It's not being stuck that's the problem - I know they'll be able to get me out - it's that I can't tell them there's a problem to fix."

"A problem shared..." mutters Rodriguez. She catches Laura's eye. "That was pretty transparent of you."

"Yeah? I thought it was pretty good. Besides," says Laura, finally relaxing and sitting down beside Rodriguez. "It's true."

"So, you're saying I should hug and share more?"

Laura shrugs. "Just that you shouldn't think that you're the only one who's freaking out. Even space marines freak out now and then."

"Space marines are people too, you mean?"

"Yup."

"Even Major Hughes?"

"Well, I wouldn't go that far." Laura nudges Rodriguez. "So, you coming to see Lorne? His boyfriend should be gone by now," she adds, because it's still a little amusing to see her hackles rise. "Oh, relax, please, I practically introduced them." She launches into the story of how getting herself stuck in Rodney's brain had resulted in the team rotas getting screwed up, and ended up with Lorne forced to accompany botanists offworld. "Which wasn't his first choice, believe me -"

"And you were?" asks Rodriguez, arching an eyebrow.

"Hey, I was too awesome for Lorne's team," says Laura, and grins when Rodriguez laughs.

~~~


Coda:

The mess hall has always been the best place to judge the mood of the city, which is why John's largely been avoiding it since they came back from Ordan. But the tension seems to have lifted now that Lorne's through the worst of it. Which is a relief, thinks John, because the breakdown of their trading agreements with half the Coalition means the mess is already having to be a little more inventive with its ingredients. He pokes suspiciously at something purple-black that might be the root vegetable from Erdo that tastes like sweet potato, but might be the root vegetable from Gallanat that tastes like unwashed socks. He's about to risk a taste when Rodney whimpers. John's about to ask if it's the sock-vegetable, but Rodney says - "Oh, God, no. They found each other."

John follows Rodney's unhappy gaze to the mess hall's entrance, and has to suppress a chuckle.

"We're all going to die," says Rodney.

"Relax, McKay," says John, watching Cadman and Rodriguez join Teldy's table. "They're on our side, remember."

~


I've had a sucky, sucky month - my sister got pneumonia and ended up in hospital with fluid around her heart. She's fine, or will be after a lot of r&r, but it's been more than a little terrifying, not least because she's in a different country from the rest of us (thankfully one with awesome, shiny healthcare and not beleaguered NHS). So Rodriguez here is probably a little more method than I would have liked.
  

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