Summary: The news is broken; Laura Cadman hadn't expected to feel this way. Cadman/Lorne angst/UST.
Spoilers: Season 2 “Coup D'etat”
Warnings: Assumed character death, but nothing that wasn't on the show.
Author's Note: My second foray into this ship, for which I thank Monkey's review which reminded me of them. I couldn't manage a sequel to my other story but I did have this bunny bite me instead. Massive thanks to fififolle for betaing.
There's an unexpected flutter in her heart when she hears he's MIA, presumed dead. As if it's failing, but a moment later it's back to fine. She, however, is not and it hurts to realise she cares that much about Lorne. Evan, she corrects herself, but then wondering if she shouldn't just keep her distance, keep it simple, detached. Major Lorne. A superior. A friend. Nothing more. Never to be anything more now. Walking out of the debriefing she feels numb and it does well to be for the time being. She's not okay but it'll have to do because she has to go on, fight on, whatever the news is. Won't do to be distracted on her own mission.
One of the covered bodies is trundled past her towards a scanner room as she undergoes her post-mission check-up and it finally sinks in, he could be dead. They could all be dead, no mistaking it when it's literally right in front of them; now they have bodies. Bodies which are being called and treated as if they were their bodies; everyone is preparing for the worst. She tells herself it's never over until they know. You have to have the body, DNA testing to prove it, but at the same even if it does turn out these are not them it probably doesn't help them much. Though she prays that Carson can unravel the mystery if it turns out this is all a set up, it's happened before. Then she muses on how she's not really the praying type, but this whole situation is fucked up so maybe it makes sense she's acting out of sorts. Guilt rises up inside because she doesn't want it to be them and the distinct possibility they are makes her feel sick, sicker still that if they are not, the relief is short-lived. The charred remains are someone, whoever they are, and the others are gonna be wherever they are regardless.
She's seen too many people postpone their mourning, holding grief back because it's not final. It was bad enough back home, military families ruined because their son or daughter didn't come home, not even in a box. Problem is, with this galaxy it's worse. People, they disappear, get culled – all on a regular basis. Sometimes you'll never find out, the truth forever lost to them, beyond their scope. Oh, the Ancients would know but the egotistical bastards are above all this, they don't have time to ease the suffering. Not one word communicated where just one word would do to change a life. Walking out of the infirmary, she's shaking a little both from anger and fear, scared she'll end up being another lost soul, broken by the pain of not knowing. She can't take that any more than the truth that would cause it, none of it is acceptable and she can't do a thing to change it.
Hitting the gym solves nothing emotionally, yet she can't sleep and working out until she drops is the only way she stands a chance to get any rest. Punch after punch lands futilely on the bag, her heart not in training. She's wasting time and she knows it. All she can think of is how ironic it is, “Got your wish Evan, how twisted is that?” He died by fire, exactly the way he said he'd prefer, if it came down to it.
The exercise gets to her eventually and she retires to her quarters, breaking down there. Lying face up on her bed she tries to rationalise it all in an attempt to stem her tears. It's not fair, she knows it never is, and she should get that. After all, colleagues and friends have died before. This, however, feels entirely different and she doesn't want to examine why. Turning on to her side she hugs a pillow, burying her face and succumbing to sleep, as fitful as it will obviously be under the circumstances.
She's never been so glad to wake up in her life, and that includes the time she thought she was a goner, culled by that damn dart, though yeah, that relief hadn't lasted long once she'd realised whose body she'd woken up in. The sleeping psyche lingers, bleeding over into the day. She shivers though she feels an imaginary pure red-hot searing sensation throughout her body. Her head is rushing from the adrenaline of dreams full of fire and screaming, burning buildings with no escape. Just it was her who couldn't get out of the nightmare, or so it felt during the ordeal.
As good as it was to wake up, being awake presented the same problem as yesterday, worse as it was one of her days off and she didn't have work to take her mind off things. Exhaustion had been a better alternative to either sleeping or thinking straight. Sure, one meant nightmare reality and the other the cold cruel harsh daylight but neither were very pleasant. What she wanted was to be not able to think, back to the gym it was.
And it's there where she gets the surprise of her life. The door slides open, footsteps tracing across the room, gathering pace as they move towards her position. Sweaty and cranky, she's in no mood for niceties and is definitely ready to chew out the intruder into her personal space should they try to engage in the predictable well wishing. Instead her mouth falls open and her eyes widen when she turns to meet the visage of Evan Lorne. A little worse for wear but he's evidently fine as he finds the nerve to quip about her unflattering gaping.
“You look like you've seen a ghost, Cadman. That or all your dreams have just come true, judging by the way the drool is building up.”
He's grinning like the cat that got the cream, so pleased with himself. He has every right to be – he's alive – but he really couldn't resist spoiling that moment by wisecracking. That thought, and the matching indignation over it, is all it takes for everything to spin back round to normal and her instincts tell her to whack him on the arm for the smart ass insensitive comment. So she obeys and does exactly that. He winces but doesn't retaliate, sensing a reason to be wary of his actions around her; he always was reasonably good at knowing how far was too far to push. She tended to tease him about it, pretending she was wound up further than he'd intended to cause. It would have been cruel to do if not for the fact he knew her well enough to tell that she was faking it. They would have made good team mates but considering things now it's better they're not. Keep it simple is her motto regarding workmates and she'd like to abide by it, especially after this. She's not sure it will work but it's best to try. Nothing has changed, she repeats to herself before she teases rather cruelly, like there's no tomorrow. Who knows, there might not be. So why hold back, she asks herself. Then she remembers why, but carries on, like normal.
“If you keep talking like that you'll wish you were back in the infirmary, Major. The women of Atlantis don't take kindly to pathetic lines and it's particularly unwise to try them out in the presence of the potentially harmful training gear. I hear Teyla's sticks hurt like hell if they catch the wrong spot on a guy.”
“Oh, I know they do, Laura,” he says with a wry smile, catching her off guard.
It's the first time he's called her Laura in the five months she's known him. She doesn't know why but it hurts to hear him say it, perhaps because he's using it to close the distance she wants to maintain between them. One word indicating everything she's currently afraid of – that he knows she cares more than she's willing to let on, and he cares about her, too. This whole sequence of events has shown her what it's like to be vulnerable again and she despises what it can do to a person. She should back off, let him get that message, but somehow she can't, not today at least.
The moment has happened, there's no denying it, but it can't last forever. He looks down, possibly embarrassed for her - she can't tell, she's no good at reading his emotions – but she takes the time to flip back to casual mode. Returning fire she teases him, and he plays along.
“I should kick your ass but you've got maybe another 23 hours before the sympathy vote wears off.”
“I guess I'm just lucky,” he replies boastfully. Then settling on smiling warmly at her he seems to wait for her reply to that.
She shakes her head from side to side at first, trying to resist returning that smile and the sickeningly feel good feeling that threatens to take her over just because he smiled at her and man, it feels way too good to see him. Of course, suppressing it is too much hard work and as she replies she gives in, exposing herself, letting him see it. To hell with distance, she wants to live today while she can, at least a little.
“Yes, you are Evan,” she whispers, agreeing gratefully, and though she doesn't say it as she walks away, she thinks, “Thank God for that.”