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rocketfic | mercy of the fallen

Title: Mercy of the Fallen by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Sam Carter/Kate Heightmeyer
Notes: This could well be considered a prologue to a longer story that may someday get written. :) Also, I've taken some liberties with Heightmeyer, and here's why: She initially introduces herself as a psychologist. Later, she tells Rodney about her time spent in medical school. (Eh?) And so, I'm siding with practical intergalactic resource management and figuring that they wouldn't bother sending a shrink-type all the way to Atlantis if she couldn't also prescribe strong anti-psychotic meds. I mean, seriously.

"There's someone you miss."

Sam snorted softly. "There are a lot of people I miss. I'm in a galaxy far, far away."

"But there's someone who haunts you."

She took a gulp of her wine and looked away. "I'd rather not be shrunk tonight, Doctor."

"Kate," Heightmeyer corrected quietly.

"And you could at least pretend the IOA hasn't ordered you to evaluate me."

"My evaluation was complete the day you arrived, Colonel. I was just trying to make conversation."

Sam looked back at Kate's faint smile, and she exhaled a little laugh. "Sam," she corrected in return. "And I'm sorry. I'm a little on edge."

They'd wandered away from the party that had started out as a wake for Elizabeth Weir, which had eventually turned into a reception for the newly-appointed leader of Atlantis. Sam had put in her appearance mostly for the sake of morale, but could feel the muted unease and resentment broadcast her way. The expedition had grown used to Weir's style, to the way she tended to champion humanitarian philosophy in the face of military objectives.

As far as they were concerned, Sam was just an unknown quantity in an Air Force uniform. The fact that her proximity somehow managed to make Rodney McKay even more abrasive didn't exactly work in her favor, either.

"It's understandable," Kate was saying. "You've been put in a tough spot. Asked to fill in for a beloved, absent leader."

Sam raised her glass in a mock toast. "To beloved and absent," she murmured, before she drank. Her head spun as she teetered on the edge of unpleasant inebriation. It was time to call it a night. She squinted and realized the repetitively identical corridors of the city had compounded the dizzying effect of good wine, and she was hopelessly, utterly lost.

Kate, however, knew exactly where they were. "Care for a nightcap?" she asked, as she waved her hand over the controls that opened the door to her quarters. She smiled at Sam's obvious hesitation, and reached out to take her arm. "Come on. You look like you could use a friend." With a gentle tug, she pulled Sam inside.

Sam tried to sit still while Kate puttered on the other end of the room. Kate's quarters had a stunning panoramic view of the water and the city below, and comfortable, inviting furniture.

It felt... calculated. Just like her own presence here.

She took a breath, not sure if she wished she were more or less sober. "So why did you leave the FBI?" she asked, calling across the room.

Kate approached, carrying two mugs of steaming Athosian tea. "What was that?"

"You were a profiler for six years with the FBI."

"Mmhmm. I have a knack for reading people."

"And according to your weapons ratings, you're a better shot than I am."

The psychiatrist smiled. "That's useful in this part of the universe."

All careful, constructed non-answers. Who was this woman?

"Does anyone else here know you're an IOA stooge?" Sam asked, showing off some calculations of her own.

At that, Kate flinched almost imperceptibly. "I wouldn't put it like that."

"On your say-so, anyone on the expedition gets pulled for psychiatric re-evaluation. That's a lot of authority to hide away behind a cup of tea and a nice smile."

"I'm flattered you noticed, Colonel." Kate set down her mug. "But I think you'll find I'm quite fair. There's a reason these people trust me." She stared at Sam's implacable expression for a moment, then sighed. "The IOA needed someone who wasn't bound by military regulations to be able to keep tabs on the mental health of Atlantis' command structure. If someone snaps out here, it could jeopardize the safety of the entire Milky Way, and you know it... even if you don't like it."

"Did Weir like it?" Sam asked, feigning disinterest behind a sip of tea.

"She adjusted to it." Kate smiled slowly, her eyes focusing on something unseen and far away. "She had a very flexible mind."

She could hear Jack O'Neill's voice in her head making a sarcastic comment about Weir's overall flexibility, and Sam had to fight off a smirk. The IOA had found serious fault with Weir's personal alliances at Atlantis, and with her clandestine relationship with a certain psychiatrist in particular. Sudden melancholy overwhelmed over her, and she realized she wasn't the only one hurting in secret. "I'm sorry," she murmured.

"Thank you," Kate said, bobbing her head graciously. "And thank you for your discretion. You're going to find you need that, here."

Setting aside her cup of tea, Sam stood and paced in front of the windows, adopting an academic tone. "Right. It's to be expected. A few hundred isolated humans, facing untold crises day in and day out..."

"... seeking comfort and basic affection wherever they can find it," Kate murmured. She was suddenly a lot closer, her subtle perfume filling the space between them.

"... without regard for military regulations or even most social inhibitions," Sam finished. She eyed the other woman critically, pretending the proximity didn't interest her in the slightest. "It's just an excuse."

"It's just human," Kate countered, gently. "Like you. Tell me about her."


"The one you left behind."

"Why would it be a 'her?'"

"Colonel," Kate admonished. "Would the IOA bother recruiting me out of the FBI and sending me to another galaxy if I didn't have a few basic observational skills?"

"And you've read my files," Sam muttered.

"Even the ones you don't know exist. But pretend I don't know who she is, and why you keep a picture of her daughter on your desk. Tell me about her."

Her jaw clenched, and she reached out to press her fingertips to the cool glass. "There's nothing to say. She was my friend, and now she's gone."

"Yes," Kate murmured. "I know. But if you came all the way to another galaxy to do penance for the death of a 'friend,' you're a danger to all of us, and to the welfare of the mission." Her voice had hardened, turning decidedly clinical.

Sam's head snapped around as she stared down at the other woman. "What?"

"So I suggest you have a seat, and you tell me about Janet Fraiser. Because if I'm not satisfied with what I hear, the IOA will yank you out of here faster than you can say 'galactic midway relay.'"

Sam sat, shaking her head. "I knew it," she breathed.

Kate laughed, not unkindly, as she took a seat across from her. "Of course you did. Which is why we're going to get along so well. And why flirting with you is going to be so much fun in the future."

Oddly, the remark only steadied her equilibrium. It was unexpected - much like the rest of Kate Heightmeyer - but there was so little that surprised Sam anymore, she couldn't help but welcome the challenge.

So she sat back, took a last, long look at the skyline outside the window, and began to talk.

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