Lorne’s used to running for his life by this time. He’s even used to running for his life from creatures that could have come out of a horror film. He’s just not used to doing it on Earth.
He’s pretty sure the thing running after him is a vampire, as he just saw it draining the blood out of the girl he’d met in the diner that afternoon. A voice in the back of his head tells him not to be ridiculous and that there’s no such thing as vampires, but another voice tells him he’s seen too much in the Pegasus galaxy to ever be able to believe that.
His legs and his lungs are burning, and he’s having trouble drawing breath. He’s beginning to calculate how much farther he can run before his knees give out when he finds himself tackled from the side. There’s a whoosh of air above him, like a sword cutting through the air, then a squelching sort of sound, and by the time he pushes off his attacker, the vampire has disappeared.
“Are you okay?”
There’s a gangly, floppy-haired, young man next to him on the forest floor, and Lorne nods as he gasps for air, wheezing and rasping and wishing the guy who saved him weren’t so terribly young.
When he can speak again, he asks, “Who are you?”
“Sam Winchester,” the kid says, standing. Lorne’s eyes follow his frame up and up and up, and an enormous hand reaches down to help him to his feet. “This is my brother, Dean,” he adds, once Lorne is on his feet, gesturing to a shorter man behind him.
Dean smiles, “Hi.”
“Hi,” Lorne says faintly. “Evan Lorne.”
“Looks like you were the victim of a prank gone wrong,” Dean says.
Lorne gives him an utterly unconvinced look and says, “Try again.”
“It was a vampire,” Sam says, as though he doesn’t think Lorne will believe him.
“Sam!” Lorne gets the feeling they’ve had this argument before.
“I noticed,” he says, and Sam looks impressed.
“You a hunter?”
“Air Force major.”
Dean rolls his eyes, and Sam grins and says, “Need a ride back into town?
Dean went to bed about half an hour ago, but Lorne and Sam sit up in the bar next to the hotel until it closes, exchanging stories (nothing classified on Lorne’s side) and telling jokes. Lorne gets the feeling Sam doesn’t laugh like this very often.
When they walk back to the hotel, Lorne takes a chance he wouldn’t normally take in a town this small. “Hey, if you’re not ready to hit the sack just yet, I’ve got some beer in my room. Want to come in and…continue this conversation?”
Sam looks like he wants to say no, and Lorne does something he knows is completely manipulative, but he can forgive himself because he thinks Sam might need something like this. “You can ask Dean first if you think he’d mind.”
Sam’s smile disappears for a second, and when it returns it’s determined rather than truly happy.
“I don’t need his permission,” he says, taking Lorne’s key and unlocking the door.
Lorne has developed an instinct for this. It’s easy really. Finding the right neighborhood is always simple. A few well-placed questions at the hotel front desk will do the trick. And once he’s there, it’s a simple reconnaissance mission. Acquire a target, follow them to the rendezvous spot, and never trust the intel from the locals. They’ve always got an ulterior motive.
And any major city in the developed world will have what he’s looking for. Even Pittsburgh.
Liberty Avenue is like so many other gay districts he’s been to: late at night it’s brighter than any other part of the city. It’s too early to find a club just yet, so he picks the most innocuous looking bar he can find, orders a beer and sits back to get a feel for the room.
There’s one in every town, Lorne’s discovered. The Guy on the scene. The one everyone wants to fuck. The one who knows he can have any guy in the room and doesn’t take no for an answer because he’s never had to.
About half an hour after Lorne arrives, The Guy walks into the bar. He’s six feet if he’s an inch, and Lorne suspects he’s several of those too. Slim and toned and handsome and radiating arrogance.
And he’s cruising Lorne.
Lorne never likes to make it too easy for The Guy though, so he watches him carefully, conveying interest without actually cruising back, and when The Guy turns to whisper something in his friend’s ear, and a giggling group of drag queens walks between them, Lorne finishes off his beer and slips out of the bar. If The Guy wants him that badly, he’ll find him.
He wanders for a bit, scoping out clubbing possibilities. There’s a line of young, blonde boys outside a place called BoyToy, but Lorne’s not into twinks, so he keeps walking. Meathook gets rejected for similar reasons, although Lorne has often wondered how the leather scene would take a man with military presence.
Eventually, he finds a promising looking place. Even the name sounds like it will have what he wants: Babylon, as in Whore of.
Membership is required for entrance, but Lorne has long since discovered that a little creative flirting with the bouncer will get him around something like that, and soon he’s inside, amongst the roiling sea of toned and tight and tanned.
And he watches. Reconnaissance.
Three beers later, he’s got about four possibilities picked out, but there’s no sign of The Guy, and he’s disappointed for a moment. But it’s hot, and he’s sweaty, and he’s surrounded by hot and sweaty guys, so he peels off his t-shirt and leaves it at the bar—a casualty of war—and steps onto the dance floor, alcohol swimming through his veins, and the smell and the sound and the sight of that mass of humanity seeps in as well, until he’s being carried along in a wave of lust and glitter.
And just when he’s thinking of moving in on one of his targets, he feels a pair of hands on his hips and hot breath on his ear, and he hears a voice that can only belong to The Guy saying, “You don’t know it yet, but you’re the luckiest guy here.”
Lorne smirks, but he makes sure all traces of it are gone by the time he turns around, sliding his hands up The Guy’s chest and around his neck, still moving his hips to the throb of the bass, and pressing forward a little. “Why’s that?” he asks, knowing the answer, but wanting to hear it anyway.
The Guy lowers his face until it’s pressed against Lorne’s. “You’re coming home with me.”
He’s lost, and it’s goddamn freezing, and he is going to kill Chuck when he gets back to Atlantis, because “You can’t miss it” apparently means something different in Canada than it does in the States, and he sure as hell missed the turnoff to Chuck’s cabin.
He ran out of gas two hours ago, and whatever heat had been stored up in the cabin of his truck has long since leaked out. He’s wearing every article of clothing he brought with him and has his sleeping bag wrapped around him, but it’s starting to look like there’s a blizzard coming in, and he’s seriously debating trying to find Chuck’s place on foot. The logical part of his mind tells him he’s on the verge of hypothermia, but the hazy, frozen part tells him all he really needs is sleep, and it’s winning this argument, and his eyelids droop and fall.
He wakes up an indeterminate amount of time later to find a shaggy, hairy face looking into his and a warm, wet tongue lapping at his face.
“Diefenbaker! Leave the poor man alone.” Silence for a short moment, and then, “Well, that’s all the more reason for you to leave him alone, isn’t it?”
A flash of red crosses his field of vision, and he tries to sit up, but finds he’s strapped to some sort of backboard. In a moment, he’s unbound, and a voice attached to the red says, “Terribly sorry about that. We had to get you here from your pickup.”
It takes a minute for the red to gain the shape of a jacket, and Lorne realizes the voice was coming from the face above it.
“You’re a mountie,” he mumbles.
He’s pulled into a sitting position, and the face says, “That’s right! Constable Benton Fraser, RCMP. And you are?”
“M’jor ‘van Lorne, USAF,” he says, and the mountie proceeds to peel off Lorne’s jacket.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Major.” The face, by this time has coalesced into solid features, handsome, wholesome and pleasant.
It takes a while for Lorne to realize that the activity the mountie is keeping himself occupied with appears to be undressing Lorne. He tries to bring his hands up to stop him, but his arms seem too heavy, and soon he’s been stripped down to his shorts. “What’re you doin’?” he finally manages to ask.
The mountie’s voice is calm and melodic as he starts to strip off his own uniform, standing and allowing Lorne to see the fire behind him. “You seem to have developed hypothermia, and the best treatment is body to body heat.”
Lorne means to say something about not being that sort of guy, but what comes out in his not-quite-coherent state is, “What’s the dog’s name?”
The mountie is down to just his union suit now, and Lorne thinks it would look ridiculous on anyone else, but on the mountie it only seems to accentuate the broadness of his shoulders. “He’s a wolf, actually. Well, half-wolf. Diefenbaker.”
The dog—wolf—steps closer and sits by Lorne, and the heat radiating off his body is almost painful, but Lorne lets him lick his face and lay across his lap. When he looks up, the mountie is naked, and completely unselfconscious. He’s laying a blanket out near, but not too near the fire.
“If you’d just lie here,” he says, and Lorne moves on auto-pilot to the blanket, laying down and stripping off his shorts.
Fraser—now Lorne has seen him naked, he feels the mountie deserves a name—procures another blanket from somewhere and lays it on top of Lorne, sliding in between the two blankets between Lorne and the fire.
Lorne curls automatically into Fraser’s arms when they wrap around him, and even with his limbs still moving sluggishly and his brain still a little fuzzy, as his body starts to warm up, certain parts of it are very aware that they are pressed up against smooth skin and hard muscles, and there’s a very, very familiar heat against his thigh, and he doesn’t even care that it burns against his too cold skin.
Fraser seems to falter for the first time, and he murmurs, “I’m terribly sorry about that. I’m afraid it’s a natural reaction.”
Lorne lifts his head and looks Fraser straight in the eye, saying, “There are more pleasant ways to warm up.”
Lorne’s pretty sure Fraser’s blushing, but the way he kisses makes Lorne wonder how many other lost travelers he’s saved from the elements.
Later, when Lorne is certain he’s got feeling back in every single one of his extremities, he looks at Fraser, naked and warm in the firelight, and murmurs, “You’re beautiful.”
Fraser just blushes again and answers, “Thank you kindly.”
Lorne doesn’t do portraits very often. Landscapes are more his specialty. It’s probably because his mom hates to be drawn.
Sometimes, though, he sees someone with an interesting face or an odd expression, and his fingers itch for a pencil. When he’s on leave, he gives into that itch, scratching until he’s satisfied.
Today, he’s watching a busker on a street corner in London. This kid’s got talent. Lorne wouldn’t be surprised to see his face on a magazine someday, but for now he plays covers of popular songs, the kind that make tourists open their wallets. Lorne is set up just a few feet away from him, sketchbook in his lap, pencil flying over the paper. He sketches this kid again and again, but he never seems to get it right. His face is crooked, and Lorne almost has that jut of his chin down, but there’s something in his eyes that isn’t making it onto the paper, something beyond the streetwise performer Lorne sees when someone drops money into the kid’s guitar case, something that tells Lorne this kid will never do anything but make music.
Someone passing by looks over Lorne’s shoulder and offers to buy his sketch. Lorne tells him to give his money to the kid instead.
He stays there until the kid gathers up his money and packs away his guitar, and he still hasn’t gotten that expression right, so he stands and follows the kid until he disappears into a pub on a corner. Lorne goes in after him.
When the kid sees him, he rolls his eyes and comes over to Lorne. “Look, mate, I’m not that desperate for cash.”
“I was going to ask if I could buy you a drink,” Lorne says, confused.
“You’ve been drawing me all day. I’m not looking to pick up a trick.”
Lorne laughs. “You have an interesting face, kid. That’s all.”
The kid eyes him skeptically. “And you just want to buy me a drink?”
“Just a drink.”
The kid turns to the barman and says, “Newcastle Brown on the Yank.”
Lorne orders his own drink and they sit next to each other at the bar, silently sipping their beers. Eventually, the kid says, “I’m Charlie, by the way.”
He doesn’t look away from his pint as he says this, so Lorne doesn’t look at him when he replies, “Lorne.”
“It’s happened before, you know.”
“Some old bastard sees me on the street and thinks he can slip me a tenner and I’ll blow him in an alley somewhere.”
Lorne turns to look at him. “There’s something about your face.”
“Yeah, it’s interesting. You said that.”
Lorne shakes his head. “It’s not just that. There’s something in your face that I can’t work out on paper.”
Charlie snags Lorne’s sketchbook from the counter and flips through it. “Looks pretty good to me, mate.”
Lorne smiles just a bit. “You’ve never watched yourself when you’re playing, have you?”
Charlie shakes his head and finishes his pint. “Buy me another?”
Lorne grins and nods to the barman.
He never asks Charlie what changed his mind, though Lorne suspects it’s a combination of Lorne never offering to pay him for it, and the blow to his pride Charlie felt when he thought it was because Lorne didn’t want to. And part of Lorne wonders if it isn’t also because he doesn’t have a place to stay.
That possibility alone is enough for Lorne to say yes when Charlie asks if Lorne wants to take him back to his hotel.
They’re on a mission. Of course they are. These things never happen anywhere else. Their clothes have been confiscated, and they’ve been provided with various pots of brightly colored paints. Two guards stand by to make sure they each paint each other. Apparently it’s a trust exercise. If Sheppard can’t trust his second, then the people of P8X-392 can’t trust him, or something like that. Lorne hadn’t paid too much attention to the explanation once they’d gotten to the naked body-painting part.
He’s holding a pot of green paint in his hand and eyeing Sheppard’s naked body speculatively. The green will complement Sheppard’s eyes. That’s why he’s picked it up. He begins planning his design almost without thinking, and his eyes drift down Sheppard’s chest to his stomach.
Sheppard’s nervous throat-clearing draws Lorne’s gaze back up to his face before it gets much lower.
“It’s not an art show, Lorne. Just paint something.”
Lorne looks away. There was something pleading in that order, and he doesn’t want to dig too deep into why that might be.
He settles for gate symbols. Old ones, like they had at the SGC, not the disconnected constellations of Pegasus. He paints until one of the guards tells him it’s enough, and he can’t help stepping back to survey his work, green glyphs littered across Sheppard’s chest and arms and back and legs.
Sheppard clears his throat again, and Lorne mutters, “Sorry, sir.”
When Sheppard picks up the blue paint and runs his eyes over Lorne’s body, Lorne tries not to notice the interest there, but when Sheppard’s cool fingers paint the first swirl on his chest, Lorne’s own interest becomes obvious. Sheppard gives him a curious look, and Lorne lowers his gaze.
He gets himself under control before the ceremony itself, and there are no embarrassing incidents. The inhabitants of the village allow McKay access to their temple, but the ZPM there is almost completely depleted, and McKay bitches all the way back to the gate.
Between the post-mission physical, the debriefing, and the minor outbreak of poison ivy among the rest of Lorne’s team, it’s several hours before Lorne actually makes it back to his quarters, and he strips out of his uniform and takes a moment to examine the blue paint that’s starting to flake off his skin.
It’s inexpert and imprecise, but there’s an understanding of movement, of form and elegance that Lorne thinks only a pilot would have instinctively. He’s reluctant to wash it off, but he wets a cloth anyway.
Just before he begins to wipe it away, his door chimes. He answers in his shorts, and when he opens the door to find Sheppard on the other side, he just steps to the side to let him in.
Sheppard’s holding a bowl from the mess that’s been filled with green paint.
“Thought you might want a chance to do it properly,” he says, and Lorne smiles and takes the paint from his hand.