Hi there – I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update this, but I've been very very busy with work. My exams start in a week, so I'm in cramming mode right now. This chapter was almost finished though, and as I had to have something to take my mind off of Neanderthals and handaxes, I finished it up over the last few days. Don't be expecting the next update until after my exams though!
This chapter has a lot of talk in it, which I hope isn't too boring. To be honest, though, the entire story has been mostly talk so far, and you all seem to like it okay! Thanks so much for all the reviews, I really appreciate the feedback.
I took some liberties with Lorne's back story in this chapter… if there any blaring errors in it, do let me know.
Alright, back to Durkheim, the last common ancestor, Oaxaca Valley and the Nuer… good luck trying to guess what subject I do!
A clear blue sky over miles of sand… a forest, the treetops ever closer to the puddlejumper… Rodney walking next to him down a corridor, talking about old Batman movies… Ronon hopping on one leg… sitting on a cold cave floor, his hands tied behind his back and feeling someone's head on his shoulder…Elizabeth standing in front of the stargate next to a coffin draped in blue… Teyla sitting up in an infirmary bed smiling at him… Ronon sitting on the ground, a shard of glass sticking out of his shoulder… Carson crying in a puddlejumper… Teyla beaten and bloody in a forest, Keller beside her… walking across a sea bed, completely dry, a whale in the distance…a Wraith raising his hand to feed, John unable to move or even speak…
John had a restless night. He woke up every couple of hours, sure that he'd been dreaming, but only able to remember obscure flashes of his dreams – dreams that made no sense to him at all. It was about 0700 when he woke up properly, and he shook his head before climbing out of bed. It was early, but not too early, and though he would have liked to sleep a little longer he knew that it was useless to try now that he was fully awake. After getting dressed he flipped through some of the reports that were still lying on his coffee table, but really he just wanted to read some new ones. He knew, though, that it would be much easier to read them with Teyla next to him to answer any questions he had – she had been invaluable the night before.
John sat on his couch and looked around his semi-familiar quarters, before abruptly standing up. Breakfast, he decided. He'd go get breakfast.
John could smell the food from the mess hall in the air when he was still two corridors away, which threw him for two reasons. One – that would mean that they were cooking something for breakfast, which was new, and two – he could smell bacon. Bacon. John hadn't had bacon since the day he'd left Earth, when he'd made sure to have his favourite foods before reporting to the SGC.
He'd really missed bacon.
John sped up, every second expecting the smell to disappear and find himself mistaken and disappointed, but with every step it grew stronger. He entered the mess hall and there, right in front of him, was a tray full of sizzling, piping hot bacon. His stomach growled at the sight, and he lost no time grabbing a tray and joining the short queue.
John managed to get a double serving of bacon from the server with a bit of begging and a smile, and then grabbed some toast and eggs as well. He couldn't help the stupid smile on his face – he was going to eat bacon!
As it was still quite early the mess hall was half empty, and there were plenty of tables for John to choose from. But one particular table caught his eye – it was occupied by a tall man with dreadlocks. Ronon had his back to John, and so hadn't seen him enter the hall. John hesitated for a moment, but quickly decided that there was no point putting off the conversation he wanted to have with the man.
As John approached his table he saw that Ronon was just finishing off the last of a plate of eggs. There was an empty bowl next to his nearly empty plate and an apple still waiting to be eaten.
"Hey," said John, stopping next to the table. Ronon's head jerked up and he stared up at John, but didn't say anything. John nodded to the chair opposite him. "Mind if I join you?"
Ronon stared at him for a couple more seconds and then jerked his head again, nodding silently, though his face remained expressionless. It wasn't the warmest invitation to sit that John had ever received, but he did it anyway. He straightened out his food and separated his cutlery, and only then did he look back up at Ronon.
Ronon was staring down at his plate of bacon, his eyes slightly narrowed. John decided to cut to the chase. "So listen – sorry if I was rude to you yesterday, but I wasn't in the best of moods," he said.
Ronon raised his eyes to meet his, his face still completely unreadable, and was silent for a couple of seconds, just staring at John. Then, finally, he sat back in his chair, shrugging slightly. "Did McKay fix the machine?" He asked John.
"No," said John. "Not yet, anyway."
Ronon nodded slightly, and then he was staring at John's food again. John watched him warily – was he still hungry or something? Was Ronon the kind of guy to steal other people's food? Because John was prepared to defend his bacon with his life.
"What?" He asked after a few moments.
Ronon looked back up at John. "What?" He repeated.
"You were staring at my food."
He expected Ronon to deny it, but instead he just shrugged again. "You usually have oatmeal," he said, by way of an explanation.
John almost laughed. "Why would I have oatmeal when I could have bacon?" He asked incredulously. The very idea seemed ludicrous.
"You said you didn't want to get used to bacon only to lose it again."
John blinked, staring across the table at his teammate, his teammate that he couldn't remember. The Ronon had said that, so matter-of-factly… it was such a banal statement that didn't really mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it really got to John. The fact that it was such a banal thing to say, such a stupid, little thing to know about him, upset John.
"I'm sorry that I don't remember you," he said after a moment.
For the first time, Ronon's expression changed. His eyebrows went up and he looked a little surprised – but he seemed to recover quickly. There was another shrug.
"It's not your fault," he said gruffly.
"Yeah I know but… well…" Said John, trying to vocalise his fragmented thoughts on the subject. "Teyla keeps telling me what good friends we are and…" His voice trailed off and he ended with a shrug of his own.
Ronon was staring at him again, and John started to feel a little embarrassed. He decided to take refuge in his bacon, and started cutting up the meat. The excitement of eating bacon again was seeping back in.
"This isn't the first time you've forgotten me," said Ronon suddenly.
John froze with his fork halfway to his mouth. "Huh?"
Ronon was still lounging back in his chair, and had his arms folded across his chest. He quirked an eyebrow before explaining. "About a year ago the city got infested with a virus – everyone got it except me and Teyla 'cause we had it when we were kids," he said. "It made everyone lose their memories. And not just some things, like you now. They forgot everything."
John lowered his hand back to the table, gaping slightly. "Everyone got it?" He asked him. He couldn't even imagine the havoc that must have caused.
Ronon was nodding. "Yeah – we figured out we needed some enchuri plants to cure it so we two went to the mainland," he said. "By the time we got there you were totally gone."
"I shot you and tied you up."
John dropped his fork. "What?!"
Ronon shrugged again, now looking quite amused. "I didn't have time to deal with you…"
"So you shot me?" John demanded.
Ronon was looking even more amused now. "I only stunned you," he said, as if that made it all okay. "And you woke up and got free by the time I got back. Then you almost shot me."
Well. That made John feel a little better. It was nice to know he managed to get free even when he had no memories. Score one for basic training.
"But I didn't?" John asked Ronon, who shook his head.
"I talked you out of it," said Ronon cryptically. His look of amusement flickered for a moment. "We got the plant back to Atlantis and everyone got cured."
God he wished it were that simple now. Get a plant, find a cure, have all his memories back.
John smirked. "I'm guessing that plant won't work on me now?" He asked flippantly.
All trace of amusement left Ronon's face as he stared at John, and John's smirk disappeared under his scrutiny. He was once again reminded that this was a man who knew him very well.
"Rodney will figure it out," Ronon said seriously. "He always does."
Again with the first name basis.
John didn't say anything in response – he just picked his fork back up and finally started eating his bacon. It was tough and pretty thin, and had grown a little cold in the time he and Ronon had been talking.
It was delicious. It was bacon! John had never tasted anything so wonderful. Across the table, Ronon started to eat large chunks of his apple, using a large dagger to cut it up, and the two of them ate in companionable silence for a few minutes. It was a little strange to John that he did feel so comfortable around Ronon, since really he'd only known him a day, but he did – he guessed it was the knowledge that he had already judged him to be friend and teammate material, even if he couldn't remember doing so.
He'd almost finished his bacon when John remembered what he'd wanted to ask Ronon.
"So… who really did that to Tagan's hair?"
John looked up in time to see Ronon's grin – it transformed his entire face, and made him look much younger.
"That was all you," he said.
John raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Yeah," said Ronon. He paused, and then shrugged. "Well, it was my idea."
John smirked. "Uh-huh."
"And I held him still."
His smirk grew wider. "So Teyla was right about it being a dual effort."
Ronon chuckled. "It's a great picture," he said. John grinned in response. Suddenly, Ronon's stare grew intense again. "You must be totally freaked out by T.J."
Hell yeah I am. John shrugged in what he hoped was a casual manner. "Nah."
The look Ronon gave him was one of utter incredulity, and John squirmed a little. He shrugged again. "Well, it was surprising, obviously," he said. "But…" Another shrug. "I don't mind." Shrug. "He's a cute kid." One more shrug to seal the deal.
Ronon stared at him in silence for a few moments, and then nodded. "Yeah, he is," he said. "I gotta go – I'm due in the gym."
"Right," said John, watching Ronon stand up. The man loomed over the table as he pushed back in his chair and picked up his tray. He paused, and looked down at John with an earnest expression on his face.
"We were meant to be sparring today before lunch," he said gruffly. "We still can if you want."
John's eyebrows shot up. "I spar with you?"
Ronon's mouth twitched. "Yeah."
"Yeah." Ronon was smiling now. "You suck, but yeah."
John snorted. "Right," he said. "Well… maybe, yeah." He smiled at Ronon, who nodded briskly and then turned and walked away without another word. If it had been the way anyone else had ended a conversation with him John would have felt offended, but his meeting with Ronon had gone far better than he'd expected, so he let it slide. Besides, John had the feeling that Ronon hadn't meant it to be offensive – it was just the way he was.
He could see why he liked him, really. He didn't take any crap. John went back to his bacon.
He was not alone two minutes before a shadow fell over the table. "Sir?"
John looked up to see what was obviously one of his men standing next to his table. "Hey," he said guardedly, hoping that the man wasn't going to ask him something important, and wishing Teyla were with him.
The man glanced around and then spoke in a low voice. "I'm Evan Lorne," he said.
Ah. Well, at least John didn't have to worry about him finding out his secret memory loss. "My second-in-command," John said with a smile. "Have a seat, Major."
Lorne returned the smile and sat down opposite John. "How are you feeling, sir?" He asked.
John shrugged. "Physically I'm fine," he said. "Never better."
Lorne nodded. "We haven't told anyone what's going on," he said. "Unless there's a crisis there's no need for anyone to find out. There are a couple of debriefings today but that's not a big deal."
"You sound like you've got everything under control," said John. And he did. John was glad that his second-in-command seemed capable, though he hadn't expected anything else. He must have appointed him his second for a reason.
Lorne shrugged. "It's a pretty quiet time – well, as quiet as it gets here, anyway," he said ruefully. "There are only three teams off-world, and the first one's not due back for four days, so we've got time. And there are no new recruits or anything to deal with at the moment."
"That's lucky," said John, though he had no idea how much work new recruits meant for him, since he couldn't remember training any on Atlantis.
Judging by the way Lorne was nodding in agreement though, John surmised that new recruits were a lot of work. "And the Daedalus isn't due for two weeks," Lorne added.
"The Daedalus?" John asked, frowning.
"Oh," said Lorne, looking momentarily thrown. He recovered quickly though. "It's a ship, sir, it does runs between Earth and Atlantis, bringing supplies and things, and we often use it in battles. There's the Apollo, as well – it doesn't come to Atlantis as often, but it's also seen its fair share of action. The Daedalus is commanded by Colonel Caldwell, and the Apollo by Colonel Ellis."
John nodded as though this was not Earth-shattering news to him. Spaceships? He knew that Earth had them – he'd found that out quite soon after coming to Atlantis. But from what Lorne was telling him, these ships had been in space battles. Space battles. John had been in space battles and he couldn't remember them. How unfair was that?
John looked across the table at his second-in-command, who was watching him closely, obviously waiting for him to carry on the conversation. He probably didn't know what to say. John tried to imagine what it would be like if, back on Earth, one of his commanding officers suddenly lost all memory of whatever they were doing and he was put in charge. And still having to deal with the commanding officer.
John frowned suddenly, still looking at Lorne. It had hit him suddenly, but he was sure of it – he recognised him. He recognised Major Lorne. The man seemed very familiar to him… maybe he was getting back his memories? Or maybe they had met before, sometime. Perhaps he'd been on Atlantis the whole time John had and he was just being dense.
"So when did you get to Atlantis?" John asked politely.
"I came over with Colonel Everett during the siege," replied Lorne. "Then I stayed."
John narrowed his eyes at the Major, and decided to just tell him the truth. "You know, you look kind of familiar to me," he told him.
Lorne raised his eyebrows. "Well that's good, right?" He said after a moment.
You'd think so, but John still wasn't so sure. "I don't know… did we ever meet before?" He asked.
Lorne looked faintly surprised. "We did meet very briefly at the SGC, when you were leaving for Atlantis," he said. "You were helping move Dr McKay's equipment into the gate room and –"
Realisation dawned on John. "Oh yeah, you were the guy McKay yelled at for being in the way," he said, remembering suddenly the innocent Major who had incurred the wrath of McKay for just happening to round a corner at the wrong moment. He smiled slightly at the memory of how they'd rolled their eyes at one another, bonded briefly in their shared disbelief of the arrogant scientist. The smile quickly faded though – it was an old memory after all. Not a sign that he was regaining that which he had lost.
He looked up and saw that Lorne was staring at him, looking very surprised. "You didn't remember me when we met again on Atlantis," he told John when he looked at him.
John shrugged. "Well it's only a couple of months ago to me," he said. Lorne smiled. "So you worked at the SGC?" Asked John.
"Yes sir," said Lorne. "I was on SG-14 under Colonel Edwards for almost three years."
John nodded, regarding the Major thoughtfully. This guy was the same rank as him (as when he'd come to Atlantis anyway), but he'd been at the SGC, travelling off-world with an SG team for years before John had even known anything about the stargate program. For the first time, John wondered why he was still the ranking officer on Atlantis. The day before he'd just accepted it, but now he really thought about it – he had assumed command because there was no one else to do so, but they'd been in contact with Earth for three years now… why was he still in charge? John wasn't complaining; he was just surprised. Surely there were people who were more qualified than he? Those ships Lorne had mentioned were both commanded by full Colonels. Even Lorne had more experience than he did.
John wondered how many people on Atlantis thought the same thing.
"Is there any news on the device?" Asked Lorne, snapping John out of his reverie. He looked up at the Major and shook his head silently.
Lorne looked at him seriously. "I'm sure McKay will figure it out soon," he said firmly.
John managed a weak smile, trying to lighten the mood. "Not relishing the idea of command, Major?" He said.
Major Lorne's serious expression didn't change. "Sir, there's not a single person under your command who would relish the idea," he said. "And if the device… we'll all do our part to get you back in command."
John blinked in surprised at Lorne's words. His voice caught in his throat, so it was a moment before he could respond. He cleared his throat. "Thank you Major," he said, a little gruffly.
"It's the truth, sir," replied Lorne simply. He gave John a brief smile and then stood up. "I have to get to a meeting with Woolsey."
John nodded. "Good talking to you, Major," he said.
"You too sir," Lorne replied. He nodded and then turned on his heel and began to weave his way through the tables towards the exit.
John watched him go thoughtfully – the two conversations he'd had had given him a lot to think about. He was starting to get a clearer idea of his place on Atlantis, and it wasn't too bad, really.
Still, he wished he had something to do today, like Lorne and Ronon did. He had sparring with the latter to look forward to, but John would have been willing to bet a lot of money that Ronon wiped the floor with him at the best of times… today he'd probably wipe the ceiling with him too.
At that moment Teyla entered the mess hall. She stopped just inside and scanned the room, smiling when she spotted him. John gave her a small wave, and then noticed that she was carrying a large rucksack on one shoulder. From the square-ish shape of it, he guessed it held more mission reports.
Well, it looked like he had things to do after all.
Next up – some more mission reports, John meets Woolsey properly, and Ronon wipes the floor and ceiling with him. And probably the walls too.