Disclaimer: Stargate belongs to Gekko and… all those other people making money with it. Anyway, I don't. Honestly. So – I don't own, you don't sue. Deal?
Summary: Revisting TLM-Timeline!Lorne from 'The faith...' and 'Like a song...' again, back at Arlington National Cemetery, at the funeral of his wife, Captain Laura Cadman-Lorne.
A/N: He just won't leave me alone... for some reason, he obviously wants me to tell his story in reverse (and make me sad in the process :P). So now that we already know what made him let Rodney through the 'Gate and how he felt only two years after her funeral, we get the actual funeral. Note to self: Don't write stuff like this when watching the Olympics with your mother and sister, because if you'd started crying like you wanted to they would have ultimately put you down as the weirdest person they ever knew.
Anyway, on with the story ;)
And as always: Not a native speaker, so please excuse any weird grammatical constructions, run-ons and typos. Feedback will earn you a cookie, flames will roast my marshmellows.
You and I will meet again
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again
And you'll be here in my arms
Annie Lennox, "Into the West"
Arlington National Cemetery. The place where his nation's heroes are buried, hundreds of thousands of them. Presidents, war heroes, astronauts. Privates, Majors, Generals. And now, just in maybe an hour or two, there will be another Captain among them. Captain Laura Cadman-Lorne, United States Marine Corps, Atlantis Expedition. Such a great honor. And such an irony that this is about the last place he'd wanted to do this. Not to mention that he never wanted to do this at all. But she died, and now he has to bury her.
He still wishes he could have buried her in Colorado Springs, near to the Mountain, near to him… near to everything she worked so hard for to get it. Or at least in Chicago, near to her parents and brothers. But it had to be Arlington or nowhere, because he'd dared to go and marry her. But how could he have not married her? They'd been at war, they'd been in love and he would have done it anyway, so why wait? Of course there had been about a million reasons for waiting to do this, but none of them counted when it was about her.
And that's why you're bitter about having to bury me here? That you think it's a punishment? God, someone really messed around with your head, Evan Lorne. He shakes his head, a little furious. Ever since after kind of waking up from his shock induced stupor when he arrived back on Earth on the Daedalus, three weeks after he left the Pegasus Galaxy together with Rodney McKay and Jennifer Keller for good, he keeps hearing her voice in his head in the oddest moments. Like now, fifteen minutes before the guests for her funeral are due to arrive. And he just can't get it out of his head. It's really irking him, because deep down that feels like going crazy.
He hasn't told anyone about this, and he tries to simply ignore it, but it's kind of difficult, because she mostly speaks up to admonish him, kick his ass, hit him over his head whenever he starts to struggle with his fate or sink into brooding about what he did wrong and how he could have prevented all of this happening. She'd been there in his head shortly before he'd knocked on her parents' door to tell them about what happened to their daughter, telling him to go easy on himself. She'd also been there when he'd knocked on his parents' door to tell them that he was back at Cheyenne Mountain, urging him to let them console him.
Both times… he'd really wanted to heed her advice – telling himself that it was in fact he who came up with these ideas – but hadn't been able to. That's because you're a stubborn mule who thinks he can fight out everything with himself and doesn't need others' help. There she is again, not amused. But he simply can't help it. Ever since Jennifer Keller told him that she never made it through that one attack on them, he feels like a part of him is damaged beyond repair, simply shut off from the rest of his body. He can even pinpoint which part exactly that is: His heart.
Even if he wanted to tell his grief to others he simply couldn't. How could he explain to his parents this overwhelming feeling of loss, like his heart has been ripped out and never replaced, only a gaping hole left behind? How could he talk to them about Laura when he feels like words beyond the necessary ones for fulfilling his duty have simply left him? How could he let them touch him when he feels like only one simple gesture of affection might send him over the edge, destroying the fragile shell of isolation he has built around himself, to keep him from falling apart?
Hey, weren't you the one making me see that I needed to let people close if I wanted to survive? Indeed that had been him. She'd come back to Atlantis to try again with Carson Beckett, only to see him die a few weeks after that a second time on some mission to help refugees from Michael's onslaught. If he hadn't been there to pick up the pieces, it would have destroyed her. And now that his life is in pieces, the only person who he would have let him pick them up is dead.
God, Evan, don't be an idiot. You have someone to pick them up with you. In fact, don't you dare telling me your sister didn't do a terrific job in the last week. His sister. Well, yes. But "picking up the pieces"? More like nagging him and prodding him and prying to make him talk to her. While his parents had merely had their suspicions that something bigger than just "losing a base" had happened to him and chosen to leave him alone, until he would probably come and tell them about it on his own, his sister had realized pretty fast that he'd never come and talk to her if she didn't make him talk.
A week after he'd come home, he'd realized he couldn't take it anymore – his parents tiptoeing around him, throwing him wary glances, but pretending to think it was perfectly normal that he was doing everything stone-faced and practically not talking anything at all. One day he'd just taken the keys to his parents' summer residence on a beach a few miles down from San Francisco, left them a note about his whereabouts and got the hell out of his parents' house in Frisco.
He'd been out on the beach, probably for hours, when suddenly Anna had sat down beside him. For a very long time, neither of them had said anything. The weather had been terrible, windy and rainy, but that had been irrelevant. To him, it hadn't mattered because nothing much matters anymore anyway, and to Anna it probably hadn't mattered, because the only thing she cared about in that moment was her brother. So after what had seemed like an eternity, she'd simply said: "I won't be leaving until you tell me what turned you into someone I barely recognize."
Laura's voice inside of him had simply said Listen to that woman, flyboy. She's making sense, unlike you. Anna had, though, to say similar things about three or four other times, until she'd gotten any response at all. And she'd had to threaten him with getting their mother on the case before he'd finally given in and told her about Laura. Haltingly at first, simply not able to utter something about her without his throat constricting and his tongue refusing to work, but growing stronger with every patient nudge from his sister.
He'd told her everything – well, everything within the bounds of secrecy – from the very early days on the Daedalus, where Laura had been just one of the many Marine officers headed for a tour on Atlantis – although a pretty one – to their first weeks of service, how they'd become co-workers, the fateful day the Doc died for the first time, then slowly becoming friends… and then his struggle to help her coping with the Doc's second death and them both realizing that they had stopped only being friends already quite a while back.
He'd told Anna about marrying Laura, but only briefly, because he still recalls all too well how happy they had been that day… without any other care in the world than each other. Just for this one day, he'd forgotten all about that wretched war. It had also helped others take their minds off death and destruction. Jennifer Keller had gone out of her way to find a white dress for Laura… she'd even made sure that there was some sort of a bachelorette bash for Laura, and Rodney McKay had, for once, refrained from any snapping. Samantha Carter, strictly against the thing at first, had been one of the donors for Laura's "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue".
And talking about their time after being married… had simply been impossible, because even more than a month after her death it still feels all so unreal. Sometimes he still catches himself at expecting to see Laura coming through a door at every minute or to see her beside him when he wakes up or hear her sing completely out of tune in the shower. Hey, I never sang out of tune! You just never remembered the songs the right way. Now he can even see her indignant face right in front of his eyes, her folded arms, her foot tapping. Oh God, how he misses her.
"You know, you don't have to do this." He turns around to see his sister approaching. He's still not quite alright with her attending the funeral, but after she'd squeezed everything about Laura out of him she'd simply refused letting him go alone. In fact, letting her come with him had been the only way to avoid her telling their parents about Laura right away.
"Yes, I do. She was my wife and my subordinate. No way I'm going to let some Corps padre or some big shot guy from the brass speak here about her." Once upon a time you used to be some big shot guy from the brass. He had two weeks time for preparing himself to speak about her in front of all these people. He really should be able to do this.
"Evan… honestly. After what happened the last time you talked about her…" He closes his eyes, not wanting to think about this. But he's already back inside his parents' cabin, shortly after finally walking back alongside the beach with Anna, silent once again. She'd gone upstairs, to unpack, but for some reason his own strength had only lasted as far as the couch opposite the door. He'd sat down, put his face in his hands… and ten minutes later his sister had found him curled up on the couch, silently sobbing because his grief had finally broken through. He knows he'll be forever grateful to her for simply putting one of their mother's quilts over him and sitting down on the floor beside his head, patiently waiting until he had fallen asleep.
"I'm an officer of the United States Air Force, Anna. I think I'm able to keep a stiff upper lip when I have to." You know, I always preferred it when you kept other things stiff. He nearly gasps, because he can see her face lighting up in a wide grin and hear the rich laughter that would have followed this clearly in his head. This has to stop. If he ever wants to get back to business as usual again, this has to stop. Because every time he hears or sees her in his head, the spot where his heart used to be just seems to ache a little more acutely.
His sister wants to give something back, but now all the other guests are arriving one by one. Laura's parents – still thankful that he took it upon himself to organize everything – both her brothers and their significant others, lots of people who are either related to her or know her from her time in the Corps or at school, Rodney and Jennifer McKay, Sergeant Will Meyers and his wife Jessica… I told you, you aren't alone in this. But you just never listen to me.
There's an awful lot of condolences and somber faces and hushed talking, but eventually, all are seated and he steps up the podium. It's windy and rainy, just like last week at the beach, but today there's the trees' leafs rustling rather than waves crashing. He takes a deep breath and then starts to speak, thanking the relatives and friends for coming, in a controlled and almost detached voice. When he's through with the formalities, he has to take another deep breath.
"In my first draft of this speech, I wrote about what a good soldier Captain Laura Cadman-Lorne was, listing all her qualifications, achievements, talking about her integrity, her courage, her loyalty… but then I realized that this was how a superior writes about a subordinate, and Captain Cadman-Lorne – Laura – deserves much more than this. She wasn't only brave and intelligent, she was also… witty and had a temper to boot. She could reduce a disobeying Sergeant to rubble with that razor-sharp tongue of hers and light up a room simply by smiling. She wouldn't take crap from anyone, least of all from me." Here he has to pause, because the lump in his throat threatens to shut him up, but reminding himself of the fact that she would want him to buck up and simply go on makes him able to continue speaking.
"But underneath all that bravado and that big mouth, there was a woman… a woman who could love unconditionally. There were days when the only thing able to pull me through a mission was the unwavering certainty that she would be waiting for me when I got back, ready to glue me back together, no matter how her own day had been. And there were days when her laughter was all that I needed to make my world right again. She was, in short, my life, and I… loved her. I wish I told you at least once, Laura, and I'll miss you."
I know, flyboy. I've always known, and I'll miss you, too. She's there again, smiling at him, albeit a little sad. Don't push me away again, idiot, because I have a few more words to say. At first he wants to, but when this jarhead has set her mind on something, nothing can convince her to change it. I know you, Evan Lorne. You'll build up your walls and won't let anyone in. But promise me that it won't stay like this forever. Take your time, but don't build those walls so high that no one can ever tear them down again. He really wants to promise her, but right now it feels like those walls are the only way of staying sane. Hey, look, I'll promise you something in return: We'll meet again. Not tomorrow and not next year – hopefully – but I'll be over there, waiting for you. Until that: Live your life, become a General, find another wife… only don't hide yourself away and drown in your grief. You're far too cool for that. She gives him a wink. I'll leave you now, but I won't say farewell. I'll simply say good-bye… I'll find you when the time comes. With that, she turns around and starts walking away from him, over the wet grass, sauntering through the rows of headstones. Shortly before she disappears, she half turns around again, laughing and blowing him one last kiss.
He swallows and after another shock second, he simply says: "But I won't say farewell, jarhead. I'll simply say good-bye." With that he steps away from the podium, letting the military formalities take over. He feels strangely spent, but… some of the tension inside of him has eased away and the empty spot of his heart… feels a little less sore. You won't have to find me, jarhead. I'll go looking for you first, when the time comes. Until that: Wait for me. I'll be a good boy, I promise., he finally answers her.