“I'm getting promoted to Atlantis,” Lorne had said flatly.
O'Neill had smiled and said, “Sure, let's call it that.”
Dr. Jackson had been mad for some more days because, “Wait a second! I can't go to Atlantis because?”
“We need you here,” O'Neill had said.
“And he gets to go because?”
“He keeps blowing stuff up. You have no idea how much paperwork I'm saving.” A door had slammed, very hard. “It's good you're taking this so well.”
Lorne left on the Daedalus wearily, like many others who knew they were being sent coincidentally days after movie night where they had a showing of Bambi. Almost everyone Lorne had seen sniffing and teary-eyed on that night was now headed to Atlantis.
Yes. Everyone that failed the Bambi test was on the way to a new city. Lorne walked past several of these people and some that had failed other numerous tests.
There was Smithers, a Marine who knew the words to every Diana Ross song; failed the Big Gay test. Simpson who cried at everything; failed the Big Cry Baby test. Cadman, who blew some stuff up; failed the Knows Too Much About Explosives To Keep On Earth test. Burns who was overheard saying that even if it meant being out of a job, he would give it up for world peace; failed the Big Pinko Liberal test as well as the Possibly Big Gay test. Blair, a scientist that argued everything; failed the Big Annoying Loudmouth Civilian test.
Lorne expected Atlantis to be a city from a show tune with over emotional scientists and gay Marines singing 'New York, New York!' with explosions going off in the background, caused by dangerously overqualified and loudmouth staff.
Actually, it turned out to be really pretty, which meant Lorne immediately failed every single test that existed and belonged in this city.
Atlantis missions were like Earth missions, with the exception that at the end of the day, home was an Ancient city and they were running from the Wraith instead of the Goa'uld. Same shit, different galaxy.
His first mission involved searching for a missing Marine called Aiden Ford, accompanying Colonel Sheppard (who Lorne knew had failed the Big Risk test at some point) and Dr. McKay (who had possibly failed every test Lorne could think of).
When he found out that Ford had let himself get beamed up into a Wraith dart, Lorne wondered if most of them were there because they were the expendable ones. Who the hell would send the best and brightest away from a selfish Earth to protect a lost city that could be more dangerous than useful?
Lorne felt himself failing the Too Smart For His Own Good test when he realized that the city of Atlantis was peopled by space monkeys.
After serving long and hard enough, Lorne qualified to pick his own team and the best part was that no matter how insanely dangerous his teammates were, there was no other Ancient city they could all get promoted to. Lorne exploded a grenade on the mainland to celebrate this fact.
Then he picked his team.
“I do not understand why you want me on your team,” Zelenka said as they all trudged through a field of mud on a planet where it looked as though it was never going to stop raining.
“You need to clock up some more field work, Doctor,” Lorne said. “And I need a scientist on the team.”
Zelenka muttered in Czech and Lorne smiled. “That's not very nice.”
“You...you understand?” Zelenka asked with a frown.
“That would be reason two for why I picked you. It was you or the German lady and my Deutsch? Well, it's nicht so good, if you know what I mean.”
“So how come we're still a person short?” Cadman asked. “I mean, we've got the team leader, you. The scientist, Radek and the muscle...me. That leaves...”
“Dr. Weir wants a native of Pegasus on the team. I'm seeing Teyla tomorrow to see if anyone fits the bill,” Lorne said, stopping when he got sick of endless field. “You sure this is where the signal was coming from?”
Zelenka fell into more Czech mumbling about inappropriately sized pockets and ridiculous uniforms as he pulled out his scanner. He gave a nod. “Yes, in fact we are standing in the middle of the signal.”
Lorne, Cadman and Zelenka looked at each other and then looked down at the muddy ground. Something was rumbling. Not the ground. The sky. They all looked up into the rain clouds. The thunder rumbled louder and they all decided at the same time that maybe the center of the signal was not the place to be.
They jumped away from the middle just at lightning hit the ground.
The rain fell harder, but the sky stopped rumbling. Lorne got up out of the mud and trudged towards the new hole in the ground as his teammates did the same. He stood on the edge and looked inside, finding a naked female body, curled up in a fetal position.
Cadman made a face and looked up at the sky as Lorne looked at Zelenka. Zelenka just shrugged.
“Okay, l guess we should check this out,” Lorne said. “Cadman, jump in.” Cadman cave the hole a cautious look. “Well? Come on. You're the muscle, remember?”
Cadman jumped into the hole, checking for a pulse and giving both men a nod. Zelenka got a blanket out of his pack and handed it to Cadman who began to wrap it around the woman.
“Okay, get her to her feet and we'll grab her,” Lorne said, holding his hands out.
Cadman held the woman tight and began to move her up from the ground, Zelenka grabbing her hands and Lorne waiting to take her weight. Then Zelenka's eyes went wide and he gasped, letting go of the woman who fell against Cadman, both women falling to the ground with a thud.
“What the hell are you doing?” Lorne asked. Zelenka turned to Lorne, looking troubled.”What?”
Zelenka pointed at the hole. “Chaya.”
“Chaya? What the hell's a Chaya?” Lorne asked.
“Trouble,” Zelenka said.
“Um, hello?” Cadman asked. “Stuck under a very naked lady here.”
Once in Atlantis, It didn't take long to find out who Chaya was. Of course, opinions differed depending on who you asked. That was after McKay was done asking Lorne what the hell he was thinking bringing Chaya to Atlantis.
“I was thinking naked lady who might need our help,” Lorne replied, causing McKay to shout at someone else.
Lorne, Cadman and Zelenka stood in the corner of the infirmary, while Weir, McKay and Sheppard stood talking to Beckett.
“So how the hell does everyone know that Colonel Sheppard and Chaya...you know, what, shared?” Lorne asked.
Zelenka snorted. “Everyone knows everything here. I was constipated for one day and by the evening everybody knew.”
Lorne made a face. “No wonder Sheppard looks so tense. What's the deal with McKay though? He looks like he's going to chew off someone's head.”
“He does not like Chaya,” Zelenka said.
“Why?” Lorne asked just as Caldwell walked in and sidled up to Weir. Lorne tensed up a little from the way Caldwell just had to stand so close that his elbow was touching her arm.
“You see how you do not like Colonel Caldwell?” Zelenka asked. “Rodney does not like Chaya.”
Lorne narrowed his eyes at Zelenka. “I never said I don't like Caldwell.”
“You did not have to, I can hear your teeth grinding like a pepper mill,” Zelenka said.
Cadman smiled. “I think it's cute, Sir.”
“Lieutenant, you do not get to tell your commanding officer that anything he does is cute,” Lorne said flatly.
“But, you've gone all pink,” Cadman said and Zelenka grinned with her.
“I'm getting a new team,” Lorne said, watching Caldwell and Weir leaving Sheppard and McKay. They stopped in front of Lorne and his team.
“Major, there's not much you can do here. Why don't you and your team clean up?” Weir said, with a smile.
Lorne smiled back. “Just wanted to make sure she's okay, Ma'am.” Weir gave a nod before leaving with Caldwell. When Lorne turned to look at his team, they were both grinning at him and he felt as though his face was on fire. “Okay, that's it. Beat it, both of you.”
“Look, his ears are red,” Zelenka said, pointing at Lorne's ears. “It is quite endearing, actually.”
Lorne glared and Cadman held up her hands. “I didn't say anything.”
“Out,” Lorne said watching his team walk away like a bunch of giggling girls. Especially Zelenka.
Lorne took a step towards the remaining men when McKay seemed to give Sheppard a scathing look and walk out of the infirmary.
Sheppard watched him leave with a dark glare of his own as Beckett slunk away too.
“Trouble in paradise, Sir?” Lorne asked amiably.
“Very funny, Captain,” Sheppard answered with a humorless smile.
“I think you mean, Major, Sir,” Lorne corrected.
“Nope. I mean, Captain,” Sheppard said.
Lorne thought about it. “Ah. Understood, Sir.”
“It's why I like you, Lorne. You're a smart guy,” Sheppard said as he left the infirmary.
Lorne snorted. “That's just another way of saying I'm not pretty.”
Chaya was interesting in the way most aliens were interesting for five minutes before you started noticing other things like the size of their...eyes.
She said she didn't remember much about being ascended. Nothing at all actually. Then Sheppard sauntered into the infirmary like he owned the universe, a big smile on his face and said, “Hey Chaya.”
She looked at him blankly and asked if they knew each other.
It was great viewing and Lorne wished he had popcorn because Sheppard's smile slid from his face, dropped on the floor and then climbed up McKay's body, plastering itself all over his smug mouth.
McKay introduced himself to Chaya, who seemed to have an instant dislike of him coupled with a wariness of Sheppard. Sheppard looked disgruntled and McKay just shrugged.
“And this is Major Lorne,” Weir had said.
Chaya smiled a blinding smile. “You're the one that saved me?”
“Um...sure,” Lorne said.
His team snickered somewhere behind him, Sheppard scowled and McKay rolled his eyes as Weir looked on with an amused smile.
“I don't like it,” Cadman said as they sat eating lunch in the mess. “I don't trust her.”
“You don't even know her,” Lorne said.
“I know. It's a gut feeling. I think she's up to something,” Cadman said.
Lorne frowned. “You do?”
“No, she doesn't,” Zelenka said.
“I think I know what I think,” Cadman said.
Zelenka shook his head. “You do not even know her. However, you do know Rodney and Rodney definitely does not like Chaya.”
Lorne frowned. “You mean the stuck in McKay's head thing?”
Zelenka nodded. “Precisely.”
Cadman went still for a second and then frowned at her food. “That might explain why I'm so afraid of citrus.”
Weir made a suggestion. One that Cadman didn't like and Zelenka shrugged off. Then she took Lorne down to the workout room to explain her decision.
Chaya was sparring with Teyla and she was definitely holding her own. It was when McKay walked in and demanded to know what the hell Elizabeth was playing at that Chaya slammed Teyla to the ground.
“You're putting her on a team?” McKay asked.
“Yes, Rodney, I am,” Weir said calmly. “Chaya's proving herself to be an asset and I think Major Lorne is still looking for a fourth member.”
“Fine. And while you're at it, maybe you should show her the big red button of destruction too,” McKay said, before storming out of the room and right into Sheppard. Both men glared at each other and then Sheppard grabbed Rodney by the arm and didn't bother coming inside, dragging him somewhere and making sure both men had just failed the Big Gay test spectacularly.
Lorne just turned to Chaya and smiled. “Welcome to the team.”
When Chaya tried to ascend everyone in the city, McKay was the only one not surprised. In fact, he took great pleasure in zapping the whole city with a device that disrupted the ascension process. People were tingly for days and Chaya drifted off as a very angry cloud that could do no more than rain. McKay managed to get a light burn on his hand in the process, which got him the kind of sympathy missing limbs usually did.
“Great, we're one short again,” Lorne complained to his team.
“I told you we couldn't trust her,” Cadman said.
The next candidate seemed like a good idea at the time. He knew a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff and his people were technologically advanced.
Lorne just wished he could put a pair of pants on.
“My species do not require clothing,” Hermiod said once.
“You'll change your mind when you step in something nasty,” Lorne said as they trudged through mud on another rainy planet. Maybe it was the same planet. Who knew?
“The Asgard are not as vain and squeamish as the humans,” Hermiod said with a slow blink.
“Yeah, but aren't you cold?” Cadman asked.
“I am fine,” Hermiod said, with a sigh.
Zelenka said nothing as he was still sulking from his last argument with Hermiod. So to really twist the knife, Hermiod decided to start all over again.
“It is very unbecoming, Dr. Zelenka, to sulk like a child.”
And they were off again, Hermiod arguing in his language and Zelenka in Czech.
“Hey, cut it out, both of you,” Lorne said, getting the urge to blow things up.
The argument came to an abrupt end when Hermiod stepped in something nasty. For the record, the Asgard screamed like girls.
The next candidate seemed like a good idea at the time. He knew a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff and his people were sufficiently advanced.
In fact, his people were the Atlanteans.
Ford surprised everyone by returning to Atlantis in a small shuttle that looked like a tin foil version of a jumper. He said he was clean. That a trip to some backwater planet prison forced him to go cold turkey. He still wasn't sure how he survived. All he knew was that he wanted to go back where it felt like home, and Earth wasn't it. He'd never fit in there again.
Trying hard not to stare at Ford's one Wraith eye, Lorne could see why.
Ford said he didn't expect to get his place back on the team, making it easier for Sheppard to not have to say it.
“But, I think there's a team that has an opening,” Weir had said with that smile of hers, failing the Big Idealist test.
No matter how much everyone wanted to believe Ford was back for good, Lorne knew it was a matter of time before Ford would leave.
He went on missions, talked explosives with Cadman, laughed with Zelenka and was amiable enough with Lorne, but his eyes were always looking for Wraith.
He would never stop chasing them for what they did to him. Maybe Ford didn't need the enzyme anymore, but he still needed a fix.
Injured and bruised, they ran through a forest, hampered by darkness and rain, Lorne wondering why it rained on every planet they went to.
Ford was running in the wrong directions, some alien weapon ready in his hand to fire. Cadman and Zelenka were behind them somewhere, locked up in an alien cell and Lorne was having to chase after Ford.
When it got too much, he caught Ford and turned him around, slamming him into a tree and telling him, “I'm not saying this again, Lieutenant! We're not going after the Wraith.”
“Don't call me that.” Ford stared at Lorne. “I'm not that guy anymore.”
And with that five word resignation, Ford shook off Lorne and ran off to do what it was he had to do.
Lorne went after his team.
“It's not your fault,” Sheppard said later as Lorne sat in the common room on his own.
Lorne nodded. “I know.”
Though, really, it was. He should have brought back an intact team, not one man down. Even if it meant shooting Ford in the leg and dragging him home.
Sheppard sat down opposite Lorne with a sigh and set a bottle of scotch on the coffee table.
“Sir?” Lorne asked with a frown.
Sheppard poured the scotch into two paper cups that he grabbed from the water cooler, handing one to Lorne. “Trust me, drinking alone's no fun.”
There was a rumor going around the city, which was nothing unusual in itself as the city was filled with rumors. But it happened to be about Lorne's team.
Apparently, the position of the fourth member was now officially recognized as cursed. In the absence of a qualified native of Pegasus, they had tried out having an extra civilian, a Marine and even wondered if one of the lunch ladies felt like an off world trip on occasion.
The civilian, a chemist, inadvertently proved the non-existence of a local god, which resulted the team being run out of town and barely escaping being skewered by arrows.
The Marine accidentally got high and broke two legs, one of which was his own.
The lunch ladies laughed in Lorne's face and served up something that could have been meat, vegetables, both or neither.
“Mind if I join you?” Weir asked as Lorne tried to figure out what he was eating.
“No, of course not,” he said, getting that strange queasy feeling he always got around...people called Elizabeth Weir. “You might want to be careful though. If the rumors about curses are true.”
Weir smiled. “I think I'd only have to worry if I was joining your team, Major.”
Lorne wondered what that would be like. Weir on his team. He wouldn't mind that. Not at all. Weir could be on his team anytime. In fact, she could be on his anything anytime.
That...came out wrong, and Lorne was choking on his food substitute.
“Are you okay?” Weir asked with concern.
“Went down the wrong way,” Lorne managed. “Could you excuse me, please?”
Weir nodded with a frown and Lorne made for the door where Cadman and Zelenka walked in and saw him leaving Weir at the table. They both grinned.
“Don't say a word unless you want me to shoot you,” Lorne said and went to choke somewhere else.
Sheppard's team was going on some make nice nice with the locals mission and Lorne's team got to tag along, minus their cursed member of course.
What Lorne didn't know was that Weir was coming too and when he found out the choking thing almost happened again, which would have been embarrassing since food wasn't around to be blamed on.
Lorne and his team happily tagged along, which actually meant that Zelenka was up ahead somewhere, arguing with McKay about something that sounded complicated and headache inducing.
Cadman was talking to Teyla and though Lorne would have liked to think it was about women things because sometimes Cadman was just too into the explosives, he was pretty sure it had to do with the most convenient way to break someone's bones.
Sheppard was walking on ahead, nodding and listening to Weir as Ronon walked on his other side. Lorne wondered if any of them actually knew they were on an alien planet where they could be attacked and killed by crazed monks or crazed monkeys or crazed monks that used crazed monkeys to kill people. In Pegasus anything was possible.
Instead, they were all sauntering along like it was a picnic.
They made nice with the natives and ate food and drank something that was promised as non-alcoholic. Weir helped seal a deal, which meant more nice food and drink in exchange for medicines and miscellaneous help.
Then the rain came and Lorne figured it probably had something to do with the presence of his team.
Everyone was bundled into a large building filled with small tents and stables. People built fires and sat around them.
Lorne watched how as the night went on his people began disappearing. Ronon seemed to have been lured away by a drinking contest and Cadman disappeared with Teyla. Zelenka fell asleep by the fire, looking dusty and tired.
Sheppard and McKay's exit was about as discreet as a sign that said 'we're about to go and look for a place where we can have sex.' Lorne just shook his head as he watched Sheppard walking on ahead and cocking his head at McKay, gesturing towards what was probably an empty tent.
He'd forgotten about Weir until she sat down next to him and made the heat of the fire a little warmer.
“You know, you're going to need to find someone for your team fast. You can't keep going out there with just you three. You need someone to watch your back,” she said.
Lorne smiled. “You worry too much.”
Weir nodded. “Yes, I do.”
“Well, don't. Cadman and Zelenka are doing just fine,” Lorne said, glancing at Zelenka who was out like a light.
“I'm sure they are, Major. Let's just say you need to find someone for symmetry's sake,” Weir said with a teasing smile.
Lorne smiled, feeling almost as tingly as the time McKay zapped the city with his anti-Chaya ray. “Well, if you put it that way, I guess I have to find someone.”
“You know, you just haven't lived until you've been attacked and abducted by slave traders and holed up in a whore house,” Lorne said with a sigh.
“One more to cross off the list, I guess,” Cadman said, pulling on her restraints.
“And once again I must mention that I do not understand how loud panicking is frowned upon whereas your easy banter about being locked in a brothel is acceptable,” Zelenka said.
Lorne shrugged. “I don' t look good when I panic, so I try not to.”
Zelenka stared. “It is good to have priorities.”
“I can get you out.”
Lorne, Cadman and Zelenka strained to look into the dark corner of the room where they could make out a vague shape and a head full of long, greasy, dark hair.
“If that's true, why haven't you already escaped?” Lorne asked.
“Need help. You help me, I help you.”
Lorne nodded. “And?”
The head came up and Lorne was looking into a pair of dark eyes, tired and empty. “Take me with you.”
“Major, I can understand you're grateful for the help escaping, but I hardly see how that qualifies for him to join your team,” Weir said, sitting on the edge of her desk.
“He's been around, he knows things. He's smart, he's fast and he's knows Pegasus like the back of his hand.”
“He was also kicked out of his own platoon and got himself abducted frequenting a brothel,” Weir said, one step short of snorting.
“Which he freely admitted,” Lorne said.
Lorne wanted to tell Weir that his potential candidate for the team didn't belong anywhere because he wasn't wanted. He knew too much, thought too much and felt too much. He fit all the requirements to become an Atlantean.
The lost city was the perfect place for people that didn't belong anywhere else.
“To be honest, Dr. Weir, at this point, I don't think anyone else wants the job except for this guy.”
Weir raised her eyebrows and smiled. “What's one more stray. I guess you have yourself a team.”
It took a while to gel with the new guy, of course, but Lorne knew of the signs that said, yes, this is your team.
He'd seen it with Sheppard's team, how no moment was too inappropriate to give each other sneaky glances or bitch at each other for no discernible reason.
It was while they sat in a cave, kneeling on the dirty ground with their hands tied behind their backs, Lorne's team bitching at each other as he tried to loosen his ropes, he realized that he had his team.
It had even stopped raining outside, making their whining and snapping clearer in his ears.
Lorne felt tingly all over again, failing the Big Girl test, but it didn't matter because Atlantis would never punish him for it by sending him back to Earth.
- the end -