blue flamingos

Fall, Fall, Fall

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2010/~4,418 words

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

Summary: This is the part that comes after the bad part, after the heroic rescue. Except it's still the bad part, and a heroic rescue wouldn't go amiss.

Prompt: Calm before the storm

Author's Notes: Written for the sgagenficathon

Beta: by dossier

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

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My best friend's name is Laura. She's a marine captain. Well, she was a marine captain. Now she's a bomb disposal officer. You probably don't know what that means. I miss having her around. I worry about something happening to her when I'm not there.

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Evan hesitates just far enough down the corridor that Sheppard won't be able to see him through the open office door, and listens to him moving around. He probably hasn't been there long – not long enough to settle and sit down anyway – and it's reassuringly familiar. Same as the way Evan's leg aches from the slowly healing knife wound, except his brain skips away from that too fast, and then there's nothing to do but tap the open door and go in. Sheppard looks up from his datapad, catches Evan's eye in a question that Evan answers by moving to turn the coffee machine on. Even after everything, that's still routine, perfected since their first post-crisis debrief, when Evan couldn't stop the random twitches from the stunner Ford had fired at him, and Sheppard didn't say Ford's name once.

"How's the leg?" Sheppard asks, and Evan feels himself stiffen, unable to stop it.

"Getting better, thank you, sir," he says, too formal for Sheppard, but the formality is an odd kind of comfort.

"Good," Sheppard says, stilted.

He doesn't say anything else, but Evan, making strong, black coffee, hears him moving around again, settling into the spare visitors' chair, from the location of the shuffling behind Evan's back.

He's proved right when he turns around to hand over Sheppard's coffee with a mumbled, "Sir," and lower himself awkwardly into the other chair, his leg screaming with the motion.

Sheppard doesn't say anything, just pushes over an unopened packet of peanut butter cookies. Evan's stomach threatens to turn over at the thought of food, but Sheppard gives Evan his best CO glare, the one that comes with an odd kind of sympathy under it, and Evan caves. He eats the cookie methodically, barely tasting it, and Sheppard pushes the packet at him again. "Dr Keller says you need to eat," he says.

"Yes, sir," Evan says, complying. He's spent enough of the last few days in her infirmary to know exactly what she thinks he needs to do.

"Tell me what's happening with the repair crews," Sheppard says.

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I stole a compass from school when I was seven. Little brass thing, I don't think it worked very well. I can't remember what we'd been doing with them, but Mrs. Evans left the box out on her desk. I told my parents she gave it to me for doing well in class. I don't know if they believed me. I just wanted it.

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"Harris and his team are rebuilding the access corridor to the jumper bay," Evan says. "He thinks it'll be done by tonight."

Sheppard smiles a little, obviously pleased. Evan remembers a discussion about building some kind of bypass to the bay, after the corridor collapsed but before it became really urgent to get there. Ronon told him that Sheppard and Stackhouse free-climbed across the underside of the corridor to get in; Evan was in the infirmary by then, but he can believe it.

"Good," Sheppard says. "Ask him to keep us updated on their progress. Once it's accessible through there, we'll pick up the jumpers from the pier."

Evan nods, makes a note. Everything back where it belongs, like nothing happened. He's always amazed by how easily most people go with that, like washing off the scorch marks and the blood is enough to wash away their collective memories.

His computer beeps, and he taps the screen to get the new email. "Martinez says we're missing six P-90s, three 9mils and a grenade launcher."

"A –" Sheppard says, looking sort of stunned. He blinks. "We didn't use that, did we? I mean, I think I'd remember that."

"I don't think so, sir," Evan says, then feels compelled to add, "Unless it was after the ship turned up."

Sheppard only hesitates for a moment, but it's long enough to make it clear he'd forgotten Evan missed that part. Unsurprisingly, since by the time Evan collapsed, he hadn't seen Sheppard for ten hours. "Right. We didn't." Sheppard sighs. "So, someone on base took it out and left it somewhere, or one of the Zarafti got their hands on it."

Evan shakes his head. "Armory's key-coded, they wouldn't be able to get in."

"So one of our guys," Sheppard confirms. "I'll get the shift leads to prompt some memories; I'm not telling Landry we need a new one because we misplaced the old one." He smiles a little, inviting Evan to share his sort-of amusement, but Evan's stuck on the other missing weaponry.

"I'll fill in a requisition for the other stuff," he says. "One of the P-90s is mine."

"Right," Sheppard says softly.

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My sister hated that I joined the Air Force. She hates it even more now that I'm away most of the time. She thought I was doing it because our dad died when we were kids, trying to do what I thought he would have wanted. And she thought it was dangerous, that I wouldn't do a good enough job of hiding things. Which makes this kind of ironic.

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They're close to done – all caught up, plans in place for almost everything – when Sheppard raises a hand to his ear piece and says, "This is Sheppard."

He tips his head slightly, obviously listening, then looks over at Evan, smiling the way he does when he wants someone else to be amused by a situation he can't admit to finding funny. Evan's expecting Sheppard to explain, but he doesn't say anything, just looks at Evan, his face falling slightly. "Sorry," he says abruptly, looking away. "Say again."

It's not a phrase that anyone used – they didn't need to, when he was speaking into total silence – but that doesn't change the way something tugs at Evan, the urge to speak. He swallows around it, missing most of Sheppard's short conversation.

"Yes, ma'am," Sheppard says finally, too bright, and taps his radio off, looking at Evan. "Where's your radio?"

Evan raises his hand to where it should be – and isn't. He remembers Keller removing it, when he got taken back to the infirmary, and for a moment he can't remember anything after that. "Um," he says. His hand goes to his jacket pocket without thought, closing around the small piece of plastic. "Sorry, sir."

"Okay," Sheppard says, watching him fit it back over his ear. There's a pause, and Evan wonders if Sheppard's expecting something else from him. If he is, he's willing to forego it, because he just says, "Make sure you keep it on for now."

"Yes, sir," Evan says, willing himself not to blush, even though there's no rebuke in Sheppard's voice. "Sorry."

"Don't worry about it," Sheppard says. "You want to get lunch?"

It's well past lunch-time, but Evan's stomach does turn at the thought: of the food, of the buzzing mess hall after hours of quiet in the office with just Sheppard. "I can carry on while you take a break, sir," he says, closest he can get to saying no right now.

Something flickers over Sheppard's face, there and gone before Evan can figure it out. "I'm fine," he says. "Let's finish this."

"Yes, sir," Evan says.

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I left someone behind to come here. Actually, I left him, even though I didn't want to. He said he was sick of pretending, and wondering if he'd only know I'd died because he saw it on CNN. He's living with a librarian now. You going to hit me some more for that? No offense, but you seem the types.

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"We need to contact the SGC," Sheppard says, not quite meeting Evan's eyes. "Make arrangements to send the dead home."

"Right," Evan says. He remembers someone being dragged through the gate with them, but now he can't remember who it was. Can't even remember if they're dead or not.

"We lost four people," Sheppard says quietly. "Sergeant Robinson on the rescue mission, and Team Three during the invasion. They were ambushed in one of the areas where the sensors were down."

Evan nods, looking down. Team Three's only three people right now, after their scientist left a few weeks ago. No off-world missions until they got the balance right again. It doesn't matter any more.

At least the SGC will have an easier time of explaining things this time, with all the casualties being military.

"I'll send a message about it with the report," Sheppard says. "Major Teldy can handle the details of the memorial service."

Evan shakes his head. "I can do it," he says. He doesn't want to look up, but being unable to meet Sheppard's eyes won't help his case. Sheppard's still not quite looking at him, though, which makes it easier. "It's fine."

"You know the other O-4s are going to start thinking you're my favorite if you don't share," Sheppard says lightly.

"I should do it," Evan says, unable to keep the crack out of his voice. He wants to say, they're dead because of me, but he can't make the words come out.

"Okay," Sheppard says, still sounding doubtful. He sighs. "I think we're done for the day. You should go let Keller check on you."

"I'm fine," Evan says.

"Yeah, but indulge her anyway," Sheppard says, smiling. "She was pretty worried about you."

Evan knows – she hugged him when she came to treat him, the first time he was in the infirmary, kept touching him like she'd noticed that it helped with the way he couldn't stop shaking. He nods, stands up, wincing a little when he puts his weight on his right leg, tail end of the infection that got into the knife wound, early on.

"Back here 1400 tomorrow," Sheppard says. "Don't forget you're on restricted duty till Keller clears you."

"Yes, sir," Evan says, and, when Sheppard nods dismissal, leaves.

The corridors are quiet, even when he gets out of the military wing and into the main city, though that's not much of a surprise. Everything gets quiet after an invasion; the level of activity and noise going up is a pretty good barometer of things going back to normal, people coming out of their isolated grieving and their tendency to throw themselves into work, like they can find the one thing that will stop this happening again.

Evan doesn't want to go back to his room alone, and he knows there isn't a magic solution to stuff like this, as much as he and Sheppard try to account for every variable.

What he wants is to get lost for a while, to get out of his own head. He even knows where to go, has gone there before, protected by a shared secret. Except that, right now, after everything, he has to be fine, and him turning up there is like a big flashing sign that says things aren't as okay as he and Sheppard are trying to make them.

He takes a deep breath, and turns down the corridor to the infirmary instead.

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My first mission here, we lost someone. He escaped. I got stunned. He's probably dead now. Sometimes I think, if I'd ducked faster, that we would have caught him. I trusted him because he was military like me. I still would.

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The day before the memorial service, Evan gets permission to fly one of the jumpers over to the mainland to pick up the geological team out there who want to attend the service. It's the first time he's been out of the city since he was dragged back into it, and he feels almost relaxed. The closest he's gotten yet, including lying in bed at night, watching the ceiling and waiting for it to change from smooth metal to rough plaster.

When they get back to the city, Sheppard's waiting in the jumper bay – waiting for him, because he greets the Athosians but doesn't leave with them, just stands there, looking awkward.

Evan expects it to be something about the emails Dr Suresh, Dr Heightmeyer's replacement, has been sending him about seeing her by the end of the week, the ones Evan's only half-forgetting to answer. Instead, Sheppard says, "Tomorrow," even more uncomfortable, "I'm going to give the speech."

Evan locks his expression down before it can show anything, not sure what it would show. He always stands up on behalf of the military at the memorials, tacit acknowledgement that he's better at striking the right note than Sheppard is.

Though he can see why Sheppard wouldn't want him up there this time. Why maybe Team Three wouldn't want him speaking for them. "Yes, sir," he says.

Sheppard sighs. "I could give you a line about Sergeant James being here since the first year and that's why I want to do it," he says. "But the truth is, you look like you're going to fall over."

"And you don't want to remind people that we were just nearly invaded," Evan adds, because it's easier than trying to work out if Sheppard is telling the truth. What it means if he is.

"No more than being at a memorial will," Sheppard agrees, and this time Evan knows it’s a way of dodging a truth, though he doesn't know what the truth is. Something about him.

"Whatever you think is best, sir," he says, in his best neutral, subordinate tone.

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I let Teyla get taken. I couldn't do a thing to help get her back. In the other timeline, everything went wrong because we couldn't get her back. Everyone died, and then I got promoted to general, but I'm the reason it happened. If I hadn't let her get taken, none of it would have happened like that.

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He and Sheppard are still meeting every day after a week, though they've gradually nudged it back until they're meeting in the evening, and Evan's weirdly grateful for it, because it means he's not the only one who feels like things are still wrong.

"You all right?" Sheppard asks, one evening when Evan's late because Dr Barker – the scientist on Team Three, until he fell for Captain Jenny Turner, otherwise known as the team leader, and decided to leave the team before it got to be an issue – caught him in his office. Evan has no idea why Barker chose him to talk to, but he managed half a sentence before starting to cry, and Evan's just spent two hours with him, until he persuaded the scientist to take some sleeping tablets and go to bed.

Evan rubs his eyes, wishing he could do the same, knowing he can't, because they're not doing this well enough this time and he knows it's because of him. "Keller's got a nurse checking on Dr Barker every hour," he says, instead of what he wants to say: I hate this part. "Dr Suresh is going to meet with him first thing in the morning."

Sheppard sighs, sounding tired. "I guess we should have expected that. She have any thoughts?"

"Not yet." Evan's conversations with Dr Suresh are weird right now, because for an hour every other day, he sits in her office and talks about the invasion, the Zarafti talking their way through the gate (but not that they managed it because Evan couldn't talk when Sheppard and the others rescued him), about the Atlantis teams stalking the Zarafti through the city (but not about how Evan's the one who told their invaders how to disable the sensors), about Sheppard springing him from the infirmary because they needed him (but not about how he was so dizzy he kept walking into the walls), about collapsing in the corridor because his raging infection didn't like all the running around (but not about how he thinks he babbled all sorts of things he shouldn't have).

"What about when you were captured?" she asks, more than once, and Evan just shakes his head, but when he asked what would happen to Barker, she said, "I won't know until I talk to him. I hope I'll be able to help him here," with no irony at all.

"We'll wait for her report, then," Sheppard says. "Woolsey thinks it's time we started the mission schedule up again properly."

"Yes, sir," Evan says. Keller's cleared him. Suresh hasn't, and Woolsey's insisting on both, new protocol for anyone who's been a captive for more than a couple of days.

"I told him I agreed with him," Sheppard says. He's looking at his datapad, and Evan's not sure if he's reading it or just not looking at Evan. "It looks like we dealt with all the Zarafti when they tried to take this place."

Evan nods. He doesn't need to ask about the planet – he filed the paper mission plan for the strike team that went back. He hasn't spoken to any of them, before or since.

"And people are starting to wonder what they don't know," Sheppard adds. "They'll just stay frightened until we can show them there's nothing to be scared of." He says it completely deadpan, but Evan can hear the amusement at the irony under it.

"I can review the mission schedule," he offers.

Sheppard hesitates, then says, "We'll go through it together," and Evan realizes that, even if Sheppard had every team he could spare out, they couldn't have dropped every mission, and he has no idea what was happening while he was –

"Thank you, sir," he says.

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We woke up the Wraith. The first day we were here, trying to save someone. It didn't work. We’re the reason they're awake early. We're the reason the replicators killed all those worlds as well. We messed with something we shouldn't have. I don't think the Wraith are going to be as easy to get rid of as the Replicators.

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Monday is supposed to be their nice, neat return to normality – nothing to see here, everything's fine. Evan's fully in favor of the idea, for the city, but for him, it doesn't seem to be working. He can't sit still in his session with Dr Suresh, can feel her watching him with her trademark endless patience as he paces and avoids answering her questions, physically stepping away from all the things he doesn't want to think about, let alone talk about.

That's first thing in the morning, and the day just goes downhill, like everyone else is picking up his own anxiety, even though he knows he's just reading into things.

Still, by the time he gets to Sheppard's office, he's exhausted, wants to curl up under the desk and just sleep.

"Dr Keller caught me on my way up," he says instead, turning on the coffee machine. "She says Dr Valdez has a sprained ankle, but it's not broken."

"It would serve him right if it was," Sheppard grumbles, looking annoyed when Evan glances at him over his shoulder. Evan gets that – off-world injuries are par for the course, but there's no excuse for trying to balance on a narrow wall just to prove you can, especially when you prove you can't by falling off.

"I'll pass that on, sir," he says dryly, lifted for a moment by Sheppard's huff of amusement.

It doesn’t last though, not even with Sheppard offering real chocolate chip cookies, because the first report on his datapad is the worst one. "Captain Smith is on report for a week."

"What?" Sheppard asks, obviously surprised – Smith is new, came back with them when they flew the city back from Earth, but he's always been quiet and unobtrusive.

Evan taps his screen, sending the report directly to Sheppard. "Major Teldy's been following up with everyone again over the missing grenade launcher. He says he felt like she was accusing him personally and apparently he forgot she's his senior officer when he was stating his objection."

"Forgot like he would if it was you or me, or forgot like it's because Major Teldy's first name is Anne?" Sheppard asks, the expected answer clear in his voice.

"The second one," Evan confirms. "And she's saying she thinks maybe he's getting defensive for more than just that."

"She thinks he stole a grenade launcher?"

Evan hesitates, the same way Anne had, telling him. "More like, he's forgotten where it got left and he doesn't want to admit it."

"Wonderful," Sheppard says. "There goes my morning."

"Yes, sir," Evan says.

Sheppard shifts, like he's going to speak, but the beep of both their headsets cuts him off. "Fields to medical, we need a team down in Gym Five."

Keller acknowledges, and Evan cuts in. "Fields, this is Lorne, what's going on?"

"Disagreement between a couple of NCOs, sir," Fields says, obviously trying to avoid giving names over an open connection. "Nothing major, but one of the other gym users got a weight dropped on her foot, suspected broken bones."

"Oh, for –" Sheppard starts, reaching up to tap his own earpiece, but Evan's still got the connection.

"Keep them both there, I'm on my way."

"Hold that," Sheppard says, cutting in before Fields can acknowledge. "This is Sheppard, I'm on my way."

"I can handle this, sir," Evan says as soon as Fields confirms and cuts the connection, trying to keep the hurt from his voice.

"I'm sure you can," Sheppard agrees. "But I'm fairly sure I know who this is about, and it's the fourth time in six weeks." Six weeks means while Evan was gone, something that he really doesn't know anything about. Some days, he feels like he'll never catch up, even worse than when his team was captured by the Genii in his first year in the city "It's time for some ultimatums."

"Yes, sir," Evan says, since Sheppard clearly has no intention of telling him what's going on.

Sheppard just looks at him for a moment, then stands up. "Put everything else in a report to me, okay? We'll catch up properly tomorrow."

He's gone before Evan can even say, "Yes, sir," again.

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Sateda. Athos. Hoff. Haptra. The Satedan settlement. There's a world where people who've lost their own planet go.

Atlantis.

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Sheppard, when Evan taps on his open office door at a little after ten that night, is typing with an air of irritation that suggests Evan hasn't picked the best time for this conversation, but he waves Evan into a seat easily enough.

"You think Landry would get upset if I told him I want to switch out two thirds of our military contingent for people who know what they're doing?" he asks.

Evan takes a breath to say, "Probably, sir," but what comes out is, "It's my fault."

"That Prince and Shanahan can't resolve their differences like adults, instead of like third graders, or that they managed to injure Dr Porter in the process?" Sheppard says. "I'm pretty sure it's not, but if you want to take responsibility for making them stop getting into fist fights because they're both dating Dr Samuels, I'm not going to stop you."

Evan doesn't bother pointing out that in fact Sheppard did, earlier that evening when he cut Evan off in hearing of a subordinate officer. "I meant – I want to..." Apologize isn't strong enough. He doesn't know what is. "I told the Zarafti how to get into Atlantis. I'm – this is my fault."

"Oh, Jeez, Lorne," Sheppard sighs. He drops his head, rubs the back of his neck, then looks back up. "Didn't we have this conversation when we all had Kirsan fever a couple of years ago? You were drugged then, you were drugged this time, you couldn't do anything about it."

"No-one was killed that time," Evan says. He'd accepted Sheppard's reassurances easily enough back then, that in the end, even on speed, he'd known that Sheppard could be trusted and that was how they'd all survived. "I knew that I shouldn't be telling them, that I had to tell you when you came to rescue me." Now he's started, he can't stop. Maybe this is why he didn't tell Suresh, too afraid of what else he might tell her. "It wasn't just about Atlantis. I told them where to find the Satedan settlement, and the Athosians, and about the Wraith, that we woke them up. I would have told them anything they wanted, in the end, I couldn't stop myself –"

"Lorne," Sheppard says, sharp and close. He's kneeling in front of Evan, who doesn't remember him moving, and his hands are tight on Evan's wrists. "Stop. All right? Just – stop."

Evan takes a breath that's more of a gasp. "I'm so sorry," he says, much quieter. His chest feels tight, and he knows he'll regret this in the morning, falling apart in front of his CO.

"I know," Sheppard says softly. "God, believe me, I know."

Sheppard hasn't taken his hands away, and Evan concentrates on that. "I keep trying to write to their families," he says. "I don't know what to say to them. I just want to tell them how much I regret what I did."

"You were captured, and tortured, and then shot up with truth serum," Sheppard says, fierce and angry like he gets over his people. "I read your report. They drugged you for days, and the location of the city was the last thing you told them, right before we got to you. You didn't do anything to be ashamed of, or to regret. You wouldn't have if you'd talked right at the start."

Evan nods, because he can't say anything right now. Maybe he should have told Dr Suresh. At least this part might have been easier.

Sheppard lets go of him very slowly and moves back. Evan watches his boots as he shifts his feet, not ready to meet his eyes. "Dr Suresh is still in her office," he says. "Or I'll walk you to the infirmary, get Keller to give you some sleeping tablets."

Sleep – real, undisturbed sleep – sounds like heaven, but the last thing he wants is any more drugs. "I'll see Dr Suresh," he says.

"Okay," Sheppard says, sounding pleased, or maybe relieved. "Okay, that's good."

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My name is Major Evan Joseph Lorne. I live in Atlantis.


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