The light was perfect for painting.
Major Evan Lorne stood on the East balcony of Atlantis, watching the sun set.
The sky was awash in hues of blue and purple, the clouds dark and deep as night. As the sun descended, the sky had blossomed with streaks of red, pink and gold, coating the outer edge of the ocean like a spilling of precious stones. Where ocean, sky and sun touched, the colours ran together, tricking the eye into thinking that the ocean and sky extended forever.
Evan sighed as he held his brush in one hand and his palette in the other. He knew he should be putting brush to paper, that the light would fade all too soon and he'd have to wait for another night to continue the painting he'd started weeks ago. But Lantea had outdone herself this time, with a visual display so stunning that he could only stare in awe.
He stood and drank it in with his eyes. The breeze rifled his hair and carried the scent of the ocean beyond. He could hear the cry of one of the native sea birds in the distance, and the gentle lapping sound as the waves brushed against the City far below.
The sun slipped further into the water, sliding the hues into even darker shades, and Evan felt his eyes widen from the impact. He smiled, dipped his brush into his paint and turned towards his canvas.
"Major Lorne! Major Lorne!"
Evan winced, pulling the tip of his brush away. He turned towards the intruder, scowling. "I'm off-duty."
"Yes, yes I can see that," Dr. Peter Kavanagh, one of McKay's scientists, said. He waved a hand dismissively as he approached. He came to a stop a little too close, and Evan found himself taking a step back. Kavanagh looked at his picture. "What's that supposed to be?"
Evan's scowl deepened. "You're meant to ask before you look at an artist's unfinished work, Kavanagh."
"Well, if you were an artist, I guess I would," the scientist said. Evan looked at him. Kavanagh clearly hadn't meant that as a joke.
Evan exhaled sharply through his nose, keeping his temper in check. He didn't know Kavanagh very well, having met him only in passing since arriving on Atlantis a few months before. He did know his reputation, though: he was a self-important bully who had gotten on the wrong side of everyone on the Expedition and--according to the Lieutenant Colonel, was only one more mistake away from ending up forcefully returned to the SGC. Purposely, Evan turned back towards his painting.
"Isn't it too dark to be doing that?"
Evan felt his eyes narrow. "What do you want?"
"Oh, oh yeah," Kavanagh said, and there was something in his tone that made Evan turn back towards him. The fading light of the sunset was reflecting in the round lenses of Kavanagh's glasses, partially obscuring the eyes beneath. His slicked-down hair shone in the light, and that, combined with the leanness of his body, gave Kavanagh the appearance of a gold-plated robot. "McKay wanted me to ask you something."
"McKay?" Evan asked, feeling himself frown. "I've got my radio on. Why he'd send you?"
"Because he did!" Kavanagh snapped.
"Uh huh," Evan said. He sighed, knowing that he'd get no more painting done tonight. The light had nearly faded completely, and Kavanagh had easily spoiled his mood. He began to clean his brush with the water he'd brought, allowing the repetitive task to soothe his temper.
It would do his career no good to get busted for punching the bastard in the nose.
"Aren't you going to ask me why?" Kavanagh asked, hands on hips.
Evan shot him a look, then turned back to his brushes. "I don't play games, Kavanagh," he said. "If I don't hear it from you, I'll just call McKay."
"McKay wanted you to help me!" Kavanagh blurted. "He said you'd help!"
Evan moved so he was facing Kavanagh. "You need help with some geological engineering?"
Kavanagh's sneer was audible. "As if."
"Yeah." Evan drawled out the syllables. He returned to his brushes, packing them away in their case. It was hand-made, lined with absorbent cotton now stained with years of paint. His mother had made it for him when he'd first entered the Air Force, making him promise to not forget who he was as he found out who he could be. He gently closed the lid, taking a moment to brush his hand over the top and send a thought towards his mother, as he did every time he put the case away. It helped him feel connected to her, to his family, even while he was so far away. It was a small thing, but it was always a comfort.
He saw Kavanagh shake his head out of the corner of his eye. "Why'd you do that?"
Evan gave him his best 'commanding officer' glare. "Are you still here?"
Kavanagh curled his lip. "What were you petting the box for?"
"My mother made it," Evan said, because that was all the explanation required.
"See?" Kavanagh said to no one in particular. "See? Now that's why McKay sent me to get your help!"
Evan turned to him. "What?"
"Help--with girls," Kavanagh said. "McKay wants you to help me with girls."
Evan was still shaking his head as he strode back towards his quarters.
Kavanagh was loping after him, easel tucked under his arm. Since it had been obvious that Kavanagh wasn't going to go away, Evan had given him something to carry.
"No," he said for what had to have been the millionth time. "I'm not going to do it."
"Come on!" Kavanagh wheedled, running a couple of steps to keep up with Evan. Kavanagh was taller, but Evan was military and used to moving fast. "Everyone knows that you were raised by your mom! Well, it's not like it's a secret!" Kavanagh said defensively as Evan shot him one of his deadlier looks, "A lot of the military contingent on this base come from dysfunctional families! Everyone knows that!"
Evan clenched his hands around his painting tools. "I really don't want to help you now." They arrived in the corridor by his quarters, and Evan stopped and snatched his easel out of Kavanagh's hands. "We're done here. Good night." He passed his hand over the door sensor and it slid open with welcome ease.
"Wait!" Kavanagh said, and there was actual desperation in his tone. "Wait, Major. Please." He visibly swallowed, as if the words were choking him. "I really need your help."
Evan paused. He put his box down gently on the floor and leaned his canvas and easel just inside his doorway. He looked at Kavanagh.
Kavanagh was looking down, as if studying something really interesting on Evan's boots. A few strands of hair had worked themselves loose from the tight braid he wore and were curling in small ringlets around his ears and forehead, and that, combined with the faint blush of colour in his pale cheeks, made his high cheekbones look less gaunt and his whole face look younger and not so harsh. Vulnerable, Evan thought. Kavanagh looked young and vulnerable, and actually afraid.
Evan sighed and leaned against the doorframe, crossing one foot over the other. "So why did McKay tell you to ask me this?"
"Because Weir is going to send me home!" Kavanagh cried. "She hates me!"
Evan rolled his eyes. "There's a surprise."
"No! You don't understand!" Kavanagh insisted. "She wants me to apologize for something, but I didn't do anything wrong!"
"I'm sure you didn't," Evan said, his tone dripping sarcasm. "Not you."
"Okay, okay, maybe I did say something," Kavanagh acquiesced, "but it was totally in self-defence!"
Evan made a face. "Self defence? From Weir? She's the most fair-minded person I know!"
"She bitch-slapped me in front of my team!" Kavanagh barked. "What else was I meant to do?"
Evan knew he must look confused. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"The time with the Jumper!" Kavanagh nearly shouted. "When Sheppard and the others were stuck on it half-way through that Gate! She told me off in front of my team! She--" he took a breath. "She humiliated me in front of them! Like I was a green undergrad! It was awful!"
"Wait," Evan said, putting one hand up. He vaguely remembered reading a report about an event like that, when Sheppard had been attacked by some sort of bug that had clung to his neck until his team had stopped his heart. The team had ended up fixing the problem with the Jumper and getting it all the way through the Gate with only seconds to spare. "I know what you're talking about. That happened over a year ago!"
Kavanagh made a face. "So?"
"So," Evan felt himself say with great patience, "if you were as charming then as you are now, then you're pretty damn overdue for an apology to her."
Kavanagh looked stung. "What do you mean by that?"
Evan tilted his head to the side. "You're a rude asshole, Kavanagh. What did you think I meant?"
"I--" Kavanagh started. His face crumpled. "Really?"
Evan blinked. "Hasn't anyone ever told you that before?"
"Well, McKay has," Kavanagh said slowly. "But he talks to everyone like that, so I thought…" He let the words trail off, and silence settled heavily between them.
"Look," Evan said when the silence had settled all the way down to 'awkward'. He made his tone sound gentler than he felt. He hadn't actually wanted to hurt the guy, but Jesus--Talking to Kavanagh felt like being hit on the head with a hammer about a zillion times. "Why don't you tell me what McKay meant by this 'talk to girls thing,' okay?"
Kavanagh nodded. He took what looked like a fortifying breath. "McKay thinks that my big problem is that I don't know how to talk to girls--women," he corrected himself before Evan had the chance. "And that if I did, I would get along better with Weir." He looked up, his eyes a brilliant blue behind his glasses. "And maybe I could figure out a way to say sorry so that she'd get over herself and let me stay."
"Why don't you just try saying sorry?" Evan asked.
"If it was that simple, don't you think I would've done it?" Kavanagh snapped. "I've tried that! She just sneers in my face."
"Wonder why," Evan muttered. He sighed. "And what does McKay think I can do?"
Kavanagh waved his hand. "The girl thing. You were raised by your mother, right? You know how to talk to women in power."
Evan glowered at Kavanagh. His mother had never made Evan feel powerless in his life.
"I just need to find something to say that will sound sincere!" Kavanagh exclaimed in response to Evan's expression. "Something to make her believe I'm sorry!"
"Well, are you?" Evan asked. He shifted his position so both feet were flat on the floor.
"Am I what?" Kavanagh looked confused.
"Sorry!" Evan found himself shouting. "Are you sorry?"
Kavanagh made a face. "What? No!"
Evan turned away. "Then I can't help you."
He felt Kavanagh's hand on his shoulder, gripping tightly with long fingers. "No! Why? Why not?"
"Because I can't teach you to sound sincere when you don't mean it," Evan said, feeling like he was lecturing to a child. "It would be a waste of your time, and mine." He shook off Kavanagh's hand and stepped into his quarters. "Good night."
"Wait!" Kavanagh cried, putting his hand over the doorframe so that the door would slice off his fingers if Evan let it close. "Then teach me!"
"Teach you what?" Evan demanded, rolling his eyes. "Sincerity? I'm not an actor!"
"No! Feeling!" Kavanagh said. "Teach me to feel sorry! Why I should feel sorry for what I said! Because…" He dropped his gaze for a moment. When he raised it again their eyes met, and there was an intensity in Kavanagh's face, a true sincerity that made Evan actually want to listen to what the scientist was saying. "Because I don't. I don't feel sorry."
Evan’s gaze sharpened. "What happened?"
"Weir accused me of wanting to save my own ass more than saving the people in the Jumper, and she said it in front of everyone," Kavanagh supplied immediately. "And she said it like it was a bad thing. Like I shouldn't've wanted to keep myself safe!" He looked at the floor again. "And she said it right in front of my research team. And then when I called her up on it, she told me she'd send me to a planet where I could be as 'self-important as I wanted.'" He raised his hands. "What do I have to be sorry for?"
"Hm," Evan said. He figured there had to be more to the story than that, but it was obvious the man really had no idea that what he'd done that was so wrong. Evan didn't know Weir all that well, but he knew she was fiercely protective of her people, and wouldn't have taken kindly to Kavanagh doing anything that might've distracted from the rescue efforts. And knowing what he did already about Kavanagh, the man's abrasive personality may have spoken louder than his actual words. Maybe he hadn't really meant to upset Weir like that. Maybe he just didn't know how not to.
"You know I was raised by my mom," Evan said as an inkling of an idea began to form in his mind. "But I have two older sisters who kind of helped raise me as well, right?"
Kavanagh nodded. "I know. I asked your team. They, uh, like you a lot."
"Great." Evan grimaced. He'd have to have a chat with Parrish later, to get the guy to shut up about personal stuff. "So," he said, crossing his arms again. "Who raised you?"
"My grandfather," Kavanagh said. "Why does that matter?"
Kavanagh shook his head. "No. It was just me and gramps, down on the farm. Why?"
"Isolated?" Evan asked. "Did you have friends around? Kids your own age?"
"Yes. No and no," Kavanagh said, clearly annoyed. "What are these questions for?"
"I'll explain later," Evan said, turning over the picture of Kavanagh as a child in his mind, growing up with an elderly man on an expanse of farmland, no other children in sight to play with, or even talk to. "Like, tomorrow night." He found himself smiling. "Come ready to paint."
"Paint?" Kavanagh said looking dumbfounded. "How's that going to help me?"
Evan stepped inside his room, "Oh, and cut off that damn pony-tail. Your hair's too long for Atlantis Regs."
"I'm not in the military!" Kavanagh snapped.
"Yeah, but I have to look at you!" Evan shot back. "If you want my help, cut it off!"
It was extremely satisfying to hear Kavanagh's voice get cut off by the closing of the door.
"So how is this meant to help me get on Weir's good side again?" Kavanagh asked as he smeared a line of black paint across the canvas.
Kavanagh had shown up at the exact start of sunset the following night, tight pony-tail still in place. Evan had looked at it and just shaken his head.
Evan felt his eyes narrow as he tried to focus on the sunset. "Just shut-up and paint."
"I hate painting!" Kavanagh whined. "I'm an engineer! I hate this kind of stuff!"
Evan forced out a breath. "Just do it."
"What for?" Kavanagh demanded, turning away from his nearly-blank canvas and facing Evan. "You said you were going to help me. So help!"
Evan closed his eyes for a moment, collecting his temper. "Focus on the sunset," he said, "and paint it." He glared at Kavanagh's disbelieving look. "Trust me."
"Whatever, Rembrandt," Kavanagh sneered. He turned back to his easel and swiped another black line across. "This is stupid."
Evan turned his focus back to the display before him. The colours were more muted than the night before, more like sepia than the jewel-tones of the previous evening. Deftly, he mixed some paint on his palette, trying to capture just the right mix of reds and blues to do the light justice. He began applying the mixture to his canvas, smiling to himself with the results.
Several minutes went by, then several more, until Evan suddenly realized he was painting in the near dark and he hadn't heard Kavanagh complain in a while.
He looked towards the scientist. Kavanagh was standing in front of his canvas, frowning in concentration at the red shape he had painted there. It looked like a human figure, done in shades of red with black and brown as shadows. To Evan's trained eye, it didn't look finished yet, but it was certainly a start, and it showed that Kavanagh might actually have some talent.
"It's too dark to see," Kavanagh said, turning towards Evan. "Can we go in now?"
"Sure." Evan nodded. He started cleaning his brushes, gesturing towards Kavanagh's picture with his chin. "Looks good."
Kavanagh scowled at him. "I thought you weren't meant to look at an artist's unfinished work."
"If you were an artist, I wouldn't," Evan replied blandly. Kavanagh's expression darkened and Evan laughed. "Seriously," he said, "it looks good. I like the intensity behind it."
"Yeah?" Kavanagh asked, considering his work. Then he frowned. "I don't know how to paint a face."
"I'll teach you," Evan said. "Tomorrow evening. My team's off for a few days."
Kavanagh looked at him, and his expression was almost shy behind his glasses. "We're going to do this again?"
"Yeah," Evan said. "Takes more than one night to learn this stuff." He turned back to his brushes, swishing them in the water and then carefully drying them with the soft cloth from his kit. He had chosen to use water paints for the sunset, hoping that the blending of the colours on the canvas would be a fair approximation of the blending of colours in the sky. So far he hadn't been too disappointed by the results.
"I still don't get it," Kavanagh said suddenly.
Evan looked at him. "Get what?"
"This," Kavanagh said, gesturing at his canvas. "What does this have to do with Weir?"
Evan faced him. "Painting's about emotion."
Kavanagh's face showed pure disgust. "You've got to be kidding me!"
"No," Evan said slowly. "That's what it's about."
Kavanagh curled his lip. "Your mom teach you that?"
Evan clenched a fist around the brushes he had been just about to put back into the case. "As a matter of fact, she did."
Kavanagh let out a harsh laugh. "It's a miracle you're not gay."
Evan felt his mouth curve up into a hard smile. "As a matter of fact, I am."
It was deeply satisfying to see the way Kavanagh's jaw dropped. "What?--but--what?"
"I'm gay," Evan repeated. He raised one eyebrow in a way that he knew would make Sheppard proud. "You got a problem with that?"
"Well--I--no!" Kavanagh blurted. "But--what about that DADT thing?"
Evan shrugged. "You're not military. And besides," Evan continued, thinking of his commanding officer and the CSO. "Atlantis is different." In fact, it had been a huge relief when he had arrived there and realized that the uptight rules of the American Military had been loosened by the multi-national expedition members. It was the first time in his entire career that he had actually felt free to be himself.
Kavanagh shrugged. "Well, I don't care. Not really. As long as you don't hit on me."
"Oh yeah," Evan said with a sneer, "I'm so hard-up that I'd pick you as my first off-world conquest."
Kavanagh snorted. "You should be so lucky." His eyes widened as if he'd just realized what he'd said. "Hey!" he said quickly. "You don't think anyone else will think I'm a fag if I'm with you, will they?"
"Only the ones who think I'm an asshole because I'm with you," Evan ground out. He nearly slammed his brushes back into his case before he realized what he was doing and slowed down, placing them gently into the soft material.
"Wow," Kavanagh said, dragging out the vowel. "Nice."
Evan turned to look at him. Kavanagh's expression was bleak, like Evan's words had actually hurt him. Evan shook his head. "Kavanagh," he said, "you just said that you wouldn't want anyone to think you were a 'fag' because you were with me. How did you think I was going to take that? ?"
"I don't know," Kavanagh mumbled. "Not be such a dick? It was just a question."
Evan felt his eyes grow wide. "'Just a question?'" he quoted. "Are you serious?"
"Why?" Kavanagh asked, "What'd I say?" He paused. "Oh don't tell me, you're one of those 'overly-sensitive' types?"
Evan actually laughed. "Are you trying to be an ass? Or does it just come naturally?"
Kavanagh blinked. "What?"
"Oh come on!" Evan rolled his eyes. "You can't be that stupid!"
"I'm not stupid," Kavanagh said stiffly.
"Kavanagh!" Evan said sharply, "you called me a fag--bad. You said that you wouldn't want people to think you were a fag--also bad. And then you called me 'overly-sensitive' for being annoyed that you said that! Don't tell me you don't know that what you said was offensive!"
"But it's true!" Kavanagh protested. He sniffed. "You don't have to react."
Evan threw up his hands. "This is not about you!"
"Of course not!" Kavanagh retorted. "It's about you over-reacting."
"No!" Evan said, poking Kavanagh sharply in the chest. "This is about what you said, and how what you said made me feel! You don't get to say what you want if it's going to hurt other people! Understand?"
"But it was how I feel," Kavanagh said.
"You don't get to say it, if it's going to hurt someone else!" Evan repeated.
"You called me an asshole." Kavanagh crossed his arms.
"Jesus Christ!" Evan swore. "It's doesn't work like that, Kavanagh! You don't get to hurt people! Didn't your grandpa teach you that?"
Kavanagh blinked again. "He taught me to speak my mind."
"At the expense of other people's feelings?" Evan asked incredulously. "I doubt it."
"He said 'only weak people couldn't take the truth.'" It was a statement Kavanagh had clearly memorized a long time ago.
It was Evan's turn to blink. "So he taught you it was okay to say whatever you wanted, and it was the other guy's fault if they got upset?"
"Well, yeah," Kavanagh replied. "Truth hurts sometimes."
"And what about you?" Evan asked, "grandpa ever tell you the truth?"
"All the time!" Kavanagh smirked. "But I'm not weak."
Evan turned back to his easel, carefully removing the unfinished painting and collapsing the stand. "Bet you didn't like it."
He saw Kavanagh shrug out of the corner of his eye. "Truth hurts sometimes," he repeated, "like I said."
Evan finished tying up the easel so it wouldn't open while he was carrying it. He turned back to Kavanagh, hoisting the easel's strap up over his shoulder and tucking his kit under one arm. "Ever thought about telling people true stuff so that it didn't hurt?"
Kavanagh stopped from where he was trying to fold up his own easel. "As if I'd want to pander to them!"
Evan looked at him. "Why not?"
"Because...because..." He stopped.
"Like I thought," Evan said. He started walking.
"Wait!" Kavanagh said, loping to catch up. He had the half-folded easel under one arm and his canvas' hanging wire in his other hand, causing the canvas to flap up and down with his off-balance gait. "Wait!" he said again. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," Evan said, pausing to allow Kavanagh to fall into step beside him, "that maybe you actually don't have a reason to be a bastard to everybody. Except for what your grandpa told you."
"But he was right!" Kavanagh exclaimed.
"No, he wasn't!" Evan said. "And besides, even if he was--which he's not--he's not here, is he?"
"Of course not!" Kavanagh said. "He died years ago!"
They had exited the balcony and were now headed back towards Evan's quarters. The stuff in Evan's hands was awkward so he decided to use the transporter instead, and he moved towards that section of corridor. "So why are you still letting him tell you how to run your life?"
Kavanagh actually stopped walking. "He's not!"
"Really?" Evan asked, turning to face him. "Because I bet that your grandpa's approach isn't working so well for you right now."
"It's working fine!" Kavanagh replied hotly.
"Right," Evan drawled. "And that's why you've got so many friends here, including Dr. Weir. Oh, wait!" he said, sarcasm in every word. "I forgot. She hates your guts."
Kavanagh licked his lips. "I have no friends here," he said quietly.
"You probably would if you didn't sound like such a jerk when you spoke to them," Evan said.
"But--" Kavanagh started.
"No," Evan said. "You sound like an asshole when you're mean to people like that. It's got to stop."
"But--" Kavanagh started again.
"No buts," Evan interrupted. "You've got to start being nice. This is something you need to do."
"But I don't know how," Kavanagh said, his eyes were downcast behind his glasses. "I've always been like this."
Evan took a deep breath. "Just--just be nice," he said again. Kavanagh looked at him blankly. "Be kind. Think of what you'd want them to say to you, and then say it. Okay?"
Kavanagh's eyes were still lowered. "I don't know if I can."
"Practise," Evan said. "It just takes practise." He thought a moment. "Be kind," he said. "To--three people before we meet again. You can do that."
Kavanagh looked up. "And this will help with Weir?"
"If you speak nicely to her, she'll be more likely to forgive you," Evan said.
"Yeah, right," Kavanagh said slowly. "That makes sense." He met Evan's gaze. "I guess I could try…"
"Good," Evan said, turning back towards the transporter. He really wanted to get back to his room. He'd had enough Kavanagh and his fucked-up ideas, and the wire of his canvas was cutting into his hand.
"Hey! Major!" Kavanagh called after him.
Evan sighed, turning around. "Yes?"
"Thanks--thanks for, well, this," Kavanagh said, gesturing vaguely with his canvas.
Evan smiled tightly. "You're welcome." He went towards the transporter. "See you tomorrow night."
"Sure! Right!" Kavanagh said behind him, and then, "Hey! I just thanked you! That was nice, wasn't it?"
"You still need three people before tomorrow night," Evan called over his shoulder as he palmed the transporter open.
"But I just thanked--"
"Three people!" Evan shouted, moving his easel out of the way and palming the transporter controls for his level. "Three!" The doors started to close. "And cut your damn hair!"
The transporter doors shut, drowning out Kavanagh's protests, and Evan sighed in relief.
Somehow, he and Kavanagh ended up eating dinner together the following night.
Kavanagh showed up at his door just as Evan was headed out to meet his team for dinner, and before he knew it, he and the scientist were in line together, discussing oil paint versus water colours while they collected their food.
It was only as he walked his tray over to the two-person table that Kavanagh had secured for him that Evan realized he'd missed his opportunity to blow the guy off to eat with his team.
Captain Laura Cadman, his 2IC, got up from where she was sitting with the botanist David Parrish and Sergeant Jeffry Koo, and headed towards him.
"Hey, Major!" she called as she limped over, long red hair swinging against her shoulders with every thump of her crutches. The awkwardness of her gate did nothing to dim the broad smile on her face.
"Hey, Laura!" Evan smiled back. He gestured at her crutches. "How's the ankle?"
Laura shrugged. "Carson says that I should be back to regular duties in about a week." She frowned. "Sorry it's benched us so long."
Evan grinned at her. "Don't worry about it." He thought about all the painting he'd gotten done in the past few nights. "It's too bad you got hurt, but it's been a nice break."
"Yeah," Laura said with a smile. "It's been kind of nice catching up on sleep." She looked back to her table for a second. "You going to join us?" She glanced at Kavanagh, "bring your friend." Then she saw who it actually was, and her smile changed to a grimace. "Or not."
Evan looked over at the hopeful faces of his teammates. David was gesturing at an empty seat and grinning, and Jeffry was looking at him expectantly. David had recently started dating Katie Brown, another botanist, and Evan figured that he had a new story to tell about how his courtship was going. He glanced back at Kavanagh.
The other man's expression was grim, and he was studiously poking at his food. His entire demeanour was broadcasting that he expected Evan to get up and leave.
Evan sighed. "Not this time, Laura, but I'll see you guys for breakfast tomorrow after I hit the gym. Okay? Let's say 0800?"
Her crestfallen expression immediately brightened. "Yes, sir! Yeah, okay!" She slapped him on the back and crutched off to her table, clearly telling the rest of the team.
Kavanagh looked at him. "You can go eat with them. I don't care."
Evan shrugged. "I'm here now."
"Huh," Kavanagh said. He took another bite. He ate like McKay, Evan noted: with a fierce determination to ensure that every bite was as efficient as possible, which meant the bites were large and he chewed fast. It made Evan wonder what had happened in the past lives of both the scientists, to make it seem like they didn't actually expect one meal to follow another.
"So, what was life like, growing up on the farm?" Evan asked, finding that he was actually curious.
Kavanagh paused in his eating to look up, sunlight from the windows above glinting off his glasses. "I don't know," he said, "about normal."
Evan thinned his lips. "I don't know what 'about normal' means."
Kavanagh shrugged. "Normal. You know--you get up, eat, go to school, come home, eat, go to bed. The usual." He took another bite.
"Did you like it? Did you hate it? Did you do anything else besides school?" Evan asked, purposely using a tone he'd usually reserve for his nephews.
Kavanagh narrowed his eyes at him. "It was fine."
Evan gave up. "Thanks," he said, an edge to his voice. "Very edifying."
They ate in silence for a few minutes, and Evan worked very hard to not look wistfully over to where the three members of his team were sitting and laughing about something.
Kavanagh finally scraped his plate clean, then put down his fork and picked up his cup of coffee, another McKay-like trait. "So, Major," he said. "About this 'emotion' thing--"
Evan looked up from his meal. "What 'emotion' thing?"
"Painting," Kavanagh said. "You said yesterday that painting was about emotion. What the hell does that mean, anyway?"
"Well," Evan said, considering. "Painting is an art form, right?" At Kavanagh's nod he continued, "and unlike, say, engineering, art is about conveying something deeper than the piece itself. And that part is the emotion."
Kavanagh made a face. "You're painting a sunset."
"Not only a sunset," Evan said. "I'm painting..." he paused.
"A sunset," Kavanagh repeated. "No emotion there."
"The emotion is when someone looks at it!" Evan snapped. "Whomever looks at the painting will be affected by it, feel some emotion because of it. So it's more than just the sunset. It's the sunset and the emotion behind it."
Kavanagh shook his head. "But what if I look at it, and I don't feel anything?"
Evan shook his head. "It's impossible to look at a painting and not feel anything."
"Bored," Kavanagh said. "I look at your picture and I feel bored. Does that count?"
Evan felt his jaw clench. "Yes," he said. "That's an emotion."
"Huh," Kavanagh said, as if considering it, but there was a small smile at the corner of his lips.
"Hey," Evan said after a moment. "Were you joking? Was that a joke?"
Kavanagh smiled into his coffee. "Maybe."
Evan smirked and shook his head. "Oh. Ha ha."
"But I still don't get it," Kavanagh said. "Painting equals emotion. So? What's this got to do with Weir?"
"Painting helps you connect with what you're feeling," Evan said. He thought back to the year his dad died, and how angry and scared and sad he'd been, he had been only twelve years old and feeling like his world would never be okay again. His mother, even through her grief, had noticed how lost he was and had started having him paint with her. After a while, he'd started talking when he was painting, his words finally reflecting the desperate images he was putting on the canvas. Painting had helped a lot.
"But I know how I feel about Weir," Kavanagh said. "I hate the bitch! What should I do, paint her a pretty picture? Rainbows and flowers?" he sneered. "I know! I'll make her a sunset!"
Anger flared up in Evan, hot and immediate. "You will never speak about Dr. Weir like that in my presence again. Got it?"
Kavanagh ducked his head. "Uh, yeah. Yeah, sure." He made an abortive gesture with one hand. "Sorry."
With difficulty, Evan reigned in his temper. "Don't do that again."
"Okay!" Kavanagh whined. "I got it! I'm meant to connect with my emotions, but not share them! I understand!"
"Kavanagh!" Evan spat. "It's not about you! You can't just say whatever the hell you want! You've got to think about what your words sound like to everyone around you! Can't you get that?"
"But I really don't like her," Kavanagh said, staring into his nearly empty coffee cup. "Can't I say that?"
"When you don't call her a 'bitch,' yeah," Evan replied. "It's not what you're saying, it's how you say it. You can feel what you like, but your emotions aren't more important than anyone else's. Understand?"
Kavanagh blinked behind his glasses. "Is that why Weir called me 'self-important?'"
Evan smiled. "Could be."
"But I know other people are important," Kavanagh said. "That's why I wanted to join the Stargate program, to help the whole world. Why doesn't anyone see that?" He played with the handle of his cup, eyes down.
"Actions speak louder than words," Evan said. "If you care, you have to show it."
Kavanagh swirled the dregs of his coffee around the bottom of his cup. "I did what you asked," he said, not looking up.
Evan paused, wondering what Kavanagh meant. The scientist's hair was still too long, and pulled back into that incredibly unattractive ponytail, so he clearly hadn't cut it the way Evan had requested. "Oh!" Evan said after a second, "you were nice to people!"
"Three people," Kavanagh said. "Like you said." He continued swirling.
Evan waited. "And…?"
Kavanagh shrugged. "It was okay."
Evan rolled his eyes. "What happened?"
"I told Simpson that she'd done a good job on one of the power fluctuation models for the solar panels," he said and looked up. "She smiled at me. It seemed sincere."
"That's good," Evan said. "And what else?"
"I held a door open for Sergeant Campbell when he came through with his hands full of files for a meeting," he said. "Campbell said thank you."
"Also good," Evan said. "And the third?"
"I met you for dinner and let you talk about painting," Kavanagh said, and he was actually grinning.
Evan laughed out loud.
Kavanagh showed up at the gym the next morning half-way through Evan's work-out.
Evan sighed, and it was more to do with seeing the scientist than the burning in his triceps from his third set of kickbacks.
Kavanagh came over just as Evan finished. Evan put his weight down and wiped the back of his neck with his towel and looked at the other man. "You stalking me now, Kavanagh?"
Kavanagh snorted. "As if."
"Then why…?" Evan indicated the gym with a wave of his hand. Without waiting for an answer he picked up the weight and got back into position for his other arm.
"Maybe I wanted to work out," Kavanagh said.
Evan looked up at him from where he was kneeling with one knee on the bench. Kavanagh was certainly dressed for exercising. He was wearing a loose-fitting tank-top and baggy shorts, both of which showed the lean definition of his limbs. Kavanagh mighty have been a scientist, but he clearly understood the importance of physical fitness. And Evan was studiously not imagining what Kavanagh's body would look like with no clothing at all. He grimaced.
"Maybe you need less weight," Kavanagh said.
Evan's grimace turned into a scowl. "I'm fine."
"Uh huh," Kavanagh said, clearly disbelieving. "You know," he said, after watching Evan work his way through another set, "you don't need to use that much weight to impress me. You know I'm straight."
"So you've said," Evan grunted. His tricep was really starting to burn now.
"I mean, not that you don't have a great body, or anything," Kavanagh continued. "I'm not gay, but I'd have to be blind not to notice--from a purely aesthetic point of view, of course."
Evan put down the weight and stood, facing the other man. Kavanagh wasn't wearing his glasses, and his eyes were a crystal blue. Evan forced himself not to stare. "What do you want?"
"Oh!" Kavanagh started, and Evan smirked as he realized that Kavanagh had been checking out his pecs underneath his t-shirt. "Um. You didn't give me any homework last night."
"Homework?" Evan repeated. "Like painting homework?"
"No!" Kavanagh made a face. "I mean like 'being nice' homework. You didn't tell me to do anything."
Evan blinked. "You wanted me to?"
"Well, yeah!" Kavanagh said. "How else am I going to learn unless I practise?"
Evan knew his confusion must be showing on his face. "You could just be nice on your own."
"If I could do it on my own, I wouldn't need your help!" Kavanagh said scornfully.
Evan rolled his eyes. "Fine," he said. "Tell you what. Go show, um, ten people that you care about them before we meet tonight." He picked up the weight again, changing his stance for a different exercise. "Think you can do that?"
Kavanagh was shaking his head. "Not ten," he said. "I don't think I can do ten. Five."
Evan glared at him. "Nine."
Kavanagh crossed his arms. "Seven."
Evan smiled. "Done." He sat on the bench and started overhead tricep extensions, feeling his muscles complain with the effort.
"So, what do I have to do?" Kavanagh asked. He moved so that he was in front of Evan, arms still crossed. Kavanagh's abs were directly in Evan's line of sight, and Evan could tell they were well-muscled even through his light tank-top.
Evan shook his head to clear the very unwelcome thoughts he was having about Kavanagh's abs. "Just--just do something nice for them," Evan said. "Easy."
"But I already did that!" Kavanagh griped.
Evan shook his head and lowered the weight to the bench. He still had to switch arms, but it would probably be okay if he rested for a moment. "No," he said. "Yesterday, you just acted nice. All that meant was that you weren't rude to people and held open a door--"
"I gave Simpson a compliment!" Kavanagh cut in, clearly indignant. "That was better than just not being rude!"
"True," Evan said with a small shrug. "But showing is different." At Kavanagh's blank look, he continued. "Showing means that these seven people can see that you care. Get it?"
Kavanagh shook his head. "No."
Evan picked up the barbell and started on the other arm. "Well, what kind of stuff did your grandfather do to show you he cared when you were growing up?"
"I don't know!" Kavanagh said. "He fed me! I had a roof over my head! What else did he need to do?"
Evan slowly lowered the barbell back to the bench, his gaze focusing on Kavanagh's face. "There must have been other stuff," he said carefully. "Things that made you feel cared for?"
Kavanagh shook his head again. "No," he repeated. His tone turned belligerent. "Why? What did your saintly mother do to make you feel like her precious flower?"
"Asked how my day was!" Evan shot back immediately. "Took me places when she was tired! Taught me how to paint!"
Kavanagh went completely silent for a moment, a myriad of emotions flickering through his clear blue eyes. His voice was quiet when he spoke, like he had just realized something important. "You're teaching me how to paint."
Evan raised the weight again. "Well yeah. Maybe I care."
"Oh," Kavanagh said, a small smile on his face.
"And the first thing you can do for me is cut your hair," Evan said.
"Right," Kavanagh scoffed. "Like I care that" much.
Kavanagh was late.
Evan picked up his brush and put it down for the third time since he had arrived at the balcony, too agitated to put paint to canvas.
They hadn't met that many times, but Kavanagh had never been late before. The man was a lot of things--several of them very annoying--but he was nothing if not punctual.
Maybe this is a test, Evan thought to himself. Kavanagh had just realized at the gym that morning that Evan actually gave a shit about him. Maybe this was some messed up way to get Evan not to care. A sort-of 'hitting back first' thing.
Evan grimaced. He'd told Kavanagh before, he didn't play games. He keyed his radio.
"Communications," Sergeant Campbell responded with amazing speed.
"Hi Chuck," Evan said, trying for a neutral tone. "You got a bead on Dr. Kavanagh?"
"Kavanagh?" Chuck repeated. "You're looking for him?" Chuck's tone let Evan know exactly how strange his request was.
Evan let out a silent breath. "You know where he is?"
"Infirmary," Chuck replied immediately. Evan could hear the question in the Sergeant's voice, and he thanked him and keyed off before Chuck could initiate a discussion as to why Evan was looking for Kavanagh.
If Evan was honest, he wasn't sure why he was himself.
"Because he's late!" Evan muttered to himself as he started walking towards the infirmary. He hadn't asked Chuck why Kavanagh was there, and he refused to dwell on the reason why he was going in person rather than just calling over the radio. He also refused to notice that his heart had squeezed painfully in his chest at the idea that Kavanagh might be hurt.
A few minutes later, he was walking purposely through the door to the infirmary, feeling his eyes searching for Kavanagh's form on any of the beds.
Kavanagh wasn't in any of the beds. He was standing by one of the monitors in front of several of the medical staff, conducting what looked like...a seminar?
Evan moved closer, head cocked to one side as he tried to make out what they were discussing.
"I know it can seem confusing," Kavanagh was saying in a tone that was surprising for its only mild condescension. "But if you look at the interface as a part of the whole diagnostic parameters of the machine, it becomes easier to understand."
"So, you're saying we should read the output as a continuum rather than looking for individual signs?" One of the nurses asked.
"Exactly!" Kavanagh said with a broad smile. "You're almost smart enough to be an engineer!" And to Evan's surprise, his audience laughed. "The machine is holistic," Kavanagh continued, "and therefore doesn't make sense unless it's readings are taken as a whole." He paused, surveying the crowd. "Any more questions?"
Dr. Keller was standing near the back, shaking her head in bemusement. "And to think we've been assuming it's been broken for weeks!" She looked at Kavanagh, and her smile was very bright. "Thanks so much for your help."
Kavanagh caught her gaze, then looked away, a faint blush colouring his cheeks. "I just heard you complaining about it in the lunch line," he mumbled.
"Well, it was very nice of you, lad!" Carson said, slapping him on the back. "Now, I'm sure you've got better things to do than hang around the infirmary all night?"
"Oh, yeah," Kavanagh said, seeing Evan and stepping towards he. He stopped, and turned back to Carson. "Um, have a good evening?"
Carson chuckled at the stilted way Kavanagh said it, like the scientist was learning a new language. Which, if Evan thought about it, was probably pretty close to the truth. "Take care," Carson said and joined the rest of the medical staff.
Kavanagh came to a stop in front of Evan, one corner of his mouth curled up. "You stalking me, Major?"
It was Evan's turn to feel a rush of heat to his face. "You were late," he said quickly. "I thought--"
"That something terrible had happened to me and you were worried?" Kavanagh laughed as they started walking together back the way Evan had come.
Evan made a face. "I thought that you had stood me up," Evan said, then winced at his poor choice of words. It wasn't like painting lessons was the same as dating.
Kavanagh frowned. "I needed to help the medical staff understand how to use some of the Ancient equipment," he said. "I sent you an email."
Evan hadn't checked his email, a fact he refused to admit. "Well, I was expecting you to be on time."
"Too bad," Kavanagh said with a shrug. "I heard Keller and a couple of the nurses complaining that the equipment didn't work at lunch," he said. "And getting medical equipment functioning properly seemed more important than learning how to mix colours to make orange."
Evan was about to snap back when something occurred to him. "So they didn't ask you to help?" he said, feeling his mouth curve upwards into a smile. "You just decided to help them on your own?"
"Well, yeah," Kavanagh said. "Why wouldn't I?" Suddenly he beamed at Evan as if he'd just realized something. "There were at least eight people in the infirmary just now, and I helped all of them! Without being asked! Eight!"
"You still haven't cut your hair," Evan said with a grin.
"Spoilsport," Kavanagh said, but he was grinning, too.
It had been a surprisingly pleasant week.
Evan was smiling to himself as he returned to his quarters, painting equipment in hand. He felt he was making real progress--both with his painting and with Kavanagh.
He and Kavanagh had fallen into a routine of sorts. While Laura's injury had grounded his team, Evan and Kavanagh had ended up meeting at least once a day. Sometimes to paint, sometimes to chat, but every time Evan had felt that Kavanagh might actually be learning something about how to play well with others.
Kavanagh--when he wasn't being defensive, belligerent and nasty--was actually pretty cool to talk to. He had an interesting perspective on a lot of things, and a sense of humour so dry it crackled.
And if he ever cut his damn hair, he might actually be good-looking, Evan thought to himself. He had certainly noticed how fit Kavanagh was the few times they had met in the gym, and he could even be considered handsome when he smiled. The blue of his eyes was fairly spectacular too.
Evan flicked on the lights with a thought, propped his painting up against the wall and surveyed it critically, a small frown crossing his features. Not bad, he mused. Maybe one more night to get the gold-tones blended better, and it'd be done. It was a commissioned picture he was painting on behalf of his CO, as a birthday gift for McKay. Evan's frown turned into a smile. He hoped the notoriously picky scientist would like it.
Evan stretched and sighed, glancing at his clock. It wasn't that late--he'd gone straight to his quarters almost as soon as dusk had faded to night. But just today Laura had gotten the 'all clear' from Carson after nearly a full week on crutches, and they had immediately been put back on the off-world assignment list. His team was meeting early in the morning before they headed off to PX3-297, and he knew it was going to be a long day.
The planet was uninhabited, and his team had been tasked with investigating it as an alternate Alpha site. David was going to evaluate its potential for Athosian crops, and the rest of them were going to gather water and soil samples for the scientists back on Atlantis, take lots of pictures, and basically keep out of David's way. It should be a cake-walk, but it would also be tiring.
And Evan had stupidly agreed to meet with Kavanagh again the following night. He shook his head ruefully as he pulled on the sleep shirt and scrub pants he had 'liberated' from the infirmary last time he'd been there. Somehow, in between the talking and the painting, Kavanagh had asked him how to shade something so it looked more three-dimensional, and in the process of teaching him Evan had told him the lesson would continue the next night. And if Evan were being honest with himself, he might actually be looking forward to it, at least a little.
Kavanagh's painting was going pretty well, actually. The man might be as abrasive as hell, but it looked like he really did have talent.
And the more Evan came to know the man, the more obvious it was that Kavanagh actually did care about others, but just didn't seem to know how to show it. Every time they met, Kavanagh asked for yet another 'homework' assignment, like he needed the excuse to be nice to people. His being nice wasn't quite spontaneous yet, but still, it was a start.
If Kavanagh keeps at it, Evan thought as he crawled into bed, he might be able to really apologize to Dr. Weir, and even get to stay.
And as Evan fell asleep he realized that he actually hoped Kavanagh would.
The mission to PX3-297 had been a disaster.
Evan paced back and forth in his room, running his good hand through his hair. His other hand was in a cast from his palm to nearly his elbow, a souvenir of the fall he and David Parrish had taken while inspecting the banks of a riverbed.
He and David had been looking for a safe way down the bank to the river to collect algae and water samples when the bank had just given way and the two of them had tumbled down the steep embankment to the riverbed several feet below.
Evan had ended up with a broken wrist and stitches in his forehead. David had ended up in surgery for a punctured lung.
Evan slammed his good fist against his thigh and kept pacing. It had been a struggle to get himself and a badly wounded David back up the bank to dry land. If it hadn't been for Jeffry's towering bulk and Laura's ingenuity with ropes, they might still be there, waiting for rescue. But it still had taken far too long to get David back to Atlantis and medical care.
The botanist's face had been grey by the time they'd carried him through the gate, his lips tinged an unhealthy blue. The look of fear in Katie Brown's over-large eyes was going to haunt Evan's dreams for a long, long time.
"God damn it!" Evan swore, slamming his fist into his thigh again. He was going to bruise, but he didn't care. The guilt was churning inside him until he was sick with it, nauseous with the sense of his own failing. Why hadn't he seen that the bank was eroded? He was a geological engineer, for Christ's sake! His stupidity may have cost David his life.
He checked the clock on his desk. Only half-an-hour had passed since Dr. Keller had released him from the infirmary, promising that she'd radio him as soon as she heard anything from Carson. Evan had wanted to stay, he'd actually tried to insist on it, but Keller had won out, telling him it would be better if he went to his quarters to rest. She'd let Jeffry, Laura and Katie stay, however. Laura had promised to look after Katie, and had sworn that she would call Evan back as soon as she knew anything.
Evan had gone back to his room, taken one look at his bed, and started pacing. If he didn't hear something soon he was sure he was going to go crazy.
The door chime rang.
Evan was there in a second, palming the door open. "Laura?" he said as soon as the door moved, hearing the anxiety in his own voice. "Is David okay--?"
Kavanagh was on the other side of the door.
Evan scowled. "Go away."
Kavanagh pushed past him into his room and then turned to face him. He stood, hands on hips and an extremely pissy look on his too-thin face. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Where have I been?" Evan asked, incredulous. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"We had a date!" Kavanagh snapped. "Painting, remember? If you were planning on standing me up, it would've been nice if you'd at least sent an email first!"
Evan lost it. "Kavanagh!" he bellowed. "Get the fuck out of my room!"
Kavanagh scowled. "You don't have to yell. We're meant to be nice to people, remember?"
Evan rubbed his face, trying desperately to keep his temper in check. "I can't deal with this right now."
"Oh how convenient," Kavanagh snarled sarcastically. "You stand me up, and then when I call you up on it, say you 'can't deal.' that's nice. Nice way to treat a friend."
In three long strides had backed Kavanagh up against his closed door. "God-damn it!" Evan yelled, rage nearly choking him. "David's in the infirmary right now, Kavanagh! Right now! and you're worried about painting? When the fuck are you going to learn Kavanagh? it's not all about you!"
Kavanagh's eyes were very wide behind his glasses. "Okay!"
Evan stepped back and dropped his arm. Kavanagh rubbed at his chest where Evan had jabbed him, his eyes still too large in his face. "I didn't--" he started.
"Didn't give a shit. Yeah, I got that," Evan interrupted, disgust dripping from every word. He rubbed his face with his good hand. "You only care about yourself, Kavanagh, and I'm sick of it." He keyed the door. "Get the fuck out and don't bother me ever again."
Kavanagh nodded once, a strange look on his face, his hand still pressed to his chest, and fled.
It was only hours later, when Laura radioed him and let him know that David was going to be just fine, that Evan realized Kavanagh had said they were friends.
Evan slept through his alarm.
Whatever pain medication Dr. Keller had given him the evening before must have also contained a sedative, because by the time Evan woke up his wrist was throbbing painfully and full sunlight was streaming through the windows of his quarters.
His alarm was still beeping shrilly. Evan shut it off with a graceless swipe of his hand.
"Goddamn Keller," he muttered. He should've realized she'd slip him something to get him to sleep. It wasn't not like she hadn't done it before.
His wrist was truly aching now, but he eyed the pain medication suspiciously and decided not to take any more. He was heading to the infirmary to visit David anyway, and he'd ask Carson to give him something else--something he could trust to not knock him out.
Checking the time again, Evan swore softly under his breath. Clearly his team was grounded again with his and David's injuries, but he'd hoping to go visit David first thing and it was now mid-moring. He hoped that David wasn't thinking that Evan didn't care.
He took a quick shower, grateful that Keller had put a fibreglass cast on him so he was able to get it wet. He threw on some clothes, agonizing about how hard the button on his jeans was with only one fully-usable hand, and headed towards the infirmary.
He was feeling agitated and edgy, worried about David and furious at Kavanagh. "I'll feel better when I see David," he told himself, firmly pushing all thoughts of Kavanagh out of his mind.
"Major Lorne!" someone called from behind, and the voice was so like Kavanagh's that for a moment Evan's stomach clenched. He whirled.
"Hello, Major!" Dr. McKay was grinning at him. His smile dropped. "What the hell happened to you?"
"I fell," Evan grit out impatiently. He was not in the mood for conversation right now, not when one of his team was waiting for him in a hospital bed.
"Oh. Well, I hope you're okay?" McKay asked, eyebrows raised. At Evan's terse nod, McKay cleared his throat. "Well, ah, good. That's good," he said. "Um..."
Evan looked at him, trying very hard to keep his frustration out of his eyes.
"I just wanted to tell you 'good job' with Peter. With Kavanagh," McKay blurted. "I knew you'd be the right man to ask."
Evan blinked. Kavanagh's appearance in his room yesterday had proven very clearly that Evan hadn't made any difference with Kavanagh at all.
Something must have shown on his face because McKay started talking again. "To help Kavanagh," he clarified. "He's been very easy to deal with recently. Almost nice, really." McKay made a vague gesture with his hands. "He brought me coffee."
"Glad to hear it," Evan said, knowing his tone sounded anything but. He knew McKay didn’t lie, but it was really hard to believe a single word McKay was saying. "Now, if you'll excuse me--"
"Wait! It's true!" McKay said, putting out a hand to stop Evan from walking away. "Peter is one of the most brilliant electrical engineers I've ever met, much as I hate to admit that," McKay continued, and there was such sincerity in his expression that Evan paused, listening. "But his personality--well, it makes me look charming by comparison. It was impossible to work with him," McKay said. "That was, well, until you got to him. Now, now he's not so bad."
Evan blinked again. "What?"
"You've made him nice!" McKay crowed. "He's not such an asshole now! He's nice! and, um, thank you. Thank you for doing that."
"You're welcome," Evan said absently.
"He's too smart for Elizabeth just to send back to Earth," McKay said, "but until recently, he was too much of a dick to keep around. So, yeah." He shrugged. "There you go."
"You're welcome," Evan said again.
"So, um, that's it really. Carry on!" McKay said with an incomprehensible wave of his hands, and disappeared down one of the other corridors.
Evan stood still for a moment, mulling over what McKay had said. Kavanagh's not such an asshole now? McKay thinks that? Evan shook his head. There was no way Kavanagh was different. Not with last night as a perfect example of who Kavanagh really was.
And if McKay wanted to keep him now, fine. That was McKay's problem. Kavanagh was McKay's problem now, not Evan's. Not any more, and never again.
Evan hadn't realized how anxious he'd been about David until he saw his scientist, happy and mostly whole in one of the infirmary beds, smiling and holding Katie's hand. Evan's knees buckled and he nearly fell.
"Whoa! Major!" David said, pushing himself upright in the bed and wincing. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Evan said quickly. He grinned, even though his face was flaming with embarrassment.
He moved closer to David's bed, grabbing a chair on the way and sliding it over to sit on the side opposite Katie. He raised his eyebrows at her in silent permission, and she nodded back, still gripping tightly to David's hand.
"How are you?" Evan asked quietly. David looked good, the awful blue-gray colour gone from his face. Except for the chest-tube attached to some machinery by the side of his bed, you'd never know he'd been injured. But Evan had an irrational need to hear it from the man himself.
"I'm fine, Major, just fine." David smiled. He glanced at Katie. "Good, in fact."
"We're off duty," Evan smiled back. "You don't need to call me Major."
"Right, right, right, sorry!" David said, looking momentarily crestfallen at his mistake. But then he immediately brightened. "Oh! Your boyfriend came in today!"
Evan's head bobbed back in surprise. "My boyfriend?" he said with an unsure laugh. "I don't--"
"Peter!" David insisted happily, and Evan felt his face go slack with shock. "Sorry!" David said again, sharing a quick, confused look with Katie. "You've been spending so much time with him, we just assumed…"
Evan firmed his mouth. "He's not my boyfriend."
"Well, okay," David said slowly, clearly wondering how to reclassify Evan and Kavanagh's relationship. "Anyway, Peter came by earlier this morning, wanting to see if I was okay." He grinned. "He brought me chocolate."
Evan's jaw dropped. "He came by?" he said, totally confused. "To see you?"
"Well, yeah," David said. "He said he'd learned from you last night that I'd been hurt, and he wanted to find out how I was." David smiled again. "It was really nice of him."
"He's really changed," Katie piped in, "much nicer than he's been before."
"Yeah," Evan said absently. "So I've heard." He shook his head, trying to clear it of the strange and conflicting thoughts he was having about Kavanagh. Was it possible that Kavanagh hadn't known about David's accident before coming to his room? The chance of that had never crossed Evan's mind. "Enough about him," Evan said brightly, refusing to think about it now. "How's my favourite botanist?"
And it was really easy to focus on David and how he was doing, and not think about Kavanagh at all.
Evan didn't go looking for Kavanagh until late that afternoon.
It wasn't that he wanted to see him, he reminded himself as he rounded the corner towards one of the more isolated labs, it was just that he hated unfairness of any kind. And if he'd accidentally blamed Kavanagh for being callous towards David when it wasn't true, then he needed to apologize for it.
Or then again, he might just be going to prove to himself that Kavanagh was completely and utterly like he had appeared that night in his room, and then Evan could wash his hands of him for good.
And the fact that his heart was quickening as he approached the doorway to the lab was just because he'd been walking fast, that was all.
Evan had just placed his hand over the mechanism to open the door when it flew open and several scientists burst out.
"Get away! Get away!" Dr. Simpson shrieked, pushing him away from the door with such force that he fell backwards into the opposite wall. "It's going to blow!"
"What's going to blow?" Evan demanded, regaining his balance. "What's happened?"
"The power calibrations were out!" She cried, eyes wide with fright. "The storage capacity isn't big enough and it's going to blow up!" She took off after the other scientists who were now near the end of the corridor. "We've got to get out of here!"
"Have you called for help?" he shouted at her retreating back.
"Peter did!" She called over her shoulder. "Peter's still in there! Trying to get it under control!" She ran down the corridor, hair flying.
Evan reached for his radio, cursing when he realized that since he was off-duty with an injury, he hadn't put it on. He'd have to get Peter out first and then call for help. He stepped inside the room.
He felt a terrific force strike his chest and heard a huge boom that reverberated through his body and sent him flying back through the doorway and into the wall. He hit with enough force that the wind was knocked out of him and his vision went gray. It took an eternity before he could draw air back into his lungs.
Slowly, Evan pulled himself to his feet, feeling a trickle of blood down the side of his face from where the concussive force had torn his stitches. His arm was throbbing and his back was aching from where he had been thrown into the wall, but nothing seemed to be broken and he didn't seem to be hurt too badly.
He pulled himself to his feet, wincing at what he knew would be some severe aches and pains in just a few hours, and lurched towards the lab.
It looked like a giant hand had reached in, lifted everything up, and then slammed it back down. The smell of burned and charred material was nearly overpowering, and except for the quiet flicker of a few small fires, the room was impossibly silent.
"Kavanagh!" Evan shouted as he groped his way inside. His heart was pounding sickeningly hard in his chest, as bad as when he'd seen David at the bottom of the ravine, still and cold and clearly broken. "Peter!"
"Evan?" he heard Peter cough from somewhere deeper inside the room.
"I'm coming!" Evan called, and started picking his way carefully through the debris. "Hold still!"
"I'm holding," Peter said, and Evan felt a touch of relief that Peter could still be joking. He found him in a gratifyingly short period of time. Peter was lying half on his side, arms flung out in front of him. His glasses were broken, his face far too pale. His blue eyes were just slits in his greying face. "Major," he said, and his voice wavered. "Nice of you to stop by."
There were flecks of blood on Peter's lips, and instinctively Evan grasped his hand. "You're hurt," he said, "don't move. Don't try to talk. I'll radio for help."
Gently, he reached over and took Peter's radio out of his ear and slipped it into his own. "Campbell!" he barked, "medical emergency and fires in Lab six! Send a team now!"
"Already on it," was the Sergeant's quick reply. "ETA of medical and fire-suppression teams is approximately three minutes."
Evan sighed in relief and keyed off. "They'll be here in three minutes," he repeated to Peter. "Just hold on."
"I am," Peter said, giving Evan's hand a little squeeze. His face contorted in pain. "Hurts."
"I know," Evan said, feeling a rush of helplessness. He had advanced first-aid training, all the military staff did, but he was afraid to move Peter in case he made something worse. "Don't try to move."
"I know!" Peter snapped. "I don't want to be paralysed for life! It's bad enough I'm going to be subjected to the medical team and their dubious sci--" He abruptly cut himself off with a moan of pain that left him panting.
"Don't talk!" Evan ground out. "Just stay still!"
"I'm sorry," Peter said. His breath was coming in short gasps.
"Don't talk!" Evan repeated.
"No," Peter said with a tiny shake of his head. "Need to. I'm sorry. Sorry I didn't know about David. Sorry--"
"Shhh," Evan said. "It's okay. I know you didn't know. I'm sorry."
A ghost of a smile touched Peter's lips. A small trickle of blood was drifting down from the corner of his mouth towards the floor. "I didn't save my own ass," he said.
"What?" Evan asked, horrified by the slow stream of blood. "I said don't talk!"
"Tell Weir," Peter said. "Tell her I saved Simpson and the others." His grip tightened on Evan's hand. "Please?"
"You can tell her yourself!" Evan snapped desperately. He could see Peter's eyes becoming unfocused as he lost consciousness. "Peter!"
"Tell her I care," Peter mumbled.
"She knows," Evan said. His eyes were wet. "We all do."
Peter's smile widened as his eyes closed. "You're a good teacher." His hand went slack.
"Peter!" Evan cried as the medical team burst in.
They Peter had been taken into surgery mere minutes after Carson had finished his assessment of him. "It's another bloody punctured lung!" he'd said, glaring at Evan as if David and Peter having the same injury was somehow his fault.
Evan had glared back from over Keller's shoulder as she was checking the response of his pupils for an evolving head injury. "You're lucky your skull's so thick, Major." She'd told him with a smile. Evan hadn't responded.
She'd kept him overnight for observation, and Evan had remained painfully awake on one of the brutal infirmary beds, ears straining to hear anything about how the surgery on Peter was going. He must have slept at some point, because suddenly he found himself hurtling to wakefulness, Keller shaking him gently.
"He's out of surgery," she whispered, "he did well."
"Thank you," Evan whispered back, feeling that the words were somehow inadequate to convey his relief. Keller patted his shoulder and left him, giving him the impression she'd understood.
That morning Carson told Evan he was discharged and that his light duties were extended for an additional week beyond what they had been for his broken wrist. Evan had nodded, and promptly moved from the infirmary bed to one of the chairs in the waiting area, glaring at Keller automatically. She just smiled and arranged for one of the nurses to bring him some breakfast. Evan could only force himself to have a few bites, and that was when Keller was watching.
Carson sat down with him when he was half-way through not eating his breakfast. The doctor looked tired, with deep purple bruising under his eyes and hair that looked like he'd run his fingers through it more than once.
"We're keeping him intubated," Carson said without preamble. His fatigue made his Scottish accent sound thicker than usual. "Fixing his ribs and putting the chest tube in for the puncture was a skoosh," Carson continued, "but he has a pulmonary contusion as well."
Evan looked at him blankly.
"A bruise in his lung," Carson explained with a sigh. "Not bad, mind, but enough of a worry that I'm going to keep him on the vent for at least another day." He stood up, patting Evan on the back as he did so. "Don't worry, lad," he said. "Your man's too tough-minded to die over this. He'll be fine."
"He’s not my man." Evan said, but Carson just smiled gently.
A few hours went by with the nurses checking up on him every once in a while. Evan was plied with coffee and juice and his shoulders were rubbed or patted so often he was sure he'd get bruises. No one stopped to chat, however, and he was grateful for it.
At some point after Evan's mostly uneaten lunch had been taken away, Colonel Sheppard and McKay stopped by. Sheppard lowered himself gracefully into the chair beside Evan, his long body stretched out as if he lounged in the infirmary every day of the week.
"How's your boyfriend doing?" he asked, his voice about twelve different shades of 'it's no big deal.'
Evan's head snapped up. "He's not my boyfriend!"
He saw as Sheppard and McKay exchanged a speaking look. "How's your friend doing?" Sheppard asked easily, as if the previous statement had never happened.
Evan shrugged. "He has a bruised lung."
McKay winced. "Those are bad." Sheppard glared at him and McKay's mouth slammed shut.
"I'm sure he's doing fine," Sheppard said. "Kavanagh's tough. Tougher than most of the scientists. He'll pull through."
"That's what Carson said," Evan replied.
"Carson's usually right," McKay added. "He'll be fine."
"He's lucky to have you," Sheppard said, gaining his feet and patting Evan on the back. He gripped Evan's shoulder, squeezing just tightly enough that Evan met his eyes. "You let me know if you need anything, okay?" Sheppard said softly, and Evan felt the unwelcome sensation of wetness in his eyes. He coughed to cover it.
"Thanks, sir," he croaked.
Sheppard squeezed his shoulder once more, and left, McKay trailing behind him.
Jeff came to check on him after that, offering a cup of coffee and condolences. "How's your boyfriend doing?" Jeff asked, eyes bright with sympathy.
"He's not my boyfriend," Evan muttered. Jeff looked confused, but he nodded and let the matter drop.
"How're you doing, boss?" Jeff asked after a moment, looking up at him from where he was sitting on the floor, back leaning against the wall. Jeff was nearly the same size as Ronon, with the same dark colouring, but that was where the similarity ended. Jeff was soft-spoken and thoughtful whereas Ronon was taciturn to the point of near-silence. The kindness in Jeff's tone made another lump form in Evan's throat.
"Fine," he ground out, hearing the undisguised roughness in his voice. "Just tired."
"Yeah," Jeff said. "And maybe sore? Jennifer said you must have hit the wall pretty hard."
Evan nodded, grateful for the change in topic. "Yeah, I am, kind of."
"Do you want some pain medicine?" Jeff asked, "I could go ask Jennifer--"
Evan shook his head 'no' even before Jeff had finished his question. He didn't trust Jennifer to not slip him something to put him into a coma. The pain in his arm and back wasn't that bad.
It was the pain in his heart that was doing him in. And the realization of that was so shocking that for a second Evan felt like all the air had rushed out of his lungs.
"Are you okay?" Jeff asked worriedly. "You've gone all pale."
"I'm fine," Evan said, standing. "I--uh. I've got to go." And before Jeff could even react, Evan had bolted.
He went straight to his room. He grabbed his easel, a blank canvas, brushes and some oils, and practically ran out to the balcony outside his quarters, setting up his equipment in record time.
It was only late afternoon, far too early for a spectacular Lantean sunset, but Evan wasn't there to paint the beauty of nature.
He started painting in a rush, nearly flinging the oils on the canvas with a desperation he hadn't felt since he'd been a young boy.
He hadn't felt this overwhelmed by anything since his father died, when he'd been hit with the powerful and crushing realization that nothing, ever, would be the same again. His mother had introduced him to painting, as a way to get in touch with emotions so big and raw that he couldn't name them. Colours had become vocabulary, images his sentences. It had become like the eye in the centre of a hurricane, a way to calm himself down when everything seemed to be violently whirling around him, too huge to control.
And right now, with Peter in the infirmary and his thoughts churning and his heart pounding, Evan felt exactly the same.
So he painted, slashing colours across the canvas until the image reflected the turmoil in his mind. He painted his helplessness at Peter's injury, his desperate hope that he would recover. He chose purple for their friendship, deep and unexpected. He used blue for caring, black for fear, and then he painted red for an explosion that may have taken away something incredible before Evan had even figured it out.
"Major?" Laura said, coming up beside him. She'd been off her crutches for over a week, and she walked with her natural grace, her red hair gleaming gold as the sun began to fade.
Evan startled. He had been so focused inside his own head that he hadn't even heard her approach.
She smiled wryly. "Door was open."
"Hi, Laura," he said, hearing the weariness in his own voice. He ran his good hand through his hair, feeling the build-up of a day without a shower. He was in his clothing from yesterday, chin stubbled, and completely unable to hide whatever emotion was probably brimming out through his eyes.
She looked at him and then at the picture that Evan made no attempt to hide. She looked back at him, her eyes full of sympathy.
Evan swallowed thickly, and very deliberately put his brushes into the jar of cleaning solution. He could feel his jaw working against the lump pushing at the back of his throat.
Laura smiled. "Come here," she said, opening her arms.
And Evan stepped into her embrace, soaking her t-shirt with his tears.
He and Laura then went back into his quarters and got very, very drunk.
"You have to tell him," she slurred, sitting on the floor with her legs crossed and pointing haphazardly at Evan with her fifth bottle of beer.
Evan was sitting on the floor with his legs outstretched and his back against the side of his bed. He shook his head at her words, which ended up making the room spin, which made him laugh. "No," he said finally, after he had managed to re-focus on what Laura had said. "No. He's straight. He's said so like, two hundred times."
Laura shrugged, a rippling movement that ended up tilting her sideways. "You're cute," she said, grinning widely. "Totally cute enough to get dude to change his mind."
Evan laughed. "You have to say that."
"That my CO is cute?" Laura laughed too, shaking her head. "That is so not part of my job description!"
"My CO is cute…" Evan said, taking another swig.
"Don't change the subject!" Laura admonished, gesturing with her bottle and managing to slosh a good portion onto Evan's floor. "Seriously," she said, her eyes large and unfocused as she looked at him. "Seriously," she repeated, getting caught up in the rhythm of the word. "Ser-ee-oos-ley."
"Seriously?" Evan repeated, just to help her out.
"Right!" Laura exclaimed. "You've got to tell him!"
Evan winced. "That will most likely end badly."
"But at least you'll know," Laura said. "And then you can stop pining."
"I am not pining!" Evan said indignantly. "I am the opposite of pine!"
"Spruce!" Laura crowed. "You're spruce!"
Evan laughed. "Maple?"
"Nope," Laura said with complete gravity. "McKay is maple."
"Right," Evan agreed. That totally made sense.
"Anyway," Laura said, probably steering her thoughts away from trees and back towards the topic, "if you tell him, and it goes badly, at least you can stop pining."
"I am not--" Evan started. Laura 'shushed' him with a finger pressed over his mouth.
"I saw your picture, Evan," she said quietly.. "You have to tell him."
Evan took another pull athis bottle, looking over her shoulder to where he'd propped the canvas up against the wall. It was a maelstrom of colour, nearly violent in its beauty and desperation, and completely eloquent as to what Evan was feeling.
"Yeah," he said finally, still looking at the picture. "Yeah, I guess you're right."
Evan had used his hangover as an excuse to go to the infirmary late the next morning.
Carson had given him some painkillers and some vitamin 'B', but no lecture at all about the perils of drinking. Instead, he had patted Evan gently on the arm and directed him over to one of the observation beds where Peter was sleeping.
"We were able to remove the breathing tube early this morning," Carson said, voice low so as not to wake Peter up. "He seems to be doing fine, but he'll be here for a few days more, to let him heal and such."
Evan grinned in relief. "That's good news."
"Very," Carson agreed. He paused, looking closely at Evan's face. "You can stay if you like," he said after a moment, and Evan found himself blushing for no reason he could discern, beyond the far-too-perceptive gaze of the doctor.
"Thanks," he mumbled, and went and sat down beside Peter's bed, watching the other man sleep.
Evan must have dozed himself, because the next thing he knew his eyes were open and Peter was calling him.
"Major?" Peter said with obvious confusion. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to see how you were," Evan said, moving his chair over and automatically offering Peter some of the water that had been left for him on his bed-side table.
Peter nodded his thanks and drank deeply, wincing as the cold water touched his throat.
"You're sore from the intubation," Evan explained. He'd been through it enough times to know how much it sucked. "Don't worry, it goes away soon."
"Thanks," Peter said. His voice was less croaky than before. "Help me sit up?"
Evan nodded, and helped move Peter into a sitting position. Peter winced, pressing his hand to his left side. "That hurts."
"That's where you broke your ribs and bruised your lung," Evan explained, and even saying it out loud was more difficult than he'd thought.
Peter nodded. "I figured it was something like that."
Evan sat back down, folding his hands across his stomach and putting one ankle on his opposite knee, trying for a pose more relaxed than he felt. Peter looked good. Bruised, tired, and far too pale, but good nevertheless. His glasses were off, and his hair was a mass of short curls around his head. It took a second for Evan to figure out what that meant.
"You cut your hair."
"Yeah." Peter smiled. "I did it the night that David got hurt. I think you were too pissed-off to notice."
Evan winced. "I'm really sorry about that."
Peter shrugged, then winced himself. "It's okay," he said. "You were really worried about David and, well, it's not like I hadn't been that selfish in the past."
Evan shook his head. "But I never even gave you the chance. I never even considered something simple like you might not have known." He forced himself to meet Peter's gaze. "I really am sorry."
"Yeah well, apology accepted and all that," Peter said. He rubbed his head, messing the curls up even more. "You like it?"
Peter's curls were matted and stuck together in unattractive clumps, dark enough with sweat to make their actual colour unrecognizable. "Yeah," Evan smiled. "It looks good."
Peter scowled then laughed. "I look like crap right now, and I know it. You're a brutal liar, Major."
Evan swallowed. "Call me Evan."
Peter blinked. "What?"
"Evan," Evan repeated. "Call me Evan." He took a breath. "I've been calling you 'Peter' for a while now, so I guess fair's fair."
Peter stared at him. "You only call me Kavanagh."
Evan smiled. "When you're awake."
Peter laughed, then flinched. "Don't make me laugh. It hurts."
"Sorry!" Evan said, sitting up and pulling his chair closer. He looked at Peter, deep into to those crystal blue eyes, and realized it was now or never. If he didn't take the chance, he knew he never would. And who knew what he'd miss out on, then?
"It's okay," Peter said, "I would've warned you before, but you're usually not that funny."
Evan smiled. Oh yeah, he really liked this guy. "So," he said, hoping he sounded cool and casual instead of nervous and breathy. "I got a question for you."
"You can't have my painting," Peter said immediately. "As soon as I finish it, I'm giving it to Weir. You'll have to wait for my next masterpiece."
"I wasn't going to ask about your painting," Evan said. "I like it but…" he shrugged. "Crazy warrior-women figures in red are really not my thing."
"So what's your 'thing?'" Peter scoffed. "Butterflies? Dogs playing poker? Oh I know!" he snapped his fingers. "Elvis on velvet!"
"No," Evan said, and then before his nerve totally failed him, "you. I've got a thing for you."
Peter went as still as he'd done in the gym when he'd realized Evan might care about him. "What?" he said, and his voice was nearly a whisper.
"I've got a thing for you," Evan said again, feeling an uncomfortable heat rush to his face. "I know you're straight, but still. I thought you should know."
"I'm not straight," Peter said. "Who told you I was straight?"
Evan blinked. "You did! At least twenty times!"
Peter shook his head. "It was only about three times," he said, "and besides, I lied."
"Lied?" Evan's head was reeling. "Why?"
"Because I really like you!" Peter exclaimed, "and there was no way in hell that was going to be reciprocal, so it was easier to pretend that I couldn't possibly be interested. Get it?"
And strangely enough, Evan did. "Well," Evan said, feeling himself beaming. "I kind of like you, too."
"Of course you do," Peter scoffed, but Evan could see the vulnerability in his eyes. "What's not to like?"
"There's nothing I don't like, Peter," Evan said, taking the other man's hand and gripping it tightly. "Nothing at all.