Author: RowenaR

Rating: T

Category: Action/Adventure/Drama

Disclaimer: Stargate belongs to Gekko and… all those other people making money with it. Anyway, I don't. Honestly. So – I don't own, you don't sue. Deal?

Summary: Laura Cadman is caught between a rock and a hard place. Or maybe rather between her heart and her head? Anyway, it's never easy when a certain Doctor and Major are involved.

A/N: Here we go again. A resolution to the end of "Might just save your life"... but nothing ever is as easy as it seems, at least not in my stories ;) Let's see how this one plays out.

Anyway, as always: Not a native speaker, so please excuse any weird grammatical constructions, tapeworm sentences (tapeworm sentence? is that even a word?) and typos. Feedback will earn you a cookie, flames will roast my marshmellows.


Raising the stakes

"You ask me to believe in magic
Expect me to commit suicide of the heart
And you ask me to play this game without question
Raising the stakes on this shotgun roulette."

Runrig, "Every River"

Prologue

Punch, step, right, left, right.

She misses him.

Kick, punch, hook.

It's been the predominant thought on her mind for the last two weeks.

Right, left, knee, punch.

She misses him. As simple, yet as complicated as that. She misses his smile, his steady presence, even his cryptic remarks. She misses the late-night conversations and the bantering. She misses the dimples and the storyteller's voice. She misses everything about him. As much… as much as she'd missed Carson when he'd still been dead, except that Evan's still there, which only serves to double the pain.

And because she doesn't want to be reminded of the pain, she has another go at the sandbag in her room. She's tried running to get all of this out of her head, but she has found out that only good old violence can help her get a grip on everything. And so she puts everything into her kicks and punches, until it hurts.

She knows she shouldn't be doing this to herself, mostly because it's her own fault. She shouldn't have run away like this, but it had just been way too much for her. The trouble with Carson, Evan's helpless shrug, really looking like for once in his life he had no idea what to say or do, her own confusing feelings… Just too much.

And after that… she just hadn't had the heart to talk to him again… or Carson, come to think of it. There is, of course, a considerable amount of embarrassment on her side for being so blind – willfully, at that – for all these weeks and for her reaction. She knows she has hurt Evan as much as Carson and has no idea how to get it right anymore.

All this confusion and insecurity makes her angry at herself. It's not some Wraith face she sees in front of her, not some Genii… it's not even Carson or Evan, she sees. Nuh-uh, sir, she sees herself. She's a Marine, she should be able to handle this.

The worst thing is that she feels that it's already starting to show in her performance. She hasn't exactly become sloppy, but now and then, when she doesn't have to concentrate too hard, her mind is just a little off. A bit like when she had these weird spells with feeling Carson's presence in the weeks after his death, before she had returned to Earth. Only now it's not some ghostly presence, it's two very real men that give her headaches.

Two real men she could run into every day, she does run into occasionally. And every time she does, they're all very civil, polite, professional… and it hurts. It hurts more than silence or anger, she had to discover. She's been on one mission with Evan ever since the Balcony Incident, and it had been horrible. Not in the way of the one with the crazed villagers, mind you. No, it's been a nice, tidy babysitter mission for some of the linguists on a planet with nothing more than a few ruins and the occasional mid-sized animal.

And so usually you sit around while the scientists do their scanning and prodding, with the occasional alarming shriek which makes you go into combat mode only to discover that one of them just made their discovery of a life time. Then you grumble a little and go back to sitting around and occasionally checking the perimeters.

There had been a time – before all this messing around had started – when they would use the idle time for exchanging stories from their respective times serving in the SGC or from their training or about their families. Or maybe place a few bets on selected scientists, banter a little… all the things friends do. Of course they would still call each other "Lieutenant" and "Major", but they'd be comfortable around each other.

But then they had to go and spoil everything with all this emotional mess. And because she'd been too afraid and too confused to clean up the mess, they went on the babysitter mission with lots of time on their hands and instead of friendship only awkwardness and politeness and professionalism. They'd barely spoken and not exactly tried to ignore each other, but rather ignored the fact that only a week ago he'd amused her with Westley's and Buttercup's adventures and she'd been happy to listen to it.

She'd told herself after that that she would fix this but so far she's done a piss-poor job of it, mostly because she's just been way too much of a coward to actually talk to Carson or Evan. Every time she tells herself that now she really has to do it, she stands in front of either one's quarters, has her hand ready to knock… and lets it sink again, unable to do the last step. It's downright annoying her.

How come she had enough confidence in her knowledge about human behavior, flirting and all that stuff to try and help Rodney in his endeavors with Katie Brown but has no idea how to sort out the mess her own love life has become? She could tell Captain Reece exactly what she has to do to either finally net her team leader or send him out the door, and she knows it would work. She could tell Dr. Parrish that one of the girls from the IT department finds him rather cute and how he could get her into a date, and it would work. But for some odd, stupid, god-forsaken reason she can't do anything right in her own life.

It's this feeling of ineptitude that makes her deliver a few extra hard punches on the sandbag that really make her hands hurt. A picture flashes through her mind. Evan's right hand, with a bandage around it, only one or two days after the mission that somehow set everything of this in motion… She pauses.

Was that the "accident" that had happened to him? Had he, somehow, somewhere felt the same need to release the tension and the stress with punching something? She sure hopes it was something instead of someone, but she can't remember anyone running around the city with something that could have been caused by a blow strong enough to bruise a hand bad enough that it had to be wrapped.

She wishes she'd offered him some support back then. He wouldn't have talked to her about it, but she could have done a better job of telling him not to worry too much or accuse himself of things that hadn't been his fault anyway. But no, she had to go and blow it all up about a couple of sketches.

Her chest still heaving a little after her… extensive work-out, she turns around to her desk. There the sketchbook lies around, like a lurking presence reminding her time and again of what an idiot she is. And if that isn't already enough, there's also Evan's copy of "The Princess Bride" lying on the desk as well. He'd forgotten it the night before at her bedside and she'd wanted to give it back to him… but then it had made its way back to her quarters, together with the sketchbook of DOOM.

For two weeks she has come into her quarters, stared at the two offending objects for a second or two and then gone on ignoring them. Or at least trying to ignore them. They've been giving her headaches, just by sitting around there on the edge of her consciousness.

With an exasperated sigh, she flings the strips she uses to protect her hands into a corner and stalks over to her desk. Cautiously, like it's one of her explosives, she takes the sketchbook up and starts to leaf through it from the beginning.

It's amazing, she thinks, how much she recognizes of Evan in his sketches. There are parts of Atlantis, a jumper, some of his team members, a picture of Elizabeth Weir, a few strange animals, even two or three Wraiths among them… most of them with a few strong strokes, as if done in a few minutes of spare time, but still exact. Nope, Evan Lorne doesn't ever do things halfway.

And then come the pages where she starts to take up more and more space. At first it's maybe one quick sketch in three pages, but in the end there's only the occasional odd animal or building thrown in for good measure, or at least that's what it looks like. She leafs back a few pages and discovers that he's put more effort into her sketches than into the other portraits, the further she goes in the sketchbook. It's almost as if she could see his feelings grow with the time they have spent together on Atlantis.

With a thud she closes the sketchbook again. Suddenly, the sketches have become too intimate for her to bear. It almost felt like being in his head for a moment, and that only serves to feed her guilty feelings. This really has to stop. All of this.

It's not only Evan and his feelings that worry her, but also Carson. For weeks they had danced around each other, always with the faint promise of something more serious in the backs of their minds, but there just never happened anything. Should have tipped her off right away, but they do have a lot of issues to steer clear of… their first break-up, the explosion, the clone-thing… it just seemed to be enough baggage to take it very slow.

Turned out, though, that she'd had a specific piece of baggage that only Carson had the courage to admit to see. She really has to talk to him, assure him that it's not his fault and that she still wants and needs his friendship. She also has to talk to Evan, because this really can't go on into all eternity.

Mostly, because she is scheduled as security detail on a mission with Carson for tomorrow. And, well, with Evan as team leader. She really doesn't want to experience another mission like the one a few days ago. So, maybe… while Carson is doing his vaccinating and checking-up stuff, she'll have enough time to apologize to Evan and prepare the ground for some lengthy talk – as much as she hates lengthy talks. Hopefully Carson will be too occupied to develop any jealous…

Ah, hell.

She knows what she has to do: Once and for all make it clear to both of them that neither of them will become anything more than a friend to her. Choosing one over the other would always end up in tears one way or the other. Carson… she likes Carson, but she thinks she has finally closed the file labeled with "Carson Beckett, boyfriend". Maybe all that had been lacking had been a real closure, something without accusations and awkwardness. And Evan… it all comes down to the fact that he's her CO. It's cliché, she knows, and it feels like having written "Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter" all over it, but that's just how it is: You don't date your CO, period. Besides… zoomie and jarhead? Never would have worked anyway. At least, that's what she tells herself over and over again.

And so she decides to give him back the books after tomorrow's mission and in the process clear up all this stupid tension between them. She just has to get through this mission with him and Carson. Should be a cake walk.