blue flamingos

Across State Lines

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, R-lite

Year/Length: 2007/ ~2356 words

Pairing: Sheppard/Lorne

Spoilers: Spoilers for first half of season 2

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Slight AU where Sheppard somehow knew Lorne before he ever came to Atlantis (and before Shep knew about the Stargate program). They had a thing at that time, but had assumed they'd never see each other again when Lorne was commissioned for the SGC. Now that Lorne's on Atlantis, too though, the flame is rekindled

Author's Notes: for [info]mf_luder_xf

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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John's buzzed but not drunk when he spots the guy at the other end of the bar. He holds John's eye when John catches his inadvertently and tilts his beer bottle at John like a salute. John matches the gesture and smiles, not looking away until the other guy smiles back.

He glances round the bar, feeling stupid and paranoid: he's an hour from the base, in a backstreet bar where he's never seen anyone he recognizes, but there's something about the guy, something maybe military, and John likes his job.

He's done things more stupid than this, though, and it's the reason he came here, so when the guy takes the stool next to John's and leans in to offer to buy him a drink, John gives him his most charming smile and says thanks.

The guy – he doesn't offer his name, and John's not asking – blows him in the men's room, and John returns the favor. It's the best he's felt in weeks, on his knees with his mouth on a stranger's cock, the guy's moans and curses falling round him.

"See you around," the guy says after, sitting at the bar and watching John shrug on his coat, and John thinks, or not. He says, "sure," because he wasn't raised to be anything other than polite, and leaves.

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Two days later, back from his weekend pass off the base, John gets called into his CO's office to meet their newest Major, just promoted and sent to replace Jenkins, and ends up face to face with the guy from the bar.

He doesn't even know why he's surprised.

"Major Lorne, Major Sheppard," Colonel Mathers says, and they exchange handshakes. John keeps his eyes firmly on Mathers until he shoos them out of his office with instructions for John to show the new guy – Lorne – to his quarters then take him along to the officers' briefing.

"So," John starts, but when he looks up, Lorne's grinning at him, cheerful and a little shame-faced, and under it all, the same look he gave John in the bar, and John laughs. "You're stationed here too."

"Looks like," Lorne agrees. He obviously finds the whole thing pretty funny, and he looks good in his dress blues, neat and perfectly pressed.

John wants to take him somewhere and mess him up. "You want to see your quarters?" he asks, and Lorne grins.

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They're not exactly friends with benefits, because they're not exactly friends. John's been on the base five months, there to fly, and Lorne's there to work with the cartographers.

Whatever they are, though, it's got definite benefits, not least of which is the constant threat of being caught. John's always tried to keep it to other airmen when he's with men – less risk of getting turned in – but he gets the impression, after a couple of weeks, that Lorne, for all of his knowing attitude, isn't all that used to hiding the fact that he's fucking someone he works with.

It's good, though, great sex and nothing serious, and at least Lorne can hold up his end of a conversation if he needs to, even if he does profess to hate football. John's convinced he can bring him round, and if he can't, conversation isn't exactly essential.

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Lorne's been there three months when two of his cartographers get taken captive while he's out surveying with them. Lorne was the senior officer on the expedition, so he gets called into Mathers' office; Mathers can yell like no-one else John's ever served under, and he doesn't envy Lorne.

He spends most of the next five days in the air, helping with the increasingly fruitless search effort, so he doesn't see Lorne again till the evening of the day that the bodies of the cartographers are returned.

He's heading for bed, cutting between two accommodation blocks, when he sees the shadow, leaning up against one building, his head down, and he doesn't know when it got so he'd recognize Lorne from his shadow, but he does. He contemplates, for a few guilty moments, pretending he hasn't seen him, because he's not good at comfort, never has been, but in the end he tells himself Lorne's pretty observant and probably knows he's there, and approaches him, making a little extra noise. "Hey."

"Major Sheppard," Lorne says, and it's usually a joke, but not this time.

John gets close enough to touch, if he wants to. It's too dark to see Lorne's face, not that it really matters – he already knows what grief and guilt look like on a person. "It wasn't your fault," he says quietly, not because he expects it to make a difference, but because later on Lorne will remember hearing it and then it will matter that someone said it. "There wasn't anything you should have done differently. It's going to get better."

"Fuck," Lorne says on a shaky breath, and grabs John's shirt and kisses him, hard, pressed together in an indeterminate shape where no-one will see them.

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A week later, Lorne's gone, no explanation. John gets a letter eventually, saying that he's been re-posted to the deep space telemetry project in Colorado, which John can completely see needing pilots, and that he's going to be out of the country a lot, and hard to get in touch with.

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And that's that.

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Except, story of John's life, it's not.

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The siege is over, Wraith seen off, at least for the foreseeable future, Ford gone, cleanup started and all John wants to do is fall into bed and sleep until he can wake up and have it all be a bad dream. Instead, he's standing with Elizabeth and the IOA rep in the gateroom, waiting to be introduced to the guy who's going to do his job while he's on Earth. He doesn't let himself think about what happens after – that's another thing he's hoping will turn out to be a bad dream.

They're late, he knows, because the guy came through the gate with Everett and his reinforcements, and he's somewhere in the city helping put it back together, which is all very admirable, but John's seeing two of everything and wishing he could at least lean on something, and honestly, he'd rather the guy was here on time, even if he's off saving drowning orphans and their kittens.

"Sorry I'm late."

It might've been years, John still doesn't need to look to know who's attached to that voice. He can hear the IOA representative introducing them – "Dr Weir, Major Sheppard, Major Lorne" – but apparently that's one too many crazy moments and his body drops him on the gateroom floor to be confined to bed by Beckett with exhaustion.

It's not exactly the reunion he would have imagined.

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He's too preoccupied on Earth with the thought of not being allowed back, and then he's too preoccupied on the Daedalus with his promotion and fighting off an alien computer virus, so it's not until he's standing in Atlantis' gateroom, being welcomed back – saluted, and even John's Marines have stopped doing that – by Lorne that he really thinks about the situation. About how the guy he spent three months sneaking around an Air Force base with just became his XO, and it's clear from Lorne's face, his salute, that he's been thinking about it the way John obviously should have been.

Elizabeth clears her throat next to him and John returns Lorne's salute, trying not to wince. He's got to get it together, or this is never going to work.

It's possible it won't work even then.

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He doesn't say anything because he's suddenly got a hell of a lot more mental distance from Lorne than he would in most other postings, what with being ranking military officer for the base, and Lorne doesn't say anything because he's presumably got more common sense.

It's Atlantis though, which means they're barely unpacked before they run into Ford, which slides smoothly into the Cadman craziness and they've got no choice but to fake a work-only relationship; by the time McKay's blown up most of a solar system, John's been turned into a bug and back, and they've dallied with Ford's crew, they're pretty much not faking any more, something between colleagues and friends.

Which is when John gets himself trapped in an Ascension cult.

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He's got nothing but time in there, once he realizes he's not getting out unless he ascends, once it becomes obvious that the others can't – won't – come for him. He tries not to think about Atlantis, because it doesn't do any good, an unpleasant mix of regret and anger, depending on the day. The truth is, he can't stop: wondering whether Caldwell took over, who's leading his team now they're not his team any more, if they started up the second round of civilian self-defense classes that he and Lorne just finished plotting out. Whether, if by some miracle he manages to get back, he'll find Atlantis empty and dead, fallen prey to the Wraith or the Genii...

The rest of the time, it's all regret: things he should have done for Atlantis, for his people, things he can't regret not saying because he knows he never would have, but regrets not showing, somehow.

He doesn't miss them, but that's mostly because he's still so fucking angry at them for leaving him behind.

When Teer says she senses them, he can't even speak, choked up with relief.

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It lasts until about five hours after he gets back to Atlantis, when Cooper asks him about a mission proposal he was going to approve, and John can't remember what she's talking about.

No big deal, Cooper barely notices John's hesitation before he promises to get onto it, and goes on her way without a backward glance, leaving John in the middle of the corridor, trying to get his head together.

No-one knows the truth, beyond his team and the command staff, though it'll be all round the base in hours after he came back with a beard he didn't leave with. No-one knows, and he's got six months of memories stuffed between now and this morning, six months of things he expected to happen that no-one else had time to think about.

He curbs his instinctive impulse to go looking for Caldwell, and makes his way to the military residential quarters instead.

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Lorne's voice calls, "come in," but the door slides open before John can move, Lorne standing on the other side, bare foot in jeans and a white shirt, expectant. There's a pause, then Lorne's expectant expression fades into something else and he says, "Is there a problem, sir?"

John's first inclination is to say no, because Lorne means Atlantis, means, how fast do you need me armed?, and Atlantis is fine, as far as John can tell. His second inclination is to say yes, except he doesn't know how to explain, doesn't want to.

What comes out of his mouth is, "I want you to fuck me," and he watches Lorne's face flicker between confusion and want before he forces it blank.

"Excuse me?" he says, but he doesn't step back; the part of John's brain not demanding to know where the hell *those* words came from takes that as a good sign.

"Can I come in?" he asks. It's getting late enough that people will be heading back to their rooms for the night, and he doesn't think either one of them wants this conversation overheard.

"Sure," Lorne says, obviously thinking the same thing, and steps back to let John inside.

That's when it hits John just how odd the whole situation is, and he finds himself standing blankly in the middle of Lorne's obsessively neat – because some things never change – quarters, Lorne leaning against the door and watching him apprehensively.

"Sorry," John says. "It's just –"

"Been a weird day?" Lorne offers with a wry smile.

"Been a weird six months," John corrects. He thinks about it, decides what the hell, Lorne's not the type to turn him in to Caldwell, and says, "I meant it though."

Lorne flushes, which John's never seen him do before, and shoves his hands in his pockets. "I'm not sure... Sir, I don't think..."

"I think you can probably call me John for the purposes of this conversation," John tells him, fighting a sudden mad urge to laugh, until Lorne does it for him, shaking his head and losing his flush. "Look," John says, "at the risk of sounding like a teenage romance novel, we had a good thing going before, and I really have had an unimaginably shitty few months, so I think the least you can do is take me up on my offer of really very good sex."

"Read a lot of teenage romance novels in your time, have you?" Lorne asks, still laughing, but he rests his hands lightly on John's waist when John gets close enough, and kisses back with plenty of enthusiasm.

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Later, lying on Lorne's bed, which really isn't wide enough for both of them, mostly naked and still trying to catch his breath, John says, "deep space telemetry, my ass," and Lorne laughs.

He thinks no-one on Atlantis apart from possibly Elizabeth, if she read their service histories that closely, even knows they knew each other before Atlantis, because they've neither of them said a word about it, an unspoken agreement that everything that happened when they were together was best avoided at all costs.

"If I'd said I was going through a wormhole to another planet to mine for trinium, would you have believed me?" Lorne asks, which, OK, fair point, but still.

"I didn't believe you'd gone to work on a deep space telemetry project," he says instead.

"Neither did I, when they asked me." Lorne turns his head to look at John. "Feeling better now?"

"Yeah, actually," John admits. Less crazed, more like...

"Good," Lorne says and rests his hand high on John's thigh.

... More like he's up for round two.

Now with bonus deleted scene! I wrote this to go after the kiss, then realised it wouldn't work in the story, but liked it too much to just trash it (unlike the four other pages I wrote before I realised they wouldn't work either, sigh), so I throw it out here for your amusement:

Bonus deleted scene

John's never really wanted a boyfriend – he had a wife, which was enough, and he likes not being court-martialled and thrown in jail – and he wouldn't describe Lorne like that to anyone, not even in his own head, but they're not just fuck-buddies anymore either. They're not in love, no matter what Dex, who knows, says to wind him up, but they're something. Something that's a lot more effort to hide than sneaking around the base to get off, but John thinks he might be happy like this.

Which is when, six months after he got there, Lorne gets a letter telling him he's being redeployed.

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He obviously knows more about it than he tells John over beers at a bar in town, dark enough for no-one to notice his hand on John's leg.

"Deep space telemetry project, in Colorado Springs," he says, which would sound ridiculous even if he hadn't muttered something about a possible new posting that would actually use the Earth Sciences degree he slogged through getting, a couple of weeks ago when John was distracted by the way his hand was twisting on John's dick.

"They do know you're a pilot, not an astronaut, right?" he asks. That's obviously too close to the truth, because Lorne actually flushes. John decides he doesn't want to know, and asks when he's leaving instead.


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