Another Evan Lorne/Zoe Kent installment, because it's been a boring few days at work and they make me laugh.
Disclaimer: Everything except for Zoe Kent belongs to MGM and Stargate Atlantis...
Evan Lorne realizes about six months into his relationship with Zoë Kent that he knows very little about Atlantis' resident psychologist. He knows the basics – the things that save him from getting a pillow (or something harder) thrown at his head on occasion – but beyond how she takes her coffee and what her favorite book is, he's kind of at a loss. He tells himself that because he knows little things, things that others don't, the bigger things don't matter as much.
Until they're watching a taped baseball game and she uses 'wicked' as an adjective.
'So you're from New England,' he says afterwards, a casual observation while they're getting ready for bed.
She smiles at him from across the room, adorably disheveled in her Transformers t-shirt and black underwear. He wonders if the little flutter in his chest her smile gives him will ever go away. He hopes it doesn't.
'A little town in Maine, near the New Hampshire border.' She tilts her head to the side and eyes him with mock suspicion. 'Been checking up on me?' she asks with laughter in her voice.
He grins. 'You called that last play a, and I quote, "wicked pissa". Kind of gave it away.'
He gives her credit for her aim – the pillow she throws hits him square in the face.
He's in her office, sitting with her during his lunch break, and they're talking about what to do with themselves for the next three days. It's his off duty week, which means three days of nothing but relaxation and paperwork. He's unfortunately inherited Colonel Sheppard's aversion to filing reports and he suspects Colonel Carter is about to tan his hide for it.
'We could take a jumper ride,' he suggests.
'Do we know if there's a mainland somewhere?' she asks.
He nods. 'I think so. I'll ask Sheppard, see what he says.'
The door to her office chimes and a clerk he's seen around a couple of times comes in with a bundle of mail. How the woman knows that he's in Zoë's office is beyond him, but she has mail for the both of them.
'How'd you know where to find me?' he asks her and she smiles prettily, two dimples appearing in her flushed cheeks.
'Good guess?' she says and winks at them before leaving.
He turns to say something profoundly witty to Zoë, but finds she's engrossed in her mail – a brown envelope to be specific – and not paying any attention to him.
'What's that?' he asks and she looks up at him with an expression of awe.
'Seeds,' she says and her voice waivers. 'My dad, he sent me a garden.'
That's what they do for the three days he's off duty. He builds her a small box out of crate wood and they convince Katie Brown to give them a bag of dirt and a small watering can and they build a garden on her balcony. They plan lettuce and cucumbers and tomatoes and some carrots.
'Growing up,' she says, her hands wrist deep in the dark earth and tiny smudges of it along her cheeks where she wiped tendrils of sweat away, 'my dad and I put together this huge garden in the backyard. We planted it for my mom one year and then just sort of took over taking care of it. After that, I always had a garden, even in college. When I told him that I was headed to a remote outpost, without the possibility of a garden, he said he'd send me one.' She sits back on her heels and admires the box of dirt. When she smiles at him, he feels the flutter in his chest once more. 'I'll have to tell him I found someone to help me build a garden.'
'Maybe one day,' he says as he leans down to kiss her dirty forehead, 'I'll build you a bigger one.'
He's with her when Sam arrives to tell her that her father had a heart attack and that the Midway station is expecting her in an hour for immediate transport back to Earth. He wants to go with her so badly it hurts, but she won't let him. Neither will Sheppard. There are evil things afoot in the Pegasus Galaxy and no matter how badly he wants to be with her, he knows his place is on Atlantis.
She stands on her tippy toes and kisses him in the gate room, the wormhole open and shimmering behind her.
'I'll be back soon,' she says against his mouth and he nods. 'Look after the garden for me. Those tomatoes should be ripe soon.'
And then she's gone, through the wormhole and off to what he hopes is good news.
He packs a duffle with the clothes he'll need for a week and decides to stay in her room, to watch over the garden like she asked of him. Part of it is that, but part of it is the need to be close to her even though she's gone. He sleeps in her bed, smells her on the pillow, and imagines she's beside him. She's been gone for three nights when he's lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, and hears a solid thud from the balcony.
His curiosity gets the better of him when he hears two more thuds. He gets up to investigate and finds tomatoes on the balcony floor. It makes him smile. He grabs a basket from her room, discards the magazines it's holding, and fills it with falling tomatoes. There are ten of them in all, each the size of a softball, and he stares at them in wonder.
He gets to talk to her a day later. She's back in Colorado Springs and sitting in the SGC and she looks happy, a bright smile on her face.
'How's your dad?' he asks.
'He's going to be just fine. I should be heading home in another day or so. General Landry had him transported to the local VA before I even got here and they're taking excellent care of him.'
'Tell him I said hello.'
'Already done.' She smiles widely. 'How's the garden?'
He grins and hopes that it conveys all the emotions he feels – the fact that he misses her like he would miss breathing, the fact that he's been sleeping in her bed since she left just so he can smell her, the fact that his Batman t-shirt doesn't look half as good on him as it does on her and that it looks even better when she's rumpled from sleep and flushed from other things – but can't say in front of everyone in the control room.
'You'll never believe how big the tomatoes are…'
She's curled up on the chair on her balcony, a glass of what looks like bourbon situated next to her and balancing precariously on the arm of the chair. He can tell even before he sees her face that she heard about the mission, knows they lost someone. He suspects the soldier – a young man, barely older than 20 – was a patient of hers and he suspects she knows something that he doesn't.
'I'm sorry,' he says from the doorway to the balcony.
She doesn't look up at him. 'It wasn't your fault.'
'Doesn't make it any less difficult to deal with.'
She nods. 'There's another glass on the desk, if you're feeling so inclined.'
He pours himself a thimble of bourbon and goes outside to lean against the railing. There's a faint breeze ruffling the air and it catches on his hair, plays with it. It's easy to forget carnage when standing on a balcony in Atlantis, staring off into the empty horizon.
'He was sick,' she says quietly and he doesn't turn to look at her, to ask her meaningless questions. She'll tell him the story in her own time. He's come to learn this about her, that she moves at her own pace and doesn't speed up or slow down for anyone other than herself. 'Keller was keeping it quiet, mostly to allow him one final mission before they sent him home to Earth.'
'He told you this?' he asks.
She nods. 'Just before the mission. Keller had given him okay odds, five to one that he'd pull through treatment, and he seemed at peace with that.' She takes a long sip of bourbon and finally looks at him. 'I let him go because I thought he'd come home.'
'It explains why he didn't look surprised when the bullet him.'
'See? You're not the one who owes anyone an apology.' She finishes her bourbon and when he looks at her he can see the circles under her eyes. She looks like a woman who hasn't slept in days, who's decided to bear the brunt of the fallout.
'You took the fall, didn't you?' he asks, though he already knows the answer.
'I'll be headed back to Earth on the Daedalus when it leaves next Monday.'
'It wasn't your fault,' he says, suddenly angry with her for this decision – a decision she made without him.
'I knew he was suicidal and even though Keller knew he was physically ill, I'm the one who gave him final clearance for that mission.' She stands. 'It's as much my fault as it is the bullet that killed him.'
'I'll talk to Colonel Carter, explain it…'
She cuts him off with a resounding 'no' that echoes as she hurls her glass into the night sky. He's never seen her this angry, never seen her with this much emotion surrounding her. It scares him, not because of how she's acting but because of how well she hid it from him all these months.
'I'm done, Evan,' she says and straightens.
He watches her walk inside and he wonders if she means with psychology or with him…or with both.
They've been together almost a year. He's learned more about her through her actions than he has through her words. He knows she's fiercely independent and stubborn and intelligent and beautiful. He knows that there are days when she hides from the world and from him. He knows her favorite sport is baseball and that she'd go to her grave defending the Red Sox. She has an older brother, a river guide in Ontario, and a dog waiting for her in a townhouse in Boston. She's had two serious boyfriends in her short thirty years and neither of them understood her. She likes her beer ice cold and her hot dogs charred beyond recognition and be prepared for an argument if you even suggest that Guinness should be served at room temperature.
She drinks chamomile tea most mornings and he makes it for her while standing in his boxer shorts at her desk.
She loves poppies and sunflowers and tolerates roses because he cut himself up pretty badly once while trying to pick a dozen or so of them for her birthday.
She sings Journey songs in the shower…at the top of her lungs…when she knows he doesn't have to get up early.
He's never met anyone like her and as he watches her pack her bags and prepare to go back to Earth, he convinces himself that he never will again. She's one of a kind.
'Staring at me from the door like a stalker won't make me stop packing,' she says with what he likes to think is a hint of humor.
'I could add some heavy breathing phone calls, just to keep interrupting you,' he suggests and she laughs with her back turned to him.
'Too bad we don't have phones.'
'Earpieces work just as well.' He turns his on, hears hers beep, and breathes into it like a midnight caller. 'See?'
She laughs harder and turns to look at him. He hasn't seen her cry…ever. Now, though, he can see red splotches on her freckled cheeks. She'd want him to ignore them, so he does.
'How am I doing on time?' she asks.
He checks his watch. 'You've still got another three hours before Caldwell will freak out and either beam you aboard or leave you here.' He grins. 'I could stow you away in the Jumper bay.'
She grins in return. 'Somehow I don't think that'll work. And besides,' she says with a playful smirk, 'you just want to have sex out there, the one place in this whole city we managed not to get naked in.'
'Well, we do have three hours to kill.'
They're quiet and he watches her finish packing. The suitcase zips shut with a sound all too final and he finds his chest constricting.
'You're really leaving,' he says.
'I'm really leaving.'
'I could come with you,' he offers and she smiles sadly.
'You know I'd stow you away in a heartbeat…if I didn't think Atlantis needed you more.'
'What if I need you more than I need Atlantis?'
She crosses the room, wraps her arms around him, and looks up at him with wide, shining eyes. 'It doesn't work that way. No matter how badly we wish it did.'
He kisses her then, leaves her breathless. When she pulls away, it's simply to pull him into the room and shut her door. He grins at her as she begins to unbutton his Oxford shirt.
'One last shag?' he asks with a mock British accent.
She quirks an eyebrow at him as she pulls off his belt.
'With three hours to kill, I'm thinking more like three or four.'
She's been gone for three days and he's finally started eating again, though Sheppard's insistence that he either eat or get benched may have had something to do with it. He misses her so badly sometimes it hurts. He finds himself turning to say something to her and when he discovers she's not there, his chest constricts with grief.
He learns much about himself in the first month that she's gone.
He learns that he never really knew what love was like before he met Zoë.
He learns that when Atlantis is silent, he thinks he can hear her voice drifting through the balcony doors where her tomato plant continues to produce softball sized fruit long after its growing season.
He learns that bourbon, when mixed with chamomile tea, cures all ills – including heartbreak.
Via this last bit of knowledge, he also learns that hangovers can be cured by Ronon holding him upright in his shower while cold water drowns his sorrows…and his headache.
Finally, after two months, with small post cards from her arriving every other day or so in his e-mail, he feels the grief let go of his chest and he begins to breathe again. He goes back out into the field and doesn't once forget where he's supposed to be or whose back he's supposed to have. He functions once more and with every trip through the gate he takes, he forgets that he misses her.
'Major Lorne,' a voice calls as he arrives home from his most recent trip off world.
He unhooks his P-90 from his chest and hands it to the waiting Marine. Zelenka holds up a hand to catch his attention and for a second, Evan worries something has gone wrong, but then he sees the smile on the scientist's face and knows the world is still right-side-up.
'What's up, Radek?' he asks as he falls into step next to the resident Czech.
'The Daedalus arrive a little while ago with a package for you. I had them put it in your quarters.'
Evan smiles. 'What are you up to, Radek?'
Radek's grin is mischievous as he turns down the hallway. 'Enjoy your delivery, Major,' he tosses over his shoulder before disappearing into a lab.
Well that's just plain strange, Evan thinks to himself as he heads towards his rooms. In fact, he's so engrossed in his own mental dialogue of just how strange the encounter with Radek was that he's not quite paying enough attention to his quarters, otherwise he would have immediately noticed his visitor, sitting on his bed with a brown paper bag in her lap.
'Special delivery,' she says as he enters the room and his head snaps up, his eyes wide, his jaw slack. She grins at him, rattles the bag. 'Brought all the way from Paris, Maine.'
Zoë Kent, in the flesh…in his room…on his bed…a million light years away from home.
He decides to play it cool.
'What's in the bag?' he asks, taking a couple of tentative steps toward her. She stands and holds it out for him to take, which he does.
'Seeds, from my father's garden. Specially cultivated for you.'
It warms his heart and he opens the bag, sees a small note attached that says, in spidery handwriting, 'Keep my little girl safe and happy and I'll give you all the tomato plants you can stand.' He laughs.
'Thank you,' he says.
The room goes silent and he's about to say something witty when she launches herself across the room and jumps on him. To his credit, he catches her without dropping the paper bag. She kisses him senseless and breathless and they collapse onto his bed with a chorus of laughter.
'I've missed you,' she says against his lips.
'I can see that.'
She laughs at him. 'Have you missed me?'
'Then I have good news,' she says as her fingers begin to undo the buttons of his shirt.
'I've been asked back to Atlantis,' she says and lowers her mouth to his chest. 'For good.'
The squeal and series of giggles she lets out as he rolls her over is music to his ears. He learns, in that instant, the he could, quite possibly, spend the rest of his life with this woman – crazy hair and quirky glasses and all.
'I love you, Zoë,' he says, serious for a moment.
She brushes her fingertips across the wrinkles in his forehead and smiles. 'I love you, too.' She winks at him. 'Now let's get naked.'
He learned a long time ago that it's rarely worth it to argue with a woman…so he doesn't.