Protect and Survive I: Might just save your life
“Don’t need money, don’t take fame
Don’t need no credit card to ride this train
It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes
But it might just save your life”
Huey Lewis & The News, “The Power of Love”
It’s late at night when she finally gets the chance to go to the mess hall, grab a snack, sit down and breathe. That mission was one of the gooey, gory ones, with the occasional monster human… bug… whatever thrown in, some explosions... raiding one of Michael’s compounds, you name it. It took her at least two hours to clean all her equipment, let alone clean herself. All she wants to do now is eat something and then drag herself to bed.
And at first glance the mess hall seems to be what she really, really wanted it to be: Empty. But then she rounds the corner with a sandwich in her hand, and there he is. Evan Lorne, sitting at a table by the railing, his right elbow propped up at the table top and his feet on a chair in front of him, a bottle of beer in his hand. Her first impulse is to turn around on the spot because she’s really tired but then he already turned around and spotted her. “Hey, Cadman, join me for a bottle?” Ah hell… maybe a late night beer wouldn’t so bad.
She sighs and then shrugs, making a show of sacrificing her precious down time for him. Seeing as he has only one bottle with him, she goes to look through the fridge and eventually finds one for herself. She just hopes she’s not raiding someone’s private stash, as it’s some foreign beer and she doesn’t even know what exactly is written on the label.
Finally, she comes sauntering over to the table, puts down the sandwich and the beer and sits down opposite from him, mimicking his position. For a while, they sit together in companionable silence, both looking out into the night at the lights of the city and the sky above with all these star constellations that still aren’t feeling quite alright. Then, when she’s done with her sandwich and allows herself a moment to lay back her head and close her eyes, his voice suddenly drifts over to her, “Had a tough mission?”
She keeps her eyes closed, wishing someone would come round and help her get those pesky knots out of her neck and her shoulders. “Uh-huh, you could say that. Icky, too. But nothing that would seriously rattle a Marine.”
She smiles and in his answer she can hear that smile mirrored. “I would expect nothing less from you. So, got all the bad guys?” She nods, opening her eyes again and taking a swig from her bottle.
“Sure. Lots of shooting, though. Carson gave me a wigging so bad I could only make out half the words because his accent’s been slipping like hell when he patched me up after the mission.” There’s a suture right above her left eye and a bandage around her right arm where shrapnel had grazed it. It had been nothing, really, but Carson had insisted on making a big fuss over it anyway. For a moment she’d even caught herself at being astonished that he was really Carson in that regard
“Hope he didn’t have to patch up too much.” She’s not quite sure if he says that only because he hopes Carson didn’t have too much to worry about her or because he is worried. Since she arrived on Atlantis a few weeks ago, there’d been these strange slips of tongue from Evan that she doesn’t know how to interpret… doesn’t even know if she should interpret them at all. And like all the other times before, she wisely chooses not to pick too much on this one sentence.
“Nah, nothing more than a few scratches. I’m fine. And I got to play with the big things.” She looks at him with a grin that borders on maniacal and the distinctive glint in her eyes she always has when thinking of C4 and all the other pretty toys the armory has for her. Yeah, there’s been lots of fire in the hole today.
He only takes a swig from his own bottle and mockingly rolls his eyes “Girls and their explosions.”
“Nuh-uh.” She wiggles her index finger at him, perfectly imitating her English teacher when telling a student what an idiot he is, “Marines and their explosions, please. We female Marines do not like to be belittled with comments like these. In fact, we feel very offended by it.”
He hides a grin behind another sip from his beer and gives an exaggerated sigh. “Fine. Marines and their explosions. Now… you got some bug butts blasted into oblivion, at least?”
She grins a very proud grin. “Yessir. Whole lot of them. What about you? Got an interesting mission?”
He shrugs and looks at the city again. “Not really. Had to baby-sit some zoologists on… can’t even remember the planet’s denomination. Anyway, while the scientists were taking their samples and pictures and all that stuff, Henderson, Treviso and three of the new guys from Spain and I’ve just been sitting around… and then suddenly one of the scientists… one of the new girls, can’t remember her name… anyway… she comes running shrieking out of this forest – where I told her not to go, by the way – saying she’s seen some big predator.” She feels absolutely enwrapped in his story and finds herself thinking that he’s got quite the storyteller’s voice. Granted, not as nice as Carson’s because he’s lacking that special Scottish burr but it’s warm and smooth, making her almost forget that he uses it far more often to shout orders in combat than telling stories in a deserted mess hall.
“So you went to find out.” He nods, pointing his finger at her.
“Damn right I did. Took Henderson with me and left Treviso and the Spaniards to take care of the scientists. They weren’t happy because, you know, they were zoologists… honestly, one of them was shouting after us that we should be careful with that thing because they wanted to get a sample or something. Careful with a predator, my ass.” He snorts a little and makes her laugh as well. Sure, both of them have academic degrees – though she still hasn’t found out what’s his – but they aren’t scientists. At least not in the ‘Gtting totally lost in your work, so much that you forget to eat, sleep and carry your sidearm always with you.’ way.
“Was there really a predator?” He leans back in his chair and assumes the air of a wizened teacher.
“Not so fast, young padawan.” She rolls her eyes. Evan Lorne, a Star Wars nerd? Not bloody likely, she’d have said but obviously there are still a lot of things she doesn’t know about him. “Henderson and I went into the underbrush and found nothing. Really, only annoying insects and the occasional lizard or small rodent, nothing out of the usual. Then, suddenly, everything goes quiet. And I mean really quiet. And then…” she realizes she’s actually holding her breath, “WHAM, this thing jumps out of the bush right in front of me.” He really managed to make her jump and nearly fall off her chair with this one and she has to laugh pretty hard at her own reaction. She notices that he seems quite pleased with his efforts.
When she’s calmed herself down enough, she clears her throat and asks, “What happened then? I mean, you are sitting here unscathed.”
He leans back in his chair again and shrugs. “Well, you know me… I shoot it, I go home, I get drunk.” Another swig out of the bottle, this time followed by a distinctive smug grin.
As he definitely needs some comeback for that thing he just pulled, she snorts very unladylike, takes the empty sandwich package and throws it at him, followed by a “Liar.” He dodges it just barely, laughing and touching his heart in a mocking gesture.
“Aw, Cadman, you wound me. Why would you say that?” She takes a good swig from her own bottle, then points at him, with the bottle still in hand.
“Because you don’t get drunk,” she says matter-of-factly. He merely raises an eyebrow.
“I don’t?” Another swig from her bottle.
“Nope. ‘Cause you’re Major Evan Lorne, USAF. You’re a model soldier. A good guy. Dutiful, exact, thorough. You. Don’t. Get. Drunk.” He makes a face.
“Right. And you’re Lieutenant Laura Cadman, USMC. You’re one hell of an explosives expert, sassy and spunky. You don’t get upset.” She puts down the bottle and looks away. All of a sudden, there’s a darker tint to the mood. As she sees the realization at what he just said dawning on his face, she hastens to beat him and his apology.
“Well… you’ve got a point there.”
“Laura, I…” She holds up her hand to forestall whatever he’s going to say. For some reason, she doesn’t want to be reminded of the time after Carson’s death right now.
“No, Evan, it’s okay. It’s… okay. So…” She turns around to face him and leans forward on the table, a hint of her usual sparkle in her eyes. “Is there any chance I might get to see you being drunk in the near future?”
He takes his feet off the chair and leans forward on the table as well. She’s delighted to see something in his eyes that suggests there’s more to Evan Lorne than just the goody-two-shoes kick-ass soldier. “I don’t know anything about the near future but I’m planning on getting seriously pissed at my bachelor bash.”
It comes as a total surprise but she feels a kind of stab at the mentioning of his wedding and she needs some strength to cover up her shock with a considerable amount of sarcasm. “What, are you planning on getting married, Evan?” He nearly spits out the beer he just drank.
After some coughing and sputtering he’s finally able to speak again. For some reason now she is pretty pleased with the result of her efforts. “Good God, no! I mean, yes, one day I do want to get married. I just meant it in general, not to someone in particular. Well, not yet, anyway.” Again he manages to take her by surprise as he gives her a look that’s so strange that it actually makes her look away. But she doesn’t comment on it. Some things, as she keeps telling herself, are better left alone. Seems like this became a constant mantra of hers in the last few weeks.
Pretending not to be relieved at his strict denial, she shrugs and says, “Good to know you’re not into the whole eternal bachelor thing. I think knowing that would make quite a few ladies in several departments deliriously happy.”
“Several… departments, huh? You’re… scaring me, you know.” She risks a look at him, to see if he meant that or if there is even the slightest hint of sarcasm or irony. Seems, though, that he obviously has no idea how many women on Atlantis – for some reason it’s mainly the diplomats and nurses – have developed some heavy crushes on him.
“Aw, come on, don’t tell me you don’t see all the girls falling over their feet whenever you pass by. You’re starting to become serious competition for Colonel Sheppard.” He makes a face that tells her that he doesn’t believe a thing, but it’s true: eternal bed-head ladies’ man Sheppard is really starting to lose some footing with the female population of Atlantis; and not only to Ronon Dex but also to his 2IC. For some reason she finds it even a little cute how honest and unobtrusive Evan Lorne has trouble accepting – let alone believing – that he might have some female adorers among the expedition members.
“Yeah, well, whatever… anyway… errr… how are things between you and the Doc?” Ah, and now he’s trying to divert her attention by asking a direct question she can’t refuse. But did it really have to be that question?
“Things between Carson and me are… okay. I guess.” And in the same moment she realizes she said the wrong thing.
“You guess?” A raised eyebrow. Yep, she knew it. The moment she’d added the wretched “I guess.” she’d known he’d pick up on that. Evan Lorne may be totally oblivious to all the female attention he is receiving but he isn’t insensitive.
“Yeah, well… it’s kinda… slow-going. We’re… dancing around each other, I think. I mean, we’re talking and laughing and all that stuff, but… it’s just…” It’s just that Carson wouldn’t make a move and she doesn’t dare make one, either, for fear of being rejected. But she’d rather rot in hell than tell anyone – even Evan – that she was scared of anything.
He moves his hand and for a moment it looks as if he’s reaching out to put it on her hand but then seems to have thought better of it. Why does she suddenly have the feeling that he’s trying to cover up something? “Give it time, Laura. He’ll come around.”
Yeah, well, the thing is: she needs to come around as well. But for some reason, her usual forward nature deserts her in this special case. It’s almost as if some invisible barrier that’s got nothing to do with the fact of Carson being a clone is holding her back from making the one final move. Another thing she isn’t ready to tell Evan, just yet. Plus she’s really tired now.
So she settles with, “Wish I had your confidence.” To soften the words and cover up her own insecurity, she gives him a wink and finally gets up again. “Anyway, gotta go now. Have to get up real early tomorrow ‘cause Carson’s taking me fishing.” And yes, there’s the uncomfortable silence again. Just for the fraction of a second but it’s there because both of them still feel like it somehow made both of them responsible for his death that neither of them went fishing with him that day. Time and again, they’ve both tried to convince each other that it’s no one’s fault but incidents and fate, but they still haven’t managed to.
Then he gets up as well and replies, “Well, good luck with that.” After a moment he adds, “With all kinds of fishing.” She just ignores the slight tightening of his voice and concentrates on the wink and the encouraging smile instead.
“Thanks. See you tomorrow evening, huh?” They’ve put away the waste now and are standing in the corridor outside the mess hall now. She knows his quarters are in the opposite direction to hers and for a short moment she’s glad of that. She doesn’t know if she had been up to the weirdness of practically being walked home by him just now.
“Yeah. And I expect you to tell me all the details.” She grins at that.
“Maybe, if I’m in a good mood. Don’t get your hopes up, though. But if anything important happens… you’ll be the first to know.” He just nods.
“I’d appreciate that.” Then he smiles again. Not a grin, but one of those rare friendly, somewhat shy smiles that make women all over Atlantis swoon. “‘Night, Laura.”
She can’t help smiling back as she replies, “’Night, Evan.”