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Going offworld to enjoy a sunlit festival held by known New Lantean allies on a peaceful spring day had seemed too good to be true. So Alicia wasn’t too surprised when disaster struck after the pchulu eating contest. Had she expected bedlam to erupt with the arrival of particularly persistent gophers? That was the most surprising element of the whole debacle.

And anyway, none of it would’ve happened if it wasn’t for Dusty Mehra. Dusty the Destroyer – handy with a gun, hell on wheels for her CO. Her CO who, at the moment anyway and in the absence of Major Teldy as she acted as special security detail for IOA in the Milky Way galaxy, happened to be Alicia Vega.

Dusty, who, even now, was snapping her gum and telling Keller the pain in her sprained ankle was a little higher…higher…little bit higher to see just how far the naïve doctor would go before calling Dusty on her BS.

“You provoked them,” Vega said, standing with her hands on her hips at Dusty’s bedside in the infirmary. Her dark ponytail a disaster, strands sticking out everywhere and there was at least one tiny gopher-sized bite on her hand – regardless of the fact that humans tasted nothing like the pchulu that drove the gophers crazy. “The Counselor told everybody before the contest not to feed the gophers, that they might go into a frenzy and you—”

“How was I supposed to know they were Pegasus Gremlins? Besides,” Dusty remorselessly replied, “they were cute. Reminded me of my little guys from home.”

“You had iguanas!” Vega retorted.

Keller laughed, which wasn’t helping – in fact, Dusty’s grin ratcheted up a bit at the sound of the doctor’s approval. “They liked pie, too,” she said.

This – a wildcard element, an unmanageable teammate – had never been a problem for Vega before and Dusty’s behavior had only worsened in the recent history. Ever since Teldy left Vega in charge and went back to the SGC for the special assignment. While Vega had let it slide for a little while because they were friends and drinking buddies, it was clear now – with her team in the infirmary, suffering from tiny gopher bite welts and endless rounds of painful tests to determine that they weren’t carrying space rabies, and Dusty’s ankle sprained after tripping in a gopher hole of all things – it was clear that something had to be done.

Alicia folded her arms over her chest. “Jennifer, can I have a minute?” she asked.

Keller looked up at her, her careful fingers still on Dusty’s sprained ankle. She blinked her blue eyes. “Uh, sure. Should we – oh! You meant with Sergeant Mehra. Of course,” she smiled, “I have to go get the dressings for Sergeant Mehra’s ankle anyway, so I’ll just leave you two alone for a minute.” One last bright smile and she left.

The minute the white curtain whisked into place around Mehra’s bed, the Sergeant cocked her head to indicate the absent doctor and said, “Batty,” with a twirl of her hand.

Vega rolled her eyes. “She can probably still hear you, dumbass,” she shot back.

Dusty’s expression said clearly that she couldn’t care less, which was part of the damn problem, if Vega could accurately assess the situation – and she could. “What’s eating you?” she demanded. “You’ve been acting like a punk since Teldy made me CO.”

“Interim CO,” Dusty corrected. But she seemed flintier now.

“Don’t take it out on me that you’re pissed off about her decision.” Alicia didn’t mention that it hurt that all the ways they used to have fun as a team with Porter and Teldy in the large rec room downstairs had become less friendly in tone and more prickly in nature between Dusty and she. “You could’ve argued it when she made the decision in the first place and you didn’t. And for the record, Mehra, with how you’ve been acting lately, I think she made the right choice putting me in charge of your sorry ass.”

Dusty snapped her gum and leaned back on the pillows piled up behind her. She pressed her fingertips to her lips, removing her gum, and she stuck it to the underside of the table beside her. “If you’ve got a management problem – why don’t you try managing me?” She met Alicia’s stare with a bold look.

Alicia gaped, her mind lagging in catching up with the surge of arousal in her body at the look on Dusty’s face. It wasn’t the words but the look, like she was daring Alicia to make a move – but there was no way Mehra was actually suggesting Alicia make a move on her. It was too many years’ forced abstinence making Alicia’s mind boggle. Or one of the weird Ancient devices floating around was causing hallucinations again. “What?” she asked.

Dusty crooked a finger and Alicia shuffled forward, one hesitant step at a time, until Dusty’s fingers caught her jacket zipper and yanked it down halfway in one smooth, sexy movement, towing Alicia close. “You need a lesson?” she asked. Her full mouth was right there, so close, damp and dark and pretty, with her head tilted like a suggestion Alicia do exactly what Alicia had wanted for too long now.

Alicia’s mouth was suddenly all over hers, one lush kiss full of everything Alicia could want and it was all she could do to keep quiet at what it did to her. Mehra’s lips were soft and full beneath hers, her skillful tongue sliding hotly against Alicia’s. It was heady and voluptuous and for a full minute, Alicia let it happen, trading angry kisses with her teammate, until it dawned on her. Dusty hadn’t just been trying to get her goat since Teldy left on special assignment – it had started a little earlier. It had started a week before then, when Alicia had told her over drinks that Keller had shot Alicia down. “Have you seriously been pulling my pigtails?” she asked.

Dusty smirked against Alicia’s lips but her smile was softer, more vulnerable than the Sergeant ever looked. “Took you long enough.”

Alicia shook her head. “Get your mouth over here, Sergeant – and that’s an order.”