Sam knew she was up late if Ronon Dex was turning in for the night too. She stepped into the transporter beside him, almost loosing her footing in her exhaustion. He reached out and held her up with one arm, saying nothing, only smiling, then stepping back when she was upright again. She tried to cool the blush of embarrassment on her cheeks; he wasn't looking though, just waiting and Sam sighed. She knew enough about Ronon to know that his body clock was on a schedule of it's own and that when he wanted to talk to her, trust her, he would. She could wait though, she could be patient.
She pressed the control panel and the doors opened again, seconds later. She stepped out, hesitating to say something.
"Night," he murmured.
She smiled to herself, not replying, and walked down the corridor, hoping he hadn't seen her turn left instead of right before the doors closed again. She knew she should be more careful, go the long way round, the quiet way, go back and forth from places twice if she had to – she'd had affairs before, she knew the rules – but it was late and she was tired, and this wasn't an affair: she just had to be careful because she was the boss. She was sure Ronon would neither care nor say anything anyway.
She made her way to Lorne's quarters, because for some reason she preferred to wait for him, to be curled up in his tiny bed instead of her larger one. Because there they would be wrapped up in one another's arms, they had no choice, and the fact that Evan found himself on the floor occasionally only added to the charm of it. She liked to romanticise the situation in the dark, eyes closed, feeling like they were two lovers with a tiny apartment, no money and only their love to survive on. Not a Colonel and her subordinate who had decided to start a relationship they'd only hinted at a few years ago.
It was ridiculous really, both her romanticised version and the reality. She and Lorne hadn't been a thing on Earth, just friends, a brief moment of flirting and then he had been gone. A week on Atlantis, though, a week in charge and she had ended up in his bed. Because… because he was beautiful, because he thought she was beautiful, because for the first time she needed a distraction from the burden. Because she missed her team. Commanding a city was so different, no instant close connection from saving each other's lives; it was a slow build up of trust, made worse because of who she was replacing.
None of this made her less of a soldier, or a leader, or a person even – Lorne told her that most nights – but it was hard to believe when she was creeping around for his company, because Ronon barely spoke to her, and the haunted look in Sheppard's eyes told her how much he missed Dr Weir every day.
She crawled into his bed in just a camisole and her underwear, pulling the thin covers up to her ears, the quilt Evan's grandmother had made just resting on the end of the bed, over her feet. Atlantis was wonderful for warmth, unlike the cold mountain, but she still felt her feel start to freeze if she didn't have an extra layer there. It was habit, she knew, rather than her feet really being cold, but Evan hadn't commented on it and had simply offered the quilt or of a pair of his socks. Usually she took the quilt, tangled her legs with his, warming herself with his body heat.
Thinking about it made her feel cold again. She knew she still had a few hours before he finished his shift and could join her, and then only a couple of hours before she had to be up again but it was worth it, she supposed, closing her eyes to the few personal possessions Lorne had in his quarters (still more than her).
She opened her eyes to see Evan looking down at her, one hand on her shoulder, shaking her, the other holding a gun, and that panicked look on his face, eyes wide. "Sam," he hissed.
"Evan, what the...?"
"Come on Sam, we have to go."
"Go where?" she asked, sitting up when he pulled her. "Lorne, what's going on?"
"We gotta go, now." He pulled at her arm, tugging her out of the room, and she fought against him.
"Major, what are you doing?" she cried. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Trust me Sam, we have to go."
"No! Not until you tell me what's going on."
"Move Sam," another voice said, a harder, darker threat that came moments before she felt a gun at her temple. She turned to see Sheppard standing there, holding a gun to her head, Lorne by his side, head down, unable to look at her.
"Move!" Sheppard yelled.
SAM put her hands up, walking towards the door, Sheppard pushing her through. She stumbled, and fell onto her knees.
When she looked up she saw she was surrounded by silver blocks and strips of white light, kneeling, seeing herself standing over her.
Not again, she thought, as Sheppard shoved Lorne to his knees next to her and didn't look at her.
"I didn't..." he paused, "they said they would hurt you, Sam."
"Guess she doesn't care about Lorne as much as you think."
"It's been the some time since I probed her mind," the replicated version of herself said, stepping forward.
"No!" Sam protested, looking to Lorne who was staring at the floor.
"Never mind, we have her now," the replicator said.
"Now what do you want?" Sam asked, sighing.
"Information," Sheppard said, "we want everything you have. We want to take it, keep it, leave you empty."
"Is that even possible?" she asked, trying to keep her head, keep in control as she faced her nightmare again. And Sheppard – she'd never seen him look like that. It wasn't just anger, it was hate. Black eyes, his lips a hard line, all directed at her. She had always suspected that he didn't like her, always feared that he hated her. The truth, seeing it, made her feel cold. Colder, because the grey blocks, and the chill of her memory, were freezing her blood.
He stared at her, thrust his hand forwards into her head. Lorne jumped up, throwing himself at Sheppard. They fell to the floor, with the Major on top, Sheppard's hand pulling out of Sam's mind, and she fell too, dazed. Sheppard pushed Lorne away, the man flying across the small room, hitting the wall.
She watched from the floor as her replicated self took three quick steps towards him, her arm turning silver, sharpening, and then she pierced his chest with ease. The sharp metal went right through his body and Sam screamed, the noise broken by fear as Lorne was lifted into the air and dropped again, the replicator's arm back to 'normal' and Sam curled up on the floor watching the blood pool around Evan's body.
"Up," Sheppard commanded. "Up!"
She didn't move, lying still on the floor, and he kicked her hard in the stomach. Her body jerked back and she cried out. When he kicked her again she grit her teeth, pushing the cry out through them, trying to keep quiet.
"UP!" he yelled.
She didn't answer, didn't get up or move at all. She lay on the cold grey floor, looking up at the ceiling that had a harsh blue hue to it from the white light, trying not to think about how Evan's blood was slowly reaching her foot.
"Aw, screw it," he said, thrusting his hand into her forehead, her neck snapping as she jerked up before falling back to the floor with a thud.
She could see stars, white sparkles against pitch black and then she was in a dark room, made of dark red and green roots, with a spider web door. It was cold and damp, and both Sheppard and her replicated self looked at her through the gaps in the door.
"My brethren aren't the only thing to fear in this galaxy."
"I destroyed you, I'll destroy them," she coughed out, feeling an ache in her abdomen, and a wet patch of Lorne's blood on her ankle. She would not let either of them see her pain if she could help it. Physical or emotional.
The door opened and they stepped inside. The Wraith that now stood before her was taller and looking down at her. She didn't know how it could breathe or see under the mask of grey. It looked like he was wearing a brain over his face, black latex covering his body and his hand outstretched, reaching towards her. She wanted to stand her ground but she'd read the reports, heard the stories about how the Wraith brought only fear, how their touch felt like death. Cold, constant, endless...
She shrunk back to the sticky wall behind her, telling herself it was fear of the unknown, of this un-encountered enemy that made her move.
The Wraith put his hand on her chest, over her clothes, and she went cold, seeing stars again, except this time they were father away and fading. She had died before, but this, this was something else. It was the feeling of dying but drawn out, pulled out, forced out because she was fighting it, mentally, while her body was frozen from fear and the Wraith taking her life, her energy.
When he released her, she fell to the floor, hearing the crack and splinter of her own bones but not feeling the pain. How could she not feel the pain? She closed her eyes, head swimming. She tried to take a breath, her chest crushing her lungs and heart.
"That's what the Wraith do," Sheppard whispered in her ear. She looked to see him hovering above her, standing behind her, the replicated version of herself sill watching from just inside the cell. "So much more terrifying than what the replicators do."
"Not really," she gasped.
He kicked her again, and when she could open her eyes she was back in the replicator version of a holding cell, the bright strip of light hurting her eyes after the dark of the Wraith ship.
"Kill her," the replicator ordered.
"With what?" Sheppard said, holding his hands out, palms up. The replicator sighed and Sam wanted to laugh, how many time had she sighed just like that at Sheppard over the past couple of months. Suddenly there was the same silver point before her eyes, and she focused all her energy on not flinching as the replicator went to take her life.
Sam woke, her heart screaming, her mind shouting 'NO!'. She sat straight up, hand gripping the covers that been twisted around her body. It was just a dream. A nightmare. There was no Wraith, no 'repliCarter'. No evil Sheppard. Just her in an empty bed, in quarters that weren't her own, but much more like home.
Or would be if Lorne were with her.
She looked to the clock, she'd only been asleep for an hour, still had a couple 'til Evan finished his shift and joined her. She was terrified and needed something to calm her down because she couldn't stand the idea of going back to sleep.
Maybe after a glass of water and a read of one of his books.
Maybe when he got here.
She had been sleeping lightly, like she did off-world, when she woke to the feel of a hand on her shoulder. She reacted in an instant, grabbing the hand-gun from beneath the pillow and turned onto her back, pointing it at whoever, or whatever, was in the room.
"Woah, Sam." Lorne immediately put his hands up.
She took a few extra shaky breaths before lowering the gun. "Sorry."
"Do you always sleep with a gun under your pillow?"
"This is your bed, Evan."
She smiled at him, sliding the weapon back under the pillow, "Long night?"
"Yeah," he said, reaching one arm up and back to rub his neck. She got to her knees and helped him out of his jacket. "Why so jumpy?"
"I had a nightmare." It seemed almost childish to say it, but it was out of her mouth before she could think about it, and she knew Lorne wouldn't mock her – he'd hold her.
"You wanna talk about it?" he asked, pulling his t-shirt off as she undid his pants.
She thought about it while he finished undressing, letting herself fall back into a sitting position. Did she want to talk about her nightmare? She could and maybe should, seeing as she felt there was more to this than comfort and sex. Seeing as she had felt the worst when he had been killed and not when she had been at the end of the replicator's anger.
She made herself comfortable in his bed again, while he brushed his teeth, padding around in just his boxers. He was beautiful, and she smiled at him when he crawled into the bed next to her, pulling her close so they both fit, pulling the covers and the quilt straight.
"You died," she whispered. "The replicator version of me killed you, then a Wraith fed on me and then Sheppard was going to kill me, but didn't have anything to kill me with." It came out as a long breath into his neck, that she was sure he wouldn't hear. She felt stupid, like a child again, and hid her face from him.
"Lucky for you."
"No, I woke up just as I was going to kill myself. I mean, the replicator me." She huffed out some laughter. It didn't terrify her now, in Lorne's arms and the low light, but she was still shaken.
She didn't reply. In the dream, death would've been lucky. In real life, death would've been better than what she had gone through with both Fifth and his creation. His replica.
"You going to be okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, it's just a nightmare." She tilted her head up and smiled. Lorne made her smile a lot, she needed that. He didn't always smile back, but that was who he was, a serious shell but with so much going on, hidden under his beauty. He kissed her, softly, slowly, because he had all the time in the world. Sam only had a few hours though, and pushed him onto his back. He did smile then, a knowing smile that made her laugh into the kiss.
That had been a nightmare, and while her romantic fantasies of tiny apartments, were just artisan dreams, she did have a little reality with Lorne to hold onto.