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Bad Dates by Leah [PG]
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Summary: "Your Gift's like noticing a dead monkey?"

A Lorne-centric story set in the same Gifts AU as Aegis and Winking Out.

Categories: General
Characters: Aiden Ford, John Sheppard, Major Lorne, Original Character, Rodney McKay, Ronon Dex, Teyla Emmagan
Genres: AU - Alternate Universe, Character Study, Friendship, Team
Warnings: None
Chapters: 1 [Table of Contents]
Series: Gifts

Word count: 4998; Completed: Yes
Updated: 17 Sep 2007; Published: 17 Sep 2007

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Story Notes:
This takes place shortly after Winking Out by Squeaky, with many thanks to her for the lovely fic!

I also want to thank Springwoof, my co-writer on Aegis and The Body Holographic, for the speedy and encouraging beta.

This story is for Squeaky, who wanted a story starring Lorne with this particular Gift. She also suggested the conversation at the beginning and the title. She rocks. :)


"No, really," McKay said. Again. He tried to lean around Lorne so he could badger Sheppard directly, which jostled Lorne badly enough that his newly-full plate of whatever the hell stew it was almost slid right off his tray onto the mess hall floor. Luckily, only a little bit of the sauce sloshed over the edge and onto his shirt. "He should be on our team," McKay insisted. "We need him on our team."

"Major Lorne needs his own team, Rodney," Sheppard said with the kind of fond patience Lorne associated with kindergarten teachers. The Lieutenant Colonel smiled at the helpless Marine on KP duty with bright, gleeful resignation that somehow also managed to be so deeply flirtatious that the young man blushed and fumbled the cup of soup so that he spilled a little of it as well.

Lorne rolled his eyes.

"Yes, well, I know that!" McKay said. He glowered at Sheppard, who blithely ignored him. "But I'm sure that since the Major would be doing an invaluable service to humanity"--Lorne could practically see the capital letters--"in that he'd be making sure I don't get inadvertently poisoned every time you force me to eat off-world, that in this case Elizabeth would make an exception."

That did get a reaction out of Sheppard. "I force you to eat off-world?" he asked, obviously astounded. "I'm usually the one telling you to stop--"

"I dunno, McKay," Lorne said, interrupting Sheppard before he could get up too good a head of steam. He smiled at the Marine behind the counter as he received his own cup of soup. "You got that new guy, Ronon." He glanced at Sheppard, eyebrows raised innocently. "I think it would be unfair to have so much overwhelming coolness on the same team."

"See?" Sheppard asked McKay as they threaded their way through the lunch crowd to a table with Lorne following. His expression was completely serious. "Having Lorne and Ronon would make all the other teams jealous."

"Oh, please." McKay rolled his eyes now. "Like that's not the most--oh, hey, guys," he said, as Sheppard set his tray down on the same table where Ronon and Teyla were sitting. Ford was there too, at the far end, with one of the members of his own team. He smiled at McKay and Sheppard and gave them both a little wave.

"Hey," Ford said in acknowledgement of McKay's greeting.

McKay smacked his tray down next to Sheppard, decisively enough that the plastic plate, bowl and cup rattled. "Aiden," McKay commended, pointing at Lorne. "Tell the Major here that I'm absolutely vital to the continued existence of two entire galaxies, and therefore need him on Sheppard's team to make sure I stay alive."

"He means with his Gift," Sheppard said easily when Ford started glowering. He smiled and nodded at everyone as well.

"Oh." Ford looked mollified, but he shook his head all the same. "Figures," he muttered. He looked up at Lorne. "Hey, Sir."

"Hello, Lieutenant," Lorne said. He put his own tray down and sat, doing the required bit of smiling and nodding himself, though he was feeling out of place all of a sudden.

Maybe it was because he didn't have his own team yet, the one guy at the table who didn't. Ford had only just gotten his, granted, but he'd been part of Sheppard's team first, for over a year. Even Ronon, who'd been on Atlantis for barely long enough to take a bath, was suddenly part of the expedition's premier first-contact team. And Sheppard was constantly giving Ronon sly, self-satisfied smiles, like he'd invented the Setadan himself. Of course, Ronon was still glaring at everyone except Sheppard and Teyla, as if he was expecting an attack any second.

Well, he wasn't glaring at McKay either, but that might've just been because he thought McKay was kind of funny. It was hard to tell.

Lorne, on the other hand, seemed to have been brought to Atlantis to do paperwork and shepherd (ha!) the most annoying scientists around on the least interesting missions. Not that Lorne had a problem with Parrish, or anything, but following him around all night on P3M-736 had been like trying to control a highly caffeinated puppy with a thing for radioactive fungus.

To be fair, Lorne knew he was supposed to be using these missions as an opportunity to try out potential members for his own team, but when Weir had told him she'd wanted him to consider taking Parrish on permanently, Lorne had balked.

He'd told her he'd think about it, but he'd been lying. He'd spent enough time with flaky scientists back at the SGC, thank you very much, and the last thing he wanted in a galaxy overrun by life-sucking space vampires was to have to run herd on civilians who were so busy ooh-ing and ahh-ing that they were liable to trip right over a Wraith--which Parrish had practically done--or fall down a really deep hole, which Corrigan had actually managed.

Or get sucked up by a Wraith dart, which McKay hadn't been, but only because his shield had prevented the culling beam from touching him. Lieutenant Cadman had been right next to him, and only her phenomenally bizarre luck had kept her from being atomized when Corporal Kaufman's Gift had blown the Dart up.

McKay had been able to get her re-materialized, eventually, but Lorne was still certain it wouldn't have happened in the first place, if Cadman had been with two other Marines.

So, Lorne was waffling and didn't have a team yet, and wasn't really sure when he would. And it was just a little bit...intimidating, being the new guy surrounded by all these Sheppard groupies. Or maybe it was just Ronon who was intimidating.

"You can save people's lives with your Gift, then?" That was Ford's civilian, an engineer from New Zealand. His real name escaped Lorne entirely, but everyone called him 'Sparky' anyway. Lorne had only met him once, just long enough to shake his hand and list him. Tiny flares of light constantly blinked on and off around the engineer, making him look like he was surrounded by multi-colored fireflies. It was pretty, but must've made keeping a low profile off-world problematic.

"That sounds impressive!" Sparky continued, happily twinkling. "What can you do, Major?"

Lorne's mouth twitched. He took a deep breath and tried for a casual smile. He really, really hated this part. "I can tell if substances are toxic," he said. It was close enough, anyway, and if he was lucky Sparky would take it at face value and Lorne wouldn't have to explain.

He really, really hated having to explain.

"Actually, he can only tell if certain substances are toxic," McKay said, neatly skewering that hope with that particular smugness Lorne had already begun to loathe. "Edible substances, to be specific." He started spooning up his soup so fast Lorne briefly wondered how he could breathe at the same time.

Sheppard took a swallow of his own soup, then looked at McKay and shook his head, smiling with a pleased indulgence that Lorne really, really could not get. He barely knew McKay and he was already wondering how Sheppard could keep himself from shooting him on a daily basis.

Sparky blinked, looking from McKay to Lorne and back, as if wondering which one of them had the better idea of how Lorne's Gift worked. "Edible substances?" he asked, his accent making him sound oddly guileless. "How's that? If you can eat something, doesn't that mean it's non-toxic by definition?"

Lorne took a breath.

"Let's put it this way." McKay scarcely took time to swallow before he said it with rich condescension. "You like eating oranges, right?" He at least let the engineer nod before he went on. "So they're edible--to you. I, on the other hand, am deathly allergic to citrus. One drop of orange juice and I'd die. Lorne's Gift tells him that, who can eat what substance."

Ronon looked at Sparky, then at Lorne. He stabbed a chunk of stewed something or other with enough vehemence to make the entire table jiggle. "Sounds stupid."

Lorne rubbed his forehead.

"How does it work?" Teyla asked, after giving a quelling glare to Ronon. She had broken apart a bread roll and now looked at Lorne, holding a piece in each hand. "If this bread was poisonous to me, how would you tell?"

Ford suddenly started grinning. "It's like, 'bad dates'!" he exclaimed. His smile dimmed when everyone just stared at him. "You know." He put on a strange, fake accent that sounded vaguely Russian. "'Bad dates'. Like in the movie."

McKay looked at him like the kid had grown horns. "Like in what movie? How is Lorne's Gift like a bad date?"

Sheppard had been looking at Ford pretty much the same way McKay had, until he suddenly brightened and snapped his fingers, grinning as well. "Wait. You mean 'bad dates'. Like, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', don't you?" He laughed. "That's a good analogy, actually." He took another spoonful of his soup, still chuckling a little.

"No it isn't!" McKay snapped immediately, in a way that made it sound like an automatic reaction. "And how does 'you can't name anything ever', turn into 'that's a good analogy', anyway? You're being completely inconsistent!" He skewered a bit of stew and chewed it ferociously, as if in emphasis. "And anyway," he said to Ford around a mouthful, "how the hell do you even know about that movie? Weren't you like, sperm when it came out?"

Sparky was just blinking at all of them, looking a little poleaxed. Teyla was looking that way, too, Lorne noticed. Ronon just seemed bored. "Excuse me," Sparky said, "but what the hell is he talking about?"

"You know," Ford said earnestly, "in the movie. There was that scene with Indiana Jones, and he's talking to, uh, his sidekick and that informer guy, and the bad guy's dumped poison on this big bowl of dates, and his monkey eats some and dies?"

Lorne rubbed his forehead again. McKay was all but gaping at Ford. Even Sheppard was looking a little stunned.

"I don't think I should let you explain anything, either," Sheppard said.

"Come on," Ford insisted, a little desperately. "Lorne's Gift is like, Indiana's sidekick seeing the dead monkey, and stopping Indiana from eating the dates!"

Sparky was blinking at Lorne exclusively now. His personal light show was buzzing around like startled butterflies. "Your Gift's like noticing a dead monkey?"

Lorne just sighed. "I'll explain later," he said. He'd never get to eat, otherwise, and he hadn't even touched his meal yet. He put the first spoonful of soup on his mouth. It tasted mostly like tomato, with some other overlaying spiciness that he couldn't identify, but decided wasn't bad. If this was the worst Pegasus cuisine had to offer, he already liked it better than the mess at the SGC.

He was on his third mouthful when Sheppard pinged.

"Colonel!" Lorne surged out of his seat. It felt like his stomach had clenched around the little bit of food he'd had, a painful reaction to the rush of adrenaline. He smacked the spoon out of Sheppard's hand, the tail-end of the movement sweeping the Colonel's entire lunch tray off the table, just missing Ford.

Ronon was on his feet instantly, very big gun out and pointed at Lorne.

"What?" Sheppard was up as well, confusion warring with anger. "Lorne, what the hell?"

Lorne saw an abrupt burst of gold in front of his eyes. He didn't know what it meant. "You can't eat that!" he exclaimed, eyes moving between Sheppard and Ronon.

"Ronon, stop!" McKay shouted at the big man. Everyone at the table was standing now. The other people in the mess were staring at them. "It's his Gift!" he exclaimed loudly, pointing at Lorne. He turned to Lorne, looking anxious. "Is it just Sheppard, or is it all of us? Is the food poisonous?"

"Just Sheppard," Lorne said grimly. He gestured at his tray with his chin. "The soup. Something in the soup."

Sheppard glanced down at McKay's empty bowl, and his eyes widened. "I don't have allergies."

"It's not an allergy," McKay snapped, but he'd gone pale. He tapped his radio. "Carson! Medical emergency. We're bringing Sheppard. He's ingested something toxic." He turned to Sheppard and grabbed his arm, pulling him after him as he stalked away from the table. "Ford," he ordered, voice still crackling like he was furious, "get a sample of the soup and bring it to the infirmary. Teyla." McKay glanced around, at all the curious and increasingly fearful faces. "Stay here and make sure no one panics."

"Very well," Teyla said. She looked like it was the last thing she wanted to do, but she nodded and turned to face the rest of the room. Then Lorne, McKay, Sheppard and Ronon were out of the mess and heading to the nearest transporter.

"How bad is it?" McKay asked him, his voice tight with obvious fear. "Is he--" McKay broke off, glancing at Sheppard.

"I'm fine, McKay," Sheppard snarled. He yanked his arm out of McKay's grasp, but he didn't stop walking. Lorne saw that Sheppard looked a little pale. He hoped it was just because Sheppard was picking up on McKay's anxiety.

Lorne shook his head. "I don't know," he said to McKay. "My Gift doesn't work like that." He swallowed, unconsciously trying to get rid of the acidic taste of the soup in his mouth. Lorne's Gift was still telling him that what he had just eaten was toxic to Sheppard, like a constantly-shrilling alarm. He gritted his teeth.

"This is crazy," Sheppard said in the transporter. "What the hell could be toxic in the freaking soup, for God's sake? And why just to me?"

"I don't know, Sir," Lorne said honestly.

The transporter doors opened and they started down the hallway, moving even faster now, when suddenly Sheppard faltered. He blinked rapidly, putting a hand to his forehead. Lorne saw that he had gone milk-white, and was sweating.

"I don't feel so good," Sheppard said weakly, just before he fell.

Ronon grabbed him before the Colonel hit the floor. He threw Sheppard across his shoulders, and ran.

***

It had been a long, awful afternoon, which stretched into a long, awful night, while they waited to find out if Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard was going to die.

He didn't, though it took until nearly four in the morning before Beckett could finally tell them that.

It was something to do with the Iratus bug that had been chewing on Sheppard's neck over a year ago, and how it had left him vulnerable to certain trace-level toxins that everyone else could metabolize harmlessly, or something like that. Lorne had pretty much stopped listening after Beckett got to the Sheppard was going to be all right part.

McKay immediately demanded that he get to see the Colonel right away, and Lorne was a little surprised when no one argued the point. Then again, as the day and night had wore on McKay had gone from loud and furious pacing to tight-lipped and silent pacing, running his thumbs over the tips of his fingers like he was reading his own anxiety in Braille. When they'd got the good news from Beckett, McKay had sagged against the wall, so overcome with relief Lorne had thought for a moment that the guy was going to faint.

So maybe letting him see Sheppard first wasn't such a bad idea, really. Better than McKay passing out or having a nervous breakdown or something.

Weir gave everyone a cool, professional smile, said she'd come back when Sheppard was awake, and had all but fled the infirmary. Lorne had been surprised by that, too, until he remembered that she was a Receiving Empath. Being around people that anxious for that long must've been hell, though Lorne guessed maybe the relief was actually worse--like when the fight's over and the adrenaline wears off, and you're suddenly so jittery it feels like you're going to shake apart.

Lorne felt kind of like that right now, actually, though he figured his hands were shaking because he hadn't eaten anything since his aborted lunch over sixteen hours before. He thought vaguely about going to the mess, seeing if there was anything safe left over to eat, but the idea of his Gift possibly pinging someone again kept him where he was--sitting on the infirmary's metal floor, nearly squashed between Ronon and Ford.

He hoped he wasn't going to feel like that every time he even thought about eating anything from now on, or he was going to lose a hell of a lot of weight.

"I don't get it," Ronon rumbled suddenly, breaking the thick, exhausted silence that had settled in the room as soon as McKay left. "What do dates have to do with how you knew Sheppard's food was going to kill him?"

Lorne had started dozing with his head titled back against the wall. He exhaled a breath into the air above him. "Why don't we leave the dates out of it, okay?" he said without opening his eyes. "Ford," he added, "I officially forbid you from using film analogies ever again."

"Yes, sir," Ford said mechanically.

"I too would like to know how your Gift works, Major," Teyla said. She was sitting on the other side of Ronon. The last time Lorne had looked at her, she'd been cross-legged with her eyes closed and her hands on her knees. He thought maybe she had been meditating. "I too must admit that Aiden's explanation, while...interesting, was not very clear." Lorne still had his eyes closed, but he could hear the smile in her voice.

"Yeah, yeah," Ford muttered. "Make fun of me. Glad to know that hasn't changed." He sounded so much like McKay it was eerie.

Lorne cleared his throat, then tilted his head forward and opened his eyes. He figured he'd better be awake for this one. He turned his head so he was looking at Teyla, who politely leaned forward, so he could see her on the other side of Ronon. "Remember when we first met, and I tried to shake your hand, and you did that Athosian forehead-touching thing with me?"

Teyla smiled. "Of course."

"Right." Lorne rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, when we did that, I...well, I call it 'listing'. I listed you." He gestured at his head. "It kind of gives me an, awareness of you. It's hard to explain."

"You mean like Corrigan?" Ford asked.

"He's got that human lifesigns detector thing, right?" Ford nodded, and Lorne shook his head in response. "I can see why you'd think that, but no. Most of the time, you're just...." He gestured at his head again, feeling ridiculous. "You're just there. I'm not even conscious of it. But after I list you, if I ever taste anything that would be harmful to you if you ate it, I know."

"That's really weird," Ford said. "I didn't know it worked like that." He paused. "So, when you shook my hand...?"

"Yup." Lorne nodded. "I listed you, too. I've pretty much listed everyone on base."

"To be certain that you will know it if you eat something we cannot," Teyla said.

Lorne nodded again. He rubbed the back of his neck, thinking he might be blushing. "Yeah, pretty much."

Ronon grunted. "Didn't touch me."

"Nope," Lorne said. He looked at Ronon and smiled apologetically. "I wasn't sure you were going to stay."

"S'Okay," Ronon said. "I was on a lot of planets as a Runner--never ate anything I couldn't handle." But he suddenly slapped his enormous hand over Lorne's forehead, cupping the front of his skull. He kept it there for a long moment, while Lorne didn't dare move. "That do it?"

"Uh-huh," Lorne said. Ronon pulled his hand away, and Lorne gave his head a quick shake.

"Good," Ronon said, flexing his hand.

"You've really been, what is it, listing everyone on the base?" Ford asked, blinking.

Lorne nodded again. "It's kind of a habit." He shrugged, feeling embarrassed. "It's not like it makes a difference."

"Did now," Ronon said.

"Yeah," Lorne said, thinking about it. He'd been considering skipping lunch entirely, just to avoid having to eat with McKay. He shivered. "This is the first time I've ever...." He broke off. It seemed too much to say saved someone's life, since Beckett and the two Healers had done that. He'd just given advance warning that they'd have to. "This is the first time my Gift's ever alerted me about someone who didn't already know about a food allergy or whatever," he said. He wasn't entirely sure why he was telling them this, except that he was having trouble getting the image of Sheppard out of his head, innocently swallowing poison. "I mean," he went on, getting worried he might be rambling but not really sure how to stop it, "there were guys--friends of mine--who were allergic to peanuts or seafood and stuff like that. And they'd ping...I mean, my Gift would warn me about them if I ate those things, but it wasn't like they were going to eat it, you know?" He rubbed his hand over his face. "I mean, I've never been in a position to--"

He swallowed. "I'm a geological engineer. My first job at the SGC was running a mining operation." It seemed suddenly important that they know that.

Teyla pushed herself slightly less than smoothly to her feet, but was still impossibly graceful as she walked around Ronon to kneel in front of Lorne.

"I am honored," she said regally, "that you would include me among the people you wish your Gift to protect. Holding the lives of others is a fearsome responsibility." She put her hands on his shoulders and leaned forward, so that their foreheads touched. She held it a long time. "Thank you for using your Gift to protect Colonel Sheppard," she said quietly.

Lorne had to swallow again. "You're welcome."

"Yeah, man," Ford said, once Teyla had straightened. He clapped Lorne on the shoulder and left his hand there. "That was awesome."

"Thanks," Lorne said. He managed a smile.

"Your Gift's still pretty stupid, though," Ronon said.

Teyla scowled at Ronon, but Lorne laughed, grateful. "Come on," he said. "Sparky's Gift is stupid." He turned to Ford, who was looking less than pleased. "Seriously, how can you even take him off-world, if he's blinking all the time?"

"C'mon, guys," Ford said, obviously peeved. "Gordon can control it when he wants to! And he can use the lights to distract people, or even blind them, if he concentrates hard enough. And he's great if you need a flare."

"Or to open a disco," Lorne added sagely.

Ford scowled. "You guys suck."

Ronon snorted. Lorne laughed out loud.

***

Sheppard was still sleeping when Lorne was let in to visit, and he left quickly. It felt a little too voyeuristic, staring at his commanding officer while the man was unconscious. Lorne didn't think he'd want anyone watching him while he slept. It was too intimate, too weird.

So instead he went to his quarters and finally got a shower, then found a snickers bar he'd stuffed into a drawer a few weeks back and wolfed it down, thankful that the only person he knew with a peanut allergy was back on Earth, way too far away to make Lorne's Gift ping him.

He was beginning to think he was going to be eating MREs for a while.

The hit of glucose and protein made him feel better, less shaky, and Lorne decided he might as well get some more paperwork done. Weir had given tacit approval for Ford and Sheppard's team to take the day off, but Lorne didn't feel right doing that, when he was the highest ranking officer on Atlantis who was up and walking around.

He had just pulled on his jacket when his door chimed. He figured it would be Weir, needing him to take over something while Sheppard was laid up, but it was McKay, standing awkwardly and uncharacteristically uncertain on the other side of the door.

"Um, hi," McKay said, giving a stiff, splayed-fingered wave. "Can I come in?"

Lorne blinked. "Well, uh," he said quickly, gesturing at the open door, "I was just about to--"

"It'll only take a minute," McKay said quickly. "Really," he added, and maybe it was how wide and exhausted his eyes looked, or the memory of McKay pacing, fear etched into his face in grim lines, but Lorne wordlessly stood aside and let him in.

"I wanted to thank you," McKay said, as soon as the door had shut behind him. He said it fast, almost blurting it out, as if he didn't think Lorne would let him finish, "for saving John--for saving the Colonel's life, yesterday. That was...." His mouth twitched into a small, wan smile. "You did really good, Major."

"Oh," Lorne said. "Well, uh, thanks." He shrugged, embarrassed again. "It's just how my Gift works, right? It wasn't anything big." It felt strange to have all these people thanking him for something he couldn't control. He tried a grin. "It was really Beckett and the two Healers who did the life-saving stuff."

"No. No, no, no, no, you don't get it." McKay shook his head, suddenly adamant. "Sheppard would have died, Major. If you hadn't...." McKay's lips thinned, and he looked away suddenly. "Carson told me it was a matter of minutes. Minutes. We wouldn't have gotten him help in time."

McKay was looking at him now, but Lorne didn't know what to say. "I'm, uh." He finally settled on, "I'm glad I was there, then."

"Oh God," McKay said. He let out a sound that wasn't quite a laugh, then put his hands over his eyes, rubbing them like they hurt. "You have, you have no idea."

Lorne looked at him, and he was starting to think that maybe he didn't.

The very first time he'd ever met McKay, Lorne had been on the Daedalus all of two seconds when the scientist had come barreling up, snatched Lorne's hand and started pumping his arm like he could draw oil. 'Just introducing myself, Major,' McKay had insisted with something like giddy urgency, "Doctor Rodney McKay--Science Division Head and the most essential man in two galaxies." And he hadn't let Lorne yank his hand free until Lorne had practically shouted, 'yes, yes, fine, it worked, okay?' And then McKay had just grinned, slapped Lorne so hard on the back he'd staggered, then bustled off and started yelling enthusiastically at Sheppard.

And then, naturally, McKay had stared badgering Sheppard, Lorne and Weir about adding Lorne to Sheppard's exploration team. And kept doing it. For the entire trip to Atlantis. It had gotten to the point where Lorne had been thinking that if McKay did ping on his list, Lorne might not actually mention it. Or at least wait a couple minutes.

But that had been before Sheppard had almost died during lunch hour, and now Lorne was pretty sure he had no idea what really made McKay tick at all.

McKay took a breath and dropped his hands, and his eyes were red-rimmed and a little liquid. "I, ah," McKay started. "You should know--I never really thought we could get you on the team. But it wasn't...." He drew himself up. "It wouldn't have been just for me."

"I get that," Lorne said seriously. He did.

***

Lorne didn't go to his office after McKay left. Instead he sat on his bed, looking out one of the typically huge Atlantis windows, watching the sunlight glow on the sides of the towers and sparkle over the distant water.

He'd have to ask for some art supplies, the next time they got a visit from the Daedalus. Lorne hadn't painted in a long time. It might be good to start again.

He stared out the window at the city in sunlight and he thought about Teyla and Ronon and Weir and Ford, waiting in the infirmary for news about Sheppard. All afternoon, then nearly all night, none of them even thinking about leaving until they knew the Colonel was going to be okay. Lorne thought about Ronon, willing to shoot him because he thought Sheppard was being threatened. It occurred to Lorne suddenly that McKay had probably shielded him--that's what the flash was. Lorne had assumed it'd been one of Sparky's lights, but the shield made more sense. Sheppard had told him about McKay's Gift, what it looked like.

Nice of McKay, to do that. Unexpected.

And Lorne thought about McKay, pacing back and forth for hours, looking like he'd been sure that any second his world was going to end. How Ford and Teyla had thanked Lorne, for saving Sheppard's life. How McKay had come all the way to Lorne's quarters to tell him how grateful he was, and McKay didn't seem like the type of guy who liked to thank anyone. Not for real, anyway.

It made Lorne think of Jack O'Neill, and how he looked at Daniel Jackson: with the same kind of fondness--no, with the same kind of affection--that was on Sheppard's face when he looked at McKay.

And Lorne wondered if anyone would be that grateful if his life was saved, if anyone would stand vigil for him. He wondered what Parrish would do, if Lorne ever got so sick he might die.

Lorne watched the sun trail orange and gold over the towers of Atlantis, watch it glitter like Sparky's lights over the endless ocean, and thought about friendship for awhile.

And when Lorne finally left his quarters, he went to find Parrish.

He had something important to ask him.

END