DISCLAIMER: Stargate Atlantis and its characters are the property of MGM, Showtime, Gekko etc. no infringement intended.
SERIES/SEQUEL: This story is the third in a series following The Luxury of Time and Oblivion.
SPOILERS: This is Post-Return I, so anything up to and including that ep.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Time to Learn
By Manda


"How many?"

"Two please."

Laura fights the urge to reach out and take Elizabeth's hand as the restaurant hostess eyes the seating chart. They are in public, and they are in Colorado Springs, but she can't help the overwhelming need to show strangers that she is on a date. A date with Dr. Elizabeth Weir. "It'll be about ten minutes. You can wait in the bar if you'd like," the hostess offers, obviously trying to get them out of the overly-small waiting area already packed with waiting customers.

Elizabeth looks over, trying to gauge Laura's reaction. Cadman shrugs. "Fine with me." With relief, the hostess hands them a small pager, and points the way toward the bar. It's nearly as packed as the waiting area, but they manage to find one lone bar stool wedged between two separate groups of people waiting to be called for dinner. Laura hands Elizabeth a twenty and smiles. "Order me a vodka tonic. I have to use the ladies room anyway." Elizabeth tries to hand the money back, but Laura shakes her head. "Dinner was my idea, therefore, it's my treat." By the time Elizabeth starts to argue, Laura is already pushing through the crowd toward the restrooms.

Rolling her eyes, Elizabeth squeezes her way onto the stool and manages to flag the bartender down on her first try, wondering idly if the low cut red blouse she's wearing has anything to do with the sudden service. "Vodka tonic and a dry martini please." The bartender gives her the once over, and she's sure the service has everything to do with the blouse, which is ironic, since she certainly didn't wear it for the male portion of the population. In fact, standing in her bedroom, staring at her closet and trying desperately to decide what to wear to dinner, the only person she considered in choosing the shirt was Laura. Disappointingly, she's yet to even see the other woman take so much as a peek at the more than ample view of cleavage the blouse provides.

She pays for the drinks on the bartender's return and is halfway to taking her first sip when she hears an all-too-familiar voice behind her. Of all the gin-joints, in all the galaxies. She turns and plasters on a smile. "Hello, John."

Sheppard grins, obviously excited to see a familiar face. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm, um, having dinner," she answers vaguely.

John, of course, jumps to the immediate and correct conclusion. "Back two weeks and already dating huh? Wish I were that lucky."

"So, who are you here with?" she asks, smoothly avoiding a confirmation or denial of his statement.

"New team," he says with a jerk toward a group of men huddled near the door, obviously waiting for Sheppard. "I took them out to dinner as a 'team building exercise.'"

"And how are they?" John gives her a look. "That bad?"

"Let's put it this way - Rodney makes these guys look graceful."

"Oh my."

"Yeah. So where's your date?"

"Restroom," Elizabeth answers. There is a silence as John waits for more information but nothing comes.

"Oh, right. Well, I gotta go," John says, finally recognizing the awkward vibe he's getting from Elizabeth, and her truncated answers. "It's past their bed time."

Elizabeth smiles. "Of course. We'll catch up later," she promises.

John starts to say something about her advertence to returning phone calls, but one of his team members calls his name, and with a long-suffering sigh, he tells her goodbye instead. At the door, he looks back through the crowd, trying to get a glimpse of her date, but there are too many bodies around the bar and all he can glimpse is red hair weaving through the throng of people toward Elizabeth before his view is obscured completely and he shuffles out of the restaurant.

Laura walks up, smiling, a fresh coat of lipstick in place, and takes the drink Elizabeth hands her. "Still no luck?"

Elizabeth holds up the silent table pager. "Not so far." She sips her drink in time with Laura, then says, "I ran into Sheppard."

"Really?" Laura asks, far more calmly than she feels.

"He asked if I was on a date."

"Of course he did," Laura replies, rolling her eyes. "Did you say yes?"

"Did you want me to?" Laura's silence is enough of an answer, even if she can't voice the words. Yes, she wanted Elizabeth to confirm she was on a date. Even more, she wanted Elizabeth to tell him it was with her. But the moment has passed, and they are back to hiding in broad daylight again.

The table pager begins to buzz, saving them from the rest of the conversation.

They make their way back to the front of the restaurant and the hostess, slightly more relaxed, shows them to their table. Laura doubts it is from design as much as convenience, but they are seated in a back corner booth, half hidden by a wall. The effect is classically romantic even if it is a bit of a waste. They are both too conscious of the outside world to spend the evening making puppy eyes at each other.

"So..." Laura begins awkwardly.

Elizabeth smiles tightly, unnerved as well by the silence. "So."

It seems silly that either should be this nervous. After all, they've seen each other naked and exposed in so many ways, a little dinner conversation shouldn't be this difficult, but without the always reliable topics of Atlantis, the SGC, and the current enemy of the week breathing down their necks, everything else seems far too monotonous. What is a conversation about the latest book release compared to the fate of the galaxy?

"So, why the Marines?"

Laura grins. "My Dad. He's a good old fashioned Jarhead. Enlisted, of course. Gives me no end of grief when I come home about outranking him now. What about you?" she asks, starting to relax. "Why'd you go into diplomacy?"

Weir's smile isn't as bright as Laura's when she answers, "My Dad." She takes a bigger drink of her martini than before. "He was pretty old fashioned as well. Typical Cold War bureaucrat; very conservative." Laura doesn't know Elizabeth well, but she knows enough to peg Weir as anything but conservative, even without the lesbian sex. "I guess diplomacy was my way of rebelling."

"Some rebellion."

"Well, it caused a few rather tense family dinners," Elizabeth says, forcing a lightness into her voice that Laura sees right through. She has an idea that 'tense' for liberal daughters of WASP Washington D.C. bureaucrats translates to 'knock-down, drag-out fights' like her family is known for. It is another reminder, among the many she has already counted off, of just how different they are. There is, of course, the age difference, not to mention, the difference in salary and position. Background and family, line up like clichés behind the others, not so subtly reminding her of all the reasons this likely will not work out.

"Have you been back to see your family yet?" Elizabeth asks, changing subjects.

"Not yet. I got pulled right off the ramp and assigned to a team just like everyone else. I'm hoping I might get to see them for Christmas though. Are you gonna go home for the holidays?"

"Hmm? Oh yeah, maybe. I haven't really thought much about it."

"You don't like the holidays?"

Elizabeth shrugs. "They're okay."

Laura wants to press, to ask why Elizabeth's tone has gone neutral, her eyes distant, but it is their first date and she's hesitant to make a mistake and tread on wounds Elizabeth wants left alone. "So…" she tries again, looking for any change in topic. "The food looks good."

Elizabeth forces another smile. "It does." Silence falls as they bury their heads in the menu, each of them scrupulously reading the description of each item, trying to get more time to come up with conversational topics.

Laura walks Elizabeth to her door like a dutiful date despite the fact she has the overwhelming urge to volunteer for the next suicide mission off-world so she will never have to face this woman again. Dinner was one false start after another, and after the prolonged agony of trying to find a common talking point while they waited for their food to arrive, both women had practically shoveled their meals down in a dual attempt to keep from talking too much and end the evening as quickly as possible. Dessert had been out of the question.

Elizabeth unlocks her door, turning to look once more at Laura. She wants to invite her in, knows Laura wants it to, but tonight was a date and she doesn't know how to go from dating to the other unnamed place they have been inhabiting in each other's lives. Plus, dinner was a disaster, and there is never an easy segue from that to sex.

"Do you want some coffee?" Elizabeth asks finally, the silence deafening.

"I, uh, shouldn't. I've got to, uh, get up early." It is a plain lie, but Elizabeth doesn't call her on it. In fact she seems mildly relieved.

"Well, then… um…"

"This didn't go very well tonight, did it?" Laura asks suddenly, unable to politely ignore the train wreck of an evening they've had.

"I thought it was just me," Elizabeth admits with a grateful sigh. "It's been a while since I've done this."

"We have things in common."

"We do."

"We just can't talk about them in public," Laura reasons.

"Exactly," Elizabeth agrees. "And we've only been back a few weeks. We haven't had a chance to get re-acclimated to living on Earth again-"

"-I don't even have cable yet-"

"-So it's no wonder we have nothing to talk about," Elizabeth finishes, finally giving voice to the one thought that has been nagging both of them all night. "It has nothing to do with not having common interests."


"Because we do." Silence descends again, both of them obviously trying to find something, anything, other than the SGC and Atlantis that they can talk about; other than sex.

"I like to read," Laura blurts out, her eyes lighting up as if she has struck gold.

Elizabeth grins back. "I like to read too."

They don't press their luck. They don't ask about genres or favorite authors or personal libraries. That would be pushing for too much. Smiling, a little surer of herself, Laura says, "See... we have something in common."

"Yes, we do," Elizabeth agrees. "Do you want to come in?" she asks again, feeling better about the question now. "There's got to be a way to salvage this date." Laura raises a brow speculatively and Elizabeth realizes what she's implied. "I just meant - I didn't mean to imply-"

"I know what you meant," Laura fills in, graciously saving Elizabeth from the hole she has inadvertently dug.

"How about some coffee? Maybe find an old movie on TV?"

Laura looks as if she's going to refuse again, clearly out of sorts after such as disastrous attempt at normalcy. Finally, she smiles and asks, "You have any ice cream?"

"I hope you like Rocky Road."

Cadman grins. "One of my favorites. Guess that's another thing we have in common."

"The list just keeps on growing."

Elizabeth puts Laura in charge of finding something suitable to watch while she puts on a pot of coffee and grabs the ice cream. The younger woman can't help but laugh at the layer of dust covering the television. She flips it on and is impressed to find a 500 channel selection. "You know, for someone with the deluxe cable package, you might want to actually turn on your television sometime. Otherwise it's just a waste of money," Laura calls into the kitchen with a chuckle.

Elizabeth walks into the front room with two bowls of ice cream. "The guy who set it up said it was the best package."

"Only if you like watching the Bowling Channel."

"There's a bowling channel?"

Laura smirks at the hint of disgust in Elizabeth's voice. "Yep. Right next to the Outdoor Hunting Channel."

"This is why civilizations fall," Elizabeth mutters, ignoring Laura's laughter as she heads back for the coffee.

Laura flips through the channels, trying to find something decent. There is an overabundance, at least in her opinion, of shows about cooking, home decoration, and fashion, but then again, she is a woman who lives in an underground military base, eats whatever looks the best in the mess hall, and has a wardrobe consisting mostly of olive green and camouflage so she recognizes her opinion might be a bit skewed. She flips past them all anyway.

She doesn't peg Elizabeth as a John Wayne fan, so she rules out McClintock even as she stops channel surfing long enough to watch The Duke toss his hat into the air and land it on the wind vane at the peek of the house, keeping his perfect record. She passes through twenty more channels before Katharine Hepburn's voice catches her attention and she finds the beginnings of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Elizabeth comes back into front room with two mugs of coffee, her face breaking into a smile as she sees what's playing. "I love this movie."

"I broke my leg in college and was laid up for a while. My mom came to take care of me and insisted on making me watch every Katharine Hepburn movie she could find. This is one of the best."

Laura takes the cup of coffee Elizabeth offers and settles back onto the couch with her bowl of ice cream. They sit in comfortable silence as Tracy and Hepburn go back and forth over the implications of their daughter and an interracial marriage, the dialogue punctuated only by the sound of spoons clanking against bowls.

Somewhere around the start of drinks, when Spencer Tracy begins to realize he's not talking his daughter out of marrying Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth sets her bowl aside, kicks off her heels and tucks her legs up under her on the couch. The shift in cushions draws Laura's attention away from the movie and with a smile she moves as well so that Elizabeth can lean against her, Laura's arm wrapped around her shoulder. Elizabeth refuses to think about how long it's been since she cuddled with anyone on a couch and settles deeper into Laura's embrace.

She doesn't remember drifting off, but she does remember having a dream about Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as her parents, disapproving, but eventually coming around when she brings Laura home as her fiancé.

"Wake up sleepy head," Laura whispers, brushing the top of Elizabeth's hair with a kiss. "Movie's over."

Elizabeth blinks, her eyes feeling grainy as she looks at the rolling credits and then up at Laura. Somehow Laura managed to stretch them both out on the couch until Elizabeth was all but sprawled across her body, her head pillowed on Laura's chest.

"I'm so sorry… I didn't mean to fall asleep."

"Sure you didn't," Laura teases. "Just trying to get out of another awkward conversation."

"You figured me out," Elizabeth smiles back before stifling a yawn. "Guess I'm finally getting used to having a regular sleep pattern. It took me the first two weeks just to get used to sleeping in more than a twin bed."

Laura laughs softly, sitting them both up as Elizabeth stretches. "Count yourself lucky then. Most nights I just crash at the base unless I'm coming over here." There is something unbelievably sweet about that statement and Elizabeth can't help but lean over, impulsively kissing Laura's cheek. "What was that for?"

"No reason. Do you really have to be up early tomorrow?"


"You want to spend the night?"


They walk hand in hand into the bedroom, giving each other lazy looks and soft smiles even as they start to undress. When Elizabeth reaches for the buttons on her blouse, Laura pushes her hand away with a grin. "What?"

"I want to do it," Laura answers, already working on the first button. It slips easily through the material and the second button follows. "I've been watching your breasts in this shirt all night. The least I can do is take it off of you."

"I didn't think you'd noticed," Elizabeth says softly, her hands coming up to cover Laura's, stopping her from undoing any more buttons until Laura meets her eyes.

"There's a difference between noticing and leering. Granted, most men on Atlantis couldn't tell you what that difference is, but I've had some practice at being subtle."

"Too much practice I think. It wasn't just that we couldn't talk about Atlantis tonight, was it? We couldn't talk about any of the normal things people talk about on dates…" she says slowly, as if finally figuring out what has been off the entire night. "Because no one is supposed to know we were on one."

Laura looks away. "It's not a big deal…"

Elizabeth reaches up, tucking a finger under Laura's chin until the younger woman meets her eyes. "It is a big deal. You shouldn't have to hide."

"I have to hide a lot less here than on Atlantis," Laura shrugs. "That's better at least."

"Don't sell yourself short. You shouldn't have to hide at all."

"I'm not hiding now," Laura smiles. There is an instant where their eyes meet, and a silent understanding passes between them, before Laura leans in and kisses Elizabeth. "I've been wanting to do that all night."

"I'd ask what's been stopping you, but I think we just covered most of that," Elizabeth mumbles before kissing Laura again. One kiss feeds into another and then another until they are making out, still half-dressed, standing three feet from the welcoming bed. A voice whispers to Laura, reminding her off all the reasons this won't work and the fact that being good at sex doesn't change anything. She pushes it away even as she pushes down Elizabeth's slacks.

They move to the bed in a dance they have choreographed more than a dozen times now. Laura kicks off her shoes while Elizabeth pulls down the covers. Elizabeth reaches for the hooks on Laura's bra as Laura leans down over her, both of them settling onto the bed, Elizabeth's back pressed against the cool sheets. Fingers stroke and tease even as mouths devour. It is slow, tortuously slow at times, but neither of them wants to rush. They have spent too much time tonight avoiding this to rush it now.

Laura smiles as she slips her fingers inside of Elizabeth's body, feeling as much as hearing the other woman gasp at the sensation. She takes her time, moving in slow strokes, watching the play of emotions cross Elizabeth's face, delighting in the vulnerable passion that only she gets to see. When Elizabeth fists one hand in her hair, the other locked around her shoulder, she speeds up, self-satisfaction racing through her as Elizabeth calls out her name, her knuckles white as she comes.

They don't talk, but there is something sweet in the way Elizabeth turns them over and nuzzles into Laura's neck with a knowing smile that sends butterflies through both their bodies. When Elizabeth moves lower, using her mouth in deliciously sinful ways to tease Laura's nipples and then, eventually, Laura's clit, the butterflies turn into bats, or maybe elephants, beating a cacophonous path through Laura's body. She shudders, the orgasm rippling through her, her muscles painfully rigid before the endorphins explode and everything goes blissfully lax.

They spoon together eventually, bodies fitting together easily, Elizabeth's arm draped over Laura's stomach, legs entwined. Elizabeth is just about to drift off when she hears Laura snicker softly. "Do I even want to know?"

"It just occurred to me," Laura chuckles, "that this was our first official date."

"Uh huh. And?"

"And I totally just put out on the first date. My mother warned me about this."

Elizabeth laughs, joining in on the joke. "You're mother warned you about sleeping with your female, ex-boss on the first date."

"Yep… kept saying something about buying milk and getting a cow for free. Honestly, I didn't pay much attention, I thought she was making a grocery list."

Elizabeth laughs harder and in that moment she knows exactly what it is about Laura Cadman that is so attractive to her. Laughter. There was never enough of it on Atlantis, even with Rodney and John as comic relief, but here, together, she's laughed more in a month than she can remember in the past year. It isn't a commonality of interests, not in the typical sense, but it is something real they can build on, more tangible, more important than liking the same books, or music, or movies will ever be.

She pulls Laura closer, burying her face in strawberry blonde hair, because at that moment she knows she could say "I love you" and mean it, and that scares the hell out of her in a way the Wraith never could. Instead, she kisses Laura's shoulder and laughs at the story the other woman is telling about how her mother and father met. She feels both guilty and grateful when the moment passes, but it is too late to say anything now, and she doesn't think she can bear the possibility of Laura not returning the sentiment, not after spending most of the evening estranged. Elizabeth settles in under the covers, her chin tucked in against Laura's neck and shoulder, telling herself she will think about it in the morning, after her morning shower has cleansed Laura's scent from her body and she can think clearly again. After she's remembered all of the reasons this can never work out.

The End

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