He'd been in Atlantis less than twenty minutes, and already he was disappointed.
Peter Kavanagh, PhD. hefted his duffel bag higher up on his shoulder and felt a sneer pull up the corner of his mouth. He had arrived with the rest of the new staff on the Daedalus almost fifteen minutes previously, but so far the only welcome he had received was some dumbass in a uniform telling him to park by the wall and wait for someone else to show him to his quarters.
Typical, he thought, having to wait for some military monkey to get his thumb out of his ass when I could actually be doing something useful.
Peter huffed out a breath in disgust. He'd just arrived from Earth, for Christ's sake, and he'd come there because Atlantis had been practically begging for an electrical engineer who actually knew his shit. But not one single member of the leadership team had been there to meet him. Not one.
He'd had higher expectations of an expedition with a civilian commander, but clearly Dr. Weir was just like the rest of the clowns at the SGC, only in a more politically--correct package.
Peter grimaced. It seemed like this posting would be a bust just like all the rest.
When he'd first beamed down, he'd spent a few minutes marvelling at the splendour of the Gate room, with its huge, vaulted ceiling and stained glass. But now he was bored and annoyed, and debating whether or not he was going to go exploring on his own, and let his 'military escort' go fuck himself. Sighing, Peter let his duffel fall off his shoulder and onto the floor, deciding that he'd wait a couple more minutes for whatever trained monkey they'd assigned to him to appear. The one bag he'd been allowed to pack was damn heavy, and he wouldn't mind if someone else carried it for a while. He turned to look at the wall behind him.
It was a memorial wall, consisting of a row of neatly framed photos of people in uniform, their names engraved tastefully on silver rectangles underneath.
Peter blinked, and moved closer; pushing his glasses further up his nose to see the pictures better.
Colonel Sumner the first one said. The Colonel's photo showed a middle-aged man in uniform, bush cap pulled low over his eyes. The angles of his face were sharp and hard and he looked like someone who brokered no compromise.
"Bet you're glad you died with your boots on," Peter smirked to himself, and looked at the second framed print.
Dr. Abrams, it read, and the picture was of a shaggy-haired young man squinting off into the sun, like he was looking for something far off on the horizon. Dr. Gaul was the next one, which showed a slightly older man posing formally in the grey-and-blue uniform of the Atlantis scientists, his expression both excited and scared. Those pictures were followed by others: Dr. Wagner. Dr. Johnson. Dr. Peterson. Dr Hays. Sgt. Markham. Cpl. Smith.
Peter swallowed hard and straightened. There were nine men and women on that list. Nine and the damn expedition had only been out there a year. Peter frowned at how dead scientists outnumbered dead military personnel two to one. Typical, he thought. No one gave a shit about the scientists.
He was about to turn back to look for his 'escort' again when something caught the corner of his eye. He moved towards it, realizing that there was a tenth photo on the board. But unlike the others this one wasn't enlarged or framed, and there was no engraved plaque beneath it. Someone had clearly just stuck it to the board with a couple of thumbtacks, close to the bottom edge, and Peter scowled. It was just like the SGC to pick and choose who they would honour based on some unwritten popularity contest. He bent down to look closer at the photo, wondering what the guy had done to merit such little respect
The photo showed a close-up of a man's face, with short, dark brown hair and the edges of a military uniform visible on his neck and the tops of his shoulders. The man was smiling, wide and totally unselfconsciously, and deep enough to show the indent of dimples on both of his cheeks. His gaze was directed at someone unseen, the light hitting his face just bright enough to show that his eyes were a kind of blue in colour, or maybe grey. He had been undeniably handsome when was alive.
He looked happy and confident, like someone you'd want to have as a friend. Inexplicably, Peter found himself reaching out a finger to touch the photo, a strange sadness filling him as he wondered who the man might have been.
"Don't touch that," a voice said in warning.
Peter straightened and turned in one movement, feeling the heat of a blush colouring his face.
There was a young woman in military uniform standing there, glaring at him.
Typical, he thought. He'd been there all of twenty minutes and already he'd done something to piss somebody off. "What?" he sneered. "You're the only one allowed to look at your boyfriend?"
Her eyes narrowed in an expression that could only be called dangerous. "Major Evan Lorne was my commanding officer," she snapped, "and you will show him respect."
I was! Peter thought to himself. It's not like he had tacked up the photo instead of putting it into a proper frame. Peter snorted. "Like he cares."
Her expression turned murderous.
Peter rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah," he said, "I know. You want to kill me. Well, get in line." He gestured at his bag. "So, pick it up and let's get going. I need to unpack and then get to the labs so I can finally do the incredibly important job they're paying me for."
She didn't move, just crossed her arms.
Peter made a face. "Today?"
The soldier smiled in a way that was all menace and no humour. "You didn't say the magic word."
Peter returned his version of her smile. "And you have no idea how many 'magic' words I'm choosing not to say to you right now." His smile dropped. "Now pick up my bag."
She leaned in close. "Now you listen, you little shit—"
"Is there a problem, Lieutenant?"
A tall, lean man with way too much hair for someone in a military uniform seemed to suddenly materialize right beside them.
"No, sir," the woman said, never taking her eyes off of Peter. "Nothing I can't handle."
"Good," the man said. He turned to Peter, holding out his hand. "Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard," he said, "I'm the military commander here on Atlantis. I see you've already met Lieutenant Cadman."
Peter gave Sheppard's hand a perfunctory shake then crossed his arms. "It's about time you got here, Sheppard," he said. "I've been waiting over twenty minutes for someone to show up to take me to my quarters."
"And you must be Dr. Kavanagh," Sheppard said without a hint of surprise in his voice. He turned back to face the Lieutenant. "I'm sorry, Cadman."
"It's alright, sir," she said, hefting Peter's bag. "As soon as I drop him off, he'll be McKay's problem."
"Hello, still here!" Peter said, letting sarcasm drip through every syllable. Typical! he thought again. He hadn't even been there a full half-hour and already he'd been judged and dismissed, just like the SGC. "Can we do the hate-on-Kavanagh shit and walk at the same time?"
Sheppard turned to look at him. "Wow, Kavanagh," he drawled, "pleasure to meet you, too."
Peter scowled at him. "Tell it to someone who cares."
The walk to the residential area of Atlantis was made in near-silence. Sheppard had disappeared almost as soon as they'd gone past the Memorial Wall, leaving Peter with the Lieutenant, who had barely glanced at him since.
Right now, she was walking at a brisk pace, about three steps ahead of Peter, moving like she barely felt the weight of the duffel slung across her back. He would have been impressed, but he was more annoyed by the whole thing. Why every military base he ever went to had such nasty soldiers, he'd never know.
Peter had been hoping for a bit of a tour of the City, or even a brief explanation of whatever it was they were passing, or even where each corridor led, but it was obvious that his 'escort' had better things to do than help him out. That was fine though, Peter thought. He'd figure it out later on his own. He didn't need a hand-up from anybody.
They turned down yet another corridor, and Peter found himself stopping in his tracks.
The corridor ended at a huge balcony that overlooked the Lantean Ocean. The doors that led outside were giant panes of clear glass, allowing for a view marred only by the balcony railings stretching out at least ten yards beyond. Outside the window the sun was just beginning to set, and the sky was painted in multiple shades of yellow and gold, dappling every surface with light. The water was just visible as a thin ribbon of blue at the edge of the balcony's railings, and Peter had a sudden longing to be on the balcony, watching the sun as it slowly lowered into the rippling water.
Cadman turned her head, her eyes narrowed. "Coming?"
He made a face and started walking again, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from the balcony. "Are there rooms overlooking the water?" Peter said, and then grimaced as he heard the sound of pining in his voice.
"Sure," Cadman said, gesturing at a door right at the end of the hallway, right where they were headed. "That one."
"Really?" Peter said, feeling the edges of his mouth curl upwards. He started to walk faster, already feeling the cool sea breeze against his face.
Cadman was staring at him, his duffel at her feet. "Where do you think you're going?"
Peter stopped and looked at her. She was standing in front of the doorway next to the one that led to the room with the magnificent balcony. He pointed. "To my room."
She laughed as she swiped her hand over the sensor by the door. "Dream on, buddy. This one's yours," she said, neatly tossing his bag into the room. She started walking.
"Wait!" Peter called, disappointment making his tone harsh. "Why can't I have that room at the end?"
Cadman looked at him over her shoulder as if she was looking at something particularly disgusting. "That's Major Lorne's room," she said, then turned away so swiftly that Peter could swear he heard the rush of air from the movement of her head. Her walk accelerated.
"Major Lorne?" Peter called after her as she turned the corner. "But he's dead!"
But she had already gone.
"Typical," Peter muttered, and walked back towards his quarters. Even before he looked inside he could tell they'd be the size of a shoebox and even less comfortable. He looked towards the balcony again; then shook his head as he went inside.
Only the SGC would be so ridiculous as to keep a prime piece of real estate for a dead man but not even frame his picture.
"Typical!" he muttered again, and let the door slide shut behind him.
Peter lay on his narrow bed in the dark, staring up at the plain grey ceiling, cursing his life.
It had been two days since he'd arrived in Atlantis, and so far he couldn't tell if choosing to come here had been a complete mistake or not.
The work was great. He'd done more with his training and expertise in the past forty-eight hours than he'd ever had a chance to do when he was back in the States. So far, his main task had been to understand the usages of power by the expedition members, and then maximize energy savings wherever it was possible. He'd already made some small, but what he felt were significant, changes. Like having the lights come on in the training rooms only when people were actually in them, rather than having them blazing all the time. He'd even programmed them to dim if the activities inside were slow moving, such as the Tai Chi or Yoga classes that were sometimes taught, versus the intense martial arts or stick fighting classes that went on almost every day. He thought it would be nice to create an automatically restful environment for activities meant to reduce stress, but had he received even one word of thanks? No, of course not.
Even working for McKay wasn't that bad. The man was an egotistical tyrant who ranted at his subordinates like they were lucky for it, but he never minced words, and you knew exactly where you stood with him. It was clear to Peter that McKay didn't like him, but he was used to that. He just liked the fact that he knew McKay didn't like him. He hated having to figure it out through subtle, yet cruel actions over time, like what had happened in Colorado.
And in Area 51 before that. And college. And high school.
Peter grimaced. Thinking about his past reminded him of the things he didn't like about his present. The work may have been good, but once again, the people sucked. They were judgemental and harsh, just like every other place he'd ever been. And just like usual, no one could handle his plain speaking or the fact he didn't sugar-coat the truth. He'd thought that he'd do okay on Atlantis, knowing McKay's reputation and all, but apparently McKay had some magic cloaking device that Peter didn't have. Some people could get away with murder, and McKay was clearly one of them.
And clearly, Peter was not.
It was okay though. He did his work and kept his head down. At lunch, some of the scientists had tried to eat with him, but he'd scowled until they got the point that he wasn't interested in their pity party on his behalf. The last thing he wanted was to be subjected to the Atlantean Welcome Wagon, like he couldn't handle things on his own.
He was fine on his own. Always had been, and apparently, always would be.
Peter huffed out a breath and turned on to his side, hitting his pillow with a hollow smacking sound. His room was as tiny as he'd predicted, and even worse, the one window was small and looked out into the corridor. There were no windows to the outside, and that was the part that Peter hated most of all. He worked deep in Atlantis in the main lab, and only left it to walk through the indoor corridors to get to the mess. The mess did lead to a balcony, but it was usually always packed with people, so Peter generally ended up eating inside the building or back in the lab.
Considering he was living on a floating city in the middle of an ocean, he might as well be back at Cheyenne Mountain for how often he actually got to see the sky.
"I want that room!" he said to himself, thinking once again of the quarters just one door down that opened up onto the balcony. From what he'd seen of Atlantis' schematics, he knew that room was nearly twice as big as the one he had, and that the balcony would be extensive and private. He could sleep out there if he wanted, and no one could bother him. It made him wonder if Major Lorne had ever slept out on the balcony, letting the sound of the water lull him to sleep under the millions of stars.
An image of the Major's picture flashed into Peter's mind.
The man was dead, and Peter would never know anything about him, and for some reason, that still made him feel sad.
Peter sat up, scrubbing his hand over his face. The man was dead, he thought again, and his room was lying empty and wasted, and that was nearly as much of a crime as the death of the man himself.
"Fuck it," Peter said, and picked up the elastic he'd left on his nightstand, pulling his long hair back into a pony tail. He stood, found the shirt he'd worn the day before, and pulled on his pants. He put on his glasses and slipped his bare feet into his boots and in moments he'd stepped outside to the silent corridor and was standing in front of the door to the Major's room.
Peter smiled at the simplicity of the circuitry. He wasn't the best electrical engineer in two galaxies for nothing. With a satisfying whoosh the door slid open, and Peter was inside.
Peter thought the lights 'on' and stood, hands on hips, gazing around the room.
It was huge, with enough space for a couch, a desk and a bookshelf, and the bed was easily big enough for two people, which was a far cry from the tiny and too-short bed in his room. And just as he'd thought, there were beautiful glass doors that led out to the balcony. And the balcony was big enough for someone to sleep out there, just as Peter had suspected.
Not a thing in the room had been touched.
Peter frowned to himself as he started looking around. Why hadn't anyone packed all this up and sent it to the Major's family? There must have been someone back home that would have liked these small reminders of the man they loved. Gently, he picked up a rock from the bookshelf. It was solid and heavy and strangely warm, shot through with streaks of silver that glinted in the light. He wondered what the story was behind that rock, and why the Major had decided to keep it.
He put it back and traced his fingers on the books on the shelves. There were only a few, probably because of the restrictions on personal belongings, but the Major had an eclectic mix. There were two geology books, two books on how to paint with oils, and one on leadership. All had clearly been read.
And then there were the paintings.
Peter stood back and just looked at the pieces. There were five in total; small and medium-sized canvases showing scenes from Atlantis. The largest was a view of the City from one of the towers, glinting silver and blue from the reflections on the water. The strokes had been sure and deft, illustrating the movement of the light even while emphasizing the alien nature and solidity of the City herself.
Another showed a scene of the Gate room, taken from the balcony. It was of Dr. Weir with her back to the artist, as she stood in front of the Stargate, looking up at the top edge of the ring. There was obvious tension in her shoulders, but a sense of strength as well, like she didn't know what might come through next, but she would be ready.
A third painting showed what appeared to be an Athosian ceremony of some kind. Peter hadn't been there long enough to really meet any of the Athosians, beyond Teyla, but he figured it had to be something like that. The painting was dark, with a rich mixture of browns and greens, punctuated by the orange-yellow of the firelight, and yet Lorne had managed to capture a sense of joy and expectation in the way the figures were staged around the fire, and in the expressions on their faces.
The fourth painting was of a sunset, which Peter immediately dismissed, and he turned to the last one on the wall. Involuntarily, he sucked in a breath.
He recognized Lieutenant Cadman immediately, even though she had been painted out of uniform, her red hair falling in waves to her shoulders. She was standing and laughing beside two men, who were also in civilian clothes. Peter wasn't sure who they were; he thought the tall blond man might have been a botanist he'd seen at their all-divisions meeting held on his first day in the city. The other man was clearly military by his stance and his short haircut and Peter knew he'd never seen him before. But that didn't matter.
What mattered was how alive the painting was, how it showed the intense affection those three people had for each other, their deep respect, and a bond that was almost palpable. These people were a team. Lorne's team. And the Major had painted them to preserve this feeling between them all.
It was almost like he'd known his life was exceptionally finite, and the painting would end up being a moment in time none of them would have again.
Peter swallowed hard, thinking about everything these three people must have lost when the Major died. He wasn't normally so sentimental, but there was just something about the face in that photograph, and the talent displayed in these paintings, that made Peter feel as if somehow the loss was personal.
"Too bad, so sad," he murmured, turning away from the painting, and forcing the sadness to dissipate. It hadn't been his loss, after all. There was no real reason for him to care. He turned to focus on the room. It probably won't be that hard for me to move in my stuff, he thought, I'll just put the Major's stuff into my old room and--
"What are you doing in here?" a voice said. Peter whirled.
It was Major Lorne. His arms were crossed, and there was a hard glint in his eyes that Peter could now see were a light grey in colour.
Peter felt like his heart had just jammed itself into overdrive. Before he could stop himself, the air rushed out of his lungs, and he could feel his consciousness leaving with it. His eyes rolled back into his head, and everything went dark.
When Peter woke up a few moments later, the Major was crouched by his head, his expression a cross between annoyance and concern.
Peter's heart was still racing, but the fact he wasn't either bleeding or dead made him feel a bit calmer. "Thanks for putting me in the recovery position," he groused, because he was still too freaked out to know what to say to a guy that everyone thought was dead, but clearly wasn't. "I could have choked on my own vomit."
The Major frowned at him. "You're fine."
Peter sat up, slowly, because the head-rushes after his faints were killer. "No thanks to you," he whined. "Jumping out at me like that."
"You shouldn't have been in my room." Lorne said, glaring.
They stared at each other, silence settling uncomfortably between them.
"Everyone thinks you're dead!" Peter finally blurted.
The Major blinked. "What?"
"Dead." Peter repeated. "They think you're dead. They've put your picture on the Wall and everything!"
Lorne stood. "I'm not dead!"
Peter stood too, moving carefully in case he'd damaged himself in his faint, but luckily he'd only have a few bruises, nothing worse. He looked at the Major. The man was wearing a clean, broken-in military uniform that fit well over his strong frame. His hair was neat, his face shaven, and except for his unmistakable good looks; there was nothing extraordinary about him at all. Nothing about him indicated anything other than the good health of a living being.
Except for the fact that he was hiding out in his room, letting everyone else think that he had died.
"Everyone thinks you're dead," Peter voiced his thoughts out loud. "And it sure doesn't help with you hiding in here."
"I'm not hiding," Lorne barked. "And who the hell are you anyway?" He took an aggressive step forward.
"Dr. Peter Kavanagh." Peter said immediately, taking a step back with his hands raised. "I'm one of the scientists."
"Then you should know that other people's rooms are off-limits!" Lorne said, taking another step forward. Peter stepped back, and felt the back of his legs hit the edge of Lorne's desk.
"Now just hold on!" Peter said, hearing an unpleasant note of panic in his voice. "If I had known you were in here, avoiding everyone like a hermit, I wouldn't have come in! Next time you fake your own death, you should tell someone!"
Lorne's voice was a growl. "You need to leave."
"And you need to get out more!" Peter said, edging around Lorne and heading towards the door. "Don't think I'm not going to tell people you're in here," he continued, looking back over his shoulder, "because I so—"
Lorne had disappeared.
"Holy shit," Peter breathed. "Holy shit!."
Needless to say, the next day, Peter was highly distracted.
His productivity was way down, and McKay even yelled at him appropriately for once, when his intrusive thoughts kept him from noticing how a particular way he was routing power was actually beginning to overload the circuits intended to receive them.
"Just, just go somewhere, get some coffee or something." McKay had said finally. "You're useless today."
"Pressure's gotten to you already?" Simpson called after him as he stalked out. He gave her the finger over his shoulder and didn't turn around. Stupid blonde bitch.
But he hadn't gotten coffee. He'd gone straight to the Major's room instead, slipping inside like a thief through a window, equally as silent.
The room seemed totally empty.
"Hello?" Peter called, feeling both stupid and scared at the same time. Last night, the 'ghost', or whatever the Major was, hadn't done anything particularly dangerous, except to appear out of nowhere, but things could change. And maybe now he'd be a vicious poltergeist, bent on murdering intruding scientists. "Hello?" Peter said again, this time his voice was barely a whisper.
"What are you doing here?" Major Lorne said from behind him.
Peter spun around, hand on his chest, feeling his heart lurch in fright.
The Major's eyes grew wide. "You're not going to faint again, are you?"
Peter shook his head. "No. Well, I don't think so." He forced himself to breath deeply, feeling his heart begin a more normal rhythm.
"Do you faint often?" The Major asked, taking a step closer as if he planned to catch Peter if he fell.
"It's happened ever since I was a little kid," Peter said. "I get scared, my heart starts to race, and bam! I'm on the floor."
"Why? What causes it?" Lorne asked.
"How should I know?" Peter shrugged. "It just happens."
"Didn't you ever go to a doctor?" Lorne said.
Peter sneered. "Doctor? What kind of wimp would go to a doctor for something like that?"
Lorne raised an eyebrow. "The kind of wimp that faints at the first sign of trouble?"
Peter scowled. "Ha ha."
"Seriously," Lorne said, "you should get that checked out. Make sure you're okay."
"Says the dead guy," Peter shot back. "You're not exactly an expert on healthy living now, are you?"
Lorne narrowed his eyes at him. "I'm not dead."
"Well, you sure are something not normal!" Peter shot back. "How many military officers do you know that disappear and reappear like a ghost?"
"There's nothing wrong with me!" Lorne all but shouted. "It's you who has the problem, the way you keep barging into my room! Now you have two seconds to explain yourself, or I'm calling security!"
"I don't think I need to explain anything here!" Peter shouted back. "I'm not the one who's dead!."
Lorne swung at him, a powerful movement of his arm that should have sent Peter spiralling somewhere far into next week, but instead Lorne's fist passed harmlessly through him.
Peter's immediate shiver had nothing to do with the cold. "Holy shit," he whispered, unable to tear his eyes away from Lorne's hand.
Lorne looked down at his fist, then up at Peter, his expression stark. "What's happening to me?"
"I've been trying to tell you," Peter said. "You're dead."
Lorne sat heavily on the bed, sinking slightly into the covers. "I'm dead," he repeated. He breathed out, and Peter frowned.
"How do you do that?"
Lorne looked up at him. "What?"
Peter gestured at where Lorne was sitting on the bed; "Sit. Stand. Breathe!" he said. "If you couldn't hit me, how can you sit on the bed? And why are you breathing at all?"
Lorne blinked at him. "You expect me to know that? I can't even figure out what happened to make me like this!"
Peter made a face. "You died, duh."
"Thanks for the news report," Lorne snapped back. "But how? How did I die? And when? And why am I like this?"
Peter tilted his head. "You don't remember any of it?"
"No," Lorne said. "Not even a little bit."
Peter felt even more puzzled. "Nothing about your death at all?"
"No." Lorne shook his head. "I can't remember very much, actually." His wrists were resting heavily on his thighs, hands hanging down. His expression was terribly bleak.
"Do you remember what you were doing before you died?" Peter asked, but Lorne just shook his head again.
"How about when you first got to Atlantis?" Peter asked.
Lorne looked at him. "Is that the name of this place?"
Lorne licked his lips. "And my name?"
"You don't remember that?" Peter said, incredulous. He'd always thought your name was as much a part of you as your height or your eye colour.
Lorne's expression sharpened. "Would I be asking if I did?"
"Evan Lorne." Peter said.
"Evan, huh?" Lorne said, "Evan sounds right, but..." he shrugged, then gave a small laugh. "You could've said my name was 'Ivan' and I wouldn't know the difference."
"It's Evan," Peter said with certainty, "and you're a Major in the Air Force. The United States Air Force, that is," he shrugged. "Or at least you were."
"Oh," Lorne said. "I kind of thought I was a painter." He gestured at the paintings. "I sort of remember doing something like that."
Peter glanced at the paintings behind him. "Maybe you were, in your spare time?"
Lorne shrugged. "Maybe."
Peter pointed to the painting of Cadman and the two men. "Do you remember these people?"
"I don't think so," Lorne said, and he looked worn-out, defeated.
"Well, her name is Cadman," Peter said, gesturing at the red-haired woman. "But I don't know the other two."
Lorne's smile was faint. "Well, that makes both of us."
Silence filled the space between them.
"So, you're dead," Peter said, when the silence was beginning to feel too raw. "And you have no memories of how you might have died, and no idea how long you've been...just hanging around like this?"
"Yeah," Lorne said. "Or why. I don't know why."
"So, no white light, or anything?" Peter said.
Lorne half-shrugged. "Not that I can remember."
"Huh," Peter said. "Well, that's not very helpful."
"I'm so sorry," Lorne said sarcastically. "I'll try to do better next time I die."
"It just doesn't make sense that you wouldn't remember anything!" Peter snapped. "What kind of stupid afterlife is that?"
"I don't know!" Lorne replied testily. "It's not like I asked for this!"
"Well, there must be a reason you're like this." Peter said, "It can't just have happened."
"Don't ghosts have some unfinished business?" Lorne asked. "Isn't there something they have to do before they're allowed to move on?"
"I don't know," Peter sneered. "Do I look like I watched a lot of 'after school specials' when I was a kid?"
Lorne cocked an eyebrow at him. "You're not very nice."
Peter rolled his eyes. "Tell me something I don't know."
"Maybe there is something I have to do before I can go," Lorne said. But then his voice dropped. "But I just can't remember."
"Maybe," Peter agreed. "But if you can't remember; it's kind of a moot point, isn't it?"
Lorne sat up straighter. "Someone else will know."
"Maybe," Peter said again. He was looking out the doors to the balcony, watching in admiration as the sun created long shadows as the day slipped into afternoon.
"You can have my room if you help me," Lorne said suddenly.
Peter turned to look at him. "What?"
"If you help me figure out what I'm meant to do before I can leave, I'll let you have my room," Lorne repeated. "Deal?"
"I could just take your room," Peter said. "It's not like you're using it."
"But I need your help," Lorne said.
"Help?" Peter repeated, dread beginning to curdle in his stomach. "I don't think--"
"But I need help!" Lorne exclaimed. "I can't remember anything!"
"Why don't you just go outside and ask people yourself?" Peter said, in what he felt was a very reasonable tone. "You don't need me for that."
"I guess," Lorne said, not looking terribly convinced. "I guess I'll try."
Peter suddenly couldn't bear it. "I'm going to go back to my room," he said, pointing towards the door with his thumb. "I guess I'll, uh..."
But Lorne had already disappeared.
Peter went to lunch.
He was still feeling off-kilter after his interaction with the Major-ghost-guy-thing, but unlike the Major, he was still alive, and therefore hungry. So he headed off to the mess.
He barely paid attention to what it was that ended up on his tray; his thoughts were buzzing as to what actually had happened to Lorne. What had killed him, and why hadn't he passed on to the great white light in the sky? Dr. Jackson had died at least four times by now, after all, so how hard could it be?
But there was no way he was helping Lorne find out why.
Peter actually shuddered at the thought, earning a confused look from the server behind the counter. He glared at her in response.
Peter didn't want to talk to anyone about anything, let alone what they might have known about a dead guy. What if someone started crying or something? Or thought that Peter was being a dick for bringing it up? Not that Peter actually cared what anyone thought of him, but the less people screaming for his blood, the better.
No, the big dead soldier was going to have to solve his afterlife issues on his own, thank you very much. Peter was otherwise occupied.
Feeling a bit more settled, Peter found an empty table near the middle of the room and sat to eat. He picked up his fork, stabbed a piece of what looked like meatloaf, and raised his head to take the bite.
Major Lorne was sitting opposite him at the table.
"Holy shit!" Peter yelled and fell backwards onto the floor, his chair landed with a thud behind him.
The mess immediately went quiet, all eyes turned on him. Peter could feel his face heat with a blush and he glared at the room in general. "My chair slipped, okay?" he said with a belligerent expression.
"Fuck you, too," someone muttered, and the noise of the mess returned to normal.
The Major was standing over him, arms crossed. "I'd offer you a hand up, but..." He shrugged.
"What are you doing here?" Peter hissed at him as he righted his chair. "Aren't you meant to be, I don't know, interviewing your pals about details of your death, or something?" He took his seat and picked up his fork from where it had landed back on his tray.
Lorne sat back down at the seat across from Peter, leaning on his forearms. "Turns out, no one can see me but you," he said.
Peter reared back. "What?"
"Like I said," Lorne said, "you're the lucky guy with the 'sixth sense.' No one else can see or hear me." He sighed deeply. "Believe me, I tried."
"Oh," Peter said, digging into his meatloaf once again. "I don't really see why that's my problem."
"You're the only one who can help me figure out what's stopping me from passing on." Lorne said, waving his hands with vehemence. The tips of his fingers passed through Peter's water glass, not even causing a ripple on its surface.
"Just—just look for the white light, or something!" Peter whispered harshly. "I have way too much work to do to play detective for a dead guy." He glanced around to see if anyone was noticing him talking, but apparently after his tipping chair episode no one could care less about his continued welfare.
Lorne narrowed his eyes, and Peter was struck by how beautiful they were; clear and pure as the gray of the ocean. He blinked to get the fanciful notion out of his head.
"I will make it your problem," Lorne said, with an audible threat in his tone.
"How?" Peter sneered. "By boring me to death with your conversation?" He shook his head and shovelled in another bite of meatloaf. "I'm not too concerned."
Lorne's smile was nasty. "We'll see about that." And then he disappeared.
"Nice start!" Peter said too loudly to the empty seat in front of him. A few people turned to look, but Peter just made a face at them until they looked away.
I ain't afraid of no ghosts! Peter thought to himself, and then laughed out loud.
Peter returned to the lab that afternoon, and immediately realized that the Major was going to make good on his threat.
Lorne parked himself somewhere beside Peter, and started up a running monologue of stream-of-consciousness commentary on everything Peter was doing. It was horribly distracting, made worse by the fact that Peter couldn't speak to Lorne directly without looking like he needed a straight-jacket and a nice quiet stay in a padded room.
"Shut up!" Peter whispered to Lorne once, making the ghost laugh, and earning him a harsh glance from McKay.
"You got something to say to me, Kavanagh?" McKay said, crossing his arms and staring at him.
"If I did, I wouldn't whisper it!" Peter shot back, figuring the best defence was an offence.
"I don't know what's gotten into you," McKay said, shaking his head, "but you are really off your game. Either get it sorted out, or get out, but I can't deal with whatever little crisis you're going through. You have five minutes to get it under control." So saying, he turned back to his laptop, glaring at Peter for good measure.
"You just got me in trouble, you jerk!" Peter hissed at Lorne.
Lorne snorted. "I can do this all day."
"Leave me alone!" Peter whispered vehemently, "I don't need this!"
"And you think I need this?" Lorne said, gesturing at his body. He was standing in the middle of Peter's table, his legs invisible beneath the desk-top. "You have to help me, Kavanagh!"
"All right, all right!" Peter caved. He glanced at McKay, who was now seemingly completely absorbed by his computer and didn't even look up. He looked back at Lorne. "But you let me do it my way, without you materializing all over the place and wrecking my concentration like some kind of vengeful Banquo!"
"Ooh," Lorne drawled, "A MacBeth allusion. Well done."
"Just let me work," Peter muttered.
Peter ate supper in the lab that night, scarfing down a few Powerbars he filched from McKay's stash in the back of the supply cupboard. He pretended he was working late to make up for the time he'd missed that morning ghost-hunting, but he knew it was a way for him to avoid having to go to the mess and perhaps actually talk to people about the recently-deceased Major.
Everyone else had gone to eat already, so the lab was blissfully quiet, and Peter sighed in relief. It's not that he minded the Major's company so much, it was just that a ghost only he could see was incredibly distracting. And the fact that Lorne was impossibly good-looking didn't help much, either.
Great, now you're crushing on a dead guy, Peter thought to himself, then shook it off. Noticing someone's aesthetic appeal wasn't the same as a full-blown crush. It was like noticing that someone was good-looking from their photograph. No big deal at all.
And speaking of photograph, Peter's thoughts continued, I am going to get a frame for Lorne's picture the first chance I get. The fact that the Major's photo remained unframed was really getting to Peter. The SGC should really show more respect to the dead.
"Hey," Lorne said, as usual appearing out of nowhere.
Peter didn't even jump this time, Lorne's appearance seemed like an appropriate extension of his thoughts. "Hey, yourself."
Lorne leaned his hip against the desk, causing his body to sink into it a little. "You're working late."
"Yeah, well, I had to make up for my lack of productivity," Peter said pointedly, flashing Lorne a look.
Lorne laughed. "I'd say 'sorry,' but I'm not."
Peter found himself smirking, too. "I actually thought McKay was going to kill me for a moment there."
"Yeah," Lorne smiled, "and then we'd both be dead, and it wouldn't be quite so bad."
Peter looked at him.
Lorne rubbed the back of his neck. "Sorry," he said, "it's not that I actually want you dead, or anything..."
Peter snorted. "You'd be the first."
Lorne tilted his head. "About that," he said, "why does everyone hate you?"
"Because I'm smarter than them," Peter said immediately. "And I'm not shy about it."
"Okay," Lorne said. "But there are lots of really smart people on this base, and yet, you're the only one that no one likes." He looked at Peter out of the corner of his eye. "Seems kind of strange."
Peter gave Lorne a look. "Oh, do tell," he said sarcastically. "I'm desperate to know the opinion of a ghost!"
"You could be nicer," Lorne said with a shrug. "It might help."
"And I could spend all my time pandering to other people's egos, as well," Peter said. "No, thanks!"
Lorne shrugged again. "Just a suggestion."
Peter turned back to his computer. "I'll take it under advisement." He worked in silence for a while, every now and then glancing at the Major out of the corner of his eye, just to see if Lorne was still there. Lorne seemed content to just watch him work, and it was strange how comforting it was to have his ghost in the lab with him.
"I don't know anything about you." Lorne said suddenly, making Peter jump.
"I like to work in silence!" Peter said tartly. "How's that?"
Lorne laughed. "No, seriously. I don't know anything. Like, where did you grow up? Or why did you become an engineer?"
"I grew up in Michigan," Peter said, not looking up from his computer. "Hayes Township in Clare County." He shrugged. "Not much else to say, really."
"I grew up in--" Lorne stopped. "Okay, something else I don't remember."
Peter looked at him. Lorne was looking down, obviously affected by his lack of memory, and Peter felt something constrict in his chest. "Hayes is a pretty rural area," Peter continued, suddenly desperate to distract Lorne from whatever he was thinking. "It was just me and my mom for the longest time, and I remember how hard she had to work, to make sure there was enough to eat and that I had shoes..." Peter let his voice trail off, feeling his throat tighten at the memories.
"Sounds rough," Lorne said.
Peter turned back to his computer. "It was fine," he said, voice harsher than he knew it had to be. "We got by."
"She must be very proud of you," Lorne said quietly.
"She died when I was sixteen," Peter said curtly, "and she was too deep into the alcohol by then to tell me if she was proud or not."
"Ah," Lorne said, as if he had just understood something, "I guess you've been on your own for a while."
Peter glared at him. "What the fuck would you know about it?"
Lorne's smile was sad. "I think I'm developing a good understanding of being alone myself. Wouldn't you say?"
"It's not the same," Peter snapped. "You had friends."
"That I don't remember," Lorne snapped back. He sighed. "Look." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't want to fight with you Peter. I just--I just want to be your friend, okay?"
"So, I'm Wendy to your Casper?" Peter said sharply, but he couldn't help the upward curl of his lips.
"Something like that," Lorne grinned back.
"Alright," Peter smirked. "Tomorrow. I'll start the hunt for your 'unfinished business' tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay," Lorne said. "And tonight... I think you should move into my room." Peter was surprised to see that a ghost could still blush.
"Oh," Peter said, a bit taken aback. "I thought you'd want me to wait until, well, that white light thing?"
"You're the only one who can see me," Lorne said, holding his gaze. "I think that's dead enough for now."
"Point taken," Peter said.
"Thanks," Lorne replied.
Peter turned back to his work, smiling.
Peter would have said that he slept like the dead in Lorne's quarters that night, but he wasn't sure if the dead did sleep, and he was loathe to ask Lorne for details.
Instead, he just stretched appreciatively in the huge bed, enjoying how the sunlight glittered along the water and the fresh ocean breeze blew gently through the windows he'd left open.
He sat up and put on his glasses, taking in the view again now that he could really see it, and then getting up to use the bathroom and prepare for his day.
"Hello?" he said experimentally, half-expecting Lorne to be wandering around somewhere, just like a real roommate. But the room seemed empty. Peter wondered for a second why that made him feel so alone.
He stayed alone all the way through showering and getting dressed; and on the walk to the mess for breakfast. Normally Peter skipped breakfast, preferring to grab coffee and some kind of Powerbar in the labs, but he had made a promise to Lorne yesterday, and he knew that the best place to find people would be where there was food. Plus, it was first thing in the morning before most people would have had their ersatz Atlantean coffee, which might mean they were too stunned to get mad at what Peter was going to ask them.
Peter grabbed a coffee and something resembling a muffin, and then purposely surveyed the mess to find someone to quiz about the late, great Major. He swallowed against the sick feeling in his stomach, but steeled himself for the task at hand. Peter might faint at the first signs of trouble, but he had shown his whole life that he wasn't a quitter, and he wasn't going to start quitting now.
Taking a fortifying breath, he plunked his tray down opposite Lt. Cadman, pointedly ignoring the deadly look she shot in his direction.
"This seat's taken," she said unpleasantly. "Go sit over there."
"Look," Peter said, "I know we got off on the wrong foot--"
"You were an ass." Cadman cut in.
"--and I'm hoping we can start over," Peter finished. He gave her what he hoped was a charming smile. Her responding grimace told him he had probably missed the mark
"I don't know what anyone told you," Cadman said, with an expression that looked like she had tasted something particularly bad, "but I have a boyfriend, and yes, we're very happy."
"She's dating Carson Beckett, our doctor," Lorne supplied helpfully at Peter's side, and it took all the self-control Peter had to not whip his head around to look at the Major.
"I'm glad to hear that you and Carson are doing well," Peter said, biting off the sarcastic retort that had been his first response. He had a job to do, and putting Cadman in her place wasn't it.
"Oh," Cadman said; a note of surprise in her voice. She looked at him askance. "So, if you're not here for a date, what do you want?"
"Ask her about me," Lorne said before Peter could even open his mouth. "Ask her how I died."
Peter looked sideways at Lorne, wishing he could elbow him in the ribs. "Actually," he said in what he hoped was a casual manner, "I wanted to know about Major Lorne. What happened to him?"
Cadman visibly stiffened at the mention of her commanding officer. "Why do you want to know?"
"Because I'm stuck here!" Lorne shouted loud enough to make Peter wince.
"Because I was struck by his picture on the Wall," Peter said instead, shooting what he hoped was a quelling glance at Lorne but not one that Cadman would notice. "He seemed like a nice guy."
Cadman's smile was wistful. "He's the best," she said. "Well, was, I guess," she amended quickly. "The best officer I ever served under." She pressed her lips together, clearly getting herself under control. "It's horrible what happened."
"What did happen?" Peter asked gently, he could feel his heart start to pound at the thought that she might start crying right there at the table. He hated it when people cried.
"He got hit off-world," she said, looking down at her coffee mug. "We got him back through the Gate as quickly as we could, but..." She let her voice trail off with a small shrug, the gesture eloquent in its expression of her remembered helplessness.
"I'm so sorry," Peter said softly, swallowing against the tightness in his throat. If hearing even this tiny bit about the Major was this hard, how the hell was he meant to help Lorne figure out what his unfinished business was? Even this amount was torture.
Cadman nodded, accepting his condolences. "It's been a tough three months," she continued, "since we lost him. I mean, I know he was a workmate really. But Evan," and here she smiled at the memory. "Evan had a way of making you feel special. He did that for all of us, his whole team. We felt like we were the best damn foursome in the Pegasus Galaxy. It was a privilege to work with him."
"Wow," Lorne breathed, seemingly overwhelmed by what Cadman was saying.
"I wish I could've," Peter said, meaning it. He glanced at Lorne, and then smiled tentatively at Cadman. "Tell me more?"
"Tell me about Major Lorne," Peter said to McKay when he arrived (only slightly late) for his shift.
McKay looked up sharply from his tablet. "Lorne?" he repeated. "Why'd you want to know about him?"
"I don't know," Peter said, handing McKay the cup of coffee he'd brought him from the mess. It had been Lorne's idea to bring McKay coffee, as a way to soften up the grumpy scientist and get him talking. Peter just hoped it wouldn't make him look like he was trying to suck up.
McKay blinked at the coffee. "Thanks," he said, sounding more surprised than grateful. "You didn't poison this, did you? Slip some lemon juice into it when no one was looking?"
Peter rolled his eyes. "If I wanted to kill you McKay, I'd make sure everyone would know I did it so they'd know who to thank."
McKay actually laughed. "Strangely enough, I believe it," he said, and took a long drink. "So, Evan Lorne," he said after he'd swallowed. "Nice guy. Smart, strong, incredibly sarcastic, but his team loved him. It's been hard on Parrish and the others since he's been gone."
"Yeah?" Peter said, leaning against McKay's desk. Lorne was standing in front of McKay, hip deep in the desk and strangely quiet as he listened to Peter and McKay talk about him. "So, what else?" Peter said. So far McKay was only repeating what he'd heard from Cadman; that Lorne was a great guy, but there were no clues to his continued existence on the Earthly plain.
"What else?" McKay said, looking surprised. "What else is there?"
"Any dark secrets? Hidden torments? Skeletons hiding in his closet? Anything?"
McKay scowled at him. "What kind of crazy novels are you reading? The Major didn't have any 'dark secrets!' he was just a nice guy." McKay looked at him again. "Why are you asking this stuff?"
"Great," Lorne muttered, "and my gravestone will read 'here lies a nice guy.' The end."
"Oh," Peter said, feeling strangely disappointed. He had been hoping the mystery would be easier to solve. He moved so that Lorne wasn't in his line of sight. "I was just curious," he said. "Everyone says he's so nice, and I was trying to figure out if it was true."
"It's true," McKay said without hesitation. "Hell, I don't even like the guy that much, but I trusted him with my life. You know," McKay said, eyeing Peter sharply, "it wouldn't do you any harm to take a page out of the Major's book. There's nothing wrong with being nice."
"Like you know what you're talking about." Peter said bitterly.
"Maybe it takes one to know one," McKay said, not unkindly. "Just think about it."
"Thanks, Dr. Phil," Peter spat, and fled back to his desk, stung more than he wanted to admit from McKay's words.
"McKay's right, you know," Lorne said quietly, leaning across Peter's desk. "It wouldn't kill you to be a bit nicer to people."
"Nice doesn't get you anywhere," Peter snapped.
Lorne grinned. "Seemed to work for me."
"Nice didn't get you anywhere but dead." Peter snarled at him.
Lorne narrowed his eyes. "At least I'm missed." And then he disappeared.
"Oh yeah, that was nice" Peter mumbled to himself, but it didn't make him feel any better.
Peter didn't see Lorne for the rest of the day, and Peter didn't talk to anyone else about the Major out of spite.
He was still angry by the time he left the lab, and debated grabbing his toothbrush and sleeping in his old room instead of risking another run-in with the ghost, but Lorne's bed was far too comfortable and he didn't feel like punishing himself. If Lorne appears, I just won't talk to him, he decided.
But Lorne was conspicuously absent, and it was really difficult for Peter to fall asleep.
At least I'm missed. Lorne had said, and in the quiet of Lorne's empty room, Peter couldn't help but wonder what it would be like if he were the one who had been mortally wounded.
Would anyone put my picture on the Wall? he mused, or cry when they spoke about me? Or even give a shit that I was dead?
The truth lodged like a stone in Peter's chest. No one would mourn him if he died, because no one knew him at all. He was sharp and harsh with everyone, a left-over reaction from his unhappy and empty childhood that, right at that moment, he wasn't sure he knew how to break.
"I could be nicer," he murmured into the dark, unsure of what that would look like. But even McKay, for all his gruffness and brutal honesty, had friends who cared for him. If McKay could do it, surely Peter could, as well?
I could be nicer, he thought. He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry we fought," he said to the empty room.
"It's okay," Lorne's voice drifted out of the darkness. "Now get some sleep."
Peter laughed softly and closed his eyes.
"Major Lorne?" Sgt. Stackhouse said, shovelling in a bite of something that looked like greenish spaghetti. "Best officer I ever had."
"Oh yes, definitely," Dr. Parrish agreed with a wave of his fork. "Well, not the best officer I mean, because, well, I'm not in the military. But best boss. He's definitely the best boss I've ever worked with. Or for. The best boss I've ever worked for," Parrish said finally.
Peter resisted the desire to roll his eyes. While it was gratifying to hear, once again, what a great guy Lorne was, none of these conversations were getting him any closer to the truth. According to everyone that Peter had spoken to, Lorne had no faults. He was kind, considerate, a total 'officer and a gentleman,' and apparently had no reason whatsoever for not having fully shuffled off the mortal coil. Peter forced himself to smile. "Anything else?"
Lorne was standing behind Stackhouse, clearly only half-listening to the conversation. He crossed his arms and huffed out a sigh. "Fantastic," he muttered.
"He was a great shot," Stackhouse said, around a mouthful of pasta, "and he could fly the jumpers like stink!"
"Even better," Lorne said sarcastically. "Now say that I bake a great pie and I'll ascend bodily into heaven."
"I think he was lonely," Parrish said quietly.
"What?" Peter and Lorne said at exactly the same time.
Stackhouse was looking hard at Parrish. "You don't know that."
"Yes Danny. I think I do." He turned back to Peter. "I don't know if anyone else thought this, but I always thought Evan was lonely. Like, as good friends as the four of us were, there was still something missing."
"He wasn't lonely," Stackhouse said decisively, glaring at Parrish, "he was just busy. That's all."
Parrish smiled at the younger man. "Loneliness isn't a crime, Danny. Everyone feels it sometimes."
"Yeah, well, he had us!" Stackhouse's expression was mulish.
"Yeah, I had you guys," Lorne echoed. He looked at Peter. "Why does he think I was lonely?"
"But we aren't everything he needs," Parrish said to Stackhouse.
"What about Teyla?" Stackhouse said. He turned to Peter. "The Major and Teyla hung out together all the time. I think they were dating." He said the last sentence directly to Parrish, who just shrugged in response.
"Yes, Teyla and Evan are good friends." Parrish's smile grew sad. "I should probably say 'were' good friends, shouldn't I?" he continued. "It's not like they've been able to talk in a while."
"Teyla," Evan said, thinking. Then his expression cleared. "I know her!" His eyes were shining, and wow, Peter was amazed at how much that hurt knowing it wasn't for him.
"Well, I got to get back to the lab," Peter said, standing quickly. All of a sudden he couldn't take the thought of even one more second talking about the Major and his love affair with the Pegasus Liaison. The man's dead. Peter reminded himself viciously, but it didn't help.
"Good luck finding what you're looking for," Parrish said. His eyes flicked across Stackhouse to rest briefly on Lorne before looking back to Peter. "And if you're talking to the Major, tell him I say 'hi.'"
"Sure," Peter said, frowning. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask Parrish if he knew Lorne was there, but then changed his mind. Parrish was probably just high from sniffing too much alien pollen.
He bussed his tray and started walking slowly towards the labs, his heart feeling like it was twisted in his chest. Lorne had been in love with Teyla! kept repeating in his mind over and over. She must be his unfinished business. Lorne probably needed to share one last, poignant goodbye before he could pass into the great beyond.
"So, you and Teyla, huh?" Peter said bitterly as he trudged along the corridor.
"What?" Lorne said, apparently having been deep in thought. "Me and Teyla? No."
"No?" Peter repeated, "but she's smart, and beautiful--why the hell not?"
"Because... because. No." Lorne said with a decisive shake of his head. "I wouldn't have dated Teyla."
"Oh," Peter said. The sudden joyful rush flowing through his body caught him off guard. And he really, really didn't want to think about that too hard. "So, no girlfriend?"
Lorne's mouth was a thin line. "No."
"So, Parrish was right, about you being lonely," Peter mused. He glanced at Lorne, whose expression had only become more closed. "I wonder if that's your unfinished business?"
"Loneliness?" Lorne scoffed. "Like David said, it's not a crime."
"No, but it might be enough to trap you here," Peter said, warming to the idea. "What if your unfinished business is to tell your crush that you love her before you disappear into the ether?"
"That's not it." Lorne's voice was nearly a growl.
Peter turned to look at him, slowing his steps. They were almost at the labs, and he wanted to finish the conversation before going inside. "How do you know?"
"I just do, okay?" Lorne said.
Peter shook his head. "No, not okay! This is the first suggestion I've had in days about what might actually be your ghostly purpose and you're completely dismissing it! How do you know that this isn't it?"
"Because there wasn't anyone I was crushing on!" Lorne snarled, "Because I'm gay! It would have ended my career if anyone even thought I played for the other team, let alone if I'd 'confessed my undying love!'" He threw up his hands. "Jesus, Kavanagh! Of course I was lonely, but nothing would have changed that when I was alive, so how the hell do you expect me to fix it now?"
Peter blinked. "Wow."
Lorne made a face. "Sorry that's not what you were expecting."
"Oh I don't care!" Peter said quickly, his heart starting to pound and for a fearful second he thought he might faint again until it settled into a more normal rhythm. He's gay! He's gay! Was singing over and over in his head like a cheerful chorus. "In fact, I'm fine with it. More than fine. It's great!"
Lorne was looking at him strangely. "'It's great,'" he repeated.
"Yeah!" Peter said. "Totally great!"
Lorne's confusion became more pronounced. "Are you having some kind of strange reaction to the green pasta?"
"No! I'm fine," Peter said, "it's just--I'm gay too!"
Lorne's eyes narrowed. "Bullshit."
Peter started. "What?"
Lorne started walking towards the labs. "Don't fucking humour me because I'm dead."
Peter had to jog a few steps to keep up. "I'm not humouring you! I am gay! Why else would I say it?"
"Because you feel sorry for me." Lorne spat. He kept walking.
"I don't feel sorry for you!" Peter said loudly. "Well, except for the dead part--"
"--You feel sorry for me, because you know how tough it is to be gay in the military, so you're trying to be supportive," Lorne cut in. "Stop trying."
"I'm not trying anything!" Peter nearly yelled.
Lorne stopped and turned to face Peter suddenly enough that Peter's shoulder slid slightly into Lorne's chest, making him shiver. "Look," Lorne said angrily, "I came to terms with being gay a long time ago. So I really don't need this--" He waved his hand, "misplaced sense of pity to make me feel better."
Peter crossed his arms. "You're an idiot."
"What?" Lorne said, crossing his arms as well.
"I said you're an idiot," Peter glared at him. "Do you really think that I would pretend to be gay to save your big dead feelings?" He snorted. "You must have been shot in the head; because I'm sure you weren't this stupid when you were alive."
Lorne made a small movement like he was going to say something, and then he laughed. "Yeah, you're right, I'm an idiot."
Peter found himself smiling. "Knowing is half the battle."
Lorne looked at Peter then looked away. "So, gay too, huh?"
"Yep," Peter said, "And I'm a 'Gold Star,' too."
Lorne laughed again. "Congratulations."
"I bet you've had sex with a couple of girls though," Peter said with a grin. "Football hero like you; probably had a reputation to protect."
"It was baseball, not football. But yeah, that's right," Lorne chuckled. "How'd you know?"
"You had to do something to make up for that queer artist thing," Peter smirked. "Plus, I'm a genius."
Lorne rolled his eyes. "So, genius," he said, emphasizing the words with air quotes. "What next?"
"I think," Peter mused for a second, "that we go find Teyla, and then we ask her which lucky guy you were panting after. And then we find this guy, and you tell him, and then you cross over into the next world."
"You think that's it, huh?" Lorne said on an exhale. He shrugged. "I don't remember 'panting' after anyone, but then again, I didn't remember my name until you told me."
"Teyla will know," Peter said with confidence, "and then you'll be able to finally rest in peace." Except that the idea felt like a stone in his stomach.
"Great," Lorne said, but he didn't look at Peter when he said it.
They started walking again. "So," Peter said, gesturing at the lab doorway. "You, uh, going to come in?"
"Yeah," Lorne said with a small smile. "I kinda like watching you work."
Peter smiled back. "I wish we'd met when you were alive."
"Yeah," Lorne said again. "Me too."
"Got it!" Peter felt his mouth stretch into a grin as he managed to send the electrical surge back towards the main power grid. He'd been working on that particular problem all afternoon, and it felt very satisfying to have finally wrestled it to the ground.
Lorne was standing just behind the perch Peter had chosen for himself that afternoon. It was a little off to the side of the main lab, and offered him some privacy from the other scientists. It meant that he and Lorne could talk quietly without drawing any attention.
"Good job!" Lorne said from over his shoulder, and Peter turned to smile at him.
Their eyes met, and Peter felt himself suck in a breath. The connection was strong and powerful, crackling like the electricity through the grid that Peter had just tamed. Only he didn't want to tame this feeling.
Only Lorne was dead.
"Peter--" Lorne said, putting his hand out as if to touch him.
Peter took a small step back, unwilling to shatter the illusion that he might feel the contact of Lorne's fingers if they were close enough.
Lorne dropped his hand. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
Peter nodded his head, knowing what Lorne was trying to say. I'm sorry I'm dead. "Me too." He said softly. It felt like his heart was chipping into pieces in his chest.
Peter turned back to his display, all the joy gone from his achievement. After his shift, he was going to talk to Teyla, and then Lorne would be gone.
"I saw the surge capture on my display," McKay said as he wandered over. He had a mug of coffee in one hand and some sort of Powerbar in the other. "That didn't take you as long as I thought it would."
Peter bristled at McKay's tone. He opened his mouth to make a biting retort; then slammed it down behind his teeth. He had made a promise to be nicer. "Thank you." He said instead, only choking slightly on the words.
McKay blinked. "You did a good job," he said. "And, uh, you're welcome."
Peter looked up at him. McKay looked wary, and almost shy, like he was worried Peter was going to bite his head off. "Thanks." Peter said again, and he smiled.
McKay blinked again. "Okay," he said, and turned to leave, then suddenly turned back. "I like this," he said, gesturing with his Powerbar in Peter's direction. "You being nice. It works. So," he paused, clearly at a loss. "Uh, carry on."
It was Peter's turn to blink. "Okay," he said.
"Good!" McKay said, and practically ran back to his laptop. "Get to work!" he shouted at Simpson as he passed.
Lorne was grinning at him. "You got a compliment from McKay," he said. "That never happens!"
"I'm a nice guy," Peter said with a shrug.
"I think so," Lorne said, and the energy pulsed between them again, more electric than before.
"Of course you do," Peter said lightly, trying to change the intense mood that had sprung up between them. "I'm the one helping you to stop raging against the dying of the light."
Lorne's smile fell. "Right," he said.
"Yeah," Peter said. He turned back to his computer, wishing he hadn't said anything at all.
Peter found Teyla in the training room after his shift at the lab.
He was gratified to see that the lights were dimmed as Teyla moved through the meditative motions of the stick fighting patterns. It was nice to see that his idea was working.
"Dr. Kavanagh," she said formally when she saw him, gracefully lowering her weapons. "Have you come to learn to fight with the rods?"
"No," Peter said quickly, "thank you for the offer," he added, remembering his vow to be nicer to people. She inclined her head in acknowledgement and he smiled, pleased. "Actually, I've come to ask you about Evan--Major Lorne."
"Ah," Teyla said. She gestured at the bench resting against one wall. "Come, sit."
Peter sat, and watched as she towelled off her neck and took a drink from her water bottle. She tilted her head to the side.
"Go ahead," Lorne whispered from behind his ear, "ask her so we can get this over with!"
Teyla was looking at him, clearly waiting for him to speak, and suddenly Peter was at loss for words. As soon as she answers, he'll have his unfinished business, and disappear, Peter thought, and the realization closed up his throat.
"There is something troubling you about Evan?" Teyla asked gently.
"Yes," Peter choked out. He swallowed down the lump, and took off his glasses, pretending to clean them while he fought to get his emotions under control. Lorne is dead! Peter admonished himself. It was fitting and proper that his soul would be able to pass through the veil, or go to heaven, or reincarnate, or whatever it was that happened after someone died. But Peter knew now that he cared about Lorne--cared a lot more than he should. And when he was finally and truly dead, Peter knew he'd be devastated.
"Hey," Lorne said softly by his ear. "If--if this is getting rough on you, it can wait."
Peter held up his hand. "No, I'm okay," he said to Lorne. He turned to Teyla, but found it was easier to look down at his feet. "I need to know who--who he was in love with when he was still alive."
Teyla took her hand away, sitting up straighter. Her eyes had grown huge. "What do you mean 'when he was still alive?' Has something happened to him?"
Peter gaped at her. "He's dead."
Teyla's mouth opened and closed. A sheen of tears appeared in her eyes. "When did this happen?"
Peter's mind was racing. Teyla was his best friend! he thought fiercely, why doesn't she know? "Three months ago. He got shot off--world and died in the Gate room," Peter continued in the same cautious tone. "Didn't anyone tell you?"
Now it was Teyla's turn to look like Peter had lost his mind. "He survived that incident," Teyla said. "Who told you otherwise?"
"What?" Lorne shouted, "What thehell?"
"Cadman did." Peter said, glancing at Lorne, "and McKay--" But as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized that wasn't true. No one had actually said Lorne had died, just that he had been badly injured. Peter had assumed the worst from the description Cadman had given him and the fact that Lorne's ghost was following him around.
Teyla was shaking her head. "Cadman would not have said that."
"I'm not dead?" Lorne was still shouting. He was standing in front of Peter, a wild look in his eyes. "Then where the hell is my body? And why am I like this?"
Teyla's head snapped up. She looked right at Lorne. "Evan is here," she said. It wasn't a question.
"Can you see him?" Peter gasped at the same time Lorne said "Can you see me?"
"His spirit is here with you," Teyla said with certainty. She was looking in Lorne's direction; but obviously she couldn't see him. She put her hand out towards him. "Evan."
Lorne tried to grasp her hand, but his fingers passed right through her. "Damn!"
"He is upset," Teyla said. She turned to Peter, expression beseeching. "Can you speak to him?"
"Uh, yes. Yes I can," Peter said.
"Please tell him that he must return to his body," Teyla said. "The body cannot heal if the spirit has left it." She took Peter's hand. "Please."
"I can hear you, Teyla," Lorne whispered.
"He can hear you," Peter repeated.
"Tell her...tell her I miss her," Lorne said, and there was a crack in his voice.
"Take him to Carson," Teyla said. "Carson will help."
"I will," Peter said, standing. He squeezed her hand, "He misses you," he said.
Teyla smiled and turned her head towards Lorne. "I will see you soon." She said to the air.
"That's a promise," Lorne said. He turned to Peter, a wide smile splitting his face. "Take me to Carson!"
Peter ran to the infirmary, ignoring the strange looks people gave him as he dodged around them.
Lorne's alive! was the single thought going through his head, and he was desperate to reunite Lorne's soul with his body. He had no idea why the two had split apart, and up to five minutes ago, it never would have occurred to him that anything like that could happen. But this was the Pegasus Galaxy, where the Expedition's military commander had turned into a blue bug--man, so clearly anything was possible.
Several corridors later, Peter skidded into the infirmary, "I need Carson!" he shouted, "right now!"
"I'm here," Carson said, handing the file he had been holding to one of the nurses and coming straight over. He put a hand on Peter's shoulder. "Come sit down before you fall down, lad!" he said in his strong Scottish accent. "What's happened?"
Peter grabbed Carson's forearms, "I need to see Evan!"
Carson blinked. "Evan? Why?"
"It is literally a matter of life and death," Peter said, emphasizing every word. "Where is he?"
"In the back," Carson said, clearly completely stymied, "I'll go with you."
Carson led Peter to the far end of the infirmary and then down a short hallway. There was a drawn curtain around one end, and it was quiet enough that Peter could hear the beeps and whirrs of unseen equipment.
Carson held the curtain aside and gestured behind him. "He's in here."
"Thanks," Peter said absently, and walked in.
Evan Lorne was lying in the bed. Eyes closed, face pale with at least two days stubble on his chin. His mouth was covered by a soft white bandage that was holding the ventilator tube in place. He had an IV stuck in the back of one hand, and other tubes and wires running from the beeping and whirring machines to disappear under the bed linens, attached somewhere on Lorne's body. His hair was too long and he was far too still, like someone had put a life--sized doll in the bed in place of a real person.
"Oh my God," Peter breathed, moving closer. He turned to Carson, shock and wonder mixing in his voice. "He's alive."
"Aye," Carson said, "If you can call this living." He sighed and ran a hand through his short hair. "I wish I could tell you there's been some change recently, but..."
Peter went to the side of Lorne's bed and gently stroked a hand over Lorne's hair. The hair felt clean to the touch, and he smiled. Clearly Lorne was being well cared for.
"So, you knew the Major before you came to Atlantis, then?" Carson said, more of a statement than a question. "It must have been a shock when you heard what happened."
"What did happen?" Peter said, not taking his eyes off Lorne's motionless features. Not even his eyes moved beneath their lids. "I heard that he was injured off-world, but that's all."
"It happened about three months ago," Carson said tiredly. "His team was ambushed by the Bola Kai. They shot him with some kind of barbed arrow, attached with a long wire, like a fishhook. It hit him in the side and went deep, and then they started reeling him in, like a prize catch."
Peter felt like he was going to throw up. "Oh my God."
"Needless to say, his team prevented that from happening," Carson continued, clearly sickened by the memory. "But in the process, the arrow was torn out of the Major's side. It had gone deep enough to nick his liver." Carson paused and shook his head. "By the time they came back through the Gate, it looked like the four of them had been swimming in blood."
"But you saved him," Peter said, looking at Evan again. Except for the tube coming out of his mouth, and the collection of wires and tubes hanging around him, there was no indication that there had ever been anything wrong with him at all.
"Aye, if that's what you'd call this," Carson replied with a note of disgust. "He'd lost so much blood that he was nearly dead. Who knows how much oxygen was getting to his brain?" He made a purely Scottish noise. "So, we brought his body back, yes. But he's been like this ever since."
"How long has he been like this?" Peter said. He picked up Lorne's hand in his, feeling its solid weight beneath his fingers. It was limp and cool, like something newly dead.
"Since the incident," Carson said succinctly. "He's never woken up."
"It's been three months?" Peter breathed, thinking of Lorne wandering the corridors of Atlantis with no memory and no one to talk to, and how desperately lonely that must have been.
"And he's been here the whole time," Carson nodded. "Three months in a coma, nearly no brain waves to speak of, and Sheppard totally unwilling to let the man go home to his family, for them to make their goodbyes."
Peter whipped his head around. "He has a family?"
"A mother and a sister, and two wee nephews," Carson said. "Didn't he tell you that before?"
"We, uh, didn't know each other that long," Peter said quickly, but his mind was spinning.
"Well, the Major's going back to the SGC tomorrow," Carson said, "so his family can finally have their chance to say farewell. Sheppard didn't want to send him home," Carson continued, "I know he was hoping for a miracle. But the IOA decided it, and that's that." Carson's voice dropped to a murmur. "I wish we could've done more for the poor lad."
"Tomorrow?" Peter cried. "You're sending him home tomorrow? But he's not dead!"
Carson looked at him strangely. "Aye, I know that lad, but he's not getting better, either. The blood loss was just too much for his body to take."
"No, you don't understand!" Peter was all but yelling. "Evan's alive! He's alive and he's here now, his spirit...soul, whatever, is in the room with us! You've got to believe me!"
Carson straightened his shoulders. "Now Peter," he said, hands held out placatingly, "I know this has been a shock for you, but Evan is not alive. Not like you mean it. His brain--"
"No!" Peter said, and he was yelling now. "His spirit got separated from his body! He just needs to go back in or something!" He moved towards Carson and grabbed him by the lapels of his lab coat. "You can't send him back!"
"I can and I must!" Carson said, gripping Peter's wrists. "Now listen to me, man! Evan's brain was badly damaged by his blood loss. He can't recover from this! His family has already decided to discontinue life support, and tomorrow they'll have their chance to see him one last time. And no matter how much I, or you, or Sheppard or anyone else might want it otherwise, that's the way it is!"
Peter dropped his hands, feeling his heart lurching in his chest, the rhythm starting up its erratic pounding that always signalled a faint. "No," he said, weaving a little on his feet. "No. He's here. He's here, and I can show you..."
Carson's expression was full of worry. "Peter, I think you need to sit down."
"No," Peter repeated, brushing off his hands. He turned and surveyed the room, his heart pounding too fast in his chest. "Evan?" he said, black spots beginning to blur his vision. "Evan!"
"He's not here, lad," Carson said, gripping the front of his jacket.
"I can't see him," Peter whimpered, and then everything went black.
Peter woke to the wonderful sensation of spikes being driven through his temples. "Ow," he muttered, squinting against the light.
"Hey," Lorne said quietly. "You gave everyone quite a scare."
Peter blinked at him, then felt for his eyeglasses on the side table and slipped them on. The world came blessedly into focus. "Where were you?"
"I've been here all night," Lorne said. His hands were gripping the railings of Peter's beds, the palms of his hands half--way through the metal.
"No," Peter said, struggling to sit up. There was what seemed like hundreds of wires attached to his chest, which was bare, as were his feet. Someone had covered his legs with the awful scrub pants that passed for hospital garb in Atlantis, and Peter was thankful for small mercies.
"Careful!" Lorne said as he moved to help. His hand passed right through Peter's shoulder, making him shiver.
"Don't," Peter muttered, "its cold." He shuffled into a sitting position, and rubbed his face. His head was still pounding, and he felt dizzy and out of it, his heart stomping around in his chest like a one-footed monster.
"Sorry," Lorne's smile was sad. "I wish I could touch you."
"Me, too," Peter said, returning Lorne's smile. Then he frowned. "Where were you last night?"
Lorne blinked. "Here," he said again. "Like I said. I was with you here."
"No," Peter said, "before that. When I was with Carson."
"Oh, yeah," Lorne said, and rubbed the back of his neck. "I was there."
Peter made a face. "No, you weren't."
"I was," Lorne repeated, "I just wasn't in there, okay?"
"Not really," Peter frowned, "Carson didn't believe me. I kinda needed you there to help me out."
"How?" Lorne said, sounding both frustrated and puzzled. "He can't see me, remember?"
"Uh, yeah?" Peter snapped, "but it was your body in there. I was hoping that you'd just slide back into it, and we'd be done!"
Lorne was shaking his head. "I can't."
"What?" Peter said. "What do you mean--"
"Hello Peter," Carson said, pulling back the curtain around his bed. "How are you feeling?"
Peter tore his gaze away from Lorne. "Like a Wraith is trying to suck out my brain through my eyeballs."
"It's to be expected," Carson said with a sympathetic expression. "Your heart rate and blood pressure are all over the map, and the drugs we've given you tend to cause headaches. Hopefully we'll soon have it sorted, and you'll feel better." He put his hand on Peter's shoulder. "Can I get you something for the pain?"
Peter started to shake his head; then winced. "Yes, please."
"I'll ask the nurse to get you something," Carson said. He huffed out a breath. "And then, I was wondering if you'd like to go see Evan? We'll be sending him home in less than an hour."
Peter squeezed his eyes shut, feeling his heart slam in his chest. "Thank you," he whispered.
Carson patted his shoulder. "I'll ask Marie to get you a wheelchair," he said, and left, pulling the curtain closed behind him.
"I'm going home," Lorne said quietly. "I heard Carson tell you that last night."
Peter opened his eyes, feeling the hot press of tears. "You're going home to die!"
Lorne made a small motion with one shoulder. "I'm already dead Peter; my body just doesn't know it yet."
"No!" Peter cried, "No! It's not true! It can't be! Look, all you need to do is go to your body--"
Lorne took a step back, shaking his head violently. "No!" he cried. "No! I won't look at it! I can't!"
"Evan!" Peter said, hearing the note of pleading in his voice, "You have to! We have to get you back."
"I can't," Lorne said again. "It's--it's too much." He took a deep breath. "I don't expect you to understand, but I can't go look at it. It's like it's not mine anymore. It'd be like digging up my own grave."
"But your body is fine," Peter said, forcing a small laugh. "It looks great! Your hair's too long but--"
Lorne laughed. "You should talk," but then his expression grew serious. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again, their light grey was almost dark blue with misery. "I'm sorry, Peter," he said softly, "but maybe it's for the best. I'll get to see my mother and my sister one last time, and then I'll go." He smiled and moved towards the edge of the bed. "Take care of yourself, okay?"
"Don't," Peter said. He reached to grab Lorne's arm, but only touched air.
"I have your medicine, Peter," the nurse said, coming around the side of the curtain. Peter turned to look at her, and then turned back.
"Evan!" he shouted.
But Evan was gone.
The nurse gave Peter something for the pain through his IV, and within minutes the pounding in his head had returned to tolerable levels.
"We're going to do some tests today," she had said while efficiently delivering the medication through his IV port, and then chattered on about what the tests were and what they were looking for, but Peter wasn't even pretending to listen.
"When is Evan being taken to the Gateroom?" Peter said, interrupting the nurse mid-sentence.
She stopped, and blinked at him. "I don't know," she said after a moment, "soon, I guess."
"Great," Peter said, and sat up, tearing the leads that connected him to the heart monitors off the electrodes stuck to his body.
"What are you doing?" The nurse shrieked, making a grab for him. "You can't do that!"
"Watch me," Peter snarled, and levered himself over the bed rails and out of the hospital bed, landing almost gracefully on his bare feet.
He tore open the curtain that had surrounded his bed, and took a second to orientate himself. The nurse was still shouting for him to stop, and now others in the infirmary were beginning to look over, clearly confused by the commotion.
Another nurse came towards him, hands held up. "Dr. Kavanagh," he said, "I can see that you're upset right now, but we really need you to get back into bed. Your heart--"
"Fuck off!" Peter shouted, and started running towards the end of the infirmary where Lorne's body had been kept, dodging around equipment and people as he moved.
Within seconds, he had reached the curtained area, and tore it back.
The room was empty.
"Shit!" he swore, looking full circle to see where they might have gone, but there was no sign of Lorne anywhere, neither ghost nor body.
But there were two security guards bearing down on Peter with steady determination.
"Dr. Kavanagh," the larger of the two said, his face set, "The nice medical staff here says it's really important for you to get back into bed and get your tests done."
"I know," Peter said, edging away from them. He could feel his heart rate increasing, and knew they were right. "And I will, but I've got something I need to do first."
"We're not asking," the second guard said. She was chewing gum and looked more bored than anything. "So, get back into bed before I have to do something to make you go there."
Peter felt his heart rate kick up a notch. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a secondary exit from the infirmary, and he angled his hips so that he was facing it. "No."
"Have it your way," she said, and rushed at him.
Peter twisted wildly, just escaping her grasp, and managed to push a tray table in front of her before dashing for the exit.
In an amazing feat of agility the guard jumped the tray and slammed into Peter, tackling him to the floor, the impact sang all the way from his shoulder to his wrist.
"Mehra!" The other guard admonished her, but Mehra didn't even hesitate as she wrestled Peter, and within seconds he found himself face-down, arms trapped behind him, with Mehra's weight pinning his hips to the ground.
"Gotcha!" she crowed.
"Get off him!" The other guard bellowed. He grabbed her shoulder and pulled her up. "Jesus Christ, Mehra, he's a patient!"
Mehra started arguing with the other guard, her grip on Peter's hands loosening, and he had his chance.
He pushed his hips and flipped, ending up on his back, with her gun securely in his hands, pointed straight at the two guards. "Get the fuck off me," he growled.
The guards backed up, hands in the air.
"You are so going down for this, Mehra," the first guard muttered.
"Shut up, Reed!" Mehra said, not taking her eyes of Peter.
Peter got to his feet, gun never wavering. "I'll give this back later," he said, and ran.
He didn't have a clue what the hell he was doing.
Peter ran towards the Gateroom, weapon in hand, feeling like a cross between The Fugitive and the biggest idiot in the City.
I'm dead when they catch me, Peter thought. He'd be arrested for sure when they caught him, and thrown in jail for the rest of his life. Or maybe he'd just be spaced out a convenient orbiting Stargate with a sad 'MIA' letter written for his uncaring relatives.
His photo wouldn't even make it to the Wall.
Peter grit his teeth at the thought. It didn't really matter what happened to him. The important part was that Lorne would have a chance to live.
Peter gripped the gun tighter, his mind made up. He would do anything to help reunite Lorne's soul with his body.
Of course, he really didn't know what that anything was, but he was a creative guy; he'd think of something.
And then he'd turned the corner and was in the Gateroom, and he didn't have much time for thinking at all.
The Gate had been sparked up, with its circle shimmering blue like the most perfect of impossible vertical oceans. In front of it stood Carson and Weir and Sheppard and Teyla and Lorne's team, all in suits or dress uniforms, ready to accompany the Major home.
And there, lying in the centre of the mournful half-circle was Lorne himself, still ventilated and wired, so motionless it was like he'd already died. They were clearly ready to step through, and then Lorne was going to die for real.
"No!" Peter cried, skidding to a halt nearly at the Gate.
"Peter," Carson said with a wan smile. "We were waiting for you lad..." his voice trailed off as he apparently took in Peter's appearance; half--naked, electrodes stuck to his torso and arms, and the gun in his hand. "Peter?" he said again.
"You can't take him through!" Peter said, running up to Carson. "He's still alive! If you take him, you'll kill him!"
"We've been through this before," Carson said gently, but his eyes were wary as he flicked his gaze to Peter's gun. "Now, why don't you just give me the weapon--"
"What do you mean, 'still alive?'" Sheppard said, moving closer. "Carson! I thought you said he was brain dead!"
"He is!" Carson said, "I'm not sure where Peter got this bampot notion--"
"It's because he's seen Lorne's ghost," Parrish interrupted, stepping forward. He looked at Peter. "That's right, isn't it? You've seen his ghost?"
"Yes," Peter said, turning to Parrish, "I have! I--I thought I was the only one."
"I have felt him too," Teyla said, also moving closer. "But I could not speak with him. How is it that you can?"
"I don't know," Peter said, "I just...do,"
Dr. Weir was looking around slowly. "Is he here now?" She turned to Carson. "Maybe we shouldn't be doing this?"
"No," Carson said, and he turned to the group. "Look, I know how hard this is on everyone," he said. "Trust me when I say it's been killing me every day for the last three months!" He gestured at Lorne's body. "But the man has no brain waves. There is nothing there!"
"But David says he can see his ghost," Stackhouse cut in. He looked at Sheppard. "Doesn't that mean he's dead?"
Sheppard shrugged. "Stranger things have happened than someone who's not dead having a ghost." He cocked his head at Peter. "Does this ghost say that he's alive?"
"Yes," Peter said, "yes, he does." His heart was pounding more fiercely than before, the ache of pressure starting in his chest.
"How do you know?" Cadman said, and there was such anguish in her voice that Peter actually winced. "I mean, how do you know that it's the Major, and not just a fantasy or, or, wishful thinking?"
"I--I just do," Peter said. Cadman's face fell, and he knew she wasn't convinced.
"Look," Carson said, taking a ragged breath. "Peter, I know you mean well, but this isn't helping anyone. The Major must go home, and we must say goodbye." He held out his hand. "So, please, just give me the gun. You're sick, and distraught, and I'm sure that Dr. Weir and Colonel Sheppard won't hold your actions against you, but this obsession of yours must end now."
Peter looked around the group. They were all waiting expectantly for him to give up the gun and back down; waiting for him to let Lorne take his final journey home. Lorne's ghost was nowhere in sight. He had left, just like he had promised that morning. There was no soul for him to save. He cleared his throat, barely trusting himself to speak. "Will you put his picture up on the Wall in a frame? He should have a frame."
"Of course, lad," Carson said, and Peter heard Cadman's broken sob somewhere behind him. He raised the gun to give it to Carson, his hand shook, his heart pounded in his ears.
And then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lorne.
Peter whirled towards Lorne, ignoring Carson's surprised cry behind him. "Evan!" he howled. "Don't let them do this to you!"
Lorne raised his hands. "I'm just here to go through the Gate with--" he gestured towards the near--corpse on the stretcher, "--with that," he said. "There's nothing left."
"That's not true!" Peter screamed. He felt Carson's hands on him, and shook them off. "If you'd just go to your body--"
Lorne's eyes went hard. "No."
"Then you can come to mine," Peter said, and placed the barrel of the hand-gun to his temple.
The collective gasp was deafening, and then everyone started speaking at once, shouting and cajoling and yelling at him to put the gun down, but Lorne was the only one Peter was looking at.
"What are you doing?" Lorne demanded.
"The only thing I can," Peter said. His heart was a jackhammer in his chest, the heaviness building there until he was pressing against his sternum with his free hand. The black spots were beginning to swarm in towards him, his vision becoming fragmented, and he knew it was only a matter of moments before he passed out.
"Don't," Lorne said. "Don't, please, I'm not worth it."
"You're worth everything," Peter said, "and I can't just let you die. Go to your body, Evan," he begged. "Please."
"Okay," Lorne said, "okay, I will. Just -- just put the gun down and I'll go."
Peter shook his head, squinting against the blackness. His heart was going so fast that he felt like he couldn't catch any air. "You first."
"Okay," Lorne repeated, and Peter could just see Lorne's ghost approaching his still form on the stretcher. He put a hand out, and tentatively stroked his own face. "I feel warm," he said with wonder, and disappeared.
The gun slipped from Peter's hands as he was pulled into the blackness.
When Peter finally clawed his way into the light again, he promptly leaned over and threw up.
Luckily the nurse at his bedside was quick on the draw and put a kidney bowl underneath his chin to catch the refuse. "Easy," he said, patting Peter's shoulder. "The drugs you're on are probably making you nauseous. We'll get you something for that in a minute." He looked over his shoulder. "Carson! Peter's awake!"
"Thanks, son," Carson said, bustling over to Peter's bedside. Peter was lying back down on his pillow, feeling like twelve different kinds of shit. His mouth tasted awful, and there was a painful twinge in the middle of his chest, like a deep-set bruise.
Carson said something to the nurse who left with the full kidney bowl, then he peered down at Peter, worry in every line of his face. "How are you feeling lad?"
"Like shit," Peter said, voicing his thoughts. "My chest hurts."
"Yes, well, that's to be expected," Carson said, "Laura's very strong."
Peter felt his eyebrows draw down. "Laura?"
"Lieutenant Cadman," Carson said, and blushed. "She performed CPR on you in the Gateroom after your heart stopped."
Peter blinked. "I died?"
Carson shook his head, "Oh, no! You weren't anywhere close to dead. Now if we hadn't been with you, it might have been a different story..." At Peter's blank look, Carson continued. "You have a defective node in your heart. It makes your heart beat too fast when you're under stress, which means you don't get enough oxygen circulating in your blood, which means you pass out." He shook his head again. "It's amazing no one caught it before."
"I guess my life hasn't been that stressful," Peter quipped, struggling to sit up. His chest hurt like a bitch. "Did she break my ribs?"
Carson blushed again, "Only a couple." He gently helped Peter ease into a sitting position. "Better?"
Peter nodded, having an easier time looking around the infirmary now that he could sit up.
"We'll have to run a few more tests," Carson said, "to locate the aberrant node. And once we find it, we'll cauterize it, and you'll be right as rain. So for the next little--"
"Where's Evan?" Peter interrupted. He couldn't see any sign of the Major.
"Oh," Carson said. "Well, we sent him home, lad." His eyes were painfully sympathetic. "Don't you remember?"
"No," Peter spat, "I was lying on the floor with your girlfriend pounding on my chest!" And then Carson's words sunk in, and Peter felt all the blood drain from his face, "Evan went home?"
"Yes," Carson said simply. "It was the right thing to do."
"Of course," Peter murmured, sliding back down onto the bed. There was a sharp pain stabbing through his chest which he knew had nothing to do with his broken ribs. He closed his eyes and turned his face away. "I think I'd like to sleep for a bit."
"Good idea," Carson said, patting his shoulder briskly. "I'll come check on you in a little while."
Peter nodded, eyes closed. But he waited until he was sure Carson had left before he let the tears fall.
They kept Peter in the infirmary for a week.
Everyone complimented him on how quickly he was healing, and except for the lurid scar down the centre of his chest, and the fact that his ribs were still sore, none of the medical staff could believe he'd once had a life-threatening medical condition.
As for Peter, he smiled in all the right places, and answered all the questions as politely as he possibly could, and quietly marvelled that his heart had healed at all, when he was sure that the news of Evan's death had broken it beyond repair.
When he was finally discharged late one evening nearly eight days after he'd collapsed in the Gateroom, Peter took the long way back to his quarters, unwilling to pass by the Memorial Wall and see Evan's picture once again.
When he reached the corridor where his and Evan's rooms were, he paused, unsure where to go. They must have moved my stuff back, Peter thought to himself. It would have made sense if they had cleared out Evan's things by now. He squeezed his eyes shut against the flair of pain that thought caused, and entered his own room.
And as he thought, all his stuff had been brought back.
With a deep sigh, Peter took off his clothes, pulled on his sleep pants, brushed his teeth and climbed into bed. It was as small as he remembered, and barely as comfortable as his cot in the infirmary had been.
But even worse, there was nothing in the room to remind him of Evan at all. He was out his door in the next minute.
Peter waved his hand in front of the door sensor to Evan's room; then frowned when it refused to open. Makes sense, he decided after a moment, man's dead for real. Time to change the locks. He took a shuddering breath at the thought, then grimly set to work, taking only seconds to re-set the crystals so he could enter.
The door chimed softly and Peter stepped inside the darkened quarters. The curtains leading to the patio had been closed, so the room was plunged into shadows, dark enough that Peter could barely make out the shape of objects in the room.
He stood with his eyes closed, extending all his senses around him--for what he wasn't sure. Evan's ghost had been a spirit of the living, after all. There was no reason to think that it would actually exist now that Evan was truly dead.I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye, Peter thought, feeling a lump form in the back of his throat.
Something cold and hard was pressed none-too-gently into his temple, followed by an audible click. Peter's eyes flew open.
"Any sudden moves," Major Lorne said, "and I will blow your fucking head off."
"Evan?" Peter breathed; excitement and fear battling for supremacy in his chest. Absently, he realized that there was no light-headedness accompanying his increase in pulse, which was pretty cool considering he had a gun pressed to his head.
The lights blazed on, making Peter wince. "Ow."
"Peter?" Evan said, uncocking his gun. "Peter!"
And suddenly he was in Evan's arms, and Peter was holding onto him with every ounce of strength he had, nearly overwhelmed with the sensation of actually touching him, of being able to feel his arms around him; Evan's hands on his back. Peter buried his face in Evan's neck. "I thought you were dead." He could feel tears slipping down his face, wetting Evan's shoulder.
Evan shook his head. "No," he said, "No! I didn't die. It worked. Just like you said. When I touched my body, I just slipped back inside. And then I woke up. Just like that."
"Wow," Peter gasped. "It was really that easy?"
"Yeah," Evan said, and there was laughter in his voice. "I should've done it months ago."
Peter laughed, but it ended on a sob. "Carson said you went home. I thought you had died!"
"No," Evan said as he gripped Peter tighter. "I mean, they did send me home, but it was the next day, after Carson had seen my miraculous recovery and run about a million tests." Evan rubbed Peter's back. "Except for being really weak, I was fine, so they let me go home to see my mom and sister for a while. I came back through Midway late this afternoon."
"I thought you were dead." Peter muttered.
"Not dead," Evan laughed. "Tired though. That's why I was in bed." He gently untangled himself from Peter, and Peter stood back a few steps, drinking in the sight of the other man.
Evan was in scrub bottoms and nothing else. He looked thinner than his ghost had been, more pale as well, and his muscles were less defined, but he looked healthy and real and so alive and Peter knew he was grinning like an idiot but he couldn't care. He wiped his eyes with his fingers.
Evan's fingertips brushed the still healing scar on Peter's chest, fear evident in his dark grey eyes. "What the hell happened to you?"
"I nearly died in the Gateroom," Peter said, taking Evan's hand. "My heart."
"But...you're okay now?" Evan said. "Your heart's okay?"
"Better than it's ever been," Peter smiled, and he pulled Evan in for a kiss.