Spoilers: 3.17 'Sunday'
"It's not fair," came the quiet sob, the same feeling as before, and surely not the last time it would be said tonight.
"Shh, I know." Lorne smoothed down Cadman's hair as she sobbed into his shoulder, her arms draped around him and her face a red, wet mess -- a manner quite unbecoming of an officer of the U.S. Marine Corps, she would have told him if she wasn't three sheets to the wind from a bottle of Jose Cuervo and...
It caused a lump in his throat each time he thought about it. It wasn't the first time he'd carried a casket for a fallen soldier, a friend. It wasn't the first, but it was one of the hardest. The doc wasn't supposed to die, not like that. It was the doc, the one who did the fixing and the bandaging and the disparaging remarks when the teams came back battered and bruised from something they probably shouldn't have been involved in in the first place.
He wasn't supposed to die, especially from fucking exploding tumors.
Cadman was right, it wasn't fair.
McKay had found the note when he was cleaning up the doc's quarters. Guy was taking it hard enough without having to deliver letters, and Colonel Sheppard hadn't seen why it should be delivered. Just a quick note with a scrawled name on the envelope -- but Lorne knew better. They may not have been dating any more, as the colonel was quick to remind them since Carson told him 'it hadn't worked out', but Lorne knew better. He knew from the way the doc had still talked about her, and how she'd ask about him in their quick messages back and forth. 'Bored in CS, waiting for new assignment, Ori gonna eat us, how's Carson doing?' was pretty much par for the course.
And if a ball-buster like Cadman still was a softie enough to ask about him, she damn well deserved someone to tell her to her face instead of waiting to hear it through the grapevine. He'd met her on her first day at Cheyenne, a feisty little blonde that was too pretty to be a Marine, but who'd drop you without a second thought if you said a word about it. Explosives, she'd said with a glint in her eye when he asked why she'd come to the stargate program, as if that had explained everything.
They'd kept in touch, and he'd tossed out her name first when Everett was asking for suggestions for the second wave to Atlantis. He'd brought it up to Sheppard when she wanted to stay another rotation in the city, ostensibly for experience with ancient firearms. No one brought up the doc's name, but everyone knew, and no one could find any reason to complain, save for McKay, but he didn't really count.
They'd kept in touch after she was recalled for support against the Ori, and he'd told her that she was making a mistake breaking it off with the doc when she left. She didn't want to, that much was evident, but when Cadman got an idea in her head about what was best, it was just safer to stand out of the way.
But she still cared, and Lorne felt she was owed more than what would have been officially given to her.
She hadn't registered the dress blues and the somber expression when he knocked on her door in Colorado Springs. Her team had been off-world when Lorne had gotten in, and no, she hadn't heard anything, and goddamn it why didn't he call and tell her he was going to be in town for the day?
He's not sure how he told her. Perhaps a combination of 'We regret to inform you' and 'Cadman... Laura... I…' and before he knew it she was crumpled on the couch, sobbing and swearing and glaring at him as if he'd killed the doc. She wasn't the wife, they didn't owe her this, but Lorne needed to give it to her.
A sliver of respect in an unfair world.
The sobs turned into screams which turned back into sobs and oaths and finally silence as she brought out the bottle of tequila and a pair of shot glasses. He thought about telling her no, this wasn't what she needed, but who was he to tell her what she needed to numb herself from this?
After one shot they talked about how he died. After two, about how he lived. After three, she smiled and told stories that were probably causing the doc to blush from the afterlife. And after four, Lorne remembered and handed her the note.
"We found it in his quarters," he'd explained as Cadman fingered the folded envelope hesitantly. "I think he wanted you to see it."
She didn't say what she'd read until after five and half or six. "He wanted me to marry him," she finally said quietly, her voice slightly unfocused from the alcohol and the pain.
"Would you have?"
After seven, she needed to lie down. Lorne led her from the kitchen to her bedroom, laying her down on top of her sheets as she clutched the letter to her chest and stared up at him.
"Are you leaving?"
"Don't," she'd asked, the tears already rolling down her cheeks again.
She hadn't wanted to be alone, and Lorne could understand. He didn't protest, didn't ask questions, just hung his dress jacket from the doorknob and lay down on the bed next to her, opening his arms and letting her curl up with him, her arms around him as she began to sob again.
He held her because she was his friend and he cared about her. He held her because she was upset and needed a shoulder to cry on. He held her because she was drunk and alone, and the one person who should have been doing this had come back to Earth in a goddamn casket.
Cadman was right - it wasn't fair. Not goddamn fair at all.