A/N:Yes, the title is taken from that song by Kansas; yes, that is one of the Winchester brothers in there. Which one I will leave to your imagination. Can you tell I'd just finished watching all of season one of Supernatural when I first started writing this?
Constructive criticism is, as always, appreciated.
There'll Be Peace When You Are Done
Fatigue blurs his vision and makes his joints ache, and and the ridge he's curled up on may have a good view of the men guarding the Stargate but it's also made up completely of rock, and there's no position he can find that doesn't have sharp-edged flint poking up like probing fingers into his already-bruised ribs. He spends too long trying to get comfortable, shifting an inch to the side here, adjusting his vest there, and then stops, realizing what he's doing. It doesn't matter if he's comfortable or not right now; he needs to focus if they're going to get out of this in one peace.
Well, one piece in a metaphorical sense, anyways. None of them are exactly uninjured at the moment; Dunne has a broken arm and bruises all up and down his back, Tanner has a concussion and can hardly stand up without blacking out, and Winchester's side refuses to stop bleeding. Lorne is nursing his own bruised ribs and wrenched knee, but he's the only one mobile enough for recon. It doesn't help that this planet is a hell-hole, hot like the devil himself set the furnace, and so parched that every drop of sweat is a drop you can't afford to lose. Lorne's team has been on edge from the heat ever since they set foot on this God-forsaken planet, quicker to quarrel, every sentence and word with its own hidden razor edge. He hasn't had to deal with this much sniping since he broke up with his last girlfriend, right before coming to Atlantis; and Christ, they've only been here four days. Lorne can't find it in him to blame the natives for their bad temper, if they really do have to deal with this weather nine months out of thirteen.
Four days, or ninety-six hours, and Lorne's been awake for eighty-seven of those, catching only cat-naps when it looks like pursuit has tapered off for the moment. The natives are damn good trackers, and aren't real fond of visitors. Right now all Lorne wants to do is curl up in his bed back on Atlantis, or, barring that, crawl back to their campsite and pass out for a few hours, or twenty. But there's no time for that because right now he has a job to do, and so he lifts his head back up, ignoring the way his vision swims as he scans the layout below, focusing on the Stargate. They missed a scheduled check-in at 1800 hours today, and soon Atlantis is sure to dial in and try to contact them.
And therein lies the reason for his presence here, so close to the enemy; there's something on this planet that interferes with radio waves that hadn't shown up on the preliminary survey because it only happens over long distances. It's a little like the interference on P3X-403 back in the Milky Way, where he'd been posted for far too long digging up valuable rocks to make X-303s from, except here it isn't electromagnetic in nature. So Lorne waits just within the requisite distance, sweating under the sun and cursing the heat.
He checks his watch. It reads 2100, and once a team is three hours overdue it's SOP to check in on them. Lorne couldn't be more grateful for that fact right now.
A flash of blue-white against the grey landscape, and it looks so much like water that for a moment he feels the compelling urge to go and jump-- so compelling, in fact, that his muscles tense to push him to his knees before he can stop himself. Oh, brilliant move, Evan, he thinks as he drops back down to his stomach, tensely waiting to see if he'd been noticed.
The natives don't move from their positions, too focused on the open wormhole to see the slight movement. Lorne breathes a thank you to the universe at large and then pulls out his radio, waiting and hoping.
There's five seconds of silence, then ten, and he wipes the back of his hand over his burning eyes, wondering if it really is Atlantis. The back of his brain notices that he's not sweating anymore, and files this under the 'yet another thing going wrong' column, to be dealt with later. Nothing he can do about it right now, anyway; he left the last canteen of water back with the injured members of his team, figuring they'd need it more. They'd brought along plenty of water initially, but Winchester had lost his pack-- and its contents-- while trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid getting skewered by a spear.
That'd been a close call. Only dumb luck that it'd just been the one scout, rather than the whole hunting party, and only dumb luck that had made Tanner return from his scouting trip at that precise moment. Lorne wasn't real thrilled in general about how much of their survival the past few days could be attributed to dumb luck.
Still nothing coming over on the radio, and Lorne's heart lurches suddenly. What if he's not within range? They'd figured out through trial and error that the radios start cutting out around five hundred yards (okay, there had been a lot of 'Can you hear me now?' jokes while testing that, he was sorry to admit-- but humor had been scarce in this place and they'd needed the relief), and he's definitely within that distance-- but it might be that the interference is stronger here. He'll need to get closer to be able to tell.
The hill is made up of knife-edged rocks anywhere from the size of his hand up to the size of his torso, and there's a boulder about a hundred yards down the slope just barely large enough for a man to hide behind. Lorne starts making his way towards it before he can think too hard about how exposed he'll be. The natives are still focused on the open 'Gate, waiting tensely for something to come through, but that could change any second.
The rocks shift under him, sharp-edged and unstable as they threaten to send him tumbling, and though he's careful where he puts his feet he still leaves smears of blood behind on the stones where jagged edges tear through the material of his pants. And these had been his favorite pair, too.
It takes longer than he would like to reach the safety of the boulder. He keeps expecting the wormhole to close any second, or the guards to start paying attention to their surroundings once again, even as he slides into place. He's painfully exposed, even in this hiding spot; all they'd have to do to see him is move a few yards to either side. Heart in his mouth, he pulls out his radio again, and turns up the volume a fraction.
He breath leaves in a harsh exhalation as he hears the Canadian tech's voice over the radio.
"--this is Atlantis. Please respond. SG-2, this is Atlantis; please respond. SG-2--"
He depresses the 'talk' button. "Atlantis, this is Lorne," he says, voice raspy. He leans his head back against the boulder and breathes in short, careful breaths. "We could really use some back-up out here."
He explains the situation and Atlantis promises a Jumper within twenty minutes. The 'Gate shuts down and he's left sitting there, dizzy with relief and with heat. He licks his lips, feels the sting and tastes blood. Twenty minutes until they're safe again.
Then he realizes that for the next twenty minutes, he's trapped; there's no way he can make it back up the hill without being seen now that the Stargate isn't providing a distraction. Stupid, stupid not to realize that beforehand, but he's not thinking clearly any longer. He chances a quick glance down at the Stargate, and sure enough, the guards are paying attention to their surroundings again. His knees are sticking out past the edges of the boulder a bit, and he eases them back in, wincing as the right one screams with pain.
His muscles are trembling from exhaustion, but his hands are steady on his Beretta. Twenty minutes isn't all that long in the grand scheme of things. Just a little while longer and then he can rest.
He settles in to wait it out.
The Jumper comes in twenty-five minutes, not twenty, and by the time the gate whooshes open again the trembling has spread into his hands and it takes him long moments to fumble for his radio when they call.
His hand slips on the 'talk' button and hits the volume, instead.
"Major, please resPOND, WHAT'S YOUR LOCATION?" the radio blares, and he scrambles to turn the volume down, heart thudding at the sudden noise echoing in the still desert air.
It's a futile gesture. Lorne sees one of the men below look up, then nudge a companion. They head up the hill in his direction. Two more follow. Their spears are primitive but effective, and Lorne is only one man with eight bullets left in his pistol, P90 lost somewhere in the wilderness. Thankfully, he's no longer completely alone; the Stargate ripples, and he hears the telltale hum of a Puddlejumper. Backup's here. If he's totally honest with himself, he kind of hopes it isn't Sheppard's team; though he wouldn't want anyone else at his back during a firefight or when there's Ancient technology to be dealt with, they also have a tendency to turn bad situations into worse ones and all he wants right now is a plain old evac.
He clicks on his radio. "I'm at 3 o'clock to the gate," he says, closing his eyes briefly against the brass disk of the sun overhead. His head is pounding in time to his heartbeat. "Behind the big rock. Might want to hurry, I've got company coming." The four natives are halfway to his position already, making their way over the scree with a grace Lorne envies. They spot him as he peers around to check their movement, and pick up their pace, readying their weapons.
"Copy that Major, we're almost there," he hears, and ten long seconds later the Puddlejumper decloaks not five feet from him. He stands, reaches for the hand outstretched to him, hears shouts from close below. A spear splinters on the rocks where he'd been standing, wooden shrapnel peppering his legs, but it's too late, he's already up in the Jumper and the door is closing and they're up, up and away.
He lays on the floor of the rear compartment as the Marines and the med team stare down at him and he's laughing, weakly, helplessly, tears of relief and exhaustion pooling in the corners of his eyes.
It's not Sheppard's team.
Lorne forces himself to stay conscious long enough to direct them to where his team's camped. The cool air in the Jumper feels heavenly on his parched skin, and he keeps finding his eyes slipping closed on their own.
"Major," someone says, and he opens his eyes again. It's the doctor, Marks, he thinks-- new guy. Came in on the Daedalus a couple months ago. He's holding out a water bottle-- Lorne'd waved off his earlier attempts to start an IV. There'll be time enough for that later. Worry for his team is all that's keeping him moving; there's no telling what might have happened in his absence. Not that they can't take care of themselves-- Tanner is, quite frankly, the only reason they're still alive, thanks to his wilderness survival skills, Winchester is damn good with a rifle, and Dunne never, ever quits-- but none of the three were in much shape to protect themselves if they'd been discovered.
Marks waves the bottle in his face again. "You in there?" he asks, frowning. He looks like he's going to go for the IV again in a minute. Hastily, Lorne grabs for the bottle and pops open the cap, tilts his head back. Finishes the contents in what feels like half a second; the cool, sweet water eases down his throat and he's never tasted anything so good in his life. Marks presses another bottle into his hands, a barely-hidden look of worry on his face, and Lorne nods his thanks, turning back to face the Jumper's front screen.
"Over there." He points at a fairly distinctive rock formation in the distance, and Lt. Adamson-- the pilot-- adjusts their course slightly. For whatever reason, the life signs detector on the Jumper doesn't work here, either, and so Lorne's having to navigate by landmarks. Landmarks that look awfully different from a hundred feet in the air than they do from ground level. Still, he's pretty sure they're getting close; he turns on the radio, and keeps his breathing deliberately slow.
"Tanner, do you copy?" Lorne asks. "Dunne? Winchester?" He repeats himself, once, twice. Three repetitions, still no answer, and he's getting worried. So many things could have gone wrong; if they'd had to move camp it could be well nigh impossible to find them in time.
Then the radio crackles to life. "--ajor, this is Winchester." He can hear the relief in the man's voice, even over the crackling connection. "Where are you?"
"Couple minutes from your position," Lorne says. All around him, the Marines start grinning. "And I come bringing backup. How're you all holding up?"
"Not too bad, considering. Be grateful for some medical attention, though--?"
Lorne grins. "I come with a med team, too." As he speaks, the Jumper rounds one final hill and comes into view of their camp, tucked in under the shade of an overhanging rock. Winchester, Dunne, and Tanner are all there, banged and bruised but, thankfully, alive.
The Jumper sets down with a thud, and it's chaos as they load the three aboard and the medical team does their thing. Lorne tries to keep up with it all but now that they're done, he knows his team is safe, he's having a hard time focusing. He's relieved to hear that none of their injuries are serious, though Winchester's lost a fair amount of blood and Tanner will probably have a headache for days; Dunne's arm, at least, has a clean break and should heal quickly. Immediate worry satisfied, Lorne slips back into the cockpit of the Jumper and then stands there, clutching at the back of the copilot chair.
Adamson shoots him a worried look. "Major?"
Lorne closes his eyes against the way his vision is graying out around the edges. "I'm fine, Lieutenant--" he says, or starts to say, and then suddenly, with no visible transition, he's staring at the ceiling of the Jumper, Marks kneeling next to him and rolling up his sleeve for an IV.
"What--?" he says, lifting up his head to look. His throat feels like sandpaper.
"You passed out, Major," Marks says, deftly inserting the needle.
Lorne lets his head thud back to the floor. "Oh."
Actually, passing out again sounds like a pretty good idea. He closes his eyes.
He doesn't wake up when they clean the cuts on his legs, or when they go through the wormhole, or even when they transfer him onto a gurney and send him down to the infirmary along with the rest of his team. He sleeps straight through the next eight hours, in fact.
For a brief second as he starts awake he can still feel the heat weighing him down, feel the rocks slicing into his boots. His heart pounds in his chest, certain they're still back on the planet, on the run from those spear-wielding nut-jobs.
Then he smells the antiseptic infirmary aroma, hears the breathing of his teammates nearby, and realizes where he his. Atlantis. That strange and wonderful city he's learning to call home.
He smiles into his pillow and settles deeper under the blankets; finally, he can rest.
He sleeps for another eighteen hours. He has to deal with the snoring jokes for weeks afterward, but he can't bring himself to care.