The formerly great country of Kelowna looked like a train wreck.
Check that, Major Evan Lorne, USAF, thought to himself as he kicked a piece of brick with the steel toe of his boot. It looks like the Ori used the whole thing for target practice, and then set it on fire, and then blew up the remains.
There was hardly anything left standing. Every single building looked like it had taken fire, and most were damaged beyond repair. Evan had read the mission reports on Langara before his team left for this search-and-rescue, and Kelowna had sounded like it'd been a nice place, once. Kind of like a World War II version of an industrial American city.
But now it looked like World War II had taken place right there. All of it, including the nuclear attack on Hiroshima.
"It's going to be like finding a needle in a haystack, boss," Sergeant Blair Kaufman said, ambling up beside him.
Evan rolled his eyes and looked at his NonCom. "It's 'sir'."
"Yes, boss," Blair said with a huge grin. Then he shivered. "Damn! This place gets cold!"
"It's their fall," Evan shrugged. "You should've worn a jacket."
"I'll bring one tomorrow. Promise," Blair said. He rubbed at the sleeves of his thin uniform shirt, then turned big brown eyes on Evan. "Can we head back to the Gate now sir? We can start looking for the dead guy extra-early tomorrow."
Evan laughed. "Okay," he said. "It is getting dark." He indicated the Life-signs Detector he held in his hand. "This thing's about useless anyway, thanks to all the ambient radiation from whatever it was the Ori did here."
"Yeah." Blair nodded. He looked around, peering into the heavy shadows the fading light was making with the wreckage of the buildings. "Sure is creepy at night."
"Well, you are walking through a giant graveyard," Lieutenant Laura Cadman said, falling into step with Evan and Blair. She rubbed one of the Sergeant's shoulders. "You okay, baby? Not too cold?"
Evan made a face. "Please tell me that was sarcastic."
"Cynic." Laura took Blair's hand.
Evan shot them a look. "Careful, kids. That's fraternization and we're not in Kansas anymore."
"Don't worry." Laura smiled. "By the time we get close to the Gate I'll be ordering him around like usual." They started walking towards the Gate, heads bent against the wind.
"Damn, I miss Atlantis!" Blair moaned, pulling the collar up on his shirt with one hand. "Boss, do you think they'll ever let us go back to Pegasus?"
"No idea, Blair," Evan said. "We've only been in the Bay for a couple of months. You can't expect a committee of bureaucrats to make up their minds that quickly."
"Two months too long," Blair muttered.
"It's actually been three," Laura sighed. "Three months of doing stupid reconnaissance missions that the SGC teams don't want to do." She sighed again. "I haven't blown up anything in weeks!"
Evan chuckled. "Could be worse. You could be stuck at Area 51 like Parrish."
Laura smiled and pushed back a strand of hair that had been pulled out of her bun by the wind. It glinted a soft red in the low light. "Speaking of scientists...Any sign of this guy?"
Blair shook his head. "We haven't seen a sign of any living thing here at all. Mission's a complete waste of time."
"We don't know that," Evan admonished quietly. "Jonas Quinn was a former member of SG-1, and supposedly very resourceful. General O'Neill is sure he's still alive."
"And we don't leave anyone behind," Laura added. She looked around the ruined hulks of the buildings. "Poor guy. To have his whole country reduced to this."
"The Ori sure as hell meant business," Blair said. "Glad they're dead."
"Amen." Laura smiled.
The three of them fell into silence as they continued their walk towards the Gate. The only sound was the crunching of the stones under their feet and the harsh whisper of the wind.
They turned left down an alley and came out in the courtyard that used to mark the city centre. Once it had a sparkling fountain in front of a majestic memorial of a man on horseback, riding for Kelowna's fallen from some historic war. Now the memorial had fallen itself, the rider and horse broken in giant pieces on the ground. The fountain was filled with rubble and even the paving stones were cracked.
"Look on my works, ye mighty," Evan quoted in a murmur as they walked past the statue. It made him think that maybe Blair and Laura were right, that they were on a fool's errand; no one could have survived this kind of destruction. Maybe we can find his body, Evan thought. But the Ori had been on Langara for two years before they were finally defeated. It was hard to imagine his team would be able to find any trace of Jonas at all.
It was almost full dark now, and Evan ruefully recognized that they probably should have already started the fifteen minute walk back to the Gate. But he'd hated to end the mission for the day with nothing to show for it.
Blair and Laura were talking softly together, their heads not quite touching. Her bright red strands against his dark brown, both shining softly in the low light. They looked good together, and Evan thought about painting them once they got back to Atlantis--
"Shh!" Evan put up his hand to stop Blair's talking. He slowly looked around the courtyard, trying to locate the source of the noise he'd just heard. He made a sharp gesture with his hand and was pleased to note that Laura and Blair immediately scattered for cover among the shadows.
The air exploded with the sound of Ori staff weapons.
Evan ran after Blair and Laura, but he couldn't outrun a staff blast. It slammed into his upper arm, throwing him forward with the force of the impact.
He went down on one knee hard enough that he heard a crack and felt a jolt of pain all the way up his spine. But now his adrenaline was pumping and he scrambled for cover even while the blasts whooshed off the stones around him. Small chips of flint broke off and pelted against his face.
He pulled himself into a hollow between the smashed horse and its rider, out of the line of sight of the shooters, but half-way across the courtyard from Laura and Blair. He could see their position through the flash of their muzzles as they fired their P90s.
His radio crackled by his ear.
Boss! Blair yelled. Are you okay?
"I'm fine," Evan lied. He'd automatically slapped his hand to the wound on his upper arm, and he could feel blood seeping through his fingers, hot and slippery against his palm. His knee was beginning to swell. "You?"
"We're fine," Blair replied instantly, and Evan let out a breath. "And Laura's got a flashbang with her we can use to cover our escape..." He paused, obviously just realizing what Evan already knew.
"I know," Evan said. "I'm on the wrong side of the Square from you. It's okay. Just go and bring back reinforcements. I'll be fine."
"We can lay down cover fire for you!" Blair shouted. "You can run here and we can--"
"No!" Evan interrupted. "Blair, you know I'm too far! You and Laura have a chance to get out of here, and you need to take it."
"That's an order, Sergeant!" Evan bellowed into the radio. "Go now and run like hell! I'll cover you."
"Yessir," Blair replied. "Flashbangs in 10."
"Acknowledged." Evan clicked off the radio. He hunched down in the alcove, squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his bloody hand to his ear. His other arm hurt too much to move his hand to his head.
The sudden noise of the flashbang was deafening and bright enough to leave spots even with his eyes closed. He was up in a second, laying down cover fire as best he could with a P90 balanced on the elbow of his injured arm and firing with one hand.
Their unseen enemy was still firing, but they kept shooting at where Laura and Blair had been, which was great. Every second they spent wasting their efforts was another step closer to the Gate for his team.
The flashbang had deafened his uncovered ear but he could still hear through his right one, and underneath the staccato of gunfire he heard what sounded like a human cry of pain. And then another.
The firing stopped.
Evan lifted his finger off the trigger and waited. There was no return fire.
Then there was the sound of someone running quickly across the courtyard, and skidding to a halt.
Evan froze, forcing his breathing to become quiet. He peered across the dark square, but he was still seeing spots from Laura's flashbang and could only squint ineffectively. He could feel his heart speeding up and he concentrated on staying calm. Slowly, he moved his finger back to the trigger of the P90.
Someone ripped the gun right out of his hands, and in the next second he was being dragged out of his hiding spot by the elbow of his injured arm. The pain was enough to make him cry out and dark spots to crowd out the coloured ones at the corner of his vision.
"Oh shit! Sorry!" A man said, dropping his elbow but immediately fastening his grip on Evan's other arm. "I thought you might have been hit, but I couldn't tell in the dark. Pretty good shooting, by the way. You even got one, which is impressive considering your arm is all blasted to hell." He kept pulling Evan out of the alcove while he was talking, until they were both standing, still hidden in the shadows of the ruined statue. "Great hiding spot. I would've never known you were here until you fired." The guy shouldered Evan's P90 like a pro, letting it hang just above his sidearm. "Come on!" He tugged Evan's arm again. "Those fucking Ori sons of rabid dogs are everywhere!"
Evan had his hand clamped around the wound on his left arm, and was favouring his right knee. The injuries seemed to be in a competition for which could cause the most agony. His arm felt like it had been torn open with a red-hot blade, while his leg felt like there was a wedge being driven into the middle of his kneecap. Both made him feel like passing out. "Who?" he finally managed to grind out between his teeth.
"Who am I or who was shooting at you?" the guy said.
Evan tried to answer, but it was suddenly too hard to figure out how to form the words.
"Never mind," The guy said. "I'll take you back, and then we'll talk."
He slung Evan's good arm around his shoulder, and put his arm around Evan's waist. The guy was the same height as Evan, and equally well-muscled, but his build was more slight. Evan couldn't tell anything else about him in the dark, except that he smelled like he hadn't had a shower in a long while, or had the chance to change his clothes. The stench plus his pain had Evan's stomach rolling unpleasantly.
"It's great that the SGC finally sent someone," The guy continued. "Well, I could've used you two years ago. But I guess beggars can't pick. 'Beggars can't pick,'" He repeated. "Is that right? I got that right, didn't I?"
"Beggars can't be choosers," Evan forced out.
"Right!" The guy said brightly. He shook his head with a laugh. "You Earthlings and your crazy expressions."
Evan blinked. He knew his hearing was messed from the flashbang, but... "'Earthlings?'"
"Yeah," the guy said. "I could never get used to calling you 'Tau'ri.' It always sounded--" he wiggled his hand by Evan's hip to illustrate, "so alien to me. When we're all just carbon-based life-forms, right?"
"Who are you?" Evan said. He tried to stop walking but the guy was like a bulldozer, dragging Evan with him.
They moved down a second alley, deeper into an area of the city where the buildings seemed to be less damaged. Some of them were still standing, with only chunks torn out. Their pale stone glowed faintly in the radiance of the stars.
The guy walked them between two buildings and then turned a corner, pulling them into what looked like it'd once been a large foyer.
"Oh good," the guy said. "They've left the lights on."
And so saying, he shoved Evan through a doorway where there were no lights at all.
Evan stumbled backwards into the dark. He tried to catch his balance with his injured leg but he heard something pop in his knee and it gave way. He cried out as he fell, automatically putting his arms out behind him to catch himself. The impact jarred all the way from his wrists to his shoulders and instinctively he curled away from the pain that flared through his injury. He ended up on his right side, hand clamped to his left shoulder, panting with agony.
"Sorry!" the guy said, dropping to his side. "Why didn't you tell me your leg was hurt too?"
"Why did you shove me into the doorway?" Evan shot back through clenched teeth. His right knee was killing him, feeling exactly like when he was a kid and he'd cracked his kneecap on someone's helmet during football practice. He'd had to get carried off the field on a stretcher.
His left arm, on the other hand, was its own special form of agony, like getting stabbed with molten steel.
"Because I could hear the Ori coming," the guy replied conversationally. "Fucking mothers of diseased chickens!" He gently straightened out Evan's leg, which made him groan, but did ease the pain a fraction.
"I thought they were dead," Evan panted. He hadn't heard anything, but then again his recent exposure to the flashbang may have had something to do with that. With the guy's help he managed to manoeuvre himself to a sitting position. The room was still incredibly dark, but there was a light coming from somewhere deeper inside the building, and as Evan's eyes adjusted he could tell that they were in a foyer that led to some stairs leading down into shadows.
The guy was shaking his head vehemently. "Just the Priors. Well, they didn't die," he corrected himself. "They just got their heads screwed on right. Unfortunately that didn't convince all of the converted that they should lay down their weapons."
"It didn't?" Evan said, confused. He was sure that all the Ori-dominated worlds had returned to being governed by their rightful owners, and that their followers stopped fighting once the Priors were no longer commanding the armies.
"Not here," the guy said. "But then again, here it's more political than fanatical. Although those are probably the same thing." He paused, tilting his head to one side as if he was thinking about that, which made his head look misshapen in the dark. "Yeah, that's the same thing."
"Political?" Evan repeated stupidly. His wounds were beginning to hurt in earnest, like all the pain from before was just the preview for the main event.
"Stop asking questions now," the guy said. "You need medical care." He rose and jogged the few steps to the stairs, leaning so far down that Evan thought for a moment that he'd fall. "Kianna!" he called softly. "Get Jos! We got a visitor!"
There was an inaudible response from somewhere far below, and then the sound of feet on the steps. The building creaked ominously and Evan glanced up at the ceiling in concern. But his companion didn't react, so Evan forced himself to relax, assuming it'd be okay.
The indistinct shapes of two people appeared at the top of the stairs.
"What'd you find this time?" A man said, stepping further into the foyer.
"A Stargate Command soldier," the guy replied proudly. "Told you they'd come!"
"Stargate?" the man said, surprise in his tone. "I thought they were a myth."
"They're not a myth," Evan's rescuer scowled. "We've talked about them more than once."
"They're not a myth, Jos." A woman's voice agreed. "I told you that I met them, before the war."
"That wasn't you," The man called Jos replied. "You had a snake in your head."
"Be nice!" the guy said. "For sure he's from the SGC." He turned towards Evan. "You are from the SGC, right?" He half-lifted the P90. "Because if not, how the hell did you get one of their weapons?"
"I'm from the SGC," Evan confirmed. Dimly he wondered how the guy would know that, but it was too hard to think through the pain. It seemed like there was a lot of blood seeping through his fingers and soaking into the cloth of his sleeve.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," the guy said. He turned to his companions who were still standing around, staring at him. "Told you they'd come for me."
Jos shrugged. "There's only one, and he's wounded. Some rescue."
The guy's tone was sharp. "They'll be back. They never leave a man behind."
Evan felt his head snap up at the man's words. "Jonas?"
Jonas turned to him, his teeth glowing white in the low light. "I knew you'd come looking for me." Suddenly he froze and raised his hand, reminding Evan eerily of his own actions with Laura and Blair just minutes earlier. "They're coming," Jonas whispered tightly. "Get him downstairs."
And without another word Evan was scooped up and half-dragged, half-carried down the stairs, deeper into the building.
Evan must have passed out at some point, because when he came to he was lying on the floor of the basement, staring up at a ceiling that looked like it was held together with paper-mache and chicken wire. His jacket was off and he shivered. The temperature was significantly cooler this far underground. Someone had put a folded blanket under his head.
Jonas was kneeling on one knee right next to him, close enough to make Evan jump.
"Good, you're alive," Jonas said. "I thought you might have died on us there, but you were still bleeding so I figured maybe not."
"All bleeding stops eventually," Jos called cheerfully from somewhere else in the room.
"Thanks for the newsflash, you pig-sucking whore!" Jonas shouted back. He turned to Evan. "Seriously. Jos has no manners at all."
Evan finally had a chance to look at his rescuer. Jonas was handsome; with even, straight features and a strong jaw that Evan would've enjoyed sketching. His hair was shaggy and he had at least two days worth of beard, but somehow that only added to his appeal. What did mar his good looks were the deep circles under his eyes and the exhaustion that traced every line of his body. He looked worn out, like he needed sleep, a good meal and a shower and not necessarily in that order. He looked like every day for the last two years had been a war all by itself.
But he smiled when he saw Evan staring at him.
Evan sucked in a breath. Jonas was handsome when he was serious, but completely gorgeous when he smiled. His eyes glinted bottle green, dimples popped in his cheeks, and the fatigue seemed to drop away, showing a glimpse of who he must have been before the devastation of the Ori.
"Hold still," the woman said, breaking the moment. She pressed a wet cloth to the wound on Evan's arm. He reacted to the sudden bolt of pain and clawed at the floor with his good hand, trying to stay as still as possible.
"Seriously, Jonas," the woman said. "I said 'hold still.' You're blocking my light."
"Sorry!" Jonas said and moved to Evan's other side. "Kianna's a good medic," he said, settling down by Evan's head again. "You won't lose the arm. He won't lose the arm, right, Kianna?" he asked her.
"Not if you let me finish," Kianna replied, wiping at Evan's arm again, making him yelp.
Kianna had dirty blond hair that hung long and limp over her dirty face. She was pretty in a hard, sharp-edged way, but she was too thin. And just like Jonas, she looked exhausted. Her eyes were like Jonas': a mix of blue-green that reminded Evan of the Lantean ocean.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Jonas said. He patted Evan firmly on his good shoulder. "Right as rain."
Evan's teeth were beginning to chatter with the cold.
Jonas looked at him. "Oh shit," he said quietly. "Jos, bring me the blankets."
Jos was there in an instant, arms pilled high with blankets that looked like they'd been stolen from the homeless people who had them last.
"Thanks." Jonas flashed a smile at the other man, and then started layering the blankets gently over Evan, saving one to prop up his uninjured leg. "Now," he said conversationally to Evan. "You're getting cold, and it could be that your going into shock--which would be really bad, because all the first aid books I read back on Earth said that you have to call 911 when someone is in shock and we really can't do that. So don't. Okay?"
"Okay." Evan nodded. The blankets were making him feel better, even if they smelled slightly worse than Jonas and his companions. His hearing was slowly returning as well, and thankfully the coloured spots were also fading. It made him think of Laura and Blair, and he hoped they were okay.
"I never did understand what calling '911' would do," Jonas continued. "What's the point of just hollering '911!' when someone's wounded? How can that help?"
"It's a telephone number," Evan said. "You call it, and they send help."
"Of course!" Jonas said, breaking into a wide smile. "I should've thought of that."
Evan found himself smiling back, although it was made difficult by Kianna swiping at the small cuts on his face with her cloth.
"You're a mess," she muttered under her breath, and turned her attention back to his arm.
Evan looked up at Jonas. "Can I have some water?"
Jonas blinked. "The first aid books say we can't give you anything by mouth if you're in shock."
"Give him some tea with sugar," Kianna said without looking up. "At least he'll die with something in his stomach." She finally finished torturing his wound with the water and seemed to be tying something around it that Evan assumed was a bandage. "This thing is bleeding like a motherless pig fucker." Kianna mumbled.
"I'll get the tea," Jos said, and moved out of Evan's line of sight.
"Thanks," Evan muttered. He was feeling sore and thirsty and really tired, which he knew were all results of his injuries. His arm felt only marginally better now that Kianna wasn't prodding it anymore, and his knee was aching and right at that moment he thought he might actually kill for one of those painkillers that Keller was always trying to force down his throat. He let his eyes drift shut.
"Who are you?" Jonas said suddenly.
Evan's eyes flew open. "Major Evan Lorne," He said. "United States Air Force."
"Oh," Jonas said, sounding disappointed. "I was hoping they'd send those tough guys. The Marines."
Evan frowned. "We are tough."
"Right," Jonas said, clearly not agreeing.
Evan's frown deepened. "O'Neill is Air Force."
Jonas smiled. "I miss Jack. How is he?"
"Good," Evan mumbled. He actually had no idea; he'd never met him.
"Tea," Jos said, plunking the cup down on the floor by Evan's head. Jos was large: as tall as John but as wide as Ronon. His hair was a shaggy dark brown and he had a full beard, both of which looked like they had been recently cut with a dull knife. Evan's aesthetic sense told him that Jos was probably fairly handsome without all the excess hair, but that was only a guess.
"I'm gonna check the medical supplies," Jos said. He left for somewhere else in the room, and Kianna moved off with him.
"Keep him warm," she said to Jonas as she left. "And try not to move his leg. I need to find something to splint it with."
"Thanks," Evan said to both of them, and attempted to push himself into a sitting position. It was a struggle with only one good arm.
"Easy, big guy," Jonas said, slipping one arm behind Evan's back. He shifted the blankets and supported Evan until he could sit. "Here." Jonas said, handing Evan the tea. He had made sure to hold the handle towards Evan's good hand.
"Thanks," Evan muttered. He could feel himself blushing from the combination of his helplessness and the feel of Jonas' arm around his back. He sipped at the tea to hide his embarrassment. It was steaming hot and cloyingly sweet, but he had never tasted anything better.
Now that his arm was a bit less painful, his knee was really starting to hurt. He could feel it as it continued to swell, the skin tightening unpleasantly as it filled with fluid. He hoped Kianna could find something to splint it with, because otherwise there was no way he was going to be able to walk to the Gate.
Jonas moved one of the blankets to cover the top of his head and his shoulders, and wrapped another around his upper body, like a cape. "It gets cold down here, especially in winter." Jonas explained. "Hugh died that first winter, just from the cold. We found him in the morning, staring up at nothing with big, empty eyes." Jonas smiled, but it was perfunctory at best. "He'd given his blankets to Aundra, to help keep her warm. Stupid idiot always had more guts than brains."
"I'm sorry," Evan said quietly. He'd lost team-mates too, but never like that, where you'd go to sleep at night expecting them to be alive in the morning, only to discover to your horror that they weren't.
"Me too," Jonas said. "It was hard for me to sleep after that for a while. I kept waking up to check on everybody, make sure they had blankets." He laughed but his eyes were sad.
Kianna and Jos came back, each one carrying a piece of wood and some strips of cloth.
"This is all I could find for splinting," Kianna said. "Jonas, you'll have to help me with the knots because you read all those books when you were on Earth." Jonas nodded, and took the piece of wood from Kianna, gently placing it on one side of Evan's injured leg.
"We have to hurry," Jos said grimly. "Kianna and I heard them outside."
Jonas looked sharply at him. "How long?"
Jos shrugged. "I don't know, but it sounds like they've brought the big guns."
"Sons of diseased roosters!" Jonas swore. He turned to Kianna and Jos. "Get out of here," he commanded. "Head for the Gate. I'll take care of the soldier."
"Jonas--" Kianna said. She put her hand out.
"No," he interrupted her, but he grabbed her hand. "You and Jos are all I have left. I won't let anything happen to you."
"Don't make us leave without you!" Kianna pleaded.
Now Jonas was smiling at her, one of his brilliant smiles that lit his whole face. "I'll be fine." Then he pulled her in for a kiss.
Evan blinked and looked away, allowing them as much privacy as he could for their good-bye.
"Be safe," she whispered as she gently disengaged, trailing her hand along his cheek.
Jonas nodded, then stood and turned to Jos.
"I have the GDO," Jos said, showing it to Jonas and then slipping it back into his pocket. "I'll leave it for you by the Gate for when you arrive."
Jonas shook his head. "Take it." He gestured at Evan with his chin. "We'll use his."
And then Evan found himself looking away again as the two men kissed their good-bye in an equally passionate fashion. If the situation hadn't been so dire, Evan might have been a little bit turned on.
"Now run," Jonas said. "I'll see you on Earth."
They both nodded and fled towards the back of the room, where Evan assumed there had to be another exit to the outside.
"Be safe," Jonas whispered, looking at the way they had gone. And Evan had a sudden flash of sending Laura and Blair off to the Gate as fast as they could run, with no idea if they had made it or not.
Be safe, he prayed silently for his team-mates.
Jonas turned back and looked at him, his expression grim. He picked up the second piece of wood. "Now this is gonna hurt."
It had hurt, and by the end Evan was sweating with the effort of keeping still. His lip was cut where he had bit it until it bled, but now that his leg was immobilized the pain was suddenly tolerable and he felt weak with relief.
"Can you stand?" Jonas asked, bending over him. His entire body was nearly vibrating with urgency. "Because we really have to go now."
"Yes," Evan said, giving Jonas his good arm so the other man could help lug him to his feet. He wasn't actually sure he could stand, but he would, or die trying.
Because now he could also hear the sound of heavy footsteps somewhere just outside the building, and it was probably only a matter of moments before they found the doorway.
Jonas pulled him upright, tugging Evan's good arm over his shoulder. He had to drop the blankets to do that, and the cold air was miserable against his thin t-shirt and bare skin. It was impossible for Evan to put weight on his bad leg, but with Jonas' help he was able to hobble towards the door at the back of the room.
But it was taking forever and certain death was only a few feet above them.
"We'll never make it," Evan said, digging in his heel. "Go to the Gate. I'll give you my GDO. You can send someone back for me."
"No." Jonas shook his head and didn't stop walking. "That's not a good plan. They'll think I killed you and stole your GDO and then they'll lock me in one of the stockades on level 16 of the mountain."
That was completely not the argument that Evan was expecting, but now that he'd heard it, he thought Jonas might be right. "I'll explain when they find me. They'll see that I was wounded--"
"You'll be dead," Jonas said. "You won't be able to tell them anything."
They were almost at the doorway now, but it was painfully slow-going, and even those few steps had Evan panting with effort. "It's a risk you'll have to take," Evan wheezed. "Because I can't do this. Either you escape or we'll both die."
Jonas' mouth became a hard line. "Shut up and keep walking." He pulled Evan forward, and Evan's left foot slipped. Instinctively he put his right foot down to catch his balance.
The pain was excruciating. Evan's leg immediately gave way and he pitched forward, his weight dragging Jonas down with him. Evan hit the ground hard on his right side, which was great for his injured arm but pretty shitty for his injured leg. Only the solidity of the splint preventing his knee from bending stopped Evan from blacking out from the pain.
Then Jonas landed squarely on Evan's injured arm, and the agony was so exquisite that Evan greyed out for a second.
"Rabid chicken eaters!" Jonas swore, scrambling off Evan. "I'm so sorry!"
"It's okay," Evan whimpered. Gingerly he rolled onto his back. "You have to leave me Jonas," he said. "Please."
Jonas wasn't listening. He was looking up at the ceiling, an expression of dawning horror on his face.
And then Evan heard it, too. The distinctive whoosh of a rocket heading towards its target.
"Get down!" Jonas screamed, and threw himself over Evan.
Which was exactly when there was a deafening boom and the ceiling above them collapsed.
It took Evan a moment to realize his eyes were open because the whole world was pitch black.
Evan groaned with the effort of clawing his way to consciousness. His left arm was ablaze with pain, his right knee screaming for his attention, and something heavy was lying across his chest, preventing him from breathing.
With tremendous exertion, Evan managed to squirm out from under the weight and get himself into a sitting position. There was something flat and solid that he could lean on behind him. By pushing hard with his one good arm and leg he was finally able to get his back against it, but by the time he managed it he was shaking from the exertion.
He could feel the blood seeping through the bandage and down his arm, pooling in the crease of his elbow.
The dead weight was now lying firmly across his lap, and Evan traced it with his good hand, trying to figure out what it was and how he could get it off.
It was a body.
"Jonas!" Evan cried, shaking what he now knew was the shoulder of the other man. Jonas didn't move. Blindly Evan felt around for Jonas's head, and realized that Jonas was laying face-down on Evan's thighs, his arms out in front of him. He stroked through Jonas' hair, and his fingertips came back wet with a warm, slippery liquid that Evan knew was blood even without the benefit of sight. Desperately he felt down from Jonas' ear to his jaw-line, his fingers searching for the pulse-point at the junction between the jaw and neck.
After what felt like an eternity, Evan found Jonas' pulse. It was steady and sure and Evan breathed a sigh of relief, letting his head rest against the stone behind him.
Far above, he could just make out the cold white glint of stars in the night sky. The Ori soldiers had used their rockets to raze the building to the ground.
And Jonas may have saved his life by throwing his body over Evan's to protect him from the brunt of falling stone.
Saved my life again, Evan amended to himself. Jonas had shot the remaining soldiers who'd been firing at him and his team in the court-yard, when all Evan had managed to do was to get himself injured.
It was like Jos had said: Some rescue.
Jonas moaned softly and began to move on Evan's lap, which put pressure on his knee, which really hurt.
"Easy!" Evan hissed, and hoisted Jonas as upright as possible using his good arm. Jonas sagged against his right side, resting his temple against Evan's bare upper arm. Evan could feel the blood from Jonas' head wound smearing against his skin.
"Jonas," Evan said forcefully. "Jonas, you need to wake up." He gave him a gentle nudge with his shoulder.
"M'wake," Jonas said. Evan felt Jonas move beside him and could picture him rubbing at his eyes. "Gods my head hurts."
"The ceiling fell on you," Evan said. "Thanks for covering me, by the way. I think you might've saved my life."
"The ceiling?" Jonas said. His words sounded thick, like it was taking time for him to find them from the recesses of his mind. "Gods on fire! Were you hurt?"
"Not worse than I was already," Evan said. "How are you? Besides your head, I mean."
He heard Jonas give himself a pat-down, and then heard him hiss in pain. "I think I broke my funny bone."
"Your funny bone?" Evan repeated. "Which arm. Left or right?"
"It wasn't my arm," Jonas said. "It's the other funny bones. The ones in your chest."
Evan blinked. "Your ribs? You mean your ribs?"
"Yeah," Jonas agreed. "Because my side hurts like the daughter of a pig-fucker."
"Can you breathe?"
He heard Jonas huff out a laugh. "Well enough." He coughed.
"Good," Evan said. "Because you have to get out of here before the soldiers come back."
"I'd love to," Jonas said, and coughed again. "But I can't for three reasons."
Evan made a face. "What?"
"One," Jonas said. "I won't leave you. Two, I don't think I can get out."
"Can't get out?" Evan said, hearing the note of desperation in his voice. "What do you mean? I can see the sky!"
"Thence my third reason," Jonas said, and suddenly the space was lit with the beam of a flashlight that Evan immediately recognized as SCG issue. "Well, part of it."
And Evan saw with dawning horror that the ceiling had fallen all around them, missing them by mere inches, but creating a box of solid stone reaching from the ground almost as far up to what was once the second floor of the building. It was like being in an aquarium made of concrete. It would be difficult to climb if they were both healthy, but injured it would be nearly impossible.
"What's the other part of reason three?" Evan said quietly, his eyes still searching for a break in their prison.
"My chest," Jonas said simply. "I don't think it's that funny anymore."
Evan snapped his eyes to Jonas' face. "Jesus." There was a small trickle of blood making its way from Jonas' lip to his chin.
"More comes up every time I cough," He said and coughed. Blood sprayed from his mouth to speckle against his hand. "And it really hurts."
"Oh my God," Evan breathed. "We need to get you to a doctor."
Jonas smirked and gestured at their prison. "That might be tough."
"Yeah," Evan replied softly. "It might."
Jonas wasn't doing well.
"You need to get warm." Evan said, because he could feel Jonas shivering between his coughing fits. Groaning with effort, Evan moved his legs far enough apart so Jonas could slide in between them and lean against his chest. "Come here."
"No, I'm fine," Jonas had said, and then coughed. "Your leg."
"You need to get warm," Evan repeated. "Now." He tugged on Jonas' leg with his good hand as the angle was wrong for him to reach anywhere else.
"Okay." Jonas turned the flashlight back on. Evan winced in the sudden light. "Sorry," Jonas said. "But I don't want to hit your knee by accident." And then carefully, he slid his body over Evan's leg to settle stiffly against his chest.
"Lean your head back," Evan said. Jonas' hair was poking against the skin of his face, which felt uncomfortable against the small cuts left there from the shrapnel of the courtyard. Jonas' hair was as unclean as the rest of him, and it was hard and stiff from dirt.
"I'll hurt you," Jonas muttered, but then sagged against him, as if staying upright was too much effort. His head came to rest on Evan's right shoulder with his forehead against Evan's neck. "I wish we still had those blankets." He sighed.
"They're somewhere in here," Evan said. "Along with my stuff."
"Your jacket had a huge hole in the arm," Jonas said. "But I'm sorry I lost your radio."
"It's okay," Evan said. "My team'll find me anyway." He remembered how useless the Lifesigns detector had been when they'd been searching for Jonas, and how relatively far he now was from the courtyard where Blair and Laura had seen him last. He had no idea if his sub-dermal transmitter would work there, either. "They'll find us," he said again, hoping it was true.
"I'm sorry you're going to die here," Jonas said quietly as if Evan hadn't spoken. "You came to rescue me, and you're going to die instead. I'm so sorry."
Some rescue, Evan thought again. "We're not going to die," he said forcefully.
"The Andari Federation has been trying to kill me since the day the Ori were defeated," Jonas said with a short laugh. "Looks like they've finally succeeded." He coughed and Evan could feel flecks of blood hitting against his neck above his collar.
"Who?" Evan asked, more to keep Jonas talking than out of real interest.
"Neighbouring country to the North," Jonas replied, his breath puffing against Evan's skin. "They converted to Origin. Same with Terrania. We were the only ones that held out."
That explains the state of the city, Evan thought. "Good for you."
Jonas huffed a laugh that dotted Evan's neck with blood. "Not really."
"Of course it was!" Evan said. "You didn't give in."
"They killed all my people, Evan." Jonas said. "Kelowna was the only country that resisted, and the only one that got hit with the plague and the only one that was bombed to smithereens. Hundreds of thousands of my people died, and the rest are refugees, homeless and destitute."
"But they died free," Evan said.
"No. They died because I told them to," Jonas said. He shifted against Evan as if he was trying to sit up, but then collapsed back, coughing. "Shit. That really hurts."
"Don't move," Evan said, wrapping his good arm around Jonas to try to keep him still. His left arm was throbbing in pain with the kind of hot tenderness that signalled the start of an infection. He could still feel blood oozing it's way thickly down his arm, thankfully less than before, but still enough to be concerning.
"I was their Prime Minister," Jonas continued. "High leader of Kelowna. Did you know that?"
"No," Evan replied honestly. The mission reports he'd read on Jonas Quinn had stated he was Kelowna's representative on the Joint Ruling Council, but not that he'd ascended to that level of government. "That's really impressive."
"Not when you get the title because everyone else is dead," Jonas said. "I was voted in during an emergency referendum just after the Ori had arrived and killed our Prime Minister and her Deputy. Did you know she had three children?"
"No," Evan said again. He didn't like the direction the conversation was taking. "But it wasn't your fault--"
"I told them to resist the Ori," Jonas said as if Evan hadn't spoken. "I told them to arm themselves and fight for the freedom of Langara. And they did." His voice cracked on the next words. "And while the Andaris and the Terrians bowed their heads in supplication and went on with their lives, my people fought and died. And it's all my fault."
"No it wasn't," Evan said vehemently.
"Yes, it is," Jonas replied with quiet certainty. "I thought it was the right thing to do. To fight for our religious and intellectual freedom. To fight for the Kelownan way of life."
"But that was the right thing to do!" Evan said, feeling something twist in his gut. "You can't think otherwise."
"They're all dead," Jonas said. "The plague hit first. I survived because of my time with Nirrti. Kianna lived because she used to be a host for a Goa'uld. I have no idea how Jos or Hugh or Aundra or any of the others lived. But in a matter of weeks my vast army was whittled down to less than 50 people." Evan felt Jonas shudder with the memory. "And then they started the bombing."
"Jesus," Evan whispered, thinking of San Francisco and what it would have been like to be there, watching everyone drop dead from an epidemic, and then have to witness the destruction of the city itself.
"It was like they were trying to wipe out every trace of us," Jonas said. "And I kept praying that you guys would come. But you never did."
Jonas' soft words hit Evan like a punch to the gut. He knew that the SGC had been completely tapped out trying to stop the Ori, and that it had taken nearly a year to find a weapon that would work against them, and then more time to track down the only weapon that could destroy them once and for all. He completely understood why no one had come to help Jonas' people. But it was far too easy to think about how Jonas had felt, watching his people die.
Evan swallowed thickly. "I'm sorry."
He felt Jonas shrug. "It's okay," he said, and Evan could feel his ghost of a smile. "I actually thought you were all dead. That Earth had been the first planet they had destroyed. I'm glad to know you're all right."
"You thought you were all alone in your fight," Evan said.
"Yeah," Jonas agreed. "And then that light came! And all the Priors just--stopped, and I knew it was from Earth and that you were all okay."
"Why didn't you contact us?" Evan asked. "Maybe we could've helped."
Jonas laughed. "I tried."
Evan felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. "What happened?"
"The Andari Federation tried to kill me--for the first time," Jonas said. "They were waiting by the Gate, and when I showed up with the remnants of my resistance army they opened fire. Aundra was killed then. So was Myrn. They'd survived two years of Ori attacks just to be killed when it ended. Such a waste."
"I'm sorry," Evan said again, wishing the words didn't sound quite so useless.
"They want our naquadria," Jonas said. "And they think I'm powerful enough to stop them. They think I'll cause an uprising among the Kelownan refugees." He laughed again; then coughed violently, doubling over from the effort. His hand landed heavily on Evan's knee as he tried to support himself. Evan cried out in pain.
"Sorry!" Jonas gasped. "I'm sorry--" But then he was coughing again, and Evan put his good arm around him, trying to help hold him up. Finally Jonas stopped and sagged against him, his breathing harsh and ragged. "It really hurts," Jonas whimpered.
"I'm okay with dying," Jonas continued after his ragged breathing had calmed a little. "I'm sorry you're going to die here, but I'm okay with it."
"You're not going to die!" Evan said harshly, his chest constricting in fear. He barely knew this man, but already he was in awe of Jonas' courage in the face of so many years of hardship and heartbreak. Evan knew he was tough, but he wasn't sure that he'd have been able to carry on after such tremendous loss. He really didn't want him to die.
"I'm just glad that Jos and Kianna are going to survive," Jonas said. "They'll be happy at the SGC." He paused. "They will be happy at the SGC, won't they?"
"Yes. Absolutely," Evan said with more conviction than he felt. But he vowed to himself that if he made it back he would ensure that Jos and Kianna were treated well, no matter what it took.
"That's what I thought," Jonas said. "Evan?" His voice was thin.
"Don't talk," Evan said. "Help will be here soon."
"You're a really nice guy, Evan," Jonas' voice was barely a whisper. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault!" Evan said forcefully. "None of this is your fault!"
But Jonas didn't reply.
"Jonas!" Evan said. "Jonas!" But the other man was heavy and silent against him.
Evan tilted his head back as despair washed over him. He hadn't felt this helpless since he and his team had been held captive on M1K-177 by the Genii. Only none of his team had actually died.
He wasn't sure when he'd started to think of Jonas as a member of his team. Maybe it'd been when Jonas had insisted on staying behind with him instead of getting to the safety of the Gate. Or maybe it had been even earlier, when Jonas had rescued him from the Andari soldiers. But at some point, he'd made the switch from thinking of Jonas Quinn as a stranger to thinking of him as a friend.
He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, allowing himself the luxury of feeling the anguish of Jonas' death. Jonas had blamed himself for Evan's predicament, but Jonas' actions were the only reason why Evan was still alive and Jonas wasn't.
And he'd be damned if Jonas' sacrifice was going to go to waste.
Evan shifted and winced with the effort, trying to move Jonas' body off him so he could figure out a way to stand.
He heard a sound.
Evan froze, all his senses straining against the dark as he listened for the tell-tale crunch of boots on broken stone.
He heard it again.
Someone was making their way through the slabs of fallen concrete towards his position, with the slow and steady pace of a hunter seeking its prey.
With an instinct honed from over a decade in the military, Evan knew it wasn't a friendly who was going to poke his head over the wall at any second.
As silently as possible, Evan shifted back to his original position, pulling Jonas' limp form as high up his body as he could. Evan slouched, letting Jonas' head sag against his face in a way that Evan hoped would obscure his features from anyone who was coming.
And then he reached down and grabbed Jonas' side-arm, pulling it free from its holster one slow inch at a time. With agonizing care, he took the safety off and cocked the weapon, its short click sounding terribly loud in the near silence.
"Sorry Jonas," he whispered, and moved the weapon between himself and Jonas' back. It would feel hard and uncomfortable if Jonas were alive.
And then, Evan waited.
"I'm sure they're dead."
Evan tensed at the words, making himself breathe slower as he waited for the owner of the voice to make his appearance.
"Quinn is a slippery son-of-a-diseased-sow," the voice's companion said. "I won't believe he's dead until I see it with my own eyes."
The first voice laughed. "No one could survive this! The building looks like the Gods chewed it up and spat it out."
"Those soldiers of Origin sure do have good weapons," the second voice responded.
There was the sound of a smirk. "All hail the Ori."
And then there was a light shining over the wall in front of him, bright enough to force Evan to squint his eyes.
"Well, would you look at this." the owner of the first voice said. "Two bagged for the price of one."
"Isn't that a touching scene?" The second voice responded. "They're all cuddled together. Like little chicks." For some reason, this comment provoked gales of laughter from both the soldiers.
"Do you think that's Jos Mar behind him?" The first soldier said. The light bobbed and weaved as he apparently climbed over the wall in front of Evan. Evan tensed, waiting.
"Who knows?" The second soldier said. "And who cares? The only one who matters is Quinn. He's the one they'd all follow to their deaths."
"Yeah, Quinn's death is going to make things a whole lot easier." The first soldier agreed, huffing a bit as he made the climb.
"And us a whole lot richer!" The second soldier crowed. "We're the ones who killed the pig-fucker. We'll be heroes!" There was the sound of boots dropping onto concrete.
The light stopped moving and stilled on Jonas' face. Evan peered at the soldier through slitted eyes. He could barely make out the silhouette of the Andarian through the glare of the light, but it was enough.
"Hurry up," the first soldier called to his companion. "The quicker we get these bodies out of here, the quicker we can go back to bed."
There were more sounds of boots hitting the floor as the second soldier cleared the wall.
"Gods," he said. It's going to be tough to move them."
"We should probably blast down this wall." The first soldier said, and he turned his body to indicate the slab of concrete he had just climbed over. It caused the light to move off of Evan's face, and gave him the opening he needed.
Evan raised the gun and fired. His first shot hit the solider in his face and sent him falling backwards to land heavily against the wall behind him. Evan fired again and the second solider was dead before he even had a chance to raise his weapon. Blood arched from his throat like a dark rainbow in the harsh light of their lamp.
Evan stayed with the gun raised and adrenaline coursing through his system. There were no other sounds except the labour of his breathing and the pounding of his heart in his chest.
Still, he waited.
The soldier's light was still on. Its beam illuminated the legs of one of the dead soldiers and the wall beyond, giving enough light so that Evan could actually see around him.
He waited for countless minutes more, expecting a whole platoon of soldiers to appear over the wall, drawn there by the sound of gunfire and the disappearance of two of their men. But nothing happened.
Slowly, Evan felt his heart rate return to normal and his breathing ease. He brought the gun down to his side and let his head fall back. The adrenaline rush had faded and all the discomfort of his situation roared in to its wake. He was suddenly freezing and exhausted, and his wounds were screaming. He started shaking from a combination of the cold and his injuries; only this time there was no Jonas offering him blankets and tea to take the edge off his misery.
He shifted under Jonas' body, managing to slide Jonas' head back to its position against his neck, but he knew he couldn't do anything more.
We found him in the morning, Evan remembered Jonas saying, staring up at nothing with big, empty eyes. And with a sickening realization, Evan knew that would be how Blair and Laura would find him. Frozen to death before morning. His eyes open and staring.
Some rescue, Evan thought to himself. He closed his eyes.
Evan's eyes flew open. "Jonas?"
"I feel like shit," Jonas mumbled. He leaned forward and Evan could see him put his head in his hands. "My chest hurts."
"Jonas!" Evan repeated; a crazy mixture of joy and relief making him feel dizzy.
"I think I got hit on the head pretty hard," Jonas said. He sat up and shifted so that he could look at Evan, hissing in pain as he moved. "Did I fall asleep?"
"I thought you were dead," Evan said, his injuries forgotten. He knew he was probably smiling like an idiot but he couldn't bring himself to care.
"I'm sorry," Jonas said. "I wouldn't die on you, Evan." His expression was almost comical in its sincerity. He looked behind him and seemed to notice the bodies of the soldiers. "Did you do that?"
"Yeah," Evan replied. "It was kind of an 'us-against-them' scenario. I used your gun."
"Nice shooting!" Jonas smiled that devastating smile of his that made Evan's chest tighten. But then Jonas frowned. "They'll be more coming soon." He coughed, and once again flecks of blood sprayed against his palm. "Gods, that hurts."
Evan frowned. "Can you walk?"
Jonas was already heaving himself to his feet. "I can if you can." He stood for a moment, one hand on the wall behind Evan, clearly catching his breath. He held out his other hand. "Here."
Evan grasped Jonas' outstretched hand and let the other man haul him to his feet. The change of position after so many hours made Evan dizzy, and he stood on his left leg, weaving slightly until the world stopped spinning.
"Great," he said after a moment. "So we're standing. But I don't think either one of us can get over these walls."
"We don't have to," Jonas said. He crouched down slowly, clearly favouring his injured side and picked up the lamp dropped by the soldiers of the Andari Federation. "We can just go out that way." He stood and pointed the beam towards where a section of the wall had collapsed, leading out to a gentle slope that would bring them up to street level.
"I'll be damned," Evan breathed. The way out had been there all along.
Jonas dropped the lamp, slipped Evan's good arm over his shoulder and gripped him around the waist. Evan couldn't help wish it were under different circumstances.
He had a flash of memory of Jonas kissing Jos with abandon, and he sighed. At least they'll be reunited on Earth, Evan thought, and was proud of how noble he was being.
"We should go," Jonas panted. "It will be morning soon."
"Yeah," Evan said. And they started out together.
The sky was beginning to lighten before they had gotten half-way to the Gate.
Evan's body ached, and his left arm was so sore that he could only hold it against his chest. The jarring rhythm of his gait caused every step to be its own kind of agony. He knew an infection had set in. The skin around his wound was hot and tight and even the touch of his sleeve was almost too much to bear. His right knee wasn't much better. He could barely rest his toe on the ground without causing pain to shoot from his knee all the way up his spine. Twice he'd nearly fallen and it had hurt so much that he'd been left gasping and shaking from the effort to not just collapse.
But as bad off as he was, he feared that Jonas was much worse.
Jonas was having trouble breathing. He was coughing with nearly every step, and blood had coated his lips and was trickling freely down his chin. He looked like he had killed an animal by ripping its head off with his teeth. It was also obvious that he was in terrible pain, and every step he took supporting Evan's weight was just making it worse.
And of course there was also his concussion, which Evan didn't even want to think about.
"We have to stop," Evan wheezed. "You need a rest."
"No," Jonas said. He coughed. "If I stop I won't be able to get up again."
"You're going to drop dead," Evan said. "That'll be worse."
"I won't die on you, Evan," Jonas said. The same line he'd said before. But then he coughed again, and it was so violent that he let go of Evan's waist, causing Evan to lose his balance and he barely managed to control his fall before he landed heavily on the ground. Evan swore violently as the movement made his arm and knee both shriek in pain.
"Sorry!" Jonas said, and then started coughing again. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, leaving a long smear of red. He sat hard on the ground beside Evan then splayed himself out on his back. "Mothers of diseased chickens," he muttered. "I feel like shit."
Evan cradled his arm against his chest. "We're not going to make it to the Gate," he said with hard certainty. "At least not together."
"I won't leave you," Jonas gasped out. "I told you that already."
Evan shook his head. "They won't think you killed me," he said. "You don't have to worry about that."
Jonas turned his head to look at him and his eyes were a dark green in the pale light of dawn. "I won't leave you, Evan," He repeated. His breathing was too fast. "It's not about the GDO."
"You don't need to save me," Evan tried again. "Send someone back. I'll be fine."
"You're sitting out in the open off to the side of the main road to the Gate. Someone will come along and kill you as soon as their breakfast is finished," Jonas wheezed.
"We came in on this road," Evan said. "No one tried to kill us then."
Jonas shook his head. "I doubt you'll be that lucky twice."
"Which is exactly why you need to leave me and go back." Evan said with more patience than he was feeling. "Think of Kianna. Or Jos! They'd hate for something to happen to you."
Jonas frowned. "They'll be fine. You're the one that's injured." He coughed and then groaned.
"So are you!" Evan felt his temper fraying. "You've got a bleeding lung! And a head injury! You need to go back while you can still walk!"
Jonas sat up slowly. "Okay."
Evan blinked. "Okay?"
"Yeah," Jonas said. He stood gingerly, favouring his injured side. "I can't argue with your logic." He drew his gun, pulled out another magazine from the cargo pocket on his pant leg and reloaded, then handed the weapon to Evan. "Stay alive, Evan," he said.
And then to Evan's great surprise, Jonas leaned down, grabbed Evan's face with his hands, and bent to kiss him.
Evan had no idea if kissing was a Langaran good-bye ritual, or something Jonas did with everyone he fought with. But right that second Evan wanted to pretend that it was for him alone, and that Jonas wanted him to live not out of some misguided sense of responsibility, but because Evan mattered to him.
Because you matter to me, Evan thought. A whole lot.
Evan's eyes had closed, but he blinked them open when Jonas' lips never actually made contact.
"Sorry," Jonas muttered, leaning his forehead against Evan's. "I'd really like to, but..."
You're in love with Kianna. Or Jos, Evan thought. Guess it's not a Langaran ritual after all. He forced himself to smile. "I understand."
"Good." Jonas smiled that incredible smile of his, and Evan caught his breath.
"I have to go." Jonas gasped. With difficultly he hauled Evan to his feet and helped him walk the few steps to the bushes.
"Go hide." Jonas ordered him, his face white with pain. He gestured at the bushes that grew alongside the road. "Keep warm. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Evan grasped the branches of the closest bush to keep his balance and fished his GDO out of his pocket. He handed it to the other man. "Be safe."
"Always." Jonas grinned. And then he gently stroked Evan's face again. "Stay alive." He repeated. And then he took off down the path in a limping, uneven jog.
Carefully, Evan lowered himself into the bushes. Be safe. he thought. Make it home.
Evan figured he'd probably been in worse situations than this during his time with the SGC, but right at this moment he was hard-pressed to think of them.
He was slouched over in a ditch by the side of the road, barely hidden by the scrubby bushes that were nearly leafless from the cold. His clothes were damp from the wet ground and adding to his discomfort. He gripped his arm to his chest with his right hand clutching uselessly at his wound. He could feel the heat from the raging infection pulse against his palm.
He'd become feverish at some point after Jonas bolted for the Gate, which only made him feel colder and more miserable. His body ached, his skin burned, his knee was a throbbing knot of agony from his hip to his ankle. His arm hurt like it was being torn off.
It was very hard to stay awake.
His fever, cold, pain and exhaustion were overwhelming, and his eyes kept drifting shut. Several times he'd caught himself right before he'd fallen asleep, jerking awake with the suddenness of a fall down the stairs. But he knew he'd eventually fail, and then he'd freeze to death right there in the ditch. And then Jonas would find him staring up at nothing with big, empty eyes.
Evan jerked awake again.
He shifted, forcing himself to sit up straighter in the ditch, which only succeeded in making his damp clothes colder in the icy air. It was only mid-morning, and the anaemic sun barely added heat to the day. It was the kind of weather that required a jacket and a hat, and Evan had neither.
He pulled his good leg closer to his body, trying to make himself as small as possible. Every movement seemed to take forever, like his blood had already frozen. When he breathed out, his breath made a small cloud of steam.
Evan jerked himself awake again. His heart was pounding.
He'd heard the sound of heavy boots on gravel.
He drew his gun with his good hand, aiming it towards the road, and waited.
"I think he's over here!" someone yelled.
Evan swung the gun towards the voice and cocked it. He had no idea how many soldiers were out there, and he needed surprise to kill as many as he could before they took him down.
"I see him!" the same person called to his companions. Evan gritted his teeth, waiting for the stranger to step through the bushes so that his shot wouldn't miss.
"Boss!" Blair shouted, breaking through the bushes and landing on his knees right in front of him. "Thank God you're okay!"
Evan automatically put the safety back on the gun, feeling his hand start to shake. "I nearly shot you!"
"What?" Blair said, and then noticed Evan's gun for the first time. He paled. "Thanks for not firing, sir. I appreciate it."
"Major!" Laura cried, bursting through the leaves and branches. "We found you!"
Evan was still shaking with relief and adrenaline. "It's really good to see you guys." He tried to smile but his teeth were chattering too hard.
"You look like shit, sir," Blair said. "I'll go get the medics." He turned and dashed back through the bushes, hollering at someone further down the road.
Laura took off her jacket and then knelt by him, placing it gently over his chest. "Jesus, sir. Are you okay?"
"No," Evan replied honestly, shaking his head. "I'm really cold." Laura's jacket was warm from her body and it felt absolutely amazing, but it was like a drop in the bucket against the chills that were now wracking him.
"We'll get you back right away," Laura said, her brow creased in concern. "Dr. Lam will fix you up in no time at all."
"Great," Evan stuttered. He felt completely spent, like there wasn't any energy left in his body at all. His eyes started to close, and he jerked his head up, forcing himself to stay awake.
"It's okay," Laura said softly. "The medics are here. You can close your eyes."
It was like a command, and he felt his eyes drift shut.
He snapped them open. "Jonas?" he said in sudden panic. "Did he make it?"
Laura grinned at him. "Who do you think told us where you were?" She patted his shoulder. "Now go to sleep."
And he did.
The next several days ended up being a blurry mix of scattered images underscored with jolts of pain.
By the time Laura, Blair and the Search-and-Rescue team had gotten him back to Stargate Command, Evan's infection had spread from his arm to his bloodstream and his fever was high enough to make him delirious.
He dimly remembered Dr. Lam telling him something about his arm and the word 'debridement,' but he wasn't sure how the two things connected. Then she poked his wound with something and he may have screamed, and then she gave him the really good drugs.
The next thing he remembered was Blair and Laura standing by his bed. Laura was holding his hand and telling him that she was safe, and that Blair was safe and that he didn't have to worry about them, and maybe he'd like to go back to sleep?
After that, he remembered realizing that there was a cast on his knee, and being amazed at how much it didn't hurt, and then Laura asked if he was going to share those drugs that Dr. Lam had given him, and they had laughed, and then the image had sort of faded out.
He remembered waking up one time when the infirmary was really quiet, and seeing Jonas slouched down in a chair beside his bed, his face relaxed in sleep.
And then, one day he woke up, and he was awake.
Dr. Lam appeared almost immediately.
"Hello Major," she said in her no-nonsense voice. "How are you feeling?"
"Good." Evan said slowly, trying out the word. His throat was dry and his teeth felt like they were days overdue for a brushing, but otherwise he thought the word might fit. He smiled at Dr. Lam. "I feel good."
She didn't smile back. "You nearly died from your infection," she said, glaring at him. "You're lucky to be feeling anything at all."
Evan swallowed. "Thank you?"
"You're welcome," she replied in exactly the same clipped tone. With precise movements she checked his monitors and did something to his IV. "You've been in and out of consciousness for the last five days," she said. "You're probably hungry, but I'm only going to allow you clear fluids for now. If you don't barf those up we can see about giving you something more substantial later on."
His stomach growled in response. She glared at him.
"Sorry," he muttered.
Her smile was dutiful at best. "You can have visitors, but don't wear yourself out. If all goes well, I should be able to discharge you in a day or so."
"Thanks," he said again. He cleared his throat.
She glared at him, which Evan was beginning to realize wasn't actually a glare, but just her regular look. "How's my knee?"
"Fine," she snapped. "Vala came by this morning and zapped it with the Goa'uld healing device. It's fine now."
Evan blinked. "That was really nice of her."
Dr. Lam put her stethoscope into her ears. "You should buy her a present." She pressed the bell against his chest. "Breathe."
Three hours later, Evan was bored and antsy and really, really hungry.
His snack of chicken broth and yellow Jell-o had stayed down fine, but Dr. Lam was still being cautious so dinner had been soup and more Jell-o. She'd promised him actual food for breakfast, but that was at least seven hours away.
Evan had brushed his teeth, and then tried to read, but he'd given up when his stomach rumbling had become too distracting. He tried to sleep, but after doing nothing but sleep for the last five days he wasn't particularly tired. Col. Sheppard had jokingly offered to bring him paperwork the next time he visited, and Evan was debating having the night nurse call him just so he could take Sheppard up on his offer.
He sighed and lay back, staring at the grey concrete ceiling of the infirmary.
It reminded him of the ceiling in Jonas' hide-out on Langara. Which, of course, reminded him of Jonas.
Evan sighed again and tried not to think about him.
Blair had told him that Jonas had visited quite a lot while he'd been recovering in the infirmary, but Evan had only the dimmest of memories of that. Hardly anyone had visited him that afternoon after he'd truly woken up, which Evan assumed was on Dr. Lam's orders.
He wanted Jonas to visit, but also didn't. Somewhere between getting shot and getting back home, Evan knew he'd developed real feelings for Jonas. Which was kind of inconvenient considering that Jonas was in love with at least one other person--if not two--and, well, Jonas was in love with someone else. He was unavailable, and Evan had to live with that.
He wished Jonas had kissed him back on Langara, though, just because.
"Hey!" Jonas whispered right beside Evan's ear, making him jump. "Sorry!' He whispered loudly. "I'm sorry! I didn't know you were asleep."
"I wasn't," Evan said, smiling despite his earlier thoughts. He sat up, marvelling how easy that was when his arm and leg weren't hurting. He turned to Jonas, his smile widening, knowing he probably looked like a love-sick idiot. "It's good to see you."
Jonas smiled his trade-mark smile in return, which hit Evan both in his chest and somewhere lower. "It's good to see you, too."
Evan swallowed. "So," he said intelligently. "You look good." As soon as Evan said it, he realized it was true. Sometime in the past few days Jonas had had the meal, shower and sleep he so desperately needed. His hair looked newly cut, his face was shaven, and the terrible veneer of fatigue seemed to have melted away. If he'd looked handsome before, now he was incredible.
"Thanks," Jonas said cheerfully, seemingly not noticing how Evan was staring. "Vala Mal Doran healed me a few days ago, after my surgery. She's really nice." He plunked something down on Evan's tray. "I brought you some food."
Evan looked down and grinned. "Fantastic!" he said, immediately picking up one of the bananas Jonas had put on his tray. "How did you know?"
"Because Dr. Lam wouldn't let me eat anything for the whole day after I came out of surgery," he moaned. "I was starving. I figured she'd do the same to you."
Evan nodded vigorously, his mouth full of banana.
Jonas shook his head. "She's evil."
"Totally." Evan swallowed then took another bite. It was the best tasting banana he'd ever had. He smiled at Jonas while he chewed.
Jonas was watching his mouth.
Evan stopped chewing. "Jonas?"
"Gods," Jonas said, his voice sounding thick. "I really want to kiss you now."
Evan swallowed the chunk of banana and started coughing. Jonas pounded on his back and gave him some water.
"What?" Evan finally wheezed.
"I want to kiss you," Jonas repeated. "I thought you wanted to kiss me, too. Back on Langara." He looked crestfallen. "Was I wrong?"
"No!" Evan nearly shouted. "No," he said more quietly, confusion and hope starting a small war in his chest. "I did want to kiss you, but you stopped."
Jonas looked at him. "Of course."
Evan felt the hope die. "Jos and Kianna," he said with a sad smile. "I forgot."
Jonas was still looking at him. "What do they have to do with it?"
Evan blinked. "They're the reason why you didn't kiss me." He paused. "Aren't they?"
"No," Jonas said slowly. "It had more to do with the fact my mouth was full of blood from my punctured lung." He started to laugh. "Did you think I was in love with Jos or Kianna?" He laughed harder. "Or both?"
"Well, yeah," Evan said stiffly. "You did kiss them pretty passionately back there."
Jonas shook his head, still chuckling. "I can't believe you thought a Langaran tradition meant I was in love with my soldiers."
Evan blinked. "That's one hell of a tradition."
"It's like one last moment of happiness before expected death in battle," Jonas explained. "And it's the job of the commanding officer to give his soldiers that moment. Each country has its own variation."
Evan blinked again. "Do Langarans kiss all their soldiers before battle?"
"No," Jonas laughed. "Usually it's just a symbolic kiss the General gives his second-in-command in front of the troops."
Evan laughed as well. "I don't think that would go over too well here."
"Maybe you should introduce it." Jonas said, voice low, and suddenly it was like the heat just went up in the room.
"Maybe I should," Evan said, curling up his lips.
Jonas moved nearer, gently grasped the sides of Evan's head, and kissed him.
Evan pulled him close and kissed him back for all he was worth, and the kiss seemed to go on for hours.
When they finally separated they both were panting, and Evan was glad for the looseness of the scrub pants he was wearing. Jonas rested his forehead against Evan's, his hands still on either side of Evan's face.
"I'm so glad you didn't die," he said softly.
"I'm sorry the rescue was so bad," Evan said, feeling guilt twist in his gut. "You should never have gotten caught in that building. We should never have left you for so long. We should've come for you as soon as the Ori attacked--"
"Shh," Jonas said, putting his fingers across Evan's mouth for a moment. He rested his arms on the railing of Evan's bed. "I did a lot of thinking while I was waiting for you to recover," he said. "And I remembered how you told me that it wasn't my fault that my people had died--"
"It wasn't!" Evan interrupted immediately. "You tried to save them! You--"
"Shh," Jonas said again, and Evan shut up. Jonas smiled. "Well, I thought about what you said," he continued. "And I decided you were right. I didn't kill my people. The Ori did." He looked at Evan, his green eyes brilliant in the harsh light over Evan's bed. "All I wanted was for them to be free Kelownans. To have choices about how they lived their lives."
"It wasn't your fault," Evan repeated.
"They may have died," Jonas said, and now his eyes held the shine of unshed tears. "But at least they died free."
"Give me liberty, or give me death," Evan quoted. "It's a motto we Americans have believed in for a long time."
"Patrick Henry, 1775," Jonas said with a small smile. "His speech brought Virginia into your Revolutionary War."
Evan titled his head. "I didn't know that."
Jonas shrugged. "I like to read, and I never forget anything. I read about your revolution when I was at the SGC for the first time." His expression grew serious. "Maybe I was too heavily influenced by what I read when the Ori attacked."
"Maybe it wasn't a bad thing to be influenced by," Evan responded quietly. "There are worse things than death."
Jonas nodded. "Yes." He took Evan's hand.
"I'm sorry about your people," Evan said, gently squeezing Jonas' fingers.
"Me, too," Jonas replied softly. But then he smiled. "I'm glad I met you."
Evan grinned back. "Me, too."
"Kianna is going to join the scientists here at the SGC," Jonas said out of nowhere. "And Jos has decided he wants to train with the military, and maybe join a Gate team."
"Sounds good," Evan replied, settling back on his pillows. He wasn't quite sure where Jonas was heading with this conversation, but he was willing to wait. It was just really nice watching Jonas' lips move as he talked.
"So," Jonas said casually, picking up a banana. "Did you know that Vala is now the fifth person on SG-1?"
"Yeah, I did," Evan said, immediately getting Jonas' train-of-thought. It hadn't occurred to him until that moment, but having Jonas on his team could work really well. Laura and Parrish would love him, and Jonas would get a kick out of Blair. He smiled. "A five-member team seems like a good number."
"I think so, too." Jonas said, grinning at him as he pulled up a chair. He sat down and started to peel his fruit. "Tell me about the Ancient City of Atlantis."
Summary: Major Evan Lorne doesn't quite manage to rescue Jonas Quinn.