Rating: gen, PG
Spoilers: "Runner," "Coup D'etat"
Auhtor's Note: Written for Amnesty 2007 and the Missing Persons challenge. Set sometime late in Season 2, not long after "Coup D'etat."
Summary: When you took someone else's geek out to play, it was just common courtesy to bring him back in one piece. Lorne story, with a healthy dose of secondary characters and a side dish of Sheppard and McKay.
David Parrish was carefully packing sample containers and equipment into a compact off-world tote when Lorne entered the botanist's lab.
"That's an awful lot of equipment, Doc," Evan commented in way of greeting.
Parrish glanced up to give him a brilliant smile. "Best to be prepared, Major. You never know when we might come across a new species."
There were times when he hated David's optimism—mostly when he was about to stomp all over it. "It's a desert planet," he remarked doubtfully, avoiding what he'd actually come to say.
"Yes, but some of the most resilient plants can grow in hostile environments."
"Yeah, speaking of hostile…we expect this to be hostile territory." When all he got was a blank look he added, "A military situation?"
"I understand that."
No, he really didn't. "I'm saying that it would be best if you sat this one out, Doc."
Parrish froze then, and slowly turned back to look at him. "You're cutting me from the mission?"
"I wouldn't put it like that."
"I passed my weapons test with flying colors, I don't think I've done anything to put the team in danger—have I?"
"No, no…this just isn't a science-type mission, all right?"
Parrish's expression made it pretty clear that no, it wasn't all right. He looked like someone had just kicked his favorite fern. "But Major…"
Lorne cut him off before the imploring puppy dog eyes could get full play. "This isn't up for debate. You just work on your little mini-jungle here, and we'll see you in a week."
Parrish stared hard at him, and it took every ounce of his willpower not to look away. Finally, with a trace of defeat and a lot of disappointment he responded, "Fine. Good luck, Major."
Lorne nodded once, roughly, and turned on his heel.
It was true that David didn't go on every mission with Lorne's team. But he was their de facto scientist, with them more often than not when they explored new worlds. And he'd never been off-world without them.
He decided it might be time for that to change.
He'd heard through the grapevine that Stackhouse had a mission scheduled, something about a deeper investigation of some ruins they'd stumbled across a few missions back. He consulted Katie Brown and then Dr. Weir, and soon found himself in the gateroom thanking a marine whose name he didn't know as the man took a couple of the empty sample cases off his hands.
He exchanged a glance and welcoming nod with Corrigan. His specialty was entirely different from the anthropologist's and they most likely would never have even crossed paths on Earth. But here there was a certain bond amongst the scientists, perhaps born of the 'us and them' mentality as civilians on an essentially military base.
Corrigan was excited, anxious to get to the ruins. He talked animatedly about the culture and relics during the trek to the site. His teammates let him go on, responding with nods, smiles, or mumbles when it was required.
By the time they reached the crumbling buildings David knew exactly what to expect, down to the coloration of the stones on the well. David laid out his cases as the anthropologist set up equipment and the soldiers secured the site. He waited until everyone seemed satisfied before he went to Stackhouse. "I'm going to go to the edge of the clearing to collect some samples."
"Sure. Just stay in sight."
"Yes sir," he replied casually, earning a surprised look before he turned and aimed for the tree line.
He had nearly reached the edge of the clearing when he heard a sharp "Corrigan!" behind him.
He turned back to see the Anthropologist perching perilously on a large chunk of stone, apparently trying to get access to a buried part of an inscription. Stackhouse had gripped him by the vest to keep him from toppling over headfirst. Corrigan was babbling excitedly, oblivious to his precarious position and his leader's concern.
A smile tugged at Parrish's lips at the familiarity of the scene. Shaking his head, he turned back towards the forest.
The sunlight filtering through the canopy caught on a unique leaf. With a softly breathed "Oh" he slipped between the tree trunks, everything else forgotten.
"No activity at all, Major?"
Lorne sat in Dr. Weir's office, explaining the reason he'd brought his team back early and remarkably uninjured.
"None, Ma'am. I think our Intel was a bit skewed here. There was just a whole lot of sand and a few cacti-looking things. Looks like I should have taken Parrish after all, at least we might have gotten something accomplished."
"Mm. Speaking of Dr. Parrish, as your team was occupied for the rest of the week, he went off-world with Sergeant Stackhouse."
Evan frowned, surprised, and tried to place the reference. "They went back to PX7-698, with the ruins?"
She gave him a slight smile. "And a whole lot of dense jungle, Major. I'm sure he's found something to occupy his time."
"Yes, I'm sure." Stackhouse was a perfectly capable team leader. Nothing to worry about here.
Still, Lorne couldn't seem to shake a niggling cold feeling.
He ignored it, and tried to enjoy what was now his downtime. But it persisted. And later, when an unscheduled gate activation occurred, it was justified.
He arrived in the control room at Weir's side just in time to hear Stackhouse's transmission. "We came under fire at the ruins. Roberts and Martin are injured, Ma'am; I'm sending them through the gate."
This came only moments before the figures materialized from the Stargate. Roberts' right arm hung uselessly, blood leaching through the makeshift bandage on his shoulder. With his good arm he was supporting a limping Martin.
Weir turned to nod to the gate technician, who in turn got on the comm. To Stackhouse she said, "The med-team is on the way. What about the rest of your team?"
There was a beat of silence. Then, "I could use some reinforcements, Dr. Weir. We've…misplaced Doctor Parrish."
Lorne froze, the niggling cold becoming a flood.
"Misplaced?" Weir was asking dubiously.
"We lost him at some point as we took cover. I don't know if he was injured or taken captive; a quick search didn't turn up anything…but I'm ready to head right back, Ma'am. Some additional firepower would be appreciated."
"On its way, Sergeant."
She ended the communication and the wormhole cut off, leaving the activity of the arriving med team below and several still figures in the control room.
As the men were coaxed onto gurneys, Lorne snapped out of his stupor and turned to the woman at his side. "Dr. Weir…"
She nodded to him before he finished the thought. "Assemble your team, Major."
"Did he say who was doing the shooting?"
"You're certain there was no ship?"
"Yes, sir," was the clipped and efficient response.
Stackhouse was fairly tense. That wasn't surprising, given the situation, but it might have been exacerbated by Lorne's 'How the hell do you lose a botanist?!' tirade when he'd first come through the gate.
After an hour of trudging through dense brush and searching the area around the ruined village, his boiling anger had simmered a bit and he was feeling a little bad about all the yelling. The truth was that he knew how easy it was to lose a botanist, particularly this botanist.
And, if he were being honest, it probably went something like losing a physicist.
He crossed back in front of the two Wraith corpses they'd pulled from the trees and glanced across the clearing. Corrigan was studying some sort of stone marker on the ground, guarded by Cadman. With a sigh, Evan moved a bit closer to Stackhouse. "Remember P3M-736?" he asked unceremoniously.
"Where we acquired Dex?"
Lorne let his lips quirk at the word choice. "That's the one. I sort of…lost track of McKay for a while there."
Stackhouse nodded. He'd read the report. "It's frighteningly easy to do, sir." He cast a surreptitious glance towards Corrigan before asking, "Sheppard was pissed?"
"Yeah, but I think the Colonel was more angry with himself for not being there." He left it at that, but after a beat of silence a slight nod told him the point had been taken.
"Well, at least you'd been shot, Major."
Lorne drew up short at that, turning to give an affronted glare.
The Sergeant sputtered, "I just meant…you had a good excuse. Sir."
Lorne chuckled despite himself, shaking his head. "Yes, well. You had other men down, Sergeant."
Evan's thoughts turned to his missing scientist. Parrish had a tendency to wander ahead, to lose himself in his plants and completely neglect his surroundings. Annoying as it was, Lorne had adapted to it. And Parrish had come to trust in his leader's ability to keep up with him and keep the leash just loose enough that he wouldn't get into trouble.
But Stackhouse didn't know that routine. The Sergeant was adapted to his own geek, and they all had their own little quirks and troubling tendencies.
As a general rule, military men were not accustomed to having scientists as near-constant companions. That was one big change that came with the Stargate program, right up there with the aliens and the drastically different landscapes.
It was not something one adapted to overnight. Most of them couldn't have less in common with their scientists. But for a Marine, or an Air Force Major as the case might be, protection was always a chief duty. Whether that was a nation overseas or abstract values or people right beside you, the role of protector was ingrained.
And it was normal to develop a protective streak towards your men—more so towards those less capable of self-defense.
He'd really never given this any thought until he'd met his current CO and Atlantis' Chief of Science. The bond between Sheppard and McKay had been readily evident aboard the Daedalus. Lorne hadn't really understood it. They were two completely different men from very different backgrounds who seemed to bicker about nearly everything. But they teased like brothers and were incredibly protective of each other. They even sought out each other's company when they weren't on duty.
"Yes…yes! I've got something here!"
Stackhouse took off towards Corrigan and Lorne followed on his heels. Cadman stepped to the side as the anthropologist beckoned them closer, gesturing to the symbols on the flat stone. "See this? It's a trail marker of sorts. I haven't fully deciphered the dialect, but I'm fairly certain it's pointing to another village." He looked up at them, excitement in his eyes. "These people might not be extinct."
"How do we find it?" Evan asked shortly.
"There should be more markers. This gives us a starting direction."
All Lorne saw were a bunch of shapes and squiggles, but he'd learned to take the scientists' word for these sort of things. "All right. Let's go."
He took point. He glanced back briefly to see Stackhouse grab Corrigan by the elbow and nudge him forward first, placing him between them as they headed out.
The trail was convoluted and Lorne would have headed the wrong direction several times without Corrigan interpreting the markers. Eventually the trees began to thin out into another clearing, and the group fanned out in search of another marker.
Evan trailed Corrigan closely, anxious to keep moving. He studied the ground before them and frowned. Something didn't look quite right.
He reacted instinctively, reaching out to grab the scientist just as he put his weight forward.
Corrigan slipped as the ground gave way, losing his footing. If not for Lorne's strong grip, he would have tumbled right into the hole that had now opened up in the ground.
Lorne threw himself backwards to keep them both on the right side of the sharp edge, landing on his back with an armful of anthropologist. He let out an "oof," supposing that he should be grateful Corrigan's overfilled pack had fallen to the side and not been caught between them.
There was a beat of surprised silence before Stackhouse was there, hauling Corrigan upright. Reed appeared at Lorne's side and offered him a hand. "All right, sir?"
With a grunt he allowed himself to be pulled up. "Peachy."
A sudden noise from the freshly uncovered hole brought all of their weapons up. Lorne crept cautiously closer, Reed at his side, and peered into the darkness. Then he stared in shock.
There was a very live, very ticked Wraith guard at the bottom of the deep pit. He saw them and growled, making a violent, fruitless jump at the side.
And, though it seemed a little like shooting fish in a barrel, Lorne wasn't going to chance it climbing out. He nodded to Reed and they opened fire.
There was dead silence for a long moment. Then, "Thank you."
The weapons came up in unison once more, this time aimed an odd little man who had just appeared out of the trees.
He seemed unconcerned. "They are difficult to kill with our arrows. And it takes them so long to die on their own down there."
"Who are you?" Lorne demanded.
"I am Rilan of the Shoman."
"The people who built the ruined village?" Corrigan guessed, seeming a bit awed.
"They have only been ruins since the last culling." Rilan's gaze skimmed over Corrigan and Cadman, focusing on the men with guns. "We do not get many visitors. We assumed all of the ruckus was only Wraith."
"No. That became evident when we found your friend."
Lorne tensed further. "Where is he?" he demanded.
Rilan gazed at him unnervingly. "I assure you that we have not harmed him."
Cadman stepped in then, with a bit more decorum than Lorne was capable of at the moment. "We appreciate that, sir. But I'm sure you can understand our need to confirm that for ourselves?"
There was a long pause, during which the stranger seemed to be evaluating each of them. Finally, he nodded. "Certainly. I will take you to him."
The village was small, though better concealed within the trees than the ill-fated ruins. Rilan led them through the center of the dwellings to a courtyard beside a modest little hut. Cadman, Reed and Coughlin remained just outside the short stone fence keeping a wary eye on the villagers. Stackhouse and Corrigan followed Lorne in.
And there sat a perfectly whole Parrish, deep in animated conversation with a tiny woman, apparently regarding the leaves she was holding out to him.
Lorne stared for a moment, trying to reconcile his fears with reality. "Parrish?"
The botanist looked up, features flooding with a full-blown smile for a second before he tempered it. "Major. What are you doing here?"
He opened his mouth, then shut in with an audible click. Suddenly 'I'm here to save you' seemed a bit out of place. "You're not supposed to take leave without permission, Doc."
Beside him, Stackhouse had his weapon at his side as he glanced around uncertainly, clearly ready to raise it the second it seemed necessary.
Behind him, Corrigan was ogling the quaint architecture as if Christmas had come early. He took a straying step, and the Sergeant's free hand shot out to grasp his vest and pull him back. He earned a petulant glare for his troubles.
Lorne trusted Stackhouse to have his back as he stepped closer to the rickety-looking table and chairs. "Are you all right?"
"Oh…yes. Fell into a bit of a hole, but I'll be fine."
"You fell in a hole," Lorne repeated flatly.
Parrish cleared his throat, cheeks coloring slightly. "Yes, well…in my defense, it was well-concealed. There's a labyrinth of pits around the village; part of their defense against the Wraith. They extend nearly to the ruins."
"Yes, we stumbled across them ourselves."
"Was anyone else injured?" He glanced back to Stackhouse in concern.
"Not in the pits. Roberts and Martin were wounded in the Wraith attack, but they were able to get to the gate on their own power. I expect they're relaxing in the Infirmary as we speak."
Lorne let the conversation wash over him as he studied the bloodied pant leg propped up on one of the chairs. With a significant glance back at Stackhouse he swung the P-90 back over his shoulder and knelt beside the botanist. The fabric had already been cut; he shifted it open to see white cloth tinged with red wrapped snugly around David's shin.
"It is broken," the woman offered softly. "I have treated it to stop the bleeding."
"Kena is the town healer," Parrish informed, smiling up at the motherly woman.
"Compound fracture?" Lorne inquired as he lifted the edge of the bandage, trying to peer at the wound.
David drew in a sharp breath and Evan froze in the movement, looking up to his face. The botanist gave him a wan smile. "It's all right, Major. Doesn't hurt too much anymore."
Lorne reached up and gripped his chin, staring hard into Parrish's eyes as he narrowed his own. "Your pupils are dilated."
"Really?" He pulled back, and Lorne released him a bit reluctantly. "I'm sure it's just the herb."
"Painkiller." A silly grin slipped onto his features. "Works great."
Lorne raised an eyebrow and shifted his gaze to Kena.
She gave him a gentle smile. "He will be fine."
"Thank you, ma'am. I'm sure he will." Then he promptly stood and made his way back out of the courtyard to make a call to the Marines guarding the gate. He wanted David back in Dr. Beckett's capable hands as soon as possible.
He finished the transmission with, "Tell Dr. Weir that if a Jumper could be spared for evac, that would be much appreciated."
They waited. Evan stood back and watched over the entire group as they greeted David and interacted with the locals. He watched Parrish dip his head in shy acceptance of the attention and beam as Kena talked about her medicinal plants. The man seemed utterly unaware of the danger he had been in.
He waited until the others drifted away and Kena went inside, leaving him and Parrish alone in the courtyard. Then he exploded.
"This, this is why I can't take you into a possible combat situation! You wander off and fall into holes, and get stoned on alien plants!"
David was taken aback for a moment before a familiar stubbornness took up residence. "I can honestly say that this is the first hole I've fallen into in the Pegasus galaxy, Major. And I have never been stoned."
Evan looked up as if praying for patience. "I assume you were trying to get away from the Wraith."
"I actually thought I was running towards the gate," David confessed.
"How close did they get?"
"There was only one after me. I got to a clearing and suddenly heard a rustling and a loud thump right behind me. I looked to find that he'd simply disappeared. Then I…well, I backed away and right into a second hole several feet away."
"I assume they came along and pulled you out."
"Yes. I wasn't really down there for long."
Evan sighed. "You want some morphine?"
Parrish looked surprised at the suggestion. "No, no need. I'm sure Kena won't mind to give me a bit more…"
"No," Lorne stated emphatically. "Narcotic or not, I'd just as soon not get you addicted to any alien plant."
A little smile grew on Parrish's lips.
Lorne stared at him in frustration for a moment before he registered the irony. He would have to be talking to a botanist whose whole life revolved around alien plants. He rolled his eyes heavenward and breathed a long-suffering sigh. "Let's just wait until we have some actual technology to examine it with, all right?" He studied the other man. "You're sure you're not missing any time, or having some weird flashbacks that might be actual memories?"
"What, you think I was tortured while I wasn't looking?" David tried to joke.
It fell flat. Evan felt cold panic churn in his stomach and knew that, for the briefest of seconds, it showed on his face.
Sure enough, David frowned and sat straighter. "Major…"
"Leave it alone," he snapped.
David bit his lip silently for a long moment before he spoke, soft and calm. "I enjoy being on your team, and I like going off-world regularly. I really don't want to give it up. But if you don't think I'm needed, or able…"
"I never said that, Doc. I know what you do is important, and you're pretty good with a P-90."
Parrish just crossed his arms, waiting.
"You're not a soldier, and you don't need to be. Your safety is my responsibility."
"Yes, I appreciate that fact. I also appreciate how well you do it. But I'm not a child. You're being overprotective." Parrish leaned closer in what looked to be a rather uncomfortable position so he could lower his voice. "And you're not telling me what this is all about. I'm not sure you're admitting it to yourself."
"If you're so smart then please, enlighten me about what's going on in my head."
"What happened on M1K-177, with the Genii—it wasn't your fault."
Lorne froze. "Parrish…"
"Evan," David countered meaningfully. "Everything worked out all right. Was there anything you would have done differently?"
Lorne hesitated. Then he didn't answer the question directly. "It's some kind of miracle that Lindsay got away in one piece."
"But she did, because she knew what to do. And because however scared or naïve she seemed, she did sign on for this. We all did."
Evan looked out into the village, at his people. The guns were held loosely, but they were ever-present and close at hand. Except for Corrigan, of course. The bright-eyed young man was fearless with the natives, perhaps more so than was healthy, but he had stayed on the planet and helped lead the search despite knowing that a fellow scientist might have met an unpleasant fate here.
"What happened? While you were being held captive?" David asked softly, drawing his attention back.
Lorne looked up and met his eyes for a long moment. "No offense, Doc. But I think I'm gonna leave that between me, Weir, and Heightmeyer for a while."
"All right. If you change your mind…" He trailed off meaningfully. Evan managed to nod.
He sat down in one of the chairs, suddenly drained, and avoided eye contact for a bit. "That leg's going to need weeks before you're fit for field missions again."
A slow smile spread across David's features. "Probably."
"You better heal fast then. I don't want to end up stuck with a biologist or, heaven forbid, a physicist."
"We couldn't have that."
Lorne watched the Jumper come in from the East and head towards the nearest clearing where Coughlin was waiting to guide the pilot around the pits. It wavered a bit in midair before coming in for a landing and Lorne arched an eyebrow, wondering who was flying.
He turned to gather Parrish, only to find that the botanist was gone yet again. The man was supposed to be immobile, how far could he possibly get? With a faint growl he headed back towards the healer's hut.
Kena was handing him a bagful of various leaves and roots. Lorne offered her a smile of gratitude as he intercepted the bag. "Let's go, Doc. We've got places to go, doctors to see. You can come back when you're feeling better." He hooked an arm around his waist and started maneuvering back outside, knowing better than to wait for a response.
David leaned on him and accepted the guidance to the stretcher with more grace than most injured men. They un-strapped him once in the Jumper and let him sit beside Corrigan, leg propped up on the long seat. Lorne sent Reed and Coughlin forward and settled on the seat across from the scientists, Stackhouse and Cadman at his side.
"Found your lost lamb, I see." Colonel Sheppard turned from the co-pilot's seat to give him a grin.
Lorne returned it. "Thanks for the lift, sir."
"No problem, Major. I think I'm going to handle the takeoff."
From the pilot's seat McKay turned to stare at him, looking as if he'd just insulted his IQ. "I was doing just fine until you tried to grab the controls!"
"Rodney, if you'd been doing just fine, I wouldn't have needed to grab the controls."
McKay threw up his hands. "Exactly!"
Sheppard squinted at him in mock confusion, not rising to the bait. McKay glared, and there were a few beats of dead silence in the Jumper.
McKay gave in first, though not without a great huff. "You have serious control issues, you know that?"
"There's no shortage of those around here," Parrish said quietly to Corrigan. Lorne turned to glare. Parrish gave him an innocent smile
Sheppard and McKay continued their volley, oblivious to conversation in the back. "You're just mad because I pulled you away from your toys…"
"Work! You pulled me away from important, vital work! Practice was one thing, but if you weren't even going to let me fly…"
"I let you fly, and I'll let you fly home. Once we're above the trees."
McKay slouched in his seat, pouting like an overgrown 5-year-old. Sheppard wasn't much better, his self-satisfied smirk not unlike a brother who'd just won a round against an annoying sibling.
Corrigan whispered something and Parrish let out a small huff of laughter. Lorne eyed them darkly, expecting it was probably at his expense. But David offered him a grateful smile as the Jumper rose above the trees.
Scientists. Naïve trouble-magnets, too smart for their own good, annoying as hell.
But what he was really looking at here was a finder of hidden cities; a procurer of medicinal herbs, crops, and new friends; and a man who'd saved them all more times than he could recount.
He never would have thought science and military so symbiotic. He wasn't sure he would get the full impact even now if he didn't live it on a personal level every day. The scientists brought a whole new, sometimes disturbing dimension to the military life on Atlantis.
What was really frightening was how lost they'd be without them.