Summary: Kate Heightmeyer provides therapy for the ladies as they face up to the challenges Atlantis throws at them.
Author's Notes: Gen (although there is a small tiny reference to John/Teyla), spoilers for Atlantis. Written for the Women of the Gate February challenge.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only
Therapy in Chocolate
"I just don't feel like I know him anymore." Elizabeth Weir commented.
The leader of the Atlantis expedition was a tense line, arms crossed tightly over her torso, staring out of the large window that took up most of the outside wall of Kate Heightmeyer's office.
Kate had chosen the room for its light and airy ambience, believing it would help place her patients at ease during their therapy sessions. It wasn't particularly working with Elizabeth but then Elizabeth knew most of the tricks since negotiation tactics were not all that dissimilar.
She nodded understandingly at Elizabeth's words about John Sheppard, but not in agreement.
Kate had always known that John Sheppard was a highly skilled soldier who had killed before and would kill again if he deemed it necessary for the protection of the expedition. They were simply lucky that Sheppard also had a highly developed sense of morality that usually prevented him from employing his skills without the sanction of his chain of command or a civilian justice system. His actions during the Genii invasion had been brutal but the actions that Kate would have expected him to take had anyone elicited her opinion before the event. Elizabeth, on the other hand…
"Who did you feel you knew?" Kate asked gently.
"A good man." Elizabeth responded immediately without turning around, her gaze fixed on the distant horizon.
Kate allowed a small shift in her own position; a tilt forward as though attentive, affirming interest. "And now?"
"He killed so many…" Elizabeth said tiredly, a hand drifting up to her temple to rub soothingly at the ache there.
"So because he killed he can no longer be a good man?" Kate continued to probe the emotional wound because it couldn't be allowed to fester.
Elizabeth sighed heavily and finally shifted to face Kate. "It's not…I know he killed in defence of the city…in defence of me…."
"But that makes you uncomfortable." Kate stated.
"I'm a diplomat." Elizabeth argued. "It's my job – it's my way to find a peaceful solution."
"You couldn't find it this time." Kate continued to press.
"No…" Elizabeth conceded eventually and subsided into the chair she had eschewed on entering. "I guess I feel guilty." She admitted, her hands twisting together. "I should have found some way of negotiating with the Genii, with…Kolya."
"Because if you had, John wouldn't have needed to do what he did." Kate concluded.
Elizabeth slumped back. "I'm projecting, aren't I? Blaming John for my own guilt at the deaths of the Genii."
"Are you?" Kate challenged.
Elizabeth huffed out in frustration. "Maybe." She raised her chagrined eyes to meet Kate's.
Kate rose and retrieved a small bar of chocolate from her stash within her desk drawer. She offered it to Elizabeth who accepted it with wide eyes.
"I didn't realise there was chocolate left in the stores." Elizabeth said.
"There isn't," Kate resumed her seat with a smirk, "I brought my own stash but I think you need it more than me right now." Besides, she had more – not that she was going to confess that.
"I'm not going to argue." Elizabeth said, but she snapped the bar in half and shared it with Kate anyway.
Kate allowed the gesture, hoping it was a sign that Elizabeth was ready to confide. It took two chunks before Elizabeth did.
"It's been so easy working with John," Elizabeth said quietly, "especially compared to…" she broke off with an embarrassed grimace.
"With Colonel Sumner." Kate supplied, and nodded with agreement and understanding.
"I let myself forget that John was military," Elizabeth broke off another chunk of chocolate, "so I'm doubly projecting because I'm also blaming John for my forgetting the fact of his military-ness too." She popped the chocolate in her mouth, chewed and swallowed. "Now I'm reminded that he's military and that…it doesn't fit with working so easily with him."
"Because your inbuilt stereotypes suggest if someone is military, they have to be like Colonel Sumner."
"Exactly." Elizabeth held up a hand. "And I know that I shouldn't let my old biases hold sway, but it's not easy to let go of my diplomatic view that military men need to be watched because they have a tendency to jump to violent action too early."
"And you had stopped watching John." Kate stated.
"But I'm watching him now." Elizabeth sighed. She crumpled the wrapping from the chocolate. "I feel guilty that I'm treating him with suspicion when he saved me…saved the city."
"If you accept your biases are just that – biases – then why treat him differently at all?" pressed Kate. She rather thought Elizabeth was setting herself up for a fall; treating John as opposing in viewpoint might just drive him into that very mind-set.
"Because as unfair as it is, I can't forget that he killed over fifty people in the course of a few hours." Elizabeth said. "Intellectually, I know that he did it to save us but on an emotional level?" She shook her head. "So I'm watching him now and I do see him as someone different, someone I don't know." She gave a self-deprecating smile. "At least thanks to you, I know why now."
Kate could sense Elizabeth was done; it told in her body language, the subtle smoothing of her pants as she readied herself to stand, the set of her lips, and the flicker of her eyes to the door. She wasn't surprised when Elizabeth got to her feet with a murmured thank you signalling the end of the session.
Elizabeth hesitated at the door and Kate glanced over at her questioningly.
"What do you think of John?" Elizabeth asked.
Kate considered her carefully. "Are you asking on a professional or personal basis?"
"Personal." Elizabeth admitted with a smile to acknowledge Kate's clarification had merit.
It was interesting, Kate mused, that Elizabeth had chosen to ask her, but she already knew how she would answer.
Kate smiled. "I think John is a good man."
Elizabeth looked startled for a moment before she acknowledged the point with a tilt of her head. She departed and Kate reached for the chocolate Elizabeth had given back to her. There was no sense in letting it go to waste.
It wasn't a surprise to see Teyla at her bedroom door.
The events with the Wraith they'd named Michael had no doubt brought back the nightmares that plagued Teyla because of her Wraith DNA.
Kate ushered her into her quarters, settled Teyla onto the comfortable sofa, and made for the small coffee machine she'd brought back after her return to Earth to debrief months before. She eschewed the coffee though, instead using the machine to make two large mugs of hot chocolate. It was dark, thick and smelled heavenly. She sprinkled tiny marshmallows on top and took the drinks over to Teyla.
Teyla accepted hers with a wry smile. "I'm sorry for disturbing your sleep."
Kate shrugged as she followed Teyla's example and curled up on the sofa, legs tucked under her, unself-conscious about her sleeping attire of a flimsy cotton camisole above matching shorts. She and Teyla had built a good friendship in the months since Teyla's therapy sessions had ended following the Wraith attack. She had a feeling Teyla had come seeking a friend but in reality needed a therapist. It was hard sometimes on the city getting the balance right between friendship and the professional distance she needed.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Kate asked, blowing on the steaming liquid in her mug.
"No," said Teyla, "but I believe I need to talk about it." She grimaced. "My team…" she shook her head, "we share many things but…"
"But?" prompted Kate, a suspicion about Teyla's hesitancy forming in her own mind.
"I believe this would worry them in a way they do not need to worry." Teyla admitted.
"That you believe your connection with Michael was based on his sensing your own latent DNA?" guessed Kate.
Teyla nodded. "Both John and Ronon may look upon me with greater suspicion and…"
And the possibility that the trust they needed within the team to function would be lost. Kate understood Teyla's concern.
"Has Colonel Sheppard given you any reason to think he would do that really?" Kate pressed. "He knows about your genetic history already."
Teyla sipped her chocolate and shook her head. "Perhaps not John…" she sighed, "but Ronon is still too angry at all Wraith and with what happened with Michael."
Kate nodded. She agreed with the assessment. "And you are worried yourself about your connection."
Teyla's eyes remained fixed on her hot chocolate before she raised them bravely. "Yes."
"What worries you the most?" Kate carefully took a drink of the hot liquid.
"He recognised me." Teyla stated baldly. "Something in me called to him and told him that he knew me and so he called me friend." She shifted position restlessly – an indicator of how disturbed Teyla was since she was always so still when at peace. "Since I have learned of my heritage I have tried to…to focus on the advantages and to…ignore the sense of shame and disgust I feel. But to know a Wraith recognises something of themselves in me…recognises me on any level as kindred…"
It was hard to know how to respond, how to comfort and reassure Teyla.
"It is not the first time something like this has occurred." Teyla continued. "When John transformed after being bitten by Ella…he approached me sexually."
Kate's lips quirked upwards; Teyla had confided the kiss in her before just after it had happened. "You don't think that was just the latent attraction between the two of you coming to the fore since his behaviour wasn't being restricted by his higher reasoning thanks to the bug DNA?"
"I told myself so at the time," admitted Teyla, "but now I wonder. The Wraith are matriarchal as are the Iratus bugs. Isn't it possible that a lone Wraith may seek a Queen…be drawn to the female of their species?"
"Well, theoretically; yes." Kate replied but she held up a hand. "However, it is a huge leap between saying a lone Wraith may seek out a Queen on one hand, and them recognising you specifically as a Queen on the other."
Teyla took a comforting sip of the chocolate. "I worry that there is something of the Wraith within me; that I could be anything like them in anyway."
"You're not." Kate confirmed firmly, reaching out for Teyla's hand and catching it. She held Teyla's gaze. "You are no more a Wraith than John is an Ancient. Your DNA is only part of the equation." She smiled wryly as she let go and sat back. "There is a debate that has raged on Earth for as long as philosophy has been acknowledged called the nature versus nurture debate. Is someone inherently the way they are because of their DNA or does their environment shape them into being through their development and growth?"
"And the answer?" Teyla questioned, interest sparking in her eyes.
Kate shrugged and gave a smile. "There is no definitive answer. For every example of twins who separate at birth, who are brought up in radically different environments, but who make similar choices, there are examples of those who continue to make radically different ones."
Teyla considered Kate's words as she drank her chocolate and Kate kept quiet, allowing her the silence of contemplation.
"You believe it comes down to choosing." Teyla said finally. "One can choose to be constrained by either nature or the environment, or choose a different path and change."
Kate nodded. "That's my theory." She leaned forward. "And I doubt very much that you would ever choose to be Wraith in nature as Michael did, Teyla."
Because she had a feeling that was at the heart of Teyla's concern. Michael had all too briefly been human. He'd had a choice and when faced with it, he had chosen to be Wraith. In some ways, Kate understood that choice. The expedition had taken a risk in how they'd chosen to handle Michael – to use pretence and deception – and perhaps, ultimately, it had been the wrong way. Kate'd had a hand in that and would have to live with the consequences, with the failure.
It took a while for the words to sink in and soothe Teyla's hurt and fear, but eventually Teyla smiled. "Thank you, Kate." She sighed with chagrin, looking around the room and taking in the disturbed bedding and the still dark sky outside. "I fear I have disturbed your rest long enough."
"What are friends for?" Kate said dismissively. She pointed at Teyla's mug and gave her instruction gently. "Stay; finish your chocolate."
"Cookies?" Jeannie Miller stared at the plate on the coffee table with suspicion. "Are they oatmeal or…"
"Chocolate chip." Kate replied. "I've found that these are more popular."
"Is the chocolate vegan?" Jeannie questioned, still eyeing the cookie plate with suspicion.
Kate didn't blink at the question but instead nodded. "Doctor McKay has mentioned your lifestyle to me in the past and I have others I see who are vegan."
Jeannie finally relaxed and snagged a cookie, breaking it in half and taking a bite. She chewed and swallowed before she gestured in a familiar way with the remainder of the bitten cookie half to Kate that completely gave away her sibling relationship with Rodney.
"I'm sure Meredith told you when he was complaining to you about me?" Jeannie said. "Right?" She popped the rest of the half she was eating into her mouth.
"Doctor McKay has a great many views about many different things." Kate said diplomatically. She tilted her head. "But we're not here to talk about your brother unless that is what you want to talk about."
Jeannie hastily swallowed and gestured again. "I guess I'm a little confused about why I am here."
Kate smiled reassuringly. "It's standard procedure for all new civilians to speak with a psychologist after being read into the programme. We understand that it can be a confusing and overwhelming experience learning that we're not alone in the universe and that there are aliens who mean us harm."
"I think I had most of my confusing and overwhelming phase on the way here. I mean, yes: aliens and outer space and wars that are going on that nobody else knows about and…and it's a lot to take in for sure." Jeannie put down the rest of the cookie and brushed off her hands as her eyes strayed to the window and the view of Atlantis. "I guess the city is another kind of overwhelming? It's so beautiful and…there are moments when I look up from the math we're working on and I have to kick myself because I'm in Atlantis."
Kate stayed quiet, realising that Jeannie was working through her thoughts.
"Maybe Rod is another kind of overwhelming." Jeannie admitted with a sigh. "He's from another universe." She slumped back in the chair and stared at the ceiling. "Which is crazy! The math is just…I mean, I understand the math but to see the reality of it! To know there's another reality out there, and…wow, I've almost destroyed it with my math which is just…terrifying! I mean, I gave Meredith a hard time about blowing up a solar system and look at what I've almost managed to do."
"And yet?" prompted Kate, sensing there was more to Jeannie's ramble.
"But…" Jeannie sighed. "I've never regretted my decision to drop out of academia and be a Mom. I love being a Mom. I love Madison so much I can't even describe it and I would never ever choose anything over her. Just…I never knew my math could be reality? I saw a picture of my kids in another universe! And seeing Meredith here and to know all that he's experienced…to see the math become reality and know that it's right…that's what's really overwhelming."
Kate kept silent, once again allowing Jeannie the space to think.
Jeannie shifted forward, picking up the abandoned half of the cookie she had discarded and nibbling on it. She'd gotten to the end of it by the time she spoke again. "Kaleb never wanted me to stop my education or drop my ideas for a career. We had this huge row because he said he understood why Meredith was angry at him – at me. That I had all this potential and it shouldn't be wasted but…I wanted to be a Mom more than I wanted the math, and he eventually understood that to me nothing was more important than Madison, especially once she was born. He encouraged me to come here because of Madison… because this is important to keep Madison safe and…and that's the reason why I'm here." She looked up suddenly at Kate. "And that's the reason why I'm leaving once this situation with Rod is done."
"It tempts you though." Kate commented. "The reality of your math."
She could see it in the regret that did shine in Jeannie's eyes; the wistful tone in her voice.
"Of course I'm tempted, who wouldn't be?" Jeannie motioned at the plate of cookies suddenly. "I get tempted by real chocolate too because this tastes different no matter how much they say it doesn't. But Madison trumps everything." She smiled. "Even chocolate."
"…and seriously, why would anyone put me in charge? I've only been here since the expedition returned after the Ancients all died with the Replicator attack and…" Jennifer Keller whirled around and started pacing in the opposite direction. "I can't do this!"
Kate tapped her pencil against the top of her pad as Jennifer's fears continued to babble out in a rush of anxiety. It was probably best for the Acting CMO to get everything off her chest, Kate determined. Once Jennifer ran out of steam, Kate could then step in and get her thinking rationally again.
Jennifer continued to expound on all the reasons why she was the wrong choice to take over from Carson Beckett – and Kate felt a rush of grief at the loss of her friend.
Carson had been such a mainstay of the expedition. His warm, friendly personality had made it so easy to like him. There had been something so steadfast and reassuring about Carson too. He had been the perfect doctor for the expedition; frighteningly intelligent and dedicated enough to deal with the crazy and come up with out-of-the-box solutions, but comforting like an old-style country practitioner – one that took the time to understand his patients, to get to know them beyond the mere physical data they represented of symptoms and diagnoses and treatments.
She missed him.
"Kate?" Jennifer's worried tone penetrated Kate's thoughts and she immediately realised that she'd allowed herself to drift from her patient; to stop listening and allow her own misery to swamp her professionalism.
Embarrassment stampeded through her, her cheeks flaring red.
"I'm sorry, Jennifer." Kate set the pencil and the pad down. "I have no excuse."
Jennifer sat down in the chair across from Kate and regarded her with a commiserating expression. "You were thinking about Carson."
"Yes." Kate didn't deny it.
Jennifer nodded, her long blonde hair swinging around her shoulders. "You miss him."
"I miss him a great deal," Kate felt compelled to be honest, "I considered him a good friend." They'd had lunch or dinner together at least twice a week. She'd known every piece of gossip about his extended and chaotic family; had confided her own personal news on occasion. He'd been someone Kate could confide in.
And his loss was only days old.
"Perhaps you need to speak with someone else about this." Kate admitted. "I'm not sure I have the objectivity you need to help you work through the anxiety you feel about assuming his role."
"I might agree with you," Jennifer admitted bluntly, "but there is no-one else." She tried a half-smile that was as sweet as it was sincere in its attempt to lighten the moment.
Kate acknowledged the truth of her statement though. There were two psychologists assigned to the expedition – herself and Doctor Parry. Unfortunately, Neil had been injured in the explosion and sent back to Earth for recuperation. She left her seat briefly to rifle through her desk and returned with a box of chocolates – a gift from a patient who had completed treatment and was healed. Kate knew that psychologically she needed the reminder that she was a good psychologist; of the success. She opened the box and set it down on the table in front of the chairs.
"Why don't we start again?" Kate said, inviting Jennifer to choose a chocolate.
Jennifer flashed her an awkward smile but plucked a soft caramel from the selection. A favourite, Kate determined, analysing the lack of hesitancy and the immediate look of calm that settled on Jennifer's young pretty features.
Kate chose her own favourite – a strawberry cream – and gestured at Jennifer. "You like the caramels?"
Jennifer blushed. "Addicted." She gestured towards the box. "Dad gets me these every Christmas and I always eat all the caramels first."
There was wistful longing in her voice and Kate had a flash of insight that what lurked beneath Jennifer's anxiety over her professional position was a more personal malaise at missing home.
"Tell me about your Dad." Kate invited, and as Jennifer's face lit up, Kate felt the rush of satisfaction that she'd made the right deduction.
It wasn't long before Jennifer herself was making the connection.
"I guess that's why I don't think I'm right for this," Jennifer said, munching on the last caramel, "I mean, yes, technically I can handle the medical side – I'm a qualified ER surgeon, I'm good at research, I'm smart enough I think. And I guess I can even handle the weird and crazy – that's why Doctor Lam approached me after the Prior's plague…but I'm just not cut out for off-world." She paused. "OK, I mean, obviously, I'm off-world now but this was supposed to be temporary to give me experience! And now…" she sighed heavily, "I see you and Elizabeth and Carson before he died and there's…you have a connection to the city, to here. You all came back as though this is home not…not Earth. I'm not like that and…"
Kate waited for Jennifer to say the words.
"I don't want to be?" Jennifer groaned and covered her face. "I'm terrible! I don't mean anything bad about you and the others just…"
"You have ties to Earth and you don't want to be tied here."
"Stepping up as CMO, even temporarily…" Jennifer lowered her hands and looked at Kate frankly. "It feels like a commitment?"
It took another few minutes to reassure Jennifer her feelings were valid, neither right nor wrong.
Jennifer made to leave with a determined glint in her eye, a confident spring to her step. Her anxiety would cycle again if her position continued, but Kate was satisfied that the worst of it was alleviated for the short term, and in the long term, it was possible Jennifer might change her mind about a commitment.
Kate stopped Jennifer before she could get through the door and handed her the box of chocolates. "Here. To give you a taste of home when you need it."
Kate knocked briefly on the open door of the office that was no longer Elizabeth's but Colonel Samantha Carter's.
Samantha turned to her with a wide smile. She was dressed in the Atlantis BDU which was surprisingly disconcerting, her blonde hair neatly tied back in a chignon. "Kate! Come on in." She gestured at the two comfy chairs near to the door even as she made her way to one.
Kate closed the door behind her as she took the remaining chair and settled in with a smile of her own at the sight of the tray on the table between the chairs; it held a coffee carafe and a basket with a selection of muffins. For a few minutes their discussion was limited to how Kate liked her coffee (white, no sugar) and choosing a muffin. Kate picked up a chocolate one ignoring the healthier options of blueberry and cranberry with a twinge of conscience.
"I see you still like chocolate." Samantha commented with a smile.
She shrugged good-naturedly. "I'll always like chocolate. It's good to see you here."
A faint look crossed Samantha's expressive blue eyes and for a moment Kate assimilated that for all her appearance of being delighted to be there and her murmured reply of agreement, something was amiss. It wasn't necessarily a problem or an issue though. But Kate would keep it in mind if she didn't get a chance to talk with Samantha about it.
"I asked to see you this morning so I could get your view on the expedition's morale." Samantha said, easing back into her chair, her hands wrapped around the mug of coffee she held.
It was what Kate had guessed the meeting would be about. She crossed her legs, faintly frowning at the defensive gesture but unable to keep herself from doing it. "It varies."
Samantha nodded in understanding. "Tell me." She invited, leaning forward. She looked like the consummate leader; interested, engaged and concerned.
Kate felt Elizabeth's absence rub at her again because the two female leaders of the expedition shared many traits in common for all their different backgrounds and seeing Samantha act the same was like pulling open a barely healed wound. She collected herself to reply professionally, using the excuse of finishing a mouthful of chocolate muffin. The sweetness comforted her.
"There are three major events that the expedition has faced recently that have impacted the various groups within the expedition," Kate said, gesturing toward Samantha, "firstly, the death of Carson Beckett hit the whole expedition hard. He was a well-liked CMO across the board."
There was a glimmer of empathy in Samantha's eyes and Kate recalled the first time she'd met Samantha had been at a counselling session following the death of Janet Fraiser.
"There are similarities in the impact and fallout that you'll recognise from your own experience." Kate admitted gentling her tone. "Primarily there is a lot of grief that people are working through in their own time. The worst hit was the senior staff in medical along with the senior staff of the expedition itself. Both groups had significant ties and friendships with Carson."
Including herself. She took a deep breath.
"Doctor Keller is competent, likeable in her own way, but not as approachable, and she's hampered by her youth, despite everyone here recognising that genius trumps age. The scientists have mostly accepted her on a relief basis that she's another civilian but she's a relatively new member of the expedition and unknown on a personal basis to most. They certainly don't hold her in the same affection as they did Carson."
Samantha nodded. "Has the military had an acceptance issue?"
"Some acceptance issues; yes," Kate said, grateful that Samantha had picked up the clue in what she hadn't said, "Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne accepted her on her appointment because she was Elizabeth's choice so that offset the worst of it because the two are highly respected as military commanders. But…the military side of the expedition doesn't wholly trust her yet."
She saw Samantha's gaze was turned inward, analysing the information, probably remembering how the SGC had dealt with Janet's death and the subsequent issues for her successor.
Samantha gave a brisk nod and there was a brief hand-wave which signalled the discussion was moving on. "I assume the second event is the loss of Doctor Weir."
Kate nodded and chewed slowly on another piece of muffin, pleased that Samantha's phrasing acknowledged that Elizabeth's fate was uncertain. "The expedition was still reeling from the death of Carson when the incident with the Asurans and moving the city occurred. I think it was the reason why Doctor McKay felt so compelled to save Elizabeth when approached by Doctor Keller with the nanite idea."
"That makes sense." Samantha said softly.
"Elizabeth's loss is not the same as Carson's," Kate pulled herself back on topic, gesturing with her hand vaguely, "for the primary reason I'm sure you know: she's missing not confirmed dead. There's an ambiguity about her situation which has offset much of the grief."
"It's suspended awaiting news." Samantha surmised.
Kate nodded. "Exactly. But she's still not here and so her absence is felt. There is still loss even if individually and collectively the expedition doesn't feel that it's right yet to grieve."
Samantha sighed. "Sometimes the not-knowing can be worse than knowing."
"And the longer it goes on the more likely it is that the expedition will fracture in its response," Kate agreed, "some will want to grieve; some will not." She splayed her hands expressively as though each hand held one side of the argument.
"Understood." Samantha said. Her lips curled upwards a touch. "Which brings us onto the third event? My arrival?"
Kate gave a sympathetic smile. "The military side of the expedition already respects you."
"And the civilian?" asked Samantha tentatively.
"It's complicated and mostly not about you." Kate began explaining. "The civilian part of the expedition has long feared that it would be militarised because of the Wraith. There's also an understanding that Elizabeth held onto her leadership only because the first attempt by Colonel Everett was…was…" she struggled to find diplomatic words.
"If it helps General O'Neill called it a fuck-up of major proportions." Samantha said, wry amusement colouring her tone.
"Most of the expedition would agree with his assessment." Kate admitted with a small grin as she reached for a napkin to brush the remainder of the muffin crumbs from her fingers. "In the Colonel's defence, there were extenuating circumstances. But…" she sighed and brushed her hair away from her face, "ever since then, the expedition has been waiting for a second attempt and…the threat of the Asurans is something we've known might prompt it."
"Colonel Ellis reported that the civilian scientists seemed to lack a respect for military intervention beyond Colonel Sheppard's leadership." Samantha said quietly. "Colonel Caldwell agreed with his assessment."
"You have to understand that the majority of the military rank that has visited Atlantis since the first expedition, with the exceptions of General O'Neill during the return of the Ancients, and SG1 when your team visited, has been…forthright, arrogant and aggressive in their attitude." Kate said evenly. "Colonel Everett was quick to side-line Elizabeth, quick to impose his command on John, and didn't make any attempt to listen until events showed him how wrong he was. I believe the worst of Colonel Caldwell's behaviour was during the period he was controlled by the Goa'uld and he has made efforts since but…the impression lingers. Colonel Ellis and Elizabeth clearly had a clash of opinions. Our experience has shown that those with military rank don't always get the value of the civilian scientists, and don't always appreciate the style of military leadership that John Sheppard embodies which works well with the civilians here. The expedition is protective of both principles."
Samantha hummed momentarily around a swallow of coffee. "So there's a history I have to overcome."
"The good news is that your reputation precedes you as a scientist." Kate said with a smile to lighten the tension that had crept in. "So if the scientists have to have someone military then they're pleased that it's you and not someone else."
"That's good to know." Samantha said with a laugh.
"The IOA choice in appointing you seems inspired and remarkably sensible; you span both scientist and military fields and so both are willing to give you a chance." Kate picked up her own mug of coffee to take a welcome sip. "However, I'm sure you're aware that regardless of that you'll face a significant amount of 'that's not the way Doctor Weir does it' or 'that's not the decision Doctor Weir would make' over the next few weeks as people adjust to the change."
"Yeah," Samantha winced, "I've had already had a taste of that kind of attitude."
Probably the situation with Ronon that was making the gossip rounds, Kate mused, taking another gulp of coffee. She focused on Samantha.
"And how are you adjusting to the change?" She asked bluntly.
Samantha gazed at her evenly across the small space between them. "I miss home but I also recognise that I'm needed here." She shifted, her grip on her mug tightening. "Honestly, although my CO and others made the same argument to me when I was offered the assignment, hearing you say that my duel background has helped, will help, the transition in leadership makes it a bit more real."
So Samantha had doubted whether she was required or whether it was simply a political move to provide a sop to those advocating a militarisation and the IOA who would prefer the expedition retain a scientific mission. Maybe that had been at the heart of her unease at the start of the discussion.
Samantha sighed and set her coffee mug aside. "Thank you for the overview, Kate. Any advice?"
Kate finished her coffee and put it down on the table. "Be yourself." She smiled. "It's worked for you so far."
She was pleased to see the other woman smile and Kate got to her feet.
"Oh, wait there a moment!" Samantha hurried over to her desk and opened a drawer pulling out a box. She handed it over to Kate with a solemnity broken only by the twinkle in her eye. "I assume you still use chocolate in your therapy sessions?"
Kate took the box from her with a grin. "Thank you."
Samantha gave a nod and moved back to her desk as Kate headed to the door to let herself out. Kate turned before she reached it, a thought occurring to her.
"You know I meant what I said earlier," Kate said, meeting Samantha's questioning gaze firmly, "it is good to see you here." She lifted the box and gave a wry smile. "And not just because you brought chocolate."
Sarah Brookes rearranged the picture of the ocean on the wall of her new quarters. She sighed critically recognising that the view of her native Caribbean shoreline was slightly leaning to the left. She shook her head in consternation, missing the brush of hair against her cheek and wondering again why she'd felt the need to shave it close to her head. Just because Halle Berry had looked awesome with such a style didn't mean she did, she muttered to herself. She could grow it again. She would grow it, Sarah determined as she fixed the picture.
A knock on the doorframe had her turning her head sharply. A petite woman with red-brown hair and freckles stood in the doorway, a cake tin in her hands.
"Yes, that's me." Sarah said with a wide smile.
"I'm Katie Brown," the woman introduced herself, "I live just across the hall."
Sarah motioned for her to come in and mentally gave Atlantis a command to close the door once Katie got past the threshold.
"I'm pleased to meet you, and please: it's Sarah." Sarah said, shaking hands. Katie Brown seemed like a friendly, sweet person and Sarah was always glad to make new friends.
"You're the new psychologist?" Katie asked tentatively.
Sarah nodded, wondering whether the visit would segue into an impromptu therapy session. It wasn't all that rare for someone to start confiding in her once they found out her profession. "I am. And I'm guessing you're one of the scientists?"
"Botanist." Katie said with a touch of pride that confirmed she was probably good at her job and was confident in her professional abilities. "I usually welcome people with a plant but…I had a baking spree yesterday and, well, I have chocolate cupcakes." She offered the tin to Sarah who took it with a grin.
"Thank you." She motioned at the sofa devoid thankfully of the chaos of the rest of the room. "You'll stay and have some tea and a cupcake?"
"I'd like that." Katie said rubbing her arms gently.
Sarah nodded and while the tea brewed they chatted of how long Katie had been on Atlantis and what she liked about it. They moved to sit on the sofa and Katie continued her tales about life on Atlantis as they ate the chocolate cupcakes and drank tea. Eventually, Katie confided a new fear of not knowing if she'd lost vital memories after a recent outbreak of a virus that affected memories in the city.
"I heard about that." Sarah said, licking a thumb clean of chocolate icing. "It delayed my arrival."
"I know it's silly," Katie grimaced, "but how do I know if I have lost a memory?" Her eyes suddenly widened and her hand went to her mouth in an 'oh no!' gesture. "I'm so sorry! Here I am wittering on about my issues and this isn't…I'm meant to be welcoming you to Atlantis not subjecting you to my neuroses!"
"Don't worry," Sarah assured her, "it's an occupational hazard." She smiled wickedly. "I may want your opinion on where best to place my one and only plant later so we'll call it even?"
Katie smiled and sighed. "I think it was the chocolate cupcake." She waved at the remnants on her plate. "Doctor Heightmeyer always gave me chocolate during our sessions and I guess subliminally…"
"You know I met Kate at a conference when she was presenting how chocolate could assist in therapeutic practice." Sarah said, a renewed twist of grief at the loss of her friend rushing through her.
"I didn't realise you knew her." Katie said softly. "We're all very sorry for her loss. She's very much missed."
"She loved it here." Sarah stated with certainty. She glanced out towards the room's balcony and view of the city with its glass spires and the churn of the sea beyond. "We both joined the SGC at the same time and she kept telling me that I should join the expedition but there was always a reason for saying no. When I heard she died…" she looked back at Katie and blinked back tears, "I requested the assignment as a way of paying tribute to her."
"I think that's a lovely thought." Katie said, reaching out to squeeze Sarah's hand gently. "I'm sure she'd appreciate knowing someone she liked and respected was here taking care of us now."
Sarah appreciated the words that confirmed her own reason for joining the Atlantis team. It was good to hear someone else say them.
"Now," said Katie brightly, "where's that plant you mentioned? I should make up for forcing you into working earlier than you expected before I leave you to settle in."
Sarah gave a bright laugh and pointed Katie at the cactus her sister Ruth had insisted on giving her as a going-away present.
Once alone, Sarah found herself rooting through her crates for her academic journals. She liberated one with a pleased shout. Her gaze drifted to the cake tin where two more chocolate cupcakes resided.
Perhaps there was another way to honour Kate, Sarah mused thoughtfully, ignoring her unpacking to wander out onto the balcony. She settled against the railing, thumbed through the pages to find the article she wanted, and began reading:
'Therapy in Chocolate: An observation of the use of chocolate in psychological therapy, by Doctor Kate Heightmeyer'