The Ones That Break You
Evan Lorne lay on the floor of his quarters panting for breath, fanning one leg side to side. He'd never found himself upside down during sex before—at least not for more than half a minute—and his skin was still flush from his ears down.
"That was… athletic," he commented, flopping his arm toward Sheppard and ruffling his hair since it was the only part of Sheppard he could reach. The only way he'd gotten out of the headstand was by going into a handstand, which was a difficult balancing act since his body had still been connected to Sheppard's at the time. "And look," he said, pointing to the clock on the wall. "Still ten minutes before your sparring session with Teyla."
"I might have to delay that," Sheppard said, panting.
Lorne smirked proudly. It wasn't difficult to wear Sheppard out, but it was difficult to get him to confess it. "Did I wear you out, baby?"
"You could say that."
Summoning his strength, Lorne rolled onto his stomach to admire Sheppard, who was sprawled on the floor like he was. The floor was easier to dry off than the bed, but mostly they wound up down here because it was so damn hard to roughhouse on those small beds. Last week's concussion had led to a stern talking to by Beckett—one of the two people on the entire base who knew about Sheppard and Lorne's relationship.
Scooting forward on his elbows, Lorne dragged his body toward Sheppard's, leaned over his face, and gave him an upside down kiss. "Haven't put your pants on yet. Is that an invitation?"
"Just tryin' to cool off," Sheppard said, closing his eyes, looking like he was trying to get to a zen state. Lorne laughed at him. Sheppard hated meditating and sitting still. Grabbing his canteen, Lorne squirted water on Sheppard's chest. Sheppard gave him a threatening look and they laughed together, but when Sheppard didn't launch an attack immediately after, Lorne became concerned. Finding his t-shirt, he mopped the water off of Sheppard's chest. They kissed, but it was the smooth, gentle kind that Sheppard used when he wanted to sleep.
"Roll over. Let me cool off the other side," Lorne said, trying to sound more playful than concerned. Sheppard complied easily, which is somewhat of a relief. If he were seriously hurt, he'd have put more energy into denying the fact.
Lorne checked Sheppard's ass, his fingers barely eliciting a flinch from his lover. Sheppard;s hole was raw, but not bleeding. Still, Lorne made a mental note to use more lube next time. He went ahead and squirted water over Sheppard's back and mopped it up with the shirt, trying to catch all the sticky parts on Sheppard's skin. It wasn't until he got bored and started rubbing Sheppard's shoulder that he caught a tiny little flinch. Lorne tried again, pressing his fingers against Sheppard's shoulder directly and Sheppard hissed.
"Okay, now you're just looking for trouble," Sheppard grumbled, rolling just enough to show he didn't want to be touched, then lying flat again. Ignoring him, Lorne probed the injury and Sheppard writhed.
"This is already swollen stiff," Lorne observed. "When did this happen?"
"Last night, on the mission," Sheppard dismissed. Lorne could tell by Sheppard's face that Sheppard was putting a lot of energy into not moving or showing signs of pain, so he carefully positioned Sheppard's arm by his side and left it alone.
"You might have told me before I put you in a double shoulder lock," Lorne carped, trying to make light of the injury.
"How was I supposed to know you'd do that?" Sheppard retorted cheekily. "We've been sparring together two years and you've never done that."
"I do it every week in training!"
"In demonstrations. Not in an actual fight."
"I've blown you from that position," Lorne pointed out. Sheppard clammed up predictably at the mention of sex. He could be shy about things like that but Lorne didn't mind. When they were actually having sex, it was damn easy to tell exactly what he did and did not like.
"Can we not talk about this?" John said, pillowing his good arm under his head so that he could hide his face.
Lorne frowned, but dropped the subject. He found his pants and a fresh shirt, and Sheppard didn't move.
"Do you need ice?" Lorne asked.
"That'd be nice."
Sighing at Sheppard's stubbornness, Lorne pulled an ice pack from his first aid kit. (He'd started keeping basic supplies in his quarters ever since sex with Sheppard became a regular occurrence.) Lorne covered Sheppard with a blanket, held the ice pack on his shoulder, and then tucked his radio behind his ear. Smiling gratefully, Sheppard called Teyla to say he couldn't make their sparring session.
Lorne and Sheppard were used to keeping to their own crowds in public. Lorne hung out with a lot of military personnel, and the junior officers acted weird around Sheppard since he was the commanding officer. When Sheppard wasn't with Weir and McKay, he was with Teyla and Ronan. They were a pretty tight clique. Lorne had skated the edges, but he feared if he pushed in too often, he and Sheppard would be outted. Well, Weir knew, and Sheppard said that Teyla might too. There were still too many eggshells to walk around.
It was late enough that most of the expedition was asleep. There were too many windows in the city to hide the darkness and regardless of the number of hours in the day, people's rhythms aligned to sunrise and sunset no matter what shift they were assigned to. For a little while Lorne had had his ear chatted off by Major Everett—a marine who had just arrived on the Daedalus—but her SG team was leaving in the dead of night so they'd hit their destination world at a decent time of day. Lorne didn't need coffee, but he drank it anyway.
"Mind if I join you?" Sheppard asked, a bowl of potato chips in one hand and a drink tucked into the crook of his arm.
"No, sir," Lorne said automatically. Military protocol in public was second nature to him; they'd been hiding their friendship for so long. "How's the arm?"
"If Beckett had his way, it'd be in a sling," Sheppard said, carefully maneuvering to pull out his chair and set his place with his left arm while keeping his right one braced to his chest. "I don't get to go off world this week."
"Oh, is that why my team got reassigned to McKay babysitting duty?" Lorne asked with a wry smile.
"Don't look at it like that. Look at it as an opportunity to see how impossible dreams really do come true," John said facetiously.
Lorne nearly snorted coffee through his nose. "So how come I only get McKay and not your whole team?"
"Do you really think Ronan would listen to you? He barely listens to me," Sheppard said, swirling his drink in his cup and making a face. He did that when the tea wasn't sweet enough for him. Lorne scanned the tables for sugar, but the cafeteria people had picked them up already for the nightly refilling.
"Maybe he would if you listened to yourself more often," Lorne commented, raising an eyebrow at Sheppard.
"That significant look you're giving me makes me think you're telling me off about the shoulder thing."
"I could have been more careful," Lorne said.
"I was already hurt," John snapped. Lorne gave him a pointed look and they continued to argue with their eyes. When did we learn to talk with our eyes?
"Are you two having some kind of lover's spat?" Ronan asked gruffly, pulling up a chair and inviting himself to join the table. Lorne sat up straighter, surprised that Sheppard had said anything to Ronan; he realized that wasn't the case when Sheppard started sputtering.
"What? No. This is not anything like that. At all," Sheppard protested adamantly. They'd promised not to deny each other if anyone asked directly, and it stung a little, but Lorne wasn't exactly eager to shout from the rooftops that he was fucking his CO.
"I was concerned about the Colonel's shoulder," Lorne said, following Sheppard's lead. He knew from experience the hell of being out. The closet was safe and Lorne's lies were practiced and smooth.
"Whatever," Ronan said, digging into the tub of ice cream he'd brought to the table. It didn't look like Ronan intended to share.
"Hey, Ronan. Since I'm kinda landlocked, why don't you go with Lorne's team this week?" Sheppard suggested, changing the subject and smiling suavely.
"Babysitting McKay? No thank you," Ronan huffed. "Besides, I gotta be here mounting the rescue when he gets captured by the Wraith."
"When?" Lorne repeated, a little offended. He went to rescue Sheppard's team twice as often as Sheppard's team came to rescue his.
Ronan gave him a hard stare that was really a challenge—either Ronan was right or they'd settle this with guns and fists. Pressing his lips together, Lorne backed down. There was a reason he didn't hang out with Sheppard's team.
"So am I supposed to pretend like I don't know about you two? Is that what people do on Earth?" Ronan asked, his attention more on the ice cream than Sheppard or Lorne.
Lorne and Sheppard exchanged an uncomfortable look, but Lorne would defer to his judgment. They didn't really know how Satidans responded to homosexuals, but Ronan seemed okay—he just wanted to know the protocol.
"What exactly do you think there is to know?" Sheppard challenged. Sheppard and Ronan had a silent stare-off and Lorne started to think that maybe Sheppard talked to everyone with his eyes… or maybe Sheppard and Ronan had a history. Finally Sheppard quirked his lips and shifted in his chair, crumbling potato chips between his fingers. "It's not a secret. But don't treat it like gossip either."
"Anyone with a nose can tell," Ronan ribbed.
"Well, I—" Sheppard reached out for Lorne, then hissed and clutched his shoulder.
"Should be wearing a sling," Lorne finished smartly.
"Hey, I get enough lip from Beckett," Sheppard groused.
"God, I hope not," Lorne teased.
Ronan chuckled at the joke and Lorne smirked again.
"Don't you start," Sheppard warned Ronan, hiding his shyness with a defensive edge.
"Oh, I'm not starting," Ronan said, holding up his hands. "I just had this bet with Teyla."
"Teyla?" Sheppard asked worriedly.
"She has a nose," Ronan pointed out.
There was a balcony on the East tower where Lorne liked to paint. Sometimes he'd paint the city or the worlds he visited, but most times he'd paint places he remembered from Earth. Sheppard had gotten him an art book for his birthday, and Lorne was getting better at using light and color. It wasn't a secret that he came out here, and for the most part everyone left him alone. The people on Atlantis were good at that—giving each other space.
Major Everett stalked onto the balcony, arms crossed, lips pursed. She'd seemed so cheery the other day that Lorne knew something was wrong. Maybe something had happened on her first trip off world. Or nothing had happened. A lot of marines got disappointed when their first trip was uneventful.
Trying not to be too disappointed by the interruption, he started cleaning his brushes and waited for her to speak. Everett had an Amazonian, Wonder Woman kind of vibe—tall, strong, and elite. She babbled a lot, but so did a lot of people when they first came to Atlantis. It was a pretty overwhelming experience, and it always took a week or two to find a rhythm.
"Is it true? You're homosexual?" Everett asked, her voice tinged with disappointment.
"I beg your pardon?" Lorne said, wiping the paint from his fingers, fervently ignoring her tone.
"Is it true?" she demanded, turning her accusing brown eyes on him.
Lorne smirked. His armor was thick and his lies practiced. "I don't see how it's your business one way or the other."
"You were flirting shamelessly with me the other day. If I weren't so flattered by it, I'd have filed a sexual harassment complaint," she snapped, stepping closer. She had two inches of height on him, but he'd faced the Wraith.
"I was not flirting. I was being social," he deadpanned, packing his brushes away carefully. Even if she left right now, she'd put him out of the mood for painting.
"Oh, come on. You were practically groping me," she cried.
"No, I'd remember that," Lorne said snidely. He'd give her a fight before he gave her a definitive answer.
"Was that all for show? Did you think I wouldn't figure it out? I will not be your beard!"
Lorne took a deep calming breath, wondering what had sourced these accusations. He'd come across the occasional jilted woman before, but soldiers were usually more level headed. His leadership training told him to make an 'I' statement. "I'm feeling a little attacked here."
"You're an abomination," she seethed. "You shouldn't even be on this expedition."
"Major—" he warned.
"Don't you 'Major' me. We are the same rank and I will talk to you like an equal."
"You're not really talking. You're making wild accusations," he said, planting his feet and glaring at her.
"You're a sodomite. You're as vile as the Wraith!"
The words created a crack in Lorne's thick armor. Suddenly, Lorne cocked his fist, swung hard, and connected with Everett's jaw, knocking her out cold. She fell, tipping his easel, sending his painting flying over the edge of the balcony and into the water below. He wanted to kick Everett over the edge too, but now that she couldn't talk, it was easier to contain his surging rage. He folded his easel, crushing the tripod in his fist, fighting the urge to break things—or to break down.
He paced the balcony one more time, then tapped his radio. "Colonel, there's been an incident."
To say Sheppard was disappointed would have been an understatement. Sheppard was livid. The incident involving Major Lorne's fist and Major Everett's face reminded him of exactly why he'd never fucked anyone under his command before. It was complicated as hell. He was so used to looking at Lorne and reading the situation off the other man's face before a word was spoken between them. Lorne had just stood there on the balcony, holding his easel and his brushes, offering the barest of explanations. Even after half an hour of berating, Sheppard was still guessing.
"She asked to be treated like an equal," Lorne shrugged. Everything he said was like that. Vague. It was pissing Sheppard off.
"And you thought knocking her out cold was a good way to settle this argument," Sheppard countered. He was only assuming there was an argument, because he knew Lorne didn't hit people just for showing up.
"She's a military officer. I thought she'd block," Lorne said wryly, bringing up his fists. Sheppard was not amused. "Hey, if she'd said to Ronan what she'd said to me, he'd have shot her dead."
"You're not Ronan," Sheppard seethed. "You're held to a higher standard. What did she say to you?"
"I'd rather not say."
"You don't have a choice, Major," Sheppard said, emphasizing Lorne's rank. Lorne should know better than to let a few words get to him.
There was a flicker of emotion in Lorne's eyes, but he buried it quickly. "She claimed I sexually harassed her."
"Well, the assault charge is going to look really nice next to that, don't you think?" Sheppard commented irritably.
"No, sir," Lorne answered. The emotion flickered again, and suddenly Lorne's eyes were on the floor. He still stood at attention, chin up, posture perfect, but his ears turned light pink. She'd really gotten under his skin, and it was strange that he'd try to hide it rather than defend himself.
"There's more?" Sheppard prompted.
"Sir, I respectfully decline to answer at this time," Lorne said, forcing his eyes up, but looking at nothing. His jaw set and his muscles were tense. It was like interrogating a prisoner of war. John considered playing the friend card, but it didn't seem right.
"You're confined to quarters until further notice," Sheppard said. "Dismissed."
Major Everett was new to Atlantis. She was the daughter of some General somewhere who had some sway with someone. She wouldn't have been Sheppard's first choice to import, but by all accounts she was an excellent warrior with a strong moral code. Within an hour of arriving, she'd informed him that she would not condone or support mistreatment of Wraith that had turned human. If Sheppard's moral code had allowed it, he'd have taken her to witness a culling and asked her to reconsider.
"Major Everett. How are you feeling?" Sheppard said evenly, waving to her as he entered the infirmary. Her injuries were minor—a blackened cheek and a concussion.
"Is that monster still on the base?" she said, her lips curling in distaste.
"Was there a monster I should know about? We get those on the base from time to time." Sheppard said sardonically, not trying to lighten her mood so much as his own. He got defensive when she called Lorne names, and as the CO, he didn't have the liberty to be defensive right now. "From what I understand, you had a disagreement with Major Lorne. Major Lorne is in his quarters."
"He should be rotting in the brig," Everett said, gingerly touching her jaw. "And everyone like him."
Sheppard didn't know what that meant. "If you have a problem with him, you bring it to me. I'm your superior officer and his."
"I can't work with him, sir. He perpetuates and uncomfortable and unsafe working environment," she said, adopting that same arrogant tone she had in their first meeting. "He started harassing me the moment I set foot on the station."
Sheppard fidgeted, resisting the urge to throttle her for lying. There had to be a reason for it. Maybe Lorne had been possessed by an alien consciousness. Stranger things had happened. All the possibilities made him more worried for Lorne than Everett. "Can you be more specific?"
"He put his hands all over me," she said, squirming like she'd just been coated in hot tar.
"I doubt that," Sheppard said.
"It would be his word against mine, and don't believe I won't take this higher up the chain of command if that's what it takes to get rid of him," she said, her jaw setting, her eyes glimmering with anger. "If I hadn't stood up to him, he would have raped me."
"Let's focus on what he did, not what he might have done," Sheppard said. He was getting farther with her than Lorne, which was good, except for the fact that even hearing the story from her side made his blood boil. She spun a yarn that Sheppard did not believe for a second, but he recorded it all because he was required to. Unfortunately, they didn't have security footage of that particular balcony. He needed to talk to Lorne.
If Everett had had her way, there'd be guards posted at Lorne's quarters, but Sheppard wasn't about to waste the manpower. He was still worried sick. The daughter of a general who knew somebody someplace could do a hell of a lot of damage to Lorne's career—drag his name through the mud, and tie him up for years getting scanned for alien parasites. It was probably a good idea to get Lorne scanned for general Goa'uld-iness or something. The notion scared Sheppard more than he cared to admit.
After talking to Everett, he decided he needed to take a run to cool off, and his feet ran straight to Lorne's quarters. The run forgotten, Sheppard knocked tentatively. Lorne still hadn't changed out of his painting clothes, and when Sheppard came in, Lorne stood at attention.
"At ease, Major," Sheppard said. Lorne didn't move. Frowning, Sheppard shifted gears, getting ready for an uncomfortable talk about feelings. "Evan?"
Using his name had the desired effect—it signaled the change in relationship and the reason Sheppard was here. The emotion on Lorne's face that Sheppard had only seen flickers of before rose completely to the surface, but it was not anger. It was pain and sadness. Lorne's chin quivered slightly, then he walked away, taking a seat in the room's only chair, which he'd dragged over to the window, and positioned facing out.
"Talk to me," Sheppard said, coming into the room and sitting on the bed, hoping Lorne would come to him there so they could sit together.
"Conflict of interest, sir," Lorne said, his voice cracking with emotion.
"Damn straight," Sheppard said irritably. "Look, I can pass off this case to Colonel Caldwell. I can't pass you off. Teyla doesn't get the whole Earth politics thing and Ronan… well, he's not much of a cuddler."
Lorne laughed, then covered his mouth as the release brought up a sob as well. He reined it in again quickly. The more raw Lorne's emotion became, the more it hurt Sheppard to see.
"I don't know what you did to piss her off, but she's got a powerful hatred built up and she's planning to destroy you," Sheppard said, hoping that would get him somewhere.
"If I defend myself, it might destroy me anyway," Lorne said. Even with Lorne's back turned, Sheppard could see the way he twitched and fidgeted, struggling for control.
"Tell me the real reason you hit her," Sheppard said. Direct questions often begat direct answers.
"She said I was as vile as the Wraith," Lorne answered directly. It was honest, but still vague, and more a reason for Teyla or Ronan to get pissed than Lorne.
"And what, you've never been called names before?" Sheppard asked snippily.
Lorne jumped out of his chair, face red, fists cocked. "Get out," he seethed.
Sheppard was surprised by the outburst, but glad for it. This was closer to talking than they'd been since this whole mess began. "No."
"Get out! Get out!" Lorne bellowed, charging forward, fist flying. Sheppard blocked the punch easily, but he'd forgotten his injured shoulder. Feeling the joint snap, he hollered, doubling over in pain. Lorne's tone changed, but Sheppard couldn't make sense of the words with all the black spots and spinning in the world.
Lorne lay on his side in the bed, his back turned to Sheppard. He knew he needed to stay near and attentive in case something bad happened, but it was hard to look at Sheppard while his mind was spinning about ways to break up with him.
Abomination, as vile as the Wraith…
Lorne hadn't heard words that hateful since he'd come out to his family. It was why he never came out to his friends—why he'd always looked for a fling and never a lover. There was too much to lose.
"How long have I been out?" Sheppard asked, groaning and peaking his knees on the bed. It amazed Lorne that they'd stayed together so long he could actually tell what Sheppard was doing on his side of the bed by the way the mattress moved.
"A few minutes," Lorne said, staring at the giant numbers on his clock. The tears he refused to let fall made the numbers blurry. "Sorry."
"The shoulder thing is not your fault," Sheppard said adamantly, putting a hand on Lorne's back. "I'm sure this thing with Major Everett will blow over. Based on what she said, I think she's got you confused with someone else?"
Lorne scooted back, getting a little closer to Sheppard. He wanted desperately to believe this would all get swept under the rug somehow. "I don't know, Sheppard. How many other 'vile sodomites' do you know that are disgracing Atlantis with their presence?"
Sheppard started. "Wait, what?"
"I don't know how she found out," Lorne murmured forlornly, the first tear betraying him by rolling down his cheek and splashing on the pillow.
"What!" Sheppard cried again, sitting up sharply. "Excuse her for living! I need to go blacken the rest of her face."
Lorne hooked his arm around Sheppard's waist before Sheppard could dart from the bed. "You can't. Conflict of interest."
"Damn it," John said. "She's messing with my sweet cheeks. I should tell her. I wanna see the look on her face when she realizes the shit she's in. Do you want to be there?"
"No!" Lorne cried, horrified by the notion. Sheppard fidgeted, then slumped against the headboard.
"I'm sorry. You look like you're bleeding out and it pisses me off," Sheppard snapped.
Lorne let go of him, turning his back again. It was a mistake to talk about these things now, especially with Sheppard too injured to fight back. "Then you should leave. I may look like this for awhile."
Sheppard sighed irritably, then scooted close so that his legs pressed to Lorne's back. Leaning over, putting his cheek next to Lorne's he said: "I can't kiss it better?"
"No," Lorne said tiredly, closing his eyes to keep from being swayed.
Sheppard wasn't leaving. That much Lorne could tell. Reluctantly, Lorne rolled onto his back and offered John his hand. John accepted with a grateful smile at first. He sat there, watching expectantly, waiting for Lorne to say something, but Lorne wasn't interested in speaking. Eventually, John got bored and laid down, linking his arm with Lorne's, keeping their hands entwined. After an hour, John started dozing. Lorne sighed, feeling lonely. In trying to protect his heart from Everett's words, he'd opened a Pandora's box and unleashed a litany of painful memories.
"You're an abomination, you demon child! I never want you in my house again!"
"I hope you die in that war. At least then you would have done something honorable with your life."
"Evan, your grandmother died. Don't come home. She didn't want you at the hospital, and she doesn't want you at the funeral either."
Lorne squeezed John's hand desperately and John stirred.
"I'm awake," John grunted, squeezing his hand back.
"My grandmother died hating me," Lorne said shakily, feeling his soul go cold at the confession. It was hard enough to say that much, so giving Sheppard any context was out of the question. Another tear rolled down Lorne's cheek, but Sheppard dutifully kept his eyes averted.
"My wife left," John said a few minutes later.
Lorne blinked in surprise. There was so much they didn't know about each other—so much they never found out because this was never meant to be serious. "You had a wife?"
"Bi. Did I not mention that?" John said tersely. Lorne shook his head. John's lips quirked and he squirmed uncomfortably. "I never told my grandma. Or any of my family."
Lorne took a deep breath wondering how his life would have been different if he'd followed a path closer to Sheppard's. "Did you tell your wife or did she catch you with someone?"
"Hey, I resent that," Sheppard said, smacking Lorne lightly on the side of the head. "I'm a faithful guy, and I never cheated on my wife."
Lorne pressed his lips together apologetically; words would have been wasted between them.
"It was the job more than anything," Sheppard said quietly, worrying Lorne's hand in his. "Well, she said it was. It didn't help, though—her knowing. I don't even know why I said anything to her. It was all just a theory until I met you."
"What was?" Lorne asked. It was rare to hear Sheppard prattle on about anything.
Sheppard became even more uncomfortable, combing his fingers between Lorne's and staring fervently at the ceiling. "Men."
Lorne's jaw dropped, but he tried not to stare at Sheppard. "Am I your first?"
"I'm sure I mentioned it," John said dismissively, looking pained by the implication.
Lorne shook his head, half-smiling. A lot of things started to make sense about Sheppard—the way he tensed all the time during sex and how it took forever to get him loose. He felt honored that Sheppard had taken so many chances with him.
"You got any aspirin in here?" John asked.
"Headache or shoulder?" Lorne asked, brushing Sheppard's cheek with the backs of his fingers, feeling special despite everything.
"Shoulder," Sheppard said.
"Come here, I can fix that," Lorne said, opening his arms. With a smile, Sheppard nestled in, tilting his injured shoulder so that Lorne could massage it. The swelling seemed to be getting worse. "Is that good?"
"Pretty good. It'd be better if you moved that massage a little further south," Sheppard said, slipping one of his legs between Lorne's thighs.
Lorne shuddered, but forced himself not to throw Sheppard off the bed. "Think of all the reasons you wouldn't dare tell your grandma about us. Then I dare you to ask me again."
It hurt to make the threat, but he knew Sheppard would understand. They settled into each other's arms and Lorne tried to convince himself that he was safe with Sheppard. But once a man is betrayed by his family, it's hard to trust anyone completely.
Weir wasn't used to seeing Major Lorne's name come up in incident reports unless he was reporting or resolving them. Lorne loved his worked, got along well with his colleagues, and was bound to get promoted sooner rather than later. He'd come to Atlantis by way of the SGC. Even when he'd been forced to confess his relationship with Sheppard, the only thing that had riled him was that Weir hadn't realized what he was saying. It would have helped if he hadn't had a tube down his throat at the time.
Major Everett's accusations were concerning, and Weir did not take any form of sexual harassment lightly. Some people said that women in a male-dominated workplace just had to develop a thick skin and deal with all sorts of flack, but Weir did not hold to that, nor did she tolerate such behavior. Weir knew Everett's family, and had fought to get her on the team here.
Since she wouldn't have a chance to talk to Everett until her team returned from off world, Weir decided to talk to Lorne. She was surprised when Sheppard answered the door, clothed but shoeless, looking like he'd been there for awhile. Weir knew their relationship was serious, but she still hadn't expected to see it.
Sheppard stepped aside and motioned to Lorne, who sat alone by the window. Both Sheppard and Lorne were more inclined to face the Wraith than their own emotions, and Lorne looked like he'd had a trying night.
"Colonel, will you excuse us?" Weir said.
"Sure," John said, slurring the word like a warning. Finding his boots, John sat on the bed to pull them on. He moved very slowly, favoring his injured arm. The brief conversation alerted Lorne to her presence and he stood at attention, all trace of emotion and weariness locked away.
"Good morning, ma'am," Lorne said politely. He was still in sleep clothes.
"Major," Weir greeted, accepting his words as an invitation to come closer. Because John was here too, she felt like she was invading something very private. "I heard there was an incident. I was surprised to see you were involved."
"This is a military personnel issue," Sheppard protested, the warning in his voice rising.
"I asked you to leave us alone, Colonel," Weir said sternly.
"Just on my way out," he sneered snippily. Weir had seen him get protective over Ronan and Teyla; even if Weir could force him out of the room with a pointed glare, he wouldn't go far.
"I'd like to hear your side of the story, Major," Weir said when Sheppard finally closed the door.
"Major Everett was on a hateful rant and I lost my temper," Lorne answered stiffly. According to Sheppard's report, that was as much story as Lorne was willing to tell. Everett had been significantly more verbose and damning.
"Almost a perfect dismissal, except for the assurance that it would never happen again," Weir commented, tapping her fists together, feigning a quandary. "My retort was sort of centered on that."
The only indication that Lorne had heard her was the slight tightening of his throat muscles. He remained mute.
"I see," Weir said, even more disappointed. "What was it about the content of this hateful rant that pushed you over the edge?"
Tension rippled through Lorne's body and his eyes went dark and distant, holding back a reservoir of emotion. "I've said all I would like to say."
"Major, I asked you a question, and I expect an answer," Weir said solemnly.
"There's nothing I can do, ma'am," Lorne said, his teeth chattering, he was so tense. "I'd apologize to her for losing my temper, but it wouldn't make a difference."
Remorse was a good place to start. He looked seriously shaken and maybe Everett wasn't the cause so much as the straw that broke the camel's back. Weir tried to think back to all the missions Lorne's team had been on of late, but aside from the usual things trying to kill him, nothing traumatic and new had occurred. "Major, I'd like you to make an appointment with Dr. Heightmeyer."
Lorne's eyes went wide with panic which quickly mixed with some other internal conflict. "Why?"
"You struck a fellow officer in a fit of rage. That's not like you, Major."
Some of the panic subsided, and Lorne nodded obediently. Then he collapsed in his chair and buried his face in his hands, breaking the aura of unaffectedness he'd been trying to put forth. Weir was so concerned that she nearly called Dr. Heightmeyer herself. Deciding that she'd wait and let the man have a little dignity, she headed out and left Lorne in peace. When she got outside, John was leaning against the opposite wall, bracing his injured, right arm against his chest and trying to make it look like a casual pose.
"He seems a bit sensitive," Weir said, not sure if she was speaking to her chief military officer or Lorne's friend.
"Don't say stuff like that. It's emasculating," Sheppard criticized, pushing off the wall and heading back in. He hadn't even tied his shoes.
"I want this resolved, Colonel. I don't like having my two best men off duty," Weir said firmly.
"If I talk to Everett, I might wind up punching her too," Sheppard said evenly. Something in his tone made Weir think he knew more about the situation than had been in his report last night.
"Stay here with him. See if he'll talk to you."
"If the last twelve hours are any indication, it'll be a whole lot of silence."
Weir pursed her lips, frustrated by the situation. Based on the report, Everett should have been the one brooding in her quarters, not Lorne. "Try."
Kate Heightmeyer had pie on the brain. She felt bad thinking about pie when she was in sessions, but she couldn't help her expedition unless she first helped herself… to large quantities of pie. Working around the schedules of the different teams could be difficult, and the number of regulars was becoming large enough that she'd put in a request to have more counselors brought in on the next trip from Earth.
"Dr. Weir asked me to make an appointment with you," Major Lorne was saying. He'd called by radio, politely making sure he wasn't interrupting anything before putting in his request. The phrasing was a dead giveaway that he thought this session was unnecessary. She could count the number of appointments she'd had with Lorne on one finger—he'd been ordered once before after a near-death experience.
"When would you like to talk?" Kate asked. The order must have been recent because usually Kate got a heads up from Weir before hearing from military officers. That may bode well for this session.
"The sooner the better."
"How about tonight?"
Terse. Vague. Her inner therapist was already analyzing the information. He probably needed clearance to go on some mission or other. His type honestly worked out more issues by going on deadly missions than by being kept from them and sent to therapy.
"Major, am I correct in assuming you intend to sit in my office for an entire hour and say nothing."
"Talking won't change what I am."
What I am? That was a loaded statement that Kate needed to get to the bottom of, and he was making it perfectly clear that it wouldn't happen in her office.
"Okay, how about we stipulate that the hour of silence occurred, hang the appointment, and get some pie from the cafeteria," she suggested. "The Daedalus brought fresh apple pie and I've missed it the last two times because it ran out so quickly."
She heard Lorne chuckle softly over the radio and she took that as a yes.
"I'm getting in line in about twenty minutes. Meet me there?"
By the time Kate made it to the pie line, it was already out the door and into the hall. Everyone was being given tickets as they arrived in line so that no one could line crash. Kate had to sacrifice five spaces in line to stand next to Major Lorne, but it seemed silly to drag him out this way and not stand next to him. He was being polite, yet reserved, choosing his words carefully. Kate wished she had taken the time to talk to Dr. Weir about why she'd ordered Lorne to come to her.
They were just starting to cut the last slices of pie when she and Lorne got their pieces. The smell of cinnamon, cloves, and baked apple filled the cafeteria.
"Dr. Weir is going to ask about our session," Kate said, after they'd gotten their food and broken far enough from the line that their conversation was relatively private. Lorne frowned, looking betrayed. She supposed it was a little devious, bringing him down here for pie and then talking shop. "I'd like to tell her you're fit for duty, but I need a reference point. I don't even know what this is about."
Lorne didn't answer. It was probably a mark of respect that he conceded to continue sharing a table with her. Dropping the subject, Kate offered him a bright smile and motioned toward the pie. She groaned happily as she tasted it.
"The rumors did not do this pie justice."
"It was definitely worth twenty minutes in line," Lorne agreed, eating his pie carefully almost daintily, making her feel like a pig for the way she shoveled it hungrily into her mouth. It was interesting to watch his approach to the food—like he was afraid to love it as much as he did.
"My grandmother used to make the best apple pie," Kate said, closing her eyes with the next bite, thinking about home.
"Mine too," Lorne said quietly.
"I tried her recipe once and set my oven on fire," Kate said, laughing. She looked across the table to share the laugh with Lorne, but he was sitting frozen, fork half way to his mouth. "Are you all right?"
"I think I'm going to be sick."
"From the pie?" she asked, disheartened. She glanced sadly at her own half-eaten piece and his. "Do I have time to wrap these up?"
"I can get to the infirmary on my own," Lorne said, shoving his plate toward her, his face going pale as he stood. "Thanks for inviting me."
Sheppard had run out of excuses for his shoulder. Beckett was finally getting his way, but he wasn't just putting the arm in a sling, he was splinting the damn thing to Sheppard's chest. Sheppard was going to have to come here every time he wanted to take his shirt off, but Beckett assured that this was the fastest way to heal the swollen rotator cuff. Three days. Four tops.
Forty-five minutes later, Sheppard had been scanned, poked, and probed a frustrating large amount considering he hadn't been off world in three days. When he saw Lorne running into the infirmary, he decided he'd switch to good patient mode so he could hang out and check in on his friend.
Lorne staggered in about two steps, found the nearest biohazard waste bin, and puked his guts out. One of the nurses came to check on him, but when Lorne noticed Sheppard, he got tunnel vision and shrugged the nurse off.
"Now what did you do?" Lorne teased, smiling like his old self.
"It's just a precaution. A warning to certain guys not to hit me," Sheppard said.
Lorne's lips parted, catching an insult where Sheppard had intended a joke, but he swallowed any apology. Sheppard tipped his chin toward the bed, and Lorne sat beside him.
"Hello, Major. How long has your stomach been bothering you?" Beckett asked, switching easily to Lorne once he'd finished with Sheppard, shining his pen light in Lorne's eyes.
"A few minutes ago. The apple pie reminded me of my grandmother," Lorne answered.
"The one that died last year?" Beckett asked.
"I can't really treat heartsick. Are you still queasy?" Beckett asked.
Lorne shrugged and Beckett tipped his head sympathetically, leaving Lorne to talk to Sheppard.
"Your grandma died a year ago?" Sheppard asked, finally understanding why the pain was so fresh. "I thought you came out to your family when you were a kid."
"She hated me for a long time," Lorne said, his voice cool and distant.
"What did Dr. Heightmeyer say?"
Lorne shrugged again. "There's no point in talking to her about it."
"Sometimes there is." Sheppard was used to seeing Lorne this way—easygoing and unburdened. He knew they were both broken inside. Neither of them wanted to hash out the details of pasts so messed up that they needed the Stargate to get them away from. But it bothered Sheppard that Lorne had been heartsick and alone.
"What's she going to do?" Lorne asked sharply, his defenses rising. "Cure me by hypnosis? You think my parents didn't try that already? You think they didn't try everything?" His voice crescendoed, then he went suddenly quiet. "Everything. They were going to try an exorcist next. Had one lined up, but I joined the Air Force and shipped out before… Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I stayed—if my grandmother would have ever accepted me again."
There was nothing in that statement that didn't horrify Sheppard. The bits and pieces that had slipped out over the past few days, the bleeding pain, the incident with Everett. Your family's not supposed to be the one that breaks you.
Sheppard wanted to take Lorne's hand, but Dr. Heightmeyer showed up. Sheppard waved her away, but Lorne summoned her back smiling socially, his emotions locked away again.
"John, you need to taste this pie," Lorne said, smiling like he wasn't hurt at all.
Ronan pretended not to understand all the Earth political bullshit, but he knew his own people had been short-sighted once. If all humans spent even an hour being a runner, they'd understand just how shitty the bullshit was. As a runner, he'd learned that he could bring the Wraith on anyone that offered him help. He made sure people understood the cost of charity, and he made sure to protect and honor those who helped him. Ronan didn't like people messing with his friends.
As women on the base went, Everett stood a head taller than the rest. She had blown off his group training sessions twice already, but he'd watched her spar with people from Earth on occasion. She was as arrogant as McKay, which might have been an okay trait for a computer wiz, but was reckless in a warrior. Ronan gave her three missions before she received a fatal injury. His predictions weren't often wrong.
"Hello," she greeted when he came into the gym and got in her face. Her dark brown hair was pulled into a messy braid and she tucked a few loose strands behind her ear, batting her eyelashes at him. "You're that Satidan man aren't you? Ronan? You're more handsome up close."
"Are you kidding me?" Ronan growled, bored by her advances.
"Absolutely not," she crooned, touching his arm. Ronan snapped, grabbing her wrist, ready to break it in half. She defended herself well, twisting out of the hold, then smiling coyly at him. "Sorry. Is that too forward?"
"Are you going to set me up too? Like you set up Lorne?" Ronan accused, cocking his fists, letting her know the fight wasn't over.
She dropped her hands by her side and smiled disarmingly. "I didn't set him up."
"He never touched you and you know it," Ronan seethed.
Everett crossed her arms. "He's a brutish, perverted sodomite and he shouldn't be allowed here."
Ronan huffed incredulously. "You think Sheppard's just gonna send him packing? Who do you think Lorne has been sodomizing?"
Everett stuttered. Ronan raised his brow, glad he'd gotten a rise out of her. A part of him worried he'd just betrayed Sheppard and Lorne's trust.
"I don't know what your problem is with them, but if you keep coming after my friends, I'll slit your throat," Ronan threatened.
"I could have you arrested for talk like that," Everett said, her self-assurance returning.
Ronan circled her dangerously, closing his hand over her throat. "Earth has no jurisdiction over me. Now you take back all those lies you've been spreading and you keep away from my friends. Understand?"
He pulled on her neck. It would be so easy to snap it right now and end this, but then he'd probably have to leave Atlantis. He backed out of the room, arms open, inviting her to come after him so he'd have an excuse to hurt her.
"This is not over!" Everett seethed, glowering at him.
In an instant, Ronan had her pressed against the wall, his knife to her throat. "It can be. Right now if you want."
Everett seethed a moment longer, then pouted, looking like a chastised child. Rolling his eyes, Ronan let her go, not afraid to turn his back this time. The pathetic bitch stamped past him out of the room.
Lorne was emotionally exhausted, but slowly on the way to shelving the pain of old family issues. These things never resolved so much as they disappeared into the background. Like any battle scar from any other war, he could choose to wallow in the pain or move on. It had been awhile since the wounds felt so fresh. The conversation he'd had with Weir that morning consisted mostly of her profuse apologies and stern admonishments, telling him not to put up with shit like that ever again. It was supposed to be a win for him, but it felt more like an ass-rape. She told him to take the rest of the day off and be ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.
The cafeteria was buzzing with the in-fluxing lunch crowd. Lorne didn't want to be alone, but he wasn't sure how to be social, so he kept his head down on the table and his face buried in his hands. Everett had given him a new thing to torture himself over—the way he interacted with the new female officers. Maybe he'd flirted a little; maybe he'd been too lax about physical contact. He'd dragged enough wounded soldiers back from combat zones, and it was difficult to remember where the boundaries were.
Hearing Sheppard talking to Ronan and Teyla, Lorne considered sitting up so Sheppard wouldn't feel obligated to leave his friends and come over. Suddenly their voices surrounded him and the table shifted as trays clattered into place. Sheppard squeezed his shoulder by way of greeting, but continued his story to Teyla and Ronan about the AFL playoffs. Chuckling to himself, Lorne kept his head buried in his arms.
"Major Lorne, we thought you would like to know that Major Everett is heading back to Earth on the Daedalus today," Teyla said, sounding grateful for the excuse to interrupt Sheppard's tale.
"He knows. He's just being semi-anti-social," Sheppard said, letting his hand slide from Lorne's shoulder to his waist. Lorne shifted just enough to nudge Sheppard off—which earned him a pat on the ass instead. "Come on, sweet cheeks. Head up."
Lorne's ears turned bright red at the endearment, his humiliation growing as Ronan started snickering.
"I told you!" Ronan guffawed.
"I see and yet I still do not believe it," Teyla replied. The implied gossip made Lorne's ears burn hotter.
"A bet's a bet. That Athosian sweetbread you've been hoarding is mine," Ronan ribbed.
Lifting his head, Lorne peeked at the two, hoping they were too engrossed in their ribbing to notice his flushed cheeks. "If I'm responsible for someone winning sweetbread, I should get a slice."
"What bet?" Sheppard demanded.
"We had a wager as to whether you two were secretly cute," Teyla replied, laughing and looking a little embarrassed.
"It's not really secret if we're doing stuff right in front of you," Sheppard pointed out.
"Hey, don't mess up my chances of getting sweetbread," Lorne protested, giving Sheppard a light shove. Sheppard's whole right arm was still in that immobilizing brace, and Lorne didn't want to slow his recovery by being too rough.
"I'll get you your damn sweetbread," Sheppard whined, giving Lorne's arm a pinch.
"When I go to the mainland, I will bring back some to share if I can," Teyla assured, holding her hands up like she was brokering a peace between Sheppard and Lorne.
Biting his lip, Lorne folded his arms and rested his head on the table again, this time looking sideways at Sheppard. It was difficult to look at Ronan and Teyla—impossible to believe they'd had a wager about him and Sheppard being cute… with no mention of unnatural behavior or eternal damnation. Sheppard noticed Lorne staring and leaned sideways, putting his arm around Lorne's shoulder.
"If I had two good arms, I'd hold your hand while I ate, but I only got the one good arm, so I'm just gonna hold you," he whispered, like he was explaining a battle tactic. Boldly, Sheppard leaned in and kissed the corner of Lorne's mouth. Surprised, but touched, Lorne tilted his face toward Sheppard, completing the kiss, eyes closed. For a moment, the world melted away and no one else was there but him and Sheppard. Then the panic set in.
Pulling back, Lorne sat up and wiped his mouth self-consciously, shooting warning glares around the room to anyone who had dared see and judge. His eyes landed on McKay who had pulled a chair to the head of the table and was staring, dumbstruck.
"I seem to have missed something important," McKay remarked, his head cocked to one side, his mouth hanging open in surprise.
"I'd catch you up, but I think I've embarrassed Evan enough for one meal," Sheppard said, giving Lorne a friendly pat on the back, then picking up his fork to eat.
"Hmm," McKay said, slinking into his chair and munching on his sandwich. McKay is okay with this too? Nervous, but emboldened, Lorne slipped his hand under the table, resting it on Sheppard's thigh. He needed the reassurance, but he was still afraid to take it in public.
"'Hmm.' That's it?" Lorne asked anxiously.
"Hmm?" McKay said again, looking up in surprise, as though his thought train had already gone a million miles from the conversation. "Oh, am I supposed to give you the third degree? Okay, um. On a scale of one to ten in which I am a thousand, how smart would you say you are?"
"Excuse me?" Lorne choked, his hand tensing on Sheppard's leg.
"Well if you can't understand a simple question, I say we're off to a bad start," McKay whined, rolling his eyes.
"McKay, don't be a jackass," Sheppard warned through a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
"Hear me out," McKay said, lifting a protesting finger to Sheppard, then turning to Lorne. "You see, Sheppard is quite smart—he could have been mensa—and I don't think he's living up to his full potential. I'm trying to evaluate whether you would bring him up or drag him down."
Lorne had heard about this 'third degree' thing. When he'd gotten through his teens without experiencing it, he'd figured he was scott free. Swallowing hard, he glanced at Sheppard for guidance, and Sheppard just gave him that knowing grin that made Lorne forget there was anyone watching. "Oh, I bring him up," Lorne assured, smiling now that he'd clued into the prank.
Ronan snickered and Teyla smacked his arm. McKay looked clueless for a moment, then groaned.
"As touched as I am by your concern, Rodney," Sheppard began, snaking his arm around Lorne's chest. Then he paused and stared at Lorne. "I can't remember where I was going with this sentence."
"Sorry if I think you're capable of doing more than flying puddle jumpers and blowing things up," McKay said irritably.
"I do a lot more," Sheppard growled hotly in Lorne's ear. Lorne shuddered nervously at the public attention.
"Wait, you're not joking?" Lorne asked, staring openly at McKay. Suddenly he wished he'd just picked a number.
McKay frowned. The pain that Lorne had been working hard to bury resurfaced, along with the wish that his family had been half as accepting of him as the four people at the table with him right now. Now that he knew it was possible and what it felt like, he wanted it. Closing his eyes, he dropped his head back to the table and fought to keep his emotions in check. Sheppard kissed the back of his neck, then rested his chin on Lorne's shoulder, giving Lorne a hug with his one good arm. The flood of relief nearly undid him, but he swallowed hard and focused on breathing in and out.
"Just out of curiosity," McKay said, dropping his voice and leaning toward Teyla, "How long have I been missing this?"